WEEKLY NEWS REPORT (27 May 2018)

Vol. 1, №9

The mass media’s main functions are to divide, distract, and disinform. To consume news intelligently, we need filter out the distractions. Only then can we see how power works, in real time. This week, while the mass media was talking about Tomi Lahren, these things happened:

INTERNATIONAL

Ireland

The Irish Times and The Cut reported that voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum to remove the state’s constitutional ban on abortion. Irish ex-patriots flew from across the world to participate in the vote.

Israel

AP and Middle East Eye reported that Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a legal challenge to the military’s rules which allowed Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers to shoot Palestinians on the Gaza border. The rules allowed snipers to use live ammunition against unarmed protesters.

Middle East Eye and Electronicintifada reported that Israel’s Supreme Court approved the demolition of a Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank. The village of Khan al-Ahmar, located along a main highway that leads to the Dead Sea, and is surrounded by Israeli settlements east of Jerusalem, is home to 180 members of the Jahalin Bedouin tribe. The community will likely be moved to an area near a landfill in Abu Dis, a suburb of East Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced that the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria will meet next week to approve and advance projects in 30 Jewish communities in the West Bank.

Saudi Arabia

Middle East Eye reported that seven Saudi women’s rights activists, who campaigned to lift the ban on women driving, have been detained and may face the death penalty as traitors. A Saudi government statement said that the seven had been arrested for suspicious contact with foreign entities. The statement also accused them of working together in “an organised manner to violate religious and national values.”

AP reported that the KSA and UAE are in the final stages of negotiating consulting agreements worth millions of dollars with Trump supporter Elliott Broidy, and his business partner George Nader. Broidy and Nader previously sought to get an anti-Qatar bill through Congress, while obscuring the source of the money behind their influence campaign. Broidy maintains that his anti-Qatar campaign was not directed by a foreign client, and came entirely at his own initiative.

Reuters reported that the Trump administration is working to increase exports of more than 120,000 U.S.-made precision-guided missiles to KSA and the UAE. Congress is reviewing the sale.

Syria

The New Arab reported that a Syrian regime military base Deir az-Zor, was struck by missiles, causing “material damage” and possible casualties. Syrian state media blames US-led coalition aircraft for the attack in the eastern desert region, near the Iraqi border. The U.S. denied responsibility for the strikes.

The Jewish News Syndicate reported that nearly half of the Syrian air-defense batteries in Syria and Lebanon have been destroyed, in multiple operations in recent months. An Israeli official said defensive positions, manned by Hamas and Hezbollah fighters, are effectively forward Iranian positions. The official said, “[W]e have to weigh and asses the risks constantly as we operate against this aggression.”

NATIONAL

Apple

Breaking News reported that a jury awarded Apple a $539 million judgment against Samsung, in an ongoing smartphone patent dispute. A previous jury award of $1.05 billion was overturned on appeal.

Banks

GovTrack reported that President Trump signed the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, also known as the Dodd-Frank rollback. The law limits the regulatory authority of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) for banks with assets of $50 billion to $250 billion, and exempts banks with up to $10 billion in assets from the Volker Rule, which restricts banks from making certain kinds of speculative investments. The bill was supported by 33 Democrats in the House, 16 Democrats in the Senate.

Borders

Tuscon.com and Colorlines reported that a new Department of Justice policy is being implemented, where children and parents of undocumented families seeking asylum in the U.S. are being held in separate facilities. Previously, when asked about where children would be held under the new policy, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said, “The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever.” Recent reports indicate that the HHS is unable to account for or locate nearly 1,500 of those children. Some of the children have been abused by border patrol agents, both physically and sexually.

The Root reported that Department of Education Secretary Betty DeVos, when asked if teachers should report undocumented children in their classrooms to ICE, she responded, “I think that’s a school decision, it’s a local community decision.”

Environmental Protection

AP and CNN reported that reporters from AP, CNN, and E&E News were barred from the first day of a national summit on dangerous chemicals that have been found in some water systems. EPA officials apologized, and allowed the reporters to attend the afternoon session. On the second day, the EPA reversed itself, and once again barred reporters from CNN, Politico, and E&E News. The four barred organizations had recently issued negative reports on the EPA. Other reporters were granted access to both sessions. Jahan Wilcox, spokesman for the EPA, said the event did not fall under a federal law requiring that certain meetings be open to the public.

Inside Climate News and The Verge reported that the EPA has extended its comment period on a “secret science” rule proposed last month, which would require the EPA to release the data behind any studies used for crafting environmental policies. Critics say the rule would have the exact opposite effect of transparency: It would force the government to spend time and money to redact confidential information like medical records, or — more likely — disqualify research that includes sensitive data from being used in policy-making.

Judiciary

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund announced that it was opposing the nominations of Wendy Vitter and Andrew Oldham. Vitter, wife of Sen. David Vitter (R-La), is nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Oldham is nominated for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Both refused to endorse the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which desegregated public schools 64 years ago.

Justice

The ACLU reported that the Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program is receiving additional funding from Congress. The program is a federal/local partnership designed to develop, implement, and evaluate data-driven violence reduction strategies in communities, and improve the long-term prevention of gun violence. Attorney General Sessions called it “the centerpiece of our crime reduction strategy…U.S. Attorneys [will] … prioritize prosecutions of the most violent people in the most violent areas.” Sessions told law enforcement, “My goal is to … unleash you.”

Privacy

Krebs On Security reported that hackers have breached a LocationSmart service which allows anyone to see the approximate location of mobile phones. LocationSmart’s home page features the corporate logos of all four the major wireless providers.

Fox 13 reported that a Portland, Oregon, family contacted Amazon after they say a private conversation in their home was recorded by Amazon’s Alexa, and sent to a person in Seattle, who was in the family’s contact list. Alexa records your vocal commands, and sometimes background talk, and stores the audio on distant servers. The family, who declined to be named, were told by Amazon, “‘Our engineers went through your logs, and they saw exactly what you told us; they saw exactly what you said happened, and we’re sorry.’ He apologized like 15 times in a matter of 30 minutes, and he said, ‘We really appreciate you bringing this to our attention; this is something we need to fix!’”

The Marshall Project reported that courts are reviewing whether recordings, made by appliances in your home and stored in off-site servers, can be used in criminal trials. The “third party doctrine,” says that the government does not need a search warrant to get personal information that you’ve already shared voluntarily with somebody else, like a bank or internet provider or utility.

The ALCU of Northern California reported that Amazon is marketing a product called Rekognition to law enforcement agencies. Powered by artificial intelligence, Amazon claims that Rekognition can identify, track, and analyze people in real time, and recognize up to 100 people in a single image. It can also quickly scan information it collects against databases featuring tens of millions of faces. The company’s materials describe “person tracking” as an “easy and accurate” way to investigate and monitor people.

The Guardian reported that a software developer has alleged that Facebook used its apps to gather information about users and their friends, including some who had not signed up to the social network, reading their text messages, tracking their locations, and accessing photos on their phones.

Terrorism

The Center for Public Integrity reported that the Stimson Center, a bipartisan group of national security and budget experts, estimated the United States has spent at least $2.8 trillion on counter-terrorism since the 9/11 attacks. Nobody has been keeping track of that amount, until now.

STATE AND LOCAL

Missouri

NBC 15 reported that Harley-Davidson is closing its plant in Kansas City, days after the company announced a dividend increase and a stock buyback plan, repurchasing 15 million of its shares, valued at nearly $700 million. The company maintains that the dividend increase and stock buyback is unrelated to the tax savings from the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017, which lowered the corporate rate from 35% to 21%. Eight hundred employees will lose their jobs.

Nevada

AP, the Culinary Workers’ Union, and the Los Angeles Times reported that 50,000 workers overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike against employers on the Vegas strip. The union contract expires on May 31st. A strike could come during expected high volume during the World Cup games this summer. The union wants to protect existing benefits, increase wages, protect job security against the increasing adoption of technology at hotel-casinos, and strengthen language against sexual harassment. If the strike occurs, it would be the first citywide labor strike since 1984.

Washington, D.C.

The Intercept reported that a D.C. Superior Court judge found that federal prosecutors suppressed potentially exculpatory evidence against six Inauguration Day protesters. The court found that the prosecution had violated the “Brady rule,” which governs the state’s obligations to disclose exculpatory evidence before trial, but deferred ruling on the defense’s motions to dismiss the indictment or suppress evidence.

WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT

The Middle East Monitor reported that the Israeli Ministerial Committee for Legislation will bring up a bill that would impose criminal sanctions on journalists documenting Israeli soldiers’ human rights violations against Palestinian citizens. The bill under consideration states, “anyone who shoots a video or a photo, or records soldiers while they are doing their job, with the aim of disturbing the morale of soldiers and citizens, will be sentenced to five years imprisonment. In case this is done with the aim of destabilising the state’s security, the perpetrator will be sentenced to ten years imprisonment.”

The purpose of these summaries is to encourage curious readers to do further research. Links to, and summaries of, these news reports is not an endorsement of the source, or a representation that the stories are adequately sourced, unbiased, or are even accurately reported. Read critically!

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Lawyer, writer, musician, bon vivant. Born in Flint, Michigan during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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Patrick Goggins

Patrick Goggins

Lawyer, writer, musician, bon vivant. Born in Flint, Michigan during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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