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05.12.19

Links 12/5/2019: Linux 5.1.1, GDB 8.3, KStars 3.2.2 Released

Posted in News Roundup at 2:08 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • What are the pros and cons of open source e-commerce platforms?

    The most notable benefit of open source e-commerce is the availability of free or low-cost products. Open source e-commerce tools such as Reaction Commerce and OpenCart are shopping cart systems that businesses can integrate with e-commerce websites and are available for free. Open source platforms enable organizations to customize e-commerce capabilities to fit their needs — something a commercial tool may not offer.

    Another benefit of open source platforms is flexible e-commerce hosting. This enables businesses to select where to host a platform and who manages it. For example, a company can designate its internal IT or web team to support the entire platform in any hosting organization they choose, such as A2 Hosting.

  • CI/CD for open-source Kubernetes applications

    Having a continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) pipeline for a project is almost mandatory nowadays. With cloud-native software in general and Kubernetes applications in particular, developers and operators face new challenges: How do I run my end-to-end tests in a Kubernetes environment? How can I automate the process of testing and releasing my application for different platforms and Kubernetes versions?

    This post will walk you through the different steps needed to set up in a CI/CD system when working with open-source projects, so you and your users can benefit from community contributions, while maintaining the best quality possible in the code.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Firefox & GNOME Can Finally Run On The AFS File-System With Linux 5.2

        AFS, the Andrew File-System that serves as a distributed file-system and used by the likes of Carnegie Mellon University and has seen ports to different operating systems, can now handle more programs running on top of the file-system like Firefox and GNOME.

        The AFS file-locking up until now has caused issues with SQLite databases as is commonly used by Firefox and countless other desktop applications on multiple platforms. With the Linux 5.2 kernel changes, AFS file-locking changes now jive with SQLite and thus allow a lot more applications to run when AFS is in use as the home directory.

      • Mozilla looks to Tor as it ponders Super Private Browsing mode

        On Thursday, a number of groups were awarded Mozilla research grants by the Privacy & Security Group and as part of the announcement, the team mentioned that it is looking for ways to bring even more anonymity to its sizeable corner of the web.

        The statement explains that: “Mozilla has an interest in potentially integrating more of Tor into Firefox, for the purposes of providing a Super Private Browsing (SPB) mode for our users”.

  • CMS

    • Acquia Looks To Create Open Digital Experience Platform With Mautic Acquisition

      Acquia, a digital experience cloud platform, acquired Mautic, an open source marketing automation software provider, for an undisclosed amount.

    • Acquia Acquires Mautic

      Acquia, the open source digital experience company, announced today that it has acquired Mautic, creator of the world’s only open marketing automation and campaign management platform. Together, Acquia and Mautic form the only open alternative to expensive, closed, stagnant marketing clouds, expanding Acquia’s vision to offer the industry’s first Open Digital Experience Platform. Customers can now automate, personalize, and measure the entire customer lifecycle – across every channel, at every stage, and at every interaction.

    • Simulating the sound of stars, Acquia buying Mautic, open source at the VA, and more news

      What happens when two open source companies come together? In the case of Drupal service provider Acquia buying marketing automation firm Mautic, it’s the creation of the first open marketing cloud.

      The deal brings together “open source content management with open source marketing automation,” said Acquia CTO Dries Buytaert. DB Hurley, Mautic’s founder, added that “open source is poised to transform marketing in the same way it has every other function in the enterprise.” According to Buytaert, with the acquisition of Mautic, Acquia “can help marketers reach customers on their preferred channel, in ways that are personal and relevant to them.”

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • Licensing/Legal

  • Programming/Development

    • Top 20 Best ML Algorithms For Both Newbies and Professionals

      When I started to work with machine learning problems, then I feel panicked which algorithm should I use? Or which one is easy to apply? If you are as like me, then this article might help you to know an overview of machine learning algorithms.

    • Dirk Eddelbuettel: RcppArmadillo 0.9.400.3.0

      The recent 0.9.400.2.0 release of RcppArmadillo required a bug fix release. Conrad follow up on Armadillo 9.400.2 with 9.400.3 – which we packaged (and tested extensively as usual). It is now on CRAN and will get to Debian shortly.

      Armadillo is a powerful and expressive C++ template library for linear algebra aiming towards a good balance between speed and ease of use with a syntax deliberately close to a Matlab. RcppArmadillo integrates this library with the R environment and language–and is widely used by (currently) 597 other packages on CRAN.

    • LWJGL 3.2.2 Updates Against Vulkan 1.1, Other New Packages

      For those making use of the Lightweight Java Game Library (LWJGL) for cross-platform libraries common to games/multimedia software, version 3.2.2 is now available with nearly a half year worth of updates.

    • Rust doubly-linked list

      I have now released (and published on crates.io) my doubly-linked list library for Rust.

      Of course in Rust you don’t usually want a doubly-linked list. The VecDeque array-based double-ended queue is usually much better. I discuss this in detail in my module’s documentation.

    • Weekly Python StackOverflow Report: (clxxvii) stackoverflow python report
    • Python Lambda Function with Examples
    • Keeping Systems Simple | TechSNAP 403

      We’re back from LinuxFest Northwest with an update on all things WireGuard, some VLAN myth busting, and the trade-offs of highly available systems.

Leftovers

  • Science

    • Why Google believes machine learning is its future

      In particular, Google is making a big push to shift machine learning operations from the cloud onto peoples’ mobile devices. This should allow ML-powered applications to be faster, more private, and able to operate offline.

    • Deepfake Salvador Dalí takes selfies with museum visitors

      The exhibition, called Dalí Lives, was made in collaboration with the ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners (GS&P), which made a life-size re-creation of Dalí using the machine learning-powered video editing technique. Using archival footage from interviews, GS&P pulled over 6,000 frames and used 1,000 hours of machine learning to train the AI algorithm on Dalí’s face. His facial expressions were then imposed over an actor with Dalí’s body proportions, and quotes from his interviews and letters were synced with a voice actor who could mimic his unique accent, a mix of French, Spanish, and English.

    • Why Dancing is Good for Your Health

      It has been known for a long time that physical activity –including dancing and exercises- can have several positive effects on people’s bodies and minds, leading to better cardiovascular health, fewer migraine headaches, and a sharper brain.

      The Einstein Aging Study carried out in the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, found that dancing helps prevent both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, which is the next most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. Joseph Verghese, the lead researcher of the Einstein Aging Study said, “Dance is not purely physical in many ways, it also requires a lot of mental effort.” Among the people who participated in the Einstein Aging Study, those who danced frequently –three or four times a week- showed 76 percent less incidence of dementia than those who danced only once a week or didn’t dance at all.

      In the Middle East, one of the most popular styles of dancing is belly dancing, which utilizes muscles in the abdomen, pelvis, trunk, spine, and neck. The most sensual belly dancer of all times was “Princess Banu” who danced in a London restaurant called Gallipoli. Many dancers tried to copy her style, with no success. The Turkish Ministry of Culture proclaimed Princess Banu as “The National Dancer of Turkey”

      Although dancing can be done as a competitive activity, as in ballroom dancing, most people practice it as a way of being more physically active and of staying fit. In addition, dancing has social and emotional elements that are advantageous for all people, but particularly for those older without many social connections but who want to lead long and healthy lives.

    • Broad Coalition Tells Congress To Bring Back The Office Of Technology Assessment

      For many, many years now we’ve been talking about why Congress needs to bring back the Office of Technology Assessment that existed from 1972 until 1995 when Newt Gingrich defunded it as part of his “Contract with America” which apparently (who knew?) included making Congress more ignorant and less informed about technology. Year after year, some in Congress have proposed bringing back the OTA, but it keeps getting voted down. Just recently, we had two Congressional Representatives — Rep. Mark Takano and Rep. Sean Casten — write a piece here at Techdirt arguing why we need to bring back the OTA.

      And it might actually be happening. While Gingrich defunded the OTA in 1995, the law creating it is still on the books. Congress doesn’t need to pass any new law to bring it back, it just needs to fund it again. And, perhaps surprisingly, the House put forth an appropriations bill that includes $6 million towards reviving the OTA.

      Earlier today, a very broad coalition of organizations and individuals (including our sister organization, The Copia Institute) sent a letter to the Senate urging it to support this small level of funding to better educate themselves on technology and technology policy issues. This is not a partisan issue in the slightest (as should be obvious from the coalition of signatories on the letter). This is an issue about spending a very small amount of money to make sure that our legislators actually know what the fuck they’re talking about when they’re trying to understand and regulate around technology issues.

    • These are the top 25 people who will have the most influence in tech this year, according to a survey of over 30,000 developers

      Richard Stallman started the Free Software Movement in 1983 and developed a free, open source operating system called GNU. Two years later, he founded the Free Software Foundation to advocate for free and open software.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Amid GOP Hypocrisy, Alabama Advances US’s Strictest Abortion Bill

      The nation’s most restrictive anti-abortion bill is close to being passed in Alabama. Were it not for a shouting match on the state’s Senate floor May 9 that tabled a vote until next week, Alabama’s “Human Life Protection Act,” a bill that would make performing an abortion a felony, would be on its way to the governor for signature. The bill compares the number of aborted fetuses to those who died in the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and Chinese purges. Although it has little chance of holding up in court, anti-choice activists hope to see it (or a similar “heartbeat bill”) land in front of the Supreme Court and challenge Roe v. Wade.

      Alabama’s law would be more extreme that Georgia’s “fetal heartbeat” bill signed on May 6 by Gov. Brian Kemp, which outlaws abortion after around six weeks.

      A wave of restrictive bills have been introduced across the country as anti-abortion conservatives sense an opening in the rightward tilt in the Supreme Court, but none of them are as draconian as Alabama’s.

      Last week, conservatives from across the country clutched their pearls when word got out that an Alabama lawmaker had spoken truth to the cloud of hypocrisy surrounding the state’s anti-choice bill.

      “Some kids are unwanted. So you kill them now or you kill them later,” Rep. John Rogers, a Birmingham Democrat, said on Alabama’s House floor. “You bring them in the world unwanted, unloved, you send them to the electric chair or incarcerate them in prison.”

      Rep. Rogers struck a nerve, but he is right on about the pungent stench of hypocrisy wafting from Republican politicos. Abortion is political honey to evangelical and social conservative voters in Alabama, whose seeming ignorance of the social ills around them is fed by a feverish, myopic opposition to a person’s right to choose.

    • Boredom and Suffering and Safety and Liberty

      It’s gotten to the point where I’ve begun having weekly panic attacks reducing me to sobbing jello thrashing violently on my bathroom floor. It didn’t use to be this way. Its times like these I actually miss being a shut-in. During the agoraphobic half of my twenties my days were typically structured around doing whatever the fuck I felt like whenever the fuck I felt like it. I could binge watch a half dozen French horror movies or completely lose myself killing cops on Grand Theft Auto and sink a week into researching the finer points of Wilhelm Reich’s Orgone Therapy. I had no friends, no blog, no job, no obligations whatsoever. When the outside world got too menacing I could just make myself disappear like a ghost in my parents basement where they’d never find me. I had nothing to fear and that was the point. The universe had grown too goddamn big for me to cope with, so I chose to make the universe go away and become a hermit with no worries. No worries, that is, except my crippling loneliness, my total disgust with my biological sex, my fear of dying alone in that goddamn basement and my downright terminal boredom. And that’s the trade off.

      Madame de Stael once mused that, in life, one must choose between boredom and suffering, and I’ve spent the better part of the more stressful half of my twenties learning this lesson the hard way. My life in isolation may have been safe but it was also totally unfulfilling. As terrifying and painful as the last few years of my life have been I have fucking lived them and I’ve lived them my way. I’ve turned my little blog into a genuine menace to society. I have embraced the Lokian spiritual chaos of my fluid gender identity. I have made friends with everyone from single-black mothers to neofascist wack-jobs, the two most dangerous kinds of people on earth. I’ve also become a contributing editor to the worlds most dangerous website, Attack the System, not to mention a regular contributor to the vanguard of the Fifth Estate, CounterPunch. I’ve found my place in a tribe that I’ve been searching for my whole life and I volunteer handling diseased piss and blood for my people at a free AIDS clinic. Not only have I embraced my participation in the joyful suffering of the world but I’ve embraced outright danger. I have embraced anarchy, not just as a philosophy but as a lifestyle, and those things are very much related.

    • House Funding Bill Shows How Far We’ve Come in the Fight for Reproductive Freedom—And How Far We Have to Go

      A key bill makes important strides for reproductive health, and shows why we need presidential candidates to show leadership on abortion coverage
      This week the House Appropriations Committee advanced the Labor, Health, and Human Services appropriations bill, the annual bill that funds federal health and education programs. It makes important strides forward on reproductive health and rights–and it also shines a light on the need for presidential leadership on abortion coverage.

      The bill, under the leadership of subcommittee chair Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and committee chair Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), blocks funding for implementation of the Trump administration’s discriminatory health care refusal rule, thanks to an amendment offered by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). That sweeping new rule, issued late last week, aims to license discrimination in health care by enabling health care institutions and workers to refuse medical services on the basis of religious or other objections. If passed, this bill would stop that dangerous rule from moving forward.

      The bill gives much-needed support to Title X, the nation’s federal family planning program that provides affordable birth control, cancer screenings, and STI testing and treatment to 4 million people annually. Title X is the primary source of preventive health care for many low income patients—and in the face of relentless attacks by the Trump administration, including the domestic gag rule recently blocked in court, it’s critical that this bill protects Title X. The bill also gives a needed boost to programs that provide medically accurate sexual health education, including the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, and efforts to fight maternal mortality.

      But there is also a glaring problem: it leaves in place the Hyde Amendment, which for over 40 years has banned abortion coverage in Medicaid and other government health insurance programs in almost all circumstances. As a result of such coverage restrictions, in many parts of the country, the right to an abortion is a reality only for those privileged enough to afford out-of-pocket care. Poor women, most often poor women of color, are forced to forgo basic necessities in order to pay for the care they need, while 1 in 4 are denied care altogether.

    • Suicide: An American Nightmare

      The American suicide rate is at a 50-year high. In 2017, 44,193 committed suicide in the U.S. and 1,652 killed themselves in New York State. In 2016, the City’s Health Department reported that 525 people committed suicide.

      Billy G., a neighbor, recently committed suicide. His death went unreported, with no obit in the Times, let alone coverage by the rest of the media. He will be missed only by those who knew him — his family, friends, workmates or some neighbors. Sadly, Billy was one more casualty of a life unfulfilled.

      Billy was but one of the 500 or so New Yorkers who took his/her life. But he did not shoot himself, nor take an overdose of heroin or sleeping pills, nor hang himself, jump in front of a subway or off a building, nor ceremonially cut his wrists like The Godfather’s Frankie Pentangeli, recalling Seneca and other Roman nobles of old.

      No, Billy died of self-inflicted dissipation; he drank himself to death. His death certificate likely listed heart failure, but the real cause of his death was despair compounded by drink. The bottle was a form of self-medication for his deeply-felt sufferings.

    • Women of Color Want to See Moral Leadership From Congress Against the Hyde Amendment

      As women of color fighting for reproductive health and rights, we must speak truth to power because too often the policies of those in power do not reflect the priorities or lived truths of our communities. We see decisions that time and again ignore the daily struggle our communities must contend with as a result of policies that systematically hinder our ability to thrive—and that’s exactly what happened in Democrats’ Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) funding bill.

      Although we welcome the inclusion of much-needed protections to Title X family planning funding and many other beneficial reforms in the LHHS funding bill that advanced on Wednesday, we cannot hide our disappointment that the Hyde Amendment, an annual appropriations rider that bans federal funding for abortion, remains in this bill.

      For far too long, women of color have been disproportionately affected by laws that were designed without our participation and that clearly did not take our lived realities and aspirations into account. Draconian legislation like the Hyde Amendment sends a clear message to poor women—who are predominantly women of color—that we have no right to control our own reproduction under Roe v Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. This policy reflects an outdated style of governing that reinforces systems that oppress and control women of color’s lives. It harkens back to a time when we had little say in political decisions.

    • Staffers for Top Democrats Reportedly Attended ‘Luxury’ Retreat Hosted by Lobbyists Fighting Medicare for All

      As nurses, doctors, and ordinary Americans ramped up their nationwide effort to build support for Medicare for All at the grassroots level and in Congress, staffers for some of the nation’s top Democratic lawmakers reportedly attended a “luxury resort” hosted by corporate lobbyists working to undermine the growing push for single-payer.

      [...]

      According to Sludge, healthcare industry lobbyists have increased their donations to the DCCC—House Democrats’ campaign arm—as progressive lawmakers work to expand support for Medicare for All within the Democratic Party.

      Potter—who is now president of the Business Initiative for Health Policy, which supports Medicare for All—told The Intercept that the Virginia retreat was part of the ongoing campaign by private healthcare interests to stop the momentum of single-payer, which poses a major threat to industry profits.

      “This event wasn’t about fixing the healthcare system. It was about protecting the healthcare industry, no matter the cost to patients, families, workers, or employers,” said Potter. “The industry is the root cause of our healthcare crisis.”

    • States Bring Price-Fixing Suit Against Generic Drug Makers

      Attorneys general from more than 40 states are alleging the nation’s largest generic drug manufacturers conspired to artificially inflate and manipulate prices for more than 100 different generic drugs, including treatments for diabetes, cancer, arthritis and other medical conditions.

      The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Connecticut on Friday, also names 15 individual senior executives responsible for sales, marketing and pricing.

      Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said investigators obtained evidence implicating 20 firms.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • New Kurdish Congress: Who stands behind the Kurdish autonomy project in Syria?

      According to the source, a conference on the determination of the Kurdish-held areas’ status is expected to be carried out in Northern Syria. The media has not yet confirmed this information, but such a meeting had been long-awaited.
      Referring to a number of influential experts and journalists (Diliman Abdulkader, Farhad “Fred” Khosravi, etc.), the source reported on a summit of Syrian Kurds, including leadership of forces opposed to Bashar al Assad, political parties, also community and civil society organizations leaders will be held in Ayn Issa town of Northern Raqqa under the sponsorship of the US. The event was marked as “Kurdish Congress” in invitation letters sent by facilitators, and the agenda contains issues of legitimation of the Kurdish administrative-territorial entity in Syria and the post-war settlement.

      Furthermore, the source added representatives of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, that are partners of the US in the coalition, also have been involved in organizing the meeting.

      It is planned that at the conclusion of the Congress participants will release an appeal to the Syrian President Bashar al Assad requesting the recognition of autonomy and providing local administrations with the broad repository of the powers, the source pointed out.

    • Pedagogical Terrorism and Hope in the age of Fascist Politics

      The dark times that haunt the current age are epitomized by the barbarians who echo the politics of a fascist past and have come to rule the United States, Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Brazil, the Philippines, and elsewhere. [1] The designers of a new breed of fascism increasingly dominate major political formations and other commanding political and economic institutions across the globe. Their nightmarish reign of misery, violence, and disposability is legitimated, in part, in their control of a diverse number of cultural apparatuses that produce a vast machinery of manufactured consent. This reactionary educational formation includes the mainstream broadcast media, digital platforms, the Internet and print culture, all of which participate in an ongoing spectacle of violence, the aestheticization of politics, the legitimation of opinions over facts, and an embrace of a culture of ignorance. Under the reign of this normalized architecture of neoliberal ideology, critical education is now regarded with disdain, words are reduced to data, and science is confused with pseudo-science.

      Democratic institutions such as the independent media, schools, the legal system, certain financial institutions, and higher education are under siege worldwide. Some of the latest examples of this can be found in the United States with the resurgence of vigilantes and right-wing militia groups along the southern border and the intrusion of tech-based educational practices into schools producing curricula that some parents claim turn kids into zombies. Trump’s continued attack on higher education offers another highly visible example: His proposed 2020-budget request would enact a staggering $7.1 billion reduction in the Education Department as part of a policy to dismantle the department itself.

      At the same time, the promise of democracy is receding as present-day fascists work to subvert language, values, courage, vision and a critical consciousness. Education has increasingly become a tool of domination as the entrepreneurs of hate deploy right-wing pedagogical apparatuses to attack workers, Black youth, refugees, immigrants and others they consider disposable. In the midst of a moment when an older social order is crumbling and a new one is struggling to define itself, there emerges a time of confusion, danger, and moments of great restlessness. We are once again at a historical juncture in which the structures of liberation and authoritarianism are vying over the future.

    • Director Pavel Lungin speaks on his new Afghan War film and the public push against it

      Russian director Pavel Lungin’s new film Brotherhood is out in Russian theaters today, but its journey to this point has not been easy. The pacifist film, which depicts the withdrawal of Soviet troops at the close of the brutal Afghan war, struggled to attract funds despite approval from prominent veterans. After a successful premier, the film raised hackles among some government officials, most prominently Senator Igor Morozov, who called the movie “unpatriotic.” After Morozov’s criticism came to light, Russian culture minister Vladimir Medinsky asked for the film’s government-approved public release date to be pushed back by a day so that it would not coincide with Victory Day, which is celebrated on May 9. In advance of the film’s release, Sasha Sulim spoke with Lungin about making Brotherhood and watching Russian society grapple with its demons.

    • Washington’s Dogs of War Are Snarling at Iran and Venezuela

      At this moment the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and a massive strike group of other war steamers (including the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf and four destroyers: the USS Bainbridge, Gonzalez, Mason and Nitze) are deploying to the Persian Gulf to join a newly-arrived B-52 nuclear-capable bomber group, adding to the already vast US military presence in that region.

      According to National Security Adviser John Bolton, all these ships and airplanes and missiles are there “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

      There were a few — very few — warning voices, such as Senator Tim Kaine who said on May 7 he is “deeply worried that the Trump administration is leading us toward an unnecessary war with Iran” but many people and organizations such as the Brookings Institution (“Our Mission is to conduct in-depth research that leads to new ideas for solving problems facing society at the local, national and global level”) have different views.

      One of Brookings’ luminaries, Michael O’Hanlon, declared, no doubt in-depth, that “I like the decision, to the extent I can understand the backdrop to it, because it tells Iran they won’t get away with doing something nasty by proxy. We are on to them. That may or may not suffice as deterrent, and we have to be careful about assuming that a carrier or bomber can stop a covert operative, but I still favor it – and I also favor reminding Iran that we aren’t really pivoting out of the Middle East too too dramatically, either.”

      No : the US has not intention of “pivoting” away from any part of the world in which it persists in meddling, from the South China Sea via the Gulf, Black Sea, the Baltic, and, of course, South America, where Washington’s sights are on Venezuela.

    • ‘A Nice Guy, Everybody Loved Him’ – With San Diego synagogue shooter, media once again normalize white male violence

      After opening fire at worshipers celebrating the Jewish holiday of Passover at the Poway Synagogue near San Diego, California, 19-year-old John T. Earnest was arrested. Earnest killed one woman and injured three other worshippers before his semi-automatic weapon jammed and he fled the scene, calling 911 himself to report the shooting.

      The shooter published an open letter online explaining that his actions were designed to defend the United States and preserve his race from “cultural Marxism,” an idea drawn from the Nazi term “cultural Bolshevism” and propagated by the likes of neo-Nazi mass murderer Anders Breivik and far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Earnest claimed to have been radicalized on online forums, and inspired by Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting of October 2018. He also took credit for a March 2019 arson attack at a nearby mosque as well.

    • US Foreign Policy as Bellicose as Ever

      It only took a few months under Donald Trump’s presidency for the US to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, impose new sanctions on Russia, reverse the normalisation of diplomatic relations with Cuba, announce its intention to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, warn Pakistan, threaten Venezuela with military intervention, and declare a readiness to strike North Korea with ‘fire and fury … the likes of which this world has never seen before.’ The Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Israel are the only countries on better terms with the US since Trump’s arrival in the White House on 20 January.

      Trump is not solely responsible for this increased tension: Republican neoconservatives, Democrats and the media all applauded him this spring when he ordered military manoeuvres in Asia and the launch of 59 missiles towards an air base in Syria (1). At the same time, he was prevented from acting when he broached a possible rapprochement with Moscow, and was even forced to sign off on new US sanctions against Russia. US foreign policy’s point of equilibrium is effectively being determined by Republican phobias (Iran, Cuba, Venezuela) often shared by Democrats, and by Democrat hatreds (Russia, Syria) endorsed by most Republicans. If there is a peace party in Washington, it’s currently well hidden.

    • Trump Nominates ‘Embodiment of the Military-Industrial Complex’ Patrick Shanahan to Lead Pentagon

      Shanahan has been serving as acting secretary of defense since the departure of former Pentagon chief Jim Mattis in January.

      “When Patrick Shanahan was selected by Trump for a Pentagon post,” The Nation’s John Nichols tweeted Thursday in response to Shanahan’s nomination, “the Seattle Times wrote: ‘Shanahan, 54, has no military or political experience. He is, however, familiar with defense procurement from the business side.’ Very, very familiar.”

      In a column last year, Nichols described Shanahan—who worked at Boeing for 31 years before becoming Trump’s deputy defense secretary—as “the embodiment of the military-industrial complex.”

      “His main claim to fame in the deputy post was his ardent advocacy for Trump’s ‘space force’ scheme,” Nichols wrote. “So what experience does Shanahan have? He is, literally and figuratively, the embodiment of the military-industrial complex about which former President Dwight Eisenhower warned Americans at the close of his presidency in 1961.”

    • Just When Did America Go Nuts?

      At the dawn of my congressional career, after some of us staffers endured a particularly egregious dose of idiocy, one of my colleagues was moved to compare our office to Saint Elizabeth’s, then still functioning as a mental hospital in DC (and now, fittingly, as headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security). “Not quite,” I responded. “Here the lunatics are in charge.”

      That exchange, alas, has become a prophecy for the nation at large. It begins, as we are made aware by each daily tweet-storm, at the very top, but this insanity could not persist without broad and intense public support. It has become commonplace to characterize such supporters as haters, but while it would be dangerous to underestimate the role of sheer malice, Trumpism could only sustain itself with tens of millions of people who might not fit the profile of a hater, but are assuredly either borderline imbeciles or not-quite-certifiably insane. Examples there are in profusion; but rather than ringing the changes on every single winner of the Darwin Awards, let us examine three cases that have wider policy implications.

      Item. Measles, an infectious disease that each year once killed several hundred people and caused about a thousand cases of encephalitis in America, was declared eradicated in the United States in 2000. But thanks to a kind of misbegotten Hitler-Stalin alliance between right-wing religious nuts and New Age-Hollywood Hills types, the disease has come roaring back.

    • The US military doesn’t know how many websites it runs

      But it seems that there’s no official tally of all of the websites that it’s responsible for. The DMA’s website says that it supports “over 740 military and DoD websites,” but Haverstick says that he estimates that the DMA is responsible for “between 2,000 and 5,000” websites. Those websites include the major sites for the various military branches, all the way down to blogs and sites for individual units. The service doesn’t manage everything for the Department of Defense — some websites are hosted on public sites.

    • John Bolton Inadvertently Quotes Hitler

      As the political situation in Venezuela continues to deteriorate, there are growing calls in Washington from both sides of the aisle for the Trump administration to provide greater American support for acting Venezuelan President Juan Guaidó, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently telling ABC News that the United States was preparing for potential military action against Venezuela.

      Perhaps one of the most prominent Washington insiders calling for greater American action against the Venezuelan government of Nicholas Maduro, is National Security Advisor John Bolton, who was made famous for accidentally showing his notepad to media during a press conference with the words “5,000 U.S troops to Columbia” in plain sight for the world to see.

      In a recent interview with CNN regarding the future of the Maduro government, Bolton said “..sometimes one kick at the door and the whole rotten edifice falls down”. Bolton’s words clearly illustrated that he believed it was likely that the days of the Maduro government were numbered should sufficient force be applied.

      There was another man who once said a remarkably similar thing before beginning one of the bloodiest and costliest conflicts in the history of mankind, that man was Adolf Hitler. Shortly before Operation Barbarossa (the German invasion of the Soviet Union) Hitler was convinced that the U.S.S.R would quickly collapse under the weight of German arms, telling his generals “You only have to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down,”

      Bolton believes that the Maduro government can be quickly and easily swept aside without serious long term costs, with the U.S friendly government of Juan Guaidó ready to step in and take power, but like the German invasion of the Soviet Union any sort of American military action against Venezuela will likely have a series of unintended consequences.

      While the case for action against the Maduro government may seem like an open and shut affair, there is a series of likely complications that could seriously impact the global geopolitical landscape and undermine the stability of not only Venezuela, but potentially neighbouring countries.

    • Trump, hostage to Bolton and Pompeo, Pleads with Iran to call and Rescue Him

      Julian Borger at The Guardian reports that Trump gave an impromptu news conference on Thursday in which he urged Iran to call him, as though he was being held hostage by John Bolton and Mike Pompeo and was signalling that Iran should rescue him.

      I happened to see the bizarre performance live, and it reminded me of the old infinite monkey theorem, which holds that if an infinite number of monkeys typed randomly at keyboards for long enough, they would eventually type out the complete works of Shakespeare. The only problem is that in the real world, the universe might expire from heat death before any of the monkeys can actually produce that text.

    • Trump Steps up War on Whistleblowers: Air Force Vet Daniel Hale Arrested For Leaking Drone War Info

      A former U.S. intelligence analyst was arrested Thursday and charged with violating the Espionage Act for allegedly leaking documents about the secretive U.S. drone program.
      Daniel Hale, 31, was arrested in Nashville. He faces up to 50 years in prison. Hale is accused of disclosing 11 top secret or secret documents to a reporter. The indictment does not name the reporter but unnamed government sources have told media outlets that the reporter is investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept. In 2015, The Intercept published a special report called the Drone Papers exposing the inner workings of the U.S. military’s assassination program in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. We air excerpts of the documentary “National Bird” that features Daniel Hale and speak to The Intercept’s James Risen, director of First Look Media’s Press Freedom Defense Fund.

    • Thank Russia for Winning World War II

      Russia celebrates victory over the Third Reich on May 9th; the West celebrated it on May 8th. Separate celebrations make sense because the communists had a different fight against the Nazis than the free world did. The USA fought a quarter of the war that our Soviet allies waged – and we opened fire on them at the end. D-Day was timed to halt Russia’s advance west; not to liberate the continent from white supremacists. Western powers waited to open the second front until 11 months before the war ended because our richest racists kept doing business with the Aryans until 1945.

      There are many ways to visualize the fraction of the war fought by Western powers: More Uzbeks than Americans died. 14% of the USSR’s prewar population, 2k towns, 70k villages, 40k miles of railroad, and 100k collective farms were wiped out in a race war. In Stalingrad, only one building still stood after the battle. Compared to Western allies, Soviet soldiers fought Nazis at a ratio of 4:1, and over a geographical area several times larger. In January 1945, the Nazis killed almost as many Soviets as Americans died in all theaters of the whole war combined. In the final battle for Berlin, the USSR lost 80k. Everywhere else at that time, the USA lost only 9k.

      Of WWII’s total 70m dead, half were on the Eastern Front; where at its height, 15-20m soldiers annihilated much of mankind between the Baltic, Black, and Adriatic Seas. This was where the Holocaust happened. For the year the Western Front lasted, less than 5m troops fought there and civilian casualties were incomparable. Russia signed non-aggression pacts with the Aryans and Japanese out of desperation to slow the devastation of Slavic civilization, but that doesn’t diminish the tragedy of nearly 30m dead Soviet peasants.

      Similarly in Asia, the atomic bomb was a racist travesty timed to stop our Russian ally’s entry into the Pacific Theater; it was not to save American lives from an invasion of Japan. The Pacific war was a result of Japan’s sneak attack on a distant island our sugar companies had only seized from its natives 50 years prior. We didn’t fight WWII to save Europe’s dying Jews, its godless Slavs, or the Chinese and Ethiopians who first faced militant fascism in 1933-35.

      [...]

      Communist subhumans would soon occupy the ruins of Berlin, maybe Paris and Brussels shortly thereafter. And this fear led America’s first families – Rockefeller, Ford, DuPont, Dulles, Harriman, Bush, Luce, Hearst, Kellogg, Brown and Root – to overlook death camps in the crusade against international communism. Some hatched the 1933 plot to overthrow FDR.

      In 1926 DuPont told the American Chemists Society they should create a race of supermen. He subsidized fascist cells too, and led other millionaires in financing the 1m-member American Liberty League. DuPont also established the Black Legion that terrorized striking GM workers in depression-era America, preventing union membership and forcing them to work without pay. In such tycoons’ estimation, nothing was too low in the holy struggle against communism. Postwar, they hired the best consultants available: former SS who had just escaped the war-zone – aided and abetted by the myriad collaborators littering governments everywhere.

      After the war, fascist true believers infested Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, South American military juntas, the shah’s Persia, Baathist Levant, Vatican, and even Red Cross. Collaborators built networks called ratlines to get war criminals out of Nuremberg’s jurisdiction. Some didn’t even have to leave though. Our commandos and Wall Street recruited right where they found them in the ruins of Europe and erected West Germany’s postwar intelligence service upon this legacy of unhumbled SS vets, who helped create two iconic U.S. institutions: NASA and CIA.

    • Bernard-Henri Lévy’s American Requiem

      The new conventional wisdom, laid out in a growing pile of books and articles, is that the US under President Donald Trump has been withdrawing from the world. Bernard-Henri Lėvy adds to the stack with his latest book, The Empire and the Five Kings: America’s Abdication and the Fate of the World (2018). US withdrawal is alarming, Lévy says, because the world relies on US leadership.

      The French intellectual superstar (“BHL,” as he is known in France) is concerned here solely with the Middle East. While BHL is convinced that the US is withdrawing from the Middle East, he ignores evidence that the US remains active there.

      First, think of US involvement in Yemen. The Empire and the Five Kings contains two brief references to the massively destructive war being conducted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. BHL, however, fails to mention that the US is in the war. Since 2015, the US has been facilitating the destruction of Yemen by providing the Saudi-led coalition with intelligence sharing, targeting assistance, and (until November last year) in-air refueling of coalition warplanes. On April 16, President Trump vetoed a Congressional resolution which would have forced the US to end its assistance to the Saudi-led coalition. The US appears to be in Yemen for the duration.

    • ‘Victory’: Saudi Ship Leaves Port Without French Weapons

      A human rights organization called it a “victory for mobilized civil society” when a Saudi cargo ship left France on Friday without a planned batch of weapons.

      France, along with other Western countries including the U.S. and U.K., has been supplying arms to Saudi Arabia, which is leading the coaltion bombing Yemen. In so doing, say human rights campaigners, they “risk complicity in committing grave violations of the laws of war.”

      Leaked classified French military documents published last month showed that French weapons are being widely used in the coalition’s bombing campaign “including in civilian zones.” The conflict has already killed thousands of civilians

      Fearing that the new shipment of weapons could be used against the Yemeni civilian population, French rights group Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT-France) filed a legal challenge Thursday to block a new batch of French weapons from being loaded onto the Saudi vessel the Bahri Yanbu at the French port city of Le Havre. The ship had been anchored 15 miles offshore since late Wednesday.

      The weapons, said ACAT, would violate one article of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty.

      “The article says that one country cannot authorize the transfer of weapons, if at the time of the authorization, the country knew that weapons could be used to commit war crimes,” said lawyer Joseph Brehem, speaking on behalf of ACAT.

    • Manufactured Iranian Threat in the Persian Gulf

      National Security Adviser John Bolton released a statement on May 5 announcing that the United States is deploying the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf. The action is “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.” There was no clarification regarding any warnings the United States had received about Iran’s activity.

      Col. Larry Wilkerson reads the statement as an indication that Bolton is “trying to provoke something” in the gulf.

      “He’s looking for an incident. That’s all I can see in it, because Iran does not threaten a country to whom we are, by Donald Trump’s own proud admission, selling $100 billion worth of arms to. Iran does not threaten a country that has more of the United States military power arrayed around it than any other place on the face of the earth. … How can this country threaten anything the United States has in the Strait, in the Gulf, or in the region, when we have so much superiority?”

    • Bolton Is Spinning Israeli ‘Intelligence’ to Push for War Against Iran

      John Bolton has gotten away with a dangerous deception. The national security adviser’s announcement Sunday that the Pentagon has deployed air and naval forces to the Middle East, which he combined with a threat to Iran, points to a new maneuver to prepare the ground for an incident that could justify a retaliatory attack against Iran.

      Bolton presented his threat and the deployments as a response to alleged intelligence about a possible Iranian attack on U.S. targets in the Middle East. But what has emerged indicates that the alleged intelligence does not actually reflect any dramatic new information or analysis from the U.S. intelligence community. Instead, it has all the hallmarks of a highly political case concocted by Bolton.

      Further underscoring the deceptive character of Bolton’s maneuver is evidence that senior Israeli national security officials played a key role in creating the alleged intelligence rationale for the case.

      The new initiative follows an audacious ruse carried out last fall by Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, detailed in Truthdig in February, to cast the firing of a few mortar rounds in the vicinity of the U.S. Embassy and a consulate in Iraq as evidence of an effort by Tehran to harm U.S. diplomats. Bolton exploited that opportunity to press Pentagon officials to provide retaliatory military options, which they did, reluctantly.

    • The New York Times and its Uyghur “activist”

      The New York Times has furnished a case study of the way in which it functions as the conduit for the utterly hypocritical “human rights” campaigns fashioned by the CIA and the State Department to prosecute the predatory interests of US imperialism.

      While turning a blind eye to the gross abuses of democratic rights by allies such as Saudi Arabia, the US has brazenly used “human rights” for decades as the pretext for wars, diplomatic intrigues and regime-change. The media is completely integrated into these operations.

      Another “human rights” campaign is now underway. The New York Times is part of the mounting chorus of condemnation of China over its treatment of the Turkic-speaking, Muslim Uyghur minority in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang.

    • The Ridiculous Yankee Coup Machine

      It was more than a failed coup attempt against the legitimate government of Venezuela. What happened in that South American country the previous weekend has been a ridiculous spectacle for the American fascist right-wing and, specifically, for some of the most grotesque figures of U.S. imperialism and several of its most discredited parasites.

      It has been pitiful to observe the government of the country that has played the role of a single great global power since the end of the Cold War. It could have been a world leader on a path of reciprocal respect and harmony within differences, but it has fallen to the bottom of the scale of universal political values.

      It is true that Washington has never shown much respect for truth and honesty at the most critical moments in the history of international relations. Still, it is surprising that political entities so demonstrably lacking in prestige were called upon to lead that nation’s diplomacy to such a backwater in the scale of universal political values.

      It is hard to imagine that Donald Trump, who considers himself a “permanent winner” by virtue of his fortune and his business acumen, can win any task with corrupt political advisers of the ilk of Elliott Abrams, Mike Pompeo, Elliott Abrams, Marco Rubio, Rick Scott, Peter Navarro, Juan Guaidó. Let’s not forget the permanent fugitive from justice, Leopoldo López, who make up, among others, the squad that was assigned to him for this battle to swallow Venezuela by the always-losing Miami mafia.

      None of the fallacies that the team of advisors manufactured for him could be sustained. This proves that those who devised them intended to drive Trump to [commit] political suicide.

      The media, ready for the farce, began it by sending out a statement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. It assured him that Guaidó had been “duly” elected, to adjust the narrative of U.S. interference in Venezuela to that new lying discourse on the coup. The authorities, and much of the U.S. media began to refer to the phony Juan Guaidó as the “duly elected president of Venezuela.

      In reality, Guaido had not been duly elected as president, nor had he participated in any Venezuelan election for that highest office. He was barely elected to a seat in parliament in 2015, and from there promoted to a substantial position of power within parliament by virtue of U.S. support.

    • The Alarming Rise of Civilian Deaths in the War On Terror

      “There is no military solution” is an often-heard saying since the “global war on terror” began almost 18 years ago.

      We need political solutions to the military conflicts we’ve embroiled ourselves in over the last two decades, most policymakers agree. But in the meantime, the last three administrations have sent in the military to pave the way for a political solution—and have kept them there, allegedly to protect civilians from the Taliban in Afghanistan, ISIS in Syria and al-Shabab in Somalia, among other militant groups.

      Yet all too often, these civilians become casualties of the very military forces Washington supposedly deployed to protect them.

    • The Enemy is Not Resistance

      The Islamic Resistance Movement began more than thirty years ago at an historical moment in time which it knew to be fraught with absolute peril for their people. The founders of this national liberation struggle examined the overwhelming military capabilities of Israel, fostered by its global superpower sponsor, the United States. They looked at Israel’s expansionist programs–the Zionist project of illegal settlements erasing their homes and villages, dispossessing mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers–and at the failure of the international community to stop them. They knew then that within a generation Palestinians would lose it all –their motherland and patrimony and their nation–leaving them homeless captives to the whims of another man’s door. In that moment, resistance was not a lifestyle choice or a revolutionary pose. It was existential necessity, just as it is now.

      Everything Hamas predicted then has come to pass. Here, a generation later, it should take no comfort reminding the world that they were right in their analysis. Israel has grown only stronger and more rapacious, more intransigent and murderous in its deeds. Its “democracy” did not save it from becoming a racist, apartheid state presiding over a military occupation of millions of Palestinians. Israel’s policy of creating “facts on the ground”– that is, the illegal settlement project – has transitioned from a de facto expulsion and annexation policy into a de jure one, as its prime minister calls for the removal of Palestinians and the annexation of the West Bank, and the American president and congress pre-emptively applaud the crime-to-be. The Golan Heights–sovereign territory of another nation– is now Israel’s by force, cynically annexed, while Syria struggles in the throes of war. And Jerusalem (al Quds) is ringed by new, fortified suburbs and restricted highways demolishing Palestinian neighborhoods and cutting off their city from them. America now calls Jerusalem Israel’s capital–in direct violation of international law. Since 1967, successive U.S. administrations have told Palestinians to trust in their good faith as brokers of a just peace. This has been a lie, as Hamas anticipated then, America was running cover, a stalling tactic, for the slow-motion destruction of Palestinian national aspirations. Tragically, tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed and maimed and many more imprisoned by Israeli state violence since Hamas began. The international community has done little to stop the monstrous crime unfolding.

    • The Zionist One-Two Propaganda Punch

      Another round of Israeli violence inflicted on Palestinians in Gaza resulted in devastating consequences: twenty seven dead, including Amani al-Madhoun, a young woman in her final month of pregnancy, as well as 3-month-old infant Maria al-Ghazali and 12-year-old Abd al-Rahman Abu al-Jadyan, both killed alongside their parents.

      The flare up comes as Palestinians are routinely sniped at by Israeli military while they demonstrate within their open-air prison, subjected to ever-worsening misery and restrictions – medical, material, economic, environmental, transportation and otherwise.

      Since US President Donald Trump’s ascendency to the White House, Israel has received unprecedented US backing, including the transfer of the American embassy to Jerusalem and Trump’s seal of approval for the illegal annexation of the Golan Heights.

    • What’s Next: War With Venezuela?

      Mix a little socialism in with the oil and war may be unavoidable.

      Thus, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, talking about Venezuela: “The president has been crystal clear and incredibly consistent. Military action is possible. If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do.”

      He goes on, demonstrating how we lie about war in the 21st century: “We’re trying to do everything we can to avoid violence. We have asked all the parties involved not to engage in that kind of activity. We’d prefer a peaceful transition of government there, where (President Nicolas) Maduro leaves and a new election is held. But the president has made clear, in the event that there comes a moment — and we’ll all have to make decisions about when that moment is, and the president will ultimately have to make that decision—he is prepared to do that, if that’s what’s required.”

      [...]

      The sanctions are for the country’s own good, of course, according to Trump, who lamented on Fox (quoted on Democracy Now!): “It’s a terrible thing. People are starving. People are dying. There’s no food. There’s no water. It’s just a terrible situation. . . . And we’re doing everything we can do, short of, you know, the ultimate.”

      Presumably “the ultimate” is war — military invasion — but sanctions are a form of war and they cause precisely the sort of harm Trump anguished over in his fake spew of empathy for the people of Venezuela.

      According to a study by economists Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs, published in April by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the sanctions, having reduced the availability of food, medicine and other necessities of life, have so far caused an estimated 40,000 deaths, with many more likely to come.

      “Venezuela’s economic crisis is routinely blamed all on Venezuela,” Sachs said. “But it is much more than that. American sanctions are deliberately aiming to wreck Venezuela’s economy and thereby lead to regime change. It’s a fruitless, heartless, illegal and failed policy, causing grave harm to the Venezuelan people.”

    • Can Anarchism Be A “Peace Corps” for Human Reconciliation?

      For many years, since I was in Divinity school, I’ve received the Catholic Worker paper (CW turned 86 May 1) in the (now old-fashioned) mail, its unassuming, black-and-white newsprint format so unflashy and glitzless that it is easy to overlook it, compared, say, to the powerfully attractive pull of the latest New York Times, or the New Yorker magazines my brother has been dropping off for us. Having remained firmly planted in their anarchist, Catholic viewpoint, CW isn’t interested in covering “all the news;” their intelligent radical critique always is centered in the heart. The people whose obituaries they publish are not society people, or guys who made millions in computers or advertising or showbiz, but ordinary people, sometimes people the rest of us would call bums, junkies, crazies, felons, etc., in other words, emphatically, “others.” While strongly attracted to CW’s politics, its communitarianism, it’s beautiful black and white graphic art (never photos!), to the ideas and integrity of founders Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, I never imagined I would one day find myself as “otherized” as they, unfashionably committed to building community outside the spectacle of capitalism, and rooted, like CW, in imaginal myth-based reality that ensures centrality of heart and marginalization in society.

      The small groups that meet in our Cafe and the next-door nonprofit The Other Side to mutually confirm our individual contrarian, non-conformist sanity, to discuss books about anarchism, share potluck meals, feel the warmth of genuine community, are reaching a new point in their evolution. For the first time, Orin and I are joined by significant numbers of young people, who seem content, for now, to keep our activist goals loosely defined. By mostly unspoken consensus, our discussion at this stage is our activism. We have never said in so many words that this community of outsiders (i.e., outside neoliberal consensus reality), might become a core (corps?) committed to work together as activists in facing the worst that may be coming, due to rising fascism, climate collapse, etc. (like the CW people diligently caring for those worst-off under capitalism), or that our activism might take some other form as yet undefined.

      Might it, I wonder, be time we made our unity explicit, perhaps formalizing our mutual commitment? I hesitate at the thought; though its possible people are waiting to be asked, the asking feels extreme in our circumstances. Liberal reality instructs us to ask nothing more of our comrades than showing up, if – and only as long as – they feel attraction to the group – no compulsion, no guilt-tripping, no manipulation!!

      Of course, precisely because that liberal definition of freedom is now unconscious dogma, unity’s cause is supremely challenged in our society. The freedom guaranteed by my rights, freedom to do anything I want, or to do what is logically best for the interests I am considering, is unassailable. It may be that the new reality of climate collapse we collectively face (ie., it’s too late! )– can at last bring us to facing the point (the abyss) that has been true for imperiled human culture for centuries, or millennia: we are at the edge of the roof, and there never were a smorgasbord of options for people committed to remaining human. In fact,, in order to keep functioning humanly (cooperatively) and not neurotically or barbarically, and to restore a non-coercive basis for unity, some kind of imaginative leap will be necessary. How this will happen here in Utica cannot now be foretold; our anarchist groups are engaged in something that has never before been; we have no choice but to improvise.

    • 80 Million Korean People Must Not Be Reduced to a DC Bargaining Chip

      On the one-year anniversary of the April 27 Panmunjom Declaration, the landmark inter-Korean agreement in which President Moon and Chairman Kim committed to bringing a formal end to the Korean War, South Korean news networks were peppered with coverage of the hundreds of thousands of South Koreans forming a human chain along the 500-kilometer demilitarized zone (DMZ) established in 1953 as part of the Korean Armistice Agreement.

      Originally intended to serve as a temporary buffer zone between the two Koreas until a peace settlement could be reached, the DMZ remains the most heavily fortified border in the word, separating generations of Koreans from one another. The DMZ Peace Chain, as this human chain came to be called, served as a powerful expression of the Korean desire for reconciliation and peace. It gathered worldwide attention, with Pope Francis offering his prayers that “this celebration offer hope to all that a future based on unity, dialogue and fraternal solidarity is indeed possible.”

      In the U.S., however, the anniversary of the landmark inter-Korean agreement passed with virtually no attention from the domestic media.

      In spite of the fact that over 70 percent of South Koreans believe that the Panmunjom Declaration has had a positive impact on inter-Korean relations, cynicism and overt opposition to the inter-Korean peace process have dominated U.S. media since the groundbreaking meeting between President Moon and Chairman Kim. The U.S. media’s overt tendency to discount Korean sentiment while appraising Korean affairs is a reflection of a longstanding political dynamic in Washington. With almost colonial flair, the U.S. has dominated inter-Korean affairs for nearly a century, to the extent that domestic Korean sentiment is barely treated as an afterthought.

      A Korean women’s peace delegation visiting Washington last month reported that the majority of U.S. congressional representatives they met with characterized the summit held in Singapore between Chairman Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump as “just a show,” diminishing the fact that the state of U.S.-North Korea relations impacts millions of actual people. Many of these Congress members openly cast doubt on the fact that South Koreans overwhelmingly support peace with the North. Lamenting that even “progressives in the U.S. seem unwilling to support the efforts of South Korean President Moon Jae-in,” Rev. Jiseok Jung, one of the organizers of the DMZ Peace Chain, appealed to Americans to “support respectful dialogue with North Korea.”

    • Finding Private Bell: a Grave That Leads Deep Into Iraq’s Bloody Past

      Private David Cameron Bell of the 2nd Battalion, the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), came from Fife – his parents were called Henry and Catherine, that much we know – and his wife, Moira’s grandmother, was called Annie (originally Annie Anderson). She was from Frithfield, Anstruther, which is also in Fife.

      Moira Jennings, a canny lady whose articulate fury at the Bush-Blair invasion matched her horror at the bloodshed of the Great War which ended 14 years before she was born, knows the story of what was “Mesopotamia” all too well. When he was killed, Private Bell was already 41 – a truly “old soldier” by the standards of the Great War in which my own father fought in France (and survived) at the age of just 19.

      In a series of military actions, the British – including thousands of Indian troops – fought their way up the Tigris river towards Baghdad in 1915, but were finally surrounded by the Ottoman Turks on a plateau of land between Kut and Amara under their self-satisfied but ineffectual general, Charles Townshend.

      Despite efforts by Lawrence of Arabia and others to bribe the Turks to release the British army, the trapped soldiers were reduced, under constant shellfire, to eating horses, and even rats to survive. In the reduced front line, cholera broke out. There were desertions, and when Townshend finally surrendered on 29 April 1916 around 4,000 British dead were packed into the Amara cemetery beside the fetid waters of the Tigris. It has rightly been called the worst defeat of the allies in the First World War.

      This deeply depressing tale of military collapse was only compounded when the Turks forced the British survivors to undertake a death march up through what is now Iraq, through Mosul, into eastern Turkey and Anatolia, where they died – again by the thousand – of cholera and overwork, often close by the dying “survivors” of the 1915 Armenian genocide.

    • ‘One More Reason to Refuse to Give Defense Department $733 Billion’ as Pentagon Shifts Funds to Trump Border Wall

      In a move Rep. Pramila Jayapal decried as yet another reason to “refuse to give the Defense Department $733 billion” in funding, the Pentagon on Friday reportedly approved a plan to divert $1.5 billion from its endless war budget to help pay for the construction of 80 miles of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

      “Obviously they don’t need” the funds, tweeted Jayapal, “because they keep diverting billions, without congressional authorization, to Trump’s vanity wall.”

      As NBC News reported, Congress was notified of the Pentagon’s plan to shift the funds on Friday.

      “It follows the Pentagon’s decision in March to transfer $1 billion from Army personnel budget accounts to support wall construction,” according to NBC. “The combined total of $2.5 billion is in response to President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the border.”

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Chelsea Manning Released From Jail, But Fresh Subpoena Means ‘She May Have Just Over a Week of Freedom’

      U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning was released from jail Thursday after being held for 62 days—including a month in solitary confinement—for refusing to testify before a secret grand jury, but she could be imprisoned again as soon as next week if she refuses to comply with a second subpoena to appear before a different grand jury.

      Manning’s release came after the expiration of the term of the grand jury. According to Manning’s legal team, the whistleblower was served with another subpoena prior to her release on Thursday.

      “This means she is expected to appear before a different grand jury, on Thursday, May 16, 2019, just one week from her release today,” Manning’s lawyers said in a statement. “It is therefore conceivable that she will once again be held in contempt of court, and be returned to the custody of the Alexandria Detention Center, possibly as soon as next Thursday, May 16.”

      Manning’s legal team said she will continue to refuse to cooperate with a process that she has called an effort to “entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech.”

      “Chelsea will continue to refuse to answer questions, and will use every available legal defense to prove to District Judge Trenga that she has just cause for her refusal to give testimony,” said Manning’s lawyers.

    • Free Assange NZ denounces hypocrisy at World Press Freedom Day event

      On May 3, to mark World Press Freedom Day, the British High Commission in New Zealand co-hosted an event with the Canadian High Commission and the NZ Institute of International Affairs at the parliament in Wellington. UK High Commissioner Laura Clarke moderated a panel discussion involving Newshub reporter Tova O’Brien, Politik blogger Richard Harman and opposition National Party MP Nicola Young.
      Like similar events in the US and Britain, the Wellington panel made a travesty of the ostensible topic of press freedom. This was starkly revealed towards the end, following a call for questions from the audience.
      Alex Hills, from the group Free Assange New Zealand, stood up to denounce the hypocrisy of the panel, which had not once mentioned the arrest and imprisonment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange by British police—the most significant and brazen attack on journalism in recent history.

    • Manning Could Delay US Superseding Indictment Against Assange

      Whistleblower and former US Army analyst Chelsea Manning was released from jail Thursday, ending a 62-day stay for refusal to comply with a grand jury subpoena. However, she’s received another subpoena for next week – but the US could be running out of time if it hopes to get dirt from her with which to charge WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
      “After two months of confinement, and using every legal mechanism available so far, I can — without any hesitation — state that nothing will convince me to testify before this or any other grand jury for that matter,” Manning wrote in a court filing earlier this week, in which she sought her release. Grand juries are allowed to jail a would-be witness if the judge has reason to believe it will convince the witness to cooperate and testify.

    • One Month in Belmarsh: 29th Vigil for Julian Assange

      Join us for a discussion online on the latest news about Julian Assange, who has now spent one month behind bars in London.

    • Julian Assange Tortured with Psychotropic Drug Under Trump’s Administration

      Also, there are some rumours that the Trump administration is torturing Julian. They are giving him heavy doses of powerful drugs while conducting interviews. The prosecutors stated that he was helping Manning to find the password to get access to a piece of information.

    • Chelsea Manning Is Freed From Jail, Faces New Subpoena In WikiLeaks Case
    • Assange’s US Extradition Battle: The Fight to Defend the Conscience of America

      It has been over three weeks since Ecuador illegally terminated political asylum of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the UK police violently arrested him. Assange is now held in solitary confinement in what many have called the UK’s Guantanamo Bay.

      On Thursday, Assange’s fight against US extradition began at a UK court. The US charged him with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion with former US military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning related to the 2010 release of classified material. His extradition was framed as a case about “hacking”.

      But, let’s make this clear. Assange was charged for doing journalism, publishing information critical for democracy in the public interest, at a scale and speed that was unprecedented. Although the Department of Justice press release on the indictment accuses him of hacking a government computer, the actual indictment accuses him for protecting the anonymity of his source.

      This indictment against Assange signals the criminalization of journalism, specifically punishing critical aspects of journalistic practice, related to a story gathering for a newsworthy story published in the public interest. The criminal investigation into WikiLeaks began in 2010. It was part of Obama’s aggressive war on whistleblowers. Now, the Trump administration carries on this legacy, by expanding a combat zone to include journalists as their target. But this is more than an attack on press freedom.

      WikiLeaks exposed the US government’s illegal wars, dirty trade deals, spying, and its secret offshore prison and torture. These documents that they published with a pristine record of accuracy, were not just information. It was her conscience that called Chelsea Manning to engage in a search for moral clarity, as she watched the scenery of a US military airstrike killing Iraqi civilians including journalists in New Baghdad. It was a tiny voice in a heart that remembered our inherent obligation to one another and awakened this young whistleblower to the truth described in her words, “we are human … and we’re killing ourselves …”.

    • Ecuadorian Court Grants $50,000 Bail to Ex-FM Supporting Assange

      The Ecuadorian attorney general has pledged to continue investigation in order to prove Patino’s guilt.

      An Ecuadorian judge requested in mid-April the Interpol to detain Patino, who reportedly had left the country following Assange’s arrest in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Patino, who served as the foreign minister under the previous government between 2010 and 2016, is charged with instigation and is also suspected of having links to Assange’s associates. The instigation charge is based on Patino’s statement, made last fall, in which he called on his supporters to take over public institutions and protest against the government of President Lenin Moreno.

    • Assange to know Swedish decision on Monday

      Sweden’s state prosecutor will announce next week whether she will reopen a preliminary investigation into a rape allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

    • Call to offer Assange asylum in Switzerland

      The 22 lawyers, mostly from Zurich, justify their request on the grounds of promoting civil society, human rights and press freedom.

      Among the lawyers are Marcel Bosonnet, Philip Stolkin and Bernard Rambert, from Zurich, Andreas Noll, from Basel and Carlo Sommaruga from Geneva. In addition, the group includes former Federal Court President Giusep Nay and Marcel Niggli, a criminal law professor at the University of Freiburg.

      Marcel Bosonnet, acted as Edward Snowden’s lawyer in Switzerland.

      The group claims that Assange’s WikiLeaks platform, is an important part of investigative journalism.

    • Video: Workers at SEP rally in Parramatta denounce persecution of Julian Assange

      Workers and young people attending a Socialist Equality Party (SEP) rally late last month in Parramatta, in Sydney’s western suburbs, speak out in defence of WikiLeaks publisher and journalist Julian Assange.

      The rally was addressed three SEP election candidates—Oscar Grenfell, who is contesting the Parramatta lower-house seat, and Richard Phillips and John Davis who running for NSW Senate seats—and SEP National Committee member Nick Beams. James McGlone, who is a friend of Assange’s father, also spoke.

    • ICFI supporters in India to hold picket to free Assange

      Supporters of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) in India will hold a picket to demand the immediate release of Julian Assange, who has been jailed for courageously exposing the war crimes and diplomatic intrigues of US imperialism. The picket in Ambattur, north Chennai on Saturday, May 11 is part of the ICFI’s ongoing international campaign to defend Assange.

      British police arrested Assange on bogus bail charges after the Ecuadorian government, under pressure from Washington, illegally ended his asylum in its embassy in London. The British courts have now sentenced him to 50 weeks of rigorous imprisonment in the notorious Belmarsh jail, where is being held in solitary confinement. He faces extradition to the US and charges of espionage that carry life imprisonment or the death sentence.

    • Letter to the Editor: Assange is a whistleblower who deserves protection

      Julian Assange is a textbook example of a whistleblower, albeit, on an international stage. Mr. Assange has held modern warfare up for the world to see. It may be that the release of e-mails of the Democratic National Committee soured some Americans on the actions of the DNC. The e-mails apparently showed that the DNC was violating it’s own charter by showing preference for one of the nominees for the 2016 Democratic nomination instead of behaving impartially. That was the DNC’s issue and the DNC apparently has addressed and corrected it.

      The legal and punitive animus toward Mr. Assange comes from his exposing the methods of modern war. Why would the grand jury recently imprison Chelsea Manning for refusing to testify against Mr. Assange? This had nothing to do with the DNC e-mail release.

    • Pamela Anderson visits Julian Assange in prison

      “Obviously, it’s been very difficult to see Julian here. And to make our way through the prison to get to him has been quite shocking and difficult,” Anderson told reporters afterward, protesting his “unfair” treatment. “He does not deserve to be in a supermax prison. He has never committed a violent act. He’s an innocent person.”

    • UN Working Group Criticises UK Court Over Julian Assange Imprisonment

      The Working Group issues the following statement:

      “The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is deeply concerned about this course of action including the disproportionate sentence imposed on Mr. Assange. The Working Group is of the view that violating bail is a minor violation that, in the United Kingdom, carries a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison, even though the bond related to the bail has been lost in favour of the British Government, and that Mr. Assange was still detained after violating the bail which, in any case should not stand after the Opinion was issued. The Working Group regrets that the Government has not complied with its Opinion and has now furthered the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Mr. Assange.

      It is worth recalling that the detention and the subsequent bail of Mr. Assange in the UK were connected to preliminary investigations initiated in 2010 by a prosecutor in Sweden. It is equally worth noting that that prosecutor did not press any charges against Mr. Assange and that in 2017, after interviewing him in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, she discontinued investigations and brought an end to the case.

      The Working Group is further concerned that Mr. Assange has been detained since 11 April 2019 in Belmarsh prison, a high-security prison, as if he were convicted for a serious criminal offence. This treatment appears to contravene the principles of necessity and proportionality envisaged by the human rights standards.

      The WGAD reiterates its recommendation to the Government of the United Kingdom, as expressed in its Opinion 54/2015, and its 21 December 2018 statement, that the right of Mr Assange to personal liberty should be restored.”

    • The persecution of Assange and Manning is an attack on the working class

      Today, the most prominent class war prisoners in the world are WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange and the courageous whistleblower Chelsea Manning. They are being ruthlessly persecuted by the most powerful governments in the world for their services to the international working class.

      Assange and Manning have committed no crime. They are being targeted for exposing the illegal wars, mass surveillance operations and daily diplomatic conspiracies of the US and all of its allies.

      At this celebration of international May Day, the World Socialist Web Site, the International Committee of the Fourth International and all its sections commit to deepening our protracted campaign against the attempts to extradite Assange to the US and to win his freedom. We also pledge to expand our struggle for the immediate release of Chelsea Manning. This is a decisive political fight for the working class and for all defenders of democratic rights.

      We have gathered just over three weeks since Assange was dragged from Ecuador’s London embassy and arrested by the British police. Footage of a very ill, world-renowned journalist being manhandled by six British cops and wincing at his first exposure to sunlight in seven years will live in history as a milestone in the decay of bourgeois democracy and the turn to authoritarianism by governments around the world.

    • Media Critic David Barsamian Calls Julian Assange Arrest A Free Speech Issue

      On Thursday, April 25th, Tony Castaneda speaks with David Barsamian, host of Alternative Radio, about the recent arrest of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

    • Video: At Sydney rally Assange’s father demands Australian government secure son’s release

      Protesters at a demonstration in Sydney last Friday were addressed by John Shipton, Julian Assange’s father, Socialist Equality Party election candidate Oscar Grenfell, journalist Mary Kostakidis, psychologist Dr Lissa Johnson, Greg Barnes, the WikiLeaks founder’s chief Australian lawyer and others. Speakers at the event, held on World Press Freedom Day, demanded that the Australian government act to secure Assange’s freedom.

    • Former intelligence analyst charged with leaking classified info to reporters

      A former U.S. intelligence analyst was arrested Thursday and charged with providing classified information to several reporters from The Intercept. According to federal officials, the analyst repeatedly met with investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill before giving him secret documents detailing the U.S. military’s drone strike operations in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen.

      According to the indictment, Daniel Everette Hale was enlisted in the U.S. Air Force from July 2009 to July 2013, during which time he received language and intelligence training. While serving on active duty, Hale was assigned to work at the National Security Agency (NSA) and deployed to Afghanistan as an intelligence analyst.

    • Edward Snowden: Assange’s Arrest and the Mueller Report Show a ‘Two-Tiered System of Justice’

      When Edward Snowden was stranded in a Russian airport, before the government of Vladimir Putin granted him asylum, he turned to WikiLeaks and their lawyers for help. Since then, Snowden has inevitably been linked to WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

      Naturally, when Snowden sat down with CYBER host Ben Makuch, we asked him what he thought about Assange’s case. For Snowden, the story about Assange’s arrest should focus more on Ecuador’s motivations, and the fact that Assange is being held to a different standard than president Donald Trump. The former NSA analyst mentioned the fact that Ecuador got $4.2 billion in funds from the International Monetary Fund in early March as a sign the country was getting closer to the West, and in turn more inclined to give up Assange.

      “Journalists who have been covering the story haven’t really been looking at that, because Julian as an individual is such a tragically flawed figure,” Snowden said.

      Snowden also criticized people who changed their minds about Assange after the 2016 election.

      “A lot of Americans now hate Julian,” he said. “Even though the sort of people who are on the center to the left part of the spectrum had been singing his praises during the Bush administration, now they’re on the other side because of his unfortunate political choices in the 2016 elections.”

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • After Applause for Ireland’s Climate Emergency Declaration, Climate Campaigners Say: ‘Now Act’

      Climate action advocates applauded the Irish Parliament on Thursday after lawmakers officially declared a climate emergency—while warning that the declaration must be accompanied by concrete action.

      Pushed by the Irish Green Party in response to the demands of the grassroots movement Extinction Rebellion, the declaration was added to a parliamentary report on climate action.

      The document calls on lawmakers to “examine how [the Irish government] can improve its response to the issue of biodiversity loss.”

    • 187 Countries Just Took ‘Crucial’ Step to Stop Rich Nations From Treating Global South as Dumping Ground for Plastic Waste

      The Basel Convention, adopted in 1989, is designed to protect human health and the environment by regulating the transportation of hazardous waste across borders. The latest meeting of parties to the convention concluded in Geneva on Friday with news of the finalized agreement.

      The new rules (pdf) were met with praise from public health and environmental advocates, who celebrated the unanimously adopted amendment as “an important tool for countries in the Global South to stop the dumping of unwanted plastic waste into their country.”

      “It’s only fair that countries should have the right to refuse plastic pollution shipped to their border,” Sirine Rached of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) said in a statement.

    • Fight Climate Change With Good Union Jobs

      Across the country, you’ll find millions of working families whose wages haven’t budged in a generation, even as the cost of living has skyrocketed.

      Many of these same communities are now getting hit hardest by floods, droughts, storms, and other climate disasters. How are workers going to withstand rising climate risks if their paychecks don’t even cover the bills, while corporate polluters rake in profits?

      Our communities don’t experience climate change and inequality as two isolated issues, but as interlinked crises.

      A Green New Deal offers an immense opportunity to tackle both crises at the speed and scale that justice and science demand. It’s a bold, essential plan to transition to a clean energy economy built on good, union jobs that leaves no worker — or community — behind.

      It’s a roadmap rooted in solid, realistic changes that are already happening. From the Midwest to the South to the coasts, communities are retrofitting buildings to save energy, replacing lead pipes to ensure clean water, and restoring green spaces to reduce climate-related flooding.

    • Sanders Says Biden’s “Middle Ground” Approach to Climate Crisis Would “Doom Future Generations”

      Without mentioning Joe Biden by name, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday slammed the centrist climate policy reportedly being crafted by the former vice president’s 2020 campaign as a dangerously inadequate approach that would “doom future generations.”

      “There is no ‘middle ground’ when it comes to climate policy,” the Vermont senator tweeted, quoting from a Reuters report on Biden’s efforts to develop a climate plan that would leave the door open to so-called “fossil fuel options.”

      “If we don’t commit to fully transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels, we will doom future generations,” wrote Sanders, who is also a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. “Fighting climate change must be our priority, whether fossil fuel billionaires like it or not.”

    • Takeaway from the UN Biodiversity Report: Time to Give Nature Some Love

      The new report on nature’s precipitous decline is… beyond alarming.

      The announcement that the specter of extinction hangs over one million species dispels any possibility of saying, “The state of the earth can’t be all that bad, can it?” That said, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) gives us a lot to work with. Tucked in the release are hints of important tools to help us pivot away from this mess. Where do we go from here? The 100-plus scientists from 50 countries have done their job and now it’s up to us—primed with our love of living things and of the special places that have enriched our souls and lives.

      One message absent from the headlines is the prospect of ecological restoration; the assessment emphasizes the need to “conserve” and “preserve.” Failing to underscore eco-restoration is, to me, a missed opportunity. The truth is that nature wants to heal herself, and will do so if given a chance or—better—a nudge; ecological systems self-organize, and all species from bacteria to grasses to beavers have a proclivity to create the conditions under which they will thrive. In my reporting I have encountered numerous examples of restored ecosystems and revived biodiversity. Most dramatic is the rehabilitation of China’s Loess Plateau, a huge, multi-year World Bank-sponsored project in which an area the size of Belgium returned to vitality. Filmmaker John D. Liu’s documentary work, shown in time-lapse, lets you watch a barren, dust-covered mountainside amass sturdy trees and turn a luxuriant green. Meanwhile, some 2.5 million people were lifted out of poverty.

      “Nature wants to heal herself, and will do so if given a chance or—better—a nudge.”

    • As More Diverted Floodwaters Head Their Way, Dolphins Keep Dying in Louisiana

      As an unprecedented amount of floodwater makes its way down the Mississippi River, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today opened the Bonnet Carre Spillway for the second time this year. Done to prevent New Orleans from being flooded, the action marks the first time the spillway, which diverts the Mississippi’s nutrient- and pollutant-heavy freshwater into Lake Pontchatrain, has been opened twice in the same year.

      The historic opening of the spillway is happening in the midst of an ongoing and mysterious dolphin die-off in the Gulf of Mexico and the same week that the United Nations released its most comprehensive report on the state of biodiversity.

    • Greenpeace to Biden: There Is No ‘Middle Ground’ On Climate

      Today, Reuters reported that Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden is pursuing a “middle ground” climate policy that will include recommitting the United States to the Paris agreement, but falls short of endorsing the Green New Deal and phasing out fossil fuels. In response, Greenpeace USA Climate Campaigner Charlie Jiang said:

      “There is no such thing as a middle ground on climate change. We either doom millions of people to climate catastrophe or we don’t. This kind of rhetoric from the frontrunner in the Democratic race is dangerous and irresponsible, especially while many of his 2020 competitors are raising the bar with their climate plans.

    • As Capitalism Fails, We Need a Roadmap to Survive Climate Change

      As we enter an era of energy transition and the effects of climate change become more dramatic, our need for new forms of economic thinking is becoming increasingly urgent. The existing economic theories and models are clearly ill-equipped to address the intertwined challenges of a massive energy shift and climate change because they are all linked to the era of material abundance and cheap energy resources. The existing economic system has failed and if it continues it will lead to inestimable catastrophic consequences. But what would the policy framework of the much-needed new economics on energy, climate and environment look alike?

    • ‘Huge Moment for Justice’: Landmark Verdict as UK Jury Acquits Extinction Rebellion Co-Founder Who Argued Necessity Defense

      On Jan. 19, 2017, Hallam wrote “divest from oil and gas” in water-soluble chalk-based spray paint on the university’s property. Hallam and Durant were arrested days later, on February 1, for spray painting the walls of the university’s Great Hall.

      “We are extremely grateful to the jury for following common sense,” Hallam said outside court Thursday, according to The Guardian. “Ordinary people, unlike the judiciary, are able to see the broader picture.”

      Durant called the charge of criminal damage he faced “ridiculous,” adding that “chalk on the wall is obviously less important than the impending catastrophe for the planet.”

    • Bull Trout Need Clean, Cool Waters and Democracy Needs Sunlight

      The Alliance for the Wild Rockies filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on May 1 for failing to respond to and comply with a Freedom of Information Act request regarding bull trout. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a bureau within the Department of the Interior and has a legal duty to respond to the public’s information requests and release the requested records.

      Since bull trout are listed as ‘threatened’ under the Endangered Species Act we requested information about bull trout dying in irrigation ditches in western Montana. Bull trout require cold, clean, and connected water, which is not found in sun-warmed irrigation ditches from which there is no escape. If we’re ever going to recover bull trout and remove them from the Endangered Species list, we have to take steps to stop needless and easily preventable fatalities, such as being stranded in irrigation ditches.

      There’s a simple and effective way to keep bull trout out of irrigation ditches by installing self-cleaning fish screens at the point of diversion. These fish screens, which are in extensive use across the West, let the water through but keep bull trout and other fish out. We asked to see if the federal agency overseeing Bull Trout recovery was implementing these simple measures to eliminate Bull Trout fatalities. But since the Trump administration refused to provide the information as required by law, we had no choice but to take the matter to court to force compliance with the federal Freedom of Information Act.

    • Let a Thousand Parks Bloom

      Fifty years ago this May, the streets south of the University of California in Berkeley were teeming with National Guard soldiers, California Highway Patrol cops, Alameda County sheriffs and cops from Berkeley, Oakland and other surrounding towns. Tear gas was being discharged in vast volumes by these forces of law and order. Police were shooting shotguns and other weapons and blood was being spilled. A young man was murdered by police. These same cops were also arresting residents without cause, tossing them into paddywagons and sending them to the county jail. There, those arrested were beaten and otherwise brutalized by the prison guards, many who seemed to take great delight in their sadism.

      It was all about a piece of land. A vacant lot that residents decided to turn into a park. A park popularly known even today as People’s Park. An action that became a line in the sand for the forces of reaction led by then Governor Ronald Reagan—who had coasted to election by demonizing antiwar students, longhaired hippies and African-Americans in general. After months of an again, off again protests in support of the May 1968 rebellion in France, against the war in Vietnam and in support of the Third World Student Strike at UC Berkeley, the building of a park on property nominally owned by the University of California would be the catalyst that caused the State to shoot and kill white youth. In my mind, it still boils down to the challenge to the idea of private property the Park represented that caused the bloody reaction by those forces hired to protect that property.

    • We’re Not the Class of 2019. We’re the Class of 0000.

      I am a second semester high school senior. For many students in my position, this is the best part of the year: the notorious “senior-slide” kicks in, chatter about life after high school fills the hallways, and we countdown the days until we get to toss our caps in the air. It’s graduation season.

      For decades, each class before mine has shared a similar experience at their graduation ceremony—an experience of time hopping, per say. Students celebrate their past academic accomplishments and look forward in anticipation of future endeavors.

      However, my graduating class will not share this experience.

      [...]

      So this graduation season, we are speaking out about the present. We are emphasizing what needs to happen now. We need zero emission, zero excuses, and zero delays—because we have zero time to waste when it comes to solving the climate crisis. Across the nation in gymnasiums, football fields, and auditoriums, commencement speakers are dedicating a minute of their speeches to talk about the need for immediate, bold climate action. Most significantly, we are giving all 2020 political candidates of both parties a choice: have a plan to get to zero emissions—or get zero of our votes.

    • To Galvanize Graduates in US, ‘Class of 0000′ Campaign Demands Zero Emissions and Zero Excuses From Lawmakers

      With graduation season about to be in full swing, a new youth-led campaign in the U.S. is set to deliver a message to commencement audiences nationwide—at colleges, high schools, and potentially lower grades as well—that this generation of outgoing students is done waiting for leaders to act on the most pressing threat now facing the world: the crisis of “catastrophic climate change.”

      Taking its name from its call for “zero emissions” and “zero excuses” from politicians, the “Class of 0000″ project is recruiting class valedictorians and student graduation speakers to deliver one unified speech, demanding immediate action to end the fossil fuel energy system which threatens civilization as we know it. The campaign is a project of grassroots groups including the Alliance for Climate Education, Sunrise Movement, Earth Guardians, Zero Hour, and iMatter.

      “How can we look forward to the next chapter of our lives when the flames of wildfires are already burning the pages of our stories?” asks Lia Harel, a high school climate activist and organizer for the campaign, in a Common Dreams op-ed published Friday. “How can we look forward to building a home with a family when the floods, hurricanes, and rising sea levels are already tearing down our walls?”

    • Twinkle Little Star

      The possibility of more than a handful of humans, if any, ever residing on Mars or anywhere in outer space are zero. Pronouncements to the contrary irresponsibly create false hope and subconsciousy or otherwise are designed to obviate the fix the awful mess that humans have created on Earth.

      The technical challenges are too great, the atmospheres too hostile and the distances too monstrous to allow any human being to travel very far from the Earth. The concept of migrations or colonizations of massible numbers of people is ludicrous. Should it ever beecome possible, it will be far too late to save our home planet. In any event, how do you feel about leaving behind a trashed out garbage dump?

    • Silicon Valley Could Care Less About Earth’s Imminent Demise

      Plenty of people and companies have had a hand in leading the globe down the destructive, possibly irreversible path to climate catastrophe. In his New York Times Best Seller, “Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?,” Bill McKibben, who has written over a dozen books about the environment and has been called “the world’s best green journalist,” fingers the Koch brothers, the Republican Party and fossil fuel companies worldwide, among countless others. This is humanity’s endgame, after all, and in a matter so serious and wide-reaching, there is plenty of blame to go around.

      While each of these actors has played their part in our environmental tragedy, however, there’s another culprit that has largely gone overlooked: Silicon Valley. In the global tech capital, McKibben found megamillionaires who are less interested in saving this planet and more invested in finding a new planet to inhabit. And the reasoning behind this destructive desire is even more perverse than many would imagine.

      “[Tech barons are] believers in some kind of techno fantasy world, where at least they will be able to survive and prosper,” McKibben tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer in the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence. “And they’re completely caught up in that world, and not paying much attention to [earth’s destruction]—in fact, they’re abetting it. We learn with each passing day more about the ways that, say, Google’s tools are being used by the oil industry to find yet more hydrocarbons that we can’t burn. … What [tech barons] and the Koch brothers don’t want is society—they don’t want the rest of us in their way. They want to do what they want to do.”

      McKibben traces this ideology, prevalent in Silicon Valley as well as other sectors of U.S. society, to such figures as Ronald Reagan, author Ayn Rand and former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who popularized an extremely individualistic worldview about life that reigned for decades.

    • Shall We Gather at the River?

      An article in the leading scientific journal Nature surveying the damming—and therefore the destruction—of the world’s rivers was reported on widely this week. The authors’ found that only a third of the globe’s 246 rivers longer than 1,000 kilometers flow uninterrupted from source to sea. These human interventions exert a devastating effects on ecosystems, drinking water, wildlife, and human populations, especially those living on sinking deltas starved of sediments previously brought by the unimpeded river. The oceans rise while the ground recedes.

      That many of these dams produce “clean” energy puts the lie to prevailing ideologies of sustainability. The Tesla drivers of the Pacific Northwest states so rich in “renewable” hydroelectric power will learn again from the Naturearticle that what really needs renewing are the region’s rivers.

      My father spent his entire professional career with the EPA, serving as a scientist in the agency from its founding in 1970 until his retirement in 2006. (He was hired by the EPA’s predecessor, the Federal Water Pollution Control Administration.) Over his last decade at EPA, he worked on a major study of the Columbia River that concluded that its dams’ impact on water quality (especially temperature) violated the terms of the Clean Water Act. His team recommended the breaching of several dams. For all the data collected and elaborate mathematical models he developed, my father would be the first to admit that you didn’t need all the science to argue for an unobstructed river. Of course, the study’s proposals for starting on the long path to restoring the Columbia’s health have not been adopted.

    • Pompeo’s Arctic Shipping Lanes

      America’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking at the prestigious Arctic Council biannual meeting in Finland, christened the Arctic meltdown: “A wonderful economic opportunity for international trade.” In a nutshell, here’s a critique of the Secretary’s advice: An ice-free Arctic reduces travel time for shipping lanes between Asia and the West by three weeks, which qualifies as one of the biggest transport revolutions since cargo planes first crossed the Atlantic in the early 20th century.

      Additionally, more goodies are at stake, as highlighted by the portly stout Secretary in his address to the biannual in Finland: “Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals. Pompeo also called the region, which has lost nearly 90,000 square miles of sea ice since last year, the forefront of opportunity and abundance. It houses 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil, 30 percent of its undiscovered gas, an abundance of uranium, rare earth minerals, gold, diamonds, and millions of square miles of untapped resources, fisheries galore, he said.” (Mike Pompeo: Reductions in Sea Ice Will Open Up Trade Opportunities, The Daily Beast, May 6, 2019)

      The Arctic is the newest frontier for commercial interests, drilling, mining, and fishing galore, with remarkably little concern for spills or accidents in one of the harshest yet most sensitive ecosystems on the planet. The Secretary also emphasized American supremacy, by putting both China and Russia on notice for their “aggressive behavior.”

      Surprisingly, there is a silver lining within this exercise of pomposity and heavy-duty bombast by Mr. Secretary ignoring, rejecting the inherent dangers of global warming and clearly stating a preference for complete meltdown of the Arctic. Thereafter, the most powerful forces of nature will be un-leashed much sooner than would otherwise be the case. Still, there is a surprising silver lining to all of this nonsense.

    • US Plays Word Games in Arctic Council Consensus While Ignoring Indigenous People

      This is why the Arctic matters to us all: The Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the planet, showing temperature increases twice as large as global averages.

      “Sea ice, snow cover, glaciers and permafrost are all diminishing due to Arctic warming. Vulnerable ecosystems in the Arctic are under threat,” reports the Arctic Council. “Climate change causes rapidly changing living conditions for 4 million Arctic inhabitants. Hunting, fishing and herding activities are threatened by changes in snow and ice conditions. Traditional livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples in the Arctic are at risk.”

      So Arctic governments, including Indigenous representatives, have been using the tool of consensus in order to meet that challenge. The Arctic Council includes eight Arctic nations: Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden, and the U.S. In addition, it’s the only member-state organization that includes six Indigenous permanent members representing the Aleut, Inuit, Athabaskan, Gwich’in, Sami, and Russian Indigenous Peoples of the North.

      “Combating climate change is an urgent common challenge for the international community and requires immediate global action,” the Arctic Council members said in unified statements of one kind or another for more than a decade.

    • US hits milestone of 2 Million Home Solar Installations, to double by 2023

      Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) just released a report showing that there are 2 million solar home installations in the United States. That is enough to power 12 million homes. (There are 127 million households in the US, and about 64% of Americans own a home).

      It was only in 2016 that the country hit 1 million, after 40 years of the new technology.

      By two years from now, the number of solar home installations will climb to 3 million, and in 2023 it will climb to 4 million, having doubled in 4 years. By 2024, new home panels will be installed at the rate of one a minute.

    • The United States surpasses 2 million solar installations

      Wood Mackenzie forecasts that there will be 3 million installations in 2021 and 4 million in 2023, continuing the swift rise of solar.

      California represented 51 percent of the first million installations but accounted for 43 percent of the second million. This is in large part due to a growing residential sector that is rapidly diversifying across state markets. South Carolina, for instance, was an emerging market in 2016 with 1,160 cumulative installations. Today, the state is home to more than 18,000 solar systems and is expected to add 22,000 systems over the next five years.

    • What People in Kentucky Coal Country Really Think About a Green New Deal

      In late March, Republican Rep. Andy Barr of Kentucky — a member of the Congressional Coal Caucus — invited Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York to come to his state to talk with coal miners about what her proposed Green New Deal “would mean for their families, their paychecks.” The invitation came after Ocasio-Cortez spoke passionately in Congress against the idea that aggressively tackling climate change is something that matters only to rich, coastal elites.

      Ocasio-Cortez readily embraced Barr’s invitation to visit Appalachia, but a couple weeks later, when she criticized another Republican congressman, Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw from Texas, for his condemnation of Rep. Ilhan Omar — Barr demanded Ocasio-Cortez apologize to his colleague before visiting. The public drama continued to escalate, with Ocasio-Cortez saying the GOP is clearly “getting scared” of her coming to Kentucky, where constituents “will realize I’m fighting harder for their healthcare than their own Reps.

      While some in Kentucky chuckled over the fact that Barr’s legislative district doesn’t actually have any coal mines, activists nonetheless say they understand that any successful Green New Deal will require engaging those most directly affected by the energy transition, like those living in West Virginia and Kentucky.

      Forty-four-year-old Scott Shoupe offers a model of what’s possible. Shoupe spent 22 years working as an underground coal miner in eastern Kentucky, and finally left the industry last April. He has black lung, two ruptured vertebrae and other health problems. Feeling generally burnt out, Shoupe said he knew the coal industry was headed for an irreversible decline, yet he didn’t know what he could do instead. (The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects coal production will decline through 2040 in Central Appalachia.)

      Shoupe eventually enrolled in a six-month job retraining internship, sponsored by the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, a local nonprofit. Interns are paid hourly wages and health benefits while earning credentials for a wide range of energy efficiency skills, like solar paneling and weatherization. After graduating from the internship program, Shoupe started his own consulting business, where he now works on energy efficiency and renewables for commercial and residential clients. He says that while he took a pay cut to participate in the internship, he thinks by the end of his first year of business he’ll be earning more money than he did when he worked as a miner.

  • Finance

    • Netizens of the World, Unite!

      Step into the world of the awesomely affluent and you’ll find plenty of super rich with a simple explanation for their good fortune. I’m creating wealth, the claim typically goes, with the brilliantly “disruptive” new product or service I’ve invented.

      Our high-tech rich have always seemed particularly partial to claiming this inventor status. But this tech elite, many of us are coming to understand, actually owes much more of its wealth to extraction than invention.

      [...]

      But today’s digital dynasties have maneuvered themselves into an extractive sweet spot that even the fossil-fuel crowd hasn’t been able to reach. Fossil-fuel kingpins have to buy or lease the land they dig into. They end up paying at least a little, in other words, for the wealth they extract. The kingpins of our Internet Age get the value they extract for free.

      That value — the data from Internet interactions — comes from us. We give it up at no charge whenever we go online. High-tech companies track what we do there and mix in the information we key into this or that program or application, then package the resulting data for sale. And not just tech companies are playing this game.

    • New York Regulator Launches Investigation Into TurboTax Maker Intuit and H&R Block

      New York’s Department of Financial Services, one of the most powerful state regulators in the country, has launched an investigation into Intuit, the maker of the leading tax preparation software TurboTax, according to a person familiar with the matter.

      DFS is also investigating H&R Block and two other tax prep companies.

      The agency served subpoenas to all four companies this week, seeking a wide range of documents about the Free File program and the companies’ marketing practices. The tax software industry has an agreement with the IRS promising to give free tax preparation and filing services to Americans who earn below $66,000 a year.

      In a series of stories in recent weeks, ProPublica has detailed how the companies had a deliberate strategy to steer customers away from the free product and into paid versions in deceptive ways. The companies hid their free offerings from Google, and Intuit lied to some customers who sought refunds in the wake of the reporting.

    • US marks 150 years of Transcontinental railroad

      When the two trains met in 1869, crewmen were pictured toasting the moment with bottles of whiskey.

      The achievement was announced across the country by telegraph with the single-word message “done.”

    • Socialism and Workers’ Coops

      Actually existing socialisms since the 1917 Soviet revolution leave a rich legacy: aspects to build on, aspects to reject. Collective consumption (free education, medical care, subsidized housing, transport, etc.) is among the first and party dictatorship is among the second. Those socialisms’ complex histories also leave a legacy of what went missing from them. Identifying and evaluating missing elements can provide today’s socialist movements with better means to surpass capitalism than earlier socialist movements had.

      Traditional socialisms stressed macro-level social changes. The promoted socialized over private property in means of production, socially planned distribution of resources and products rather than distribution via market exchange. They abandoned some limited efforts at democratizing enterprise structures relatively early and reverted to the employer-employee model of enterprise organization. The early ideas of socialism that had sometimes included democratized or cooperativized enterprises gave way to a concept of socialism that adopted the employer-employee structure as somehow necessary and universal.

      Thus what went missing in most actually existing socialisms was a genuinely socialized enterprise as the economic foundation of production and distribution. Those of us banging the drums for a recognition of the importance of promoting and building democratic worker coops are motivated in part by the need to respond to what was missing before. We seek to ADD a dimension that was absent, not to displace the positive achievements of both the actually existing socialisms and the social movements seeking transitions beyond capitalism. Indeed, we are motivated by the further belief that some of the negative aspects of actually existing socialisms were consequences of what was missing from them. That makes it doubly important to identify and supply what was missing.

    • War on Venezuela?

      Mix a little socialism in with the oil and war may be unavoidable.

      Thus, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, talking about Venezuela: “The president has been crystal clear and incredibly consistent. Military action is possible. If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do.”

      He goes on, demonstrating how we lie about war in the 21st century: “We’re trying to do everything we can to avoid violence. We have asked all the parties involved not to engage in that kind of activity. We’d prefer a peaceful transition of government there, where (President Nicolas) Maduro leaves and a new election is held. But the president has made clear, in the event that there comes a moment — and we’ll all have to make decisions about when that moment is, and the president will ultimately have to make that decision — he is prepared to do that, if that’s what’s required.”

      With our trillion dollar military budget, threatening (and waging) war is pretty much the only thing we know how to do as a nation, and by “we” I mean the ones in control, publicly and/or secretly — the ones whose egos have expanded to the size of the nation, who mean themselves when they say “that’s what the United States will do.” There’s something about “becoming” a nation that allows you to value your so-called interests far more than you value life — a monstrous paradox to which the whole planet is hostage.

    • Are Democrats Finally Turning on Charter Schools?

      The politics of charter schools have changed, and bipartisan support for these publicly funded, privately controlled schools has reached a turning point. A sure sign of the change came from Democrats in the House Appropriations Committee who have proposed a deep cut in federal charter school grants that would lower funding to $400 million, $40 million below current levels and $100 million less than what the Trump administration has proposed. Democrats are also calling for better oversight of charter schools that got federal funding and then closed.

      This is a startling turn of events, as for years, Democrats have enthusiastically joined Republicans in providing federal grants to create new charter schools and expand existing ones.

      In explaining this change in the politics of charter schools, pundits and reporters will likely point to two factors: the unpopularity of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, an ardent charter school proponent, and teachers’ unions that can exert influence in the Democratic Party. But if the tide is truly turning on bipartisan support for charter schools, it is the charter industry itself that is most to blame.

      [...]

      The growing divide over charter schools in the Democratic Party is a reflection of what’s happening among voters. A recent Gallup survey showed support for charters among Democrats eroding from 61 percent in 2012 to 48 percent, while Republican support remained steady at 62 percent over the same five years.

    • Cuba to Ration Food in Wake of Economic Crisis

      Commerce Minister Betsy Díaz Velázquez told the state-run Cuban News Agency Friday that various forms of rationing would be employed in order to deal with shortages of staple foods. She blamed the hardening of the U.S. trade embargo by the Trump administration. Economists give equal or greater blame to a plunge in aid from Venezuela.

    • The Remarkable Mothers of Social Security

      This Mother’s Day, let’s celebrate the remarkable Mothers of Social Security. Without them, this essential program may never have been born. It certainly would be much less successful and effective.

      The Mothers of Social Security pushed for an expansive, ambitious program. When necessary, they fiercely resisted men too cautious to embrace their bold vision. All of us benefit immensely from their work—particularly women, for whom Social Security’s modest benefits are especially important.

      Best known of Social Security’s many mothers is Frances Perkins, the first female member of a presidential Cabinet in the history of the country. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt first asked Perkins to become Secretary of Labor, she told him that she would only accept his history-making offer if he agreed to fully support her fight for Social Security, as well as other significant measures to increase all of our economic security. He did. True to her principles and values, she was a driving force behind the healthy start of Social Security, from the system’s conception to its birth and its early growth.

      A less-known pathbreaker was Dr. Barbara Nachtrieb Armstrong, the first tenured female law professor in the country. A Ph.D. economist, she taught both law and economics at Berkeley and authored a landmark treatise, Insuring the Essentials, an exhaustive study of social insurance and minimum wage programs around the world.

    • The Exploitative Gig Economy Is Not “the Future of Work”

      It was back in 2015 that Obama administration alum David Plouffe, freshly decamped to Silicon Valley, first suggested that the gig economy was “the future of work.”

      On-demand platforms like Uber will continue to grow, Plouffe declared, because they’ve found a new means to offer workers something they desperately need: an easy way to make a quick buck in a tough economy. While Uber wasn’t providing healthcare or overtime pay to its drivers — deemed “partners” by the company — it offered them flexibility.

      “When you look at the full picture of how people are truly using these platforms and seizing these economic opportunities,” wrote Plouffe in a Medium post, “it’s clear that this is much more of an opportunity to be seized than a problem to be solved.”

      “The future of work” soon became the phrase that launched a thousand conference panels. Even though gig workers comprise no more than one percent of the U.S. workforce, according to the latest estimates, Silicon Valley has attempted to propagate the myth that we have entered a brave new world where the old rules no longer apply — those rules being basic labor protections and collective bargaining rights.

      But the defining feature of the gig economy has never been workers accepting jobs through an app on their phone: it’s that they work with no benefits, no job security and no unions. And it’s this model of the future, in which workers are more fully fungible, that is being promoted not only by tech acolytes, but also by traditional employers and the American Right.

      A March report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) details how hotel chains Marriott and Hilton, as well as the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council and the Cato Institute, have thrown their weight behind “a far-reaching, multi-million-dollar influence campaign” to rewrite worker classification standards at every level of government.

      As the NELP report explains, “Gig companies are simply using new-fangled methods of labor mediation to extract rents from workers, and shift risks and costs onto workers, consumers, and the general public.”

      Yet despite all this effort, rideshare drivers nationwide took a page out of the labor movement’s playbook on Wednesday and went on strike.

    • ‘If Mnuchin Doesn’t Comply, Throw Him in Jail’: House Democrats Subpoena Trump Tax Returns

      After Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin repeatedly refused to comply with requests to hand over President Donald Trump’s tax returns—which some legal experts say is clearly required under federal law—the House Ways and Means Committee late Friday subpoenaed both Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig for the documents.

      “The IRS is under a mandatory obligation to provide the information requested,” states the subpoena. “The IRS has had more than four weeks to comply with the committee’s straightforward request. Therefore, please see the enclosed subpoena.”

      [...]

      On Wednesday, as Common Dreams reported, the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report and all underlying evidence.

      In the face of the Trump White House’s refusal to comply with congressional oversight efforts, progressives have urged Democrats to begin sending administration officials to jail.

      The same goes for Mnuchin, writer Thor Benson tweeted Friday.

    • In Your Face Income Inequality

      The delivery trucks have been driving on a driveway next to mine in the rural Berkshires of western Massachusetts for eight months. They drive home (no pun intended here) income inequality in a way that other experiences cannot.

      The home that I write about here is a second home on well over thirty acres of farmland. There are two separate houses on the land and a gargantuan pool building beside an outdoor pool. The houses and land sold for about $1 million in 2013, and two major construction projects have gone on there since its purchase. This real estate is similar to scores of others in the area that are lived in for only weeks out of the year. Many of these homes have the same pristine, well-manicured dollhouse appearance. These McMansions dot the landscape across the country and further the correct perception that socially, economically, and politically, something is indeed rotten in Denmark.

      Compare these real estate enclaves with the fact that the population of the Berkshires (the hills and small mountains in this part of Massachusetts) has been falling for decades. A perusal of the job ads in the area showed hourly wages for average people pegged at around $12.

      Back to the house on the hill. The current remodeling that has gone on for the better part of a year must have cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000. I am no expert at this cost guessing, but I probably am close in this estimate and this is the second time the homeowners have remodeled this real estate since 2013. Suppose the cost was $200,000 or $300,000, the point would be the same.

    • In Show of ‘Breathtaking Cruelty,’ Trump White House Unveils Plan That Would Evict Tens of Thousands of Children From Public Housing

      Using the federal agency that oversees public housing to wage its latest attack on immigrants, the Trump administration has proposed a rule that critics warn would result in tens of thousands of children being evicted from their homes.

      Weeks after announcing it would tighten restrictions on undocumented immigrants who live in public housing, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) unveiled a proposal on Friday which would take away all housing aid from families with at least one member who is an undocumented immigrant.

      An analysis by HUD openly admitted that the rule would likely have a major impact on about 25,000 families with “mixed” immigration status, putting many at risk for homelessness—with extremely limited benefits for families that are currently waiting for apartments in public housing complexes.

      Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, called the proposal “a callous action by HUD and Secretary Ben Carson.”

    • Chinese Envoy Says U.S. Trade Talks Continue After Tariffs Hike

      China’s leading envoy to trade talks in Washington says the failure to strike a deal in the tariffs war with the U.S. was “just a small setback” and negotiations will continue despite increases in import duties on American imports from China.

      In comments to reporters before he left Washington for Beijing on Friday, Vice Premier Liu He said he was cautiously optimistic but that a deal would require the Trump administration to agree to end the punitive tariffs it has imposed on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese goods.

      In comments carried by China’s state-run CCTV, Liu said the remaining differences are crucial ones having to do with principles, “and we will make no concessions on matters of principle.”

      Still, he said he did not believe the negotiations had broken down.

    • Targeting China: It’s About Politics Not Trade

      Trade? It’s no big deal. Politics? That’s the issue.

      The trade spat between the United States and China isn’t about deficits or tariffs. It’s about Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan.

      The view from Beijing is that Republicans and Democrats are united in the bogeyman belief. Someone to blame. The China threat. Donald Trump’s anti-China message helped him win these states, and he knows that the path to the Oval Office door runs through them again in 2020.

      Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama believed that

      China’s integration into the global economy would lead it to democratize and US dominance at Beijing’s doorstep in East Asia would continue. It was a miscalculation that bordered on the naïve. Domestically, China has been increasingly repressive since Xi Jinping became president but its economy has gradually opened up.

      The US Chamber of Commerce in 2018 said in a study on intellectual property that “unlike many of its developing economy peers, China is making concrete progress in building a 21st century national IP environment.”

      The reason for his is not based on altruism but on reality. Chinese companies have grown better at invention. Consequently, Beijing has a stake in creating (albeit slowly) a legal system that protects inventions from being ripped off. China is making the very transition that previous US presidents hoped it would. But politically it’s better to target China. The politics of distraction. Be tough on China, never run the risk of being soft on Beijing. Reds under the bed. Hardly surprising as they probably made it in the first place, along with your computer, electrical appliances and your clothing.

      Beijing has one great fear, the “middle-income trap”. This could trigger instability. The unwritten agreement between Beijing and the Chinese people is you stay out of politics, we’ll make it worth your while. This means that rising wages must not undermine the advantage of China as a center of low-cost manufacturing before it develops the capacity to produce higher-value goods. Assembling, the rationale goes, must be replaced by invention otherwise economic growth will stagnate and popular unrest will follow.

    • Why Wisconsin Should Renegotiate Its Foxconn Contract

      Gov. Tony Evers should renegotiate Wisconsin’s contract with Taiwan’s electronics giant, Foxconn. Foxconn has repeatedly changed the terms of the original deal. Our governor and legislative leaders have a responsibility to respond by protecting the interests of Wisconsin.

      It has been more than two years since Gov. Scott Walker negotiated the largest taxpayer-funded state subsidy to a foreign corporation in U.S. history. While Wisconsin and Mount Pleasant have lived up to the terms of the agreement, investing close to $1 billion and evicting local homeowners, Foxconn has not.

      Foxconn contracted to invest $10 billion in a massive liquid crystal display Gen 10.5 plant, employing 13,000 manufacturing workers at an average salary of $35,000.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Shelter from the Storm

      That capitalism lies at the root of our problems is, however, only part of our predicament. The other part of the problem is that the governments of the world, particularly the Western world, are dedicated to the perpetuation of this system. The people in power derive their power from the capitalist system. The whole capitalist system favors the rich, and the way it has been implemented allows the rich to continue to perpetuate their exploitation of the poor.

      The politicians elected to manage the capitalist system are put in place by the rich. Because it costs a lot of money to run an election campaign, the rich have an overwhelming advantage. They have been able to buy their candidates, and have therefore been able to gain control over the governments themselves.

      So the rich control the governments, and the governments control us. The governments are incredibly powerful, and they are incredibly dangerous. The governments are able to monitor our every action and interaction. They surveil us wherever we go. They have amassed militarized police forces which stand prepared to crush any who dares to throw off their chains and stand against these tyrants. They are ready to maintain their control over the world by any means necessary. They are prepared to go to war. In fact they already are at war, and the battle is now heating up.

    • India at Crossroads—Far-Right, Right, or Left?

      General elections that are conducted once every five years are underway in India and voting will end on May 19th. Held in seven phases for over a month, every adult citizen gets to choose the members that will represent their constituency in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Parliament that subsequently decides the government at the Center.

      Indian elections are a spectacle that celebrates political democracy where people, irrespective of caste, class, and gender, stand in line to exercise their franchise. However, the current election goes beyond this routine festival as it is considered to decide the future of the pluralist ethos and secularism of Indian society. It has been called as the battle for the ‘soul’ and ‘idea’ of India.

    • Trump Lawyer Giuliani Threatens, Then Abandons, Ukraine Trip

      Democrats denounced a plan by President Donald Trump’s personal attorney to push Ukraine to open investigations that he hopes could benefit Trump politically, saying it was an overt attempt to recruit foreign help to influence a U.S. election.

      But lawyer Rudy Giuliani has scrapped plans to visit Ukraine, citing concerns about who he would be dealing with there.

      “I’ve decided … I’m not going to go to the Ukraine,” Giuliani told Fox News on Friday night. “I’m not going to go because I think I’m walking into a group of people that are enemies of the president … in some cases enemies of the United States, and in one case an already convicted person who has been found to be involved in assisting the Democrats with the 2016 election.”

      Giuliani had said earlier that he would to travel to Kiev in the coming days to urge the government to investigate the origins of special counsel Robert Mueller’s recently concluded probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, and the involvement of former Vice President Joe Biden’s son in a gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch.

      Joe Biden is the early Democratic front-runner to challenge Trump in the 2020 election. The Biden campaign has denied that Biden or his son, Hunter, did anything improper.

    • Biden Pledged Not to Take Special Interest Money, But Not His PAC

      In his bid to become the Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden pledged to reject contributions from lobbyists and corporate PACs. But he has quietly taken in more than $30,000 in donations from corporate interests through a political action committee that he created in 2017.

      Biden founded American Possibilities in 2017 to support Democrats in the midterm elections. The group took about $29,000 in donations from federal lobbyists and $5,000 from a PAC affiliated with Masimo, a medical device company.

      The former vice president, who announced his campaign last month, has already come under scrutiny for relying upon lobbyists and other well-connected supporters to host his first fundraiser. Although the lobbyist and PAC donations represent barely 1 percent of the money received by American Possibilities, the contributions underscore Biden’s history of close relationships with lobbyists and special interests. (Biden’s campaign did not return requests for comment.)

      American Possibilities has been especially important to Biden’s presidential ambitions. The PAC helped pay for a political staff after Biden left office in 2017, and it was recently given access to former President Barack Obama’s massive email list of supporters. Two days before Biden announced his presidential bid, American Possibilities sent messages to people on the Obama list and offered recipients the chance to “be the first to know” about Biden’s plans.

    • Biden’s Middle-of-the-Road Climate Plan Condemned as “Stunningly Un-Ambitious” and a “Death Sentence for Livable Planet”

      When it comes to saving the planet and humanity from climate crisis, there is no time for “middle ground.”

      That was the gist of a slew of reactions Friday after Reuters reported that the climate change policy currently being drafted by Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign is “a middle ground approach” that backs some fossil fuel options and curtails a more ambitious path to address the crisis.

      Reuters said the approach “could put him in a better position than his rivals to take on Trump if it accommodates blue-collar voters”—a suggestion that one writer characterized as a “BS rationalizing narrative.”

    • Trump’s new immigration scheme: Deputize local cops as ICE agents, even in sanctuary cities
    • When Will the Contented Classes Rise Up in Rebellion?

      For all the rhetoric and all the charities regarding America’s children, the U.S. stands at the very bottom of western nations and some other countries as well, in terms of youth well-being. The U.S.’s exceptionalism is clearest in its cruelty to children. The U.S. has the highest infant mortality rate of comparable OECD countries. Not only that, but 2.5 million American children are homeless and 16.2 million children “lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis.”

      The shamelessness continues as the youngsters increase in age. The Trump regime is cutting the SNAP food program for poor kids. In 2018, fewer children were enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP than in 2017. To see just how bad Trump’s war on poor American children is getting, go to the web sites of the Children’s Defense Fund and the Children’s Advocacy Center.

      Trump brags about a robust economy—still, however, rooted in exploitation of the poor and reckless Wall Street speculation with people’s savings.

    • New Suffragists Fight to Gain Ballot for Incarcerated People

      Republicans in the largest swing state have already begun chipping away at civil rights activists’ biggest victory in the movement to restore voting rights to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people with felony convictions.

      After Florida voters overwhelmingly passed a ballot measure reversing the state’s lifetime voting ban for most people convicted of felonies who have completed their sentences, the GOP-controlled state Senate voted for a bill that would drastically limit the number of people who will be allowed to cast ballots in next year’s presidential election.

      Senate Republicans voted along party lines last week to pass a bill implementing the constitutional amendment approved by voters with a major caveat: The bill would require all financial obligations ordered by a judge be paid before people can vote. Civil rights activists have decried the change as a new poll tax that could keep tens of thousands from the ballot box.

      The move comes as the debate over allowing incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people to vote continues to divide the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. Sen. Bernie Sanders boldly called for restoring voting rights to all people with felony convictions, including those behind bars, at a presidential town hall last month, a position that is not shared by any other major candidate.

    • Meritocracy is a Lie

      In 2017, Sociology Professor Rachel Sherman wrote “Uneasy Street: The Anxiety of Affluence” a book which drew upon 50 in-depth interviews with Uber-wealthy New Yorkers in order to obtain a picture of just how they perceived their status.

      Sherman found that her interviewees, all in the top 1-2 percent of income or wealth or both, had thoroughly imbibed the narrative of meritocracy to rationalize their affluence and immense privileges. That is, they believed they deserved all their money because of hard work and individual effort. Most identified themselves as socially and political liberal and took pains to distinguish themselves from “bad” rich people who flaunt their wealth. Although one unselfconsciously acknowledged “I used to say I was going to be a revolutionary but then I had my first massage.”

      One striking characteristic was that these folks never talk about money and obsess over the “stigma of privilege.” One typical respondent whose wealth exceeded $50 million told Sherman, “There’s nobody who knows how much money we spend. You’re the only person I’ve ever said the numbers to out-loud.” Another couple who had inherited $50 million and lived in a penthouse had the post office change their mailing address to the floor number because PH sounded “elite and snobby.” Another common trait was removing the price tags from items entering the house so the housekeeper and and staff didn’t see them. As if the nanny didn’t know…

      Her subjects (who remained anonymous) readily acknowledged being extremely advantaged but remained “good people, normal people,” who work hard, are careful about ostentatious consumption, and above all, “give back.” They spend considerable time trying to legitimate inequality and Sherman concludes they’ve largely succeeded in feeling “morally worthy.”

    • Bernie Sanders and the Movement That Might Have Been

      As I gird my loins for a renewed ideological struggle against Bernie Sanders’s bid to become the Democratic Party’s nominee to run against Donald Trump, I thought it advisable to get up to speed by reading Jeffrey St. Clair’s “Bernie & The Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution” that was published in 2016. Since Sanders will be running the same kind of campaign he ran in 2016, I hoped to find material that might change the minds of millennials about Democratic Party politics. Back in 1968, when I was a zealous young Trotskyite, I used to love selling the party’s “Truth Kits” about Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy. I may have changed my mind about the usefulness of Trotskyism but there will always be a need for holding Democratic Party politicians up for scrutiny even when it is someone like Bernie Sanders, who helped the SWP get on the ballot in Vermont in 1980 when he was about to become a third-party Mayor of Burlington. God knows that I would be a strong supporter if he ran as an independent next year. I even wrote a speech that he could have used if he had done so in 2016.

      Leaving aside the usefulness of “Bernie & The Sandernistas” as an armory of arguments about supporting Democratic Party candidates, even ones that call themselves socialists, St. Clair’s book is great fun to read. With the death of Hunter Thompson in 2005 and Alexander Cockburn in 2012, there are very few journalists—maybe none—who have the ability to go for the jugular. For those on the Marxist left, especially the now disbanded ISO, there was always the tendency to soften the blows against Sanders so as not to alienate a potential recruit. Since St. Clair has little interest in becoming a cult leader, he lets the chips fall where they may.

    • Bright Shiny Medals

      People applauded, cameras clicked, and, away from the action, snarky comments were made, all in response to Donald Trump issuing the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom to professional golfer Eldrick “Tiger” Woods, winner of last month’s Masters Tournament.

      While Trump acolytes viewed the award as not only fitting but auspicious—arguably the greatest golfer in history being honored by, arguably, the greatest president in history—cynics saw it as a transparent attempt by Trump to court the African-American vote, and, tangentially encourage black athletes to stop boycotting the White House.

      But in truth, of all of the calculated and self-aggrandizing stunts Trump has pulled, this wasn’t one of them. In fact, give him credit for doing something “normal” for a change, because this was pretty much right out of White House playbook. If anyone deserved the medal, Tiger did. Paul “Bear” Bryant (via Ronald Reagan) and Richard Petty (via George H.W. Bush) each got one. Why shouldn’t Tiger?

      A bit of history. The Presidential Medal of Freedom was established in 1963, by John F. Kennedy. According to its charter statement, it is to be awarded by the President of the United States “for especially meritorious contribution to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

      It’s been said that Great Britain’s monarchy bestows knighthoods on deserving commoners, and the U.S. hands out Presidential Medals of Freedom. It’s a fair analogy. Because we Americans pretend to be down-to-earth egalitarians living in a meritocracy, we don’t believe in fancy titles, which is to say, most people, including hardcore football fans, would be uncomfortable referring to Coach Bryant as “Sir Bear.”

      In any case, no president has awarded more Medals of Freedom than Barack Obama, who gave them out like door prizes at a church social. During his two terms in office, he issued a whopping 123 of them. Not only did he give one to Stephen Hawking, Desmond Tutu, and Oprah, he even gave one to his buddy and ex-running mate, Joe Biden.

    • Episode 27: White Nationalists; White Separatists; and Black Extremists

      On this episode of Along the Line, Dr. Dreadlocks Nicholas Baham III, Dr. Nolan Higdon, and Janice Domingo analyze the terms Nationalists; Separatists; and Extremists as they relate to racial and ethnic movements in the U.S.

    • Death to the Stump Speech

      Throughout 2016 the presidential candidates who were not Donald Trump complained to Jeffrey Zucker.

      “You showed hours upon hours of unfiltered, unscrutinized coverage of Trump!” Todd Harris, an advisor to Senator Marco Rubio, shouted at the head of CNN during a panel discussion after the election. “CNN helped make [Trump] by carrying every speech he made in the primary season,” added Larry King, the former CNN anchorman. “It was almost like the other guys didn’t exist.”

      In the general election accusations of pro-Trump favoritism at CNN continued from Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.

      “If we made any mistake last year, it’s that we probably did put too many of his campaign rallies in those early months and let them run,” Zucker ultimately confessed. “Listen, because you never knew what he would say, there was an attraction to put those on the air.” Hell, Trump probably didn’t know what he was going to say before he arrived at each podium.

      He winged it, riffed off his audience, ran off at the mouth and scrammed before the country knew what hit it.

      Trump rallies are freeform jazz. Anything can happen. Quality varies but give the president this: no two performances are the same. “Trump was simply more entertaining and generating more passion,” recalled David Sillito, media reporter for the BBC.

      While Trump delivered the extemporaneous devil-may-care thrills of a candidate who doesn’t expect to win, Clinton and Trump’s primary opponents dutifully trudged the land delivering that deadliest of ought-to-be-deceased propaganda formats: the stump speech.

    • Can Democracy Save America?

      Homer, playwrights, eloquent political writers, historians and philosophers left comments, speeches and books about how Greeks governed themselves. In addition, thousands of inscriptions mention or describe persons, decisions, and institutions of political importance. Most of the surviving evidence, including that from ostracism, the ten-year banishment of politicians voters perceived dangerous, comes from Athens.

      Tradition has it that in late sixth century BCE, a man named Kleisthenes, grandson of the tyrant Kleisthenes of Sicyon, a polis in Peloponnesos, founded Athenian democracy. He defeated the Athenian tyrant and disbanded the parties supporting monarchy, oligarchy, and plutocracy.

      Furthermore, Kleisthenes reorganized Attica and Athens to give a governing role to the majority. That way freedom, justice and equality would become the pillars of democracy, rule by the people. He made certain that all citizens gathering together in the ecclesia or assembly had the supreme authority.

      However, the archons, the nine highest state magistrates, were elected from the ranks of the wealthiest Athenians and the Eupatridae, (well-born Athenians), had more chances being elected to priesthoods serving a variety of gods.

      Kleisthenes established direct democracy in Athens because the few powerful men of his time had brought Athens to the brink of civil war. Rich farmers had enslaved so many indebted peasants that the polis was headed for violent class conflict.

      Athens had a democratic constitution and government for about a century and a half, down to its defeat by Macedonia. Athenians had their ups and downs with this most difficult but enormously satisfying form of government. In the 330s BCE, they even invented a goddess of democracy.

    • How Lies Become ‘Facts’ in US ‘News’

      On Fox News Channel’s May 2nd edition of “The Story with Martha MacCallum” was alleged, by the program host (at 2:45 in this video), that one reason we must invade Venezuela (if we will) is that “People have lost 24 pounds” there. So (her point was), if we invade, that’s not evil, it’s no coup, but instead it’s humanitarian (presumably like it was in Iraq in 2003, when we invaded that country, which likewise had never invaded nor threatened to invade the United States — it was raw international aggression, by our country, against Iraq).

      Individuals who fall for a liar once, will typically fall for that liar again and again, without limit, because they are (for whatever reason) prejudiced to trust him. But is this attempt, at “regime change” in Venezuela, yet another example of that, or might it instead really be the case (this time) that (as this Fox host implies) to invade Venezuela will help the people there (gain back that lost weight, etc.), not kill many of them and destroy their nation even worse than it already was?

      So, I checked online, to find what the source was, if any, for this stunning allegation by the Fox News host. After all, such a steep a weight-loss for an entire nation would be shocking.

      If, indeed, the allegation has a scientifically trustworthy source, then there exists, somewhere, a rigorously done, statistically sound, empirical study of thousands of Venezuelans’ body-weights, in which each one of those individuals has been weighed, not only once, but twice, separated in time by two specific years, so that there exists a credible “before” weight, and “after” weight, to compare, in each one of these many individual cases, such that the study found that the average Venezuelan lost 24 pounds during that before-after time-period.

      The sample-size has to be large enough, and the sampling-method has to be randomized enough, so that the result will meet the standards of statistical reliability in order to be able to represent the entirety of the Venezuelan population. Many thousands of such scientific studies are, in fact, published each and every year, and it might have been done regarding the body-weights of Venezuelans. However, otherwise (that is, if this was not done regarding Venezuelans’ body-weights), then that Fox News host was either lying, or else deceived by other people, in order for her to have made this remarkable statement.

    • Distorting ‘Democracy’ in Venezuela Coverage

      Writing of the failed US-sponsored coup attempt in Venezuela on April 30, Uri Friedman of The Atlantic (5/1/19) referred to the Venezuelan branch of the coup as Juan “Guaidó’s pro-democracy movement.” The logical contradiction could scarcely be more pronounced: A wave of Friedman’s wand transforms a political force seeking the military overthrow of Venezuela’s elected government into a “pro-democracy movement.”

      The Venezuelan government’s current mandate comes from winning an election on May 20, 2018, observed by more than 150 members of the International Electoral Accompaniment Mission observed. In a joint report, the observers said of the agency that organizes the country’s electoral process, “The technical and professional trustworthiness and independence of the National Electoral Council of Venezuela are uncontestable.” The Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America, one of the groups that participated in the observer mission, reported that the “results communicated by the National Electoral Council reflect the will of the voters who decided to participate in the electoral process.”

    • Trump Has Defied Nearly All Subpoenas. What Can the House Do?

      After the redacted Mueller report was made public, Donald Trump tweeted, “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION.” But when the House Judiciary Committee asked to see Mueller’s full report, Trump said no way.

      The Constitution gives Congress the authority to check and balance the executive branch. That includes the power to issue and enforce subpoenas. In the 1927 Teapot Dome scandal case about government corruption, the Supreme Court held that Congress’s “power of inquiry — with process to enforce it — is an essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function.” Justice Willis Van Devanter wrote for the unanimous Court that when the Constitution was adopted, “the power of inquiry, with enforcing process, was regarded and employed as a necessary and appropriate attribute of the power to legislate — indeed, was treated as inhering in it.”

      Yet Trump has defied nearly all of the nine subpoenas and requests for testimony and/or documents that House committees have issued.

    • The Impeachment Process Itself Can Thwart Trump’s Obstruction

      The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), has dropped a subpoena on Donald Trump, Jr., firstborn son of the current president, so he may “answer questions about his previous testimony before Senate investigators in relation to the Russia investigation,” according to Axios. News of the subpoena came scant breaths after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Kentucky) did his version of George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” number by announcing that all matters pertaining to the Mueller report are over and done with, never to be spoken of again.

      Here was Mitch doing his tobacco-state best to circle the wagons before a steadily encroaching enemy. The White House has slammed the gate shut on any and all congressional oversight, including lawfully issued subpoenas from House Democrats on issues ranging from Mueller’s work to the upcoming census, and this proclamation was McConnell doing his part. The White House has also revoked the press passes of almost every journalist who covers the White House. If a constitutional crisis takes place and the press can’t report on it, did it happen?

      This is why the timing of Senator Burr’s subpoena to Don Jr. — the first such issued to a family member of the president, making it dynamite wrapped in plastic explosive stuffed down the gullet of a dead skunk — is strangely amusing if you have a thing for gallows humor. Trump and his people have made it abundantly clear that any congressperson brandishing a subpoena can take a flying copulation in a gravel driveway, yet this Republican Senate committee chairman wants to slide one under the door so the eldest son of the Republican president can answer some “collusion” questions Trump would have us believe have already been settled.

      There are moments when you must simply close your eyes, lean back, and let it all waft over you like smoke from a latrine fire. It just can’t be this weird, right? Oh, hang on, Trump has invoked executive privilege to thwart the release of the full Mueller report to Congress, even though that report, by his own shouted words, exonerates him completely. Ditto the testimony of former White House counsel Don McGahn. We are not through the looking glass, people. The looking glass is through us, like an errant javelin hurled at a drunken track and field meet.

    • ‘The President’s Obstruction Continues’: White House Reportedly Asked Key Witness to Say Trump Didn’t Obstruct Justice

      At President Donald Trump’s request, White House officials reportedly asked Don McGahn—the president’s former counsel and a key witness in the Mueller report—to say publicly that Trump never obstructed justice.

      According to the New York Times, which cited two anonymous individuals briefed on the request, the White House asked McGahn to make a public statement on obstruction “at least twice in the past month”—once before the Mueller report was released to the public and once after.

      “Mr. Trump asked White House officials to make the request to Mr. McGahn,” the Times reported on Friday. “Mr. McGahn declined. His reluctance angered the president, who believed that Mr. McGahn showed disloyalty by telling investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, about Mr. Trump’s attempts to maintain control over the Russia investigation.”

    • CIA Veteran to Chair Kent State 50th May 4 Commemoration Advisory Committee

      But many within the May 4 community are not happy with the appointment of Smith to head the committee and they took to the social media to express their revulsion at the appointment.

      “I am astounded and disgusted,” wrote Mike Alewitz, an eyewitness to the Kent State shootings. “In all the world, few organizations are as hated as the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – and rightly so. The CIA’s history for carrying out bloodshed and terrorism is unmatched by the most ruthless of repressive secret agencies.”

      “The CIA has not only been directly responsible for the torture and death of untold thousands of innocent people, it has trained and put into place the most violent forces of the world’s bloodiest dictators.”

      “Now, in an astonishing insult to the memory of the martyrs of the Kent State Massacre, the Kent State administration has named Stephanie Smith to chair the 50th May 4 Commemoration Advisory Committee.”

      “The CIA’s grisly history includes the overthrow of democratically elected governments in places like Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia and the Congo – and their subsequent replacement with the most brutal of dictators,” Alewitz wrote.

    • Sergey Dorenko, the journalist who trashed Putin’s rivals before sacrificing his career to criticize him, has died

      On May 9, television and radio journalist Sergey Dorenko suffered an aortic rupture while riding a motorcycle and fell to his death. He was 59 years old. In recent years, Dorenko had several radio programs and blogged on Twitter and YouTube, but he’s best remembered as one of Russia’s most important TV anchors in the late 1990s and early 2000s, first as the host of the show “Vremya,” and then as the face of his own news program on ORT. Dorenko is considered one of the central figures in Russia’s “media wars” of the late 90s, and in 2000 his show helped secure the first election of President Vladimir Putin, who at that time enjoyed the support of ORT owner Boris Berezovsky. Later that year, however, Dorenko was fired from the network, after a now famous broadcast about the sailors killed in the Kursk submarine disaster and the shortcomings of President Putin’s reaction. Meduza looks back at Sergey Dorenko’s life and legacy.

    • Trump’s Most Nakedly Corrupt Tweet Yet

      It used to be that I was concerned that the media was paying too much attention to Donald Trump’s tweets; now I’m concerned that they’re not paying enough. This week a random tweet from the president sunk a congressional bill destined for passage, all to please a friend and lobbyist whose clients would have been harmed by the legislation. That’s the staggeringly normal state of our modern kleptocracy, and the Democratic House can do something about it, by rethinking what it means to investigate corruption.

      The tweet came unprompted and out of nowhere. “Republicans shouldn’t vote for H.R. 312, a special interest casino Bill, backed by Elizabeth (Pocahontas) Warren. It is unfair and doesn’t treat Native Americans equally!”

    • Trump Unbound

      Let’s start with the polls most voiced in the social media/Twitter world: most Americans aren’t interested in the battle of the House of Representatives is making to bring all President Trump’s obstruction of justice evidence manifest in the Mueller report to light. That effort in the House to act as a justified prophylactic protection against executive abuse is, in the retweeted words of all the king’s men, driven by Democrats unwilling to accept Trump’s victory in 2016 and now unwilling to accept that “there was no collusion” and no obstruction of justice.

      The fact that it was Attorney General Barr’s conclusion that there was not any obstruction of justice although Mueller had left the matter as undecidable within the province of his jurisdiction but not undecidable within the province of the Congress has not pushed public opinion toward urging Congress to pursue the matter. Rather, public opinion has adopted Trump’s own claim to a complete exoneration of any obstruction of justice charges. The Republican controlled Senate has, not surprisingly, also adopted Trump’s own claim.

    • Trump’s Contempt for Democracy is Pushing Congress Toward Impeachment

      The Trump Administration’s open contempt for Congressional oversight puts Democrats in a corner. Impeachment might not be the formula for success in the 2020 presidential race. It might provoke a backlash and fire up Trump’s base. But at some point, Congress has to do its job and provide a check on executive power.

      The turning point came with Attorney General Robert Barr’s dismissive testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1, and his subsequent decision to skip his appearance in the House.

      Barr was openly contemptuous of Congress. He waved away Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s assertion that his summary of Mueller’s report was misleading, brushed aside questions about the credibility of his own previous statements under oath denying knowledge of Mueller’s objections, and outright refused to produce relevant documents. Finally, when he refused to comply with a subpoena for the full Mueller report, the House Judiciary Committee moved to hold him in contempt. The full House will decide whether to go along with that recommendation in the coming days.

      The stonewalling by the Trump Administration is making it harder and harder for the Democrats to ignore the problem of a lawless President. The political question of whether anyone cares if Trump and his enablers are lying and cheating, and whether the Democrats gain anything by pointing it out, is being overwhelmed by this administration’s brazen disregard for democratic norms.

    • Partisanship Poison in the United States

      Where, in any of this, is statesmanship? Where is the good of the nation? One might think that, if Trump did nothing to obstruct justice, the Republicans would be best served by allowing Congress to see the entire report. Wouldn’t that exonerate him?

      Well, perhaps not. But is the exoneration of the president the ultimate goal? Shouldn’t justice, the rule of law, the limits of power, the checks and balances that are supposed to exist between the different branches of government be respected?

      Trump invoked ‘executive privilege’ over the report; Democrats plan to take the matter to court. Sarah Sanders, who has, apparently, lost all ability to discern reality from fantasy, accused the House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler of committing a ‘blatant abuse of power’.

      And all this is only the latest salvo in a battle between the Republicans and the Democrats, in which the only losers will be the U.S. population. Trump seems to have an irrational hatred of all things Obama, and has tried, with some success, to undo his legacy (such as it is). He has fought tooth and nail to have the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) overturned, which would result in over 20,000,000 people losing healthcare coverage; a huge number of them are his own supporters. Republicans in Congress, by and large, support these efforts.

      Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement signed by Obama, and endorsed by the U.S. senate and the United Nations, that limited Iran’s nuclear program. It was said to have been a major step in easing tensions in the Middle East. The only country that supported the U.S. withdrawal is the same one whose leader spoke to Congress before the vote to endorse it in 2015, and urged Congress to defeat it: Israel. Despite Trump’s own advisors, the other signatories to the JCPOA, and all of the international community except Israel urging him to maintain the agreement, he withdrew. Republicans in Congress supported him.

    • Is the UK Being Hard Wired to the Fourth Reich?

      Are We Witnessing the End of the United Kingdom as an Independent Nation State?

      Ever since ‘the wrong result’ occurred at the referendum launched by then Prime Minister David Cameron, a fiasco of unprecedented proportions has been taking place in British politics. It is a depressing and, owing to the pathos, a tragi-comical spectacle.

      However, there is nothing comical about the direction things are moving in, but there is something tragic. The UK is being hijacked from within and without, simultaneously. The pretext for this dissolution of everything that holds the country together as an Independent Nation State is the collusion between leading figures in the British Civil Service and leading figures in the European Commission. That collusion is symptomatic of the technocratic march towards an ever more centralised European Super State.

      Because of the complexity of the surface Brexit story, which plays-out its contortions on the front pages of UK press day after day, I’m going to concentrate only on the key issues that remain largely hidden due to this orchestrated media smoke screen.

      Britain’s civil service once held the reputation of being largely true to its traditional role of transcribing into law the decrees of State. British Civil Servants acted out of a long established tradition to make their priority ‘the representation of the people’. The institution, which essentially acts as the first call in public administration, is historically structured to be independent of government.

      However, in recent decades, as the pressure of the ‘corporate will’ has gained an ever stronger influence over government policy, the civil service also fell victim to internal slippage – and a tendency to keep a covert ear open to the corporate cabal. As most of us know, the interests of Big Money and Big Banking are essentially united in wanting to expand their empires into ever more powerful dictatorships – and this makes them central to driving the ambitions of A New World Order in which purely material power gives those at the helm the authority to act as despots. Certain civil service operatives have recently started believing that they also have a right to a stake in a position at the top of this authoritarian pyramid.

      After Prime Minister Cameron’s political demise, Theresa May placed herself as the chief architect in negotiating a Brexit deal with the EU. She had behind her the 17.2 million UK citizens who had called for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, demanding an exit strategy to be settled and put in place without delay. May was not new to the politics of power, as head of The Home Office she was also in charge of national security and familiar with the workings of MI5 and MI6. Now, as Prime Minister, she inclined to listen to the voices of those dealing with international relations and foreign strategy, rather than the elected members of parliament to whom she is expected to report and consult.

    • We Stick With Our Stories Until We See Results

      Melissa Sanchez: Even though I’ve moved on to another project, I continue to monitor issues related to our “Driven Into Debt” series. I’m tracking the progress of legislation to end driver’s license suspensions tied to debt from unpaid parking tickets; we previously reported on how these suspensions disproportionately affect black motorists from Chicago and its suburbs. The legislation passed the state Senate but didn’t get called for a vote during a critical House committee meeting this week, making its odds of passage this year very slim. Separately, I’m also waiting to see what recommendations come out of a citywide task force studying how to make municipal fines and fees less burdensome for the poor. Those should be coming out any day now.

    • We Need to Talk About Europe

      IS ANYONE FREE to decide her own destiny? Or is the course of her life determined by prior events? Since so many of our decisions operate under constraints of various kinds — the imperative to do something or be somewhere at a fixed time — is free will an illusion? The question takes on added significance given the overwhelming economic imperative to survive in a vicious world. So much of what we desire nowadays is not so much “unthinkable” — we can always dream — as practically impossible. What hope is there of recovering possibility from a world in which the future has become as predictable as the next rent day?
      Srećko Horvat’s task in his short philosophical work Poetry from the Future is to claw back this lost horizon. Decrying neoliberal capitalism’s “slow cancellation of the future,” Horvat advocates a “hope without optimism” for transcending this bad infinity: a philosophy for the front lines.
      This approach is ingenious. The book begins by recalling an obscure BBC overseas radio broadcast from Yugoslavia during World War II, where the faction known as Partisans were fighting against the Axis Powers. “For reasons of secrecy, the reporter could not specify any location, name or rank. All the listeners know is that the broadcast is taking place somewhere in occupied Europe, in the Adriatic. All they can hear is the sound of liberation.”
      Horvat uses this “forgotten broadcast” as the trope for a series of European dispatches from “occupied territory”: from the deceptive tranquillity of Vis (the island in the Adriatic where in 1944 the broadcast was made) to contemporary front lines: the Hamburg G20 protests of 2017; the refugee camps in Calais, northern France, and those on the Macedonian border; Athens in 2015 during its David-versus-Goliath struggle against the European Union’s austerity attack.

    • Global Game of Thrones

      In 1990, when I first met the sister-in-law of Czech playwright and later president Vaclav Havel, she was a spokesperson for Civic Forum, the movement that would guide Czechoslovakia from communism to democracy. Virtually everyone in the country at the time was excited about this transformation, about voting, about the new politicians coming to the fore, about drawing a democratic line between the new age beginning and a rapidly retreating authoritarian past.

      By 2013, however, Havlova had become disenchanted with how democracy had devolved in her country, how Czechoslovakia had split in two, how corruption had proliferated, how an opportunist like economist Vaclav Klaus had steered the Czech Republic in the wrong direction.

      “I’m a monarchist,” she told me in February 2013. “I believe that some symbol of morality at a different level is important even if the symbol is just a vision of what we would like to achieve. When you have a king or a queen, who is a human being, you can understand that the symbol and the human being can differ, but you are more attached to the symbol than to the person. So I believe that monarchy is the right system. It continues over generations. It is also an issue of responsibility. Individual politicians are elected just for a few years, while a royal family lasts ages. Monarchs are responsible to the country, to history somehow.”

      [...]

      Just this past week, royalty was in the news as the Japanese emperor abdicated, a new king took the throne in Thailand, and one more child joined the British royal family. At a time of declining faith in democracy, royalty now looks “more durable than it once did” at the end of last century, opines The Economist.

      On the other hand, with wannabe monarchs like Donald Trump that show far less deference to democracy than the current occupants of Buckingham Palace and Kyoto’s Chrysanthemum Throne, who needs actual kings and queens?

    • Democrats Against Impeachment Invite Autocracy and a Loss in 2020

      Long before Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report dropped, it became crystal clear that the sitting president of the United States has committed serious crimes. We need leaders in Congress who are ready and willing to rise to the occasion by checking and balancing the executive branch. Failing to impeach will only embolden our kleptocrat-in-chief.

      Many supporters of impeachment proceedings have suggested that the House begin the process immediately. The potential grounds for impeachment seem endless: the president has obstructed justice, colluded with a foreign power, violated the emoluments clause by enriching himself through office, and made a litany of documented lies to the public, the press and policymakers themselves.

      But Democratic Party leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have insisted that impeachment proceedings are not a priority. While impeachment is still technically on the table, Pelosi claims that Trump “just isn’t worth it.”

      Her view seems to be that, since impeachment would face a tough road in the Republican-controlled Senate, this process would be doomed to failure, and thus, would become a waste of resources. That view, however, rests on several fallacies.

      To whatever extent Pelosi resigns impeachment to a partisan stonewall in the Senate, she ignores the profound effect the proceedings would have on public opinion — including sustained news cycles that could mount over months — in shifting political possibilities. She and other Democratic Party leaders are conceding our most fundamental principles, not mounting the kind of bold resistance that we need in the face of rising autocracy.

      Some have suggested that impeachment proceedings would alienate critical voters and inflame Trump supporters, damaging the party’s chances to reclaim the White House in 2020. But these are the same voices who never saw Trump coming, and whose generational deference to corporate predation has left our country at the president’s feet.

    • If ‘Constitutional Crisis’ Is Here, Say Progressives, Democrats Must ‘Act Like It’ and Impeach Trump

      A new Reuters/Ipsos survey published Thursday showed that support for impeaching Trump has risen to 45 percent, up five points since mid-April—which is around when the redacted Mueller report was made public.

      Shortly following the new polling data, Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times used her Friday column to send a straightforward message to the Democratic leadership: “If this is a constitutional crisis, act like it.”

      “[H]owever you define constitutional crisis, there’s no question we’re in a moment of constitutional hardball,” Goldberg wrote. “So far, however, only Republicans really seem to be playing.”

      Goldberg’s column was published shortly after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the Trump administration’s lawlessness has sparked a constitutional crisis, echoing House Judiciary Committee chairman’s declaration from a day earlier.

      Despite this grave warning, Goldberg noted, Pelosi “repeated the Democratic refrain that the House needs to engage in further investigation rather than impeachment.”

      “But it is incoherent to argue that Trump constitutes an existential threat to the Constitution, and that Congress should wait to use the Constitution’s primary defense against such a threat,” Goldberg argued. “There are dangers in increased Democratic combativeness, but even greater dangers in timidity.”

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Facebook rejects ads for traditional Inuit knives, calling them ‘weapons’

      He’d been advertising them for two months without issue when Facebook rejected one of his paid ads on May 4. A notification said it violated Facebook’s advertising policy that prohibits the sale of weapons on the social media site.

      “I was surprised. Like, it’s a tool for food and sewing,” Mackay said, noting he’s seen lots of ads on Facebook for kitchen knives.

      Mackay immediately requested a review of the ban and took to social media to air his frustrations.

    • Elon Musk going to trial for calling British diver a ‘pedo guy’

      Musk’s trial date is set for Oct. 22.

    • Journalist from popular Russian Telegram channel is arrested for alleged forgery, as police seize the outlet’s computers

      On May 8, police arrested Mikhail Kumbrov, the producer of the Telegram news channel Mash, on charges of document forgery, sources told the news agencies Interfax, TASS, and RBC. Kumbrov now faces up to six months in prison, up to two years of community service, or a fine as high as 80,000 rubles ($1,225). Maxim Iskanov, Mash’s CEO and co-owner, has confirmed that police have opened a criminal investigation, but he hasn’t clarified the exact charges.

      According to media reports, Kumbrov used phony documents to try to obtain a recording of the final communications between dispatchers at Sheremetyevo airport and the pilots of the Sukhoi Superjet 100 who made an emergency landing on May 5, which led to a massive fire on board that killed 41 people. Kumbrov allegedly emailed the request to the Moscow Center for Automated Air Traffic Control, posing as an official in the Attorney General’s Office. According to RBC, the center’s security service flagged the request as “suspicious.” Doubting the email’s authenticity, air traffic control authorities asked Kumbrov to resubmit his request in person. When he showed up, police arrested him.

    • The Do’s and Don’ts of Tech Regulation

      Yesterday, I was interviewed on Al Jazeera news about the Macron-Zuckerberg meeting (Warning: the linked page on Al Jazeera includes privacy-eroding trackers, including Facebook.)1 in which they apparently decided on a framework of “co-regulation.”

      This is not what I mean when I talk about the need to regulate surveillance capitalists.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Japan’s enhanced personal data protection results in providing individuals with the right to sell their data

      In response to the global trends, the Japanese government announced a policy to strengthen the personal data protection on April 25 2019. It will enhance the right for individuals to demand companies to stop using their personal information. Under the current law, individuals can demand it, only if such data has been fraudulently acquired or used for purposes other than the original intent.

      On the other hand, the government has considered the creation of the so-called data bank, as introduced before. The data bank distributes personal data with the consent of the individuals. Then, it provides them with the compensation. I hear that, in the demonstration experiment, most users have chosen to allow the companies to use their data to get the compensation.

    • Nest, the company, died at Google I/O 2019

      The Nest ecosystem is dead. Nest accounts are dead. Nest’s privacy firewall is dead.

    • ECJ says Airbnb Ireland should not be restricted by French law

      Europe’s highest court has said that Airbnb Ireland should be not be restricted by French law in providing accommodation services, in a legal opinion that could have significant consequences for how the so-called sharing economy is regulated.

      The opinion was issued this morning by an Advocate General of the European Court of Justice. The full judgement is expected later in the year.

      Essentially, the court has held that Airbnb Ireland is not a real estate company, and therefore should not be inhibited in its activities by a French law that governs the activities of real estate brokers.

      A criminal case was taken by the French Public Prosecutor’s Office against Airbnb for two alleged breaches of the law in March 2017.

      The case was referred to a Paris court, while a civil case was taken by a French tourism association.

    • The Mueller Report Isn’t The Only Thing That William Barr Is Hiding

      Barr’s attempt to block a report detailing how often the government seeks to spy on Twitter’s users is inappropriate and dangerous.
      Attorney General William Barr recently invoked a powerful, rarely used privilege to withhold information from the public, marking a dramatic turn of events in a battle over the release of a highly contested report.

      Only this time, we’re talking about a report that would provide much-needed information on the government’s spying activities.

      For the past five years, Twitter has been trying to make public a transparency report with detailed statistics about how often the U.S. government seeks to spy on Twitter’s users. At nearly every turn, the government has been putting up roadblocks to prevent that report from seeing the light of day.

      In 2014, when Twitter first sent its draft report to the government for review, the company was told it couldn’t publish the report because it contained information the government deemed classified. Then, when Twitter took the government to court to challenge its censorship as a violation of the company’s First Amendment rights, the government moved to squash the lawsuit. In a secret declaration filed under seal with the court, the government purported to explain to the judge the harms that would result if Twitter published its transparency report. Twitter’s lawyers, notably, weren’t allowed to see the declaration at the time.

      Fortunately, the judge was unpersuaded by whatever was in that secret document, and rejected the government’s attempts to dismiss the case, Twitter, Inc. v. Barr.

      But that hasn’t stopped the government.

    • We Don’t Want to Find Out How Powerful Mark Zuckerberg Is

      Yet his power is great. Hughes is correct that we’ve never seen anything like it. Mark Zuckerberg controls Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp—three of the five most popular communication tools on the planet, alongside Alphabet’s YouTube and Tencent’s WeChat. In many countries, Zuckerberg’s products are the internet. They are the media for information dispersal—like a newspaper or television channel—as well as for peer-to-peer communications, like an old-school telecom network. They are also a crucial ligature for small businesses, as internet home, customer-service desk, and advertising platform, and for direct sales through tools such as Facebook Marketplace.

    • Why Surveillance Is the Climate Change of the Internet

      “I think privacy is the wrong way to describe the issue we face in a world of pervasive unregulated data collection,” says Julia Angwin, a longtime investigative reporter. She prefers another term: data pollution.

      “I’ve long felt that the issue we call privacy is very similar to the issue we call environmentalism,” she says. “It’s pervasive. It’s invisible. Attribution is hard. Even if you get cancer, you don’t know if it’s from that chemical plant down the road. Living in a world where all of your data is collected and swept up in these dragnets all the time and will be used against you in a way that you will probably never be able to trace and you will never know about it feels like that same type of collective harm.”

      The metaphor—privacy infringement as environmental calamity—perfectly fits the most famous privacy breakdown of the past five years. In 2016, Cambridge Analytica, a political-consulting firm working with the Trump campaign, invited Facebook users to fill out a personality quiz. Then they took the data from that quiz to build psychological profiles of voters, whom they targeted with Facebook ads. These ads were designed to energize Donald Trump supporters and discourage Hillary Clinton voters.

    • Tenants win as settlement orders landlords give physical keys over smart locks

      The settlement is a first, as there’s no legal precedent or legislation deciding how landlords can use smart home technology. Since the technology is relatively new, lawmakers haven’t had time to catch up with smart home devices, and this case in New York is one of the few legal challenges to appear in court. It won’t set a legal precedent because it’s a settlement, but it represents a win for tenants who had issues with smart locks and landlords installing them against their will.

    • Early Facebook executives have reached a surprising consensus about the company’s power

      Others saw the op-ed as a good dunking opportunity, and acted accordingly. Many tweets were in the vein of “oh looky here, the man who was made insanely wealthy by Facebook has belatedly found the courage to criticize it.” (Here’s one of those.) Techmeme’s Gabe Rivera looked at the op-ed as an opportunistic effort to recast Hughes’ personal narrative away from failure.

    • Facebook co-founder says it’s time to break up the company

      Funny how a seven-figure salary can correct your naive opinions, isn’t it?

    • Chris Hughes Is Right: We Should Dismantle Facebook

      In addition to its hold on users, Facebook has a stranglehold on human attention. It is, as the title of Tim Wu’s excellent book on digital advertising puts it, the world’s premier attention merchant. Media—actual content creators like CNN, The Washington Post, or this magazine—must often bow to Facebook’s demands on how content is distributed on their platform, either catering content for Newsfeed distribution or “pivoting to video” when the company decides that’s the next big product play (and regretting it when Facebook changes its mind).

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Iraqi Immigrants Deserve Their Day in Court

      My dad was almost deported without a fair hearing. But a new bill could ensure that doesn’t happen again

      This week, two of my home-state congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure that approximately 1,000 Iraqis who are now at risk of deportation or detention are given two years to have their immigration cases heard. I’m so grateful to Congressman Andy Levin (D-Mich.) and Congressman John Moolenaar (R-Mich.) for their action because no other family should have to suffer like mine did.

      A little over a year ago, my dad was one of more than 300 Iraqi nationals arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). With no warning, ICE planned to deport them back to Iraq where they would likely be persecuted, tortured or even killed. People in Iraq could become targets for crimes like kidnapping and even murder just for having lived in the U.S., and as Chaldean Catholics we are especially vulnerable to religious persecution.

      I’ll never forget the day my father was arrested. My parents, brother and sisters were getting ready for Sunday Mass. Four ICE agents came to our door and took my father away in handcuffs. I still remember the look of fear in his eyes as we hugged and said goodbye, not knowing if we would ever see him again. Later, my family learned that many others had been arrested and that they were all going to be deported.

    • We Are All Sandra Bland

      This week a newly surfaced cellphone video of the arrest of Sandra Bland in July of 2015 was released to the public. Sandra took the video herself and it captures a far too familiar horror millions of people, especially the poor and people of color, endure every day in the US at the hands of the police. Stopped for failing to signal on her way to the grocery store, then brutally arrested, she was found dead only three days later in her jail cell, the apparent victim of suicide. But regardless of whether she physically hanged herself or not, her life was indeed taken by an entrenched system of white supremacy.

      Sandra Bland undoubtedly understood what she was up against. She understood well the system that oppressed her. And perhaps she had understandably had enough. She asked questions about her detainment and, like anyone treated unjustly, she felt exasperated. When she was asked by the officer what was wrong she calmly explained this to no avail. When she asserted her right to smoke inside her own vehicle, and defy an unwarranted demand, she was yelled at, threatened with a taser that can be, and often is, lethal, violently thrown to the ground, and handcuffed. Her pleas for mercy and compassion were summarily ignored and ridiculed as she lay helpless on the warm, Texas grass.

      Sandra Bland’s treatment is emblematic of the cruelty inherent to American society itself. A kind of sadism that permeates daily life especially in the disenfranchised precincts on the margins. There is an historical white puritanical impulse which should not be understated here either. It explains the frenzy of the lynch mobs of the past as well as the apologism for police brutality largely from the white middle class today. I saw this in the days following Sandra’s arrest and death. I see it time and time again following any incident of police malfeasance or violence. But I see it most especially when it involves the poor or people of color.

      White, middle and upper class Americans, by and large, are conditioned to love and venerate their police state. It a myriad of ways it defines their national identity almost as much as the military. The police are seen as protectors of society, the supposed “thin blue line” against marauding thugs. So dissenting from this entrenched narrative is often painted as unpatriotic and even dangerously subversive. And defying often has deadly consequences. There is a mythology that reinforces all of this and it is reflected in popular culture. Hollywood perpetuates the notion that the police, prosecutors, the FBI, CIA, and other various “special agents” are simply upstanding people only interested in protecting the vulnerable and getting the “bad guy.” Corruption and abuse are almost always treated as anomalies. In this fantasy world there is no racism or class disparity that leads to crime, disenfranchisement or despair. Poverty is a footnote, if present at all. Programs and movies create a mystique around these institutions painting them with a brush of nobility, with little to no historical context whatsoever. An endless series of passion plays crudely divorced from reality.

    • Amin Husain on Decolonizing Museums, Nikole Hannah-Jones on School Resegregation

      This week on CounterSpin: If someone makes lots of money by, say, knowingly and cynically exacerbating opioid addiction, is it OK as long as they give some of that money to an art museum? Cultural institutions are important sites of public conversation, but the public doesn’t have much say in who gets to lead that conversation, or the stories they tell. Activists are asking us to talk about what that means, and what it would mean to change it. We’ll talk about accountability for cultural institutions with Amin Husain, core organizer with the group Decolonize This Place.

    • All I Want for Mother’s Day is Equity for My Child

      What mother on earth doesn’t want equality and health for her child? I certainly do.

      I gave birth nearly two decades ago to a healthy, beautiful, intelligent child, who cried more than I thought she would and whose tutu-wearing terrible twos persisted into her tiara-wearing terrible threes. This willful nature turned out to be both her most challenging and her finest quality.

      She skipped kindergarten because her mind was so sharp. She built fairy houses during recess and enlisted the whole school in creating a moss-covered, magical twig town. She wrote poems about springtime and belted out preteen pops songs about cute boys. She was popular among her girlfriends.

      But she wasn’t allowed to use the girls’ bathroom. She had shoes thrown at her head when she wore leggings and lacy tops. She endured public school teachers making the sign of the cross and running off when she walked between classes.

      All because my daughter was born transgender.

      In high school she became part of the solution. She became an advocate for transgender youth, who suffer discrimination and violence at alarming rates.

      With the help of her mentors, she eventually brought her advocacy to Obama White House, where she helped Education Secretary Arne Duncan craft guidance making sure Title IX included nondiscrimination against transgender and gender nonconforming students.

      Then came the Trump administration — and the equality that she and so many had fought for was cruelly ripped away. Almost immediately, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded the very guidance protecting her that my daughter had helped to craft.

    • ALEC Wants to Make Protest Illegal in Illinois

      Dangerous anti-protest legislation is working its way through state assemblies all across the U.S., chipping away at the right to protest and undermining social justice movements. State legislators have introduced nearly 100 bills curbing your right to protest since the resistance at Standing Rock began. And if oil and gas companies get their way, Illinois will now be added to the list.

      HB 1633, a bill targeting activists, has already overwhelmingly passed the Illinois House of Representatives and is now pending in the State Senate. It has been slated for a hearing next Tuesday, May 14, at 5 p.m., and people can submit witness slips for or against the bill here.

      If this bill is enacted, protesters in Illinois will no longer be able to resist the expansion of fossil fuel pipelines in their communities without risking felony charges.

      Specifically, this bill seeks to increase criminal penalties for people who trespass on so-called critical infrastructure facilities. The bill almost exactly lifts its language from a model bill authored by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people.

    • A Union That Strikes Wins: NUHW 10 Years On

      Ten years ago, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) held its founding convention in San Francisco. Seven hundred workers met the morning of April 25, 2009, gathering in the magnificent Everett Middle School in the Mission District. Angela Glasper, a Kaiser Permanente steward, opened the meeting and set the tone, insisting that “workers must make all the important decisions” in an organization in which power must flow “from the bottom up.” Mike Casey, President of UNITE HERE, the nation’s hospitality workers’ union, local 2, San Francisco, called on workers to “stand up” and asserted that “this is our generation’s chance to make labor relevant – or be consigned to the dust bin.” Sal Rosselli, interim President of the new union, outlined a two-year perspective, a “foundation” for growth based on organizing committees in the workplace.

      The enthusiasm that morning was evident to all. What was not so clear was the immediate future. The new union, with little more than an inspired membership, faced not just the challenges of any new organization, but ongoing “war” declared by the nation’s largest union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). In late 2009, the SEIU, led by current president Mary Kay Henry and her Ivy League accomplice, Dave Regan, trusteed California’s 150,000 strong healthcare workers union, United Healthcare Workers – West (UHW). Citing an array of alleged misbehaviors. SEIU fired UHW officers, seized the union’s assets, and launched a legal assault on its leaders. It did this with the implicit support of Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest not-for-profit healthcare provider. UHW was then SEIU’s California flagship affiliate, representing 50,000 Kaiser technical and service workers – in addition to tens of thousands of others: hospital workers, nursing home staff and home healthcare workers. The consequences of this tragic intervention were deep; tragically, they remain with us.

      Still it is not often that it can be truthfully reported that Goliath has been slain, but here indeed it has. This week NUHW celebrates its tenth year as a vibrant, growing, democratic, fighting organization, a model union for the twenty-first century. UHW has faded into near obscurity. The fight with Kaiser, however, continues; here NUHW members find themselves not just fighting for a new contract, but on the front lines of the movement for health care reform in California. This battle today is about timely access to mental health treatment. NUHW is joined in it by the “the community;” NUHW is fusing the interests of its members with those of thousands of Kaiser “members” [1]– above all those seeking timely mental health care. They are joined by advocates of mental healthcare reform, as well as leaders in an impatient movement for real healthcare reform.

    • A Growing Number of States Call Porn a Public Health Crisis

      More than a dozen states have moved to declare pornography a public health crisis, raising concerns among some experts who say the label goes too far and carries its own risks.

      The Arizona Senate approved a resolution this week calling for a systemic effort to prevent exposure to porn that’s increasingly accessible to younger kids online. At least one legislative chamber has adopted a similar resolution in 15 other states.

      “It is an epidemic in our society, and this makes a statement that we have a problem,” said Arizona Sen. Sylvia Allen, a Republican who blamed pornography for contributing to violence against women, sexual activity among teens and unintended pregnancies.

      Linking those social issues to pornography is “compete fear-mongering,” said Mark Kernes, a senior editor at the trade publication Adult Video News media network. Pornography is harmless entertainment meant for adults, he said. “We’re not really a public-health anything,” Kernes said.

    • The Wall of No Return

      Nelson Espinal grew up in a leaky and crowded shack on the violent outskirts of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Espinal turned 28 last summer, but still lived at home with his parents, four sisters and 7-year old son, Yojan.

      Like many other young men in his decaying neighborhood, Nelson had struggled for years to find steady work, making him especially vulnerable to recruitment into one of the slum’s brutal “maras,” the youth gangs that patrol the streets of Tegucigalpa and control much of the drug trade across Honduras. Few men of Espinal’s age and state of economic deprivation have the fortitude to resist the lure of gang-life. One study of Epsinal’s José Ángel Ulloa neighborhood estimates that as many as 20 percent of the men his age joined the Barrio-18 gang. But that wasn’t the future Nelson wanted for himself or his young son.

      Espinal repeatedly rejected the increasingly ominous invitations to join the ranks of the gang, well aware the consequences of saying no could prove lethal, not just for him, but his family as well. Epsinal’s sister, Patricia, told the Guardianthat Nelson’s rejection of Barrio-18 made him a target. “When they get their eye on someone, they search them out again and again,” Patricia recalled.

      So with no prospects for work and fearing retaliation from the gang, Nelson decided to join a group of other desperate Hondurans he’d heard about who were gathering in the northern Honduran town of San Pedro Sula in preparation for traveling 3000 arduous miles to the US border. Espinal slipped out of Tegucigalpa with two friends. The young men believed, with good reason, that if they were ever going to break out of their wretched conditions, the safest way to escape was in a large group. This assemblage of destitute women, children and young men searching for a better life became the notorious “Migrant Caravan” that Donald Trump used to villainize immigrants in a cynical ploy to sway the 2018 congressional elections.

      Espinal told his family that when he arrived at the border was going to ask for asylum. He hoped to get a job in the US, send money back to his family and eventually become reunited with his son. Nelson didn’t know the odds of his winning an asylum claim or even making it to the border. But he knew there was no future for him in Honduras. It was time to walk and not look back.

    • What I Lost (and Can Never Get Back) When My Father Was in Guantanamo North

      My father receives only four hours of non-contact visitation a month and one 15-minute phone call a week. The visiting room is extremely small. Down the middle is a Plexiglas window that separates us from him. The only way we can “touch” him is by placing our hands on the cold glass as he places his hand over ours on his side. I pretend I feel the glass get warmer. A large steel door is locked behind us. We cannot hug my dad. We cannot touch him. We cannot smell him. He is there for three years.

      In 2010, at age 14, I realize how much a daughter needs her father. I can’t tell him about the nightmares, the tears, and the pains his imprisonment causes me, because he is stuck inside of a cell too small to be humane. He doesn’t tell us about his own horrors because he doesn’t want to worry us, either. The short phone calls are robotically the same: “School is great. I am doing awesome. I am so happy, how are you?”

      That same year, we receive news my father has been moved. At first, I think it is to a facility closer to home and that the trips can be more often and wouldn’t have to be so long. His parents are too old to make the drives to Terre Haute. We think he has been moved to a prison where we can finally hug him. But it is farther away, to another CMU, in Marion, Illinois.

      The rules are the same, but the visiting is worse. We are led past inmates with their families sitting in chairs right next to them, holding their hands, sitting in their laps, into a room with an all too familiar Plexiglas window. Our eyes are hungry to memorize my father’s face, down to every freckle, so we can survive until the next visit. We leave only handprints on the glass at the end of the visit.

      The steel door is left open but the noise of the dozens of visitors outside makes it difficult to hear anything, even with the sticky, black telephone pressed to one ear and a hand over the other. We can’t breathe if we close the door. We can’t breathe anyway. My father spends another three years there.

      For seven of the most critical years of my life, I am not allowed to breathe the same air in the same room as my dad without Plexiglas between us. On holidays, we ask the officers for just a quick hug and they say no, because it’s a “security issue.” I lose my mind thinking about the state of my father’s mind. Both my grandparents die without ever being able to make the trip to see their son. He wasn’t allowed to call them before both their deaths since the CMU phone calls have to be predetermined to a scheduled time.

    • “Black Mama’s Bail Out Day”: Movement Grows to Free Black Women From Jail for Mother’s Day

      Racial justice groups around the country are bailing black women out of jail so they can spend Mother’s Day with their families. For the third year in a row, “Black Mama’s Bail Out Day” is raising money to bail out as many black women from jail as possible. The effort is taking place in dozens of cities to call attention to the injustice of cash bail. We speak to Mary Hooks, the co-director of Southerners On New Ground, which is part of the National Bail Out Collective.

    • More Than Me Still Lacks Adequate Systems to Protect Children in Its Care, New Report Says

      The U.S. charity More Than Me has released a report by law firm McLane Middleton that identifies significant deficits in the charity’s policies, governance and administration and strongly criticizes the actions of founder and ex-CEO Katie Meyler, who resigned last month.

      The report was commissioned following publication of ProPublica’s October 2018 investigation showing how senior staff member Macintosh Johnson, a man with whom Meyler once had an intimate relationship, had serially sexually abused girls in the charity’s care and how Meyler and other charity officials failed to respond promptly to concerns about his conduct. The investigation outlined how the charity wasn’t transparent about the extent of Johnson’s abuse and didn’t make sure that all of his potential victims were tested after it came to light that he had AIDS when he died. Ten MTM students testified against Johnson in a 2015 trial that ended with a hung jury.

      McLane Middleton’s audit report was based on interviews conducted in America and Liberia with 30 people, including Meyler, MTM board members and staff, and Liberian government officials. While it is described as an audit of the charity’s current child safety practices rather than an investigation into how MTM responded to the rape allegations, the report says Meyler did not do adequate due diligence on Johnson or do enough to get the truth when she became aware of suspicions that he was harming girls.

    • CIA Director Gina Haspel Confronted over Torture During Rare Public Appearance

      And CIA Director Gina Haspel made a rare public appearance Thursday, delivering a speech to students at Auburn University in Alabama that many described as a recruiting pitch for the spy agency. A few minutes into her speech, Haspel was interrupted by a protester—just after she described the thrill she felt when she was first sworn in as a CIA officer.

    • CIA director called out for complicity in torture

      US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Gina Haspel was delivering a recruiting pitch to students at Auburn University in Alabama on Thursday where she was called out by an audience member for her participation in torture and other crimes.

      Towards the beginning of her speech, Hapsel began recalling “the thrill of being sworn in” as a CIA operative when the crowd member shouted if Haspel remembered the “thrill of the CIA black sites you tortured people in and the evidence you destroyed?”

    • Police urged to keep investigating CIA’s use of Scottish airports for ‘torture flights’

      Police have been urged to never give up their battle to obtain secret documents that could prove the full extent of the CIA’s use of Scottish airports for “torture flights”.

      The plea was made after it was confirmed that detectives have submitted their report to prosecutors on the alleged use of airports in Wick, Inverness, Aberdeen and elsewhere for controversial “extraordinary rendition” flights.

      The force’s Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism Unit had been investigating the claims for almost six years, but it is understood they have been forced to lodge their findings without ever getting hold of an unredacted copy of a key US Senate report.

    • Full Extent of CIA’s Use of Scottish Airports for ‘Torture Flights’ Unknown

      Scottish Nationalist Party MSP Kevin Stewart has demanded Police Scotland to continue their battle to obtain the full set of documents relating to the US Central Intelligence Agency’s use of Scottish airports for ‘extraordinary rendition’ flights, used to transfer prisoners, interrogators and other US officials between ‘black sites’.

      The plea came after it was confirmed authorities had submitted a report to prosecutors on the alleged use of airports in Wick, Inverness, Aberdeen and elsewhere for controversial ‘extraordinary rendition’ flights during the ‘War on Terror’, despite not being provided a full copy of the US Senate Intelligence Committee’s December 2014 report on the CIA’s ‘Detention and Interrogation Program’.

    • Request for Names of CIA Torturers Gets Boost From Ninth Circuit

      A Freedom of Information Act request for the identities of CIA agents who engaged in torture isn’t dead yet, the Ninth Circuit said May 1.

      The district court originally said it didn’t have jurisdiction over Stephen Yagman’s request because he didn’t reasonably describe the records requested. But in 2017, the Ninth Circuit sent the case back to the lower court to give Yagman a chance to work with the CIA to craft an accurate request.

    • Yagman’s Action Seeking CIA Records On Torture Must Be Reinstated

      Disbarred attorney Stephen Yagman, once a prominent civil rights practitioner, yesterday prevailed in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal in a case in which he is self-represented, with the judges holding that the District Court abused its discretion in dismissing with prejudice his action seeking records from the Central Intelligence Agency on use of torture.
      His action was filed under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”). The Ninth Circuit in 2017, in Yagman v. Pompeo, reversed a dismissal of his action by U.S. District Court Judge Philip S. Gutierrez of the Central District of California.
      Circuit Judge Richard Paez said in the 2017 opinion:
      “We conclude that the district court erred when it dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and we reverse the district court’s judgment. But we agree with the district court that Yagman failed to ‘reasonably describe’ the records he sought. Nonetheless, we remand to the district court with instructions to allow Yagman to reframe his request for documents in light of our holding and the CIA’s repeated offers to assist him in formulating a reasonably specific request.”

    • Boeing 737 ‘torture-taxi’ used for CIA renditions later purchased by MGM Resorts International from shell company

      Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operated aircraft that were used to ferry kidnapped suspected terrorists in the now infamous U.S. rendition program to countries that permitted torture and where the suspects were held in anonymity beyond the reach of attorneys.

      The CIA had authority to carry out renditions under a presidential directive dating to the Clinton administration. The Bush administration renewed the directive.

      In 2006 MGM Mirage Corporation purchased a 2001 Boeing 737-7ET, serial number 33010, from a CIA shell company and flew the jet until it was sold by MGM Resorts International in 2016. That jet was previously used for the CIA’s rendition program.

    • For the Military Commissions, a Fork in the Road on Torture

      That’s what Steve Vladeck wrote last month in a characteristically excellent post discussing the D.C. Circuit’s recent decision in In re Al-Nashiri III. Of course, unless and until either the executive branch or Congress acknowledges the same and decides to do something about it, the commissions will drag on. And as they do, “the shadow of CIA torture”—to which Steve correctly ascribes (at least in part) the commissions’ painful struggles to date—will darken, further complicating any efforts to achieve justice.

      Take Majid Khan, for example. After pleading guilty before the commissions in 2012, he has been cooperating with the government and is scheduled for a sentencing hearing in July. On May 1, he filed a motion that puts the legacy of CIA torture and the question of accountability squarely before Army Judge Col. Douglas Watkins. How Judge Watkins resolves the motion will say a lot about whether the commissions can ever grapple seriously and fairly with these issues.

    • You Don’t Get to Discriminate Just Because You’re Religious

      A bill in Texas would allow professionals of all kinds — doctors, pharmacists, electricians — to deny services to LGBTQ customers on religious grounds.

      This comes alongside the Trump administration’s rollout of a rule that would allow health care providers to actually deny service to LGBTQ people on religious grounds.

      I’m sorry, but I don’t care if you have a strongly held religious conviction that says I’m going to hell, or I’m not worthy of being treated like a human being, because I’m gay.

      If that’s the case, you can go ahead and stay far away from me, and you can hate me all you want. Or you can love me and hate my “sin” of being myself and loving who I love, and then you have the right to tell yourself that’s not hateful.

      But you don’t have a right to legally discriminate against me or anyone like me. At least, not outside of your own church — though even there, is it really necessary?

      First off, several sources say the passages in the Bible that condemn homosexuality have been mistranslated and misinterpreted. A more accurate reading, they argue, finds that homosexuality isn’t an “abomination” after all.

      Even if the Bible is the literal word of God, God didn’t give that word to humans in English. Humans translated it into English. Humans are fallible.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • ‘YouTube Content-ID Abusers Could Face Millions of Dollars in Damages’

        WatchMojo, one of the most viewed channels on YouTube, is striking back at Content-ID abusers. The channel is fed up with the numerous claims it has received against fair use content. Rightsholders can profit from this scheme but WatchMojo points out that they also expose themselves to potential legal action, where millions of dollars in damages are at stake.

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