AuthorTopic: Knarf's Knewz Channel  (Read 1371420 times)

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Mexico: 500 years later, scientists discover what killed the Aztecs
« Reply #10530 on: January 16, 2018, 03:31:44 AM »
Within five years, 15 million people – 80% of the population – were wiped out in an epidemic named ‘cocoliztli’, meaning pestilence

In 1545 disaster struck Mexico’s Aztec nation when people started coming down with high fevers, headaches and bleeding from the eyes, mouth and nose. Death generally followed in three or four days.

Within five years as many as 15 million people – an estimated 80% of the population – were wiped out in an epidemic the locals named “cocoliztli”. The word means pestilence in the Aztec Nahuatl language. Its cause, however, has been in questioned for nearly 500 years.

On Monday scientists swept aside smallpox, measles, mumps, and influenza as likely suspects, identifying a typhoid-like “enteric fever” for which they found DNA evidence on the teeth of long-dead victims.

“The 1545-50 cocoliztli was one of many epidemics to affect Mexico after the arrival of Europeans, but was specifically the second of three epidemics that were most devastating and led to the largest number of human losses,” said Ashild Vagene of the University of Tuebingen in Germany.

“The cause of this epidemic has been debated for over a century by historians and now we are able to provide direct evidence through the use of ancient DNA to contribute to a longstanding historical question.”

Vagene co-authored a study published in the science journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

The outbreak is considered one of the deadliest epidemics in human history, approaching the Black Death bubonic plague that killed 25 million people in western Europe in the 14th century – about half the regional population.

European colonisers spread disease as they ventured into the new world, bringing germs local populations had never encountered and lacked immunity against.

The 1545 cocoliztli pestilence in what is today Mexico and part of Guatemala came just two decades after a smallpox epidemic killed an estimated 5-8 million people in the immediate wake of the Spanish arrival.

A second outbreak from 1576 to 1578 killed half the remaining population.

“In the cities and large towns, big ditches were dug, and from morning to sunset the priests did nothing else but carry the dead bodies and throw them into the ditches,” is how Franciscan historian Fray Juan de Torquemada is cited as chronicling the period.

Even at the time, physicians said the symptoms did not match those of better-known diseases such as measles and malaria.

Scientists now say they have probably unmasked the culprit. Analysing DNA extracted from 29 skeletons buried in a cocoliztli cemetery, they found traces of the salmonella enterica bacterium, of the Paratyphi C variety.

It is known to cause enteric fever, of which typhoid is an example. The Mexican subtype rarely causes human infection today.

Many salmonella strains spread via infected food or water, and may have travelled to Mexico with domesticated animals brought by the Spanish, the research team said.

Salmonella enterica is known to have been present in Europe in the middle ages.

“We tested for all bacterial pathogens and DNA viruses for which genomic data is available,” and salmonella enterica was the only germ detected, said co-author Alexander Herbig, also from Tuebingen University.

It is possible, however, that some pathogens were either undetectable or completely unknown.“We cannot say with certainty that S enterica was the cause of the cocoliztli epidemic,” said team member Kirsten Bos. “We do believe that it should be considered a strong candidate.”
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US advises travellers to North Korea to write will and make funeral arrangements
« Reply #10531 on: January 16, 2018, 03:34:37 AM »

Otto Warmbier died after being imprisoned in North Korea

American citizens who wish to visit North Korea should write a will, make funeral arrangements and designate carers for their children and pets, a chilling travel advisory from the US State Department has warned.

The fresh advice was issued last week, reported Fox News, and comes on the back of new rules issued last year that now require Americans to apply for a special validation to travel to the hermit kingdom, which is only handed out in “very limited circumstances.”

The travel ban was enforced in the aftermath of the death of US student Otto Warmbier, 22, who was arrested by the North Koreans while on holiday in Pyongyang and sentenced to 15 years hard labour. He returned home last summer in a mysterious coma and died shortly afterwards.

The state department cautions that it will be unable to offer emergency assistance as it has no embassy in the country, and recommends that travellers prepare for the worst.

“Draft a will and designate appropriate insurance beneficiaries and/or power of attorney; discuss a plan with loved ones regarding care/custody of children, pet, property, belongings, non-liquid assets (collections, artwork, etc),” says the recommendation.

President Donald Trump designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism in November, citing Kim Jong-un’s ‘murderous’ rogue regime and Warmbier’s death as the reasons.

North Korea is also classified as a ‘Level 4 – Do Not Travel’ country, alongside Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Mali, Yemen, Libya and Somalia.

The new advisory appears to have been issued despite a tentative thaw in relations between North and South Korea, who have met twice in the past week, and for the first time in over two years, to discuss Pyongyang’s participation in the February Winter Olympics. 

But while offering an olive branch to the South, Kim Jong-un has done little to defuse hostility with the US, reiterating last week that his missiles were pointing in America’s direction.

Senior American officials have also reportedly discussed a limited military strike, or “bloody nose”, option to contain Pyongyang’s advancing nuclear and missiles programme.

The US, meanwhile, is continuing to bolster its presence around the Korean Peninsula by deploying stealth bombers, at least one extra aircraft carrier and a new amphibious assault ship to the region.
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McDonald's to drop foam packaging by year's end
« Reply #10532 on: January 16, 2018, 03:37:17 AM »
McDonald’s will stop using plastic foam cups, which keep drinks icy cold but make environmentalists red hot, by the end of this year.

The world’s largest restaurant operator quietly disclosed the decision on its website, along with its plan to use recycled and certified sources for all of its fiber-based packaging by 2020.

“We also plan to eliminate foam packaging from our global system by the end of 2018,” the company states on its website.

It’s the first time the fast-food giant has openly committed to a deadline to completely stop using polystyrene drink containers, which are eco-unfriendly and nearly impossible to recycle. The containers for its large cold drinks represent a mere 2 percent of its packaging, which still comes out to millions of dollars and cups annually.

The decision is expected to ease tensions between McDonald’s and shareholder activists, who last year pushed the Oak Brook-based company to assess the environmental damage caused by using foam containers.

McDonald’s for years has been using more environmentally friendly paper wrappings and containers but it’s taken a lot of flak for its plastic foam cups.

Last spring, the company beat back a nonbinding shareholder resolution aimed at ending foam container usage that garnered a surprisingly strong 32 percent of votes cast.

In July, the Tribune reported that McDonald’s was reintroducing the plastic foam cups in the Chicago area. Environmentalists told me the cups also were being used in other parts of the country and internationally _ an assertion McDonald’s declined to address.

At that time, this column chided the company’s decision to go with foam cups as a tone-deaf throwback to McDonald’s old-school selling ways.

Some McDonald’s franchisees, operators and customers like the utility of the cups. But their use undercut CEO Steve Easterbrook’s modernization efforts, including his outreach to young adults _ many of whom prefer to do business with socially responsible organizations.

McDonald’s, which is relocating to Chicago, did not respond to my request Wednesday to talk about its plans.

One satisfied constituent is California-based As You Sow, a corporate responsibility group that sponsored last year’s shareholder resolution at McDonald’s. It planned to introduce a similar resolution calling on the burger chain to assess the environmental impact of foam packaging this year but will drop those plans in light of the McDonald’s move.

McDonald’s is expected to announce a packaging and recycling initiative later this week, said Conrad MacKerron, a senior vice president of As You Sow. “We do appreciate what McDonald’s has done,” he said. “It’s taken a long time, but better late than never.”

It’s been nearly 27 years since McDonald’s made big news by getting rid of polystyrene “clamshells” for its hamburgers and other food items, replacing them with specially treated paper-based wrappings.

McDonald’s decision to completely stop using polystyrene will hopefully resonate with other fast-food providers, including Dunkin’ Donuts and Chick-fil-A, which remain purveyors of this dodgy packaging.

Internationally, McDonald’s decision is expected to help curtail the use of foam packaging in growing Asian markets, where fast-food companies are expanding and recycling efforts are becoming increasingly important.

“It sends a global signal and that’s of value,” MacKerron said.
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Nearly 280,000 Medicaid patient records breached in Oklahoma hack
« Reply #10533 on: January 16, 2018, 03:40:30 AM »
A hacker gained access to an Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences network in November and accessed folders containing Medicaid billing data.

Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences

An unauthorized user hacked into the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences network in November, accessing folders that contained the Medicaid billing information of 279,865 patients.

According to the breach notice, officials discovered the intrusion on Nov. 7. The affected Medicaid folders were removed from the network and third-party access was terminated the next day.

OSUCHS launched an investigation and hired an outside security firm to determine whether the folders were compromised. Officials couldn't rule out third-party access.

The folders contained patient names, Medicaid numbers, provider names, dates of service and treatment information. Only one Social Security number was on the server. Officials said these folders didn't contain medical records.

However, it's important to note cybercriminals can use this type of information for medical fraud.

"For patients affected by this incident, please be alert to any healthcare services you did not receive from any of your providers," officials said in a statement. "If you learn of any services you did not receive, please contact your provider and Medicaid immediately."

OSUCHS began notifying patients by mail on January 5 and established a dedicated call center to field questions from impacted patients. The health system also updated its security features as a result of the hack.
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Severe Storm Fionn to slam northwest Europe
« Reply #10534 on: January 16, 2018, 03:43:06 AM »
A winter storm is heading towards Europe, threatening widespread disruption on Wednesday night and Thursday.

The continent's northwest is already facing an onslaught from brisk winds and squally showers, with thunder snow likely across the British Isles on Tuesday.

The conditions are expected to go further downhill on Wednesday night as a weather system rapidly intensifies as it hurtles across the Atlantic.

The storm is expected to develop so quickly that it will undergo what is known as "explosive cyclogenesis", turning the area of low pressure into a weather bomb, triggering extremely strong winds, torrential rain and heavy snow.

Once developed, the storm will be named as Fionn.

The UK Met Office is warning of the risk of power cuts, with the possible closure of some bridges and cancellations of road, rail and ferry services.

It cautions that injuries and danger to life from flying debris are possible, along with some damage to buildings. Large waves are expected to affect some western coasts with beach material being thrown onto sea fronts, coastal roads and properties.

The winds across the UK are likely to be gusting to 130km/h in some places, with up to 20 centimetres of snow over high ground.

This amount of snow could cause vehicles and passengers to become stranded, and cut off some rural communities.

The wind is then expected to strengthen as it crosses the North Sea, with parts of the Netherlands and northern Germany seeing the strongest of the winds.

Sustained winds of up to 90km/h are possible, with far stronger gusts expected.

This could cause major damage, uprooting trees and ripping down powerlines, as well as the possibility of ripping roofs from homes.

All those with interests in the area are urged to keep a close eye on the forecast.
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Katy Jurado: Why Google honours her today
« Reply #10535 on: January 16, 2018, 03:45:41 AM »

Katy Jurado would have been 94 on Tuesday

Best known for her participation in the 1952 film High Noon and hailed as "an actress of Mexico and the world", Katy Jurado would have been 94 on Tuesday, January 16.

In her honour, Google is changing its logo in the United States, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Iceland, Sweden, Croatia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Indonesia, and Japan.

Below is her story.
Secret contract

    Maria Cristina Estella Marcella Jurado de Garcia (better known as Katy Jurado) was born in 1924 to wealthy family in the city of Guadalajara, Mexico.

    Her cousin Emilio Portes Gil became president of Mexico in 1928.

    Initially her family didn't support her desire to become an actress, but she was determined and signed her first contract in secret at the age of 16.

    Memorising English. Her road to Hollywood began in 1951, when director Budd Boetticher saw her sitting in a bullfight arena, while she was in Mexico filming.
    Jurado knew very little English but in her first casting she delivered her lines by memorising the way they sounded. Despite the language barrier, her performance was strong and managed to attract the attention of Hollywood.

    She moved to Los Angeles and married actor Ernest Borgnine, who called her "beautiful, but a tiger".


    She was part of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, where she participated in the successful movie of La vida inutil de Pito Perez.

    In the film No mataras, Jurado played her first villain role. She specialised in playing the role of the wicked women.

    Her best-known Mexican performance was in the film Nosotros los Pobres ("We the Poor"),which was released in 1948.
    During her career, she won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in the 1952 film High Noon. She also won three Silver Ariel Awards, the Mexican equivalent of the Oscar, and nominations for several Academy Awards.

    Writer and critic. In between films, Jurado contributed in different Mexican magazines and newspapers. She also made radio appearances and was known as bullfight critic.
    The different roles she developed in the industry helped to expand the available options to Mexican actresses in Hollywood today. Jurado participated in over 60 films.
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 Astonishing newly released footage shows a team of Georgia firefighters displaying incredible athletic skill and bravery, catching children as they’re thrown by their desperate father from a ladder two stories up.

More than 45 firefighters battled a raging inferno at a Georgia apartment complex in DeKalb County outside Atlanta on January 3, rescuing a total of 12 people in the process. A firefighters’ union released footage of the heroics, which has quickly become an online sensation.

"We were catching babies like a football - literally," Fire Captain Eric Jackson said at the scene, reports CBS News. "There were adults that were on the balcony that were dropping their babies right into our arms. We had a couple firefighters catching babies, so it was just really incredible."

 RT‏Verified account @RT_com

HAPPENING NOW: Blaze engulfs building in New York City, multiple injuries reported  #BronxFire LIVE STREAM

In the footage, third-generation firefighter Captain Scott Stroup is seen catching a child dropped by the youngster’s father, Lance Ragland. Stroup wasn't the only receiver at the scene, as Captain Jackie Peckrul also caught another of the family's children.

“That was the only thing running through my mind, 'Lord, let me catch this baby,” Peckrul, herself a mother of triplets, told Fox5 Atlanta.

"My hands came off the ladder and I got ‘em. There's no better feeling in the world," Peckrul said. "Never want to see any parent lose a child." Assistant Chief Jeff Crump also rescued a wheelchair user from the apartment.

Four adults and eight children between the ages of one month and three years were rescued from the blaze, with many suffering from smoke inhalation. However, thanks to the heroics of the DeKalb County fire team, no one was killed.

The fire at the Avondale Forest Apartments displaced approximately 80 people in total. Investigators have yet to determine the cause of the blaze.
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Florida prisoners launch month-long work strike to protest ‘slave labor’
« Reply #10537 on: January 16, 2018, 04:06:36 AM »

 Inmates across Florida have begun striking over work conditions they say amount to “modern day slavery.” The prisoners are refusing to take part in work assignments until they are paid and other demands are met.

On Monday, Florida prisoners launched a large scale work strike that organizers said will last at least a month.

Last month, a group of prisoners announced Operation Push in a statement to the advocacy group Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons. The organizers said that during the protest “no prisoners will go to their job assignments.”

“Our goal is to make the Governor realize that it will cost the state of Florida millions of dollars daily to contract outside companies to come and cook, clean, and handle the maintenance,” the statement said. “This will cause a total BREAK DOWN.”

The inmates are demanding that the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) “end prison slavery” by paying prisoners for their work.

Florida is one of five states that does not pay inmates for their work. Inmates have been used as unpaid labor to clean up storm debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and many other jobs including, cooking, cleaning and handling the maintenance inside the prisons themselves.

The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) released an interview with one of the protesters on Sunday, who argued that the state is creating higher rates of recidivism by not paying prisoners.

“If I were living in a neighborhood and someone were coming from a situation like this after spending 10, 15, 20 years in the system, I would rather that person come home educated with a couple of dollars in their pocket so that they’re not relying on the skill, whatever skill, set that landed them in prison,” the protester said. “I think that would be helpful for society that creates a revolving door where you lock people up and just set them up for failure so that they keep on coming back.”

Once the prisoners win their pay demand, their next aim is for the DOC to end price gouging at canteens, where prisoners said that they have to pay $17 for a case of soup that would cost $4 on the outside.

“This is highway robbery without a gun,” the statement says. “It’s not just us that they’re taking from. It’s our families who struggle to make ends meet and send us money—they are the real victims that the state of Florida is taking advantage of. We got to put a stop to this!”

Finally, the prisoners are asking the DOC to reinstate parole with incentives that reward their prisoners. Currently, Florida offers inmates a “gaintime” incentive, which gives an inmate the opportunity to reduce their overall sentence. However, the protesters argue that the incentives do not matter to inmates who are serving life.

Exactly how many protesters are taking part in Operation Push is still unknown. The DOC canceled weekend visitation at the Blackwater Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa and the Everglades Correctional Institution on Monday.

Florida has the third-largest prison population in the US, with 97,000 inmates, according to DOC data. The DOC says African-Americans make up about a third of the state’s prison population, while making up less than 17 percent of the state population, according to US Census data.

Dozens of activists across the state staged their own demonstrations on Monday, calling for the DOC to hear their demands.

 Indybay‏ @Indybay

Support Florida Prisoners' Strike! #OperationPUSH #96Hours #ReclaimMLK

‏ @Indybay
12h12 hours ago

Don't Comply with White Supremacy
#96Hours #ReclaimMLK


Justice for Corey Lee Sutton Jr. , sentenced to 58 years at the age of 14.

His mother is out here joining the many other friends and family rallying in support of striking Florida prisoners on #MLKDay for #OperationPUSH

🖤RosaNegra‏ @BRRN_Fed

#OperationPUSH rally in Miami in solidarity with striking prisoners across Florida.

 Tomas Kennedy‏ @tomaskenn

Solidarity with striking prisoners rally outside of the Florida Department of Corrections Miami office. Abolish the prison system. Abolish ICE. End prison slavery. #OperationPUSH

On Friday, organizers released a list of five ways to support the protesters, which includes attending a demonstration, sharing news of the strike on social media with the hashtag #OperationPUSH, or writing a letter to an inmate.
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Trashing the planet for profit
« Reply #10538 on: January 16, 2018, 04:14:30 AM »


Before I began this essay I read through some of my past forays that mentioned climate change and capitalism, the first I think, being in 2006 where I opined in a piece on the ‘War on Terror’:

    Perhaps the impending climate catastrophe as well as the genocidal actions of the U.S. will force us to finally start thinking and acting ‘outside of the box’ but without a clear idea of where we are heading or how to get there, currently the situation looks dire. (“WOT is to be done?” November 2006)

In the intervening years, things have gotten even more dire on pretty much every front. It appears that the world’s political and business elite are even more entrenched inside their box. Except, we do know what has to be done, so why, in the face of the obvious, do we not act to forestall catastrophe?
Pessimism, Progress…

For the most part, us lefties are optimists. We believe in the future, in progress, that things will get better, eventually. That the ludicrous idea that capitalism is the ‘end of history’, that in spite of its relentless propaganda, and notwithstanding the defeat of the first socialist experiments, that there is a future beyond capitalism, conditional of course, that we come together to fight for it, as there’s nothing inevitable about it.

But as things stand, it may well be that the human race is not included in that future. Bacteria maybe, but not us.

Personally, I’ve always been an optimist, that in the future, eventually things would get better. Progress, revolution. Not in my lifetime perhaps but eventually we would move beyond capitalism to a sane society. One not driven by greed and short-term gain for the few. Until that is, the reality of climate change hit home, but more on this later.
And the Personal…

After my father died when I was 10, my mother got together with a family friend and he became not exactly a replacement for my father but let’s say, almost, for around 12 years (he died in 2016). Like most of my family and on both sides, he was also a lefty. A talented person. Royal College of Art, a designer, an actor, singer, song writer and lecturer, and a communist his entire life (he was 85 when he died). Like me, he was an optimist. He believed in a better future, better than this miserable present; until a year or so before his death that is (I think he starved himself to death because of his change of heart).

I surmise that what brought about this change was his belief that it was already too late, we had reached the proverbial ‘tipping point’ and there was no going back. He believed that the changes wrought on the biosphere by 200 years of industrial capitalism were now irreversible. We were on the slide toward catastrophe and there was nothing we could do about it given the stranglehold the 1% have on the world. Perhaps even worse, that no matter what we did now or in the future, it was already too late to halt, let alone reverse, catastrophic (to us) climate change.
Trashing the Planet, one plastic bottle at a time

When I was a child, in fact into my teens, containers came in only three types; glass/ceramic; paper/wood/cardboard and metal. All were recyclable and for most part, they were. Our milk was delivered to the front door in glass bottles, by our Coop milkman, Billy. There was no deposit on them, we left the (clean) empties for Billy to collect, returned to the bottling plant where they were washed and reused, at least three times before being recycled. And as a teenager I worked every Saturday on that Coop milk float, horse-drawn, would you believe. The horse knew the route better than we did. It knew at which house we stopped for tea and chocolate digestive biscuits and when to move on. Billy rarely touched the horse and I never did, I was frightened of it, it liked to bite.

And we bought our fruit and veg in paper bags from the local greengrocer, not a hundred meters from where we lived. Ditto the bread, from the bakery, fresh baked twice a day, one hundred meters past the greengrocers.

Nostalgia? Perhaps that’s a small part of it but the recent statistic that in a few years time there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish goes to the very heart of an economic system that can only see profit and worse, can’t see beyond today, beyond short-term gain, even if its actions threaten its own future as a class, as a system. Insane? You bet!

But as I’ve written many, many times before (here, here, here, and here to name a few), the 1% think they can survive the coming conflagration, that their money, power, technology and weapons will enable them to ride out the coming storm, sacrificing the defenceless of the planet in the name of profit.

The problem is that we are witnessing exponential, negative feedback, so what was predicted say 10 years ago as a ‘breathing space’ of 30 or 50 years in which to take steps to halt the slide is now predicted to be ‘only’ 10 years and no doubt soon it will be upon us. No years! How can one be positive in the face of these revelations without entering a state of denial or resignation?

Even more repulsive, the 1% have no problem sacrificing vast swathes of humanity to preserve their privilege and the rule of capital. The ‘other’ are after all, ‘surplus to requirement’. A vast army of surplus labour, global in scope, not needed by the privileged few. And the effects of climate change are happening now, never mind ten years time, in places like Bangladesh and Puerto Rico. Firstly, by doing nothing to change the economic system that’s caused it and secondly by doing nothing where climate change has already caused unimaginable disasters and suffering.
We can’t say we haven’t been warned

56 years ago, in 1962, Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, about the disastrous effects of synthetic pesticides on the environment and on us. For her trouble:

    Carson was violently assailed by threats of lawsuits and derision, including suggestions that this meticulous scientist was a “hysterical woman” unqualified to write such a book. A huge counterattack was organized and led by Monsanto, Velsicol, American Cyanamid — indeed, the whole chemical industry — duly supported by the [US] Agriculture Department as well as the more cautious in the media. (William Bowles, “Climate Change: World War III by another name?” December 4, 2008)

Over 50 years later climate scientists have suffered comparable attacks, with the sociopath Trump, who far from being the exception to capitalist rule, actually personifies it in all its naked barbarity. The only differences is that Trump publicly avows that he doesn’t give a damn! What we witness with Trump’s irrational attacks is a system at the end of its tether so-to-speak. Enraged by its failure to achieve total hegemony over the planet, it lashes out like some wounded beast. Unless stopped, it threatens nuclear Armageddon to add to its list of genocidal crimes against the planet and its peoples.
Is it too late?

But what are the chances of overthrowing capitalism before it’s too late to stop, let alone reverse the changes wrought by this insane system? Can organisations like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, and indeed, a whole slew of ‘green’ pressure groups, force the capitalists to reverse their suicidal trajectory?

Not until they stop avoiding the issue of confronting capitalism itself rather than the ‘morally uplifting’ but ineffectual route of the personal act e.g., not buying stuff in plastic bottles. Not that, as individuals, we shouldn’t stop buying stuff in plastic bottles but that real change can only come through collective actions, as a class that collectively opposes capitalism and furthermore advocates an alternative way of living. For myself, I don’t see any other alternative than to some form of socialism.

Thus the current drive against the production of plastic bottles once more puts the onus on us, or the current fad around plastic-lined paper coffee cups (all ten billion of them) again, it puts the onus on us. But there is no call to ban their production or ban the production of the endless stream of plastic cartons, wrappings and boxes that are filling up the oceans and our waste tips. Make us pay for it instead with a levy (tax) on their sale. A tax no doubt that will be used to wage ever more wars on the planet. And we have to face the fact that we can’t have our cake and eat it, when it’s the planet and its peoples that paying the price for our useless and unhappy lives, in spite of the gadgets and 4K TVs.

As ever, the public and the planet pay the price for capitalist, profit-driven production. But ultimately it is actually our responsibility but it’s of a different order than being obedient but ‘responsible’ consumers by recycling this and that. It’s by tackling the issue at its root, capitalism. This is a qualitatively different struggle that requires not individual actions (though they are important), but organised, collective action to transform the way we make our living; our economic mode of production.

Moreover, it will require sacrifice on our part. We will have to decide how we want to live our lives. I fear however that by the time we decide that going into debt to buy all the crap that ends up sitting in cupboards unused across the nation (allegedly 30% of it), it will be too late for us to do anything about it.
What is to be Done?

So, is it hopeless? Everything in me cries out, no, it’s not hopeless! We can do something about it before it’s too late. But what exactly, are the somethings that we need to do?

I think some of the initial somethings are self-evident, well at least to me. For example, the existing environmental/green groups need to wake up and smell the coffee and join with what’s left of our left and in turn, what’s left of our left needs to wake and smell the coffee too and put a stop to its imperial thinking and stop telling the rest of the planet what to do and concentrate on the problem of how to deal with the contradiction of being privileged citizens of the Imperialist world and at the same time calling ourselves socialists. Furthermore, what’s left of our left needs to stop cannibalising itself by spending most of its time attacking the various left factions and focus instead on tackling the real enemy, capitalism.

There is another issue which I fear is probably even more difficult to deal with and that’s our understanding (or lack of it) of what happens outside the imperial ‘bubble’ we live in. A friend of mine pointed it out to me the other day, noting that I had the advantage of having lived on three continents, including Africa. I had, at least in theory, the advantage of knowing what it was like to experience the reality of a world shaped by imperialism, one that has enabled me to step outside that bubble of imperial privilege, that influences even the most allegedly radical lefty.

It comes down to the ability to empathise, or not, with another person’s reality. To be able to put one’s self in another person’s shoes. To see and experience their reality rather than impose our own onto theirs. Hence an alleged lefty, indeed a ‘professional’ lefty like Tariq Ali, who said in 2012:

    He [Assad] has to be pushed out. (“Assad must go to save Syria from intervention,” RT, 15 February 2012)

By what right does Ali say this? The issue really is not about whether Assad should or shouldn’t go but about Ali’s almost divine right to lay down the law about another country from his privileged position as a citizen of Empire. The fact that he said it allegedly in the context that it would avert Western intervention if Assad stepped aside, totally misses the point, for if Assad was to go, it would mean that Imperialism had succeeded in its objective without the need for intervention! Duh! Ali attempted to rationalise his position by stating that:

    [Ali] believes that once Assad falls, the new government will keep good relations with Iran, because this will be in the interest of the new democratic government. (William Bowles, Tariq Ali says Assad has to go: I’m depressed – no, I’m outraged, February 15, 2012)

I responded, ‘What new democratic government?’ Total wishful thinking on Ali’s part as it assumes that that’s what the West wants, a democratic government and should Assad step aside, that’s what Syria would get. Duh! Talk about self-delusion!

It exemplifies the contradiction of being an alleged socialist at home and enjoying the privilege of being part of the Empire’s intellectual elite and paid very well thank you very much, whilst dictating to Syria what it should and shouldn’t do. I fail to see the distinction between Ali’s arrogance and that of the West, that called for exactly the same thing! Assad has to go!

Furthermore, it reveals the gulf that has to be bridged between us and the proverbial ‘them’, the ‘other’. No mean stretch. It also illustrates the problem we face here, at home, in the belly of the beast of coming to terms with our responsibilities to the planet that we have raped for the past 500 years and continue to rape in order to preserve our (relative) privilege.

Perhaps this in part explains why collectively, we refuse to accept responsibility for the state of the planet. Yes, ultimately, it’s the economic system, capitalism that’s doing the damage but surely it’s time we also accept responsibility for our role in maintaining an unsustainable economic system, a system that in the short term we all benefit from.
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Trump did ‘exceedingly well’ on a cognitive test, top White House doctor says
« Reply #10539 on: January 16, 2018, 03:26:21 PM »
President Trump requested that his first formal medical exam include a cognitive test and “did exceedingly well,” receiving a score of 30 out of 30, the top White House doctor announced on Tuesday afternoon.

Navy Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson, who has been the lead White House doctor since 2013, said that he has interacted with the president several times a day for the past year and saw no need for a cognitive test. Jackson said that the president is “very sharp” in their conversations and does not repeat himself. He added that he has seen no evidence of any cognitive problems.

At the president’s request, Jackson said that he reviewed a number of cognitive tests and then administered the Montreal Cognitive Assessment during Trump’s first presidential physical exam on Friday afternoon at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The 10-minute exam is designed to detect mild cognitive impairment, generally in older patients. Trump answered all 30 questions correctly, Jackson said.

The test includes asking a patient to name several animals, draw a clock with the hands at a certain time, copy a cube and recall a short list of words, among others. Jackson said he has “no indication whatsoever that he has any cognitive issues.”

“I find no reason whatsoever to think the president has any issues whatsoever with his thought process,” Jackson said.

Jackson said that based on Trump’s lab results and cardiac tests, he is “very healthy” and he expects the president to continue to be healthy for the rest of his term and even in a second term.

Undergoing this physical is voluntary, and Trump can pick and choose what the public hears about his health. Jackson said that there is “absolutely nothing” that is being withheld from the public and that Trump’s release of information is “hands down” the broadest in history.

Trump, 71, is 6-foot-3 and his weight is 239 pounds, which is considered overweight by the medical community and just short of obese, Jackson said. He said that he recommended that the president eat a healthier diet, exercise regularly and lose 10 to 15 pounds.

The president’s weight is 3 pounds higher than it was during the campaign in September 2016, according to a letter Trump released from his personal physician in New York, Harold N. Bornstein.

That letter reported his cholesterol levels were controlled with medication and were within the healthy range for a man his age. Jackson said that Trump’s cholesterol level is now elevated, so he is increasing Trump’s medication.

Trump’s cholesterol of 223 is elevated and his low-density lipoprotein of 143 is borderline high. Jackson said he hopes to bring down the LDL or “bad cholesterol” score with diet, exercise and statin medication.
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Ana Oktay rushed to the hospital in late December struggling to breathe, with a 102-degree fever and a cough that wouldn’t let up.

​​​​​She expected doctors to tell her she had pneumonia or bronchitis.

“They were just like: ‘It’s just influenza A. It’s just what’s going around,’” said Oktay, 49.

An influenza A strain known as H3N2 is making people so ill in California that thousands have shown up in recent weeks at hospitals struggling to fight the infection.

“I was flat on my back and in bed for 10 days,” said Oktay, who lives in Palms. “This has been hands down the worst flu I’ve ever dealt with.”

The huge numbers of sick people are also straining hospital staff who are confronting what could become California’s worst flu season in a decade.

Hospitals across the state are sending away ambulances, flying in nurses from out of state and not letting children visit their loved ones for fear they’ll spread the flu. Others are canceling surgeries and erecting tents in their parking lots so they can triage the hordes of flu patients.

“Those are all creative things we wouldn’t typically do, but in a crisis like this, we’re looking at,” said Michelle Gunnett, a nurse who oversees emergency services for a Southern California hospital system.

Staff members at Torrance Memorial Medical Center have been working long hours to care for a swell in sick patients that began in late December, said Dr. James McKinnell, infectious disease specialist. Some patients are incredibly ill with multiple strains of the flu, or the flu and pneumonia.

“There’s a little bit of a feeling of being in the trenches. we’re really battling these infections to try to get them under control,” McKinnell said. “We’re still not sure if this is going to continue … but it certainly is an inauspicious start.”

Coping with the crowds

Connie Cunningham and her staff at Loma Linda University Medical Center were triaging so many flu patients after New Year’s that they assembled what looks like a giant, brown camping tent in their emergency room parking lot. Several hospitals in California are treating flu patients in so-called “surge tents” intended for major disasters.

On a recent weekday morning, Cunningham walked through the tent, lined with folding chairs and patient beds that are separated by sheets hung from the ceiling.

Cunningham, executive director for the hospital’s emergency services, said she’d thought they would dismantle the tent after a few days, but staff are still treating 60 more patients each day than usual, she said.

“In my career, I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said.

H3N2 is known for being more virulent than other strains of the flu. Since October, 42 people in California younger than 65 have died of the flu, compared with nine at the same time last year, according to state officials. State officials collect flu death data only among people under 65; the actual death toll from the flu is much higher.

Officials say it’s unclear whether the recent upswing in cases means the season is peaking early or this year’s season is just particularly bad. Typically, the flu season, which runs from October through May, reaches its height in February.

“It’s like trying to surf a tsunami,” said Dr. Brian Johnston, an emergency medicine doctor at White Memorial Medical Center in Boyle Heights. “Maybe the wave has crested, one hopes.”

Palomar Medical Center Escondido in northern San Diego County also pulled out a flu tent this month, but was still so busy that some patients were treated in the hallways, said Gunnett, a nurse who oversees their emergency services.

Now they’re running low on beds because many patients were admitted with severe flu. Gunnett said she has started canceling scheduled surgeries and turning single-patient rooms into doubles to free up space.

At Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, hospital staff noticed flu cases were mounting and began clearing out an area that was being used as storage.

“It seems like we’re setting a record almost every day,” said Dr. Dave Feldman, medical director of the emergency department.

On Thursday, the former storage area opened as an extension of the emergency room.
‘A flu war zone’ in the emergency room

When Candysse Miller took her 88-year-old father, who lives in Redlands, to a nearby emergency room on Jan. 6, it was standing-room only. Many people crammed in the small space were sneezing and violently coughing, she said.

“It was like a flu war zone,” said Miller, a writer. “I’m not a germophobe or anything, but that will quickly make you one.”

Some administrators at hospitals with long wait times and crowded ERs have asked people who aren’t severely ill to not seek medical treatment. Others concerned about the spread of illness within their walls have also started restricting who can enter the hospital.

Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz recently reintroduced rules they hadn’t used since the 2009 pandemic of swine flu, or H1N1. People under 16 — who are considered more likely to spread the flu — aren’t allowed to visit people at the hospital, and patients can have only one visitor at a time, said hospital president Dr. Nanette Mickiewicz.

“As we did during H1N1, we pulled out the same policies,” she said. “We’ve been treating almost five times the number of influenza patients that we typically see.”

Many hospitals also say they’re too full to accept any more patients or ambulances.

And when paramedics are allowed to drop off patients at a hospital, the emergency room is often so crowded that there aren’t available staff members to transfer care to. So the emergency responders can’t get back on the road to answer incoming 911 calls, said Kay Fruhwirth, L.A. County’s assistant director of emergency medical services.

“If there’s not a nurse available, and/or a bed — it’s usually an ‘and’ — they’re waiting there with the patient,” she said.

Healthy people get sick too

Children, elderly people and pregnant women are most at risk of becoming extremely ill if they get the flu, but anyone can get very sick, said McKinnell, of Torrance Memorial.

“We have patients every year — young, healthy patients — that end up in the hospital even on a ventilator for months because of influenza,” he said. “It would be foolish for people to think, ‘I’m 40, I’m healthy, I don’t need to worry about influenza’ — that’s not true.”

Doctors say that people who haven’t yet gotten the flu shot should still get it. It takes about two weeks to take effect.

National health officials predict the shot may only be 30% effective this year, though the vaccine can reduce the severity and length of the illness for those who get sick.

In L.A. County alone, “even a 30% effectiveness rate can prevent hundreds if not thousands of hospitalizations, and really save lives,” said the county’s interim health officer Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser.

Already, so many patients have ended up in the Torrance Memorial ICU with the flu that caring for them has taken a toll on staff, McKinnell said.

“These people come in very, very sick,” he said. “There’s a lot of emotional stress that goes into that, because you care about your patients, you really want them to survive.”
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U.S. Plans New Nuclear Weapons
« Reply #10541 on: January 16, 2018, 03:40:28 PM »
Pentagon weighs ‘low-yield’ warhead and sea-based cruise missile, igniting debate over strategy

A U.S. Navy guided-missile submarine in Busan, South Korea last year.

WASHINGTON—The Pentagon is planning to develop two new sea-based nuclear weapons to respond to Russia and China’s growing military capabilities, according to a sweeping Defense Department review of nuclear strategy.

The planned move has ignited a broad debate over future U.S. nuclear strategy at a time when the nation also faces the threat of proliferation, in particular from North Korea’s efforts to expand its arsenal of nuclear weapons and develop long-range missiles capable of delivering them.

Supporters of the Pentagon’s plan say it is time for the U.S. to update its nuclear forces to deal with changing threats some three decades after the end of the Cold War. Critics worry that the Pentagon’s search for more flexible nuclear options could lower the threshold for their use.

One weapon, which experts say could be deployed in about two years, is a “low yield” warhead for the Trident missile, which currently is deployed with more powerful warheads on the Navy’s submarines that carry ballistic missiles.

The U.S. also would pursue the development of a new nuclear-tipped sea-launched cruise missile, reintroducing a system that was retired from the American arsenal in 2010.

The development of the two weapons is among a broad range of recommendations in the Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review, a major reassessment of the U.S. nuclear strategy and programs that was commissioned about a year ago by President Donald Trump.

That strategy, which is expected to be formally unveiled later this month, has yet to be approved by the president. The Pentagon has dismissed an unclassified draft of the strategy, which was published last week by HuffPost, as “pre-decisional,” while more updated drafts are also circulating. But the plans to field the new nuclear systems have strong support in the Pentagon and are expected to go forward, according to people familiar with the review.

A major question at the heart of the Pentagon review is how to respond to military strategy and programs in Russia and China, which American officials say provide a more prominent role for nuclear weapons. In effect, the Pentagon argues that since adversaries have failed to follow the U.S. in de-emphasizing the role of nuclear weapons, Washington needs a greater range of nuclear options to counter its potential foes, especially for carrying out limited strikes.

“While the United States has continued to reduce the number and salience of nuclear weapons, others, including Russia and China, have moved in the opposite direction,” said a draft of the plan. “The United States must be capable of developing and deploying new capabilities, if necessary, to deter, assure, achieve U.S. objectives if deterrence fails, and hedge against uncertainty.”

A major concern for the Pentagon is a new Russian ground-launched cruise missile that American officials say violates the treaty banning intermediate-range missiles based on land, which was signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail S. Gorbachev, leader of the then-Soviet Union. Russia’s decision to develop and deploy that system is described by the review as part of a Russian doctrine that calls for threatening the limited use of nuclear weapons, or perhaps even carrying out a limited nuclear strike, to end a conventional war on terms favorable to the Kremlin.

By developing a new American “low yield” system, the Pentagon review argues the U.S. will have more credible options to respond to Russian threats without using more powerful strategic nuclear weapons, which the Kremlin may calculate Washington would be reluctant to use for fear of unleashing an all-out nuclear war. Because the new weapons it is proposing would be based at sea, the U.S. wouldn’t need the permission of other nations to deploy them and their deployment wouldn’t violate existing arms-control agreements.

The draft doesn’t precisely define what “low yield” nuclear weapons might be, but the new Trident system might have a warhead of one or two kilotons, compared with the current system which has an explosive yield that ranges from 100 kilotons to 455 kilotons, depending on the warhead it carries. By comparison, the U.S. nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, at the end of World War II was about 15 kilotons.

Critics have assailed the Pentagon’s review, arguing that it may bring about the very situation the Defense Department says it wants to avoid: a world in which the threshold for employing nuclear weapons is lowered.

“We should be doing everything to reduce the risk that nuclear weapons are going to be used, not expanding the ambiguity of when we might use nuclear weapons,” said Jon Wolfsthal, who served as a senior official for arms control on President Barack Obama’s National Security Council.

Bruce G. Blair, a scholar at Princeton University who has argued for the abolition of nuclear weapons, said the Pentagon should be looking for ways to strengthen its cyber and conventional military capabilities instead of searching for new nuclear options, especially since the Russian may opt to use its new ground-launched cruise missile with a nonnuclear warhead.

The review has also drawn support, particularly from conservative quarters. “This is not about making weapons more usable; this is about strengthening deterrence so that nuclear weapons are not used in the first place,” said Robert Joseph, a senior national security official in the George W. Bush administration. “We have to think what would be credible in Russian eyes.”

While the review calls for “pursuing” a new sea-launched cruise missile, it notes there are some circumstances in which the Trump administration might shelve the program: a decision by Russia to fix its alleged violation of the 1987 treaty banning U.S. and Russian land-based intermediate-range missiles and also reduce its formidable arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons.

Russia and China aren’t the only threats cited in the nuclear review. It also asserts that upgrading the U.S. nuclear arsenal will add to the country’s ability to deter North Korean aggression.

“North Korea relies on hardened and deeply buried facilities to secure the Kim regime and its key military and command and control capabilities,” the review says. “Consequently, the United States will continue to field a range of conventional and nuclear capabilities able to hold such targets at risk.”

Despite the debate over the proposed “low yield” Trident missile and sea-launched cruise missile, many of the other weapons recommended by the review also were advocated by the Obama administration, including the development of a new strategic bomber and an air-launched cruise missile.

Paying for all of the missile and bomber programs may be a challenge. The review says carrying out the nuclear modernization and operating the systems will require, at most, 6.4% of the Defense Department budget, up from 2% to 3% today. If the Pentagon doesn’t secure the spending increases it anticipates, this could heighten the competition between nuclear and nonnuclear programs for budgetary resources. The development of nuclear warheads is funded by the Energy Department.
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Bannon Is Subpoenaed in Mueller’s Russia Investigation
« Reply #10542 on: January 16, 2018, 03:43:47 PM »
WASHINGTON — Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, was subpoenaed last week by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to testify before a grand jury as part of the investigation into possible links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

The move marked the first time Mr. Mueller is known to have used a grand jury subpoena to seek information from a member of Mr. Trump’s inner circle. The special counsel’s office has used subpoenas before to seek information on Mr. Trump’s associates and their possible ties to Russia or other foreign governments.

The subpoena could be a negotiating tactic. Mr. Mueller is likely to allow Mr. Bannon to forgo the grand jury appearance if he agrees to instead be questioned by investigators in the less formal setting of the special counsel’s offices about ties between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia and about the president’s conduct in office, according to the person, who would not be named discussing the case. But it was not clear why Mr. Mueller treated Mr. Bannon differently than the dozen administration officials who were interviewed in the final months of last year and were never served with a subpoena.

The subpoena is a sign that Mr. Bannon is not personally the focus of the investigation. Justice Department rules allow prosecutors to subpoena the targets of investigations only in rare circumstances.

On Tuesday, Mr. Bannon testified behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Mr. Bannon did not address reporters before entering the proceeding on Tuesday, and a spokesman for Mr. Mueller and a senior White House lawyer did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Mr. Mueller issued the subpoena after Mr. Bannon was quoted in a new book criticizing Mr. Trump, saying that Donald Trump Jr.’s 2016 meeting with Russians was “treasonous” and predicting that the special counsel investigation would ultimately center on money laundering.

After excerpts from the book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” were published this month, Mr. Trump derided Mr. Bannon publicly and threatened to sue him for defamation. Mr. Bannon was soon ousted as the executive chairman of the hard-right website Breitbart News.

Some legal experts said the subpoena could be a sign that the investigation was intensifying, while others said it may simply have been a negotiating tactic to persuade Mr. Bannon to cooperate with the investigation. The experts also said it could be a signal to Mr. Bannon, who has tried to publicly patch up his falling-out with the president, that despite Mr. Trump’s legal threats, Mr. Bannon must be completely forthcoming with investigators.

Prosecutors generally prefer to interview witnesses before a grand jury when they believe they have information that the witnesses do not know or when they think they might catch the witnesses in a lie. It is much easier for a witness to stop the questioning or sidestep questions in an interview than during grand jury testimony, which is transcribed, and witnesses are required to answer every question.

“By forcing someone to testify through a subpoena, you are providing the witness with cover because they can say, ‘I had no choice — I had to go in and testify about everything I knew,’” said Solomon L. Wisenberg, a prosecutor for the independent counsel that investigated Bill Clinton when he was president.

Significant grand jury activity may undermine the case that White House officials have made for months: that they believe the inquiry is coming to an end and are convinced that the president will be cleared. Mr. Mueller has told Mr. Trump’s lawyers that he will probably want to question the president before the investigation concludes, but no interview has been scheduled.

Mr. Bannon has limited firsthand knowledge about two key issues within Mr. Mueller’s purview — the president’s firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, a decision made without Mr. Bannon present, and the drafting of a misleading statement about the subject of the June 2016 meeting with Russians, in which they promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

But even Mr. Bannon’s secondhand knowledge could be used to draw a contrast with statements from people with firsthand knowledge whom Mr. Mueller has already interviewed. And Mr. Bannon was directly involved in a number of other major moments, including the decision-making around the firing of Michael T. Flynn, the president’s first national security adviser, who was dismissed after he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about phone calls with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition.

Mr. Bannon also helped run the transition after Chris Christie, the outgoing governor of New Jersey, was fired as head of that team. And Mr. Bannon was the chief executive of the Trump campaign in October 2016 when WikiLeaks began releasing thousands of stolen personal emails from the hacked account of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta.

In “Fire and Fury,” Mr. Bannon was quoted by the author, Michael Wolff, as suggesting that Donald Trump Jr.; the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner; and Paul Manafort, his campaign chairman at the time, were “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” for attending the meeting with Russians at Trump Tower. Mr. Bannon said that he believed there was “zero” chance that the younger Mr. Trump did not take them to meet his father, who has said he knew nothing about the meeting.

“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor — with no lawyers,” Mr. Bannon said in the book.

Mr. Trump erupted in anger after the excerpts were published, calling Mr. Bannon “Sloppy Steve” on Twitter and saying he had “cried when he got fired and begged for his job.”

“Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone,” Mr. Trump wrote. “Too bad!”

Days after the excerpts were published, a statement was issued in Mr. Bannon’s name in which he tried to back away from his assertions in the book. He said that his reference to treason was aimed at Mr. Manafort, not the president’s son. Mr. Bannon did not apologize, however, and though he had approved the statement, an associate sent it to reporters without his knowledge.

The president appeared to ease his anger toward Mr. Bannon at the end of last week. When asked in an interview with The Wall Street Journal whether his break with Mr. Bannon was “permanent,” the president replied, “I don’t know what the word ‘permanent’ means.”

People close to Mr. Bannon took the president’s comments as a signal that Mr. Trump was aware that his fired strategist would soon be contacted by investigators.

Mr. Trump has a history of reaching out to people he has fired, including those under investigation, directly or indirectly, as he did with Mr. Flynn after he was dismissed and before he struck a plea deal with Mr. Mueller’s investigators.

Mr. Bannon has hired William A. Burck of the Washington office of the Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan law firm to represent him in the defamation threats from Mr. Trump and the congressional inquiries. Mr. Burck also represents several current and former administration officials who have been interviewed as witnesses by Mr. Mueller’s investigators. Among them are the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, and the former White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus.
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Welcome to the neighbourhood. Have you read the terms of service?
« Reply #10543 on: January 16, 2018, 03:54:04 PM »
How we think about privacy today might not be the best way to deal with data collection in a smart city

It's already hard enough to get people to read the terms of service for the apps they use, and experts are skeptical we could expect any better of someone crossing into the boundary of a smart city neighbourhood, where sensors and data collection abound.

The L-shaped parcel of land on Toronto's eastern waterfront known as Quayside isn't much to look at. There's a sprawling parking lot for dry-docked boats opposite aging post-industrial space, where Parliament Street becomes Queens Quay. To its south is one of the saddest stretches of the Martin Goodman trail, an otherwise pleasant running and biking route that spans the city east to west.

But before long, Quayside may be one of the most sensor-laden neighbourhoods in North America, thanks to Alphabet's Sidewalk Labs, which has been working on a plan to redevelop the area from the ground up into a test bed for smart city technology.

It's being imagined as the sort of place where garbage cans and recycling bins can keep track of when and how often they're used, environmental probes can measure noise and pollution over time and cameras can collect data to model and improve the flow of cars, people, buses and bikes throughout the day.

Generally speaking, the idea is that all of this data — and the newfound insights its analysis could yield — will help cities run more efficiently and innovate at a faster pace than they do today.

The effort is one of a handful of broad initiatives underway across the world in places such as Dublin, London, Dubai and Seattle. The Canadian government is soliciting pitches for more smart cities across the country, and has promised up to $80 million to communities competing in its Smart Cities Challenge prize.

Sidewalk Labs is basing its smart city proposal on this post-industrial stretch of Toronto known as Quayside — the sort of place where garbage cans and recycling bins can keep track of when and how often they're used, environmental probes can measure noise and pollution over time and cameras collect data to model and improve the flow of cars, people, buses and bikes throughout the day.

But when it comes to the data these cities gather, not everyone believes the tradeoff is worth it. Although governments already collect lots of data on their citizens, it's becoming clear that current privacy laws aren't going to be enough to deal with the realities of what most of these visions propose — data collection on a scale that far surpasses what's happening today.

"I think in some ways what we're facing here is a situation where none of this is very much like anything we've seen before," says David Murakami Wood, an associate professor at Queens University, who studies surveillance in cities.

He's not the only one who's skeptical that the law can keep up.
'You can't rely on legislation'

Anyone who's used an app or online service is probably familiar with the concept of consent. It's a legal requirement that companies or public organizations that want your electronic personal information should not only ask first, but explain in detail what they want to collect, what they plan to do with it, who they might share it with and why.

But in a smart city, consent "goes out the window straight away," says Murakami Wood. It's already hard enough to get people to read the terms of service for the apps they use, and experts are skeptical we could expect any better of someone crossing into the boundary of a smart city neighbourhood.

Smart cities, after all, take data collection and analysis to a new, previously unimagined extreme. And with so many different sensors and so much data being collected and analyzed, how could anyone be expected to understand, much less consent to it all?

"You can't rely on legislation," says Ann Cavoukian, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario from 1997 to 2014. She's being paid by Sidewalk Labs to advise the company on its approach, which sounds straightforward enough: Don't collect any personal information at all.

Sidewalk Labs and Cavoukian agree not only should as little data be collected as possible, but any that is collected be stripped of all personally identifiable information, or de-identified. Given that smart cities are designed to track people's habits — information that has the potential to be deeply personal and revealing — they believe disassociating that data from the person who generated it is the biggest thing they can do to sidestep privacy concerns.

"Where you get into the realm of privacy is when you get into the realm of what can be traced back to you as an individual," says Rit Aggarwala, Sidewalk Lab's chief policy officer.

Cavoukian, a self-described "eternal optimist," doesn't buy the argument that smart cities are inherently tools of surveillance. She's helping the company build privacy into the design of Quayside, an approach she developed in the late 1990s. It dictates that the best way to protect people's privacy is to think about it during the design and development stage, rather than as an afterthought.

"My job is to make sure that this does not become a city of surveillance, where everybody's activities are tracked," she says.
How much data is too much data?

Still, there are many privacy scholars who are dubious that you can have a smarter city and keep your privacy, too — even if the data being collected isn't personal.

"The whole point of a smart city is that everything that can be collected will be collected," says Al Gidari, the director of privacy at Stanford University's Center for Internet and Society in California. He argues that if smart cities wanted to give people more control over their privacy, by default they wouldn't collect any data. Instead, current proposals tend to put limits on the use of data only "after it's already been collected and the damage is done," Gidari says.

Smart cities are designed to track people's habits — information that has the potential to be deeply personal and revealing — but Sidewalk Labs says it can avoid privacy concerns by stripping the data it collects of identifying information.

Whether residents and visitors see this as a violation is another matter, and there will inevitably be some who won't want any information collected at all, personal or otherwise. But Aggarwala argues that if Sidewalk Labs can demonstrate the value of that exchange — if you give up a bit of your data, we can improve a service that you love, for example — it can sell people on the idea.

"If people directly see value to having more information collected about them, they will be willing participants," Aggarwala says.

Given the value of that data, experts have argued that privacy is only part of a larger discussion. Open government advocates like Bianca Wylie think we need to start with conversations about who owns the data in the first place. Is it the private companies and equipment operators who run the smart cities, or the cities themselves?

"If we don't collect it and own it, then I don't think we can define the privacy stuff," says Wylie, a columnist who writes about civic tech initiatives and an associate at the consulting firm Open North.

Others have argued that even if the information collected isn't personal, there are broader implications that privacy law, or even privacy by design, can't account for — for example, the potential for tech-centric cities to widen the divide between rich and poor.

"I think maybe we're putting too much emphasis on privacy as a defence against this kind of surveillance capitalism," Murakami Wood says. "And I think we're going to find out the limitations of that approach pretty soon, because it doesn't deal with a lot of other issues around human rights and forms of inequality that are generated through these systems."

What happens next with Sidewalk Labs' Toronto pilot and other projects remains to be seen. Even once it is fully realized, Quayside will only be "smart" on a neighbourhood scale, with truly city-wide projects yet to come.

Sidewalk Labs acknowledges that it's early days for a lot of this stuff, and that they're still thinking the implementation through — trying to be as transparent as possible with citizens about what they're doing and understanding what people are and aren't willing to live with, assures Aggarwala.

"A lot of these questions will fall into the category of doing whatever it takes to make people comfortable," he says.
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As the "Alt-Right" Strays From Its Roots, Will It Turn to Open Fascism?
« Reply #10544 on: January 16, 2018, 03:58:27 PM »

Mike Enoch stands with white nationalist Richard Spencer, who popularized the term "alt-right," as he speaks during a press conference at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on October 19, 2017, in Gainesville, Florida.

On October 7, 2017, around 50 people from far-right organizations like Identity Evropa and the National Policy Institute returned to Charlottesville, Virginia: the site of the confrontation that brought together a thousand white supremacists from around the country and left one protester dead. As the torches again lit up the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University, the appearance of white nationalist leader Richard Spencer was a stark reminder of the new status quo. After the death of activist Heather Heyer, Spencer and his ilk were even less welcome in Charlottesville than they were before, yet they returned, reveling in their status as hated outsiders.

Spencer, who coined the term "alt-right" and has set its tone and image since 2010, had always tried to shuffle off the ugly image of the US's white nationalist history. Instead, he was taking his cues from the European "identitarian" movement and spoke of building a "meta-politic": a set of ideas that would help to manifest his vision of a traditionalist "Ethnostate" for white people.

Since 2015, the rise of Trump and the entry of the "alt-right" into the public lexicon, Spencer has consistently brought his "elite" movement further into the gutter. While he had built the original on disgraced European philosophers, racist paleoconservatives, fringe economists and alternative spiritual leaders, as his movement moved from the "big tent," it began to lose the core that it had used to change the public's perception of fascist politics. As we move into 2018, the "alt-right" has been hit on multiple fronts, as platforms reject their presence and a mass movement forms to repudiate them, and so they have headed into a period of what could rightly be termed "decadence." Traditionally, this means a period of decline and decay, one where the essential core of their movement has been lost, and they are returning to the blatant viciousness that has defined white nationalism, as opposed to the more cloaked variety.
Reclaiming White Settler Colonialism

The defining ideas of the "alt-right" came from what is known as the European New Right (ENR). Founded by French philosopher Alain de Benoist and established through the Research and Study Group for European Civilization (GRECE) and associated journals, they wanted to use the popular New Left politics of the 1960s to reinvigorate a far-right racist, nationalist vision for Europe. Using the argumentation found in anti-imperialist and "third-worldist" circles of the time, they argued for an "Ethno-pluralist" politic that saw a "nationalism for all peoples" as the solution to the degenerating effects of globalized commodity capitalism. Instead of the internationalist and egalitarian vision of the New Left politics they appropriated, they wanted to see a deep relativism, to have cultures kept separate from cosmopolitan influence with the understanding that different peoples were too different in skills and temperament to abide by each other's rules and customs. The founding principle here was an opposition to egalitarianism, primarily on the belief that human beings were not equal, either as individuals or as groups. The primary segment of this was racial, and by using the decolonization rhetoric, they could argue that white Europeans were facing colonization by globalism and had to join up with other liberation movements that they could reframe through ethnic nationalism.

The primary philosophical thread that the ENR came from is known as "Third Positionism," in which fascists use leftist politics in a strange synthesis of the left and the right. Anti-capitalism, environmentalism, post-colonialism, antiwar politics and the like have all been appropriated heavily in white nationalist circles, so much so that they have seen crossover between the left and the far-right in a number of movements since the 1960s. It was from this tradition that Spencer and the "alt-right" hailed, arguing in support of movements in the Global South to reject capitalist development and in favor of non-communist forms of anti-capitalism. It was these principles they used to buck off accusations of white supremacy, saying that instead of "ruling over non-whites," they simply want to return to their ethnic roots and live an "indigenous" form of life. This has played out in more contemporary times as the  "alt-right's" support for North Korean nationalism, the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad or the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar.

Since 2015, the dominant discourse on the "alt-right" has shifted away from that type of Third Positionist synthesis and in favor of straightforwardly angry bigotry, focusing on vicious racial jokes, slurs and harassment. The Daily Shoah -- the most popular white nationalist podcast today, which receives tens of thousands of downloads a month -- made a brand out of using "shock jock" rhetoric for white nationalists. In common "alt-right" fashion, their culture of one-upmanship has made the most violent racial discussions commonplace, often talking about genocide, calling Black people subhuman and proposing Jews as the enemy. The neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer took this to another level, blogging multiple times a day in rants filled with racist rage.

As this trend took over, and the trolls on sites like 4Chan and Twitter took hold of the movement, they moved steadily away from the academic veneer that Spencer had held. Any false notion that this is a movement that is "not about hate" and instead simply about identity has been dashed by their own statements.

Spencer, for his part, has joined in completely. While and the Radix Journal -- leading "alt-right" publications run by Richard Spencer -- tried to keep his racial separatism "intellectual," his new shot directly for the gutter. The publication now, which looks a lot more like The Daily Stormer than one of GRECE's journals, is the modern equivalent of the White Aryan Resistance's newspaper, which was filled with racist cartoons and accusations of conspiracy. Spencer's public speeches, which were once toned from academic conferences and filled with well-researched dramatics, are now opportunities to simply mock the crowd, framed by laughter and cruel insults.

One of the key arguments made by the "alt-right" for years was that it was completely and totally against racial conflict; rather, they said, it was modern multicultural society that made conflict inevitable. Instead, the "alt-right" took the old-fashioned segregationist motto of "stop the hate, separate" and argued that racial separatism would be healthy for all people. Nationalism, they argued, was for all people, often coined as "Ethno-pluralism." They tried to pretend a great deal of sympathy for First Nations people, arguing that we needed to avoid this type of racial colonialism. While that rhetoric is still formally used in many of their publications and public arguments, it is quickly disappearing from the dominant public "alt-right" discourse.

The Right Stuff, the website that hosts The Daily Shoah, recently ran a blog post arguing that the most appropriate action for white nationalists would be to kill all Black people in Africa so that they could use the continent for "living space." "Extermination of the brown hordes in their homelands could give vast new territories to us. They are ours for the taking," it read, arguing that racial struggle is inevitable and that, as nature predicts, often the superior species will wipe out the inferior.

The Daily Shoah has created a financial infrastructure so it can employ a few staff people regularly, including Mike Enoch, who lost his job after his identity was revealed to be a six-figure software developer in Manhattan with a Jewish wife. One of their other regular hosts, who goes by the pseudonym "Jayoh," has referred to himself openly as an "exterminationist." He believes nationalists would have to actively exterminate Black Africans, who, he says, would eventually enter into white nations and corrupt them.

While many on the "alt-right" would fail to go as far as openly arguing for the extermination of billions of people, they are reclaiming a colonial sense of themselves. Spencer's rhetoric has changed from the idea of isolated tribal states to envisioning the white Ethnostate as a great empire. This fulfills what he says is white people's "Faustian spirit," the internal drive to explore and conquer. Spencer's own "Alt Right Politics" podcast regularly celebrates European colonialism and expansionism, discussing colonialism as something that is a sum benefit for the colonized. He refers to Indigenous tribes as "humiliated peoples" who he does not want to become; therefore, he says, white Europeans must win this racial conflict. While previously "alt- righters" would have argued that ruling over others was an unnecessary evil and that they instead wanted "nationalism for all peoples," the idea that non-whites need to be controlled by whites is again gaining popularity, even if many of the thought leaders would deny this when pressed.
Street Action

The next move for the "alt-right" was to go from the world of internet chatter and private conferences into street activism. The "alt-right's" ideas were not developed through active struggle; they were instead built through echo chamber dialogue. This has made their organizations generally unskilled in activism. Instead of trying to organize and agitate on issues, using public clashes as opportunities for radicalization, they do what they have discussed in their conferences: They simply want to get at white populations to shift their consciousness towards racist "in group" and "out group" thinking.

Their step into street activism has been by and large a failure, with almost every public appearance being shut down entirely. The only opportunities they had were by uniting with their slightly more moderate "crossover" figures in what has been called the "alt-light." This is the group of "independent Trumpists" and those aligned with publications like Rebel Media and Breitbart who, while sharing their style and many of their immediate policy aims, refuse to get on board with full-tilt white nationalism. While they had some success in collaborating at the "free-speech" rallies that started in Berkeley, they were inevitably betrayed by this contingent and left on their own.

The "alt-right" helped to catalyze this split, angered over the inability of "alt-light" people like Mike Cernovich or Alex Jones to get on board with open fascism. "Alt-right" leaders thought that they had grown large enough riding on the coattails of these Trump supporters that they could still lead a large following when they broke free. That was the intent of the August 12, 2017, "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, which was intended to show that the "alt-right" had become a mass movement. Instead, they had to phone in hundreds of more traditional white nationalist types, including KKK organizations, skinhead gangs and the National Socialist Movement. In the end, the "alt-right" and its organizations and media outlets were just another branch of the US white nationalist movement, like Stormfront or the Aryan Nations. Their branding effort was a failure.
Dual Power

The primary avenue that the "alt-right" utilized was, until recently, web 2.0 platforms, where they had equal footing with major media and political figures. Anyone could post on 4Chan, and an internet celebrity could eclipse a sitting US senator in Twitter followers. Podcasts, web hosting, social media and video broadcasting had been heavily democratized, and the "alt-right" was, in a sense, the price that was paid. In that world, they were able to amplify a white nationalist message far beyond what they were capable of in times restricted to basement-printed newspapers and Xeroxed flyers.

Since the "alt right" has intensified its rhetoric and headed into violent street action, the country has further revolted against it. With poor media coverage and dog-whistle memedom, it was hard for average people to catch on to the "alt-right's" explicit fascism, but it has now been fully revealed, and there is a collective revulsion taking place. After the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, media and web hosting companies went on a tirade of mass platform denial for the "alt-right." Major "alt-right" publications and figures lost their websites -- many permanently -- as well as social media accounts, podcast hosting, email services, YouTube channels, payment systems and even dating websites. The recent Twitter "Terms of Service update" was another blow, closing dozens of far-right accounts simultaneously.

In response, they began creating their own infrastructure. Patreon, the payment platform that allowed people to pay publications or individuals monthly donations, was replaced by Hatreon, a similar service that did not ban users for neo-Nazi associations. Gab was presented as a "free-speech" alternative to Twitter, and had "alt-right" accounts flood its servers when announced. Many websites, including the white nationalist podcast The Daily Shoah and, began limiting their content to paid subscribers, all in the effort to create a financial infrastructure as "alt-right" figures were fired from their jobs and banned from the mainstream internet. As this all happened, their reach was further limited. Hatreon did not work as promised, no one outside of the "alt-right" ventured to Gab, and with their content behind paywalls, they lost their audience. Simply put, the "alt-right's" alternative internet was subpar, and they are slipping from the public conversation.

The coming months will show exactly how much the "alt-right" has been limited by the web platform denial and their own infrastructural incompetence, and attacks on net neutrality will only further limit their ability to create their own media community.
Fascism in the Age of Dinosaurs

The "alt-right" was, in and of itself, an attempt to save white nationalism from the dregs of history, where it had been placed through years of vacant terrorist acts, buffoonish behavior and the mass resistance from anti-fascist organizations. The European New Right, from which it received its earliest inspiration, was an effort to bring the right back into the culture, to avoid the failures of French nationalism seen during the waning years of Algerian colonialism, and to save fascist philosophy from its disrepute. The "alt-right's" expansion was due to its quality of quick adaptation to new technology, political climates and social mores.

We are hitting a period of heavy decline for the "alt-right," and the second half of 2017 has been a sequence of critical hits against it. However, this is not a prediction of its irrelevance and failure. Instead, it is simply a sign of the cracks in the coalition, the points of rupture that can be exploited and widened.

Fascism has always been about reinvention, and without a dynamic opposition, it will just find a way to repackage itself to the same constituencies from which it has drawn in the past.
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