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« Reply #3465 on: Jul 13, 2019, 04:55 AM »

Facebook to be fined $5bn for Cambridge Analytica privacy violations – reports

The $5bn fine would be the largest ever levied by the Federal Trade Commission against a technology company

Julia Carrie Wong
13 Jul 2019 23.12 BST

The Federal Trade Commission has reportedly voted to approve fining Facebook roughly $5bn to settle an investigation into the company’s privacy violations that was launched following the Cambridge Analytica revelations.

The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, both citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter, reported Friday afternoon that the settlement was approved by a 3-2 vote that broke along party lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. The justice department is expected make a final approval of the fine.

The FTC’s investigation was launched in March 2018 after the Observer revealed that the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica had improperly obtained the private information of more than 50m Facebook users. Facebook had agreed under a 2012 consent decree stemming from a previous FTC investigation into privacy concerns to better protect user privacy. The investigation centered on whether this decree had been violated.

The $5bn fine would be the largest ever levied by the FTC against a technology company, and the largest ever against any company for a privacy violation. It is at the upper limit of what Facebook said that it was expecting when it disclosed in April 2019 that it was nearing the end of negotiations with the FTC and expected a fine of between $3bn and $5bn.

As part of the agreement, Facebook will now reexamine the ways it handles user data, but the settlement will not restrict the company’s ability to share data with third parties, reports said.

Critics say the changes required of Facebook are not substantial enough, and the fine will hardly make a dent in Facebook’s bank account. The company had more than $15bn in revenue in the first three months of 2019.

“This isn’t a fine, it’s a favor to Facebook, a parking ticket which will clear them to conduct more illegal and invasive surveillance,” said Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Open Markets Institute who specializes in monopoly power. “Congress should start defunding the FTC and move the money to state enforcers like Karl Racine who believe in enforcing the law,” he added, referring to the attorney general of Washington DC, who is currently pursuing a lawsuit against Facebook over the Cambridge Analytica case.

Investors appeared to agree, and Facebook’s stock price jumped more than 1% when the news broke just before trading closed for the weekend.

David Cicilline, the Democratic congressman who chairs the House subcommittee on antitrust issues, reacted to the news on Twitter, saying: “The FTC just gave Facebook a Christmas present five months early. It’s very disappointing that such an enormously powerful company that engaged in such serious misconduct is getting a slap on the wrist.”

Cicilline will have an opportunity to express his concerns directly to a Facebook executive on Tuesday, when representatives of major Silicon Valley tech companies are set to testify at a hearing of the antitrust subcommittee. The hearing and fine come as Facebook faces increased scrutiny over antitrust concerns and its privacy practices. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said the fine shows Facebook’s size makes it difficult to hold accountable.

“This reported fine is a mosquito bite to a corporation the size of Facebook,” he said. “And I fear it will let Facebook off the hook for more recent abuses of Americans’ data that may not have been factored in to this inadequate settlement. The only way to assure Americans that our private data will be protected is to pass a strong privacy bill, like the one I plan to introduce in the coming weeks.”

The company is expected to come up against more regulatory challenges as it seeks to launch its new cryptocurrency Libra in 2020. On Thursday, Donald Trump tweeted Libra “will have little standing or dependability”. The House financial services committee is holding a panel on 17 July on Facebook’s plans for Libra.

Lawmakers say the ruling and relatively small fine show federal privacy laws are needed.

“Given Facebook’s repeated privacy violations, it is clear that fundamental structural reforms are required,” Senator Mark R Warner of Virginia said. “With the FTC either unable or unwilling to put in place reasonable guardrails to ensure that user privacy and data are protected, it’s time for Congress to act.”

    Read the Guardian and Observer’s reporting on Cambridge Analytica

Kari Paul contributed to this report.

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« Reply #3466 on: Jul 13, 2019, 05:07 AM »

Trump concentration camp visit ‘appears to have blown up in the face of the Vice President’: report

on July 1, 2019
By Bob Brigham

MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes reported on “shocking” conditions that Vice President Mike Pence witnessed on a public relations tour of a border detention center on Friday.

VP Mike Pence was subjected to an overwhelming stench of urine during his tour of a camp in McAllen, Texas.

For analysis, MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes interviewed Jonathan Ryan, the CEO of civil rights organization RAICES, who said reports from the camps are “consistent and they’re horrific.”
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“The treatment that we hear about from the officers themselves indicates not an aberration from training, but truly training itself — rough treatment, body checks, disgusting language, it’s all commonplace inside of these facilities because that is the culture, and frankly, this is what these exist facilities do, to further terrorize immigrants and frankly to make them give up their rights so that lawyers like those at RAICES are unable to help them to get the protection that they deserve,” Ryan explained.

“What do you say about the fact that we’re hearing people with 20 and 40 days in pens of 400 people with nowhere to sleep?” Hayes asked.

“It’s true that the conditions that we see today have been around for many years. But it’s also absolutely the case that what we’re seeing now is a scaled-up, toughened up, and unfortunately more streamlined in its own devious way and devastating way to cause more harm to more people,” Ryan replied.

“We’ve never seen anything like the images that are coming out from today’s visit and to your point, if this was to have been constructed as a PR opportunity, I think it appears to have blown up in the face of the vice president significantly, because I’m shocked even knowing what I know, I’m shocked by the images I’m seeing,” he concluded.


‘Every day, it is a risk’: immigrant communities paralyzed by fear of impending Ice raids

Mayors in major cities have pledged to support those targeted by Sunday’s ‘enforcement operations’

Khushbu Shah
Sat 13 Jul 2019 07.00 BST

When CG heard that Donald Trump had announced raids by the immigration enforcement agency Ice a few weeks ago, she turned to her husband. Get groceries, she told him, like a storm is coming.

“Bananas, milk and bread,” CG lists off, remembering what she told him, “Because who knows when we’ll leave the house.”

Those raids were later postponed in June. But now they are back and scheduled to begin Sunday and CG, who is undocumented and asked to be identified by her initials out of a fear of the authorities, is afraid again.

Federal officials have said the operation will target undocumented families who have been issued final removal orders. On Thursday, media reports listed ten cities across the United States where the raids would take place, affecting more than 2,000 immigrants. They include New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and other major cities across the country. CG’s hometown of Atlanta is also on the list.

Atlanta’s mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who has been a vocal opponent of Ice raids told the Guardian: “The White House is compounding an already spiraling humanitarian crisis with detention centers. If they want to truly help cities, they should ask us what we need, because political shows of force will only harm – not help.”
US mayors fight back and pledge help for migrants targeted in Ice raids
Read more

Bottoms has closed city detention centers to Ice agents, she mentioned in a Friday interview on CNN, “because we don’t want to be complicit in family separation”.

An Ice spokeswoman in Atlanta did not respond to specific questions because, as the agency has said, it “will not offer specific details related to enforcement operations”.

Still, CG, who came to Georgia from Mexico 12 years ago and has had a green card application in process for years, is bracing for the worst.

She hasn’t been driving much out of fear of being stopped.She will refuse to leave her house on Sunday morning, and then will decide day by day if she can leave the safety of her home to clean homes to pay the bills again.

Since the start of the Trump presidency, she has educated herself on her rights through immigrants’ rights groups who have made increased efforts to reach immigrant communities.

For example, Project South, an Atlanta advocacy group plans to deliver information to South Asian shop owners about their rights if Ice agents show up at their business. The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights has also canvassed immigrant-heavy neighborhoods telling residents that if federal agents want to enter her home, they must have an arrest or a search warrant from a judge.

The picture is the same elsewhere. Campaigns across the US have spread through major cities as news of raids spread through immigrant communities, said Adelina Nicholls, the executive director for GLAHR.

“We’ve reached more than 4,600 people since we started our campaign after Trump was elected,” Nicholls recounts. In addition to the campaign, they plan to document the raids in real time on Facebook Live.

“We can’t stop them but we can make noise,” she says.

If the aim of the raids is to create widespread fear among immigrant communities, then many activists see them as already working. Charles Kuck, a veteran immigration lawyer, said he has received calls from dozens of clients with work visas and green cards whom he says have nothing to fear.

“The number [ICE] will be getting is very small but the impact will be broad,” said Kuck. “We will see a real impact when people don’t go to work [and] don’t go to church this weekend.”

After the announcement of last month’s raid, Kuck heard from employees at local chicken processing plants that more than half of the employees didn’t show up to work for a week.

Veronica, who is undocumented and wants to be identified by her first name only, made the trip from Mexico to the United States 20 years ago

“I feel like I’m in another country,” she said of the atmosphere in recent months. “Every day, it is a risk,” she added, of being on the street, driving your own car or even going to a shopping center.

“In white neighborhoods, you have signs that say ‘neighborhood watch’. We have to have our own network now.” Veronica points to her phone. “A friend sent me a text message this morning to tell me the police are in the neighborhood. I wasn’t there but I passed it on to my network.”

This Sunday, as she hunkers down with her family, her network will be busy passing on information if they see the white Ice vans patrolling their streets, too, she says.

“It doesn’t make sense. They’re not trying to arrest terrorists or criminals, just undocumented people,” she said. “We just want to pay the bills.”


Special counsel Robert Mueller's testimony postponed by one week

Testimony comes a week later than planned, under an agreement that gives lawmakers more time to question him

Guardian staff and agencies
Sat 13 Jul 2019 02.11 BST

The special counsel Robert Mueller will testify before Congress about the findings of the Russia investigation on 24 July, one week later than his appearance was originally planned, under an agreement that gives lawmakers more time to question him.

Mueller had been scheduled to report on the inquiry into Russian election meddling and ties between Russia and the campaign of Donald Trump on 17 July. But lawmakers in both parties complained that the short length of the hearings would not allow enough time for all members to ask questions.

Under the new arrangement, Mueller will testify for an extended period of time, three hours instead of two, before the House judiciary committee. He will then testify before the House intelligence committee in a separate hearing. The two committees said in a statement that all members of both committees will be able to question him.

In the joint statement, the panels said the longer hearing “will allow the American public to gain further insight into the special counsel’s investigation and the evidence uncovered regarding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and President Trump’s possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power”.

Mueller has expressed his reluctance to testify and said he won’t go beyond what is in his 448-page report. But Democrats have been determined to highlight its contents for Americans who they believe have not read it. They want to extract information from the former special counsel and spotlight what they say are his most damaging findings against Trump.

Democrats are expected to ask Mueller about his conclusions, including that he could not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice after detailing several episodes in which Trump tried to influence the investigation. Mueller also said there was not enough evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Kremlin.

One thing judiciary members want to focus on in questioning Mueller is whether Trump would have been charged with a crime were he not president. Mueller said at the news conference that charging a president with a crime was “not an option” because of longstanding justice department policy. But Democrats want to know more about how he made that decision and when.

The committees did not say whether expected closed-door sessions with two of Mueller’s deputies, James Quarles and Aaron Zebley, would go on. Those sessions, part of an original deal struck between Congress and the deputies, appeared to be in doubt after the justice department recently pushed back on the arrangement.

It’s unclear whether Mueller’s testimony will give Democratic investigations new momentum. In the news conference, Mueller indicated that it was up to Congress to decide what to do with his findings. But Democrats have had little success so far in their attempts to probe his findings as the White House has blocked several witnesses from answering questions.

That means the committees may have to go through a lengthy court process to get more information. Around 80 Democrats have said they think an impeachment inquiry should be launched to bolster their efforts, but the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has so far rebuffed those calls.


The Trump administration wants to dismantle the agency overseeing 2 million federal workers – and weaken safeguards against partisanship

on July 12, 2019
By The Conversation

The U.S. government has put expertise and competence ahead of political considerations when it hires people for more than 135 years.

As a result of changes made during President Chester Arthur’s administration, the vast majority of government jobs can only be awarded on the basis of merit. Prospective employees historically had to complete a competitive exam and today must complete detailed applications, undergo interviews and get their background checked. Employees also cannot be fired or demoted for political reasons.

These rules apply to all but about 4,000 politically appointed employees among the 2 million people who work for the federal government, not counting postal service workers. Those only require presidential support and, for around 1,200 of these jobs, Senate confirmation.
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Safeguards began making the federal workforce more neutral when Chester Arthur was in the White House.

Charles Milton Bell

The Trump administration is taking several steps that could remove safeguards against partisanship and nepotism in the federal workforce. Among other things, it is pushing to dissolve the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the administration of the civil service system. Democrats are objecting to this move.

As a public administration researcher, I look at how political partisanship influences the relationship between government employees and elected officials.

To understand why scholars like me and other experts are concerned that dismantling OPM could harm the civil service system by making it more partisan, it is helpful to understand why the U.S. moved toward a merit-based system in the first place.

To the victor goes the spoils

For about a century following independence from Britain, the U.S. federal workforce operated under a patronage system. Also called the spoils system, it gave elected politicians complete control over the federal workforce, allowing them to dole out government jobs to their most ardent supporters and remove partisan foes.

The political party in power profited directly from the spoils system because a portion of every appointee’s paycheck would be earmarked as a mandatory campaign contribution. By the late 1870s, these mandatory contributions accounted for three-quarters of all campaign contributions.

This emphasis on political loyalty meant that numerous federal employees were either unqualified, unethical or both. Federal government employees were implicated in many bribery scandals, involving everything from regulating railroads to overseeing the whiskey business to awarding contracts for trading posts at military forts.

Even so, members of both major political parties tried to reform the spoils system but were largely unsuccessful until a tragedy brought about change.

An assassination spurs reform

Charles J. Guiteau, a man who by many accounts was suffering from mental illness, shot President James Garfield on July 2, 1881. Garfield soon died from infections related to the gunshot wound.

Guiteau was furious over being denied a federal job despite his perception that he had personally helped Garfield win. The assassination led to a public outcry and widespread demands for personnel reforms.
James Garfield’s assassin said he was angry about not getting a federal job he believed he was due.
Brady-Handy photograph collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

A bipartisan legislative majority passed the Pendleton Act in 1883. The law established open competitive exams for most government positions. The goal was to ensure that civil servants were capable of doing their jobs, while letting presidents retain the ability to appoint the most senior positions. That same system remains largely in place today, administered by three agencies since 1978.
Not down with OPM

One of those three agencies is the Office of Personnel Management, which the Trump administration wants to dismantle and then move its civil service functions elsewhere. Most of the agency’s responsibilities would land within the General Services Administration, which currently oversees the government’s real estate and procurement.

House Democrats and federal labor leaders want to block the move. They say it is unwarranted and could inject partisanship into the federal hiring process – meaning that members of the party in the White House would get the bulk of all new civil service jobs.

OPM is an independent federal agency overseen by Congress. Heads of independent agencies are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, but unlike Cabinet members, they cannot be fired without cause. This makes them more autonomous than other executive branch agencies and partially insulates them from presidential directives.

The Office of Management and Budget, which would take over the administration of federal workforce policy if OPM no longer exists, is an executive branch agency under the president’s direct control. Under this arrangement, Trump could potentially exert more influence over those policies, which he has already shown a willingness to do.

In May of 2018, President Trump issued three executive orders designed to make it easier to fire federal employees and limit the power of federal labor unions. A federal judge blocked the orders a few months later, but some agencies are still trying to independently implement the changes.
More grievances

The three-seat U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board is another agency that grew out of the Civil Service Commission. It is charged with adjudicating employee grievances within the civil service system and has lacked a quorum since a few weeks before Trump took office in January 2017. It has a backlog of more than 2,100 cases waiting to be heard.

The term of its last remaining member, Mark Robbins, expired in March 2019. All board positions have been vacant since then, pending Senate approval of Trump’s three nominees.

When he was the last remaining member of the Merit Systems Protection Board, Mark Robbins was unable to move forward with any of the panel’s business.
AP Photo/Juliet Linderman

The Federal Labor Relations Authority, the third agency that grew out of the Civil Service Commission, administers labor-management relations for non-postal service federal employees. In June 2019, a union representing more than 8,000 Environmental Protection Agency employees filed a grievance with the authority over the Trump administration’s plans to limit telework to one day a week and make it easier to fire EPA staff. The workplace changes are similar to those included in executive orders Trump had signed but which got tied up in court.

In addition to dismantling OPM, the Trump administration plans to relocate a total of about 550 jobs at two Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Department of Agriculture research agencies to Kansas City.

Even before the USDA announced the new workplace site in June 2019, giving these researchers one month to decide whether to move to Kansas City, many had resigned. Some staff members have argued that the reorganization is a form of retaliation against the researchers for their findings that are sometimes at odds with Trump administration policies on issues, such as the degree to which Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits – also known as food stamps – help millions of Americans.

The official rationale for the move is that it will cut costs.

[ Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter. ]The Conversation

Matthew May, Senior Research Associate, Boise State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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« Reply #3467 on: Jul 13, 2019, 05:14 AM »

Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Pressley detail conditions in border detention facilities – video

In an emotional testimony to the House oversight committee on Friday, Democratic representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib described conditions at an immigrant detention center, decrying alleged mistreatment happening 'in front of the American flag'. During Ocasio-Cortez's testimony a congressional staffer fainted. The testimony comes as Mike Pence was due to travel to Texas on Friday to tour a facility and participate in a roundtable with border patrol and members of the Senate judiciary committee.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWSf5QaZ9lY

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« Reply #3468 on: Jul 13, 2019, 08:37 AM »

The Grab’em twins: Trump and Epstein are deviant criminals separated at birth

on July 13, 2019
By Lucian K. Truscott IV, Salon
- Commentary

He owned a palatial home in Palm Beach and a luxurious residence in Manhattan.

He owned a commercial airliner converted into a luxurious private plane.

He gave parties attended by young women seeking careers in the modeling business.

He was connected to numerous wealthy, powerful men who shared his taste in women and money.

He bragged to others about his sexual conquests with women.

He paid women for sex.

He was charged in lawsuits with numerous sexual assaults on women.

Jeffrey Epstein? No, Donald Trump.

I really wonder what everyone is doing getting their dander up about this disgusting sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein, when we’ve got one in the White House. We’ve known about Trump not for years, but for decades. We’ve known about his sexcapades around New York with women who were not his wife. Hell, he used to call the New York Post’s “Page Six” and brag about himself!

And by what magic of moral vacuity has the infamous Access Hollywood tape disappeared down the memory hole? Its words ought to be carved in granite and mounted on a pedestal on the Mall in Washington in full view of the current occupant of the White House. Just listen to this low-life disgusting piece of shit. He was bragging to Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush about a ham-handed pass he had made at his co-host on the program, Nancy O’Dell:

“I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it. I did try and fuck her. She was married. And I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.’ I took her out furniture — I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”

There’s more, but let’s stop right there. “I moved on her very heavily.” “I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there.” Who the hell talks like that?

“I did try and fuck her.” What the hell is wrong with this man that he would talk like that to anyone, much less to a television host just before an interview?  They were on a bus, getting ready for the interview, and there were seven other people present: a two person camera crew, a production assistant, the show’s producer, Trump’s security guard and his publicist, and the bus driver. Who talks that way about anyone, much less a woman who was the interviewer’s co-host on his television program? Who even talks in that manner about himself?

Trump. He did. And he wasn’t finished. He was on the bus, getting ready to meet a television actress, Arianne Zucker, with whom he would be filming a segment for Access Hollywood. This is what Trump said, referring to Ms. Zucker:

“I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

There it is, the infamous “grab ‘em by the pussy” comment that would give newspaper editors fits. Are we really going to print “pussy” in our newspaper?

Looking back, you can hardly believe there was the kerfluffle about printing “pussy,” that the whole thing happened. But it did. It happened on October 7, 2016, in the closing days of what has turned out to be the most consequential presidential election in the history of this country. That was the day the Access Hollywood tape was released.

What happened next should shame all of us, the print press, the television shows that bleeped out “pussy,” even those that didn’t, but most of all the voters, the citizens of this country who beginning on that day, October 7, started sending this incident down the memory hole.

The Access Hollywood tape was released by the Washington Post around 4 p.m. on that day, a Friday. Thirty minutes later, WikiLeaks started tweeting links to emails stolen by the Russians from the personal email account of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman. Some of the emails on Podesta’s account were embarrassing. They had the transcripts of speeches Clinton had given to Wall Street banks, for which she was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars. They had private comments made by Clinton campaign staffers about ethnic voters.

And all of this was happening exactly one hour after the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, and the Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, jointly released a statement blaming Russia for the hacks into the Democratic Party’s emails.

You know what happened next. Trump’s confessions of his own sexual assaults and his disgusting behavior with a woman who was not his wife got lost in the frenzy around the WikiLeaks release of Podesta emails. Trump’s campaign should have been stopped in its tracks. He had already been accused of sexual assault and harassment by two dozen women (Their names, and descriptions of Trump’s sexual misconduct are here). Instead, Trump used the Democratic Party emails stolen by the Russians to stomp all over Hillary Clinton in the closing weeks of the campaign. With the help of the Russians and the cynicism and indifference of the American voter, he squeezed out a narrow victory, and we’ve been paying for it ever since.

But here’s the thing that’s jaw-dropping about Donald Trump. We’ve known who this bastard is for decades. We’ve known that he had affairs with porn stars and nude models and paid them money to buy their silence. We’ve known that he grabbed the private parts of a woman sitting next to him on an airplane, that he grabbed another woman sitting next to him in a restaurant. Hell, he as much as admitted it on the Access Hollywood tape! We’ve known that Trump was accused of raping a 13 year old girl in 1994 – in Jeffrey Epstein’s apartment! A lawsuit was filed on behalf of the victim, “Joan Doe,” making the allegation in 2016 and subsequently dropped.

Only three weeks ago, yet another woman came forward and accused Trump of rape: Columnist E. Jean Carroll accused Trump of raping her in a dressing room in Bergdorf’s in 1995 or 1996, a charge that was subsequently backed up, on the record, by two women who Carroll told about the rape at the time. We’ll hear from more victims of Trump’s sexual perversion before this is over.

So forget about this sexual predator, Jeffrey Epstein. He’s in jail in downtown Manhattan awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, and already, new witnesses are showing up, accusing him of new crimes.

We’ve got a sexual predator in the White House. The American people put Donald Trump there with their votes. It’s up to us to get him out and put him where he belongs, behind bars alongside his pal Epstein.


Epstein investigation could turn up proof of woman’s claim Trump raped her in accused predator’s home: Trump biographer

on July 13, 2019
Raw Story
By Tom Boggioni

Appearing on MSNBC’s “AM Joy” the author of “TrumpNation,” Tim O’Brien, claimed that the Southern District of New York investigators uncovered a wealth of photographic evidence from accused child trafficker Jeffrey Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse that could clear up — or confirm — accusations made by a woman who claimed Donald Trump raped her in Epstein’s home in the ’90s.

Speaking with host Joy Reid, O’Brien noted that Epstein’s home has cameras in every room leading him to believe that there is a treasure trove of tapes showing criminality.

According to the journalist, “When I worked on my book about Trump, Trump regularly talked to me about Jeff Epstein and he felt they had lifestyles that were in synch. But what is happening now with this investigation in the Southern District and they’re going to get access to Jeffrey Epstein’s videos.”

“The other thing is, there is an outstanding claim a Jane Doe claim filed right before the election by a woman in her 30’s who said in the ’90s when she was 13, Donald Trump raped her in Jeffrey Epstein’s townhouse in the Upper East Side,” he continued. “The veracity of that claim can be tested now by the Southern District.”

“They’re investigating what occurred in Jeffrey Epstein’s townhouse,” he remarked. “They should interview every woman who came in and out of that townhouse, including the woman that made this claim against the president right before the election.”

Adding, “She withdrew her claim because she got death threats, so the White House says her claims were baseless,” O’Brien suggested, “That can be tested very quickly.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Tc6XemKl2A

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« Reply #3469 on: Jul 15, 2019, 03:42 AM »

Google workers can listen to what people say to its AI home devices

Company admitted that contractors can access recordings made by Assistant, after some of its recordings were leaked

Kari Paul in San Francisco and agencies
15 Jul 2019 21.41 BST

Google acknowledged its contractors are able to listen to recordings of what people say to the company’s artificial-intelligence system, Google Assistant.

The company admitted on Thursday that humans can access recordings made by the Assistant, after some of its Dutch language recordings were leaked. Google is investigating the breach.

The recordings were obtained by the Belgian public broadcaster VRT, which reviewed more than 1,000 audio clips and found 153 had been captured accidentally.

Google Assistant begins automatically recording audio when prompted by a user, usually by saying a wake-up word or phrase like, “OK, Google”.

Google says contractors listen to recordings to better understand language patterns and accents, and notes that recordings may be used by the company in its user terms. This feature can be turned off, but doing so means Assistant loses much of its personalized touch.

A spokesman for the company told Wired only 0.2% of all recordings are accessed by humans for transcription, and that the audio files are stripped of identifying user information.

However, the report from VRT found recordings of users that had identifiable information, including one person’s address and other personal information, like a family discussing their grandchildren by name, another user discussing their love life, and one user talking about how quickly a child was growing.

In 2017, Google confirmed a bug in its Home Mini speaker allowed the smart device to record users even when it was not activated by the wake up word. A Bloomberg report earlier this year also revealed Amazon’s Alexa voice technology uses contractors to review recordings, which Amazon later confirmed.

The recordings reported on by VRT may not be in compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, rules that went into effect in May 2018 that limit the data companies based in the EU or doing business in the EU can hold on consumers.

Google did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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« Reply #3470 on: Jul 15, 2019, 03:45 AM »

'Just a matter of when': the $20bn plan to power Singapore with Australian solar

Ambitious export plan could generate billions and make Australia the centre of low-cost energy in a future zero-carbon world

Adam Morton Environment editor
15 Jul 2019 02.52 BST

The desert outside Tennant Creek, deep in the Northern Territory, is not the most obvious place to build and transmit Singapore’s future electricity supply. Though few in the southern states are yet to take notice, a group of Australian developers are betting that will change.

If they are right, it could have far-reaching consequences for Australia’s energy industry and what the country sells to the world.

Known as Sun Cable, it is promised to be the world’s largest solar farm. If developed as planned, a 10-gigawatt-capacity array of panels will be spread across 15,000 hectares and be backed by battery storage to ensure it can supply power around the clock.

Overhead transmission lines will send electricity to Darwin and plug into the NT grid. But the bulk would be exported via a high-voltage direct-current submarine cable snaking through the Indonesian archipelago to Singapore. The developers say it will be able to provide one-fifth of the island city-state’s electricity needs, replacing its increasingly expensive gas-fired power.

    This will be the channel through which Australian energy production will greatly reduce [global] emissions
    Ross Garnaut

After 18 months in development, the $20bn Sun Cable development had a quiet coming out party in the Top End three weeks ago at a series of events held to highlight the NT’s solar potential. The idea has been embraced by the NT government and attracted the attention of the software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, who is considering involvement through his Grok Ventures private investment firm.

The NT plan follows a similarly ambitious proposal for the Pilbara, where another group of developers are working on an even bigger wind and solar hybrid plant to power local industry and develop a green hydrogen manufacturing hub. On Friday, project developer Andrew Dickson announced the scale of the proposed Asian Renewable Energy Hub had grown by more than a third, from 11GW to 15GW. “To our knowledge, it’s the largest wind-solar hybrid in the world,” he says.

These developments are still at relatively early stages of planning. Both teams say it will be four years before they lock in finance, with production scheduled to start mid-to-late next decade. But renewable energy watchers are cautiously optimistic they could help spark a new way of thinking about Australia’s energy exports – one that better aligns with the country’s commitment to the Paris climate agreement, rather than broadening a fossil fuel trade at odds with it.

Opponents to Australia taking significant action on the climate crisis often point out the country is responsible for about 1.4% of greenhouse gas emissions, placing it about 15th on a table of carbon-polluting nations. A recent report by science and policy institute Climate Analytics makes the case that this underplays Australia’s contribution, which increases by 5% if fossil fuel exports are included.
Clean energy found to be a 'pathway to prosperity’ for Northern Territory
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The latter figure is expected to increase over the next decade. Australia is the world’s biggest exporter of coal and rivals Qatar as the leader in selling liquified natural gas (LNG). There is bipartisan support for a significant expansion of both industries, though government economists anticipate export earnings from coal will fall.

Ross Garnaut, former advisor to Labor governments who is now professor of economics at the University of Melbourne and chairman of the Australian-German Energy Transition Hub, makes the case that there is another way ahead. In a recent lecture series that is being turned into a book, he lays out his analysis of how Australia, with the best renewable energy resource in the developed world, could expand its energy production while significantly reducing global emissions.

Garnaut points to the transformative reduction in the capital cost of renewable energy and energy storage over the past two decades. As most of the cost of clean energy developments is capital (the fuel is free), he says the transformation has radically changed the ability of clean projects to compete with fossil fuels. Given capital costs are lower in developed countries, Garnaut says it means Australia can, if properly managed, be the centre of low-cost energy in a future zero-carbon world.

It would make it the natural home for growth in minerals processing for a world that increasingly values production powered by solar, wind and other clean sources. Industries that would flourish under Garnaut’s vision include familiar energy-intensive operations such as aluminium, iron ore and steel, and new opportunities in silica, lithium, vanadium, nickel, cobalt and copper.

“This will be the channel through which production of energy in Australia will greatly reduce emissions in the rest of the world. It will also be a foundation for a new era of economic expansion and prosperity,” he says.

Garnaut believes exporting electricity through high-voltage cable and green hydrogen will be a part of this clean energy future, though they would mostly be expected to come later. Sun Cable’s chief executive, David Griffin, is bullish about the possibility of his company helping power Singapore from the outback in less than a decade.

He says the project will use prefabricated solar cells to capture “one of the best solar radiance reserves on the planet”. But he says the major transformation that makes the farm possible is the advent of high-voltage, direct-current submarine cable, which he describes as the “greatest unsung technology development”. Sun Cable’s underwater link to Singapore will run 3,800km.

“It is extraordinary technology that is going to change the flow of energy between countries. It is going to have profound implications and the extent of those implications hasn’t been widely identified,” Griffin says.

“If you have the transmission of electricity over very large distances between countries, then the flow of energy changes from liquid fuels – oil and LNG – to electrons. Ultimately, that’s a vastly more efficient way to transport energy. The incumbents just won’t be able to compete.”

Sun Cable’s backers believe Singapore, as a well-regulated electricity market that runs mostly on gas piped from Malaysia and Indonesia and shipped as LNG, is ripe for competition.

Across in the Pilbara, the Asian Renewable Energy Hub proposal has taken another tack. The developers – a consortium of InterContinental Energy, CWP Energy Asia, wind energy company Vestas and financiers at the Macquarie Group – began with a plan to send energy to Indonesia via sub-sea cable. That has been dropped in favour of green hydrogen – a shift driven, Andrew Dickson says, by falling costs and growing international and local interest that suggests a much bigger market.

An expanded hub proposal released this week says it will be spread across a vast area – 6,500 sq km, or about half the size of greater Sydney – and create 3,000 construction and 400 operational jobs. About two-thirds of the 15GW capacity will be met with giant wind turbines and one-third solar panels. The developers say up to a fifth of the total capacity is expected to go to large industrial energy users in the Pilbara, potentially including new and expanded mines and mineral processing. But most of the electricity generated will be used to run a hydrogen manufacturing hub.

The hydrogen would be sold domestically and exported, most likely to Japan and South Korea, which have expressed a desire to shift energy consumption in that direction. Dickson says producing green hydrogen at large volumes could open up possibilities such as using it to replace coking coal in steel production. It could allow an expanded version of the “green steel” model adopted in Whyalla by British industrialist Sanjeev Gupta.

Dickson points to recent appraisals by the Australian chief scientist, Alan Finkel, and the International Energy Agency as evidence of hydrogen’s potential. “People are realising, after several decades of promise, that now could be the time for it to be a thing,” he says.

Griffin and Dickson both decline to comment on the role the federal government could or should play in developing green exports, although they volunteer that some local MPs and state governments are supportive. Both note the fact their proposals are off-grid has helped insulate them from politically loaded debates that pit renewable energy against fossil fuels.

Roger Dargaville, a senior lecturer in renewable energy at Monash University and member of the Energy Transition Hub, underlines the amount of work that is going into examining what a future of clean exports will look like. A recent project he was involved in suggested a 40-gigawatt sub-sea electricity cable into Indonesia – much larger than that initially proposed by the Asian Renewable Energy Hub – would be viable by 2035 if that country adopts a low emissions target.

Dargaville believes future exports will almost certainly be a mix of hydrogen, cabled electricity and minerals refined before shipment. He says no one should underestimate the scale of what would be necessary to replace Australia’s existing fossil fuel industries (coal and LNG industries are worth more than $100bn a year and employ tens of thousands) and that the political and technological challenges will be significant. But he stresses no one should mistake where international markets are taking us.

The only question is whether it is in the timeframe climate scientists says is necessary. “It’s not really yes or no, it’s just when.”

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« Reply #3471 on: Jul 15, 2019, 03:48 AM »

Putting pigs in the shade: the radical farming system banking on trees

A farm in Portugal is showing how the ancient art of silvopasture – combining livestock with productive trees – may offer some real answers to the climate crisis

John Vidal in Foros de Vale Figueira
15 Jul 2019 09.01 BST

The land to the north of the village of Foros de Vale Figueira in southern Portugal has been owned and farmed through the centuries by Romans, Moors, Christians, capitalists, far rightists, even the military. It has been part of a private fiefdom, worked by slaves as well as communists.

Now this 100-hectare (247-acre) patch of land just looks exhausted – a great empty grassland without trees, people or animals, wilting under a baking Iberian sun.

But look closely and you can just see the future: tips of thousands of tiny oak and nut trees following the contours and poking through thick mulches of grass and leaves.

“This will be the new montado,” says Alfredo Cunhal, referring to a pre-medieval Portuguese system of farming. He is an agricultural scientist whose great-grandfather cleared the cork and olive trees that were once scattered around, and whose family then overworked the land by dosing it with chemicals and growing monocultures of cereals.

The montado system combines herds of animals with productive trees and shrubs. Cunhal’s vision is to create an oasis-style abundance on land where there is often no rain for nine months of the year and where temperatures can reach 49C (120F).

“Imagine tall trees, like 40-metre tall walnuts, putting down leaves, letting light through, drawing up water. Below them, cork oaks giving shade, and a line of citrus and olive trees; and then imagine vines climbing the trees. The fruit and nuts will provide the food for the pigs, chickens, cows and other animals who graze there,” he says.

“Animals are the key,” he says. “They are important for the whole ecosystem, as well as part of the food chain. They must be balanced with the tree system. Pigs provide digestion, and are good for the soil, they disturb the ground and fertilise the land. The natural fertility cycles work better with them. The pig is not a meat machine but a friend of nature.”

The “new montado” at Herdade do Freixo do Meio farm will take years to mature but will repay itself many times over with the variety of food produced and healthier soils, he says. “It offers resilience against fires and global heating and it soaks up the carbon,” he says.

“We are aiming to go from zero to abundance in a few years. We can put chickens on the land soon, pigs and sheep will follow, cows come later. We invest now, and the next generation sees the real benefits,” he says.

Cunhal, who comes from a large landowning family related to Portugal’s legendary communist leader Álvaro Cunhal, says he has had to reject much of what he was taught about farming at college.

“I spent five years studying agriculture and I never heard the word ecology. We were taking more and more from the land but we were farming monocultures. We were eating the system. I was managing 7,000 hectares for my family but I never noticed the trees. I really didn’t know anything. I produced a lot but I needed so many inputs. I needed carbon, energy, chemicals. I could do nothing efficiently. The land was eroded, the soil damaged.”

Demoralised, he gave up managing the family estate in 1990, took a share of the land, and started to run 600 hectares on organic, co-operative lines with a collective of 35 people, many of whom had worked on the estate for years. Together, these “partners” are converting the whole farm into a full montado system.

The results are beginning to show. Wild boar, lynx and deer roam freely, while old varieties of pig, cattle, chickens and turkeys are rotated among the established oak and olive trees and in newly planted orchards. The farm grows almost every type of Mediterranean food among the trees, as well as 40 varieties of fruit and nut.

“We can grow water,” says Cunhal. “By planting trees whose roots go deep we are drawing moisture up and building soils, creating the possibility to grow even more.”

The complexity of the system baffles conventional farmers who mostly specialise in a handful of crops or products. But Cunhal dismisses monocultures as “the end of life” and insists there is resilience and safety in diversity.

The variety of food produced is astonishing. The farm grows dozens of fruit and vegetable crops and makes and sells 600 different products, ranging from eight kinds of oak flours and breads, to meats, wine and olive oils.

“It’s far more than any normal farm would ever consider. This used to be a cork oak farm. Now cork is just 5% of the turnover. Four years ago we were 100% dependent on the open market and wholesalers. Now nearly 50% of what we grow is sold directly to consumers. We have a butchery, bakery, olive oil press, smoker,” he says.

A montado system also demands a new social approach. “It’s not right that a system of farming as complex as this should be run by one person. Far better that a whole community should propose how it works. Eventually we want consumers to be part of the farm, too,” says Cunhal, who says he intends to eventually hand the land over to the co-operative.

“It works because the risks and the benefits are shared. Together we are resilient to shocks. We employ more people. We produce variety. It’s a different approach.”

“It is very exciting. This is the meeting place of trees, crops and animals,” says Ricardo Silva, a trained biologist who switched to forestry before coming to Herdade do Freixo do Meio. “The results are measured not just in profits, but in the social and ecological benefits created. We cannot say exactly, but our hypothesis is that we can double, even treble production without taking away from the land.”

Twenty years ago, an approach like this might have been dismissed as marginal, perhaps as an ecological experiment to be conducted by wealthy landowners. But that idea is changing fast as the needs of the environment are recognised, says Patrick Caron, chair of the UN’s high-level panel of experts on food security and nutrition and a former head of Cirad, the French food research agency.

“We need a transformation of our food systems. It does not involve a return to the way our grandparents farmed – that would be a catastrophe. But we must take stock of the principles of what they were doing, and their knowledge.

“Change is happening. The big companies know it, too. The meat industry used to laugh, but now they are preparing for change. It is possible to move from mass production to quality.”.

“Farmers became fascinated by the baubles of technology in the 1930s. They tried to simplify everything,” says Patrick Worms, senior science policy advisor at the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre.

“What Cunhal is doing is the opposite – using more animals, growing more crops, making everything more complex. He is supported by the science, which shows that you get much greater production when you mix things up, and when animals and plants interact.”

Studies from Africa, Brazil, Europe, Sri Lanka and elsewhere all show conclusively that interspersing trees, animals and crops can boost food production, but also build soil, increase biodiversity and sequester CO2 from the atmosphere, he says.

“Agro-forestry isn’t a ‘no man’s land’ between forestry and agriculture,” says Maria Helena Semedo, deputy director of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. “We know it can help diversify and sustain food production and provide vital social, economic and environmental benefits for land.”

But even as scientists and policy-makers wake up to the potential of silvopastoralism as both a better way to grow food and as a way to respond to the climate crisis, the speed and the scale of change challenges the farm.

“We are more resistant to climate than our neighbours who farm conventionally, but a 3C rise in temperature here, which is where we are heading, means everything is lost. Higher and more extreme temperatures are a death threat to the animals. The land will go to desert. I am really worried. I have no doubt the climate crisis is happening. I feel it every day … Now we get more irregular summers and temperature increases every year,” says Cunhal.

He is one of eight Europeans trying to sue the EU over its climate change policies, which they argue are inadequate. “We had 49C last year. We are used to 43C. In 2017-18 we had an eight-month drought. Then in mid-December we had 100mm of rain in two hours. I have lived here for 30 years. It’s more unpredictable now; we risk stopping almost all the biological process.”

Barring disaster, Cunhal says he will continue to plant trees and rear animals. “We don’t want a square metre without shade. We must treat the farm as a common good. The satisfaction is in creating something beautiful. I want to leave a landscape where everyone – humans and animals – feel good.”

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« Reply #3472 on: Jul 15, 2019, 03:49 AM »

Billions of air pollution particles found in hearts of city dwellers

Exclusive: Study shows associated damage to critical pumping muscles, even in children

Damian Carrington Environment editor
15 Jul 2019 17.00 BST

The hearts of young city dwellers contain billions of toxic air pollution particles, research has revealed.

Even in the study’s youngest subject, who was three, damage could be seen in the cells of the organ’s critical pumping muscles that contained the tiny particles. The study suggests these iron-rich particles, produced by vehicles and industry, could be the underlying cause of the long-established statistical link between dirty air and heart disease.

The scientists said the abundance of the nanoparticles might represent a serious public health concern and that particle air pollution must be reduced urgently. More than 90% of the world’s population lives with toxic air, according to the World Health Organization, which has declared the issue a global “public health emergency”.

The scientists acknowledged some uncertainties in their research, but Prof Barbara Maher, of Lancaster University, said: “This is a preliminary study in a way, but the findings and implications were too important not to get the information out there.”

Maher and colleagues found in 2016 that the same nanoparticles were present in human brains and were associated with Alzheimers-like damage, another disease linked to air pollution.

While all ages were affected, Maher said she was particularly concerned about children.

“For really young people, the evidence is now of very early-stage damage both in the heart and the brain,” she said. “We have a likely candidate particle able to access both organs, with the pathological evidence to show damage is happening.”

A recent comprehensive review concluded that air pollution may be damaging every organ and virtually every cell in the human body, as tiny particles are inhaled, move into the blood stream and are transported around the body. Much of the evidence of harm, from diabetes to reduced intelligence to increased miscarriages, is epidemiological, as harmful experiments on people are unethical. But one study in 2018 found air pollution particles in the placentas of women who had given birth.

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« Reply #3473 on: Jul 15, 2019, 04:05 AM »

Conflict drives global rise in sexual violence against women

Study identifies DRC, India and South Sudan among countries where women are at greatest risk of attack

Rod Austin

Sexual violence is on the increase both inside and outside of wartime contexts and women remain the primary victims, warns new research.

In their report, researchers from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (Acled) analysed data gathered from 400 recorded sexual violence events that occurred between January 2018 and June 2019.

They found an overall increase in reported events where the offender directly targeted women and girls; in only 5% of cases were the victims male.

At 140, the total number of reported events nearly doubled in the first three months of 2019 compared with the same period in 2018.

The report’s authors said this was “largely due to an upward trend in violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which consistently registers high levels of reported sexual violence”.

Dr Roudabeh Kishi, director of research at Acled, said: “It is important to remember that sexual violence in or outside of conflict remains a pressing issue for victims, regardless of gender or age.”

Identifying that the primary perpetrators of public, political sexual attacks were regional political militias followed by state forces, Acled compared statistics for 2018 and 2019 in order to identify high-risk regions where women are more vulnerable to attack.

In 2018, the Democratic Republic of the Congo topped the list followed by South Sudan, Burundi, India and Sudan. By 2019, the list had changed, with India rising to second place behind the DRC. South Sudan and Burundi followed, with Mozambique and Zimbabwe in equal fifth position.

In both years, researchers found that events were often accompanied by lethal attacks, especially during armed conflict.

Breaking down the data into regions, Acled found that the largest proportion of reported events were committed by political militias, anonymous or unidentified armed groups in Africa and south Asia. In the Middle East, south-east Asia, eastern and south-eastern Europe and the Balkans, events were carried out by state forces.

In the same time period, more than 100 government-perpetrated sexual violence events were recorded, which accounted for more than a quarter of all incidents that occurred or were most common in India, the DRC, Myanmar, South Sudan, Burundi, and Sudan.

There are no comprehensive statistics for the number of women and men subjected to sexual violence during conflict, but the figures are believed to be in the thousands.

'Impunity reigns': six survivors of sexual violence speak out..Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/jun/24/impunity-reigns-six-survivors-of-sexual-violence-speak-out

According to Acled, women are frequently targeted during political violence, which makes up only one-third of all events involving violence targeting women and extends beyond sexual violence, where they say that levels of organised violence are high.

However, even where they identified that organised violence was not the primary objective, women often still face high levels of targeting outside of conventional conflict: for example, attempts by a state to enforce order through repression, or a mob targeting a woman accused of indecency. Such instances have arisen in Burundi and Pakistan, which provide indicative case studies.

“On the heels of commemorating the international day for the elimination of sexual violence in conflict, we need the support of states to hold perpetrators accountable,” said Kishi.

“It is damning to find that some states are among the primary perpetrators of such violence themselves. Impunity plays a troubling role in the continuation of such violence.”

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« Reply #3474 on: Jul 15, 2019, 04:09 AM »

Ebola virus reaches Congolese city of Goma

Officials say patient taken to treatment centre and bus passengers have been traced

Jason Burke Africa correspondent
Mon 15 Jul 2019 10.24 BST

The Ebola virus has reached the Congolese city of Goma, home to 2 million people and a transport hub for swath of central Africa, for the first time since an epidemic began in the country nearly a year ago.

The Congolese health ministry said a man who had arrived in the regional centre on Sunday had been quickly transported to an Ebola treatment centre.

Authorities said they had tracked down all the passengers on the bus the man had taken to Goma from Butembo, one of the towns hardest hit by the disease.

“Because of the speed with which the patient was identified and isolated, and the identification of all the other bus passengers coming from Butembo, the risk of it spreading in the rest of the city of Goma is small,” the health ministry said in a statement.

The virus has killed more than 1,600 people in Congo and two others who returned home across the border to neighbouring Uganda. About 700 people have recovered from infections.

The latest official statistics list a total of 2,489 cases, of which 2,395 are confirmed. Twelve new cases were confirmed over the weekend and there were 10 deaths.

The confirmed case announced late on Sunday in eastern Congo involves a pastor who became ill last Tuesday and sought treatment at a registered health centre. It is thought he was receiving care from a nurse at his accommodation in Butembo but decided to leave the city, and arrived at a health centre in Goma on Sunday showing symptoms of Ebola.

The 46-year-old did not show signs of illness at three medical checkpoints on the 18-hour journey, though he gave different names, indicating a desire to hide his identity, officials said. He has now been sent back to Butembo for further care.

While in Butembo, the pastor held regular services in seven churches, during which he laid his hands on worshippers, including people who were ill, the health ministry said.

Officials called on local communities to take precautions such as washing their hands and avoiding physical contact with anyone suspected of contamination with the virus.

The number of people moving around or through the zone worst hit by Ebola has been a big challenge for health services. Another problem has been attacks against health workers and treatment facilities. On Monday the health ministry said two Ebola awareness workers had been killed in the affected zone.

Eastern Congo is home to a myriad of armed groups, and Mai Mai militia fighters are active near the hardest-hit towns. Health teams have been unable to access violent areas to vaccinate people at risk of infection and to bring infected patients into isolation.

At other times the violence against health teams has come from residents who do not want their loved ones taken to treatment centres or buried in accordance with guidelines aimed at reducing Ebola transmission.

Health experts have long feared that the disease could make its way to Goma, which is located on the Rwandan border and is traversed by large numbers of travellers from across a vast area.

The health ministries in Congo’s neighbours have been preparing for months for the possibility of cases, and frontline health workers have been vaccinated.

While the experimental vaccine is believed to have saved countless lives, not all Congolese people have accepted it. Some falsely believe that the vaccine is what is making people sick, in part because people can still develop the disease after getting the shot if they already had been infected.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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« Reply #3475 on: Jul 15, 2019, 04:11 AM »

Papua New Guinea massacre of 30 women and children is 'worst payback killing' in country's history

Warring clans target women and children after tribe leader’s mother killed, police minister says

Luke Henriques-Gomes
Mon 15 Jul 2019 04.09 BST

The brutal deaths of about 30 women and children in Papua New Guinea’s highlands amount to the “worst payback killing” in the country’s history, the police minister has said.

Bryan Kramer made the declaration after visiting Hela province, where 16 people were slaughtered by rival clansmen who the prime minister, James Marape, described as “warlords”.

The motive for the massacre was unclear last week, and the total death toll from a series of attacks had also varied, according to reports.

Following a one-day trip to the area, Kramer said it appeared warring clans had taken the rare step of targeting women and children after the elderly mother of a tribe leader was killed in an earlier raid.

He described “the horrific killing of 23 women ([two] of whom were pregnant) and [nine] children” as the “worst payback killing in our country’s history”.

While tribal violence is a long-standing issue in the area, attacks on women and children were essentially unprecedented, authorities and locals have said.

In a statement on Facebook, Kramer said he was told the most recent outbreak of violence centred around the warring Oi Kiru and Libe tribes.

A key Libe clansman was killed in June, sparking a revenge attack in which six Oi Kiru members died, including the mother of the clan’s leader, he said, adding that it was the “first killing of an elderly mother”.

Kramer said high-powered rifles were then used in a payback killing at a small village, Peta, in which three women and three children were killed.

That led to the worst single incident, with a group of young men raiding the Karida village in the early hours last Monday, using machetes to kill nine women and seven children. Two of the women were pregnant, Kramer said.

Philip Pimua, the officer in charge of the Karida sub-health centre, previously told the Guardian the victims were “cut into pieces”. “Some had body parts we couldn’t recognise which one is which one, only the faces we can recognise, but legs, hands…”

Those responsible had reportedly fled the province, Kramer said, while the Karida locals had said they would not retaliate following his visit to the area.

“High-level discussions on a strategic deployment action plan with the use of drone technology and satellite surveillance, will be used to track and apprehend those on the run,” he said.

“An intelligence unit will also be established to gather information from the community.”

The Marape government sent in the defence force in response to the escalating violence last week, while the United Nations called for an immediate intervention to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Describing the Karida massacre last week as “one of the saddest day of my life”, Marape vowed to use the “strongest measures in law” to punish the perpetrators.

Comment was sought from Kramer.

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« Reply #3476 on: Jul 15, 2019, 04:14 AM »

07/15/2019 07:16 PM

Far-Right AfD: Germany's Populist Party Embraces Its Extremist Wing

By Melanie Amann and Ann-Katrin Müller

The far-right fringe of Germany's populist Alternative for Germany party is gaining ground. Politicians in the party who once opposed the wing and its leader, Björn Höcke, have abandoned their resistance and are taking steps to embrace the extremists.

It was the video that proved decisive. Four minutes of images of Björn Höcke, the leader of the far-right nationalist wing of the right-wing populist AfD party, the so-called "Flügel." It showed him jogging through the golden autumn leaves of his village, shaking the hands of workers and women, feeding sheep and then firing people up in a speech. "When you celebrate me, I feel the passion," Höcke says in the video. "I bow my head in humility for your efforts."

A few days after Höcke's image video was presented at the Flügel's annual "Kyffhäusertreffen," a yearly meeting of the far-right wing in the eastern German state of Thuringia, he combined the video with a combative speech against the arbitration tribunals and the federal executive committee of his party and the more than 100 AfD members who wrote an open letter appealing for the rejection of Höcke. In the letter, more moderate members of the party lambasted his "excessive cult of personality" and rejected his "divisive criticism" of internal party opponents. The letter also made clear that, "The AfD is not and will not become a Björn Höcke Party!"

Was the aim of the letter to spark a revolt within the party? Would the signatories of the appeal, who were conservative, but more mainstream, finally take a stand against the racist völkisch tirades made by Höcke, the party's boss in the state of Thuringia, who is known for peppering his speeches with the language of the National Socialists, and other radical forces within the party?

Such an offensive is already overdue, because even though the party is currently being threatened with official observation by Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the far-right wing of the party has been allowed to go on with its work recently largely unhindered by the rest of the party.

Non-Aggression Pact

It's also hard to imagine that the latest appeal against Höcke will do much to change the situation given that top AfD officials, who are supposedly mainstream, like Alice Weidel, who heads the the parliamentary group in the parliament, the Bundestag, have long since come to terms with the far-right wing and with Höcke. Behind the scenes, Weidel has even forged a non-aggression pact with Höcke, a man she wanted to throw out of the party only a few years ago. For the first time, leading representatives of Höcke's wing of the party and friends of the politician, like the far-right intellectual Götz Kubitschek, are talking about how they can turn Weidel into an ally -- and what they can expect from it.

By doing so, party group leader Weidel is embarking on a dangerous path toward political extremism -- one that AfD party leaders Jörg Meuthen and Alexander Gauland have already taken. Indeed, the Flügel is anything but marginalized in the AfD -- it has been established within the party's mainstream for some time now.

That's even obvious in the open letter. Among more than 100 signatories -- according to the party's own statements, it has a total of 36,000 registered members -- there are almost exclusively representatives of the middle functionary level of western Germany. There are no prominent politicians among the signatories, and only 11 of them hold one of AfD's 91 seats in the Bundestag. That's not what a broad alliance looks like.

Overtures to the Right-Wing Extremists

Weidel began making overtures to the far-right wing about a year ago. Earlier, she been a declared opponent of Höcke, and had even tried to initiate proceedings to have him excluded from the party. But now she took the initiative and sought contact with Höcke through intermediaries. Since then, there have been several meetings, mostly in Berlin -- at times just with Höcke and his friend and mentor, the New Right publisher Kubitschek. And at times there have been slightly bigger meetings with people like Kubitschek's wife Ellen Kositza and AfD party head Gauland.

The fact that Kubitschek has been mediating is indicative of how serious the far-right wing is about gaining footing within the party mainstream. Höcke and Andreas Kalbitz, the 46-year-old from the eastern state of Brandenburg who is pulling the strings within the far-right wing, are closely associated with the publisher and follow his advice when coming up with their policies. Previously, he had tried to make it seem as though he had a slight distance from the party, but it is now clear that he both has and indeed wants to have influence on the party.

"Several meetings took place in a very positive, open atmosphere," Kubitschek said of his meetups with Weidel. He said the meetings hadn't been about individual issues, but about "behavioral teachings and attempts at mediation," very fundamental questions of strategy. Things like: "Where does the AfD stand in the political arena? How can they work together to preserve party unity? How can external pressure be fended off? How can the party base be encouraged and how can the process of finding consensus be institutionalized?"

Kubitshek's conclusion is that "all participants agree that pacifying the party is one of the most important tasks of all." He said he experienced Weidel as a smart, open-minded and well-read woman. "I think she understands what Höcke means and wants," he said.

A mail from Weidel in 2013, before she joined the AfD, made public by the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, indicates that Weidel and right-wing radical Höcke hold similar views. In it, Weidel's tone sounds a lot like Höcke's. At the time, she was already railing against "culturally alien peoples such as Arabs and Sinti and Roma" and against politicians she described as being "puppets" of the powers that won World War II. In parliament, she would later agitate against "headscarf girls, knife-wielding men on welfare and other good-for-nothings."

A Strategic Shift

Since Weidel's strategic shift in the AfD, she has enjoyed the support of the far-right wing. When her party donations scandal came to light at the end of 2018, few activists on the far-right spoke negatively about Weidel and almost no one called for her resignation. If her former opponents hadn't maintained their silence, she probably would have lost her position.

Conversely, Weidel remains silent when there is criticism of the far-right wing. The recent appeal against Höcke obviously didn't include her signature. The best you can get out of her when she comments on Höcke's video is that she finds the staging "irritating" and parts of his speech "dispensable," while also arguing that mudslinging "needs to be prevented."

Representatives of the Flügel wing prefer to speak of a "learning curve" rather than any kind of pact. "She has long known that the party can't shake off Björn Höcke and his network without incurring damage," said Kubitschek. "And that Höcke plays a necessary instrument in the AfD concert." For her part, Weidel is always ready to overcome prejudices she has, said a source close to Höcke. The message is clear: The far-right wing of the party can no longer be defeated.

In the past, Kubitschek likely would have rejected Weidel as being too willing to adapt. But now, she's even allowed to give a lecture at his next "Summer Academy" in Schnellroda, a village in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt. "Her lecture ought to be perceived as a gesture within the party: That they have more common than what separates them," Kubitschek said. Weidel has voluntarily entered into this hostile embrace and it is unlikely she will ever be able to untangle herself from it. When she makes her appearance in Schnellroda -- an event whose organizer, Kubitschek, tries to give an intellectual spin to right-wing extremist messages -- Weidel's entry into the Flügel world will be sealed.

Weidel's spokesman confirmed that she has held three meetings with Höcke since the last parliamentary election. But he said that the claim his boss had entered into a pact with Höcke was nothing "but an insinuation." And Weidel herself said, "As parliamentary group leader, I am rightly being asked to respect a certain principle of neutrality." She added that she has attempted to be an "integrating force" in her parliamentary group, with success. And that just talking to someone doesn't mean that one is adopting their opinion.

But it does clearly show that nothing is being done to hinder the other camp, no matter its beliefs.

Government Monitoring Increasingly Likely

The Office for the Protection of the Constitution has been monitoring the Flügel since the beginning of the year. The government is focusing on Höcke and the cult of personality surrounding him, and the intelligence agency also kept an eye on this year's Kyffhäusertreffen meeting. A decision issued by the agency this week can be interpreted as a warning shot. The domestic intelligence service says it considers it proven fact that the Identitarian Movement violates the principles of the German constitution. Several activists with the movement, which is fashioned as more modern version of right-wing extremism, are associated with the AfD, especially within the Flügel, despite the fact that the party has formally distanced itself from the Identitarians.

If Höcke and his followers gain the upper hand, it's hard to envision a scenario in which the Office for the Protection of the Constitution wouldn't place the entire party under formal monitoring for extremist, anti-constitutional activity. That's what makes it so astounding to see the Flügel moving toward the center of the party -- or the rest of the party moving toward the far-right extremist wing.

It has helped the far-right wing that every previous attempt to hold it down has failed spectacularly. The crash of former AfD party heads Bernd Lucke and Frauke Petry as well as the unsuccessful proceedings to kick Höcke out of the party have had a deterrent effect.

Highly Professional, Tightly Organized

But the success of the far-right wing is also attributable to the fact that it has become highly professionalized, tightly organized and has shifted its strategic direction. Members of the Flügel no longer aspire to join the top ranks of the AfD and instead prefer to operate in the background, avoiding public conflicts. That gives critics fewer opportunities to attack. More moderate members of the party even seemed to have developed a certain nonchalance about the possibility of being officially monitored. At the beginning of his speeches, party leader Meuthen is even fond of mockingly addressing the "dear informants who are present," after all, "I have a very big heart."

In 2016, Meuthen became one of the first people from the more moderate AfD camp to open up to Höcke and to attend meetings held by the far-right Flügel. Internally, he has always been considered a weak party leader, and later, he struggled as a result of a campaign donation scandal. The fact that Meuthen was able to become the party's leading candidate in recent elections for the European Parliament is also in part due to the fact that he has withheld from criticizing the far-right in his party. In return, Flügel operative Kalbitz personally made phone calls and sent out text messages in support of Meuthen's candidacy.

Of course, Meuthen views the situation differently. "There has never been such a pact," he said. He claims that Kalbitz only promoted him because he thought he was the right candidate. "Just as I have promoted Kalbitz in the election to the state parliament." He then added, "If the Flügel is reasonable and clearly demarcates itself from extreme positions, I see no reason to take action against it." He said there had been "positive changes" in that wing of the party.

There are also other prominent opponents of Höcke and his wing who have recently grown conspicuously quiet. One example is Beatrix von Storch. One senior member of the Flügel mockingly says she just has "fine instincts" and that she's surely thinking about elections for the national executive committee at the end of November. Storch did not want to comment for this story.

'Compromises on all Sides'

Kubitschek, who is in constant contact with Höcke and Kalbitz, is the main person behind the party's strategic reorientation. The publisher views the Flügel as an "indispensable and trend-setting current" in the party. But the wing does not embody the entire AfD, so it "is necessary that it work together with other camps in the party," Kubitschek said. "This can only be done with compromises on all sides." Fortunately, he said, Weidel has recognized this.

According to Kubitschek, there is only one way forward for the future of the party in its entirety. "In the long run, it must be possible to bring the AfD into a form in which it can conduct negotiations and make policy." For that to happen, he said, the party must be pacified internally.

In the long run, he said the "Flügel as a political platform within the AfD will be too small, anyway." Kubitschek believes it cannot replace the new alliances between "reconciliatory professionals" in the party that are needed. He said that Höcke's role in the party also needs to change -- that he needs to become "one leadership figure among others, one who operates without a cult of personality and works together in ways that mobilize" people.

A Normal Part of the AfD?

With that, the goal has been set: Höcke and his backers are to become a normal part of the AfD. Now, it's up to Thuringian state chapter leader Höcke to assume that more modest role. Although he has been more reserved recently, making few appearances on the national stage, time and time again, he acts out during major appearances, as he did recently at the Kyffhäusertreffen meeting.

This time the anger in the party over his ego trip was so great that Höcke apparently tried to do damage control behind the scenes. He texted Meuthen, for instance. At the same time, his people spread the word that there was no chance of Höcke entering into the ring and running to become the party's leader.

Andreas Kalbitz, who has been said to have aspirations for the party chairmanship, issued a similar commitment. "I won't be running for the position of party head at the national party conference at the end of the year," he said. He then offered his reasoning. "I believe the current situation within the party requires a candidate who is perceived as being more neutral and balancing than I seem to be for some at the moment." He said his utmost concern is party cohesion and unity for common success.

The men inside the Flügel also have a better candidate lined up. If everything goes well between now and the party conference at the end of November, Tino Chrupalla will become party leader. The politician, from the eastern state of Saxony, landed a seat in the federal parliament by direct vote and is considered Gauland's favorite to succeed him. The 44-year-old has the ability to connect with all the different camps within the party. He's not a member of the right-wing extremist Flügel, but he did travel to the Kyffhäusertreffen. "I just wanted to take a look," Chrupalla said, emphasizing that he remained seated during the ovations for Höcke. "That's not my style," he said. But even he doesn't go any further than criticizing Höcke's actions. To the contrary. "I don't have a problem with the Flügel, I don't see any differences in content between myself or Andreas Kalbitz -- I just sometimes express myself somewhat differently.

This is exactly how the "conciliatory professionals" -- the ones Kubitschek says will make up the AfD in future -- sound. It's no coincidence. Chrupalla is familiar with Kubitschek's strategic ideas. "We've talked a lot these past few days," said Chrupalla. And: "He's very good at judging things."

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« Reply #3477 on: Jul 15, 2019, 04:31 AM »

'Go back home': Trump aims racist attack at Ocasio-Cortez and other congresswomen

    Tlaib responds: ‘He needs to be impeached’
    Pressley: ‘This is what racism looks like’
Martin Pengelly in New York
Mon 15 Jul 2019 08.53 BST

Donald Trump used racist language on Sunday to attack four progressive Democratic congresswomen, telling them to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came”.

The US president did not name his targets, but the attack was directed at a group of liberal congresswoman who have had a run-in with the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and who are sometimes referred to as the “squad”: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

Only Omar, who is from Somalia, was not born in America. Pressley is African American, Tlaib was born to Palestinian immigrants and Ocasio-Cortez comes from a New York-Puerto Rican family.

Tlaib responded by saying Trump “needs to be impeached”. Ocasio-Cortez said: “The country I ‘come from’, and the country we all swear to, is the United States.”

Omar called Trump “the worst, most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen”. Pressley said: “This is what racism looks like. We are what democracy looks like.”

Bernie Sanders was among others who called the attack racist. “When I call the president a racist, this is what I’m talking about,” the Vermont senator wrote on Twitter.

Justin Amash, a Michigan congressman who left the Republican party over his opposition to Trump, called the remarks “racist and disgusting”.

Trump responded to the outcry on Twitter on Sunday evening, saying it was “sad to see the Democrats sticking up for people who speak so badly of our country”.

    Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

    ....and the many terrible things they say about the United States must not be allowed to go unchallenged. If the Democrat Party wants to continue to condone such disgraceful behavior, then we look even more forward to seeing you at the ballot box in 2020!
    July 15, 2019

Earlier Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said: “If Trump shouted the same thing at a Muslim woman wearing hijab in a Walmart, he might be arrested.”

The congresswomen targeted by the president have been engaged in a dispute with Pelosi over the humanitarian crisis at the southern border and her reluctance to begin impeachment proceedings. Ocasio-Cortez told the Washington Post that Pelosi’s “explicit singling out of newly elected women of color” was “outright disrespectful”. On Friday Trump defended Pelosi, saying: “She is not a racist.”

In tweets on Sunday, the president wrote that it was “so interesting to see ‘progressive’ Democrat congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful nation on earth, how our government is to be run.

“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime[-]infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

Pelosi responded by saying Trump had shown that his plan to “Make America Great Again” had “always been about making America white again”.

The California senator Kamala Harris said Trump’s comments were “absolutely racist and un-American”.

The presidential trolling may have been meant as a distraction from immigration raids that were due in major cities on Sunday.

It is far from the first time Trump has been accused of holding racist views. He launched his political career with false claims that Barack Obama was not born in the US and his presidential campaign with the claim many Mexicans were “rapists”. Last year during a White House meeting he wondered why the US was admitting migrants from “shithole countries” like Haiti, El Salvador and several African nations.

On CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, was asked whether Trump’s tweets “feed into this impression that the president is racist and is pushing a racist agenda”. Cuccinelli said the tweets were examples of “rhetoric for the presidential race”.

All the congresswomen have emerged as key voices in a Democratic party split over how to beat Trump at the polls. Omar was born in Somalia and came to the US at 12 after a spell in a refugee camp. Elected to Congress in November as one of its first two Muslim women, she has emerged as a hate figure for Fox News hosts and Trump’s hard-right support. Tlaib, the other Muslim woman in Congress, was born in Detroit. Pressley was born in Cincinnati. Ocasio-Cortez was born in New York.

Trump has regularly attacked Omar and ridiculed Ocasio-Cortez, although a new book does contain expressions seemingly signalling respect for the New Yorker.

The Texas congressman Lloyd Doggett said on Twitter Trump’s attack was “racism pure and simple” but perhaps unwittingly echoed attacks on Pelosi when he said the president “fears the power of these strong, effective, American women of color”.

Sanders told NBC’s Meet the Press Pelosi was being “a little bit” too tough on the congresswomen and said: “You cannot ignore the young people of this country, who are passionate about economic and racial and social and environmental justice.”

On Sunday Tlaib was the first of the targeted women to respond to Trump. “Want a response to a lawless [and] complete failure of a president?” she wrote. “He is the crisis. His dangerous ideology is the crisis. He needs to be impeached.”

Omar, Pressley and Ocasio-Cortez followed, the last with a lengthy rebuke. “You are angry because you don’t believe in an America where I represent New York 14, where the good people of Minnesota elected [Omar], where [Tlaib] fights for Michigan families, where [Pressley] champions little girls in Boston,” she wrote. “You are angry because you can’t conceive of an America that includes us. You rely on a frightened America for your plunder.”


Ted Lieu rips Trump over ‘go back’ slur: ‘I will still be in Congress after your racist asshole leaves’

Raw Story

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) lashed out at President Donald Trump over a Sunday morning tweet in which he suggested that non-white Democrats should “go back” to their countries of origin.

After Trump’s racist tweet, Lieu shot back an angry tweet of his own.

“Hey @realDonaldTrump: What makes America exceptional is we are a nation of immigrants,” Lieu wrote. “As an immigrant who served on active duty, I am appalled you are telling us to ‘go back.'”

“I’m not going back,” he insisted. “America is our home. And I will still be in Congress after your racist asshole leaves.”

    Hey @realDonaldTrump: What makes America exceptional is we are a nation of immigrants. As an immigrant who served on active duty, I am appalled you are telling us to "go back."

    I'm not going back. America is our home. And I will still be in Congress after your racist asshole leaves. https://t.co/GHNkTlBEJr

    — Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) July 14, 2019


‘Making America white again’: Nancy Pelosi nails Donald Trump after he tells non-white Dems to ‘go back’ home

Raw Story

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Sunday fired back at President Donald Trump after he launched a racist attack on foreign-born Democrats.

In a series of tweets on Sunday, Trump suggested that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and other Democrats should “go back” to their country of origin.

    So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……
    Raw Story is now on Instagram. Get our latest stories and
    exclusive videos. Click to follow!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019

    ….and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how….

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019

    ….it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019

Pelosi responded to the the president’s tweets by accusing him of trying to make “America white again.”

“When @realDonaldTrump tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to ‘Make America Great Again’ has always been about making America white again,” Pelosi wrote.

    When @realDonaldTrump tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to “Make America Great Again” has always been about making America white again.

    Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power. https://t.co/ODqqHneyES

    — Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) July 14, 2019


‘Straight-up racist’: CNN correctly labels Trump’s Sunday Twitter rant during fact-check of his false claims

Raw Story

In its Sunday coverage of President Donald Trump, CNN noted that a series of tweets attacking non-white Democrats are “racist.”

“Trump tweets racist attacks at progressive Democratic congresswomen,” CNN’s headline read on Sunday afternoon.

According to CNN, Trump “used racist language on Sunday to attack progressive Democratic congresswomen, falsely implying they weren’t natural-born American citizens.”
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exclusive videos. Click to follow!

“Trump has routinely inflamed public debate and in turn rallied his base with comments about race,” the report noted.

The sentiment was echoed by Democratic lawmakers like Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. Ted Lieu, who called Trump a “racist ass.”

During live television coverage, CNN host Brian Stelter also said that the president’s tweets are “straight-up racist.”


Trump just launched the newest phase of the GOP’s romance with right-wing media

What does it mean for American democracy?

By Brian Rosenwald

Brian Rosenwald is one of the co-editors of Made by History, a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania and author of "Talk Radio's America."

July 15 2019
Wa Post

On Thursday, the White House hosted a summit of right-wing social media gadflies designed to highlight purported bias by major tech and social media companies. While this event seemed uniquely Trumpian with its inclusion of conspiracy theorists and peddlers of nutty ideas — people like Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft, Project Veritas’s James O’Keefe and social media provocateur Bill Mitchell — it is also a logical outgrowth of Republicans’ decades-long relationship with conservative media.

In fact, this historical bond between the GOP and entertaining pundits, from Rush Limbaugh to Sean Hannity, paved the way for the Trump presidency. Now, Trump threatens to legitimize the very people (and organizations) who spread misinformation, thrive on dysfunction and threaten to deepen the divides fracturing our society.

In 1988, Limbaugh brought a path-breaking blend of topical political humor and commentary to the national airwaves. Many Americans, especially those outside of major cities, had never heard anything like Limbaugh’s boundary-breaching content. It wasn’t just his conservative views that appealed to audiences: Limbaugh also applied the fun stylings he had developed during his 1970s disc jockey days to topical events.

That fall, as the presidential campaigned raged on, Limbaugh nicknamed the Democratic nominee, Michael Dukakis, “the loser.” When Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright, whom Limbaugh dubbed “Fort Worthless” (a play on the Texan’s hometown), promised that congressional Democrats would still set the agenda after Dukakis lost, Limbaugh started playing the Beatles’ “I’m a Loser” to introduce segments about Dukakis and remind the candidate’s party of its status.

Thanks to this sort of content, Limbaugh became a cultural phenomenon, especially for conservatives who rejoiced that someone in the media was finally fighting against a liberal establishment that they felt unfairly maligned them. So often did callers gush about how great it was that Limbaugh was on the air that the terms “dittos” and “mega-dittos” became shorthand for this sentiment.

Mainstream Republicans were slow to catch on to the potential political value of talk radio. But during the 1992 campaign, President George H.W. Bush hosted Limbaugh at the White House, putting him up in the Lincoln Bedroom. By the last day of the campaign, Limbaugh was introducing Bush at a campaign rally in New Jersey. Vividly illustrating the host’s stardom, Bush recounted how Democratic candidate Bill Clinton had appeared with actor Richard Gere the night before, proclaiming, “Well, here’s a good deal for you. Let Governor Clinton have Richard Gere. I’ll take Rush Limbaugh any day.”

That was just the beginning. Crediting talk radio with the historic Republican victory in the 1994 midterm elections, the newly elected freshman members put the medium front and center, making Limbaugh an honorary member of their class and inviting him to speak at their orientation.

By the time Bush’s son, George W. Bush, entered the White House in 2001, Republican outreach to talk radio was so robust that the new president’s communications staff included someone monitoring talk radio and ensuring that hosts received the administration’s message of the day.

As his time in office progressed, the president hosted Limbaugh for an evening of dinner and cigars, and on the host’s 20th anniversary on the air, the president, his father and brother Jeb, the former governor of Florida, surprised Limbaugh with a call to mark the occasion. And these ties extended to other hosts: Hannity and Laura Ingraham, among others, took part in off-the-record meetings with the president in which they could talk candidly and the commander in chief learned how the conservative talk audience felt about issues.

Yet conservative talk radio hosts were anything but Republican puppets. They played an integral role in torpedoing a bipartisan immigration reform bill important to Bush in 2007. And as competition in right-wing media grew ever more fierce on the airwaves, with Fox News and eventually other cable channels and digital outlets like Breitbart blossoming, business motives drove hosts to advocate more extreme positions and tactics, in increasingly incendiary terms.

By the 2010s, conservative media often hampered the ability of Republicans to govern. After all, it was first and foremost a business, driven by profit margins, and hosts couldn’t risk appearing ideologically impure or getting out of step with their audiences. Even more importantly, the sorts of compromises demanded by governance, especially divided governance, were boring — the one thing hosts couldn't afford to be. Hosts instead exhorted Republicans to sound more like them — standing up to Democrats, drawing lines in the sand and going to war to defend conservative principles — and excoriated politicians when they didn't.

After President Barack Obama won reelection and Democrats gained seats in both houses of Congress in 2012, for example, it seemed logical that Republicans, who still controlled the House of Representatives, would compromise as the nation approached the “fiscal cliff.” But Limbaugh dubbed House Speaker John A. Boehner’s efforts to do this as “a seminar on how to surrender.”

Even as they ripped the Republican establishment, however, many hosts didn’t eagerly embrace Donald Trump — the ultimate outsider — when he launched his presidential campaign in 2015. True, Trump sounded very much like someone talking on the AM dial, using nicknames like “Crooked Hillary” to run down opponents, excoriating the mainstream media for its bias and punching back against any critics of his more extreme or bombastic statements. But many hosts had concerns about whether Trump was actually a conservative.

Sean Hannity and Fox News guests call for people to be jailed. A lot.

Fox News host Sean Hannity slammed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for saying she'd rather see President Trump in prison than impeached. (Allie Caren/The Washington Post)

So during the Republican primary, the most extreme, populist outlets, like Breitbart News, were far more with Trump than conservative media royalty like Limbaugh or Fox News. This led Trump to embrace figures who hadn’t previously been part of the mainstream of conservative media. That included Alex Jones, the notorious conspiracy theorist, who scored an interview with the candidate, and Mitchell, who provoked ridicule for asserting that Trump’s large campaign rallies and pro-Trump yard signs were far more important than polling in determining the state of the race.

Even as the longtime lions of conservative media came to embrace Trump once he locked up the nomination and captured the White House, he continued to engage with and promote voices on the fringes: giving White House press credentials to conspiracy theory site Gateway Pundit, reportedly speaking with Jones and now hosting figures like Mitchell at the White House. During the social media summit, Trump even revealed that most of the figures in attendance had regular access to White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino.

On one level, this shouldn’t be too surprising: In the 1990s, many nonconservatives saw Limbaugh as a radical figure promoting conspiracy theories about the Clintons.

But Trump’s embrace of these figures threatens to do even more damage to American governance. Over the past few decades, Americans, especially those on the right, have retreated into echo chambers, looking more for news sources that share their viewpoints than those that prioritize accuracy and balance.

By inviting such extremist voices to the White House, Trump is signaling to his base that they are credible sources and worthy social media follows. This will exacerbate polarization, misinformation and gridlock by fueling the right’s embrace of the worst — and least true — ideas about the political opposition.
Gorka to Karem: ‘You’re not a journalist, you’re a punk’

After President Trump’s July 11 census announcement, former White House aide Sebastian Gorka argued with Playboy Magazine’s Brian Karem about journalism. (The Washington Post)

Indeed, one figure at the White House summit was former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka, now a talk radio host. Gorka, who almost started a skirmish with a reporter after the summit, last month called Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. a “traitor to the Constitution” for ruling against the administration’s push to add a citizenship question to the census. This sort of poisonous rhetoric, which now dominates the conservative airwaves and social media, continues the degradation of our democracy and, with an assist from the Oval Office, threatens to grow even more pervasive and damaging.


Here’s how lies and hypocrisy took over the Republican Party and hit an all-time high

on July 15, 2019
By Paul Rosenberg,

Last week, before Trump’s buffoonish cave on his attempt to hijack the census, Greg Sargent wrote about Attorney General William Barr’s emerging role as Trump’s enabler in undermining the rule of law — first in the census case, then in the challenge to the Affordable Care Act.

The connection between the two is straightforward, according to University of Michigan law professor Nicholas Bagley. “In both, Barr directed his lawyers to make bad-faith arguments, just because Trump said so,” Bagley told Sargent. “That’s a blow to the integrity of the Justice Department and a threat to the rule of law.”

As with much else about the Trump administration, the bad-faith arguments are nothing new; Republicans have long been the party of bad faith. The most notorious Supreme Court decisions of recent years — from Bush v. Gore through Shelby County, Citizens United and more — can all be attributed to bad faith arguments and actions by the justices involved.

Then there’s the myth of originalism and the long history of lying during Supreme Court confirmations, with Brett Kavanaugh’s example only the most recent. If the judicial doctrine known as “originalism” was rhetorically advanced by conservatives to supposedly counter “activist” judges, in practice it accomplishes exactly the opposite, as Richard Posner’s critique of Antonin Scalia makes clear.

What’s arguably new is the stark nakedness with which these ideas are advanced — revealing the bad faith as a feature, not a bug — combined with the reckless three-ring-circus atmosphere in which they’re being tossed out. (That was what ultimately doomed the census question, not its substance.) That bad faith has long been evident in a wide range of forms, as Bagley told me by email.

    Republican arguments against the [Affordable Care Act] have been permeated with bad faith from the get-go. Some of that bad faith involves outright lies: Think death panels. Some of it reflects a willful or deliberate ignorance of the tradeoffs that health-care policymaking entails. (You can’t cover everyone, cut spending and eliminate insurance regulations at the same time.) And some of it is pure gaslighting, like the claims that Republicans are dedicated to protecting people with pre-existing conditions (they’re not) and that they have a replacement plan to provide wonderful health coverage to everyone (they don’t).

There’s one more he left out: GOP complaints about Democrats “ramming [the ACA] through Congress” via reconciliation without any Republican votes, as if they’d made no effort to craft a bipartisan bill. As Salon noted at the time:

Senate Democrats have accepted at least 161 Republican amendments to their health care reform legislation, they’ve incorporated core GOP planks, and they’ve scuttled an aspect of the plan most popular with its base, the public option, because of opposition by Republicans as well as red-state Democrats.

    This is a repeated pattern. It doesn’t seem to matter how much Democrats compromise on the details. Whatever they put forward, Republicans will counter with sweeping rhetorical bad-faith attacks as surely as night follows day, for reasons that will become apparent below — an asymmetry between the two party’s strengths. First, let’s establish some historical reality about where all this bad faith is coming from.

Bad faith, Southern-style

For that, I turned to Angie Maxwell, co-author of “The Long Southern Strategy,” whom I recently interviewed here. Her account about how the GOP had transformed Southern politics — and transformed itself in the process — was a tale drenched in bad faith, as I read it: All the NeverTrumpers who’ve now abandoned their party in horror had been cultivating Trump’s base for decades, whether they realized it or not, using manipulated public resentment for often-unrelated purposes. Trump is their comeuppance, but his bad-faith appeals are nothing new.

“If you think historically about what organization has operated in bad faith more than any other, you would have to say the Confederacy,” Maxwell said, pointing to “the idea that all of these poor Southern whites” — who did not themselves own slaves — “would take up the cause of the Confederacy for something that will not benefit them economically at all, the preservation of slavery.

“Christian nationalism, particularly the way in which they couch it in terms of ‘states’ rights,’ was itself a bad faith argument. And it got worse years after the Civil War when arguments about why Reconstruction was wrong were made in bad faith — reasons that justified lynchings, all those arguments were made in bad faith. The Lost Cause is at its core a bad-faith argument.”

All that history of bad faith belonged to Southern Democrats at the time, of course. But Republicans eagerly took it over for themselves, as Maxwell’s book describes. As she notes, it wasn’t politically necessary to focus on bad faith:

    If you decide as a party to try to go capture those voters, there are aspects of Southern white identity that are not bad faith that you could have tried to tap into: there’s the family, rural culture, there’s even good-faith ways to talk about religious values. But a whole other chunk of white Southern identity is really built on bad-faith arguments about white supremacy, patriarchy and Christian nationalism. So if you’re trying to win those voters, bad-faith arguments are kind of your bread and butter.

The story begins in earnest with Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign, when he won five states in the Deep South. That election provides a telling glimpse at how bad faith generalizes, which we’ll return to below. Four years later, the problem Richard Nixon and his advisers faced in the South, as Maxwell explains it, was that since Alabama Gov. George Wallace, running as a third-party candidate, was going to get the hardline white supremacists, “How do we get everybody else?”

Their answer, she says, was “law and order,” a “coded language” or bad-faith argument used to lure racist voters without quite saying so. Some voters were legitimately attracted to that argument, she noted, but plenty of others understood exactly what that meant. When Republicans denied any racist intention — “Well, I’m just talking about law and order” — they were making a bad-faith argument.

The same applied to the next stage of what Maxwell calls “The Long Southern Strategy,” the attack on feminism that depicted it as a form of tyranny:

    Feminism is choice. That’s what it is. Well, Phyllis Schlafly creates a false equivalency of anti-feminism, and it’s a bad-faith argument. Because it cast feminism as the demand that you be a certain way, but … the opposite of feminism in that case is sexism, not anti-feminism. So, telling those women that the government is going to force them to put their children in day care, it was a bad faith argument, that manipulated a lot of people into going, “The feminists reject who I am. They want to make me be somebody I’m not.” And it worked. That is a bad faith argument by its very nature.

There were legitimate arguments to be had about how to achieve “opportunity, equality and choice” for women, Maxwell adds. Republicans were eager to avoid framing the argument as, “‘Well, you should have this equality, or you shouldn’t.’ You can’t really say, ‘We don’t support that.’ So you have to wrap it in some kind of bad faith camouflage. Like you say you’re worried about voter fraud, even though there’s no evidence of voter fraud. So what you’re really doing is just trying to suppress the vote.”

Bad faith in the courts: A prelude

Those are some highlights of how we’ve gotten here, but none of that can explain what’s happening in the courts. Indeed, for a long time the courts seemed to pose a kind of limitation on bad faith. As Maxwell put it, “When you get court and you try to justify your argument, it looks contrived. Because false equivalencies and bad faith arguments rarely stand up to logic and reasoning.”

But the census case itself is proof of how determined Republicans are to push on this front — and how close they’ve come to success. As Adam Serwer noted before Trump threw in the towel, “Again, this is not just Trump. The Republican establishment is urging the president to do everything he can to reestablish the foundations of white man’s government.”

To understand what’s happening in the courts, I think in terms of layers: There’s an asymmetry in our politics that shapes an asymmetry in our courts. As mentioned above, Goldwater’s capture of five Deep South states in 1964 provides a peek at how bad faith spreads in this environment.

Public opinion pioneers Lloyd Free and Hadley Cantril fielded a study that year, with results published three years later in “The Political Beliefs of Americans.” Their most striking discovery was a profound division: On the symbolic and ideological level, Americans lean more to the right, favoring “free markets” and “small government.” But they lean even more strongly to the left when it comes to operational details — support for specific spending programs. In fact, they found that 23% of all Americans were both ideologically conservative and operationally liberal, a condition they called “almost schizoid.”

What’s usually overlooked, however, is that this figure doubles to 46% within the Deep South states that Goldwater won. There are both good-faith and bad-faith ways of dealing with these contrasting views. A good-faith way would be to say, “I’m in favor of the free market and limited government, but when the market fails government action is absolutely essential.” A bad-faith way would be to say: “Welfare only helps the undeserving — and by the way: Keep the government’s hands off my Medicare!” Guess which one you hear most often? It’s no surprise the South was a Petri dish for cultivating bad-faith narratives.

Republicans naturally focus on the ideological and symbolic side, while Democrats focus on operational specifics, which is a key component of Matt Grossmann and David A. Hopkins’ book “Asymmetric Politics.” The lack of symmetry between Democrats and Republicans is also reflected in clashes over constitutional norms, producing what Joseph Fishkin and David Pozen describe as “Asymmetric Constitutional Hardball.”

“Since at least the mid-1990s, Republican officeholders have been more likely than their Democratic counterparts to push the constitutional envelope, straining unwritten norms of governance or disrupting established constitutional understandings,” they wrote. A followup paper, “Constitutional Hardball vs. Beanball,” by Jed Shugerman (Salon story here), introduced the element of bad faith into the mix.

“You have another category of hardball,” Shugerman told me: “Bad-faith hardball,” in contrast to “transparent hardball”:

The confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch was an example of “good-faith hardball,” Shugerman said. Republicans “decided to get rid of the [Senate] filibuster because they want to get him through, but everyone sees it happening, and it’s not being constructed by a lie.” But Mitch McConnell’s Senate blockade of Merrick Garland, Barack Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee, was “bad-faith hardball,” and the battle over the Kavanaugh confirmation was “bad-faith beanball.”

So what seems a relatively simple story of bad faith as an important thread within the larger story of asymmetrical politics begins to get far more complicated. I reached out to David Pozen, one of the authors of “Asymmetric Constitutional Hardball,” to ask whether the doctrine of constitutional “originalism” was in essence a bad-faith rhetorical framework, meant to delegitimize “judicial activism” by liberals or progressives while justifying it for conservatives.

“We could talk for hours about that,” Pozen said quoting his own prior article on “Constitutional Bad Faith.”

“In a nutshell, I agree that ‘bad faith arguments have been used continuously to delegitimize liberal/progressive jurisprudence.’” To cite an infamous example, he said, “The majority opinion in Bush v. Gore seems to me to be drenched in bad faith. … Bad faith is all over the place in constitutional law — so much so that the most interesting question is often not whether bad faith is present but bad faith of what kind.”

One of the main accomplishments of Pozen’s paper is to develop a taxonomy or field guide of constitutional bad faith, organized on two levels: three broad, generic varieties, and 10 more precisely-defined species. In his introduction, Pozen writes:

    Typically associated with honesty, loyalty, and fair dealing, good faith is said to supply the fundamental principle of every legal system, if not the foundation of all law. With limited exceptions, however, good faith and bad faith go unmentioned in constitutional cases brought by or against government institutions. …

This doctrinal deficit is especially striking given that the U.S. Constitution twice refers tofaithfulness and that insinuations of bad faith pervade constitutional discourse. … n spite of, and partly because of, their uneasy status within the courts, these norms perform a variety of rhetorical and regulative functions outside the courts.

Varieties of constitutional bad faith

At the top level, Pozen distinguishes between three main types of bad faith: First comes subjective bad faith, which “may involve the use of deception to conceal or obscure a material fact, a malicious purpose, or an improper motive or belief, including the belief that one’s own conduct is unlawful.”

He identifies four species of subjective bad faith, starting with “facially neutral government actions that are in fact based on illegitimate motives or purposes,” which might describe Trump’s citizenship census question — if, that is, there were anything “facially neutral” about it.

Second comes objective bad faith, which, drawing on American contract law, “focuses not on the actor’s state of mind but instead on the fairness or reasonableness of her conduct, tested against the norms of a legally relevant community.” In the constitutional realm, Pozen notes, “Many disputes over objective bad faith in constitutional politics concern the interactions among the various institutions of government and a claim of unfair dealing.”

Again, he identifies four species, starting with “unwillingness to compromise or negotiate across branch or party lines,” which has become increasingly characteristic of our politics over the past quarter-century. Trump may be ruder than most, but he’s hardly exceptional. McConnell’s refusal even to consider the Garland nomination was a classic example.

Third comes something more subtle: Sartrean bad faith, “a lie to oneself.” (A reference to Jean-Paul Sartre’s classic of existential philosophy, “Being and Nothingness.”) The distinction from subjective bad faith is crucial: “A person in subjective bad faith necessarily understands that she is being insincere, or untruthful in her dealings. A person in Sartrean bad faith may not similarly appreciate that she is being inauthentic, or untruthful toward herself.”

More concretely, Pozen writes, “The waiter in the café who identifies completely with his role and ceases to see that he is playing at being a waiter, to take Sartre’s best-known example, is in the latter sort of bad faith. So is the patriot who manipulates standards of evidence or assessment to sustain a conviction that her own government is uniquely virtuous.”

As Pozen explains, this form bad faith tends to take one of two forms, which in turn give rise to specific forms of constitutional bad faith. Stick with me; this isn’t easy material:

“Sartrean bad faith revolves around lies that deny either the full measure of one’s freedom (‘transcendence’) or the concrete details of one’s circumstances and constraints (‘facticity’).” The first of these gives rise to “necessitarian assertions about what the law ‘must’ mean,” while the second gives rise to “minimizing of inconvenient facts about the Constitution and the judicial role.”

Furthermore, each of these is associated with a specific ideological pole:

    Whereas originalists tend to be charged with Sartrean bad faith for denying their own transcendence, living constitutionalists are more likely to be charged with Sartrean bad faith for denying the facticity of their situation: the concrete constraints that come with a written Constitution and the social expectations it generates … . The alleged bad faiths of our culture’s stereotypical originalist and its stereotypical living constitutionalist are mirror images of one another.

These are fair readings of the dangers inherent in these positions. But note that Pozen says “alleged bad faiths.” Given how freely conservatives overturn precedents, it’s not clear that “living constitutionalists” (i.e., liberals or progressives) actually deny “concrete restraints” more than conservative “originalists” do.

Bad faith at the Supreme Court

Evidence of conservatives’ outsized “Sartrean bad faith” is overwhelming, as the Supreme Court’s landmark 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller is sufficient to show. In that 5-4 decision, the court’s conservative majority struck down a key gun control act of 1975, finding that the Second Amendment conferred a broadly defined right for individuals to own firearms.

One can imagine an alternative universe, with a far different history and constellation of current facts, in which a “living constitutionalist” interpretation of the Second Amendment could find good-faith justifications for ignoring the plain text that defined its purpose and intent: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.”

But there is simply no way for an “originalist” reading of the text to arrive at the good-faith conclusion that the amendment was intended to apply to all individuals, with little or no restriction. Yet here we are.

The story with the history-shaping Bush v. Gore decision that decided the 2000 presidential election was similarly stark, although the details get messy. But former Yale and Berkeley law professor Robert Post has stated it clearly enough:

“I do not know a single person who believes that if the parties were reversed, if Gore were challenging a recount ordered by a Republican Florida Supreme Court,” that Justices William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas “would have reached for a startling and innovative principle of constitutional law to hand Gore the victory.”

It’s worth noting that a 7-2 majority in that case found a violation of the 14th Amendment because imperfectly-marked ballots weren’t being uniformly counted or discarded — but only the five conservatives (“soft” conservatives Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor, plus the three named above) voted to denying any lower courts an opportunity to remedy that violation.

It was as clear a distinction between good-faith and bad-faith reasoning as one could possibly want: Denying the opportunity for a judicial remedy made certain that none of the questionable or uncertain ballots would receive any protection at all. “Protecting” voters’ rights by destroying their ballots is bad faith par excellence.

Geoffrey R. Stone, an editor of the Supreme Court Review, noted that over the previous decade, the three hardcore conservatives had cast 65 votes in non-unanimous decisions interpreting the Equal Protection Clause, 19 of which involved affirmative action. Collectively, the conservative justices cast exactly two votes finding Equal Protection Clause violations those cases — one less vote in an entire decade than they cast in the Bush v. Gore decision. Summing this up, Stone wrote:

    What does this tell us? It tells us that Justices Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas have a rather distinctive view of the United States Constitution. Apparently, the Equal Protection Clause, which was enacted after the Civil War primarily to protect the rights of newly freed slaves, is to be used for two and only two purposes — to invalidate affirmative action and to invalidate the recount process in the 2000 presidential election.

A clearer example of constitutional bad faith would be hard to imagine. It dovetails perfectly with the historical account that Maxwell provides, except for the part about bad-faith arguments not holding up in court.

As the dust settles on the debacle of Trump’s “census question,” it’s imperative to pay attention to the bigger picture. Suppressing the count of undocumented immigrants was only one part of the overall scheme to “reestablish the foundations of white man’s government,” as Serwer succinctly put it. Already, as NPR’s Hansi Lo Wang noted on Twitter:

    NEW: Commerce @SecretaryRoss has directed @uscensusbureau "to produce Citizenship Voting Age Population (CVAP) information prior to April 1, 2021 that states may use in redistricting," according to document uploaded July 3 to https://t.co/SshiHkRdbz👇 https://t.co/SAvZG79Xfh pic.twitter.com/gqZiN2nAxH

    — Hansi Lo Wang (@hansilowang) July 13, 2019

This is the next step in securing white minority rule through 2030. Basing representation on “citizenship voting age population,” rather than total population, would be a radical departure from American tradition — just the sort of radical departure that bad-faith originalists love. It would allow Republican-controlled states to dramatically increase the number of seats elected by older, whiter, more rural districts, making infamous partisan gerrymanders like those in Wisconsin, Michigan or Ohio even more extreme than they already are.

There is growing popular support for a fairer redistricting process that does away with partisan gerrymandering. (It’s true, after all, that Democrats have done that too — although not nearly as much.) But the Supreme Court is pushing back hard. On the same day Chief Justice John Roberts turned away Trump’s census question, he also turned back any possibility of a federal court remedy to partisan gerrymandering, effectively giving a green light to the larger white supremacist project in which the flawed census question was a weak link.

Bad faith in “balls and strikes”

It’s often said that Roberts cares deeply about the perceived legitimacy of the Supreme Court. That’s clearly true. But as the above summary suggests, that perceived legitimacy is itself a bad-faith fiction. Roberts is doing everything he can to ensure continued Republican rule while maintaining the illusion (perhaps to himself as well) that he is just “calling balls and strikes.”

Even the metaphor is a lie. Trial court judges may call balls and strikes, but appellate justices decide which game is being played, and which set of rules apply. Every lawyer in America knows that, and to pretending otherwise is just more bad-faith posturing. Roberts excels at that, and his bad faith is far more dangerous to America than Donald Trump’s.

Trump’s bad-faith arguments, after all, are transparent, garish and impossible to miss. Roberts’ bad-faith arguments are subtle, fashionably attired and cloaked in intellectually respectable language. Almost everyone yearns to believe that the Supreme Court is above politics, that it represents a pure, hallowed realm where American ideals are preserved. That may be the biggest and most dangerous bad-faith lie of all.

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« Reply #3478 on: Jul 15, 2019, 05:25 AM »

Tennessee just showed that white supremacy is alive and well

Honoring a former Confederate general and KKK grand wizard in 2019 is outrageous

By Keisha N. Blain
Keisha N. Blain is associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, editor-in-chief of The North Star and author of "Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom."

Wa Post
July 15 at 6:00 AM

An obscure Tennessee law required Gov. Bill Lee to declare this past Saturday “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day” to commemorate the Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader. But Lee went further, admitting he had not even considered whether the law should be changed. His actions drew sharp criticism from politicians throughout the country, including ultraconservative U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).

Lee’s refusal to call for changing the law and the fact that Tennessee still celebrates Forrest are a stark reminder that white supremacy is alive and well. For those who have fallen for the “post-racial society” myth, Lee’s declaration may be a wake-up call. But for everyone else, Lee’s declaration is just another reminder that white supremacy is deeply entrenched in American society.

By paying homage to a horrific figure like Forrest, Tennessee is disrespecting its black citizens and signaling that it would rather uphold its racist past than grapple with its many toxic legacies.

Forrest has been deeply embedded in that racist legacy for more than 150 years. The political question of his time was one that had starkly divided Americans since the founding: slavery. So fundamental was slavery to Southern states that seven of them seceded from the Union after Abraham Lincoln’s election on Nov. 6, 1860. The thought of a president entering office who might bring an end to slavery — although Lincoln made no such promise — sent Confederate leaders into a frenzy.

The quick unraveling that took place following Lincoln’s election underscores the deep divisions over race in the nation, divisions that remain at the core of U.S. society. Indeed, the Confederates’ struggle to protect “states’ rights” was nothing more than an effort to preserve states’ rights to uphold slavery.

Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens admitted as much in his 1861 Cornerstone speech. “Our new government’s foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition,” Stephens bluntly proclaimed.

Ultimately, the Confederates could not escape the reality that the basis of their way of life hinged on the exploitation and enslavement of 4 million black people. They also could not escape the reality that their desire to maintain the status quo was fueled by a desire to maintain white supremacy.

That became abundantly clear after the war ended. While the North tried to bring about some measure of racial equality through the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, and Reconstruction more broadly, the South was determined to maintain as much of its way of life as possible. Southern legislators quickly enacted black codes, laws designed to curtail black freedom and control black people’s lives and labor.

Concerned that their ironclad rule was at risk as black people gained more political rights, a group of Confederate veterans organized the first branch of the KKK in Pulaski, Tenn., explicitly to maintain white supremacy. They were determined to keep black people “in their place” through unrelenting violence, terror and intimidation.

A year later, the group elected Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, a man well known for his blatant disregard for black people, as the group’s grand wizard. The former slave trader and slaveholder had owned several cotton plantations in Tennessee, becoming one of the wealthiest white men in the region. Under his leadership, the KKK terrorized black residents and destroyed homes, schools and churches in Tennessee and throughout the South. By the early 20th century, the KKK had become an organization with millions of white members in hundreds of chapters throughout the country.

From Tennessee to New York, white mobs attacked black people and devastated black communities with impunity. And they did so in the name of white supremacy and often under the banner of the Confederate flag.

Terrorizing black people, especially those who dared fight for equal rights, remained a routine feature of American life throughout the first half of the 20th century, as in 1921 when Nathan Bedford Forrest Day was established. As the nation underwent significant political transformation during the 1960s and 1970s, white supremacists continued to erect Confederate monuments and statues, and defiantly promoted Confederate symbols and icons to signal their blatant refusal to accept the expansion of black citizenship rights.

This pattern was evident in Tennessee. In 1964, Tennessee elected A.W. Willis Jr. as its first black state legislator since the 19th century, and in 1966, Dorothy Lavinia Brown became the first black woman to serve in the Tennessee General Assembly. As African Americans found greater political opportunities in Tennessee, however, white supremacists devised strategies to intimidate black voters. By 1971, years after Jim Crow was defeated, a Tennessee code was established to recognize six state holidays, including Nathan Bedford Forrest Day, now a “special day of commemoration,” on July 13. In 1978, a bust of Forrest was placed in Tennessee’s Capitol rotunda.

By exalting figures like Forrest, and doing so in very public ways, white supremacists in Tennessee glorified — and continue to glorify — the Confederacy and everything it stood for. Even more so, they were sending a clear message to black people that white supremacy would remain the order of the day, regardless of the political gains of the civil rights movement.

Today, many Southerners claim that such commemorations and the refusal to purge the symbols and icons of the Confederacy merely reflect homage for their “heritage.” But this “heritage” is inextricably intertwined with slavery, white supremacy, violence and terrorism. That's what Nathan Bedford Forrest stood for, and a day in his honor is reprehensible.

Forrest deserves no recognition, only scorn. Declaring Nathan Bedford Forrest Day in 2019 mocks the millions of black people in this country whose lives have been devastated by the history of slavery, oppression, and white mob violence.

Such a day can only serve one purpose and one purpose alone: to let the world know that the state of Tennessee would rather uphold the racist legacy of the Confederacy and maintain white supremacy rather than respect — and protect — its black residents.

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« Reply #3479 on: Jul 15, 2019, 05:40 AM »

Trump’s Tweets Prove That He Is a Raging Racist

It is undeniably true that America’s president opposes diversity.

By Charles M. Blow
Opinion Columnist
NY Times

Donald Trump keeps trying to convince any disbelieving holdouts that he is a raging racist. At least, that’s how I imagine his motives. In truth, it is more likely that his truest nature is simply being revealed, again and again, and he is using his own racism to appeal to the racism in the people who support him.

On Sunday morning, the same day that the Trump administration earlier announced it would conduct raids to round up undocumented immigrants, Trump weighed in again on the conflict between four female freshmen congresswomen and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, tweeting a series of three of the most racist tweets he could produce:

So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly ...

... and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how. ...

... it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!

Those progressive congresswomen are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts.

First, the facts: The country Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Pressley “originally came from” is this one. They were born in America. Omar was a refugee from Somalia.

But, this is the most important fact: They aren’t white, and they are women. They are “other” in the framing of the white nationalists. They are descendants of Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

The central framing of this kind of thinking is that this is a white country, founded and built by white men, and destined to be maintained as a white country. For anyone to be accepted as truly American they must assimilate and acquiesce to that narrative, to bow to that heritage and bend to those customs.

It sees a country from which black and brown people come as deficient — “a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world” — because, at its base, it sees black and brown people as deficient.

It is a form of white identitarianism, which opposes multiculturalism, but refuses to deem that opposition racist.

And so, it chafes when these black and brown women from exotic-sounding places with exotic-sounding names would dare to challenge the white patriarchy in this country. Why do they not know their place? Why do they not genuflect to the gentry? Why do they not recognize — and honor — the white man’s superiority?

Start here: because the entire white supremacist ideology and ethos is a lie. America expanded much of its territory through the shedding of blood and breaking of treaties with Native Americans. It established much of its wealth through 250 years of exploiting black bodies for free labor.

And, for the entire history of this country, some degree of anti-blackness has existed. Now, there is an intensifying anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant xenophobia.

America was born with a congenital illness and it has been in need of active rehabilitation ever since, although it has often rejected the curative treatments and regressed.

Challenging America to own its sins and live up to its ideals isn’t a vicious attack, it’s an act of patriotism. As James Baldwin once put it, “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

And, who better to lead the charge than four women who represent the future face of America.

But, Trump — and many of his supporters and defenders — spew their racism and tell themselves that it is perfectly acceptable when it is read back to them, in much the same way that a dog will eat its own vomit.

This is the second time Trump has weighed in on the dispute between Pelosi and the congresswomen. Friday he seemed to be coming to Pelosi’s defense, telling reporters: “She is not a racist. O.K.? She is not a racist. For them to call her a racist is a disgrace.”

But, he wasn’t really standing by Pelosi but hiding behind her. It was his way of saying that people who are not racist can be falsely assumed to be, like him. He established a parallel in Pelosi, two victims in kind.

But, there is no parallel.  There can be no more discussion or debate about whether or not Trump is a racist. He is. There can be no more rhetorical juggling about not knowing what’s in his heart. We see what flows out of it.

White people and whiteness are the center of the Trump presidency. His primary concern is to defend, protect and promote it. All that threatens it must be attacked and assaulted. Trump is bringing the force of the American presidency to the rescue of white supremacy. And, self-identified Republicans absolutely love him for it.

We are watching a very dark chapter in this nation’s history unfold in real time. We are watching as a president returns naked racism to the White House. And we are watching as fellow citizens — possibly a third of them — reveal to us their open animus for us through their continued support of him.

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