The Intercept

Marcelo Crivella pede demissão de jornalista: um grave atentado à democracia e à liberdade de imprensa

20 March 2017 - 4:37pm

Era noite de sábado quando começaram a circular as primeiras informações sobre a demissão do jornalista do jornal carioca O Dia Caio Barbosa, que era repórter especial desde 2012. A primeira delas foi dada pelo jornalista e escritor Cid Benjamin, irmão de César Benjamin, secretário de Educação, Esporte e Lazer do prefeito Marcelo Crivella (PRB-RJ).

“Foi pedido do bispo da Universal que ocupa a prefeitura da cidade”, afirmou Benjamin em seu perfil no Facebook, e reiterou: “Pra mim isso não é surpresa”. Segundo ele, o que teria motivado a demissão seria a reportagem “Febre amarela: População critica filas e falta de informações em postos”. Publicada no dia 16 de fevereiro, ela falava sobre o mau atendimento nos postos de saúde, principalmente sobre a falta de informações para quem procurava vacinação contra a febre amarela. Em entrevista a The Intercept Brasil, Cid Benjamin classificou a demissão como um “atentado gravíssimo à democracia e à liberdade de imprensa”.

O texto foi reeditado no mesmo dia, e foi retirada a assinatura do repórter. A  reportagem original pode ser lida aqui e a reeditada, aqui. São matérias completamente diferentes. Uma narra as dificuldades de conseguir a vacina e informações e contém críticas duras ao prefeito. A reeditada parece um release da prefeitura do Rio, com informações sobre postos de saúde e muitas aspas do prefeito. Apenas críticas pontuais foram mantidas.

O depoimento – “Não era essa a gestão que prometeu cuidar das pessoas? Bem, pelo que a gente está vendo até agora, parece mais humilhar as pessoas”, criticou a professora Luiza Souza Gomes – foi um dos que sumiram na nova edição.

Descaradamente, a imagem que ilustra a matéria reeditada é do Sana, que fica na cidade de Macaé, feita pela prefeitura local, e com fila menor e ambiente mais amigável. A matéria original era ilustrada com uma foto feita pela Agência O Dia, de um posto de saúde da Tijuca.

 

Montagem antes x depois da edição: sem assinatura e com foto de outra cidade, Macaé.

Ontem, o bispo prefeito publicou em sua página no Facebook uma nota negando a acusação de que seria o mandante da demissão de Caio Barbosa. A justificativa dada – que não explica absolutamente nada – foi a de que, “para desmascarar essa descabelada infâmia, lembro que o irmão do deputado Marcelo Freixo, Guilherme Freixo, encontra-se no quadro de funcionários da Prefeitura”.

Minutos depois da publicação da nota, o repórter se manifestou: “A nota oficial do prefeito é uma mentira”. Na noite de domingo (19), o jornal publicou o editorial “O DIA realiza reestruturação em busca de maior eficiência”, em que fala de “ajustes de equipe”. Não há menção direta ao nome de Barbosa. Fontes que preferiram não se identificar por temer demissão e represálias, falaram ao The Intercept Brasil que o momento da demissão foi de comoção para quem estava próximo na hora do comunicado, que foi feito reservadamente.

Caio Barbosa, jornalista demitido a mando de Marcelo Crivella

Foto: Thiago Dezar/The Intercept Brasil

O Sindicato dos Jornalistas Profissionais do Rio de Janeiro não tem informações oficiais sobre outras demissões no periódico. A entidade publicou em nota que a referida matéria desagradou ao prefeito Marcelo Crivella, “que acionou seus assessores e estes pediram que a reportagem fosse tirada do ar, além de exigirem a publicação de um desmentido”.

Na início da tarde desta segunda (20) houve um ato em frente à redação do Jornal O Dia, no centro do Rio, em apoio a Caio Barbosa. Membros do sindicato estiveram presentes para entregar um ofício à diretoria do jornal pedindo uma reunião para elucidar os fatos sobre a demissão do jornalista. No editorial, O Dia menciona “demissões”, mas o sindicato não foi acionado para intermediar nenhum desligamento, o que é praxe.

Caio Barbosa esteve presente no ato, agradeceu todo o apoio recebido, mas preferiu não se manifestar sobre o ocorrido até que assine os papéis da demissão, o que está marcado para ocorrer ainda esta semana.

O repórter iniciou carreira em 2000 no jornal O Fluminense, onde foi de estagiário a redator e cobriu todas as editorias. Depois trabalhou no Diário Lance!, nos portais Globoesporte.com e SZRD e no jonal Extra até chegar a O Dia, em 2012.

No O Dia ele ganhou o Prêmio Embratel 2015 com uma série especial sobre os 50 anos do Golpe Civil-Militar.

The post Marcelo Crivella pede demissão de jornalista: um grave atentado à democracia e à liberdade de imprensa appeared first on The Intercept.

Donald Trump Plans to Eliminate Legal Aid Funding That Supports Survivors of Domestic Violence

20 March 2017 - 3:50pm

It wasn’t long after Sonota got married that her husband began to abuse her. After her second child was born in 2012, the violence accelerated; police were often called to the couple’s St. Louis, Missouri, home, and Sonota had to seek medical attention more than once. With a 1-year-old son and newborn daughter, Sonota knew she was in trouble. “I had a lack of support and I was in an abusive situation and I had two babies,” she told The Intercept. “I was just very overwhelmed and lost and needed some type of guidance and help to get into a safe place in my life for my kids.”

Sonota found that help at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, a nonprofit legal aid organization that provides lawyers for low-income individuals navigating the civil justice system. For Sonota, that meant helping her to obtain a protective order against her husband, to file for divorce, and to secure child support for her children. Her legal aid attorney also helped her to get access to therapy, a cellphone for emergencies, and school supplies and Christmas presents for her children. The assistance made it possible for Sonota to get her life back on track — into housing and back into school, where she obtained an associate degree in business management and accounting. “I love business,” she said. She intends to use her education in part “to teach my kids how to be employers and not employees.”

“Deliverance was everything,” Sonota said. Her legal aid champions “were compassionate and yet realistic and logical, you know, to direct me on a better path in life, and I just love them for that.”

Sonota and her children.

Photo: Legal Services of Eastern Missouri

But if President Donald Trump’s “skinny budget” blueprint is adopted and passed by Congress, the federal funding that supports Legal Services of Eastern Missouri and a network of other legal aid groups across the country would disappear. That’s because the proposed budget eliminates the 43-year-old Legal Services Corporation, the federal entity that provides millions for state-based legal aid operations. Cutting its funding would deny millions of poor people access to the civil justice system, a circumstance that would disproportionately impact women, who make up 70 percent of clients served by LSC funds. Indeed, fully one-third of cases handled by LSC-affiliated groups involve women, like Sonota, who are victims of domestic violence.

In his budget note, Trump wrote that his “aim is to meet the simple, but crucial demand of our citizens — a government that puts the needs of its own people first. When we do that we will set free the dreams of every American, and we will begin a new chapter of American greatness.” Cutting a program that provides for the safety of domestic violence survivors — among many others — seems an odd way to achieve greatness.

The LSC was created in 1974 and has enjoyed bipartisan support for more than four decades. Its mission is to help provide meaningful access to the justice system for poor people who cannot afford an attorney in civil matters — including family law cases (concerning divorce and child custody matters as well as domestic violence), cases involving eviction or home foreclosure, cases where veterans are seeking access to benefits, and cases where the elderly have been preyed upon by financial scammers.

Currently, 93 percent of the LSC’s $385 million federal budget goes to funding some 134 nonprofit legal aid organizations operating more than 800 offices across the U.S. and its territories. Indeed, in many states, the money that comes from the LSC represents the bulk of the funding available to serve people in need of civil representation — in Alabama, the LSC provides 88 percent of legal aid funds; in South Dakota, it provides 80 percent; and in Vice President Mike Pence’s home state of Indiana, the group provides 67 percent of legal aid funds. In Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Texas, and Utah, LSC funds represent more than 50 percent of money allotted to legal aid services.

Still, that money covers services for only a fraction of people in need of civil legal help, a disparity known as the “justice gap.” Currently, 63 million individuals are eligible for legal aid; according to the LSC, 50 percent of people who seek out legal aid services are turned away because of a lack of available resources — in some states, the percentage turned away is far higher. In 2015, a total of 1.9 million individuals were served with LSC funding.

“The program has enjoyed broad bipartisan support for decades, that’s why it’s still here,” said Martha Bergmark, a lifelong public interest attorney and former president of the LSC. “It’s been … such a successful program and really the difference between a lot of people having any kind of access to legal help when they’re in pretty dire life-threatening and life-challenging situations.”

The ultra-right Heritage Foundation, from which Trump plucked many of his budget priorities, has long desired to ax the LSC from the federal budget, claiming that it isn’t the “duty of the federal government to provide defense in these types of cases.” The think tank argues that state and local governments already provide this funding and are “better equipped” to address the needs of those seeking civil representation — a position that is not supported by the facts on the ground.

It is true that states provide some funding for legal aid, but those funds have never been enough — in 2011, all state appropriations to the LSC-funded legal aid system amounted to roughly $123 million. The system is also infused with funding from the Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts program, but that funding has decreased precipitously since the recession. Under IOLTA, certain funds that lawyers must hold for their clients go into interest-bearing IOLTA accounts; the interest earned is then transferred into the legal aid system. As interest rates plummeted, so too did the funds earned by the IOLTA system: In 2008, legal aid programs earned roughly $112 million in IOLTA funds; by 2011, the funding had dropped to roughly $61 million.

And while there is no guaranteed right to counsel in civil cases as there is in criminal matters, the notion that the federal government shouldn’t be supporting poor people in the civil justice system runs afoul of the constitutional promise of “liberty and justice for all,” notes the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators, both of which strongly support funding for the LSC.

“Frontline judges are telling us that the adversarial foundation of our justice system is all too often losing its effectiveness when citizens are deprived of legal counsel,” the conference presidents wrote in late February to Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget office director. “Given these facts on the ground, we hope you will support our struggle to increase the availability of legal assistance to the most-needy members of our communities lest we further compromise our nation’s promise of ‘equal justice under law.’”

The impact of legal aid on positive civil justice outcomes is widely recognized. In domestic violence cases, research demonstrates that the provision of legal aid services for women reduces the likelihood they will experience domestic violence in the future. In contrast, the availability of shelters, domestic violence hotlines, and counseling programs were “found to have no significant impact on the likelihood of a woman being abused by her partner.”

Bergmark finds it hard to understand how Trump’s campaign promise to champion people left behind fits within a budget proposal that would cut a program that does just that. Not only would the cuts disproportionately impact poor women, she said, they would hit those in rural areas of the country particularly hard, areas that supported Trump in the election. “There could be various arguments about why the federal government shouldn’t support various kinds of services, but this is one that serves the fundamental commitment to fairness and ‘justice for all’ that we make as a nation. So how could that be more appropriately done than by an investment of the federal government?”

When Sonota thinks about funding for legal aid being discontinued, she gets choked up. She believes defunding the LSC would sound a death knell for people like her. “To be realistic, being a black, single mother with the odds against me, living in poor communities, we need people to protect people like me, the underdog,” she said. “Cutting legal services … it’s like a cardiac arrest: a death for the community.”

Top photo: Lawyers with Memphis Area Legal Services give elderly and low-income residents free legal advice including advice on wills, powers of attorney, and other legal documents at the Orange Mound Community Center in Memphis in 2012.

The post Donald Trump Plans to Eliminate Legal Aid Funding That Supports Survivors of Domestic Violence appeared first on The Intercept.

Globo, Lula, Temer, Aécio e Dilma: somos todos Friboi

20 March 2017 - 3:18pm

As gigantes do setor alimentício JBS e BRF, alvos centrais da Operação Carne Fraca, já ativaram suas defesas. Estão cobrando a conta de seus dois maiores investimentos: as publicidades em redes televisivas e as doações a partidos políticos.

A operação investiga 22 empresas do ramo alimentício envolvidas em um esquema corrupção para liberação de frigoríficos irregulares. A Justiça Federal do Paraná determinou o bloqueio de R$ 1 bilhão nas contas da JBS e da BRF. Segundo a Polícia Federal, esta é a maior operação já realizada em toda sua história.

Os agentes também relataram uma lista das substâncias misturadas nas carnes e embutidos que deixou o brasileiro assustado com o que põe à mesa: cabeça de porco, ácido ascórbico, papelão e carne podre ou infectada com salmonella. A lista, no entanto, tem sido relativizada por especialistas. Depois da operação, ações das empresas despencaram e as importações foram suspensas.

Brazilian Federal police have dismantled, after two years of running the "weak flesh" operation, a vast network of adulterated food, involving major meat processing plants and inspectors who accepted bribes to approve products in bad condition for domestic consumption and exportation. / AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)" />

A fábrica da BRF em Chapecó (SC), investigada por adulteração de produtos alimentícios.

Foto: NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images

Maior doadora na campanha de 2014, a JBS distribuiu R$ 61,2 milhões para 21 dos 28 partidos representados na Câmara dos Deputados. Para não demonstrar favoritismo na disputa pela Presidência da República, a empresa — que também foi a maior doadora das duas chapas do segundo turno — deu o mesmo valor para Dilma/Temer e Aécio/Aloysio: R$5 milhões para cada.

Logo após a polêmica aberta com a operação da Polícia Federal, Michel Temer foi a público colocar panos quentes: disse que apenas três dos 4.850 frigoríficos brasileiros foram interditados pela ação. O presidente ainda levou 40 embaixadores de países que importam carne brasileira para uma churrascaria em Brasília, na noite de domingo (19). Só esqueceu que o lugar não serve carne brasileira. “A gente não trabalha com carne brasileira, só europeia, australiana e uruguaia”, disse o gerente do local, de acordo com informações do jornal O Estado de São Paulo. Em resposta, a assessoria de imprensa do planalto disse que todas as carnes servidas ao presidente e seus convidados eram de origem brasileira.

O ministro da Agricultura, Blairo Maggi — que figurou na lista de bilionários brasileiros da revista Forbes em 2014 por investimentos em agronegócio —, também defendeu as empresas. Chamou de “fantasias” e de “idiotice” acreditar haver papelão na fórmula de embutidos. É da pasta de Maggi que vem o “Grande Chefe” Daniel Gonçalves Filho, superintendente do Ministério da Agricultura no Paraná entre 2007 e 2016. O apelido é usado pelo ministro da Justiça, Osmar Serraglio (PMDB-PR), em ligação grampeada pela PF. As investigações da Operação Carne Fraca apontam Gonçalves Filho como mandante da organização de fiscais que recebiam propina dos grandes frigoríficos do país para fazer vista grossa em suas visitas.

Levei embaixadores de países importadores a uma churrascaria e degustamos diversos cortes apenas de carnes brasileiras, como a picanha. pic.twitter.com/B7IIA8mJFS

— Michel Temer (@MichelTemer) March 20, 2017

A expansão da JBS, o maior frigorífico do mundo e que hoje conta com 200 mil funcionários em 350 unidades, começou no governo Lula, quando o Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (BNDES) se tornou sócio da empresa e ajudou na compra de empresas estrangeiras. Depois disso, a companhia — que começou como abastecedora dos refeitórios das empresas construtoras de Brasília — recebeu R$ 5 bilhões do banco entre 2007 e 2010, dando fôlego para sua expansão internacional. A BRF também contou com o apoio do banco público para ser criada: R$ 400 milhões foram injetados por meio de um financiamento.

Com tanto dinheiro, as duas entraram na lista dos 30 maiores anunciantes do país. A BRF se encontra em 21º lugar e dispôs de R$ 817 milhões em propagandas veiculadas em todos os tipos de mídia em 2015. Já a Seara, do grupo JBS, ficou em 15º lugar e gastou R$ 860 milhões no mesmo ano.

Entre os investimentos em publicidade feitos recentemente pelas duas gigantes alimentícias estão os cachês dos globais Fátima Bernardes, Tony Ramos, Ana Maria Braga e do casal Angélica e Luciano Huck. Também conta com um especial publicitário no canal GShow e a campanha “Academia da Carne por Friboi”, que inseriu merchandising nos programas “Mais você”, “Encontro”, “Malhação” e “É de casa”.

Brazilian Federal police have dismantled, after two years of running the "weak flesh" operation, a vast network of adulterated food, involving major meat processing plants and inspectors who accepted bribes to approve products in bad condition for domestic consumption and exportation. / AFP PHOTO / EVARISTO SA (Photo credit should read EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)" />

Fábrica de processamento de frango em Samambaia (DF).

Foto: EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images

Agora que a polêmica se instaurou, gerando críticas às empresas e àqueles que recebiam dinheiro delas — sejam políticos, sejam celebridades — a estratégia está sendo limpar a imagem geral. Na Globo, foi usado o espaço da propaganda entre blocos da novela das 21h, veiculado depois em outras redes de TV aberta, para as empresas começarem a divulgar seus comunicados institucionais em resposta à operação. Textos também foram divulgados em veículos impressos.

Na política, a defesa contou com figuras do governo, como Temer e Maggi, dizendo que a operação não pode sujar a imagem do agronegócio brasileiro. Argumento similar foi visto em sites identificados com a esquerda e com o PT, que acusaram a Polícia Federal de tentar destruir o mercado.

De fato, a operação abala um dos bastiões da economia brasileira. Contudo, se este mercado está abalado, a culpa não é dos agentes.

The post Globo, Lula, Temer, Aécio e Dilma: somos todos Friboi appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump Budget Director Takes Aim at “Wasteful” Social Security Program That Helps Disabled Americans

20 March 2017 - 1:55pm

Under a relentless barrage of questions from Washington journalists about why President Trump’s proposed budget isn’t cutting Social Security or Medicare, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney finally acknowledged on Sunday that Trump may in fact violate his campaign promises to protect the two programs — by taking aim at the Social Security program that helps the disabled.

The elite Washington media is almost uniquely obsessed with the notion that cutting spending on the old and poor to reduce the federal deficit is the litmus test of a responsible budget plan. At last week’s press conference announcing the proposed budget — which includes massive cuts to regulatory agencies and massive increases in defense spending — Mulvaney was repeatedly badgered by reporters about why the administration is not taking aim at Social Security and Medicare.

During a interview with CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, the administration finally started to give in.

Mulvaney was pressed by host John Dickerson about whether the administration would be open to cutting “entitlements.” Mulvaney initially hesitated to endorse any cuts, repeating Trump’s promises on the campaign trail to leave Social Security and Medicare alone.

“Well, I think the promise was he wasn’t going to affect anybody and we haven’t with this budget,” Mulvaney replied. “Keep in mind what this budget is. This is just the discretionary spending part of the budget, which was a necessary first step.”

“But he might look at — at future retirement — future Medicare recipients?” Dickerson followed up.

Mulvaney replied by pivoting to the specific issue of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), a program administered by the Social Security Administration that aids disabled Americans. He complained about the program’s cost and indicated that the administration wants to alter it.

“Let me ask you a question, do you really think that Social Security disability insurance is part of what people think of when they think of Social Security? I don’t think so,” he said, with a slight grin on his face. “It’s the fastest growing program. It was — it grew tremendously under President Obama. It’s a very wasteful program and we want to try and fix that.”

Watch the exchange:

While it’s true that disability claims increased under the Obama administration, that’s not unusual during a recession, when many older workers have difficulty finding work that meets their needs.

In 2015, the federal government spent $143 billion on SSDI, which is primarily financed by the Social Security payroll tax.  This totals around 4 percent of the federal budget. The average monthly benefit for disabled workers in January 2017 was $1,171.25.

SSDI has its own trust fund that is separate from the Social Security program’s funds reserved for retirees and survivors. The National Academy of Social Insurance illustrates how disability insurance and funds for old age and survivors are financed the same way but administered by two different funds, both run by the Social Security Administration:

The program largely benefits older Americans who have worked decades and are near retirement age. The “I” in SSDI stands for insurance because workers pay into this program so it is there for them when they need it. The average SSDI recipient has worked 22 years, and 75 percent of those who benefit are 50 years old or older.  Recall that 53 percent of voters ages 50 and over supported President Trump during the election in November.

It is hardly an easy program to enroll in — the Social Security Administration rejects a majority of those who apply for disability payments. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities notes that fewer than 400 of 1,000 initial applications for approval are accepted.

Top photo: The first annual Disability Pride Parade on July 12, 2015, in New York City. The parade celebrated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The post Trump Budget Director Takes Aim at “Wasteful” Social Security Program That Helps Disabled Americans appeared first on The Intercept.

Oligopólio da comunicação direciona debate público brasileiro

19 March 2017 - 9:15am

Na década de 70, os pesquisadores Maxwell McCombs e Donald Shaw desenvolveram uma teoria para tentar explicar como a mídia determina os assuntos que serão debatidos pela sociedade. A teoria do Agenda Setting, conhecida em português como Teoria do Agendamento, foi pensada a partir de pesquisas feitas durante duas campanhas presidenciais norte-americanas. O estudo comprovou que os assuntos debatidos entre os consumidores de informação eram os mesmos que os sugeridos pela mídia. Portanto, a opinião pública seria direcionada pelas escolhas dos veículos de comunicação de massa. As principais pautas, os recortes e os ângulos da informação adotados pela mídia influenciariam diretamente a opinião dos receptores. Segundo Donald Shaw, “as pessoas têm tendência para incluir ou excluir de seus próprios conhecimentos aquilo que os mass media incluem ou excluem do seu próprio conteúdo”.

Nesses últimos trágicos anos da política brasileira, é possível perceber o esmero dos meios de comunicação em pautar a sociedade a partir da sua visão dos fatos. No meu artigo de estreia no The Intercept Brasil, comentei brevemente a respeito. Permitam-me a autorreferência:

“(…) ninguém pode acusar a imprensa brasileira de omitir informações. Ela publica tudo. Tudo mesmo, sem ironia. Mas, como se sabe, o diabo mora mesmo é nos detalhes, nas manchetes de capa, nos editoriais e na opinião dos colunistas mais prestigiados pelos patrões. (…) No final das contas, a decisão sobre o que vai brilhar na capa do jornal – ou se esconder num rodapé – sempre estará alinhada à opinião das famílias proprietárias.”

São inúmeros os assuntos de altíssima relevância para o país colocados em segundo plano. Selecionei alguns que, inegavelmente, mereciam ter grande destaque, mas não tiveram. Boa parte deles você já leu nessa coluna, mas acredito que vale a repetição como uma – perdão pela inocência –  tentativa de compensar as omissões da imprensa brasileira:

Trecho de delação do Delcídio – em março do ano passado, a delação bombástica de Delcídio do Amaral abalou o país. Nela apareciam Lula, Aécio Neves, Eduardo Cunha, Michel Temer, Romero Jucá e diversos outros políticos como participantes de esquemas de corrupção. À época, Cunha e Dilma vinham travando as últimas batalhas da guerra do impeachment. Um trecho da delação que ajudaria a explicar este duelo e a contextualizar o processo de impeachment foi quase que completamente ignorado pela imprensa.

Resumindo: segundo Delcídio, a treta entre Dilma e Cunha teria começado a partir do momento em que a ex-presidenta fez uma limpeza em Furnas ao demitir diretores ligados a Cunha. O delator ainda diz que Dilma colocou no lugar uma diretoria “absolutamente técnica” – o que seria um espanto para quem tinha certeza que ela aparelhava tudo. O Jornal Nacional, que dedicou muito tempo da sua programação para a delação de Delcídio, preferiu ignorar este trecho que revelava como começou a grande briga política entre os dois presidentes dos principais poderes do país. O incrível é que, no meio do ano anterior, a Época nos informava que Renan, Cunha e Temer evitariam o impeachment de Dilma:

Funcionária fantasma do Serra – A tapioca de Orlando Silva (PCdoB) comprada com cartão corporativo foi martelada durante dias na mídia brasileira. Todo brasileiro conhece a história que acabou entrando pro anedotário político nacional. Já a história da funcionária-fantasma contratada por José Serra (PSDB) pouquíssimos brasileiros conhecem, quase não se ouviu falar. Um senador da República usou dinheiro público para pagar uma funcionária que não comparecia ao trabalho. A fantasma é irmã de Miriam Dutra, ex-namorada de FHC. Uma história que daria pano para manga, mas ninguém se interessou em botar a mão nessa cumbuca. A notícia apareceu e evaporou rapidamente. Não houve desdobramentos, ninguém incomodou Serra com perguntas a respeito, e ele virou ministro das Relações Exteriores sem ninguém lembrar do caso.

Prisão de primo de Aécio Neves – o primo do Mineirinho da Odebrecht foi preso por comandar um esquema que vendia habeas corpus para traficantes no interior de Minas Gerais. O problema não é o parentesco, mas o fato de que um dos participantes do esquema era o desembargador Hélcio Valentim –  indicado por Aécio Neves e que também foi preso. O Fantástico chegou a fazer uma reportagem de 12 minutos sobre o assunto que teria sido excelente se não houvesse omitido o parentesco com o tucano. Aécio continuou blindado por muito tempo e pode se candidatar tranquilamente à Presidência da República sem ser incomodado com o assunto. O seu primo também. Depois de solto, concorreu ao cargo de prefeito em Cláudio (MG). Agora feche os olhos e tente imaginar a repercussão na imprensa se ele fosse primo do Lula.

Helicoca –  em 2013, um helicóptero do deputado mineiro Gustavo Perrella é flagrado pela polícia com quase meia tonelada de pasta base de cocaína. O piloto era homem de confiança de Perrella e trabalhava como agente de serviço de gabinete na Assembleia Legislativa de Minas Gerais por indicação do deputado. Ou melhor, não trabalhava. Apesar de receber em dia dos cofres públicos mineiros, o piloto de Perrella não comparecia ao trabalho. Essa trama digna de um episódio de Narcos não foi um tema que durou muito tempo na imprensa. Piloto, copiloto e outras duas pessoas que descarregaram a droga foram presas e soltas meses depois. Gustavo Perrella nem foi citado na denúncia, a Polícia Federal não viu nenhum envolvimento dele no caso. A imprensa aceitou docilmente e nunca mais tocou no assunto. O Perrellinha ainda foi premiado por Temer com cargo de secretário no Ministério do Esporte.

Operação Zelotes –  é natural que a Lava Jato seja o grande assunto dos últimos anos no país devido ao envolvimento de políticos graúdos de todos os partidos. Mas e a Operação Zelotes? Por que se fala tão pouco nela? O rombo aos cofres é públicos é 3 vezes maior que o causado pelos crimes da Lava Jato. Não é possível que se fale tão pouco sobre a operação. Grandes anunciantes da imprensa como Santander, Bradesco, Banco de Boston,  Ford, Gerdau, Safra, Mitsubishi participaram do esquema de corrupção que fraudava o fisco. Só a RBS, afiliada da Globo, pagou pagou R$ 11,7 milhões para um conselheiro do CARF zerar suas dívidas com a Receita. De fato, este é um tema espinhoso para os barões da imprensa.

Yunes revela estratégia para eleger bancada pró-Cunha – um amigo de meio século do presidente não eleito revelou a existência de uma estratégia para construir uma bancada de 140 deputados para eleger Cunha presidente da Câmara. Tudo isso teria sido intermediado por Funaro, o doleiro de Cunha preso no mensalão. Falou-se bastante do caso Yunes, mas quase nada sobre essa curiosa construção de bancada. Deputados foram comprados por Cunha? Temer e Padilha capitaneavam essa estratégia? Qual era o papel do doleiro nisso? São perguntas que não foram feitas e provavelmente nunca serão.

Renan acusa Cunha de comandar governo da cadeia – um senador do PMDB acusa o governo do PMDB de ser comandado por um criminoso do PMDB de dentro da cadeia. Uma acusação clara, direta, feita com todas as letras, mas…esta não foi a grande pauta da semana! A notícia chegou, ficou um pouquinho no ar e tchau! Não houve nenhum aprofundamento, nenhuma grande reportagem, ninguém pressionou o Planalto por uma explicação. Virou passeio, amigo!

Manifestações contra a Reforma da Previdência – na última quarta-feira, uma greve geral foi convocada pelas centrais sindicais levando centenas de milhares de pessoas às ruas para protestar contra a Reforma da Previdência proposta pelo governo Temer. A manifestação ocorreu em 19 capitais. Diferentemente do que acontece com manifestações convocadas pelo MBL e Vem Pra Rua, a cobertura foi tímida e bastante crítica, dando enfoque para os problemas que a greve causou ao trânsito. 

E o jornalismo brasileiro conseguiu fazer da cobertura de ontem a maior editoria de “trânsito” da história da humanidade.

— xico sá (@xicosa) 16 de março de 2017

A Folha foi o único grande jornal a noticiar as manifestações na manchete de capa. O Globo e Estadão não consideraram o fato suficientemente relevante para ganhar o mesmo destaque. Grandes portais brasileiros como UOL e  Globo.com ignoraram solenemente. Nenhuma foto, nenhuma chamada, nada. Esses são os screenshots das capas dos portais ao meio-dia do dia seguinte aos protestos:

Já em outras manifestações, não havia espaço para outro assunto na página principal do UOL:

Esses são alguns casos aleatórios que lembrei, mas há uma infinidade de outros. É inacreditável que notícias dessa relevância tenham passado apenas lateralmente na imprensa brasileira. São fatos fundamentais que não foram destacados e explorados pelo jornalismo brasileiro. Não é razoável admitir que esses temas sejam escanteados no noticiário.

É grave demais para um país democrático que a comunicação esteja concentrada nas mãos de meia dúzia de famílias. São essas pessoas, auxiliadas por funcionários alinhados a elas, que determinam o que passará na rádio, na TV, no jornal. É esse grupelho que decide o que a massa irá discutir essa semana e o que será descartado semana que vem. A internet e as redes sociais, apesar de trazerem um respiro e abrirem novas possibilidades, ainda ecoam e são guiadas pelas pautas da imprensa tradicional.

Uma regularização no setor de comunicação que torne os meios mais democráticos é urgente, apesar de cada vez mais distante numa época em que o governo ilegítimo decide irrigar ainda mais os barões midiáticos com dinheiro público. O modelo concentrador é o mesmo da época ditadura militar. O Brasil precisa se livrar dessa trava ou continuará a reboque dos interesses de um grupelho que se criou nos anos de chumbo e até hoje vem influenciando os rumos da nação.

The post Oligopólio da comunicação direciona debate público brasileiro appeared first on The Intercept.

For Donald Trump, a Terror Attack Will Be an Opportunity Not a Curse

19 March 2017 - 8:01am

CAN WE BREATHE a sigh of relief after federal judges blocked President Donald Trump’s discriminatory executive orders? For a moment we can, but we are just a terrorism attack away from the White House gaining a new pretext for its wrathful crackdown against Muslims and immigrants.

Among the alterations in American politics since Trump’s inauguration, this may be the most frightening one: a terror attack on U.S. soil will be used by the White House as an excuse for implementing an extra-legal agenda that could only be pushed through in a time of crisis. What the courts will not allow today, what protesters will hit the streets to defend tomorrow, what even the pliant Congress would have a hard time backing — the White House is almost certainly counting on all of this changing in the wake of a domestic terrorist attack.

This macabre turn, in which terrorism becomes an opportunity rather than a curse, has ample precedents that tell us one thing: be prepared.

It wasn’t long ago that 9/11 was used as a pretext for invading Iraq. Although it was almost immediately clear that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told President George W. Bush on the evening of September 11, “Part of our response maybe should be attacking Iraq. It’s an opportunity.” Just a few years earlier, Rumsfeld, along with Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney, had signed a now-infamous letter calling for the removal of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The with-us-or-against-us atmosphere after 9/11 enabled them to carry out the task.

It has happened overseas, too. Vladimir Putin’s rise to power in Russia was accelerated by a series of mysterious bombings against apartment buildings across the country, and the bombings were so essential to consolidating Putin’s rule that he was suspected of organizing them. There was also, most famously, the Reichstag fire in 1933, in which the German Parliament burned to the ground, leading Adolf Hitler, the new chancellor, to warn that “there will be no mercy now. Anyone standing in our way will be cut down.”

The Trump administration has already begun laying the groundwork for extreme initiatives if — or more likely when — a terror attack occurs on U.S. soil and is tied to ISIS, al Qaeda or another Muslim group, according to civil liberties lawyers and activists. Under the guise of protecting national security, a blitz of presidential actions could target not just immigrants and Muslims but other minority groups as well as the media and the judiciary. These initiatives will be “more dire and much more severe” than Trump’s first executive order in late January against the citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, according to Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

While the bad news is stark — expect the worst from Trump when an attack happens on U.S. soil — the better news is that people are already organizing to prevent the worst from happening. There is, it turns out, quite a bit that can be done to prepare for the nearly inevitable moment when the Trump administration tries to take advantage of the tragedy of a man or a woman using a bomb, a gun, a knife or a truck to kill Americans in the name of an Islamic terror group.

 

Police officers react to the explosions near marathon runner Bill Iffrig at the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon.

Photo: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

The first thing to understand is that attacks by foreign-born terrorists are rare. From 1975 through 2015, a total of 3,024 Americans were killed in such attacks, with most of those occurring on 9/11, according to a recent Cato Institute report. In other words, the annual odds of being killed by a foreign-born terrorist are 1 in 3,609,709. Each of these deaths is a tragedy, of course, but they represent a fraction of the preventable fatalities from any number of causes, including spouse-on-spouse violence, traffic accidents, and even toddlers with unsecured guns.

Trump’s eagerness to exploit only a particular type of terror attack — by Muslims — was reflected in his selective reaction to two incidents in his first month in office. In late January, he remained silent when a white Christian shot dead six Muslims in a Canadian mosque. A few days later, an Egyptian with a machete attacked French soldiers at the Louvre while shouting “Allahu Akhbar.” Nobody was killed, not even the attacker — one soldier was slightly injured before the Egyptian was shot four times. Yet within hours, Trump tweeted, “A new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris. Tourists were locked down. France on edge again. GET SMART U.S.”

His disingenuity exposes a glaring fallacy in his executive orders. The handful of Muslim-majority countries named in the orders represent a negligible threat for domestic terrorism. The few attacks in America that have involved Muslims, including 9/11, drew largely on people from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Egypt — but those countries were not included in either order from the Oval Office. A ruling by Judge Theodore Chuang that blocked the second order noted “strong indications that the national security purpose is not the primary purpose of the travel ban.”

The unique dynamic is that the White House has made clear its wish to impose an array of extreme and unconstitutional policies that are nearly impossible to carry out in ordinary times. Trump has previously said, for instance, that he wants to ban all Muslim immigration — “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” as he famously stated during the presidential campaign. His top adviser, Steve Bannon, has even complained about the proportion of legal immigrants already in America — which he described as 20 percent of the population, though it’s actually just over 13 percent. “Isn’t the beating heart of this problem, the real beating heart of it, of what we gotta get sorted here, not illegal immigration?” Bannon asked on a radio show in 2016. “We’ve looked the other way on this legal immigration that’s kinda overwhelmed the country.”

In a way, the White House is like a pistol cocked to go off at the first touch. Warren, the head of the Center for Constitutional Rights, described the president’s early use of anti-Muslim executive orders as “a precursor, a mirror into what we’re going to be looking at” after a significant terror attack. Warren added, “I think the Trump administration will move by executive fiat for everything. It will create what’s essentially a constitutional crisis in the country.”

But Trump is not the pre-ordained winner of the crisis he will initiate.

Protesters walk during the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21, 2017 in Washington.

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Michael Walzer, a political theorist who has been around long enough to have chronicled, in real time, the social movements of the 1960s, wrote in an essay earlier this month that there are two types of necessary politics against Trump. “Resistance is defensive politics, but we also need a politics of offense — a politics aimed at winning elections and, as we used to say, seizing power,” Walzer wrote. He pointed to a particularly hopeful development that others have also noted after Trump’s inauguration: local organizing against the federal government.

The women’s march the day after the inauguration was a nearly immediate example. In cities across the country, large crowds turned out to protest the new president and his far-right agenda. The sanctuary city movement has also taken root, with local leaders vowing to oppose federal orders that are unconstitutional or immoral, especially ones that involve undocumented immigrants. And key legal challenges to Trump’s executive orders have come from attorneys’ general in a variety of states who have vowed to continue their war of legal writs.

Warren describes the popular reaction to a post-terrorism crackdown as an “X factor.” In the wake of the president’s first executive order, which led to Muslims being turned away at America’s borders, airports across the country were besieged by spontaneous protests that involved thousands of people and a small army of lawyers to help immigrants and refugees who were detained by customs authorities. Boots on the ground will be crucial after the next attack, argues Ben Wizner, a prominent ACLU lawyer who earlier this month tweeted, “If/when there is an attack, we’ll need millions in the streets with a message of courage and resilience.”

Another X factor is the judiciary, which bears a larger share of responsibility than usual because both houses of Congress are controlled by the Republican Party and have shied away from fulfilling their constitutional role as a check on the executive branch. So far, federal courts have stood up to the White House. Karen Greenberg, the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, believes the judicial response to Trump’s executive orders marks a notable break from the post 9/11 era, when courts generally did not support legal challenges to government policies on terrorism, torture, surveillance and drone warfare.

“I’m a real critic of how the courts handled national security,” Greenberg said. “I think they punted entirely. But if you look at the immigration ban and some of the pushback from the courts on ISIS prosecutions and how they are being handled, the courts have woken up from their ‘I want to be asleep on national security’ stage. I think the courts may rise to the occasion.”

Trump has provided confirmation, via Twitter, of the judicial branch’s new spine and key role. After the courts shot down his first executive order, he lashed out in a series of tweets against federal Judge James Robart. The sharpest one, tweeted by Trump from his Mar A Lago estate, warned: “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”

The writer Mark Danner noted in a recent essay that the controversy over the first executive order may have served “the desire of the president and his advisers to stage a fight with a major institutional force not yet recumbent before him: the judiciary.” As Danner went on to explain, “the president’s assertion of his ‘unreviewable’ powers in the face of ‘so-called’ judges was not just absurd or ignorant but a bit of bait, establishing the basis for blaming the judiciary for any terrorist attack that was to come. On this he tweeted indefatigably and repeatedly.”

Another X factor is the media, which Trump has defined as a public enemy (though of course he means only the outlets that criticize him). Portions of the media, such as Breitbart, Infowars and probably Fox News, will likely support whatever crackdown the president proposes in the wake of a terrorist attack. Other parts of the media will hopefully do the work they are supposed to do. As Greenberg notes, the press will “need to be on the ground and report information before it is misrepresented.” That work can begin now, before an attack, with reporting that explains the rarity of Muslim-related terrorism in the United States and the constitutional as well as moral pitfalls of letting a demagogue turn tragedy to his own advantage.

Top photo: Russian Emergency Situations Ministry officers and firefighters try to save people as a massive explosion shattered a nine-story apartment building in Moscow in 1999.

The post For Donald Trump, a Terror Attack Will Be an Opportunity Not a Curse appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump’s 2005 Tax Bill Doesn’t Mean the Tax System Is Working

18 March 2017 - 12:11pm

On January 17, 1969, Treasury Secretary Joseph W. Barr presented Congress’s Joint Economic Committee with a project years in the making: the first list ever compiled of all the tax code’s loopholes and exemptions. If they were eliminated, Barr said, government revenue would increase by about one third.

But what got the biggest headlines was that Barr revealed that 155 taxpayers who had declared over $200,000 in income in 1967 (about $1.5 million in today’s dollars) had used those special breaks to pay no income tax at all.

“We now face the possibility of a taxpayer revolt,” warned Barr. “The revolt will come not from the poor but from the tens of millions of middle-class families [who] are likely to revolt against income taxes not because of the level or amount of the taxes they must pay but because certain provisions of the tax laws unfairly lighten the burdens of others who can afford to pay.”

Barr was right that this infuriated Americans, especially since they now had hard numbers to go on. That year, Congress received more complaints about the lucky 155 than the Vietnam War, and responded by creating an “add on” tax requiring everyone to pay 10 percent on all income over $30,000.

Ever since then, the U.S. has had some type of additional, parallel tax code intended to prevent big earners from getting away scot free come April 15. The current version is called the alternative minimum tax, or AMT, and was enacted in 1978.

(The mechanics of the AMT are extremely complicated and — since tax software now does the calculations for most people — largely irrelevant unless you’re a programmer for Intuit. But if you’re curious, you can read how it works here.)

And we now know that, at least in the case of Donald Trump in 2005, the AMT worked very satisfyingly. The two newly-leaked pages from Trump’s tax return that year shows that without the AMT he would have had to pay just $5.3 million in income taxes on the $153 million he made in 2005, a rate of 3.48 percent. With it, he was forced to cough up a total of $36.6 million, or 24 percent.

It’s no wonder that Trump’s campaign tax plan calls for the elimination of the AMT. Anyone who’ll set up a company to collect just $65,000 in branding fees for vodka and energy drinks sold in Israel would take an extra $30 million on their tax bill quite personally.

It’s impossible to be sure why Trump owed so much more under the AMT, since none of the attachments he filed were leaked. One plausible reason is that for some reason, the $103 million in net operating loss he carried forward brought his regular taxable income way down, but didn’t affect his income under the AMT as much.

But whatever the reason, it’s not normal. The fact is that it’s incredibly unusual for the AMT to cause someone that rich that much monetary pain.

A look at a detailed IRS spreadsheet about who exactly paid how much income tax in 2014 shows why.

The top 0.001 percent for 2014 consisted of about 1,400 filers. To reach their elysian ranks you needed to have an adjusted gross income of at least $57 million, while their average income was a Trump-like $150 million.

But while a third of this group paid extra thanks to the AMT, it added up to only $1 billion — or 2 percent — of the $50 billion total they paid in income taxes.

So except in rare cases like Trump in 2005, the AMT doesn’t really make much difference, mostly because much of their income is due to capital gains — which are usually taxed at the same low rate under the regular income tax system and the AMT.

The top 0.001 percent actually pay a lower rate in income taxes —  24 percent — than people making less than them, all the way down to an income level about $211,000. So two accountants married to each other may well be paying income taxes at a higher rate than the Koch brothers.

In fact, the AMT is now primarily a burden on the upper middle class. While it was originally supposed to be aimed at America’s richest, thanks to poor design and inertia it now raises the tax rate for 4.3 million filers. About 6 percent of the tax bill for people whose gross adjusted income is between $211,000 and $465,000 is due to the AMT.

And some of America’s billionaires have realized the best way to avoid income taxes is to have as little income as possible. Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, has a net worth of over $50 billion and a large appetite for yachts and private islands. Yet for some of his spending sprees he hasn’t sold Oracle stock to pay for it all. Instead, he’s borrowed money using the stock as collateral – so instead of paying the capital gains tax on the stock sale, he owes no tax since loans aren’t treated as income.

Other tax avoidance gambits are as numberless as the fish in the sea – and in fact one of the best places to learn about them is the work of David Cay Johnston, the reporter who received Trump’s tax returns in the mail.

So don’t take Trump’s 2005 taxes as a sign everything’s working fine. Instead, it looks more like a peculiar fluke. Trump himself knows better than anyone how grotesquely unjust our tax system is, since he’s exploited it for his own gain for decades and then had the chutzpah to campaign on pledges to fix it.

But if he gets his way what he’ll actually do is gut the one thing that we know forced him to pay a reasonable amount in taxes, once.

Top photo: President Donald Trump walks from the residence to the West Wing of the White House on Jan. 26, 2017 in Washington

The post Trump’s 2005 Tax Bill Doesn’t Mean the Tax System Is Working appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump Administration Ousts UN Official to Protect Israel From Criticism

18 March 2017 - 10:39am

On Wednesday, a U.N. agency published a report noting that “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.” Yesterday, the author of that report who has served as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA) since 2010, Rima Khalef, resigned after the Trump administration, working in conjunction with Israel, pressured the U.N. Secretary General to demand that she withdraw the report.

Khalef, a Jordanian national who has served in multiple high government positions, refused the demand to repudiate her own report, instead choosing to resign. The report – which was co-authored by the Jewish American Princeton professor and former UN official Richard Falk, a long-time critic of Israeli occupation – has now been removed from the UNESCWA website.

What makes this event most remarkable is how unremarkable is the report’s conclusion: it’s a point that a former Israeli Prime Minister – as well as Trump’s own Defense Secretary – have made unequivocally. Back in 2010, Ehud Barak, Israel’s former Prime Minister and its most decorated soldier, explicitly warned that Israel was on a path to what he called a permanent “apartheid” state. As he put it: “As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”

Seven years later, Israel is indisputably committed to exactly that outcome. Many of its key ministers do not even support a two-state solution. Israeli expansion of illegal settlements continues unabated. Palestinians are further away than ever from full political rights, or even enjoying the right of democratic self-determination. As Barak himself pointed out, this is the very definition of apartheid.

Yet now, thanks to the Trump administration’s self-destructive devotion to Israeli interests – an odd posture for a President who ran on a platform of “Putting America First” – it is impermissible for U.N. officials to note this reality lest Israel be offended. In its report on the ouster of Khalef, CNN was surprisingly blunt about what this all means:

Memo to critics of Israel inside the UN system: Prepare to pay a price. . . . The US under Trump has made it quite clear it will defend Israel perhaps more than all other countries at the UN.

Early on his campaign, Trump issued controversial positions about Israel, including his statement that the U.S. should be “neutral” in the Israel/Palestine conflict and his proclaiming his immunity to AIPAC influence. But, as I noted last July, once he secured the nomination, he quickly switched to the standard pro-Israel line beginning with his Jared-Kushner-written AIPAC speech, and then went even beyond U.S. orthodoxy on Israel by explicitly endorsing expansion of Israeli settlements.

Since his inauguration, all signs indicate Trump will be an inflammatory fanatic when it comes to U.S. support for Israeli aggression, even at the expense of U.S. interests. He nominated a pro-settlement extremist to be his Ambassador to Israel. He has repeatedly suggested that his son-in-law Kushner, whose family has long supported extremist settlements, will be his key envoy in the region. And he even appeared to abandon the long-standing U.S. rhetorical commitment to a two-state solution (a commitment it long ago abandoned in action), before his administration re-affirmed it.

What makes all of this most extraordinary is that Trump’s own Pentagon chief has previously warned that exactly this kind of mentality – defending Israeli aggression and expansion – is directly harmful to the U.S. At the Aspen Security Forum in 2013, Gen. James Mattis said:

I paid a military security price every day as the commander of CentCom because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel, and that moderates all the moderate Arabs who want to be with us, because they can’t come out publicly in support of people who don’t show respect for the Arab Palestinians.

Indeed, people charged with anti-U.S. terrorism frequently cite U.S. support for Israeli aggression as a key grievance. Moreover, Mattis “called the current situation in Israel ‘unsustainable’ and blamed the settlements for harming prospects for peace.” Most ironically of all, Mattis “called it a choice between giving up the idea of a Jewish state or becoming an apartheid state” – exactly the point the Trump administration is now trying to make unutterable at the U.N.

Trump convinced millions of people to vote for him by promising to prioritize American interests over those of other nations. Yet what Trump is doing at the U.N., and in the Middle East more broadly, is exactly the opposite. He is empowering exactly the ideologues who have long venerated a defense of the Israeli government over all other considerations – not just the human and political rights of Palestinians but also the concrete security interests of the U.S.

The post Trump Administration Ousts UN Official to Protect Israel From Criticism appeared first on The Intercept.

Pentagon Denies Bombing Syrian Mosque, But Its Own Photo May Prove That It Did

17 March 2017 - 5:58pm

The Pentagon spokesperson insisted that the U.S. airstrike in the rebel-held village of Al-Jina in northern Syria on Thursday night did not hit a mosque. “The area was extensively surveilled prior to the strike in order to minimize civilian casualties,” Navy Captain Jeff Davis wrote in an email. “We deliberately did not target the mosque.”

He even unclassified and circulated a photo. And he pointed out that on the left, you can see a small mosque, still standing.

This image, provided by the Defense Department’s director of defense press operations, purports to show the post-strike view in al-Jinah, Syria, on March 16.

Photo: U.S. Navy

But to the people on the ground, the photo tells a different story.

Activists and first responders say the building that was targeted was a part of the mosque complex — and that the charred rubble shown in the photo was where 300 people were praying when the bombs began to hit.

More than 42 people were killed and dozens more injured, according to monitoring groups and local activists. First responders with the Syrian Civil Defence —  known as the “White Helmets” — rushed to treat the wounded and dig corpses out of the rubble.

An administration official told the Washington Post that two armed, Reaper drones fired “roughly [the] entirety of their Hellfire payload and followed up w/ 500 lb bomb.”

US official: AQ strike in N. Syria involved two Reapers that fired roughly entirety of their Hellfire payload and followed up w/ 500lb bomb.

— Thomas Gibbons-Neff (@Tmgneff) March 17, 2017

The building “was holding a meeting of al Qaeda members,” Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesperson told The Intercept. Davis said military officials “believe dozens of core al Qaeda terrorists were killed.”

According to the monitoring group Airwars, locals say the building the drones struck is part of a mosque and religious school, which was built as an expansion several years ago. Local activist Mohamed al Shaghel told the New York Times that the people in the building had “no affiliation with any military faction or any political side.”

Pentagon presents photo of the building they bombed last night, says it wasn't a mosque. Locals say otherwise. https://t.co/aQ4JNyG6pF pic.twitter.com/7va1qUdHo3

— Christiaan Triebert (@trbrtc) March 17, 2017

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based monitoring organization, said that the strike took place between the city of Idlib and Aleppo, and called it a “massacre.”

A sign shown outside the south side of the building reads “Umar ibn Al-Khattab mosque” and indicates it is a religious school. Numerous pictures showing fragments of U.S. hellfire missiles also appeared on social media.

The debris after U.S. airstrikes hit a mosque during night prayer in Al-Jineh village of Atarib district in Aleppo, Syria on March 17, 2017.

Photo: Ibrahim Ebu Leys/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Pentagon has a history of initially denying involvement in some of its worst atrocities. For instance, when the U.S. bombed a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, in 2015, the Pentagon initially claimed it was not targeting the hospital. A Pentagon spokesman said that the destruction of the hospital, which was bombed for more than 30 minutes, killing 42 people, was “collateral damage.” The Pentagon’s story continued to change over coming days, until it eventually admitted responsibility.

Top photo: Syrian civil defense volunteers, known as the White Helmets, dig through the rubble of a mosque following a reported airstrike on a mosque in the village of Al-Jineh in Aleppo province late on March 16, 2017.

The post Pentagon Denies Bombing Syrian Mosque, But Its Own Photo May Prove That It Did appeared first on The Intercept.

Brasil se assusta com carne que chega a sua mesa, mas fecha os olhos para discussão sobre abate

17 March 2017 - 5:00pm

Enquanto a Operação Carne Fraca assusta os brasileiros sobre a péssima qualidade da carne que chega a sua mesa, alguém questiona a forma como os animais são abatidos neste processo? Em geral, se a criação e o abate seguem ou não a Lei de Proteção Animal e se o gado sofre ou não maus-tratos não são preocupações que costumam passar pela cabeça dos consumidores.

No entanto, quando o tema é o abate de animais em rituais religiosos, as reclamações chegam até o Supremo Tribunal Federal. É na Corte que, sob a proteção de um crucifixo no plenário, os ministros vão decidir se o uso de animais em ritos de matriz africana viola a Constituição, que em seu artigo 225 coíbe a crueldade contra animais. Como a Carta também garante o livre exercício de cultos religiosos, a discussão reacende o debate sobre cerceamento de uma religião por parte do Estado.

“O que eu diria é que a opinião pública jamais associa o abate comercial a maus-tratos e a intolerância faz com que se associe o abate religioso ao sacrifício. Para acabar com o abate religioso, teria que acabar com qualquer tipo de abate”, comenta Hédio Silva Jr., jurista que participou  de uma comitiva composta por representantes das religiões de matriz africana que levou ao ministro Marco Aurélio Mello – relator da ação – um parecer técnico para auxiliar no julgamento do caso.

“A gente não faz sacrifício, quem sacrifica é a Friboi.”

O método utilizado no abate religioso é o da degola, catalogada pelo Ministério da Agricultura como método humanitário. De acordo com a Lei de Proteção Animal, não dar morte rápida, livre de sofrimento prolongado do animal cuja a morte é necessária para consumo ou não é o que caracteriza o mau-trato.

“No abate religioso, o animal não sofre maus-tratos. Nós sacralizamos o animal, e depois ele é consumido como alimento. A gente não faz sacrifício, quem sacrifica é a Friboi”, afirma o babalorixá Ivanir de Santos, que é interlocutor da Comissão de Combate à Intolerância Religiosa. O abate faz parte de um preceito litúrgico do candomblé e de alguns segmentos da umbanda, que consomem parte da carne como alimento .

Ainda sem data para julgamento, a ação no STF diz respeito a uma ação direta de inconstitucionalidade apresentada pelo Ministério Público do Rio Grande do Sul. O texto pede a anulação de uma lei estadual que exime as religiões de matriz africana de processos por maus-tratos a animais e da proibição do sacrifício animal religioso.

A decisão, se entender que a lei gaúcha é inconstitucional, vai ferir o artigo V da Constituição Federal, que garante a liberdade de crença e das cultos religiosos. Ela seria um  retrocesso, um retorno ao tempo em que as religiões chamadas espíritas no Brasil – incluindo o Kardecismo – tinham seus cultos interrompidos pela polícia. Ou ainda, indo um pouco mais atrás, quando os escravos eram proibidos de cultuar seus orixás.

Em 1993, uma discussão semelhante chegou à Suprema Corte norte-americana. O abate religioso na Santeria (religião levada ao país por cubanos) tinha sido proibido na Flórida. Por lá, prevaleceu a Constituição e a tolerância religiosa.

Com a benção do agronegócio

Assim como as religiões de matriz africana, muçulmanos e judeus, na alimentação kosher (judaica) e halal (islâmica), seguem rituais de abate. A diferença é que, por aqui, quando se trata das outras duas religiões, a questão é vista com bons olhos e passa longe do STF.

Setores do agronegócio brasileiro até mesmo se especializaram no abate religioso para garantir o mercado de exportação para os países que seguem essas religiões. A Friboi é a maior exportadora de carne halal do país – os animais são abatidos por degola, com dizeres do alcorão e voltados para Meca. A BR Foods já tem 25% da sua produção voltada para o mercado islâmico mesmo com denúncias de que a degola não é feita dentro dos preceitos da religião. Ambas são alvos da operação Carne Fraca.

Do mesmo lado, na bancada ruralista do Congresso, com a justificativa de proteger os rebanhos do agronegócio, o deputado federal Valdir Colatto (PMDB-SC) apresentou o projeto de lei 6268/16, que libera a caça de animais silvestres. O texto permite o abate de animais exóticos que possam ameaçar plantações ou o gado,  além de prever a  criação de reservas privadas para a prática de caça desportiva.

Também por pressão da bancada ruralista, mesmo após decisão desfavorável do STF, a PEC da Vaquejada foi aprovada e a prática passou a ser considerada patrimônio imaterial do Brasil. A emenda ainda pode ganhar um adendo que visa liberar a rinha de galo.

“Não há paralelo possível entre a vaquejada, onde o animal fica confinado e tem seu saco escrotal amarrado, com o abate religioso, onde não existe sofrimento. E na rinha de galo muito vezes o galo perdedor vem a falecer. Nestes casos não há dúvidas de maus-tratos”, afirma Hédio Silva Jr.

Ao que parece o conceito de maus-tratos é relativo. O Brasil estaria mesmo preocupado com os animais nos ritos de matriz africana?

The post Brasil se assusta com carne que chega a sua mesa, mas fecha os olhos para discussão sobre abate appeared first on The Intercept.

White House Budget Bombs on Front Pages of Red State Newspapers

17 March 2017 - 3:41pm

The White House budget proposal released on Thursday produced harsh, highly critical headlines in local newspapers based in states that President Trump carried in his election in November.

Papers highlighted the cuts to spending on infrastructure, the environment, the impoverished, and arts and culture.

The Columbus Dispatch — based in Ohio where Trump won 51.3 percent of the vote — ran a front page story on Friday titled “Unkind Cuts to Ohio?” The story noted that the budget eliminated funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, “a $300 million undertaking to clean up and keep invasive species from the world’s largest single source of fresh surface water,” which “directly benefits the same upper industrial Midwestern states — Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin — that elevated Trump to the presidency in November.”

Trump’s budget slams West Virginia,” was splashed across the front page of the Charleston Gazette-Mail on Friday. The paper noted the cuts to education spending and the Appalachian Regional Commission, which supports infrastructure in the state. The state gave Trump 68.7 percent of the vote.

In Florida, where Trump won with 48.6 percent of the vote, the Orlando Sentinel warned that the White House budget would “slash research, EPA, DOT, job training, libraries.”

The Press Register, based in Mobile, Alabama — a coastal city where Trump held one of his first mega rallies, and a state that he won with 62.9 percent of the vote — used its front page Friday to warn that “Trump cuts bite into coast.” It noted that the White House budget “seeks deep cuts to agencies and organizations with a long-standing presence in Coastal Alabama,” such as the Mobile Bay Estuary Program, which monitors water quality and protects wildlife along the coast.

Allentown, Pennsylvania-based paper The Morning Call — in a state Trump won with 48.2 percent of the vote — ran a front page article with the headline “Cuts are a ‘huge blow’ to Valley social services, arts.” The paper directly contrasted the president’s request for a large increase in military spending with proposed cuts to domestic programs. “To cover a $54 billion boost in defense spending next year, President Donald Trump has proposed cuts that would hit Lehigh Valley cities and social services, including programs that aid children after school, homeless people in shelters and neighborhoods dealing with crime,” it noted.

 

In Iowa (site of a 51.2 percent victory for Trump), Cedar Rapids-based The Gazette also highlighted the transfer from domestic programs to the military:

In Michigan, where Trump scored a slim 47.3 percent victory, the Detroit Free Press highlighted the same tradeoff — noting both the increase in military spending and the cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which funds pollution cleanup in the state.

Top photo: A portion of President Donald Trump’s first proposed budget, focusing on the Department of State, USAID, and Treasury International Programs, and released by the Office of Management and Budget, is photographed in Washington, on Wednesday, March 15, 2017.

The post White House Budget Bombs on Front Pages of Red State Newspapers appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump Adviser Is Betting Millions of Dollars That Trump Will Take His Advice

17 March 2017 - 3:06pm

Carl Icahn, the high-stakes financier who has been using his position as a Trump adviser to push for a major rule-change affecting the ethanol industry, is now literally betting millions of dollars on financial markets that Trump will take his advice.

As previously reported at The Intercept, Icahn has pushed to get the Environmental Protection Agency to shift responsibility for blending the required amount of renewable fuel into gasoline. Right now, that obligation lies with oil refiners; Icahn wants it shifted to wholesalers.

As an unpaid but influential “Special Advisor to the President on Regulatory Reform” who vetted EPA chief Scott Pruitt, Icahn has plenty of clout to get this done.

Icahn stands to profit enormously from such a move in the long run: He is majority owner of CVR Energy, a refiner that lacks the infrastructure to blend ethanol. This forces the company to purchase “renewable identification numbers” (RINs), credits that allow it to comply with the obligation. The wholesalers sell the RINs after blending the ethanol themselves.

If Icahn succeeds in his quest, CVR would no longer have to buy RINs, which cost them $205.9 million last year. Icahn already told the Renewable Fuels Association — the leading lobby for the ethanol industry — that the Trump administration would absolutely make the change, leading RFA to agree to a deal reversing their previous position, and supporting the rule.

The change would also collapse the market for RINs, because refiners wouldn’t have any reason to buy them anymore.

And Icahn isn’t waiting to cash in. While pushing to crash the RIN market, Icahn has placed major bets that he will win.

Icahn is effectively short-selling RINs.

Bloomberg reported on Friday that Icahn acknowledged that he’s betting on a decline in the RIN market.

“This is what I do in the market. I’m taking a chance,” the billionaire investor said.

First, he’s directed CVR Energy to delay its RIN purchases, while expecting prices to fall. CVR also sold off large numbers of the RINs it had previously purchased in two dumps last year, including one right after the nomination of Scott Pruitt for EPA administrator.

CVR must by law purchase RINs within a year of selling fuel to wholesalers; delaying or selling off purchases can move markets, as can news of an imminent change in the point of obligation.

This has already paid off: RINs sold for 91 cents each on Election Day, and now track at 36 cents, according to Bloomberg data. If CVR had to buy the same amount of RINs that they did last year, that translates into a savings of roughly $144 million.

Icahn general counsel Jesse Lynn claimed in a statement that Icahn never had “material non-public information” about what the Trump EPA would do on the point of obligation, and that he merely offered the White House his public position on the matter. But Icahn’s company’s SEC filing lists him as a “special adviser to President Donald J. Trump.” And the Renewable Fuels Association has confirmed that Icahn spoke as “a member of the administration” when he told them that the point of obligation would soon change, leading to their deal with Icahn supporting the change.

The Trump administration has repeatedly said that Icahn is merely a private citizen who receives no compensation as a public official. But that could make him an unregistered lobbyist, according to a complaint from watchdog group Public Citizen. The violation could trigger a $200,000 fine and a prison sentence up to five years, if the lobbyist “knowingly and corruptly” failed to comply. Icahn called the complaint “fake news.”

Or, by providing advice on regulatory matters, Icahn could be acting as a “special government employee,” even if he’s unpaid. That also could yield criminal violations, if he’s participating in issues where he has a conflict of interest.

Icahn’s stake in CVR has also gained $500 million in on-paper value since the election.

Top photo: Carl Icahn speaks at the World Business Forum in New York in 2007.

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Outrage Over Donald Trump Is Spurring Activism in Silicon Valley

17 March 2017 - 2:24pm

Aatif Awan, a vice president at LinkedIn, was rallying to action a few hundred people milling around a plaza in the center of Palo Alto, California, many in bright-blue shirts with a fist and the words “TECH STANDS UP.”

“Take your phones out of your pocket, and open your calendar app right now,” he commanded. “Now look at your schedule for tomorrow.”

Awan wanted employees to pledge in meetings with their immigrant colleagues “that you will stand up for them” and fight an executive order from the president restricting entry to the United States from several majority-Muslim nations.

After the ban went into effect, nearly 100 tech companies signed onto a legal brief opposing it.  But at the Palo Alto gathering, convened Tuesday to protest the Trump administration, tech workers called for more vociferous opposition.

“We want to show the higher-ups, the C-Suite, that employees are behind this movement,” said Javed Ali, a designer who has worked for several technology firms and is currently developing a plug-in that would provide “pre-made content” to battle with trolls spreading Islamophobic messages on social media.

Event organizers hoped outrage over Trump’s actions—one attendee called it “my woke-up-ness”—would stir to action highly-paid members of an industry that’s often ignored the concerns of the less fortunate.

“I’m here to get to the people who want to change the world, but who are beginning to get that that takes more than algorithms,” said Laura Impellizzeri, of Legal Aid At Work, an organization that provides free services largely to low-income workers for wage claims, discrimination, workplace safety and other issues. “I’m trying to take advantage of this moment to get money and raise awareness.”

Noel McKay, left, a program manager and Karen Latina, right, a biotech consultant, hold up signs during a Tech Stands Up rally on Pi Day, Tuesday, March 14, 2017, outside City Hall in Palo Alto, Calif.

Photo: Eric Risberg/AP

Brad Taylor, the event’s organizer, and a software engineer at the personalization engine Optimizely, said he was also encouraged by employee initiatives putting pressure on executives, such as a petition by IBM workers against their CEO’s overtures to the Trump administration.

“The people in this industry have so much power because we’re in demand,” Taylor said. “So let’s use that to support our janitors and our baristas and let’s demand that companies who put up slogans like diversity and inclusion put them to work.”

Fighting for the tech industry’s least privileged workers has in the past fallen to labor and community groups and to nonprofit coalitions like Silicon Valley Rising, who have helped to begin to organize the tech world’s service workers, an army of subcontracted labor tens of thousands strong. In recent months, security officers in hundreds of Silicon Valley sites have formed a union, as have cafeteria workers at Intel’s headquarters. Unions sent speakers to the “Tech Stands Up” rally, including Jacky Espinoza, a barista at Intel, who spoke of living in a cramped apartment with several relatives because they couldn’t afford housing in the area.

She called on companies “to protect all immigrant tech workers, not just the high-skilled immigrant tech workers.”

A demonstrator holds a sign during a Tech Stands Up rally on Pi Day, Tuesday, March 14, 2017, outside City Hall in Palo Alto, Calif.

Photo: Cora Currier/The Intercept

Maria Gonzalez, a janitor at Facebook, said she’d had the idea of tech companies declaring “sanctuary campuses,” following the movement by cities and universities to pledge not to cooperate with immigration authorities. A few hours after her speech, she said she hadn’t met any tech employees at the rally.

“No one has come and talked to me about it yet, but maybe I got them to think about it,” she said in Spanish.

Matt Schafer, a software engineer, is also a volunteer organizer with the Tech Workers Coalition, which began in 2015 as a way of  “breaking down divisions between service workers and white collar workers” in the sector, as he puts it. The coalition pushes initiatives such as FairHotel, urging conference-goers to stay at hotels that pay their staff good wages.

Ann Badillo, an executive coach, was “pumped” about helping to organize the event. “I made a living through Silicon Valley. And now I have the bandwidth and time and the pocketbook,” she said. “It’s like being at a start-up. We’ve got that real discipline to ship a product. That’s what we do.”

As the last remnants of the crowd began dispersing from the rally Tuesday — distracted, perhaps by unconscionably beautiful Palo Alto weather, or by Rachel Maddow’s tweet about Trump’s tax returns — Brad Talyor was still preaching.

“America has been around for 240 years,” he said, “and while that sounds like a long time, we are still just a start up.”

 

Top photo: Katherine Forrest, with the group Raging Grannies, holds up a torch during a Tech Stands Up rally on Pi Day, Tuesday, March 14, 2017, outside City Hall in Palo Alto, Calif.

The post Outrage Over Donald Trump Is Spurring Activism in Silicon Valley appeared first on The Intercept.

Palantir Enables Immigration Agents to Access Information From the CIA

17 March 2017 - 12:27pm

Dozens of pro-immigrant demonstrators took to the street last Saturday outside the San Francisco home of Trump adviser Peter Thiel to protest his firm Palantir Technologies’ involvement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Protesters carried signs reading “Make America Mexico Again” and “No Ban No Wall No Surveillance State.”

“The reason we’re here,” said one speaker, “is to call upon the people who are complicit in what Trump is trying to do.”

As The Intercept reported on March 2, Palantir is building a $41 million data platform called Investigative Case Management (ICM) that allows ICE agents, including those in the agency’s primary deportation force, the Enforcement and Removal Office, to query information across several large government databases simultaneously. Documents newly obtained by The Intercept state that Palantir software also permits ICE agents to access information from the Central Intelligence Agency.

ICM makes available to its users a separate ICE system, also built by Palantir, called FALCON. This system was created for ICE’s office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which is generally tasked with pursuing serious cross-border crimes like drug trafficking, child pornography, and terrorism, but has also been behind some of the most controversial deportation actions under Trump and Obama.

HSI agents can use FALCON, a customized version of Palantir’s Gotham software, to pull data from offices within the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and other sources that include information on foreign students, family relationships, employment information, immigration history, criminal records, and home and work addresses.

According to a set of FALCON funding documents from 2013 that were obtained by The Intercept, immigration officials can also use FALCON to access data held by agencies that possess highly classified intelligence, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Counterterrorism Center.

“Palantir enables ICE/HSI to secure information sharing with other law enforcement agencies in real-time to include Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Custom & Border Protection (CBP), the United States Coast Guard (USCG), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), National Counterterrorism Center (NCC), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA),” a 2013 funding document states. “This will give ICE an open platform that will be interoperable and have the ability to cross use capabilities such as federated search, mapping and geospatial capability, unstructured search function, visual linking with these agencies and also have the capability to fully scale the solution to enable large entity exchange (e.g. petabytes of data) between our agencies.”

Jay Stanley, a privacy expert at the American Civil Liberties Union, worries that this type of data sharing, even if justifiable in certain circumstances, could potentially be repurposed to support ICE’s daily immigration policing.

“It seems like there could be very reasonable purposes for which the CIA would exchange information with ICE,” said Stanley. “These kind of information exchanges are often initially based on particular, hair-raising scenarios, but then the routine tool is created and ends up being used for all kinds of everyday petty enforcement.”

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The funding documents were provided to The Intercept by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based civil liberties group, and the records detail the government’s reasons for choosing to retain Palantir as the only vendor to support some primary functions of FALCON. The documents cover two types of FALCON data: One relating to international trade used to identify money laundering and tax evasion, and another containing information “relating to the investigation, arrest, booking, detention and removal of persons encountered during immigration and criminal law enforcement investigations and operations conducted by ICE.”

Much of the document is devoted to justifying FALCON’s heavy reliance on Thiel’s firm. “Palantir has stated that only Palantir is the authorized seller and distributor of its software products and provider of any required maintenance services for its software,” the document states. “Palantir has also not authorized any other vendor to provide training services on Palantir or FALCON.”

ICE provided a general response to a request for comment. FALCON is used by “ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the criminal investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is responsible for investigating a wide range of domestic and international activities arising from the illegal movement of people and goods into, within and out of the United States,” an agency spokesperson wrote in an email. “In order to protect the integrity of our investigations, ICE generally does not discuss law enforcement tools and techniques.” ICE did not answer questions about what limitations govern its use of CIA data.

ICE has repeatedly declined to answer questions about the circumstances under which FALCON can be used by agents from the Enforcement and Removal Office. One of the 2013 documents state that “an individual or subset of users” could be restricted in which databases they access within FALCON, although it provides little elaboration. Palantir did not respond to a request for comment.

In response to a February Freedom of Information Act Request asking for internal rules or restrictions on FALCON’s use, ICE stated that no such documents had been found.

A slide from a 2014 Immigration and Customs Enforcement document outlining capabilities required by the agency’s proposed Investigative Case Management system.

ICE

One of the 2013 funding documents states that in addition to providing Homeland Security Investigations agents access to CIA data, FALCON also acts as a portal to data gathered under the now-defunct National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS, the controversial George W. Bush-era system that required visa-holders from two-dozen predominately Muslim countries and North Korea to register with federal authorities. FALCON users can also access the Student Exchange Visitors Program, an ICE system that tracks foreign students, as well as the controversial ICEGangs database that critics allege can trigger deportations of immigrants based on tenuous evidence of gang affiliation.

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FALCON will eventually give agents access to more than four billion “individual data records,” according to the 2013 funding records, and gives its users the ability “to follow target telephone activity and GPS movement on a map in real time.”

The immigration agency emphasizes that an important aspect of FALCON is the ability — provided by Palantir’s trademark Gotham software — to allow agents to seamlessly search between multiple large databases at once. “The Gotham software upon which FALCON is based does not segregate data contained within individual data sets when searches are performed,” the document states. “Rather, if a user searches on a particular Person, Event, or Object, all records connected to that Person, Event, or Object which are accessible to FALCON are called up.”

The ICE documents underline Palantir’s singular role in underpinning these capabilities within FALCON, a system it says will become accessible to a growing user-base over time. ICE identifies continued access to Palantir’s software updates, for instance, as being critical to the success of FALCON.

“Without updates to the software, there is an increased risk that the FALCON system could stop working properly or could be made unstable or compromised by invasive software viruses or other malware,” the document states. “Use of Palantir Gotham and the FALCON system is intended to increase over the life of the order.”

Top photo:A man is detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), agents early in 2015 in Los Angeles.

The post Palantir Enables Immigration Agents to Access Information From the CIA appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump the Outsider Outsources His Budget to Insider Think Tank

16 March 2017 - 4:52pm

President Trump’s budget proposal, released on Thursday, echoes none of the populist, anti-establishment themes of candidate Trump’s campaign for higher office. Instead, it calls for a large increase in defense spending while reducing spending for a variety of popular domestic programs.

That’s not surprising considering where those ideas came from. Rather than bringing in new ideas from outside of the Beltway, many of its proposals are lifted straight from the recommendations of an elite ultra-conservative D.C. think tank: the Heritage Foundation.

Founded in 1973, Heritage has served as a sort of a watering hole for the Republican establishment, providing policy papers and staffers for GOP members of Congress and presidential administrations. Its 2015 annual report listed almost $100 million in revenues — drawn from conservative mega-donors and corporations — which it uses to facilitate the spread of its ideas across Washington, D.C.

And those ideas have found a home in the Trump administration, which leaned heavily on Heritage advice during the transition period. Many of the White House proposal’s ideas are identical to a budget blueprint Heritage drew up last year.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Eliminating the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC): Trump’s campaign performed well in Appalachia, but that didn’t prevent his budget from axing the ARC, which supports infrastructure projects such as highways and water and sewer lines in Eastern Kentucky and other parts of the region. Heritage’s blueprint recommended the cut, essentially saying that economic development in this region should not be the federal government’s problem: “If states and localities see the need for increased spending in these areas, they should be responsible for funding it.”
  • Killing Funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA): Since its establishment in 1965, the NEA has supported countless artistic and cultural projects across America. Despite perennial criticism of some of its activities, administrations of both parties have maintained its federal funding. The Trump budget calls for its elimination, echoing Heritage’s blueprint, which bemoans that “taxpayers should not be forced to pay for plays, paintings, pageants, and scholarly journals, regardless of the works’ attraction or merit.”
  • Ending Support for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC): The LSC provides support for legal assistance for indigent Americans. The White House budget offers no specific justification for ending it. But the Heritage blueprint says the LSC should be “abolished because it is not a duty of the federal government to provide defense in these types of cases. Many state and local governments already provide funding for indigent legal defense and are better equipped to address the needs of those in their communities who rely on these free services.” (State indigent defense funds are constantly underfunded and in danger of being unable to meet the demand.)
  • Terminating Funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB): The White House proposes ending all federal funds for the CPB, which supports public programming like Sesame Street. The Heritage blueprint requests that change, offering market pablum as justification: “Many nonprofits manage to stay in business without receiving federal funding by being creative and reacting to market fluctuations. Public broadcasters should be no exception.”

Heritage is certainly pleased with the outcome — mostly. It put out a statement on Thursday praising the White House budget proposal.

“President Trump’s budget proposal marks a stark contrast from the reckless spending of the past administration. The proposed cuts to non-defense programs, together with executive actions to streamline federal agencies and cut waste, signal that this administration is serious about cutting the bloated Washington bureaucracy down to size,” it wrote. “Congress should work with the administration to bring greater accountability to government.”

There was just one part the think tank didn’t like — it complained that Trump’s call for an additional $54 billion in defense spending just isn’t big enough: “President Trump’s 2018 defense budget proposal represents a clear commitment to rebuilding the military and a desire to repeal damaging sequestration defense caps. However, this increase is insufficient to begin the much-needed re-building.”

Top photo: Copies of President Donald Trump’s overview of budget priorities for FY2018, titled “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” are put on display at the Government Publishing Office (GPO) and the Office of Management and Budget, on March 16, 2017, in Washington.

The post Trump the Outsider Outsources His Budget to Insider Think Tank appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump chamou a guerra no Afeganistão de “bagunça”. Seus generais querem expandi-la.

16 March 2017 - 4:42pm

Odeio ter que concordar com Trump. “Cometemos um erro terrível ao nos envolvermos desde o início”, disse ele à CNN em outubro em relação à guerra no Afeganistão, que ele chamou de “bagunça”. “Eu deixaria as tropas lá de má vontade”, afirmou o então candidato à Presidência. “Acredite, eu não estou feliz com isso.”

Você se lembra do Afeganistão, certo? A guerra mais longa na história dos EUA e a mais impopular, também? O conflito atual que foi ignorado por políticos e demais autoridades, apesar de 2.400 americanos mortos e um preço alarmante de 1 trilhão de dólares?

O Afeganistão quase não foi visto durante a campanha eleitoral. A guerra de uma década e meia foi mencionada apenas uma vez ao longo de três debates presidenciais – na forma de uma referência superficial de Hillary Clinton. Trump, porém, pode querer largar os tacos de golfe e começar a prestar atenção à luta esquecida contra o Talibã, que deveria ter acabado formalmente em dezembro de 2014. Seus generais, apoiados por republicanos pró-guerra no Congresso, querem arrastar o conflito por mais alguns anos. Seu mantra silencioso? Na dúvida, dobre a aposta.

Mas até mesmo Hamid Karzai, ex-presidente do Afeganistão e aliado dos EUA, acredita que já chega de guerra. “Não queremos [mais] forças estrangeiras bombardeando nossas cidades, prendendo nosso povo, destruindo nossos lares e causando mais guerra no Afeganistão”, me contou ele. Tanta violência, ele afirma, lembrando a insurreição do Talibã, “naturalmente causa ressetimento” e “legitima qualquer resistência a ela”.

Ainda assim, no mês passado, enquanto todos os olhos estavam voltados para a confirmação de Jeff Sessions como Advogado-Geral no Senado, o general John Nicholson, militar americano de mais alta patente no Afeganistão, apareceu diante da Comissão de Serviços Armados do Senado para pedir “alguns milhares” de soldados a mais. Na semana passada, o seu superior, general Joseph Votel, chefe do Comando Central dos EUA, repetiu o pedido de Nicholson, dizendo aos senadores que uma nova “estratégia” para o Afeganistão teria que “envolver forças adicionais”. E, nesta semana, os senadores republicanos Lindsay Graham e John McCain, que nunca encontraram um país de maioria muçulmana que não quisessem bombardear, invadir ou ocupar, usaram um artigo de opinião no jornal Washington Post para clamar por – surpresa! – “forças adicionais norte-americanas e de coalisão” no Afeganistão, incluindo “operações especiais e suporte aéreo de proximidade”.

“É imperativo que levemos nossa missão ao sucesso”, declamaram.

O que era mesmo aquela definição de insanidade? Não nos esqueçamos, o antecessor de Trump também recebeu pedidos de seus generais por mais tropas durante o seu primeiro ano de mandato: Barack Obama enviou 30.000 soldados extras para o Afeganistão, contrariando o conselho de seu vice-presidente, apenas para ver o Talibã se fortalecer, em vez de enfraquecer. Então por que seria algo além de uma fantasia sugerir que 20.000 ou até 30.000 soldados no Afeganistão sob as ordens de Trump – em oposição aos 8.400 soldados que estão atualmente lá como parte de uma missão de apoio da OTAN – seriam capazes de conquistar a vitória que foi negada a 100.000 soldados americanos no Afeganistão durante o mandato de Obama em 2010?

Durante seu testemunho no senado, Nicholson foi questionado pelo senador McCain se os EUA estariam perdendo ou ganhando no Afeganistão. “Eu acredito que estamos em um empate”, respondeu o general.

Isso é pura ilusão. Donald Rumsfield, secretário de Defesa do então presidente George W. Bush, pode ter afirmado que “não temos medidas para saber se estamos ganhando ou perdendo a guerra global contra o terrorismo”, mas não nos faltam essas “medidas” para a guerra contra o Talibã. Desde 2001, os apoiadores da guerra têm citado uma série estonteante de medidas, de construção de uma nação a contraterrorismo a guerra às drogas, todas resultando em “missão falha” em vez de “missão cumprida”.

Soldados americanos chegam ao local de um ataque suicida com carro-bomba que teve como alvo o quartel-general da polícia de um distrito afegão, enquanto uma batalha armada entre o Talibã e as forças de segurança afegãs continuava em Kabul, em 1º de março de 2017.

Foto: Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

 Apoiando um governo afegão estável e democrático? O presidente apoiado pelos EUA e seu “diretor-executivo” estão no meio de uma disputa amarga por poder; o vice-presidente é um senhor da guerra brutal; as eleições parlamentares foram adiadas; e a corrupção corre solta – o Afeganistão ocupa o 169º lugar dentre 176 países no ranking de corrupção atual da organização Transparência Internacional.

Protegendo a população? As mortes de civis no Afeganistão em 2016 alcançaram o nível mais alto desde que a ONU começou a registrá-las, em 2009. No mês passado, no governo Trump, ataques aéreos norte-americanos na província de Helmand teriam causado a morte de pelo menos 18 civis, a maioria mulheres e crianças.

Reduzindo o tráfico de drogas? O Afeganistão continua a fornecer por volta de 90% do ópio ilegal no mundo, com uma produção crescendo alarmantes 43% em 2016. Enquanto isso, mais de um milhão de afegãos são viciados em drogas.

Prevenindo o crescimento do Estado Islâmico? Na semana passada, atiradores do EI vestidos de médicos atacaram um hospital militar no coração da capital, Kabul, matando mais de 30 pessoas.

Derrotando o Talibã? Os insurgentes estiveram na ofensiva por todo o ano passado e agora detêm mais território afegão do que em qualquer ano desde 2001. Conforme divulgado pelo Politico, “o governo afegão controlava 57% dos distritos do país em novembro… o que significa uma perda de 6% desde agosto e uma queda de 15% em comparação a novembro de 2015.”

Alguma coisa nisso soa como um empate para você? Nicholson e Votel podem ter a visão de que nenhum dos lados tem poder total (daí o “empate”) mas, conforme Henry Kissinger observou uma vez, “o exército convencional perde se não ganhar. A guerrilha ganha se não perder” (sim, eu também odeio concordar com Kissinger).

Será que Trump, obcecado como ele é por “ganhar”, irá reconhecer que não há vitória militar decisiva nos campos de extermínio do Afeganistão? Ou o orgulhoso autor de “A Arte do Acordo” está disposto a começar alguma forma de negociação com o repugnante Talibã para tentar acabar de uma vez por todas com o fracasso no Afeganistão? Um estudo publicado em janeiro por Michael Semple e Theo Farrel, baseado no contato direto deles com ex-dirigentes talibãs, concluiu que “o aumento para [o Talibã] de moral após os sucessos no campo de batalha em 2016″ foi “diluído pelo alto custo com o qual foram conquistados” e também por um novo líder fraco, que abriu a porta para uma “pacificação insurgente”. Existe, dizem, um acordo a ser feito.

No entanto, como Farrell tem notado, “iniciar um novo esforço militar no Afeganistão traz o risco de se reinjetar uma noção de propósito no esforço de guerra Talibã”. Desde o início do conflito, a presença militar norte-americana tem sido parte do problema, não da solução. É uma forma de recrutamento para uma insurreição nacionalista, não apenas islâmica.

Karzai passou de apoiador entusiasta da intervenção inicial americana no Afeganistão a crítico declarado e oponente das forças dos EUA. Antes de o novo presidente aprovar seu próprio “ataque” no Afeganistão, Karzai quer que ele explique ao povo afegão por que, após mais de 15 anos, “com tanto sangue e dinheiro gastos, tantas perdas de vidas, o país não está seguro. Por que existe mais extremismo? Por que [o Estado Islâmico] emergiu no Afeganistão enquanto os EUA [com suas forças armadas] estavam aqui?”.

Ainda assim, eu suspeito que o beligerante Trump, que prometeu “bombardear demais” o Estado Islâmico e que, desde que começou o mandato, já expandiu a ação militar dos EUA no Yemen e enviou forças terrestres à Síria, achará difícil resistir aos alertas por mais tropas, mais bombas, mais guerra.

Da mesma forma que Obama fez antes dele, Trump vai aumentar os esforços no Afeganistão. Assim como Obama, Trump vai perder no Afeganistão. E o resto de nós, com vergonha, vai continuar fingindo que não viu.

Tradução: Beatrix Felix

Foto no topo: soldados americanos a bordo de uma aeronave militar deixam o Afeganistão, na base americana em Bangram, ao norte de Kabul, em 2011.

The post Trump chamou a guerra no Afeganistão de “bagunça”. Seus generais querem expandi-la. appeared first on The Intercept.

Prosecutors Allege Dubious ISIS-Nazi Connection in Terror Sting Case

16 March 2017 - 4:11pm

Federal prosecutors who brought terror charges last year against a Virginia man — for buying gift cards for an FBI informant — argued in court last week that Nazi memorabilia found in the man’s apartment was relevant to the case because ISIS and the Nazis share “a similarity in ideology”.

According to a transcript of the hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg said that the defendant, Nicholas Young, was interested in ISIS and Nazism simultaneously. And as an example of historical Muslim-Nazi cooperation, Kromberg noted that Young, on Facebook, had “liked” Mufti Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, a Palestinian nationalist who supported Adolf Hitler. Last year Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu caused an uproar by claiming that al-Husayni inspired the Nazi Holocaust, an allegation that was widely denounced as untrue by historians.

Nicholas Young

Photo: Family of Nicholas Young

Young’s lawyer pointed out to the judge  that the FBI agents who executed a search warrant on Young’s apartment initially thought they lacked the authority to seize the Nazi mementoes — not seeing them as obviously relevant to a terrorism case — but that Kromberg had told them to seize the items anyway. Kromberg, for his part, has previously faced accusations in sworn affidavits by defense attorneys of anti-Muslim bias.

Young, a white 36-year-old former Washington, D.C. Metro police officer, was arrested in August and charged with material support for terrorism after a sting operation in which he agreed to send $245 worth of gift cards to an FBI informant who had been posing as a friend. The informant told Young that he had joined ISIS and needed the money to pay for mobile messaging accounts ISIS could use to recruit Westerners. A number of weapons were seized from Young’s home after his arrest, which he appeared to have owned legally as part of his work as a police officer.

According to the FBI’s own criminal complaint, Young had previously tried to dissuade the informant in his case from joining ISIS. But at least since his 2011 trip to Libya, the bureau had been watching Young’s erratic behavior and alarming social media chatter and waiting for him to do something illegal.

Young’s lawyer, Nicholas Smith, argued that if FBI agents had considered Young an actual threat, they never would have let him continue working as a police officer and carrying firearms for more than five years. And despite the terror charge he now faces, Young is not alleged to have been planning to actually conduct any acts of violence.

A search warrant executed at his home after his arrest turned up a number of items of historical Nazi paraphernalia, a Confederate flag and an old photo of Young dressed in a Nazi uniform. His family and lawyers say that Young had been part of a historical reenactment group for many years and had historical items and uniforms from a number of different armies and conflicts.

In the March 10 hearing before Federal District Court Judge Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, Kromberg introduced seized items including the Confederate flag, Ku Klux Klan literature and historical books about the Nazis that were found in Young’s home, along with two pictures of Young — dressed as a Nazi in one, and in “Muslim garb” in the other — taken within five days of each other 11 years ago, in 2006.

“So there’s not only a similarity in ideology about certain parts of the ideology, but chronologically, this was happening at the very same time,” Kromberg insisted.

Ashley Young, the defendant’s sister, said that her brother had been in in possession of a large amount of documents and paraphernalia from many different periods of history. “He had done Vietnam War reenactments in addition to World War II and had been a member of a reenactment group for many years,” Ashley Young said. “He has boxes full of books and items from different wars in history but they only focused on the Nazi stuff.”

Kromberg called attention to a social media account allegedly operated by Young that made positive comments about ISIS under the pseudonym of a German SS storm trooper named Klaus Dusselkamp. And he even cited an anonymous social media commenter who had referred to Young as “Muslim-Nazi scum.”

“Now, whether or not that’s true, I don’t know the answer to that,” Kromberg said. “But the point is that the Nazi stuff in this case is very much related to the, to the ISIS stuff.”

During the hearing a number of documents from Young’s computer were produced, including a poster for “The Worldwide Association of Islamists and Nazis.”

At issue was a defense motion to suppress various items the defense argued were unconstitutionally seized from Young’s residence because they had no relevance to the charged crime – which had to do with the provision of gift cards — and were therefore not responsive to the search warrant.

Prosecutors in terrorism cases have often been criticized for attempting to include information like books and images to draw spurious connections between defendants and publicly-loathed causes and groups. Social media activity, including Facebook “likes” are often deemed relevant by prosecutors in sting cases when seeking to prove that a defendant was predisposed to support terrorism.

But a 2014 Human Rights Watch report condemned “prosecutorial tactics that may violate fair trial rights, such as introducing…inflammatory evidence about terrorism in which defendants played no part.”

Iman Boukadoum, a defense lawyer in past national security cases, said that the attempt by prosecutors to make an ISIS-Nazi connection in this case is absurd — but unsurprising. “Because the material support statute is so broad, prosecutors often use very thinly substantiated acts or statements to associate defendants with terrorist activity,” she said.

“Nazis obviously want to kill Muslims and they hate Muslims. This theory doesn’t even make sense,” Boukadoum said. “The government is just throwing the worst ideologies together to try and paint the worst possible picture of the defendant.”

Kromberg has come under criticism in the past for allegedly harboring personal prejudice against Muslim defendants in his cases. A 2008 Washington Post story cited him for a number of controversial statements he had allegedly made in the past, including mocking the torture of a defendant and criticizing “the Islamization of the American justice system.”

The FBI has come under frequent criticism for using elaborate stings to build high-profile terrorism cases against individuals who seemed to have little inclination or ability to carry out acts of violence on their own. Some involve indigent or mentally ill people goaded into agreeing to acts of violence, others include people who are coaxed into committing illegal acts under broadly defined terrorism statutes. There are estimated to be as many as 15,000 FBI informants currently operating around the country, many of whom are working on terrorism cases.

Following the hearing, Judge Brinkema — who had made it clear from the outset that she had no patience with the defense’s argument — accepted Kromberg’s view that the items seized by the FBI were relevant and responsive to the search warrant. “Whether or not the American Nazi party is officially designated as a terrorist organization there certainly is enough evidence in my view to find that it would be reasonable to deem it to be sufficiently terroristic in its orientation and philosophy,” she said.

Defense lawyers will still have a chance before trial to argue that the items seized under the warrant should be excluded as prejudicial.

Young’s sister said she fears that prosecutors are planning to selectively use images and documents in her brother’s possession. “There were things in drawers that were favorable to the Allies and the other sides of the conflict,” she said. “To claim that my brother is an ISIS supporter and a Nazi is outrageous.”

Top photo: Ashley Young, center, walks away after a status hearing for her brother, Nicholas Young on Aug. 3, 2016, at the Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse in Alexandria, Va.

The post Prosecutors Allege Dubious ISIS-Nazi Connection in Terror Sting Case appeared first on The Intercept.

Lula e greve geral: dois ícones da esquerda estão de volta

16 March 2017 - 2:14pm

Um desavisado que chegasse à Avenida Paulista, na capital de São Paulo, por volta das 19h de quarta-feira (15), poderia facilmente supor ter topado com um comício do PT. A avenida estava completamente tomada por bandeiras vermelhas enquanto, em cima do carro de som, o ex-presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva escutava o povo ao redor entoar o olê-olá clássico de suas campanhas eleitorais. Quem segue minimamente o noticiário, contudo, sabe que não se tratava disso. Ou não apenas disso.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva fala durante o protesto que fez parte da Greve Geral, em São Paulo, no dia 15 de março.

Foto: Victor Moriyama/Getty Images

O objetivo dos atos, que se espalharam por 19 capitais, era gritar contra a proposta de reforma de previdência do governo Temer que, como haviam previsto diversos líderes e analistas, trouxe a esquerda de volta às ruas, após um longo período em que os protestos não passavam de fagulhas isoladas. Na principal avenida de São Paulo, a maior das manifestações do dia 15 reuniu cerca de 200 mil pessoas, segundo organizadores. Curiosamente, nem a Polícia Militar, nem os institutos de pesquisa tradicionais deram-se ao trabalho de calcular o número de presentes.

“pode ser o início da retomada da nossa luta”

“Das tragédias do governo Temer, a coisa boa foi a oportunidade, através dessa reforma maluca, de voltarmos a dialogar com os trabalhadores do campo e da cidade”, disse o coordenador nacional do Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST), João Paulo Rodrigues, que concluiu: “acho que isso pode ser o início da retomada da nossa luta.”

Rodrigues se diz satisfeito com o retorno a um modo clássico de a esquerda se manifestar, que vai além da tomada do espaço público:

“Precisamos agradecer muito ao retorno do método tradicional da esquerda de fazer manifestação. A manifestação da esquerda é aquela em que o trabalhador vai com as suas bandeiras, faz greve e faz paralisação. Isso que é uma manifestação clássica. Só se altera a conjuntura se parar a produção e a circulação da mercadoria”.

Manifestação que fez parte da Greve Geral, em Cruzeiro do Sul (AC), no dia 15 de março.

Foto: Panthio

A volta às ruas de uma parcela do povo que havia se postado passivamente diante do processo de impeachment de Dilma Rousseff — e que desde então permanecia em casa — foi comemorada por outras lideranças. “Hoje foi um marco importante no processo de mobilização porque, pela primeira vez no último período, vieram em peso trabalhadores, para além dos movimentos sociais organizados”, disse o coordenador do Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Teto (MTST), Guilherme Boulos. “Veio o povo das periferias, o povo pobre, que hoje fez greve, fez ocupações de prédios públicos… Acho que foi um salto qualitativo”.

Mas e 2018? E Lula?

Estaria a esquerda armando um enorme palanque para o retorno triunfal do presidente operário? A resposta oficial das lideranças é um sonoro não. Para Boulos, qualquer tentativa de antecipar as próximas eleições presidenciais traz consigo o risco de enfraquecer o movimento:

“Há uma ampla unidade na esquerda, no sentido de enfrentar os ataques do governo Temer. Mas não há uma unidade igual do ponto de vista de pensar as perspectivas. Sejam as perspectivas eleitorais para 2018, seja um projeto estratégico de país.”

O coordenador do MST foi na mesma linha. Afirmou que o momento atual é de luta e que o PT não deve tentar misturá-lo com objetivos eleitorais. Apesar disso, a presença de Lula como o astro da noite não chegava a incomodar. “O Lula é uma figura pública extremamente importante da esquerda. É o maior patrimônio, a maior liderança dos últimos 30 anos. Então é natural que em toda e qualquer manifestação do nosso campo político, ele acabe capitaneando”, afirmou, sem levar em conta a ausência de Lula em boa parte das manifestações esporádicas da esquerda nos últimos meses.

Manifestação em Curitiba (PR), no dia 15 de março, como parte da Greve Geral.

Foto: Francisco Proner

Por volta das 17h de quarta-feira (15), o presidente da Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT), Vagner Freitas, desceu do carro de som para atender ao telefonema de The Intercept Brasil. Quando perguntado sobre as chances de Lula aproveitar a retomada das ruas para se lançar numa precoce pré-campanha, ofereceu uma resposta quase dialética:

“Sou partidário de uma candidatura do Lula a presidente. Trabalho para convencê-lo a ser candidato e trabalharei muito para que golpistas não impeçam que ele seja candidato. Mas hoje estamos discutindo a reforma da previdência”.

O momento escolhido para a aparição pública do ex-presidente tem posicionamento estratégico no calendário. Um dia antes, ele estava em Brasília depondo na 10ª Vara Federal como réu por obstrução de justiça. Lula é acusado de tentar impedir o acordo delação premiada de Nestor Cerveró, ex-diretor da área internacional da Petrobras. Três dias depois da greve, no dia 19, ele visita a cidade de Monteiro (PB) para conferir a conclusão da transposição do rio São Francisco e iniciar oficialmente o “volta, Lula”.

Garis declaram seu apoio à Greve Geral, no dia 15 de março, no Rio de Janeiro.

Foto: Carolina Cacau

“Seis meses atrás essa ovação não teria acontecido”

Manifestação em Juiz de Fora (MG) no dia da Greve Geral contra a reforma da previdência, 15 de março.

Foto: Otavio Martins

Para a cientista política e historiadora da Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV) Dulce Pandolfi, o país vive uma junção de movimentos sociais que viram o momento propício para retomar as ruas sob a causa justa e clara da reforma da previdência. “Se fosse uma greve geral contra o governo Temer, talvez não tivesse tanto sucesso. Mas somou-se uma bandeira que sensibiliza a população com a insatisfação com o governo”, explicou.

Para Pandolfi, que também é pesquisadora do Centro de Pesquisa e Documentação de História Contemporânea do Brasil (CPDOC), nesse novo cenário o ex-presidente e as forças políticas ligadas a ele percebem que é um momento de tudo ou nada:

“Lula está no alvo. Já desconstruíram a imagem dele. Agora ele se fortalece e torna-se mais difícil prendê-lo ou acusá-lo. Então a visão é de que é preciso fortalecê-lo para torná-lo um pouco intocável.”

Ainda segundo a cientista, a morte recente da ex-primeira-dama Marisa Letícia é outro fator que ajuda nisso: “a política é pautada por acontecimentos icônicos”. Sem contar que, diante do luto, os ataques se tornaram mais evidentes e a teoria de que há um processo de perseguição ganhou corpo. “Recentemente, a coisa ficou tão parcial que, com isso, o Lula consegue recobrar sua força. Seis meses atrás essa ovação não teria acontecido. Agora se retomou a narrativa em cima da perseguição a ele”, ponderou.

Manifestação em Paranaguá (PR), como parte da Greve Geral do dia 15 de março.

“Até a vitória!”

No carro de som, com voz mais rouca do que de costume, Lula mostrou toda a sua argúcia política ao fazer exatamente o que se esperava dele. Falou sobre a reforma da previdência e atacou o governo Temer. “Está ficando cada vez mais claro que o golpe dado nesse país não foi apenas contra a Dilma, não foi apenas contra os partidos de esquerda. O golpe dado nesse país foi para colocar um cidadão sem nenhuma legitimidade para acabar com as conquistas da classe trabalhadora”, exclamou em meio a aplausos e rojões.

A transformação da manifestação em comício começou tímida, com um aceno sutil ao Nordeste, eterno reduto eleitoral do PT:

“A reforma da aposentadoria vai praticamente proibir que milhões e milhões de brasileiros consigam se aposentar. Vai fazer com que os trabalhadores mais pobres desse país, sobretudo os trabalhadores rurais desse nordeste, passem a receber metade de um salário mínimo.”

Em seguida, sem deixar de lado o tema da noite, Lula lembrou da época de economia pujante em que, é claro, ele ocupava o Planalto: “Eu gostaria que o [ministro da fazenda Henrique] Meirelles estivesse ouvindo. Gostaria que o Temer estivesse ouvindo. Pra eles perceberem que um dia, nesse país, nós resolvemos o problema da previdência”. Em resposta, o ministro — que foi presidente do Banco Central durante todo o mandato de Lula, entre 2003 e 2010 — afirmou na manhã seguinte (16) que uma vitória de Lula nas eleições de 2018 não impactaria a reforma da previdência porque, segundo a análise de Meirelles, o ex-presidente possui um histórico de moderação.

Manifestação em Recife (PE) no dia da Greve Geral, 15 de maio.

Segundo Lula, a receita para sanar o problema é simples: colocar a economia nos trilhos, gerar empregos e estimular empresas a se formalizarem. Os exemplos concretos vieram de sua atuação na presidência: “Quando nós geramos 22 milhões de empregos, quando todas as categorias organizadas tinham aumento acima da inflação, quando o salário mínimo era reajustado todo ano, quando a gente tinha as pequenas e médias empresas formalizadas e legalizadas, a previdência crescia a sua arrecadação”. Depois leu os dados em um calhamaço de papel: “Apenas entre 2008 e 2014 houve um aumento de 54,6% na receita da seguridade social. Com a queda continuada do desemprego e da informalidade, pela primeira vez na história do Brasil teve superávit”.

O saudosismo foi a ponte que ligou a reforma da previdência à esperança de um Brasil grande: “Esse país era admirado nos Estados Unidos, era admirado na Rússia, era admirado na China, era admirado na Índia, era respeitado na América Latina”, disse o homem que, nos idos de 2009, foi chamado de “o cara” pelo então presidente norte-americano Barak Obama.

Daí para se comparar com o impopular Michel Temer, foi um pulo: “Hoje nós temos esse presidente que não tem nem coragem de ir na Bolívia, não tem nem coragem de ir no Uruguai, porque nenhum presidente quer recebê-lo”, atacou Lula do alto do carro de som. Depois partiu para o final catártico, indispensável a todo bom discurso. “Esse povo só vai parar quando elegerem um governo democraticamente. Um abraço, companheiros, e até a vitória!”

Lá embaixo, na Paulista tomada, o povo respondeu entonando um “Olê-olê-olê-olá, Lulá, Lulá”.

The post Lula e greve geral: dois ícones da esquerda estão de volta appeared first on The Intercept.

Key Democratic Officials Now Warning Base Not to Expect Evidence of Trump/Russia Collusion

16 March 2017 - 11:41am

From MSNBC politics shows to town hall meetings across the country, the overarching issue for the Democratic Party’s base since Trump’s victory has been Russia, often suffocating attention for other issues. This fixation has persisted even though it has no chance to sink the Trump presidency unless it is proven that high levels of the Trump campaign actively colluded with the Kremlin to manipulate the outcome of the U.S. election – a claim for which absolutely no evidence has thus far been presented.

The principal problem for Democrats is that so many media figures and online charlatans are personally benefiting from feeding the base increasingly unhinged, fact-free conspiracies – just as right-wing media polemicists did after both Bill Clinton and Obama were elected – that there are now millions of partisan soldiers absolutely convinced of a Trump/Russia conspiracy for which, at least as of now, there is no evidence. And they are all waiting for the day, which they regard as inevitable and imminent, when this theory will be proven and Trump will be removed.

Key Democratic officials are clearly worried about the expectations that have been purposely stoked and are now trying to tamp them down. Many of them have tried to signal that the beliefs the base has been purposely led to adopt have no basis in reason or evidence.

The latest official to throw cold water on the MSNBC-led circus is President Obama’s former acting CIA chief Michael Morell. What makes him particularly notable in this context is that Morell was one of Clinton’s most vocal CIA surrogates. In August, he not only endorsed Clinton in the pages of the New York Times but became the first high official to explicitly accuse Trump of disloyalty, claiming: “in the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”

But on Wednesday night, Morell appeared at an intelligence community forum to “cast doubt” on “allegations that members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.” He said: “On the question of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians here, there is smoke, but there is no fire, at all,” adding: “There’s no little campfire, there’s no little candle, there’s no spark. And there’s a lot of people looking for it.”

Obama’s former CIA chief also cast serious doubt on the credibility of the infamous, explosive “dossier” originally published by Buzzfeed, saying that its author, Christopher Steele, paid intermediaries to talk to the sources for it. The dossier, he said “doesn’t take you anywhere, I don’t think.”

Morell’s comments echoes the categorical remarks by Obama’s top national security official, James Clapper, who told Meet the Press last week that during the time he was Obama’s DNI, he saw no evidence to support claims of a Trump/Russia conspiracy. “We had no evidence of such collusion,” Clapper stated unequivocally. Unlike Morell, who left his official CIA position in 2013 but remains very integrated into the intelligence community, Clapper was Obama’s DNI until just seven weeks ago, leaving on January 20.

Perhaps most revealing of all are the Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee – charged with investigating these matters – who recently told Buzzfeed how petrified they are of what the Democratic base will do if they do not find evidence of collusion, as they now suspect will likely be the case. “There’s a tangible frustration over what one official called ‘wildly inflated’ expectations surrounding the panel’s fledgling investigation,” Buzzfeed’s Ali Watkins wrote.

Moreover, “several committee sources grudgingly say, it feels as though the investigation will be seen as a sham if the Senate doesn’t find a silver bullet connecting Trump and Russian intelligence operatives.” One member told her: “I don’t think the conclusions are going to meet people’s expectations.”

What makes all of this most significant is that officials like Clapper and Morell are trained disinformation agents; Clapper in particular has proven he will lie to advance his interests. Yet even with all the incentive to do so, they are refusing to claim there is evidence of such collusion; in fact, they are expressly urging people to stop thinking it exists. As even the law recognizes, statements which otherwise lack credibility become more believable when they are ones made “against interest.”

Media figures have similarly begun trying to tamp down expectations. Ben Smith, the editor-in-chief of Buzzfeed, which published the Steele dossier, published an article yesterday warning that the Democratic base’s expectation of a smoking gun “is so strong that Twitter and cable news are full of the theories of what my colleague Charlie Warzel calls the Blue Detectives — the left’s new version of Glenn Beck, digital blackboards full of lines and arrows.” Smith added: it is also a simple fact that while news of Russian actions on Trump’s behalf is clear, hard details of coordination between his aides and Putin’s haven’t emerged.” And Smith’s core warning is this:

Trump’s critics last year were horrified at the rise of “fake news” and the specter of a politics shaped by alternative facts, predominantly on the right. They need to be careful now not to succumb to the same delusional temptations as their political adversaries, and not to sink into a filter bubble which, after all, draws its strength not from conservative or progressive politics but from human nature.

And those of us covering the story and the stew of real information, fantasy, and — now — forgery around it need to continue to report and think clearly about what we know and what we don’t, and to resist the sugar high that comes with telling people exactly what they want to hear.

For so long, Democrats demonized and smeared anyone trying to inject basic reason, rationality and skepticism into this Trump/Russia discourse by labeling them all Kremlin agents and Putin lovers. Just this week, the Center for American Progress released a report using the language of treason to announce the existence of a “Fifth Column” in the U.S. that serves Russia (similar to Andrew Sullivan’s notorious 2001 decree that anyone opposing the War on Terror composed an anti-American “Fifth Column”), while John McCain listened to Rand Paul express doubts about the wisdom of NATO further expanding to include Montenegro and then promptly announced: “Paul is working for Vladimir Putin.”

But with serious doubts – and fears – now emerging about what the Democratic base has been led to believe by self-interested carnival-barkers and partisan hacks, there is a sudden, concerted effort to rein in the excesses of this story. With so many people now doing this, it will be increasingly difficult to smear them all as traitors and Russian loyalists, but it may be far too little, too late, given the pitched hysteria that has been deliberately cultivated around these issues for months. Many Democrats have reached the classic stage of deranged conspiracists where evidence that disproves the theory is viewed as further proof of its existence, and those pointing to it are instantly deemed suspect.

A formal, credible investigation into all these questions, where the evidence is publicly disclosed, is still urgently needed. That’s true primarily so that conspiracies no longer linger and these questions are resolved by facts rather than agenda-driven anonymous leaks from the CIA and cable news hosts required to feed a partisan mob.

It’s certainly possible to envision an indictment of a low-level operative like Carter Page, or the prosecution of someone like Paul Manafort on matters unrelated to hacking, but the silver bullet that Democrats have been led to expect will sink Trump appears further way than ever.

But given the way these Russia conspiracies have drowned out other critical issues being virtually ignored under a Trump presidency, it’s vital that everything be done now to make clear what is based in evidence and what is based in partisan delusions. And most of what the Democratic base has been fed for the last six months by their unhinged stable of media, online and party leaders have decisively fallen into the latter category, as even their own officials are now desperately trying to warn.

The post Key Democratic Officials Now Warning Base Not to Expect Evidence of Trump/Russia Collusion appeared first on The Intercept.

SEAL Team 6 Attempted a Second Yemen Raid One Month After Botched Operation

16 March 2017 - 9:04am

Navy SEALs attempted to conduct another raid inside Yemen earlier this month but aborted the mission at the last minute, according to a senior U.S. military official.

Members of SEAL Team 6 deployed to Yemen in early March for a ground assault targeting suspected members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a group U.S. officials view as the most dangerous branch of the terrorist organization. The aborted mission followed a botched January 29 raid in the village of al Ghayil, in al Bayda province. That raid left a Navy SEAL dead and two others seriously injured, and killed more than two dozen Yemeni civilians, including at least 16 women and children. The leader of AQAP, Qassim al Rimi, released a statement mocking Donald Trump and stating that 14 men died in the assault.

General Joseph Votel, who leads U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services committee last week, “We lost a lot in this operation. We lost a valued operator, we had people wounded, we caused civilian casualties, lost an expensive aircraft.”

Votel told Senators that a “determination based on our best information available is that we did cause casualties, somewhere between four and 12 casualties that we accept, I accept responsibility for.”

On March 9, The Intercept published an extensive report from al Ghayil based on the accounts of Yemeni villagers who witnessed the January 29 raid. Villagers recounted helicopter gunship fire that appeared to target women and children as they fled their homes. According to a current U.S. special operations adviser, the January raid was an attempt to kill or capture al Rimi.

After SEAL Team 6 aborted the March mission, the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, which oversees the SEAL unit, chose to target suspected AQAP personnel and facilities with drone strikes, according to the U.S. military official, who requested anonymity to discuss classified information. It could not be learned why SEAL Team 6 aborted the mission. A Pentagon spokesperson declined to comment on the aborted raid.

The U.S. military conducted more than 30 airstrikes against AQAP targets in three Yemeni provinces over two days in early March. A Pentagon spokesperson described the strikes as targeting “AQAP militants, equipment and infrastructure.”

On March 2, Yemeni media reported that U.S. forces were on the ground as the U.S. conducted airstrikes in the southern portion of the country.

Photos of boot prints — of the same type of boots often worn by members of SEAL Team 6 — circulated online purporting to be evidence that U.S. forces had returned to Yemen.

Images circulating today of SOF boot prints in Yemen may seem trivial, but just show how easy it is to be compromised in these situations. pic.twitter.com/zd0E2F07ua

— Thomas Gibbons-Neff (@Tmgneff) March 3, 2017

The strikes and presence of SEAL Team 6 on the ground marks a significant increase in U.S. counterterrorism operations in Yemen. President Donald Trump has reportedly declared that parts of the country are now areas of “active hostility,” giving military commanders more authority to conduct counterterrorism operations such as ground assaults and airstrikes by conventional aircraft as well as drones.

SEAL Team 6 long maintained a clandestine presence in Yemen, working with CIA and the Yemeni government to track al Qaeda, until Washington withdrew all military and diplomatic personnel in 2015, when a U.S.-backed coalition led by Saudi Arabia began a bombing campaign against Houthi rebels and their allies. Ten thousand people have died in the conflict, according to the United Nations.

After the removal of U.S. personnel, special operations commanders, including from SEAL Team 6, bristled at what they viewed as overly strict limitations by the Obama White House for action against AQAP inside Yemen.

Top photo: In this Feb. 3, 2017 frame grab from video, residents inspect a house that was damaged during a Jan. 29, 2017 U.S. raid on the tiny village of Yakla, in central Yemen.

The post SEAL Team 6 Attempted a Second Yemen Raid One Month After Botched Operation appeared first on The Intercept.

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