Rosenstein lets Nunes, Gowdy review FBI memo that kick-started Russia probe

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 06:57

Rosenstein lets Nunes, Gowdy review FBI memo that kick-started Russia probe | 11 April 2018 | Facing legal action, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein allowed House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., to view the FBI memo that instigated the bureau's counterintelligence investigation of contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign, Nunes confirmed on Wednesday. The meeting came a day after Nunes threatened to take legal action -- including contempt proceedings and impeachment -- against Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray for failing to produce a clean copy of the memo, known as an electronic communication or EC, that was responsive to an August 2017 committee subpoena. "Although the subpoenas issued by this Committee in August 2017 remain in effect, I’d like to thank Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein for his cooperation today," Nunes responded.

Categories: News

US 'still assessing the intelligence' on alleged Syrian chemical attack, defense secretary says

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 06:27

US 'still assessing the intelligence' on alleged Syrian chemical attack, defense secretary says | 11 April 2018 | The U.S. and its allies are "still assessing the intelligence" needed to prove the Assad regime conducted a recent alleged chemical attack in Syria, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said Wednesday. When asked if he had seen enough evidence to blame Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for last weekend's alleged chemical weapons attack in the city of Douma, Mattis said, “We are still assessing the intelligence, ourselves and our allies. We’re still working on this," referring to France and the United Kingdom. His comments came before he went to the White House Wednesday afternoon for a meeting on Syria.

Categories: News

Bannon pitches White House on plan to cripple Mueller probe and protect Trump

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 04:17

Bannon pitches White House on plan to cripple Mueller probe and protect Trump | 11 April 2018 | Stephen K. Bannon, who was ousted as White House chief strategist last summer but has remained in touch with some members of President Trump's circle, is pitching a plan to West Wing aides and congressional allies to cripple the federal probe into [alleged] Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to four people familiar with the discussions. The first step, these people say, would be for Trump to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who oversees the work of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and in recent days signed off on a search warrant of Trump's longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen. Bannon is also recommending the White House cease its cooperation with Mueller, reversing the policy of Trump's legal team to provide information to the special counsel's team and to allow staff members to sit for interviews...

Categories: News

The World Bank's Troubling Vision for the Future of Work

Truth Out - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 04:00

 Bobby Brill / Getty Images)Sitting in front of a large machine that spools denim at a high speed, a Chinese factory worker examines the fabric as it spins by. (Photo: Bobby Brill / Getty Images)

Pledge your support for ethical, insightful independent media: Make a tax-deductible donation to Truthout and choose the "monthly" option at checkout.

The World Bank decided last year to devote the 2019 edition of its flagship annual policy review publication, the World Development Report, to the theme of the future of work. Preparation of the WDR 2019 encountered some delay after the ouster in late January of the report's first director, the Bank's chief economist Paul Romer.

Romer lost his job after severely criticizing another major annual World Bank report, Doing Business, for ideologically driven data manipulation. However, he was promptly replaced by Simeon Djankov, who was the founding director of Doing Business while working at the World Bank from 1995-2009 and subsequently became Bulgaria's finance minister (2009-2013).

The Bank moved forward quickly with its new WDR director to produce a working draft that, in its latest form (it changes from week to week), almost completely ignores workers' rights, asymmetric power in the labor market, and phenomena such as the declining labor share in national income. It puts forward a policy program of extensive labor market deregulation, including lower minimum wages, flexible dismissal procedures, and UK-style "zero-hours" contracts, which allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of work. The resulting decline of workers' incomes would be compensated in part by a "basic level of social insurance" to be financed largely by regressive consumption taxes. The WDR 2019: The Changing Nature of Work calls this an "upgraded" social contract.

Perhaps to avoid having to expose this disturbing vision of the future of work to an open discussion with workers' representatives, the WDR 2019 team refused to meet with a 38-strong international delegation of trade union economists and policy officers that traveled to Washington in March for two days of meetings with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.  The International Trade Union Confederation, a global umbrella body representing labor unions around the world, had solicited the meeting several weeks in advance, wishing to be included in the "consultations with … international organizations, civil society organizations and leading researchers" that the WDR 2019 team has claimed to be carrying out since November.

The working draft of WDR 2019 examines the changing nature of firms and the impact of digitalization and other technological innovations, and essentially concludes that existing labor market institutions and social protection systems dependent on employer-employee relationships have run their course. Labor regulations "protect the few who hold formal jobs while leaving out most workers," and Bismarckian social security schemes (financed by workers' and employers' contributions) are passé because they cover only about one-third of developing-country populations.

The draft report does not examine options for incentivizing the formalization of work, despite the considerable efforts the International Labor Organization has made toward that goal and the real progress that has taken place in some developing countries to deliver the benefits of formalization: legal protection of workers' rights, including their right to safe workplaces, and access to social security.

Instead, the WDR takes informality as an inevitable state and, worse, implies that it should even be promoted. Nor does it examine how the undermining of labor market institutions through deliberate corporate strategies such as outsourcing and disguised working relations (for example, classifying Uber drivers as independent contractors) can be countered by providing legal protections for these categories of workers. Workers in the platform economy who have engaged in campaigns for recognition of their rights have encountered fierce resistance from their companies. WDR 2019 insinuates support for these companies by agreeing that these workers are not employees but "are emerging as a separate labor category".

With a few welcome exceptions, described below, any measure that would entail employers assuming obligations such as contributing to workers' social security is deemed unacceptable because it makes "workers more expensive." Similarly, "labor regulations of today" are to be rejected because they represent "a high cost for firms."

The WDR draft states that "one of the tools that merits rethinking is minimum wages … [whose objective] is to ensure a fair remuneration to workers that protects them against 'abuse' from employers." Minimum wages should be reduced and employers should be able to opt out of paying them if, for example, they have profit-sharing schemes. Protections against dismissal should also be weakened or eliminated because they create "structural rigidities" for firms and workers.

The deregulatory perspective of the draft WDR 2019 reflects early editions of the Doing Business report issued in the mid-2000s, which promoted large-scale elimination of labor regulations because, supposedly, they stifled investment and employment growth. After strong criticism from the labor movement, the ILO, and some governments, the World Bank suspended the Doing Business labor market flexibility indicator in 2009 and, two years later, began an extensive review of the economic literature on the claimed link between labor regulations and employment.

The overall finding, published in the Bank's World Development Report 2013: Jobs, was that the link was practically non-existent: "most estimates of the impacts [of labor regulations] on employment levels tend to be insignificant or modest." It is disappointing to see the draft WDR 2019 resurrect the myth without even attempting to refute the voluminous evidence on which the WDR 2013's finding was based.

After rejecting social protection financed by employer-employee contributions, the draft discusses various forms of universal basic income (UBI) and negative income taxes but states that the fiscal burden would be "problematic" and that "other taxes would have to be increased dramatically."

The report puts forward the need to increase revenues from carbon emissions and undertaxed digital platforms, especially those that use tax havens. While such proposals are welcome, this section of the report is devoid of any quantification of what these taxes would generate in developing countries where social protection coverage is weakest. One suspects that the third option put forward in the WDR 2019 is in effect the default option: regressive value-added taxes that finance measures far more modest than a UBI but instead would selectively target basic social assistance to the poorest, as is described in the section on "Reforming Social Insurance."

In WDR 2019's future world of work, where firms have been relieved of the burden of contributing to social security and have the flexibility to pay wages as low as they want and fire at will, the report insists that trade unions "would continue to play a role." However, it will not be in "tri-partite" dialogue models (quotation marks in original) because these don't include the informal sector.

In addition to bringing informal firms into dialogue structures, the report advocates "new arrangements for expanding workers' voice." The latter would include nongovernmental organizations that don't necessarily work on labor issues and social media where workers dissatisfied with their employers could express complaints — to be duly compiled by Cambridge Analytica, one presumes.

Categories: News

Striking Teachers Offer Real Resistance to Incoherent Republicans and Gutted Democrats

Truth Out - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 04:00

In the continuing teachers' rebellion sweeping the US, dozens of Oklahoma teachers have completed a 7-day, 110-mile march from Tulsa to the state capital Oklahoma City. Public schools across Tulsa and Oklahoma City remain closed as thousands of teachers continue their strike for education funding into a ninth day. The strike comes as the Supreme Court is considering Janus v. AFSCME, a case that could deal a massive blow to public unions nationwide -- and as President Trump is successfully appointing right-wing judges to federal courts, reshaping the judiciary for decades to come. We continue our conversation with Corey Robin, a professor of political science at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Robin calls the conservative movement "weak and incoherent" and the Democratic Party "a gutted machine," and says labor organizing like the teachers' revolt are the "real resistance" in the US today.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh, as we continue with our guest, from Paul Ryan to what's happening around the country in the conservative movement and those that are challenging it. Nermeen?

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, in Oklahoma, dozens of teachers have completed a 7-day, 110-mile march from Tulsa to the state capital Oklahoma City, where they will now meet with lawmakers to demand they pass legislation to fund education in Oklahoma. Public schools across Tulsa and Oklahoma City remain closed as thousands of teachers continue their strike into its ninth day.

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest Corey Robin recently wrote on Facebook, "In West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona, we're seeing the real resistance, the most profound and deepest attack on the basic assumptions of the contemporary governing order. These are the real midterms to be watching, the places where all the rules and expectations we've come to live under, not just since Trump's election but since forever, are being completely scrambled and overturned."

Professor Corey Robin, can you talk more about these teacher rebellions? I mean, you had the stoppage in Kentucky. You had West Virginia, and they won. You have now -- you have now Oklahoma and then Arizona. We're talking about Trump land here.

COREY ROBIN: I think it's really important for a couple of reasons. Beyond the specific issues of teacher pay and classrooms and quality of public education, which is in such a parlous state, what these teachers are really doing is raising the question about the low-taxes, low-public-services politics that we have been living with in this country for a very long time.

I just want to bring this back for an historical analogy. If we went back to 1978 -- and this is why the midterm question is important -- if you had looked at the midterm elections in 1978, you would have seen that the Democrats were still firmly in control of the House of Representatives, in the House, and the Senate, and in control of many state legislatures across the country. You would had very little inkling, just looking at the midterms, of the very profound right-wing counterrevolution that was coming in two years, in the election 1980. If, however, you had looked at what happened in California with Proposition 13, which was a public ballot initiative that basically made it very difficult to raise taxes anymore, there you would have have seen the future of American politics for the next half-century.

Likewise today, I think if you're looking at what's happening in Oklahoma, really, as you said, in the heart of Trump country, these teachers are saying -- are saying something that is such a challenge to the Republican Party about taxes and spending, but also to the Democratic Party. I think it's very important. Democrats have been terrified of being tagged as the tax-and-spend party, really since Walter Mondale. And what are these -- and the only times Democrats are willing to raise taxes is to deal with the deficit or the debt. What are these teachers saying? They're saying raise the capital gains tax, not to cut the debt or the deficit, not to be good government people, but instead to deliver vital public services that the public needs and wants. And I think that's the real challenge that they're posing.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, this is such an astounding story that's happening in Oklahoma. You have schools that are only operating four days a week, because they don't have enough money for the fifth day, and the teachers don't have enough money to teach for the fifth day, because they need second and third jobs. We had a teacher who taught -- what -- for 20 years, and so had her husband, and her husband, on his day off, he sells his own blood products.

COREY ROBIN: I mean, it's horrible. But in a way, it's just a very extreme version, I think, of what happens in a lot of states. I mean, I teach at the City University of New York. It used to be one of the crown jewels of the city and of the state. It has also been -- systematically been underfunded and defunded, by both Republicans and Democrats alike. This is a national problem. What's so amazing is that it's being confronted in the place where you would think there would be the most support for it. And not only are they doing this --

AMY GOODMAN: You're talking about Governor Cuomo, Democratic Governor Cuomo, here in New York.

COREY ROBIN: Yes, Democratic governor. And going way back to his father, as well, defunded CUNY, but -- Mario Cuomo. But in Oklahoma, you know, these teachers are doing this, and they've got -- it's amazing to me, is that they've got overwhelming public support with what they're doing.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, has there been any precedent, is there any precedent, for this number of teachers' strikes, or even public sector workers, in general, in the U.S.?

COREY ROBIN: I think, oh, there definitely have -- I mean, public sector workers have really been in the forefront for the last 50 years --


COREY ROBIN:  -- of leading strikes. In the 1970s, particularly women and people of color were in the vanguard of a lot of these efforts, in organizing public sector workers. And, in fact, one of the reasons you could say that the Republican right has been so -- pushing so hard on this Janus decision, which would basically make it very hard for public sector unions, the Supreme Court decision, is precisely because they feel like that's the last bastion of unionized workers, and they are workers that tend to be, compared to the rest of the workforce, overwhelmingly women and people of color.

AMY GOODMAN: And this is why judges are so important right now, and as you have Mitch McConnell saying, "The fight should be in the Senate. We're going to lose the House," he said --


AMY GOODMAN:  -- apparently this weekend, according to The Washington Post, that the fight is around the judiciary. And they are packing these courts.


AMY GOODMAN: I mean, they do take this extremely seriously, for anyone who thinks that President Trump isn't getting anything accomplished.

COREY ROBIN: I mean, this has been very clear from the early part of the Trump administration. They were -- they bungled so many other things. But the one thing that, from the get-go, they knew how to do was to get the courts, the judges appointed. In fact, he's been appointing judges at a faster rate than Barack Obama did, I think faster than George W. Bush did. But that tells you something, though, I think, not about the strength of the conservative movement and the Republican Party, but about its weakness. McConnell is very clear about this: "If we can just hold on to the Senate, we can have a lock on the courts, not just the Supreme Court, but the courts, for 30 to 40 years." And remember, the judges they appoint, these are people who are, you know, in their fifties, in their forties, who will be with us for a very, very long time.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, you have this judicial nominee, Vitter, Wendy Vitter --


AMY GOODMAN:  -- who worked for the archdiocese in Louisiana, who, when confronted by Senator Blumenthal yesterday about whether she supports this landmark Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education, challenging desegregation, she demurred. She said she wouldn't say.

COREY ROBIN: Yes. Well, this is their -- this is the big strategy all the conservative justices and nominees have been pioneering, really going back to Judge Bork in the 1980s, which is: Say nothing, make no statements whatsoever about your points of view. And you can present yourself as if you're -- you know, remember, Clarence Thomas said he had no opinion whatsoever on Roe v. Wade. He had never -- he claimed he had never even had a conversation about Roe v. Wade, even though he was in law school when Roe v. Wade was decided. So this is a long-standing strategy, to say nothing about what your opinions are, and to get you in that way.

AMY GOODMAN: And you have Stephen Reinhardt now, who has just died, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, a huge deal, was the last of President Jimmy Carter's federal judicial appointees. Trump can now remake the 9th Circuit.

COREY ROBIN: Yeah. I mean, and this is -- and this is really the goal. I mean, it's been really astonishing, again, given the dysfunction and the disorganization that we've seen throughout this administration, their inability to pursue things on so many fronts, but when it comes to this, this is something that they've been very focused on, you know, almost maniacally so.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, can you talk about, Corey, the rise of someone like Bernie Sanders and all the movements -- the Occupy Wall Street movement, Black Lives Matter -- in the context of what you were saying earlier, that these strikes are geared towards not just Republicans, or opposed not just Republican policies, but also Democrat policies?

COREY ROBIN: Yeah. So, you know, the -- as I've said, the conservative party -- the conservative movement in the Republican Party is quite weak, I think, and in part the reason why it's so weak is because conservatism, you know, as a historical project, really was overwhelmingly successful. The fundamental target of conservatism, number one, was the labor movement, and, compared to what -- the heyday of American labor, completely succeeded in destroying it. And the second target was the black freedom struggle, and they were very successful in destroying that struggle, as well. So, conservatism, I think we have to realize, has been very successful.

And what you're seeing now, I think, on the left, in both Occupy, Bernie Sanders, the teacher strikes, Black Lives Matter, is a growing confrontation, within the left, a growing reckoning of how successful, in fact, conservatism has been, and how feckless and ineffective the Democratic Party and traditional liberalism has been in opposing this. And I think, frankly, the real story in American politics right now is not so much what's happening with the Republican Party and the conservative movement, which, as I've said, is, by any historical measure, quite weak and incoherent, precisely because it was so victorious over the last several decades. I think the real story, the real question is: Is there going to be a force on the left, not just movements in the street, but an organized force that's able to tip this house of cards over?

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about that further, what exactly you mean, where you feel the Democratic Party is failing right now.

COREY ROBIN: Well, I mean, first of all, you can just look at the numbers. I mean, Bernie Sanders pointed this out in Mississippi the other day and got actually attacked for it. But the fact of the matter is, over the last 10 years the Democrats have lost nearly a thousand legislative seats. That's, I think, the highest proportion of seats lost under a Democratic -- a two-term Democratic president since at least maybe Dwight David Eisenhower. I mean, it's -- you oftentimes lose seats, but the proportions were just tremendous. And the Democratic Party as a whole is really a kind of gutted machine. I mean, the mere fact, I might say, that Bernie Sanders was able to get as far as he did in those primaries tells you how weak and sort of structureless and rudderless the Democratic Party is.

But I think the real question is, on the left: Do you have an ideology, a theory, a kind of set of accounts, similar, frankly, to what Ronald Reagan did in 1980 or FDR did in 1932? These are these two great realignment presidents -- "great" not in the sense that I support Reagan, but, you know, powerful. And what they did was articulate a really profound, completely countervailing set of ideas and institutions, and were able to shatter the existing dispensation. I think that's the question that's on the table and that Bernie is sort of slowly pushing towards.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Corey Robin, we thank you for this very interesting discussion, one we will continue, professor of political science at Brooklyn College and Graduate Center of the City University of New York, author of The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Donald Trump.

A very happy birthday to -- a landmark birthday to Anna Özbek!

Categories: News

Will Senate Democrats Block Confirmation of Climate-Denying, Torture-Backing Pompeo to State Department?

Truth Out - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 04:00

Confirmation hearings begin today for Mike Pompeo, the CIA director, tapped by President Trump to become the next secretary of state. Last year the Senate confirmed Pompeo to head the CIA by a vote of 66 to 32, but the vote is expected to be far closer this year. At least one Republican -- Rand Paul -- has already announced he will vote against Pompeo due to his support for the Iraq invasion and for torture. Pompeo also has a long history of ties to Islamophobic organizations, and the National Iranian American Council has warned that Pompeo's confirmation would threaten the Iran nuclear deal and increase the risk of a US attack on Iran. We discuss Pompeo's nomination with Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, and Zaid Jilani, a staff reporter at The Intercept.


NERMEEN SHAIKH: Confirmation hearings begin today for Mike Pompeo, the CIA director, tapped by President Trump to become the next secretary of state. Last year, the Senate confirmed Pompeo to head the CIA by a vote of 66 to 32, but the vote is expected to be far closer this year. At least one Republican -- Rand Paul -- has already announced he will vote against Pompeo due to his support for the Iraq invasion and for torture. And more Democrats are expected to oppose him this round. Democratic Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii said on Twitter, quote, "I voted YES on Pompeo for CIA on the theory that he would be the 'adult in the room.' I was wrong. I am voting NO on Pompeo for Secretary of State because our top diplomat should believe in diplomacy. He has an alarming tendency towards military provocation and brinkmanship."

Pompeo is a former congressman from Kansas, where he was widely known to be the Koch brothers' favorite lawmaker. He once wrote an article for Politico titled "Stop harassing the Koch brothers."

AMY GOODMAN: Pompeo also has a long history of ties to Islamophobic organizations. The group Act for America, which is considered the largest anti-Muslim group in America, awarded Pompeo its highest honor, the National Security Eagle Award, in 2016. The Southern Poverty Law Center considers the organization a hate group.

On the foreign policy front, the National Iranian American Council has warned Pompeo's confirmation would threaten the Iran nuclear deal and increase the risk of a U.S. attack on Iran. Pompeo is also a vocal climate change denier. More than 200 environmental groups wrote a letter this week to senators urging Pompeo's rejection.

We're joined now by two guests. Trita Parsi is founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, author of Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy. And Zaid Jilani is a staff reporter at The Intercept.

Zaid, you've been on Capitol Hill following what's happening in the preparations for the hearing today for Pompeo to become secretary of state. Talk about what you've found.

ZAID JILANI: Yeah, it's actually very interesting, because unlike a number of the nominees that went through last year when the Trump administration sort of initially staffed up, Mike Pompeo's nomination is actually in a bit of danger. One, as you played earlier, Senator Rand Paul, a leading Senate Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has already come out and said that he would try to block his nomination. Now, recall that when Pompeo was confirmed as CIA director, he received the support of 14 Senate Democrats as well as one independent, Angus King of Maine. That basically creates a calculus where, on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, they could effectively block Pompeo's nomination, due to the new sort of Senate dynamics.

Now, it is possible that they could bring Pompeo directly to the floor and bypass the committee, but that really hasn't happened, I think, in decades, or, ultimately, if President Trump really wants to appoint him, he could always use a recess appointment. But sort of forcing them to take those steps would withdraw a lot of political capital from the Trump administration and could -- you know, if the Democrats -- I believe Senator Paul has said something about Gina Haspel, who is nominated for CIA director, but it also applies here, which is that he said that if the Democrats show solidarity, they can block these nominations.

And I think that a number of them -- and you played the -- you know, you actually played the tweet from Brian Schatz, where he said he sort of changed his mind. I think a lot of those Democrats right now, you know, it's big question mark for them. A lot of them have not announced yet that they're going to continue to support Pompeo like they did last year. So I think that's really the big question in the room, is whether the Senate Democratic Caucus will stick together with Rand Paul and sort of block the nomination, or attempt to at least attempt slow it down.

AMY GOODMAN: Brian Schatz saying, "I voted YES on Pompeo for CIA on the theory [that] he would be the 'adult in the room.' I was wrong. I am voting NO on Pompeo for Secretary of State because our top diplomat should believe in diplomacy. He has an alarming tendency towards military provocation and brinkmanship." Zaid?

ZAID JILANI: Yes, well, I think, you know, that tweet shows sort of a -- you know, there's a learning curve, I think, among members of Congress. I think there was a logical error sort of made towards President Trump at the beginning, whereas -- you know, I think he was perceived as having sort of a very strong ideological bent, and they needed security state figures, like generals. For instance, a lot of senators, including even Bernie Sanders, voted for John Kelly to lead DHS for the same reason.

But I think a more -- I think what we're coming around to in Washington is understanding that Trump doesn't really have a very strong ideological bent. He's more of a pragmatist. But he's very malleable when it comes to the people who are around him. So, I think that in the first term, or the first year of President Trump's presidency, we've seen sort of moderate hawks around him, people who could easily have worked for Obama, most of them, of for Clinton. But I think now that you're seeing, you know, maybe Gina Haspel at CIA, John Bolton being national security adviser, Mike Pompeo at CIA, I think that that would be a tangible shift to the right. And I think that, you know, that's scaring a lot of, I think, people who were willing to go along with that strategy a year ago, like Brian Schatz.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Trita Parsi, could you talk about some of your concerns with Pompeo, and, in particular, the concerns that others have also expressed, that in nominating Mike Pompeo, Trump is more or less putting together a war cabinet, given that John Bolton has also just come in earlier this week as national security adviser?

TRITA PARSI: Yes, I think that is very much part of the context here that I think is also giving a lot of senators pause, which is that this is not just a vote for Pompeo. This would be to enable Donald Trump to have a Cabinet in which you have no longer these mythical "adults in the room" any longer, but rather almost exclusively yes men. And as a result, I think what is emerging on Capitol Hill is a understanding that a vote for Pompeo is essentially a vote for John Bolton, and a vote for John Bolton is a vote for war. And I think that has been one of the factors that has really changed the dynamics, because it's going to be very difficult for the Democrats to be able to justify such a vote, particularly mindful of the fact that we are very likely to see the death of the Iran nuclear deal, which then, once again, will open up the pathway for a war between the United States and Iran. You don't want to be a senator that has actually enabled that to happen by casting a vote for Pompeo, if you're on the Democratic side, as well as some Republicans. I mean, I think right now a lot of eyes are going to be on Senator Jeff Flake, because if Flake decides to vote against and all of the Democrats vote against, then Pompeo's nomination is dead.

AMY GOODMAN: I'd like to turn to Pompeo, speaking to Face the Nation about Iran and North Korea.

MIKE POMPEO: My critique of the Obama administration's JCPOA commitment was that they left the Iranians with a breakout capacity. They had a short time frame that these would -- these restrictions would remain in place. And North Korea's human capital and enrichment capacity continues to remain in place. Those are -- those are all things that present risk to the world, and President Obama is -- or, excuse me, President Trump is determined to prevent that from happening in North Korea.

AMY GOODMAN: Trita Parsi?

TRITA PARSI: Well, here again, I think you're seeing that Pompeo is saying something very different once he got through the CIA nomination than what he said at the CIA nomination hearings. Then, he struck a much more moderate tone, being very aware of that his hawkishness would be a concern for a lot of senators. And having read his -- the transcript of his statement that he's going to give today, it's very clear that he's very worried about this once again.

But his views, I think, have become quite clear now. They're undeniable. His rejection of the Iran deal is part of the reason why he's being nominated by Donald Trump to be secretary of state. And his arguments in regards to the breakout capability is entirely wrong, because in the case of the Iran deal, the breakout capability has been extended to one full year, which then, combined with the very, very intrusive inspections, makes it essentially impossible for the Iranians to be able to build a nuclear bomb without getting detected very, very early, which gives the world an opportunity to intervene. That is, of course, all based on the idea that we live up to our end of the bargain of this deal and allow those inspections to continue. But if we pull out of the deal, which Trump is very likely to do, particularly with people like Bolton and Pompeo around him, then we lose the inspections. And if we lose the inspections, forget about a 12-month breakout capability. That's when the real danger comes in. So, the path that Pompeo is arguing for is actually the exact path that would lead us to some of these disastrous consequences.

And one approach that he's had to all of this, that I think we should be very concerned about, is that as head of CIA, he was presented with evidence from the CIA that show that the Iranians are living up to the deal. His response was, "Well, we know that they're still cheating." He had no evidence for that, but he had already drawn that conclusion. That reminds us of what happened during the Iraq War, in which the conclusion was drawn first, and then the CIA was being asked, "Now go find the evidence for it."

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Trita, I want to go to another related issue, which is his -- Pompeo's well-documented Islamophobia. Now, in June 2013, two months after the Boston Marathon bombing, then-Congressman Mike Pompeo erroneously claimed Muslim groups had not condemned the attack.

REP. MIKE POMPEO: It's been just under two months since the attacks in Boston, and in those intervening weeks, the silence of Muslim leaders has been deafening. … When the most devastating terrorist attacks on America in the last 20 years come overwhelmingly from people of a single faith and are performed in the name of that faith, a special obligation falls on those that are the leaders of that faith. Silence has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts. … If a religion claims to be one of peace, Mr. Speaker, its leaders must reject violence that is perpetrated in its name.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: A day after Pompeo gave those remarks, the Council on American-Islamic Relations wrote to him demanding an apology. CAIR and a number of other Muslim -- major Muslim organizations had in fact condemned the marathon bombings, many within hours of the attack, and organized blood drives and other relief efforts in Boston. Pompeo never apologized or responded to the letter from CAIR. So, Trita Parsi, can you -- can you talk about that and your concerns about the way in which Mike Pompeo has spoken about Muslims in America?

TRITA PARSI: Well, I think, once again, we're saying that his line of thinking is very much in line with the thinking of Donald Trump here. So, rather than being someone that actually would be able to bring in a different perspective into the White House, balance things, be an "adult in the room," as Brian Schatz originally thought Pompeo would be, instead we're seeing someone that actually will be enabling the worst instincts of Donald Trump. And I think this will be very dangerous to have someone as the secretary of state holding those views, because these are views that are considered and are extremist views, and it's going to create additional problems for the United States if, in its diplomacy with the rest of the world, is propagating views of this kind.

AMY GOODMAN: 2015, Mike Pompeo appeared on the radio show of longtime Islamophobe Frank Gaffney, Pompeo agreeing with Gaffney that then-President Obama had a, quote, "affinity for Muslim terrorists." This clip begins with Gaffney.

FRANK GAFFNEY: I wonder whether in fact what the president is conveying to them is not simply that he doesn't understand, but that there's really kind of an affinity for, if not the violent beheading and crucifixions and, you know, slaying of Christians and all that, but at least for the cause in which these guys are engaged in such activities. Given you're watching this very closely, of course, from your vantage point on the Intelligence Committee, could that possibly be a takeaway for bad guys who hear him saying nothing about their ideological agenda?

REP. MIKE POMPEO: Frank, every place you stare at the president's policies and statements, you see what you just described. So, the Egyptians bomb terrorists in eastern Libya, and the administration says, 'Gosh, we can't support that.' The Egyptians, under their leader, el-Sisi, begin to push back inside the ideology of the faith, and our president refuses to talk about it that way. Today, Americans are sitting at a table with the Iranians, the largest state sponsor of terror in the world, treating them as if they're a negotiating partner. Every policy of this administration has treated America as if we are the problem and not the solution to keeping not only America safe, but a stable world.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that's Mike Pompeo in 2015. Zaid Jilani, if you can talk about this and how this is being discussed on Capitol Hill right now? Again, connections to a number of anti-Islamic groups, not to mention these kind of views.

ZAID JILANI: Well, I think this is exactly the kind of thing that we would expect Congress to start interrogating Pompeo on today, when he starts -- has his first hearing before the Foreign Relations Committee folks. You know, Pompeo not only has appeared and made some sort of offensive remarks here and there. He's actually been a booster of an organization called Act for America, which is led by a woman named Brigitte Gabriel, who argues, you know, very strongly that the essential problem with terrorism are basically essentialized to the religion of Islam.

Of course, our diplomats across the world have to deal with a very large Muslim population. Most of our conflicts and sort of hotspots in the world right now are with Muslim-majority populations. And it's very unclear whether, you know, Mike Pompeo actually knows how to speak diplomatically, whether he can actually suppress these sorts of views. Even if he was doing this as a matter of political pandering for a domestic audience at one point, he hasn't demonstrated the ability to do the opposite, which is to be able to engage and constructively hold dialogue with Muslim populations worldwide, which is something, honestly, that I think Rex Tillerson did effectively at times. You know, as a former sort of Exxon CEO, he kind of had a lot of experience dealing with sort of Muslim-majority head of states, so on and so forth. And I think, actually, he did show some capacity to do that diplomacy. But Mike Pompeo just hasn't demonstrated anything like that. And I think that's exactly the kind of thing you're going to see members of Congress sort of buzzing him on when he starts his hearings today.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let's go back to Mike Pompeo, in 2014, Congressman Pompeo, addressing a church group in Wichita, his hometown.

REP. MIKE POMPEO: This threat to America is from people who deeply believe that Islam is the way and the light and the only answer. And so, as we think about what U.S. policy needs to be, how we will begin to combat this, we need to recognize that these folks believe that it is religiously driven for them to wipe Christians from the face of the Earth. They may be wrong. There's some debate about that, what the crowd actually says. They may be wholly misguided. And I will tell you it is absolutely a minority within the Muslim faith. But these folks are serious, and they abhor Christians and will continue to press against us, until we make sure that we pray and stand and fight and make sure that we know that Jesus Christ as our savior is truly the only solution for our world.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that is Mike Pompeo a few years ago, speaking in Wichita, his hometown, as congressman. So, Zaid Jilani, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, in a coalition of more than 200 national organizations, wrote a letter on Monday urging senators to vote no on Pompeo. How significant is this?

ZAID JILANI: Well, I think it is significant, in the respect that when Mike Pompeo, I think, was being sort of, you know, appointed to CIA, when he was very easily confirmed by the Senate, I don't think we saw the same level of pushback. I think, just as -- you know, what Brian Schatz said in his statement, there was a belief that he was sort of a longtime sort of standing member of Congress with security credentials. You know, he should be in there as the "adult in the room." But I don't think that his views were necessarily interrogated with as much rigor as they are being now.

And I think that particularly with those 14 Democratic senators and the one independent in Maine, Angus King, who supported him in his CIA nomination, you know, they need to hear from their constituents, and they need to hear particularly from organized interest groups, like the 200 that signed that letter, about how they're going to be held accountable, should they vote to confirm him, because, honestly, you know, members of Congress are very political creatures. You know, they care about votes, and they care about money. And if they feel like either of those two things are on the line, they're much more likely to vote against the nominee. So I do think that the rising sort of activist interest this time will definitely change the calculus. And I can't predict whether all 14 Senate Democrats who voted for him before, as well as the one independent, would turn against him, but I can tell you -- I can guarantee you that he's going to get less votes this time than he did last time.

Categories: News

Corporate Media Reprise Iraq in Beating War Drums for Trump Attack on Syria

Truth Out - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 04:00

 Julien Mattia / NurPhoto via Getty Images)Protesters hold Syrian flags as they take part in a demonstration against bombing Syria at the Place of Châtelet in the center of Paris, France, on April 11, 2018. (Photo: Julien Mattia / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Independent journalism provides a vital alternative to the mainstream news, but it can't exist without your help. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation!

With the US's major corporate cable outlets -- particularly so-called liberal networks like MSNBC -- continuing to uncritically provide generals and lawmakers a massive platform to beat the drums of war as President Donald Trump inches closer to launching a military attack on Syria, critics have concluded that the US media has clearly learned nothing from the crucial role it played in cheerleading for the Bush administration's catastrophic invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"The push for escalation on TV is overwhelming," Cenk Uyger, host of The Young Turks, observed in a tweet on Wednesday, reacting to the numerous instances this week of television hosts opining on Trump's "military options" with the likes of Iraq War supporter and retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey while refusing to question the underlying rationale for or legality of unilateral military action.

"It's incredible how readily the cable news channels have politicians on pushing for war in Syria with almost no questions asked about how disastrous it might be or the so-called evidence," Uyger added. "They pretended to learn lessons from Iraq but have actually learned nothing."

As media critic Simon Maloy lamented in a column at Media Matters, the behavior of much of the corporate media "indicates how alarmingly comfortable much of the mainstream press is with the idea that the president can just up and decide to initiate military hostilities whenever, wherever, and for whatever reason -- even when there is no actual reason at all."

Almost entirely absent from the prevailing discussion of Syria on US cable networks in recent days -- which one journalist described as "a parade of one war hawk after another" -- has been any mention of the alternatives to military action.

Exemplifying this total exclusion of peaceful options was a segment on Wednesday by MSNBC's Ali Velshi, who provided his viewers with a quick rundown of the possible actions the president could take in Syria -- from "small strike" to "more damaging strikes" to "strikes on Russian and Iranian bases" -- without ever mentioning one major choice: no airstrikes at all.


After telling Russia to "get ready" for missile strikes in Syria, @AliVelshi takes a look at President Trump's military options.

— MSNBC (@MSNBC) April 11, 2018

Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, argued on Twitter that the corporate media's relentless elevation of pro-war voices since the Assad regime was accused of carrying out a chemical attack on Sunday is "making John Bolton's wildest dreams come true."

As Common Dreams reported, Bolton officially took over as Trump's national security adviser on Monday as the White House weighed whether to strike Syria militarily.

"In his first week on the job, everyone is calling for a new war," Timm noted.

The cognitive dissonance in the media the last two weeks is really something to behold.

Last week: John Bolton is a maniac whose going to dangerously lead Trump to start a new war.

This week: The Trump admin *must* launch a new war in John Bolton’s first few days on the job.

— Trevor Timm (@trevortimm) April 11, 2018

With outlets like CNN and MSNBC leaving a massive vacuum by refusing to raise even the most basic questions about the Trump administration's push for military action in Syria, Tucker Carlson of Fox News has been one of the few cable hosts to criticize the rationale for war and offer a platform to an anti-war voice.

In an appearance on Carlson's primetime show Tuesday night, The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald argued that it is the "standard tactic" of the corporate media to smear opponents of US wars in an effort to shut down legitimate questions about the rush toward military action.

"This climate arises that you're just supposed to cheer when it comes time to drop bombs on other countries, not ask whether there's evidence to justify it, not ask whether it will do any good, not ask whether it will kill any civilians," Greenwald said. "And if you do ask one of those questions it means you're on the side of America's enemies. It's an incredibly authoritarian tactic that gets used to suppress debate."


Categories: News

Yes, We Are Like Frogs in Boiling Water With Trump as President

Truth Out - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 04:00

Amidst a sustained hurricane of appalling chaos, author Amy Siskind provides grounding for evaluating the real damage of the Trump presidency. In this excerpt from The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump's First Year, Siskind recalls how she came to begin compiling The List.

 Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images)Donald Trump speaks during a round table discussion on tax reform in White Sulpher Springs, West Virginia, on April 5, 2018. (Photo: Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images)

As we feel battered by the media covering every vile Trump tweet storm, Amy Siskind's The List offers the chance to review the details of his destructive trail. Get the book and support Truthout. Click here.

Amidst a sustained hurricane of appalling chaos, Siskind provides grounding for evaluating the real damage of the Trump presidency. In the following excerpt from The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump's First Year, Siskind recalls how she came to begin compiling The List.

On the morning of Saturday, November 19, 2016, I found myself driving up to Val-Kill, the home of Eleanor Roosevelt. The week before, Trump had stunned the country by winning the election, and I was still reeling. The country's reaction to his victory was swift and hideous: The bigots in America took it as a legitimization of their hatred of others, and acts of hate were ubiquitous. Trump had ratcheted up his criticism of free speech, tweeting insults that morning at Saturday Night Live, the New York Times -- even the cast of Hamilton. This isn't normal, I found myself thinking. We are in great danger.

I needed to take a break from the steady stream of e-mails flooding my inbox. This is the worst day since 9/11.... What do we do now? How could I assure others that we were going to be okay when I wasn't sure myself? I needed the steadying influence of my personal heroine. I found myself wondering, What would Eleanor do today?

That Saturday was a crisp, sunny day, and Val-Kill a familiar vision of peace in what already felt like a country in chaos. I first started by reading Eleanor's quotes on government and democracy and courage, walked by the old typewriter she used to write her weekly newspaper column, My Day, then took my dogs along the trails she had walked each morning with her Scottish terriers. My heart felt heavy, but somehow, in Eleanor's presence, I felt less scared playing her words in my mind again and again, "Courage is easier than fear."

As I walked, I found myself thinking about some of the articles I'd read in the aftermath of the election. Experts in authoritarianism -- Masha Gessen, Sarah Kendzior, and Ruth Ben-Ghiat -- wrote about the tools of autocrats: using hatred as fuel, silencing dissent, disregarding norms, and breaking down trusted institutions. All described how things would be changing, slowly and subtly, warning us not to be fooled by small signs of normalcy on our march into darkness. Sarah Kendzior suggested that citizens write things down, starting that day, making a list of the specific things they never would have believed, things that they never would have done, before the regime came into power.

On the ride home, I knew what I had to do, and I started that night.

The List didn't start with any grand ambitions or even a vision. I just had an instinct to write down all of the things that were happening -- things that were not normal. Each Saturday, I shared The List on Facebook and Twitter. Week 1 had nine items, but by Week 2, The List had doubled to eighteen items and concluded with, "I'm sure there are more. This list is overwhelming already." Little did I know. A few weeks in, as the readership started to take off, people asked that I add source links so they could read the articles: Already the chaos was building, there was so much to keep track of, and people were missing news items. A professor from my alma mater who read The List e-mailed to say, "We are the frog in the water who doesn't notice it is getting to boil degree by degree."

The weekend before Trump took office, January 14, 2017, The List went viral for the first time: Week 9, with thirty-six not-normal items, was picked up by several prominent progressive bloggers and had close to two million views. I wrote a short note that week observing that in normal times, "any one of these items would be a shock" and the "lack of consequences has changed me, and I suspect us all." I told readers I hoped The List would help us "trace our way back to normal when this nightmare is over."

The Women's March was the next weekend, and I chose to walk in my home city of New York, thinking that in a smaller crowd I would run into my friends. More than four hundred thousand showed up -- a sign that Americans, especially women and members of marginalized communities, would not go quietly. In the coming weeks, as Trump took office and power, the weekly lists grew to sixty items, and my Saturdays were spent catching up on documenting our falling norms.

Even as The List grew longer week by week, the themes remained consistent: Trump was interested in making money and staying in power, and he would take whatever steps necessary to make these things happen. Every week he fanned the flames of hate: from signing the Muslim Bans to the Transgender Military Ban, to ending DACA, to increasing ICE roundups, to repealing the Global Gag Rule, to taking swipes at NFL players. He took steps to consolidate power such as installing regime members to undermine the very agencies they were meant to lead, silencing dissent and our free press, intimidating the legislative branch, and stuffing the judicial branch full of extremists. At the same time, Trump transformed our standing in the world, alienating our closest allies while cozying up to authoritarians, including, of course, Putin.

In May, as Trump continued staffing up the regime, the lists of not-normal items were approaching one hundred per week. Now there were many hands involved in the work of destabilizing our fragile democracy, but key roles at federal agencies were left vacant and many seasoned veterans had departed. Especially noteworthy was the loss of diplomatic channels in our state department. Meanwhile, the Trump-appointed agency heads had open-door policies for lobbyists and executives from the industries the agencies are designed to regulate. Week by week, rules and regulations put in place to protect the environment, consumers, marginalized communities, women, the poor, and people with disabilities were being rolled back.

In late June, I received a message from Margaret Sullivan at the Washington Post, asking if she could interview me about The List. I was thrilled! I had been waiting for the right columnist and publication for The List's coming-out story. Margaret's article went viral, reaching the top of the most-read pieces at Washington Post online with more than two million views. Shortly thereafter, someone who read the article nominated The List to be archived at the Library of Congress. I was incredibly grateful that The List would now be preserved for posterity, and would also have a home safe from hackers. At the suggestion of journalism professor Jay Rosen, I wrote a blog post memorializing this development. The very next day, I became the target of Russian-state media outlets and blogs....

Truthout Progressive Pick  A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump’s First Year

The details of Trump's march toward authoritarianism.

Click here now to get the book!

By mid-July, I realized the items I was listing weren't the only things subtly changing -- I was changing as well. I felt like the character Carrie on Homeland, with thousands of items and trails of connections to Trump's end mapping out in my head. Naïvely, that day at Val-Kill months earlier, I imagined justice would catch up and Trump would be gone by the summer. The injustices were piling up, but there was no accountability or consequences! I headed to Vermont for some solitude and space to marinate on my new reality. At this point, I was devoting more than twenty hours a week to The List, and my old life and plans for what came next were sidelined. I decided I should record how this was affecting me and visited my favorite bookstore to pick out a diary. The first entry reads, "I am on the toughest climb of my life, and the hill feels steep and unrelenting."

A personal challenge throughout was staying engaged and dispassionate without losing my empathy and humanity. The country I love was under siege, and I was heartbroken and devastated. There were events, like Charlottesville and Myeshia Johnson standing over her husband's casket, where I found myself staring at the computer screen with tears streaming down my face. There were weeks when, with my growing public voice, I spoke out against hate and became a target myself. After Week 39, in August, I tweeted at web-hosting company GoDaddy, complaining about the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer's inflammatory attack on Charlottesville heroine and martyr Heather Heyer. Within twenty-four hours, the Daily Stormer was taken down, but my home address and phone numbers were posted online. That week I hired an armed security guard to be stationed outside my home. As summer came to an end, I was spending some thirty hours a week on the lists, which were now approaching 120 items each. When I cracked a tooth and made an appointment with my endodontist, she gave a diagnosis without missing a beat: "This is what happens in dictatorships. You're screaming in your sleep!" She advised getting a mouth guard, which, she offered up, many of her patients were doing. Ironically, as I sat in her office waiting to be seen, I was reading an op-ed by Dana Milbank, "President Trump Is Killing Me. Really," describing the impact on his physical health. Psychotherapists remarked on their patients' focus on politics -- a feeling of outrage, fear, and loss of control. Our country was truly suffering, physically, emotionally, and mentally, under the Trump regime.

As year one of The List drew to a close, I reread the articles by the experts on authoritarianism, and their predictions were coming true: Trump was still holding his campaign-style rallies with chants of "Lock her up!" as he encouraged the FBI and DOJ to do the same. He was still complaining about the "rigged system," which he assured his raucous crowds he would fix by silencing the fake media and dismantling what was left of the Deep State corrupt institutions that hampered him from assuming full control. It turns out authoritarians do follow a fairly predictable game plan -- even if new to us and our fragile democracy. Our country has spent a year in chaos, and so often people worry out loud about forgetting all the events that happened in a single week. And so I am grateful I took the experts' advice and constructed a trail map for us to follow back to normalcy and democracy -- a journey, sadly, I suspect will take years if not decades to travel.

Copyright (2018) by Amy Siskind. Not to be reproduced without permission of the publisher, Bloomsbury Publishing.

Categories: News

"Confusing" Messages

Truth Out - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 04:00
Categories: News

Zuckerberg Grilled by Same Lawmakers Who Repealed Online Privacy Protections

Truth Out - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 04:00

Last year, many of the same lawmakers currently grilling Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about data harvesting and user privacy quietly voted to repeal some of the only online privacy protections on the federal books. The debate over regulating the internet is increasingly partisan, with Democrats siding with Silicon Valley and Republicans siding with the telecom lobby.

 Matt McClain / The Washington Post via Getty Images)Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg appears for a hearing with the House Energy and Commerce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday April 11, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Matt McClain / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

This time last year, Republicans in Congress were rushing to pass legislation repealing the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) online privacy protections that prevented internet service providers like AT&T and Comcast from harvesting and selling internet personal data without explicit permission from their customers.

The move was deeply unpopular, but the GOP reportedly hoped voters would be distracted by the controversy surrounding the attempted repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Democrats were united against the legislation, and President Trump quietly signed it into law.

Just one year later, many of the same lawmakers who voted to repeal the privacy rules were eager to grill Mark Zuckerberg about Facebook's high-profile privacy problems as the embattled CEO testified before Congress this week. Zuckerberg has built an empire on data gathered from Facebook users and used to sell targeted ads -- and the scandals are piling up.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican who introduced the legislation in the House that repealed the FCC privacy rules, told Zuckerberg that Facebook was "beginning to look like The Truman Show."

"My constituents in Tennessee want to know that they have a right to privacy," Blackburn told Zuckerberg during a marathon hearing held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday.

If Blackburn is so concerned about privacy, then why did she push to repeal some of the only online privacy protections on the federal books?

Critics point to Blackburn's campaign finance records, which show that telecom companies subject to the FCC rules she helped throw out are some of her top donors. The answer also lies in an increasingly partisan debate over net neutrality and how the government should regulate competing companies that create and shape the web.

Perhaps aware of the bad optics surrounding the repeal of the FCC privacy rules, Blackburn introduced her own online privacy protection proposal a few months later. Her bill would require both internet service providers (ISPs) and web services like Facebook to ask users for permission before sharing their sensitive personal information with third parties.

The bill, known as the BROWSER Act, sounds good on paper but includes several caveats that critics say are designed to benefit her backers in the telecom industry, including language that would preempt states from instituting tougher privacy protections on their own.

Tim Karr, a spokesperson for the digital rights group Free Press, said Blackburn is known for designing legislation to benefit companies like Verizon and AT&T that have donated to her campaigns.

"There is a legitimate question about whether Rep. Blackburn is a good faith actor in this space; she has routinely come down in defense of the phone and cable companies at the expense of edge companies like Facebook and Google," Karr said in an interview.

During Tuesday's hearing, Blackburn demanded to know whether Zuckerberg would commit to backing her bill. Zuckerberg ducked the question, telling the congresswoman that he wasn't "directly familiar" with the details of the legislation.

"Let's get familiar with the details," Blackburn responded.

Facebook Is Not the Internet

Blackburn's privacy bill must now compete with several others aimed at big web platforms, but unlike his counterparts in the broadband industry, Zuckerberg is not kicking and screaming in the face of regulation. Zuckerberg was more supportive when Democratic lawmakers brought up plans to roll out privacy regulation, signaling that Facebook is willing to be regulated as long as it can work with the party most aligned with Silicon Valley to shape what those regulations look like.

In fact, he repeatedly told lawmakers during hearings in the House and the Senate that he supports federal privacy regulations if they're done "right," and Facebook users across the globe would benefit from upgrades resulting from new privacy rules established in Europe.

Blackburn's legislation, on the other hand, would ensure that online content platforms like Facebook and Google would never regain a competitive advantage over internet ISPs that they would have enjoyed under the FCC's privacy rules.

It all goes back to the 2015 Open Internet order that established much-debated net neutrality rules at the FCC. Just like telephone companies are required to treat calls from other providers equally, the order reclassified ISPs as "common carriers" that must refrain from discriminating against data on their networks. This also allowed the FCC to impose the privacy rules Blackburn helped scrap last year.

Those rules required ISPs to ask customers for permission before selling personal information and data about their browsing habits to third parties, which providers routinely do unless users take initiative to opt-out. Republicans and the telecom industry cried foul, arguing that the rules did not apply to companies like Facebook, which continue to profit from collecting data without asking users to opt-in to targeted advertising schemes first.

Digital rights advocates argue that there is a key difference between an ISP and an edge provider like Facebook that justified the FCC's targeted regulation. You need an ISP to connect to the internet, but once online, signing up for Facebook and sharing data on its network is totally optional.

This explains why Zuckerberg is open to privacy regulations. If users don't trust Facebook to protect their privacy, they may move on to other platforms. Deleting an account with an ISP and switching to a new provider is not as simple, and in many parts of the country, consumers can only choose between two or three providers -- if they have a choice at all.

"You can get by without Facebook; you do suffer an economic consequence if you are a business and it's important and requires regulation, but the fact is, it's not on the same level as fundamental communications infrastructure," said Harold Feld, vice president of the digital rights group Public Knowledge, in an interview.

Zuckerberg was careful to make this distinction between the internet services we pay for and the Facebook services that users get for free. He repeatedly told lawmakers that users "own" their data and can control how information they post on his website is shared.

"I would differentiate between the ISPs, which I consider to be the pipes of the internet, and the apps for platforms on top," Zuckerberg told a packed Senate hearing Monday, adding that people have different expectations of internet providers and websites, so it would make sense to regulate them differently as well.

Of course, the sheer ubiquity and popularity of Facebook, and services like Instagram and WhatsApp have made the products virtual necessities for both individuals and businesses, and Zuckerberg is doing everything he can to convince lawmakers to shrug off antitrust concerns. Still, Karr said Facebook could never be considered a common carrier service.

"There's a tendency to try to look at edge providers and platforms and ISPs as the same thing, but they are different and those legal definitions are important," Karr said.

A Widening Partisan Divide

Under the FCC's net neutrality rules, the government considered the internet more like a public utility that everyone needs to use than an information service like Facebook. The ISPs hated this and asked their allies in the Republican Party to dig them out. Their wish was granted after President Trump won the election and installed a Republican majority at the FCC, which promptly threw out the net neutrality rules late last year.

Democrats are fighting to restore net neutrality and declare ISPs "common carriers" once again. This would benefit edge providers like Facebook and Google, which fear that, without net neutrality, they could be forced to pay ISPs extra to reach customers at priority speeds. It also explains why Blackburn's legislation would prevent the FCC from reinstating privacy rules for the AT&Ts and Comcasts of the world, leaving the job up to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) instead.

Blackburn's plan would let the FTC regulate privacy at web platforms like Facebook as well, and she pitches her bill as a one-size-fits-all solution for the whole internet "ecosystem." After two days of hearings, it was clear Zuckerberg and many Democrats would rather see different regulations for the companies that hardwire the internet and the companies that build websites and apps. Feld said Blackburn's bill is clearly backed by the telecom industry.

"The FTC, which doesn't have a privacy statute and operates pursuant to its general consumer protection statute, is the lowest common denominator on privacy," said Feld, who added that the FTC must win in court to make enforcement actions. "To the extent that there is a privacy rule, it's the weakest possible privacy rule."

Congress could have left the FCC privacy rules for ISPs in place and then figured out what to do about Facebook's glaring privacy problems, but Republicans scrapped those rules instead, leaving the public with no protections in place while lawmakers engage in an increasingly partisan debate over how to regulate the internet. For that, at least, you can blame the GOP.

Support your favorite writers by making sure we can keep publishing them! Make a donation to Truthout to ensure independent journalism survives.
Categories: News

Trump's Rush to Judgment on Syrian Chemical Attack: Illegal and Deadly

Truth Out - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 04:00

 Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool / Getty Images)Donald Trump speaks with the media before a meeting with his cabinet in the Cabinet Room of the White House April 9, 2018, in Washington DC. (Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool / Getty Images)

Although there has been no independent investigation, Donald Trump is blaming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for a chemical attack that killed 49 people. Trump is vowing to retaliate but bombing Syria would run afoul of the US's own War Powers Resolution passed by Congress in 1973. Moreover, it would violate international law and risk a confrontation with Russia.

 Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool / Getty Images)Donald Trump speaks with the media before a meeting with his cabinet in the Cabinet Room of the White House April 9, 2018, in Washington DC. (Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool / Getty Images)

This Truthout original was only possible because of our readers' ongoing support. Can you make a monthly donation to ensure we can publish more like it? Click here to give.

Donald Trump says the United States is about to bomb Syria, and Russia has vowed to shoot down US aircraft with missile defenses in response. With John Bolton, the new national security adviser and infamous enemy of the United Nations by Trump's side, diplomacy is not in the cards.

Although there has been no independent investigation, Trump is blaming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for an alleged chemical attack on Saturday in Douma, a suburb of Damascus, that killed 49 people.

As he did before leading the US to bomb Syria with Tomahawk missiles one year ago -- also in retaliation for an alleged gas attack -- Trump is rushing to judgment about who was responsible. And once again, the military force that he's threatening to use now would violate both the War Powers Resolution and the UN Charter. It could also lead to a dangerous confrontation with Russia.

Trump tweeted early Wednesday morning: "Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!' You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!"

Yevgeny Serebrennikov, first deputy chairman of Russia's upper house's Defense Committee, said Sunday that Russia would immediately respond to US airstrikes in Syria. "A military intervention under far-fetched and fabricated pretexts in Syria, where there are Russian soldiers at the request of the legitimate Syrian government, is absolutely unacceptable and could have the most dire consequences," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Both Syrian and Russian authorities denied that Assad was responsible for the chemical attack.

To read more stories like this, visit Human Rights and Global Wrongs.

Assad has already taken back from the rebels over 90 percent of Eastern Ghouta, which includes Douma, so it seems unlikely he would attack Douma. Moreover, Trump announced last week he intended to withdraw US troops from Syria. It is thus counterintuitive to conclude Assad would have launched a gas attack in Douma.

On April 6, 2017, Trump bombed Syria after declaring that Assad had used sarin gas at Khan Sheikhoun two days earlier. Assad had denied ordering the attack. But the Trump administration ignored all dissenting voices.

Assad's responsibility for the 2017 attack has never been definitively confirmed. Indeed, on February 8, Defense Secretary James Mattis admitted the United States had "no evidence" that the Assad government used Sarin against the Syrian people.

Trump said the United States is "getting clarity" and "some pretty good answers" about who was responsible for the Douma attack. But no independent investigation has yet been done.

Nonetheless, Trump has signaled that he's about to authorize the firing of missiles at Syria. That would be illegal and potentially catastrophic.

Bombing Syria Would Violate the War Powers Resolution

The War Powers Resolution, passed by Congress in the wake of the Vietnam War, permits the president to introduce US troops into hostilities or imminent hostilities only when Congress has declared war, when Congress has passed "specific statutory authorization" for the use of military force, or when there is "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces."

None of these three prongs is present to justify the use of military force in Syria. Congress has neither declared war nor passed legislation authorizing a US attack on Syria, and Syria has clearly not attacked the United States or US armed forces. As a result, a military attack on Syria would run afoul of the War Powers Resolution.

The Trump administration justified its 2017 bombing of Syria by citing the president's commander-in-chief authority under Article II of the Constitution "to defend important US national interests." But Article II gives the president power to command the US military only after Congress has authorized war pursuant to its Article I authority.

"Humanitarian intervention" is not an established norm of international law. The use of military force is lawful only in self-defense.

On May 22, 2017, Protect Democracy, a group of former Obama administration lawyers, filed a Freedom of Information lawsuit to make public the Trump administration's memo detailing its legal justification for the April 2017 US military strike on Syria. Although the administration says that memo is classified, Protect Democracy has discovered that the classified portion can be easily redacted. However, the administration refuses to make the memo public. On Monday, Protect Democracy filed an emergency motion for release of the memo in light of the "potentially imminent military action" in Syria.

Bombing Syria Would Violate the UN Charter

But even if an attack by Trump on Syria did not violate the War Powers Resolution, it would still violate the United Nations Charter. The United States has ratified the Charter, making it part of US law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which states that treaties shall be the supreme law of the land.

The Charter states that countries "shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state."

A country can mount a military attack against another country in self-defense after an armed attack or if the Security Council has authorized it. Neither has occurred in this case.

Syria has not attacked the United States or any other country. "The use of chemical weapons within Syria is not an armed attack on the United States," according to international law expert Notre Dame law professor Mary Ellen O'Connell.

Nor has the Council granted the United States license to use military force against Syria. Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, called for compliance with resolution 2401, passed on February 24, 2018, in which the Council demanded an immediate cessation of hostilities to enable humanitarian assistance and medical evacuation. Resolution 2401 ends by stating that the Security Council "Decides to remain actively seized of the matter." That means the Council -- and only the Council -- has legal authority to order any measures, forceful or otherwise.

Any military attack that Trump would launch against Syria would therefore violate the Charter. In fact, under Article 51, Assad would have a valid self-defense claim in the event the United States initiated an armed attack on Syria. Russia could also mount airstrikes in collective defense of Syria.

In a tweet, Trump decried the "humanitarian disaster" created by the gas attack in Syria. But "humanitarian intervention" is not an established norm of international law. The use of military force is lawful only in self-defense or with Security Council approval. Neither is present in this case.

Bombing Syria Could Lead to a Dangerous Confrontation With Russia

CNN Turk reported that a US Navy destroyer -- the USS Donald Cook -- armed with 60 Tomahawk cruise missiles is now located off the coast of Syria. A Navy source confirmed that report to the Washington Examiner, saying the destroyer "got underway in the eastern Mediterranean within range of Syria Monday."

Russian leaders warned that any use of military force by the United States would have "grave repercussions."

Last month, Russian government officials threatened to respond with military force if Trump were to attack Syria and thereby endanger the lives of Russian soldiers stationed there. "In the event of a threat to our military servicemen's lives, Russia's Armed Forces will take retaliatory measures to target both the missiles and their delivery vehicles," Russian Army Gen. Valery Gerasimov warned.

What Should Be Done?

The Security Council met on Tuesday but could not agree on a resolution. Russia vetoed a US-prepared draft that would create a mechanism to assign responsibility for chemical attacks. The United States vetoed a Russian-drafted resolution that would have required investigators to report their findings to the Council, which would in turn assign responsibility.

But Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN, declared that the United States would act against Assad, with or without the United Nations.

There is already an established body that has launched an investigation into the allegations of chemical weapons use in the Douma incident. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), with support from Russia and Syria, is gathering and analyzing data from all available sources. OPCW's Director-General, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, is preparing to deploy a fact-finding mission team to Douma to investigate.

Immediately after Trump announced that the US bombing of Syria was imminent, Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, wrote on Facebook, "Smart missiles should fly toward terrorists, not the legal government that has been fighting international terrorism for several years on its territory."

Zakharova added, "By the way, were the OPCW inspectors warned that smart missiles will destroy all evidence of chemical weapons use on the ground? Or the whole idea is to quickly cover up the traces of provocation through the smart missiles, so the international inspectors have nothing to look for as evidence?"

There are several alternatives to bombing or attacking Syria. The Friends Committee on National Legislation has proposed a four-point plan, which includes full US support for the OPCW investigation; a congressional vote against any further US military action in Syria; a meeting between the United States, Russia, Iran, Turkey and the Gulf States to revive international negotiations toward a diplomatic solution; and the United States promptly increasing its settlement of Syrian refugees.

Dueling US and Russian airstrikes in Syria would exacerbate regional conflict and could lead inexorably to a global war.

Categories: News

How Trump's Immigration Policies Harm Children

Truth Out - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 04:00

The Trump administration has attacked immigrant communities from day one with a range of misguided proposals and executive orders that undermine civil rights and terrify families.

These efforts are having devastating effects -- right now, as well as potentially long term -- on the health and well-being of our nation's youngest residents.

Documenting the Harm

Two new reports issued by the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) examine how the Trump Administration's anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy priorities are wreaking havoc in the lives of young children. Through interviews with more than 100 child care and early education professionals in six states, along with focus groups with dozens of parents, CLASP found pervasive effects of these threats on children.

The reports detail disturbing signs and behaviors of distress, as well as serious risks to young children's healthy development. Because of their isolation and fear, immigrant families are reluctant to seek nutrition assistance, health care, and early care and education programs, which is compromising the wellbeing of their children.

Examples included a special-needs child being pulled out of recommended treatment by parents fearful of being detained by immigration authorities, early childhood programs unable to fill their classrooms despite burgeoning need, and families declining nutrition assistance.

From Bad to Worse

A new federal regulation being drafted by the US Department of Homeland Security would push kids, parents and other members of low-income immigrant households further into the shadows by dramatically altering the "public charge" provision of federal immigration law.

The most recent version of this draft proposal was leaked to the media last month and aims to punish immigrant families who seek access to health, nutrition, and housing programs for themselves and their children.

Under the proposed rule, any person whose family seeks or uses a wide range of human services programs -- from affordable housing, home heating assistance, and health coverage, to anti-hunger benefits, the earned income tax credit, and other essential services -- could face barriers to maintaining or improving their immigration status.

The proposed rule would expand scrutiny to include the applicant's family -- including US citizen children. If the draft provisions are finalized, parents would be forced to make impossible choices between putting food on the table for their children or obtaining secure immigration status.

We know that access to preventive health care and nutrition helps improve childhood outcomes, which extends to better education and employment outcomes in adulthood. Creating barriers to essential programs would have lifelong damaging consequences for millions of children in immigrant families.

Increased immigration enforcement and anti-immigrant rhetoric is already deterring immigrant parents -- documented and undocumented alike -- from seeking medical help for their children or enrolling them in critical programs.

The Trump administration's dangerous proposal would deny more children access to lifesaving care and drive up poverty among families with young children who are vital to our collective future.

Children of immigrants represent one quarter of our increasingly diverse US child population and will make up a critical segment of the future workforce. Preventing these kids from having their most fundamental needs met and driving them further into poverty will undermine our communities and our country for generations to come.

What's Next

The draft notice of proposed rulemaking was sent to the Office of Management and Budget at the end of March. The next step is for the rule to be published as a proposal in the Federal Register. Then, the public will have a relatively short window of opportunity to make comments and pose questions on the published rule.

For now, immigrant families should continue to seek benefits for which they are eligible. As currently drafted, the rule would not be retroactive and -- even if finalized -- some immigrants are not subject to the public charge determination.

During this unprecedented time of attacks on immigrant families, advocates must come together and reject this dangerous and shortsighted proposal, and others like it, which seek to divide our communities and undermine low-income, working families. Ultimately, our nation's leaders should be pushing for policies that help all our children thrive -- regardless of where their parents were born -- for their sake and for that of the entire country.

Join Us and Fight Back

We can't sit on the sidelines while the Trump administration attempts to punish parents for feeding their kids. The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) are monitoring this threat closely and leading a strong pushback effort together with our partners across the nation. Once the proposed rule is published, there will be an opportunity for public comments, which the agency must respond to before finalizing these changes.

We invite you to join us in submitting comments to the Department of Homeland Security in opposition to this rule and encouraging others in your network to do the same.

For more resources, talking points, and information about how you can connect with other advocates in this fight, please visit Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) website.

No ads, no subscription fees -- instead, Truthout is fueled by generous donations from readers. Want to support our work? Click here to donate.
Categories: News

Six Months Into #MeToo, We Still Aren't Helping Victims Heal

Truth Out - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 04:00

This article was published by

Living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is, in many ways, similar to living with cockroaches. When you first notice the infestation, it's all you can think about. Even if it's small, even if you only see a little black bug scuttling across the kitchen floor once every few days, you are consumed by panic. You feel their legs brushing your face as you lie in bed trying to fall asleep. You imagine their wiggling antennae poking out from the bottom of your coffee cup. Under every pillow, behind every cabinet, you imagine you will uncover a new nest, writhing with horrible little bodies that scurry across your toes as they try to escape the sudden exposure.

Then, after a while, you get used to them. They get worse; they multiply. But you stop noticing. Eventually, you flick them off your body like nothing. You watch with dull reserve when you uncover yet another nest. They become a part of your life. Once you have roaches, you can never really get rid of them -- you can only try to mitigate their effects.

Women have been dealing with a lot of roaches. The viral MeToo hashtag has brought to light the horrifying impact of sexual and physical assault against women, which is an inarguable advance from the (sometimes not-so-distant) times when violence against women was so widely accepted it was used to sell household products. Like any powerful social movement, however, it has its critics. "Why now?" has become one of the biggest questions detractors are asking. If this is such a major problem, why didn't survivors come forward earlier? Why do so many still hold back from reporting, or testifying in court?

People still ask me those questions. They ask even though it's 10 years after the end of my abusive relationship, and even though I still live in a world overrun by my trauma. They ask even though providing the testimony that would incarcerate my abuser meant inviting a lifetime of PTSD, which arises only in the aftermath of trauma, when the long-used survival mechanisms fail to shut off.

The events that took place between the ages of 15 and 20 remain trapped in my body like shrapnel too precarious to be extracted. They are distanced from the rest of me by dissociation and selective amnesia; psychological post-traumatic scar tissue. I can't always recall the details attached to each trigger, but I know them by their symptoms: anger, shame, debilitating self-doubt, panic attacks, suicidal ideation, substance use, an unshakable sense of not belonging.

I didn't know exactly how much the aftermath would hurt until I finally walked away, but I had inklings every time I tried. I would spend days cycling between joy and misery; torn between my desire to live free from violence, and the despairing knowledge that healing would require painful, arduous work. When I finally testified, it was in spite of myself. I had already recanted previous reports countless times before I finally gathered the courage to stand my ground.

Domestic violence is so intensely damaging because it is personal, targeted, isolating, and private, but that pressure to recant is nearly universal. In a 2011 study of abuser-victim dynamics, Amy Bonomi and other researchers listened in on recorded conversations between jailed male abusers and their female partners. In 17 of 25 pairings, the abuser was able to convince his partner to recant her testimony (the other conversations were inaudible or included people who were not the primary victim). All of these conversations followed a pattern: The abuser first minimized the assault, then elicited sympathy from his victim by describing the hardship of life in jail, before romanticizing the "good times," bonding over a shared dislike of a hostile authority figure, and finally requesting that she recant.

Given the likelihood that victims recant, it's no wonder prosecutors seemed concerned when my abuser's conviction hinged on my testimony. The county assigned me a victim's advocate who coached me through the court process and periodically checked in on my welfare and willingness to speak in court. But after the sentencing, it was four years before I heard from their office again -- and then only to meet with me briefly about his release. I was not set up with a network of trauma care workers. Nobody followed up to learn whether I had stable housing, or how my job search was going after school. I was left alone to deal with the aftermath, and 10 years later I am still struggling to overcome that oversight.

Studies have found that women who survive intimate partner violence suffer myriad long-term physical and mental consequences. (Although domestic violence happens across the gender spectrum, it is most common between male assailants with female partners; because of this, most research focuses on couples that fit this dynamic). Digestive problems, eating disorders, issues with reproductive organs, headaches, and blackouts are some of the most common physical ailments associated with domestic violence. PTSD develops at a 74:3 ratio in women who have been abused versus those who have not.

I've always lived below the poverty line, but before developing PTSD, I never struggled for what I really needed. The aftermath of abuse left me floundering for everything. No one warned me how hard it would be to stay alive after the relationship was over. I was able to complete graduate studies in writing, but not without a good dose of heroin -- and that, of course, came with its own set of debilitating consequences. Before building enough contacts and credits to work as an income-earning freelance writer, I was mostly unemployed, occasionally bouncing between telefunding jobs, and constantly struggling to keep my family housed and fed. Even recently, when my husband suffered a costly health complication, we ended up with an impending eviction that we were only able to skirt through an online fundraiser.

The financial devastation I experienced is not unique. Since the 1990s, health officials have known that battered women experience significant interruptions to their jobs that include unemployment, missing work, being late or leaving early, and even being fired. More recent data confirm that financial insecurity continues to be a major issue for abuse survivors -- domestic violence is thought to account for a combined total loss of 8 million work days each year. Couple that with the fact that 99 percent of women who are physically abused also experience financial abuse, and the well-recorded difficulties associated with escaping poverty (especially if mental illness is involved), and you begin to see a very grim picture -- one that leaves already-vulnerable victims struggling to access enough resources to survive.

Survivors of intimate partner violence should not disappear into a black hole after escaping the abuse, nor should we assume they are okay just because they are "safe." The evidence says they are not. And so, six months into #MeToo, we need to start dealing with the wreckage.  #MeToo allowed women to realize that they were not alone -- that many of us have cockroaches, and the filth does not belong to us. #MeToo allowed women to let out a long-awaited sigh of relief. But it also triggered some survivors, who weren't ready to face their trauma. It made women feel guilty for not being ready. It made those on the outside think that sending the aggressor to prison was the end of the story. It made people forget that domestic violence survivors still need help, even after the relationship ends.

There is no longer any basis to argue that domestic violence doesn't have a long-term physical, psychological, and financial toll. The question is now, what are we going to do about it?

Truthout is funded by readers, not by corporations, lobbyists or government interests. Help us publish more stories like this one: Click here to make a tax-deductible donation!
Categories: News

End of the Line #15: Two More Trees

It's Goin Down - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 02:48

The post End of the Line #15: Two More Trees appeared first on It's Going Down.

Beautiful and haunting anti-pipeline podcast End of the Line returns with interviews, sounds, music, and news of the growing anti-pipeline insurgency in Virginia and West Virginia.

Treesitters on top of Peters Mountain Stand have wondered if their action might be a spark to inspire pipeline fighters. Now others have answered their call, taking to the trees in the wetlands of Bent Mountain.

Categories: News

#NoNaziNewnan: The White Supremacist Rally in Newnan, Georgia and Anti-Racist Opposition

It's Goin Down - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 02:38

The post #NoNaziNewnan: The White Supremacist Rally in Newnan, Georgia and Anti-Racist Opposition appeared first on It's Going Down.

The following post offers what you need to know about opposing an upcoming neo-Nazi demonstration in Newnan, Georgia.

On April 21, the National Socialist Movement (NSM) – a neo-Nazi organization – aims to have a public rally in Newnan, Georgia. (Newnan is 45 minutes southwest of Atlanta.) The NSM rally coincides with the NSM’s national meeting, also to be held in Georgia from the 20-21st. Anti-racists are calling for a mass presence in Newnan on April 21 to oppose the white supremacist rally that day.

The NSM holds its national meeting close to Hitler’s birthday (April 20) each year. Members of the neo-Nazi outfit from across the country are encouraged to attend. In 2016, the NSM also held their national meeting in Georgia where they formed a white supremacist alliance named the “Aryan Nationalist Alliance,” now renamed as the Nationalist Front. To coincide with their 2016 meeting, the NSM rallied in Rome, Georgia. (Another white power rally the same day, at Stone Mountain Park outside Atlanta, was met with multifaceted anti-racist resistance.)

The Nationalist Front including the NSM had a large presence at the bloody “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August. Nationalist Front members were at the forefront of the violence that day. We believe that groups such as the NSM should be opposed so that they cannot build their numbers and enact further violence against people of color, sexual minorities, leftists and other targets.

This article provides further context about why the NSM is coming to Georgia and to Newnan specifically. At the end, we provide information about the #NoNaziNewnan anti-racist mobilization.

Why Georgia?

One could suppose that the National Socialist Movement are having their event in Georgia because the NSM have a large membership in our state, but this is not the case. Georgia and the South in general have problems with organized white supremacy (as does the rest of the country.) However, the NSM is not particularly strong in Georgia. The last leader for the NSM in Georgia — Floyd Eric Meadows of Rome, Georgia — now seems to be focusing most of his efforts on a racist “heathen” compound in Eastern Tennessee.

The main reason the National Socialist Movement is having its national gathering in Georgia is simply convenience.

The NSM has provided the location for most of its national meeting (minus the Newnan rally) as Temple, Georgia. This almost certainly means that the NSM will be meeting and having their “Odal Rune Lighting” at the Georgia Peach Oyster Bar in Temple/Draketown.

Patrick Vine Lanzo, owner of the Georgia Peach Oyster “Klan” Bar

Patrick Vince Lanzo’s Georgia Peach Oyster Bar, which openly advertises itself as a Klan venue, has a long history of hosting white power events for whichever Nazi or Klan group requests the space. In recent times, the “Aryan Nationalist Alliance” was launched at the Georgia Peach during the NSM national meeting of 2016; the bar was the venue for the notorious Hammerskin Nation gang’s “Hammerfest” festival later that year; and the Peach also hosted smaller gatherings for groups such as Aryan Nations Worldwide and the NSM during this time.

For as long as Patrick Lanzo’s bar is readily available for neo-Nazi and white supremacist gatherings, we can expect organizations such as the NSM and the Hammerskins to take advantage. This in turn affects communities such as Rome (where the NSM rallied in 2016) and now Newnan, when the Nazis venture outside the Temple/Draketown area and have a public rally to coincide with their event at a private business.

Why Newnan?

Still, one could wonder why Newnan, Georgia – 45 minutes from Temple – is being singled out by the National Socialist Movement for a rally to coincide with its national meeting. Part of this is no doubt also convenience, since the city has a park and was willing to issue a permit.

Another aspect is that neo-Nazis believe that smaller cities (such as Newnan) are more likely to be sympathetic to their message, and that they can perhaps pick up a few recruits from the protest there. The #NoNaziNewnan mobilization aims to prove them wrong on this point and show that the white supremacist message of the NSM is not welcome.

League of the South

Past racist protests in Newnan by allies of the NSM may also play a part in that organization’s decision to have a show of force in Newnan, and the city may appear attractive to racists and neo-Confederates because of the large number of Confederate monuments in the area.

In November 2016, the white nationalist League of the South held a small pre-election demonstration in Newnan. (The LOS had earlier planned to rally in Grantville, Georgia — also in Coweta County – in September 2016, trying to stir up racial hatred in the aftermath of a murder there, but this LOS protest was cancelled.) The League of the South are presently affiliated with the NSM in the “Nationalist Front” coalition. LOS leader Michael Hill will speak at the NSM’s meeting in Temple this year. So, the city of Newnan was already part of the collective consciousness of the white supremacist coalition.

Everyone Out for #NoNaziNewnan on April 21! 

A common idea – promoted by Newnan authorities amongst others – is that one should not protest when neo-Nazis and white supremacists invade a community, since paying these groups attention only helps them. Rather, the neo-Nazis should be allowed to have their race war gathering in peace, being ignored by the rest of the community. This widespread idea is wrong on several levels.

First, failing to demonstrate against neo-Nazis is no guarantee that the racist groups will be starved of media attention (which groups such as the NSM believe will help attract members.) Simply put: the media will treat a neo-Nazi rally as newsworthy, no matter what. The only question is whether the NSM receive coverage of a rally while left largely unopposed, or whether there is a strong showing from those who challenge their white supremacist poison.

Second, League of the South activity in Newnan a year and a half ago suggests that when racist organizing is unopposed and flies under the media radar, this does not in fact make the organizers go away. They may return with their associates.

Members of the National Socialist Movement and KKK hold a rally.

Finally, the community should mobilize because neo-Nazis and white supremacists are a real threat. The NSM and Nationalist Front’s activity in Charlottesville leaves no question about their violent intent. When white supremacist events take place, this also increases the chance of racist attacks in the area. Rather than hiding or having an event far from the Nazis, the community should rally together to show that it is vigilant and strongly opposed to racist organizing.

We are working with community members in Newnan to oppose the NSM and their white supremacist associates on the 21st. Please join the #nonazinewnan mobilization at 2PM, Saturday the 21st in downtown Newnan. In the meantime, spread the word within your organization or community group. Watch and the #nonazinewnan hashtag for details and updates. If you are within driving distance, we encourage you to make the trip! Our plan is for a powerful, large-scale mobilization against the neo-Nazis, making it abundantly clear that they are not welcome in Newnan, in Georgia… or anywhere else for that matter.

Facebook event here:

Protest announcement, downloadable posters/flyers, and list of endorsers here:

Categories: News

Moscow to Trump: Are 'smart' missiles an attempt to destroy alleged chemical attack evidence in Syria?

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 02:08

Moscow to Trump: Are 'smart' missiles an attempt to destroy alleged chemical attack evidence in Syria? | 11 April 2018 | Responding to a threat from US President Donald Trump, who said Russia should prepare for "nice new and smart missiles" launched by America at Syria, Moscow said if the weapons were smart, they would target terrorists. "Smart missiles should fly towards terrorists, not [Syria's] lawful government, which has spent several years fighting against international terrorism on its territory," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in response to Trump's tweet on Wednesday. She added the US may be seeking to undermine an inspection by chemical weapons experts, who are planning to investigate on the ground in Syria after the alleged attack which sparked the current confrontation between Russia and the US.

Categories: News

Rick Perry and Bob Murray Renew Conservative Call to Subsidize Coal

deSmog - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 01:58

Conservative rancor toward the free market in energy systems was on full display this week, as both Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and coal magnate Robert Murray made loud, unapologetic calls to subsidize coal-fired power plants.

“We don’t have a free market in the [electricity] industry, and I’m not sure you want one,” Perry said Monday at the BNEF Future of Energy Summit.

Tags: Robert MurrayBob MurrayAndrew WheelerRick PerryBNEFcoalFERCdoe
Categories: News

Hotwire #26: Fighting Pipelines & Defending the Zad

It's Goin Down - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 01:53

The post Hotwire #26: Fighting Pipelines & Defending the Zad appeared first on It's Going Down.

Long-time anarchist media project, CrimethInc. presents their weekly news roundup podcast, The Hotwire.

As we go to press, hundreds of squatters and eco-rebels are battling against cops at La ZAD in France. We interview someone there, as well as a participant in The Syrian Revolution about the no-state-solution to the Syrian government’s ongoing attacks on rebel areas.
The treesits in West Virginia against the Mountain Valley Pipeline are expanding. Anarchist prisoner Sean Swain needs support.

Notes and Links Transcript

Rebel Girl: April 11, 2018: Resistance to the eviction of la ZAD and more rebellion across France, direct action staves off pipelines and police academies, and a call to support anarchist prisoner Sean Swain on this episode of…

The Hotwire.  A weekly anarchist news show brought to you by The Ex-Worker.   With me, the Rebel Girl.  A full transcript of this episode with shownotes and useful links can be found at our website, You can subscribe to The Hotwire on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts, just search for The Ex-Worker. You can listen to us through the anarchist podcast network Channel Zero, or on your radio’s dial in… Eugene, Oregon every Sunday at noon on KEPW 97.3, Fairbanks, Alaska Saturday mornings at 9 on KWRK 90.9 and in Tacoma, Washington every Friday at 9 AM on KUPS 90.1. Every Hotwire is radio ready, and in our shownotes you can download a twenty-nine and a half minute version of this episode for standard radio timeslots. If there’s a story or upcoming event you’d like us to include in a future Hotwire, just hit us up at podcast[AT]crimethinc[DOT]com. And now for the headlines…


The Oklahoma teachers’ strike entered its second week on Monday, as hundreds of schools closed and teachers flooded the capitol demanding raises for staff and funding for students. It’s been heartwarming to see how teachers in Oklahoma are learning from the previous strike wave in West Virginia. The organizer of the Oklahoma Teacher Walkout Facebook group was quoted saying, “When talking to West Virginia teachers, they told me the most important day of the walkout was the 2nd Monday.” We hope that the lessons and sense of agency from these strikes can not only be passed on from state to state, but from one sector of exploited workers to all others.

Meanwhile, the teachers’ union in Kentucky has shown once again that one of the biggest obstacles to generalizing such conflicts is union leadership. While rank-and-file teachers staged a wildcat “sick out” last week, the managerial class of union leaders caught up with the conflict and urged teachers to go back to work on Monday, shaming them for “continued calls for action that deprive students, parents and communities of the educational services we provide,” as if education solely had to do with having teachers at work, regardless of the resources they have to offer.

End Of The Line: “That is a national forest. The kids have as much a right to be there as the pipeline has a right to be there.”

“For us this is about saying ‘no, this is still the people’s land, no, this is still the people’s water, and not only are we gonna fight you on this, we’re going to win.’”

Rebel Girl: That clip was from an End of the Line podcast episode focused on local resistance to the Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia.

There, treesits against the pipeline are on the up and up! On April 2, a new sit was launched, occupied by a 61 year-old woman identified as “Red,” while the monopod blockade we mentioned last Hotwire is entering its third week, and Appalachians Against Pipelines believe that they’ve set a record for the longest continuously occupied monopod under threat of eviction. Woo! You can hear more interviews with locals opposed to the Mountain Valley Pipeline at

Since the beginning of March in the occupied Coast Salish territories also known as British Columbia, nearly 200 people have been arrested for opposing the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which would triple the amount of tar sands oil flowing from Alberta to the coast. After a month of intense resistance, which has included everything from mass marches to lockdowns on construction equipment, Kinder Morgan has announced that they are suspending work on the Trans Mountain project. The company attributes the decision to the regional government’s supposed opposition to the pipeline, making no mention of the protests or direct actions because they don’t wait to embolden their organizing. It may be a time for some celebration—but not for rest. The only way to maintain victories is to stay organized and attentive for the next time Kinder Morgan or any other company decides that the profits of moving oil outweigh the costs of bad publicity, legal cases against water protectors, and the irreparable damage to the earth. Capitalism ensures that inevitably, some company will come along which values profit over all other concerns. Keep the pressure on!


As the 50th anniversary comes around of the May 1968 uprising in Paris, it’s been kicking off all over France.

Beginning the morning of April 9, nearly 2,500 riot cops began evicting the 250 or so squatters on the ZAD, or “zone to defend,” in Notre-Dame-De-Landes, France. Our French comrades have prepared a full history of the resistance at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, from the first resistance to the airport in the 1960s through the establishment of the ZAD in 2009 up to the eviction on Monday. Entitled “La ZAD: Another End of the World Is Possible,” it explores some of the challenges that the movement faced after the French government announced the cancellation of the airport project. You can read the text at

As we reported in the Hotwire for February 7, the government had recently announced that they were abandoning the plans to build on airport on the ZAD’s land, and from then until now the future of the ZAD was in the air. Now, it’s teargas, stones, and concussions grenades in the air, as the police and squatters battle over control of the territory.

We know what is happening at the ZAD is brutal and painful, as French police forces attempt to destroy an autonomous model of the new world we’re trying to build. But we here at the Hotwire have been reminded of what beautiful dreamers we can be, holding visions and spaces of a different path forward, in a world that’s quite literally trying to crush them. We wish those at the ZAD luck and safety as they fight back, and to remember, that even if they destroy our spaces, we carry a new world, here in our hearts.

As we go to press, folks at la ZAD are still defending their homes against eviction by thousands of riot police. We were able to catch up with Camille at the ZAD about the eviction and what’s going down.

Camille: I’m Camille. I live on the ZAD.

Yesterday morning they came—legally they can’t evict before 6 in the morning or after 10 at night here, so everyone was getting ready to get up at 6, and they came at 3, and they took so much ground so fast

They took the barricade road, but people had basically already given it to them. And they destroyed- we announced 9 cabins destroyed yesterday, but there were actually only 7. And then today they said 16, but we haven’t been to verify yet because most people are holed up in this place like on this one road. And they aren’t really letting any- because they have the whole road. It’s like a 4-kilometer road, and the whole thing is end to end police and military vehicles. So we can’t really get into the east part, which is the wooded part. Some people are there, we know there’s been a couple evictions, but. We don’t have that much information because they’re too far for walkie-talkies.

There’s this thing going on lately of, like… this glorious future, where like, we’re going to—I don’t know how much of this is like getting out in North America, but this glorious future where we like negotiate with the state, and then we get a contract, and we can all like be farmers and live happily ever after. And I think a lot of people that have politically disagreed with that already left, which is why we’re so few. And people who disagree but didn’t leave, I mean, it’s because we don’t have anywhere else to go. And so, like, what we’re fighting for is like, it’s our homes, it’s our, like- the fucking lives we live here, it’s our gardens. Because I fucking hate the cops, and because, they, like, fucked up my friends’ houses. And like gassed all our medicinal plants, and like.

The police kept saying “We’re only going to evict the road,” the barricade road, where, like, “the radicals” live, like in quotes. Like, basically punks, and people who used to live on the street, so a lot of people didn’t really care, and were like, “Oh the airport is over, and so we’re not going to support them anymore,” and so there was basically no one that came to the callout. And then yesterday, they did a very stupid thing, which was to knock down the house of these like, clean, adorable farmer people that do press work. And now there’s lots of people coming and lots of journalists, and they’re like backing down some. So I don’t really now why they did that, that also, like, made our internal conflicts, definitely changed our internal conflicts a lot.

Yeah, I don’t know- people are doing things- there’s this enormous catapult called The Syrian, made out of metal that is launching rocks that are about the size of my backpack. …Which, you don’t know how big that is, because this is the radio. Big.

I mean it’s just like a fucking war zone. That as you can hear, probably, in the background. There’re a lot of grenades.

One thing we’ve been trying to get out in the media, especially as medics, is that since they called someone at the ZAD du Testet with a concussion grenade, they’re illegal in France. And the police headquarters has been saying all day long, and all yesterday: “There’s no grenades, no one’s been wounded, we don’t know what they’re talking about.” And I’ve seen several people who have been very wounded by grenades in, like, really dramatic fucked-up ways. And as you’ve probably heard over the course of us talking, they’re going off every five minutes. And so. I don’t know if it’s useful to like, tell a bunch of anarchists that the police aren’t respecting the law, but in the interest of us being safe, we’re trying to get that out – that they are using grenades and it’s a lot. Even though it’s illegal and they’re denying it.

Yeah, I was on the roof doing lookout, and all of the police came running around the corner, going “Oh shit, they’re coming!”, and firing over their shoulder. And they ran all the way to the road, being chased and charged. That was pretty beautiful to see. Then they came back a couple hours later. They just keep coming back, and like- they’re like, exhausting us, they’re using up all our ammo, they’re using up all our barricade material. I think they’re just kind of like fucking with us, and then they’re going to come back and destroy everything. But. People seem to feel strong for now, so that’s good.

Yeah. And like, yesterday, the… I went to a house yesterday, after it got destroyed, and like in the mud, it’s like, bits of grenades, tear gas, and- and like glass bottles, but the glass bottles are like apple cider vinegar, olive oil, like- poppy flowers from 2016. People are just throwing like, fucking- like- like-  our house lost all- all of our cups this morning, like all of the glass jars. I’m in- like- this is like what we live, and so it’s just like- yeah. We don’t really have anything left- left to lose. So, yeah. Everyone’s just throwing like their conserves, and their cutlery, and like everything, because we don’t have anything else.

Yeah, who knows. Yeah. Anyway. Thanks.

Rebel Girl: And panning out to the last month of rebellion in France, we’re going to run a clip of episode number five of Sub.Media’s news show TFN.

Stimulator: This year marks the 50th fucking anniversary of the riots of ’68, when millions of Parisian students and workers cut class, walked off the job, drank wine, built barricades, ate croissants, fought the pigs, and tried their best to overthrow the French government. They were anarchists, that was the spirit And although they were the furthest out politically That was also the one place where workers joined with students and almost toppled the government. Aaaaaand in the decades that have followed, riots and labour unrest have become as a mime playing Frère-fuckin-Jacques on an accordion. So it’s no fucking surprise that peeps in France have decided to honor the anniversary in the only way you’d expect. That’s right… the French “poulets” are once again on the back foot, as swarms of black-clad, cop-bashing cortèges de têtes keep beating them back, hucking bottles, and doing le smashy smash.

This time around, la merde’s hitting the fan after Emmanuel Macron, the radical neoliberal centrist piece of shit elected to power last year on a strict platform of not being Marine Le Pen announced plans to push through sweeping changes to France’s state-run rail system, the SNCF. These reforms include cutting the strong employment protection rights rail workers, and taking the initial steps to privatize the SNCF by publicly listing it on the stock market – part of a broader attack on public sector being carried out in the name of EU integration. Buuuuuuuuut the country’s famously militant weren’t gonna take that shit lying down, and they’ve been joined by students pissed off at planned university reforms… not to mention all the sketchy French youths who’ve jumped at the opportunity to break from their daily ennui to throw down against the pigs…. because after after all… Everyone Hates the Police! Yuuuuup, once again, peeps in France did not fuckin disappoint…

Shit started really popping off on March 22nd, 50 years to the day that radical students first occupied the Université Paris Nanterre, kicking off the historic wave of resistance that followed. In an impressive display of decentralized coordination, demonstrations took place across France, including wildcat strikes that seriously jammed up France’s trasportation grid featuring militant black blocs that were reminiscent of the 2016 movement against the so-called “Loi de Travail”. Buuuuuuuuut in a stark reminder of how the political winds have shifted over the past two years, later that evening a student occupation of an auditorium in Montpellier University was viciously attacked by a mob of masked fascists, including members of the right wing student group GUD and several teachers, who were recognized and outed by their students. These goons rampaged through the hall, wielding wooden pallets and tazers, seriously injuring four people, including two students who had to be hospitalized with skull fractures. Several witnesses accused the dean of the university’s law faculty, Philippe Pétel, of orchestrating the attack, after he allegedly let the thugs in through a back door and cheered as they literally cracked his other students’ skulls. Tuesday April 3rd saw the start of three months of planned rolling strikes by SNCF workers, and with the large national union, the CGT, calling for a general strike on April 19th, shit looks like it’s just starting. Something tells me that this year, May Day in Paris is gonna be one for the cook books.

Rebel Girl: In the weeks since the violent eviction of the Montpellier University occupation by fascists, fascists have also attacked a student occupation at the University of Paris, which had previously voted for an unlimited blockade and the formation of “the Free Commune of Tolbiac.” According to the students, the university president, “feared to see a ZAD settle in the heart of the university.” Days earlier, riot police also attacked a university occupation in Strasbourg.

But you don’t have to go all the way to France or back in time 50 years to launch a university occupation. Last week, students occupied the Chancellor’s Office at the Southern Illinois University in Carbondale to demand, “that the chancellor’s office release a statement today (4–5–2018) that there will be no police academy… at SIUC.” This runs parallel to an ongoing popular campaign against a new police academy further north in Chicago, which has seen widespread community and youth participation.

And, it seems that the university occupation in Carbondale had some pretty immediate, if not wholly satisfactory, outcomes. Here’s the occupiers’ statement from later that day:

“Earlier today, in response to pressure from students and the community, the Chancellor announced to the graduate council that the decision on the cop academy was being ‘tabled.’ We understand this to be a Public Relations move on the part of the administration: pass the decision on the cop academy off to another group, put it off to another time, thereby sidestepping the pressure that students and community members have built against the proposal.

“To say it clearly: the police, by their nature, are violence… who use the threat of death, kidnapping, beatings, and caging people to enforce the power of the few over the many. This is the reason for their creation – as slave patrols and as hired thugs to beat up organizing workers – and it has never ceased to be their purpose… We oppose the illusion that these problems can simply be solved by ‘better training’ or ‘police reform.’ Like the prison system, every police reform has ended up deepening their control over society.”

The Syrian Civil War continues, with recent news reporting that chemical gas attacks were carried out on unsuspecting families, children, and the elderly this past Saturday in the area of Douma, just outside Damascus. Hundreds were injured and as many as 50 were left dead. As world leaders from Trump to Putin to Netanyahu spar over the fate of hundreds of thousands in Syria, we caught up with someone who was active in the Syrian Revolution until 2013 to contextual autonomous resistance in Syria and what people on the ground really want in response to military attacks by their government.

Salam: So first of all, thank you for your interest in the Syrian tragedy but also the Syrian revolution, something else we can talk about.

So my name is Salam, I am a Palestinian Syrian, I left Syria in 2013, so I experienced two years and a half of the revolution. I was an activist.

So Douma is around Damascus, basically it’s an area of working class and farmers and people working in these things, it’s an area that’s experienced significant poverty and unemployment, before the revolution I’m talking about this. So because many of these things, it was was very active in the first month of the revolution and it helped spread the revolution around Syria.

So, we have to know that this recent attack in Douma comes after 7 years of daily bombardment and airstrikes on this- on these areas, Eastern Ghouta, by the murderous Syrian regime, to retake the city and to displace its population. So, Douma and Eastern Ghouta have been under armed opposition control since 2012, and has been besieged since that time. So, why this happened? Of course because of the Syrian revolution in 2011. After months of peaceful demonstrations, in 2011 the Syrian regime continued to kill protesters in the streets, which forced the people to fight back and then rebel groups were established in each neighborhood.

This is the Syrian revolution that I am talking about and the left in general, and anarchists should support. They rose up against the repressive state and they managed to crush the state in different areas. And they managed to create, defend liberated areas from the state after the state machine and police control collapsed in these areas, and they created local councils – at the highest point of the Syrian revolution we’re talking about more than 200 local councils in different areas managed by people, by civilians and defended by people, by those people.

So basically these factions are local resistance units. Later on, regional countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar created and financed Islamist factions among these groups. And those factions, Islamist factions, became a dominant power, actually, in the Syrian conflict. So they wanted to install a new authoritarian regime in Syria, but without Assad. And this is the difference from the West and those countries. They want an authoritarian Syria without Assad and the West wants- the Russia wants Syria with Assad and Iran. The Syrian people, however, have been struggling against both murderous regimes to achieve free Syria and so we should support them.

The local communities actually resisting are resisting the Syrian regime and its allies, and also these fundamentalist groups that grew during the conflict; and they managed to become very significant actors in this revolution. But we have to remember–in eastern Ghouta alone, there are 20,000 fighters, many of them are from these Islamic groups, and we disagree with them of course, they are being resisted and we were resisting them. But there are also 300,000 people – these people I am talking about, 300,000 people who participated in the Syrian revolution, who are still now actively engaged and involved in independent social and council organizations. They refuse, those people, we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people, refuse to live under the Syrian regime control. While at the same time challenging the authoritarian Islamic faction. At the same time. And push toward more autonomous self-governing areas. So this is the Syrian revolution that I stand for and support and stayed going on, until now. This is not only in Ghouta, but in many areas, in many other areas in Syria that are being destroyed by the regime. And we have to stand with those people, those people that I’m talking about. And the story of Afrin, for example, is the same for me. Also people in Afrin, local communities trying to defend themselves against authoritarian structures and power, whether local structures of oppression, or Turkey for example, in the case of Afrin.

Last year there was a U.S. response for the chemical weapon attack in Khan Sheikhoun, this was the first time they responded out of hundreds of times – last year– around this time of last year. So after this response, the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons dozens of times – dozens of times, actually, without any response.

So, as I said, it’s not about humanity or regime change, as I said, it’s about enforcing international law- norm, by imperial powers. And the regime, the Syrian regime, is permitted- is still permitted to kill the Syrian people by all kind of weapons, and by using starvation tactics, and siege, but not sarin gas, and this is really obscene. So, conducting a strike right now driven by these norms just illustrates how cheap Syrian lives are. Syrian people have been upended since 8 years, and we need to stand with them and support their legitimate right of self-determination, and of living in freedom and dignity. There is definitely a geopolitical rivalry between imperial powers, especially the U.S. and Russia, but both want stability, both want authoritarian regimes allied to them, in our country, in Syria. The Syrian people, however, want something very different: they want freedom and justice. Something that can only be achieved through a struggle against all authoritarian murderous parties, whether Assad or Islamist jihadists on the one hand or Russia and the U.S. on the other hand.


Rebel Girl: In this week’s repression roundup…

Long-time anarchist prisoner, radio commentator, and author Sean Swain has launched a hunger strike and calls of support are needed. We LOVE Sean, so please call Warren Correctional Institution at (513) 932–3388 and press 7 to raise concerns to the Warden’s office about Sean’s status.

Early Friday morning, police in Hamilton, Ontario carried out a house raid and arrested one person, Cedar, on conspiracy charges stemming from the March 3 anti-capitalist, anti-gentrification destruction in downtown Hamilton. Police seized computers, books, posters, and other belongings, and also trashed the place—for example they threw some decoratively framed feminist postcards into the toilet. During the arraignment later Friday afternoon, one supporter shouted, “Love you Cedar!” and we at the Hotwire echo that.

Police have accused Cedar of operating The Tower social center, which, two weeks ago, saw fascist retaliation for the anti-gentrification march. However, while Cedar has been under arrest, The Tower released a statement about the repression: “We have no desire to engage with the politics of innocence. The concept of innocence and its flipside criminality obscure more than illuminate – no one is innocent and the most “criminal” amongst us run the economy and government…That said, it is worth noting that conspiracy charges are notoriously dubious and flimsy… They are an act of desperation intended to cast a wide net and scare people. Such charges are not a matter of engaging in a particular activity, but rather a matter of possibly encouraging a particular activity.

“Our politics have always included both gardens and riots. We want to see people building beautiful alternatives of liberation, just as much as we want to see people attacking structures of domination. Nothing about this is going to change, and despite recent challenges, our project will continue to push these ideas. We still have no tears for Locke Street and we remain unapologetically supportive of the activities that took place last month.”

Keep up with updates about the repression in Hamilton through

Over the last year, Belarus’ ministry of information has been playing cat to any mouse in the country that clicks on the anarchist website Pramen, and Pramen have recently had their sites and mirrors blocked once again. Rebels in Belarus are still accessing the site’s new address via Tor, but they need help to keep the information up online. You can PayPal them funds at, or e-mail them there to find out how to get them Bitcoin, which is perhaps even better in Belarus.

The next J20 trial begins on April 17. Friday and Monday, lawyers were able to argue the judge out of allowing the government’s supposed “expert” Black Bloc witness from testifying under an alias, and the defense also won further limits on what counts as an expert and the admissibility of so-called “co-conspirator” statements. What happens in this next trial may have an important impact on the rest of the fifty-plus defendants going to trial afterwards, so please give the April 17 defendants all the support you can. You can call the prosecutor’s boss and tell her to drop the charges at (202) 252–7566, you can print and wheatpaste our new poster about the J20 case from, which would be especially helpful if you are in Washington D.C., you can come pack the courthouse during the trial, you can e-mail info at dclegalposse dot org to volunteer to take court notes, and you can keep up with DefendJ20 on Instagram and Twitter for updates throughout the trial.

And just in case you think that this kind of state repression is solely a result of the Trump presidency, The Daily Beast recently released an exclusive report about a 2016 Obama-era Department of Homeland Security memo that instructs police to look out for anarchist demonstrators by markers like “wearing dark clothing or bandanas, scouting a marching route in advance, and carpooling to a demonstration—actions that could apply to a wide swath of protesters.” Remember, it’s not just Trump y’all, it’s the state.

Speaking of the criminalization of protests as so-called “riots”, an important trial is scheduled for May 7, stemming from the uprising in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2016 after police murdered Keith Lamont Scott.

Jamie: The National Guard and the police held a line there, and began to shoot the tear gas and the rubber bullets. And on that first deployment was when the police’s- what we believe was a rubber bullet hit a man- a Black man named Justin Carr in the head. And, this was a protester who had come out with the spirit of their family members that had always told them about being parts of the civil rights movement and came to kind of continue that family legacy that night and was killed on the spot with a baby on the way. And we were there, we saw it- I think all three of us were there- but Glo was someone who was particularly impacted because when Justin Carr was shot, Glo happened to be right next to him.

Glo: Yeah, and I think it’s really important to paint the image around whenever a window did break at the arena, officers and personnel were there, quickly, you know, to apprehend people who they’re, you know, naming as criminals, but when Justin Carr fell in front of us, not one of them moved to participate in preserving his life. Because the state wants to- wants to protect capital and wants to protect property, and of course isn’t there to protect Black bodies, especially Black bodies that are showing up in defense of and in search of justice for, and, like, just enraged about the death of a Black- another Black body, right? And so, when we come into this space and we see these same officers A) take the life of Justin Carr and then B) treat windows with more humanity, let’s be real about it. It was a really harsh juxtaposition to move about with tear gas stinging your eyes, tears running down your face, blood on your clothes and your face depending on where you were

Rebel Girl: That was a clip from The Final Straw podcast with participants in the Charlotte Uprising, including Glo Merriweather, a black, trans organizer whose trial is scheduled for May 7. Glo maintains, as other witnesses do, that the police are the ones who killed Justin Carr during the uprising, and that it was not another young black protester named Rayquan Borum, who the police cynically and opportunistically arrested and charged with Carr’s death. Glo also maintains that it’s because of their outspokenness about both the police’s murder of Keith Lamont Scott and Justin Carr that they were arrested and charged with inciting a riot and assault on a government official. We’ll be back with updates as they develop in Glo’s case.


We’ll close out our episode with political prisoner birthdays and next week’s news. April 13 is the birthday of Janet Holloway Africa. Janet is one of the MOVE 9: imprisoned black eco-revolutionaries each serving 100 years after being framed for the murder of a Philly cop in 1979.   And April 16 is the birthday of Walter Bond, an imprisoned Animal Liberation Front operative who was arrested in 2010 for arsons of a Sheepskin Factory in Denver and a Leather Factory in Salt Lake City.

Writing to Janet Africa and Walter Bond will only take you a few minutes, but it could be the highlight of their week. We have their mailing addresses in this episode’s shownotes at, as well as a guide to writing prisoners from New York City Anarchist Black Cross.   And now, next week’s news, our list of events that you can plug into in real life.   Mutual Aid Disaster Relief continue their speaking tour on Communities in Resistance to Disaster Capitalism and Community Organizing as Disaster Preparedness.   This week, you can find their tour in… Lansing, Michigan at the First Presbyterian Church on West Ottawa Street at 6:30 PM April 11; in Kalamazoo at The Boiling Point on Oak Street at 6 PM April 13 and 12 PM April 14; in Bloomington, Indiana at Girls Inc., 6 PM April 15 and 3 PM April 16; and at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee at 6 PM on April 17 and 18.

Go to to find details on all the tour dates from now through May.

April 20 is the anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine, and another round of high school and middle school walkouts is called for that day. If any students out there want printable literature that expands the debate about gun control to discuss the real roots of gun violence in our culture, check out the text, “We Don’t Need Gun Control, We Need to Take Control,” available at

Today until April 21 is the 25th anniversary of the 1993 Lucasville prison uprising, when prisoners came together across racial lines to rebel against their prison’s oppressive conditions. Nine inmates and one guard died during the rebellion. For the 25th anniversary, the Free Ohio Movement and the Central Ohio Incarcerated Workers Organizing Commmittee are calling for events in solidarity with the uprisings’ survivors, some of whom are facing the death penalty for their alleged participation. You can organize a letter writing night, drop a banner, or host a screening of The Shadow of Lucasville. On April 21, protesters will hold a 3PM noise demo outside the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. Check out episode 50 of The Ex-Worker for an interview that goes in-depth about the Lucasville prison uprising and how it informs contemporary prison rebellion and organizing.

There’s also a call from the Atlanta IWW and GDC to oppose the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement in Newnan, Georgia on April 21. Follow [READ: AFA in ATL][afainatl on Twitter]( for updates, but watch out because there are a lot of fake, far-right controlled antifa accounts out there. We recommend those connected with the TORCH network.

From April 26–29, the Southeast Trans and/or Women Action Camp will take place in the smoky mountains of western North Carolina. The action camp is open to all trans and/or woman identified folks and will offer a bunch of different workshops and skillshares. You can find out more by e-mailing      May Day is less than a month away, so it’s high time to get cracking on your plans for anarchist celebration, remembrance, and resistance! You can send announcements for any cool activities to podcast [AT] crimethinc [DOT] com. For some ideas, check out the CrimethInc text, “The May Days: Snapshots from the History of May Day” or listen to our very first episode of The Ex-Worker, which is all about the history of the Haymarket martyrs.    For the rest of May and going into June, there will be a solid month of anarchy in Quebec. It starts with the Montreal anarchist film festival May 17–20, then there’s the Montreal anarchist theatre festival May 22–23, the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair May 26–27, the North American Anarchist Studies Network Conference is June 1–3 also in Montreal, and the grand finale will be the mobilization against the G7 summit, which will feature fierce anti-capitalist protests in Quebec City on June 8 and 9.   There’s a bunch of other great stuff coming up this summer too.

June 8–11 is the third annual Fight Toxic Prisons convergence in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The convergence explores the intersections of anti-prison and environmental struggles, and is committed to creating a space in which those most directly impacted are centered. Speakers at past convergences have included Ramona Africa, the Earth First! Prisoner Support Project, Daniel McGowan, Mark Cook, Anarchist Black Cross chapters, and plenty of other great presenters who do amazing prison abolition work. Find out more and register at

The last day of the Fight Toxic Prisons convergence is June 11, the international day of solidarity with long-term anarchist prisoners. It’s a day for letter-writing, solidarity actions, fundraising, and raising awareness about our comrades on the inside—it’s a day to remember that imprisoned comrades are still a part of our movement, and we should do what we can, across the walls that separate us, to include them in our struggle. This year’s call for solidarity, which you can find at, includes updates on long-term anarchist prisoners around the world, from Tamara Sol and Juan Flores in Chile to Pola Roupa and Nikos Maziotis in Greece to Marius Mason in the United States. For a chronology of June 11 from 2004 up through last year, check out the CrimethInc text “June 11: The History of a Day of Anarchist Prisoner Solidarity.”


Rebel Girl: And that’s it for this episode of The Hotwire. As always thanks to Underground Reverie for the music. You can get in touch with us by e-mailing podcast[AT]CrimethInc[DOT]com. Don’t forget to check out all the links, mailing addresses, and useful shownotes we customized for this episode at   Stay informed. Stay rebel. Plug into The Hotwire.

Categories: News

Manufacturing Extremism: A Round Table Discussion

It's Goin Down - Wed, 04/11/2018 - 23:55

The post Manufacturing Extremism: A Round Table Discussion appeared first on It's Going Down.

In this episode of the It’s Going Down podcast, we talked with journalist Will Parrish who has bylines in The Intercept and Shadowproof, Charlottesville based attorney Pam Starsia of the National Lawyers Guild, and also Sam from the DC Legal Posse, a support collective for J20 defendants who are facing over 60 years in prison for protesting Trump’s inauguration.

Broadly we discuss how over the past several years, a new pattern has emerged within the various intelligence organizations: FBI, DHS, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and centered within organizational hubs such as Fusion Centers, (which brings together both federal and local law enforcement), which collectively have pushed for the labeling of broad and popular social movements as dangerous threats to the American public at large; with such examples including “Black identity Extremists” and “Anarchist Extremists.”

Only weeks after Charlottesville, the Northern California Fusion Center was referring to Black Lives Matter as a “hate group,” and warning that they might show up to un-permitted far-Right rallies. Source: MuckRock

In studying the wealth of FOIAed documents that have come out over the last year through MuckRock and the work of various journalists, attorneys, and local organizers, we also get a glimpse into the collective mindset of law enforcement. In short, as they always have, the intelligence community clearly views grassroots movements as the principle threat to the established order of the country, but are always quick to frame this threat in terms of a violent menace to the public at large. The Central California Intelligence Center, a fusion center based in Northern California for instance, wrote in 2017 that “ANTIFA” was the “greatest threat to public safety.”

Fusion Center presentation from April 2017 highlights “Anarchist Extremists,” but in the photos, shows people attending to wounds inflicted by neo-Nazis in Sacramento in June 2016. Source: MuckRock

Where Does InfoWars End, and the Fusion Center Begin?

In justifying these labels, those in the intelligence community point to a collection of shoddy research, often pulled from far-Right and even Alt-Right sources, that seeks to justify what is clearly a political bias among law enforcement. For instance, in released emails, one agent down played the research of the Southern Poverty Law Center, even in a state with known active white power groups, because they claimed that the SPLC supposedly gets money from “donors like George Soros,” while other reports even presented well known Alt-Right memes and photo-shopped images as genuine examples of antifascist outreach. Links to far-Right websites such as The Blaze and Breitbart are common, and show a tendency to look to the far-Right for information. In some instances, Alt-Right websites were even minded for info, such as the Occidental Dissent, which is connected to the neo-Nazi and KKK confederation, the Nationalist Front.

Fusion Center list of “anarchist groups” shows antifa groups accused of “stabbings” in Sacramento, regardless of the fact that they themselves were the victims of the attack. Also accuses another group of “doxxing” members of Identity Evropa and the Berkeley College Republicans by simply writing about them, and refers to this as a “cyber attack.” Begs the question what the Fusion Center is then doing. Source: MuckRock

But other examples show a culture in which law enforcement – without any amount of fact checking or oversight, is manufacturing threats about social movements as a way to justify expansive surveillance and moreover their own existence. For instance, in an article that is referred to various times in Fusion Center documents, law enforcement links to a far-Right news website, Vessel Newswhich now ironically appears to be offline. Upon looking at its Twitter feed, we see it is connected to Alt-Lite and conspiracy websites such as The Gateway Pundit and various individuals close to Alt-Right figures such as Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman.

The article in question, archived here, simply quotes people on a Reddit anarchist forum stating that in the face of Alt-Right violence, people need to train and be prepared to defend themselves, which includes learning how to legally use firearms. While none of this discussion points to illegal activity, and in no way matches the outright celebration and glorification of violent threats from the far-Right which have been mass produced online, this article from a seemingly unknown and unverified website, was used repeatedly by law enforcement to argue that they expected to see an “escalation” of “ANTIFA violence” that would be more over, a threat to public. The irony that the people in the article are discussing protecting themselves from far-Right violence seems to be lost on them.

A Fusion Center document that shows a photo-shopped meme popular among the Alt-Right being used as a genuine antifascist article, speaks to the degree in which members of the intelligence community consume far-Right media, as well as their dislocation from reality. Our tax dollars at work! Source: MuckRock

The Strategy Plays Out

As Charlottesville local attorney Pam Starsia explains in our podcast, in the eyes of the police, Black Lives Matter activists and antifascists have a history of violence, while white supremacists by and large are seen as open to working with the police and keeping their demonstrations “orderly.” In the aftermath of the death of Heather Heyer however, this stance by the police blew back upon them, as many people pointed out time and time again that the drive for violence and bringing weapons was openly discussed, planned, and celebrated on various Alt-Right online platforms, yet was by and large completely ignored by local police and government officials.

As Will Parrish wrote on Shadowproof:

Leading up to the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, numerous foot soldiers of the “alt-right” openly broadcast their intention to create bloodshed in the genteel southern town.

A white supremacist group in California posted online videos glorifying physical assaults they had perpetrated on their ideological opponents. A post by the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer called for “military guys” to “crack skulls” of black people.

Many of the white supremacists traveling to Charlottesville had violent criminal histories and were well-known to law enforcement. They included: a former Green Beret and Ku Klux Klansman who went to prison for stealing weapons and explosives, a former Marine who went to prison for assaulting a cab driver he thought was Iraqi and participated in violence at the Berkeley protests before coming to Charlottesville, and a Baltimore Klansman who was charged with three separate assaults and a rape (but not convicted).

But an August 9 assessment by federal and local law enforcement officers of the potential for “domestic terrorist violence” at the August 12 rally mainly focused on the possibility that violence would emanate from anti-racists, who were described as “anarchist extremists.”

But as the State turned a blind eye to the far-Right, in the lead up to the Trump inauguration its violent grew and then exploded after Trump came into office. This violent escalation took many forms, including acts of vandalism, harassment, and even outright murder, as well as arson and other attacks on Mosques, holocaust memorials, synagogues, and LGBTQAI centers. When Trump entered office, he also shifted far-Right groups off of the various domestic terrorism lists, and defunded non-profits like Life After Hate, which does outreach to current and former white supremacists. When questioned about rising racist attacks, Trump and aides like Gorka simply brushed these events aside, even going so far as to claim that these were “false flags” carried out by the Left. The signal to the far-Right was received loud and clear. “Trump is setting us free,” wrote neo-Nazi posters on Stormfront, while Unite the Right organizers Mike “Enoch” Peinovich and Richard Spencer would later lament that the Trump administration was giving them the “Space to destroy.”

These procedures also have led to police working at times closely with neo-Nazis in order to repress and arrest antifascist and antiracist protesters. In Sacramento for instance, police told neo-Nazis who were seen in video and photographs stabbing people at a demonstration on June 26th, 2016 that they weren’t interest in prosecuting them – but wanted helped IDing antifascists:

Officers also worked with TWP member Derik Punneo to try to identify anti-fascist activists, recordings revealed. Officers interviewed Punneo in jail after he was arrested for an unrelated domestic violence charge. Audio recordings captured investigators saying they brought photos to show him, hoping he could help them identify anti-fascist activists.

The officers said, “We’re pretty much going after them,” and assured him: “We’re looking at you as a victim.”

In one phone call with Doug McCormack, identified by police as the TWP affiliate who acquired the permit for the Sacramento rally, CHP investigator Donovan Ayres warned him that police might have to release his name in response to a public records requests. The officer said he would try to protect McCormack.

“I’m gonna suggest that we hold that or redact your name or something until this gets resolved,” Ayres told McCormack, adding that he didn’t know who had requested records of the permit and noting, “If I did, I would tell you.”

But while the Sacramento police worked closely with neo-Nazis and let them off the hook for violent stabbings, they in turn sought to go after people who were actually injured by the neo-Nazis simply because of their anti-racist politics:

The officer’s write-up about an African American anti-fascist activist included a photo of him at the hospital after the rally and noted that he had been stabbed in the abdomen, chest and hand.

Ayres, however, treated the protester like a suspect in the investigation. The police investigator recommended the man be charged with 11 offenses, including disturbing the peace, conspiracy, assault, unlawful assembly and wearing a mask to evade police.

As evidence, Ayres provided Facebook photos of the man holding up his fist. The officer wrote that the man’s “Black Power salute” and his “support for anti-racist activism” demonstrated his “intent and motivation to violate the civil rights” of the neo-Nazi group. He was ultimately not charged.

Sacramento Police worked closely with Derik Punneo, a neo-Nazi responsible for stabbing multiple people in June of 2016. Police were uninterested in putting Punneo away, and instead wanted his help in IDing antifascists.

By 2017, these kid gloves and even open endorsement of the far-Right led to an explosion of death and destruction across the US. As Christophe Mathias wrote:

White supremacists in the United States killed more than twice as many people in 2017 as they did the year before, and were responsible for far more murders than domestic Islamic extremists, helping make 2017 the fifth deadliest year on record for extremist violence in America, a new report states.

Job Security in Dreams of Civil War

As Michael Harriot wrote in The Root in regards to government surveillance of black liberation organizers in 2016, after various non-profits requested FOIA documents that exposed the existence of “The Race Report,” a 9 page redacted internal memo on Black Lives Matter:

[The] government released a trove of documents including emails, reports and memos showing that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have been tracking the activities of people involved with Black Lives Matter since the Ferguson, Mo., uprisings, even issuing memos on the nonexistent danger of “Black Supremacists” to local and state authorities.

The documents revealed how federal agents shaped the narrative to create a new class of terrorists called “black identity extremists.” The FBI talked about a “history of violent incidents.” The Department of Homeland Security sent a memo to officers across the country warning about a black “day of rage” [which was supposedly a call for protests from the hacker group Anonymous] that never happened. One bulletin even mentioned that black activists posed a threat to “lawfully organized white supremacist events.

The same strategies used to attack Black Lives Matter, have in turn been used on other movements. For instance, just as fake and faulty reports played up fears of BLM, such did ‘leaked’ FBI documents to the Centrist website Politico which falsely claimed with no effort at fact checking that antifascists had carried out acts such as firebombing or throwing Molotov cocktails at “Trump supporters.” It was this report in particular, that laid the ground work for police in Charlottesville to ignore the far-Right and concentrate instead on the “Anarchist Extremists,” using their own faulty reporting as justification.

In the world of Fusion Centers, far-Right conspiracy theories are job security. Source: MuckRock

Northern California Fusion Center email discussion about November 4th. Person in email thinks that the protests are organized by “anarchists” despite the fact that they were not. Claims that there are a potential threats to law enforcement and their families; a clear part of the ‘ANTIFA civil war’ conspiracy that was promoted by InfoWars. Source: MuckRock

Moreover, just as the “Day of Rage” in 2016 was promoted by those within the intelligence community as a potential day in which law enforcement would be attacked, the supposed “ANTIFA civil war” which was promoted on far-Right and conspiracy laden sites such as InfoWars, was also discussed in Fusion Center documents as a real and potential threat. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the media outside of Fox News dismissed this laughingly as a hoax.

Fusion Center emails show that in the wake of the Las Vegas shootings, members of the intelligence community gave credence to the idea that ‘Antifa’ was behind it, after the conspiracy theory was floated by far-Right trolls. This begs the question: what types of sources are Fusion Centers looking at in their day to day ‘research?’ Source: MuckRock

Manufacturing the Threat

Clearly, the State is most interested in manufacturing a threat of extremism out of autonomous social movements, seemly while the amount of far-Right violence grows all around them. But while the tools the State has at its disposal to make this a reality are crude, what is becoming clear, is that far-Right and Alt-Right media are quick to aid them in their quest to convince enough people that social movements are a violent threat to the public.

Fusion Center emails asks people to “connect the dots” between anarchists, crime, radical US “Islamic organizations,” and “left wing billionaires,” a reference to George Soros. Source: MuckRock

According to documents gained from MuckRock, the California State Threat Assessment Center, a fusion center, looked to private contractor Steven Stanley, the CEO of The Sigma Group for information on ‘Antifa.’ He claims that ‘Antifa’ now includes everything from members of PETA, to the Ruckus Society, to people that have not been active in eco and animal liberation circles for years. Daniel Andreas for instance, attacked a corporate storefront involved in animal testing back in the early 2000s and then was never seen again outside of FBI wanted posters, yet is presented here as a ‘member’ without question. This kind of reporting would make Alex Jones blush.

As people engaged in autonomous movements, it is up to us to expose the degree in which the State is protecting, mimicking, and openly working with the far-Right and point out that such polices and ‘research’ coming out of the intelligence communities are leading to people being killed and the growth of the far-Right. This reality also points to the fact that everyday people and social movements have a much better understanding and intelligence of the actual threats to humanity than the various State agencies, who with all of their money and resources, seem only able to parrot the lies and “alternative facts” of racists and conspiracy theorists.

More Info: Will Parrish on Twitter and on the Web, National Lawyers Guild (NLG), and DC Legal Posse.

Categories: News

Dominican Republic journalist faces murder mastermind threats

Global Muckracker - Wed, 04/11/2018 - 21:47

Threats to Dominican Republic investigative journalist Alicia Ortega Hasbun from an inmate sharing a jail cell with an alleged drug lord convicted this week as the mastermind in the murder of another journalist have sparked international outcry.

A well-known television newscaster and winner of multiple Emmys, Ortega is a partner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. She spoke with us about the threats and their connection to alleged syndicate boss Matias Avelino Castro, as well as how seriously the threats are being treated by authorities.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has called on authorities in the Dominican Republic to investigate threats made against you. What threats have you received?

I received threats of bodily harm allegedly made by an inmate convicted of drug trafficking and serving time in the same jail block as Matias Avelino Castro, allegedly the head of the drug trafficking organization in the eastern portion of Dominican Republic. Avelino Castro was extradited from Colombia last year and was this week convicted of ordering the execution of a journalist back in 2011.

How did you learn of the alleged threats?

Less than 12 hours after airing a story about Avelino Castro’s past, his current judicial process, how he avoided authorities for years, and how three witnesses have already died – two in shady circumstances, I got word that if he was convicted, I would be harmed.

Those threats were made in the presence of a group of prisoners, including Avelino Castro, who watched the story in his jail cell. Mind you it is not your regular jail cell. In the past, I have reported on amenities that some privileged inmates have that allow them to continue their dirty business dealings even behind bars.

They offered protection immediately, including assigning members of the elite forces to watch over my family and me Alicia Ortega Hasbun

Why do you believe the threats have been made?

Avelino Castro’s trial was taking place 50 miles east of the capital but no one was covering it, not even the local journalists in the city of San Pedro de Macros. The judges hearing the case refused to be filmed, as did prosecutors.

After our story aired, it put pressure on a judicial system that has been plagued with corruption, including payoffs for judges and prosecutors in exchange for not guilty verdicts.

Matias Avelino Castro was sentenced to 20 years jail as an accomplice to the murder of journalist Jose Agustin Silvestre, who was shot dead in August 2011. In what circumstances is Silvestre alleged to have died?

Silvestre was a journalist in La Romana, a small city on the eastern portion of the island. He reported on drug trafficking and related crimes on TV and in his own magazine. Back in 2011, he mentioned Avelino Castro’s name, as having possible links to at least two deaths in the area. He was abducted, killed, and his body tossed into a remote wooded area.

Are threats against journalists common in the Dominican Republic?

They are not common, especially in recent history.

Have many journalists in your country been victims of violence because of their work?

In the seventies there were death threats, car explosions and one journalist was murdered, but for political reasons, not drug related.

Related articles

Dominican Republic Attorney General Jean Rodriguez has opened an investigation into the alleged threats against you. Is this reassuring for you? Concerning?

It was reassuring to know that they acted so quickly. They really had little choice in matter because I made it public on the air, not out of fear, but in order to make sure that authorities would assume their responsibility.

Last year, prosecutors did not object to a jail transfer which took Avelino Castro from a prison under the new system, with stricter rules, to an old facility, which allows for contact with the outside world and allows inmates to easily continue running their shady businesses.

Another factor was the uproar from journalists across the board here in Dominican Republic and abroad, demanding a full investigation. Four out of five national newspapers ran the story on the front page, two as their lead story, two even dedicated editorials to the threat.

Have you been offered protection?

They offered protection immediately, including assigning members of the elite forces to watch over my family and me.

Avelino Castro, who was also convicted of money laundering and forgery, is reportedly a Colombian, who was extradited to your country. What is his connection with the Dominican Republic?

He is actually a Dominican who fled to Colombia to evade authorities, which he did for years. He used several identities until being discovered in that country.

What international assistance do you believe can assist you and your colleagues in the Dominican Republic to do your work free from threats of violence?

Divulging and condemning threats like this one because of support from international organizations puts pressure on the government to really crack down on people that try to intimidate journalists covering stories from drug trafficking to politics.

How are you and your family coping generally in light of the threat to your safety?

We are taking the necessary precautions and changing some of our routines, especially after the announcement of the verdict.

The post Dominican Republic journalist faces murder mastermind threats appeared first on ICIJ.

Categories: News