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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 42,851

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Journal Archives

Paradox of the First Black President

There is a photo by Pete Souza, the White House’s canny and peripatetic photographer, that surfaces from time to time online. The setting is Marine One, and it features a modest cast of five. Valerie Jarrett, dressed in a suit of blazing pink, is staring at her cell phone. Barack Obama, twisted around in his seat, is listening to a conversation between his then–body guy, Reggie Love, and Patrick Gaspard, one of his then–top advisers. Obama’s former deputy press secretary, Bill Burton, is looking on too, with just the mildest hint of a grin on his face.

In many ways, it’s a banal shot — just another photo for the White House Instagram feed, showing the president and his aides busily attending to matters of state. Stare at it a second longer, though, and a subtle distinction comes into focus: Everyone onboard is black. “We joked that it was Soul Plane,” says Burton. “And we’ve often joked about it since — that it was the first time in history only black people were on that helicopter.”
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53 Historians Weigh In on Barack Obama’s Legacy

Souza snapped that shot on August 9, 2010, but it didn’t make any prominent appearances in the mainstream press until mid-2012, when it appeared in The New York Times Magazine. The following summer, July 2013, the president had a group of civil-rights leaders come visit him in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, and the optics, as they like to say in politics, were similar: An all-star cast of minorities (African-American and Latino this time) gathered in a historic place to which the barriers to entry were once insuperably high.

But this was not a meeting the participants laughed about afterward. When Obama opened up the floor, everyone spoke about what they’d witnessed in the 2012 election: how states that limited voter-registration drives and early-voting initiatives had left many African-Americans off the rolls; how strict new laws concerning IDs had prevented many minorities from voting and created hours-long lines at the polls. The answer was clear: legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court had just overturned a key provision of the landmark civil-rights legislation the month before.

But Obama’s response was equally clear: Nothing could be done. Not in this political climate, not under these circumstances. Congress would never allow it.

The group was stunned. As they’d stumped for Obama, one of the many talking points they’d used to turn out the black vote was the threat of disenfranchisement, the possibility that the Voting Rights Act was in jeopardy. Yet here was Obama telling them that a bill addressing this vital issue didn’t stand a chance.


Remembering Anna Politkovskaya on the Anniversary of her Death

On the ninth anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya's murder, Freedom House mourns the courageous journalist and continues to demand full justice for the slain journalist.

"Politkovskaya's death will remain part of the present until the Russian authorities bring to justice the masterminds of her murder," said Mark P. Lagon, president of Freedom House.

"Politkovskaya is a symbol of fearless uncovering the truth, the golden standard of journalism. It is tragic that in modern Russia truth is so feared by the authorities that impunity became a policy on violence against government critics."

Russia is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2015, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2015, and receives a democracy score of 6.46 on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2015.


Inside the world’s only sanctuary for exiled journalists

PARIS, FRANCE—“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire never actually said (pdf) those words, but the great French writer would have understood how much they applied to the jokes made by the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo.

Voltaire, exiled from Paris for almost three decades for his ironic anti-clerical works, would have also understood the potential repercussions—he himself made Islam one of his targets in his 1736 five-act play, Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet. The deaths of the cartoonists at the hands of the Kouachi brothers earlier this year shattered some easy assumptions, perhaps the biggest being that we live in a world where you can’t be murdered over a joke.

Not far away from those bloodstained Charlie Hebdo hallways, on the other bank of the Seine, there’s a building that houses those who have experienced the alternative to death—exile. The men and women inside the Maison des Journalistes, the only refuge for threatened journalists in the world, already know how quickly a life can change over a few choice words.
The Rwandan journalist—not silenced yet.(Quartz/Kabir Chibber)

None are famous. They committed small acts of courage and were punished for it. Truth is, few in the real world even care about all they have given up. When Quartz visited the Maison earlier this summer, a Syrian photojournalist, who asked not to be named, spoke of living through the siege of Homs with no food or electricity for a year. His brother was killed by a missile; the rest of his family is still there.

There was an Algerian, Mourad Hammam, whose eyes filled with tears as he talked about the corruption under president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. He was threatened after writing about a young man who was shot to death in the middle of a bar brawl, caused by a fight between the local mafia over which song to play. Behind Hammam hung a tableau of cartoons to celebrate Freedom of the Press Day; one showed an militiaman forcing an anthropomorphic newspaper to dig its own grave. Among the signatories was a longtime supporter of the Maison: Charlie Hebdo’s Cabu, once described by Jean-Luc Godard as “the best journalist in France.”


What, you were expecting this story to be about somebody else?

McDonald's drive-thru oral sex couple 'turned their car into human zoo'

A couple who admitted having oral sex in a McDonalds’s drive-thru “turned themselves and their car into a human zoo,” a judge has said.

Lisa Victoria Gray, 28, of Pentrechwyth Road, Bonymaen, Swansea, and Rhys Higgins, 24, of Ravenhill, Swansea, “abandoned every shred of decency and respect they had” a judge has said.

They were caught at the McDonald’s in Foundry Road, Morriston, Swansea, in the early hours of May 6 this year, said Judge Paul Thomas QC at Swansea Crown Court.

He said their “animalistic lust” led them to commit the offence.

On Friday, Judge Thomas gave shame-faced Gray and Higgins four-month jail sentences suspended for a year after they both pleaded guilty to a joint charge of outraging public decency.

Craig Jones, prosecuting, said: “At 4.30am on May 6 this year Gray was driving a yellow Fiat car and Higgins was the front seat passenger.

“She pulled into the McDonald’s drive-thru and placed an order for a meal via the speaker system and proceeded to a delivery window.

“It was clear to the staff both Gray and Higgins were under the influence of drink at this time.


Russia Is Bombing Ambulances in Syria

Dr. Ammar Martini has a simple question he would like answered: “Why are the Russians bombing my hospitals and ambulances?”

One of the cofounders of Orient Humanitarian Relief, a nonprofit that provides medical treatment and educational services in northern and central Syria, Martini was recounting to The Daily Beast how Russian airstrikes in the Idlib countryside Saturday destroyed a part of his emergency ambulance center. “They destroyed four or five of our vehicles,” he said. “These attacks were specifically targeting Orient.”

Below is a video Oubai Shahbandar, a former Pentagon officials turned Orient employee, shared with The Daily Beast, showing the charred vehicles. “If the Russians think ambulances are legitimate terrorist targets,” Shahbandar emailed, “imagine what they’re going to do to the rest of Syria.”
On the same day the U.S. struck a hospital in Afghanistan, Putin’s pilots struck medical facilities and vehicles nowhere near ISIS.

It’s been a dark week for medical volunteers, all around. A Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, was struck repeatedly on Saturday by U.S. warplanes. Nineteen were killed, the majority of them hospital workers. Colonel Brian Tribus, the U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, said that any powdered medical facilities constituted “collateral damage” against legitimate Taliban targets threatening U.S. forces in the area. Doctors Without Borders countered that there were no militants in or around its facility, and accused the American military of a “war crime.” That isn’t clear, at this point. But what is apparent is that the Kunduz hospital attack is a major violation of the standards U.S. forces have set for themselves. A military investigation is underway, and the Pentagon has now retracted its initial claim that American soldiers were under threat.


I'll just leave this here....

4chan and the Oregon shooter: What the suspicious thread says about a horrifying subculture

It may have been a direct warning. It may have been just a coincidence. And regardless of which scenario is true, the fact we can’t yet be sure should tell you plenty already about the horrifying subculture of murderously angry young men out there.

As law enforcement and the press scrambled for information in the wake of Thursday’s mass shooting at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College, which left ten people dead and seven wounded, Federal officials announced they were investigating a recent 4chan exchange that appeared to predict the rampage. In a cryptic post on the /r9k board on Wednesday, an anonymous poster with an image of Pepe the Frog holding a gun reportedly posted, “Some of you guys are alright. Don’t go to school tomorrow if you are in the northwest. happening thread will be posted tomorrow morning. so long space robots.”

After the shooting, some users noted that a well-known figure on the board who goes by Eggman had in August posted a video declaring “I’m done with r9k” and on Wednesday had added another video saying, “Anybody in the Seattle area, the Washington area, and want me to come, like, couch surf at their house or whatever, just hit me up dawg. I’m going to be here a few days.” Predictably, speculation soon ran rampant that Eggman was the shooter. But the killer was later identified as someone else — 26 year-old Chris Harper Mercer.

Was Mercer the 4chan user who issued the warning? The timing is certainly eerie. But what’s demoralizing is that it could easily have been the rambling of just one more loathsome 4chan troll in an ocean of loathsome 4chan trolls. The post was immediately greeted with a Christmas Eve level excitement — the first reply was, “Is beta uprising finally going down? You might want to chillax and not alert police.” See, in the sad world of frustrated men who dwell in the lowest reaches of online community, males can divide themselves into “alphas” — self-aggrandizing, openly hostile followers of pick up artist culture, and betas, the poor misunderstood, passed over men who will have their glorious day of revenge. Does this talk of alphas and betas sound familiar? Maybe you remember getting the tutorial a year and a half ago, when another young man, Elliot Rodger, went on a deadly spree.


Sadly, the people who need to read this the most, won't...

German authorities accused of playing down refugee shelter sex crime reports

Germany's police union and women's rights groups accused the authorities on Tuesday of playing down reports of harassment, sexual assault and even rape at refugee shelters because they feared a backlash against asylum seekers.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere called on Germans to avoid succumbing to a blanket suspicion of the hundreds of thousands of migrants arriving in the country, saying an unbelievable number of rumors were being spread on the Internet.

But police union chief Rainer Wendt said he believed that authorities in Germany's federal states, which are responsible for housing asylum seekers, were playing down the problem of assaults on women in the shelters.

"It is understandable that there is the desire to calm things down politically," Wendt told Reuters. But he, along with women's groups, believed that ignoring the problem would be counterproductive. "There is a lot of glossing over going on. But this doesn't represent reality," he said.

With public opinion hardening on the refugee influx, German authorities appear anxious to avoid giving extreme-right groups any opportunity to stir up hostility towards migrants, many of whom are Muslims including those fleeing the Syrian civil war.


How Iranian general plotted out Syrian assault in Moscow

At a meeting in Moscow in July, a top Iranian general unfurled a map of Syria to explain to his Russian hosts how a series of defeats for President Bashar al-Assad could be turned into victory - with Russia's help.

Major General Qassem Soleimani's visit to Moscow was the first step in planning for a Russian military intervention that has reshaped the Syrian war and forged a new Iranian-Russian alliance in support of Assad.

As Russian warplanes bomb rebels from above, the arrival of Iranian special forces for ground operations underscores several months of planning between Assad's two most important allies, driven by panic at rapid insurgent gains.

Soleimani is the commander of the Quds Force, the elite extra-territorial special forces arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, and reports directly to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Senior regional sources say he has already been overseeing ground operations against insurgents in Syria and is now at the heart of planning for the new Russian- and Iranian-backed offensive.


Edward Snowden just contradicted himself in a big way

Edward Snowden told the BBC in a new interview that he "gave all of my information to American journalists and free society generally."

It's another chapter in an ongoing series of seemingly contradictory statements on a central question of Snowden's story: What exactly happened to all of the NSA documents he stole?

Snowden has previously said he gave up all information to American journalists. And he has also made the opposite assertion.

On June 12, 2013, two days after identifying himself to the world and fleeing the US, the former NSA contractor originally told the South China Morning Post (SCMP) that he hadn't given everything to American journalists Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald — because he had to review the data he was leaking.


How many more times will he and Greenwald change their story? It's been about a dozen already...

That time when Wikileaks met with Assad

WikiLeaks party meeting with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad condemned by Federal Government

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has condemned the WikiLeaks party for sending a delegation to meet with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian president released a Twitter photo on December 23 appearing to show the meeting.

The WikiLeaks delegation reportedly included John Shipton, the father of founder Julian Assange, who is currently the chairman of the WikiLeaks party. Ms Bishop said WikiLeaks' actions were "excessively reckless" and risked involving Australia in the conflict.

"It's an extraordinarily reckless thing for an organisation registered as a political party in Australia to try and insert itself in the appalling conflict in Syria for their own political ends," he said.

"It's certainly counter-productive. It is not in support of the sanctions regime that Australia has in place, in fact it risks undermining the sanctions regime we have in place, and it risks aligning Australia with one side of the conflict in Syria, which is something we would not do."

In a statement posted on the WikiLeaks party website in the lead up to the meeting, a spokesman said the aim of the trip was to show solidarity with the Syrian people and to voice its opposition to western military intervention.


Along with Ukraine and the TPP, it's interesting how many of Wikileak's goals align perfectly with Moscow's...
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