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05.04.19

Links 4/5/2019: GNU/Linux ‘Desktop Support Boom’, dav1d 0.3.0, Mozilla’s Addon Apocalypse

Posted in News Roundup at 10:48 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Using the force at the Linux command line

    Sometime in recent history, sci-fi nerds began an annual celebration of everything Star Wars on May the 4th, a pun on the Jedi blessing, “May the Force be with you.” Although most Linux users are probably not Jedi, they still have ways to use the force. Of course, the movie might not have been quite as exciting if Yoda simply told Luke to type man X-Wing fighter or man force. Or if he’d said, “RTFM” (Read the Force Manual, of course).

    Many Linux commands have an -f option, which stands for, you guessed it, force! Sometimes when you execute a command, it fails or prompts you for additional input. This may be an effort to protect the files you are trying to change or inform the user that a device is busy or a file already exists.

  • Desktop

    • Ubuntu chief surprised by desktop support boom

      In a discussion at the OpenStack Foundation’s Open Infrastructure Summit recently, Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu Linux and its commercial holding company Canonical, admitted he’d been caught on the hop by the change in demand.

      “We have seen companies signing up for Linux desktop support, because they want to have fleets of Ubuntu desktop for their artificial intelligence engineers,” he said in the conversation as reported by ZDNet. It seems therefore that companies are placing literal dollar-value on the continuity of their development processes, to the extent that they need to ensure that Ubuntu keeps running.

      Like many companies in the free and open source software area (FOSS), Canonical distributes its Ubuntu platform for free, but funds itself and its own on-going development efforts by means of support contracts. Others doing likewise are SUSE and of course, Red Hat, whose Fedora-flavor of Linux has long been a common workhorse, alongside Ubuntu, FreeBSD and the other various Linux distributions in the data centers of private concerns and public clouds.

  • Server

    • NVIDIA Jetson Nano – Docker optimized Linux Kernel

      Despite the fact that the NVIDIA Jetson Nano DevKit comes with Docker Engine preinstalled and you can run containers just out-of-the-box on this great AI and Robotics enabled board, there are still some important kernel settings missing to run Docker Swarm mode, Kubernetes or k3s correctly.

    • Q&A: Rosalind Radcliffe, Chief Architect for DevOps at IBM

      Any creation, whether it is enterprise software or plans for a new city, is heavily influenced by the infrastructure that supports its development. Organizations may wonder how they can embark on a digital transformation strategy that retains the sense of reliability they are used to. Rosalind Radcliffe, distinguished engineer and chief architect for DevOps at IBM, says if they have the IBM Z mainframe and z/OS already in place, they are already poised for the future.

      [...]

      “We’ve been doing a lot of work to make sure all of those tools and technologies that people use everywhere else work on the platform. We also had a recent announcement about running a docker container of Linux inside z/OS, in order to make it even easier for clients who have existing Linux workloads that they want to be really close to the existing data. They won’t have to manage a set of separate Linux environments because instead they manage it in the same z/OS environment. That’s part of a function coming out later this year.

      The focus has been on removing differences that make it harder for users to do development or operations on Z.”

  • Kernel Space

    • ARM Transactional Memory Extension Support Starts Being Plumbed For Linux

      Last month Arm announced Scalable Vector Extension 2 (SVE2) and Transactional Memory Extension (TME) as two new technologies for its A-Profile architecture. That TME support is already being plumbed into the Linux toolchain stack.

      Transactional Memory Extension is Arm’s take on hardware transactional memory support for improving concurrent access to large shared data structures.

    • Graphics Stack

      • Google Worked On A New Aspeed Control Driver For Linux 5.2

        Aspeed BMCs have seen a lot of mainline Linux kernel driver activity from a recent Aspeed video engine driver to an AST2500 SoC DRM driver queued for Linux 5.2 and now also joining that is the Aspeed P2A CTRL driver.

        This Aspeed P2A control driver was worked on by Google developers and is for dealing with the AST2400/AST2500 where supporting a PCI-to-AHB MMIO bridge for leeting the system read/write to the BMC’s physical address space as part of features like sending files to the BMC. The 500+ lines of code for the ASPEED_PTA_CTRL “aspeed-pta-ctrl” driver is used for managing this interface.

      • Intel’s Icelake Gen11 OpenGL & Vulkan Driver Support Is Now Considered Feature-Complete

        It looks like Intel’s open-source Linux graphics driver support is now officially ready to roll for the “Gen 11″ graphics to be found with Icelake, Elkhart Lake, and whatever other Gen11 graphics parts may end up coming. The latest open-source OpenGL/Vulkan driver code now marks Gen 11 as being feature-complete.

        With the upcoming Linux 5.2 kernel cycle, the “i915″ Intel DRM kernel driver no longer considers Icelake/Gen11 graphics to be “experimental” and it also turns out their user-space drivers are ready as well for these next-generation graphics.

      • Sway 1.1 Is Bringing Touch Support To Swaybar, Other Features & Fixes

        Sway 1.0 was released nearly two months ago as the i3-inspired Wayland compositor while now on approach is Sway 1.1 as the newest feature release.

        Sway 1.1 does bring some new features but is predominantly a bug fix release and improvements around i3 window manager compatibility. Sway 1.1 RC1 was released today as a test version ahead of the official update.

    • Benchmarks

      • Intel Cascade Lake Xeon Benchmarks With GCC 8 vs. GCC 9 Compilers

        With today’s release of the GCC 9 code compiler among the many features offered in this annual update to the GNU Compiler Collection is the initial “cascadelake” target/tuning support that enables AVX-512 VNNI tuning by default as the most notable change over the former “skylake-avx512″ GCC target. Anyhow, for those wondering how the GCC 9 performance differs compared to last year’s GCC 8 compiler release, here are some preliminary benchmarks.

        Last month using a GCC 9 development snapshot I ran some tests compared to GCC 8.3 but only got around to posting this data today. Additional GCC 9 benchmarks from Intel 2nd Gen Xeon Scalable processors will be coming soon on Phoronix as well as seeing how the generated C/C++ performance compares to LLVM Clang, etc. For this benchmarking today the dual Intel Xeon Platinum 8280 setup built around the Gigabyte Storage Server was used.

  • Applications

    • A Handy Battery Optimizer for Ubuntu Laptops

      ‘Slimbook Battery 3’ is an open source desktop tool designed to help improve and increase the battery life of laptops running Ubuntu.

      Although the tool is intended for use on Slimbook’s own range of Linux laptops it will work on any laptop, regardless of brand, so long as it’s running Ubuntu or a derivative.

      There are two parts to the tool:

      The first is a tray-based applet for selecting a power/performance state. This offers quick switching between three energy modes: “energy saving”, “balanced” and “maximum performance”.

      You’ll also see an ‘Off’ setting, an ‘Advanced Mode’ option (more on that in a moment) and an ‘Exit’ value. The latter closes the app fully and deactivates whatever energy saving mode that was active.

    • This Week Twitter Taught Me Libhandy Looks Great, Ubuntu Cares, and Pigeons Be Ballin’

      Felix Häcker — a Linux app developer who’s so terrifically well named — shared a video clip of his new radio app for Linux desktops.

    • Best Photoshop Alternatives for Linux

      Photoshop is the most popular photo editing software on the planet – a title that should come to you as no surprise having seen its thousand and one features. Photoshop, in the hands of an expert, can make the imaginably impossible come to life via images.

      Written in C++ and Pascal, Photoshop was created by Adobe Inc. and was first released in 1990 since then, it has become the standard for vast areas in digital art.

      As nice as that sounds, Photoshop doesn’t have any desktop clients for Linux users. While the reason for Adobe’s behavior is still up for debate, I will rather spend my time compiling a list of the best alternatives that you can use in the meantime. In most cases, you wouldn’t even need Photoshop any longer.

      With that being said, here are the best Adobe Photoshop alternatives for Linux. This list concentrates on software that mirrors Photoshop’s features so I wouldn’t include apps that like Inkscape.

    • 7 Best Free Linux Educational Music Software

      Music education is a field of study connected with the learning and teaching of music. Music is an essential part of the fabric of our society, and the intrinsic value of music is widely recognized. Human culture uses music to carry forward its ideas and ideals.

      The benefits of music education should not be underestimated. Studies have shown that music education can offer a marked improvement in a child’s reading skills. By receiving training in complex rhythmic and tonal skills, music education enhances cognitive performance in reading skills. Music education also helps with mathematics and science. The skill of keeping a steady rhythm, working out how long a note is, thinking about complex patterns are just a few examples of how music helps in this way.

      An essential part of learning is to make music lessons fun. This can be achieved with music games, lesson plans, and worksheets.

      To provide an insight into the quality of software available, we have compiled a list of 7 music learning tools. Hopefully there will be something of interest for anyone looking to smarten their ears, heighten their appreciation of music, learn music theory and language, and above all to have fun in learning. Here’s our recommendations and verdict on all the music software.

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Games

      • Supergiant Games now have Bastion, Transistor and Pyre up on itch.io

        Supergiant Games did something awesome today, as they’ve put all three of their older games up on itch.io with Bastion, Transistor and Pyre.

        Fantastic to see another highly regarded games developer and their games up on itch, they’re all awesome games too and I finally got around to playing through Pyre recently and as expected the quality of it was incredible. Since I’m writing about it, you can rest assured that all three games on itch also have their Linux versions up with no delay.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • Desktop Icons New Maintainer & Release

        Desktop icons just had a new release! Plenty of good things went in:

        Sergio fixed the “Open in Terminal” menu item not opening in the desktop folder, and also made the files appear from top to bottom, left to right, that more users were used to. Also, we discovered that the settings panel wasn’t getting translated, so Sergio fixed it too and now all translations are in place.

        We had another developer contributing too, Andrea Azzarone. Andrea fixed the rubberband going over windows, quite a nice touch. Also added a way to group consecutive rubberbands with and , which is definitively useful!

      • Marcus Lundblad: Some Maps news

        I guess it’s time for some news on goin ons in GNOME Maps again since been a couple of months since last time.

        In the development branch (leading up to 3.34 this autumn) I have re-written the code used for producing printouts of route searches to not use the GtkOffscreen “pseudo widget“ to render instructions, since this will not be supported in GTK 4. Instead it now uses Cairo directly to do the rendering. The appearance of the printouts should however not really be any different, so in that respect it is not that exciting :-)

      • GNOME 3.32 is awesome, but still needs improvements in key areas

        Several paper cuts in GNOME lead to an ultimately unpleasant experience for end users, new and experienced alike. On their own, these issues may seem minor, but together they can lead to confusion and even annoyance. The sheer number of extensions that exist to cater to non-advanced use cases and their popularity are a clear sign of shortcomings in vanilla GNOME.

        I felt it was prudent to point out areas of improvement especially considering that most popular Linux distributions ship with GNOME as their default experience (with or without changes). Ubuntu, Fedora et al., are first Linux Desktop experiences to many millions and it should be the best it can be.

        You may disagree with many of the issues pointed out above, or may have different solutions. But the common thing is we all want GNOME to be better. I urge you to initiate discussions on the GNOME Community and file bug reports. The stage is yours.

  • Distributions

    • Reviews

      • POP!_OS Makes Classic GNOME Simpler to Use

        The performance of POP!_OS is nearly indistinguishable from GNOME iterations in other Linux distros I have tried. The developers’ customized tweaking is what makes the difference.

        Presumably, running POP!_OS on an optimized System76 hardware will give you better performance than just installing the distro on your existing hardware. Comparing your existing machine specs to what is built into a new System76 computer should give you a clue to how much of a performance boost you can expect.

        Either way, try out the live session on your current computer. Then weigh the potential benefits of a new computer if you like the customized version of the GNOME desktop.

    • Fedora

      • Improving the Container Workflow

        As I mentioned in my talk at Scale 17x, if you aren’t using containers for building your application yet, it’s likely you will in the not-so-distant future. Moving towards an immutable base OS is a very likely future because the security advantages are so compelling. With that, comes a need for a mutable playground, and containers generally fit the bill. This is something I saw coming when I started making Builder so we have had a number of container abstractions for some time.

        With growing distributions, like Fedora’s freshly released Silverblue, it becomes even more necessary to push those container boundaries soon.

        This week I started playing with some new ideas for a terminal workspace in Builder. The goal is to be a bit of a swiss-army knife for container oriented development. I think there is a lot we can offer by building on the rest of Builder, even if you’re primary programming workhorse is a terminal and the IDE experience is not for you. Plumbing is plumbing is plumbing.

      • FPgM report: 2019-18
      • Fedora 30 Workstation Installation Guide with Screenshots

        If you are a Fedora distribution lover and always try the things at Fedora Workstation and Servers, then it is good news for you as Fedora has released its latest OS edition as Fedora 30 for the Workstation and Server. One of the important updates in Fedora 30 from its previous release is that it has introduced Fedora CoreOS as a replacement of Fedora Atomic host.

    • Debian Family

      • Thorsten Alteholz: My Debian Activities in April 2019

        This was again a quiet month and I only accepted 70 packages and rejected 11 uploads. The overall number of packages that got accepted was 102. As with every release, people still upload new versions of packages to unstable during the full freeze. I always wonder why they do this?

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • The Official Ubuntu Merch Shop Has Closed Down

            A handful of Linux distributions maintain their own merchandise stores or partner with a third-party one. This allows them to sell some (often thinly) branded stock bearing a logo or a typeface and make some (often much-needed) revenue.

            But the Canonical Store felt different, somehow. More thoughtful, considered and curated. It sold items that Ubuntu fans might actually have a use for, beyond the obvious joy of promoting their fave Linux distro, of course.

            The Canonical Store, also referred to as the ‘Ubuntu Shop’, launched in late 2007 with an exclusive black Ubuntu t-shirt and a small selection of other items, such as a sticker sheet, some CDs and a mug.

          • Be Helpful And Take the Dell Ubuntu Developer Survey

            ell make an ace range of aspirational, if largely unaffordable, developer laptops running Ubuntu Linux.

            You’ve probably read about them, lusted after them, and hey: maybe even bought one.

            But could the Dell “Sputnik” range (as it is still informally known) be better? Are there features or options models in the classy Dell XPS 13 line miss?

            Well, that’s what a new survey aims to find out.

            Dell is partnering with Canonical to scout feedback from the developer community on how they work, the platforms and software they use, and what they think the weak link is in Dell’s current line of Linux-based developer laptops.

          • Flavours and Variants

            • Xubuntu 19.04 Disco Dingo – A dawn of a renaissance?

              Xubuntu 19.04 Disco Dingo is a fairly decent release for the bi-annual non-LTS testbed. It’s stable enough, sort of mature bordering on boring, fast when it needs to be, pretty when you make it, and gives a relatively rounded overall experience. But then, it also falls short in quite a few areas.

              These look more like nuggets of apathy than deliberate omissions – networking woes with Samba and Bluetooth, customization struggle, less than adequate battery life, some odd niggles here and there. It just feels like a tickbox exercise rather than a beautiful fruit of labor, passion and fun. It is somewhat better than Cosmic, but it’s nowhere near as exciting as Xfce (or rather Xubuntu) used to be three years back. 7/10, and worth testing, but don’t crank your adrenaline pump too high.

              P.S. If you’re in Australia and having trouble reading this review, please flip your monitor upside down.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • dav1d 0.3.0 released

    The Alliance for Open Media developed the AV1 patent-free video codec and sponsors the development of dav1d, a reference optimized decoder for AV1. The 0.3.0 release of dav1d is now available. “This third release continues to increase the ARM and SSSE3 speed, with more optimizations, as announced, and we get between 12 and 25% speed increases on those CPUs, depending on the samples. However, more surprisingly, we got a speedup on AVX-2 CPU, by optimizing the MSAC (entropy decoding), while we did not find a good solution in the past. This brings 4-5% speed improvements, which is quite huge, knowing the maturity of the AVX-2 code.”

  • dav1d 0.3.0 release: even faster!

    If you follow this blog, you should know everything about dav1d.

    AV1 is a new video codec by the Alliance for Open Media, composed of most of the important Web companies (Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, Microsoft, Mozilla…). AV1 has the potential to be up to 20% better than the HEVC codec, but the patents license is totally free, while HEVC patents licenses are insanely high and very confusing.

    The VideoLAN, VLC and FFmpeg communities have started to work on a new decoder, sponsored by the Alliance for Open Media, in order to create the reference optimized decoder for AV1.

  • Events

    • Karsten Samaschke, Cloudibility GmbH | Open Infrastructure Summit, Denver
    • Jonathan Bryce, OpenStack Foundation | Open Infrastructure Summit
    • Red Hat Summit: get your steps in

      With Red Hat Summit 2019 starting next week, you are probably thinking about what to pack, what sessions to attend (be sure to check out the agenda builder on the Red Hat Summit website to start building your personal schedule for when you are onsite!) and how excited you are to see your fellow Red Hat and open source enthusiasts. And if you are anything like us, you may also be thinking about how you will maintain your 10k a day step count streak and fitness goals while attending the event. Luckily for you, we have your back – er wrist and legs – with this guide for making sure you still hit your step goal, in-between sessions and keynotes, of course.

    • Get ready for Summit with the Red Hat Summit app

      Before you get to Boston be sure to download the app to manage your schedule and stay connected to the latest event details. Either click the link that was emailed to you by the Red Hat Summit team or just search for “Red Hat Events” on Android and iOS in your device’s app store and follow the sign in instructions. If you have the app installed from last year, you’ll just need to update it to the current version.

    • Canonical Sharpens Focus on Red Hat, VMware; IPO Plans Remain

      Canonical this week moved to simplify its service offerings in an attempt to lower cost and attract more customers looking to jump into the open source game. The move also comes ahead of a planned initial public offering that could handsomely compensate the company’s staff.

      The move is under its Ubuntu Advantage (UA) for Infrastructure program that consolidates enterprise security, compliance, and support for up to 10 years. It consolidates that support for Linux, Kubernetes, Docker, OpenStack, KVM, Ceph, and Swift.

      [...]

      Shuttleworth in a separate interview at the OIS event also said that Canonical remains on track for a long-gestating IPO. Those plans were initially hinted at in mid-2017.

      Shuttleworth stated two reasons behind the IPO move: the first was to tap into the public markets to help fund a company that is basically serving as a public utility so it’s appropriate for Canonical to look for public funds; and also “it’s the right way to reward the management team.”

      “Since we made that decision just over two years ago, the business has grown substantially,” Shuttleworth said. “We have gained a bunch of efficiencies and solidified our self-sufficiency. I am very satisfied with what our team has done.”

      Shuttleworth has been the primary source of outside funding to Canonical since he founded the company in 2004. Shuttleworth did add that he is focused on maintaining the company’s core values even “if you are being measured on specific metrics. You could [lose that focus], but we won’t.”

    • Design Tool Hackfest 2019

      Last month I was in Berlin for the “Design Tools Hackfest 2019”. This whole thing started during last year’s GUADEC in Almeria, when I started playing around with cairo and librsvg. Because of that I got pulled into some discussions around improving tooling for GNOME designers, especially around icons.

    • Terri Schlosser, SUSE | Open Infrastructure Summit, Denver

      Guest: Terri Schlosser, Head of Product, Technical and Solution Marketing, SUSE

    • BPF microconference accepted into 2019 Linux Plumbers Conference

      We are pleased to announce that the BPF microconference has been accepted into the 2019 Linux Plumbers Conference! Last year’s BPF microconference was such a success that it will be held again this year.

      BPF along with its just-in-time (JIT) compiler inside the Linux kernel allows for versatile programmability of the kernel and plays
      a major role in networking (XDP, tc BPF, etc.), tracing (kprobes, uprobes, tracepoints) and security (seccomp, landlock) subsystems.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • OpenSUSE Tumbleweed Eyeing LTO By Default; GCC 9 Optimization Work Thanks To Firefox

        Firefox developers and their desire to switch to LLVM Clang in the name of performance. Separately, openSUSE Tumbleweed has been looking at using link-time optimizations (LTO) by default for their packages and that has also motivated developers and help ensured the LTO support was in good shape for this annual compiler release.

      • A Glitch Is Disabling All Firefox Extensions, But A Workaround May Help

        A technical error has affected Mozilla Firefox’s extensions as all the extensions or add-ons have been disabled on the browser.

        Users trying to use the extensions are receiving a pop-up message which reads, “Could not be verified for use in Firefox and has been disabled.”

      • A glitch is breaking all Firefox extensions

        Did you just open Firefox only to find all of your extensions disabled and/or otherwise not working?

        You’re not alone, and it’s nothing you did.

        Reports are pouring in of a glitch that has spontaneously disabled effectively all Firefox extensions.

        Each extension is now being listed as a “legacy” extension, alongside a warning that it “could not be verified for use in Firefox and has been disabled”.

        A ticket submitted to Mozilla’s Bugzilla bug tracker first hit at around 5:40 PM Pacific, and suggests the sudden failure is due to a code signing certificate built into the browser that expired just after 5 PM (or midnight on May 4th in UTC time).

      • TenFourFox not affected by the addon apocalypse

        Tonight’s Firefox add-on apocalypse, traced to a mistakenly expired intermediate signing certificate, is currently roiling Firefox users worldwide. It bit me on my Talos II, which really cheesed me off because it tanked all my carefully constructed site containers. (And that’s an official Mozilla addon!)

      • Mozilla Had A Rough Night With Add-Ons Getting Disabled Due To An Expired Certificate

        If you are waking up this morning to find all of your Mozilla Firefox add-ons have expired, you are certainly not alone. A major blunder has found users of Firefox finding most add-ons getting disabled.

        Add-ons like Netflix, Amazon Assistant, Greasemonkey, Ghostery, NoScript, uBlock Origin, and many other popular browser add-ons ended up getting disabled at midnight… An intermediate signing certificate expired over now having an invalid signature. For whatever reason, Mozilla hadn’t planned ahead and shipped a renewed certificate in advance. Whoops!

      • Mike Hoye: Goals And Constraints

        Last week I laid out the broad strokes of Mozilla’s requirements for our next synchronous-text platform. They were pretty straightforward, but I want to thank a number of people from different projects who’ve gotten in touch on IRC or email to ask questions and offer their feedback.

        Right now I’d like to lay out those requirements in more detail, and talk about some of the reasons behind them. Later I’m going to lay out the process and the options we’re looking at, and how we’re going to gather information, test those options and evaluate what we learn.

        While the Rust community is making their own choices now about the best fit for their needs, the Rust community’s processes are going to strongly inform the steps for Mozilla. They’ve learned a lot the hard way about consensus-building and community decision-making, and it’s work that I have both a great deal of respect for and no intention of re-learning the hard way myself. I’ll have more about that shortly as well.

        [...]

        It was easy not to care about this when somebody who wanted to contribute to an open source project with global impact had maybe four choices, the Linux kernel, the Mozilla suite, the GNU tools and maybe Apache. But that world was pre-Github, pre-NPM. If you want to work on hard problems with global impact now you have a hundred thousand options, and that means the experience of joining and becoming a part of the Mozilla community matters.

        In short, the amount of effort a project puts into making the path from “I want to help” to “I’m helping” easier is a reliable indicator of the value that project puts on community involvement. So if we say we value our community, we need to treat community involvement and contribution like a product, with all the usability and accessibility concerns that implies. To drive involvement friction as close to zero as possible.

        One tool we’ll be relying on – and this one, we did build in-house – is called Mozilla-IAM, Mozilla’s Identity and Access Management tool. I’ll have more to say about this soon, but at its core it lets us proxy authentication from various sources and methods we trust, Github, Firefox Accounts, a link in your email, a few others. We think IAM will let us support pseudonymous participation and a low-cost first-contact experience, but also let us keep our house in order and uphold the CPG in the process.

  • LibreOffice

    • Formatted dummy text

      The work around user experience often requires to create a minimal working example. Either users report an issue or request enhancements, the comparison with the current situation is necessary. LibreOffice has a built-in feature to create dummy text (type dt and press F3) but this function inserts only unformatted text. So we created an extension that adds some styling to the dummy text.

    • TDF is Google Seasons of Doc Mentoring Organization

      The Document Foundation has been accepted as organization for the Google Seasons of Docs, a project whose goals are to give technical writers an opportunity to gain experience in contributing to open source projects, and to give open source projects an opportunity to engage the technical writing community.

      For technical writers who are new to open source, the program provides an opportunity to gain experience in contributing to open source projects. For technical writers who’re already working in open source, the program provides a potentially new way of working together.

      During the program, technical writers will spend a few months working closely with the LibreOffice community, bringing their technical writing expertise to the project’s documentation, and at the same time learn about the open source project and new technologies. At the same time, LibreOffice documentation team members will work with the technical writers to improve the project’s documentation and processes.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

    • Amy Wheelus, AT&T | Open Infrastructure Summit, Denver

      In this episode of TFIR Let’s Talk, Swapnil Bhartiya (Founder & Editor in Chief of TFIR) sat down with Amy Wheelus – Vice President of Network Cloud at AT&T to talks about how AT&T is using Open Source and how it is contributing to Open Source projects.

  • BSD

    • DragonFlyBSD Updates Its Radeon/TTM Driver Code Against Linux 3.18 Bits

      The Radeon (and Intel) graphics driver support on DragonFlyBSD has improved a lot compared to where it was at many years ago, but it remains a perpetual catch-up game with the porting of this driver code from Linux to their BSD kernel.

      Like other BSDs, DragonFlyBSD continues re-basing their Radeon and Intel driver code against what’s in the mainline Linux kernel given that’s where the vendors are working on the open-source graphics support without any catered driver to the BSDs, with the exception being NVIDIA and their binary driver being offered with official FreeBSD support. But due to the changes needed when re-basing the code in adapting to the latest interface changes, it’s quite a burden to maintain. While the Linux 5.1 kernel is expected to be out this weekend, DragonFlyBSD is generally playing with late 3.x Linux kernels and early 4.x bits.

    • OpenBSD 6.5 | BSD Now 296
  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • GNU Guix 1.0.0 released with an improved user interface, hassle-free installation and more

      Yesterday, GNU Guix, a transactional package manager and an advanced distribution of the GNU system, announced the release of GNU Guix version 1.0.0. or “One-point-oh”.
      This release includes ISO-9660 installation images, a virtual machine image, and with tarballs to install the package manager on top of GNU/ Linux distro, either from source or from binaries. Guix users can update by running guix pull.

      According to their official post, the team says that, “For Guix, 1.0 is the result of seven years of development, with code, packaging, and documentation contributions made by 260 people, translation work carried out by a dozen of people, and artwork and web site development by a couple of individuals, to name some of the activities that have been happening. During those years we published no less than 19 “0.x” releases.”

      This release, the team says, is a major milestone for those who’ve been on board for several years.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Full Earth Disc Images From GOES-17 Harvested By SDR

        The fact that GOES-17 is a geostationary satellite means that it is a bit more involved. While polar satellites that orbit at an altitude of 800km or so can be received with a random piece of wire, the 35,800 km altitude of geostationary satellites means that you need a better antenna. That doesn’t have to be that expensive, though: [Eric] used a $100 parabolic antenna and a $100 Airspy Mini SDR receiver connected to an Ubuntu laptop running some open source software to receive and decode the 1.7GHz signal of the satellite.

  • Programming/Development

Leftovers

  • Science

    • We Can’t Back People Who Hate Our Kids: Kentucky & Minnesota Teachers of Year Boycott Trump Meeting

      We speak with two award-winning teachers who are trying to teach Trump a lesson. On Monday, Jessica Dueñas, the 2019 Kentucky Teacher of the Year, and Kelly Holstine, the 2018 Minnesota Teacher of the Year, boycotted a White House ceremony honoring them and other state winners of the award in protest of the Trump administration’s education policies. But Dueñas and Holstine skipped the event to register their opposition to Trump’s policies on immigration, education and LGBTQ rights, saying many of the White House policies directly impact their immigrant and refugee students.

    • The Best School Innovation Would Be More People

      Public schools thrive on innovation.

      In nearly every classroom around the country you’ll find teachers discovering new ways to reach students and foster skills, understanding and creativity.

      But if you pan out to the macro level, the overwhelming majority of innovations aren’t organic. They’re imposed on us by bureaucrats and functionaries from outside the classroom:

      Education Technologies.

      School privatization.

      Standardized tests and Common Core.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • The State of the State

      The states did not increase food security, did incubate disease, made most of their inhabitants miserable and were, always, pretty much what they are today. States produced writing to keep their slaves “legible.” The elites had to keep track of who owed what in taxes. It follows (though Scott does not claim) that Democracy was a way for the slaves to blow off steam harmlessly. Hey, you can’t complain. You voted for it. Culture was nothing more than distraction from often soul crushing labor. Grain, that has to be cooked to be edible, for hunters and gathers a minor food source, are the basis of states because grain is all harvested at the same time, can be preserved, and so can be easily taxed. Grain requires slaves to do agricultural work hunter/gathers would disdain. The state is a machine to extract a pound of flesh from a large number of its inhabitants for the benefit of the very few.

      Now the question that should pop into the head of anyone who reads Against the Grain is, “If life was so good without states why on earth would anyone create one?” What got into these elites to want slaves when they really had almost nothing onerous to do themselves! Hunting and gathering is not onerous. For a hunter-gather, life,

    • Making (and Raising) Babies in the USA

      In recent months, statements by two very different politicians regarding the act of bearing and raising children have caused a fair amount of controversy. The first comment was from Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who remarked that many people in her generation were hesitant to bring children into a world facing possible climate catastrophe. Her comment was immediately taken out of context by certain right-wingers who pointed to it as a prime example of generational selfishness. A few weeks later, Senator Mike Lee from Utah, also talking about climate change, argued that the way to “fight” climate change was to have more babies. This comment was immediately challenged and mocked by many of the same media outlets which had supported Ocasio-Cortez’s musings.

      The debates over having children represented by the statements of these two politicians is more than just a soundbite or a subject to ridicule according to one’s political opinion. Individuals and societies alike should include the nature of potential futures when they consider their choices as individuals to have children and, as a society, to encourage members to have children. Yet, most advanced capitalist societies (and any less advanced) have seen their birth rates diminish the past couple of decades. At minimum, a birth rate of 2.1 children per woman is considered essential for a stable population. Yet, in the US and other nations, the current birth rate is below this number.

    • Dean Baker’s Testimony to the House Rules Committee on the Medicare for All Act of 2019

      At the most basic level, proposals for Medicare for All, such as the Jayapal bill, involve making the government responsible for costs now paid by private insurers or as out-of-pocket payments by individuals. If we just project out these costs for the years 2021 to 2030, it would come to $33.4 trillion or 11.5 percent of GDP over this period.[1]

      While this is very substantial by any measure, it becomes considerably more manageable on closer examination. Most immediately, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) projects that we will spend $3.9 trillion on insurers’ administrative costs and profits over this period. This comes to 27.9 percent of projected payments for services by insurers.[2] If we assume that a universal Medicare system would have administrative costs comparable to the current Medicare system, or the Medicare-type systems in Canada, the United Kingdom and elsewhere, administrative costs would be closer to 3.0 percent of payments to providers. This would save roughly $3.5 trillion over the course of the decade.

      In addition to the direct administrative costs associated with our private insurance system, it also imposes substantial costs on hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other providers. They need people on staff to deal with a variety of different forms and billing practices. They also need staff to assist patients in dealing with insurers and their own billing. In addition, employers who provide health care benefits need to devote staff time and/or hire consultants both to select and administer plans and to assist workers in making claims and choosing plans.

      These costs can be substantial. A 2003 study comparing administrative costs in Canada and the United States found that hospitals in the United States devoted 24.3 percent of spending to administrative costs compared to just 12.9 percent in Canada.[3] If we apply this difference of 11.4 percentage points to projected hospital spending for the decade, it comes to $2.1 trillion. Table 1 shows the impact of savings on administrative costs on the additional revenue needed to pay for a universal Medicare program.

    • Pediatrician Who Treated Immigrant Children Describes Pattern of Lapses in Medical Care in Shelters

      Inside a weathered green group home in southern New Jersey, Yosary grew weaker and weaker. She felt tired all the time, and when she got out of bed in the morning, she sometimes became so dizzy she needed to lie back down. Bruises started appearing all over her body. She craved ice, chewing cups of it whenever she could.

      For months, the slender 15-year-old, who’d fled Honduras with her 2-year-old son, had been reporting her symptoms to the shelter’s staff. But they dismissed her pleas for help, she said: She was dizzy because she’d just stood up too fast. Her bruises? She probably bumped into something and didn’t remember. Chewing ice was a bad habit she needed to break.

      By the time someone finally took her to one of the shelter’s pediatricians last summer, Yosary was in such bad shape she had to be hooked up to an IV at a local hospital. The pediatrician, Elana Levites-Agababa, recognized the telltale signs of severe anemia, which, untreated, could have resulted in heart failure and damage to other organs. The staff should have known — the teen’s history of anemia was documented in the shelter’s records.

      “I was devastated by the care she got,” Levites-Agababa said. “Her hospitalization could likely have been prevented if she had been brought in when she first started raising concerns that she needed to see a doctor.”

    • Post-Brexit Farming, Glyphosate and GMOs

      I am surprised to learn that from the huge number of scientists employed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Rothamsted Research (research institute involved in developing and testing GM crops) that not one of them has read the new book by Caius Rommens, former team leader at Monsanto. He helped create GM potatoes and has retracted his research as he explains in the book ‘Pandora’s Potatoes: The Worst GMOs’.

      Professor Jonathan Jones, group leader for the Sainsbury Laboratory has worked for Monsanto in the past, so he has massive conflicts of interest.

      It all shows an ignorance beyond belief!

      In an interview with Sustainable Pulse, Caius Rommens has revealed the hidden dangers of the GMO potatoes he created:

      “During my 26 years as a genetic engineer, I created hundreds of thousands of different GM potatoes at a direct cost of about $50 million. I started my work at universities in Amsterdam and Berkeley, continued at Monsanto, and then worked for many years at J. R. Simplot Company, which is one of the largest potato processors in the world. I had my potatoes tested in greenhouses or the field, but I rarely left the laboratory to visit the farms or experimental stations. Indeed, I believed that my theoretical knowledge about potatoes was sufficient to improve potatoes. This was one of my biggest mistakes.”

    • Even Working People With Health Coverage Cannot Afford Care

      Millions of people across the United States are struggling to afford health care despite receiving health coverage from an employer, a new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Los Angeles Times shows. The rising cost of premiums, deductibles and co-pays has outpaced wage growth for more than a decade and has contributed to a growing health care affordability crisis, particularly for those who have chronic health conditions or insurance plans with high deductibles.

      The majority of working-age Americans — about 156 million people — have health coverage through a union or employer, but most pay at least a portion of the premium themselves, according to the survey. Even with employer coverage, 4 in 10 workers report trouble paying unexpected medical bills or covering deductibles, co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs. The survey reveals that the health coverage we often associate with full-time employment is not always enough to protect working families from overwhelming health care costs.

      Just over half of those with employer insurance say someone in their family postponed needed medical care, rationed or went without medication, or relied on home remedies due to the cost of seeking care. About one in six respondents said they made significant “sacrifices” in order to make health care payments: Two-thirds of those who have trouble making payments reported that they put off vacations or major purchases, or cut spending on food, clothes and household items. Meanwhile, half reported an increase in credit card debt, according to the survey.

      From 2008 until 2018, premiums for employer-sponsored insurance plans increased by 55 percent, growing twice as fast as workers’ wages. The size of average deductibles also ballooned by an alarming 212 percent, increasing the amount of money patient must to pay out-of-pocket before the insurance kicks in. In fact, deductibles increased by 4.5 percent in 2018 alone, according to the Kaiser Foundation.

    • WHO study confirms breastfeeding protects against child obesity, however levels of breastfeeding across Europe are well off-target

      New research from WHO published at this month’s European Congress on Obesity shows that babies who are never or only partially breast fed have an increased risk of becoming obese as children compared to babies who are exclusively breastfed. This WHO Europe research study was led Dr Ana Rito and Dr Ricardo of the National Institute of Health, Lisbon, Portugal, and colleagues.

      The research paper is part of the WHO Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) led by Dr João Breda, Head of the WHO European Office for Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases and his team and is being presented at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Glasgow, UK (28 April – 1 May).

      In the WHO European Region, despite childhood obesity rates in some regions apparently plateauing, progress on tackling this important public health issue remains slow and inconsistent. In the scientific literature breastfeeding has been described as a protective factor for obesity in childhood. The more exclusively and the longer a child is breastfed, the greater their protection from obesity. Higher birthweight has also been shown to be associated with later risk for obesity.

    • Brazil’s Bolsonaro Green-Lights 150+ Pesticides This Year

      With the ruralist lobby now in control of key sectors of the federal government, Brazil is rapidly approving new pesticides for use, some of which critics say are either unnecessary or excessively toxic. During the first 100 days of the Jair Bolsonaro administration, the Agriculture Ministry authorized the registration of 152 pesticides, putting Brazil on course to authorize more pesticides this year than in any previous year. Brazil is already the world’s largest user of pesticides.

      [...]

      In July 2018, the human rights organization, Human Rights Watch, published a report documenting acute intoxication at seven locations in Brazil, including indigenous communities, schools and quilombolas — communities of runaway slave descendants.

      “Pesticides sprayed in large plantations intoxicate children in schoolrooms in many parts of Brazil,” said Richard Pearshouse, assistant director of the environmental and human rights division of Human Rights Watch. But the report found that many local inhabitants were too frightened to speak out.

      In five of the seven impacted communities, people said they were afraid of suffering reprisals if they complained. In 2010 a rural farmer was shot dead after putting pressure on local government to forbid aerial spraying of pesticides — a common application practice in Brazil, even though it allows wind-carried toxic sprays to settle far from crops in surrounding communities and natural areas.

      [...]

      But Castro Moreira, president of the prestigious Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science (SBPC), representing more than 100 scientific societies, disagreed strongly. He said at the time that the bill, “could have very serious consequences for the health of the Brazilian population and the environment.… Its approval would be a backward step, because it follows the logic of mechanized agriculture, with high investments in fertilizers and pesticides, which is an outmoded way of thinking, dating from the end of the Second World War.”

      Current Agriculture Minister Cristina is a strong proponent of PL 6299/2002, but there is bound to be opposition to the bill’s approval, though it will likely be difficult for critics to block the measure. The ruralists have never had a stronger grip on both the legislative and executive branches, and they seem determined to press their agribusiness agenda.

      As President Bolsonaro ended his first 100 days in office, his popularity was slipping fast, with 30 percent of the population already assessing his administration as “very bad” and the markets believing the government is becoming unstable. However, that very perception of growing uncertainty seems to have only caused the ruralists to move forward with greater urgency. Meanwhile, conservationists and food experts continue to warn of the national and global environmental and health repercussions of Brazil’s deregulated pesticide use — permissiveness likely to soon outstrip that seen among other major agricultural nations.

    • How Women Are Shaping The Farming Industry

      When it comes to agriculture and farming in Africa, women have played a large role in shaping the future. As the continent moves forward, many believe that women are the key to transforming agriculture.

      The exciting prospect of realigning the focus of agriculture in Africa to be on women means that there are going to new ideas and thoughts and innovations!

      If you are venturing into the agricultural field, this is very exciting news!

    • A Convenient Excuse | Dear mainstream media colleagues: Time is running out to prevent climate catastrophe. Lives are at stake. And you are failing us all.

      May 3, 2019 Editor’s note: Wen Stephenson’s impassioned plea to his former journalism colleagues ran as a cover story in the November 2, 2012 issue of the Boston Phoenix. After the alternative weekly folded in 2013, Stephenson’s piece was lost. With Stephenson’s permission, DeSmog is republishing the article for posterity.

      On October 2, [2012] I led a climate protest inside the offices of the Boston Globe.

      OK, it was really a meeting in a small conference room with editorial page editor Peter Canellos and members of his staff. But it was, in essence, a protest.

      I used to be a card-carrying member of the mainstream media; only a few years ago, I was the editor of the Globe’s Ideas section. Peter is a former colleague.

      With me was Craig Altemose, founder and executive director of Better Future Project, a Cambridge-based nonprofit dedicated to climate action, on whose working board I serve as a volunteer. We were joined by two members of BFP’s advisory board: MIT’s Kerry Emanuel, one of the country’s leading climate scientists (and, until recently, a Republican); and Boston College’s Juliet Schor, a sociologist and economist who is a respected thinker on climate and the economy. Last year, Altemose was arrested protesting the Keystone XL pipeline at the White House along with another advisory board member, Bill McKibben of 350.org, and 1,251 other concerned citizens.

      After a quick round of introductions, I explained to my former Globe colleagues that I wasn’t there to “save the planet” or to protect some abstraction called “the environment.” I’m really not an environmentalist, and never have been. No, I said, I was there for my kids: my son, who’s 12, and my daughter, who’s 8. And not only my kids—all of our kids, everywhere. Because on our current trajectory, it’s entirely possible that we’ll no longer have a livable climate—one that allows for stable, secure societies to survive—within the lifetimes of today’s children.

    • #PeoplesWave Rises Up For #MedicareForAll

      We just took a huge step towards Medicare For All: the House Ways and Means Committee has announced they will hold, for the first time, hearings on the Medicare For All Act Of 2019, introduced this spring by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT).
      Ways and Means plays a decisive role in whether or not Medicare for All advances to the floor for a vote.
      Who made this happen? You did. People’s Action members from all across the country – nearly a thousand – came to Washington, D.C. this weekend to demand Medicare For All. We took the streets because people – our people – are dying from corporate greed and government complacency. We need solutions to our health care crisis now, not later.
      People’s Action hit on all cylinders in D.C. –with rallies, protests and marches, and in committee rooms and offices and on Capitol Hill. Three of our members – Robert Kraig from Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Kristy Fogle from Progressive Maryland and Savanna Lyons from West Virginia Citizen Action Group – were invited by Rep. Jayapal to join the House Rules Committee’s first-ever meeting on Medicare For All on Tuesday.

    • ‘Superbugs’ Could Kill 10 Million Annually Without Urgent Action, Warns New Report

      A new report on antimicrobial resistance calls for greater action by stakeholders at all levels lest so-called “superbugs” claim 10 million lives a year.

      “There is no time to wait,” says the report, released Monday by the U.N. Interagency Coordination Group (IACG) on Antimicrobial Resistance.

      “Unless the world acts urgently, antimicrobial resistance will have disastrous impact within a generation,” IACG says.

      The threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is already deadly, with 700,000 people dying each year as a result of drug-resistant diseases.

      There is also problem of inequity and lack of affordable access, which the report links to the deaths of “nearly 6 million people annually, including a million children who die of preventable sepsis and pneumonia.”

      Fast forward to 2050, the report adds, and AMR could cause as many as 10 million deaths each year under a worst case scenario.

    • ‘Stop What You’re Doing and Watch’: Applause and Gratitude for Ady Barkan’s Emotional Medicare for All Testimony

      In an emotional ten minute testimony, dying activist Ady Barkan delivered a message to Congress: pass a Medicare For All bill—now.

      Barkan emphasized the increased efficiencies of Medicare For All as opposed to the current healthcare system and pointed out how the for-profit insurance industry hinders, rather than helps, ordinary Americans.

    • Trump’s Abortion Lies Are Going to Get Somebody Killed

      In examining the flood of lies that spills out of President Donald Trump’s mouth on a daily basis, arguably the most egregious are his claims about abortion—and specifically, about so-called “late-term abortions.” Trump has repeated several times in the past a myth created by anti-abortion activists. For example, during his State of the Union address in January, he said, “Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments from birth.” He also claimed that Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam “stated he [Northam] would execute a baby after birth.” In February, Trump tweeted, “The Democrat position on abortion is now so extreme that they don’t mind executing babies AFTER birth.”

      Last Saturday, Trump embellished the lie some more, claiming during a political rally in Wisconsin that doctors and parents conspire to murder babies after birth. “The baby is born,” said Trump. “The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully, and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.”

    • Following Trump Rally, Nurse Smashes ‘Perhaps One of the Sickest Accusations Levied by This Deranged Dictator Yet’

      A registered nurse issued a gut-wrenching take-down of President Donald Trump’s false claim over the weekend that women and doctors are conspiring to kill babies that are born alive.

      She called it “perhaps one of the sickest accusations levied by this deranged dictator yet.”

      [...]

      Pulver told news outlet Michigan Advance that she had “specific authority” to debunk Trump’s lie in this case.

      “I felt the need to continue to support those parents who turned to me in their worst moments, and continue to champion their little warriors,” she said, “by making sure everyone unequivocally knew what really happens when babies pass away in hospitals.”

    • If You’ve Suffered, Get Help

      I’ve spent the past three years in therapy for trauma. I do a type of therapy called Somatic Experiencing that’s highly effective and has turned my entire life around.

      Thanks to this therapy, I’ve lost weight, I’ve developed healthy sleep habits, and I smile more. I’m more present, my body feels less stiff, and I feel more at home in it. I used to have a migraine every day (for 23 years) and now I don’t. I’m doing better socially and professionally.

      It turns out that virtually everything I don’t like about myself was a symptom of my trauma — and underneath all of that is a person I actually like. I’m finally getting to know her and share her with the world.

      Before, I couldn’t feel most of my emotions, but I didn’t know it. I thought I felt emotions the same as everyone else does. But trauma manifests itself in what Donald Rumsfeld would call “unknown unknowns.” That is, parts of your body and soul go numb, and you don’t even know they’re missing.

      That numbness makes the problem easy to deny or minimize. You can’t feel it, so you believe it’s not there.

      Abuse can be disguised as parental discipline, or “advice” given out of love (“I just need to tell you how bad you are because I love you and want you to get better.”) The spectrum of abuse doesn’t just include physical or sexual acts. Neglect hurts too. So do words.

  • Security

    • Supermicro ditching Chinese boards due to ‘spying fears’

      The hardware company at the heart of a Bloomberg story, that claimed its supply chain had been compromised by agents in China in a bid to spy on some customers, is reportedly asking its suppliers to move manufacturing out of Beijing.

      A Nikkei report said server maker Supermicro Computer had issued the advice in a bid to address American customers’ concerns about the risks of cyber spying. Supermicro earns more than 60% of its revenue in America.

      The move appears to be driven more by the trade tensions between the US and China. Last year, Supermicro used Chinese-made motherboards in less than half the 1.55 million servers it shipped, compared to more than 90% in 2017, according to Betty Shyu, a server analyst at Taipei-based Digitimes.

      The Bloomberg story, published in April last year, claimed that the supply chain manipulation had been done by implanting chips on mainboards made for it by a Chinese supplier.

    • Cyber security chief MacGibbon quits, set to enter private sector

      The head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre, Alastair MacGibbon, has handed in his resignation a fortnight before the nation goes to the polls.

      His leaving is apparently driven by a desire to capitalise on the growing market for cyber security specialists in the private sector.

    • Hackers Are Deleting Git Repos And Holding Code Ransom For Bitcoins

      Git hosting services like GitHub, Bitbucket, and GitLab are under ransom attack where hundreds of Git source code repositories have been wiped out and replaced with a ransom demand by attackers.

      The mysterious hackers have launched a coordinated attack across multiple Git repository platforms. It is unclear how this level of attack took place, but a ransom note left behind asks for a payment of 0.1 Bitcoin (around $570) in exchange for releasing the codes.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • What Past Civil Wars Tell Us About the Future of Syria

      When Syrian government soldiers first recaptured the small village of Deir Hafar from Isis in 2017, they found the black-painted but hurriedly abandoned Islamic “court” strewn with piles of documents. These hundreds of pages contained terrible proof of how the Syrian civilians there had behaved under at least three years of Isis occupation.

      I arrived in the village along with the Syrian army after Russian aircraft had bombed Isis out of the streets – the Islamists were still firing shells as they retreated, killing a senior Syrian commander – and reached the local sharia court building, a concrete blockhouse beside three equally black-painted but iron crucifixion bars on a platform above the road.

      But the papers on the floor of the court were the real story of Deir Hafar.

      The judges had been Egyptian and their jurisdiction stretched all the way back to the then Isis “capital” of Syria in the town of Raqqa.

      The documents revealed that the people of the village had used Islamist “justice” to betray their neighbours – in one case to name family cousins as potential spies, in another to accuse a young man of secretly meeting his girlfriend when he was supposed to attend evening prayers. Other neighbours accused each other of theft. A man supposedly collecting money for an electrical generator had pocketed the cash for himself. One potential agent – possibly for the Syrian government – was handed on for “justice” by the “Revolutionary Islamic Police Court”.

      The prosecution witnesses, the defendants, sometimes their “Islamist” guards were precisely named in these archives.

    • As Israeli Group Expands, Palestinian Houses Face Demolition

      For 20 years, Hala Kashour has lived with her husband in what she called “paradise,” a bucolic meadow that rolls through a Palestinian neighborhood of east Jerusalem.

      The coveted pasture, which Israel calls the “Peace Forest,” lies in the crosshairs of a long-simmering conflict between the city government and its Palestinian residents that flared up on a recent spring morning as Kashour, 47, was jolted awake by the sound of bulldozers crushing her neighbor’s house.

      Some 60 houses in the grassy quarter, known to its 500 residents as Wad Yasul, are facing demolition by Israeli authorities. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court declined to hear the residents’ appeal against demolition orders, saying the structures were built without required permits in a municipally designated green space.

      “God willing, we won’t be next,” said Kashour, who claims she built the neighborhood’s first house, a stone cottage ringed with rose bushes, on land her family has owned for 50 years.

    • Breaking the Grip of Militarism: The Story of Vieques

      Vieques is a small Puerto Rican island with some 9,000 inhabitants. Fringed by palm treesand lovely beaches, it attracts substantial numbersof tourists. But, for about six decades, Vieques served as a bombing range, military training site, and storage depot for the U.S. Navy, until its outraged residents, driven to distraction, rescued their homeland from the grip of militarism.

      Like the main island of Puerto Rico, Vieques—located eight miles to the east―was ruledfor centuries by Spain, until the Spanish-American War of 1898 turned Puerto Rico into an informal colony (a “nonsovereign territory”) of the United States. In 1917, Puerto Ricans (including the Viequenses) became U.S. citizens, although they continue to lack the right to representation in the U.S. Congress and to vote for the U.S. president.

      During World War II, the U.S. government, anxious about the security of the Caribbean region and the Panama Canal, expropriated large portions of land in eastern Puerto Rico and on Vieques to build a mammoth U.S. naval base. As a result, thousands of Viequenses were evicted from their homes and deposited in razed sugar cane fields that the navy declared “resettlement tracts.”

      The U.S. Navy takeover of Vieques accelerated in 1947, when it designated the base as a naval training installation and storage depot and began utilizing the island for firing practice and amphibious landings by tens of thousands of troops. Expanding its expropriation to three-quarters of Vieques, the navy used the western section for its ammunition storage and the eastern section for its bombing and war games, while sandwiching the native population into the small strip of land separating them.

      Over the ensuing decades, the navy bombed Vieques from the air, land, and sea and conducted military training exercises averaging 180 days per year. It also used the island for tests of biological weapons.

      Naturally, for the Viequenses, this military domination created a nightmarish existence. “When the wind came from the east, it brought smoke and piles of dust from their bombing ranges,” one resident recalled. “They’d bomb every day, from 5 am until 6 pm. It felt like a war zone. You’d hear . . . eight or nine bombs, and your house would shudder. Everything on your walls . . . would fall on the floor and break,” and “your cement house would start cracking.” In addition, with the release of toxic chemicals into the soil, water, and air, the population began to suffer from dramatically higher rates of illnesses.

    • Run, Hide, Fight, Secure Yourself: What Are Your Kids Learning?

      Oh look. Another shooting. This one, at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, killed two and wounded four; shortly before 6 p.m., the school’s Office of Emergency Management reported gunshots and urged students to “Run, Hide, Fight. Secure yourself immediately.” So nu? It barely made the news. Even as Trump fawns all over a wounded but still lethal NRA, urging “this very important organization” to “get back to GREATNESS – FAST!”; as more and more states pass, or at least debate, over 50 new gun-control laws; as Democratic candidates on the right side of history vowto enact more laws and decry “street-level shrines” of candles and teddy bears marking “the most perverse, unnatural” murder of children – still, 20 years after Columbine, the carnage continues. Those killed and wounded in Charlotte join a sickening tally that is America today: about 40,000 gun deaths a year, 115 so far this year, with roughly one mass shooting a day and many, many more felled in individual shootings. As a result, 95% of American schoolchildren now undergo active shooter drills and lockdowns, and what experts say is their ensuing, often enduring trauma.

      Parents echo them: A mother recalls her six-year-old daughter declaring big cupboards the best places to hide but earnestly adding, “There’s not enough room for everyone. How do we choose who gets to hide and who has to die?” Because “a child’s most important lesson shouldn’t be how to survive,” March For Our Lives has created a Generation Lockdown campaign aimed at passing a proposed Background Check Expansion Act that 97% of Americans support; it has passed in the House and is coming to a vote in the Senate. They created a petition arguing that turning millions of kids into experts in survival is “not a solution we accept.” They also just released a gut-wrenching PSA wherein one of those tender, unwilling experts, real life kid Kayleigh Webb Sanchez, enters a real life team building exercise at a real life company in National City, CA., to advise a group of utterly horrified employees how to survive an active shooter event – how to hide, block doorways, cover windows, recognize the sounds of gunfire. “You can’t cry,” she notes. “That will give away your position.” Watch, weep, remember we don’t have to live this way, and act.

    • Pentagon: American Public Doesn’t Need to Know How Much Territory We’ve Lost in Afghanistan

      The Pentagon will no longer inform the American public who has greater control of Afghan districts—the Afghan government or insurgents—the latest sign that the military is trying to obfuscate the failure of its 18-year war in Afghanistan

    • Note to Washington: Hands Off the ‘New’ Arab Spring

      American meddling has a way of making things worse, everywhere and all the time. So, as Algeria and Sudan now undergo coups and government transitions, here’s a thought for the U.S. empire: Leave well enough alone! It’s only been a couple weeks, but optimistic liberal interventionists have already dubbed the instability in Algeria and Sudan a “new” Arab Spring—a reference to the pro-democracy protests and attempted, or actual, government overthrows in 2011 and 2012 in Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. Back then, boy, Washington, with its newly minted idealist President Barack Obama, was just sure that those revolts augured a fresh democratic wave in the notoriously autocratic Mideast. Some even averred that George W. Bush and company had been vindicated—were, in fact, right about the fertility of Arab soil for Jeffersonian democracy.

      This wasn’t the case, of course. For a number of complex reasons—one of which was American interventionism—all but Tunisia collapsed into chaos, civil war or renewed dictatorship. That Tunisia held out may, at least in part, have to do with the relatively limited U.S. influence and activity in that North African backwater. For his part, Obama didn’t know what to do with the Arab Spring. He’d campaigned on an (allegedly) anti-interventionist platform—except in Afghanistan, of course—but the truth is that he and his neoliberal Cabinet team, which included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, could hardly contain its excitement. Obama didn’t want to be seen as being on the wrong side of history, but he also didn’t want a new American crusade in the region, so he hedged. The results were unhappy and, in many cases, disastrous.

      In Syria, Obama waffled, then eventually called for President Bashar Assad’s removal. Ignoring evidence that the disorganized rebels were becoming more and more Islamist, the U.S. got sucked in—with Washington eventually finding itself in the absurd position of tacitly backing and arming the rebel al-Nusra Front, the al-Qaida franchise in Syria. This increasingly radical rebellion, thanks in part to U.S., Saudi and United Arab Emirates assistance, eventually helped grow (if not exactly gave birth to) the transborder terror group known as the Islamic State group. The rest, as they say, was history: Russia and Iran intervened on behalf of Assad, Turkey invaded from the north and Uncle Sam sent troops—but not “combat soldiers,” Obama assured us—into the cauldron of yet another Arab civil war. Assad seems to have all but won now, Syria is destroyed, hundreds of thousands are dead, and the U.S. achieved not a single foreign policy objective in the country.

      In Bahrain, a mostly Shiite nation ruled by a Sunni royal minority, the U.S. took the opposite path. Instead of genuinely backing the majoritarian demands of the protesters, Washington looked the other way as the Saudi Army intervened and shut down the uprising. There were no consequences for Riyadh. Similarly, in Yemen, though Obama encouraged the removal of longtime strongman President Ali Abdullah Saleh, once a civil war broke out with the Houthi Shiites of the country’s northwest, the U.S. let Saudi Arabia run wild. The U.S. military, in fact, provided in-flight refueling, intelligence and munitions sales that allowed the Saudis to terror-bomb innocent civilians. Some 85,000 Yemeni children have starved to death thus far, and the country is perhaps the world’s worst ongoing disaster area.

    • Notes From Venezuela

      Most of today our delegation was getting to and then attending the rally and the speech by Maduro at the end of the march. Our visit coincided with the conference about housing, so we “internationals” were taken to bleachers set up very close to the main stage. They did not want us to actually march because they are being super cautious about us not getting into any problems that could be used who knows who, the US government or the corporate media.

      Thus I have little to report about the competing marches, except hearsay. William went to Altamira where they did not march, just made speeches. Guaido was not there. Just 3000 people, a very weak showing. William had no figures, but Chavistas turned out far, far more people he said.

      Guaido’s tricks have made him look like an incompetent fool, even to his own people, but no one expects the USA to back off. What will they do next?

    • Raid Threatens to Disrupt Trump-Kim Nuclear Talks

      As U.S. marshals hunt for the alleged ringleader of an invasion of the North Korean Embassy in Spain, denuclearization talks between President Trump and Kim Jong Un hang in the balance.

      The suspect, Adrian Hong Chang, should be considered “armed and dangerous,” according to a wanted poster released by the U.S. Marshals Service on Monday. The North Korean government has called the invasion a “grave terrorist attack.” But Hong Chang’s lawyer tells Fox News his client is a human rights activist who has been unjustly charged.

      One co-defendant in the case, 38-year-old ex-Marine named Christopher Ahn, was arrested last week at Hong Chang’s home in Los Angeles. Ahn is being held without bail in Los Angeles. Spain has requested his extradition. Hong Chang is still at large.

      The brazen invasion and resulting criminal charges have become an international incident that could affect whether Trump and Kim have a third summit after the collapse of the talks in Hanoi in February.

      Spanish authorities depict the embassy invasion as a virtual strong-arm robbery aimed at obtaining information about Kim Hyok Chol, an adviser to Kim on nuclear issues who once served in the Madrid embassy.

      On February 22, Hong Chang gained access to the embassy and let in six fellow intruders, armed with knives, iron bars, machetes and imitation pistols, according to a warrant filed in Los Angeles on Friday. The men restrained and physically beat several embassy employees and held them captive for several hours before fleeing the compound with computer equipment and a mobile phone stolen from the embassy. Days later, Hong Chang, also known as Adrian Hong, gave the stolen material to the FBI in New York.

      According to Reuters, a Spanish court said earlier this month that the FBI later handed the material over to Spanish authorities, who have since returned it to Pyongyang’s mission in Madrid.

    • Police confirm suspect, 26, remains in custody this morning following Piccadilly Gardens and Oldham Library ‘bomb hoax’ incident

      A 26-year-old man remains in custody this morning for questioning over an alleged “bomb hoax” incident at Piccadilly Gardens and Oldham Library.
      Bomb squads were scrambled to reports of suspicious packages in Piccadilly Gardens and Oldham Library on Friday afternoon.

    • U.S. Military Sees Dramatic Rise in Sexual Assaults

      There were 20,500 reported sexual assaults in the military in 2018, according to a new Pentagon report, a 38% increase in the number of assaults since 2016. The results, as ABC News reports, represent “a setback for the U.S. military’s efforts to reduce sexual assault in the military.”

      These numbers come from an anonymous survey the Pentagon conducts every two years. Respondents include Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine personnel. The survey defines assault as “rape, sexual assault, forcible sodomy, aggravated sexual contact, abusive sexual contact and attempts to commit those offenses,” according to ABC News.

      Over 85% of the victims reported knowing the perpetrators.

      Nathan Galbreath, deputy director of the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, told USA Today that women between the ages of 17 and 24 were most at risk for unwanted sexual contact. “We’re very concerned about that,” he said.

    • Trump Fed Choice Stephen Moore Withdraws Amid Controversy

      Stephen Moore, a conservative commentator whom President Donald Trump had tapped for the Federal Reserve board, withdrew from consideration Thursday after losing Republican support in the Senate, largely over his past inflammatory writings about women.

      Trump tweeted the news of Moore’s withdrawal, only hours after Moore had told two news organizations that he was still seeking the board seat and still had the White House’s support.

      Trump announced otherwise Thursday afternoon.

      “Steve Moore, a great pro-growth economist and a truly fine person, has decided to withdraw from the Fed process,” the president tweeted.

    • Irish Return to Political Violence?

      This past week, I had a conversation with a friend of mine from Belfast, Northern Ireland about the so-called ‘New’ Irish Republican Army (IRA) and its murder of Irish journalist, Lyra McKee, 29 years old, April 18th. Both of us expressed outrage. After all, the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ for peace in Northern Ireland was signed almost exactly 21 years ago, finally ending ‘The Troubles’, which cost nearly 3,500 lives.

      Most believed that such extrajudicial killings were relics of the past. The Northern Irish murders ended, or so we thought, with the ‘peace accords’ at Stormont Palace and House of Commons in 1998. Even so, some observers of the Northern Irish Troubles knew IRA hardliners remained after the peace deal had been signed—those who could not accept peace in Northern Ireland, who would not stop the violence until a utopic vision for a ‘unified Ireland’ was achieved.

      The tumultuous years of the Troubles lasted in Northern Ireland from the 1960s until 1998, but historically speaking, the violence between Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants has deep roots in the sectarian divide of Irish history to the 17thcentury ‘Plantation Era’.

      The early years of the conflict between native Catholics against the settler Protestant British and Scottish ‘planter class’ resulted in the Confederate Wars (1641-1653) and the Williamite War (1689-1691), and then to 1916, a bit more than a century ago, and the ‘Easter Rising’ in Dublin, Ireland, where a concerted effort was undertaken to win Irish independence from Great Britain and establish the Irish Republic. It was led by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Irish Volunteers, and the Irish Citizen Army, when the British were heavily engaged in fighting World War I. This historical period was instrumental in Irish history when political party Sinn Féin garnered a majority of Irish votes in 1918 and later would evolve into the political arm of the IRA.

      From the 1960s to 1990s, the Troubles were a period of convoluted killings between Catholic-Republican paramilitaries and Protestant Ulster-Loyalist paramilitaries, as well as the IRA against the British military and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), a time of reprisals and counter-reprisals, resulting in assassinations, car bombings, civilian casualties, death threats, disappearances, hunger strikes, petrol bombs, political-jockeying for power, political murals, prison sentences, sectarian community-divisions, and continual terrorism.

    • In Occupied Territory, Reality Check at Ground Zero

      Here at the grassroots, where real life is lived, things look very different. The Bedouin of the village of Khan al Ahmar are anxiously awaiting Israeli military bulldozers, not olive branches of peace. Named “gatekeepers of Jerusalem” by the late President Arafat, the continued Bedouin presence on the periphery of Jerusalem is key to keeping the two state solution on the table, despite Israeli settler colonialism and creeping Israeli annexation—each designed to prevent a viable Palestinian state from ever arising.

      Last year, Bedouin, Palestinians, internationals and Israeli activists, including an organization I co-direct, Jahalin Solidarity, waged a major campaign to prevent the war crime of forcible displacement and the demolition of Khan al Ahmar village and its ecological school, constructed from old car tires and mud, which has put that village so firmly on the map.

      The tiny hamlet hosted thousands of activists, as well as virtually the entire diplomatic echelon accompanied by a huge, daily media presence, joining a non-violent campaign to save the iconic school that’s been ongoing for a decade but previously had been fought mainly in the Israeli High Court. On more than one occasion, there were massive demonstrations as bulldozers prepared for demolition. The village was sealed off by the military, shining a spotlight on the coercive environment 300,000 Palestinians are forced to live in, without civil rights, in Area C, which constitutes some 60 percent of the West Bank.

      Having had the issue of forcible displacement of Bedouin refugees under its review since 2016, even the International Criminal Court at The Hague waded in, stating, “Evacuation by force now appears imminent, and with it the prospects for further escalation and violence. It bears recalling, as a general matter, that extensive destruction of property without military necessity and population transfers in an occupied territory constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute.”

    • Gaddafi, Existentialist

      Former Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was known predominantly in the West as a strange and eccentric dictator. An often-comical man who fit the West’s stereotype of the “foreign” villain.

      In 2009, Gaddafi insisted on staying in a Bedouin tent during a trip to New York, and set it up on an estate owned by now-president Donald Trump.

      Gaddafi also stayed in a tent during his trips to Brussels, Moscow, and Rome (where the colonel pinned a picture of Libyan martyr Omar al-Mukhtar, who was executed by Italians, to his uniform), and he demanded to park his tent in London’s Holland Park after being invited to a summit in 2008 by Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

      Actions like these, and the many others Gaddafi made during his reign, were clear statements of the leader’s commitment to his Bedouin roots and Libyan identity. But was there also another, more philosophical component involved?

      It is rarely mentioned that Gaddafi’s favorite book was reputed to be Colin Wilson’s The Outsider— an existentialist title originally published in 1956, which explored the philosophical role of the outsider

    • Dare to Know: the Paradox of Greek History

      Growing up in the 1940s in a Greek village was neither a baptism in Greek culture nor an indoctrination to nationalism. This was because “modern” Greece has been going through the suffering of centuries of foreign occupation and official neglect and often ignorance about the country’s unrivalled ancient civilization.

      Greek history was interrupted by barbarian invasions. Hellas (the name ancient Greeks – Hellenes – called Greece) was remade, especially by its permanent Christian conquerors.

      Lots of deprivations defined my Greekness, including the terrible legacy of World War II and civil war. The so-called communists in the civil war killed two brothers of my father and a sister of my mother.

      Despite that violence, my rural elementary and urban high school education taught me a few things about my ancient Greek ancestors.

      In contrast to modern Greeks (and nearly all Western people) who worship a Jewish-Christian god, my ancestors were pious to several gods.

      [...]

      Greek history writing is subtle and part of a sophisticated propaganda of who we pretend to be. Like the Romans, we appropriate Greek architecture for our court houses, government buildings and the White House. We use Greek science and technology every day. And we have filled our museums with stolen Greek treasures.

    • Sri Lanka, ISIL and Religious Tribalism

      Sri Lanka has been a primarily Buddhist land since King Ashoka’s son Mahinda preached there in the third century BCE. At present 70% of the population is Buddhist, 13% Hindu, 10% Muslim and 7% Christian. (Surely there are secular people, atheists, Marxists, etc. but these are historical communities and identities.) It has been a site of horrific religious-based violence, mostly Buddhist-on-Hindu, although such violence ebbed over the last decade. You wouldn’t think it a likely site for a Muslim attack on multiple Christian targets on an Easter Sunday.

      The group identified by Sri Lankan authorities as the author of these atrocities appears to be an established local Islamist organization, National Thowheeth Jama’ath, hitherto known for hate speech against Buddhists but not for violent actions. Now there are reports that they have links to, or are inspired by, ISIL. We know that some Sri Lankans fought in Syria with ISIL. ISIL flags and propaganda have been found in raided sites in Sri Lanka since the attacks, and ISIL has indeed claimed responsibility. This is troubling, as is the announcement that the bombings were to avenge the mosque shootings in Christchurch in March. This seems a new level in the internationalization of religious tribalism.

      To avenge 50 Muslims (Indians, Bangladeshis, Jordanians, Palestinians) killed in New Zealand by an Australian Christian, Sri Lankan and Arab Muslims (in ISIL) combined to slaughter over 250 Christians in Sri Lankan churches. (These include citizens of the U.S., U.K., Bangladesh, China, India, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey and Australia.)

    • Trump, Putin Discuss Nuclear Pacts, Mueller Report in Hour-Long Call

      President Donald Trump spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin for more than an hour Friday about nuclear weapons agreements, the conflict in Venezuela, North Korea and also briefly about special counsel Robert Mueller’s just completed report on Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election.

      “They had a very good discussion. Spoke for a little over an hour,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters at the White House. “They discussed nuclear agreements, both new and extended, with the possibility of having conversations with China on that front as well.”

      “There was a discussion about having — extending the current nuclear agreement — as well as discussions about potentially starting a new one that could include China as well,” she said.

      She did not specify which treaty. The current strategic nuclear arms treaty, New START, expires in 2021.

    • The Billionaires Behind the Far-Right

      Billionaires and working people have one thing in common: they hate the government. But they hate the government for different reasons. For working people, government is too right-wing on some issues: it allows transnational capital to undermine jobs and wages. On other issues, many working people see government as too left-wing, allowing what they see (incorrectly) as excessive immigration. Billionaires hate government because government is sometimes forced to respond to grassroots pressure, which can mean introducing financial regulation, unionization, and other profit-harming policies.

      In the absence of staging outright fascist coups, elements of the ruling class engineer social unrest to compel government to support policies that are against the interests of working people.

      BILLONAIRES FUNDING A BILLIONAIRE PRESIDENT

      Today, a handful of billionaires fund far-right, anti-Islamic, anti-immigrant, and/or ultra-nationalist political figures, movements, and alternative media personalities. Their aim is to push mainstream politics further to the right, as mainstream politicians fear losing voters to the new extreme parties. But how can elites get working people to support policies that are against their own interests? The answer is to divert them from the real causes of their misery—austerity, privatization, economic deregulation, and disinvestment, i.e., the very policies supported by billionaires—and, instead, play on their anger over immigrants and Islam.

      In the US, concerns have been raised about President Trump’s affiliations with far-right hate groups and the political support he receives from those groups. Robert Mercer is a billionaire hedge fund manager and CEO of Renaissance Technologies. A Trump donor, Mercer worked with Trump’s short-lived strategist, Steve Bannon, to make Breitbart News a platform for the so-called alternative right, or “alt-right.” The term alt-right was coined by Richard Spencer, a white supremacist and Trump-supporter who is himself funded by the multimillionaire, William Regnery II, via the National Policy Institute. Regnery has published a series of anti-Islamic, anti-left books by, among others David Horowtiz, director of the eponymous Freedom Center. Having helped to get Trump elected, Mercer then dissociated himself from Bannon, Breitbart, and the alt-right. Job done.

    • The Coming of American Fascism, 1920–1940

      Fascism is usually thought of as a quintessentially and almost exclusively European phenomenon, as having begun with Mussolini, culminated with Hitler, and been eradicated in World War II. The U.S., in particular, is thought to have been largely immune to it, given the absence of mass movements similar to Nazism or Italian Fascism. But there exists a different narrative, or at least there did in the 1930s, before it was buried under an avalanche of patriotic American propaganda and liberal historiography. According to this alternative understanding, the U.S. was falling victim to fascism already in the 1920s—though a different sort of fascism than in Europe. Long-forgotten Marxist journals such as The Communist, The New Masses, and Labor Notes (unrelated to the current publication of the same name), and newspapers like the Daily Worker and the Industrial Worker, analyzed with great insight the nature of this distinctive American fascism, until the struggle against the Nazis shifted their priorities to supporting a more liberal and “patriotic” Popular Front.

      In a new book entitled The Coming of the American Behemoth: The Origins of Fascism in the United States, 1920–1940, Michael Joseph Roberto has resurrected the old Marxian conception. Aside from its interest as a work of history, the book is also quite relevant to the present, as the old structures of American fascism have deepened in the last generation and colonized much of the world.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Rejecting Extradition to US, Assange Tells UK Court His Award-Winning Journalism Has Protected ‘Many People’

      “I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many, many awards and protected many, many people,” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told a British court Thursday, speaking by video link from London’s Belmarsh Prison.

      Assange’s first hearing in the Westminster Magistrates Court about his potential extradition to the United States came just a day after another British court sentenced the 47-year old Australian to 50 weeks in prison for skipping bail when he took refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London seven years ago.

      After Ecuador revoked Assanges’s asylum protections in April, British authorities arrested him and dragged him out of the embassy—provoking widespread condemnation—and the U.S. Justice Department unsealed an indictment that accuses Assange of conspiring with Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning to hack a Pentagon computer to access classified government documents.

      Manning’s 35-year prison sentence for espionage, which came after the documents she leaked to WikiLeaks generated intense criticism about U.S. military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, was commuted two years ago. However, Manning was jailed again in March of this year for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks and remains behind bars.

      Assange, meanwhile, now faces a likely lengthy legal battle against the Trump administration’s extradition request. One of his attorneys, Jennifer Robinson, told reporters outside court on Thursday that “despite what you heard from the prosecutor in the courtroom today, this case is not about hacking.”

    • My FOIA Crusade Against a Law-Breaking CIA

      On April 29, my attorney Dan Hardway filed a petition for certiorari asking the Supreme Court to review my case, Morley v. CIA. When I filed this Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit 16 years ago, I sought certain files related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

      The JFK story still resonates, albeit more faintly than it once did. Kennedy was a popular liberal president who, at the time of his death, was challenging the country to embrace civil rights and “a strategy of peace” to end the Cold War. Detested in the Pentagon and CIA as a weakling and traitor, Kennedy was shot dead as his open-air motorcade passed through downtown Dallas on a sunny day in November 1963.

      I never expected the case would take so long or rise so high. Yet I am not surprised. I always believed FOIA litigation could shed new light on the causes of JFK’s assassination, a national trauma on par with 9/11 for the next generation. I anticipated new information would clarify long-standing questions about America’s most enduring murder mystery. And I expected the CIA would resist full disclosure. The federal courts have been divided on the merits of my case, leaving the Supreme Court as the final arbiter.

    • ‘A Massive Chill On Investigative Journalism’: First Hearing In Julian Assange’s Extradition Case

      The first procedural hearing in WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition case was held in the United Kingdom. It was very brief, and Assange appeared via video link from Belmarsh prison.

      “I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many, many awards and protected many, many people,” Assange declared.

      Essentially, those words indicated to the judge that Assange would fight his extradition to the United States and maintain his right to appeal whatever outcome occurs at the Westminster Magistrates Court.

      Another procedural hearing will be held on May 30, where the U.S. government will have to “show cause” that there is ample evidence for extradition.

      Presuming the court accepts the U.S. government’s evidence, fuller arguments will take place on June 12. Assange will likely have all the papers that make up the U.S. government’s “formal extradition request” by that date.

      Jen Robinson, an attorney for Assange, said the hearing was part of a “process that started back in 2010, when the Obama administration opened the criminal investigation into WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. The investigation has been pursued aggressively by the Trump administration ever since.”

      “Despite what you heard from the prosecutor in the courtroom today, this case is not about hacking,” Robinson contended. “The case is about a journalist and a publisher, who had conversations with a source about accessing that material, encouraged that source to provide that material, and spoke to that source about how to protect their identity.”

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • The Last Kentucky Derby

      This Saturday, May 4th, is Derby Day in Louisville. Twenty-two horses will be forced to race so that a record purse of $3 million may change hands.

      None of that money will go to preserve the habitat of untamed horses. Most betters never learn what a horse in natural habitat looks like.

      Nor will a penny go to support the world’s scattered bands of free-ranging, naturalized horses, such as the Mustangs and burros of the U.S. west. (The “official Derby menu” from Churchill Downs, Inc. features beef short ribs. It’s for beef farming that free-ranging horses so frequently get rounded up and driven off their lands.)

      We humans excel at making use of other animals, extracting wealth through that use, exhausting them, disposing of them. This week, the 145th Kentucky Derby will showcase these habits. It’s cruelty of the worst sort, garnished with mint and wearing a fancy hat.

    • Over a Million Forced to Evacuate as ‘Potentially Catastrophic’ Cyclone Fani Makes Landfall in India

      A storm that meteorologist Eric Holthaus characterized as “one of the strongest” cyclones in India’s recorded history made landfall on Friday amid warnings of “potentially catastrophic” wind, rain, and ocean surges.

      Over a million people were reportedly forced to evacuate Thursday as Cyclone Fani—classified as the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane—hurtled toward India. Tens of millions of people are in the path of the massive storm.

      “Meteorologists are calling the storm a near-worst-case scenario for coastal zones, as it will push an enormous storm surge inland, inundating homes, roads, and businesses near sea level—not just in eastern India but potentially also north into Bangladesh,” the Washington Post reported. “This low-lying stretch of coast along the Bay of Bengal is one of the most vulnerable to storm surge in the world.”

    • ‘Recipe for Disaster’: Trump Guts Offshore Drilling Rules Put in Place After Deepwater Horizon Spill

      Just two weeks after the nine-year anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster—the largest ocean oil spill in U.S. history—the Trump administration on Thursday moved to dismantle offshore drilling regulations aimed at preventing another catastrophic leak.

    • Trump Weakens Rules Meant to Prevent Next Deepwater Horizon Spill

      The Trump administration announced Thursday it was rolling back offshore oil drilling regulations put in place after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest ocean spill in U.S. history.

      Officials announced changes to the Well Control Rule on the Louisiana coast, not far from where the 2010 oil rig explosion killed 11 workers and poured around 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, The Washington Post reported.

    • Indonesia will Move its Capital from Fast-Sinking Jakarta

      Indonesia’s president elect announced plans this week to move the country’s capital away from Jakarta, reportedly the fastest sinking city in the world.

      A 2018 report said that Jakarta, located on the island of Java, was one of the global cities most vulnerable to sea level rise caused by climate change. It is sinking at a rate of approximately 10 inches per year due to a combination of the drilling of wells for groundwater and the weight of its buildings. The 40 to 50 centimeters (approximately 16 to 20 inches) of sea level rise expected by 2100 even if warming is limited to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius would only make the situation worse.

    • How Climate Change Will Affect Real Lives — Now and in the Future

      Climate change has already had serious effects, but as we know from the steady and increasingly loud drumbeat of projections from various scientific bodies, the dangers will grow much greater in future decades.

      But what does this actually look like?

      Projections of life in 2050 or 2100 seem like the stuff of science fiction, yet those seemingly distant decades are not so far off. The 22nd century is roughly one lifetime away. The great majority of today’s young adults will see 2050, and many children currently in your local daycare or elementary school will see 2100.

      It seems difficult for us to plan for developments that are decades away, but climate science is clear that our actions today and over the next few years will make a profound difference to the planet and its inhabitants in the years to come.

      How will climate change affect the lives of today’s young adults?

      Let’s imagine the life of someone born in 2000 and, for the sake of specificity, say she lives in California, where scientists have done lots of climate-related modeling.

      Our hypothetical young California woman, we’ll call her Emily, can expect to live until around 2080. Based on current statistics, she can probably anticipate her first child at around age 26, and that child will likely live well past 2100. Emily would be in her prime years during mid-century (2040-2060), the same period when her daughter will be transitioning into adulthood. So let’s start then.

      To flesh this out, we need to consider two scenarios, one where significant but not stringent efforts are made to control carbon emissions, the other where little is done — the latter being the path we’re currently on. Much will depend on the actions humanity takes between now and the middle part of the century.

      What will her world look like?

    • House Passes First Major Climate Bill in 10 Years

      The U.S. House of Representatives approved its first major climate change legislation in a decade on Thursday, Reuters reported. The Climate Action Now Act would require President Donald Trump to keep the U.S. in the Paris agreement, mandating that he outlines steps to reduce greenhouse emissions and prohibiting him from using federal funds to withdraw from the agreement.

      The bill passed 231 to 190, with three Republicans crossing the aisle to approve it with the Democrats. It is unlikely to pass the Senate, but the Democrats see it as a way to stake out a climate position ahead of the 2020 election and to signal to the international community that a future Democratic president would stay in the agreement, The Washington Post reported.

    • House backs Paris agreement in first climate bill in a decade

      The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed its first climate-change bill in a decade, voting 231-190 to require that Trump administration keep the United States as a party to the Paris Climate Agreement.

      The Climate Action Now Act would require President Donald Trump to develop a plan for the United States to meet the goals it committed to in the Paris agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and block federal funds from being used to advance the formal U.S. withdrawal from the pact.

      Trump has stood by his 2017 decision to withdraw the United States from the 2015 climate accord and has been dismissive of regulations aimed at slashing greenhouse gas emissions.

    • Historic Green Party vote as Remain passion and climate change urgency delivers huge increase in council seats

      Representation on 50 new councils

      178 new seats already won by Greens

      The Green Party is tonight celebrating a day of spectacular election results from around the country.

      It went into this election with 178 councillors on 69 councils, which was a record high for the Green Party until today.

      As of 5.45pm tonight, it has 313 councillors. Never before in its history has the Green Party had anything like so much local election success.

      First seats were won on councils ranging from Carlisle to Folkestone, Sunderland to the Cotswolds.

      Already strong areas such as Solihull and Mid-Suffolk council groups swelled to 14 and 12 respectively.

    • EPA Releases Report Advising Communities to Prepare for Climate Change-Related Disasters

      Policymakers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a report in the Federal Register outlining how local communities should start planning for near-future catastrophes associated with climate change.

      As first reported by the Washington Post, the 150-page report – titled “Planning for Natural Disaster Debris” – offers updates to the 2008 report by advising local government bodies to go “beyond resilience to anticipate, plan, and prepare for impacts” of climate change. In particularly, it addresses how local communities can cope with debris and disaster following floods, hurricanes, wildfires only intensified by a changing climate.

    • Comment: I Want BP to Understand the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is Sacred Ground — They Can’t Drill It

      Next week, I’m going to travel halfway around the world from my home in Alaska to Aberdeen, Scotland to speak at BP’s annual shareholder meeting. I plan to share with the oil company’s executives how important the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is to my people and urge them not to pursue destructive oil drilling or exploration in our sacred lands.

    • “Great Collection of #KeepItInTheGround Leaders” Awarded This Year’s Goldman Prize

      That’s according to the Goldman Environmental Foundation, which for the past 30 years has honored grassroots activists from across the globe. This year’s winners, described on Twitter by fellow activist Bill McKibben as “a great collection of #KeepItInTheGround leaders,” were announced Monday.

      Each of the six recipients hails from one of the world’s inhabited continents.

      Environmental lawyer Alfred Brownell is being recognized for his successful efforts to stop palm oil plantation developers from destroying forests vital to biodiversity in his home country of Liberia. For safety reasons—and after his government threatened to arrest Brownell for his activism—he now lives in exile in the United States.

    • ‘Beautiful Trouble’ Grows With Friday Climate Strikes on Multiple Continents

      The momentum for the weekly climate strikes shows no sign of abating as young people in hundreds of communities across the globe are hitting the streets on Friday to make a stand against the environmental crisis.

      “We can make a difference,” said Matilda Lane-Rose, one of the protesters in Perth, Australia.

      The Fridays for Future website has 725 strikes mapped out for the day. They cover the Americas from Canada to Chile; Europe from Norway to Italy; Africa from Mauritania to South Africa; Asia from South Korea to India in Asia; and multiple marches in Australia and New Zealand.

      Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg, who catalyzed the school strikes, said in a tweet that they “will be extra big in Canada, India, USA, Mexico, and Australia.”

      One of the Australian actions took place in the city of Newcastle. A social media user who captured video of the youthful climate strikers there framed their action as “beautiful trouble.”

    • An Old Skier Looks at Climate Change in the Sierra Nevadas

      I went skiing just recently – two perfect blue bird California mid-April spring skiing days – so perfect it opened some old links in my cranial hard drive and I was temporarily re-wired back to my youth as a Lake Tahoe ski bum circa 1970– and to a time when the weather in the mountains in California in the spring was different than it is today.

      Among all its other splendors, California used to have the best spring skiing in the USA and probably the whole planet. Old school California pride for you there. The California corn snow was legendary, the perfect arrangement of geography, prevailing weather currents, proximity to an ocean, altitude and latitude. Like God wanted to be able to ski on really great snow in her cutoffs, a t-shirt and shades.

      Sure the Rockies would get some good spring days, but California had an excess, an embarrassment of riches. California has the maritime snowpack, blowing in off the North Pacific, as opposed to the continental snowpack of the Rockies. The difference is that the water content of the maritime snowpack is much greater. The Rockies have the lightest powder, stripped of its water content by the Sierras and other mountains to the West, and California has Sierra cement. In the spring, Sierra cement atones for its shortcomings.

      Disclaimer: this is not a scientific paper. It’s not based on stats, although it’s my hunch the stats would bear me out. It’s based on my experience of living most of my life in the Western United States, between California and the Northwest, meaning southern Idaho and later Spokane, WA, 20 miles from the North Idaho border. Its based on my being a skier and backpacker and river rafter and thus having developed a connection, an attunement let’s call it, to the patterns of when the snow and water are flowing in the West. Scientists, other skiers and ski resort operators might choose to disagree. End of disclaimer.

    • Study: As Climate Crisis Has Worsened, So Has Global Economic Inequality

      In a new study out by Stanford researchers reviewing half a century of data, researchers found that as rich countries get richer, they also have more temperate climates and face less of the brunt of climate impacts

    • The Escalante River Should Remain Free From Grazing

      For the first time in 30 years, native trees dominate the Escalante River, one of the last free flowing tributaries of the Colorado River that runs through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

      While a thousand people live in the Escalante River watershed, millions of visitors come here to play, recreate and enjoy this stunning ribbon of green in a vast slickrock wilderness. The river’s restoration is the result of an unprecedented partnership of state and federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, businesses and private landowners coming together to restore health to the Escalante River watershed through invasive species removal.

      At one time, planting Russian olive trees was a solution for stabilizing the blowing sands of Escalante. And it worked, until the 1980s, when a critical mass of the trees spread dramatically along the river. Gentle banks became steep and difficult to traverse, and denied the flood plain from receiving the life-giving nutrients of the river during regular flood cycles.

      Combined with creating deep shade over the water, the river became more like an irrigation trench than a wild and winding river. The water temperature cooled and there was no place for fish to spawn, impacting the Roundtail chub, Flannelmouth sucker and Bluehead sucker, all identified Utah sensitive species.

      Riparian zones in the desert are rare and precious commodities, supporting the majority of what is a surprising diversity of life in Grand Staircase-Escalante. The monument’s original boundaries contain 85% of the biodiversity found in the state of Utah.

      The restoration of the Escalante River started as a community-led endeavor and, over the past 10 years, has employed more than 600 youth corps members – often providing a life-altering experience of working in one of the most remote locations in the lower 48 – in addition to a dedicated local team employed by Grand Staircase Escalante Partners.

    • Hydroponically Grown Produce Threatens Real Organic Agriculture

      In the produce section of my local food co-op sit Driscoll’s berries in their neat little rows: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, each in plastic clamshells. No other berry options are present on the shelf. Paging the receivers, I ask, “Do we have any non-hydroponically grown berries?”

      In response, I am told, “We only have organic berries and organic berries aren’t hydroponic.”

      It turns out that’s not always true, at least not anymore. It’s something that organic food consumers find very confusing — and for good reason. Driscoll’s owns 64 percent of the U.S. organic berry market. The company’s signature offering is making berries, formerly seasonal treasures, available year-round.

      The California-based Driscoll’s, a global conglomerate, has gained a major foothold in the booming organic segment of the food industry. An aggregator, it works with hundreds of farmers all over the world. The New York Times called the company, “one of the largest hydroponic growers, using the system to grow hundreds of acres of raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.”

      In November 2017, after years of pressure, Driscoll’s and its corporate allies in the Organic Trade Association (the group of large companies that now own many organic brands), launched what has become an ongoing redefinition of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-regulated Organic Standards at the National Organic Program (NOP). Following its acceptance of hydroponics, the program increasingly allows practices, inputs and products that most organics-seeking consumers want to avoid.

      “Organic food is about an entire ecosystem: taking care of the soil, recharging nutrients with crop rotation, [and] providing for natural pollinators and pest control. It is a way for farming, which can often be ecologically destructive, to work with the planet,” writes Dan Nosowitz at Modern Farmer. “Massive hydroponic and container operations like Driscoll’s do not do that: They are willfully separate from the environment.”

    • George Monbiot on U.K. Climate Emergency & the Need for Rebellion to Prevent Ecological Apocalypse

      On Wednesday, the House of Commons became the first parliament in the world to declare a climate emergency. The resolution came on the heels of the recent Extinction Rebellion mass uprising that shut down Central London last month in a series of direct actions. Activists closed bridges, occupied public landmarks and even superglued themselves to buildings, sidewalks and trains to demand urgent action to combat climate change. Police arrested more than 1,000 protesters. Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn told Parliament, “We are witnessing an unprecedented upsurge of climate activism, with groups like Extinction Rebellion forcing the politicians in this building to listen. For all the dismissive and defensive column inches the processes have provoked, they are a massive and, I believe, very necessary wake-up call. Today we have the opportunity to say, ‘We hear you.’” We speak with George Monbiot, British journalist, author and columnist with The Guardian. His recent piece for The Guardian is headlined “Only rebellion will prevent an ecological apocalypse.” Monbiot says capitalism “is like a gun pointed at the heart of the planet. … It will essentially, necessarily destroy our life support systems. Among those characteristics is the drive for perpetual economic growth on a finite planet.”

    • Supporters Credit ‘Relentless’ Campaigning of Sunrise Movement as Beto Signs No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge

      The youth-led grassroots group Sunrise Movement was praised on Thursday when Beto O’Rourke signed the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge following a sustained campaign by the national organization.

      O’Rourke announced he was on board with the pledge in an email to supporters and a video posted to social media.

      “In accordance with the pledge, we returned any money we’ve received over $200 from any fossil fuel company executives,” O’Rourke said. “We will not take any of that money going forward.”

      [...]

      Some establishment Democratic leaders including Rep. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have criticized the Sunrise Movement for its tactics as it calls on elected officials to end their relationships with the fossil fuel industry, back a Green New Deal, and fight to end American dependence on carbon-emitting coal, oil, and gas, which have contributed to the warming of the planet.

      The Sunrise Movement has occupied the offices Feinstein and other Democrats in recent months, and offered limited praise for O’Rourke this week when he released his climate action plan, saying it represented his retreat from an earlier stated goal of net-zero domestic carbon emissions by 2030. Nearly 150 members were arrested in December on Capitol Hill at a protest where they called for a Green New Deal.

      Supporters of the grassroots group argued on Thursday that its commitment to continued pressure is what made its demands impossible for O’Rourke and other candidates to ignore—making it more likely that Democrats will eventually nominate a candidate who owes nothing to fossil fuel donors and can regulate the industry while promoting renewable energy.

    • Grazing the Spotted Dog Wildlife Area

      There is an abundance of studies that demonstrate that cattle diets overlap with elk diet. Depending on the study, cattle forage preferences overlapped with elk anywhere from 30-85%. Of course, every blade of grass going into a cow is that much less for an elk as well as other native herbivores.

      MDFWP suggests that livestock grazing enhances forage quality for elk and that elk preferentially graze livestock areas. However, elk don’t “need” livestock to prosper. Elk survived centuries without the “benefit” of domestic livestock grazing. Elk in places like the Bob Marshall Wilderness or Yellowstone National Park persist quite well in the absence of cattle grazing.

      Many other species depend on the forage grasses and forbs (flowers) that livestock consume from ground squirrels to grasshoppers to bees to butterflies. In heavily grazed areas, there is that much less plant life for food as well as hiding cover.

    • If Our Planet Has a Future, It’s Thanks to Greta Thunberg

      “When I first heard about something called climate change … I remember thinking that it was really strange that humans, who are an animal species among others, could be capable of changing the earth’s climate,” says 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg in a TedX speech that has been viewed over a million times. “Because if it were, and if it was really happening, we wouldn’t be talking about anything else.”

      Thunberg certainly doesn’t want us to talk about anything but climate change—she’s even scolded European leaders for obsessing over Brexit, the United Kingdom’s separation from the European Union, instead of taking urgently needed action to address the climate emergency at hand. The TedX talk, which the Swedish activist gave in Stockholm in late 2018, came after months of protesting her government’s climate inaction by skipping school and sitting in front of the steps of the Swedish Parliament. Little did Swedish leaders or perhaps even Thunberg herself know that her seemingly simple act of civil disobedience would spark a worldwide youth activist movement.

      Not only did students around the globe follow in Thunberg’s footsteps by staging their own school strikes, but entire movements such as Extinction Rebellion, which essentially brought the city of London to a standstill in April, have been inspired by the young activist’s “plain-spoken, no-holds-barred chastising of world leaders over their inaction on climate change [with] signature calm,” as Truthdig’s Sonali Kolhatkar writes.

    • Joe Uehlein on Green New Deal, Basav Sen on Beyond the Paris Accord

      The Green New Deal is a vision, about how we might use the economic transformation required to address the climate crisis to advance workers rights and well-being. In the corporate press, it’s often either reduced to a story about Democratic Party fortunes, or vagued out to some ideas about the “green dream or whatever,” in Nancy Pelosi’s words. There’s another conversation, though, where people take seriously the need and the possibility to center working people in the fight for the planet. We’ll talk with Joe Uehlein, founding president of the Labor Network for Sustainability.

    • Farm Country: Don’t Get Fooled Again

      ’m a retired public school teacher living in Des Moines.

      I grew up here close to the city limits, with an easy escape to the countryside that was once dotted with miles and miles of small family farms. The sight and even the smells of those small farms were a welcome respite from the congested and busy neighborhood life I was growing up around.

      There were cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, and usually lots of cats. Barns were exciting and full of life. It’s an idyllic memory many Iowans still relish today.

      In contrast, pig production now happens inside gigantic industrial buildings warehousing thousands of animals subjected to a rectangular cubicle for life. They’re left to eat and drink in these confined spaces, and in about five months they’re slaughtered.

      The stench from millions of gallons of manure percolating under their feet and spread on fields travels across our countryside and is toxic and nauseating to breathe.

      For 40 years, my biggest worries focused on my middle school students: Were there enough new grammar books? Could they get to school in the snow? Did they have enough to eat at home? But eventually, I started worrying if they, or any of us, should be drinking or cooking with the water coming out of our facets, or swimming or fishing in the water in our countryside.

      Those small family farms in the countryside have given way to an explosion of more than 7,000 factory hog sites. Iowa is now close to being decimated for the sake of massive profits for a few giant corporations like Smithfield, Iowa Select, Prestage Farms, Hormel, and Tyson Foods.

    • Environmental Crisis, Oil Geopolitics and the Trump Diversion

      America in 2019 is a very strange place. The problems of the age: looming environmental calamity, the threat of nuclear annihilation and accumulating class tensions, keep being shoved to the side through diversionary tactics. No sooner had a range of left programs been consolidated under the banner of a Green New Deal than establishment Democrats and their partners in misdirection made it known that ‘stopping Trump’ was their only priority. As priorities go, this one speaks to the limitations of its proponents.

      Back in the land that time hasn’t forgotten, environmental calamity has been a growing threat for three centuries now. Its growth rate accelerated after WWII along with the threat of nuclear annihilation. Class tensions have been escalating since the 1970s as neoliberalism has diminished the public sphere and accrued wealth and income to those who benefit from social destruction. Given the singular source and its persistence through periods in which either Republicans or Democrats exercised control, systemic drivers are the only explanation left standing.

    • Demanding Urgent Action on Climate Emergency, Youth Lock Their Necks to UK Parliament’s Gates

      The demonstration came two days after Parliament made history by passing a motion put forth by Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn to declare an environment and climate emergency.

      But, as Extinction Rebellion London said on Twitter, “a declaration is not enough.”

      “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” 14 members of Extinction Rebellion Youth—aged 13 to 23—wrote in a letter to Parliament on Friday, detailing why they decided to lock themselves to the gates.

    • Climate Campaigners Praise Gov. Inslee’s ‘Spirited Commitment’ to Action, While Calling on 2020 Candidate to ‘Push the Envelope’

      Climate action groups applauded Washington Gov. Jay Inslee as he became the first 2020 Democratic presidential contender to commit to a 100 percent renewable energy system, as part of the climate action plan he released on Friday.

      Groups including Food and Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, and the Sunrise Movement offered praise for the ambitious goals Inslee outlined in his proposal and said they were eager to see if he’ll build on the plan.

      Using his home state’s recently-passed 100 percent clean energy bill as a guideline, Inslee said he plans to ensure all newly-built vehicles and buildings are carbon pollution-free by 2030, and that all utlities in the U.S. run with zero carbon emissions by 2035.

      “This is the approach that is worthy of the ambitions of a can-do nation and answers the absolute necessity of action that is defined by science,” Inslee told the Associated Press.

  • Finance

    • Unemployment Is Falling, But Jobs Aren’t Going to Black Workers

      The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate fell to 3.6 percent in April, the lowest level in almost 50 years. There was no change in the employment-to-population ratio (EPOP), which remained at 60.6 percent, just below its peak for the recovery. The prime age (ages 25 to 54) EPOP actually edged down to 79.7 percent, compared to a high of 79.9 percent earlier this year. The establishment survey showed the economy added 263,000 jobs, with modest upward revisions to the prior two months’ data, bringing the average rate of job growth over the last three months to 169,000.

    • Unemployment Hits 49-Year Low as U.S. Employers Step Up Hiring

      U.S. employers added a robust 263,000 jobs in April, suggesting that businesses have shrugged off earlier concerns that the economy might slow this year and now anticipate strong customer demand.

      The unemployment rate fell to a five-decade low of 3.6% from 3.8%, though that drop reflected a rise in the number of people who stopped looking for work. Average hourly pay rose 3.2% from 12 months earlier, a healthy increase that matched the increase in March.

      Friday’s jobs report from the Labor Department showed that solid economic growth is still encouraging strong hiring nearly a decade into the economy’s recovery from the Great Recession. The economic expansion is set to become the longest in history in July.

      “The broader economy remains on solid footing, meaning that coming months will see continued job gains and faster wage growth,” said Richard Moody, chief economist at Regions Financial Corp.

      Trump administration officials insisted that the job market’s gains were a result of the president’s tax cuts and deregulatory policies.

    • The Growth of Popular Democracy

      In 1975 just 46 countries were considered to be electoral democracies; forty years later, according to The Global State of Democracy report 2017, the number had risen to 132, accounting for 68% of nations. The bulk of the increase occurred after 1989 following the collapse of the Soviet Union and what was to be the beginning of the global protest movement. While staging general elections every five years or so is an important step away from the autocratic alternative, unless democratic values are embraced and introduced, true democracy remains little more than a slogan, social injustice and suppression in various forms continue and concentrations of power persist.

      Although the number of electoral democracies continues to increase, throughout the world democracy is in crisis; governments have become increasingly partisan, populism and extremism of all stripes have flourished, and people have lost confidence in democratic institutions as the means of solving the various crises confronting us. Politicians are viewed with suspicion or outright contempt, regarded as ambitious, ideologically compromised men and women with little concern for the majority, who make policy based on self-interest and party doctrine.

      Democracy has been hijacked by ‘the economy’ – twinned with capitalism and the ‘free market’, and corrupted thereby. Democracy is, or should be, a living organism, an evolving form that sets the parameters within which society functions, based on principles that are rooted in and cultivate expressions of unity and love.

    • Neoliberal Fascism

      Undoubtedly we live in the age of neoliberalism. There might also be a link between Neoliberalism and fascism. If one agrees with the rather enticing idea that Hayek’s ideology pamphlet The Road to Serfdomis the ur-texts of neoliberalism, then neoliberalism was indeed invented during the dying days of German Nazism and Italian fascism. The idea of a Fascist Nature of Neoliberalism argues that capitalism and neoliberalism aren’t what liberal and communist thinkers alike thought it is. Instead, it has some telling characteristics that make it similar, in fact, to what fascist and reactionary Catholic political movements have dreamt. Worse, neoliberalism has transmogrified into a new fascist militiaeven though there are no longer any Italian style black-shirts (FasciItaliani di Combattimento) or German style brown-shirts (SA and later SS, dressed in black) roaming the streets rounding up Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, trade unionists, communists, socialists, anarchists, progressive academics, democrats and the like.

    • Big Corporations Pay No Income Tax, Unlike You

      Telling you that Donald Trump lied, or that the one percent continue to succeed in their incessant class warfare, ranks in the astonishment department with being told the Sun rose in the east this morning. Do we really need more evidence?

      Necessary or not, more evidence continues to be delivered. The latest delivery comes courtesy of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, which has found that 60 of the largest corporations in the United States paid no income taxes for 2018 despite earning a composite $79 billion in net income. Worse, these companies actually received $4.3 billion in tax rebates.

      Had these companies paid taxes at the newly reduced corporate tax rate of 21 percent, these companies would have paid $16.4 billion in taxes. So we have a difference of more than $20 billion — quite a nice return on their lobbying expenses and donations to the Trump campaign.

      Heading the list is none other than Amazon. Run by the world’s richest person and recently extracting billions of dollars in subsidies in a sweepstakes in which cities across the United States competed to give away the most money, Amazon racked up $11 billion in profits last year and not only paid no taxes but received a rebate of $129 million. A total of 26 companies, including Chevron, Delta Air Lines, Duke Energy, General Motors, Molson Coors and Prudential Financial, reported net income of more than $1 billion while paying no taxes.

      President Trump claimed that his massive tax cuts for corporations would directly result in the average United States household getting an annual increase of $4,000 in wages. That magical figure came from his own Council of Economic Advisers, which further claimed that the $4,000 was a “conservative” estimate. The Council went on to claim that the average U.S. household might see a raise of $9,000.

      The web site FactCheck.org, noting that the Council never said how it arrived at these magical figures, used old-fashioned math to reveal the lack of reality here. The site’s analysis of the purported $9,000 raise concluded: “That would amount to a $1.1 trillion annual income gain from simply reducing a corporate tax burden that is currently only $297 billion.”

      Still waiting for that extra $4,000 in your paycheck, aren’t you?

    • Can We Trust Billionaires to Save Democracy?

      There’s no denying that Nicolas Berggruen, the German American billionaire founder and president of the private investment company Berggruen Holdings as well as the think tank Berggruen Institute, has benefited from a global capitalist system that has fueled historic inequality. But even he can see how broken the current economic and political systems in place in the West are, so he’s come up with a plan to try to revamp democracy as we know it.

      Think of it as “universal basic capital instead of universal basic income,” Berggruen tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer in a discussion about the billionaire’s book, “Renovating Democracy: Governing in the Age of Globalization and Digital Capitalism.” What Berggruen advocates for is a fresh restructuring of democratic governance frameworks that would guarantee adequate living conditions for workers regardless of employment status. At a time in which jobs are quickly being eaten up by rapidly advancing technology, employment should not determine a person’s right to having their basic needs accounted for, the Berggruen Holdings founder and his coauthor, Nathan Gardels, argue in their book.

      “What we are proposing is, as opposed to redistributing through taxes … why not give everyone a chance from the beginning? And to put it in concrete examples, if [going forward], if one creates a business, let’s say in California, as a compromise to potentially, you know, pay a different rate of taxes, let’s say lower, one would give a stake [of] the business to the state. So that the state, and therefore all citizens who are part of the state, would really become owners in the business in the future of, hopefully, something that is successful,” Berggruen tells the Truthdig editor in chief in the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence.”

      Scheer, however, challenges the billionaire with a potential blind spot in Berggruen’s plans: Can we trust elites, well-intentioned and otherwise, to save democracy when they played a huge role in pushing the world to the dire straits it finds itself in currently?

    • From the UK to Greece: Austerity’s Vicious Political Agenda

      In essence, Crashed shows conclusively that the Greek and British peoples were hapless victims of a “bait and switch” (the term used by the Brown University economist Mark Blyth in his 2013 Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea) concocted by their political overlords.

      Of course the official but nonetheless cartoonish mythology is that Greece and the UK are “democracies” thereby bound to hold elections aimed at reflecting “the will of the people”.

      This mythology should not therefore in theory cause their citizens to be left high and dry by elected politicians, who by virtue of electoral success, seemingly possess at least a patina of “democratic” legitimacy, unlike (say) the ghastly Sultan of Brunei or the Saudi Crown Prince.

      Alas, these elected upholders of “democracy” have somehow seized time after time the political space to conduct

    • The Facts Behind the Hype: US GDP 1st Quarter 2019 Analysis

      Last week’s US GDP for the 1st quarter 2019 preliminary report (2 more revisions coming) registered a surprising 3.2% annual growth rate. It was forecast by all the major US bank research departments and independent macroeconomic forecasters to come in well below 2%. Some banks forecast as low as 1.1%. So why the big difference?

      One reason may be the problems with government data collection in the first quarter with the government shutdown that threw data collection into a turmoil. First preliminary issue of GDP stats are typically adjusted significantly in the second revision, coming in future weeks. (The third revision, months later, often is little changed).

      There are many problems with GDP accuracy reflecting the real trends and real GDP that many economists have discussed at length elsewhere. My major critique is the redefinition in 2013 that added at least 0.3% (and $500b a year) to GDP totals by simply redefining what constituted investment. Another chronic problem is how the price index, the GDP Deflator as it’s called, grossly underestimates inflation and thus the price adjustment to get the 3.2% ‘real’ GDP figure reported. In this latest report, the Deflator estimated inflation of only 1.9%. If actual inflation were higher, which it is, the 3.2% would be much lower, which it should. There are many other problems with GDP, such as the government including in their calculation totals the ‘rent’ that 50 million homeowners with mortgages reputedly ‘pay to themselves’.

      Apart from these definitional issues and data collection problems in the first quarter, underlying the 3.2% are some red flags revealing that the 3.2% is the consequence of temporary factors, like Trump’s trade war, which is about to come to an end next month with the conclusion of the US-China trade negotiations. How does the trade war boost GDP temporarily?

      [...]

      Consumer spending (68% of GDP) rose only by 1.2% last quarter and thereby contributed only 0.82% of the 3.2%. That’s only one fourth of the 3.2%, when consumption, given its size in the economy, should contribute 68%!

      Durable manufactured goods collapsed by -5.3% and autos sales are in freefall. And all this during tax refund season which otherwise boosts spending. (Thus confirming middle class refunds due to Trump tax cuts have been sharply reduced due to Trump’s 2018 tax act).

      Similarly private business investment contributed only a tepid 0.27% of the 3.2%, well below its average for GDP share.

    • ‘These Sanctions Amount to Collective Punishment Against the Entire Iranian Population’

      You get the idea. The Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran, aimed nakedly at strangling the country’s economy in order to force it to change its government to one compliant with US demands, is not itself problematic, but it might have some negative ancillary impacts.

      It’s hard to maintain such a frame if you consider the lives of ordinary Iranians, which these articles do not. Here to shed a different light on the state of US policy toward Iran is Sina Toossi, research associate at the National Iranian American Council. He joins us now by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome to CounterSpin, Sina Toossi.

    • The End for Export Power

      The Montana Legislature adjourned late last week after a grueling four months away from homes, families and professions. And considering the level of outright warfare in Washington, D.C., these days our legislators conducted themselves with civility. There will be plenty of coverage and spin on the wins and losses of the session, but one issue in particular, the “save Colstrip” effort — which failed — merits discussion as to the actual future of export power.

      The “save Colstrip” bills were intended to allow NorthWestern Energy to buy increased ownership in Colstrip for the bargain-basement price of one dollar. But the deal would have also off-loaded hundreds of millions of dollars on Montana’s utility consumers for costs associated with running, upgrading, closing and remediating the antiquated coal-fired power plants. Moreover, it would have removed the oversight and regulation of the Montana Public Service Commission in determining whether the additional utility costs would have been prudent to pass on to consumers. And unfortunately, the open vote-trading/hostage-taking by the Senate’s Colstrip proponents provided the most unethical conduct of the session.

      While the motivation for trying to preserve the jobs and revenue from the Colstrip complex could be justified by those who live and work at the power plant or the nearby coal mines, what was not justifiable was the vast increase in utility costs for 370,000 customers to “save” a couple thousand jobs at Colstrip. Indeed, while centralized energy production facilities and “mine mouth” coal-fired generation plants like Colstrip were all the rage when they were built in the mid-70s, the utility landscape has changed considerably nearly 50 years later.

    • Rejecting Trump Spin, 62% of Americans Believe US Economy Primarily Benefits Rich and Powerful

      President Donald Trump frequently claims the U.S. economy is “booming” and “better than ever,” but most Americans aren’t buying it.

      According to a Washington Post/ABC News survey released Monday, 62 percent of U.S. adults believe the “economic system mainly benefits those in power rather than all people.”

      Breaking down the numbers by party affiliation, the poll found that 82 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of independents, and 34 percent of Republicans think the fruits of the American economy are flowing primarily to the top of the income distribution.

    • Elizabeth Warren and Other Senators Call for Refunds and Investigations of TurboTax and H&R Block

      Several senators led by Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., are calling for the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate five tax software companies’ efforts to hide their truly free filing options from search engines.

      “Hiding Free File from the public clearly aligns with the financial interests of these companies, because taxpayers are more likely to encounter and use their fee-based services, which are easily found through search engines,” the letter says, citing ProPublica’s reporting on Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, and H&R Block.

      “For the same reason, it has likely increased prices for low-income consumers who should have had access to Free File but were understandably unaware of the specific IRS website that may have led them there.”

      Congressional staff found that the websites of three other companies that have signed on to the IRS Free File program — TaxSlayer, TaxHawk Inc.’s FreeTaxUSA and Drake Software’s 1040.com — had used similar code to hide their truly free offerings from Google and other search engines.

      [...]

      A May 1 letter written by 12 House Democrats took aim at a gift to the tax preparation industry that has been buried for years in bills that fund the federal government. Since 2015, appropriations bills have carried language that prevent the IRS from providing pre-filled tax returns to taxpayers. Many developed countries have such systems. The idea that the IRS could offer citizens pre-filled returns has been described by Intuit executives as an “existential threat” to the company.

    • TurboTax and H&R Block Saw Free Tax Filing as a Threat — and Gutted It

      Despite signing a deal with the IRS that pledged they would help tens of millions of Americans file taxes for free, tax software giants Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, and H&R Block instead deliberately hid the free option and actively steered customers into paid products, according to an internal document and five current and former employees of the companies.

      H&R Block explicitly instructs its customer service staff to push people away from its free offering, according to internal guidance obtained by ProPublica.

      “Do not send clients to this Web Site unless they are specifically calling about the Free File program,” the guidance states, referring to the site with the company’s free option. “We want to send users to our paid products before the free product, if at all possible.”

    • Wall Street Money Buys Silence on Big Bank Abuses

      In February 2018, Rachelle Faroul became a symbol of racial discrimination in lending when an award-winning investigative report from Reveal covered her experience trying to buy a home. Faroul, who is Black, had good credit, plenty of savings, and a steady job when she first applied for a mortgage, but was denied twice. Only after her partner, who is half-White, co-signed did the bank approve Faroul’s loan. Her partner was working part-time at a grocery store, earning $144 per week.

      Several big Wall Street banks have been cited for lending discrimination. Yet, not long after Faroul’s story was published, Congress approved a partial rollback of the landmark Dodd-Frank law passed after the 2008 financial crisis. One provision in that law, known as S. 2155, now makes it harder for journalists and law enforcement to even find out if discrimination occurs.

      Why would Congress do such a thing? As always in politics, follow the money.

      A new report from Americans for Financial Reform found that in the 2017-2018 electoral cycle, big banks and financial interests pumped almost $2 billion into American politics through campaign contributions and lobbying, and spent heavily to get S. 2155 passed into law. That means that the industry spent an average of $2.5 million per day trying to influence lawmakers.

      And it often works. Wall Street has succeeded in getting legislation that the public opposes, and fending off any action to rein in its abuses.

    • To End Crushing Debt, Warren Introduces Relief Package to Help Storm-Ravaged Puerto Rico ‘Recover With Dignity’

      A group of Democratic Senators, led by Elizabeth Warren, are again pushing to have Puerto Rico’s debt forgiven in the wake of dual hurricanes that hit the island in 2017—an announcement that came as activists from the U.S. territory were on Capitol Hill to find a solution to the island’s economic woes.

      The United States Territorial Relief Act of 2019, as Warren’s bill is known, would offer comprehensive debt relief to the American territory. Warren was joined by fellow Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). All but Markey, Warren included, are running for the Democratic nomination for president.

      “Our bill gives Puerto Rico and other struggling territories a route to comprehensive debt relief and a chance to recover with dignity,” Warren said in a statement. “It’s time for Congress to pass this bill.”

    • New Jersey Task Force Examines Tax Breaks for George Norcross Projects

      A New Jersey gubernatorial task force examining possible irregularities in the awarding of state tax breaks zeroed in Thursday on a series of projects related to political boss George E. Norcross III that were intended to revitalize the Camden waterfront.

      At a public hearing, members of the task force, named in January by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, said they will further scrutinize projects approved by the state Economic Development Authority under former Republican Gov. Chris Christie, including new buildings for Norcross’ insurance brokerage and a nonprofit hospital system where he is board chairman. Tax breaks for the projects totaled $285 million.

    • Doing the Math: What it Takes to Fund a Universal Basic Income

      As the economic insecurity of a large segment of the country continues without relief (debts, taxes, low wages, health costs, education costs, etc.), some big new ideas (like the Green New Deal) are getting attention.

      In my last piece at Counterpunch, “Your Check is in the Mail” (18 April 19), I examined one of these big new ideas: the proposal for a universal basic income (UBI) put forth by presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who proposes to give every US citizen over eighteen years of age $1000 a month. He calls it the Freedom Dividend.

      Yang argues that automation and robotics are relentlessly eliminating wage-labor jobs, hence the need for a UBI. He may be right. I speculated that a UBI might be paid out of corporate profits, but it turns out that that’s not where the money is.

      To see how it can be funded, let’s do some math:

      The current adult (18 plus) population of the US is about 250 million people. Giving $12,000/year to each person would cost about $3 trillion. To put that in context, the federal budget is about $4 trillion/year, including $700 billion for the military, while total annual US corporate profit is about $2 trillion/year in an economy of about $21 trillion.

      The total net financial assets of American households, according to the Federal Reserve, are much greater than that. They add up to about $70 trillion. What are net financial assets? They include stocks, bonds, funds, and other financial instruments. That’s where the money is.

      [...]

      Although Yang’s UBI is designed to make up for the long term erosion of jobs, giving out $12,000/year–combined with continued low-income supplements like welfare, food stamps, etc.–might lead to labor shortages, especially for low-paying jobs. A lower UBI–say $6000/year–might be less disruptive of important service jobs.

    • You Can’t Tax the Rich Without the IRS

      The hot policy in Democratic circles these days is raising taxes on the rich. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has a plan to tax “ultramillionaires,” as she calls them. Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to expand the estate tax. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has floated raising the top income tax rate to 70% for those making over $10 million a year.

      But before this country raises taxes, it should grapple with something much more prosaic but equally important for tackling inequality: saving the Internal Revenue Service.

      Already, wealthy people and corporations easily get around today’s rules. However tough any new laws might seem, they’d soon be undercut.

      Slowly and quietly over the past eight years, the IRS has been eviscerated. It’s lost tens of thousands of employees. It has fewer auditors now than at any time since 1953. In real dollars, the agency’s budget has dropped by almost $3 billion since 2010.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • “We Shall Overcome”: Remembering Folk Icon Pete Seeger on What Would Have Been His 100th Birthday

      It was 100 years ago today that the late folk singer and activist Pete Seeger was born. In 2004, Seeger came into our Firehouse studio for an in-depth interview. We play an excerpt to mark his centennial celebration, in which he recalls how he learned about the classic civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome,” that he helped to popularize. Watch the full interview and our full archive of interviews with Seeger.

    • Bernie Sanders Is Running an Unprecedented Campaign

      Last Saturday, my partner and I showed up an hour early to get ready for our Bernie 2020 Organizing Kickoff event. As we re-arranged tables and learned how to operate the ring of TVs in the back of a local pizza joint, I tried to ignore the nagging question that often creeps into an organizer’s head before an event: What if no one shows up?

      Forty-five people had RSVP’d online, but with the standard flake rate of about 50% that is common for political gatherings, we expected a couple dozen, maybe 30. But as the line of people coming in to register filled the spacious entryway and backed up through the front door, it became clear that standard metrics for estimating attendance would not apply for the first official campaign event of Senator Bernie Sanders’ second run for president.

      All told, at least 65 people attended, working and retired people of all ages and races from across the community. What was going on here? One thing was clear: a lot of important local organizing work had been done in 2016 (and afterwards) that set the foundation for 2020. We were essentially getting the band back together.

      But we knew that couldn’t be the whole story.

      The truth is that the Bernie 2020 campaign is being thoughtfully and deliberately designed to create an unprecedented grassroots movement driven by hundreds of thousands of volunteers – and that approach is already showing results.

      The idea of running a campaign as a grassroots movement is not new for Sanders. He ran in 2016 with a similar message, repeatedly invoking the principle that real change never comes from the top-down, but always from the bottom-up and that it will take a “political revolution” to take on the billionaire class and transform our country for the benefit of ordinary working people.

    • Beyond Prisons: Voting Rights feat. Maya Schenwar

      Maya is the Editor-in-Chief of Truthout. She is also the author of “Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better” and the co-editor of the Truthout anthology “Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States.” She has written about the prison-industrial complex for Truthout, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Nation, Salon, Ms. Magazine, and others. Maya lives in Chicago and organizes with the abolitionist collective Love & Protect. She is the co-author of an upcoming book with Victoria Law, tentatively titled, “Your Home Is Your Prison,” which they hope to release next spring.

    • Obama-tied operatives and Biden supporters launch $60 million ‘dark money’ group

      The recently-launched Future Majority will spend up to $60 million to target voters in swing states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio in the 2020 election, helping Democrats craft messaging that they are fighting for working people while countering conservative talking points, according to Politico.

      The 501(c)(4) nonprofit, run by Democratic strategist Mark Riddle, is not required to disclose its donors. The group will reportedly “spend money through PACs,” potentially feeding a growing trend of dark money-funded super PACs spending to influence elections.

      Earlier this year, Democratic fundraiser Matthew Tompkins formed a super PAC called America’s Future Majority Fund PAC. He is also listed as the custodian of records for an identically-named nonprofit run by Riddle and is listed as governor on incorporation records for Future Majority. The two long worked together at New Leaders Council (NLC), a nonprofit that helps recruit young progressive leaders.

      The revolving door between the new nonprofit and NLC doesn’t end there. Incorporation records show Future Majority’s incorporator is Cathedral Strategies LLC, a limited-liability company with a paper trail linked to Brett Avery Seifried, who was general counsel of NLC.

      With Tompkins, links between Future Majority and presidential contender Joe Biden begin to emerge. The Hill reported that Tompkins recently launched a pro-Biden super PAC, titled For the People PAC, with the aim of raising tens of millions of dollars to support Biden’s campaign.

      The group hasn’t emerged in FEC filings yet, but the Washington Free Beacon reported that Tompkins established a committee called Biden PAC on April 26. The same day it was established, the PAC renamed itself to G Street and removed Tompkins as its treasurer.

      Several of the operatives tied to Future Majority have long histories in former President Barack Obama’s political circles.

      Dustin Robinson is listed as the designated agent for Future Majority in D.C. incorporation records and the agent for America’s Future Majority Fund in FEC records. He also served as NLC’s communication director and worked as an organizer for Organizing for Action (OFA), a 501(c)(4) nonprofit created by former Obama campaign aides to pick up where the campaign left off.

    • BBC Lying Propaganda and the Tory Party Scottish Conference

      This is a photo of the Secretary of State for Scotland addressing the Tory Party Scottish Conference (courtesy of Wings). I have analysed this and other photos taken from different angles, and learnt this.

      There are only six rows of seats at the Scottish Tory Conference. The front row has 24 seats, the second 26, the third 28, the fourth 32 (sic), the fifth 34 and the sixth 36. That is a total of 180 seats.

      How many delegates does a party Conference have, which only has 180 seats? There is, for example, no separate gallery for the media. In this photo there are, including those standing, less than 200 people.

      My wife is a film producer. She is completing her first two feature films as producer this year, having previously done a couple of shorts, including one short as director. In supporting her, largely by making the tea, I have picked up a basic smattering of comprehension of camera work.

      The BBC coverage has been, systematically and undoubtedly deliberately, utilising shots that create a completely false impression of the numbers at the conference. This has been done by setting the cameras low and well zoomed in, to show speakers above an apparent tight sea of heads and shoulders. Wider shots and higher shots have been quite deliberately eschewed. Any side shots or front shots have again been quite deliberately low set and highly zoomed. A tight zoomed diagonal shot across the hall will get sixty heads densely in it, and create the false impression of a packed crowd.

    • ‘Victory for Ohio Voters’ as Court Strikes Down GOP’s Gerrymandered Map

      In a unanimous ruling (pdf), the judges said they were “convinced by the evidence” that the Republican-drawn congressional map amounted to an “intentional and effective” partisan gerrymander.

      “The bottom line is that the dominant party in state government manipulated district lines in an attempt to control electoral outcomes and thus direct the political ideology of the state’s congressional delegation,” the judges wrote.

      “Today’s decision is a victory for Ohio voters,” Catherine Turcer, executive director of Common Cause Ohio, said in a statement. “For far too long partisan gerrymandering has plagued our politics, divided our communities, and weakened the power of the people’s voice and vote in government.”

      The court ruled that Ohio Republicans cannot use the gerrymandered map in future elections and gave lawmakers until June to draw up a replacement that does not violate the Constitution.

    • ‘Sick, Dystopian Stuff’: Former Trump Adviser Kelly Joins Board of Company Running Immigrant Detention Centers

      In what one critic deemed a “nauseating example of the revolving door” through which powerful political players often move in and out of the private sector, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly joined the board of a company which owns some of the largest detention centers for unaccompanied children who cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

      CBS News reported Friday that Kelly is now a member of the board of directors for Caliburn International, which runs one immigrant detention center in Florida and three in Texas.

      Before joining the Trump administration, Kelly served on the board of advisers for an investment firm which now owns Caliburn. But critics said that in light of at least $222 million the company has received in government contracts to operate the detention centers between 2018 and 2019—as the number of children held in U.S. custody skyrocketed—Kelly’s current involvement with Caliburn represents a blatant conflict of interest.

      “The fact is that when he was in the White House, the government took action that swelled the population of people that were in these facilities, and that benefited his former employer,” Delaney Marsco, ethics counsel at the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, told CBS News.

      Over the past year—while Kelly was serving in the White House as one of Trump’s top advisers—Caliburn’s subsidiary, Comprehensive Health Services, went from having a capacity of 1,250 beds to containing 3,200 beds in one of its detention centers.

    • William Barr Is Orchestrating a Slow-Rolling Coup Against the Constitutional Order

      So, the Attorney General of the United States, having presumably reassembled his gizzard after Senator Kamala Harris took it apart for him on live television, spit in the eye of the constitutional order by refusing to honor a pair of subpoenas from the House Judiciary Committee—one for an unredacted copy of Robert Mueller’s report on the Russian ratfcking of the 2016 election, and one for his own sorry ass to sit in another chair in another committee room. This was a remarkable moment, and one that none of us ever should forget. This is a tiny, slow-rolling coup against the constitutional design.

    • ‘Difference Between Democracy and Dictatorship’: Dems Threaten Barr With Contempt Over Refusal to Testify

      After Attorney General William Barr announced he will not show up for his scheduled hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday and refused to comply with a subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report, House Democrats said they plan to hold Barr in contempt if he continues to flout congressional demands.

      “Compliance with congressional subpoenas is not optional,” Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. “If good-faith negotiations don’t result in a pledge of compliance in the next day or two, the next step is seeking a contempt citation against the attorney general.”

    • ‘Send Him to Jail’: Calls to Arrest Barr for Contempt After AG Refuses to Show Up for House Hearing

      Democrats faced calls to immediately hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress—and, if necessary, throw him in jail—as Barr refused to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

      “William Barr is in contempt,” Joel Mathis wrote at The Week. “Congress should send him to jail.”

      “That’s a radical suggestion, but this is a radical moment,” added Mathis. “Barr’s defiance of the committee isn’t happening in a vacuum: It’s part of a sweeping effort by President [Donald] Trump’s administration to defy nearly all oversight by Congress.”

    • The Curious Campaign of Seth Moulton

      Has This “Service Candidate” Served Other Veterans Well?

      Did the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race really need a 19tth participant, particularly one joining the line-up just before Joe Biden’s much-ballyhooed entry?

      Last Monday, former Marine Seth Moulton’s answer to that question was “Yes, Sir!”

      So now the ambitious young Congressman from Salem, Mass. is the fourth House member seeking the Democratic nomination, despite being totally unknown in the rest of the country— and little known elsewhere in the Bay State (at least compared to Elizabeth Warren).

      Moulton starts out with a much lower profile than other veterans already in the race—namely, Pete Buttigieg, the gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana or Tulsi Gabbard, the Hindu member of Congress from Hawaii, who supported Bernie Sanders last time and commands a strong peace movement following.

      Nevertheless, the 40-year old ex-military officer is worth watching, for as long as his vanity campaign lasts. Moulton-style “service candidates” are now being widely recruited and strongly supported by both major parties and their wealthy funders

      Among fellow Democrats, Moulton has been a mentor, model, and fund-raiser for other ex-military men and women seeking Congressional seats in other states. He hopes to gain traction for his own fourth bid for public office by arguing that his Marine experience, plus multiple Harvard degrees, make him most qualified to be our next commander in chief.

      On the day Moulton announced his candidacy, the New York Times noted that ten “of the 67 new representative who swung control of the House to the Democrats in the 2018 elections…served in the military, intelligence agencies, or diplomatic service.” According to The Times, they “bring expertise to a body where practical skills and deep knowledge about war, peace, foreign aid, diplomacy, and geostrategic thinking are in short supply.”

    • Mueller thinks Trump Committed Obstruction: Why he Wrote to Barr and why Barr Lied

      Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky at WaPo broke the story that Special Counsel Bob Mueller wrote a sharp letter to Attorney General William Barr to protest the 4-page summary Barr put out before releasing the Mueller report to the public.

      The letter was private but someone just leaked it to WaPo. Mueller’s team had been very professional and avoided leaks, but some had also told journalists after Barr’s memo that they felt it misrepresented the Mueller report and they were angry about Barr sidelining all their work.

      The WaPo journalists note, “In his memo to Congress, Barr also said that Mueller had not reached a conclusion about whether Trump had tried to obstruct justice, but that Barr reviewed the evidence and found it insufficient to support such a charge.”

      This assertion by Barr seems to have been what ticked Mueller off.

      Mueller said, “The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions . . . There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”

    • Championing Female Voters as Powerful ‘Supermajority,’ Organizers Launch Movement to Fight for Women’s Agenda

      Several influential progressive women on Monday launched a new grassroots movement aimed at building on the energy and political power of American women, who make up the majority of the U.S. population, voters, and grassroots donors—forming what the group calls a “Supermajority.”

      Created by former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, and National Domestic Workers Alliance director Ai-jen Poo, the Supermajority is aimed at building on the political power women have demonstrated since President Donald Trump was elected in 2016.

    • The Always Blame “Trump”-ists

      If the voters in the faking USA are exceptional among all of humanity, it is probably because of the degree to which they seem to insist that it is pragmatic to believe that they can be in two places at once. To enable desired changes, they continue to attempt to reinstall candidates who have proven that they are largely lacking the desire to change the deteriorating system. The vast majority of voters seem to believe that by supporting a candidate who mostly resembles what they say they don’t want, that they have integrity and wisdom.

      One of the greatest examples of the short-sighted, infantile, desperately spoiled nature of so many supposed liberals/progressives in the various medias and thereby in the commonly heard discourses in the faking USA is the religiously adhered to pronouncement that seemingly everything that is going wrong and every example of the widespread corruption within the supposed exceptional society is “Trump’s” fault. This misguided blaming is right in line with the behavior which has allowed and promoted the faking USA to unleash massively destructive assaults on numerous other supposed nations through the use of the media and the corporately aligned agents of capitalist predation by emphatically focussing people’s attention on whichever devil leader was the current manifestation of satanic evil at each location and at each time. The punishment however is consistently placed upon the whole society.

      This behavior is typical of most of the democrats and republicans across what is imagined to be a wide range of political thought within the religiously privatizing fakery known as the USA. The reality is that the range of political thought allowed within the democrat-republican alliance (which pretends to be an opposition) is very limited and very intolerant of those people who point out its cravenly delusional and demeaning nature. Private corporatism and the bloated militarism which is its most vital employee are as central to liberalism as they are to conservatism. So much so that neoliberalism is the twin of neoconservatism. The addition of the prefix “neo” is but one of the many unifiers.

      Fox News is seen as an opposition to MSNBC, but the truth is that these two, like the overwhelming number of media outlets, are both gimmick peddlers which promote bogus beliefs based upon providing their customers with a feeling of superiority and the dream of a possible domination over each other. The truth is a rather rarely used tool and its usage is strongly limited by a spurious insistence that the artificial flavor used by each outlet is concocted from and for a desire to make more people’s lives better. The evidence supporting their preferred misrepresentations is only becoming thinner by each passing day.

    • Who are women donors putting their money behind? Not just the Democratic women.

      The five Democratic women in the 2020 presidential race raised more money from women donors than the 11 Democratic men did in the first quarter of 2019 — $7.4 million to $7.35 million.

      That’s based on a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of itemized contributions to candidates who filed in the first quarter and raised more than $100,000. Itemized contributions are generally contributions over $200 as reported to the FEC, which gives us gender data only for large donations. Hence, we isolated contributions of over $200 for this analysis.

      Electability, albeit a quality given generously to men running for office and earned by women, has been a pillar for primary voters and donors in presidential elections. Who that leads donors to is still to be determined, but where women are putting their money provides insight.

      Following a record-breaking midterm for both women candidates and donors, the money trail offers a glimpse of how women are responding to having multiple women in the top tier of a presidential race — a first in such campaigns.

      Of all the itemized donations from the first quarter, 253 women gave to multiple Democratic women running in the primary. That represents just over 3 percent of the women donor base.

      Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the only 2020 candidate to raise at least 50 percent of her money from women after the first quarter of fundraising, raised $1.27 million with 961 women donors.

    • ‘Electability’ is a terrible reason to pick a candidate

      Many Democrats and liberals are fixated on one question regarding the 2020 primary: Who can beat Donald Trump? Dave Weigel reports that even some Democratic women are leaning towards Joe Biden because the 2016 election apparently proved a female candidate can’t win. “[T]he likelihood of defeating Donald Trump is to me overwhelmingly the most important factor in choosing a candidate – factors one through three, really one through 300. The key is just figuring out who that person is,” writes Josh Marshall.

      But this is an impossible task, and therefore a bad thing to prioritize. Rather than trying to guess who might appeal to people who are not loyal Democrats, better to simply pick a candidate you actually like.

      The election of Donald Trump ought to have put paid to the idea that anybody knows anything about who can win. The man was a reality TV show host, credibly accused of multiple instances of sexual assault, patently corrupt to his back teeth, and had no political experience whatsoever. Surely this guy can’t win, right? For the whole campaign, political commentators were openly contemptuous of the idea that he could win either the primary or the general election. All the election data shops predicted that Clinton would win easily. But nope!

    • Multiple St. Petersburg government agencies simultaneously publish complaints that ‘provocateurs’ ruined the mood at May Day demonstrations

      Several administrative committees within St. Petersburg’s municipal government simultaneously posted identical messages that blamed “provocateurs” for “disturbing the good mood for Petersburg residents” on May 1.

      Fontanka reported that the messages appeared on social media pages run by the Committee for Youth Policy and the Committee for Interethnic Relations as well as district administration accounts. None of the agencies in question were involved in planning yesterday’s May Day demonstrations, Fontanka noted. The text also appeared on the official website of the administration of St. Petersburg.

    • Trump’s golf club reportedly made undocumented employees work overtime for no pay

      New York State’s attorney general is investigating new allegations that at least one of President Donald Trump’s golf clubs hired undocumented immigrants and made some of them work overtime without pay, the Washington Post reports.

      New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office has interviewed more than two dozen former employees amid allegations that workers were routinely underpaid at the Trump National Golf Club Westchester in Briarcliff Manor, New York,

      Jose Gabriel Juarez, the former head waiter at a club restaurant, told the Post that managers regularly told workers to do “side work” after their shifts were done. Juarez said he was often forced to stay until past midnight even though he wasn’t paid for the extra hours.

    • Russian government recalls ambassador to Belarus after Minsk officials complained he treated the country like a ‘federal subject’

      Vladimir Putin recalled Mikhail Babich from his post as the Russian ambassador to Belarus “in connection with plans to transfer him to another position.” Senator Dmitry Mezentsev, who has sat on the Federation Council as a representative of Sakhalinsk Oblast since 2015, has been appointed to replace Babich. Mezentsev’s term on the Council was already set to end in September 2019. He had previously worked as the general secretary of the Shanhai Cooperation Organization and served as the governor of Irkutsk Oblast.

      Mezentsev’s appointment violated federal regulations, Dmitry Novikov, the first vice chairperson of the State Duma’s international affairs committee told RBC. The Russian law that sets out procedures for appointing the country’s ambassadors calls for a preliminary consultation with Russian parliamentary deputies. According to Novikov, a Duma committee charged with discussing matters related to the Commonwealth of Independent States should have been permitted to confirm Mezentsev’s candidacy for the Minsk ambassadorship, and publishing his name before that discussion was “a procedural violation.”

    • Donald Trump Is the Most Impeachable President in American History

      Donald Trump is the most impeachable president in American history. Many Democrats, however, are running away from the word “impeachment” for tactical political reasons. Some Democrats say they have a sworn duty under the Constitution to present articles of impeachment for a vote in the House of Representatives, regardless of the refusal by the Republican controlled Senate to hold a trial.

      Interestingly, when Republicans in the House impeached President Bill Clinton in 1998, he was more popular in polls than Donald Trump is now. The Republican controlled Senate, however, failed to get the two-thirds vote needed to remove President Clinton from office. Clinton’s offenses – lying under oath and obstruction of justice pale in comparison to the many mega offenses of Trump.

      The six major House Committees are investigating issues ranging from his tax returns and business dealings to the documented serial obstructions of justice documented in the Mueller Report. As these investigations move well beyond what is already on the public record and more Americans learn their contents, there will be more than enough to substantiate numerous articles of impeachment. Plus a new one of Trump’s own creation—the wholesale, broadside obstruction of all these Congressional investigations, defying subpoenas for sworn testimony and documents, amounting to a gigantic contempt of Congress—itself an impeachable offense.

      [...]

      Physicians have pleaded with the Trumpsters to protect the vulnerable infants and children from toxics and micro-particulates in the air and water. “Hell no,” cry his craven gangsters who were chosen to run our health and safety agencies precisely because they want to run them into the ground.

      For the first time ever, life expectancy in the United States is declining. This lawlessness is way beyond what should be excused by “prosecutorial discretion.” Trump’s defiant wholesale repeal of the rule of law begs for impeachment.

      Trump’s impeachable brew is deep, hot, and deadly. He violates the constitution, federal statutes, and international treaties with his war crimes anywhere he wants to conduct them around the world. John Bolton, the unconfirmed national security advisor and Mike Pompeo, his secretary of state, are looking for new wars – whether in Iran or Venezuela. Bolton and Pompeo are prime examples of unindicted war criminals.

      These men violently threaten regimes, except those run by Trump’s favorite dictators (he says he’s “fallen in love” with North Korea’s Kim), as if there are no laws whatsoever to restrain their dangerous missions. The fact that previous Presidents like Clinton, the two Bushes, and Obama committed war crimes does not exonerate Trump. Congress is also culpable. It has to stop the lawless foreign/military policies of Empire that eventually will boomerang and undermine our nation’s national security. It has already produced devastating costs in casualties and dollars.

    • Watch GOP Ranking Member of House Judiciary Make Case for Democrats to Start Trump Impeachment Hearings

      A top House GOP leader Thursday told Democrats Thursday that they should impeach the president.

      In an interview with MSNBC reporter Kasie Hunt, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, said that if Democrats want the opportunity to ask administration officials like Attorney General William Barr tough questions, they should bring articles of impeachment against the president.

      But Collins doesn’t think the majority party has the courage to do that.

      “They wanted it to play out this way because they want it to look like an impeachment hearing,” said Collins. “But they don’t have the fortitude to bring impeachment.”

    • President Accused of ‘Another Blatant Violation’ of Constitution Over Reports Foreign Officials Rented Luxury Condos From Trump

      A government watchdog said Thursday that it was investigating reports that the Trump administration had allowed at least seven foreign governments to rent luxury condos at a building owned by President Donald Trump—a possible violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.

      Reuters reported that the governments of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, the European Union, and three other foreign countries had been permitted by the State Department to rent or renew leases in Trump World Tower, a residential building which stands next to the United Nations in New York, in the first eight months of Trump’s presidency.

      The tower is owned by the Trump Organization, the president’s real estate business, from which he refused to divest when he took office—instead handing over control to his two eldest sons and maintaining access to its funds.

      The president earned $15 million in 2017 from the Trump Organization-owned company which manages Trump World Tower, according to Reuters.

      “We’re demanding answers from the State Department about the decision to allow foreign governments to rent condos from the Trump Organization without congressional approval,” tweeted American Oversight, an ethics watchdog which launched two months into Trump’s term.

    • At Least 7 Foreign Governments Have Rented Condos In Trump World Tower

      The U.S. State Department allowed at least seven foreign governments to rent luxury condominiums in New York’s Trump World Tower in 2017 without approval from Congress, according to documents and people familiar with the leases, a potential violation of the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause.

      The 90-story Manhattan building, part of the real estate empire of Donald Trump, had housed diplomats and foreign officials before the property developer became president. But now that he is in the White House, such transactions must pass muster with federal lawmakers, some legal experts say. The emoluments clause bans U.S. officials from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments without congressional consent.

      The rental transactions, dating from the early months of Trump’s presidency and first revealed by Reuters, could add to mounting scrutiny of his business dealings with foreign governments, which are now the subject of multiple lawsuits.

      Congressional staffers confirmed to Reuters that the Trump World Tower lease requests were never submitted to Congress. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said his committee has been “stonewalled” in its efforts to obtain detailed information about foreign government payments to Trump’s businesses.

    • [Reposted in big media now] GOP, not Russia, is greater threat to free elections

      We all have heard about WikiLeaks and Russian interference in the 2016 election. The report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller has once more put that on the front pages. Too often lost in the furor, however, is the far more damaging TrikiLeaks — the tricks and laws used to suppress the vote by partisans, largely Republicans here at home.

      After the Supreme Court’s right-wing gang of five gutted key sections of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby v. Holder, Republican-controlled states immediately ramped up efforts to create obstacles for voting, particularly for people of color. They mandated specific forms of state ID, made it harder for students to vote, eliminated same-day registration, reduced early voting days, closed polling booths in African American neighborhoods leading to long delays, purged voters from the rolls, perfected partisan gerrymandering and more. In some cases, as in North Carolina, their discriminatory intent was so public that the laws were overturned in federal court, but in most places, the new barriers were in place in 2016.

    • Send Labour A Message: Vote Brexit, Vote Galloway

      At the forthcoming European Elections, every Labour candidate favours a second referendum and would vote Remain. Add in the sentence handed down to Julian Assange, and it is time to send a message. The way to send that message is by voting for the Brexit Party on 23rd May. And if you happen to live in Peterborough, then it is also by voting for George Galloway on 6th June.

      Jeremy Corbyn has opened up the debate on economic and foreign policy for the first time in a generation. Before the summer of 2015, Britain had an unquestionable State ideology in international affairs and in relation to the architecture of the economy. It was occasionally possible to make a small and probably jocular criticism of the Government. But it was effectively forbidden to criticise the State. Corbyn has brought onto the platform the voices of opposition in principle to politically chosen austerity and to wars of political choice.

    • Instead of Correcting Lies, Corporate Media Use Twitter to Passively Amplify Misinformation From Trump, Study Shows

      When using social media to report on President Donald Trump’s comments, many major corporate media outlets often succeed only in amplifying his misinformation and lies instead of setting the record straight, according to a new study.

      After examining about 2,000 tweets from more than 30 Twitter accounts controlled by major news sources over three weeks earlier this year, Media Matters for America (MMFA) reported Friday that the accounts simply spread Trump’s lies 65 percent of the time, without providing context or disputing his remarks.

      [...]

      “The way people consume information in the digital age makes the accuracy of a news outlet’s headlines and social media posts more important than ever,” wrote Savillo and co-author Matt Gertz. “But journalists are trained to treat a politician’s statements as intrinsically newsworthy, often quoting them without context in tweets and headlines and addressing whether the statement was accurate only in the body of the piece, if at all.”

      Most of the lies were spread after Trump hosted informal news briefings known as press gaggles and after his interviews with the press. News outlets passed along his false statement without debunking them 92 percent of the time during the former and 73 percent of the time during the latter.

      The online news source The Hill amplified the most lies and misinformation, according to MMFA. The website’s Twitter account sent 40 percent of the misleading or false tweets containing Trump’s quotes or ideas, and passed along incorrect information from the president 88 percent of the time it tweeted about him.

      “The Hill also frequently resends the same tweet at regular intervals, not only amplifying his falsehoods, but also making it more likely that the misinformation will stick with its audience through the power of repetition,” wrote Savillo and Gertz.

    • I Played One on TV

      Who’d have thought it would come from Ukraine? That is a country that has been in various stages of turmoil for many years. It is hard to believe it would provide the inspiration for, and answer to, the question that has perplexed many Republicans contemplating the prospect of the 2020 elections, without a plausible candidate to challenge Donald Trump in a primary. The inspiration offered by Ukraine comes in the form of Volodymyr Zelensky.

      As recently as one month ago, few people outside the Ukraine had heard of Mr. Zelensky. He is a 41-year old Ukrainian comedian-actor, and star of the television sitcom, Servant of the People, a show that has aired in Ukraine for the last three years.

      Servant of the People is a story about a modest school teacher who becomes an exemplary president of Ukraine, living a life as president without all the trappings that normally accompany that position. In the plotline, he takes advantage of his position to rid the country of corrupted and deceitful bureaucrats, or, as we like to say in the United States, he “drained the swamp.”

    • GOP in Danger of Losing Younger Generation of Voters Over Climate Policies: Report

      Republicans may be overplaying their hand with unflinching opposition to the Green New Deal and losing the younger generation of voters.

      That’s according to reporting from Politico, which found that some GOP strategists worry that the short term gain of using the public’s confusion over the policy and wariness of the cost of restructuring the economy may be offset by the conservative movement becoming alienated from today’s youth for years.

      “There are a lot of areas where millennials are a bit more progressive than I wish they were,” said Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson. “Republicans need to do a better job of speaking to them.”

    • Elections in Spain: Regime Maintenance Disguised as Democratic Vitality and the Possibility of Change

      In last Sunday’s Spanish elections, Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist Party (PSOE) considerably expanded its presence in the country’s Parliament, while the Popular Party (PP), which for more than two decades has quite purposefully and successfully driven the country’s arena of “thinkable thought” toward the hard right, had its poorest electoral showing in years.

      The other big news was that a) the Catalan independence party, ERC, won the largest number of seats in that Autonomous Region’s delegation to the Congress of Deputies in Madrid and b) the neo-Fascist Voxparty had a weaker showing at the polls than many had foreseen.

      The consensus understanding of these events—as processed by the Madrid-based “liberal” press led by El Paísand its powerful, if albeit somewhat more nuanced, echo chamber in Barcelona (La Vanguardiaand El Periódico)—was one of clear, but cautious optimism, rooted in the idea that Spaniards had, in effect, voted for moderate center-left change, and perhaps even a return to the practice of respectful dialogue between opposing parties.

      In fact, the general sense of hope transcended the usual precincts of the centralist establishment to include certain elements of the independence-oriented Catalan left.

    • Pelosi’s Trump Problem and Ours

      Since long before Donald Trump oozed out from the New York tabloids and Atlantic City casinos into the mainstream of American politics, the United States has had no genuine center left political party. What it has had instead is a feckless Democratic Party that is as much a capitalist tool (apologies to Forbes Magazine) as its more odious Republican rival.

      However, the sad fact is that our pro-corporate, pro-Wall Street Democratic Party is indispensable for beating back Donald Trump and his minions. Nancy Pelosi is now its de facto leader and public face. Therefore a lot depends on what she does. The consequences could be world altering; the burden must seem overwhelming.

      Only a few months ago, mentioning the Democratic Party’s connections to corporate America and Wall Street would have been gratuitous. It went without saying.

      There have always been Democrats who, by sympathy and conviction, were better than that. But at least since the Jimmy Carter days, it would have taken a keen eye to discern anything in their work in the House or Senate that the Forbes motto didn’t perfectly capture.

      Democrats would oppose Republicans from time to time, on anodyne cultural issues, and Republicans would oppose Democrats. Republicans were more likely than Democrats to play quick and dirty. Many of them were not beyond playing “the race card” when suitable occasions arose; in effect, they made Richard Nixon’s (actually Pat Buchanan’s) Southern Strategy their own.

      In recent decades, there has therefore been a lot of what W.H. Auden, following Yeats, called “passionate intensity.” At the same time, though, there has been little or no contestation over fundamental political convictions.

      Thus, paradoxically, American politics, always in the grip of a debilitating, semi-institutionalized duopolistic party system, suffered from both extreme polarization and a degree of ideological conformism without equal in other liberal democracies.

      There are now roughly a hundred or so House members in the Congressional Progressive Caucus and there are self-identified progressives in the Black and Hispanic Caucuses as well.

      No doubt, the progressivism of these self-identified progressives is sincere. No doubt now, as in the past, in the right circumstances, some of them some of the time can be counted on to do the right thing.

      But the circumstances are almost never conducive to insurgent, much less counter-systemic, politics. Therefore, if “by their deeds, you shall know them,” there has hardly ever been a time when the number of practicing progressives in the House and Senate who were good for anything more than opposing Republican miscreants could not, as they say, fit entirely and without remainder in a taxicab with room left over for luggage.

    • Someone Tell Krugman: We Don’t Even Have a Paper Democracy

      I am as horrified as Paul Krugman at the authoritarian threat posed by Donald Trump and his supporters, but in different ways, with a different understanding. Listen to Krugman’s following dialogue with Anderson Cooper on CNN last week:

      Cooper: “You write that it’s very much up in the air whether America as we know it will survive.”

      Krugman: “Institutions depend upon the willingness of people to obey norms, and occasionally to say, okay, ‘this is not how we do things in our country.’ …This didn’t start with Trump. There’s been a steady erosion of those norms. This has been building for a long time, and we’re very close to the edge right now.”

      Cooper: “When you say close to the edge, what does that mean to you?”

    • The Secret Campaign for 2020: Where the Democratic Candidates Stand on Foreign Policy

      Americans vote their pocketbooks. It’s the economy, stupid. Absent a war or recent terrorist attack, conventional wisdom believes that voters prioritize domestic issues. Right now, conventional wisdom is correct. According to the latest Pew Research poll, the five most important issues for Democrats are healthcare, education, Medicare, poverty and the environment.

      So it’s not surprising that the major Democratic presidential contenders’ campaigns are focusing on economic and other America-centric issues. Nor is it shocking that the news media, never more anemic or less willing to question the candidates, is ignoring their stances on foreign policy. You could watch 5 hours and read 50 pages of news every day and never learn where a top Dem stands on issues of war and peace, defense spending, assassination drones, Guantánamo, NSA surveillance of Americans, foreign adventurism or human rights. Trust me, I know.

      Still, voters deserve to know the would-be presidents’ positions on issues that extend beyond U.S. borders. Here’s what I found.

    • The Social Gospel Music Of Tracy Howe’s ‘Things That Grow’

      Bearing witness to neocolonial poverty and violence in marginalized communities while acknowledging the resilience of the human spirit, Tracy Howe creates social gospel music inspired by collective struggles for liberation in the United States and throughout Latin America.

      Her most recent album, “Things That Grow,” was recorded with several musicians in Memphis, and the title track is about choosing to build a world in which we want to live.

      “As I moved to Charlottesville from kind of I want to be doing things for justice, I want to be an activist, I want to be an artist, I really shifted, and partly because I had to,” Howe shared. “Because of changing life circumstances of now being a mother, having physical limitations.”

      [...]

      It is a song Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, who gained recognition for his movement music and work in Ferguson, performs regularly.

    • UK Local Election Propaganda: “Significant Losses for Both Sides”

      The local elections have been a complete disaster for the Tories. They have lost over 1100 seats (as of 7pm today). They have lost nearly forty councils. They have been destroyed. It’s a humiliation.

      However, if you just read the headlines, you might not get this impression.

      [...]

      Have Labour gained a whole bunch of seats? No. But the media effort to conflate Labour’s minor losses with the complete trouncing the Conservatives have taken is totally dishonest.

      Especially bearing in mind the disparity in press coverage – Labour routinely have smear campaigns run against their members and their leadership, including fresh (preposterous) allegations of “antisemitism” the DAY BEFORE the polling for these seats.

      This is nothing new. Last year the local elections were portrayed as total defeat for Labour, despite making gains and winning 80% of the mayoral elections. The gains “were not big enough” and Corbyn was “humiliated”. If this was a humiliation for Corbyn….what on Earth is today for Theresa May?

      The propaganda on this issue is two-fold, it’s not just minimizing the Tory losses to attack Corbyn’s labour, it’s also attempting to turn the UK into a one-issue nation. Every vote cast, the media tell us, was cast by people thinking about Brexit. Labour’s “heavy losses” are allegedly because of remain voters flocking to the Lib Dems or Green party.

      [...]

      The people hate them, and if the press would do their duty and hold power to account, then this electoral embarrassment could have been even greater.

    • UK Conservatives Lose Over 1,200 Local Seats in Local Elections

      Small and independent parties won big in local elections in the U.K. on Thursday as the country’s two largest parties suffered decisive defeats.

      The Greens, a left-wing party, posted their biggest gain in years.

      “We’ve broken through on to the councils to become the new voice,” party co-leader Siân Berry told The Guardian.

      The Liberal Democrats, a centrist party that opposes Brexit, also saw large gains.

      “The Lib Dems were written off at one point but we’re coming back very, very strongly,” said party leader Vince Cable.

      By contrast, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives lost over 1,200 seats and opposition party Labour lost 100. The results were largely interpreted as a rejection of the continuing debate over Brexit as the country delayed its departure from the E.U. for another six months.

      British commentators were quick to note the connection between the country’s increasingly dysfunctional national politics and the trickle-down effect to local elections.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Just Because The Rest Of The World Doesn’t Have A 1st Amendment, Doesn’t Mean It Can Trample Online Speech

      Cecilia Kang recently had a good article in the NY Times about Mark Zuckerberg’s bizarre call for governments to take over content moderation on internet platforms. Lots of people pointed out that this is obviously unconstitutional under the First Amendment, and wondered how any lawyer at Facebook could have signed off on the statement.

    • Unsurprisingly, Larry Klayman’s Veiled Threats And Insulting Of Judges Isn’t Helping Roy Moore’s $95 Million Defamation Lawsuit

      Roy Moore, alleged sexual abuser of teens and apparent front runner for US Senate seat, continues to sue entertainer Sacha Baron Cohen for ruining his pristine reputation. Moore was duped into appearing in a segment with Cohen in which Cohen pretended to have acquired a “pedophile detector” crafted by the Israeli Army. During the bit, the alarm beeped twice in the vicinity of Moore.

      According to Moore’s own lawsuit, this subterfuge and subsequent beeping caused him $95 million in reputational damage because it gave viewers the impression he was, and I quote, “a sex offender.” Unfortunately for Moore, this is an impression many viewers likely already had, thanks to an extended news cycle featuring a line of women accusing Moore of engaging in inappropriate behavior with them when they were teens.

      Even more unfortunately, Moore has decided to hire Larry Klayman as his lawyer. I suppose if you’re going to lose, you may as well lose as loudly as possible. The lawsuit is far from over, though. So, that’s going to give Moore the opportunity to pay Klayman repeatedly for irritating presiding judges and otherwise fail to advance Moore’s case.

      Right now, there’s an argument over jurisdiction. Moore wants the lawsuit to remain in the Washington DC court, arguing that the “injury” occurred in this location since that’s where the bit featuring Moore was recorded. Cohen wants it moved to Manhattan, since that’s where Moore is legally bound to bring a lawsuit according to the agreement he signed with the defendants (Cohen, CBS, and Showtime) prior to taping.

    • Facebook Bans Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones for Hate Speech

      After years of pressure to crack down on extremist content, Facebook has banned Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones and other extremists, saying they violated its ban against hate and violence.

      The company also banned right-wing leaders Paul Nehlen, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson and Laura Loomer, along with Jones’ site, Infowars. The latest bans apply to both Facebook’s main service and to Instagram and extend to fan pages and other related accounts.

      Decried as censorship by several of those who got the ax, the move signals a renewed effort by the social media giant to remove objectionable material — and individuals — promoting hate, racism and anti-Semitism.

      Removing some of the best-known figures of the U.S. political extreme takes away an important virtual megaphone that Facebook has provided the likes of Jones, Yiannopoulos and others over the years.

      Critics praised the move, but said there is more to be done on both Facebook and Instagram.

    • The Alarming Assault on the Free Press

      Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists who had worked for Reuters and exposed the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys, recently received word that their final appeal had been denied by Myanmar’s Supreme Court.

      his means that the two reporters — both fathers of children under age 4 — will, short of a pardon, spend the next seven years in jail. They were convicted of charges in relation to a blockbuster investigative report they had filed documenting the summary executions committed by Myanmar soldiers in the village of Inn Din in late 2017. The two were found to have violated Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act, despite credible testimony by a police officer at their trial that they had been framed and committed no crime.

      Press freedom advocates have risen up in defense of these dedicated journalists, awarding them prizes including the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, the UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize and more than a dozen other honors. The US government, European leaders and other diplomats have weighed in, imploring Myanmar’s still-newly-elected democratic leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, herself a one-time human rights icon, to reverse this egregious violation of international norms protecting the freedom of the press. To no avail. Suu Kyi and the military generals with whom she makes common cause in order to sustain her rule are seemingly impervious to international pressure.

      Press freedom is not like most other freedoms. Unlike freedom of speech or association it is not a right that most of us personally exercise in daily life. Yet the freedom of journalists and news outlets to do their jobs is essential to democracy. The work journalists do to provide the news and analysis that allow us to understand the world around us, cast informed votes and hold our leaders accountable matters just as much as the individual rights we enjoy. That’s why freedom of the press is enshrined in the First Amendment of the US Constitution, and why we should be so alarmed to witness mounting encroachments upon it both here in the United States and around the world.

    • On World Press Freedom Day, 10 Reasons Why Press Freedom Matters

      Today is World Freedom Press Day and it’s as good a day as any to be very clear about why this issue remains crucial. Here are ten key reasons:

      1. Questioning Power: A truly free and independent press is a fundamental tool for holding those in and with power — be it political, economic or social — to account. When journalism aligns itself too closely with, or is co-opted by, any of these agents of power, citizens suffer. And, make no mistake about it…an alignment with corporate power can be just as corrosive to journalism and free press as an alignment with political power.

      2. Democracy: A vibrant, critical, free press is absolutely fundamental to a functioning democracy. Yes, it’s a cliché, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. A lack of free press could lead citizens to make decisions based on misinformation: decisions which might be against their own best interests and serve the interests of those already holding power.

      3. Visions of Citizenship: The presence of high quality, critical press helps to shape a vision of citizenship that goes beyond simply voting once every four years, or of citizenship as being your role as a consumer. It generates a vision of citizenship where there is a sense of engagement with community, and sense of collective destiny and responsibility that extends beyond politics and market.

      4. The Local Matters: As we focus much of our attention on the national media, consider the pricelessness of good, local journalism, and what such journalism adds to a sense of community. How much of the nuance and specificity that is lost when stories are framed at the national level are brought back to life. Local journalism shows how issues of power, justice and community work at scales much easier to see and comprehend.

      5. The Global Matters: Just as good local journalism matters, so does good international reporting. Our personal experiences of the outside world can be very limited, so the power of journalism to “frame” global politics for us is considerable. An independent, critical press doesn’t just tell us what happens abroad, it also explains broader international causes and implications of those events, and does so by avoiding the use of lazy stereotypes and talking points.

    • On #WorldPressFreedomDay, a Reminder: Only 9% of Humanity Lives in Nations That Respect Reporters’ Rights

      As the international community celebrated #WorldPressFreedomDay on Friday, a leading global nonprofit warned that only 9 percent of humanity lives in countries with good or satisfactory levels of press freedom.

      Journalism advocacy group Reporters Sans Frontières—also known as RSF, or Reporters Without Borders—highlighted the detail from its annual World Press Freedom Index, published last month. Based on the report’s findings, the group produced a color-coded map that shows how each country on Earth generally regards free expression and information.

      In honor of the United Nations-designated day dedicated to promoting journalism and reporters’ rights across the globe, RSF explains in a new video and on its website that a full 91 percent of the world’s population lives in countries coded orange for problematic, red for difficult, or black for very serious.

    • The Real Threats to Free Speech on Campus

      The school year may be winding to a close, but the tired argument about “attacks on free speech” on college campuses is alive as ever.

      According to Donald Trump, liberal universities like Berkeley are allowing conservative students to be “assaulted” for sharing their beliefs on campus. To combat such violations, Trump signed an executive order requiring colleges to “protect free speech” or risk losing federal education funding.

      I’m delighted to alert Trump and all those with similar concerns that free speech on campus, on both sides of the political aisle, is doing just fine — to a point.

      College campuses, now more than ever, are home to a variety of organizations with differing political views: pro-Democratic and pro-Republican organizations, Students for Justice in Palestine and Students Supporting Israel, as well as other organizations with conflicting viewpoints.

      More specifically, college campuses are fairly accommodating spaces for conservative students.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Privacy for the Weak, Transparency for the Powerful

      2010, WikiLeaks publishes the logs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Collateral Murder video, and, to top it off, 300,000 US diplomatic cables exposing, among others things, war crimes in a world of global geopolitical hypocrisy…

      2019, after spending 7 years in the Ecuadorian embassy as a political refugee, journalist Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, is arrested by the British police and faces extradition to the United States of America, where await him a cruel judicial system and a secret procedure in a court that seems to have reached its conclusions before hearing the arguments, and a risk of many years in prison, in the best case scenario.

      Between these two points in time, WikiLeaks embodied a vision, one that La Quadrature has supported since its inception in 2008: the privacy of individuals and groups, the transparency of institutions and access to information are fundamental rights that must be respected and enforced, while private companies and states owe transparency to the people. States, through their state files, administrative and judicial procedures, but also private companies, must be accountable to citizens for the data they have, the spying tools they deploy and their influence on the world.

      WikiLeaks, its sources and supporters have paid a high price for being among the first to show on such a scale the consequences on our lives of the “War on Terror”, led by the public powers and private companies of the military-industrial complex, which many of the digital for-profit corporations such as Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon (which hosts the CIA cloud) or Microsoft (through its many contracts with various branches of the American army or the French Ministry of Armies (fr)) joined without much hesitation. The only response these governments have offered has been to engage in coordinated judicial harassment.

    • Elizabeth Warren calls for watchdog investigation into surveillance of family separation protests

      Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., of has called on the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General to launch an investigation into the department’s alleged surveillance practices. This comes in the wake of a report that claimed a private intelligence firm had provided law enforcement officials at the agency with information on hundreds of protests against President Trump’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

      “This most recent reporting raises questions about the government surveillance of Americans exercising their constitutional rights to organize peacefully and protest a cruel and unjust policy that does not make America safer or improve our immigration system and asylum process,” Warren wrote in a letter Tuesday to DHS Acting Inspector General John V. Kelly.

      Warren’s letter came one day after The Intercept reported that LookingGlass Cyber Solutions, a private intelligence firm based in Virginia, monitored more than 600 planned protests across the country against the Trump administration’s family separation policy last summer.

      The administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy separated scores of families in an attempt to deter migrant families from trying to enter the United States through the nation’s southern border with Mexico. Under the policy, officials prosecuted nearly all adults entering the country illegally and any children accompanying them were put in federal shelters across the country — a move that sparked international outcry.

    • ‘Outrageous’: Company Spied on Family Separation Protests, Gave Info to DHS

      A private company monitored protests around President Donald Trump’s family separation policy last year and shared the information with the government, leading to anger and calls for an investigation.

      The company, LookingGlass Cyber Solutions, spied on Americans around the country in the early summer of 2018. The surveillance was done in the lead-up to at least 600 protests held across the country against the family separation policy.

      The revelation comes from documents obtained by the American Immigration Council and shared with The Intercept.

      The information obtained by LookingGlass was offered “unsolicited” to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an official told The Intercept’s Ryan Devereaux on background. The contents were then disseminated in DHS and passed onto Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

      The official gave further detail in an email to Devereaux.

      “A private sector entity shared unsolicited information it collected through publicly available channels with DHS [Office of Intelligence and Analysis] on protests that were scheduled to take place near Federal facilities,” said the official. “Throughout the summer of 2018, the Department was at a heightened state of security due to ongoing protests outside of Federal facilities and physical threats to DHS employees which did result in a least one arrest.”

      LookingGlass works with DHS regularly, the department added.

    • China’s Algorithms of Repression

      Since late 2016, the Chinese government has subjected the 13 million ethnic Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang to mass arbitrary detention, forced political indoctrination, restrictions on movement, and religious oppression. Credible estimates indicate that under this heightened repression, up to one million people are being held in “political education” camps. The government’s “Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism” (Strike Hard Campaign, 严厉打击暴力恐怖活动专项行动) has turned Xinjiang into one of China’s major centers for using innovative technologies for social control.

    • It’s World Press Freedom Day, Tutanota Launches Secure Connect for Journalists and Whistleblowers, Private Internet Access Offers Discounts for Journalists, GCC 9.1 Released, Freespire 4.8 Now Available, and Toradex’s New Torizon Embedded Linux Distro

      In honor of World Press Freedom Day, today Tutanota announces the launch of Secure Connect, “an open source encrypted contact form for news sites. Secure Connect can be easily added to any news site for free so that whistleblowers can get in touch with journalists securely.” From the press release: “‘To support the crucial work of journalists and whistleblowers, Tutanota’s Secure Connect will be free for journalists to place on their websites’, says Matthias Pfau, co-founder and developer of Tutanota. ‘We believe in the Human Right to Privacy and Freedom of Speech—a secure and private form to communicate online is critical to achieve free speech. With Secure Connect we want to support journalists, activists and whistleblowers for the important work they are doing for all of us.’” Journalists can get Secure Connect for free by contacting press@tutao.de and supplying a link to their website. The standard price for Secure Connect (for lawyers, financial institutions, etc.) is 24 euros per month.

    • America’s Favorite Door-Locking App Has a Data Privacy Problem

      Latch — which has raised $96 million in venture capital funding since launching in 2014, including $70 million in its Series B last year — offers three products. Two are entry systems for specific units, and one is for lobbies and other common areas like elevators and garages. The company claims one in 10 new apartment buildings in the U.S. is being built with its products, with leading real estate developers like Brookfield and Alliance Residential now installing them across the country.
      Experts say they’re concerned about the app’s privacy policy, which allows Latch to collect, store, and share sensitive personally identifiable information (PII) with its partners and, in some cases, landlords. And while Latch is far from the only tech company with questionable data practices, it’s harder for a tenant to decouple from their building’s door than, say, Instagram: If your landlord installs a product like the keyhole-free Latch R, you’re stuck. The issue of tenant consent is currently coming to a head in New York City, where residents of a Manhattan building are suing their landlord in part over privacy concerns related to the app.

    • Smart Lock Vendors Under Fire For Collecting Too Much Private Data

      Like most internet of broken things products, we’ve noted how “smart” door locks often aren’t all that smart. More than a few times we’ve written about smart lock consumers getting locked out of their own homes without much recourse. Other times we’ve noted how the devices simply aren’t that secure, with one study finding that 12 of 16 smart locks they tested could be relatively easily hacked thanks to flimsy security standards, something that’s the primary feature of many internet of broken things devices.

      One such vendor, Latch, has increasingly had its products used by landlords eager to simply access to their properties and sell the technology as an advantage. That hasn’t gone over all that well in New York City, where some residents have sued their landlords over the use of the locks, which many residents found cumbersome and difficult to use. Latch at the time reached out to us to note this shouldn’t be a major obstacle, since users have the option of a smartphone app, a door code, and a physical key card to access their properties.

    • Massachusetts Judge Says ATF Can Apply A Suspect’s Fingerprints To Unlock An IPhone

      The warrant [PDF] authorizes ATF agents to “press the fingers (including the thumbs)” of suspect Robert Brito-Pina to the “Touch ID sensor of any Apple cellular phone” recovered during the search. Brito-Pina is suspected of buying and selling weapons — neither of which are permissible given his felon status. The ATF apparently believes evidence of this will be found on Pina’s iPhone.

      There doesn’t appear to be any limit on how many fingers the ATF can use to unlock the phone. The warrant says only that officers will decide which fingers to apply. Presumably, that means all of them (including thumbs), since there’s no language limiting officers to a certain number of finger applications. The only thing preventing every finger from being applied during the search is the iPhone itself, which will require a passcode after five wrong fingerprint applications.

      The phone’s nexus is established pretty thoroughly in the warrant application, which much of the sting operation using an arrestee-turned-informant being carried out via text messages. The government moved to unseal the warrant five days after applying for it, suggesting it has already executed this warrant.

      The weird thing about the warrant application, which thoroughly details the sting operation and the ATF’s surveillance of the suspect, is it appears the swearing agent isn’t actually sure Pina owns an iPhone.

    • Mindgeek, the world’s largest porn company, is behind the UK’s AgeID system

      Streaming services like Hulu and Netflix are well known for leveraging data, and characterizing users. They’re household names. But you’ve probably never heard of another streaming giant who’s just as ubiquitous. Mindgeek, the world’s biggest porn company. With corporate holdings like Pornhub, Xvideos, Redtube, and YouPorn there’s a good chance you’ve used their services. And just like Netflix, they’re keeping tabs on your interests and lobbying their own. Coordinating a vast net of data collection using the power of monopoly and the state that’s altogether uncomfortable.

      Coining themselves a leader “in the design, development, marketing, SEO and management of highly trafficked websites.” It’s not readily apparent Mindgeek is a porn colossus involved in the same upselling, data collection, and curated advertising that sustains the digital economy. Even less obvious is Mindgeek’s involvement in the proliferation of dystopian and draconian legislation. Including new legislation in the United Kingdom.

      You may know the United Kingdom plans on implementing a system, called AgeID, which forces adult websites to ask users for age verification; via credit card, passport, or driver’s license. Coined the ‘Porn Pass’ AgeID will offer a database by which users can verify their identities before viewing adult content. Guess who owns the AgeID verification system. Mindgeek.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • How pilots whose licenses were cancelled by the Russian government are fighting to pursue their passion

      In 2017, hundreds of Russian civilian pilots lost their licenses. That year, Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency, better known as Rosaviatsiya, closed down the country’s private aviation schools and annulled their graduates’ certificates, leaving them unable to pursue employment in their field. Many of the pilots affected had spent months of their lives and millions of rubles to get their licenses. In 2018, the pilots challenged Rosaviatsiya’s decision in court, but they lost their case. Meduza spoke with pilots who found themselves grounded two years ago about how they get by now. Some found jobs as taxi drivers or construction workers, and others found a way to return to their chosen profession.

    • Chicago PD’s Gang Database Is A Horrific Mess Compiled By Horrific Public Servants

      The easiest way to control a certain percentage of the populace is to strip it of its humanity. It happens in prisons and jails every day. It happens to immigrants all the time. For the Chicago Police Department, dehumanizing the citizens they serve makes it that much easier to minimize their complaints and avoid treating them with any level of respect.

      The City of Chicago’s Inspector General has released a hefty, disturbing report [PDF] on the Chicago PD’s gang database. This collection of people — all lumped together as gang members or associates — is shared with over 500 government agencies. Given this alarming fact, you’d think the CPD would be a bit more professional when compiling it. But you’d be wrong. The thing that leaps out immediately is how demeaning the database is, thanks to officers’ input.

      [...]

      No one outside the CPD has the power to vet the information contained in the database and the CPD hardly seems worried about the inaccuracies it contains, much less the slurs listed as “occupations” or the fact that it’s 91% minorities. The Inspector General’s review of records noticed a ton of discrepancies, including multiple entries for the same people (thanks to clerical/paperwork errors) and individuals listed as being under the age of ten, despite other records showing them to be nearly a decade older than the gang database said they were.

      The sloppy handling of data would be concerning on its own. The fact that this database tells over 500 outside government agencies a person is a gang member makes this inattention to detail horrific. The CPD is shrugging thousands of people onto a gang list with zero care for the collateral damage it’s causing.

    • 30 injured in clashes between police and concertgoers at Moscow rap festival

      The festival took place on May 1 in the Russian capital’s Luzhniki stadium. Because entry to the event was free, the crowd attending was much larger than organizers anticipated. Eyewitnesses told the independent television channel Dozhd that Russian National Guard members began blocking parts of the path to the stage during the concert, and by the end of the event, they were using clubs and electric batons to move audience members away from barricades in the stadium.

    • Black Women Political Prisoners of the Police State

      The Rev. Joy Powell says she was “raped, railroaded and bamboozled” by police. Her crime? Being a poor black woman who faced off against the police—protesting their violent brutality against black people in Rochester, NY. Once she defied them, she was warned, then targeted and framed for serious crimes. A few weeks ago, Australian Julian Assange was forcibly dragged from his political asylum to face the American police state. His crime? Like Rev. Powell, he dared to tell the truth about the violence and brutality that defines the American state. Scottish political analyst Jon Wight, citing the treatment of American political prisoners Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal, calls the US “justice” system the “most cruel and callous in the world.” That system does not tolerate the exposure of its war crimes and abuses of its police state quietly—it retaliates against those who expose its injustice by treating them to cruel and callous punishment.

      Black women who have confronted the abuses of America’s white authority have suffered its punishment throughout our history. Anarchist Lucy Parsons, born in 1853, is one of the few black women mentioned in labor histories, usually as the wife of the martyred Albert Parsons, who was executed in the wake of Chicago’s Haymarket Riot of 1886. Parsons was a dedicated “revolutionist” for labor’s cause, leading rallies and making speeches in 43 states, advocating the use of explosives by tramps and their taking a “few rich people with them.” She was constantly arrested, roughly handled, and jailed: in 1913, at age 60, she was stripped and jailed in Chicago for “peddling literature without a license.” Another labor radical, Claudia Jones, who headed the Women’s Commission for the US Communist Party, was jailed in 1955. She fought the “madam-maid” relationship of white to black women, and felt socialism was the only hope for American blacks. Jones was deported to England where she continued to work for socialism.

    • Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears

      Perhaps the most important consequence of Donald Trump’s presidency has been the federal judiciary’s rightward lurch.

      As of April 1, he’d appointed a record 39 far-right judges to lifetime posts on the Supreme Court and federal circuit courts — more than half the number of circuit court judges confirmed during Obama’s entire eight-year presidency.

      In fewer than two years, Trump’s narrow-minded, elitist judges have issued rulings that are incredibly damaging to Americans’ constitutional and civil rights. They’ve stripped women’s access to reproductive rights and health care, diminished workers’ rights to defend themselves against discrimination, and criminalized immigrants and other vulnerable communities.

      Take reproductive rights. Just last month, the four Trump judges on the Sixth Circuit appellate court cast the deciding votes to uphold Ohio’s law barring Planned Parenthood from receiving state funding for important health care because it provides abortions with non-state funds.

      One Republican-appointed judge lamented in her dissent that the ruling allows a state like Ohio to “leverage its funding to launch a thinly veiled attack on women’s rights.”

      How about the rights of workers to be free from discrimination?

      In 2014, then-58 year-old Dale Kleber was rejected from a job because he had more experience than the “no more than 7 years” the company specified. He sued for age bias. And in January 2019, it was four Trump-appointed judges on the Seventh Circuit who cast the deciding votes that older job applicants can’t challenge discriminatory hiring practices because of their discriminatory impact.

    • DHS Will Start Doing DNA Tests on Migrants To Uncover Imaginary “Fake” Families and This Is All Totally Normal

      Because the Racist Cretin-In-Chief and his slimy cohort Stephen ‘Goebbels’ Miller haven’t committed enough crimes against desperate, vulnerable, brown-skinned people fleeing for their lives and seeking refuge in a country based on that very concept – just recently, they proposed cruel, pointless, virtually unworkable and undoubtedly illegal moves to charge fees to those seeking asylum, block them from getting work permits and require judges to rule on their claims within 180 days despite a current backlog of 850,000 cases – they’ve now devised a deliciously Nazi-cum-Big-Brother plan to curtail the “flood” of “fake” families sneaking into the country to steal our cherished mylar blankets: A pilot program that will DNA-test migrant families to ensure their kids really are their kids and not Skrulls, gang members or part of the “child recycling rings” that are “popping up everywhere” in Kirstjen Nielsen’s fever dreams.

      The Department of Homeland Security – and, seriously, lookit that name – says it will soon launch the DNA-testing trial at two locations along the border, using a quick test that involves a cheek swab and provides results in an hour and a half. Their goal is to “to help identify and prosecute individuals posing as families in an effort to target human smuggling” – oddly, the same bogus goal they cited last year when they conducted DNA tests on families they forcibly separated, detained and subsequently often lost. The pilot is based on the fear-mongering bugaboo of “fake” families of “illegals” carting their insidious kids here, a favorite if tired refrain from an administration incapable of understanding, never mind ameliorating, what are real border issues. Last year, in tribute to that myth, ICE warned of a 315% increase over six months in the number of adults with minors “fraudulently posing as ‘family units’ to gain entry,” a surge Nielsen eagerly called “staggering.” It was also wildly misleading.

    • Other, Where Art Thou?: Countering Benign Liberal Intolerance

      The prohibitive cost of denying Otherness could not be more crucial to the survival of the human race. Our mass refusal to face the “other within” has engendered…sociopolitical atrocities, genocidal horrors, and environmental devastations—a virulent storm of global proportions…a remedy for this pandemic …can only begin at the root, within each individual, and within our nearest and most intimate relations. It is…in this small and most private of territories that the potential for a truly humane society begins. Daniel Deardorff, The Other Within

      The conversation/debate with Vijay reminded me of a thousand conversations i’ve heard before about why we should vote for Democrats. Personally, i am not looking for more of these type conversations. I am looking to go to further and to new places in my thinking. To consider possibilities that i have never before imagined. I find this hard to do when someone in the conversation prevents any such “out-of-the-box” thinking and rather is a firm believer that the system is working and we need to just play by the rules and then system can be improved. I have an abundance of people in my life who believe that the Democrats will save us. And a few who believe the Republicans will save us. And a few who believe that God or Mother Earth or Zen or Kindness or Love will save us. I’ve been through these conversations many-a-time. I am very interested in conversations that boldly explore outside of these realms. Carol, local farmer, in an unedited email

      Recently a newcomer visited the little “Anti-fascist Book Club” that meets in the Other Side, a nonprofit space next door to Cafe Domenico in Utica, just as we were beginning our discussion of Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang. Dark-skinned, neatly dressed and groomed, Vijay (not his name ) had apparently attended some earlier event, and seeing the book club meeting on the calendar in the window was intrigued enough to make the drive to Utica this evening from an outlying town. After brief introductions, Vijay asked a question of the group – what was our definition of fascism – which immediately put me on guard. I sensed a rationalist trap. One young man (most of our group are young, under 35, except for Orin and myself and one other couple in their 50’s), Rob, gamely provided his quite decent answer to Vijay’s question. Well-brought up people that we are, we continued to politely converse with the newcomer, though it was clear our politics were in different universes. I could feel Orin’s growing impatience; he wanted to talk about the book, plus I think he sensed where this guy was going. When the guest told us he saw Joe Biden as the best candidate so far in the next presidential elections, Orin exploded: “I wouldn’t piss on Joe Biden if his heart was on fire!” Though Vijay left early, to grade papers he explained, he seemed to take the little meeting well, as if pleased with the company he’d found!

    • White Supremacy and Christian Hegemony Came to a Head in Poway Violence

      Six months after Jews were massacred at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a month and a half after Muslims were slaughtered at the Al Noor Mosque and Inwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, John T. Earnest entered the lobby of the Chabad synagogue of Poway, California, with an AR-style assault rifle and murdered Lori Kaye while injuring three others. Before his attempted rampage, the shooter, now charged with one count of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder, dumped a manifesto on Pastebin.com that places the Poway violence — as well as the mosque arson a month previous in Escondido, California — in a direct lineage with the terror in Pittsburgh and Christchurch. Such a lineage follows a far-right logic of “accelerationism” that attempts to ignite race war via a series of individual acts of violence. Like the Pittsburgh and Christchurch murderers before him, Earnest aimed to defend the white “European race” from those he described as threatening to replace it and to avenge Christendom from the Jews he described as persecuting and defiling it. White Christian violence multiplies.

      That the chosen enemy shifts between Jew and Muslim in the multiplying scheme signals the two’s interchangeability in the paranoid ideologies of white Christian nationalists. In the dominant paradigm of the U.S. and Europe today, however, Jews are often absorbed into a Judeo-Christian West against Islamic civilization to the East; following the 2015 ISIS-inspired attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris, for example, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls effusively proclaimed, “Without the Jews of France, France is no longer France.” The anti-Jewish terror on this past final day of Passover, then, in its expressed links to anti-Muslim terror, points to a specific thread of white nationalism that refuses this Judeo-Christian solidarity. In confronting the specificity of the shooter’s violence, rather than reducing it to a monolithic history of white nationalism, a contemporary crisis of white Christian power becomes visible.

      The public response to the shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue was swift and largely deployed preconceived political templates. In a roundtable on George Stephanopolous’s “This Week” that included exactly zero Jews, Meghan McCain — apparently appointed by the ABC network as national arbiter of anti-Semitism — played the referee between “the most extreme on both sides,” an uncanny repetition of the president’s notoriously flaccid response to the 2017 far-right violence in Charlottesville. McCain’s focus immediately pivoted toward Muslim American Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, shamefully comparing “some of [Omar’s] comments” to the shooter’s murderous acts. McCain thus declares anti-Semitism a problem of extremism that transcends politics — which is to say, a pathological error of irrational individuals. In doing so, she directs focus away from white Christian violence itself.

    • Peace Activists Arrested While Trying to Deliver Food and Medicine to Blockaded DC Venezuelan Embassy

      Peace activists were arrested at the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, D.C. Thursday while trying to deliver food and medicine to members of the Embassy Protection Collective who are blockaded inside.

      The collective is made up of peace activists from groups including CodePink, Popular Resistance, and others. They have lived at the embassy for weeks, at the invitation of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who remains in power despite a U.S.-backed coup attempt led by opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

    • ‘There Are Ways to Uplift the Resilience of Communities’ – CounterSpin interview with Tina Vasquez on covering immigration

      Babies pulled crying from their mother’s arms. Asylum-seekers detained under a highway overpass. Government officials tracking the menstrual cycles of teenage migrants to better prevent them from accessing legal abortions. ICE swarming workplaces and loading people into vans.

      Reporting on immigration in Trump-time presents a whack-a-mole of cruelty and crazy, and the job of prioritizing and presenting it for a limited-attention span public, already overloaded on outrage.

      With Trump planning to make immigration policy a prime emphasis in the next election, media’s prism, media choices, may matter very much. What should we keep in mind as we see that reporting, and what might fall through the gaps? We’re joined now by Tina Vasquez, the senior immigration reporter at Rewire.News. She joins us by phone from North Carolina. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Tina Vasquez.

    • What Officer Noor’s Conviction Says About Racism in America

      For the first time, Minnesota convicted a police officer for killing someone. That he was Black and the woman he shot was white must not be ignored.

      On Tuesday, April 30, a Minnesota jury convicted police officer Mohamed Noor of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for shooting and killing Justine Damond, a white Australian woman. Damond had called 9-1-1 to report a possible sexual assault near her apartment and then approached Noor’s squad car when he and his partner responded to the call. Noor killed Damond, and he deserved to be found guilty. His decision to shoot and kill an unarmed person without warning, apparently because her presence next to his squad car surprised him, is indefensible. But if the races of Noor and Damond had been reversed, Noor might well have gotten away with murder.

      The racial aspect of this case speaks volumes about criminal justice and criminal injustice in America today. Noor, who is Black, Muslim, and a Somali immigrant, is believed to be the only police officer in Minnesota ever to have been convicted for killing someone while on duty.

      At a crucial moment in the trial, Noor testified that he reacted to Damond as “the threat.” Prosecutors responded by asking him, “The whole blonde hair, pink t-shirt is a threat to you?” This line of questioning was in part about the legal standard required to convict. Under Graham v. Connor, a police officer can use force – including lethal force — if a reasonable officer on the scene would consider the level of force to be “objectively reasonable,” not whether the use of force was actually necessary in light of the various tactics and alternatives available to the officer at the time. Because this standard is so elastic, it is often very difficult to show that an officer violated it.

      But the way the question was framed also evokes a long history of racist fears and tropes of Black male aggression against white women. In art, popular culture, and news coverage, from Birth of a Nation to Gone with the Wind to countless episodes of COPS, white women have long been portrayed as innocent victims and symbols of so-called “white purity” who need to be saved from racistly presupposed savagery of angry, violent Black men.

      These racist ideas are not limited to the movie theater and TV screen. They have also infected our politics.

    • The Racist Roots of Denying Incarcerated People Their Right to Vote

      The current debate about the voting rights of incarcerated people misses essential historical context.
      “Do you want the Boston marathon bomber to vote?” is a provocative question that acts as a smokescreen concealing the real issue — why and when did America decide that people convicted of a crime should not vote?

      The historical context for this comes from old English common law which justified the concept of “civil death” as punishment for conviction of treason or a felony because a person committing a crime had “corrupt blood,” making the person “dead in the law.” America did not immediately adopt this position because the Constitution was silent on voting rights — it neither granted nor denied anyone the right to vote.

      Before the Civil War, as a Brennan Center report shows, voting rights and the loss of those rights weren’t linked to convictions. America did not incarcerate in large numbers, and states that adopted broad felony disenfranchisement did so after establishing full white male suffrage by eliminating property tests. After the Civil War, places like Louisiana granted poor illiterate whites the right to vote while denying poor illiterate Blacks the right to vote by basing the right on whether your grandfather could vote, hence the term “grandfathered in”.

      In 1787, the Constitution considered Black people as three-fifths of a human being. Blacks voting was not an issue. Then came the Civil War and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. Enslaving people, except as punishment for a crime, was illegal. Birthright U.S. citizenship was established, explicitly including freed enslaved people. Black men got the right to vote. Over 2,000 Black men were elected to government offices, and they began purchasing or homesteading property and voting.

      America responded. The exception in the 13th Amendment allowing slavery as punishment for a crime was paired with “Black Codes,” which basically criminalized Black life. Blacks convicted under Black Code laws were leased out to do work, providing cheap labor to boost the South’s faltering economy. In 1850, 2% of prisoners in Alabama were non-white. By 1870, it was 74%. At least 90% of the “leased” prison laborers were Black.

    • Predator Cops, Guilty of Sex Crimes Against Women and Children, Are a Menace to Society

      How could this be happening right under our noses?

      That’s what readers wanted to know after my column went viral about the extent to which young children are being bought and sold for sex in America.

      Where are the police when these children—some as young as 9 years old—are being raped repeatedly?

      For that matter, what is the Trump Administration doing about the fact that adults purchase children for sex at least 2.5 million times a year in suburbs, cities and towns across this nation?

      I’ll tell you what the government is doing: little to nothing.

      While America’s children are being menaced by sexual predators, the Trump Administration and its congressional cohorts continue to wage endless wars, run up the national debt, and distract the populace with vitriol and kabuki political theater.

      The police are not much better.

    • Pointing to Disastrous History of US Intervention, Sanders Warns Against Military Action in Venezuela

      “The Trump administration is threatening a disastrous military intervention in Venezuela,” Sanders tweeted. “Under our Constitution, only Congress can authorize the use of force. We must make sure the United States does not get involved in yet another war and destabilize another region.”

      Sanders—a 2020 presidential candidate—expanded on his opposition to military action in Venezuela during an interview on “Pod Save America,” pointing to the devastating consequences of U.S. intervention throughout Latin America over the past several decades.

      “Given our history of intervention in country after country in Latin America, the overthrow of [democratically elected Chilean President Salvador] Allende, the overthrow of the government of Brazil, Guatemala, other countries, the idea that we would intervene militarily in Venezuela is literally unbelievable,” Sanders said. “It’s beyond, you know, it’s absurd.”

      Sanders said the United States must “do everything we can to prevent a horrific civil war in [Venezuela], not provoke one.”

      “I will do everything I can to see that U.S. troops do not get involved in a civil war in Venezuela,” the senator said.

    • Political Angels and Demons, Shaped by the Forces of History

      ewly released by Zero Books, Tony McKenna’s aptly titled “Angels and Demons” is a collection of profiles of some very good and some very bad people in the past and present. It is the kind of book that is hard to find nowadays and a throwback in some ways to Lytton Strachey’s “Eminent Victorians” or Edmund Wilson’s “Axel’s Castle”. Like Strachey and Wilson, he evaluates prominent individuals against their social backdrop and from a decidedly radical perspective. It is a book that has the author’s customary psychological insight and literary grace. As we shall see, it demonstrates a remarkable breadth of knowledge about disparate cultural, political and intellectual strands that is seldom seen today in an age of specialization.

      Your natural tendency is to think of human nature when people are categorized as either angels like Jeremy Corbyn or demons like Donald Trump. However, it is instead powerful historical forces that act on individuals and bring out their worst and their best, especially during periods of acute class tensions. In today’s polarized world, it is easy to understand why we end up with either a Corbyn or a Trump. As William Butler Yeats put it, the center cannot hold.

    • New Age of Criminal Justice Calls for a New Kind of District Attorney

      The bail, discovery, and speedy trial reforms that were passed last month in New York represent the most significant overhauls of the criminal justice system that the state has seen in decades—since the early 1970s when the current criminal procedure law was enacted.

      Starting next year, tens of thousands of legally innocent New Yorkers will be spared the injustice of being trapped behind bars due to the whims of police and prosecutors. The new bail law guarantees pretrial release for those accused of low-level charges, including almost all misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. This means that the vast majority of New Yorkers charged with an offense will no longer be locked in jail simply because they can’t afford bail.

    • Nizhny Novgorod officials see no ill intent in Victory Day buttons with Soviet symbols and swastika

      After a local resident noticed a souvenir shop in Nizhny Novgorod selling buttons that appeared to feature a red star and the ribbon of St. George crushing a swastika, regional officials have stepped in. The vice governor of Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, Dmitry Krasnov, called the buttons an “unsuccessful use of sensitive symbols” but saw no ill intent in the souvenirs, Lenta.ru reported. Nonetheless, the buttons were confiscated, and law enforcement officials have begun a procedural test at the shop that sold them. Krasnov emphasized that souvenir retailers should be particularly mindful of the content of their goods in advance of Victory Day (May 9), when Russians will celebrate the defeat of the Nazi regime at the hands of Soviet troops.

    • Pete Seeger Lives! On Folk Legend’s 100th Birthday, Remembering How Music and Love Conquers Hate

      Today—May 3rd, 2019—marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of legendary folk singer Pete Seeger. Not just a songwriter, public citizen, educator, and activist, Seeger was also a champion of social justice, peace, worker rights, and environmental sanity.

      Pete wrote “Rainbow Race” fifty years ago as a love song to the earth and a warning to humanity that the future is being killed by systems that place profits over people and the rest of nature. That stark reality is now all too clear as the earth-life-disaster-linked-to-climate-disruption rages on across the planet.

      Pete lived a long and fruitful life (94 years) that included considerable time engaging people in communal singing that uplifted the spirit, encouraged social responsibility, and helped folks understand and overcome their troubles. Pete said “participation” was his religion. “If there is a human race still here in a hundred years,” he said, “[not only will…] women save the day…[but] people will know the importance of participating, and not just being spectators.”

      Pete—possessed of a courageous humility and profoundly influenced by Woody Guthrie—in turn influenced generations of “people’s music” singers including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Bernice Johnson, Judy Collins, Bruce Springsteen, Richie Havens, Tom Morello, and countless others.

    • ‘His Legacy Lives On’: Pete Seeger Remembered on What Would Have Been 100th Birthday

      Friday marked what would have been Pete Seeger’s 100th birthday, and fans took to social media to celebrate the folk music giant and activist’s life and legacy.

      Seeger died in 2014 at 94. He was, rocker Tom Morello said upon his death, “Absolutely the best that humans can aspire to be.”

      For the singer’s birthday, musicians and advocacy groups drew attention to Seeger’s performances and work for environmental and social justice over a roughly seven-decade career. Other observers resurfaced old interviews or reflected on the mark Seeger’s music and activism left on their own lives.

    • What’s Wrong with Popular Feminism?

      As McRobbie spoke, a woman in her 20s wearing a white shirt with a rainbow-pony design jumped to her feet and furiously shouted, “When I get my eyebrows done, I am doing it for me!” To McRobbie, the young woman was being fooled by the patriarchy.

    • BURYING “MR. DEMOCRACY”

      Today, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement, the political movement that arose out of student protests in Beijing in response to the Treaty of Versailles, “the youth” figure strongly in official propaganda. But as China’s leadership walks a tightrope, acknowledging this crucial anniversary while seeking to drain it of all hints of sanguine insurgence and youthful opposition (we are just weeks away from the anniversary of June Fourth), the story’s real protagonist is not China’s youth, but rather President Xi Jinping and the Party he leads.

      The two most famous figures at the core of the “spirit” of the May Fourth Movement, Mr. Democracy and Mr. Science, are conspicuously absent.

      “Chinese youth of the new era must continue to make full use of the spirit of May Fourth,” Xi Jinping told his audience at an official event last Tuesday to commemorate the anniversary. But what is that “spirit”? In Xi’s articulation, its essence is nationalism, a force that must be focused, moreover, through the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. The youth, said Xi, must “[take] as their task the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people, not failing the hopes of the Party, the expectations of the people, and the great trust placed in them by all people of Chinese ethnicity.”

      If we ask what values — aside from the narrow ideology of nationalism and fealty to the Party — should guide Chinese youth today, we are again told that the answer lies with Xi Jinping and the Party. An official commentary placed prominently at the top of the front page of today’s edition of the People’s Daily bundles the entire question of the May Fourth Movement into the political ideology of Xi Jinping and his recent articulation of his “Six Hopes” for the youth of China.

    • Lou Reed: That Which Does Not Kill Us Can Radicalize Us

      While not as well-known as “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Perfect Day,” and not one of the classics he wrote for the Velvet Underground (such as “Heroin” and “I’ll Be Your Mirror”), Lou Reed’s “Kill Your Sons,” about his electroconvulsive “therapy” (ECT) as a 17-year-old, gives voice to an event that majorly radicalized him to distrust authorities. That is the conclusion of Aidan Levy in Dirty Blvd.: The Life and Music of Lou Reed, one of several recent biographies about Lou Reed (1942-2013).

      “All your two-bit psychiatrists are giving you electroshock,” is how Reed begins “Kill Your Sons,” and though in Lou’s case, ECTtrauma would fuel his art, such trauma often only destroys; as the ECT that Ernest Hemingway and William Styron received late in their lives only served to hasten their end. And even in Reed’s case, his ECT fueled not just his art but his rage, which sometimes hurt people who cared about him.

      As a teenager living in suburban Freeport, Long Island, Lou felt alienated. He became increasingly anxious and “resistant to most socializing, unless it was on his terms,” according to his sister Merrill Reed Weiner, whose parents were overwhelmed by her brother’s behaviors and by his disregard of them, and so they sought treatment for Lou. They would comply with a psychiatrist’s recommendation.

      In the summer of 1959, Lou was administered 24 ECT sessions at two-day intervals at Creedmoor State Psychiatric Hospital in Queens, New York. Weiner recalls, “I watched my brother as my parents assisted him coming back into our home afterwards, unable to walk, stupor-like. It damaged his short term memory horribly and throughout his life he struggled with memory retention, probably directly as a result of those treatments.”

      Lou Reed loved evocative lyrics—his own and others—and my guess is that he would have appreciated the description of his ECT by Aidan Levy:

      The doctor paced back to the machine, then the two trembling orderlies, barely out of high school and only a year older than Lou was, laid across his chest and knees to brace him for the shock to come. He had read Frankenstein;now he was living it. The doctor flipped the switch on the metal box, the size of a small amplifier, and Lou Reed, who had up to that moment in his life been an acoustic being, became quite literally electrified.

      Weiner continues to be pained by her brother’s ECT, and she feels sorry for their parents who, she tells us, may have been guilty of much poor parenting but not, as some have suggested, of seeking treatment for Lou’s homosexual urges.

      Weiner remains angered by doctors for destroying her family, concluding that “the ‘help’ they received from the medical community set into motion the dissolution of my family of origin for the rest of our lives. . . . My parents were like lambs being led to the slaughter — confused, terrified, and conditioned to follow the advice of doctors. . . . Our family was torn apart the day they began those wretched treatments.”

    • Long line for Russian passport applications forms in Donetsk on first day of expedited citizenship process

      On April 24, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed an order granting an expedited citizenship process to residents of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The Ukrainian government has threatened to revoke the Ukrainian citizenship of those who take advantage of the new order.

    • The Pentagon, Brussels and London Have Georgia on Their Minds

      The British Defense Secretary, Gavin Williamson, was fired on May 1 to a chorus of derisive approval for leaking the contents of discussions at a meeting of the UK’s National Security Council. There can be no surprise that he leaked, because every politician does that; but there was moderate surprise that he should have been pursued for dong so, and even astonishment that his actions led to his dismissal for an action he continues to deny. His eleven-minute telephone conversation with a journalist was called compelling evidence — and he should have known that the techno-dweebs of British Intelligence would not only have known the length of his little chat, but every single word of it. No wonder the prime minister was confident enough to fire him.

      He’s no loss to anyone, least of all to the cause of peace and compromise in Europe, as evidenced by the speech in which he declared that “today, Russia is resurgent — rebuilding its military arsenal and seeking to bring the independent countries of the former Soviet Union, like Georgia and Ukraine, back into its orbit.” His (somewhat blunt) saber-rattling was seized upon by much of London’s media, and the British public has been influenced accordingly.

      Britain’s Daily Express newspaper is a bizarre publication that specializes in sensationalist raving. Some of its reports are weird beyond imagination, and it went even further than usual into fogs of delusion on April 21 when one of its headlines announced “World War 3: UK CONFRONTS Russia by sending warship to Black Sea.”

      The vessel dispatched on a “freedom of navigation maneuver” by the UK’s Royal Navy is HMS Echo, which cannot be described as a warship. It is “designed to carry out a wide range of survey work, including support to submarine and amphibious operations” and it carries a few cannon and machine guns, but it is difficult to see how it could confront anything more deadly than a prawn-boat. It is, however, part of the grand plan of the US-NATO military alliance which on April 4 “agreed a package of measures to improve NATO’s situational awareness in the Black Sea region and strengthen support for partners Georgia and Ukraine.”

    • The Real Reason American Workers Have It So Hard

      Americans are not happy. And for good reason: They continue to suffer financial stress caused by decades of flat income. And every time they make the slightest peep of complaint about a system rigged against them, the rich and powerful tell them to shut up because it is all their fault.

      One percenters instruct them to work harder, pull themselves up by their bootstraps and stop bellyaching. Just get a second college degree, a second skill, a second job. Just send the spouse to work, downsize, take a staycation instead of a real vacation. Or don’t take one at all, just work harder and longer and better.

      The barrage of blaming has persuaded; workers believe they deserve censure. And that’s a big part of the reason they’re unhappy. If only, they think, they could work harder and longer and better, they would get ahead. They bear the shame. They don’t blame the system: the Supreme Court, the Congress, the president. And yet, it is the system, the American system, that has conspired to crush them.

    • To Be Hopeful in Bad Times

      In this line of “logic” the Holocaust, apartheid, war and war crimes, slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, Native American and indigenous genocide, mass graves, colonialism, imperialism, discrimination, economic oppression, willful destruction of ecological systems by corporations, animal cruelty, racism, misogyny, and other kinds of brutality are all just “wondrous expressions of everything.”

      [...]

      Those who suggest we make peace with some notion that everything, including our existence, is meaningless do not take into account that as human beings we are the ones responsible for adding meaning to it. Of course that meaning is relatively subjective in isolation. But collectively it has the agency to affect real change. Meaning is born of suffering and it can lead individuals and groups of people toward solidarity, resilience, and true transformation. It can alleviate unnecessary pain, provide a balm to the wounded, salvage sanctuaries where life can flourish, and stop imminent destruction, atrocity or even war.

      Taking action is not “futile and fruitless” as those unaffected directly by injustice or oppression would suggest. And although it will not end injustice, brutality or suffering for all time, we should remember that it isn’t meant to. As Howard Zinn made clear, we possess an agency that transcends the brutality of our times. Indeed, “winning” is not essential to it, neither is achieving some fantastical notion of utopia. Our defiance to barbarism is the victory, and this is where nihilism fails on all counts.

    • Trump’s “Troika of Tyranny” Meddles in Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua

      Under the guise of protecting human rights, the Trump administration is illegally meddling in three countries it has dubbed the “troika of tyranny” — Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. National Security Adviser John Bolton claimed, “Miami is home to countless Americans, who fled the prisons and death squads of the Castro regime in Cuba, the murderous dictatorships of Chavez and Maduro in Venezuela, and the horrific violence of the 1980s and today under the brutal reign of the Ortegas in Nicaragua.”

      But the Trump administration — which looks the other way at notorious human rights violators like Saudi Arabia — is acting out of more cynical motives in its commission of egregious human rights violations against Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.

      The U.S. government has imposed unlawful, coercive sanctions on these nations, and attempted to mount a coup to illegally change Venezuela’s regime.

    • The DNC Debates, the Media and Tulsi Gabbard

      s some of the last minute Democratic presidential candidates scramble to qualify for the DNC’s upcoming June 26/27 primary debate, the latest poll results become more than nominally important given their elevated role in whether a candidate meets the requirements to participate.

      In order to qualify, each announced candidate needs to have received either $65,000 from 200 donors in 20 states or to garner more than 1% support in any three of the DNC’s ‘favored’ polls – which includes those 2016 polls with either a flawed methodology or their thumb on the scale which missed the final election results in a big way, all of which proves that wishing does not make it so.

      There is every reason to believe that the favored polls will provide the necessary % of support in order for all 21 candidates to qualify. Given any poll’s margin-of-error in statistical sampling, it would seem that measuring public support via a % is an arbitrary criteria that does not represent a true accurate basis with high precision results. Even if a candidate does not qualify for the June debates, they can still qualify for the July event. A house divided and all that…

      The basic structure of the debates as announced by DNC Chair Tom Perez represents a presidential primary process that is “transparent, fair, inclusive” with ‘historic reforms’ and ‘increased trust’ which you may recall, the DNC process in 2016 did nothing to generate increased trust. While Democratic officials have been meeting for months with media partners, there is yet no announcement who the moderator or participating panelists will be or how the questions are being formulated. The June round of debates will be broadcast on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo with the July debates on CNN.

      [...]

      With the new CNN poll showing Joe Biden representing the fossil wing of the Democratic party with a 39% favorable rating as Bernie drops to 15%, it is eerily reminiscent of overstated polls for HRC in 2016. Thanks to CNN, additional White House contenders have qualified for the debate via the % option including former Colorado Gov John Hickenlooper who might take the opportunity to inform the public why he attended the Bilderberg meeting in 2018.

      Given her almost totally hostile reception by every MSM outlet who deigned to interview her, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has experienced, as an opponent of regime change wars, more bad manners and outright personal antagonism than any other candidate. While Gabbard easily qualified for the debates via the $65,000 requirement and continues to attract SRO audiences in NH, Iowa, California and elsewhere, yet until the newest CNN poll, she failed to register any % of public support. Something here does not compute given the ‘favored’ polls past history of favoritism. If the Dems continue to put a brick wall around her, Jill Stein has already opened the Green Party door as a more welcoming venue for a Tulsi candidacy. The Dems, who tend to be unprincipled and vindictive, better be careful what they wish for.

    • What Will Come of the More Than Me Rape Scandal?

      Seven months ago, protesters thronged the streets here, demanding that the American charity More Than Me be held accountable for the rapes of girls it claimed to be saving from sexual exploitation. ProPublica had revealed how charity leaders gave senior staff member Macintosh Johnson significant power over vulnerable students, missed opportunities to keep them safe, were not transparent about the extent of his abuse and did not take steps to safeguard all possible victims when they learned Johnson had AIDS when he died.

      In a country where abuse of women is endemic but often kept quiet, the investigation seemed to spark a kind of reckoning. Musicians, poets and artists spread the message that rape should be reported and those responsible should be held accountable. Activists erected billboards referencing the ProPublica story’s headline: “We are Unprotected.”

      The Liberian government took the unprecedented step of establishing a seven-agency “joint ministerial committee” to investigate. The charity announced it would conduct two separate inquiries: one guided by its U.S. board of directors and another by its Liberian advisory board. The latter would take “2-3 weeks,” officials said in October.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Megamergers Can’t Help Charter Spectrum As Cord Cutting Exodus Continues

      You might recall that in 2016 Charter merged with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, promising that the new, combined company would offer a revolution in customer service, broadband speeds, and TV. Instead, what the company’s customers got was a steady parade of rate hikes, and a company that has found itself under fire for repeatedly trying to kill or tap dance around merger obligations (like the one stating it can’t cap broadband usage for six years). New York State deemed the company’s service and behavior so atrocious, it seriously contemplated kicking the company out of the state.

    • The Moms Who Were Extremely Online in 1993

      This week she talks with a group of moms who met online in the early days of the internet. They were initially all part of the same parenting discussion board on Usenet, and when a couple dozen moms discovered they were pregnant and due around the same time, they formed a private email list called “rKids” to support one another as their kids were born and grew up. Twenty-five years later, the email list is still active, mostly as a hangout for its members, though they still do send updates on their (now grown-up) children. In this interview, eight of the members of rKids discuss what it was like to make friends on the internet before most people had ever used the internet, and how they supported one another through parenting wins and challenges—including the dreaded college-admissions process.

    • Social Media and the Society of the Spectacle

      Recently I was rereading some of Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle. I was reminded of how essential this work by the late French Marxist philosopher is to today’s age of social media. Debord’s understanding of how the forces of capital shape our collective experiences and thoughts speaks to our time where algorithms dominate the trajectory of the psyche against a craven backdrop of what political philosopher Sheldon Wolin has described as “inverted totalitarianism.”

      Every day we are bombarded with the imagery of empire and capital. It is relentless. Our minds have become both a marketplace and a commodity to be traded. And it is a lucrative industry with Facebook and Google as prime examples. Their data collection and surveillance typify a conjoining of the state and capitalist economy; and they have carved out insidious new spaces in the human brain to coerce self-imposed censorship and conformity to the prevailing consumerist global order.

      This social conditioning is a process which requires mass compliance. The infamous propagandist for industry and vaunted “father of public relations” Edward Bernays understood that. It takes time to manipulate the multilayered strata of the human psyche, especially in regard to large populations of people. But history is replete with tragic examples of its successful implementation by powerful interests. Today those interests lie squarely with capital and empire; but the effects are the same, distraction, censorship, alienation, coerced, compliance with the norms of the status quo and the numbing of the critical mind.

      Debord said, “Such a perfect democracy constructs its own inconceivable foe, terrorism. Its wish is to be judged by its enemies rather than by its results. The story of terrorism is written by the state and it is therefore highly instructive. The spectating populations must certainly never know everything about terrorism, but they must always know enough to convince them that, compared with terrorism, everything else seems rather acceptable, or in any case more rational and democratic.” This profound observation is even more important today. The state, via mass media, informs us of the villains and phantoms they believe we should fear. Other, far more destructive, deadly and oppressive threats such as the continued proliferation of nuclear arms, catastrophic climate change, collapse of ecosystems, dangers to public health from industrial pollutants, vastly unequal, racist and brutal economic and legal systems, militarism or plutocratic tyranny can then be relegated as non-issues, or at least lesser ones.

    • Is 5G Worth the Risks?

      In recent months there’s been a lot of talk about 5G – the next generation of wireless technology. 5G is being touted as a necessary step to the ‘internet of things’ – a world in which our refrigerators alert us when we’re low on milk, our baby’s diapers tell us when they need to be changed, and Netflix is available everywhere, all the time. But what we’re not hearing is that evidence-based studies worldwide have clearly established the harmful effects of human exposure to pulsed radiofrequency radiation from cell towers, cell phones and other devices – and that 5G will make the problem exponentially worse.

      Most people believe that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) carefully assesses the health risks of these technologies before approving them. But in testimony taken by Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut, the FCC admitted it has not conducted any safety studies on 5G.

  • Intellectual Monopolies


    • Delaware judges reveal ANDA mediation practices and pet peeves

      Magistrate judges in Delaware discussed how they deal with ANDA litigation and mediation at ACI’s Paragraph IV Disputes conference, with one saying that mediation doesn’t work when patent expiry is more than five years away

    • Copyrights

      • Game Devs Trolling Pirates Goes All The Way Back To At Least The Playstation Days With Spyro 2

        When it comes to how game developers react and interact with those that pirate their games, there are obviously plenty of ways to go about it. There’s the ineffective legal route, which puts developers in a bad PR light. There’s the DRM route, which is a hellish waste of time. And, on the other end of the spectrum, there are devs that choose to embrace the internet and attempt to monetize piracy through human connections and innovative business models.

        Somewhere in the middle is the less-traveled path of simply fucking with infringers. Whether its embedding antipiracy messages into the gameplay itself, or simply overlaying the entire game with the drone of a vuvuzela, there are a couple of recent examples where developers figured out how to detect cracked versions of their games and using that to torture pirates. While I would argue there are better ways developers could be spending this time and human capital, such as innovating, it’s also true that it’s hard not to smile when the pirates get messed with.

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