2020-01-01 00:00:00 ..
2020-06-06 11:50:27 UTC
2020-06-06 12:04:18 UTC
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We had submissions from three Soylentils with different takes on the NRA (National Rifle Association) and the public response in the wake of an attack at a Parkland, Florida high school.
Common Dreams reports:
In the latest sign that the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida tragedy may be playing out differently than the fallout from other mass shootings, several national companies have cut ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA).
[Car rental companies] Alamo, Enterprise, and National--all owned by Enterprise Holdings--announced late on [February 22] that they would end discounts for the NRA's five million members. Symantec, the security software giant that owns Lifelock and Norton, ended its discount program on Friday as well.
The First National Bank of Omaha also said it would stop issuing its NRA-branded Visa credit cards, emblazoned with the group's logo and called "the Official Credit Card of the NRA". The institution is the largest privately-held bank in the U.S., with locations in Nebraska, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, and South Dakota.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai joined the pack at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Friday alongside fellow Republican commissioners Michael O'Rielly and Brendan Carr—the architects of the recent order repealing net neutrality protections passed in the Obama era.
Upon taking the stage, it was announced that Pai was receiving an award from the National Rifle Association: a handmade Kentucky long gun and plaque known as the "Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award."
Fallout continues from the mass murder in Florida. The National Rifle Association is taking it up the wazoo. A national boycott is emerging. If you are old enough, you will remember that this is what brought down Apartheid in South Africa.
From the Huffington Post:
In what may be a pivotal moment for American gun law reform, the National Rifle Association has become the object of intense pushback from anti-gun activists and survivors of last week's mass shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 dead.
All the attention prompted the gun-rights group to break from its usual strategy of keeping quiet after mass gun deaths. NRA officials have gone on the attack to rail against the "politicization" of a tragedy, and going so far as to suggest that members of the media "love mass shootings" because of the ratings they supposedly bring.
The uproar has once again presented companies affiliated with the NRA, and its powerful pro-gun lobby, with a question: to cut ties, or to continue a relationship with a large but controversial group?
The NRA partners with dozens of businesses to spread its pro-gun message and provide discounts to its members, who number 5 million, according to the group. But this week, some companies have begun to jump ship.
Facing pressure from consumers, the First National Bank of Omaha said Thursday it would stop issuing NRA-branded Visa credit cards after its contract with the group expires. Enterprise Holdings, which operates the rental car brands Enterprise, National and Alamo, says it will end its discount program for NRA members next month, along with Avis and Budget. Hertz is out, too.
Facebook has removed a virtual reality shoot-em-up experience from a tech demo at a top American conservative conference after recieving criticism for being "tone deaf" following last week's deadly school shooting in Florida. The social network has a presence at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) conference in Maryland, this week, including a booth running a demo of its Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. This demo included a first-person shooting game.
People on Twitter have criticised Facebook for running this demo so soon after the deadly shooting attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead.
The game, Bullet Train, was just one of a number of standard Oculus games/demos that Facebook has included at public events. In fact, Bullet Train has been around since 2015, and the team that made it released a full game called Robo Recall, funded by Oculus:
The game will be an Oculus exclusive — that company is funding its development — and the five-to-ten-person team that created Bullet Train has ballooned into a full 15 person team at Epic in order to turn this into a real game with a release date in "early 2017." It will include a number of graphical jumps from Bullet Train, and this benefits Epic in other ways as well.
Yet, Facebook still tried to distance itself from the original demo:
The demo for the game, called "Bullet Train," is being developed by a third-party game-maker, not Oculus, the company said.
Why is Facebook at CPAC? Probably as part of an ongoing effort to placate conservatives angry at the platform.
This comes a few months after the Puerto Rico hurricane VR debacle.
Original URL: World leaders abandoning human rights: Amnesty
World leaders are undermining human rights for millions of people with regressive policies and hate-filled rhetoric, but their actions have ignited global protest movements in response, a rights group said.
US President Donald Trump, Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and China's President Xi Jinping were among a number of politicians who rolled out regressive policies in 2017, according to Amnesty International's annual human rights report published on Thursday.
The human rights body also mentioned the leaders of Egypt, the Philippines and Venezuela.
"The spectres of hatred and fear now loom large in world affairs, and we have few governments standing up for human rights in these disturbing times," Salil Shetty, Amnesty's secretary-general, said.
"Instead, leaders such as el-Sisi, Duterte, Maduro, Putin, Trump and Xi are callously undermining the rights of millions."
[...] The regressive approach to human rights adopted by a number of world leaders has, however, inspired new waves of social activism and protest, Amnesty said, highlighting the example of the Women's March in January last year, which began in the US before becoming a global protest.
Normally, autonomous computer programmes known as bots trawl the internet, for example, to help search engines. However, there are also programmes known as social bots which interfere in social media, automatically generating replies or sharing content. They are currently suspected of spreading political propaganda. Scientists at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have investigated the extent to which such autonomous programmes were used on the platform Twitter during the general elections in Japan in 2014. By using methods taken from corpus linguistics, they were able to draw up a case study on the activity patterns of social bots. At the same time, the FAU researchers gained an insight into how computer programmes like these were used, and recognised that nationalistic tendencies had an important role to play in the election, especially in social media. The results of the investigation have been published in the journal Big Data.
Prof. Dr. Fabian Schäfer, chair of Japanese Studies at FAU, was motivated to study the use of social bots after the general election in Japan in 2014. The conservative Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, led by Shinzō Abe, won the election. Publicly and in the mass media, his election campaign focused predominantly on economic issues. It was a different story in social media. "Our analysis showed that Abe's hidden nationalistic agenda had a very important role to play in these channels," Schäfer explains. "The importance of the hidden agenda in social media is not, however, down to either the prime minister or the LDP itself." Rather, it appears as if social bots were widely used by right-wing internet users, ranging from far-right to more conservative right-wing circles. Prof. Schäfer's initial hypothesis was that the right-wingers used social bots to give indirect online support to Abe's nationalistic agenda, which had slipped into the background during the political campaign.
It seems that future elections will have to deal with such "bots" whether we like it or not. How much influence do you think such bots will have on future election campaigns?
Schäfer Fabian, Evert Stefan, and Heinrich Philipp. Japan's 2014 General Election: Political Bots, Right-wing Internet Activism, and Prime Minister Shinzō Abe's Hidden Nationalist Agenda. Big Data. DOI: 10.1089/big.2017.0049
From The Verge:
Google didn't violate labor laws by firing engineer James Damore for a memo criticizing the company's diversity program, according to a recently disclosed letter from the US National Labor Relations Board. The lightly redacted statement is written by Jayme Sophir, associate general counsel of the NLRB's division of advice; it dates to January, but was released yesterday, according to Law.com. Sophir concludes that while some parts of Damore's memo were legally protected by workplace regulations, "the statements regarding biological differences between the sexes were so harmful, discriminatory, and disruptive as to be unprotected."
Damore filed an NLRB complaint in August of 2017, after being fired for internally circulating a memo opposing Google's diversity efforts. Sophir recommends dismissing the case; Bloomberg reports that Damore withdrew it in January, and that his lawyer says he's focusing on a separate lawsuit alleging discrimination against conservative white men at Google. NLRB records state that its case was closed on January 19th.
There are White House Staff positions open, I hear.
A federal grand jury in Washington, DC has indicted 13 Russian nationals and a Kremlin-linked internet firm on charges that they had meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
The US government said Russian entities began interfering in US political processes, including the 2016 presidential election, as early as 2014, according to a court document.
[...] The charges – which include conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft – are the most direct allegations to date of illegal Russian meddling in the election.
Link to the Indictment: https://www.justice.gov/file/1035477/download
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Kent State University, facing the threat of a lawsuit, reiterated on Friday that it cannot accommodate a request to allow white nationalist Richard Spencer to speak in early May as part of his campus tour.
The university, which is based in Kent but has regional campuses elsewhere in the state, said it had responded to attorney Kyle Bristow reaffirming its earlier response that no suitable space is available for Spencer to speak between April 30 and May 12.
Bristow had told Kent State it had until the end of business Friday to agree to rent space at an "acceptable date and time" or face a lawsuit. Several other schools, including Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati, are in litigation over Spencer.
Tour organizer Cameron Padgett wanted Spencer to speak at Kent State on the May 4 anniversary of Ohio National Guard shootings that killed four students during anti-war protests in 1970. The university said early May is too busy with activities around the end of the academic year.
Bristow said last year that Spencer planned to speak March 14 on the University of Cincinnati campus, but the university said there was no contract in place, and the two sides are now in a legal standoff over the university's demand for a security fee of nearly $11,000.
Small town Republican thoughts on refuting the alt-right. In The Republican Journal:
I want to make one thing very clear: The Waldo County Republican Committee absolutely, unequivocally condemns Nazi and KKK ideologies and actions, as well as any other kind of bigotry, and we encourage all of our voters and the community at large to do the same.
For fellow Republicans out there, worry not, we don't like Antifa's ideology and actions either, but we need to clean our own house; we need to worry about our own responsibilities.
Such honesty, and clarity of thought!
The most dangerous part of politics today is identity politics, trolling, pathos and a severe lack of critical thinking. You cannot defeat the insidious hatred of bigoted politics with more hate. By doing so, you morph the conversation away from policy and ideology to silly label syntax, eventually devolving completely into back and forth verbal gymnastics. Make no mistake, these trolls are ready for you as you stoop to their level, and they beat you up with mountains of experience.
So what do we do? Very simple. Stay neighborly by controlling your reaction. Seek out those with whom you disagree, try to understand them first, and politely offer your counter argument.
And it looks like the Republicans in Maine, if not in Illinois, are rejecting the alt-right.
The way to defeat Mr. Kawczynski is not by attacking him, but by attacking his ideas. Here are some flaws in his thinking: His immigration ideas are antithetical to the Maine Republican party platform, a section of which states, "We support the assimilation of legal immigrants into Maine society."
Kawczynski's ideas stand in contrast to Maine history and culture; in fact, it is white folks with racist ideologies who pose the greatest threat to Maine's foundation, not other races of people.
Another brilliant tidbit:
Ultimately, all you have to do is walk outside with your eyes open in this state to see that Kawczynski's fearmongering about "white genocide" is completely laughable.
Entire guest column is well worth a read.
A study by researchers at Oxford University concluded that sharing fake and junk news is much more prevalent amongst Trump supporters and other people with hard right-wing tendencies.
The study, from the university's "computational propaganda project", looked at the most significant sources of "junk news" shared in the three months leading up to Donald Trump's first State of the Union address this January, and tried to find out who was sharing them and why.
"On Twitter, a network of Trump supporters consumes the largest volume of junk news, and junk news is the largest proportion of news links they share," the researchers concluded. On Facebook, the skew was even greater. There, "extreme hard right pages – distinct from Republican pages – share more junk news than all the other audiences put together.
What kinds of social media users read junk news? We examine the distribution of the most significant sources of junk news in the three months before President Donald Trump's first State of the Union Address. Drawing on a list of sources that consistently publish political news and information that is extremist, sensationalist, conspiratorial, masked commentary, fake news and other forms of junk news, we find that the distribution of such content is unevenly spread across the ideological spectrum. We demonstrate that (1) on Twitter, a network of Trump supporters shares the widest range of known junk news sources and circulates more junk news than all the other groups put together; (2) on Facebook, extreme hard right pages—distinct from Republican pages—share the widest range of known junk news sources and circulate more junk news than all the other audiences put together; (3) on average, the audiences for junk news on Twitter share a wider range of known junk news sources than audiences on Facebook's public pages.
[Ed. note: page is loading very slowly; try a direct link to the actual report (pdf). --martyb]
Pope Francis ' recent decision to replace two Chinese bishops loyal to Rome with selectees of the country's Communist government, heralding his broader moves to reset the Vatican's ties with Beijing, has drawn cries of betrayal from advocates of the country's long-persecuted "underground" Catholic Church.
The pope's actions in China are characteristic of a leader who has repeatedly practiced realpolitik to achieve important goals. But they clash with Pope Francis' image among many Catholics and others as a defender of the oppressed—a profile likely to be further tested by his campaign to improve Vatican-China relations after seven decades of estrangement.
The pope has decided to recognize seven government-appointed Chinese bishops, according to a person familiar with the matter, in a major concession to Beijing in pursuit of warmer relations and—in the very long term—possible reestablishment of diplomatic ties broken in 1951. As part of that decision, Pope Francis has moved to replace two bishops loyal to the Vatican with prelates from China's state-controlled Catholic church.