The Intercept

Snowden Documents Reveal Scope of Secrets Exposed to China in 2001 Spy Plane Incident

10 April 2017 - 8:10am

When China boldly seized a U.S. underwater drone in the South China Sea last December and initially refused to give it back, the incident ignited a weeklong political standoff and conjured memories of a similar event more than 15 years ago.

In April 2001, just months before the 9/11 attacks gripped the nation, a U.S. Navy spy plane flying a routine reconnaissance mission over the South China Sea was struck by a People’s Liberation Army fighter jet that veered aggressively close. The mid-air collision killed the Chinese pilot, crippled the Navy plane, and forced it to make an emergency landing at a Chinese airfield, touching off a tense international showdown for nearly two weeks while China refused to release the two-dozen American crew members and damaged aircraft.

The sea drone captured in December was a research vessel, not a spy craft, according to the Pentagon, so its seizure didn’t risk compromising secret military technology. That wasn’t the case with the spy plane, which carried a trove of surveillance equipment and classified signals intelligence data.

For more than a decade, U.S. officials have refused to say what secrets China might have gleaned from the plane. Two years after the incident, journalists saw a redacted U.S. military report, which revealed that although crew members had jettisoned documents out an emergency hatch as they flew over the sea and had managed to destroy some signals-collection equipment before the plane fell into the hands of the Chinese, it was “highly probable” China had still obtained classified information from the plane. Attempts by journalists and academics to learn more over the years have been unsuccessful.

But now, a comprehensive Navy-NSA report completed three months after the collision, and included among documents obtained by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, finally reveals extensive details about the incident, the actions crew members took to destroy equipment and data, and the secrets that were exposed to China — which turned out to be substantial though not catastrophic.

The unredacted Navy report, supplemented by a 2001 Congressional Research Service summary of the incident, as well as The Intercept’s interviews with two crew members on board during the collision, presents the most detailed picture yet of the P-3 incident, a critical moment in U.S.-China military relations.

Although the Navy report cites a number of problems with what turned out to be ineffective efforts to destroy classified information, it vindicates the crew as well as pilot and mission commander, Navy Lt. Shane Osborn, who was hounded by critics for years — in and out of the military — who thought he should have ditched the plane and its sensitive equipment in the sea rather than land it in enemy territory. Osborn was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for showing “superb airmanship and courage” in stabilizing and landing the damaged aircraft, but in 2014 when he made a failed bid for a U.S. Senate seat in Nebraska, former military personnel popped up in the press again to revive the criticism against him.

“He was flying one of the crown jewels of the reconnaissance force,” Capt. Jan van Tol, a retired Navy officer and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told the Omaha World-Herald. “I think the right answer is he should have ditched it at sea, or taken it anyplace but China.”

Asked whether he stood by that comment today, van Tol told The Intercept that he’s hesitant to question the judgment of a pilot who was on the scene and understood the conditions better than he does, but he still feels Osborn had an obligation to better safeguard the aircraft’s secrets.

“I think there may have been another option [to land in Vietnam],” he said, trying to recall the events in 2001. “It would have been better to go to Vietnam than China.”

The collision occurred about 70 miles southeast of Hainan Island, where Osborn landed the plane; Vietnam was about 180 miles away. Although the latter wasn’t a great distance, it would have been the less attractive option to the crew, according to Osborn, given the shaky condition of the aircraft and their loss of critical flight instruments and altitude from the collision.

But the investigators who produced the Navy-NSA report didn’t fault the crew for the most part. In their assessment, they praised Osborn and his flight crew for saving the lives of everyone on board as well as the $80 million aircraft. And although they found fault with the crew’s demolition efforts and with supervisors onboard who failed to effectively coordinate and communicate with crew members during the incident, they mostly blamed the military for failing to properly prepare officers and crew for such an event.

The 117-page report, prepared by a team of investigators from the Navy and NSA, is based on interviews conducted with the crew right after their release from China and on physical re-enactments of their destruction methods — in some cases recreated with scientific precision — to determine how effective the methods might have been in preventing the Chinese from gleaning secrets.

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The report describes the crew’s haphazard and jury-rigged efforts to destroy equipment without proper tools and the woefully inadequate training they received for dealing with a scenario the Navy should have considered inevitable. Even though several close encounters with Chinese fighter jets had occurred in the region before, procedures for dealing with such a situation were insufficient, and the crew never underwent emergency destruction drills. As a result, they were left scrambling in the heat of the moment to determine what needed to be destroyed and how to do it. Although the crew had about 40 minutes between the moment of collision and the landing in China — plenty of time to jettison or destroy all sensitive material, investigators concluded — there “were no readily available means or standard procedures for timely destruction of computers, electronic media, and hardcopy material.” This deficiency, along with the lack of training, investigators wrote, “was the primary cause of the compromise of classified material.”

Another stumbling block? The crew hadn’t maintained a comprehensive inventory of classified material on the plane. This made it difficult for them to ensure that everything got destroyed, and it meant that investigators had to rely on the recollections of crew members about what they had carried on the plane to determine what the Chinese might have seen.

Jeffrey Richelson, author of a number of books on the intelligence community and a senior fellow with the National Security Archive, is one person who has sought for years to uncover more information about the incident. He told The Intercept that the report adds important context and understanding to the historical record around it, adding that although the aerial confrontation may not have been a seismic event in terms of intelligence losses, it was a significant geopolitical moment in the history of U.S.-China relations. A key part of understanding this “is [knowing] what was lost and the damage assessment.” To that end, he said, the report is a “valuable document.”

A U.S. Navy EP-3 surveillance plane operating out of Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa, Japan, was involved in a midair collision April 1, 2001 with fighter aircraft from the Republic of China.

Photo: U.S. Navy/Newsmakers/Getty Images

Since the mid-1940s, the U.S. military has used planes to collect signals intelligence. The spy plane involved in the 2001 collision was one of 11 such aircraft the U.S. used to fill critical intelligence gaps left by satellites. Planes offered a number of benefits over satellites for signals collection. They could be maneuvered more easily to get closer and better signals reception, and their conspicuous presence spurred targeted militaries to react, thereby creating more communications to be intercepted.

The turboprop EP-3E Aries involved in the crash was built by Lockheed Martin and was equipped with receivers, antennas, and special software to capture and process a range of signals. The spy planes generally carried a crew of linguists, cryptographers, and technicians, and the one flying over the South China Sea that day carried an eighteen-member reconnaissance team from the Navy, Marines, and Air Force, in addition to the six-member flight crew.

The aircraft left Okinawa early in the morning with a mission to monitor Chinese communications as well as radar and weapon-systems signals.

Flight path of the turboprop EP-3E Aries involved in the crash.

Map: Navy-NSA final report on the EP-3 Collision

It was flying at 22,500 feet along a well-worn surveillance path off Hong Kong’s coast in international airspace. The crew was five hours into a roughly  ten-hour mission when they intercepted messages from China’s nearby Lingshui air base indicating they were about to have company. About ten minutes later, two Chinese F-8 fighter jets appeared in the sky about a mile away. The plane was already nearing the end of its outbound leg and preparing to head back to base, so the pilots initiated an early turnaround with the plane in autopilot for the trip home.

One of the fighter jets approached from the rear left and stopped 10 feet away from the spy plane’s wing. Its pilot, Wang Wei, saluted the American crew, then fell back 100 feet .

The U.S. flew about two hundred reconnaissance missions a year in the region, and this wasn’t the first time PLA pilots, including Wei, had dogged U.S. spy planes. They usually just approached the American aircraft, reported what they saw to their ground crew, and returned to base. But recently they had become more aggressive. On several occasions, PLA pilots had buzzed the spy planes, overtaking them at high speed and sometimes passed beneath them before abruptly pulling up in front at close range. Wei was particularly aggressive, recalled one crew member who was on the plane but asked to remain anonymous because he’s not authorized to discuss the incident.

“[Wei] was extra crazy. He would get so close to the plane that you could literally jump from one wingtip to another wingtip,” he told The Intercept.

An American crew had captured a picture of Wei flying dangerously close on a previous occasion. In the image, he was holding up a piece of paper to the American crew displaying his e-mail address on it.

The U.S. had complained to Beijing in December and January, warning that the antics were a danger to both American and Chinese crews. But China said the U.S. was encroaching its sovereign airspace.

Chinese pilot Wang Wei stands in the cockpit of a jet. After a collision with a U.S. Navy surveillance plane on April 1, 2001 Chinese officials reported that Wang parachuted out of his F-8 fighter over the South China Sea and is presumed dead.

Photo: Getty Images

On April 1, Wei was at it again. After his initial approach, he advanced on the EP-3E a second time, this time stopping just five feet short of the spy plane and mouthed something to the American crew before falling back again. Then he tried a third time. On this approach, however, he maneuvered too close to the plane and got sucked in by one of the EP-3E’s propellers. The collision sliced the F-8 in half.

Shrapnel from the F-8 flew through the spy plane’s fuselage and into the nose cone, shearing it off, and damaged the spy plane’s radome — a dome that protects radar equipment — two propellers, and an engine. The Chinese fighter jet plummeted into the sea, and the spy plane rolled upside down and immediately depressurized, creating chaos inside.

“I think they keep the cabin pressured at 7,000 feet, and you go from 7,000 to 30,000 instantaneously,” said the crew member, describing the shock.

The plane plunged 14,000 feet while shaking violently.

“We’re falling like a rock and … everyone thought we were going to die,” he recalled.

As Osborn, the pilot, tried to regain control of the aircraft, he ordered everyone to prepare to bail. With wind roaring inside the cabin, warning lights flashing, and the plane plummeting, crew members struggled to communicate over the noise while donning parachutes, survival vests, and helmets. They were lined up and ready to jump into the sea, the crew member said, when Osborn managed to stabilize the plane and ordered the crew to prepare to land in the water. But then Osborn changed his mind.

“If I would have put it in the water, it would have killed us all,” he told The Intercept. “I had no flaps [to slow the plane], instruments were out, and I was overweight for a normal landing by 30,000 pounds [due to the fuel]. The airplane was coming apart. Once I thought the airplane could make it [to nearby land], that was what we needed to do.”

The only option, given that it wasn’t clear how long the plane would hold, was the PLA’s nearby Lingshui air base on Hainan Island.

Aircrew of the US EP-3 line-up along a red brick walkway upon arrival 12 April 2001 at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.

Photo: Ben Margot/AFP/Getty Images

The destruction efforts began once Osborn made the decision to land the plane, said the crew member. This meant the crew had about 20 minutes remaining to accomplish everything they needed before they were on the ground. The only problem was, they didn’t have a clue what they needed to do.

It wasn’t the first time cryptologic sources and methods were at risk of compromise. In 1968, North Korea captured the USS Pueblo and acquired a large inventory of highly sensitive intelligence materials from the ship. Since then, crews were supposed to be trained in emergency destruction procedures. But that didn’t happen with the EP-3E crew. Only one member of the crew had ever participated in an in-flight emergency destruction drill.

A typical CMS, or COMSEC, box like the one on the EP-3E Aries that contained cryptographic keying material.

Photo: Navy-NSA final report on the EP-3 Collision

An emergency action plan for landing in hostile territory directed crews to shred or jettison sensitive material and to destroy equipment with an ax. But it didn’t describe how they should do this. As a result, the crew didn’t know hard drives should be destroyed in a special manner to prevent data recovery. “We trained parachute drills about a million times. We had fire drills. But we never practiced emergency destruction procedures for classified data,” the crew member said. “We were totally underprepared for it.”

Because the crew didn’t have a shredder onboard, they tore paper materials by hand and scattered the pieces throughout the plane, hoping the Chinese wouldn’t be able to reconstitute them. They also took cassette tapes containing intercepted data and stretched them until they tore.

The plane did have a fire ax  for breaking through the bulkhead in an emergency evacuation, but the blade was too dull and the handle too short to be wielded effectively for destroying equipment. Instead the crew improvised by dropping laptops on the floor, stomping on them, bashing them against a desk, and bending them across a chair — all methods that would have been insufficient to ensure the Chinese could not recover data from them.

“I was bashing in computer screens. People were ripping wires out of the wall,” the crew member said. “By the time we landed, the plane was in total disrepair. We had screwed up the inside of that plane as much as we could.”

A laptop destroyed by the crew of the EP-3E Aries.

Photo: Navy-NSA final report on the EP-3 Collision

The crew member said someone handed him a “super heavy” briefcase containing classified material  and told him to destroy everything in sight with it. Based on a description in the Navy-NSA report, the briefcase was likely an aluminum CMS, or COMSEC box, which contained cryptographic keying material the plane’s navigator had stuffed into it before passing it to the crew member. While using it to bash equipment, the report notes, the box sprung open, scattering its classified contents around the plane.

The crew managed to jettison some cryptographic keying material, as well as codebooks and two laptops out the emergency hatch. But 16 cryptographic keys, other codebooks and laptops, and a large computer for processing signals intelligence remained on board. As for the signals collection equipment, they destroyed the display terminals and controls but not the tuners and signals-processors, the most critical parts of the systems. The plane also had a number of cryptographic voice and data devices onboard — for securing communication and data transmissions between the plane and home base — that didn’t get destroyed, although the crew managed to zero-out the memory on them.

The crew did have one bit of luck on their side. Although other planes in the military’s spy fleet had recently undergone a major surveillance equipment upgrade, according to Osborn, their plane was still two weeks away from getting one. “The equipment we had on that plane was old and outdated and a lot of it didn’t work properly,” he said.

As the crew did their best to destroy the material, Osborn prepared to land on Hainan Island. Although the U.S. had an agreement with Moscow about what American crews should do if they had to make an emergency detour into Russian territory — including which radio frequencies and call signs to use — there was no agreement or guidance for China, investigators noted in the report. As a result, the pilot sent out a series of Mayday calls on an international distress frequency instead of the frequency the PLA used, and got no response. Osborn landed the plane at Lingshui anyway.

Military trucks met the spy plane on the ground, and steered it to the runway’s end where two-dozen Chinese soldiers surrounded the plane. Osborn kept the engines running while the crew dashed off one last message to the Pacific Reconnaissance Operations Center: They had landed safely. Then the crew zeroed-out the radio’s encryption device and exited the plane.

The emergency landing touched off a flurry of diplomacy to secure release of the crew and plane. Osborn said he and other members of the flight crew were interrogated daily, and the Chinese told Osborn that they’d be thrown into prison indefinitely if he didn’t allow the reconnaissance crew to be questioned as well. They eventually were questioned, but all refused to supply the Chinese with any substantial information, Osborn notes. After eleven days and extensive pressure from the U.S., China released the crew.

China also agreed to return the plane, but only on condition that it was dismantled first. Lockheed Martin sent technicians to separate the tail, engines, and wings from the fuselage and flew the pieces via cargo plane to an air base in Georgia. There, investigators began the process of determining what intelligence might have been lost.

Investigators uncovered a lot of surprises during their analysis of the incident. They found, for example, that the crew had a lot of unnecessary classified data onboard, which was needlessly put at risk of compromise. They had, for example, entire codebooks as well as nearly a month’s worth of top-secret keying material — which the military used to secure its communications — that wasn’t going to be put in use until well after their flight mission ended.

The exposure wasn’t detrimental since the military changed its keys daily and within 15 hours after the spy plane landed in China, authorities had retired all of that day’s keys and replaced them with new ones. But a worldwide key the military used to authenticate GPS data had 250,000 users worldwide, and they all had to be notified before the key could be replaced — this took nearly two weeks.

The concern about the exposed crypto material wasn’t that China could use the keys to decrypt that day’s U.S. communications, but that it provided insight into U.S. cryptologic methods. The U.S. used “high quality randomization and strong fail-safe designs” in its keying material and crypto devices, the investigators noted. If China studied the material to incorporate similar designs into its own systems, it would make it harder for the U.S. to analyze PRC communications in the future.

But the excess crypto keys weren’t the only unnecessary data on the plane. The crew also had the names of intelligence personnel — U.S. and foreign partners — who weren’t on the plane, including several dozen employees of the NSA and NSGA Misawa. The data included names, addresses, social security numbers, and a description of official duties for U.S. personnel. The exposure, investigators worried, could have an adverse impact on future assignments and travel plans for affected personnel.

In addition to this, the crew had a manual onboard that provided a comprehensive overview of how the U.S. exploits signals and nearly two dozen U.S. Signals Intelligence Directives, or excerpts of these directives, many of which weren’t critical to the crew’s mission. Issued by the NSA director, the directives lay out policy for SIGINT activities, and some of these included detailed instructions for collecting, processing, and distributing intercepts. Three of the directives were particularly sensitive. They included special procedures for signals-recognition and reporting; specific targets of interest for signals collection in China, North Korea, the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand; as well as information that China could have used to inject false data into intercepts.

As for materials and equipment that were critical to the crew’s mission, the plane had six carry-on computers, two of which were the most sensitive systems onboard. They contained a suite of software tools for collecting, analyzing, and processing communications intelligence, foreign instrumentation signals, and electronic intelligence signals. All of the data and software on these systems was compromised.

One of the systems was used for processing what are known as PROFORMA communications. These are communications between command-and-control centers and radar systems, weapon systems, surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft artillery, and fighter aircraft. The computer contained detailed information for processing more than two-dozen PROFORMA communications for North Korea, Russia, Vietnam, China, and U.S. allies.

Investigators worried the information would lead China to alter its communication methods to prevent future U.S. collection of PROFORMA communications, or help China collect and process the communications of other countries — including allies — if it wasn’t already doing so. China could also share the information with North Korea, Cuba, and Russia to help them do the same.

This wasn’t the only sensitive information about U.S. allies that was exposed. The plane also had information about the emitter parameters for allied weapon systems, and the names and locations of radar sites around the world and the radar systems installed at each —  information China could use to exploit the systems.

But the information the investigators considered the most sensitive on the plane were the tasking instructions for collecting data from China. These revealed information such as what data the U.S. was interested in collecting and the frequencies and call signs China used for its data. The investigators deemed this a serious compromise, since it could prompt China to alter its methods. And in one of the systems for collecting communications, the crew had also inadvertently left behind a tape that contained 45 minutes of encrypted and decrypted Chinese naval communications.

Jason Healey, a former signals intelligence officer who worked with reconnaissance aircraft in the Air Force and is now a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s School of  International and Public Affairs, said this could have potentially helped the Chinese understand U.S. decryption capabilities.

“If it’s got both encrypted and plaintext or decrypted [intercepts], it could hint how we go through the decryption process, and that would be very useful to their cryptographers to not just know that we can break it, but how we implement that in software,” he told The Intercept.

Another important secret exposed by data on the plane was the fact that the U.S. had the ability to locate and collect signal transmissions associated with Chinese submarines, and correlate them to specific vessels using direction-finding capabilities. “Although the PRC probably believed that the U.S. possessed this information it was probably not aware that the information could be derived from SIGINT collection and analysis,” the investigators wrote. The data also exposed how much the U.S. knew about China’s submarine-launched ballistic missiles program, including its organization, missile-testing operations and communications.

The Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company’s recovery team removed the four propeller-engine assemblies from the EP-3 at China’s Lingshui air base, on Saturday June 23, 2001.

Photo: Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co.,HO/AP Photo

Despite the wealth of data and equipment that was exposed in the incident, the investigators ultimately concluded that the intelligence losses were not catastrophic. Instead, they deemed the losses medium-to-low in severity. But there was one caveat: without a complete inventory of all the classified data that was on the plane and potentially exposed to China, their assessment was inevitably incomplete.

But with regard to the secrets they knew were on the plane and exposed, they concluded that these wouldn’t help China better exploit U.S. encryption systems, though they could help it develop countermeasures to hinder U.S. surveillance by copying tradecraft the U.S. used to secure its own communication. Investigators worried, for example, that China might now augment its encryption or switch from “over-the-air transmissions to landline transmissions, or to more advanced radio communications techniques, such as frequency hopping.”

The last time China had altered its communication methods had been in the 1980s, the investigators wrote, and it had taken the NSA months to re-establish collection and analysis capabilities and the recovery was “still incomplete” in 2001 they noted.

Luckily, at the time the report was written, three months after the collision, the U.S. had not yet detected any alterations in China’s communication habits or methods. But investigators cautioned this could change in subsequent months and years. They didn’t seem too worried about it, however; they were confident that if China did employ new countermeasures, the U.S. could overcome them with a little work.

Healey said he was not surprised by the overall assessment of the intelligence losses, since he doesn’t think China learned very much it didn’t already know about what the planes were collecting. “I’m sure it would have been good for [China] to understand overall capabilities of the aircraft,” he said, “but the nature of most of the intelligence these aircraft would have been collecting would not have been a windfall for the Chinese or their Russian friends.”

Richelson agreed, and said the only real concern was whether China altered its communication methods months after the report was written. “There are worst-case fears of what a compromise might bring, and then the actual reality of what it does bring in the future,” he noted. “You can’t judge that a month after the compromise.”

It’s possible the assessment of the investigators did later change. In 2010, journalist Seymour Hersh published an article in the New Yorker asserting that the U.S. didn’t fully realize the extent of the intelligence losses from the EP-3E incident until late 2008. He writes that shortly after Barack Obama was elected president that year, the NSA picked up a barrage of intercepts from the Chinese that were intercepts of U.S. communications. “The intercepts included details of planned American naval movements,” Hersh wrote and said U.S. officials believed the Chinese wanted the U.S. to pick up the intercepts as a way to boast to the U.S. that it had the ability to decipher U.S. signals. However, Hersh did not specify why anyone believed this was connected to the EP-3E intelligence losses.

The NSA declined to comment on any aspect of the Navy-NSA report obtained by Snowden or the intelligence losses revealed in it.

In the end, there was at least one positive outcome from the EP-3E incident. The military implemented a number of measures to better protect data and equipment on spy planes and to improve crew training. But it only recently addressed another issue around the incident — the lack of an agreement with China about how to handle aircraft interactions in the region. It took until November 2014 for the U.S. and China to finally adopt a memorandum to regulate the “safety of air and maritime encounters,” after a dangerous near-miss event occurred in August that year between a Chinese fighter jet and a U.S. Navy P-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft.

Whether that agreement will prevent future collisions is unclear. In May 2016, another close encounter occurred between China and the U.S. when two Chinese J-11 tactical planes flew dangerously close to an EP-3E. Officials said this was an anomaly, however, and that encounters in the region had become safer in the wake of the 2014 agreement. Their concern, they noted, was now focussed on a different problem area — Russian planes buzzing U.S. ships and planes in the Baltic and Black Sea regions.

Top photo: A U.S. Navy EP-3E Orion Patrol aircraft assigned to the Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron flying over Gibraltar, June 20, 1991.

The post Snowden Documents Reveal Scope of Secrets Exposed to China in 2001 Spy Plane Incident appeared first on The Intercept.

“Why Did You Come to the United States?” Central American Children Try to Convince Courts They Need Protection

9 April 2017 - 10:37am

In 2014, the Mexican author Valeria Luiselli, waiting for her green card application to be resolved, took her family on a road trip through the American southwest. As she and her husband and young children drove to Roswell, New Mexico, they joked about their own status as “resident aliens” and informed Border Patrol officers at checkpoints that they are “just writers and just on vacation. … We are writing a Western, sir.”

As they drove, the family followed the news of tens of thousands of Central American children crossing the border just hours south of them, most of them alone. They listened to radio reports describing the children being warehoused, overcrowded and underfed, in detention centers known as as hieleras, or iceboxes, for ICE, but mostly for their frigid temperatures. They saw photos of protesters in Arizona with signs saying “return to sender” and “illegal is a crime.” They overheard patrons at a diner trading rumors about a millionaire offering his private plane to personally deport the children.

Luiselli’s new Book “Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay In Forty Questions,” is about the author’s experience working with children in immigration court.

Photo: Coffee House Press

Ultimately, between April 2014 and August 2015, more than 102,000 unaccompanied children were detained at the border, and their fates haunted Luiselli to such an extent that on her return to New York, she started volunteering as an interpreter for children facing deportation in federal immigration court. She has written a new book about her experience, “Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay In Forty Questions,” and it couldn’t be more timely.

President Trump’s capricious and xenophobic actions on immigration have elevated the issue to national attention and sparked protest, but Luiselli’s book is a reminder that not all of this started with the 45th president. Luiselli’s book is a slim, readable primer on what ought to be considered one of the most unsettling episodes of Obama’s presidency, capably explaining how his administration did exactly the opposite of what was needed in response to the arrival of the children.

It’s also a potent meditation on questions the Trump administration has brought to the fore: Who is, and most determinedly, who isn’t, a citizen? Who should enjoy the freedom to travel, not to carry documents everywhere, to go to school, to go to the doctor, to make mistakes, to be happy, to be unhappy? What indignities should no one have to suffer, regardless of legal status? What do people deserve, as citizens or non-citizens?

The book opens with the first question Luiselli has to ask each kid she helped in immigration court — “Why did you come to the United States?” — and the book returns again and again to that question throughout. The answer is never simple.

“The children’s stories are always shuffled, stuttered, always shattered beyond the repair of a narrative order,” she writes. “They are delivered with hesitance, sometimes distrust, and always fear.” She gathers their statements and turns them over to lawyers who will see if there is a chance of stopping their deportation.

Through the deceptively straightforward questions on the intake form — “What countries did you pass through?”, “Did anything happen on your trip that scared or hurt you?”, “Did you stay in touch with your parents?”— Luiselli unravels the children’s ordeals and the system’s failings. The questionnaire reveals “a colder, more cynical and brutal reality… as you make your way down its forty questions it’s impossible not to feel that the world has become a much more fucked-up place than anyone could have imagined.”

Central American immigrants board the cargo train known as La Bestia (The Beast), in an attempt to reach the Mexico-US border, in Chiapas, Mexico on July 16, 2014.

Photo: Elizabeth Ruiz/AFP/Getty Images

Most of the children she met were from Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador. In the beginning, most of the kids had come on “La Bestia,” the notorious freight train through Mexico. In response to the crisis, the Obama administration upped support for immigration enforcement in Mexico, pushing the responsibility south to Mexico’s border with Guatemala, where apprehensions and deportations of Central Americans shot up, along with claims of abuse. “Following the old tradition of Latin America-U.S.-governmental relations, the Mexican government is getting paid to do the dirty work,” Luiselli writes. Cracking down on La Bestia forced people off the perilous train and onto equally perilous other routes through remote mountain regions. By one estimate, 80 percent of women and girls crossing through Mexico are raped, and many migrants simply vanish.

Given conditions in their home countries — and Luiselli notes that U.S. involvement in El Salvador’s civil war and mass deportations of gang members from American cities in the 1980s played a decisive factor in generating violence in the region — many of these Central Americans would have legitimate claims to asylum or other special status as a juvenile. Yet Luiselli finds herself in the middle of a bureaucratic emergency because of the Obama administration’s decision to fast-track juvenile cases in response to the crisis. The priority juvenile docket, as it was known, meant children had just 21 days to find a lawyer, and the accelerated proceedings made it much harder to build a defense against deportation. “Being moved to the top of the list, in this context, was the least desirable thing,” she explains. Due to the fast track, the system was entirely overloaded. It was, in Luiselli’s words, “the government’s coldest, cruelest, possible answer to the arrival of refugee children.”

There’s an agonizing undercurrent of arbitrariness in the legal immigration system, which purports to decide who is deserving of relief. Many stories don’t fit the requisite categories. Some cases are truly horrific, but just as heart wrenching are those where a child is unable to show sufficient harm to be given an immigration benefit. Two tiny Guatemalan girls can hardly hope to provide enough information about their lives to “align with what the law considers reason enough for the right to protection.”

Luiselli also argues that U.S. and Latin American governments have to “acknowledge their shared accountability in the roots and causes of the children’s exodus,” to call the children what they are, refugees from a war, and to stop pretending that responsibility is bounded by nationality. She acknowledges the enduring power of national identity — as a Mexican, she can include wry asides on the United States’ usurpation of western territory, and she is ashamed at Mexico’s treatment of migrants — but this book is written from a transnational perspective, and all the more lucid for it.

The writer Jan Clausen recently argued in Jacobin that writers defending the legacy of the United States as a “nation of immigrants” — something that’s been rolled out a lot since Trump took office — denies a complex history of violence and racism. Circulating tropes of the model immigrant, the economic success story, the grateful refugee, while perhaps a necessary counteroffensive to Trump’s “bad hombres” campaign, creates the idea that only certain kinds of immigrants are worthy of inclusion. A book like Luiselli’s challenges such assumptions.

The last section of “Tell Me How It Ends” recounts the story of Manu, a teenager from Honduras who was harassed and threatened by gangs and took La Bestia through Mexico to eventually reach relatives in Hempstead, Long Island. Over the months that Luiselli got more deeply involved in his case, Manu was less than a model student, less than grateful for the chance to be placed in a school that was itself infiltrated by the gangs he fled, to get to a town he calls a little less ugly than Tegucigalpa. At one point, Luiselli quotes a line from an “Immigrant’s Prayer” heard on La Bestia: “to arrive is never to arrive.” Manu hasn’t arrived, fully. By the end of the book, he’s learning some English and has found a church he likes. He hasn’t applied for a green card and his lawyers thought it best to keep him anonymous.

It’s not exactly a happy ending. Nothing is ever that simple.

Top photo: A portrait of Mexican novelist Valeria Luiselli.

The post “Why Did You Come to the United States?” Central American Children Try to Convince Courts They Need Protection appeared first on The Intercept.

Fernando Holiday do MBL quer aplicar Escola Sem Partido na marra

9 April 2017 - 7:43am

Em maio do ano passado, logo após a derrubada de Dilma Rousseff, o ministro da Educação de Michel Temer recebeu o ator e militante reacionário Alexandre Frota para ouvir suas propostas para a área. Frota foi convidado como representante do Revoltados Online – grupo que nasceu no Facebook vendendo precatórios e apoiando uma intervenção militar; cresceu espalhando boatos, compartilhando conteúdos racistas, homofóbicos; e morreu após a rede social bani-lo definitivamente por seus discursos de ódio. Um dos temas levados ao ministro foi o famigerado projeto de lei batizado de Escola Sem Partido, que visa combater o que eles chamam de “doutrinação ideológica nas escolas”.

Fernando Holiday (DEM), vereador de 20 anos eleito pelos paulistanos, resolveu aplicar este projeto em São Paulo na marra e anunciou que irá fiscalizar o seu cumprimento. Mais chato que ator mirim, o líder do MBL gravou vídeo explicando o patrulhamento que está fazendo nas escolas:

“Eu acabo de sair de uma escola onde fiz uma fiscalização surpresa. (…) Vou fiscalizar o conteúdo dado em sala de aula, isto é, se está havendo algum tipo de doutrinação ideológica (…), se tem professor entrando lá com camiseta do PT, do MST, jogando tudo para o alto e fazendo aquela doutrinação porca que a gente já conhece.”

O vereador nos dá o mais acabado exemplo da sociedade de vigilância, que pretende fiscalizar e controlar indivíduos. Na escola dos sonhos de Holiday, esta análise de Michel Foucault provavelmente jamais seria debatida em sala de aula, já que o pensador era filiado ao Partido Comunista Francês e um ícone da esquerda. O clássico “Pedagogia do Oprimido” do marxista Paulo Freire seria banido, mesmo sendo um dos livros mais requisitados pelas universidades dos EUA (o “Manifesto Comunista” de Karl Marx é o terceiro mais requisitado no país que elegeu Trump).  

Provavelmente, até alguns trechos da Constituição seriam censurados nas escolas do vereador. Os parágrafos II e III do artigo 206, por exemplo, determinam exatamente o oposto do que ele prega:

Art. 206. O ensino será ministrado com base nos seguintes princípios:

II – liberdade de aprender, ensinar, pesquisar e divulgar o pensamento, a arte e o saber;

III – pluralismo de idéias e de concepções pedagógicas, e coexistência de instituições públicas e privadas de ensino

O Escola Sem Partido fere diretamente esses princípios, tanto que foi considerado inconstitucional pelo Ministério Público Federal, pela AGU e pelo STF. Essa pretensão insana em combater uma suposta lavagem cerebral esquerdista no ensino médio não tem a mínima base na realidade. Os brasileiros estão cada vez mais conservadores. A cidade de São Paulo, então, nem se fala: elegeu Doria em primeiro turno e deu um mandato para Holiday brincar de youtuber reaça na Câmara Municipal.

O Ibope fez uma pesquisa em 2010 e outra em 2016 para medir o conservadorismo do brasileiro. Nesse período, a quantidade de pessoas que apoiam a redução da maioridade penal saltou de 63% para 78%. Os apoiadores da prisão perpétua subiram de 68% para 78%. O apoio a penas de morte pulou de 31% para 49%. Os que são contra a legalização do aborto continuaram no mesmo patamar: 78%. Bandeiras identificadas com a esquerda nunca estiveram tão impopulares. A tal histórica doutrinação marxista nas escolas tem sido tão incompetente que tem feito o país ficar ainda mais conservador. Vejam só o tamanho da insanidade dos patrulheiros! Holiday lembra Dom Quixote, ou melhor, Dom Coxote.

Alexandre Schneider fez o que se espera de um secretário de Educação e repudiou a patrulha ideológica do vereador em sua página no Facebook:

“Fui surpreendido por um vídeo do vereador do DEM/MBL, Fernando Holiday, que correu as redes sociais desde ontem. Nele, o vereador indica que visitou escolas públicas municipais para verificar se ‘estava havendo doutrinação por parte dos professores’. E pedia para que pais denunciassem casos de doutrinação.

Evidentemente o vereador exacerbou suas funções e não pode usar de seu mandato para intimidar professores.

A escola, como qualquer organização social, pública ou privada, não é nem nunca será um espaço neutro. A escola pública, laica, plural, não deve ser espaço de proselitismo de qualquer espécie. É o que diz a lei de diretrizes e bases da educação. É o que fundamenta a sua base republicana.”

Kim Kataguiri não podia deixar seu brother sozinho nessa e gravou vídeo esculachando o secretário:

“Ele foi secretário de Educação na gestão do Kassab e está lá até hoje porque é um poste do Kassab. Não está porque é competente, não está porque tem formação para isso, não está porque é responsável para cuidar da educação, não está por mérito próprio, está por indicação política, conchavo político, e acha que tem moral para falar sobre educação.”

Indiretamente, Kim desqualifica a escolha do seu querido João Doria Jr. O prefeito teria colocado um “poste do Kassab” para comandar uma secretaria tão importante. Holiday também arregaçou as mangas, estufou o peito e resolveu xingar muito no Twitter:

Tweet escrito no dia 05 /04 e que foi deletado posteriormente

Além de patrulhar o caráter do secretário de Doria, o vereador usou o Facebook para colocar a pecha de esquerdista em Schneider. Postou fotos do secretário ao lado de Molon (REDE) e fez um contorcionismo admirável para ligá-lo ao PSOL.

Schneider entrou pra vida pública pelas mãos de Mário Covas (PSDB), foi vice-prefeito de Serra (PSDB) e secretário de Kassab. Associá-lo à esquerda é só mais uma tentativa de desqualificar o interlocutor diante da sua plateia sem precisar rebater o argumento – uma prática usual da turminha sapeca do MBL. Com a turba incendiada pelo movimento, Schneider foi alvo de uma série de ofensas pessoais.

Um vereador fiscalizar o conteúdo de um professor dentro do seu local de trabalho não é apenas uma bizarrice que flerta com o fascismo, mas um claro abuso de autoridade. Holiday foi eleito para exercer uma função legislativa, mas seu ímpeto em gravar vídeos e lacrar esquerdistas nas redes o leva sistematicamente a extrapolar as funções do seu mandato. Em pouco mais de três meses, ele já foi acusado de diversas irregularidades: é alvo de inquérito policial por fazer propaganda eleitoral no dia da votação, de um pedido de cassação por ter ajudado um youtuber do MBL a invadir uma reunião fechada do PT na Câmara, e é acusado – com fartas provas apuradas por Tatiana Farah e Severino Motta do BuzzFeed –  de se lambuzar no caixa 2 ao pagar em dinheiro vivo colaboradores de campanha e não declarar. A explicação dele sobre essa última acusação é tão sofrível e macarrônica que quase parece uma confissão de culpa. Deve ser triste para os que acreditaram no discurso moralista do menino que berrava contra o caixa 2 vê-lo se tornando um usuário da prática.

Fernando Holiday (DEM) posa orgulhoso ao lado de Eduardo Cunha (PMDB) em 2015


Com a polêmica instaurada, Holiday finalmente entendeu a função de um vereador e resolveu protocolar na Câmara Municipal o projeto Escola Sem Partido. Mas chega a ser engraçado imaginar que ele estava indo nas escolas fiscalizar o cumprimento de uma lei que nunca existiu e provavelmente nunca existirá por ser claramente inconstitucional. Se um dia Holiday virar presidente da República – bate na madeira! –  será difícil para ele encontrar algum bom educador que esteja alinhado às suas loucuras para chefiar o MEC. Só consigo mesmo pensar em Alexandre Frota.

The post Fernando Holiday do MBL quer aplicar Escola Sem Partido na marra appeared first on The Intercept.

Arkansas Plans to Execute Seven People This Month, Continuing Long Tradition of Assembly-Line Killing

8 April 2017 - 9:15am

On April 17, the state of Arkansas plans to kill Don Davis and Bruce Earl Ward, two men who have been on death row since the early 1990s. Neither has applied for clemency. Both will die on the same gurney, back to back, if all goes according to plan. Executioners will start by injecting them with a sedative called midazolam, never before used by the state, but which is supposed to render them unconscious for the two lethal drugs to follow. No one, apart from a handful of officials, knows where the drugs will come from, or who exactly will do the injecting. Those are secrets under the law. Most importantly, no one knows how well the midazolam will work, if it works at all. After nearly 12 years without a single execution, Arkansas is embarking on a kind of human experiment.

If there are risks to this plan, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchison has wasted little time contemplating them. Three nights after the double execution, Ledelle Lee and Stacey Johnson are scheduled to die the same way, on April 20, followed by another two men, Marcel Williams and Jack Jones Jr., on April 24. Finally, if all goes according to plan, Kenneth Williams will be executed on the 27th. An eighth man, Jason McGehee, was supposed to die with him, but this week he was granted a reprieve. As it now stands, seven men will die in the Arkansas death house this month, over the course of 11 days.

The sudden rush to execute stems from a practical dilemma: Arkansas’s supply of midazolam is set to expire at the end of the month. If the governor lets that happen, officials will have to find a new supply of drugs for lethal injection, an increasingly challenging task that has kept executions on hold for years. In the years since the state’s last execution, officials seem to be getting rusty, even when it comes to basic PR. Facing a shortage of necessary witnesses for its upcoming executions, Department of Corrections Director Wendy Kelly asked startled members of a Little Rock rotary club last month if anyone would be willing to attend the executions. “It quickly became obvious that she was not kidding,” one man said.

Protestors gather in front of the Governor’s Mansion as Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty board member Freddie Nixon, center, prepares to light candles, in Little Rock, Ark. on Nov. 28, 2005.

Photo: Danny Johnston/AP

If Arkansas officials now find themselves in uncharted waters, they are also reviving an old local tradition. It was not so long ago that prisoners were once executed two and three at a time, using techniques believed to be humane, even cutting edge, despite signs to the contrary. As in other death penalty states, generations of politicians in Arkansas have passed law after law mandating experimental new killing tools hastily borrowed from other states, while tasking others to implement them. Governors have ignored red flags, insisting they are bound by law to set execution dates, regardless of circumstance, then discovered things don’t go according to plan.

Part of this history can be found at the Arkansas Studies Institute in downtown Little Rock, a modern renovation of two historic buildings on President Clinton Avenue. The vast collection includes boxes of old materials belonging to the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty: decades of prison mail, meeting minutes, and a handful of correspondence with Hutchison’s predecessors. In one letter, from 1989, Governor Bill Clinton responds to a prominent activist and longtime friend Freddie Nixon, who had urged him to intervene on behalf of a black man on death row named Barry Lee Fairchild, whom many believed to be innocent. “As you know our positions differ,” Clinton wrote back, “and I ask that you respect the prayer and deliberation on which mine is based.”

Clinton restarted executions in 1990, ending a 26-year stretch without any deaths in the Arkansas death chamber. A bloody era followed. In January 1994, the state executed two men in a single night — a first in the country’s so-called “modern” death penalty period. A few months later, Nixon and her husband sent a letter to Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, with another urgent appeal. “Once again we are writing to you to request that you grant clemency to persons on Arkansas’ Death Row,” they wrote in July 1994. “The situation this time is even more extraordinary than the last.” The double execution had been “gruesome enough,” they continued. “This time, three are scheduled to die and all for one crime. What kind of justice requires three deaths? Please do not let Arkansas become another ‘Killing Field.’ Grant clemency to Darryl Richley, Hoyt Clines and James Holmes.”

The Nixons were not alone in seeking to halt the triple execution. The ACLU decried “the horrifying and barbaric spectacle of Arkansas’ ‘final solution’ to crime. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund called it “disturbingly paradigmatic of an era when African-Americans were too often the victims of mass lynchings.” Protests were held, and vigils organized at the governor’s mansion. Nevertheless, Governor Tucker denied clemency. Within a span of two and a half hours on the night of August 3, 1994, Richley, Clines, and Holmes were killed by lethal injection at the Cummins Unit, less than 80 miles southeast of Little Rock. Arkansas carried out another triple execution in 1997, under Governor Mike Huckabee.

This was the death penalty at its peak in the United States — it has been declining ever since. Arkansas has not executed anyone since 2005, and much has changed in meantime. While the U.S. Supreme Court has twice upheld lethal injection in the past ten years, a slew of botched executions across the country have shown it to be inherently unreliable — no matter what drugs are used. In 2014, Oklahoma made international headlines after the horrifying execution of Clayton Lockett; executioners had failed to properly insert the IV lines. In an open letter last month, a group of former prison officials reminded Governor Hutchison that a second man had been scheduled to die that same night using midazolam, before things went so horribly wrong. “We believe that performing so many executions in so little time will impose extraordinary and unnecessary stress and trauma on the staff responsible with carrying out the executions,” they wrote.

“We haven’t had an execution since this whole controversy over lethal injection controversy came up,” veteran Arkansas defense lawyer Jeff Rosenzweig told me in Little Rock last month. Attorneys for the condemned have raised particular alarm over the planned use of midazolam, which replaces a longtime anesthetic — sodium thiopental — that became unavailable years ago. Midazolam has a short but grisly track record; a complaint filed in federal court last month points to several executions where the sedative appeared to fail, most recently in Alabama, during the execution of Robert Bert Smith, who heaved and coughed as he died. Today Rosenzweig is increasingly convinced lethal injection never really worked as intended, even when sodium thiopental was in ample supply. “Now, they’re not even using that drug, but using a drug which has a history of not working,” he said.

Rosenzweig’s office is littered with legal files, his desk barely visible under his workload. On the day we met, one of his clients had just had his bid for clemency rejected by the parole board. Now racing against the clock, Rosenzweig is prepared to be a witness if the time comes. If something goes wrong, it will not be the first time he has seen a botched execution in Arkansas.

“We’re headed right for an iceberg with this,” Rosenzweig said. “It ain’t gonna work on some of them.”

An Electric Chair in Sing Sing Correctional Facility in 1915.

Photo: T. Fred Robbins/Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images

“Like Going to Sleep”

Before Arkansas learned to love lethal injection, it first bought into the myth of electrocution as a civilized alternative to hangings. The electric chair would kill instantaneously, its promotors boasted in the late 1800s, with medical experts echoing the claim in the press. Although the country’s first electrocution — carried out in New York in 1890 — was a grisly ordeal, it was nonetheless seen as an advance, a reflection of a more enlightened age. Arguing for a new execution law in 1913, Arkansas lawmakers said the technology would discourage lynchings; executions would now be centralized, going from individual counties across the state to a single death chamber at the state penitentiary. “The substitution of the electric chair for the gallows in Arkansas meets with the very general approval by all citizens,” the St. Louis Dispatch reported in 1913, adding that state sheriffs were “especially pleased.” Hanging convicts had been among their more “undesirable duties,” the paper reported, “and it has never been a good advertisement for a community.

Arkansas prison officials were under immediate pressure to adopt the new technology. As the new law came closer to taking effect, the state attorney general pushed it as “an emergency that must be met.” Based in part on New York’s pioneering machinery, an electrician at the University of Arkansas built a homemade electric chair, which was “successfully tested” on a large steer, according to the Arkansas Democrat. A black man named Lee Simms, convicted of raping a white woman, would have “the honor of officially testing the home-made apparatus.”

In addition to bringing executions behind prison walls — avoiding the unseemly crowds that gathered at the gallows — Arkansas’ new execution law also made it a crime for newspapers to report on them. “No newspaper or person shall print or publish the details of the execution of criminals under this act,” it read. “Only the fact that the criminal was executed shall be printed or published.” Yet reporters flouted the law for the Simms execution, while taking some creative liberties. He was said to be unafraid, singing as his face was covered by a leather mask before a 2,300-volt current would be sent through his body. Assured he would die painlessly and with dignity, Simms supposedly expressed satisfaction that he was making history. “I’se glad I am the first niggah to be ‘lectrocuted,” he said, according to an account in the Gazette. Afterward, the paper approvingly reported that Simms had died “without the convulsions or twitchings” seen at the gallows. “There is no doubt that executions by electrocution are much less gruesome and horrible than those by hanging.”

It did not take long for this lie to be dramatically exposed. Nine years after killing Simms, Arkansas carried out one of the most grotesque executions the country had ever seen. Following the departure of the longtime warden at the state penitentiary, prison officials selected an unidentified “volunteer” executioner — an English car salesman who had taken a correspondence course in electricity, according to a 1922 article in the Arkansas Democrat — who flipped the switch to kill an 18-year-old black man named James Wells. To the horror of witnesses, most of whom fled minutes into the execution, Wells stayed alive over repeated attempts to send lethal currents through his body. On the twelfth try, the young man finally died.

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Newspapers decried the spectacle. The Democrat’s editorial page called it a “horrible and revolting disgrace on the state of Arkansas,” calling for experts to carry out executions, and exhorting the governor to ensure that “there are no repetitions of this horrible human butchery.” Yet less than a year later, Arkansas carried out a quadruple execution, only to realize as officials prepared to bury the four men, that one of them was still alive. This time, the press was a bit more matter-of-fact. “He was taken from the coffin and again placed in the electric chair,” according to one report.

Despite such ghoulish mishaps, the electric chair prevailed for decades as the country’s preferred execution method, seen as reliable if used responsibly. Arkansas went on to kill 168 people in the chair, sometimes four in the same day. Courts provided legal legitimacy. In 1947, the U.S. Supreme Court considered the gruesome execution of a black teenager named Willie Francis in Louisiana, who had been removed from the electric chair after repeated unsuccessful attempts to kill him, then sent back a few days later to die. A majority found no violation of the 8th amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, calling the execution an “innocent misadventure.”

In Arkansas, the notion that the electric chair was mostly humane survived well into the 1990s. After the U.S. Supreme Court brought back the death penalty in Gregg v. Georgia in 1976, state officials hired an electrical engineer named Jay Wiechert to build a new and improved electric chair. “Of course, I didn’t know anything about how to do it at the time,” Wiechert later told the Arkansas Times, adding that he found the challenge “interesting.” A new death chamber was constructed from scratch, and a generator had to be installed at the prison, after the Arkansas Power & Light Company said it would prefer not to provide energy for electrocutions. After Bill Clinton set the execution date for John Edward Swindler in 1990, the Arkansas Democrat sought to reacquaint readers with the technology, quoting a university professor who said its effects would be “like going to sleep.”

Convicted before Arkansas officially adopted lethal injection, Swindler was given the choice between electrocution and the gurney. He refused to choose, and was electrocuted. It was the first and last time the state used Wiechert’s electric chair. The next man to die chose lethal injection.

Wiechert died last year, an obscure figure despite an auspicious legacy: the man whose ad hoc electric chair design was replicated from Ohio to Tennessee. In his last published interview, Wiechert recalled how he came to modernize the electric chair.

“Back in the ’70s, the state of Arkansas couldn’t find anybody to build an electric chair,” Wiechert said — a state of affairs with parallels to the difficulty states have obtaining the lethal injection cocktail these days. “They called me and I said, ‘Yeah! I’ll build you an electric chair. How difficult can that be?’ In my business, the hard part is not electrocuting somebody! Killing somebody is a piece of cake.”

Armin Walser, the chemist whose team invented midazolam while working for Hoffmann-La Roche in the 1970s, at home in Tucson, Ariz., on March 9, 2017.

Photo: Caitlin O’Hara/New York Times/Redux

“Clinical Death”

If lethal injection was supposed to launch executions into the modern age, in reality it was a similarly slapdash invention. Fordham law professor Deborah Denno, the foremost legal expert on the subject, has written extensively about its origins at the hands of Oklahoma medical examiner Jay Chapman, whose concoction spread swiftly despite old warnings against using lethal injection to carry out executions. Government-led commissions in the U.S. and UK had studied and rejected the method, over concerns that it could not be performed efficiently or painlessly. Yet politicians ignored these concerns, emphasizing that lethal injection “appeared more humane and visually palatable relative to other methods,” as Denno wrote in a 2007 article for the Fordham Law Review.

That the protocol be “visually palatable” was key. The Oklahoma state senator who first pushed lethal injection in the 1970s found electrocutions gruesome, telling the Tulsa World they were “kind of a combination of Barnum & Bailey and reform.” Showing graphic post-electrocution photos to fellow lawmakers, he unsuccessfully sought the help of his own physician, who was the head of the Oklahoma Medical Association, then turned to Chapman, asking if he might design a lethal injection formula. As Denno recounts, Chapman admitted he did not know much about how to kill people, although he had examined plenty of homicide victims. “To hell with them,” he said about members of the medical community who might disapprove. “Let’s do this.”

How to implement Chapman’s “three-drug cocktail” would be a matter largely decided by Texas Department of Corrections director W.J. Estelle, whose state was the first to adopt lethal injection. One AP report described how Estelle decided prisoners should be strapped down on a hospital gurney, rather than the old electric chair. (A prison chaplain who had seen 14 electrocutions wanted them “carried out in a nice clean room, something that doesn’t look like a prison.”) Guided by “unnamed consultants,” Estelle was also given the choice of three different drugs to kick off the three-drug protocol — one was a “muscle relaxant,” another a “contact poison.” Estelle chose sodium thiopental, a fast-acting barbiturate used for general anesthesia. A prison spokesman said death would come “within minutes.”

A 40-year-old man named Charlie Brooks Jr. was the first to die by lethal injection. One media witness described how he “gasped and wheezed,” but no one seemed to make much of it. The Texas model was replicated across the country: the first drug (generally sodium thiopental) anesthetized the prisoner. The second (pancuronium bromide) caused paralysis, including of the muscles used for respiration. And the third (potassium chloride) stopped the heart. The second drug was mostly cosmetic; Chapman had included it to conceal the effects of the fatal doses on bodies of the condemned. But it also introduced a fatal flaw that went undiscussed among prison officials, who had no grasp of the properties of the drugs they were administering: If the anesthetic didn’t work as intended, its effect was to suffocate the person on the gurney; once the third drug kicked in, the third drug would induce a heart attack. In all, the experience would be agonizing – yet the paralytic would prevent him or her from signaling their suffering.

It took Arkansas several years to implement lethal injection. In 1970, four years after the state’s last execution, Governor Winthrop Rockefeller had commuted the death sentences of all 15 men on death row. But by 1977, Arkansas lawmakers hoped to start killing again. Officials approved $75,000 to build a new execution chamber, designed to accommodate both electrocution and lethal injection, or “clinical death,” as some put it. It would be built by prisoners.

The Arkansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty explored a lawsuit to block the project, in part by arguing that the use of convict labor was unconstitutional, but were dissuaded by attorneys, who said it would be costly, and sure to fail. Even if a willing plaintiff were found, “prisoners under sentence can be required to work,” one lawyer wrote. Besides, those constructing the death chamber “are receiving benefit in the form of good time off of their sentence at a rate of one day off for each day served.”

In 1979, Thomas Carpenter of the Arkansas ACLU urged abolitionists to fight the new method, even if it seemed more humane. “At first blush it may seem that this is good legislation in that if the death penalty is to exist in this state, then the least barbarous method should be used,” he wrote. “However, if the horror of killing people is removed in this method, it will become much easier for most people to be complacent about killing people.”

A television camera mounted on the ceiling of a witness room points toward the death chamber at Cummins Prison in Varner, Ark. on July 30, 1997.

Photo: Danny Johnston/AP

“I’m Getting Dizzy”

In 1990, a week after Bill Clinton presided over the execution of John Edward Swindler in the electric chair, Ronald Gene Simmons became the first person in Arkansas to die by lethal injection. A serial killer who murdered 16 people — including more than a dozen members of his own family — Simmons was no poster child for abolition. But anti-death penalty activists protested, making arguments that remain familiar today. “Jeff Rosenzweig, a Little Rock lawyer who represents numerous death row inmates … said the death penalty is applied unfairly,” the Gazette reported prior to the Simmons execution, citing problems of racial bias, poverty, and poor lawyering.

The Simmons execution did not go well. In a 2006 lawsuit invoking the state’s history of botched executions, witness accounts describe how he appeared to “nod off” in the first couple minutes of his execution, but he then cried out “Oh! Oh! and began to cough sporadically as though he might have difficulty breathing.” The gurney shook as Simmons coughed and heaved, according to witnesses. He then became still, “after which his face and arm turned first blue and then purple.”

The next execution was worse. In 1992, Bill Clinton famously returned to Arkansas during his campaign for president to preside over the death of Ricky Ray Rector, a black man who was lobotomized after he shot himself in the head after killing of a police officer. Rector was severely brain damaged; The New Yorker would later recount how after eating his last meal of steak and fried chicken, “he carefully set aside his helping of pecan pie,” planning to finish it after his execution. Rosenzweig was among the witnesses that night. “It was obviously very political,” he said about Clinton’s decision to fly back to Little Rock. “He didn’t have to set the execution date then. But he did. And then, obviously, in the middle of the campaign he wasn’t going to back off. But Rector was clearly not competent, in my opinion.”

Rosenzweig recalled how staff struggled to inject Rector, due to his size and “all the Dilantin he was on,” referring to Rector’s antipsychotic medication. Rector moaned as prison staff were unable to find a suitable vein, puncturing his skin over and over again as the medical director looked on. Once Rector finally appeared to be unconscious, one witness heard him say, “I’m getting dizzy,” after which he appeared to draw rapid “shallow breaths,” according to the 2006 lawsuit.

Rosenzweig has seen five men die by lethal injection. Despite the obvious problems with Rector’s execution, the method remained mostly uncontroversial. “We didn’t understand the extent of the problem,” he says. But like many death penalty lawyers, Rosenzweig eventually realized that even when an IV was perfectly placed, it did not guarantee the drugs would work as planned. “They were using a substance which was understood at the time — sodium thiopental — to cause you to be insensate to pain. Whether it did or not, at least that was the understanding.” But soon witnesses would report seeing sounds and movement from the gurney that were not supposed to occur.

In 2005, The Lancet medical journal published a landmark research letter that confirmed what many feared: lethal injection was not working the way people thought. The authors had obtained records from Texas and Virginia — highly active death penalty states — and found that “executioners had no anesthesia training, drugs were administered remotely with no monitoring for anesthesia.” More alarming, “toxicology reports from Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina showed that post-mortem concentrations of [sodium thiopental] in the blood were lower than that required for surgery in 43 of 49 executed inmates (88%); 21 (43%) inmates had concentrations consistent with awareness.” The conclusion was grim. “Without anesthesia, the condemned person would experience asphyxiation, a severe burning sensation, massive muscle cramping, and finally cardiac arrest.” The next year, California tried to assign medical monitors for the execution of Michael Morales, but the anesthesiologists backed out at the last minute. Executions have remained stalled in the state since.

The findings in The Lancet would help pave the way for Baze v. Rees, the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ultimately upheld the three-drug protocol used across the country. Yet no sooner than the Court handed down Baze than the longtime protocol become virtually obsolete, with supplies of sodium thiopental drying up: the sole U.S. manufacturer ceased production and the activist group Reprieve launched a campaign to keep foreign pharmaceutical companies from sending drugs to be used in executions. In Arkansas, which carried out its last execution the same year the Lancet study was released, officials were unable to obtain a replacement for years, though they have certainly tried. In 2011, Arkansas was forced to hand over a stash of sodium thiopental that had been shipped to the U.S. from Dream Pharma, a sketchy pharmaceutical company operated in the back of a London driving school. Not only was the shipment imported in violation of federal law, there was evidence some batches of drugs had expired, leading to botched executions in Georgia and Arizona. The Drug Enforcement Administration seized several states’ supplies. In Arkansas, then Deputy Director of Corrections Wendy Kelly later explained she had searched far and wide for drugs to carry out executions. “I went wherever they had them.”

Forced to tinker with its protocol depending on the availability of drugs, Arkansas ultimately adopted midazalom, first tested in Florida in 2013. Prison officials there promised “a humane and dignified death,” but its effectiveness was in doubt from the start: the first man executed under the new protocol died “in what seemed like a labored process,” according to a reporter for the Sun Sentinel. “At times his eyes fluttered, he swallowed hard, his head twitched, his chest heaved.” Nonetheless, in 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the drug in Glossip v. Gross. That same year, Arkansas revised its own protocol, passing a law that makes suppliers for lethal injection drugs a secret. With a new drug at its disposal, and after setting several execution dates only to be blocked by the courts, Governor Hutchison has been trying to move forward with executions ever since.

For all the insistence from states and the courts that the drug is appropriate for executions, the man who created midazolam is disturbed that his invention has been adopted for lethal injection. “I didn’t make it for that purpose,” he recently told the New York Times. Anesthesiologist David Lubarsky, one of the original authors of the 2005 Lancet study, warns that the drug is “a very poor choice” for lethal injection, since even its maximum effect falls short of rendering a person completely unconscious. While states have upped the dosages in an attempt to ensure its reliability, the drug’s ceiling effect means it will make no difference past a point. And in places where euthanasia is legal, Lubarsky wrote via email, people have woken up even after receiving lethal doses of midazolam. Finally, he stresses, as has been true since the invention of lethal injection, in a three-part execution protocol “the paralytic hides evidence of the insufficient anesthesia.”

Indeed, 40 years after inventing an execution method that transformed an act of killing into a kind of medical theater, Jay Chapman has long since disavowed his invention, admitting that the paralytic was probably a mistake. Besides, as he said in 2007, it has been carried out by “complete idiots.”

Whether this will be the case in Arkansas later this month in anybody’s guess. “It’s unclear who’s going to be doing what,” says Rosenzweig. “But our understanding is it’s basically a whole new crew.”


The post Arkansas Plans to Execute Seven People This Month, Continuing Long Tradition of Assembly-Line Killing appeared first on The Intercept.

Legal Experts Question Whether Trump’s Syria Strike Was Constitutional

7 April 2017 - 6:29pm

It has become normal over the past 15 years for the morning news to report that the President has bombed an obscure terror group in a far-flung region of the world. These attacks take place without any public debate or a vote in Congress — despite the fact the constitution gives Congress alone the power “to declare war.”

President Bush and President Obama argued, with little pushback, that they could target a wide array of terror groups, thanks to the resolution Congress passed in the wake of 9/11 that allows the president to use “necessary and appropriate force” against those who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the al Qaeda terror attacks.

The 2001 resolution has since been used to justify bombing seven countries, deploying troops from Cuba to the Philippines, and conducting wars against groups with loose or non-existent ties to Al Qaeda.

But almost all experts agree that it cannot be utilized as the legal basis for Trump’s Thursday-night cruise missile attack on Syria. While Assad is a butcher and brutal dictator, he has no connection to the 9/11 attacks, and in fact his forces are fighting al Qaeda’s largest affiliate in Syria.

Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor and head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel during the Bush administration, sardonically tweeted that whatever the legal basis for the strikes is, it “exceeds all prior precedents under domestic and international law.”

Goldsmith perspective was the same in 2013 when the Obama administration was considering bombing Syria’s government for similar reasons. The available legal justifications, Goldsmith wrote, were so extreme that they would provide “no limit at all on the president’s ability to use significant military force unilaterally.” (Obama eventually sought Congressional approval, while simultaneously insisting that he didn’t really need it.)

Louis Fisher, a scholar in residence at the Constitution Project, reacted similarly to Trump’s strike, saying that “President Trump has no constitutional authority to unilaterally commit the nation to war against Syria.”

Hina Shamsi, a top national security lawyer for the ACLU, tweeted that Trump’s strike has “no legit[imate] domestic or international law basis.” Fionnuala Ni Aolain, a professor of human rights law at the University of Minnesota Law School, wrote that the attack was “a slide into self-justificatory unilateralism by the United States [that] should not be celebrated nor validated.”

One dissenter among these legal voices is Harold Koh, a Yale Law School professor and former Obama administration lawyer. In 2011, after Congress voted not to authorize Obama’s intervention in Libya, Koh wrote a memo attempting to make the case that the U.S. bombing campaign was nonetheless congruent with the War Powers Resolution, a 1973 congressional attempt “to fulfill the intent of the framers” by keeping the power of introducing the armed forces “in hostilities” in the hands of the legislative branch.

Koh creatively argued that U.S. actions didn’t rise to the level of “hostilities,” largely because Obama was only bombing the country, and the Libyan military was unable to shoot down U.S. planes.

In a later paper for the Houston Law Review, Koh wrote that under his own criteria, he “would guess that few humanitarian crises will rise to the level of sustained ‘hostilities,’” and hence would not need congressional approval.

The White House and the Pentagon have yet even to attempt to make a formal case that the strikes were legal. At Mar-a-Lago, Trump told reporters that “it is in the vital national security interest of the Untied States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.” A Pentagon press release echoed his comments, saying “the use of chemical weapons against innocent people will not be tolerated.”

In the past, the U.S. has made self-defense a justification for its strikes. But both statements suggest the aim of the strike was to punish Assad, not to defend the United States.

Moreover, the Trump administration is indicating they may launch further attacks against Assad without waiting for Congressional approval. At a U.N. Security Council meeting Wednesday, U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley said the US is “prepared to do more” in Syria. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday that “steps are underway” to form a coalition of nations that would look to remove Assad from power.

The administration also appears to be ignoring all issues of international law. Days before the strike, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley touted the fact the U.S. would not seek Security Council approval. “When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively,” she told the council on Wednesday, “there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action.”

Top photo: Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Vladimir Safronkov speaks during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council at UN headquarters, April 7, 2017 in New York.

The post Legal Experts Question Whether Trump’s Syria Strike Was Constitutional appeared first on The Intercept.

Sen. Ron Wyden: Government Must Explain Why It Tried to Expose Twitter User

7 April 2017 - 5:15pm

Only a day after Twitter revealed that it had received a summons from the Department of Homeland Security demanding identifying information about an anonymous anti-Trump user account (and only hours after the government abandoned its attempt), Senator Ron Wyden is telling the agency it needs to explain itself.

The letter, addressed to acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Kevin McAleenan, requests that the agency “conduct an internal review into why and how CBP issued the summons and report on the results of that review.”

“On its face,” the letter continues, “CBP’s request for information on the @ALT_USCIS Twitter account appeared completely unrelated to the authority cited for the summons. Even more concerning is the possibility that CBP requested this information to learn if the accountholder(s) are employed by the Department of Homeland Security in order to take retaliatory action or otherwise squelch the exercise of First Amendment right to comment on U.S. policy, and to make these comments anonymously.”

You can read the full letter below.

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A CBP spokesperson declined to comment.

The post Sen. Ron Wyden: Government Must Explain Why It Tried to Expose Twitter User appeared first on The Intercept.

Bate-boca entre Temer e Renan mostra que Brasília virou um grande jardim da infância

7 April 2017 - 2:37pm

A liderança e o projeto vitorioso de 2002, admirados por aqui e invejados no resto do mundo, não se renovaram nos 15 anos seguintes da conquista. A aposta na velha fórmula acelerou o colapso, e a campanha traumática de 2014 abriu as comportas para um sentimento difuso e incoerente por mudanças. A saída foi recorrer a um velho nome com receituários ainda mais ultrapassados. A mudança só prorrogou a sucessão de vexames e a frustração.

O paralelo entre a seleção brasileira de futebol (masculina) e o que acontece no cenário político nacional é tentador, mas para por aqui. No futebol, a escolha de um nome finalmente antenado com os valores da sociedade contemporânea, menos paternalista e ranzinza que seus antecessores responsáveis pelos 7 a 1 e as eliminações precoces em torneios médios, produziu uma mudança de postura evidente em campo.

Nessa, o grande atributo do novo treinador talvez esteja menos relacionado com a estratégia de jogo do que com a capacidade de ouvir, o que ajudou a estabelecer, em vez do estilo centralizado em torno da figura do “paizão” que sabe o que é bom para a tosse, uma relação horizontal entre comandante e comandados em uma época de conexões, compartilhamento, acesso a informação, referências e disposições para ouvir e tomar decisões em conjunto.

Para Renan, a gestão atual é a seleção de Dunga, mas os brasileiros querem a seleção de Tite.Não é à toa que o nome do técnico Tite, oito vitórias em oito jogos pela equipe (e um refresco, diante da opinião pública, para os mesmíssimos mandatários da CBF enrolados até a alma aqui e lá fora), surgiu num bate-boca público promovido pelo líder do PMDB no Senado, Renan Calheiros (AL), e o presidente Michel Temer, seu colega de partido com quem já vivia às turras desde outras Copas.

Para Renan, a gestão atual é a seleção de Dunga, mas os brasileiros querem a seleção de Tite “para dar orientação”.

O que Renan quer, é bem verdade, não é nem uma coisa nem outra. Desorientado com o avanço da Lava Jato e sem o mesmo espaço de outrora, quando era presidente do Senado, sob risco de não se reeleger nem reeleger herdeiros em Alagoas, ele sabe que sua sobrevivência política é inversamente proporcional à proximidade com o atual presidente, engajado na promoção de algumas das medidas mais impopulares de seu mandato, como as reformas Trabalhista e da Previdência.

Os petardos de Renan começaram a ser disparados há mais de uma semana. Ele já chamou a gestão Temer de “errática” e vaticinou: “quem não ouve erra sozinho”.

A referência a Dunga, que em 2010 trocou Neymar por Júlio Baptista, parecia fazer sentido.

Guardadas as proporções, Dilma Rousseff começou a cair quando perdeu apoio das figuras-chave do PMDB em seu governo. Renan foi o último a abandonar o barco, incomodado que estava com o protagonista Eduardo Cunha (PMDB-RJ) na estratégia. Segundo um ex-aliado, demorou a perceber que Michel era Cunha e Cunha era Michel. Um ano depois, ele reclamaria das chantagens e da influência de um detento no governo da suposta união nacional (risos nervosos).

Quem tem um líder assim não precisa de adversário, diria o eleitor torcedor não vaticinado pelo histórico peemedebista.

Temer disse que não pode brigar com quem “não é presidente da República”. Faltou chamar de bobo, feio e careca.Renan já não é o presidente do Senado, mas a influência sobre seu grupo de parlamentares pode atrapalhar e muito as pretensões de Temer no Congresso, o único lugar do Planeta em que tem mais de 10% de aprovação.

A resposta do presidente demorou, mas surgiu. Em entrevista no meio da semana, Temer disse que não pode brigar com quem “não é presidente da República”. Faltou chamar de bobo, feio e careca.

“Eu compreendo o Renan e há as dificuldades dele. De alguma maneira, ele sempre agiu dessa maneira. Ele vai e volta. Então, estou tratando com muito cuidado politicamente. Até porque não posso todo momento brigar com quem não é presidente da República”, disse.

Pela lógica, Temer poderia debater apenas com ele mesmo. Minha bola, minhas regras, dizia o menino mimado da quadra quando era contrariado no jogo. Se o esperneio de Renan, outrora o dono da bola, teve efeito ou não, ninguém sabe, mas na mesma semana o governo anunciou a disposição de recuar em alguns pontos da reforma da Previdência.

A metáfora futebolística é mero acessório decorativo. Na vida real, o bate-boca entre os dois caciques mostra que, na busca por um salvador à la Tite, Brasília se tornou um grande jardim da infância. Os próximos capítulos prometem.

The post Bate-boca entre Temer e Renan mostra que Brasília virou um grande jardim da infância appeared first on The Intercept.

MEC corta homofobia da lista de preconceitos que devem ser combatidos na educação

7 April 2017 - 1:09pm

O Ministério da Educação (MEC) cortou a homofobia da lista de preconceitos que devem ser combatidos com a educação, alterando um documento que já havia sido entregue à imprensa. Na quinta-feira, 6, a nova versão da Base Nacional Comum Curricular, uma orientação do que as escolas públicas e particulares brasileiras devem ensinar em sala, foi divulgada. Dois dias antes, o texto foi enviado pelo MEC à imprensa. A publicação de matérias, no entanto, era liberada apenas no dia 6, quando o documento seria oficialmente entregue ao Conselho Nacional de Educação, órgão responsável pelos próximos passos do processo de instituição da base.

A versão entregue ao Conselho Nacional de Educação contém mudanças cirúrgicas: os fragmentos que defendiam o respeito à diversidade tiveram os termos “identidade de” gênero e “orientação sexual” sumariamente apagados.

Desde que a atual equipe do MEC assumiu, em maio de 2016, o desempenho da rede federal foi suprimido do relatório final de resultados do Enem e a obrigatoriedade de quatro disciplinas foi retirada do texto da reforma do Ensino Médio.

“Não é uma gestão confiável”

O coordenador-geral da Campanha Nacional pelo Direito à Educação, Daniel Cara, criticou as mudanças feitas sem aviso nos bastidores:

“Já está se tornando um hábito desta equipe do MEC divulgar uma versão para a imprensa e seus aliados e colocar em prática outra, como foi feito na reforma do Ensino Médio. Desta vez, o texto foi pasteurizado: retiraram trechos que diziam respeito à orientação sexual e identidade de gênero e pasteurizaram trechos que diziam respeito às questões raciais. Não é uma gestão confiável.”

Cara explica que os dois textos estão passando, agora, por análise minuciosa para encontrar mais alterações que possam permitir outros tipos de preconceito e humilhação. Ele lembra que, muitas vezes, essas opressões motivam os alunos — que se sentem humilhados e desmotivados a estudar — a desistir da escola.

Ou seja, tornar as orientações pedagógicas permissivas à homofobia é, também, dar força a um dos fatores que alimenta a alta taxa de evasão escolar brasileira. De acordo com levantamento divulgado no dia 5 de abril pelo movimento Todos Pela Educação, com base nos resultados da Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílio (Pnad/IBGE), o Brasil tem tem 2,5 milhões de crianças e jovens fora da escola.

“Já está se tornando um hábito desta equipe do MEC divulgar uma versão para a imprensa e seus aliados e colocar em prática outra.”

Quando foi divulgado o texto da Medida Provisória que estabelecia a reforma do Ensino Médio, no dia 22 de setembro de 2016, chamou a atenção de especialistas e da mídia a ausência das disciplinas de artes, filosofia, sociologia e educação física da lista de matérias obrigatórias. Muitas críticas e protestos foram feitos e, mais tarde, no mesmo dia, o MEC anunciou que havia divulgado uma versão errada do texto e que a obrigatoriedade seria mantida.

Duas semanas depois, no início de outubro, os resultados do Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio (Enem) foram divulgados faltando as notas dos alunos da rede federal, o que o ministério classificou como “um equívoco”. Por uma sarcástica coincidência, naquele mesmo ano o Programa Internacional de Avaliação de Estudantes (Pisa), da Organização para Cooperação e Desenvolvimento Econômico (OCDE) avaliou a educação de 72 países e, no Brasil, a rede federal se destacou com notas muito acima da rede particular e equivalente ao desempenho da Coreia do Sul, tido como caso de sucesso.

É comum que jornalistas recebam documentos, pesquisas ou relatórios de órgãos públicos ou não “sob embargo” — ou seja, com publicação liberada apenas dentro de alguns dias. Textos longos e complexos, como é o caso da Base, costumam ser enviados com certa antecedência para que os jornalistas tenham tempo de ler e se preparar para a divulgação das informações.

Quando isso é feito, porém, o convencional é que a fonte avise aos jornalistas sobre as alterações e cortes de informações, de forma que o material divulgado não seja diferente do oficial. Segundo a resposta oficial do MEC, a diferença de texto ocorreu por causa de “ajustes finais de editoração/redação que identificaram redundâncias”. Confira abaixo a íntegra da resposta ministerial:

“O documento da Base Nacional Comum Curricular entregue ao Conselho Nacional de Educação preserva e garante como pressupostos o respeito, abertura à pluralidade, a valorização da diversidade de indivíduos e grupos sociais, identidades, contra preconceito de origem, etnia, gênero, convicção religiosa ou de qualquer natureza e a promoção dos direitos humanos. A versão final passou por ajustes finais de editoração/redação que identificaram redundâncias. O texto encaminhado aos conselheiros, na quarta-feira (05/04), já contemplava esses ajustes. O documento apresentado à imprensa (04/04) de forma embargada com antecipação, em função da complexidade do assunto,  passou por uma última revisão. Em momento algum as alterações comprometeram ou modificaram os pressupostos da Base Nacional Comum Curricular.

A BNCC estabelece competências a serem alcançadas para todos os alunos, desenvolvidas em todas as áreas e por componentes curriculares que seguem as diretrizes das competências do sec. XXI. Essas competências pressupõem que os alunos devem aprender a resolver problemas, a trabalhar em equipe com base em propósitos que direcionam a educação brasileira para a formação integral e para a construção de uma sociedade justa, democrática e inclusiva. Tudo isso, sempre, respeitando a diversidade.”

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A Federal Reserve Bank Ignored Insider Trading Investigation When Re-Appointing Its President

7 April 2017 - 12:53pm

New documents obtained by a Federal Reserve watchdog group suggest that the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s board of directors may have known that its president was under federal investigation when the board re-appointed him to a new term.

That president, Jeffrey Lacker, resigned his position this week after acknowledging his role in a leak of nonpublic information about Fed policy to an analyst for hedge fund and asset manager clients. The situation highlights the often cozy relationship between central bankers and Wall Street.

In a carefully worded announcement submitted by his attorney Tuesday, Lacker admitted to an October 2012 phone conversation with Medley Global Advisors analyst Regina Schleiger, where she described Fed deliberations over purchasing $45 billion of U.S. Treasury bonds per month as part of their quantitative easing program. Lacker did not deny this, or report Schleiger’s possession of confidential information to Fed staff. In his statement Lacker said, “I realized that my failure to decline comment on the information could have been taken … as an acknowledgment or confirmation of the information.”

On October 3, 2012, Schleiger published a report, “Fed: December Bound,” that included details about the Treasury purchases, a day before they would be revealed in the September 2012 minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee. This information was lucrative for investors to know before their counterparts, as they could have made money trading on Treasury bonds prior to the minutes release.

Nobody knows who leaked the information about the September 2012 minutes to Schleiger; Lacker only admitted to hearing about it in advance.

The Medley report led the Fed to commission an internal investigation into the leak. Fed General Counsel Scott Alvarez interviewed Lacker in conjunction with the investigation in December 2012, but Lacker admitted that he did not tell Alvarez that he knew Schleiger had the material before its release.

The Fed said in 2013 they could not uncover the leaker, and did not refer the matter to securities officials or law enforcement, even though the leak could be seen as part of an insider trading scheme. After Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Elijah Cummings raised questions in 2015 about why the Fed hadn’t disclosed the results of their investigation, the FBI and the Justice Department opened a criminal inquiry, upon a referral from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Federal authorities interviewed Lacker that year as part of that probe, at which point he claims he did divulge his conversation with Schleiger.

The new information comes from the activist group Fed Up, which has sought more democratic accountability at the central bank. In documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Fed Up found that the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank unanimously re-appointed Lacker on December 16, 2015, giving him a glowing review. “The Fifth District board of directors not only is pleased with the performance of President Lacker,” Board of Directors Chair Russell Lindner wrote, “but feels it would be a disservice both to the Bank and the System were [he] not to be reappointed.”

However, on January 7, 2016, Lindner wrote a supplementary letter, which “provides a fuller description of the evaluation of Mr. Jeffrey M. Lacker as this Reserve Bank’s President.” The rest of that letter is completely redacted.

None of the 10 other regional Fed banks re-appointing presidents in 2016 submitted a supplemental letter like this. But by February, the Federal Reserve board of governors approved Lacker’s re-appointment, for a term that would have ended in September 2020. (Lacker announced an early retirement in October 2016; the sudden resignation moved up the timeline by six months.)

Fed Up believes the supplemental letter suggests “circumstances regarding Lacker’s reappointment were unique, or that new information had come to light.” The group is demanding that the rest of the letter be unredacted, so the public can understand what information the Richmond Fed had about Lacker’s role in the leak investigation.

“What did the Richmond Fed and the board of governors know? And when did they know it?” asked Jordan Haedtler, campaign manager for Fed Up. “If the Richmond Fed’s board of directors was aware that President Lacker was under federal investigation, how could they have unanimously recommended his re-appointment?”

Each of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks like that of Richmond is literally owned by private banks in the reserve bank’s district. These member banks choose six of the nine members of a reserve bank’s board of directors, so the boards tend to be dominated by local businessmen and bankers. The board appoints the reserve bank’s president, whose agency then supervises local financial institutions in the region.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Richmond Fed said that “once our bank’s board of directors learned of the outcome of the government investigations, they took appropriate actions,” without elaborating on what those actions were.

The FBI has not completed its investigation of the leak, but Lacker’s attorney said that no charges would be brought against his client, making the early resignation a kind of plea bargain. Government employees who leak confidential information can face up to a year in prison, and could be held accountable for fraud if the information was part of an insider trading scheme.

The criminal investigation has been hampered because Medley Advisors considers itself a news organization, raising First Amendment concerns. As a subscription service for investors, Medley operates more like a market intelligence organization, and the Fed has clear restrictions on contact between top officials and firms of this type.

But just the action of a Federal Reserve bank president chatting up what by all accounts appears to be an analyst for hedge fund clients raises red flags. “Our communities can’t afford to have Fed officials who are so cozy with the financial industry that they leak valuable information to their friends,” said Michael De Los Santos, deputy director of Action NC, a community organizing group in North Carolina.

The Federal Reserve’s inspector general said it “will be concluding its investigation” on the matter, but they are unlikely to make it public. Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee have also been looking into the leak. However, Lacker, a monetary policy hawk who favors lower inflation, “has a lot of friends among the Republicans,” Fed historian Peter Conti-Brown of the University of Pennsylvania told Bloomberg.

Intercept contributor Matt Stoller wrote in January about how Fed transcripts revealed that Lacker mocked workers struggling during the recession, saying they “preferred to collect unemployment benefits or can’t pass drug tests.”

Top photo: Jeffrey Lacker, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, arrives to a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington in June 2013.

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Donald Trump’s Own Defense Secretary Warned in 2013 Against Rushing to War Against Syria

7 April 2017 - 12:06pm

The Trump administration reacted to the apparent use of chemical weapons against civilians by the Bashar al-Assad government with a flurry of air strikes against a Syrian military airfield Thursday night.

The bombing occurred after a widespread clamor for Trump to “do something” and without a thorough debate about what ultimate goal the U.S. is attempting to reach.

This is exactly what Trump’s defense secretary, Jim Mattis, warned about in remarks he made in 2013.

Mattis had just retired from his role as the commander of U.S. Central Command, and agreed to be interviewed by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about U.S. policy in the Middle East.

When Blitzer asked Mattis about his views on military intervention against Syria’s government, the former general sounded a stern note of caution. He stressed that the United States should not intervene without a serious and well thought-out plan, and that it would be an enormous commitment.

“On Syria, ladies and gentlemen, we are going to have to determine what is the end state we want. This war needs to be ended as rapidly as possible. That’s the bottom line,” Mattis began. “But if the Americans go in, if the Americans take leadership, if the Americans take ownership of this, it’s going to be a full-throated, very, very serious war. And anyone who says this is going to be easy, that we can do a no-fly zone and it’ll be cheap, I would discount that on the outset.”

He then drew an analogy to the war in Iraq.

“We need to be very clear about our military end state, contributing to what political end state,” said Mattis. “Otherwise, you’re liable to invade a country, pull down a statue, and then say, ‘Now what do we do?'” Hearing this, the audience burst into laughter.

“We’ve been there,” Blitzer admitted.

Mattis also offered some skepticism to Blitzer when asked about a so-called no-fly zone, wherein the United States would militarily prohibit Syrian aircraft from flying over a certain territory to shield civilians.

“Why do you want to take out their air support? Is it because they’re using aircraft to kill most of the people on the ground? No, they’re not. They’re using artillery, machine guns, and mortars and snipers. So let’s have a reason for what we’re going to do,” he noted.

He talked about his own experience visiting with traumatized Syrian war refugees, but stressed that the compulsion to “do something,” shouldn’t alone justify a poorly though out intervention. “We all want to do something to stop this. But the desire to do something, the intention to do good, does not take the place of pragmatic, ‘What is possible?’ We have no moral obligation to do the impossible and hawk our children’s future because we think we just have to do something,” he said.

There are indeed serious considerations about the possible results if American bombardment aimed at the Syrian government continues.

As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted in one of her paid speeches, most of Syria’s air defense systems are in populated areas — meaning that if the U.S. were to strike them while creating a no-fly zone, it would “kill a lot of civilians.”

Top photo: U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis appears before the Senate Appropriations Committee March 22, 2017, in Washington.

The post Donald Trump’s Own Defense Secretary Warned in 2013 Against Rushing to War Against Syria appeared first on The Intercept.

The Spoils of War: Trump Lavished With Media and Bipartisan Praise For Bombing Syria

7 April 2017 - 10:43am

In every type of government, nothing unites people behind the leader more quickly, reflexively or reliably than war. Donald Trump now sees how true that is, as the same establishment leaders in U.S. politics and media who have spent months denouncing him as a mentally unstable and inept authoritarian and unprecedented threat to democracy are standing and applauding him as he launches bombs at Syrian government targets.

Trump, on Thursday night, ordered an attack that the Pentagon said included the launching of 59 Tomahawk missiles which “targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars.” The governor of Homs, the Syrian province where the attack occurred, said early this morning that the bombs killed seven civilians and wounded nine.

The Pentagon’s statement said the attack was “in retaliation for the regime of Bashar Assad using nerve agents to attack his own people.” Both Syria and Russia vehemently deny that the Syrian military used chemical weapons.

When asked about this yesterday by the Globe and Mail’s Joanna Slater, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged an investigation to determine what actually happened before any action was contemplated, citing what he called “continuing quesitons about who is responsible”:

But U.S. war fever waits for nothing. Once the tidal wave of American war frenzy is unleashed, questioning the casus belli is impermissible. Wanting conclusive evidence before bombing commences is vilified as sympathy with and support for the foreign villain (the same way that asking for evidence of claims against Russia instantly converts one into a “Kremlin agent” or “stooge”).

That the Syrian government deliberately used chemical weapons to bomb civilians became absolute truth in U.S. discourse within less than 24 hours – even though Trudeau urged an investigation, even though it was denied in multiple capitals around the world, and even though Susan Rice just two months ago boasted to NPR: “We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.”

Whatever happened with this event, the Syrian government has killed hundreds of thousands of people over the past five years in what began as a citizen uprising in the spirit of the Arab Spring, and then morphed into a complex proxy war involving foreign fighters, multiple regional powers, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Russia.

The CIA has spent more than billion dollars a year to arm anti-Assad rebels for years, and the U.S. began bombing Syria in 2014 – the 7th predominantly Muslim country bombed by Obama – and never stopped. Trump had already escalated that bombing campaign, culminating in a strike last month that Syrians say destroyed a mosque and killed dozens. What makes this latest attack new is that rather than allegedly targeting terrorist sites of ISIS and Al Qaeda, it targets the Syrian government – something Obama threatened to do in 2013 but never did.

Leading Congressional Democrats – including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – quickly praised Trump’s bombing while raising concerns about process. Hours before the bombing commenced, as it was known Trump was planning it, Hillary Clinton – who has been critical of Obama for years for not attacking Assad – appeared at an event and offered her categorical support for what Trump was planning:

WATCH: Hillary Clinton said U.S. should attack Assad's airfields hours before missile strike. More:

— NBC News (@NBCNews) April 7, 2017

The Trump White House is preliminarily indicating that this was a limited strike, designed to punish Assad for his use of chemical weapons, rather than a new war to remove him. But such aggression, once unleashed, is often difficult to contain. The Russian and Iranian governments, both supportive of Assad, have bitterly denounced Trump for the attack, with a Putin spokesman calling it a “significant blow” for U.S.-Russian relations. Russia already announced retaliation in the form of suspending cooperation agreements.

Even if it is contained, there are endless implications from Trump’s initiation of military force against the Syrian Government. For now, here are ten critical points highlighted by all of this:


1. New wars will always strengthen Trump: as they do for every leader.

The instant elevation of Trump into a serious and respected war leader was palpable. Already, the New York Times is gushing that “in launching a military strike just 77 days into his administration, President Trump has the opportunity, but hardly a guarantee, to change the perception of disarray in his administration.”

Political leaders across the spectrum rushed to praise Trump and support his bombing campaign. Media coverage was overwhelmingly positive. One consummate establishment spokesman accurately observed:

Among US political establishment, attacks on Assad the most popular action Trump has taken to date as President.

— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) April 7, 2017

New wars trigger the worst in people: their jingoism, their tribal loyalties, their instinct to submit to authority and leaders. The incentive scheme here is as obvious as it is frightening: great rewards await political leaders who start new wars. In Federalist 4, John Jay warned of all the personal benefits a leader obtains from starting a new war – which is the reason it was supposed to be difficult for U.S. Presidents to do it:

It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.

Trump is going to see – and feel – the establishment and media respect he craves, the sensations of strength he most lacks, by dropping bombs. Every person, let alone Trump, would be tempted to keep pursuing war as a result of this warped incentive framework. Indeed, Trump himself has long been aware of this motivation as he accused Obama in 2012 of preparing to start a new war in response to falling poll numbers:

Now that Obama’s poll numbers are in tailspin – watch for him to launch a strike in Libya or Iran. He is desperate.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2012

Those who instantly fall in line behind Trump as he bombs people are ensuring that he will keep doing it. As the instantly popular post-9/11 George W. Bush showed, those praising Trump for bombing Syria are also building him up in general so that he becomes stronger with everything else he wants to do.


2. Democrats’ jingoistic rhetoric has left them no ability – or desire – to oppose Trump’s wars.

Democrats have spent months wrapping themselves in extremely nationalistic and militaristic rhetoric. They have constantly accused Trump of being a traitor to the U.S., a puppet of Putin, and unwilling to defend U.S. interests. They have specifically tried to exploit Assad’s crimes by tying the Syrian leader to Trump, insisting that Trump would never confront Assad because doing so would anger his Kremlin masters. They have embraced a framework whereby anyone who refuses to confront Putin or Assad is deemed a sympathizer of, or a servant to, foreign enemies.

Having pushed those tactics and themes, Democrats have painted themselves into a corner. How could they possibly do anything but cheer as Trump bombs Syria? They can’t. And cheering is thus exactly what they’re doing.

For months, those of us who have urged skepticism and restraint on the Russia rhetoric have highlighted the risk that this fixation on depicting him as a tool of the Kremlin could goad Trump – dare him or even force him – to seek confrontation with Moscow. Some Democrats reacted with rage yesterday at the suggestion that their political tactics were now bearing this fruit, but that’s how politics works.

Much as George H.W. Bush was motivated to shed his “wimp” image by invading Panama, of course Trump will be motivated to prove he’s not controlled by Putin via blackmail by seeking confrontation with the Russian leader. And that’s exactly what he just did. War is the classic weapon U.S. Presidents use to show they are strong, patriotic and deserving of respect; the more those attributes are called in question, the greater that compulsion becomes:

Trump is the prime author of his wars, and of this bombing in Syria. He, and he alone, bears primary responsibility for it. But Trump is not an island of agency; he operates in the climate of Washington. A major reason why it’s so dangerous to ratchet up rhetorical tension between two major nuclear-armed powers is because of the ease with which those tensions can translate into actual conflict, and the motivation it can create for Trump to use war to prove he’s a patriot after all.

Whatever else is true, Democrats – with very few exceptions such as Rep. Ted Lieu and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard – have refrained from criticizing Trump’s bombing campaign on the merits (as opposed to process issues). Indeed, Democratic Party leaders have explicitly praised Trump’s bombing. They will have to continue to do so even if Trump expands this war. That’s what the Democratic Party has turned itself into to; indeed, it’s what it has been for a long time.


3. In wartime, US television instantly converts into state media.

As it always does, the U.S. media last night was an almost equal mix of excitement and reverence as the bombs fell. People who dissent from this bombing campaign – who opposed it on the merits – were almost entirely disappeared, as they always are in such moments of high patriotism (MSNBC’s Chris Hayes had two guests on after midnight who opposed it, but they were rare). Claims from the U.S. government and military are immediately vested with unquestioned truth and accuracy, while claims from foreign adversaries such as Russia and Syria are reflexively scorned as lies and propaganda.

For all the recent hysteria over RT being a propaganda outlet for the state, U.S. media coverage is barely distinguishable in times of war (which is, for the U.S., the permanent state of affairs). More systematic analysis will surely be forthcoming of last night’s coverage, but for now, here is Brian Williams – in all of his military-revering majesty – showing how state TV functions in the United States:

good thing we don't have govt-controlled media in this country

— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) April 7, 2017

And here’s Fareed Zakaria declaring on CNN that Donald Trump has now been instantly transformed into the President of the United States in all of the loftiest and most regal senses of the term:

.@FareedZakaria on Syria strikes: "I think Donald Trump became President of the United States" last night

— New Day (@NewDay) April 7, 2017

4. Trump’s bombing is illegal, but presidents are now omnipotent.

It should be startling and infuriating that Trump is able to order a new attack on the Syrian Government without any democratic debate, let alone Congressional approval. At least when Obama started bombing Syria without Congress, he had the excuse that it was authorized by the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force, since his ostensible targets were terrorist group (even though ISIS did not exist until years after that was enacted and is hardly “affiliated” with Al Qaeda). But since there’s no self-defense pretext to what Trump just did, what possible legal rationale exists for this? None.

But nobody in Washington really cares about such legalities. Indeed, we have purposely created an omnipotent presidency. Recall that in 2011, Obama went to war in Libya not just without Congressional approval, but even after Congress rejected such authorization.

What happened to Obama as a result of involving the U.S in a war that Congress had rejected? Absolutely nothing, because Congress, due to political cowardice, wants to abdicate war-making powers to the President. As a country, we have decided we want all-powerful president – one who can bomb, and spy, and detain, and invade with virtually no limits. That’s the machinery of the imperial presidency that both parties have jointly built and have now handed to President Trump.

Indeed, in 2013, Obama explicitly argued that he had the right to bomb Assad without Congressional approval – a precedent the Trump White House will now use.


5. How can those who view Trump as an Inept Fascist now trust him to wage war?

Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of the last 24 hours has been watching those who have vilified Trump as an Evil Fascist and Bumbling Clown and Unstable Sociopath suddenly decide that they want him to bomb Syria. Even if you’re someone who in the abstract wanted the U.S. to attack Assad, shouldn’t your view that Trump is a completely unstable and incompetent monster prevent you from endorsing this war, with Trump as the Commander-in-Chief?

What happened to all the warnings about Trump’s towering incompetence and core evil? Where are all the grave predictions that he’s leading the world on a path of authoritarianism, fascism and blood and soil nationalism? They all gave way to War Fever:

Donald Trump has done the right thing on Syria. Finally!! After years of useless handwringing in the face of hideous atrocities.

— Anne-Marie Slaughter (@SlaughterAM) April 7, 2017

Guest after guest is gushing. From MSNBC to CNN, Trump is receiving his best night of press so far. And all he had to do was start a war.

— Sam Sacks (@SamSacks) April 7, 2017

I'm a Dem and I oppose @realDonaldTrump's policies, but I will fully support appropriate retaliation against #Assad's war crimes in #Syria.

— Peter Daou (@peterdaou) April 5, 2017

During the campaign, Trump explicitly vowed to commit war crimes: to torture detainees and purposely murder the families of terrorists. Back in April of last year, I summarized Trump’s mindset this way: “he favors fewer wars, but advocates more monstrous, war-criminal tactics for the ones US does fight.”

Given everything that has been claimed about Trump by his critics, how can any of them justify cheering for a bombing campaign led by him? Do they experience no cognitive dissonance at all in having spent months depicting Trump as a lying, deceitful fascist, only to now turn around and trust him to bomb other countries with care, humanitarianism and efficacy?


6. Like all good conspiracy theories, no evidence can kill the Kremlin-controls-Trump tale.

Central to the conspiracy theories woven for months by Democrats is the claim that Putin wields power over Trump in the form of blackmail, debts or other leverage. As a result, this conspiracy theory goes, the Kremlin has now infiltrated American institutions of power and controls the U.S. Government, because Trump is unwilling – indeed, unable – to defy Putin’s orders.

Yet here is Trump – less than three months after being inaugurated – bombing one of the Kremlin’s closest allies, in a country where Russia has spent more than a year fighting to preserve his government. Will any of this undermine or dilute the conspiracy theory that the Kremlin controls the White House? Of course not. Warped conspiracy theorists are not only immune to evidence that disproves their theories but, worse, find ways to convert such evidence into further proof of their conspiracies.

Already, the most obsessive Democratic conspiracists have cited the fact that the U.S. military advised Russia in advanced of the strikes – something they would have been incredibly reckless not to do – as innuendo showing that Trump serves Putin. If Trump tomorrow bombed Red Square, Democrats – after cheering him – would quickly announce that he only did so to throw everyone off the trail of his collusion with Putin.


7. The fraud of humanitarianism works every time for (and on) American elites.

In the last two months, Trump has ordered a commando raid in Yemen that has massacred children and dozens of innocent people, bombed Mosul and killed scores of civilians, and bombed a mosque near Aleppo that killed dozens. During the campaign, he vowed to murder the family members of alleged terrorists. He shut America’s doors to Syrian refugees, and is deporting people who have lived in the U.S. since childhood despite committing no crimes.

Given all that, could American elites possibly believe him when he says that he is motivated by humanitarianism – deep-seated anger over seeing Syrian children harmed – in bombing Syria? Yes, they could, and they are. That’s because American elites always want to believe – or at least want others to believe – that the U.S. bombs countries over and over not out of aggression or dominance but out of love, freedom, democracy and humanitarian concern.

The U.S. Government does not wage war, and the U.S. military does not blow things up, out of humanitarianism. It does so when it believes there is some benefit to be obtained for itself. Again, Federalist 4 warned us: “nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it.”

If humanitarianism is what motivated the U.S. in Syria, it would take in massive numbers of refugees, but it hasn’t. If humanitarianism is what motivated the U.S. bombing of Libya, it would have given large amounts of aid to that country in the aftermath to help it deal with the ensuring anarchy and misery, but it didn’t. That’s because humanitarianism is the pretext for U.S. wars, not the actual motive.

I was on phone with #QusaiZakarya, who survived 2013 #chemical attack, when he learned #Trump action: "I'll name my son Donald. Hero."#Syria

— Ruth Sherlock (@Rsherlock) April 7, 2017

But the psychological comfort of believing that the only reason your government bombs more countries by far than any other is because your country is just so uniquely devoted to humanitarian love is so powerful that it overrides all rational faculties. That’s why all wars – even the most malicious and aggressive – are wrapped in humanitarian packaging. And no matter how many times we see that this packaging is a lie – in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Libya – we keep wanting to believe that, this time, our bombs will be filled with love, help and freedom.


8. Support for Trump’s Bombing Shows Two Toxic U.S. Conceits: “Do Something” and “Look Strong”

Those who oppose Trump’s new bombing campaign – or any U.S. bombing campaign – are instantly met with the predictable objection: we must “Do Something” about Syria. This mentality is predicated on a terribly false, and terribly dangerous, premise: that the U.S. military can and should solve every world evil.

But sometimes, the U.S. lacks the ability to solve other problems. Often, having the U.S. drop bombs exacerbates suffering, rather than alleviates it. As upsetting as it is to accept, sometimes doing nothing is the least bad of all the options. Again, if humanitarianism really were the motive, there are many things the U.S. could do besides bombing Syria and killing civilians, such as giving refuge and humanitarian aid. But the idea that a war can be justified by appealing to the vague imperative that we must “do something” is incredibly irrational and immoral.

The same is true – indeed even more so – of this horribly toxic premise long endorsed by the world of U.S think tanks that a President must go to war to preserve “credibility” – meaning that he must drop bombs and kill people to show the world that he, and the country he leads, is “strong.” To see that hideous premise in action, look at how the New York Times gloriously depicted Bush 41’s senseless invasion of Panama in the above article, or how the NYT yesterday described the view of “experts” about Trump’s need to bomb Syria:

There may be some things more evil and immoral than starting a new war based on the desire to avoid “looking weak,” but it’s hard to think of many things that qualify. And yet this belief continues to be gospel among America’s war-loving think tank and Foreign Policy Community.


9. Obama’s refusal to bomb Assad hovers over everything.

Despite insisting that he had the power to do so without Congress, Obama resisted bipartisan demands to use military force against Assad. I personally view this as one of Obama’s smartest and best decisions and, according to today’s New York Times, so does he: “Mr. Obama said he was ‘very proud of that moment’ because he had stepped back from the Washington establishment’s warnings. Few of his top foreign policy advisers agreed.” Indeed, by the end of his presidency, the U.S. stopped claiming it was even seeking regime change.

But those who insist that the U.S. has a moral obligation to remove Assad or at least bomb him become tongue-tied when it comes to assessing Obama. If, as many claim, Assad is our generation’s Hitlerian figure – and recall how many recent foreign leaders were depicted as The New Hitler when some wanted them attacked –  does that make Obama this generation’s Neville Chamberlain for his refusal to attack Assad? And does it mean that Trump has acted more morally than Obama by doing what Obama refused to do?

Again, I side with Obama in this dispute because I never believed that U.S. military had any positive role to play in Syria. But those who have long insisted that U.S. military action against Assad is morally imperative should follow those premises through to their conclusions when it comes to Obama and Trump.


10. None of this disproves, obviously, that Hillary Clinton was also a dangerous hawk.

Every time Trump drops another bomb, Democratic pundits declare vindication over those always unnamed-people who they claim argued during the campaign that Trump was more anti-war than Clinton:

You people who were warning that HRC was the “real hawk”:

Go to hell.

— James Fallows (@JamesFallows) April 7, 2017

Who are the people who argued that Trump would be more anti-war than Clinton? Their numbers were tiny; Maureen Dowd is one of the very people with a prominent platform to claim this. Trump expressly vowed to bomb more frequently and more aggressively, as was often pointed out.

It’s certainly true that any attempt by Trump to remove Assad would violate his oft-stated campaign vows. But whatever else is true, this specific bombing campaign is a bizarre instance to try to defend Clinton given that Clinton, for years – and again yesterday – endorsed this military action. Indeed, Clinton has long endorsed far more extensive military action in Syria than what Trump yesterday ordered, often advocating a no-fly-zone over parts of Syria – which would be a massive and incredibly dangerous military undertaking – and even yesterday calling for the destruction of Assad’s air force.

It’s certainly true that Trump vowed to involve the U.S. in fewer wars than Clinton wanted, and for a narrower range of reasons. And that may still end up happening. Indeed, many of Trump’s most vocal supporters yesterday were expressing anger even over this limited bombing campaign in Syria. But to take a military action that Clinton herself favored and try to use it to suggest that Clinton would have been less hawkish is just bizarre and deceitful beyond belief.

Ultimately, what is perhaps most depressing about all of this is how, yet again, we see the paucity of choice offered by American democracy. The leadership of both parties can barely contain themselves joining together to cheer the latest war. One candidate – the losing one – ran on a platform of launching this new war, while the other – the victor – repeatedly vowed to avoid it, only to launch it after being in office less than 100 days.

The one constant of American political life is that the U.S. loves war. Martin Luther King’s 1967 denunciation of the U.S. as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” is more accurate than ever.

Top photo: This photo provided by the U.S. Navy, shows the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter firing a Tomahawk land attack missile on April 7, 2017 in the Mediterranean Sea at a Syrian military airfield.

The post The Spoils of War: Trump Lavished With Media and Bipartisan Praise For Bombing Syria appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump Surrenders Element of Surprise by Warning Russia of Planned Strike on Its Ally Syria

7 April 2017 - 9:31am

No doubt fearing the grave risk of killing Russian military personnel on the ground in Syria, the United States military gave Russia advance notice before launching cruise missile strikes overnight on a Syrian air base that is used to store chemical weapons, according to a U.S. intelligence assessment.

Defense official: there were Russians stationed at the base the US struck in Syria tonight, but US informed them beforehand @ForeignPolicy

— paul mcleary (@paulmcleary) April 7, 2017

A Pentagon spokesman, Capt. Jeff Davis, said in a statement that a pre-exiting “deconfliction” channel, set up to keep American and Russian jets from crossing paths in the skies over Syria, was used to disclose the planned attack to Russia. “U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield,” Davis said.

(After the strikes hit, the Russians announced that they were withdrawing from the agreement to share information about their movements over Syria.)

Putin: US strikes against Syria are act of aggression against sovereign state. US-Russia relations will deteriorate further.

— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) April 7, 2017

According to Davis, the strikes were aimed not at Syrian soldiers but the “aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield,” with the intention of “reducing the Syrian Government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons.” In his statement announcing the strikes on the airfield, President Donald Trump said that the base in central Syria had been used on Tuesday to launch a chemical attack that killed dozens of men, women and children in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib Province.

Evidence of the damage caused by the strikes is incomplete, but images of the base broadcast on Russian state television on Friday suggested that significant parts of it remain intact.

More images from Sharyat AB showing more of SyAAF SU-22s undamaged after #UnitedStates strikes. #Syria #Homs

— Aldin ???????? (@CT_operative) April 7, 2017

Battle damage assessment: limited #Syria #Trump

— Yaroslav Trofimov (@yarotrof) April 7, 2017

Evgeny Poddubnyy, a Russian war correspondent, posted more images of the damaged airfield on Instagram, showing a bunker reduced to rubble and what might have been a jet, but another plane that looked unscathed.

Video posted on YouTube by a news site in St. Petersburg, Federal News Agency, also appeared to show an air defense battery at the perimeter of the base had escaped the bombing.

First footage from the vicinity of Sha'erat airbase, 2K12 Kub (SA-6) can be seen intact, also an #SAA T-62 tank. #Syria #Homs

— Raphael Babikian (@RafaelBabikian) April 7, 2017

It is not yet clear how far ahead of time the Russians were warned, but a witness told Riam Dalati of the BBC that a convoy of Russian military vehicles left the base at some stage yesterday.

Eyewitness tells BBC's @Dalatrm that a convoy of Russian vehicles left targetted Syrian airbase yesterday.

— Quentin Sommerville (@sommervillebbc) April 7, 2017

Although at least six Syrian airmen died in the attack, according to a Syrian military spokesman, it seems inconceivable that the Russian military personnel fleeing the base would not have alerted their allies to what was coming.

Emerging photos eulogising #Shoayrat KIA #Syria soldiers seem 2 cnfrm early tstimonies of Air Defence Brigade bearing brunt of #SyriaStrikes

— Riam Dalati (@Dalatrm) April 7, 2017

Video recorded by a Russian military drone over the base suggested to some observers that the Syrians might have moved some of their jets out of their bunkers in anticipation of the strikes.

Russian video suggests SyAF had moved its aircraft into the open to evade US Tomahawk attack

— Vijainder K Thakur (@vkthakur) April 7, 2017

While it was no doubt prudent to take steps to minimize the number of people killed in the attack, letting Syria know that the strike was coming represents a significant departure from Trump’s own campaign rhetoric. At rally after rally before he was president, and in debates against Hillary Clinton, Trump repeatedly called for surprise attacks and mocked the U.S. military and its Iraqi allies for giving advance notice of a planned offensive against Islamic State fighters to retake the city of Mosul in Iraq.

“Whatever happened to the element of surprise?” Trump asked in a September debate. “Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, spinning in their graves when they see the stupidity of our country.”

“Why don’t we just go in quietly, right?” Mr. Trump told supporters in Wisconsin at one campaign rally in late October. “They used to call it a sneak attack.”

Pressed on the idea that he did not understand military strategy in an interview just before the election, Trump vowed to teach military experts a thing or two.

Trump says he'll teach military expert 'a couple of things' about Mosul. “Why can't they win first and talk later?”

— ABC News (@ABC) October 27, 2016

In a video statement on the impact of Trump’s non-surprise attack in the Syrian air base, a Russian military spokesman mocked it as ineffective, saying that just six MIG-23 jets were destroyed, while the runways and bulk of the Syrian jets were unharmed.

A screenshot from a video statement released by Russia’s defense ministry on Friday.

The Russian spokesman also scoffed at the notion that Syria’s government was responsible for the chemical attack this week — reiterating his government’s claim that Islamist rebels were producing their own nerve agents — and suggested that Trump had staged the incident purely for reasons of domestic politics.

Setting aside their feelings about Trump, Syrian activists who want to see President Bashar al-Assad forced from power largely welcomed the strikes.

Even if this is a symbolic strike, destroying the Shuayrat airfield means one less place for Assad's airforce to kill people from.

— Maysaloon (@Maysaloon) April 7, 2017


— Rami Jarrah (@RamiJarrah) April 7, 2017

Some, however, expressed their dismay that Trump’s message seemed to imply that Assad would be punished only for killing civilians with chemical weapons.

Another common sentiment among anti-regime Syrians today. ~99.993% of civilians killed by the regime were killed with conventional weapons

— Elizabeth Tsurkov (@Elizrael) April 7, 2017

6) The question I get over and over from Syrians is, why is it ok to kill us with bombs but not with gas? What's the difference?

— Clarissa Ward (@clarissaward) April 7, 2017

The strikes were also welcomed in rebel-held northern Syria, according to Quentin Sommerville of the BBC and Clarissa Ward of CNN.

Syrian rebel groups we are speaking to are jubilant at US action is Syria. Nusra (HTS) quiet.

— Quentin Sommerville (@sommervillebbc) April 7, 2017

One Syrian tells me the new nom de guerre for President Trump on the ground in Northern Syria is Abu Ivanka al Amriki. #syria

— Clarissa Ward (@clarissaward) April 7, 2017

One Syrian blogger, who writes under the pen name Edward Dark, noted bitterly that Trump’s strikes had thrilled the Islamic extremists he has vowed to defeat, while potentially exacerbating the refugee crisis whose victims he has treated with such disdain.

Isis, Al Qaeda and all the other jihadi groups are celebrating and happy today thanks to the Americans #Syria

— Edward Dark (@edwardedark) April 7, 2017

America: ban Syrian refugees, then bomb #Syria because you're "concerned" about Syrians….

— Edward Dark (@edwardedark) April 7, 2017

The post Trump Surrenders Element of Surprise by Warning Russia of Planned Strike on Its Ally Syria appeared first on The Intercept.

U.S. Weighs “Saturation Strike” Against Syrian Government in Response to Chemical Attack

6 April 2017 - 5:05pm

The Pentagon has developed plans for an airstrike against Syrian government targets in response to this week’s apparent chemical attack by Syrian government forces, according to two U.S. military officials.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis will present the proposals to Donald Trump later today at the president’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

One of the proposals drawn up is a “saturation strike” using dozens of cruise missiles designed to hit Syrian military targets —including military air fields — in an effort to limit future Syrian Air Force attacks on rebel positions, according to the two U.S. military officials.

The officials asked for anonymity to discuss classified plans.

The proposed strike would involve launching Tomahawk cruise missiles to overwhelm Russian air defense systems used by the Syrian military. The Russian government currently helps maintain the air defense sites and advises the Syrian military.

According to both U.S. military officials, the current proposal would likely result in Russian military deaths and mark a drastic escalation of U.S. force in Syria.

One U.S. military official said the decision to allow the strikes to kill Russians as collateral damage is the current “sticking point” for Mattis. A decision by President Trump to go forward with the plan would be a significant change from the Obama administration, which did not allow air strikes in Syria that would likely cause Russian casualties.

The Bashar al-Assad government placed many of its air defense systems in civilian areas, putting Syrian civilians at risk, according to the U.S. military and intelligence sources.

President Trump said yesterday that the Syrian government “crossed many, many lines” by conducting an apparent chemical weapons attack in Idlib on Tuesday. The attack has killed as many as 100 Syrians.

The proposed airstrike was prepared by U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in Syria, where a civil war has resulted in an estimated 500,000 Syrians killed, millions displaced, and an ongoing refugee crisis.

Neither the Pentagon nor CENTCOM responded to requests for comment.

Top photo: Children being treated at a hospital after a suspected chlorine gas attack by Assad Regime forces to Khan Shaykhun town of Idlib, Syria, on April 4, 2017.

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The U.S. Government Is Trying to Unmask an Anonymous Anti-Trump Twitter Account

6 April 2017 - 4:23pm

Soon after Donald Trump’s inauguration, persons critical of the president and his administration began creating anonymous Twitter accounts claiming to be dissident members of the federal government, such as the famous “Alt BLM” and “Rogue POTUS Staff” users. Today, Twitter is filing suit against the U.S. government, exposing an attempt to expose and attack one such account.

The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of California, says the @ALT_USCIS Twitter account is now being targeted by the Department of Homeland Security:

On March 14, 2017, Defendant Adam Hoffman, an agent within U.S. Customs and Border Protection, transmitted to Twitter by fax a summons, ordering Twitter to produce certain records pertaining to the @ALT_USCIS account. The CBP Summons invoked as authority 19 U.S.C. § 1509. It was signed by Defendant Stephen P. Caruso, a CBP Special Agent in Charge based in Miramar, Florida. A true and accurate copy of the CBP Summons, in the form it was received by Twitter, is attached as Exhibit A.

43. The CBP Summons states that Twitter is “required” to “produce[] for inspection” “[a]ll records regarding the [T]witter account @ALT_USCIS to include, User names, account login, phone numbers, mailing addresses, and I.P. addresses.” The purpose of this request appears to be, and the effect of Twitter’s complying with it likely would be, to enable or help to enable Defendants to pierce the anonymity of the person or persons who established and use the @ALT_USCIS account.

Homeland Security further asked that Twitter keep the very existence of the summons secret, and added that “failure to comply with this summons will render you liable to proceedings in a U.S. District Court to enforce compliance with this summons as well as other sanctions.” When Twitter replied stating that such a demand would require a court order, Special Agent Adam Hoffman of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said, in the companies words, that “no such court order would be obtained.” Strangely, the summons specified a deadline for disclosure of @ALT_USCIS’s user information that occurred the day before the summons was even faxed to Twitter. Regardless of the fact that many of these “alt accounts” appear to be individuals pretending to be members of a given federal agency, removing their anonymity simply because they are criticizing the president would be a devastating blow to Twitter’s ability to facilitate free speech.

Twitter is now asking the court to declare that “the CBP Summons is unlawful and unenforceable because it violates the First Amendment rights of both Twitter and its users by seeking to unmask the identity of one or more anonymous Twitter users voicing criticism of the government on matters of public concern.” Esha Bhandari of the ACLU told The Intercept that the group is personally defending the Twitter account owner, and will be filing “in court shortly to defend the user’s rights, focusing on the user’s First Amendment right to speak anonymously.” Although Bhandari would not comment on whether the account is actually run by a federal employee or employees, she noted that “on the face of the summons the government has offered no reason for seeking this information.”

Update: April 6th, 2017, 4:48 p.m.

This piece was updated with a comment from the ACLU.

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Terrorism Smear Campaign Against Democratic Contender for Congress Run By Saudi Lobbyist

6 April 2017 - 1:55pm

A Republican Super PAC has paid for a television ad attacking Democrat Jon Ossoff — one of the leading candidates in an April 18 special election to fill the House seat for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District — for producing video content for Al Jazeera.

The ad assails Al Jazeera as a “mouthpiece for terrorists,” and features imagery of deceased al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, with the clear insinuation that Ossof’s past work for Al Jazeera puts him in league with terrorists.

Ironically, the Super PAC, called the Congressional Leadership Fund, is chaired by former Minnesota Republican Sen. Norm Coleman — a registered lobbyist for Saudi Arabia, home of 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers and one of the countries most responsible for exporting extremism.

Al Jazeera was relentlessly demonized by the Bush administration for its critical reporting on the war in Iraq and its airing of al Qaeda tapes. Yet today it is recognized as a legitimate news outlet even by boosters of that war like Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain, who has fulsomely praised the network and sits down with it for interviews. Another Iraq war supporter, Hillary Clinton, complimented the channel during her tenure as secretary of state for producing “real news” often superior to American television journalism.

Coleman was hired by the Saudi Embassy in 2014 through the firm he works for, Hogan Lovells, and remains an active lobbyist today. He was part of the effort to kill the nuclear deal with Iran, and reportedly participated in the Saudi pushback against legislation passed by Congress that would empower family members of 9/11 victims to sue the kingdom and other nation states for damages related to terrorism.

CLF’s largest individual donors in 2016 were Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, the pro-Israel casino magnates. Sheldon Adelson shares Coleman’s anti-Iran animus, and in 2013 suggested the United States drop a nuclear bomb in the Iranian desert to show that “we mean business.”

This isn’t the first time Osama Bin Laden’s image has been cynically used in a Georgia political race. An infamous attack ad in 2002 portrayed Georgia Democratic Sen. Max Cleland as friendly with al Qaeda when he voted against Department of Homeland Security legislation because it did not protect union rights:

Top photo: Journalists work in the main newsroom area of the new Al Jazeera America television broadcast studio in New York in 2013.

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Jair Bolsonaro na Hebraica mostra o racha irreconciliável entre ser esquerda e sionista

6 April 2017 - 12:07pm

A ida do deputado federal Jair Bolsonaro (PSC/RJ) ao Clube a Hebraica do Rio de Janeiro gerou muita polêmica entre nós, judeus brasileiros. A perplexidade decorreu tanto pelas frases racistas que proferiu quanto pela iniciativa de tão relevante instituição da comunidade judaica convidar uma personalidade ligada a um setor de extrema direita que se aproxima do fascismo para discursar e ser amplamente aplaudida pelo seu público majoritariamente judaico. Inconformados, mais de 200 jovens judeus do Rio de Janeiro se juntaram na frente do clube para denunciar a visita do parlamentar em um movimento que assumiu a hashtag #NãoEmNossoNome.

Um dos mais marcantes detalhes do cenário do discurso do deputado é que, atrás dele, aparecia com grande destaque a bandeira de Israel. Não parece raro que aqueles que advogam pelo Estado Judaico aplaudam e elogiem como um  “mito” um candidato que propôs cortar fundos de ONGs, armar a população e acabar com demarcações de terras para populações indígenas e quilombolas, afinal todas estas práticas são comuns em Israel.

Um detalhe que chamou a minha atenção foi ver que os jovens que protestavam do lado de fora do clube, mesmo mobilizados por ideais de esquerda e fortemente contrários à presença de Bolsonaro nesse espaço judaico, carregavam a mesma bandeira de Israel presente no palco onde o deputado discursou.

Manifestantes em frente a Hebraica RJ contra presença de Bolsonaro

— Ana Concli (@AnaConcli) April 3, 2017

Eles cantavam “Judeu e Sionista não apoia fascista”. Para a maioria dos setores de esquerda, existe uma contradição entre “sionista” e “de esquerda”. Historicamente, esses se posicionam solidários à luta palestina e veem o movimento sionista como um dos últimos bastiões da colonização europeia no Oriente Médio.

Quando se conversa com sionistas de esquerda, é comum perceber que em quase todos os aspectos da política eles estão alinhados com a esquerda brasileira. Claro que há aqueles mais radicais e aqueles menos, da mesma forma como existe na esquerda. Porém, quando o assunto se torna a Questão Palestina, surge um grande abismo entre ambos os lados. Isso não é por acaso.

Desde pequenos, nós que somos criados dentro da comunidade judaica fomos expostos à bandeira de Israel e a um bombardeio de informações e apelos emocionais que buscam solidificar uma narrativa na qual Israel surge como a oportunidade para os judeus de atingirem a sua emancipação. Na educação sionista, seja de esquerda ou de direita, a bandeira de Israel é a bandeira da liberdade.

Obviamente que essa narrativa esconde o racismo que o sionismo trouxe enraizado de sua origem europeia e colonial. A partir do momento que Israel se define como democracia judaica exclui a possibilidade de outras minorias se sentirem parte do país.

A constante preocupação em manter uma maioria de judeus à força apenas comprova que, desde a sua origem, o Estado pretende servir a uma população específica. Para isso foi necessário expulsar forçosamente a população nativa palestina que lá habitava. A concretização da ideia de que seria apenas num espaço exclusivo, no qual judeus poderiam encontrar segurança, paz e liberdade, levou à criação de um regime excludente.

Independentemente se é de esquerda ou de direita, o que une a todos os sionistas é enxergar a sua judaicidade como uma característica inata e imutável. Algo com o qual se nasce, e que nunca alguém poderá apagar de sua essência. Nessa perspectiva, ser judeu é uma condição imposta e à qual os judeus têm que se acostumar ao longo de suas vidas. Por isso, apenas na segregação que haveria a  possibilidade de ser livre, já que a judaicidade se tornaria implícita e assumiria um lugar secundário.

Novas formas de judaísmo têm surgido pelo globo. São judeus que entendem sua identidade como algo socialmente construído e, portanto, forjado em conjunto e em relação com seus vizinhos. Jovens que não apenas não acreditam na segregação, mas, contrariamente a isso, só conseguem se ver como judeus a partir da troca de valores com outras culturas. Estes jovens, que não precisam de um Estado, acreditam que apenas na convivência plena num país laico e democrático – onde vivam lado a lado com os palestinos, gozando dos mesmos direitos – é que sua identidade judaica fará sentido. Ser judeu pode ser o que bem quisermos, e nossa relação com o mundo pode se construir a partir desta nova identidade.

Em tempos de Bolsonaros, Trumps, Le Pens e outros fascismos ganhando força, Israel torna-se cada vez mais uma referência para esses grupos de extrema direita.

No dia 26 de março, mais de mil jovens judeus saíram às ruas em Nova Iorque para protestar contra o encontro anual do AIPAC (lobby americano pró-Israel) e seu apoio ao governo Donald Trump. O grupo If Not Now, responsável pela mobilização, deixa claro na sua página que sua proposta é ser uma resistência judaica ao novo presidente norte-americano. Nessa manifestação não se viu nem uma única bandeira de Israel, pelo contrário, houve apelos em solidariedade ao povo palestino, ao movimento Black Live Matters e contra a violência policial dirigida a qualquer população.

Young Jews blocking the entrance to #AIPAC2017 to stand up for freedom and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians! #JewishResistance

— IfNotNow (@IfNotNowOrg) March 26, 2017

Em tempos de Bolsonaros, Trumps, Le Pens e outros fascismos ganhando força, Israel torna-se cada vez mais uma referência para esses grupos de extrema direita, fazendo cair sua máscara progressista. O projeto do Estado de Israel inspira muito a formulação do pensamento destes políticos. Um Estado onde haja uma maioria planejada, onde o voto se torne irrelevante já que os resultados de todas as eleições estão expressos no próprio nome do regime: Democracia Judaica. No caso de Bolsonaro, basta acessar os registros feitos de sua última viagem ao país feita em 2016 nos quais demonstra como o Brasil deveria se inspirar no caráter bélico e nos sistemas de vigilância e controle impostos aos palestinos.

O que deixa a nós judeus brasileiros de esquerda inconformados vai além do discurso de  Bolsonaro em frente a uma bandeira de Israel. O problema real é perceber que, progressivamente, os tradicionais apoiadores do Estado judaico se aproximam do emergente fascismo e vice-versa, deixando a esquerda sionista num limbo cada vez mais explícito entre a esquerda antissionista e a direita pró-Israel. O dilema que vivemos hoje se expressa de maneira clara na ida de Bolsonaro à Hebraica. Será que essa instituição judaica, que é declaradamente sionista, errou ao convidar o deputado para discursar? Ou será que isso era o esperado vindo de um grupo que apoia as políticas segregacionistas do Estado Israel? Talvez tenha chegado a hora de aposentar a bandeira azul e branca. Quem sabe, para atingir a verdadeira emancipação judaica, o que realmente precisamos é nos emancipar da narrativa sionista e de Israel.

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Líderes democratas estão errados: partidários de Trump são movidos mais por racismo do que por questões econômicas

6 April 2017 - 10:30am

Pelo jeito, não são só os republicanos que lançam mão de fatos alternativos. Desde a chocante vitória de Donald Trump, líderes do Partido Democrata têm feito um baita esforço para convencer todos nós (e a si mesmos) de que o triunfo dele teve menos a ver com racismo do que com angústia econômica – e isso apesar de quase todos os dados disponíveis sobre o assunto apontarem na direção contrária.

Veja, por exemplo, o que disse Bernie Sanders, o líder de fato da #Resistência, na sexta-feira da semana passada: “Algumas pessoas acham que quem votou em Trump é racista, sexista, homofóbico, execrável”, afirmou ele, ao lado da senadora progressista Elizabeth Warren durante uma manifestação em Boston. “Eu não concordo com isso”. Três dias após a eleição, em novembro do ano passado, o senador de Vermont escreveu no New York Times que os eleitores de Trump estavam “expressando uma ferrenha oposição ao sistema político e econômico que coloca os interesses dos ricos e das empresas acima dos deles”.

Warren concorda com o colega. “Milhões de pessoas em todo o país votaram [em Trump] não pela sua intolerância, mas apesar dela” – e o fizeram porque o sistema não “está mais funcionando para eles do ponto de vista econômico”, afirmou a senadora de Massachusetts à MSNBC no ano passado.

Sanders e Warren parecem estar empenhados em jogar a culpa mais nas disfunções do Partido Democrata e na economia debilitada do que no racismo dos eleitores republicanos. Essa estratégia alternativa, com direito a afagos aos que abraçaram um candidato abertamente xenófobo, não chega a ser surpreendente. Tudo bem, eu entendo. É difícil mesmo aceitar que milhões de compatriotas nutrem por outros um sentimento que cientistas políticos já identificaram como “ressentimento racial”. É compreensível a relutância em reconhecer que o preconceito (ou a tolerância ao preconceito) é uma coisa tão difundida na sociedade. E do ponto de vista eleitoral, por que líderes democratas iriam correr o risco de perder milhões de eleitores ao classificá-los de racistas?

Os senadores Bernie Sanders e Elizabeth Warren discursam em um evento do movimento “Our Revolution” (Nossa Revolução), no Orpheum Theatre, em Boston, Massachusetts (31/03/2017).

Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Os fatos, contudo, “são umas coisinhas teimosas”, como disse uma vez um predecessor bem mais ilustre do presidente Trump. Curiosamente, no mesmo dia em que Sanders saiu em defesa dos eleitores de Trump sem nenhum tipo de dado que comprovasse sua linha de argumentação, foi divulgada uma nova pesquisa do American National Election Studies (ANES), o centro de estudos eleitorais americanos.

Philip Klinkner, cientista político do Hamilton College e especialista em questões raciais, analisou em profundidade o material do ANES. Ele me disse que, “sem entrar no mérito do que é ou não boa política, os dados referentes a 2016 mostram claramente que a opinião de Trump sobre negros, imigrantes e muçulmanos foi um elemento-chave no apelo que teve junto aos eleitores”. Por exemplo, “Trump teve resultados piores do que Mitt Romney entre eleitores com ressentimento racial baixo ou moderado, mas foi muito melhor entre os que tinham níveis elevados de ressentimento”.

Os dados do ANES só confirmam o que uma miríade de estudos já tinha mostrado desde o início da campanha: a corrida eleitoral foi mesmo uma questão de cor. No verão passado, o próprio Klinkner esteve nas manchetes por dizer que o melhor jeito de identificar um eleitor de Trump era fazendo “uma simples pergunta: Barack Obama é muçulmano?” De acordo com ele, “se o interlocutor for branco e a resposta for sim, há 89% de chances de ele preferir Trump a Clinton”. E chamam isso de preocupação com a economia? Sério?

Outras pesquisas e enquetes concluíram que havia “uma forte correlação entre atitudes racistas e o apoio a Trump”.  C0nstataram ainda que partidários do candidato republicano estavam “mais propensos a descrever afro-americanos como ‘criminosos’, ‘estúpidos’, ‘preguiçosos’ e ‘violentos’’, e a acreditar que “pessoas de cor estão tirando empregos dos brancos”. Grande parte deles também considera que negros são “menos evoluídos do que brancos”. Desculpa, mas como é que um preconceito desse nível pode ser atribuído ao livre comércio e aos baixos salários?

Para Sanders, Warren e outros representantes da esquerda, o que importa é a economia, e a classe social é a chave de tudo. Mas dados empíricos não confirmam o que dizem. Sim, Trump ganhou a (grande) maioria dos votos de eleitores brancos sem nível superior, mas também levou uma parte enorme dos que fizeram faculdade. Ele teve mais votos entre mulheres e jovens brancos do que Clinton. Resumindo: ele conseguiu atrair eleitores brancos independentemente de idade, gênero, renda ou escolaridade. Em 2016, classe social não foi o X da questão. Em um artigo publicado recentemente no The Nation, os analistas Sean McElwee e Jason McDaniel apontam que “a renda foi decisiva para McCain e Romney, mas não para Trump”. E concluem: “a identidade racial deslocou a classe social do centro do debate político americano”.

Partidários de Trump participam de manifestação “Make America Great Again” (Tornemos a América grande novamente) em Salem, Oregon (25/03/17)

Photo: Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa USA/AP

A análise detalhada que a Gallup fez de uma extensa série de entrevistas com 125 mil americanos reforça o diagnóstico de McElwee e McDaniel. A pesquisa concluiu que partidários de Trump, longe de serem os “excluídos” ou derrotados da globalização, “têm uma renda relativamente alta e não estão mais expostos do que outros ao desemprego e à competição com o livre comércio e a imigração”. Para Jonathan Rothwell, economista-sênior da Gallup, a conclusão é só uma: “não podemos uma relação direta entre a popularidade de Trump e dificuldades econômicas”.

Seguinte, se você ainda acha que o que levou eleitores a escolher Trump foi uma angústia mais econômica do que racial, reflita sobre estas perguntas: por que a maioria dos Americanos que ganham menos de 50 mil dólares por ano votou em Clinton e não em Trump, de acordo com as pesquisas de boca-de-urna? E no chamado “Cinturão da Ferruagem” (formado pelos estados decisivos de Michigan, Wisconsin e Pensilvânia), por que a maior parte dos eleitores que citaram a economia como “a questão mais importante a ser resolvida” preferiu Hillary a Donald? Por que latinos e negros da classe trabalhadora não correram para Trump com o mesmo ímpeto dos operários brancos? Ou a insegurança econômica desse grupo não conta?

Só para ficar claro, ninguém aqui está dizendo que não havia descontentamentos econômicos legítimos por parte do pessoal “Trumpland” ou que a economia não teve nenhum impacto no processo eleitoral. Estamos afirmando apenas que nada disso foi determinante para a maioria dos eleitores de Trump. Bom, pelo menos é o que descobrimos quando nos damos ao trabalho de estudar esses eleitores. A raça trucou a economia.

Os defensores da narrativa econômica também têm na manga uma perguntinha capciosa: como é que o ressentimento racial pode ter sido tão primordial para partidários de Trump se tantos deles votaram em Barack Obama, inclusive no “Cinturão da Ferrugem”, em 2008 e 2012? “Não são racistas”, afirmou, entusiasmado, o cineasta Michael Moore em novembro do ano passado. “Eles votaram duas vezes num cara que tem Hussein no no nome”.

Klinkner não dá muita bola para esse argumento. Primeiramente, “a maioria não votou em Obama. Não houve muita mudança de voto de 2012 a 2016”. Em segundo lugar, “brancos da classe trabalhadora migraram para Trump não tanto por serem da classe trabalhadora, mas por serem brancos”. Klinkner observa que, em 2016, a situação de Clinton era bem diferente da de Obama. Ela enfrentou um candidato republicano que “jogou as cartas da raça e do nativismo de maneira aberta e explícita, coisa que John McCain e Mitt Romney não quiseram ou não conseguiram fazer”.

“Construa esse muro”: populares mostram cartazes antes de um comício de Donald Trump em Tampa, Florida (12/02/2016).

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Se os Democratas quiserem ter alguma chance de voltar à Casa Branca em 2020, eles precisam entender por que perderam em 2016 – e isso com base em fatos e números, por mais inconvenientes ou constrangedores que sejam. A ala do partido composta por Sanders, Warren e Moore acerta ao focar em comércio justo e igualdade de renda. Os apelos por melhores salários e regulamentação trabalhista estão corretos, tanto do ponto de vista moral quanto econômico. Mas nada disso é a bala de prata para resolver o problema do racismo. Como observou Michael Tesler, da Universidade da Califórnia, autor de “Post-Racial or Most-Racial? Race and Politics in the Obama Era” (ainda sem edição em português), “os dados sugerem que o ressentimento racial é o motor da angústia econômica, e não o contrário”.

Lembre-se: primeiro, você tem que identificar a doença, para só então procurar a cura. No caso dos partidários de Donald Trump, já temos o diagnóstico: não é a economia, é o racismo, estúpido.


The post Líderes democratas estão errados: partidários de Trump são movidos mais por racismo do que por questões econômicas appeared first on The Intercept.

Top Democrats Are Wrong: Trump Supporters Were More Motivated by Racism Than Economic Issues

6 April 2017 - 7:12am

IT ISN’T ONLY Republicans, it seems, who traffic in alternative facts. Since Donald Trump’s shock election victory, leading Democrats have worked hard to convince themselves, and the rest of us, that his triumph had less to do with racism and much more to do with economic anxiety — despite almost all of the available evidence suggesting otherwise.

Consider Bernie Sanders, de facto leader of the #Resistance. “Some people think that the people who voted for Trump are racists and sexists and homophobes and deplorable folks,” he said at a rally in Boston on Friday, alongside fellow progressive senator Elizabeth Warren. “I don’t agree.” Writing in the New York Times three days after the election last November, the senator from Vermont claimed Trump voters were “expressing their fierce opposition to an economic and political system that puts wealthy and corporate interests over their own”.

Warren agrees with him. “There were millions of people across this country who voted for [Trump] not because of his bigotry, but in spite of that bigotry” because the system is “not working for them economically,” the Massachusetts senator told MSNBC last year.

Both Sanders and Warren seem much keener to lay the blame at the door of the dysfunctional Democratic Party and an ailing economy than at the feet of racist Republican voters. Their deflection isn’t surprising. Nor is their coddling of those who happily embraced an openly xenophobic candidate. Look, I get it. It’s difficult to accept that millions of your fellow citizens harbor what political scientists have identified as “racial resentment.” The reluctance to acknowledge that bigotry, and tolerance of bigotry, is still so widespread in society is understandable. From an electoral perspective too, why would senior members of the Democratic leadership want to alienate millions of voters by dismissing them as racist bigots?

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren speak at the Our Revolution Massachusetts Rally at the Orpheum Theatre on March 31, 2017 in Boston.

Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Facts, however, as a rather more illustrious predecessor of President Trump once remarked, “are stubborn things.” Interestingly, on the very same day that Sanders offered his evidence-free defense of Trump voters in Boston, the latest data from the American National Election Studies (ANES) was released.

Philip Klinkner, a political scientist at Hamilton College and an expert on race relations, has pored over this ANES data and tells me that “whether it’s good politics to say so or not, the evidence from the 2016 election is very clear that attitudes about blacks, immigrants, and Muslims were a key component of Trump’s appeal.” For example, he says, “in 2016 Trump did worse than Mitt Romney among voters with low and moderate levels of racial resentment, but much better among those with high levels of resentment.”

The new ANES data only confirms what a plethora of studies have told us since the start of the presidential campaign: the race was about race. Klinkner himself grabbed headlines last summer when he revealed that the best way to identify a Trump supporter in the U.S. was to ask “just one simple question: is Barack Obama a Muslim?” Because, he said, “if they are white and the answer is yes, 89 percent of the time that person will have a higher opinion of Trump than Clinton.” This is economic anxiety? Really?

Other surveys and polls of Trump voters found “a strong relationship between anti-black attitudes and support for Trump”; Trump supporters being “more likely to describe African Americans as ‘criminal,’ ‘unintelligent,’ ‘lazy’ and ‘violent’”; more likely to believe “people of color are taking white jobs”; and a “majority” of them rating blacks “as less evolved than whites.” Sorry, but how can any of these prejudices be blamed on free trade or low wages?

For Sanders, Warren and others on the left, the economy is what matters most and class is everything. Yet the empirical evidence just isn’t there to support them. Yes Trump won a (big) majority of non-college-educated whites, but he also won a majority of college-educated whites, too. He won more young white voters than Clinton did and also a majority of white women; he managed to win white votes regardless of age, gender, income or education. Class wasn’t everything in 2016. In a recent essay in The Nation, analysts Sean McElwee and Jason McDaniel point out that “income predicted support for McCain and Romney, but not Trump.” Their conclusion? “Racial identity and attitudes have further displaced class as the central battleground of American politics.”


Trump supporters take part in a “Make America Great Again” rally in Salem, Ore., on March 25, 2017.

Photo: Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa USA/AP

Their view is backed by a detailed Gallup analysis of interviews with a whopping 125,000 Americans, which found that Trump supporters, far from being the “left behind” or the losers of globalization, “earn relatively high household incomes and are no less likely to be unemployed or exposed to competition through trade or immigration.” The “bottom line” for Gallup’s senior economist Jonathan Rothwell? “Trump’s popularity cannot be neatly linked to economic hardship.”

Look, if you still believe that Trump’s appeal was rooted in economic, and not racial, anxiety,  ask yourself the following questions: Why did a majority of Americans earning less than $50,000 a year vote for Clinton, not Trump, according to the exit polls? Why, in the key Rust Belt swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, did most voters who cited the economy as “the most important issue facing the country” opt for Hillary over the Donald? And why didn’t black or Latino working class voters flock to Trump with the same fervor as white working class voters? Or does their economic insecurity not count?

To be clear, no one is saying there weren’t any legitimate economic grievances in Trumpland, nor is anyone claiming that the economy played no role whatsoever. The point, however, is that it wasn’t the major motivating factor for most Trump voters — or, at least, that’s what we learn when we bother to study those voters. Race trumped economics.

Defenders of the economy narrative have a “gotcha” question of their own: how can racial resentment have motivated Trump supporters when so many of them voted for Barack Obama, across the Rust Belt, in 2008 and 2012? “They’re not racists,” filmmaker Michael Moore passionately argued last November.  “They twice voted for a man whose middle name is Hussein.”

Klinkner, though, gives short shrift to this argument. First, he tells me, “most of them didn’t vote for Obama. There weren’t many vote switchers between 2012 and 2016.” Second, “working class whites shifted to Trump less because they were working class than because they were white.” Klinkner points out that in 2016, Clinton, unlike Obama, faced a Republican candidate who “pushed the buttons of race and nativism in open and explicit ways that John McCain and Mitt Romney were unwilling or unable to do.”

People hold signs before a campaign rally for Donald Trump on Feb. 12, 2016 in Tampa, Fla.

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

If Democrats are going to have any chance of winning back the White House in 2020, they have to understand why they lost in 2016, and that understanding has to be based on facts and figures, however inconvenient or awkward. The Sanders/Warren/Moore wing of the party is right to focus on fair trade and income equality; the calls for higher wages and better regulation are morally and economically correct. What they are not, however, is some sort of silver bullet to solve the issue of racism. As the University of California’s Michael Tesler, author of “Post-Racial or Most-Racial? Race and Politics in the Obama Era,” has pointed out, the “evidence suggests that racial resentment is driving economic anxiety, not the other way around.”

Always remember: You have to identify the disease before you can begin work on a cure. In the case of support for Donald Trump, the results are in: It isn’t the economy. It’s the racism, stupid.

Top photo: Donald Trump greets supporters after a rally on Aug. 21, 2015 in Mobile, Ala.

The post Top Democrats Are Wrong: Trump Supporters Were More Motivated by Racism Than Economic Issues appeared first on The Intercept.

Nem hashtags, nem desculpas: assédio sexual não é erro, é crime

6 April 2017 - 6:00am

José Mayer diz ter errado. Já publicou carta em rede social em que se desculpou pelo que chamou de erro e pelo que o seu colega Caio Blat classificou como “brincadeira fora de tom”. “A atitude correta é pedir desculpas. Mas isso só não basta. É preciso um reconhecimento público que faço agora”, escreveu o global. Se tem uma coisa certa na sentença de Mayer é a parte em que diz que “só isso não basta”. Assédio sexual e injúria são crimes.

Mayer não estava andando pelo set de gravação e, sem querer, esbarrou em uma colega de trabalho. O relato da figurinista Su Tonani, publicado no blog Agora é que são elas, da Folha de S.Paulo, é claro e direto: “ele colocou a mão na minha buceta e ainda disse que esse era seu desejo antigo”.

A atriz Camila Pitanga, uma das organizadoras da campanha realizada entre trabalhadoras da Rede Globo em apoio a Su Tonani, postou foto das colegas que aderiram ao movimento.

Foto: Reprodução Instagram

Entre os relatos de Tonani, encontra-se também uma cena em que o ator a chama de “vaca” em um set de gravações cheio de gente. Dependendo das provas, testemunhas e estratégia adotadas, segundo advogados consultados por The Intercept Brasil, Mayer pode ser acusado de crime contra a honra [injúria] e assédio sexual, crime tipificado na Lei 10224 e previsto no artigo 216 A do Código Penal.

Procurada pela reportagem, Tonani decidiu não falar por enquanto. Mas informa que está contatando uma advogada e desenhando sua estratégia legal.


Terceirização atrapalha combate ao assédio no trabalho

Pedir que o ator responda na justiça não se trata de linchamento, como a também global Leticia Sabatella pesou. Na realidade, caso a denúncia chegue a um tribunal, pode servir de exemplo para que outros casos de assédio sexual, um crime notadamente subnotificado, venham à tona.

É considerado crime de assédio sexual quando, dentro do ambiente profissional, alguém em posição hierárquica superior à vítima usa de ameaças para tentar ter relações sexuais. “A interpretação do que é considerado assédio, no entanto, cabe ao juiz. Algumas correntes consideram assédio mesmo casos em que as duas partes são de mesmo cargo ou peso dentro da empresa”, explica Angela Donaggio, do grupo de Pesquisa em Direito e Gênero da FGV Direito SP.

De acordo com a Organização Internacional do Trabalho, 52% das mulheres economicamente ativas já sofreram assédio sexual. “Um problema ainda maior é que muitas mulheres não sabem que estão, de fato, passando por assédio sexual e/ou que têm direitos a recursos dentro do ambiente de trabalho ou em tribunais”, desenvolve a organização em sua recente publicação “Violência e assédio contra homens e mulheres no mundo do trabalho”.

A atriz Sophie Charlote publicou foto em apoio à campanha #ChegaDeAssédio em sua conta do Instagram.

Foto: Reprodução Instagram

A advogada Adriana Calvo, professora do curso de pós-graduação de Direito do Trabalho da PUC/PR, atua especificamente em casos de assédio no ambiente de trabalho. Ela explica que “está cada vez mais difícil” denunciar casos do gênero: “Chegamos ao limite de ter juízes assediadores, denunciados por assédio pelas suas colegas, que julgam esses casos como improcedentes”. Calvo diz que a decisão da Globo de afastar temporariamente o ator até que as provas e testemunhas sejam analisadas é um padrão neste tipo de ação.

Muitos são pessoas jurídicas, o que atrapalha o desenvolvimento da denúncia.

No entanto, ela explica que também é “muito comum” que as vítimas, depois de fazerem denúncia, sejam demitidas e tenham dificuldade em se recolocar no mercado de trabalho. Um medo explicitado na denúncia de Tonani: “Será que vão me contratar outra vez?”, escreveu.

Ainda segundo Calvo, a própria legislação está a favor dos assediadores e, caso seja terceirizada, a figurinista terá mais dificuldades em sua defesa:

“Será preciso ver, primeiro, a situação trabalhista dos dois, se têm carteira assinada. Se não tiverem, terá de se comprovar o vínculo empregatício primeiro, ou tratar na esfera penal. Muitos são pessoas jurídicas, o que atrapalha o desenvolvimento da denúncia. Depois, será questionado se ele pode ameaçar o emprego dela. No Brasil, só é considerado crime o assédio por meio de ameaça de perda da vaga, não sendo crime a intimidação feita por pessoas que não têm ascendência em relação ao cargo”.

A apresentadora Cissa Guimarães aderiu à campanha #chegadeassedio e publicou foto em rede social.

Foto: Reprodução Instagram

Caso pode se tornar exemplo

Outra possível estratégia para a defesa, caso não seja possível trabalhar dentro da esfera do direito trabalhista, é agir pelo direito penal. “Como ele tocou nela, na genitália, pode ser entendido como Contravenção Penal. Podendo se encaixar no artigo 61 ou no artigo 65 da Lei 3.688, de 1941”, explica o advogado Rogério Cury, professor da pós-graduação em Direito Penal da PUC/SP.

[photo align='center' width='1000' credit='']

Cury explica que, apesar de a pena pela contravenção ser “mais branda” — de multa ou prisão simples — levar à justiça um caso como esse seria exemplar para que se combata o machismo: “Em regra, pessoas acusadas dessas ofensas têm, ou já tiveram antes, comportamento desse gênero de forma naturalizada”.

Homens abusivos como ícones culturais

Na mesma semana, outros dois casos de celebridades masculinas acusadas de oprimir mulheres chamaram a atenção. O cantor sertanejo Victor Chaves foi indiciado pela Polícia Civil de Minas Gerais, acusado de agredir sua mulher, Poliana Bagatini Chaves, que está grávida. E, no programa Big Brother Brasil, o participante Marcos pediu desculpas por seu comportamento em relação à colega Emilly, com quem tem uma relação e protagonizou cenas abusivas, gritando com a moça e colocando o dedo em sua cara.

É por homens com perfil abusivo e agressivo serem ícones culturais que se constrói a sensação de impunidade entre os algozes anônimos. A advogada Donaggio, da FGV, afirma que este tipo de ícone cultural “é muito prejudicial à sociedade brasileira” e que as pressões feitas sobre as vítimas após as denúncias — de perder um emprego ou a guarda dos filhos — “é uma chantagem que aborda seus direitos como mãe ou como profissional”:

“Como a globo percebeu que precisava mudar sua postura em relação ao José Mayer, talvez seja o caso de perceber que precisa mudar de postura também em relação ao BBB, para mostrar que não está de acordo. Esse é claramente um caso de violência doméstica, com violência psicológica no âmbito dos tipos penais da Lei Maria da Penha. O participante humilha a menina e as pessoas acham que isso é o normal, que essa é a forma de se tratar uma mulher. Os homens identificam esse “papel” como o deles, como algo naturalizado. Porque não é uma chacota desse machão que é televisionado, não é mostrado como algo que tem de ser combatido e reprovável, aparece como algo a ser louvável.”

José Mayer tem o histórico de interpretar homens brutos e machistas, o que chegou a usar inicialmente como desculpa: “As palavras e atitudes que me atribuíram são próprias do machismo e da misoginia do personagem Tião Bezerra… Não são minhas!”.

Para além deste personagem, ele protagonizou cenas de relacionamentos abusivos e violentos. Apenas a título de exemplo, na novela “Laços de Família” ele fez uma cena em que espancava a personagem de Deborah Secco. Mas, para alguns setores da imprensa, ele é “o maior pegador” e um exemplo. Como relatado na matéria publicada em 2009 na revista VIP, “Aprenda a pegar mulher com o Zé Mayer”.

Oito anos depois, continua sendo um exemplo. Mas do que não fazer.

The post Nem hashtags, nem desculpas: assédio sexual não é erro, é crime appeared first on The Intercept.

Environmental Groups Sue EPA to Force Ban of Pesticide Linked to Autism

5 April 2017 - 6:00pm

Three environmental groups asked a federal appeals court on Wednesday to order the EPA to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos. EarthJustice, which is representing the Pesticide Action Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council, was responding to the EPA’s recent announcement that it would not be following through on its own decision to ban the pesticide, which has been repeatedly found to damage children’s developing brains.

Scientists have spent years documenting that exposure to chlorpyrifos increases children’s chances of having long-term, developmental problems, including attention, memory and intelligence deficits, tremors, and autism. After carefully weighing that evidence — as well as critiques of it from Dow Chemical, which patented and still sells most of the pesticide — the EPA decided to move ahead with a ban on chlorpyrifos in 2015.

On November 10, the agency took what was supposed to be a final step in of banning the pesticide: issuing a revised assessment of the chemical’s effects on human health, which set a new exposure limit for the pesticide. According to the report, many children are already being exposed to high levels of chlorpyrifos and some children between ages one and two are exposed to levels that are more than 14,000 percent above that limit. Only a 60-day public comment period was necessary before the pesticide would be removed from use.

But the deadline the federal court gave EPA to finalize its decision — March 31 — pushed the finalization of the decision into Trump’s presidency. Many have since been watching chlorpyrifos as a test for whether the new administration would tackle even the clearest, most studied health threats. The pesticide presented a case in which scientific questions have already been asked and answered and in which children are being directly harmed. Safe drinking water is at stake, and that’s something both Trump and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt have insisted they care about and want to protect. And because the president seems to be particularly concerned about autism, some had hoped he would not stand in the way of a move that would likely have reduced the incidence of autism cases.

Dow was clearly opposed to the ban — and had hired a lobbyist to try to avert it and a science-for-hire company to criticize the science on which it was based. In his few months in office, Trump has not just proven to be not just opposed to government regulation, but also very close to Dow Chemical, which contributed $1 million to his inaugural committee. Trump named Dow CEO Andrew Liveris to head his manufacturing council and the president’s team sends the businessman emails “if not every day, then every other day,” as Liveris told the Washington Post.

When Scott Pruitt announced his decision to reverse the agency’s decision to ban chlorpyrifos on March 29, he talked about businesses rather than children. “We need to provide regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos,” Pruitt said, according to an EPA press release. The release also included a statement from Sheryl Kunickis, director of the Office of Pest Management Policy at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who said the decision “frees American farmers from significant trade disruptions that could have been caused by an unnecessary, unilateral revocation of chlorpyrifos tolerances in the United States.” Though the agency has already extensively reviewed the science of chlorpyrifos over the past decade, the EPA’s decision called for further study.

Research into effects of chlorpyrifos pesticides at the University of Pittsburgh aquatic research lab in Pittsburgh, Pa. in 2013.

Photo: Jasmine Goldband/Tribune Review/AP

To Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the failure to ban chlorpyrifos is only the most egregious instance in an emerging pattern of failing to take action on other dangerous pesticides, including the weed killer, glyphosate. Four members wrote to the committee’s chair, Rep. Greg Walden, asking him to investigate Pruitt’s reversal on chlorpyrifos, which they said “increases our concern that the Trump Administration is failing to properly implement the Food Quality Protection Act.” Noting that that the industry group CropLife America intervened in the EPA process to defend glyphosate, the Democratic members asked for a hearing that would ask if Dow raised “similar concerns or request changes to the Science Advisory Panel for chlorpyrifos?”

The lawyers who petitioned the court for action today have already seen industry pressure on chlorpyrifos slow efforts to regulate it. The environmental groups have been asking EPA to ban the pesticide since at least 2000, and first sued the agency over chlorpyrifos back in 2007. Since then, the Dow presence at EPA has increased, according to Patti Goldman, an EarthJustice attorney who has been working to protect the public from the risks of chlorpyrifos for more than 20 years.

Yet the environmental groups think they may still be able to get chlorpyrifos banned – in part because Pruitt’s decision was so clearly at odds with years of research that shows the dangers of chlorpyrifos. “It’s outrageous that the new EPA administrator would reject the scientific findings of its own agency and defy the law and court orders to keep this nasty pesticide on the market,” says Goldman, who notes that the EPA is required to make sure pesticides meet safety standards.

Though the appeals court had ordered the EPA to finalize its decision back in 2015, “EPA’s response to the petition is no response at all and certainly not what this Court ordered EPA to do,” according to Wednesday’s filing. And that, according to Goldman, won’t sit well with the judges. “This is defying the court and they don’t like that.”

Top photo: President Donald Trump gives the pen he used to sign an executive order to Dow Chemical President, Chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris, as other business leaders applaud in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Feb. 24, 2017.

The post Environmental Groups Sue EPA to Force Ban of Pesticide Linked to Autism appeared first on The Intercept.