Vol. 1, №10
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 Roseanne, these things happened:
The Guardian reported that a newly declassified CIA memo revealed that, Brazil’s former dictator Ernesto Geisel personally approved the summary execution of his regime’s perceived enemies. The memorandum, sent on April 11, 1974 from CIA director, William Colby, to secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, detailed a meeting that had taken place a few days earlier between Geisel and three Brazilian generals. Geisel agreed that “Extra-legal methods should continue to be employed against dangerous subversives.” There is no record that Kissinger objected.
Sputnik News reported that a Chinese firm recently demonstrated a counter-drone laser weapon system, at a military equipment exhibition in Kazakhstan. The laser weapon, called the “Silent Killer,” successfully intercepted an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from 300 meters away.
Al Jazeera reported that Colombia’s historic presidential election is heading into a runoff vote, with right-wing candidate Ivan Duque leading the race but failing to secure the majority needed to win outright. He will face leftist candidate Gustavo Petro, who finished second. The second round of voting on June 17.
The Independent reported that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Lithuania and Romania violated the rights of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, by allowing the CIA to torture them in black sites within their borders. The court ordered the countries to pay €100,000 (£88,000; $117,000) in damages to the two men.
America Magazine and Reuters reported that at least 15 people were killed and more than 200 injured by paramilitary groups during a Mother’s Day protest against President Daniel Ortega. The government denied allegations by rights groups that the aggressors were government supporters and said it bore no responsibility for the violence. In the last month, over 80 have been killed in student-led protests sparked by austerity measures. One student, 15-year-old Álvaro Conrado, was shot in the throat. His final words, “me duele respirar” (“it hurts to breathe”), have become one of the catchphrases of protesters.
The New York Times, Electronic Intifada, and Al Jazeera reported that Razan al-Najjar, a 21-year-old volunteer paramedic, was killed by Israeli live fire during the protests east of the south Gaza city of Khan Younis. A witness said she was shot while running towards the fortified fence to help a casualty. Wearing a white uniform, “she raised her hands high in a clear way, but Israeli soldiers fired and she was hit in the chest.”
The New Arab reported that the Arab League condemned the U.S. decision to veto a UN draft resolution calling for measures to protect Palestinians amid a deadly crackdown by Israeli forces. The league’s head, Ahmed Abul Gheit, said the move will embolden Israeli authorities in its campaign of shooting and killing protesters.
The Hill reported that defense minister Mariusz Blaszczak said that he discussed permanently stationing thousands of U.S. troops in Poland who are currently there on a temporary mission with American officials. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “When we see the gradual expansion of NATO military structures towards our borders … this of course in no way creates security and stability on the continent.”
Politico reported that conservative Mariano Rajoy was defeated in a no-confidence vote in parliament, paving the way for Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez to take over as Spain’s new prime minister. The vote came after a court sentenced 29 people, including former senior officials from the prime minister’s Popular Party (PP), to a total of 351 years in prison for corruption.
Mint Press News reported that the UN warned that millions more Yemeni civilians are expected to starve to death before year’s end as a result of a blockade imposed on the country by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition. Mark Lowcock, the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, said that, if conditions do not improve, the number of Yemenis at the brink of starvation would rise from the current figure of 8.4 million, to 18.4 million by this December. That would be nearly two-thirds of the country’s population.
The Hill reported that federal judge Robert Brack, who has sentenced upwards of 15,000 defendants — the majority of whom were immigrants with little or no criminal record — told the Los Angeles Times that he was tired of presiding over a policy that separates families. “I have presided over a process that destroys families for a long time, and I am weary of it,” said Judge Brack. “And I think we as a country are better than this.”
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington announced that it has sued the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) for failing to act on complaints against a super PAC. The PAC, Coalition for Progress, is a New Jersey-based group reportedly supporting Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop. CREW alleges that a shell company called DE First Holdings gave a $1,000,000 contribution to the Coalition for Progress the day after it was formed. As DE First Holdings had no known business activity, it is virtually impossible for that million dollars to have come from the company and not a hidden donor. The FEC has not acted on the complaint in two years.
Maplight reported that three Fortune 500 companies have donated at least $1.6 million to America First Policies, a controversial pro-Trump “dark money” organization that’s been criticized for racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-Muslim sentiments expressed by its staff. America First Policies, a nonprofit established last year by former Trump campaign officials, has received donations from Southern Company, CVS Health, and Dow Chemical. A policy advisor to America First said, on video, that “the only thing the Nazis didn’t get right is they didn’t keep f**king going!”
The Hill reported that the Supreme Court released an opinion limiting the scope of police searches. The 8–1 opinion in Collins v. Virginia, written by Justice Sotomayor, ruled that officers must have a warrant to go through a vehicle parked at a home or on its surrounding property.
The Intercept and Gizmodo reported that when leaked emails showed that Google had secretly signed an agreement with the Pentagon to provide cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology for drone warfare, the company faced an internal revolt. About a dozen Google employees have resigned in protest, and thousands have signed a petition calling for an end to the contract. The endeavor, code-named Project Maven by the military, is designed to help drone operators recognize images captured on the battlefield. Google later announced it would not renew the contract.
Reuters reported that a U.N. human rights investigator found that poverty in the United States is extensive and is deepening under the Trump administration whose policies seem aimed at removing the safety net from millions of poor, while rewarding the rich. Philip Alston, U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty, said, “the policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship.”
The Intercept reported that Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), and Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, demanding answers about how the tech giant’s facial recognition technology is being used by law enforcement agencies around the country. They included a total of 12 requests for information regarding Amazon’s facial recognition service, branded as “Rekognition,” including the names of any law enforcement or government agencies that use the system, and data on how the service could enable, or itself engage in, discrimination, including racial and gender bias.
The Hill reported that a group of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, detailed in a paper earlier this month how they could embed hidden commands into text or music recordings, which could then get picked up by smart devices that have their microphones enabled. “Attackers can create a completely silent audio that you wouldn’t hear at all,” said Tavish Vaidya, a researcher at Georgetown University, noting that the audio could then “inject malicious commands onto any device that has a personal voice assistant.”
USA Today reported that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that Canada, Mexico and the European Union would be subject to a 25% tariff on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum. Brazil, Argentina and Australia agreed to limit steel exports to the U.S. to avoid tariffs, he said.
Bloomberg reported that due to a web of loopholes and limits, the federal government has been green-lighting hourly pay of just $7.25, in possible violation of the Davis-Bacon Act, which guarantees workers on taxpayer-funded construction projects get paid the “prevailing wage” in the local area. In more than 50 jurisdictions, the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division is relying on wage survey data that is from the 1980s or earlier.
STATE AND LOCAL
The Sun-Sentinel reported that Broward County Schools district has eliminated 35 vacant administrative positions and reduced spending on supplies, utilities, fuel and technology in an effort to offset the deficit caused, in part, by increased spending on security.
The Sun Times reported that Illinois became the 37th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, initially proposed almost 100 years ago to assure women’s rights. Passage by one more state legislature would give the ERA the required three-fourths majority. If passed, due to congressional time limitations and purported state rescissions, questions would still remain regarding whether the amendment was validly ratified.
The Daily News reported that Warner Frey, former head of the Detective Bureau investigations unit, spoke to reporters about how NYPD officers often interfered with internal investigations into noncriminal misconduct by police. Frey had previously declined to speak on the record, but recently, Internal Affairs Bureau officers demanded Frey speak with them about an old case. Both armed, they waited outside his home in an unmarked car. “I’d been off the job for three years and I hadn’t said a bad word about anyone,” Frey said. “Why is Internal Affairs coming to my house with visible firearms? My neighbors were terrified. It was outrageous.”
Buzzfeed News reported that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office has alleged that the New York Police Department fails to provide district attorneys with information, including police officers’ disciplinary records, that prosecutors need to decide whether to charge people with crimes. The district attorney demanded the department to immediately provide it with a direct computer feed to the outcomes of disciplinary officers’ internal trials, preliminary investigation reports, and access to all NYPD’s surveillance feeds.
AP reported that native American voters are not enthusiastic about Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s (D-N.D.) re-election bid. Heitkamp took a perceived “non-stance” on the Dakota Access Pipeline, which crossed native American lands, threating indigenous water supplies. “It was really a kick in the stomach,” said one voter. “We rallied so hard for her, but when her hand was forced she basically sold out to big oil.”
CNBC reported that Americans for Prosperity, an arm of the influential network supported by conservative billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, is releasing a digital advertising campaign thanking Heitkamp for co-sponsoring the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protect Act, a bill that rolls back Dodd-Frank regulations mainly on community banks, or those with less than $100 billion in assets.
WDTN News reported that the American Civil Liberties Union filed a constitutional challenge to Ohio’s congressional map, which expires in 2020. The complaint alleges that “The current Ohio map is one of the most egregious gerrymanders in recent history… The map was designed to create an Ohio congressional delegation with a 12 to 4 Republican advantage — and lock it in for a decade. It has performed exactly as its architects planned, including in 2012, when (Democratic) President Barack Obama won the state.” An ACLU spokesperson said the lawsuit’s timing’s is optimal because data is available to show how the maps routinely deliver 75 percent of Ohio’s congressional seats to Republicans with only about half Ohio’s votes. “It’s the sweet spot in the decade to sue because we don’t have to prove that it was going to happen — it’s already happened,” she said.
The Intercept reported that students protesting austerity measures at the University of Puerto Rico have been charged with crimes ranging from intimidation of public authority, to violating the right of assembly, restriction of liberty, and rioting. One of the students facing prosecution said, “It doesn’t matter for them if, at the end of the road, all the charges are dropped. The important thing for them is to create the chilling effect.”
Payday Report and NPR reported that Boeing workers in Charleston voted to unionize with the Machinists Union. The 104–65 victory wins organized labor a key toehold in a major employer in the South as efforts to #OrganizeTheSouth heat up. Boeing had made a prior administrative challenge to the vote, but the National Labor Relations Board allowed it to proceed.
WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT
Media Matters reported that in a broadcast, Alex Jones claimed that “statistics show in the U.S. about half of rape claims are completely fake.” In the same segment, he mentions that he has three daughters.
Think Progress reported that Fox News “defense specialist” Allison Barrie proposed using a cannon to breach walls in schools that are under attack by active shooters, in order to give the victims alternate paths of escape. The report did not discuss potential harm to students using a cannon on a school.
AP reported that Red Bank Baptist Church in Lexington plans to remove a hand-carved statue of Jesus Christ, because some congregants believe it’s too “Catholic” for their place of worship. Pastor Jeff Wright’s letter to the artist said he had until Thursday to remove the statue if he wanted to keep it. If not, it would be destroyed.
Yahoo reported that televangelist Jesse Duplantis asked his followers to donate money so he can buy a private jet. Making his pitch, Duplantis said “Let me just say this: we’re believing God for a brand new Falcon 7X so we can go anywhere in the world in one stop….Now people say ‘my Lord, can’t you go with this one?’” as he pointed to one of his older jets. “Yes, but I can’t go at one stop.” The Falcon 7x, made by Dassault Aviation of France, sells for $54 million.
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!