2019-01-01 00:00:00 ..
2019-06-13 18:25:25 UTC
2019-06-13 23:30:01 UTC
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When he was in office, former President Barack Obama earned the ire of anti-war activists for his expansion of Bush's drone wars. The Nobel Peace Prize-winning head of state ordered ten times more drone strikes than the previous president, and estimates late in Obama's presidency showed 49 out of 50 victims were civilians. In 2015, it was reported that up to 90% of drone casualties were not the intended targets.
Current President Donald Trump campaigned on a less interventionist foreign policy, claiming to be opposed to nation-building and misguided invasions. But less than two months into his presidency, Trump has expanded the drone strikes that plagued Obama's "peaceful" presidency.
"During President Obama's two terms in office, he approved 542 such targeted strikes in 2,920 days—one every 5.4 days. From his inauguration through today, President Trump had approved at least 36 drone strikes or raids in 45 days—one every 1.25 days."
That's an increase of 432 [sic] percent.
First, armed police seized some of its books. Next, its director was put on trial accused of stirring up ethnic hatred. And now, quietly, its shelves have been emptied and its volumes packed up, ready to be merged into another library's collection. A year and a half after Russia's only state-run Ukrainian language library, Moscow's Library of Ukrainian Literature, was dragged into a political dispute between the two countries, Reuters has learnt that authorities are quietly winding it down.
Officially, what is happening to the library -- its 52,000 books are being transferred to Russia's main foreign language library -- is "a change of address" not a closure. But the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, some of the library's employees, and members of Russia's large Ukrainian diaspora say it is a closure in all but name.
Tatyana Muntyan, a library employee, said that even before the transfer its director had reduced opening hours, stopped home lending, halted acquisitions, and made readers show passports to gain entry. The library's director declined to comment. The saga, along with other measures, suggests political differences between Moscow and Kiev are driving a wedge between two peoples whose cultures have been interwoven for centuries. It is likely to stoke Ukrainian fears that their culture, as well as their territorial integrity, is under siege.
The Washington Post has some analysis of a noteworthy Supreme Court non-decision.
In today's [March 6] Leonard v. Texas, Justice Clarence Thomas sharply criticizes civil forfeiture laws. The one-justice opinion discusses the Supreme Court's refusing to hear the case (a result Thomas agrees with, for procedural reasons mentioned in the last paragraph); but Thomas is sending a signal, I think, that at least one justice — and maybe more — will be sympathetic to such arguments in future cases.
From Justice Thomas' statement:
In rem proceedings often enable the government to seize the property without any predeprivation judicial process and to obtain forfeiture of the property even when the owner is personally innocent (though some statutes, including the one here, provide for an innocent-owner defense). Civil proceedings often lack certain procedural protections that accompany criminal proceedings, such as the right to a jury trial and a heightened standard of proof.
Partially as a result of this distinct legal regime, civil forfeiture has in recent decades become widespread and highly profitable.
[...] These forfeiture operations frequently target the poor and other groups least able to defend their interests in forfeiture proceedings.
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is seeking another vote on Scottish independence, coming possibly as soon as late 2018:
In a bombshell announcement Monday, Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon told reporters in Edinburgh that she will seek the authority to hold a second independence referendum for Scotland. Citing a "brick wall of intransigence" from British Prime Minister Theresa May, Sturgeon asserted that the only way to preserve Scottish interests in the midst of the U.K. exit from the European Union is to put matters directly in the hands of Scottish voters.
"What Scotland deserves, in the light of the material change of circumstances brought about by the Brexit vote, is the chance to decide our future in a fair, free and democratic way — and at a time when we are equipped with the facts we need," the Scottish first minister and head of the Scottish National Party said in prepared remarks. "Whatever path we take, it should be one decided by us, not for us."
Next week, she will seek a section 30 order from the Scottish Parliament to begin the referendum process — which the U.K. Parliament in Westminster ultimately must approve. If all goes as planned, Sturgeon expects that a vote would be held in the fall of 2018 or spring of 2019, after terms of a Brexit deal worked out by the U.K. and the EU become clear.
Illegal Southwest border crossings were down 40% last month, according to just released Customs and Border Protection numbers -- a sign that President Donald Trump's hardline rhetoric and policies on immigration may be having a deterrent effect.
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly himself announced the month-to-month numbers, statistics that CBP usually quietly posts on its website without fanfare.
According to CBP data, the 40% drop in illegal Southwest border crossings from January to February is far outside normal seasonal trends. Typically, the January to February change is actually an increase of 10% to 20%.
The drop breaks a nearly 20-year trend, as CBP data going back to 2000 shows an uptick in apprehensions every February.
The number of apprehensions and inadmissible individuals presenting at the border was 18,762 people in February, down from 31,578 in January.
It will still take months to figure out if the decrease in apprehensions is an indication of a lasting Trump effect on immigration patterns. Numbers tend to decrease seasonally in the winter and increase into the spring months.
But the sharp downtick after an uptick at the end of the Obama administration could fit the narrative that it takes tough rhetoric on immigration -- backed up by policy -- to get word-of-mouth warnings to undocumented immigrants making the harrowing journey to the border.
Submitted via IRC for Runaway1956
A diplomatic spat between Turkey and the Netherlands is evolving.
Source of the controversy: Turkey's upcoming referendum on a constitutional change which would give more powers to the president. President Recep Erdoğan has been clamping down on opposition ever since the attempted coup, and securing his reign. Changing the constitution is another step in this process, which is seen by some as a large step towards eradicating democracy.
The Netherlands comes into play as the Turkish ruling party (AK) wishes to campaign for a "yes" vote in other countries, such as Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands. None of those countries is happy with an uninvited campaign visit by foreign politicians. The Turkish minister of foreign affairs was supposed to come to the Netherlands to campaign. The Dutch government strongly counselled against his visit, stating, amongst other reasons, that they do not want the Netherlands to host a rallying call for eradication of democracy. However, the rally could not be forbidden just because the contents was yuck to those in power - free speech and all that.
After this started hitting the news, the owners of the rooms that were booked for these rallies cancelled these bookings. Meanwhile, talks were ongoing between the two countries to resolve the situation. The Dutch government claims that the Turks started threatening with sanctions, and (my rephrasing) refused to be held hostage to how to govern their own country. In the midst of this evolving diplomatic spat, the Turkish minister of foreign affairs got onto a plane to the Netherlands.
As a side note: the Netherlands is having elections in 4 days (15th of March).
It gets better. The short short version:
- Saturday morning, the Dutch government cancelled the landing rights of the plane carrying the Turkish minister of foreign affairs.
- In response, Turkish president Erdogan called the Dutch nazis and fascists
- Turkish and Dutch communities were getting riled up.
This has created an atmosphere where any mayor can forbid a Turkish rally on the legitimate grounds that safety and security cannot be guaranteed. Yeah, that's not helping.
With the elections close, of course there's political posturing. Virtually all politicians think that this is a backwards step for Turkey, and that Turkish politicians should not be campaigning here.
But wait: it gets *even* better!
- Saturday evening, The Turkish minister of education snuck into the Netherlands by car.
- Her motorcade was stopped before arriving at the consulate, as the area around the Turkish consulate was now a no-go area thanks to the rising tensions
- There are calls on social media for Turks to travel to the consulate to protest.
- Turkey just announced that the Dutch ambassador to Turkey (who is not on his post currently) is not welcome back.
The ambassador not being welcome is literally breaking as I write this - I'm sure there will be more developments before this can be posted. See the live updates here.
My €0.02: Freedom of speech is important, even if you end up defending scoundrels (H.L. Mencken). However:
- every municipality has the right to forbid activities on its ground where it feels safety cannot be guaranteed.
- The Netherlands has elections in 4 days. Before today, the actions by the AK party were already decried as a gift to the anti-foreigners party. With current events evolving like this? I would expect quite a significant increase in seats for this party.
Turkey has just closed Dutch consulate and ambassy, and told the Dutch ambassador (out of country currently) he's not welcome back for now. The closing off is ostensibly for security purposes...
There is a massing of Turks near the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam. Police and various news media are there. Turkish media are getting good shots, others are broadcasting via periscope.
My updated two cents: foreign policy will become the hot topic for the Dutch elections; this is playing straight into the hands of the "Dutch Trump" Geert Wilders.
(and: why does the turkish government feel a need to force the issue now instead of after the Dutch elections? Are they so keen on playing the electoral role of the FBI?)
Leashes Come Off Wall Street, Gun Sellers, Polluters and More
WASHINGTON — Giants in telecommunications, like Verizon and AT&T, will not have to take "reasonable measures" to ensure that their customers' Social Security numbers, web browsing history and other personal information are not stolen or accidentally released.
Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase will not be punished, at least for now, for not collecting extra money from customers to cover potential losses from certain kinds of high-risk trades that helped unleash the 2008 financial crisis.
And Social Security Administration data will no longer be used to try to block individuals with disabling mental health issues from buying handguns, nor will hunters be banned from using lead-based bullets, which can accidentally poison wildlife, on 150 million acres of federal lands.
These are just a few of the more than 90 regulations that federal agencies and the Republican-controlled Congress have delayed, suspended or reversed in the month and a half since President Trump took office, according to a tally by The New York Times.
The emerging effort — dozens more rules could be eliminated in the coming weeks — is one of the most significant shifts in regulatory policy in recent decades. It is the leading edge of what Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump's chief strategist, described late last month as "the deconstruction of the administrative state."
In the submitter's opinion - some of these rollbacks are mistakes. Others, though, should never have been passed. For instance, the Social Security Administration being drafted into notifying law enforcement agencies of HIPAA protected information. The MPG requirements on American auto makers? The fuel efficient cars are available, but no one wants them. Left and right alike, buyers demand the gas guzzlers. Banking regulations, though, should stay in place. Trump should know that the bankers won't regulate themselves. FFS, he saw the same meltdown that we all saw in 2008!
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
Back in 2014 over 3 million Internet users told the U.S. government loudly and clearly: we value our online security, we value our online privacy, and we value net neutrality. Our voices helped convince the FCC to enact smart net neutrality regulations—including long-needed privacy rules.
But it appears some members of Congress didn't get the message, because they're trying to roll back the FCC's privacy rules right now without having anything concrete ready to replace them. We're talking here about basic requirements, like getting your explicit consent before using your private information to do anything other than provide you with Internet access (such as targeted advertising). Given how much private information your ISP has about you, strict limits on what they do with it are essential.
[...] Late last year, the FCC passed rules that would require ISPs to protect your private information. It covered the things you would usually associate with having an account with a major company (your name and address, financial information, etc.) but also things like any records they keep on your browsing history, geolocation information (think cell phones), and the content of your communications. Overall, the rules were pretty darn good.
But now, Senator Flake (R-AZ) and Representative Blackburn (R-TN) want to use a tool known as a Congressional Review Act [CRA] resolution to totally repeal those protections. The CRA allows Congress to veto any regulation written by a federal agency (like the FCC). Worse yet, it forbids the agency from passing any "substantially similar" regulations in the future, so the FCC would be forbidden from ever trying to regulate ISP privacy practices. At the same time, some courts have limited the Federal Trade Commission's ability protect your privacy, too.
With the hands of two federal agencies tied, ISPs themselves would be largely in change of protecting their customer's privacy. In other words, the fox will be guarding the henhouse.
[...] So please, take action and call your senator and representative today, and tell them not to use the CRA to repeal the FCC's privacy rules.
A story on Ars Technica notes:
As expected, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and 23[sic] Republican co-sponsors introduced the resolution yesterday. The measure would use lawmakers' power under the Congressional Review Act [CRA] to ensure that the FCC rulemaking "shall have no force or effect." The resolution would also prevent the FCC from issuing similar regulations in the future.
Flake's announcement said he's trying to "protect consumers from overreaching Internet regulation." Flake also said that the resolution "empowers consumers to make informed choices on if and how their data can be shared," but he did not explain how it will achieve that.
Flake called the FCC's privacy rulemaking "midnight regulation," even though it was approved by the commission in October 2016, before the presidential election, after a months-long rulemaking process.
"The FCC's midnight regulation does nothing to protect consumer privacy," Flake said. "It is unnecessary, confusing, and adds yet another innovation-stifling regulation to the Internet." Flake's announcement also said that the FCC-imposed "restrictions have the potential to negatively impact consumers and the future of Internet innovation."
[...] Flake's co-sponsors are US Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Dan Sullivan (R-Ark.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.)[sic], and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).
Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) offered similar criticism. "Big broadband barons and their Republican allies want to turn the telecommunications marketplace into a Wild West where consumers are held captive with no defense against abusive invasions of their privacy by internet service providers," Markey said. "Consumers will have no ability to stop Internet service providers from invading their privacy and selling sensitive information about their health, finances, and children to advertisers, insurers, data brokers or others who can profit off of this personal information, all without their affirmative consent."
[Update: As pointed out by reader tangomargarine, Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) is listed twice in the list taken from Ars Technica. Reviewing the proposed resolution reveals Sen. Flake and 21 (not 23) co-signers. Further, Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) is listed by Ars as being a signer, but his name is not listed on the resolution. --martyb]
-- submitted from IRC
Submitted via IRC for Runaway1956
Federal lawmakers are investigating how a former Iraqi insurgent fighter was able to lie about his identity and still get through America's 'extreme' vetting process.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to find out why the terror suspect's pending arrest was allegedly spiked just over a week before the election. Trump had run on a tough-on-terror platform and had been critical of President Obama's refugee policy.
"When [Joint Terrorism Task Force] and the U.S. Attorney's office for the Western District of Texas sought to prosecute this refugee, the local law enforcement and prosecutors allegedly 'met resistance' from officials within the National Security Division's Counter Terrorism section in Washington DC," Committee chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said in a March 6 letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Murray had been invited by Middlebury's student group affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank at which Murray is a scholar. [...] Prior to the point when Murray was introduced, several Middlebury officials reminded students that they were allowed to protest but not to disrupt the talk. The students ignored those reminders and faced no visible consequences for doing so. [...]
After the students chanted for about 20 minutes, college officials announced that the lecture would not take place but that Murray would go to another location, which the college didn't name, and have a discussion with a Middlebury faculty member — livestreamed back to the original lecture site.
According to Middlebury officials, after Murray and the professor who interviewed him for the livestream attempted to leave the location in a car, some protesters surrounded the car, jumped on it, pounded on it and tried to prevent the car from leaving campus.
Other sources note that political science professor Allison Stanger, who agreed to moderate the discussion, was attacked while accompanying Murray to the car, ultimately requiring treatment at a hospital for neck injuries caused by protesters pushing her and pulling her hair.
Murray himself later gave an account of his experience on the AEI blog. He emphasized that Middlebury's administration and staff displayed in exemplary ways their encouragement of free speech:
Middlebury's stance has been exemplary. The administration agreed to host the event. President Patton did not cancel it even after a major protest became inevitable. She appeared at the event, further signaling Middlebury's commitment to academic freedom. The administration arranged an ingenious Plan B that enabled me to present my ideas and discuss them with Professor Stanger even though the crowd had prevented me from speaking in the lecture hall. I wish that every college in the country had the backbone and determination that Middlebury exhibited.
But Murray notes that the outcome was very different from his previous controversial appearances:
Until last Thursday, all of the ones involving me have been as carefully scripted as kabuki: The college administration meets with the organizers of the protest and ground rules are agreed upon. The protesters have so many minutes to do such and such. It is agreed that after the allotted time, they will leave or desist. These negotiated agreements have always worked. At least a couple of dozen times, I have been able to give my lecture to an attentive (or at least quiet) audience despite an organized protest.
Middlebury tried to negotiate such an agreement with the protesters, but, for the first time in my experience, the protesters would not accept any time limits. [...] In the mid-1990s, I could count on students who had wanted to listen to start yelling at the protesters after a certain point, "Sit down and shut up, we want to hear what he has to say." That kind of pushback had an effect. It reminded the protesters that they were a minority. I am assured by people at Middlebury that their protesters are a minority as well. But they are a minority that has intimidated the majority. The people in the audience who wanted to hear me speak were completely cowed.
The form of the protest has been widely condemned even by those who vehemently disagree with Murray, as in the piece by Peter Beinart in The Atlantic that claims "something has gone badly wrong on the campus left." He argues strongly that "Liberals must defend the right of conservative students to invite speakers of their choice, even if they find their views abhorrent."
Meanwhile, student protesters have responded with their own account, disclaiming the hair-pulling incident as unintentional and "irresponsible" but condemning the Middlebury administration for their "support of a platform for white nationalist speech." They further claimed "peaceful protest was met with escalating levels of violence by the administration and Public Safety, who continually asserted their support of a dangerous racist over the well-being of students."
Personal note: My take on all of this is that the actual subject of Murray's Middlebury talk has been lost in the media coverage, namely his 2012 book Coming Apart, which (ironically) is a detailed discussion of the problems created by a division of the intellectual elite from the white working class. He explicitly dilutes his previous connections of social problems with a black underclass by noting that many of the same issues plague poor white communities. While his argument is still based on problematic assertions about intelligence and IQ, the topic of his book seems very relevant given recent political events and issues of class division. There's some sort of profound irony in a bunch of students at an elite school refusing to allow a debate on the causes and results of division between elite intellectuals and the (white) working class. I personally may think Murray's scholarship is shoddy and his use of statistics frequently misleading (or downright wrong), but I don't see how that justifies the kind of threats and intimidation tactics shown at this protest.