Stop-and-Frisk and Donald Trump’s Promise of a Police State for Black People

AlterNet.org - September 23, 2016 - 1:39pm
Click here for reuse options! Trump's embrace of racist policing tactics is a terrifying master plan.

Donald Trump continued his flagellation as black political outreach strategy at a town hall addressing “African-American issues” on Wednesday.

Fox News hate merchant Sean Hannity moderated the event which will be broadcast on the network at a later date. Almost all of the attendees of this event were white. Before that crowd, Donald Trump introduced the next component in his plan to win over black voters — a group whose lives he has repeatedly described as a type of dystopian nightmare and living hell that is worse than slavery, the Black Codes, and Jim and Jane Crow.

Trump said the following:

“Right, well, one of the things I’d do, Ricardo, is I would do stop-and-frisk. I think you have to. We did it in New York, it worked incredibly well and you have to be proactive, you know, you really help people sort of change their mind automatically, you understand, you have to, in my opinion, I see what’s going on here, I see what’s going on in Chicago, I think stop-and-frisk. In New York City it was so incredible, the way it worked. Now, we had a very good mayor, but New York City was incredible, the way that worked, so I think that could be one step you could do.”

Donald Trump’s “African-American town hall” is a moment that calls for the wisdom and genius of the master comedians Richard Pryor and George Carlin. Alas, they are no longer here to find for us the comic value in the event. Even amid all the absurdity of Trump’s black “outreach” campaign, we must not overlook how Donald Trump’s national “stop and frisk” plan is deadly serious business. It has the potential to ruin the lives of many millions of people,  imperiling their safety, security, freedom and dignity.

A serious question remains: What is the political logic driving Trump’s embrace of stop-and-frisk as a centerpiece of his so-called “black outreach” campaign?

Stop-and-frisk is a failed public policy. It has been found to be ineffective and counterproductive in reducing street crime. Stop-and-frisk is also an example of a broader approach to crime known as “broken windows policing,” a strategy whose effectiveness in reducing street crime is increasingly suspect and questionable. Donald Trump’s political brand is based upon his ability to sell himself as a “winner” and  a man who surrounds himself with “experts” that “know how to get things done.” Yet, he is embracing an approach to policing that has been proven to be a losing proposition.

Stop-and-frisk is extremely unpopular among black Americans. For example, as reported by a Wall Street Journal/NBC 4 New York/Marist Poll of voters in New York’s 2013 mayoral election, 75 percent of African Americans wanted stop-and-frisk policies to be “overhauled.” The systematic harassment of blacks and Latinos by America’s police under stop-and-frisk is also racist and classist. For example, while black and brown youth in New York were stopped much more often under stop-and-frisk, it is actually white people who were twice as likely to have weapons, drugs, and other contraband on their persons. Moreover, in a moment when the United States has experienced urban rebellions in cities Charlotte, Ferguson, Baltimore and elsewhere in response to police thuggery and brutality, onerous and draconian tactics such as stop-and-frisk will actually foment the type of disorder and chaos that Trump supposedly wants to end.

Ultimately, to support it is to drive away blacks whose support Trump and the Republicans purport to want: It cannot be part of an effective outreach plan to attract African-American voters.

So what, then, is actually driving Donald Trump’s “black outreach” campaign?

Trump’s goals are two-fold.

First, his black outreach campaign is simply one more example of the tired, fake, insincere, and ineffective efforts by Republican presidential candidates to win over non-white voters with the goal of appearing more moderate for the general election. In this cynical ploy, a faux-courting of non-white voters is a way of making independent and center Right-wing white voters feel more comfortable with the extreme and retrograde conservatism and racism of the current Republican Party.

Second, and most importantly, Trump’s promise to create a nationwide stop-and-frisk program targeting black and brown people is red meat for the “basket of human deplorables” that is his base. As shown by a litany of public opinion polls and other research, Trump supporters are racists, bigots, authoritarians, misogynists, and extremely hostile to African-Americans and other people of color.

Trump’s promise to expand a mechanism that enables police harassment and the unfair targeting of black people is further proof of his fascist bonafides and strongman persona. To this point, Trump has now vowed to create a Gestapo-like force that will magically remove millions of “illegal aliens” from the United States the day he is inaugurated, violate the Constitution by banning Muslims from the United States (as well creating an enemies list and registry for those already here) and disregard the rights and liberties of black Americans under the guise of “protecting” that community from crime.

When these facts are added to his threats against the free press and the First Amendment, his unfounded claims that the country’s political institutions such as voting are “rigged” against him, as well as encouragement of political violence against his foes such as Hillary Clinton and the Black Lives Matter movement, it becomes abundantly clear that Donald Trump is not flirting with fascism, he is a dyed-in-the-wool member of and poster boy for that ignoble political tradition.

Take all his promises together and it becomes clear: Donald Trump wants to create a police state where non-whites and Muslims live in a state of perpetual terror and fear.

This is the America that Trump wants to birth. This is not a work of speculative fiction from Philip K. Dick or an installment of Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone.” It is real, it is here, it is present — and if Donald Trump and his “basket of deplorables” get their way, less than 60 days from being enacted.

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LSD Candy and Explosive Love Beads: 9 Revelations From the Government's Secretive Drug Bulletin

AlterNet.org - September 23, 2016 - 12:43pm
Click here for reuse options! “Flower power is no substitute for integrity.”

This article was originally published by The Influence, a news site that covers the full spectrum of human relationships with drugs. Follow The Influence on Facebook or Twitter.

By early 1968, the psychedelic age had been in full swing for a few years, and was simultaneously in the process of going fully national while remaining in a stage of seemingly unceasing experimentation. Mirroring the political and cultural explosions of the decade, the drug world evolved past the early love-ins and pure Owsley Stanley LSD in nuanced and often forgotten ways.

Adding new richness to the unfolding text of the 1960s, the drug resource Erowid continues to post never-before-public issues of the government’s internal Micro-Gram newsletter, spelling out an ongoing “Heads-versus-Feds” battle on a month-by-month basis.

Micro-Gram was first published by the “Bureau of Drug Abuse Control” (BDAC)—a division of the Food and Drug Administration—as an attempt to pool information from numerous government offices. In 1973 the BDAC joined with other agencies to become the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) we know and love. The DEA still publishes Micro-Gram today; a separate public edition ran for a decade beginning in 2003 but has since returned to restricted status.

After revealing the enthralling first four bulletins, spanning November 1967 through January 1968, Erowid has now made public two more editions from late 1968—Micro-Gram #5 and #6—which are maybe even more action-packed.

In 1968, the weirdest was yet to come. Here are nine fascinating revelations.

1. Boston Scene Report: LSD Candy Hits the East Coast

Cambridge was an early center of the American psychedelic explosion, centered around Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert’s various projects at Harvard, with LSD sugar cubes turning up around Harvard Square even before that. The Bureau of Drug Abuse Control (BDAC) had reported on acid-infused bubblegum in Micro-Gram #2—in Micro-Gram #5, they document it turning up in Boston in early 1968, alongside “chocolate-filled candies.”

Remaining a capital city of the psychedelic culture for years to come, the first generation of the Cambridge scene was in the process of turning over, though it remained beyond Micro-Gram’s scope. By early ’68, Leary and Alpert were long gone, and former acolyte Lisa Bieberman was closing her Cambridge-based Psychedelic Information Center, disillusioned with the rampant indiscriminate use of psychedelics, including by her ex-colleagues. “Flower power is no substitute for integrity,” she wrote in a dark op-ed for The New Republic at the height of the Summer of Love.

2. The Government Sent Drugs By Train

The government’s fight against drugs was still so new in 1968, apparently, that regional labs remained a rarity. Micro-Gram #2 offers handy step-by-step instructions to agents on how to send drugs to the Food and Drug Administration in Washington, DC for proper testing. Registered mail worked, but agents could also send substances via the Railway Express Agency—the government-operated, train-based parcel delivery system founded after World War I, and discontinued in the mid-’70s.

3. New Strategies for the Ongoing Explosion and “Rotten Barns”

Early 1968 was also as good a time as any for the Bureau of Drug Abuse Control to assess the situation, reporting that by the turn of the year, they had broken up 42 underground labs, 36 of them devoted to hallucinogens. Still, one can almost sense the government agents starting to freak out. Though they don’t offer specifics, “the production potential of these facilities staggers the imagination,” the bulletin remarks.

With the government starting to keep a tighter watch over university and other research facilities, “you can see that we have not only eliminated a lot of ‘rotten barns,’ but have fixed many others,” the unnamed folksy correspondent notes. “This makes a lot more efficient use of money and manpower, than chasing the horses after they get out on the street.”

4. “Carbona Not Glue” and Other Unpleasantries

A decade into the future, the Ramones would sing “Carbona Not Glue,” about the brain-wiping non-pleasures of sniffing Carbona, an upholstery cleaning agent also used in the manufacture of fire extinguishers. While the New York punk band’s reference was more a comic book-style caricature, Micro-Gram #5 reveals that Carbona’s genuinely dangerous non-psychedelic effects were considered a serious enough threat in 1968 that the government considered banning it under the Federal Hazardous Substances act.

Micro-Gram documents all kinds of new poly-drug combinations, many of them far removed from the counterculture and the idea of mind expansion and much more about simply getting as high as possible. In Seattle, heroin users are reported to be burning mixtures of Cogentin and Ritalin. A report from Europe notes the misuse of various prescription pills and the over-the-counter cough suppressant Romilar. In Miami, aspiring heads are reportedly trying SANSERT, a new Sandoz drug for vascular headaches. Teenagers in an unnamed location are reported smoking Queen Anne’s Lace.

Meanwhile, the March 1968 edition follows up on the previous special issue devoted to PCP, then known to the government as the “Peace Pill,” detailing that some users were reported to be smoking marijuana laced with PCP. Often masquerading as other drugs, including LSD and cocaine, early 1968 seems to mark the beginning of the age of adulterated psychedelics. Micro-Gram #6 likewise reports tablets containing 270 micrograms of LSD—already what some call a “God dose”—with a bonus 0.9-milligram boost of STP for extra chaos.

5. MDA Arrives on the Government’s Radar

A relative to MDMA, the similarly love-y MDA makes its first appearance in the government scopes in early 1968, with several pills confiscated in Washington late the previous year and a lab bust in New York.

Used in various cough suppressants and anti-depressants, Peter Stafford’s Psychedelics Encyclopedia reported MDA in use in the counterculture since earlier in the decade, and in the 21st century it continues to turn up frequently in EcstasyData results, not infrequently being branded as some variety of ecstasy/molly/MDMA.

6. Explosive Love Beads in Minneapolis!

One of the most intriguing items in the new Micro-Grams is a mention of the Blue Hand, a mysterious group out of Minnesota. “We are checking out a report that ‘hippies’ in the Minneapolis area have formed an organization for protection against law enforcement officers,” the item reads. Suggesting they are making explosive items out of a friction-sensitive pellets, Micro-Gram warns, “Do not mistake for pills or love beads.”

There is little further information available about the Blue Hand, perhaps a midwestern equivalent to the violent New York art-radicals of the Black Mask, who evolved into the Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers in late 1967. Both are evidence of the year’s brewing political unrest, as portions of the once-peaceful counterculture merged with the politics of the New Left and began to move in less peaceful directions.

7. Not Every Drug Took Off

“NEW HALLUCINOGEN” noted the lead story in Micro-Gram #6, reporting that a drug called IT-290 was available for $17 a gram from the Aldrich Chemical Company’s catalog and being used for tripping.

Known more properly now as AMT, and also sold in 1968 as IT-403, U-14, 164E and Indopan, it had been administered to the author Ken Kesey during his time participating in government psychedelic tests at the Menlo Park Veterans Hospital in the early ’60s. “The Rolls Royce of psychedelics,” Kesey was rumored to have called it (though that might have been Neal Cassady describing mushrooms). AMT never quite took off in the ’60s and ’70s. It turned up for sale on the internet in the late ’90s, before the government finally criminalized it in 2003.

In that same issue, Micro-Gram notes that DET had been confiscated on the street, as well. Though it, too, would reappear over the years, DET remained so obscure even by the standards of Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin that for many years the legendary chemist wasn’t even entirely clear on its effects.

8. The Government Couldn’t Spell Albert Hofmann’s Name Either

Albert Hofmann‘s only references in the Micro-Gram newsletters posted to date are just that—items on bibliographies—and none have to do with the Swiss chemist’s invention of LSD.

Perhaps having Abbie Hoffman on the mind, who was starting to earn himself media attention in the East Village in early 1968, Micro-Gram gives the Sandoz chemist the double-F/single-N treatment multiple times. More significantly, though, in “References For Synthesis of Some Hallucinogenic and Stimulant Drugs,” Micro-Gram provides a short bibliography for government chemists in its brief overview of the available patents and literature on for a variety of substances.

9. Nobody Really Knew Much About Psilocybin Yet

“We have been telling the agents and police officers in our schools about the potential hazards in raiding clandestine drug laboratories,” Micro-Gram notes in issue #6, and advises that experts should always be called in for safe dismantling.

The issue does, however, provide the Bureau of Drug Abuse Control’s 13-page supplement, “Notes on Clandestine Laboratories.” Mostly a checklist of the various equipment and reagents one might use to identify exactly which kind of underground chemists they’d busted, as well as what kind of tabletting machines to look for, it also offers basic descriptions of the substances involved.

Though R. Gordon Wasson had moved psychedelics into the mainstream with his 1957 Life magazine report on his mushroom experiences in Mexico, they were still a rarity in North America. But Albert ”Hoffman” had successfully synthesized psilocybin on behalf of Sandoz, and his earliest (and quite arcane) techniques are summarized for agents who might encounter a lab.

Heads would figure it out, though, and in another decade Terence and Dennis McKenna would solve the problem of how to grow psilocybin-containing mushrooms in North American environments, revolutionizing their production and eventually making them more prevalent than LSD.

This article was originally published by The Influence, a news site that covers the full spectrum of human relationships with drugs. Follow The Influence on Facebook or Twitter.

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Medical Abortion Becomes More Accessible in Texas (Again)

AlterNet.org - September 23, 2016 - 12:29pm
Click here for reuse options! “Patients want this choice that they’re making to not impact everything else going on in their lives.”

Finally, some good news for pro-choicers: after decades of diminishing abortion rights, access is on the rise again. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Texas’ draconian 2013 anti-abortion law — the one that gave rise to Wendy Davis’ filibuster — ruling it an unconstitutional “undue burden” on women. The decision paves the way for at least some of the 22 shuttered Texas clinics to reopen. That could take years, and some may remain closed, but another trend, the resurgence of the legal medical abortion, suggests that getting an abortion is becoming easier.

In March, the FDA approved a new label for mifepristone, one of two pills used to induce what’s known as a medical abortion. The guidelines now allow women to get a medical abortion up to nine weeks into their pregnancy, instead of seven weeks. The FDA also reduced the number of recommended clinic trips from three to two.

The change to the FDA rules has helped to reverse an enormous decline in medical abortions precipitated by House Bill 2, the anti-abortion law, which required providers to follow the FDA’s outdated protocol. In 2014, the first full year after HB 2 partially took effect, 12,000 fewer women obtained a medical abortion than in 2013, according to recently released state data.

The decrease mirrored findings by University of Texas at Austin researchers, who documented a dramatic 70 percent drop in medical abortions in the six months after HB 2 took effect.

In the wake of the new FDA rules, clinic directors reported a sharp increase in the number of patients opting for a medical abortion.

Tenesha Duncan, clinic director at Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center in Dallas, said about 18 patients per day are now choosing a medical abortion over a surgical procedure, up from about eight before the new FDA rules went into effect.

Medical abortion is now “a bit more convenient for people,” Duncan said. “Patients want this choice that they’re making to not impact everything else going on in their lives.”

Before the change, about 1 percent of patients who scheduled appointments with Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas chose a medical abortion. Now, that number is up to 24 percent. At Whole Woman’s Health, an abortion provider with clinics in McAllen, San Antonio and Fort Worth, up to 60 percent of patients are now obtaining a medical abortion, up from only 3 to 5 percent before the label update.

UT-Austin researcher Dan Grossman predicts access to medical abortions will continue to increase. Now that physicians are no longer required to have hospital admitting privileges — an HB 2 mandate struck down by the Supreme Court — more doctors can provide abortions at the state’s remaining 19 abortion clinics.

That “could improve capacity, and potentially reduce wait times,” Grossman said. “Clearly, the updating of the protocol is really improving access, and the hope is that new facilities will be able to open up to meet the demand for abortion, and particularly medical abortion, in parts of the state that have been underserved.”

This article was originally published in the Texas Observer. 

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What’s 11,000 Times Dirtier Than a Toilet Seat?

AlterNet.org - September 23, 2016 - 12:18pm
Click here for reuse options! Hint: when you stop at a gas station, the grossest thing may not be the bathroom.

America is a gas-guzzling, car-obsessed, open-road nation. Few things appeal to Americans more than a (traffic-free, ideally) leisurely drive to a fun, kick-back-your-heels destination, all the while enjoying the passing scenery. Of course, in order to achieve this bucolic vision of paradise, we need to fuel up the car, and in order to do that, we have to stop at the gas station. A study by Kimberly-Clark in 2015 investigating bacterial hot spots in the workplace fingered gas pumps as one of the unhealthiest things you can handle, and a new survey recently corroborates those findings.

Admittedly, it’s probably no great surprise that gas pumps are not exactly pristine. Never mind the chemical contamination that comes from gasoline itself, think about the sheer number of people endlessly grabbing the pump, often after returning from a pit stop at the not-so-hygienic gas station bathroom. You get the idea. Still, the new study gives one pause and suggests a bottle of sanitizer might not be a bad glove compartment staple.

It’s not just the number of germs present on gas pump handles, but the quality of those germs. The earlier Kimberly-Clark study, led by a University of Arizona microbiologist named Charles Gerba (whom colleagues know as “Dr. Germ”), found that 71 percent of the pumps were highly contaminated with germs associated with disease. The new survey, conducted by Busbud, studied samples from three different gas stations, as well as three different charging stations, to see what we may be exposing ourselves to. The sample size is small, but the results mirror the larger earlier study and are eye-opening.

Based on laboratory results from swabs from the sample gas pumps, handles on gas pumps had an average of 2,011,970 colony-forming units (CFUs), or viable bacteria cells, per square inch. Worse, the buttons on the pumps (where you select the grade of gas you want), had 2,617,067 CFUs per square inch. To put that in perspective, money, which is considered quite dirty since it changes hands often, has only 5.2 CFUs per square inch. A toilet seat has 172 CFUs per square inch. That makes a gas pump handle about 11,000 times more contaminated than a toilet seat, and a gas pump button 15,000 times more contaminated.

OK. So there are over two million CFUs dancing around on the gas pump. What kind of germs are they? Luckily, about half of them are usually harmless. These are the CFUs known as gram-positive rods. (I say usually because gram-positive rods can sometimes cause some types of infections, but are not considered unusually worrisome.) But those other million or so CFUs are mostly of the gram-positive cocci variety, and these are nasty critters that can cause skin infections, pneumonia and toxic shock syndrome.

Does the type of gas you select safeguard you in any way? It would seem so, to some small degree. The sampling showed that the buttons for regular gas contained 3,255,100 CFUs per square inch, about a third of which were the gram-positive cocci (bad germs), and another third of which were bacilli, another type of bad-guy bacteria linked to food poisoning and infections in newborn babies. The other third were mostly the safer gram-positive rods, with a smattering, about 5 percent, of gram-negative rods. These latter germs are especially worrisome as they are linked to antibiotic resistance as well as meningitis and pneumonia. The premium gas button had about 2,022,034 CFUs per square inch, divided about half gram-positive rods and half yeast (and we all know about yeast infections).

Since a typical visit to the gas station involves pressing the gas grade button as well as lifting the pump handle, that means, for regular gas, exposure to about 5,267,070 CFUs per square inch, and for premium gas about 4,034,004 CFUs per square inch.

Tesla and Volt owners, rejoice! If you own an electric car, and use a charging station, you can breathe a lot easier. The typical car charger has only 7.890 CFUs per square inch.

If you want to minimize your exposure to these germs, use a paper towel to hold the handle and push the button, or keep that hand sanitizer around and wash your hands after filling up.

Read the full survey.

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Far-Right Trump Consultant to Be Honored Speaker at Illinois Police SWAT Training

AlterNet.org - September 23, 2016 - 11:54am
Click here for reuse options! Role of anti-Muslim pundit Sebastian Gorka in police conference is raising eyebrows.

An upcoming Chicagoland SWAT training and arms expo for police officers from across Illinois will feature a talk by far-right national security “expert” Sebastian Gorka—an anti-Muslim extremist who argues that the United States is a "Christian nation" and boosted the presidential campaign of Donald Trump while having taken payments from the GOP candidate.

Gorka’s invitation to speak at the Illinois Tactical Officers Association (ITOA) conference, slated to take place in mid October, is raising concern among human rights campaigners, who say the engagement underscores the “toxic racism and Islamophobia” on display at the event.

“Sebastian [Gorka's] entire career is largely built from, and continues to flame the fire of, Islamophobic fear-mongering tactics post-9/11,” said Hoda Katebi, an organizer and artist with For The People Artists Collective and communications coordinator for the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “This toxic climate of militarization and fear of an ‘ever-looming threat of radical Islam’ is rampant across local and federal institutions and manifests in ever-more violent policing, military-grade equipment for local police, heightened surveillance and entrapment and increased spending on policing rather than community services, to name a few examples.”

'Making a Living off of Islamophobia'

Gorka, who did not reply to a request for an interview, is a regular pundit on Fox News and a national security editor for the publication Breitbart. He was hired by Stephen Bannon, who now serves as the chief of Trump's presidential campaign. In October 2015, Gorka received $8000 from Trump while working at Breitbart. Articles about Gorka's cable news punditry are often framed to highlight his endorsement of Trump's off-the-cuff remarks on national security.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, over the past year Breitbart “has undergone a noticeable shift toward embracing ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas—all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right.’”

Gorka’s writings and numerous press appearances appear to be in line with this trajectory.

In a July 15 appearance on Fox News, Gorka appealed to the United States’ supposed heritage as a Christian nation to argue for the monitoring and tracking of Syrian refugees living in the United States. “We don't know where the refugees from war zones are living in America?” he said. “We're a Christian nation, we should be charitable to those in need. But charity is not an excuse for suicide.”

Pressed on his remark about a Christian nation, Gorka replied: “The capital C creator in our founding document, who do you think the founding fathers were referring to—Allah?”

In his book Defeating Jihad, published in April of 2016, Gorka argued that the U.S. should wage a Cold-War style ideological battle against “jihad”—which he claims is rooted in Islam itself.

He reiterated this point in an article from June, in which he argued, “Ultimately we will win when the ideology of global jihadism is no longer attractive to young men and women from Orlando to Brussels, from Paris to San Bernardino. That can only be done through a strategic-level counter-propaganda campaign driven by the White House, in exactly the same way that we did during the Cold War.”

Going further, Gorka has repeatedly called for the expansion of police powers to conduct suspicionless spying on Muslim communities. In a 2014 defense of NYPD mapping and surveillance of Muslim neighborhoods, he proclaimed: “What was Osama bin Laden? Muslim… Do we think these individuals hang out in Hindu ashrams or Catholic community centers? No. they hang out in mosques… Are we really saying the NYPD should be going into Jewish temples to find Muslim terrorists?”

Furthermore, Gorka’s own bio advertises his ties to mercenary companies and military institutions, stating that he “serves as the Vice President and Professor of Strategy and Irregular Warfare at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, DC. Previously, he was the Major General Matthew C. Horner Distinguished Chair of Military Theory at Marine Corps University where he provided courses and lectures on Irregular Warfare. Before that, he was Associate Dean of Congressional Affairs and Relations to the Special Operations Community at National Defense University.”

The ITOA, for its part, describes Gorka as an “Internationally Recognized Terrorist Expert, Author and Trainer” in its advertisement for his talk, which is titled, “Terrorist Threat—Trends and Predictions."

Melisa Stephen, a member of the For the People Artists Collective, told AlterNet that it makes a lot of sense” that someone like Gorka would be featured at the ITOA Conference, stating: “We're talking about a man who worked as a policy consultant for Donald Trump's campaign, who frequents Fox News and makes a living off Islamophobia.”

“It's important to note that Islamophobia is employed to justify police militarization, including increased partnerships between weapons manufacturers and law enforcement agencies,” Stephen continued. “This is how we get organizations like ITOA that teach local law enforcement how to use military equipment and tactics that they then use to continue killing black, brown and indigenous people at alarming rates.”

Fueling Police Militarization

Gorka is not the only source of controversy over the ITOA’s 29th annual conference, which is slated to last five days and will take place in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, which is an hour from Chicago.

Registered as a not-for-profit corporation, The IOTA’s stated purpose is to “advance the education and professionalism of law enforcement officers involved in Emergency Response functions through the exchange of ideas and information relating to tactics, techniques and to further the networking and interrelation of departments and personnel.”

However, human rights campaigners say that the organization is fueling a war-like mentality within police departments. The Stop ITOA Coalition, which includes the organizations Assata’s Daughters, American Friends Service Committee and War Resisters League, said in a statement:

While Chicago is still reeling from budget cuts that have resulted in the closure of over 50 public schools, mental health clinics, and severe cuts to social services, the city spends over $4 million a day on the Chicago police alone. ITOA is directly involved in training and arming those police, even using empty school buildings as training grounds for Cook County officers. Weapons manufacturers from around the world also use ITOA to sell military grade equipment to local police forces—equipment that shocked the country when it was deployed against civilians in places like Ferguson, Minneapolis and Baton Rouge (and is used regularly by repressive governments such as Israel).

Notably, the weapons company Safariland is providing classes on classes on "less lethal technologies," "hostage rescue" and "high-risk warrant service." In addition, retired military officials are slated to teach workshops titled, “Video Diagnostics Tac Rifle & Pistol” and “designated marksman.”

The ITOA, meanwhile, is just one of numerous Tactical Officers Associations around the country. The annual New York Tactical Officers Association conference attracted outcry this summer when it extended a speaking invitation to Ryan Mauro, an anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist who is designated an extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Meanwhile, organizers in Illinois say they have faced a campaign of harassment after launching the Stop ITOA campaign. Debbie Southorn, a staff member of the American Friends Service Committee in Chicago and core organizer with Stop ITOA, wrote in a statement released this week: “On Monday, September 12th, a small group of organizers, myself included, launched a public campaign to #StopITOA. Less than a week later, my office was burglarized overnight and only my locked up laptop was stolen, although there were computers and other valuables out and left untouched.”

The ITOA did not respond to a request for an interview submitted over email. Reached by phone, Eric Perkins from the Elk Grove police department who serves on the board of the ITOA, told AlterNet, "I am not at liberty to make any statements."

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Police Released Mugshots of Black Muslim Women Without Hijabs—and Charged Them More Heavily Than White Counterparts

AlterNet.org - September 23, 2016 - 11:24am
Click here for reuse options! Portland, Maine residents were protesting police violence when a man tried to drive his jeep into them.

Police in Portland, Maine have apologized for releasing photos of two Muslim women showing them with their hijabs removed, without their consent. But court records viewed by AlterNet reveal that black protesters, including the women the sheriff apologized to, were hit with more charges than their white counterparts, raising questions about whether Portland-area authorities have truly atoned for their civil rights transgressions.

In July, activists gathered in Portland's Lincoln Park to protest the police-committed killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, both of whom were African American. The event, which was organized by Portland Racial Justice Congress, laid out a list of demands for police chief Michael Sauschuck: 1) release a statement acknowledging the nationwide police brutality problem; 2) increase transparency through law enforcement oversight committees; and 3) install police cameras to promote accountability.

During the action, a man drove his jeep into a group of protesters standing in the street with their hands clasped together. A protester, who asked to remain anonymous, told AlterNet, "The police department's actions the night of the protest were completely unjustified. They arrested peaceful protesters, mostly women and people of color, for blocking a road, while allowing the man who drove into a crowd of people go free."

The scene was caught on video by Nick Schroeder, the editor of Portland's Dispatch Magazine.

This man looked me in the eye as he drove slowly into a wall of #blacklivesmatter protesters in Portland, Maine. pic.twitter.com/7Wl3kR7DIi

— Nick Schroeder (@chawson) July 16, 2016

Schroeder wrote on Facebook that, "Nobody was hurt (thankfully); the cops did not stop him,” adding, “He had the option of turning left (unobstructed) or turning right, into protesters. He turned right.”

Police arrested 18 people during the protest, and two of the women taken to jail were photographed by corrections staff with and without their hijabs. Though the veil is a religiously significant piece of clothing for Muslims, police publicly released the photos depicting the women without their hijabs, and those images were published by media outlets.

Protesters alleged that four women were intimidated into taking photos without their hijabs (the other two women did not have their photos released without hijabs), and the sheriff’s office launched an internal investigation into the claims after three protesters pressed for answers at a city council meeting. 

Matthew Raymond, 21, a Portland resident who attended the protest, told city council members that, in addition to the mistreatment perpetrated by corrections authorities in jail, the Portland Police Department "targeted" people of color, punched protesters, slammed them against walls and twisted their arms. "Racism is alive and well in the state of Maine and the city of Portland, as is police brutality," he told the council.

Raymond told the Portland Press Herald, “[The four women] were promised that [jail officials] would not release photos of individuals that did not have hijabs on. In our opinion, it was a form of public shaming, and it’s a violation of their First Amendment religious rights.”

On September 14, Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce apologized for releasing the photos: “I offer my sincerest apologies to any of the individuals who were at all embarrassed that evening and to the Muslim community for the appearance that we are disrespecting their religious beliefs and practices."

Bangor Daily News journalist Dan MacLeod reported:

The sheriff’s office admitted that it violated its own policy in distributing the photographs. According to jail policy, two sets of photographs are taken for people wearing a headscarf, one with and one without the religious head covering. But only the former photographs should have been released, according to the sheriff.

Racial disparities in charges for the protesters raise concerns about whether this apology accounts for all civil rights violations inflicted against the protesters by authorities. Of the 18 people arrested at the protest, five are black, 12 appear to be either white or non-black and one is a juvenile. According to courthouse records that are publicly available, all of the black people received either three or four charges, 11 of the 12 white or non-black people arrested received two charges, and only one white individual faced three charges. The juvenile’s charges were not made available to the public.

These numbers reveal that, excluding the one white individual who received three charges, the black protesters each received either one or two more charges than their white/non-black counterparts. This data gives the appearance that there are inequities in how charges were doled out. The women whose mugshots were wrongfully released are black and are among those hit with a greater number of charges.

Despite the questions this raises, Portland mayor Ethan Strimling praised Joyce's apology. “The fact that he is taking responsibility shows true character, and I hope procedures will be put in place to make sure this will not happen again,” said Strimling.

Mayor Strimling also praised the Portland police immediately following the arrests. "Last night, the Portland Police Department was yet again on the front lines as our country’s hurt, pain and frustrations were on display,” he said in a press release. “And, as they do day in and day out, our law enforcement personnel performed with professionalism and empathy."

City manager Jon Jennings went even further, praising police for their response. “I honestly did not think I could be more proud until Friday night," he said. "The commitment and professionalism shown by every member of the Portland Police Department is a tremendous example of what makes this city great."

Meanwhile, the two protesters continue to face ongoing repercussions from the release of the humiliating photos. Once published in the media, the images cannot be scrubbed from the internet. The aforementioned anonymous protester told AlterNet, "A long-delayed apology for intimidating Muslim women and forcing them to take off their hijabs is certainly the least they could do, but the entire situation is a flagrant example of the kind of systemic racism and police brutality that this demonstration, and countless others, was protesting."

While the sheriff’s office says it will tighten up its booking policies going forward, it fails to mention that the justification for the arrests is in dispute. The investigation has not led to any firings or calls for resignation. 

Portland's Organizers for Racial Justice released a statement expressing dismay that alleged threats against their safety were not taken more seriously:

We have heard police, public officials, and news outlets rationalize that a white agitator was justified in putting our lives at risk by getting into his jeep and driving into a line of people standing peacefully with their hands clasped together, when he had the option of turning left where there was no obstruction.

After the arrests, police gave a different version of events. Police chief Sauschuck claimed protesters had draped their bodies over the hood of the car and began kicking it, escalating the situation.

Despite the fallout they have faced, protesters declared in their statement, "We are proud to have peacefully joined thousands of people around the country and world who have taken to the streets in recent weeks to call attention to the national emergency of police killings, and vigilante violence against black people, following the state-sanctioned murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.”

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Yeah, There’s a Difference: Wells Fargo Scandal Is Another Reminder That We Can’t Afford Trump and the GOP

AlterNet.org - September 23, 2016 - 10:48am
Click here for reuse options! Trump has promised to destroy the agency that uncovered Wells Fargo's abuses; Clinton has vowed to bolster it

Even as Republicans were striking poses of outrage during Tuesday’s Senate hearing over Wells Fargo’s abuses of customers, they were pushing for measures that would terminate the federal government’s ability to root out bank abuses — like the ones discovered at Wells Fargo.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the brainchild of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, was instrumental to exposing the way that Wells Fargo employees opened unauthorized accounts under customer names in order to meet the company’s impossible-to-meet sales goals. The CFPB discovered “that employees opened roughly 1.5 million deposit accounts that may not have been authorized by consumers,” according to the agency’s press release, and “employees applied for roughly 565,000 credit card accounts that may not have been authorized by consumers.” Under the authority of the Dodd-Frank bill, the agency is fining the bank $100 million.

But Republicans want to kneecap the agency, even though in its five-year existence it has returned nearly $12 billion to victims of the financial industry’s malfeasance. Despite its high-profile victory over Wells Fargo, Republicans are still looking for excuses to destroy an agency that protects consumers and helps prevent some of the exploitative banking practices that led to the financial collapse of 2008.

“Generally speaking, Democrats have been staunch defenders of Dodd-Frank and the CFPB,” Joe Valenti, the director of consumer finance for the Center for American Progress, told me over the phone. 

If you look over the past few congressional budget bills, he continued, “every single year, the Republicans have had some kind of measure that would weaken the CFPB.” He explained, “Some would take away its independent budget. Some would turn it into a commission. Some would block it from going after payday lenders or auto lenders or other types of predatory lenders.”

In June Republicans unveiled a plan to repeal the Dodd-Frank law and replace it with legislation that would defang the CFPB, making it the only bank regulator without independent funding. In other words, Republicans want to restructure the CFPB so they can quietly bleed it dry, making it an agency with no real enforcement power to protect consumers against predatory bankers.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has promised that, if elected, he plans to dismantle Dodd-Frank altogether. Under his leadership, Republicans might skip the budget games altogether and simply eradicate the CFPB, which would give banks like Wells Fargo winking permission to return to unrestrained exploitation of their customers.

In contrast, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has been vocal in her support of the CFPB:

“The unfair and abusive practices at Wells Fargo remind us that we need tough watchdogs looking out for customers,” Clinton wrote in an open letter to Wells Fargo customers. “The CFPB worked with local authorities and enforced the law — assessing its highest penalty ever, and bringing the bank’s illegal activity into the national spotlight.” She promised not to let Republicans “put the CFPB under their thumb.”

Clinton has also proposed sweeping expansions of existing powers — ones that would make it harder for banks like Wells Fargo simply to pay their fines and return to business as usual.

During Tuesday’s Senate hearings, Republicans continued to make disingenuous arguments, trying to portray the CFPB as a poorly managed organization that needs to be restructured.

During his opening remarks for the Senate Banking Committee hearing on the Wells Fargo fiasco, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., kept trying to pin blame for what went wrong on CFPB regulators.

“How many millions of unauthorized accounts does it take before the CFPB notices?” Shelby said.

Shelby neglected to mention that if the Republicans got their way and CFPB were disempowered, the answer would be, “Who knows?” There would be no government agency tasked with investigating and putting a halt to Wells Fargo’s abuses in the first place.

“Finally, where were the federal regulators while certain Wells Fargo employees were taking advantage of unsuspecting customers over a period of many years?” Shelby went on.

One way to get rid of slow investigations, of course, is to make sure there are no investigations at all, much in the same way that death is a surefire cure for cancer.

The House Financial Services Committee hasn’t even bothered to hold its own hearings about this. When a reporter confronted a spokesman for Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., who serves on the committee, he blamed the regulators themselves: “It is ironic that supporters of Dodd-Frank claim the law protects consumers, when this alleged fraud occurred after the law went into effect.”

In a sense, it’s the same logic that Shelby is employing. It is technically true that one way to stop hearing about all the lawbreaking is to get rid of the people who actually catch the criminals. But putting the abuses in the closet does not stop them from happening, as much as Barr might like to think otherwise.

Most of the coverage of Tuesday’s hearing focused on how awesome Sen. Warren is, and what a sleazemeister Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf is. Which is great, as it is clearly true that Warren is a badass and Stumpf is a monster.

But the hearing should also serve to remind us of the vast differences between the two parties and their respective presidential candidates, especially with regard to regulation of the financial industry.

To keep banks from destroying people’s lives, we need the CFPB and the Dodd-Frank law. Trump and the Republicans want to get rid of both. Clinton and the Democrats want to protect and even strengthen both.

There are countless reasons to fear a Trump ascendency to the White House. But not least among them is the fear that he, with the assistance of congressional Republicans, will lay waste to the economic regulatory system built up under President Barack Obama, just as it’s starting to work to make our economy secure again.

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Your Taxes Are Literally Paying Trump to Run for President

AlterNet.org - September 23, 2016 - 10:48am
Click here for reuse options! Trump's latest filing reveals that his airline profits every time he flies with a U.S. Secret Service agent.

A new filing by the Trump campaign for the Federal Election Committee reveals the campaign has received $1.6 million in taxpayer money to fly U.S. Secret Service agents on a plane owned by—you guessed it—Donald Trump.

According to Politico, the agency always reimburses presidential candidates and other officials for the cost of traveling with the candidates. The difference is although the Secret Service has reimbursed the Clinton campaign some $2.6 million, Trump owns the plane he travels on through TAG Air Inc. As Politico notes, “the government is effectively paying him.”

"It's just another example of how the Trump campaign has taken an unprecedentedly large amount of its money and spent it at Trump-owned facilities," campaign finance lawyer Brett Kappel told Politico.

It was also revealed last week that the Trump campaign has spent some $8.2 million on Trump-owned businesses throughout the campaign. The candidate, who famously said he could be the first presidential candidate to "run and make money on it" is proving that sentiment true. In March, he famously held a “press conference” at his golf course in Florida which essentially just acted as a de facto informercial for the hotel.

Trump wines, water, and steaks on display at the Trump press conference tonight. pic.twitter.com/iDYpo57XHZ

— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) March 9, 2016

“The campaign has used known quantities as far as event space, air travel and accommodations, and has fulfilled all FEC requirements throughout the campaign,” the Trump campaign claimed Thursday, adding any reporting to the contrary is “misleading and flat-out wrong.”

But the receipts speak for themselves, and while Trump’s taxpayer-funded Secret Service detail pays the Trump campaign for flights—and accommodations at Trump’s hotels—the U.S. government will continue to cut checks that go directly into Trump’s pockets.

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The Daily Show Host's Powerful Reaction to Recent Police Shootings Will Stay With You

AlterNet.org - September 23, 2016 - 8:49am
Click here for reuse options! Trevor Noah: Racial division is "so deeply baked into every part of society we don't even notice it."

"Daily Show" host Trevor Noah often laughs when the news is sad, using humor as a tool to protect him from pain.

"One of those instances was in Tulsa," Noah opened Thursday night. "There was a shooting. Another shooting. A man by the name Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man, right, was killed by the police.  Now, this time, the man's car was stranded in the middle of the road. And the police say they pulled up, and they weren't there because they thought he was threatening or anything. They had a call and they got there and this man was there and they said he refused to listen to their instructions," Noah told the audience. 

Noah admitted it's not entirely clear what happened, but there is the video released by the police department.

"The video doesn't look good," Noah continued and then showed the segment, an aerial view of the incident shot from a helicopter.

"Police say he was not cooperating...I don't get that-- not cooperating? Because, I mean, it sure looks like cooperation. His-his hands are up, right? Unless the cop was like, 'Put your hands in the air and now wave them like you just don't care.' And he was like, 'But I do care.' 'Oh, you're not cooperating. You're not cooperating. We got a guy who does care over here,'" Noah joked ruefully.

There is a bottom line. 

"What we do know is this, what we do know is this," Noah explained. "It seems extremely easy to get shot by police in America. Which is not right."

Noah then went on to point out we may not even acknowledge our implicit bias because it's become normalized. 

The attorney for the Tulsa officer who shot Crutcher assured people that Betty Shelby was in no way afraid of big black men. "She's worked in this part of town for quite some time," the attorney said. 

"Oh, yeah, yeah, she was at a football game," Noah restated. "Yeah. You know what? The truth is, I'm actually willing to accept that this police officer is not racist. But her lawyer's defense has introduced us to one of the bigger problems that you face in America, you know. Because in an American city, there's an all-black high school, and that's normal, instead of weird? You know? Living in a society where racial divisions are so deeply baked into every part of society that we don't even notice it anymore?"

Watch:

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Paul Krugman Scorches Media for Dishonest Coverage of Election

AlterNet.org - September 23, 2016 - 8:18am
Click here for reuse options! He has a modest proposal for how to cover the debates.

Paul Krugman has a sneaking suspicion that Donald Trump will lie in the upcoming presidential debate. Why is that? Oh, just a little thing called history.

"PolitiFact has examined 258 Trump statements and 255 Clinton statements and classified them on a scale ranging from 'True' to 'Pants on Fire,'" Krugman points out in his Friday column. "One might quibble with some of the judgments, but they’re overwhelmingly in the ballpark. And they show two candidates living in different moral universes when it comes to truth-telling. Mr. Trump had 48 Pants on Fire ratings, Mrs. Clinton just six; the G.O.P. nominee had 89 False ratings, the Democrat 27."

That Trump will lie could be called the known unknown, to quote Donald Rumsfeld. The unknown unknown, or some such, is how much the moderators will step in when Trump lies. Among his favorites are his false claims to have opposed the Iraq war from the beginning, his claims to have renounced birtherism and his absurd assertion that America is the most highly taxed country in the world.

So, given that Trump will lie a whole lot more than Clinton, how should the media coverage after the debate be handled? Krugman's suggestion:

If the debate looks anything like the campaign so far, we know what that will mean: a news analysis that devotes at least five times as much space to Mr. Trump’s falsehoods as to Mrs. Clinton’s.

If your reaction is, “Oh, they can’t do that — it would look like partisan bias,” you have just demonstrated the huge problem with news coverage during this election. For I am not calling on the news media to take a side; I’m just calling on it to report what is actually happening, without regard for party. In fact, any reporting that doesn’t accurately reflect the huge honesty gap between the candidates amounts to misleading readers, giving them a distorted picture that favors the biggest liar.

Yet there are, of course, intense pressures on the news media to engage in that distortion. Point out a Trump lie and you will get some pretty amazing mail — and if we set aside the attacks on your race or ethnic group, accusations that you are a traitor, etc., most of it will declare that you are being a bad journalist because you don’t criticize both candidates equally.

What the media should not do, and yet are bound to do, is cover the debate as some type of theater, discussing ad nauseum who came off better. That kind of talk, Krugman suggests, is the job of theater critics, not journalists.

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Colbert Busts Trump and the Right for Their Hypocrisy About the Charlotte Protests

AlterNet.org - September 23, 2016 - 7:54am
Click here for reuse options! The "Late Show" host got serious Thursday night in light of recent events, but still got his digs in.

"Late Show" host Stephen Colbert struck a different tone Thursday night when reflecting on the news from North Carolina. He buckled down and got serious.

“The news for the last 24 hours has been pretty bad,” Colbert opened. “Angry people in the streets, some of them in riot gear. And the governor of North Carolina has declared a state of emergency in Charlotte. The shooting of African Americans by police officers and the community outrage that follows seems to keep happening over and over again no matter how many times we do nothing.”

Colbert sympathized with those who didn't know how to react, but also got digs in with some of the more idiotic reactions.

"At times like these, it's hard to know what to say," Colbert admitted. "But it’s easy to know what not to say. Unless you’re USA Today columnist and psychic you hired from Craigslist, Glenn Reynolds," he remarked, referencing Reynolds' tweet of a photo of the Charlotte protesters, with a caption that read “run them down.”

Colbert joked about how the tweet was so terrible "that it made USA Today’s worst tweet infographic.” He then turned somewhat solemn again. 

“I just wish there was some sort of respectful, silent, civil protest that people could engage in that wouldn’t enrage the other side,” Colbert said, while flashing to a photo of Colin Kaepernick.

“Yeah, nope, that’s not gonna work either,” he said, reflecting on how the athlete's silent protest of the national anthem last month was relentlessly criticized, leading Kaepernick to become the NFL's "most disliked player."

Naturally, "in the face of continued heartbreaking racial strife, all eyes turn to civil rights icon, the Reverend doctor Donald Trump,” Colbert pivoted, moving on to mock the GOP nominee's clueless strategy.

”Yesterday, Reverend Trump reached out to the black community at two events in Ohio. Both were at black churches. I haven’t seen so many white people replacing black people since… Brooklyn?"

After referencing the runaway gentrification in New York's hippest borough, it was back to making fun of Trump clueless solution to racial strife.

Trump wants to reinstates “stop and frisk," the infamous practice once used by police departments to racially profile disporportionately black pedestrians, which has since been ruled discriminatory in federal court. 

“That’s a bad idea,” Colbert said about Trump's suggestion. “Not only has it been found unconstitutional, if Trump’s doing the frisking, it’ll take him hours with those tiny hands.”

Watch:

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Your Air Conditioner and Refrigerator Are Killing the Climate: What Are the Alternatives?

AlterNet.org - September 23, 2016 - 2:30am
Click here for reuse options! As temps rise around the planet, people are buying air conditioners at alarming rates.

Global temperatures are on pace to make 2016 another record-breaking year. It is feeding into a classic deadly environmental cycle: The hotter it gets, the more people want to buy air conditioners. And the more we use A/C, the more we emit greenhouse gases that, in turn, increase global warming. 

But the planet may get some help soon, if world leaders can come to an agreement on how to handle the greenhouse gas emissions of coolants found in air conditioners and refrigerators. The agreement they’re currently working on is actually an attempt to close a loophole in a landmark, three-decade-old treaty that was originally meant to help the environment.

In 1987, nearly 200 nations agreed to phase out the use of chlorofluorocarbons, a coolant used in refrigerators and air conditioners, with the adoption of the Montreal Protocol. The treaty was agreed upon after scientists confirmed the link between CFCs and the depletion of the ozone layer—which protects the Earth’s surface from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation—and two years after the discovery of an ozone hole in the stratosphere above Antarctica.

Hailed by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan as “perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date,” the treaty has successfully repaired the ozone layer. Recent climate projections indicate that the ozone layer on track to return to 1980 levels between 2050 and 2070. According to the U.N. Environment Program, the treaty “will have prevented 2 million cases of skin cancer annually by 2030, averted damage to human eyes and immune systems, and protected wildlife and agriculture.”

A terrible downside

While the Montreal Protocol has repaired the ozone layer, a grave downside of the treaty has emerged. CFCs were replaced by hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), compounds that may not harm the ozone layer, but have proven to be powerful greenhouse gases with remarkable heat-trapping capability. Since 1990, according to the EPA, there has a 258 percent increase in HFC emissions.

"For perspective, 16 ounces of HFC 404a [a type of HFC that doesn’t deplete the ozone] equates to burning approximately 4.5 barrels of oil from a climate perspective,” notes EOS Climate, a San Francisco-based firm that helps companies like grocery chains protect the environment from refrigerants. Put another way: The 10 or so ounces of it that keeps your refrigerator cold is equivalent to nearly 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. To generate that amount of emissions, you’d have to drive an average car about 1,600 miles.

Today, the HFC contribution to the greenhouse effect is 1 percent. It may not seem like much, but their excessive heat-trapping potential make HFCs’ contribution to global warming disproportionately high—up to 23,000 times greater than CO2. Without any action to curb their use, UNEP warned, HFC emissions could rise to as much as 19 percent of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

Then there’s the increasing number of air conditioners and refrigerators, rising along with a growing population. “As incomes rise around the world and global temperatures go up, people are buying air conditioners at alarming rates,” writes Lucas Davis, faculty director at the Energy Institute at Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. “In China, for example, sales of air conditioners have nearly doubled over the last five years. Each year now more than 60 million air conditioners are sold in China, more than eight times as many as are sold annually in the United States.” He notes that a typical room air conditioner can use between 10 and 20 times as much electricity as a ceiling fan.

Refrigerators too, while ubiquitous in the rich world, are becoming more popular in emerging markets across the developing world, where consumers are projected to increase spending eightfold by 2030, to $63 trillion. In fact, says Tassos Stassopoulos, a senior vice president at AllianceBernstein, a global asset management firm, the proliferation of refrigerators "signals a country's economic progression."

But with economic development often comes environmental degradation. And the steady proliferation of air conditioners and refrigerators present such a serious threat to the environment that UNEP warned in a 2011 report that HFC emissions could offset much of the climate benefit achieved by Montreal Protocol. Recognizing that this potential reversal of fortune would be a terrible blow to the environment (not to mention the much-lauded Montreal Protocol), leaders have committed to closing the “HFC loophole” that currently sullies the 1987 agreement.

The biggest climate deal since the Paris agreement

Representatives of the Montreal signatories, including EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, who is leading the United States delegation, are currently working on an HFC amendment. They recently met in Vienna to determine nations’ schedules to reduce their use of HFCs and financial support to assist developing nations with the phase-out.

"We are seeing tremendous projections in the growth in the use of HFCs, especially in developing countries" said McCarthy in an interview, adding that replacing HFCs with more climate-friendly alternative “could avoid a rise of 0.5 degree Celsius by the end of the century.” Valerie Volcovici, who covers climate for Reuters, notes that “this would keep countries on track to meet the goal agreed at the Paris climate summit in December to limit the global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C.”

The U.S. is committed: At their 2013 summit in California, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping first agreed to work together on a deal to address the HFC threat. Secretary of State John Kerry recently joined the ongoing discussion. The high-level attention is indicative of the importance of the HFC deal. Volcovici said the deal “could be the most significant measure to combat global warming since last year's Paris climate agreement.”

The amendment could be finalized as early as next month, when negotiators gather in Kigali, Rwanda, for the 28th Meeting of the Parties of the Montreal Protocol. "Almost every country here (in Vienna) seems to be working under the premise that we are going to work out an agreement this year," said David Doniger, the director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Great to hear voices joined in support of #HFCPhasedown at #MontrealProtocol mtg. Only together can we reach our goal.

— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) July 22, 2016

A bold plan needed

There is time to set things right, but according to scientists, it would require a bold plan. A 2013 study led by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, for example, found that an aggressive mitigation of HFCs could contribute about 20 percent to the "avoided warming" by 2050. But defining “aggressive” is tricky; negotiators are deliberating over several different proposals. "The proposal for developed countries centered around setting a baseline of 2011-2013 with a 10 percent reduction from there by 2019," writes Steve Seidel, senior adviser at the Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, adding, "Most of these countries have already begun limiting HFCs though domestic regulations."

“An ambitious phase down could reduce global warming by .9°F by the end of the century,” writes Brent Harris, a principal at Redstone Strategy Group, an environmental and social issues consulting firm, in a recent New York Times op-ed. “That reduction may not sound significant, but it is. Without an amendment, there is little doubt the effects would be devastating, although the science of climate change cannot yet pinpoint the precise damage that would occur.”

He writes:

It is not hard to imagine scenarios where avoiding or delaying .9°F of additional warming proves invaluable, especially when paired with further reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. As warming crosses specific temperature thresholds, scientists expect ice sheets to melt and the Amazon rain forest to die off. Tipping points like these could prove irreversible, and eventually lead to famine and several feet of sea-level rise. Dollar for dollar, reducing HFCs offers a huge benefit for little comparative cost. But with so little public attention focused on these negotiations, the danger is that we could end up without an amendment, or one that is not sufficiently ambitious to deal with this threat.

Alternatives are available

New compounds have been developed for refrigeration and air conditioning applications. Hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) are one example. So-called "fourth generation" refrigerants, they have a global-warming potential that is a fraction of HFCs’. HFO-1234yf, for example, has a global warming potential that is 99.7 percent less than HFC-134a, the current chemical used in most vehicle air conditioners.

In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency made its first moves to try to phase out HFCs, proposing a rule that legalizes the use of alternatives. Since then, the EPA has approved alternative refrigerants through its Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program, a mandate of the Clean Air Act that empowers the agency to evaluate and regulate substitutes for ozone-depleting chemicals. Some of the approved alternatives include ethane, isobutane, propane and two chemicals known as R-441A and HFC-32. In a 2014 ruling, the EPA said that the approvals for climate-friendly refrigerants were made "on the basis of current evidence that their venting, release, or disposal does not pose a threat to the environment."

But while these alternatives have very low or non-existent global warming potential, being hydrocarbons, they are extremely flammable, and must be handled with care. In the long run, other factors must play a role in getting emissions down.

“Energy would be more expensive with a price on carbon, so more attention would go to building design,” writes Davis. “Natural shade, orientation, building materials, insulation and other considerations can have a big impact on energy consumption. We need efficient markets if we are going to stay cool without heating up the planet.”

If you want to help stop heating things up, consider not using your air conditioner unless it’s really unbearable. And think about getting an Energy Star-certified air conditioner and refrigerator, which use less energy, save you money and are less impactful on the environment.

“If all refrigerators sold in the United States were Energy Star-certified,” the EPA says, “the energy cost savings would grow to more than $400 million each year and 8 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions would be prevented, equivalent to the emissions from 750,000 vehicles.”

If you really want to remove your refrigerator from your environmental footprint, consider switching to a homemade refrigerator made of clay pots, sand and water.

Since your electric refrigerator runs 24/7, it’s easier to reduce the climate and financial impact of your air conditioner. Here are six tips from CNET:

  1. Check for home leaks by signing up for a home energy audit to find if your home is leaking cool air and get recommendations to seal it up.
  2. Put your thermostat on the right wall (keep it off the wall next to a hot window to prevent your A/C from running more often than needed).
  3. Close the blinds to keep out the heat of the sun.
  4. Use a fan—yes, they do keep you cool.
  5. Turn the thermostat up when you leave the house.
  6. When you’re at home, set the thermostat to the highest temperature you can stand (the U.S. Department of Energy recommends an indoor temperature of 78 degrees).

Have any recommendations to reduce the impact of your air conditioner or refrigerator? Share them in the comments.

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The Bullet: France and the Struggle over Labour Reforms

Socialist Project - September 23, 2016 - 2:00am
The so-called Labour Law, passed en force by the French government on 20 July, is the most serious attack against the 'Code du Travail,' already undermined for the past thirty years. A short historical overview is necessary to better grasp the destructive scope of this law, promoted and enforced by a socialist government – cruel irony! Struggle over Labour Reforms in France The Labour Code is a compilation of regulations giving structures to the relationship between employees and employers at the national level. It emerged after the shock of the 1906 catastrophe of Courrières, Northern France, where 1099 miners lost their lives.
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No place to fall sick: How refugees are barred from healthcare

New Internationalist - September 22, 2016 - 9:03pm
Migrants who were rescued from a boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea are pictured in Al-Beheira, Egypt. (Credit: (c) the contributor) No place to fall sick: How refugees are barred from healthcare Isabelle Gerretsen September 23, 2016

Refugees and undocumented migrants around the world are in a precarious legal position.

Administrative and legal barriers, together with prohibitive costs, mean those fleeing conflict and persecution are often left without the most basic rights to healthcare.

At this week’s UN summit, heads of state promised to share responsibility for the 65 million people displaced worldwide. The six wealthiest countries host less than nine per cent of the world’s refugees while poorer countries bear the brunt of the crisis.

Lebanon has the highest number of refugees compared to its population, with over a million Syrians living there.

However, the country did not sign the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and does not protect the legal rights of refugees. Asylum seekers are treated as illegal migrants and do not have a legal status – thus also no access to Lebanon’s fragile and highly privatised healthcare system. Most refugees also just have limited access to the labour market.


Persons of concern (refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons, made up 25 per cent of the Lebanese population in 2015. The world average was only 0.86 per cent.

Some argue Lebanon is circumventing the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR) which upholds everyone’s right to work.

‘Syrian refugees are increasingly being pushed towards informal and exploitative labour,’ says Dr Maja Janmyr, a forced migration specialist at the University of Bergen. ‘Under Lebanese law, they are only permitted to work in three sectors: agriculture, construction and cleaning.’

In October 2014, the Lebanese government introduced regulations requiring Syrian refugees to renew their residency permits by paying $200 (£153) every year. The UNHCR estimates that over 55 per cent of Syrian refugees do not have legal residency.

Without this, refugees are vulnerable to arrest, detention and expulsion. They can be sent back to Syria forcibly if they are unable to show the correct documentation at a checkpoint. Sending victims of conflict back to a country where their lives are threatened contravenes the non-refoulement principle, a cornerstone of international law.

‘We know from conversations with refugees that they feel legal residence is key to their safety and that a majority feels that their freedom of movement is restricted,’ says Lisa Abou-Khaled, a UNHCR spokesperson.

Lebanon also doesn’t grant birth certificates to new-borns, leaving them stateless, which some argue shows a serious disregard for their human rights. Two thirds of the 53,000 children born to Syrian refugee parents since March 2011 do not have a birth certificate, according to a report by the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Vulnerable migrants face legal barriers in richer countries, too.

Sweden has cracked down on immigration in the past year. So far, it received 20,117 asylum in 2016, just a fraction of the 162,877 received in 2015.


The number of asylum application to Sweden plummeted after the country passed more restrictive regulations.

Since June, denied asylum seekers in Sweden are no longer entitled to accommodation, a daily stipend, nor to an LMA card, which provides access to healthcare.

‘The law pushes towards self-sufficiency’ explains says Linnea Sandström Lange, a spokesperson for Doctors of the World in Stockholm. ‘To get permanent residency and be united with your family, you have to be financially independent.’

In the UK, the 2014 Immigration Act aims to ‘prevent illegal immigrants accessing and abusing public services or the labour market’, and introduced a health surcharge for non-EEA nationals who stay in the UK for longer than six months.

Undocumented migrants must pay 150 per cent of the cost of any hospital care they receive. According to the Immigration Act, treatment for infectious illnesses should be provided free of charge, but in reality many patients are billed.

Josephine was 27 weeks pregnant when she arrived in the UK from Uganda. She was repeatedly turned away from her GP surgery, and didn’t receive any antenatal care until she was 35 weeks into pregnancy. When she eventually saw a doctor for a scan she received a bill for £329 – and was lucky enough, given that undocumented pregnant women can be charged up to £9,000 for pregnancy care

In Greece, undocumented pregnant women are entitled to free healthcare, after a law was passed in February granting vulnerable uninsured individuals access to the health system.

But unaccompanied children in Greece remain particularly vulnerable. Many are detained, sometimes for months at a time, while they wait for an opening in reception facilities, according to a report by the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) which states that access to healthcare in some detention centres is ‘almost-non-existent’.

According to Human Rights Watch 3,300 unaccompanied children arrived in Greece between January and July this year. Greek police detained 160 unaccompanied children in this period for 40 days on average.

At the UN summit world leaders vowed to protect children from exploitation and help them access education and healthcare.

Human rights organizations say that the commitments should be clear and binding, as they will carry little weight without a clear blueprint as to how they will be realised.

If UN Member States wish to translate their declaration of solidarity into reality, they must not shirk their responsibilities and adopt legislation that protects the rights of refugees and undocumented migrants.

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Scared About Trump? Some Practical Things You Can Do—and Some Things Trump Is Doing

AlterNet.org - September 22, 2016 - 5:09pm
Click here for reuse options! It is all about getting out the vote.

Democrats are scared, and for good reason. Political scientists who have been saying since last winter that Hillary Clinton will win in November are not just dialing down those predictions, but also now saying that Democrats’ odds of taking back the Senate are getting much thinner.

“It will surprise no one following this contest to learn that Trump supporters, and Republicans generally, are more committed just now,” writes the team led by the University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato. “Clinton has not lit a fire under her supporters, and to the contrary, her missteps have disheartened them a bit. It is also true that Democrats frequently get engaged later in the campaign season, and as a result, we might expect the enthusiasm gap to decline somewhat in the seven weeks remaining.”

There are more variables in play—presidential swing states, swing counties in those states, competitive Senate races—and that means Americans who don’t want to see a President Trump or right-wing Supreme Court have to push aside their worries and spend some time ensuring that they and others can vote.

“I see people coming in, like just today, who have heard about the new polls, and they are scared,” said Shelley Carroll, a front desk volunteer at Clinton’s San Francisco office, this week. “My own personal thing is acting like we are 50 points behind and praying for a landslide.”

The path from today to Election Day victories is straightforward, even with identifiable obstacles such as new GOP-passed laws in 15 states complicating some steps in the process to discourage their opponent’s perceived base from voting—from communities of color to college students and young people.  

In all cases, the first step is ensuring you are registered to vote. But just as important is ensuring your voter registration information is current if you moved or got married and changed your name since the last time you voted. Only a few states track and update that information automatically or allow you to update it at the polls on Election Day. Registration deadlines vary state by state and are as early as one month before Election Day on November 8.

Some states have a series of rolling deadlines depending on how and where one registers—online registration tends to go later than mailing in paper registration forms. A page from the Fair Elections Legal Network is as clear and simple as any online guide. Click on your state and you’ll see registration deadlines, required forms of ID to register or to get a regular ballot, and more. But if you have any questions, contact your county election office, as they manage all aspects of voting. These days, the most populous counties have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, containing alerts, deadlines and contact information as well.

State-by-State Registration Deadlines

Registration is the current priority in the field operations of the Clinton campaign and its allies. As the University of Virginia’s political scientists noted, Democrats tend to get engaged later in the season than Republicans. In fact, Politico.com has reported that Trump’s supporters, including many previously unregistered voters, came out in the primaries and may have hit a ceiling.

There is some evidence that Trump’s campaign is not emphasizing voter registration like the Democrats, as phone banking scripts for his California supporters do not mention voter registration, but ask people to “make calls from home or join other volunteers to make calls from a field office. You can also visit a battleground state for a weekend in the fall to knock on doors or sign up to be a social media volunteer.” Similarly, another Trump phone banking script aimed at Arizona asked people who identify as supporters if they wanted to vote early or by absentee ballot, but not whether they were registered to vote.

Across the country, however, voter registration is still open and will only start closing for the November election on Columbus Day, October 10, or the next day. The deadlines vary state by state, but in many swing states it closes during the second week in October—meaning any eligible citizen who makes a last-minute decision to vote will be blocked unless they register by then. Each state has its peculiarities. In Nevada, a presidential swing state, the standard mail-in deadline is 31 days out from Election Day—Saturday, October 8—but in-person registration continues at some county election offices (such as Clark County, home to Las Vegas) or online via the Secretary of State’s website for 10 more days through October 18. Early voting starts in select locations the next week.

Besides avoiding last-minute rushes—when it may be hard to get a county election official on the phone—be mindful that different states count the days to their close of registration on the calendar differently, especially this year when it falls over a long weekend. For example, in Arizona and Florida, it’s 29 days out, but Arizona counts that as Monday, October 10, which is Columbus Day, while Florida says it's Tuesday, October 11.

In Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the standard registration deadline is 30 days out, but those states are all closing their 2016 fall registration on Tuesday, October 11. In Georgia, it’s the same thing. Registration closes on the fifth Monday before Election Day, but that’s Columbus Day, so Georgia ends registration on Tuesday, October 11.

Indiana is 27 days out, also falling on October 11. North Carolina is 25 days out, falling on October 14. Virginia is 22 days out, falling on October 14. New Hampshire and Iowa are 10 days, out, and Colorado is eight days out, but those three states—unlike every other presidential swing state—have Election Day registration, meaning eligible voters can register and vote on November 8.

Registration Nuts and Bolts

There are many ways to register, such as links from groups like HeadCount.org, but those tend to be online portals to statewide election office websites, or to downloading and printing the paper voter registration forms available at any post office. This map and page from U.S. Election Assistance Commission has links to every state’s forms, online registration (available in more than half the states), where forms have to be mailed or turned in, and more.

The bottom line is don’t wait until the last minute, because election officials who process voter applications get deluged in presidential years when public interest is the highest. You don’t want your registration form somehow lost in that shuffle, which has been known to happen. The most certain process, if you have the time, is visiting your county’s election office and filling out forms and submitting them right there. (You can also ask if there are early voting options).

After you register, you have to present the state-required ID to get a regular ballot, whether you're voting early or on Election Day. A state-by-state map from the National Conference of State Legislatures has the latest ID requirements, which vary nationwide. That range exists because in many red states Republicans have narrowed the accepted forms of ID to discourage new voters, who they assume will vote Democratic (or with Trump, now possibly libertarian).

A similar page from the Fair Elections Legal Network has links where targeted groups, such as state university students in Wisconsin, can obtain ID to get a regular ballot. In 2016, 15 states have new laws or ongoing litigation challenging the most regressive new rules. A state-by-state map from ProPublica.org tracks those laws and lawsuits. Again, voters must ensure their voting credentials are lined up and then do the same for others. That's what the campaigns and political organizations that do not want to see a Trump presidency are doing right now.

What Clinton Volunteers Can Do

San Francisco’s Clinton headquarters is typical of what her supporters will find across the country. There, the focus is not just reaching out to registered Democrats (by phone banks) and asking if they are on board, but also if they will volunteer in any number of ways, such as updating individual voter files, hosting events or even spending a day or two in nearby swing states, where the campaign is knocking on doors and urging people to register or update their registration information.

The events page at HillaryClinton.com will bring you to a screen where, after entering a zip code, you can search through even more activities—canvassing, community, fundraising, get out the vote, organizing, training, and visibility. You also can filter the responses by a geographic radius, meaning that choosing a larger radius (250 miles) will show activities in neighboring states. For example, plugging in a New York City zip code and setting that radius shows weekend bus trips into Pennsylvania.

As the campaign progresses, the tasks will shift according to the locale's priorities. "Right now it’s voter registration and canvassing,” said Carroll, the San Francisco office’s receptionist, speaking about their weekend bus trips to Nevada. The office also had a phone bank, tables where people are using their laptops to make and log phone calls, a welcome team greeting walk-ins, and volunteers bringing in food or helping to tidy up.

Similar Independent Efforts

Of course, there are other ways for people to participate in the campaign, such as via organizations in their lives. In Nevada, the Culinary Workers Union, the state’s largest, will deploy a team of 100 members (taking a leave of absence) to knock on doors of its 57,000 members and urge them to register to vote or ensure their voter file is current, spokeswoman Bethany Khan said this week.

“We’re the largest immigrant organization in the state, the largest organization of African Americans and Latinos," Khan said. "Our members are afraid of Trump becoming president. Our members know him in Las Vegas. He’s fighting their effort to unionize. He’s running for president and running away from negotiating with them.”

Once the registration deadline passes, the focus will shift to voter turnout: ensuring everyone knows where to vote, has the proper ID, can get to the polls or cast a mail-in ballot, and does so. That template is true across the swing states and the several dozen swing counties within those states that are the purple epicenters that hold the balance to going red or blue.

“The path to the White House goes through Las Vegas and the Culinary Workers,” said Khan, which confirmed exactly what Politico reported—that winning Las Vegas means winning Nevada.

In Tight Races, Everything Matters

The Culinary Workers spokeswoman’s words may be even more prophetic. The analysts at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics counts Nevada as one of three presidential election “toss-up” states as of this week, meaning too close to call. The other two are North Carolina and Florida. However, Nevada also is one of four toss-up states that hold the key to the Senate majority—and Supreme Court confirmations, they said. The others are Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Indiana.

As the conservative National Review’s Jim Geraghty wrote on Wednesday, the Culinary Workers’ organizing was undetected and underestimated in the state's 2010 Senate race. “Remember Sharron Angle led the final polls in Nevada in 2010 over Harry Reid; the unions had their get-out-the-vote efforts in the highest gear and Reid won by almost six points.” Geraghty's main point was that Trump needs to win all the toss-up states to become president.

Looking ahead to the seven weeks before Election Day, Democrats may be better positioned than Republicans when it comes to the ground game: finding, registering and tracking voters. That's because Trump has left that role to the Republican National Committee and its allies like the National Rifle Association, which are concentrating on fewer states than Democrats. As Politico wrote last month, the GOP had more new voters in the primary season than Democrats, but those ranks may have peaked by the GOP convention.

Trump's campaign also has fewer offices and less developed volunteer opportunities than Clinton. Trump's campaign website doesn't offer opportunities to help with voter registration and related activities, but seeks volunteers to make calls on behalf of their ticket. The scripts for Trump’s California-based calls mostly focus on identifying backers and urging them to vote at early voting sites or by mail.

As the race for the White House and the Senate heads toward Election Day and tightens, what matters most is the basic fundamental of American elections: securing one’s base and turning out the vote. In the short run, that means registering to vote, ensuring one's voter file is up to date, and enlisting like-minded but unregistered voters. The time to do that is now, before state voter registration deadlines start closing in the second week of October.  

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Internet Trolls Explain Why They Do What They Do

AlterNet.org - September 22, 2016 - 4:54pm
Click here for reuse options! Their reasons are not always what you would expect.

An estimated 5.6 percent of people self-identify as online trolls, according to a recent survey. Considering how many people use the internet daily, that's a ton of people. It explains why the internet seems lousy with trolls, and social media feeds feel positively glutted with their presence. The proliferation of trollery seems to raise the question, just who are these people, and what’s their deal? More importantly, what drives them to do what they do?

It can be tricky to talk about trolling, if only because the word has become a catchall for online behaviors that differ so wildly as to be wholly incomparable. Trolling used be playful but annoying, a sort of virtual, comedic performance art with the end goal of getting under the skin of a selected online audience. Today the word is more often used to describe some of the most despicable behaviors we see on the internet and social media apps, from stalking and harassment to violent threats and expressions of racism, homophobia and misogyny.

There remain, in the ever-crowded trollscape, those who practice the art in its old-school form. These people are generally hilarious and creative, operating in a way that would make Andy Kaufman proud. Ken M, often hailed as the world’s greatest internet troll, told Vox that he plays a “well-meaning moron” on the internet, leaving a trail of dunderheaded, obtuse statements in comment threads that infuriate people who don’t realize his idiocy is all part of an exceptionally clever ruse. He says he started trolling when he “tried to engage with people seriously” online and “slowly realized that it was such a futile effort to try to have a rational discourse. I suddenly decided to make it as irrational as possible.”

“Sites that have the most dysfunctional comment communities are the ones that I go to,” Ken M says, highlighting Yahoo News. “Some of these interactions that I have, it’s like Borscht Belt stuff. I say one thing, and somebody’s like, ‘Whaddaya mean?’ And then I drop the punchline. There’s something so pure about that, like, corny, old-timey joke structure that I love. And then I love the fact that these people don’t know that they’re part of it.”

Jon Hendren tweets as @fart from what may legitimately be the funniest Twitter in the world. (Really. Go read it.) He’s been behind notable stunts before, like sending rapper Pitbull to a Walmart in a remote Alaska location and getting the lead singer from Smash Mouth to eat a “shit-ton of eggs.” Last year, Hendren became even more internet-famous when he accepted an invitation from cable news network HLN to take part in an ostensibly serious discussion about Edward Snowden, and spent the interview talking about Edward Scissorhands. The stunt effectively worked as a form of media criticism, pointing out how, in the chase for ratings in clickbait, the channel had failed to do the most basic due diligence in researching their guest. 

“When the HLN folks emailed me, it was a very brief email. They just said, 'Hey, Jon. Do you have any thoughts on Edward Snowden on Twitter? We'll have you on and we'll talk about it,'" Hendren told me. “Some people thought that they were actually supposed to get [Al-Jazeera reporter John Hendren]. But, I mean, when they put @fart up on the screen there, it was pretty obvious that [I wasn’t him]. I think it was a cheap way to get a guest or a cheap way to find content, maybe a retweet out of somebody popular [on Twitter]. But I'm absolutely not an expert.”

“I do think Edward [Snowden] is a great guy and he should be pardoned in all these things, but I am not the person to talk about that on television,” Hendren continued. “It's just a bad decision. I decided to try to highlight how bad of a decision that was. They probably got yelled at by somebody, which is terrible. But also it's a flawed premise to begin with and I'm glad that show was canceled because it's not a great show. It was never going to be a great show.”

Trolls whose agenda is less purely comedic and more political have also become a familiar breed. One example is the founder of Modern Liberals, who goes by the nom de internet Manny Schewitz. He told me he’s been “trolling conservatives for years on Facebook, even before the 2012 election,” going back to the days of “message forums and elsewhere online where right-wingers spewed lies and hateful rhetoric.”

“I use trolling because trying to get through to most right-wingers with logic is nearly impossible,” Schewitz wrote me, via email. “I know, because I was raised in a very conservative household. If you troll them and get them off their script, you can then force them to do some really interesting mental gymnastics and maybe rethink their belief systems ever so slightly. You can't knock the wall down, but you can create dozens of little cracks in it. I'm not a nasty troll, although I can be utterly vicious when dealing with alt-right and white supremacist idiots.”

Schewitz's victories have included trolling a local woman who was making racist comments “until I had plenty of material I could send to her parish priest, which I threatened to do if she didn't knock it off. She did.”

“I like to have fun,” Schewitz told me, “but I have no problem screencapping someone's online comments and sending it to their employer, and yes, I have had people terminated from their jobs for things they've said online.” He’s also trolled Nigerian scammers, and succeeded in turning the con around on its perpetrator. He considers himself a white-hat troll, versus trolls of the nefarious, black-hat variety, and focuses on Facebook pages of targets from his local area. “I believe I'm doing it for good, and to protect others. Like the Nigerian scammers, I would prefer the bad trolls spend their time fighting with me, instead of someone who can't handle them. I sort of think of it as a guardian role, if that's the right term for it.”

“Trolling is also a form of therapy to me,” he added, when I asked why it was his method of choice. “It's fun to blow off steam at the end of a long day at work by making some conservative figure on Twitter lose their minds, or goad a racist on Reddit into saying things that get them banned by the mods.”

Matt Saccaro wrote about his youthful exploits in trolling in a 2015 piece titled, “I Was a Libertarian Internet Troll—How I Turned My Mind Around.” He describes his adolescence as someone who frequented the OT (off topic; non-game related) subforum, mostly to troll it:

I posted threads sure to provoke hundreds of scathing responses. Perhaps my favorite was one examining whether America needed the “fascism” that liberal types accused George W. Bush of to triumph over its enemies at home and abroad (keep in mind, this was during the initial phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom). One poster asked me about the identities of the “enemies at home.” I said liberals. The thread went on for dozens of pages.

I asked him why he indulged in trolling, and he suggested attention, boredom and loneliness all played a factor.

“If I had to guess, I think I started trolling because I had no real outlet of any kind in real life, be it creative, emotional, or otherwise,” Saccaro wrote me. “I was, essentially, sad and miserable and didn't have many friends. But nobody knew that on the internet, so they took what I had to say seriously—at least for a time. Moments of success made me feel almost giddy, like I couldn't stop smiling. I felt a bizarre kind of power, too... I loved making them—the other forum posters—into my little action figures in that I was controlling by making them react to all these ridiculous posts. Bizarre, I know. Eventually I made a few friends but enjoyed trolling so much that I just kept doing it. Nothing made me feel the same way.”

Saccaro, who described the roots of his conservative thinking as a young adult in another article (“I Was a Teenaged Fox News Robot”), left trolling behind after he graduated from college. He says that while “getting banned from any forum I actually wanted to post on helped” with his decision, he also “realized how pointless it was.” He began writing, which filled the need for validation trolling had previously occupied. “Then, of course, there is the revelation that pissing people off on the internet accomplishes nothing. Why hurt someone? What does that do? I get that it's all 'for the lulz' [lols, or laughs] but there were no more lulz to be had for me.”

I asked him if, as a former libertarian troll, he has any insight into the thinking of the often-abusive alt-right trolls who now fill 4chan and 8chan messageboards. 

“I'm no expert on any of this, particularly political philosophy and the psychology behind libertarianism, so take what I say with a grain of salt,” he wrote. “But I think some trolls are just people who don't have a lot going for them IRL [in real life] like I did: few if any friends, unpopular, suboptimal home life, etc. So perhaps some of this comes from people looking for any kind of validation/attention they can find. Any harassment these people do could perhaps be interpreted as lashing out, though I'm not a therapist! Though there are also people who seemingly have it together IRL but still resort to libertarian dogma....Libertarianism can be extremely appealing to white men as it absolves them of all guilt, and in their own minds, elevates them. Toxic masculinity is a part of this as well, at least recently. The slur 'cuck' wouldn't be as widely used if it wasn't.”

While trolls are overwhelmingly white and male, there are outliers. Jessica Moreno, formerly of Reddit, used to run Redditgifts, the site’s Secret Santa-style gift exchange. Personal information provided by those who took part in the program offered insights into their offline lives. Moreno says just because a user engaged in trolling didn’t always mean they fit the popular image of a troll.

“The idea of the basement dweller drinking Mountain Dew and eating Doritos isn’t accurate,” Moreno told Time Magazine contributor Joel Stein. “They would be a doctor, a lawyer, an inspirational speaker, a kindergarten teacher. They’d send lovely gifts and be a normal person.”

Isabella Tangherlini wrote about her trolling past, which started when she discovered troll wiki Encyclopædia Dramatica as a teen and ended with her uneventful trolling of Chris-Chan, “a 24-year-old, high-functioning autistic man who made videos... about his fan-made comics and figurine collections” who somehow became a primary target for 4channers back in 2010.

I asked what she got out of trolling during the years she participated in it.

“I feel like it was my fascination with 4chan, and that kind of culture, and my age, and the fact that I was depressed, and I was going through an abusive relationship, and I had all these internal problems,” Tangherlini told me. “I would definitely say that it's almost like a cliché that the bully online, or the bully in school, is actually having a tough home life, but I would also feel uncomfortable suggesting that everybody on 4chan, or everybody that does this kind of thing, is depressed or somehow neurodivergent.”

In her writing, Tangherlini describes how one's internet personality and one's everyday personality ultimately meld, which had implications on her behavior away from her computer:

The thing about being an internet troll, though, is that eventually who you are online and who you are offline start to blur together. And when you post on places like 4chan, those two personalities meld into something uniquely unpleasant. To be short, I was a really mean high school sophomore. I would openly bash my Jewish classmates. Despite being [an out] member of the LGBT community myself, I freely used the word “faggot” in everyday speech... I saw nothing wrong with what I was doing or who I had become. For me, everyone was in on the joke. It wasn’t my fault if they couldn’t detect the sarcasm in my voice, or tell that I wasn’t really anti-Semitic or racist or homophobic. As far as I was concerned, the uninitiated were beneath my notice—4chan was like a secret club that only a few people could join, despite the millions of users worldwide who posted there.

“It starts with the language, but it doesn't really progress into a mentality for some. For me, it never really stuck, and today, after everything that I've done, everything I've gone through, everything I've learned in school, I guess my morals and my views align more with a social justice warrior, as they like to call it,” Tangherlini told me, referring to the supposed slur so-called men’s rights activists and like-minded types use against those who disagree with them. “It's kind of funny to me. I started off as one of these awful, awful trolls or awful 4chan-ers, and now I'm an SJW, and it's like, okay, call it what you want, but I'm still someone who spends too much time on the internet."

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How Hillary Can Be More Positive About the Future—But Will the Media Cover It?

AlterNet.org - September 22, 2016 - 4:47pm
Click here for reuse options! You can go positive or negative in a campaign. Many say it is time for Hillary to go positive.

One of the most tedious moments of any presidential campaign is when everyone in the country decides they are better campaign strategists than the professionals. It’s like watching the World Series at a bar full of drunken fans in the losing team’s hometown. They all know more than the experts, or so they think, because they’ve watched a lot of baseball. This time it’s more tiresome than usual because it’s pretty much tied going into the ninth inning, and both team’s supporters are yelling their advice at the TV screen.

In recent days we’ve seen most prescriptions directed at the Hillary Clinton campaign, as the always nervous Democrats are waking up the startling reality that the flamboyant, white nationalist demagogue on the other side might just pull this off. And they have as many different ideas as there were GOP all-stars Donald Trump smoked in the primaries. These range from “She needs to take the fight to Trump and call him out” to “She should attack the Republican officials who endorse him” to “She should stop attacking him and lay out a positive policy agenda so people have a reason to vote for her” — which, to be fair, sounds like a good idea.

But the question is, if someone lays out a positive policy agenda and nobody hears it, did it really happen? Let’s take Wednesday as an example, when Clinton gave a big speech about something that is important to millions of Americans. She went to Orlando, a major city in a crucial swing state, and spoke about disability rights, expressing her plans in terms of American values of equality and inclusiveness. This is the fourth in a series of “Stronger Together” speeches the Democratic nominee has given recently about faith, community service, families and children, designed to display her values and vision for the future and show how her policies will achieve them.

Clinton also published an Op-Ed in the New York Times on Wednesday called “My Plan for Helping America’s Poor,” in which she discussed a comprehensive policy including one modeled on Rep. Jim Clyburn’s 10-20-30 plan, “directing 10 percent of federal investments to communities where 20 percent of the population has been living below the poverty line for 30 years,” putting “special emphasis on minority communities that have been held back for too long by barriers of systemic racism.”

Did you know about any of that? Has the press asked her questions about those issues in the now-frequent press avails she’s given over the last few weeks? Did you see any of those speeches in their entirety? Probably not. And that’s not the campaign’s fault. I get inundated with notices and press releases from the Clinton campaign, its surrogates and outside groups promoting her public speeches and other appearances. There’s no coverage of this “good news” stuff. Unless she’s thumping Trump the media is basically not interested.

Harvard’s Shorenstein Center has been tracking media coverage throughout this campaign and yesterday released a fascinating study of the four weeks around the political conventions in the middle of the summer. The study’s author, Prof. Thomas E. Patterson, wrote about it for the Los Angeles Times, and its conclusions are depressing. Clinton’s so-called email scandal was the single most important story of that period, and the coverage of it was overwhelmingly negative and without context. In fact all the coverage of Clinton was overwhelmingly negative:

How about her foreign, defense, social or economic policies? Don’t bother looking. Not a single one of Clinton’s policy proposals accounted for even 1 percent of her convention-period coverage; collectively, her policy stands accounted for a mere 4 percent of it. But she might be thankful for that: News reports about her stances were 71 percent negative to 29 percent positive in tone. Trump was quoted more often about her policies than she was. Trump’s claim that Clinton “created ISIS,” for example, got more news attention than her announcement of how she would handle Islamic State.

Even with the email story that dominated Clinton coverage, of course, journalists largely failed to provide the context that would allow voters to put the issue into proper perspective.

The Shorenstein study was backed up by an ongoing Gallup survey that asks people to give them the first word that comes to their minds when they hear a candidate’s name. Since July 11, the words most commonly cited for Clinton are “email,” “lie,” “health,” “speech,” “scandal” and “foundation.” Trump, by contrast, brought to mind the words “speech,” “president,” “immigration,” “Mexico,” “convention,” “campaign” and “Obama.” As you can see, the Clinton words are loaded with negative judgment. Trump’s, not so much.

Clinton has given prepared remarks on 22 occasions since the end of the Democratic convention. Some of these were standard stump speeches, while others were major policy addresses. She has dozens of positive ads running in media markets all over the country. But the only Clinton speech that garnered the full and interested attention of the press corps was her “alt-right” speech in Reno, Nevada, in late August. Almost all her speeches are covered the way the New York Times covered the disability speech on Wednesday: Clinton’s remarks are framed as a political ploy designed to evoke Trump’s ugly comments about a disabled reporter (which she did not discuss in the speech at all.) At the very end of the article, the reporter mentions that “some of [Clinton’s] most affecting moments on the campaign trail” come when she speaks with disabled people and their families, and that she often spontaneously brings up the subject in informal settings. There’s no reason to think she isn’t sincere about the issue, even if the campaign is subtly trying to highlight Trump’s cretinous attitudes by contrast.

It’s an old truism that negative campaigning works, so it’s no surprise that Clinton’s campaign would try to leverage Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric against him. But there is plenty of positive material out there as well. It’s just the press isn’t interested, and there isn’t a lot of evidence that the voters are either. This doesn’t seem to be that kind of election.

The armchair strategists who think a more positive, uplifting message is what Hillary Clinton needs to put this election away may be right. But the question is whether anyone could hear such a message above the din of cynicism and negativity that characterizes the coverage of this campaign.

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More smoke than substance in Canadian plans

Canadian Dimension - September 22, 2016 - 4:21pm

Giant banner in Geneva Switzerland by campaigners for a universal basic income, May 14, 2016. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/ AFP; posted on cyprusnews.eu.

With the two largest Canadian provinces vowing to take a hard look at some form of basic income program and the federal minister for Families saying the idea merits debate, Canada has been making headlines alongside Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands and Kenya as a possible pioneer in the realworld exploration of guaranteed income.

There’s little chance Canada will be first to the plate, however. Very little is known about Ontario’s plans beyond a short paragraph in the Liberal government budget speech promising to announce a pilot project this fall. And although the Québec minister responsible for developing his own province’s plans has literally written the book on the subject — François Blais’s 2002 Ending Poverty: A Basic Income for All Canadians — Blais has also made it clear that he favours a go-slow, étapiste approach that could take as much as 20 to 25 years to achieve a full BI program.

While media attention in the global North has focused on the (recently defeated) Swiss referendum, some of the most interesting BI projects and plans are in the global South, from Brazil to South Africa. And not all are government initiatives. The GiveDirectly.org charity is planning on distributing a BI to 6,000 Kenyan villagers over 10 years in a historic program expected to cost $30 million. (They estimate the same project in the global North would cost $1 billion.) By targeting a population that already has an extremely low income, GiveDirectly can affordably conduct what will likely be the world’s first true study of a long-term, universal guaranteed income program that provides for a basic standard of living, including the potential for investments, such as livestock, that can further increase recipients’ incomes.

Back at home, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa announced the province’s vague intentions in his February budget speech. “The pilot project will test a growing view at home and abroad that a basic income could build on the success of minimum wage policies and increases in child benefits by providing more consistent and predictable support in the context of today’s dynamic labour market. The pilot would also test whether a basic income would provide a more efficient way of delivering income support, strengthen the attachment to the labour force, and achieve savings in other areas, such as health care and housing supports. The government will work with communities, researchers and other stakeholders in 2016 to determine how best to design and implement a Basic Income pilot.”

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne told CBC Radio in March that the proposal arose out of “a real concern around the way social assistance works in Ontario. What we want people to do is build up capacity in their lives so they can be successful.” Wynne said just coming up with the plan will take a year, however, with a program budget only in 2017.

The pilot project is expected to target a specific community or communities rather than across the province as a whole.

Mixed messages in Québec

Québec, on the other hand, could be looking at a gradual implementation of a universal but watereddown BI program, if Blais’s book and recent statements to media are any indication. The former dean of Université Laval’s Social Science faculty, Blais’s slim 101-page treatise is a mostly dry examination of the case for instituting a basic income. Although he expresses strong support for BI, the political scientist wrote that “the main challenge is substituting it as gently as possible” for the current mishmash of direct and indirect government support programs and tax credits.

Blais the politician, however, has been part of a government hell-bent on implementing a policy of austerity despite evidence from around the globe that such polices have actually harmed the neoliberal economies where they have been implemented. And as minister for Employment and Social Solidarity, he has been advocating a form of conditionality that Blais the academic condemned. (The Québec government has introduced legislation aimed at forcing young, first-time welfare recipients to enrol in training programs or face cuts of up to half of their monthly allocation — the type of situation Blais described 15 years earlier something that “will only result in further poverty and exclusion.”)

Blais has acknowledged that BI would be a hard sell. In his book he advocates a level of aid that is “as high as possible,” but mitigates that with concern that a transition that moves too fast or too far may frighten off public support. In recent interviews, he suggested that initial reforms should be revenue neutral, a far cry from the way he described BI a few months earlier as “the most radical idea of the last 50 years.”

As an academic, Blais was adamant that any program be universal, individualized and unconditional — with cheques going to each citizen, rich and poor alike — in order to simplify administration, increase transparency, and eliminate any means-testing associated with receiving government support. “Selective programs are generally stigmatizing and humiliating for the people that are eligible,” he wrote. “They are forced into the situation of petitioners who must show proof of their poverty and put up with constant investigations into their personal life.”

But as Stéphan Corriveau, director-general of a Québec federation of non-profit housing groups, told The Globe and Mail in February, a flawed BI model would hurt rather than help the poor. “The devil’s in the details. A guaranteed national income is both a very promising and threatening (possibility). It could be threatening because some of the proposals that are on the table are actually going to diminish the income of the lower-income part of the population and are being used as a way of dismantling the social security net.”

Ottawa “welcomes debate”

In Ottawa, the current Minister of Families, Children and Social Development is Blais’ friend and former Université Laval colleague, economist Jean-Yves Duclos. Duclos has also studied and written extensively about income equity issues, including a paper with Blais. In a research paper he co-wrote in 2013, however, Duclos concluded that wage subsidies would be a more effective way to help pull the unemployed out of poverty than an unconditional income transfer, which his models suggested might actually increase poverty. Interviewed by The Globe and Mail after his appointment to the Justin Trudeau cabinet, Duclos said that while BI wasn’t a government priority, he welcomed the debate. “There are many different types of guaranteed minimum income. There are many different versions. I’m personally pleased that people are interested in the idea.”

The Liberal Party itself has not endorsed a specific BI program, but a resolution adopted by party delegates in May calls on Liberal officials, “in consultation with the provinces, (to) develop a poverty reduction strategy aimed at providing a minimum guaranteed income.”

This article appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Canadian Dimension (Basic Income).

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Cops in Charlotte Keep Dashcam Video of Killing Under Wraps, as Major Opposition Builds Throughout the City

AlterNet.org - September 22, 2016 - 2:42pm
Click here for reuse options! Witnesses in Charlotte question official narrative, ask press to dig deeper.

Defying mounting calls for transparency, Charlotte, North Carolina, police are refusing to publicly release dash-camera footage showing their officer’s killing of Keith Lamont Scott, as city officials maintain tight control over the media narrative surrounding ongoing protests.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney told reporters on Thursday that, despite demands from the ACLU and NAACP, he will not release footage of Officer Brentley Vinson’s deadly shooting of Scott, proclaiming he will do so “when there is a compelling reason.” Because Putney claims Vinson was not wearing a body camera at the time of the killing, his withholding of the video constitutes a significant media blackout. The police chief said he will share the footage with Scott's family, but did not provide a precise timeline.

Tamika Lewis, an organizer with the Charlotte-based organizations the Tribe and the Trans and Queer People of Color Collective, told AlterNet that there is "compelling reason" to make the evidence public. “I think their jobs, their duties and their oaths to ‘protect and serve’ should be compelling reason, as well as the people demanding its release and paying respects to the family,” said Lewis. “I think this shows the lack of transparency and how they are more concerned with protecting the police image than serving and protecting the folks of Charlotte.”

Notably, Putney stated that the footage does not provide "definitive visual evidence" that Scott pointed a gun at the police. “I did not see that in the videos I reviewed,” he said. “What I can tell you though is that, taken in the totality of all the other evidence, it supports what we’ve heard and the version of the truth we gave about the circumstances that happened that led to the death of Mr. Scott.”

The admission raises questions about the department’s earlier claims that Scott “posed an imminent deadly threat to the officers and Officer Brentley Vinson subsequently fired his weapon striking the subject.”

Family members and witnesses say that Scott was disabled from a brain injury and sitting unarmed in his car reading a book when he was shot and killed by police. Lewis called the law enforcement narrative “convoluted,” noting: “All of the witness testimony that we've heard and seen from that community has been in support of the family's narrative of what happened and not the police's.”

Even if Scott did have a gun, North Carolina is an open-carry state, and concealed carry is also legal with a permit. “The mere possession of a handgun does not give the police probable cause or reasonable suspicion to briefly detain you for stop and frisk,” Gregory Wallace, a law professor at Campbell University in Raleigh, told the Charlotte Observer on Wednesday. “The mere fact that you have a handgun isn’t enough—it’s legal in North Carolina.”

Rakeyia Scott, Keith Scott's wife, said in a statement released Wednesday, “Rest assured, we will work diligently to get answers to our questions as quickly as possible.” She added, “My family is devastated by the shooting death of my husband.”

Chief Putney’s refusal to release the footage came less than 24 hours after reports emerged that an individual had been shot and critically wounded during ongoing uprisings against the police killing of Scott.

The city of Charlotte took to social media to claim that the person was wounded at the hands of a “civilian,” though that same tweet erroneously reported that the attack had been fatal (this was later corrected).

ALERT: Fatal shot uptown was civilian on civilian. @CMPD did not fire shot.

— City of Charlotte (@CLTgov) September 22, 2016

The story of a civilian-on-civilian shooting instantly dominated the media coverage of the shooting. “A protester was shot by a civilian in Charlotte during another night of intense protests, according to officials,” stated the opening sentence of the Associated Press story published Wednesday night.

Witnesses and protesters are now publicly questioning the official story and calling on major media outlets to dig deeper. AlterNet spoke with three individuals present during Wednesday night's shooting who said that the police role in escalating violence, and making the situation more unsafe, went underreported.

Minister Steve Knight of Missiongathering Christian Church in Charlotte told AlterNet on Wednesday night, “Police were escalating. There was no violence until they came out in riot gear. They led us into a trap and ambushed us.”

According to Knight, the crowd began peacefully marching up Trade Street, a major road in Charlotte, chanting and shouting. “Police led us to an entry point to an underground parking garage by the Omni hotel and led a large number of us into a small entryway into the underground garage,” Knight said. “They started setting off tear gas immediately. People started to scatter, run away. That's when the shooting occurred, maybe 15 feet away from me.”

While Knight was unable to identify the individual who fired the shot, he expressed skepticism over the police department’s narrative. “We're being told it’s a protester who shot him,” he said from Little Rock AME Zion Church in Charlotte, where clergy had gathered to pray after the incident. “What we are demanding as faith leaders is a ballistics report and full disclosure on who did the shootings. This city deserves answers. We do not feel like the police department is telling us the truth right now.”

This point was reiterated by other clergy members. "While news reports contend the victim was shot by other protesters, several members of the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice, who were just 10 feet away from the victim when he was shot, questioned media accounts of the incident," reads a statement from the coalition, which represents 25 faith leaders.

Tamika Lewis, who was standing close to the individual who was shot, described the scene: “Folks were protesting in front of Omni, and police barricaded the entrance. Protesters were chanting and police began using tear gas and rubber bullets. Then we heard the clicking noises of guns and pistol sounds of rubber bullets, and then the guy was down on the floor.”

“This is not a civilian-on-civilian shooting,” Lewis argued.

Charlotte Observer reporters Ely Portillo, Joe Marusak and Katherine Peralta confirmed that, moments before the shooting, “police fired tear gas at protesters at the entrance to the Omni Hotel in uptown Charlotte. Loud booms sounded, and police said explosives had been used.”

New York Times journalists Richard Fausset and Alan Blinder noted, “City officials were quick to say the police had not fired any live rounds, but riot police personnel did fire repeated rounds of tear gas.”

Following news of the shooting, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory late Wednesday night declared a state of emergency, citing a request from the Charlotte police chief to mobilize the National Guard and state troopers.

As protests continue, Jim Naureckas, editor of Extra!, the magazine of Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, told AlterNet that skepticism toward the police narrative on all counts is “definitely in order.”

“One of the major problems with reporting on police violence is the degree to which police statements are treated as the gold standard of information instead of being treated with the skepticism they deserve,” Naureckas said. “There's the fog of war that happens in these situations, as well as deliberate deception. We've seen over the course of our focus on these issues that police do lie, they do create evidence to match a narrative that exonerates them. There is no reason to assume that's definitely not happening, which is why you treat police statements as claims rather than as proof.”

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The Apple Does Not Fall Far From the Tree: Donald Trump Jr.'s Nasty Internet Presence

AlterNet.org - September 22, 2016 - 2:39pm
Click here for reuse options! Junior's social media activity is not a surprise, but it's still depressing.

Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son and loudest mouthpiece of Trump dynasty patriarch Donald Trump, has a long history of replicating his father’s ostentatious internet presence.

But who is Donald Trump Jr., really? How is he different from Trump Sr.? 

We took to the internet (namely, Don Jr.'s own internet presence) to find out what makes the eldest Trump son think, now that’s something I want to post for the world to see. The results are as upsetting as they are unsurprising.

1. He’s a fan of alt-right memes.

It’s no secret alt-right nationalists are particularly fond of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. We’ve chronicled the rising tide of, as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton put it, “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it” individuals operating under the guise of “white nationalist populists” who’ve been championing Trump’s campaign and flooding the internet with offensive and obnoxious memes. We’ve also chronicled their deplorable (yes, it is okay to use that word) bullying tactics, typically levied against social justice warriors and liberal commentators on internet message boards and through nameless Twitter accounts.

Considering this, it’s not surprising that low-key white nationalism propaganda permeates Donald Trump Jr.’s social media accounts—a subset of the internet marked by subtle misogyny, alt-right memes and poorly constructed jokes. Like father, like son.

And like his father, Trump Jr. has a difficult time understanding when it’s fitting to repost images on social media. Here’s a pro tip: check to make sure it wasn’t first posted on an anti-Semitic, white supremacist message board, as Trump Sr. found out when he retweeted and later modified an image of Clinton with a six-point star and a pile of cash that was originally posted on 8chan’s alt-right watering hole “/pol/.”

But alas, this sage advice was lost on Trump Jr., who one week ago posted a photoshopped image on Instagram featuring himself alongside self-proclaimed dirty trickster Roger Stone and Alex “Orlando was a false flag” Jones. The image, captioned, “The Deplorables” as a giant “f— you” to Clinton, also featured Pepe the Frog. For the uninitiated (of which Trump Jr. claims to be), Pepe used to be a harmless internet meme, but has since been appropriated as a de facto mascot by the alt-right movement.

2. He’s thinks it's fine to attack people fleeing their homes due to warfare.

One of the ugliest social media posts of this election came courtesy of Trump Jr., when the campaign surrogate compared Syrian refugees to Skittles.

This image says it all. Let's end the politically correct agenda that doesn't put America first. #trump2016 pic.twitter.com/9fHwog7ssN

— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) September 19, 2016

The tweet garnered scores of critical remarks for its flippant take on a complex situation, but in the same vein as Trump Jr.’s need to just Google his damn memes already, the history behind that image is telling.

As it turns out, not only did the photographer who took the Skittles photo, David Kittos, tell the BBC that Trump Jr. used the image without permission, Kittos himself is a refugee.

"In 1974, when I was six years old, I was a refugee from the Turkish occupation of Cyprus,” Kittos said. “So I would never approve the use of this image against refugees.”

Even more telling, as Vox explains, the comparison Trump made in his tweet is “akin to the bad apple spoiling the bunch or Nazi propaganda that compared Jews to toadstools.” The Intercept traced the origin of the quote, finding that the concept dates back to a 1938 book by Julius Streicher, who published one of Hitler’s favorite papers and called for the extermination of the Jews in WWII. Seriously, guys, Google.

As the controversy continued, even Skittles had enough of Trump Jr. Mars, Inc., the company that makes the rainbow candies, released a statement over Twitter:

pic.twitter.com/VUwYKzqujc

— Mars, Incorporated (@MarsGlobal) September 20, 2016

3. He’s a fan of killing majestic animals for sport.

Though not technically posted by Don Jr. himself, images of him and little bro Eric hunting big game resurface on the interweb on a cyclical basis. That doesn’t make it any less shocking to see images of Trump’s sons smiling broadly over the corpse of a dead leopard in Zimbabwe (a big cat classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature).

The last time the images reemerged, Trump Sr. had just accepted the Republican Party nomination. Defending his sons against the 62 percent of Americans who think trophy hunting should be banned, Trump Sr. called his sons “hunters,” and said Eric Trump considers the activity “on par” with golf.

So the family so many people want to represent our country considers slaughtering a beautiful animal the same as a round of golf.

4. He’s a fan of boobs (but maybe not when attached to a “herd of mothers”).

I’m sure you’re dying to know Trump Jr.’s opinions on boobs and the women who have them. Lucky for us, Buzzfeed cataloged a (since deleted) tweet wherein he divulged just what he thinks about the former:

“If ur a boob guy this whole lactation thing is amazing the sports bra the wife is wearing is losing the containment battle!!!” Trump wrote. But it seems while Trump Jr. is certainly into the impact pregnancy has on a woman’s physical attributes, he could do without the annoying things women do when they get together, such as, you know, talk.

Ever notice that if u get a herd of mothers together they arent physically capable of talking about anything but birth pregnancy & diapers?

— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 31, 2011

Well, what else would you like mothers to talk about? 

Yes, it’s possible the only thing more offensive and absurd than Republican nominee Donald Trump’s internet presence is that of his son. It looks like we can expect Don Jr. to continue the family tradition of Making the Internet Hate Again.

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