64% of Republicans Want Trump to Release Tax Returns, Poll Shows

AlterNet.org - August 26, 2016 - 10:14am
Nine in 10 voters say they have made up their made up their minds and Clinton beats Trump by 10 points nationally.

A new poll conducted completely after Donald Trump’s third campaign shakeup shows him losing to rival Hillary Clinton by double digits, with an overwhelming majority of voters calling on the Republican presidential candidate to release his tax returns.

Quinnipiac’s new national poll shows Clinton ahead of Trump, 51 to 41, an eight-point jump since June.

When third party candidates are included in the poll, 10 percent of likely voters back Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, according to the Quinnipiac poll, while Green Party candidate Jill Stein has the support of 4 percent of voters. In that matchup, 34 percent of independents supported Trump, 33 percent for Clinton and 19 percent for Johnson, with 9 percent for Stein.

Johnson is hoping to become the first third-party candidate since Ross Perot in 1992 to qualify for the presidential debates. In order to join Clinton and Trump on stage this fall, Johnson will need to average 15% in five national polls chosen by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Furthermore, 74 percent of all voters tell Quinnipiac that Trump should release his tax returns publicly, including 62 percent of Republicans. A breakdown of the candidates’ supporters from Politico below:

The Democratic nominee drew wide levels of support from women (60 percent to 36 percent), those between the ages of 18-34 (64 percent to 29 percent), and 35-49 (53 percent to 39 percent). Trump, meanwhile, holds a smaller advantage among men (48 percent to 42 percent) and a large lead over Clinton among whites who do not have a college degree (58 percent to 35 percent).

Independent voters prefer Clinton slightly, 46 percent to 41 percent, while likely voters between the ages of 50-64 are split, with 46 percent behind Clinton and 47 percent backing Trump. Voters 65 and older supported Trump 49 percent to 45 percent.

While Trump holds an 11-point edge among all white voters (52 percent to 41 percent), there remains a significant difference between white men and white women.

But even as 59 percent of white men backed Trump to 32 percent for Clinton, the survey shows that Trump still has some ground to make up with white women, a group that Mitt Romney won by 14 points, according to exit polls. Clinton leads Trump 49 percent to 46 percent among white women likely to vote, holding a more comfortable 62-point lead (77 percent to 15 percent) among non-white voters.

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Trump Campaign CEO Assaulted Wife — Then Pressured Her Not to Testify: Reports

AlterNet.org - August 26, 2016 - 10:03am
She recalls being told she “would have no money [and] no way to support the children” if she testified against him.

The recently-installed CEO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was accused of domestic violence against his second wife, who later said he threatened to leave her penniless unless she failed to testify against him.

According to Politico, Breitbart News chairman Stephen Bannon was charged with battery, dissuading a witness, and misdemeanor domestic violence in connection with a January 1996 incident in the couple’s southern California home.

A police report stated that the incident was prompted by an argument about the couple’s finances. At one point, Bannon allegedly walked to his car and was followed by his then-wife. She allegedly spat at him, and he responded by allegedly reaching “up to her from the drivers seat of his car and grabbed her left wrist. He pulled her down, as if he was trying to pull [her] into the car, over the door.”

When she went back into the house to contact authorities, the report stated, Bannon “jumped over her” and their two young children to take the phone from her, at which point he threw it across the room. He was arraigned that March and a trial regarding the case began on July 31 of that year. It was transferred to another court 13 days later, but then dismissed when the woman was “unable to be located.” 

The New York Post reported that the woman, who filed for divorce from Bannon in January 1997, said in court documents that he told her to leave the area. Bannon’s attorney, she said, told her she “would have no money [and] no way to support the children” if she testified against him.

“If I wasn’t in town they couldn’t serve me and I wouldn’t have to go to court,” she said, adding, “He also told me that if I went to court he and his attorney would make sure that I would be the one who was guilty. I was told that I could go anywhere in the world.”

A spokesperson for Bannon, identified as Alexandra Preate, told Politico that “he has a great relationship with the twins, he has a great relationship with the ex-wife, he still supports them.”

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Trump Surrogate Confronted by Undocumented Immigrant on Way to Meeting at Trump Tower

AlterNet.org - August 26, 2016 - 9:37am

Anti-Trump protesters surrounded Trump Tower Thursday in anticipation of Donald Trump's roundtable meeting with black and Latino activists in New York.

“The numbers are going up with the African-American community rapidly,” Trump said at the meeting, insisting he had “always had great relationships with the African-American community" and wants to make America great again for everybody, “including the Hispanics, AfricanAmericans, everybody."

Pastor Mark Burns, an African-American faith leader, defended Trump's statements.

“We have laid hands on him, and I believe without a doubt Mr. Trump truly, truly wants to be a president for all Americans," Burns told MSNBC following the meeing. 

However, the protesters outside Trump Tower adamantly disagreed. One even interjected himself into a heated debate with the Trump surrogate.

"Do you want my mother and my father to be deported?" one protester, an undocumented immigrant, asked Burns repeatedly. "Answer the question."

"There is a proper way..." Burns told the protester, before entering the building.

"It was absolutely a unified front," Burns later told Fox News regarding the meeting. He also claimed that Trump has “a lot of African-American supporters, more than the polls would ever show.”

Burns has previously admitted that his big draw to Trump is the GOP nominee's anti-choice stance. 


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Trump's 'Apprentice' Hopefuls Had to Agree to Bare All

AlterNet.org - August 26, 2016 - 8:51am
And we're not talking brutal honesty.

What makes a good CEO? One might think an innovative idea, sharp marketing skills and infinite capital are contenders, but according to the Republican presidential nominee's former reality show, we should add a willingness to bare all, and he's not talking about our souls. According to an NBC contract for "The Apprentice" obtained by the Daily Beast, Trump's apprentice hopefuls agreed to be filmed, "whether I am clothed, partially clothed or naked, whether I am aware or unaware of such videotaping, filming or recording.”

While it's unknown whether the clause was created by Trump himself, it's not out of character for the man who once said to Esquire, about women in media, "You know, it doesn't really matter what [they] write as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass," or who said on "The View," " if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps, I would be dating her. (The Telegraph has a convenient Donald Trump Sexism Tracker for more jewels like this.)

The Daily Beast also uncovered a contestant application that started off harmlessly enough, with questions about favorite movies and what political office the applicant would run for and why, before slipping in that, by the way, they would have to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases including, “HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HPV, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes," because why not be as horribly invasive as possible even before the cameras start rolling? Oh, and forget about having control over your own sex life while filming because, "Producer may impose one or more Series Rules regarding the type of sexual activity, if any, that participants will be permitted to engage in.” 

The ultimate insult in the contract, possibly worse than nudity, mandatory STD testing, and being within five feet of Trump? Luggage requirements. The contract states that contestants could bring only, "a maximum of two pieces of luggage" with their "personal belongings…restricted to personal clothing and personal hygiene products" that would have to be "pre-approved" by the producer.

They must have prayed NBC's rules were looser than the TSAs. Read the entire article.


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Why You Should Be Concerned About the DHS Plan to Collect Social Media Info on Travelers

AlterNet.org - August 26, 2016 - 8:42am
Will we think twice about what we say online?

In the immediate aftermath of the San Bernardino, Calif. massacre on Dec. 2, 2015, major media outlets, including the New York Times, reported that the Department of Homeland Security had failed to adequately monitor attacker Tashfeen Malik’s social media postings about her support for “violent jihad.” This narrative quickly gained traction, though it was soon proven to be false, as acknowledged by FBI Director James B. Comey when he said two weeks after the attacks: “So far in this investigation we have found no evidence of the posting on social media by either of them at that period of time and thereafter reflecting their commitment to jihad or to martyrdom. I’ve seen some reporting on that.”

Yet, the veracity of this reporting did not appear to matter to other political figures, including presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, who errantly told CNN in March 2016, “If you look at the San Bernardino terrorists, the female terrorist had publicly posted on social media calls to jihad. And yet the Obama administration, in yet another nod to political correctness, refused to even to look to social media.”

Coming at a time of heightened incitement against Muslims and refugees during the 2016 presidential election cycle, false claims about the social media postings of the San Bernardino attackers intensified pressure on federal authorities to escalate their dragnet surveillance of online activities. Now, at least one government agency, DHS, is moving to aggressively expand its powers to collect and monitor the social media information of people seeking to enter the United States through the visa waiver program. Civil liberties advocates say the plan is a human rights disaster that will come down hardest on Muslims, Arabs and people of color.

DHS announced in late June that it proposes to monitor and collect social media and other online information about millions of people seeking to enter the U.S. through the visa waiver program, which allows some foreign nationals from designated countries (currently numbered at 38) to travel to the country for tourism or business for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. The agency would accomplish this aim by modifying key documents—ESTA and Form I-94W—to include a line that states, “Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier.”

DHS claims that the addition, which would be under the purview of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, will “be an optional data field to request social media identifiers to be used for vetting purposes, as well as applicant contact information.” The agency asserts, “Collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyze and investigate the case.”

But Rachel Levinson-Waldman, senior counsel for the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told AlterNet that the proposed change is alarming and potentially far-reaching. “The concern that stands out the most is the chilling effect that this could have,” she said. “The request is so vague; it asks for information about social media and online presence, but there is no definition of what that means. This gives enormous discretion to Customs and Border Protection officers who are looking at information and asking travelers for that information. Any traveler who is coming to the country and thinks he or she might be asked for it, even if it is not officially a requirement, might reasonably think, 'I should be very careful about what I am posting online.’”

In a public statement released Monday, more than 30 civil liberties organizations echoed these concerns, arguing that, “the scale and scope of this program would lead to a significant expansion of intelligence activity.” Their warning was one of many issued as part of a two-month public comment period that closed Monday. DHS is reconsidering heightened social media screenings after previously rejecting a 2011 proposal, according to an MSNBC article by Ari Melber and Safia Samee Ali. For this latest proposal, DHS is required to solicit public input, but the ultimate decision-making power lies with the government agency.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, National Day Laborer Organizing Network and other groups expressed concern that DHS will further expand the federal government’s spying powers. “DHS collection of online identity information is an intelligence surveillance program clothed as a customs administration mechanism,” they wrote. “All of the information collected through ESTA is shared, in bulk, with U.S. intelligence agencies and can be used to seed more intelligence surveillance unrelated to the applicant’s eligibility for a visa waiver. It is likely to be used to augment existing lists and databases for tracking persons of interest to law enforcement and intelligence agencies, with consequences for innocent individuals swept up in those programs.”

According to comment submitted by the ACLU, the proposed change could open the door for the collection of millions of social media users, as well as “the collection of personal information on the tens of millions of social media contacts of those individuals.”

Meanwhile, there is reason to believe that, in practice, such a policy would disproportionately expand surveillance of Muslims and Arabs. “The risk of discrimination based on analysis of social media content and connections is great and will fall hardest on Arab and Muslim communities, whose usernames, posts, contacts, and social networks will be exposed to intense scrutiny,” declared the human rights organizations in their joint statement. “Cultural and linguistic barriers increase the risk that social media activity will be misconstrued.”

Such fears are not hypothetical. The visa waiver program already discriminates against people based on national origin by excluding those hailing from countries the U.S. deems at greater risk of “terrorism.” For example, the state department website explains that “nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011” are ineligible to enter the country under the program. Earlier this year, the U.S. government provoked outcry after it implemented sweeping changes to its visa waiver program that expand discrimination against people of Iraqi, Iranian, Sudanese, and Syrian descent.

Levinson-Waldman said it is troubling that baseless narratives in the aftermath of the San Bernardino massacre likely contributed to a proposed change that itself is based on false assumptions. "The notion that you can look at somebody's online presence and know what their ideology is, what their risk level is, that is so questionable,” she said. “We are talking about 38 countries with multiple languages and nuances of communication. This is so easy to get wrong. This is so ripe for misinterpretation.”

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Tim Kaine Shoots Down Trump's New Attacks in 10 Seconds on Colbert

AlterNet.org - August 26, 2016 - 8:25am
Kaine said Trump's accusations couldn't be further from the truth.

Tim Kaine was really excited to join Stephen Colbert on "The Late Show" Thursday night.

"Have you ever been on a talk show like this before?" Colbert asked Clinton's running mate.

"I never have, never dreamed I would," Kaine said. 

Kaine thinks he joined the campaign at the right time, since most of the "hard work" was already done, he admitted. 

"If you have to be on a presidential campaign, just join in the last 95 days, you get to skip all the really hard work," he joked.

Fending off Trump's new attacks on Clinton is a piece of cake for Kaine. 

"When Hillary Clinton got out of law school, she was working to help advance racial justice in the juvenile justice system in South Carolina and fighting segregation in Alabama," Kaine told Colbert, when asked to refute Trump's accusation of bigotry.

And his own record?

"I got out of law school and was battling housing discrimination in the South and in Virginia," Kaine continued, adding, "[During] his early career, Donald Trump was a real estate guy who got sued by the Justice Department for discriminating against people in housing, writing the letter 'C' on applications if they were minority. Hillary Clinton has got a track record all the way back to being a middle schooler in a Methodist youth group of trying to advance priorities for others, and Donald Trump's for himself." 

The audience applauded. 


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What's New: Two years later

Socialist Project - August 26, 2016 - 2:00am
Before the Mount Polley Mine disaster struck two years ago, our communities of Xat'sull First Nation and Likely lived in the reassurance from B.C. and the company that no such tragedy could ever happen. On Aug. 4, 2014, our lives and the landscape were changed forever, as the impacts of mining are forever. Both our communities rely on the Quesnel Lake watershed for our way of life and economic prosperity.
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12 Examples of Trump’s Racism and White Supremacist Ties Called out by Hillary Clinton

AlterNet.org - August 25, 2016 - 6:44pm
Trump has shown America his true nature time and time again.

Hillary Clinton detailed why Donald Trump is an unfiltered, unapologetic racist who should never be anywhere near the Oval Office, in a speech Thursday at a community college in Reno, Nevada, a swing state with a large Latino electorate.

“From the start, Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia,” Clinton said, before reciting a litany of Trump’s blatantly racist assertions. “He is taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party. His disregard for the values that make our country great is profoundly dangerous.”

What follows are a dozen excerpts from Clinton's speech at Truckee Meadows Community College, where above all, Clinton said that Trump’s ugly prejudices and past business practices, collaborations with white supremacists, and overall temperament make him unfit to be commander in chief. Quoting poet Maya Angelou, she said, “'When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.’ Well, throughout his career and this campaign, Donald Trump has shown us exactly who he is. And I think we should believe him.”

Here are 12 examples cited by Clinton.

1. Deeply Insulting African Americans: Trump's remarks show he has no appreciation for black culture or achievement, Clinton said, but instead utters one ugly cliche after another. “In just the past week, under the guise of ‘outreach’ to African Americans, Trump has stood up in front of largely white audiences and described black communities in such insulting and ignorant terms. ‘Poverty. Rejection.  Horrible education. No housing. No homes. No ownership. Crime at levels nobody has seen.’ ‘Right now,’ he said, ‘you walk down the street and get shot.’ Those are his words.”

2. Racist then, racist now: Trump has a decades-old history of mistreating and stereotyping blacks, Clinton said, starting with his refusal to rent New York City apartments to them. “When he was getting his start in business, he was sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent apartments to black and Latino tenants,” she said. “Their applications would be marked with a C—C for ‘colored’—and then rejected. Three years later, the Justice Department took Trump back to court because he hadn’t changed… And the pattern continued through the decades. State regulators fined one of Trump’s casinos for repeatedly removing black dealers from the floor. No wonder the turnover rate for his minority employees was way above average.”

3. His racist lies don’t stop: Before the 2016 presidential election, Trump was at the forefront of the right-wing effort to discredit President Obama’s legitimacy by questioning his national origin. “Let’s not forget that Trump first gained political prominence leading the charge for the so-called birthers,” she said. “He promoted the racist lie that President Obama is not really an American citizen; part of a sustained effort to delegitimize America’s first black president. In 2015, Trump launched his own campaign for president with another racist lie. He described Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals. And he accused the Mexican government of actively sending them across the border. None of that is true.”

4. 'Textbook definition' of racism: Clinton’s point was to show that Trump’s racism isn't a series of gaffes or mistakes or exceptions, but an ongoing pattern. She also cited the way he has criticized the federal court judge overseeing the litigation against Trump University for ripping off students. “Remember when Trump said a distinguished federal judge born in Indiana couldn’t be trusted to do his job because, quote, ‘He’s a Mexican.’ Think about that,” Clinton said. “The man who today is the standard bearer of the Republican Party said a federal judge, who by the way, had a distinguished career, who had to go into hiding because Mexican drug gangs were after him, who has Mexican heritage but who just like me was born in this country, is somehow incapable solely because of his heritage. Even the Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, described that as the 'textbook definition of a racist comment.’”

5. He courts white supremacists: Clinton said Trump’s impulsive behavior also reveals his sympathies for white racists, such as retweeting their comments to a national political audience. “This is someone who retweets white supremacists online, like the user who goes by the name ‘white-genocide-TM.’” Clinton said. “Trump took this fringe bigot with a few dozen followers and spread his message to 11 million people. His campaign famously posted an antisemitic image – a Star of David imposed over a sea of dollar bills – that first appeared on white supremacist websites. The Trump campaign has also selected a prominent white nationalist leader as a delegate in California. And they only dropped him under pressure.”

6. Relishes discredited conspiracy theories: This is another dimension of Trump’s grievance politics that has no basis in fact but appeals to uninformed people’s worst prejudices. “Through it all, he has continued pushing discredited conspiracy theories with racist undertones,” she said. “You remember, he said that thousands of American Muslims in New Jersey cheered the 9/11 attacks. They didn’t. He suggested that Senator Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination. Perhaps in Trump’s mind, because Mr. Cruz was a Cuban immigrant, he must have had something to do with it. And there is absolutely, of course, no evidence of that. Just recently, Trump claimed that President Obama founded ISIS.  And then he repeated that over and over again.”

7. Embraces tabloid trash as fact: This would almost be funny if it weren’t serious, Clinton said, pointing to Trump’s pattern of grabbing onto supermarket headlines as if they were real. “This is what happens when you treat the National Enquirer like gospel,” she said. “They said in October I’d be dead in six months. It’s also what happens when you listen to the radio host Alex Jones, who claims that 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombings were inside jobs. He even said, and this really is just so disgusting, he even said that the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre were child actors and no one was actually killed there. I don’t know what actually happens in somebody’s mind or how dark their heart must be, to say something like that. But Trump didn’t challenge those lies. He went on Jones’ show and said, ‘Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.’”

8. Don’t fall for his new softer tone: In recent days, Trump has reshuffled his top campaign staff and sought to stick to a more moderated and scripted tone by reading his speeches from a teleprompter. Clinton said that doesn’t change the substance of some of his vindictive racist proposals. “He would form a deportation force to round up millions of immigrants and kick them out of the country,” she said. “He says that children born to undocumented parents in America are ‘anchor babies’ and should be deported. Millions of them. He’d ban Muslims around the world from entering our country just because of their religion. Think about that for a minute. How would it actually work? People landing in U.S. airports would line up to get their passports stamped, just like they do now. But in Trump’s America, when they step up to the counter, the immigration officer would ask every single person, ‘What is your religion?’”

9. He hires the worst, not the best: It’s not unusual in politics for candidates to hire sycophants, but in Trump’s case his latest campaign CEO is as accomplished a bigot as he is, Clinton said, then giving examples. “The latest shakeup was designed to, quote, ‘Let Trump be Trump.’ So to do that, he hired Stephen Bannon, the head of a right-wing website called Breitbart.com, as campaign CEO,” she said. “Now to give you a flavor of his work, here are a few headlines they’ve published. And I’m not making this up:

  • Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.
  • Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?
  • Gabby Giffords: The Gun Control Movement’s Human Shield
  • Hoist It High And Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims A Glorious Heritage

“That [last] one came shortly after the Charleston massacre, when Democrats and Republicans alike were doing everything they could to heal racial divides that Breitbart and Bannon tried to inflame,” Clinton said.

10. Campaigns with arch white nationalists: Meanwhile, back on the campaign trail, Trump is surrounding himself with political figures known for extremely inflammatory remarks. “Just yesterday, one of Britain’s most prominent right-wing leaders, a man named Nigel Farage, who stoked anti-immigrant sentiments to win the referendum to have Britain leave the European Union, campaigned with Donald Trump in Mississippi,” Clinton said. “Farage has called for the bar of legal immigrants from public school and health services. Has said women, and I quote, ‘are worth less than men,’ and supports scrapping laws that prevent employers from discriminating based on race. That’s who Donald Trump wants by his side when he is addressing an audience of American voters.”  

11. Mainstreaming the far-right fringe: Clinton said fringe elements in American politics are not new, but it’s unprecedented in recent decades for a presidential candidate to stoke racist resentment to further his candidacy. “There’s always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, a lot of it rising from racial resentment,” she said. “But it’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it and giving it a national megaphone. Until now. On David Duke’s radio show the other day, the mood was jubilant. ‘We appear to have taken over the Republican Party,’ one white supremacist said. Duke laughed. ‘No, there’s still more work to do,’ he replied.”

12. Old haters in new language: One of the most troubling and enduring aspects of Trump’s primetime racism has been to expose the ugly underbelly of American society that filters the world through racist prejudice and grievances—even if they re-label themselves as something seemingly more acceptable. Clinton called out Trump’s latest efforts to rebrand himself as well as the parallel efforts by the white supremacists at his side who are doing the same. “No one should have any illusions about what’s really going on here,” she said. “The names may have changed. Racists now call themselves ‘racialists.’ White supremacists now call themselves ‘white nationalists.’ The paranoid fringe now calls itself ‘alt-right.’ But the hate burns just as bright. And now Trump is trying to rebrand himself as well. But don’t be fooled.”

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California Legislature Approves Landmark Measure to Protect Elephants, but Will Governor Brown Sign It?

AlterNet.org - August 25, 2016 - 6:40pm
The California Senate passed a bill that could make the state the second in the nation to ban the use of bullhooks on elephants in traveling shows and circuses.

Both chambers of the California legislature have given overwhelming bipartisan approval to Senate Bill 1062, a measure to ban the use of bullhooks on elephants in circuses and traveling shows. Authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-33, SB 1062 gained final approval on August 11 with a concurrence vote after previously passing the Senate and Assembly by votes of 27 to 10 and 65 to 7 respectively.

Nicole Paquette, vice president of wildlife protection for The Humane Society of the United States said: "California has once again demonstrated its commitment to animal protection. California’s passage of SB 1062 comports with these changing public values and concerns about the humane treatment of animals."

Gov. Brown’s signature on SB 1062 will make California the second state in the nation after Rhode Island to protect elephants from bullhook abuse. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus acknowledged that its decision to remove performing elephants from its shows was prompted by the public’s rapidly changing opinion about the use of wild animals for entertainment.

"California's commitment to the humane treatment of elephants is strengthened today," said Sen. Lara. "Banning bullhooks removes cruel and horrific treatment against these kind, gentle animals. I urge the Governor to sign this critical measure."

Ed Stewart, president and co-founder of the Performing Animal Welfare Society said: “By its very design, the bullhook is meant to inflict pain and instill fear. The use of this archaic and inhumane weapon on elephants – a species that is self-aware, intelligent and emotional - is abhorrent. The time is right to ban this instrument of pain that has no place in modern society, and give elephants the respect and protection they deserve. PAWS thanks California legislators for leading the way.”

Dr. Joel Parrot, president and CEO of the Oakland Zoo said: “We thank Sen. Lara for introducing SB 1062. Oakland Zoo is proud have been part of the passionate team that succeeded in prohibiting bullhook use in the City of Oakland and we hope to now see it banned throughout the state. California zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums no longer use bullhooks on elephants. Instead, we rely on modern training and positive reinforcement techniques that have existed for more than twenty-five years.”

SB 1062 is supported by The HSUS, Humane Society International, the Oakland Zoo, the California Association of Zoos and Aquariums, PAWS, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and dozens of organizations and cities. 

The bill now goes to Gov. Brown for his signature. The bill comes just a month after Rhode Island enacted similar legislation.

If signed by Gov. Brown, SB 1062 would take effect January 1, 2018.

Last year, the legislature passed a similar bill, which passed by a wide margin in both the Senate and the Assembly but was vetoed by Gov. Brown. SB 1062 addresses the Governor’s concerns. Specifically, violators of the prohibition would be subjected to a civil fine and possible permit revocation.

The legislature further demonstrated its commitment to elephant protection last year by voting overwhelmingly to pass AB 96, closing a loophole in the state’s decades-old ivory ban.

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Hillary Clinton Uses a Major Speech to Expose the Racist Fever Swamps That Fuel the Trump Campaign

AlterNet.org - August 25, 2016 - 6:08pm
The Democratic presidential candidate lifted the veil on her opponent's ties to white supremacists.

On Thursday, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton yanked the most gossamer of veils covering her Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, detailing his associations with the denizens of the alternative right, the new name for the old enclaves of white supremacy and white nationalism. 

In a speech delivered to a rally at Truckee Community College in Reno, Nevada (video below), Clinton spoke in a concerned and conversational tone, turning away from the more stern demeanor she has often displayed on the campaign trail. “From the start,” she said, “Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia.”

This was not simply a good, strong speech calling out an opponent for his intolerance; it was a landmark speech in the annals of modern presidential politics. The fever swamps of the right have rarely been acknowledged in campaign speeches for what they are, and mainstream media have been loath to wade through the muck. Instead, the media establishment has treated those who have devoted their careers to covering right-wing movements as being nearly as fringe-y as media figures often perceive the movements to be.

Now that Trump, as Clinton said, “is taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party,” the mainstream media are catching up. When one of the two major-party candidates announces she’s going to do a speech focusing on her opponent’s use of an army of haters, media have to shine their lights in that direction.

If there was ever a moment Donald Trump handed to Hillary Clinton, this was it. In what he claimed were appeals to African-American voters (delivered before virtually all-white crowds), Trump demeaned their lives, telling them they were uneducated and unsuccessful, and it was all the Democrats’ fault. For good measure, he called Hillary Clinton a bigot. (In a now-viral video of Trump’s “bigot” comment, even the Trump supporter standing to his right shows she can’t quite believe he just said it.)

Now in fairness, it must be said that Hillary Clinton, in her acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination, asked voters to reject Trump’s “bigotry and bombast.” But how else might one describe Trump’s rhetoric when he describes Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals, or tweets out false crime statistics from an alt-right tweeter that depicted African Americans as a horde of murderers who target whites?

Just as mainstream media had turned their gaze back to the GOP’s favorite topic of the Clinton Foundation, Trump turned it back to his own cozy relations with people who launch anti-Semitic attacks on journalists who challenge Trump, who would like to re-segregate America, and who launch invective-laced diatribes about Muslim Americans.

Trump’s been getting away with this stuff for a long, long time. As Fortune magazine reported, between December 2015 and March of this year, he retweeted Twitter posts from white supremacist accounts some 75 times. In Cleveland, during the Republican National Convention, his adviser Roger Stone cohosted a rally with right-wing radio talk-show host Alex Jones that featured the alt-right darling Milo Yiannopoulos of Breitbart News as a speaker. (The next day, Yiannopoulos was banned by Twitter for his racist attacks on the actor/comedian Leslie Jones for the crime of being black and female and starring in the reboot of the Ghostbusters movie franchise.)

Through all of that, mainstream media still only cocked its head a bit—until the hiring last week of Stephen K. Bannon as Trump’s campaign chief. As luck would have it, before he officially joined the campaign, journalist Sarah Posner caught up with Bannon during the RNC at a screening of his latest film, "Torchbearer," which Bannon wrote and directed. In that interview, Bannon made a boast that turned the gaze of Big Media his way. Speaking of the Breitbart site, Bannon told Posner, “We’re the platform for the alt-right.”

(The alt-right is not a pretty place. Just take a gander at the hashtag #altright—but wait until after you’ve eaten.)

Bannon came in for special attention in the Clinton speech. She even read off a raft of headlines from Breitbart News:

Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.”

Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?

Gabby Giffords: The Gun Control Movement’s Human Shield

Hoist It High And Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims A Glorious Heritage

In her speech, Clinton really broke it all down. Speaking of Trump, she said, “This is someone who retweets white supremacists online, like the user who goes by the name, @WhiteGenocideTM. Trump took this fringe bigot with a few dozen followers and spread his message to 11 million people.”

She continued: “His campaign famously posted an anti-Semitic image—a Star of David imposed over a sea of dollar bills—that first appeared on a white supremacist website.” (That Star of David was posted next to an image of Clinton’s face and emblazoned with the words, “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!”)

Clinton went on to mention that Trump declined to repudiate the endorsement of former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, or to renounce the anti-Semitic trolling of journalists by his followers. Nor did she allow any distance between Trump and his intolerant followers, reminding listeners that Trump had come under the scrutiny of the Justice Department early in his career for refusing to rent apartments in his company's buildings to blacks or Latinos.

Basically, Clinton walked America through a white subculture that distills the essence of American racism to an even more toxic brew, and showed how the candidate of one of the nation’s two major political parties is leveraging its toxicity for sale to garden-variety racists.

In truth, this is what has been going on in the GOP since the nomination of Barry Goldwater as its presidential nominee in 1964, when the racist John Birch Society lined up behind him. (It’s no wonder Goldwater campaign veterans Phyllis Schlafly and Richard Viguerie are Trump-boosters.) It’s just that Trump does it so baldly, so nakedly.

However the November election shakes out, 2016 will prove a turning point in American politics. It will be remembered as the year in which America couldn’t look away from its whole, real self.

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Mylan Pushed for Law to Make EpiPens Mandatory in U.S. Schools—Then Fled Overseas to Avoid Taxes

AlterNet.org - August 25, 2016 - 2:59pm
Heather Bresch raised the price of a lifesaving device for children, and conveniently found a tax shelter for her crooked company.

EpiPens are mandatory for public schools in at least 11 states after Congress passed a law recommending their use—but the drug’s manufacturer pays no U.S. taxes at all after relocating overseas.

Mylan spent $4 million lobbying Congress to pass the 2013 School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, which offers incentives to schools to stock the potentially lifesaving auto-injectors.

About a year and a half later, Mylan completed a corporate inversion to change its legal residence to the Netherlands, a tax haven, while keeping its headquarters and most of its employees in the Pittsburgh area.

The move allowed Mylan to cut its U.S. effective tax rate from 9.4 percent in 2013, the year Congress helped protect its market dominance, to negative 4.7 percent in 2015, according the group Americans For Tax Fairness.

Mylan’s worldwide effective tax rate fell after moving to the Netherlands from 16.2 percent to 7.4 percent—even as its global profits shot up by 22.5 percent between 2013 and 2015.

The company receives millions in U.S. taxpayer funding through federal programs such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which has helped offset consumer costs as Mylan has jacked up EpiPen prices.

EpiPens now cost $609, more than twice the $265 rate in 2013 and more than five times higher than their $104 cost in 2009, not long after the company acquired the drug from the German drugmaker Merck.

The company’s CEO, Heather Bresch, has raised her own pay at similar rates to the drug she lobbied Congress to promote through federal law.

Bresch took home $4.9 million in 2009, but last year she made $13.1 million—and the year before, when she moved Mylan overseas after securing the Emergency Epinephrine Act, she made a whopping $25.8 million.

The CEO’s father, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), was not among the 27 Democratic sponsors of the bill—which also drew 10 Republican co-sponsors and one independent.

The pharmaceutical company’s “EpiPen4Schools” program, which started in August 2012, before the bill was passed but after it was introduced, offers free or discounted EpiPens to schools with one catch.

To qualify for the discounted $112.10 price, schools must agree not to purchase similar products—such as the lesser known Adrenaclick—from Mylan’s competitors.

A spokesperson for the company said the competition requirement was no longer part of the program and did not say when it was ended, but it was apparently still shown on order forms as recently as June 2015, STAT reported.

Mylan also helps keep the drug’s price artificially high by funding Snack Safely, the public relations arm of the nonprofit Food Allergy Research and Education group.

Snack Safely publishes social media-ready blog posts promoting Mylan’s interests—such as arguing against a petition drive to make EpiPens available over-the-counter, which would dramatically cut its cost.

Watch Bresch discuss Mylan’s corporate inversion in this 2015 interview with Fortune:

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In Search of Christine Chubbuck: The Mystery of TV's First On-Air Suicide

AlterNet.org - August 25, 2016 - 1:59pm
Documentary meets thriller in a fascinating inquiry into the Sarasota newswoman who shot herself on air in 1974.

At its most basic level, “Kate Plays Christine” is a film about an actress who is struggling to develop a character. It’s a documentary, in the sense that for most of the film actress Kate Lyn Sheil appears as herself, trying on wigs and costumes, running lines, gathering fragmentary information about the life of the person she’s trying to portray. But the film, written and directed by Robert Greene (who made the similarly indescribable 2014 film “Actress”), also includes fictional elements since some of it is scripted and because Sheil’s character is a real person so wrapped in mystery that she’s almost an urban myth.

Not much is known about Christine Chubbuck, a TV newswoman in Sarasota, Florida, who shot herself on air during a 1974 broadcast. As far as anyone knows, her live suicide was the first such event in the then-brief history of television. For reasons that cannot be entirely a coincidence, Chubbuck is the approximate subject of two new films, this one and a more conventional drama called “Christine” that stars Rebecca Hall. (Both premiered at Sundance earlier this year; no distribution plans for “Christine” have been announced.)

What Sheil and Greene endeavor to do in “Kate Plays Christine” is push past the encrusted mythology and epochal significance and get a little closer to the real person and what she actually did. In a handwritten account found in front of her on the studio desk after the shooting, Chubbuck had exercised the precision and detachment of a trained journalist: This was a “suicide attempt” and she was now in critical condition at a local hospital, she had written. That was exactly how initial news accounts reported the story. Although Chubbuck had shot herself through the back of the head and suffered irreparable brain damage, she did not die for several hours.

At least in part, Chubbuck’s on-air suicide inspired Paddy Chayefsky to write the Oscar-winning screenplay for “Network,” one of the landmark American films of the 1970s. As Sheil observes during “Kate Plays Christine,” in Chayefsky’s fictional rendition the event was turned virtually upside down: A woman who was clearly suffering from profound depression, trapped in obscurity at a low-rated station in a second-tier city (at best), became the blustering, angry hero that Peter Finch played, the famous anchor of a national news broadcast. I don’t exactly interpret that as a criticism of Chayefsky or “Network,” a work that was aimed at a specific target and a broad national audience. It’s more an observation about the ingrained and often unconscious misogyny of American culture in general.

To paraphrase a local historian that Sheil meets in “Kate Plays Christine,” Christine Chubbuck died twice. She changed media history and lingers on in afterlife as a permanent asterisk every time someone else re-enacts a new iteration of the gruesome spectacle that she inaugurated. But the woman herself has almost literally been erased. Sheil has great difficulty finding anyone in Sarasota — which even by Florida standards is a city of tourists and transients — who remembers this semi-mythical event happened there, let alone anyone who knew Chubbuck personally. The TV station where Chubbuck worked no longer exists; the anonymous suburban building where she shot herself is now a dance studio; the gun store (really and truly called the Bullet Hole) where she bought her .38-caliber revolver has moved to a new location. (For reasons I cannot begin to fathom, the proprietor agrees to act out a scene in which Sheil, wearing her Chubbuck wig and costume, purchases the fateful weapon.)

In 1974, Chubbuck’s suicide was only briefly a news story and did not make the front page of any major national newspapers. One of the most striking interludes in “Kate Plays Christine” comes when Greene interpolates audio excerpts from evening news broadcasts. Walter Cronkite and John Chancellor calmly read brief, factual descriptions of this troubling event and then move on to other stories. There were no reports live from the scene, no interviews with neighbors or anguished relatives and no supposed experts offering instant analysis. There was no videotape, mercifully; no one would have even considered such a thing. Whether any recording of the Chubbuck shooting still exists, in fact, is not clear, although one was apparently made at the time. At any rate, none is publicly available on YouTube or anywhere else, according to “Kate Plays Christine.”


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Congress Must Take Action to Block Weapon Sales to Saudi Arabia

AlterNet.org - August 25, 2016 - 1:38pm
Congress has 30 days to block the sale of these weapons. It is a moral imperative that they do so.

Last week, the Pentagon announced the approval of the sale of an additional $1.15 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia. The callousness of this announcement—just days after Saudi Arabia rebooted its devastating bombing campaign in Yemen—is breathtaking. The Saudi-led coalition has used American-made fighter jets, bombs and other munitions in a relentless onslaught against Yemen that has left thousands of innocent civilians dead and created a humanitarian crisis that the United Nations characterizes as a “catastrophe.” In just the last few days, the Saudi-led coalition has killed at least 35 people—most of them women and children—in three airstrikes against a school, a residential neighborhood and a hospital in northern Yemen.

Congress has thirty days to block the sale of these weapons. It is a moral imperative that they do so.

The internal crisis in Yemen spiraled out of control when the Saudis intervened in March 2015. The BBC has reported that nearly all of the more than 3,000 civilian deaths reported in the conflict have been caused by airstrikes from the Saudi-led coalition. Saudi air strikes have also decimated Yemen’s infrastructure, leaving more than 21 million people desperately in need of humanitarian assistance.

The Saudi aggression is only possible with U.S. weapons and logistical support. The U.S. government has authorized the sale of $20 billion of American-made weapons to the Saudis since their offensive began 18 months ago. Sen.Chris Murphy says this makes the U.S. complicit in a humanitarian crisis. “If you talk to Yemeni Americans, they will tell you in Yemen this isn’t a Saudi bombing campaign, it’s a U.S. bombing campaign,” said Sen. Murphy. “Every single civilian death inside Yemen is attributable to the United States.”

Given the devastation of the attack on Yemen, a diverse group of organizations and individuals have called on the U.S. government to stop the sale of additional weapons to Saudi Arabia. The United Nations has said that Saudi air strikes on civilian targets likely constitute war crimes. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called for an end of all weapon sales to Saudi Arabia until the crisis is resolved. Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy and Republican Sen.Rand Paul have both voiced concern over the new weapon sales, with Paul stating “Saudi Arabia is an unreliable ally with a poor human rights record. We should not rush to sell them advanced arms and promote an arms race in the Middle East.”

Some would argue that the Saudis are a long-time stable ally in the turbulent Middle East. But to paraphrase the cliché, with allies like these, who needs enemies? Saudi Arabia is the number one exporter of radical Islamic extremism on the planet. Fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were radicalized Saudi citizens and the recently declassified “28 pages” showed that a Saudi intelligence officer supplied the men with money, housing and training to carry out their attack. The Saudis oppress religious minorities, women, LGBT people and dissidents, and dozens of non-violent participants in Arab Spring protests face or have been executed, usually by beheading. Yet the United States continues its unquestioning support of this repressive, totalitarian regime.

In approving the sale of these weapons, the Obama Administration has abdicated responsibility for ensuring that the United States is not complicit in war crimes. Now it is up to Congress to stop this ill-conceived arms deal from going through. For the sake of the millions of displaced Yemenis still suffering through air strikes and thousands more innocent civilians who could be slaughtered with these weapons, I’m pleading that they do so.


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'You're Supporting a Bigot; That Makes You Part of the Bigotry': Charles Blow's Master Class in Cutting Through Trump Hackery

AlterNet.org - August 25, 2016 - 1:29pm
The New York Times columnist's direct and unapologetic takedown of a black Trump surrogate is a model to emulate.

Donald Trump’s ascendance to power over the Republican Party was made possible by how he outmaneuvered the American corporate news media. As I explained in an earlier Salon piece, Donald Trump, with his background in reality TV and professional wrestling, created a spectacle that rewarded him with at least $3 billion in free media coverage. Trump’s sophisticated meta game also allowed him to exploit a risk-averse news-media establishment that operates according to a clear and predictable set of rules and conventions governing “the boundaries of the approved public discourse.”

These rules and conventions consist of maintaining the appearance of “objectivity” and “fairness,” perpetuating a “both sides do it” framework when discussing Republicans and Democrats, and an obsessive need to present “all sides of an issue.” Clear statements of fact and truth are treated as mere opinions though as Paul Krugman once said, “if one party declared that the earth was flat, the headlines would read ‘Views Differ on Shape of Planet.’”

The American corporate news media also prefers to feature generalists who understand these rules as opposed to real experts who will not obey said script. Ultimately, in covering political campaigns and elections, the American corporate news media is more interested in reporting about the “horse race” — because it is an easy story to communicate — than in critically evaluating the specific policy proposals and qualifications of a given candidate.

When confronted by the Donald Trump phenomenon, the American corporate news media was flummoxed by his disregard for facts, inconsistency and willingness to rapidly change his positions on a given issue, overt racism and bigotry of his followers and movement, fascism-fueled hostility and contempt for journalists, and utter disregard for the rules of normal politics. Media elites and other opinion leaders were paralyzed in an act of political rubbernecking while Trump pummeled and mocked them all the way to the literal and metaphorical political bank.

On Monday’s edition of “CNN Tonight with Don Lemon,” New York Times columnist and author Charles Blow refused to comply with Donald Trump’s political con job and an American corporate news media that has acted irresponsibly in aiding and abetting his presidential campaign. In an exchange with Donald Trump’s minion Bruce Levell, Charles Blow did not allow Trump’s clear pattern, habit and strategy of racism and bigotry to be obfuscated or repackaged.

As detailed by a transcript from CNN:

BLOW: And I know a bigot when I see a bigot. And you are supporting a bigot and that makes you part of the bigotry that’s Donald Trump.

LEVELL: I know someone who doesn’t tell the truth on national TV when I see it, sir.

BLOW: Right. And I know this. A bigot is a bigot. You’re supporting a bigot. That makes you part of the bigotry. And you are part of the problem that black America faces. That what black people don’t need is not somebody to solve our problems like we are some sort of algebraic equation. What black people need is dismantling . . .

The exchange continued:

LEVELL: . . . you can’t sit on national TV and call someone a racist, sir.

BLOW: I called him a bigot and I called you a supporter of that bigotry, and therefore part of that bigotry. And you are part of what the problem with African-Americans.

LEMON: Let him get in. Let him get in. Go ahead, Bruce.

BLOW: Yes, I said that to you.

Charles Blow conducted a master class in how best to derail Donald Trump’s news-media con job. Blow was direct, unapologetic, did not concede any territory of agreement or compromise and clearly communicated how Trump’s behavior and policies are racist and that by implication his supporters are as well.

Charles Blow also used the racial optics of his segment on CNN to great effect. Donald Trump, like other Republicans, deploys black conservatives as human mascots to deliver some of his most toxic, offensive and racist policies. This is a cynical attempt to leverage the symbolic moral authority of African-Americans to deflect and defuse any suggestion that Trump and other conservatives are racists or that their policies will have a negative impact on nonwhites. Because Don Lemon, Bruce Levell and Charles Blow are all black men, Levell was not allowed an easy out or pivot.

In social psychology, the bystander effect is a phenomenon whereby a group or crowd of people will often ignore an individual person who is in distress. This dynamic changes when a member of the crowd or group decides to render aid to the person in distress. Other people will then follow the new rule — what is now one of care and concern — instead of ignoring and looking away.

On Monday’s edition of “CNN Tonight with Don Lemon,” Charles Blow established a new rule for how journalists and other commentators should interact with Donald Trump’s agents and rabble. Blow is one of the few prominent voices who have consistently refused to legitimize or excuse-make for Donald Trump’s political campaign of bigotry, racism, nativism and lies. The question now becomes, Will other members of the Fourth Estate follow Charles Blow’s lead and the new rule that he has tried to establish or will they continue to be supplicants for Donald Trump?


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The Intersection of the War on Drugs and the Jihad Attacks on France

AlterNet.org - August 25, 2016 - 1:11pm
In France, there are many ways in which the pool of violence caused by drug prohibition bleeds into homegrown jihadism.

For two years now, the world has been watching as France is subjected to the most vicious jihadi attacks of any European country. From the murder of the staff of Charlie Hebdo, to the massacre of partying twenty-somethings at the Bataclan, to the driving of a truck into the crowds celebrating Bastille Day, the most obvious question is – why France? Why are such a disproportionate number of their own citizens behaving this way?

Last year, I travelled around France, to research an additional chapter for the French edition of my book Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. There are many complex reasons why France is facing more home-grown jihadism than any other western country – but on my journey, it was explained to me by many people that there is one key reason that is barely being debated. France has the most extreme and intense ‘war on drugs’ in western Europe – and there is growing evidence that there is a connecting line from that fact, to this wider crisis.

“We have the power to kill you”

One afternoon, in the late 1980s, a 12-year-old boy was playing in the street with his friends. They all lived in the notorious district of Paris known as 93; but it was peaceful that day. If you had seen these boys playing together, you might have noticed that Fabrice Olivet looked a little different. They were all white, while Fabrice’s father came from Benin, a former French colony, so he was black. To these kids, it made no difference – they all played together, as French children, in the French capital, on a summer day.

Suddenly, the police approached the boys. A bike had been stolen, they said. They looked past the white kids, ignoring them, and immediately went to Fabrice. He, they believed, must have done it.

Most of the non-white French citizens I spoke with had a story like this in their adolescence – a moment when they realised the officials of the French state were going to treat them differently to their white friends. And for most of them, it centred around the drug laws.

As Fabrice got older, he started – like most French teenagers – to smoke cannabis. French teens have some of the highest levels of cannabis use in Europe, and I noticed that my white, middle-class friends in France seemed to think drugs were already effectively decriminalised. The police don’t bother them about it; it’s no big deal. By contrast, the French people of Arab or African descent I got to know told a different story.

When Fabrice was sixteen, the police stopped him on the street – as they do routinely to non-white kids, and very rarely to white kids – and they found a small bag of cannabis in his shoe. They took him to the local police station, and there, they started to mock and insult him. They said he had drugs because he was black, and he should go back to his own country.

Then – as Fabrice recalls – they took out a gun, and put it to his head, and said: “We are going to kill you! We have the power to kill you.”

All over the world, the ‘war on drugs’ has been waged largely against minority groups who the society already wanted – consciously or unconsciously – to keep out, or keep down. In the US, the National Survey on Household Drug Abuse found that African-Americans are no more likely to sell or use drugs than any other ethnic group – yet they make up the overwhelming majority of people punished for it. At any given time, 40% of African-American men between the ages of 15 and 35 are in prison, on probation, or have a warrant out for their arrest – and the majority are for drug-related offences. 

Fabrice and I sat outside a café in Saint-Denis, in Paris, drinking coffee and looking out over high-rise apartment blocks. Fabrice is a tall man, with long limbs, and an air of distant sadness.

In France, he told me, “the war on drugs is targeted on people of colour,” just as much as in the US. “When you ask ordinary people about drugs, they always talk about Arabs, and the suburbs, and say – ‘Arabs are selling drugs. This is the problem.’ And in fact, Michelle Alexander [who wrote a book about the racism of the drug war in the US called The New Jim Crow] showed very clearly that this problem is always used as a weapon for racism. It is exactly the same in France.”

“All these problems we have – including this problem of Charlie [Hebdo] – are connected to this problem,” he explained to me. “The relationship between police and the people of colour of this country is very bad. The question of drug policy is a secret story of this big mess.”

Tracing a pattern

There are many ways, I learned, in which the drug war bleeds into jihadism.

The first is that the ‘war on drugs’ has given the police a pretext to constantly harass non-white French citizens, on the street, and in their homes – to go after them almost constantly. France’s drug laws are the most severe in western Europe. This is one of the only democratic countries where drug use– as opposed to possession – is a crime, and people can be sent to prison for it. You can be sent to prison for a year for a single joint, and five years for a single plant.

The result is that many of the banlieues – the ugly concrete suburbs of poverty that donut French cities – often look like they are under military occupation. I walked around the battered city of Sevran with Jean-Luc Garcia, a big, bulky former member of the French gendarmerie, who belonged for many years to a unit whose job is to keep public order. When violence broke out, he was one of the first people sent, to restore order. It’s the kind of work that people on the French right really admire, and he looks and sounds, at first glance, like a typical voter for the UMP – or maybe even the Front National.

As we paced the streets, Jean-Luc began to tell me about how he realised something about France’s drug war. Since he was 17, he has smoked cannabis every now and then. He is a typical French citizen. It helps him to relax, he says, and doesn’t seem to cause him any problems. His job was physically demanding – he was often attacked – and he never under-performed.

Yet as a police officer, he was being sent into places that he felt were being attacked and destroyed, just to suppress drug use just like his own. One day, he had to supervise a young prisoner who had been arrested, and get him to court. The young man had been found with 200 grams of cannabis. Jean-Luc stood in the court-room and watched as the judge refused every request for mercy. He was sent to prison. “We have a law that is very harsh,” he tells me, “but it’s not efficient.” And Jean-Luc wondered: was the boy being treated especially brutally because he was brown-skinned? Why did they only ever seem to go to non-white neighbourhoods to do drug busts?

The more he watched France’s ‘war on drugs’, the more he began to worry about this question, although his concern became deeper and more complex. “It’s not only about racism,” he tells me. “It’s mostly about a kind of class war – a war against people who are in poor conditions. Mostly if you are white, brown or black skinned – if you are living in those places where social conditions are not good, then you are confronted more by law enforcement.”

Fabrice had explained to me what it does to your head, to be subjected to this from when you hit puberty. It makes many young Arab and Muslim kids feel the French state is persecuting them. “When you see such a mess, people are going to Islam to be protected,” he says. “Because they feel it is the only way to be recognised as what they are – people of colour, living in France, people from originally a different culture. They want just to be recognised for what they are.”

Fabrice has seen it happen to many people. The constant police harassment makes the messages of fundamentalist groups – you’ll never be French; they’ll never accept you; a democratic society is a con; white people get to use and sell drugs with impunity, while you get condemned for it – seem more plausible.

For almost all the people who have carried out murderous attacks in the past two years, this was a core part of their formative experience as French citizens. Sharif and Said Kouachi – who committed the murders at Charlie Hebdo – had been drug users and dealers. Amedy Coulibaly, who murdered Jewish people in a supermarket on the day of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, had been picked up by the police for drug offences. The Bataclan killers, the Nice murderer – the pattern runs across almost all of them.

The unusual intensity of the French drug war – and its racist focus – has led to more disaffection and rage from its targets. Nobody is suggesting this is the only or even the main factor; but it is a significant one. It’s a key reason why Fabrice set up Auto-Support Des Usagers De Drogues (ASUD), the Association of Drug Users, to fight for a more honest debate.

A "War for Drugs"

But this is only the first way in which this relationship between the drug war and jihadi attacks plays out.

As we walked through Sevran, the former gendarmerie officer Jean-Luc Garcia explained to me: “There is no other way to describe the consequences of these anti-drugs laws, than by comparing it to US alcohol prohibition. We have the same consequences, with the same process,” he says.

When you ban drugs, they don’t vanish. Instead, they are transferred from legal, licensed businesses, to armed criminal gangs. Legal businesses have recourse to the law to protect their property – so they don’t commit acts of violence. An illegal trader obviously can’t go to the police to protect their property – so they have to establish their trade, and maintain their trade, through violence. They have to fight. As the American writer Charles Bowden put it, the ‘war on drugs’ creates a ‘war for drugs’.

That’s why in many parts of France, Jean-Luc explained, “when you have the prohibitionist system, then after you have criminal gangs that are ruling the streets and part of the society.” He continued: “There is a logic here. If you see people who are willing to use Kalashnikovs to save their business – that’s part of the deal. It’s not for pleasure that they are using Kalashnikovs,” he tells me, shaking his head. The more you crack down on drugs, the more their power grows, he adds: “Prohibition as a system is a way to promote and help criminals.”

This relates to fundamentalist violence in several ways. It means that these young men who later become jihadis grow up in an environment where carrying out acts of systematic violence is normalised. It’s part of growing up. You get your early training in violence – and the internal deadening you need in order to carry it out – by fighting rival dealers.

And it means they grow up in an environment where it’s not hard to get hold of guns, through the same criminal distribution networks that bring them drugs, and not hard to learn how to use them. The German defector from Isis, Harry Sarfo, recently explained that a key concern for Isis is getting guns to their supporters in Europe. The ‘war for drugs’ makes that far easier. These are cities and banlieues awash with guns, for that very reason.

To understand how normalised this violence has become, I went to see Stéphane Gatignon, the mayor of Sevran. In the year leading up to our conversation, he had to tell eight mothers that their sons have been killed in the ‘war for drugs’. He knows the number will only grow. “It’s unbearable. To have to tell a mother that her son has been shot dead. It’s awful,” he said, and looked away.

Sevran is a city to the north-east of Paris, with nearly 50,000 residents, and it’s notorious as a hub for the prohibited drug trade. Stéphane has been the mayor since 2001 – and it has given him an education in what the ‘war on drugs’ really means. He knows that most people in France believe the drug war is something that happens somewhere else – a problem for the Americans and Mexicans, maybe. “That’s quite typical French thinking – that we have our own [very different] problems, but it’s nonsensical,” he tells me. “France has been a little bit blind. We should try to open our eyes and look at the real origins of the problems.”

In fact, far from being absent, he believes this is an urgent crisis for France. He says: “This question of the current drug laws is something that’s of deep concern when you look at the situation in France – with a society that is quite close to exploding.”

A local mayor can’t be removed from the reality on the ground, in the way that national politicians can. He talked about the drug-map of Sevran – and what it means for ordinary residents – with forensic detail. “When you have a mother in such places that are pressured by dealers, who want to buy her silence, or want to use her flat as a place to stash their stuff, that’s an increase in violence that pushes the people to madness. When you have to show your ID card when you want to enter your own home, because the entrance is owned by the dealers, then there is a level of violence that’s massive – and it can drive people crazy.”

The former head of the French drug squad, Olivier Foll, has noted that there are 843 “no-go zones run by drug gangs,” creating “a state inside the state.”

There is so much chaos in the city, and drug prohibition makes it so impossible to establish control, that Stéphane Gatignon even appealed for the UN to send blue helmet peace-keepers to Sevran.

“We know that the fatal shootings are a result of our drug prohibition policy,” Stéphane said to me. “That’s a fact.”

When you have significant parts of your country flooded by guns, and where young people are being trained to commit violence and regard it as normal, and where the police are regarded as a despised occupying force that nobody will co-operate with, that will empower people who want to carry out violence in other causes. That’s a key reason why the pool of violence caused by drug prohibition overlaps so tightly with the pool of violence caused by jihadism.

A field of flowers

There is an alternative. It is playing out in France now.

All across France, there are fields, where opium poppies grow. These poppies are used to make heroin. There is no violence associated with these poppies, or the heroin they produce. Nobody fights or dies for them.

The people who use the heroin do not become sick. They do not develop abscesses, or have to have their limbs amputated.

This is because these poppies – and the resulting heroin – are part of a legal trade. France is one of a handful of countries that has been granted permission by the United Nations to grow opiates legally, for the global pain relief market. (The others are Turkey, India, Australia, Spain, and Hungary). They go to make the heroin that is used in hospitals across the developed world.

The problems associated with the ‘heroin trade’ follow these flowers, or the factories where they are refined, or the users who feel it run through their veins.

That is because these problems are not, in fact, problems caused by the drug itself. They are caused by the prohibition of the drug.

When a drug is legal, nobody goes to war for it. Just as there are no violent alcohol dealers in Chicago today, there are now no violent heroin dealers in Switzerland – just across the border with France – where they have legalised heroin for addicts. (They have also had literally no fatal overdoses on legal heroin in Switzerland since the policy change was introduced over a decade ago.)

One day soon, when you are driving through the French countryside, you may see these poppy fields. Try to picture them as a vision of what France can be – if it chooses a different path.

Yet only a handful of public figures are ready to see this. The US has a horrific drug war – but it also has a vibrant debate about it, and real progress, with four states now fully legalising cannabis, and more likely to follow. In France, the debate is shrouded in silence at best, and crude moralism at worst. There is – in particular – a remarkable blindness to the racism of this war. Today, there are 210,000 people arrested for drug offences in France every year, and 60% are just for using drugs a single time. In any other European country, we would know what proportion of those arrests are of non-white people. These figures would be gathered as a matter of course by the government. I suspect we would find it is the vast majority.

But Olivier Maguet, who works for l’Association Française Pour La Réduction des Risques Liés à l’Usage Des Drogues (AFR), explained to me: “It’s forbidden in this country to have a database including the race of people.” It is literally illegal for the government to gather these statistics. You don’t know how much more likely non-white citizens are to be victimised by the drug war, because it is against the law to count.

Whenever I asked others why this was the case, I would be given long and abstract lectures about how France has a concept of citizenship, derived from their revolution, that believes all citizens should be treated equally before the law. I admire that tradition, strongly. It is the right approach. But the way to uphold the idea of equal citizenship, and equality before the law, is to check whether you live up to it in practice – not to cover your eyes and ears and declare your abstract purity. To use the fact that no statistics are gathered as evidence that France’s drug war is not racist would be like banning HIV tests, and then announcing that there is no AIDS in France. Yet that is the position of the government.

In fact, it goes further: the debate about the drug war is officially suppressed. In France, it is a crime to talk about illegal drug use in “a positive light.” The Body Shop was even prosecuted a few years ago for selling cream to treat dry skin, made in part from hemp, because it had a cannabis leaf on its label.

In the nation of Voltaire, in the country that rallied so inspiringly to defend free speech in light of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, this has a significant chilling effect on the debate, and it may be one reason why France has the smallest legalisation movement of any European country I know. It certainly makes people afraid to promote safer ways of using drugs, like testing ecstasy tablets for any contaminants they might contain. Activists who would like to do that work told me they are too frightened to do it.

Dr Anne Coppell – one of the bravest voices for change in France – explained to me: “That’s our main contradiction. We have a discourse of the rights of man, democracy – but…” She laughed sadly, and waves her hand though the air. “In Germany, they are more pragmatic. Their cities had a problem in the 80s, so they tried to solve it. They asked Amsterdam – how did you solve it? And they followed. The same for Switzerland. In France, it’s not a pragmatic approach – it’s an ideological debate… We are not pragmatic. That is a very big problem we have.”

The French approach, I said to her, sounds remarkably like the US approach. “In Europe, I think France is very near the States… But [French] politicians follow the American policy – except they don’t understand that the Americans are changing. So they follow a policy that has no chief any more.”

And – not coincidentally – the country with the harshest drug war in western Europe also has one of the highest levels of drug use in the European Union – and the worst rate of teenagers using drugs. More than half a million French people use a prohibited drug every day; 1.2 million use regularly; and a further 3.8 million use occasionally. These figures are considerably worse than in countries where full decriminalisation has happened. For example: 39% of French 15- and 16-year-olds have smoked cannabis, compared to 19% in Portugal, where all drugs were decriminalised in 2001. This means a 15-year-old in Portugal, where it has been legal to use cannabis for her whole life, is half as likely to use cannabis as her equivalent in France, where there has been a drug war raging for her whole life.

All this, then, is for nothing.

“We know the solution”

How could things be different from France, if they took their success in legalising and regulating the market for opium poppies, and broadened it to include other drugs?

For Chasing The Scream, I went to the countries that have adopted the most severe possible drug policies, and the countries that have adopted the most compassionate possible drug policies. In the countries that had chosen compassion and regulation – from Portugal, where all drugs have been decriminalised, to Switzerland, where heroin was legalised for addicts – I noticed a pattern in the evidence.

Everywhere that has moved away from strict prohibition has seen a fall in hostility between the police, and marginalised groups. And where they have chosen a system of legal regulation, they have seen a significant decline in violence, and in criminal networks.

These are, of course, long-term trends. Nobody thinks they’re a simple (or sole) answer to a very complex question. But if France moved towards regulating its drug trade, it would – over time – see several changes. The police would not have a license to harass and militarise communities where non-white people live. Those communities would become less hostile and traumatised. There would be significantly less violence in those communities: professor Jeffrey Miron has shown how the murder rate in the US plummeted dramatically when alcohol prohibition ended. With violence less normalised, this violence would spill over into other causes less. And the networks that distribute deadly weapons – which at the moment are simply a sub-set of the drug trade – would be much easier to break up.

“We know the solution” to France’s drug crisis, Fabrice Olivet, whose harassment by the police began when he was 12-years-old, told me. “If somebody came from space, from another planet, he would think – how is this possible? Because it’s very easy to solve it… But you have a lot of difficulty to explain very simple things to ordinary people, because prohibition is a big propaganda [success] – the most efficient propaganda I had ever seen.” The challenge today, he says, is “to get ordinary people out of their beliefs that drugs exist by themselves – that drugs are some kind of ghost that arrive in a place and take people over, and you have to fight this ghost with the military, and weapons.”

Another world

Not long after cannabis was legalised in Colorado, Jean-Luc Garcia, the gendarmerie officer who turned against France’s drug war, flew there, to see what it looked like. He went into a legal store on the streets of Denver. He noticed a few things at once. There was no criminality involved with the trade any more. There were no crack-downs. There was no chaos. There were no Kalashnikovs. All the violence had been taken out of the trade. People were paying taxes on the cannabis they bought, and “this money will be used in a normal way,” he says, not to fund more crime.

He noticed that on the wall of the legal cannabis store, there was a map of the world, where visitors could stick a pin to show where they were from, and where they would like to see this model of safer, regulated drug use spread.

Jean-Luc took out a pin, and he pressed it into the little dot that represented Paris. If he’s right, Paris would become a place where – in time – these vicious jihadi attacks became less likely.

Johann Hari’s New York Times-bestselling book Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs is available in paperback now. This article draws on the French edition of the book, La Brimade Des Stups, published by Slatkine.

This article is published as part of an editorial partnership between openDemocracy and CELS, an Argentine human rights organization with a broad agenda that includes advocating for drug policies respectful of human rights.

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Under Threat in Tanzania

AlterNet.org - August 25, 2016 - 12:57pm
A new president is preventing Tanzania's move to multi-party democracy, free elections and economic development.

September 1 is an important day for democracy in Tanzania. The political opposition party Chadema (Party of Progress and Democracy) will hold demonstrations across the nation against the growing dictatorial tendencies of the ruling government party CCM (Party of Revolution). Since last fall's controversial elections, Tanzania's new president, John Magufuli, has undertaken a series of crackdowns on political activities increasingly threatening Tanzania's move to multi-party democracy, free and fair elections and economic development.

Tanzania is popularly known for its wonderful landscapes including beautiful white beaches and the snow-capped majesty of Mount Kilimanjaro. It also contains some of the earth's greatest remaining wild areas including the endless, rolling, animal-filled plains of the Serengeti, some of the largest remaining populations of elephants and several of the last strongholds for threatened chimpanzees such as Gombe, made famous by the studies of the biologist Jane Goodall.

Tanzania has also long been both a cornerstone of East African and global trade. For over 1,000 years, the island of Zanzibar and the Tanzanian coast have played an important role for African trade with the Middle East, Asia and Europe. Swahili, the lingua franca of East Africa, developed in Zanzibar of an old Bantu dialect is mixed with Arabic, Hindi and today English. With plentiful natural resources a population of 50 million people, half of whom are under 18, Tanzania represents an essential development story for the world in the 21st century.

Since independence in 1962, Tanzania has been ruled by one party, CCM. Two years later, Tanganika and Zanzibar, formed a united republic, with Zanzibar also electing a separate president and assembly. For half its existence, the new republic was led by Julius Nyerere, who was one of the leaders of the Cold War's global Non-Aligned movement and initiated an independent socialist development model. After a decade of stagnation and growing corruption, Nyerere introduced multi-party democracy in the mid-'90s, which has fitfully grown over the past two decades leading to last October's controversy filled elections.

Last year, after CCM initiated and then halted constitutional reform, the main opposition parties formed the Ukawa coalition. Initially formed to bring about constitutional reform, Ukawa evolved into an election coalition led by Chadema and CUF (Civic United Front) the main opposition party of Zanzibar and the Tanzanian coast. The former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa left CCM and became Chadema's candidate for President of Tanzania, while Seif Sharif Hamad became CUF's presidential candidate for Zanzibar.

The election campaign was relatively free, though the government harassed opposition operations throughout. The real problem came with the vote count. On election evening, the government raided Chadema's three vote-tallying centers in Dar es Salaam, arresting a 170 people, including campaign staff and 150 college students, making an independent vote count verification impossible. Based on government released figures, CCM won the election with 58% to 42% of the vote.

However in Zanzibar, Ukawa coalition member CUF was able to independently verify the vote count and claimed victory. Faced with defeat two days later, the government called-off their official count and instituted a new Zanzibar election several months later. Neither CUF or Chadema participated or recognized the CCM victor in this do-over election.

Since the elections, things have gone from bad to worse for democracy in Tanzania. With the Ukawa coalition now having almost a third of the parliament, President Magafuli and CCM banned television coverage of the parliament. With Chadema gaining control of 18 district councils and three of the biggest cities—Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Mbeya—the government seeks to remove local power including tax collection and budgeting from the localities and place it instead in control of the central government.

Adding to last year's egregious Cyber-Crime law, making it a potential crime to conduct political activity on the internet, the government seeks now to make it a crime, punishable by 20 years imprisonment, to share government information. In addition, several months ago, the government banned political rallies and demonstrations, using active police enforcement.

As the the threat to political freedom grows, corruption continues, needed economic development curtails, and crucial wildlife conservation falters, most importantly Tanzania's ignominious leadership in elephant poaching. Chadema called an emergency meeting two weeks ago and called for active resistance against growing autocratic rule of Magafuli and CCM. Announcing the launch of a program called Ukuta—Swahili for wall—to build a political wall between the people of Tanzania and dictatorship.

Chadema will lead a series of demonstrations across the country on September 1 and the world needs to pay attention. Tanzania remains an important country both in Africa and the world; with a healthy and vital politics it can lead necessary development and reform across the region. As the president of Chadema's Youth Wing, Bavicha, stated in support of Ukuta, “Freedom and multi-party democracy are not gifts from the rulers, they are part of the constitution.”

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The Disturbing Dawn of the Alt-Right: Donald Trump's the Leader of a Dark Movement in America

AlterNet.org - August 25, 2016 - 12:31pm
The rising right-wing ethno-nationalist movement in Europe is the progenitor of Trump and the American movement.

After months of squabbling about whether it’s acceptable to use the “F” word (fascism) it seems at long last that we have come to some kind of consensus about what to call Donald Trump’s “philosophy”: alt-right, also known as white nationalism. With the hiring of the former chief of Breitbart media, ground zero for the alt-right movement, as Trump’s campaign chairman, the interest in it has now gone mainstream. Hillary Clinton will be made a speech about it on Thursday.

Alt-right white nationalism is an apt term for a campaign that has electrified white supremacists, so it makes sense that most people would focus on the racial angle. According to this analysis in the Guardian, the rising right-wing ethno-nationalist movement in Europe is the progenitor of this American version, which adheres to its basic premise but brings its own special brand of deep-fried racism. Both share a belief that the white race is under siege and that “demands for diversity in the workplace, which means less white males in particular forms the foundation for the movement.” So it stands to reason that Trump’s border wall, Muslim ban and bellicose appeals for “law and order” (along with his overt misogyny) are a clarion call to this faction.

But while it’s obvious that the subtle and not-so-subtle racial messaging are among the primary attractions for Trump voters, they are also responding to an economic appeal, much of which stems from the misconception that because Trump himself is a successful businessman he must know what he’s doing. But as Dave Johnson of Campaign for America’s Future pointed out, many of the white working-class folk who believe Trump’s promises to “bring back jobs” would be surprised to know what he actually means by that:

Trump says the U.S. is not “competitive” with other countries. He has said repeatedly we need to lower American wages, taxes and regulations to the point where we can be “competitive” with Mexico and China. In other words, he is saying that business won’t send jobs out of the country if we can make wages low enough here.His “plan” is to compete by pitting states against each other to lower wages, particularly by encouraging businesses to move to low-wage anti-union states. Once the layoffs start, workers will be willing to take big pay cuts to keep their jobs. Johnson shows how Trump believes “companies should continue this in a ‘rotation’ of wage cuts, state to state, until you go ‘full-circle,’ getting wages low enough across the entire country. Then the U.S. will be ‘competitive’ with China and Mexico.

So this white nationalist “populist” economic appeal is less than meets the eye. In that regard, Trump is just another “cuck-servative” (you can look it up) who thinks he can fool the rubes into making people like him even richer than they already are. But all that is subsumed in Trump’s message of white grievance and American decline.

One of the most important characteristics of this faction is a strong attraction to authoritarianism. This fascinating report at Vox by Amanda Taub tracked studies which show that “more than 65 percent of people who scored highest on the authoritarianism questions were GOP voters and more than 55 percent of surveyed Republicans scored as “high” or “very high” authoritarians”:

"Authoritarians, we found in our survey, tend to most fear threats that come from abroad, such as ISIS or Russia or Iran. These are threats, the researchers point out, to which people can put a face; a scary terrorist or an Iranian ayatollah."

That fear is also something the American alt-right has in common with their European cousins, but I see it having a different effect here. In Europe — where the alt-right is exemplified by the U.K.’s Nigel Farage  — the desire truly is for a withdrawal from external obligations and dismantling the institutions that have blurred national identity and political independence. They are afraid of mass immigration from the Middle East in the age of terrorism and the economic crisis emboldened the usual European suspects. So some observers are tempted to believe that Trump’s invocation of the old isolationist slogan “America First” will likewise result in a pull-back of American global empire. But a closer look at Trump’s rhetoric shows that he has a much different worldview and so do his followers.

Look at his slogan: “Make America Great Again.” Implicit in those four words is the idea of America dominating the planet as it did after World War II. Of course, it still does, but in Trump’s mind, America has become a weak and struggling nation hardly able to keep up with countries like Mexico. He believes other countries are laughing at us and treating us disrespectfully, which has had him seething for over 30 years. Back then it was Japan “cuckolding” America. Today it’s China and Mexico, both of which he promises to sanction for failing to properly “respect” America — with a thinly veiled violent threat backing it up. After all, trade wars have often led to shooting wars.

American nationalism cannot be separated from its status as the world’s only superpower. Trump  promises to build up the American military to the most massive force in history (of course, it already is) so that “nobody will mess with us ever again.” He doesn’t say that America should pull back from its security guarantees, merely that it should require other nations to pay more for the protection. He doesn’t take nuclear war off the table, one can assume for the reason that it’s a cheaper, quicker way to “take care of” problems than these relatively smaller wars we’ve waged since the world burned in the two epic conflagrations of the 20th century. His nationalism is all about domination not withdrawal.

And that view is shared by the American alt-right. Here’s one Breitbart writer making the case:

"I’d like an America that makes 7 'Fast & Furious' movies without making concessions to Ayatollah Khamenei. I’d like an America that humiliates the likes of Vladimir Putin, not vice-versa. An America that punches back eight times as hard over a tiny offense. An America that everyone might laugh at but ultimately stop attacking because it can only end poorly for them."

Trump’s nationalism is absolutely about ethno-purity and there’s an element of populism as well, although it’s clearly a misdirection. But it’s largely about wounded national pride which has been a potent motivating force on the American right for a very long time. There’s a reason Trump is now playing the conservative anthem “Proud to Be an American” at his rallies. Good old-fashioned jingoism is the one thing that brings the old right, the new right and the alt-right together.


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A Shocking Story of How a Chicago Cop Killed a Teen—Then Locked Up His Best Friend for the Murder

AlterNet.org - August 25, 2016 - 12:29pm
The disturbing investigation is unfolding four years later.

In 2012, 19-year-old Tevin Louis and his best friend Marquise Sampson allegedly robbed a restaurant. After reportedly making off with about $1,200, the two ran in different directions. Sampson crossed paths with an officer, who gave chase and ultimately opened fire, killing the teenager. Louis arrived at the scene where his friend was shot, and attempted to cross the police line. He was arrested for disorderly conduct. But in a shocking turn, Louis was eventually charged with first-degree murder in the death of his best friend, even though it was the officer who killed Sampson. Louis was found guilty. He is now serving a 32-year sentence for armed robbery and a 20-year sentence for murder. Louis is one of 10 people with similar cases exposed in the Chicago Reader’s new article headlined “Charged with Murder, But They Didn’t Kill Anyone—Police Did.” For more, we speak with the article’s authors: Alison Flowers, a journalist with the Chicago-based Invisible Institute, and Sarah Macaraeg, an independent journalist and fellow with the International Center for Journalists.

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Trump Spokesperson Katrina Pierson Reveals the Secret of Understanding Trump—Ignore the Words

AlterNet.org - August 25, 2016 - 12:13pm
Donald Trump is now able to communicate with followers using pure dog whistle.

Donald Trump’s new immigration policy may may seem confusing but that’s because you haven’t adopted the Katrina Pierson Zen of Trump.


Katrinia Pierson on CNN just said Trump hasn't "changed his position on immigration, he's just changed the words he's saying."

— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) August 25, 2016


Freed from the meaning of those left wing, ivory tower words, Donald Trump is now able to communicate with followers using pure dog whistle. He can say things about “caring” and talk about “compassion” but his true followers are not thrown off by those ugly constructions of consonants and vowels. They grok that Trump still means to fold, spindle, and mutilate every person in the country unable to produce papers on demand. They know that the Sacred Wall and the Great Non-White Deportation are still safe in their minds, where they’re unaffected by the blurts of sound ordinary human beings use to exchange ideas.

Of course, not everyone has their bullet-necklance antenna aligned to properly receive the signals that keeps Pierson singing the Trumpy tune.

Ann Coulter revealed her sense of disgust with Donald Trump's latest comments on immigration in which he suggested an openness to changing his hard-line stance on illegal immigration. ...

The conservative commentator, in the midst of a book tour for "In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!" that included a launch party hosted by Breitbart News on Wednesday night, threatened earlier this week to abandon her efforts if Trump is softening his stance on immigration. 

It’s a Breitbart vs. Breitbart intramural match for the heart of the alt-right. Coulter will be using words. Trump … whatever he’s using, it’ll change in ten minutes.

Stop listening to the words, Ann. Just peer into Trump’s soul. See? It’s as ugly as it ever was.


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Your Immune System May Decide How Your Social Life Goes

AlterNet.org - August 25, 2016 - 12:03pm
A new study finds brain and lymphatic connections change how we might view our capacity for being social.

Self-help authors have collectively made billions off books that are essentially how-to guides on winning friends and influencing people. There may be some useful insights in those tracts—hey, use everything ya got—but a new study suggests sociability isn’t just a matter of temperament, agreeableness, quick wit or sustaining eye contact during conversations. In some ways, it comes down to biology. According to a new study, the health of your immune system is directly correlated to the healthiness of your social life.

Detection of the link was made possible by a groundbreaking scientific discovery last year. The brain and immune system aren’t fully discrete, but instead are actively engaged with each other. This finding presented a game-changing new fact; a Discovery article on the revelation was titled “They’ll Have to Rewrite the Textbooks.” Writer Josh Barney described the conclusion, that “the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist,” as one that stunned the scientific community. “I really did not believe there were structures in the body that we were not aware of. I thought the body was mapped,” Jonathan Kipnis, a neuroscience professor the University of Virginia study co-author, marveled.

The new study, which builds on those findings, sheds light on how that interconnectedness influences our social behaviors. Researchers involved in the 2015 study noted that an immune molecule called “interferon gamma” seemed to play a key role in social behavior, and as Science Daily writes, “flies, zebrafish, mice and rats, activate interferon gamma responses when they are social.” Production of that same molecule happens when bodies encounter pathogens—“bacteria, viruses, parasites” and the like—and ensure the immune system functions as it should. When scientists blocked the molecule in mice, the mice turned largely antisocial and their immune systems suffered. When they turned its production back on, in addition to the expected immunoresponse, researchers noticed the mice also became far more interested in hanging out with other mice. Their obvious conclusion? Interferon gamma, and the health of an immune system, play a "profound role in maintaining proper social function."

“Not only are we showing that [the brain and the adaptive immune system] are closely interacting, but some of our behavior traits might have evolved because of our immune response to pathogens," Kipnis told Science Daily. "It's crazy, but maybe we are just multicellular battlefields for two ancient forces: pathogens and the immune system. Part of our personality may actually be dictated by the immune system."

While all this likely brings up a lot of questions, an obvious one is, why is this true? Why does having a compromised immune system affect our social skills? Researchers see some practical reasons for this evolutionary development.

“The hypothesis is that when organisms come together, you have a higher propensity to spread infection,” Anthony J. Filiano, lead author of the study, told Science Daily. “So you need to be social, but [in doing so] you have a higher chance of spreading pathogens. The idea is that interferon gamma, in evolution, has been used as a more efficient way to both boost social behavior while boosting an anti-pathogen response."

Speaking to the Atlantic’s Julie Beck, UMass Medical School professor and study co-author Vladimir Litvak explained further. “Naturally if individuals tend to spread diseases, that could easily result in extinction of the whole colony. So you have to have a very strong immune response.”

In other words, when your immune system isn’t in the best state, maybe you feel less like getting together with all your very nice—but germ-carrying—friends because your body’s not in the best state to fend off potential illnesses.

Taken together, these studies may hold massive implications for the future treatment of psychological conditions that have long baffled us. As Beck notes, “immune system dysfunction is linked to several diseases that involve social dysfunction—dementia, schizophrenia, and autism spectrum disorder among them.” In the future, a first step to address these disorders might begin with paying medical attention to their immune systems. The idea—which is not yet a done deal, since there’s lots more studies to be conducted—could upend our traditional thinking about approaches to treatment for psychiatric conditions.

“A lot of the preclinical studies have targeted synapses in the brain, and all of these therapies have failed,” study author Filiano said to Epoch Times. “The immune system, just because of our access to it, is a lot easier to target.”

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