The Intercept

“History” Insists on Covering Up the Intellectual Production of Black Women, Even in the 21st Century

12 March 2017 - 12:26pm

I no longer remember how I found Janaína Damaceno Gomes’s thesis, “The Secrets of Virgínia: A Study of Racial Attitudes in São Paulo (1945-1955).” Janaína is a professor at the Baixada Fluminense Teacher’s College in Rio de Janeiro, with a Ph.D. in social anthropology from the University of São Paulo and a master’s in education and bachelor’s in philosophy from Unicamp. Virgínia was a teacher, a health educator, a psychiatric attendant, a psychologist, a sociologist, and a psychoanalyst. She challenged not only the place of women in the first half of last century — especially black women — but also the prevailing thought on subjects like education and race relations.

Portrait of Virgínia Leone Bicudo as a young woman.

Photo courtesy of Janaína Damaceno Gomes

Virgínia’s work was almost kept a secret, as Janaína tells us, “due to the looting of archives and mold literally growing on the author’s thesis, because of unpublished interviews, references that were not made, and texts that were left out of compendiums, [and] because of the choice of a bibliographic cannon that is perpetuated and rarely reviewed.” Any similarity to some current situations is no mere coincidence.

Virgínia Leone Bicudo was born in São Paulo in 1910, the daughter of Giovanna Leona, an Italian immigrant, and Theofilo Júlio Bicudo. Giovanna worked as a maid in the home of Col. Bento Bicudo, in Campinas, where she met the young Theofilo, born of the “free womb” of the slave Virgínia Julio. Taken under the colonel’s wing, Theofilo was very ambitious for a young black man. His dream was to study medicine at the Medical University of São Paulo, however he was denied entry by a professor who believed that the university was not a place for black people. The couple had six children and decided to invest in their education.

Virgínia liked to study and followed her parent’s advice to work very hard “to avoid being hurt and defeated by the expectation of rejection … due to skin color.” “Look, my father’s view was that a person’s value is derived from their education, their preparation, their studies. That was my father. So he put all of us in school,” she said in an interview with Marcos Maio in 1995. But soon she would see that this was not true, as she was chased by schoolmates yelling “blacky, blacky, blacky.”

In 1930, Virgínia Leone graduated from the Normal School, and in 1932, after completing a course in public health education, she started to work as a health educator and then as a psychiatric attendant, rising to the level of supervisor in the Infant Oriented Clinic in São Paulo. During this time, she often traveled around the city, learning about the lives of children who were treated as “problematic” by the “hygienization” campaigns and the eugenic ideas that dominated Brazilian public school policy at that time. Maybe she saw herself in them.

In 1936, she was the only woman to register for the political and social sciences track at the newly founded Free School of Sociology and Politics, which she graduated from in 1938. “I chose the school of sociology because I was suffering, I had pain and I wanted to know what was causing me so much suffering. And I understood that they were external conditions. So I thought that sociology would bring clarity to the causes of my suffering.”

During the program, Virgínia discovered new ideas that would take her career on a new course: “For the first time in my life, I heard about Freud, about sublimation and internal factors. So I said, well, it is not sociology that I need to study, what I need to study is psychoanalysis and Freud.”

Rather than having a “whitening” effect, social ascension creates consciousness of skin color.

Her interest in psychoanalysis would lead her to become the first women to see an analyst in Latin America, in 1937. It’s interesting to think that a black woman, seeking to understand the pain caused by racism, was the first person to lie on the divan of Dr. Adelheid Koch, a German Jewish woman who was invited to come to Brazil by the newly founded Brazilian Society of Psychoanalysis and who was also fleeing Nazism.

To continue her studies, Virgínia Leone Bicudo enrolled in the first class of social science post-graduates in Brazil. Under the guidance of Donald Pierson, in 1945, she became the first person to defend a thesis about race relations in Brazil: “A study of racial attitudes of blacks and mulattos in São Paulo.” In the same year, she was hired as a professor at the School of Hygiene and Public Health at the University of São Paulo. In 1949, she was invited to join a UNESCO research project about race relations, coordinated by Roger Bastide and Florestan Fernandes. Her work, which would be excluded from the final publication in 1957, was the only research to conclude that Brazil was not the racial democracy that everyone wished it were, going against the conclusions of her adviser, Donald Pierson. According to him, prejudice existed in Brazil, but it was based more on class than race.

By studying black and mixed people who had managed to ascend São Paulo’s social ladder, Virgínia concluded that rather than having a “whitening” effect, social ascension creates consciousness of skin color, because even with the financial conditions to frequent certain places, such as clubs and hotels, black people who could afford to enter were rejected due to the color of their skin.

As she deepened her studies in psychoanalysis, Virgínia Leone Bicudo became the first psychoanalyst in Brazil who was not a medical doctor and was quickly accused of being a charlatan. Indignant with the treatment she received, she left for London in 1955, where she made contact and studied with the most important analysts of her time, such as Melanie Klein, Ernest Jones, Winnicott, Bion, and Anna Freud. From London, in order to publicize psychoanalysis, Virgínia transmitted lectures to Brazil via the BBC.

When she returned to Brazil in 1959, she was sufficiently renowned to continue her clinical activities and attended to such São Paulo elites as the current senator Eduardo Suplicy. She was one of the founders of the Institute of Psychoanalysis of the Brasília Society of Psychoanalysis. She had one of Excelsior Radio’s most popular programs, “Our Mental World,” in which she commented on and acted out cases that were mailed in to her. She wrote a book and a column in the Folha da Manhã newspaper by the same name. Virgínia became wealthy as a psychoanalyst and was one of the first women to drive her own car on the roads of São Paulo in the 1950s. She acquired property around the city too. But, according to Janaína Damaceno, she died a black death, in 2003 at the age of 93: forgotten, mad, and abandoned in an institution for the mentally ill.

Virgínia’s thesis was only recovered and published in 2010, exactly 100 years after her birth. Virgínia was right about racism when she wrote the thesis and was silenced by colleagues who did not agree with her. Janaína Damaceno tells us that she found the thesis, the first about the issue of race in Brazil, damp and moldy in the archives of the Department of Sociology and Politics at the University of São Paulo.

This process of erasing the intellectual production of black women continues, as illustrated by a case that Janaína narrates in her thesis:

While undertaking my doctorate, I applied for a scholarship for a sandwich year from an American foundation. During my interview, one of the judges, a social scientist, questioned me on the veracity of my premise that Brazilians had been studying and practicing psychoanalysis in Brazil as early as the 1940s. He said that this was probably a crass error in my research, given that the Argentines had a tradition of psychoanalysis before we did, a tradition that was very obvious in the south of Brazil where he was from. He also contested the existence of Virginía Bicudo as a black woman, because he had worked with Florestan Fernandes and knew the subject well. I did not receive the scholarship.

Throughout time, this is exactly what we keep seeing: Our knowledge and work are contested by people who do not understand them. Racism and machismo work together to keep us in the position of mere objects of study. This, we learned, is exactly what the sociologist Luiz Aguiar Costa Pinto wanted after he was accused of distortion of facts and plagiarism by Abdias do Nascimento and Alberto Guerreiro Ramos. Author of the book “The Black Man in Rio de Janeiro,” Costa Pinto did not like being questioned by his “objects of study.” He considered the mere possibility a threat to the social sciences. As Elisa Larkin Nascimento notes in her book “The Sorcery of Color: Identity, Race and Gender in Brazil”:

Perhaps the most eloquent expression of the nature of his scientific approach and his relationship with the black movement is Costa Pinto’s own response, published in an important Rio de Janeiro daily: “I doubt that any biologist after studying, say, a microbe, has seen this microbe get offended and come out in public to write nonsense about the study in which it participated as laboratory material.”

To those who challenged and continue challenging the place of “laboratory material,” my sincere thanks. In honor of all the black women who fight for respect, space, and recognition, I offer a special gratitude to Madam Virgínia Leone Bicudo and Dr. Janaína Damaceno Gomes. They represent us!

The post “History” Insists on Covering Up the Intellectual Production of Black Women, Even in the 21st Century appeared first on The Intercept.

Refugees Fleeing Violence in Central America Hope for Asylum in Mexico

12 March 2017 - 9:09am

Women and children from Central America began arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border in unprecedented numbers during the summer of 2014. Referring to the “urgent humanitarian situation,” President Barack Obama called on Congress to build new detention centers, hire new immigration judges, and increase border surveillance as tens of thousands of unaccompanied children were detained by U.S. immigration officials. At the same time, the United States backed a Mexican government initiative to increase patrols, detentions, and deportations along Mexico’s southern border. The idea was to stop Central Americans from getting into Mexico, let alone the United States.

But the gang violence, kidnappings, and extortion sending families fleeing from the “Northern Triangle” comprising El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala hasn’t stopped. The area has the highest murder rate in the world outside a war zone, and people are still coming to Mexico. Only now, as photographer Alice Proujansky documents, they are taking new routes and facing new dangers.

“Entire families arrive with little more than backpacks,” Proujansky said. “Women and children are particularly vulnerable: increased enforcement on freight trains has driven migrants to ride buses and walk on isolated routes where they face robbery, assault, and sexual violence.”

Proujansky spent time with families who were hoping to receive asylum from Mexico. There are no reliable figures on how many people cross the border with Guatemala each year, which is still porous despite increased patrols. But between 2014 and the summer of 2016, Mexico detained 425,000 migrants, according to an analysis of government statistics by the Washington Office on Latin America, or WOLA, a human rights advocacy group. In that same time, only 2,900 people received asylum. Last year, there were some 8,700 applicants, of whom 2,800 have so far received protection. (In 2014, Mexico’s refugee agency had just 15 people to screen thousands of applications.)

 

A girl stands by tracks for “La Bestia.” “The Beast” was once a crowded and deadly route north. Now, with authorities cracking down, “it has become harder to ride on the train,” said Maureen Meyer, an expert with the Washington Office on Latin America, or WOLA. “It pushed a lot of migrants into more remote parts of southern Mexico, walking into more dangerous areas, and paying smugglers to get farther north.”

Alice Proujansky

The wait for asylum is hard. Without documents, and unable to move around while they wait for their applications to process, many of the women can’t work. Their children can’t go to school. They are largely dependent on privately run shelters for safety and food. Many of them are traumatized. And in the border cities, gangs have eyes on the street.

“The families I met were afraid of being seen,” said Proujansky. “They knew these networks existed and it would be really easy to find them and for somebody to come after them.”

Advocacy groups say that U.S. support for Central American refugees has been inadequate. Programs established in 2014 to facilitate asylum claims from children have been roundly criticized for not working  quickly enough to get kids out of danger. And support to Mexico has largely focused on immigration enforcement, not humanitarian assistance.

With the Trump administration on frosty terms with Mexico, it’s unclear what will happen to U.S. support for the southern border initiative, but Maureen Meyer, an expert with WOLA, said she “would expect the focus to be on controlling the flow of goods and people and not on how to strengthen than country’s institutions so that they are protecting the rights of people trying to migrate to Mexico.”

Proujansky, whose work has long focused on families, said that for the women she interviewed the motivation for leaving was immediate and dire: “The women didn’t look into where they were going, they didn’t make a big plan,” she said. “They described leaving as though they were going out for a walk, because they didn’t want anyone to know. They just had to leave.”

“It was just clear to me that any attempt to dissuade people from trying to get to Mexico wasn’t going to work. Because what they were facing was people saying that they are going to kill their children. The question was, ‘what would you do to keep your children alive?’ And the answer was, ‘anything.’”

Alice Proujansky

People illegally cross the Suchiate River that marks the Mexico-Guatemala border within sight of an official crossing. There is little immigration enforcement here, and people cross openly to migrate and to buy and sell goods.

Alice Proujansky

Backpacks hold migrants’ possessions at a shelter in Chahuites, Oaxaca.

Alice Proujansky

A seven-year-old boy watches television at a shelter for families seeking asylum in Tapachula, Chiapas. The television has only two channels, there are few toys at the shelter, and he has not attended school for six months. His family fled El Salvador after gang members threatened to kill his eldest brother for witnessing another teenager’s murder.

Alice Proujansky

A Honduran mother looks out from a shelter for families seeking asylum in Tapachula, Chiapas. Gang members killed her husband, who was a police officer, six years ago. The family fled after the gang demanded half of the money she earned selling food on the street, then insisted that her 13-year-old son join the gang, or that his 15-year-old sister become a girlfriend of a member.

Alice Proujansky

Border Police on patrol. The unit’s stated aim is to prevent crimes against migrants, but many are skeptical of what effect they are having. “Immigration officials, police, and local authorities have also been implicated in abuse, and shelters complain about excessive use of force,” said Meyer, of WOLA. “But Mexico doesn’t yet have the capacity to actually investigate and prosecute crimes against migrants.”

Alice Proujansky

People illegally cross the Suchiate River that marks the Mexico-Guatemala border below the bridge that serves as the official crossing.

Alice Proujansky

A statue of Jesus in front of a trail used by migrants by the side of a highway. Taking remote routes to evade Mexican border checkpoints leaves migrants vulnerable to robbery, assault, and sexual violence by local criminals.

Alice Proujansky

A woman adjusts decorations in the storefront inside her home where she sells food to migrants near the tracks for “La Bestia,” a freight train used by migrants. Now she still sees some traffic, but most people travel on foot.

Alice Proujansky

A 13-year-old Honduran boy reclines in a sink for washing clothes at the shelter. “These kids were at ages where they need to be in school, and they were bored out of their mind in this tiny little refugee shelter,” Projouansky said. “They’d made a slingshot out of a bottle, when their mom had money to put minutes on their phones they could text their friends, but it was a such a tragic waste of young people. That’s another dark side of this story.”

Alice Proujansky

People who have just illegally crossed the Suchiate River, which marks the border with Guatemala, stand below the official port of entry in Talismán, Mexico.

The post Refugees Fleeing Violence in Central America Hope for Asylum in Mexico appeared first on The Intercept.

MBL e Vem Pra Rua convocam população para mais uma farsa

12 March 2017 - 8:23am

Depois de passarem meses hibernando durante o governo não-eleito de Michel Temer, os grupos que ajudaram a levá-lo ao poder anunciaram que voltarão às ruas. As manifestações em todo o Brasil estão marcadas para dia 26/03 com uma pauta difusa. O Vem Pra Rua, grupo liderado pelo empresário Rogério Chequer, diz que fará uma defesa da Lava Jato. Ele jura que o movimento é suprapartidário, mas já publicou vídeo ao lado de FHC pedindo voto para Aécio – um ultra delatado na operação.

O MBL também sairá em defesa da Lava Jato, mas também por outras bandeiras: fim do Estatuto do Desarmamento, fim do Foro Privilegiado, contra o fim da Polícia Militar, Reformas Trabalhista e Previdenciária e fim das mamatas dos políticos e do judiciário

Ambos os grupos já adiantaram que irão poupar Michel Temer e o governo. Chequer chegou a dizer que “as manifestações não serão para detonar o governo Temer, mas contra a corrupção, a impunidade e em defesa da renovação da política velha”.

Achei sensacional esse protesto a favor. Defender a Lava Jato poupando o governo Temer é como como querer proteger Davi dando tapinha nas costas de Golias. É como denunciar o golpe e a corrupção durante o dia, mas beijar a mão de Aécio Neves em festinha de aniversário à noite. Não faz sentido.

O grupo político que sustenta o governo vem trabalhando sistematicamente para boicotar a Lava Jato. Dentre tantas medidas para estancar a sangria e jogar areia nos olhos da Polícia Federal, destaco as duas tentativas mais importantes que tiveram apoio direto de Temer:

Projeto de Leniência:  no fim do ano passado, André Moura (PSC), homem ligado a Cunha e líder do governo na Câmara à época, foi orientado por Temer para mobilizar a base e aprovar com urgência o projeto  que, na prática, representaria o fim da Lava Jato, segundo os procuradores da operação.

Anistia ao caixa 2: depois de tentar por duas vezes anistiar o caixa 2 no ano passado, a turma da pesada de Temer voltou com tudo essa semana. Segundo apuração da Folha, o presidente da Câmara, Rodrigo Maia (DEM-RJ), e o presidente do Senado, Eunício Oliveira (PMDB-CE), ambos afinadíssimos com Temer, têm se reunido com líderes dos partidos “para discutir a melhor maneira de aprovar não só a anistia ao caixa dois, mas também um pacote mais amplo, incluindo anistia a doações oficiais nos casos em que o dinheiro for considerado de fonte ilícita”.

Portanto, que história é essa de defender a Lava Jato poupando quem está usando e abusando da máquina pública para driblar a operação? Que luta contra a corrupção é essa que poupa os corruptos? Não é um pensamento que tenha sentido lógico, mais parece uma crença, uma fé. É como aquele papo de odiar o pecado, mas amar o pecador.

Sem muito esforço é possível entender a passada de pano do MBL para o pecador, já que suas ligações com Temer e PMDB não são de hoje. Não é possível mais manter o apartidarismo de fachada.

Primeiro, o PMDB ajudou a financiar as manifestações do grupo a favor do impeachment. Depois, um dos principais líderes do MBL entrou para o DEM apadrinhado pelo governista Pauderney (DEM-AM), que já foi condenado por desvios milionários em seu estado e é acusado de receber R$250 mil de empresa investigada na Lava Jato. Mais tarde, Michel Temer pediu ajuda ao movimento para “tornar as reformas mais palatáveis”. Na reunião que o fundador do grupo, Renan Santos (réu em, pelo menos, 16 ações cíveis e mais 45 processos trabalhistas), teve com Moreira Franco ( investigado na Lava Jato) ficou combinado que o MBL ajudaria na comunicação do governo para vender as reformas previdenciária e trabalhista. E eles estão seguindo à risca o pedido do comandante. Vão para as ruas defender essas propostas do governo, como já estão fazendo sistematicamente em suas redes sociais.

Essa ação em defesa da Lava Jato serve apenas para prestar contas para o seu rebanho e tentar manter, pelo menos nas aparências, coerência com o discurso histórico destes grupos. Não se luta contra a corrupção no Brasil hoje, de fato, sem denunciar e apontar o dedo na cara da cúpula governista que trabalha diuturnamente para se safar driblando as investigações. Não há mais aquela intolerância contra a corrupção que havia durante o governo Dilma. Corruptos agora serão poupados para que avancem as reformas rejeitadas pela população nas urnas. É disso que se trata a manifestação convocada para o dia 26. Estamos diante de uma farsa.

Os movimentos não são independentes, não são apartidários e não lutam contra a corrupção. Viraram linhas auxiliares de Temer e prestam serviço de assessoria de comunicação ao governo. Tanto nas redes, quantos nas ruas, esses grupos dizem defender a Lava Jato enquanto trabalham e traçam estratégias junto de políticos envolvidos até o pescoço na operação.

Na última quinta-feira, incomodado por perder espaço, Renan Calheiros disse que Eduardo Cunha comanda o governo de dentro da cadeia. Os fatos comprovam que o senador não está exagerando, conforme explica o roteiro da chantagem descrito pelo Poder 360. Ou seja, temos um senador da República, aliado do presidente, afirmando que um criminoso comanda o governo Temer de dentro da prisão na base da chantagem. Será que isso fará MBL e Vem Pra Rua pedirem o impeachment do seu aliado político? Ou esse modus operandi à la PCC, denunciado por um integrante do próprio governo, não é tão grave quanto as pedaladas fiscais?

Não sabemos ainda se o Pato Inflável da FIESP estará presente na manifestação. É que o seu patrono Paulo Skaf (PMDB) é acusado na Lava Jato por receber propina da Odebrecht, e seus aliados já estão trabalhando para trazer a CPMF de volta. O Pato, que foi às ruas para lutar contra a corrupção e o aumento de impostos, deve estar constrangido. Ao que tudo indica, dali só podemos esperar coerência e vergonha na cara de um boneco inflável.

The post MBL e Vem Pra Rua convocam população para mais uma farsa appeared first on The Intercept.

Rogue Twitter Accounts Fight to Preserve the Voice of Government Science

11 March 2017 - 9:19am

In early November, shortly after Donald Trump was elected president, a career scientist working for the federal Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management began having muted conversations with colleagues about what the new presidential administration meant for dedicated agency staffers.

The Bureau of Land Management is not as high-profile a target as the Environmental Protection Agency, but the agency’s effectiveness is also deeply threatened by the Trump administration’s suspicion of science. BLM performs a precarious balancing act, managing the conflicting goals of conservation and profit extraction on millions of acres of public lands. It makes decisions on behalf of the American public about which acres of sagebrush, pine forest, and rocky mountain should be preserved and which should be harvested for fossil fuels, timber, and minerals. “There’s been a great deal of influence historically from the industry, especially mining. There are managers with the agency, and they see their job as trying to permit as much mining as possible,” the scientist said. “BLM is an agency that I think depends on internal debate and depends on a tolerance for dissent.”

Under the new president, dissent against industry interests suddenly became more dangerous. “I can’t imagine a time, at least in my life, where it’s okay to think whatever you want to think is real,” the person said. “It’s deeply troubling when you work in a field that needs to be guided by science, by fact, by things that are provably true or false.”

The scientist reached a conclusion with colleagues in other locations around the country. “We decided it was necessary to try to establish an alternative outlet,” the BLM employee told me. The Alt_BLM twitter account was the result.

Debate about keeping US #public lands is illegitimate, a distraction. Pressure must be for protection & restoration of our lands & #wildlife

— Alt_BLM (@blm_alt) February 13, 2017

Although the employee, who has survived multiple administrations working for the government, declined to share their identity with The Intercept out of fear of retaliation, Kirsten Stade, advocacy director for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility or PEER, was able to confirm that the scientist is an owner of the account and works for the agency. PEER was founded more than two decades ago to support environmental agency employees made vulnerable as they stand in the way of powerful special interests.

“Our job is to follow the law and uphold the constitution. Our job is not to serve the president,” the scientist said.

The Alt_BLM account is one of dozens of “alt” and “rogue” federal agency accounts that launched shortly after Trump’s inauguration, operating under names like altEPA and Rogue POTUS Staff. A number of the accounts are administered by actual federal employees, including three that provided information to the Intercept indicating they work for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, and the Interior Department. Others are run by a cast of characters that includes a former military analyst who worked for the NSA, a union employee, an art student, and a Boeing employee. Most of them declined to be named out of fear of workplace retaliation and pressure to shut down their accounts.

The alt-accounts’ activism is premised on the assumption that their key participants cannot be identified for fear of workplace retaliation, and though their primary act of rebellion is simply tweeting the truth, it’s a setup in many ways primed for exploitation by scammers. In the case of alt-accounts that have used their massive following to sell merchandise, noble motives are virtually unverifiable for followers.

For those who do put themselves at risk by sharing information on rogue Twitter, the possibility of deceit is an insidious distraction. “I do think that certainly a lot of these accounts are legitimate, and we’re hoping people aren’t going to be able to get away with dismissing them,” said the BLM scientist. “The administration would like to be able to do nothing more than call this stuff fake.”

The National Park Service released dozens of official aerial and ground photographs of President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.

Photo: The National Park Service

The alt-Twitter movement began on the Friday of Trump’s inauguration, with two retweets from the National Park Service’s official account. The first was a tweet about the White House web site being scrubbed of information on civil rights, climate change, and healthcare; the second was a side-by-side photo comparison between Trump’s inauguration turnout and Obama’s much larger crowd in 2009. The tweets were quickly removed, and the park service’s Twitter account was shut down for the day.

By the following Tuesday morning, a sense of unreality had set in. Trump had used his first weekend in office attempting to prove that he’d enjoyed “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration.” And reports emerged that Environmental Protection Agency communication with the public had been frozen — no more press releases, tweets, Facebook posts, or blogging.

Rebellion flared again from the official Badlands National Park Twitter account. “The pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm). As of December 2016, 404.93 ppm.” That data point and three others like it made an unlikely hero of the anonymous social media worker, tweeting from the middle of a South Dakota blizzard. The park deleted the tweets and told Buzzfeed the culprit was a former employee who still had access to the account.

In the days that followed, the first alt and rogue accounts launched. They played off the idea established by the Badlands Twitter account that under Trump simply broadcasting facts could be an act of resistance. Most of the time, the rogue accounts tweet out reactions to the news or information that Trump wouldn’t like to publicize. But every now and then there’s a flash of insight into life in Trump’s government. And some of the administrators say they maintain their accounts so that when something severe happens, they have the means to communicate with the public.

Alt_Dept. of Labor is one of the most obnoxious accounts in the Twitter resistance. Although it regularly tweets out sobering statistics about the state of the labor economy, GIFs and obscenities, sometimes blamed on alcohol, are more typical. The split personality of the account can be attributed to the duo that runs it. The GIFs are from an employee of the Bureau of Labor Statistics; the stats are from an employee of a union.

The BLS employee, who provided the Intercept with a BLS ID badge as verification of his identity, initially launched an account dedicated to his own agency, but later inherited the alt_labor handle. “I figured I might as well start the BLS one because there might be problems down the line,” he said. “I always tweeted at alt_labor saying ridiculous things like, ‘Dad where are you?’ And one day he messaged me and asked, ‘Do you want this account?’ So I got it, and I turned it into a monster.”

What in the fuck is the LinkedIn Workforce Report? You realize you're the boss of the BLS now right, right? @alt_bls @realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/chCj0qjlmJ

— Alt_Dept. of Labor (@alt_labor) March 9, 2017

A union employee, irked by the lack of informative content in Alt_Dept. of Labor Twitter feed,  began sending article suggestions. The BLS employee asked her to help run the account, labeling her his “intern.” “Definitely a sexist move,” she said. “I was like I’m older than you, and I make more money than you.” He changed her label to “associate.”

“Any platform I can use to share information about why the answer to working class woes is not cutting taxes for the wealthy but collective bargaining and people power you obtain through collective action, that’s a win for me,” the union employee said.

Jokes aside, the BLS employee experienced a crisis of conscience when Trump was elected. Like all federal employees, upon his hiring, he swore an oath to defend the constitution. He worried that Trump’s lack of commitment to observable reality could put pressure on the numbers his agency produces, should unemployment statistics be less positive down the line.

“I remember calling my mom after the election like, ‘How can I still work here with integrity?’” he said. “She’s like, ‘Well, think about it. If everyone that had your integrity were to leave, who would you be replaced by? Maybe someone else who would go along with something he wants.”

“I’ll be there just in case,” he said. “Kind of like a backup defense.”

That oath also nagged at the conscience of an administrator of the Rogue EPA Staff account, who provided various biographical details as verification of their Environmental Protection Agency employment. “We don’t talk about politics at work. We don’t even talk about politics with the political staff when they come in — it’s not what we do. After the election, there was a pall that came over the agency. There was silence in the hallways. It was pretty grim. A lot of staff didn’t know where or how we could work through how we felt about the election results,” they said. Alongside the order to halt communications with the public, a hiring freeze was enacted. Rumors circulated that climate data would soon be deleted from the agency web site. Activist developers accelerated efforts to download vital environmental databases to non-government servers, fearing that they would disappear.

“It’s been eight years of incredibly valuable climate science work. It’s an unending list of things that are hard won victories for people that would like to see a livable planet for our kids. All of those victories were finally making a difference. And we’re about to see a pause button on that,” said the EPA employee. “I wanted to make sure we had a conduit to the outside world now that we were being held hostage. … If they do try to undo things that are an important part of the country’s effort to act on climate change or protect human health, I don’t want them to be able to do that without somebody calling them on it.” After seeing the Badlands climate tweets, Rogue EPA Staff was launched.

Celebrating #InternationalWomensDay #daywithoutawoman at our EPA desks, because we are the watchers on the wall #pollutingPruitt #altgov

— Rogue EPA Staff (@RogueEPAstaff) March 8, 2017

Although the account tweets out an array of bad-for-the-environment Trump administration decisions every day, the administrator is driven by an unlikely sense of hope. “Some of it is optimism that those in positions of power to change the course of direction can see just how appalled EPA staff are,” said the employee. “This is unprecedented for EPA staff to have this level of opposition. That’s not what we do. We came in, we signed an oath, with an understanding we would be working for administrations who we don’t necessarily agree with.”

Days before Scott Pruitt’s confirmation hearings, the employee held on to the possibility that they could be convinced to support the new agency head’s agenda. “I would love to have a conversation with the appointees and get a sense of how they think this is a good plan,” they said. “I think checks and balances is a good thing. I would love it if I could be talked into supporting their goals.”

Screenshot: AltDIA twitter

Many accounts concede in their Twitter bios that they are not run by government officials.

An employee of Boeing, one of the nation’s largest defense contractors, runs the AltDIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) account. “I have connections to DIA and throughout the Department of Defense and military and thought it would be a good way to get out information from my network,” the Boeing employee said.

The Boeing employee worries that under Trump, Boeing’s business model will shift with the national economy toward reliance on the defense industry and weapons sales. Boeing is split into two business units, one focused on commercial aircraft and another on defense products. “If Trump chose to create an isolationist economic policy but wanted to increase militarization, [Boeing’s] defense side would create more air weaponry,” the employee said.

A former signals intelligence and counterterrorism analyst who provided military documents showing he worked for the NSA during his four-and-a-half-year deployment as a U.S. Marine runs the AltNSA account. He was particularly disturbed by Trump’s Muslim ban. “There’s no direct threat,” he said. “The countries that have been banned have had minimal to no terrorists who’ve attacked Americans on American soil. … It doesn’t make sense.”

Alt FBI is run by Miles Goscha, a 23-year old photographer at Ringling College in Sarasota, Florida, who said he felt that an account dedicated to issues of criminal justice was missing from the list of environmentally focused alt accounts. “I don’t have any special perspective or special knowledge in that space,” Goscha said. “At the end of the day I’m just hoping that somebody can leave the account having read something that will help them become more informed.”

And an account called YellerstoneNPS is run by a university technology worker based in New England. “I don’t really know why I’m doing this Twitter account, other than the fact that I hate Trump and it’s a way to spread info that I feel should be spread, and no one would listen to just me the person,” they said via email, adding that they also started accounts called Capitol Reef NPS and Alaska NPS.

And there are some accounts that have raised questions among members of the rogue social media community. The Alt National Park Service Facebook page is one. It has more than 1.5 million followers and says it represents “204 National Park Service employees, 52 state park employees, 19 National Forest Service employees, 22 EPA employees, 4 USDA employees, and 128 environmental scientists.” In between posts about the Trump administration’s attempts to slash support for environmental programs, the page sells bumper stickers.

The Facebook page’s name is very similar to the Twitter account credited as the first alt agency handle, @AltNatParkSer or ALT National Park Service. In an interview with Vice, an administrator of ALT National Park Service said that park rangers had started the account before handing it to a group of activists and journalists who changed its name to NOT ALT WORLD, out of fear of workplace repercussions.

There’s no evidence that @AltNatParkSer has any link to the Alt National Park Service Facebook page. But the page launched shortly after the Twitter account, appearing to piggyback off of its success and wide following. On January 27, the administrators introduced themselves. “We’re a growing coalition of 59 National Park Service employees,” the post read. “We all refuse to watch everything we love crumble. Join the movement at www.altnps.org.”

What it means to join the movement is unclear, aside from entering your name, email address, and zip code into an online form. “A message for President Trump: You can shut down the use of our social media accounts, but you cannot shut down the internet or take control of what we do with our personal time! We only wish to protect and preserve the environment for future generations to come,” the landing page says. Entering your data returns no immediate reply, so it’s a mystery what the owners will do with their growing list.

Screenshot: www.altnps.org

Another way to participate in the movement is to buy bumper stickers. The account sells packs of two stickers for $3.50. Although the page says repeatedly that the stickers are sold at cost, packaged by volunteers, and are meant only to spread “awareness,” earning no returns for the sellers, a site called Makestickers.com says that such a product should cost only $.43 per sticker, when purchased in large quantities. According to Alt National Park Service, the stickers have been popular. A recent post said that the coalition has sold more than 5,000.

In response to The Intercept’s questions about the cost of the product, account administrators replied, “You dont understand the true cost of one order. Did you consider order processing fees, credit card fees, ssl certificate fees, store hosting fees, price per stamp?” Asked to elaborate on those costs, the account administrators grew defensive, citing concerns about maintaining employment. “We have families to support and love our jobs. We honestly dont care what news story you write, but we will address the situation.”

The page also provides updates on the latest assault on environmental agencies and occasionally launches a Change.org petition or shares an offending Congress person’s contact information. Lately, it’s begun posting about a new planned campaign to “save the bees,” by selling seed packets.

Other alt-accounts have also sold products, like T-shirts. For example, Rogue NASA, whose bio says it is “not managed by gov’t employees,” divided at least $218,232 in T-shirt proceeds between Girls Who Code and the National Math + Science Initiative. The donations were handled by the company Cotton Bureau. An employee named Nathan Peretic said the arrangement was unusual for the company. “For each shirt sold, $16 was directly donated or is being donated to Girls Who Code and NMSI. The remaining $16 pays for the shirts, printing, labor, etc. … Zero proceeds for these shirts went to Rogue NASA,” he said, adding that the transactions are still pending and have taken some time given the small size of the T-shirt company and its lack of experience dealing with large donations.

The question of profiteering is one that plagued the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Buzzfeed reported that numerous Facebook accounts operating under names like I Stand with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Like if You Love Native Americans, and Indigenous People of America, were created to sell T-shirts, some of which used designs stolen from actual American Indian artists and activists. Meanwhile, GoFundMe accounts, created to raise money for people to live at resistance camps or participate in protest activities, proliferated and drew criticism from other members of the movement.

An administrator of AltYellowstoneNatPar, whose bio says it’s run by an “unofficial group of employees scientists and activists, in and around Yellowstone national park,” told The Intercept via Twitter direct message that they avoid working with any account that sells products, because of the risk of grift and “since there’s zero transparency to an alt account.” 

TheAltYellowNatStonePar account administrator said they collaborate with around 15 other accounts on projects like Change.org petitions. Contributors to the Yellowstone Twitter feed are required to follow a code of conduct, which is also shared with collaborator accounts. It reads, “We do not accept offers of financial help. Direct all offers of financial aid through the proper and approved non profit partners of the park.”

“Park rangers and personnel aren’t rude or argumentative, we don’t use foul language or engage in hate, our intention is to live up to the high standard of behavior and respect we always have for our visitors,” the conduct code says. “The ONLY policy deviation we’re engaging in is that we’ll now speak out on political issues and fight pending congressional action that’s detrimental to our parks.”

A view of the Teton Mountain Range in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming on May 11, 2016.

Photo: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

Sketchy accounts present yet another challenge to the efforts of the federal scientist who runs the Alt_BLM account to cut through the distortions clouding the Trump era, a fog that has failed to let up since inauguration weekend.

The scientist takes solace in the earth’s longevity. “You’ve got to keep in mind the lands we manage are resilient. They have been there long before the US government ever existed and will be there long after we’re gone. In some ways we have hope that the land base we’re responsible for, that’s going to continue. The real question is the impacts that it might face. Are we going to see big losses to lands that have otherwise been protected? It’s possible,” the scientist said. “With what’s going on with the global climate we don’t have time to continue to be doing nothing or putting things in reverse.”

“You’re there in easier times and you’re there in hard times. If you quit, then, boy, it’s just going to get worse,” the BLM employee said. The scientist will spend the years ahead writing their disagreements with industry-leaning managers into FOIA-able emails. The game plan: “Do my job. Continue to document the science. Document the law. Document the regulations we need to follow.”

Top photo: People check mobile devices while standing against an illuminated wall bearing Twitter Inc.’s logo in this arranged photograph in London, on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016.

The post Rogue Twitter Accounts Fight to Preserve the Voice of Government Science appeared first on The Intercept.

Next Phase of Obamacare Repeal Will Target Mandate Requiring Prenatal Coverage, GOP Leader Tells Allies

10 March 2017 - 5:11pm

When Republican Congressman John Shimkus expressed outrage during a House committee hearing Wednesday “about men having to purchase prenatal care” in their health insurance -– the video clip of which caught fire on social media as an example of misogyny and cluelessness -– he wasn’t going rogue. He was just getting ahed of party leaders, who haven’t publicly announced their next steps quite yet.

In a conference call with GOP allies on Thursday, however, House Republican Conference chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers outlined the party’s “three-phase approach” to repealing the Affordable Care Act and suggested that the Essential Benefits Package, a provision of the law with sweeping consumer protections, could soon be on the chopping block. The benefits package, a core provision of the ACA, requires qualifying health insurance plans to cover a set of medical treatments, including pregnancy-related medical care.

The conference call was for other Republican House members and state leaders from the American Legislative Exchange Council, an influential conservative advocacy group that brings lawmakers and lobbyists together to form policy solutions. It was obtained by The Intercept and the Center for Media and Democracy.

The Republican legislation currently under consideration in Congress, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), is only the first phase, she said. She explained that it might appear narrow in scope only because the legislation was crafted in order to meet rules set by reconciliation, a parliamentary procedure that allows a filibuster-proof 51 vote threshold for passage in the Senate.

“Phase 2 is the administrative action,” she said. That means unwinding regulations that could not be addressed in the current, reconciliation-based legislation.

“Obamacare gave the Secretary of Health and Human Services 1,442 instances of discretion to administer health care,” McMorris Rodgers said. “For example, the Essential Benefits Package is within the Secretary of Health and Human Services.” The Essential Benefits Package requires health plans to cover 10 core areas of medical care, including hospitalization, pregnancy and newborn care, prescription drugs, mental health, lab work, and preventive services.

Listen to McMorris Rodgers’ comments below:

The current draft of the AHCA repeals the Essential Health Benefits for some Medicaid patients, but leaves those protections intact for qualified health plans offered by employers or purchased by individuals. The comments on the Thursday call suggest that the consumer protections for other health plans could be further repealed through executive action rather than through Congress.

The insurance industry aggressively fought against the required coverage rules. Insurance giants UnitedHealth Group, Anthem Inc., and Aetna have lobbied policymakers for years on the Essential Benefits Package, records show. America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade group representing much of the industry, has also bitterly complained about the consumer mandate.

ALEC has received substantial funding from the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries, and has campaigned against the ACA since it was first proposed in 2009.

The insurance lobby, as we’ve reported, is among the few industry groups to release statements endorsing the Republican repeal effort, and has provided fundraising support to GOP lawmakers leading the repeal and replace campaign, including Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

Republicans leaders have closely guarded their health repeal strategy, leading to confusion and anger across the ideological spectrum about the future of heath care policy.

President Donald Trump used Twitter to announce the three-phase strategy on Tuesday. In a series of tweets referring to Obamacare as “a complete and total disaster,” Trump alluded to next steps. “Don’t worry, getting rid of state lines, which will promote competition, will be in phase 2 & 3 of healthcare rollout,” Trump tweeted.

The third phase would be, “additional bipartisan legislation that we think is important and necessary to give us the 21st century health care reforms that we long for,” McMorris Rodgers said on the call.

She was joined by several other House GOP members, including Congressman Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania and Michael Burgess of Texas. Several state legislators, including Wisconsin State Sen. Leah Vukmir, were among the participants. “We have historic majorities at the state and national level and we finally have an amazing opportunity to put our ideas into action and we can’t waste any time,” McMorris Rodgers declared.

Top photo: A 39-weeks pregnant patient at the Birth and Wellness Center in O’Fallon, Mo., during a prenatal appointment in 2015.

The post Next Phase of Obamacare Repeal Will Target Mandate Requiring Prenatal Coverage, GOP Leader Tells Allies appeared first on The Intercept.

Why Won’t Trump Declassify Evidence of Obama’s Wiretap? Sean Spicer’s Response Makes No Sense.

10 March 2017 - 3:25pm

For the past several weeks I’ve been asking the Trump White House (and nudging other reporters to ask) a simple question:

Since presidents have the power to declassify anything, will President Trump use this power to make public any evidence that exists of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, including whether former President Obama ordered a wiretap on Trump Tower?

So far the White House press office has not responded to my repeated inquiries. However, during the untelevised “press gaggle” this past Monday, NPR’s Mara Liasson engaged in this exchange with White House press secretary Sean Spicer:

LIASSON: You said that you pointed rightly to Clapper’s comments — nothing that he knows of suggests there was any collusion between the campaign and Russia.  But he also said that he didn’t know of any wiretap FISA order. … The thing I’m asking is that the President of the United States has unilateral authority to declassify anything that he wants. He said in his tweet, I just learned of this. So he obviously had some kind of evidence.  Why not declassify it?

SPICER: I think that’s — as I have made clear, there’s a reason that we want Congress, the intelligence committees to do their job in terms of making sure that there’s a separation of powers.

LIASSON: He’s afraid it would look like interference?

SPICER: I think that, again, I’m just going to leave it at that he thinks it’s appropriate for Congress to do this instead of trying to point to his own Department of Justice.

Notably, Spicer did not take Liasson’s invitation to claim a potentially legitimate reason not to declassify wiretap evidence: that Trump did not want to appear to interfere with an ongoing investigation. Of course, if Spicer had agreed, it would have brought up innumerable other issues. For instance, if there is an ongoing investigation involving Trump wiretaps, that would be so politically explosive the Justice Department would have little choice but to appoint a special prosecutor. Moreover, Trump can’t claim to be concerned about interfering in a current investigation when he already convicted Obama on Twitter for being as bad as Nixon during Watergate.

So what was Spicer saying? How exactly would a concern over the constitutional separation of powers prevent Trump from declassifying evidence of Obama wiretapping him? I’ve asked the White House press office to clarify this, but so far they have not gotten back to me.

Several legal experts with relevant government experience were as stymied as I was by Spicer’s claim.

Todd Hinnen, a former acting assistant attorney general who oversaw the Justice Department’s counter-intelligence branch during part of the Obama administration, explains that it is in fact the executive branch’s job to investigate claims like Trump’s. While “there is, in theory,” says Hinnen, “nothing wrong” with Congress engaging in its own concurrent investigation, there is no reason why concern for separation of powers should stop Trump from declassifying anything. So, Hinnen believes, “this isn’t so much respecting the separation of powers as it is abdicating responsibility for the executive branch which the president now heads.”

Lawrence Tribe, a famed professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, Justice Department official during the Obama administration, and now vociferous Trump critic, goes further. “What Sean Spicer said about the separation of powers made no sense at all,” Tribe believes. “The separation of powers provides no justification for saying that Congress rather than the president should investigate” Trump’s assertions.

“If anything,” says Tribe, “it seems contrary to the separation of powers for oversight committees of the Legislative Branch to poke around into alleged executive malfeasance outside the context of an impeachment inquiry or an inquiry into what kind of law to enact in order to reduce the risk of such malfeasance.”

Meanwhile, several politicians and many journalists have started discussing whether Trump should use his declassification power to cut through the Gordian knot of the wiretapping issue.

Most significantly, Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse released a statement on March 4 saying that if the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court did in fact authorize surveillance of Donald Trump’s associates, Trump “should ask that this full application regarding surveillance of foreign operatives or operation be made available, ideally to the full public.” Sasse was first elected in 2014 and is one of the most prominent Trump critics in the Republican Party.

my statement on wiretapping… pic.twitter.com/OzYkOCXeEh

— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) March 4, 2017

Another Republican, Utah’s Rep. Chris Stewart, said Monday on the CNN show Outfront that “If the president has information [about Trump Tower being wiretapped] and he could declassify that without endangering national security, I would encourage him to do that.” Stewart is a member of the House Intelligence Committee, which the White House has asked to investigate Trump’s allegations.

Stewart was responding to a question from host Erin Burnett: “If a request to wiretap him came as he alleges from the Obama White House, he has the ability to declassify that request … why isn’t he declassifying it and letting us all see the classified information?”

The same day Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz agreed with CBS’s Norah O’Donnell that “[Trump] can declassify” a FISA warrant, although he declined to say whether he would call on Trump to do so.

On Tuesday, speaking on CNN, Alice Stewart, the communications director for the Mike Huckabee and then Ted Cruz presidential campaigns last year, strongly endorsed the idea of Trump declassifying any relevant information.

On Wednesday Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, explained to CNN’s Dana Bash that “the president has very extensive authority to declassify matters. … He certainly could move to declassify.” The same day Trey Gowdy, a Republican from South Carolina best known for chairing the congressional select committee on Benghazi, told Anderson Cooper that “The president has the power to both declassify it and to have it released,” although he noted that “it also could impact an ongoing investigation. So, there may be a DOJ reason that they don’t want to share it with Congress.”

Other journalists who made the same point about Trump’s declassification powers this week include CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Jake Tapper, Dana Bash, Poppy Harlow, Tal Kopan, Jackie Kucinich, Paul Begala, Gloria Borger, Jeffrey Toobin and Tom Fuentes; Washington Post Assistant Editor David Swerdlick; conservative radio host Buck Sexton; and ABC chief legal analyst Dan Abrams.

Finally, in an editorial this week, the conservative Weekly Standard pushed for the declassification of relevant material regarding Trump’s claims, saying that the government should embrace “radical transparency”:

We see only one way out of this crisis: The truth. FBI Director Comey needs to say what happened and produce the relevant FISA warrants and requests, if there were any. … The normal caution about impeding existing investigations or even many concerns about sources and methods need to yield to the requirements of civic health. Sunshine is not only the best disinfectant, it is in this case the only possible disinfectant.

Below is a list of my attempts so far to get the White House press office to address this general issue:

Wednesday, February 15: Email to Lindsay Walters, White House deputy press secretary, asking for comment for this article. Walters did not respond.

Friday, February 17: Phone call to White House press assistant Giovanna Coia, who directed me to email Walters and principal deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders.

Friday, February 17: Email to Walters and Sanders specifically requesting an interview with Trump or anyone else available. Sanders responded with email cc’ing senior assistant press secretary Michael Short and asking him “to handle.” Short did not respond.

Sunday, February 19: Follow up email to Short. He did not respond.

Tuesday, February 21: Follow up email, call and text to Short. He did not respond.

Friday, February 24: Follow up email to Short. He did not respond.

Saturday, March 4: Text to Short and email to Walters, Sanders, and Short requesting comment for this article specifically about Trump’s ability to prove his twitter claims. No response.

Friday, March 10: Text to Short and email to Walters, Sanders, and Short requesting clarification of Spicer’s statement for this story. No response.

Reporters raise their hands to ask a question of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington on March 9, 2017.

The post Why Won’t Trump Declassify Evidence of Obama’s Wiretap? Sean Spicer’s Response Makes No Sense. appeared first on The Intercept.

Por que as pessoas não estão nas ruas?

10 March 2017 - 2:48pm

A aprovação de Michel Temer está na casa dos 10%, as taxas de desemprego não param de subir, a economia encolhe, o governo toma uma série de medidas impopulares e os homens de confiança do presidente estão mergulhados na Lava Jato. O cenário parece um barril de pólvora que pode explodir a qualquer momento. Mas o presidente segue tranquilo sem ouvir o barulho das panelas.

A mobilização atual encontra-se restrita a setores organizados da sociedade.

No início da semana, questionamos os motivos do silêncio das ruas. Em entrevista ao The Intercept Brasil, o coordenador do Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Teto (MTST), Guilherme Boulos,  afirmou que a mobilização atual encontra-se restrita a setores organizados da sociedade.  Já para o professor do Departamento de Gestão Pública da Faculdade Getúlio Vargas (FGV), Claúdio Couto, destacou o mau momento da economia, uma onda conservadora global, a polarização ideológica da sociedade que mina o diálogo político e uma grande imprensa que fez oposição a Dilma, mas é conivente com Temer

Com a saída do PT do governo, o desaparecimento dos amarelinhos com camisa da CBF era esperado. Mas onde estão os movimentos sociais? E os sindicatos e partidos políticos de oposição? Por que não se mobilizam? Por que o povo não está nas ruas? Onde falha a mobilização da esquerda?

 Selecionamos algumas das respostas dos nossos leitores que tentam entender a atual inércia dos que se encontram insatisfeitos.

Jair C. Nascimento

“Acredito que aquela esquerda, do começo do século, acomodou-se achando que já tinha feito a lição de casa e envelheceu (perdeu voz) nessa pretensa calmaria dos anos Lula-Dilma… Agora perderam a energia e a mobilização para mudar os rumos… Mas, como tudo no mundo é cíclico, talvez se recupere mais à frente, com uma nova roupagem!”

Pedro Lucchesi

“Acho que o “aquietamento” da esquerda está muito relacionado a uma falta de reconhecimento público, por parte de figuras de destaque, dos erros cometidos a frente dos últimos governos. A esquerda parece estar muito mais reativa do que propositiva e pouco autocrítica.”

Santiago M. Morita

“Enquanto a dita esquerda não fizer uma autocrítica e autorreflexão, ela vai ficar meio off por um tempo. Se o PT continuar como “carro-chefe” e sem um “mea culpa”, vão ficar sumidos por um tempo. O PT perdeu aquela militância porque se acomodou no poder e com o poder. Não manteve as pautas que defendia na teoria e, na prática, mostrou mais do mesmo com um pouco mais de ‘preocupação social’.”

Artur Tomaz

“Falta um líder que tenho apoio e empatia popular para mobilizar o povo. Falta um Brizola,um Miguel Arraes e um partido como era o PT nos anos 80.”

Marcia Maresti Lima

“Não estamos acovardados, fomos golpeados, estamos resistindo de diversas formas, mas não estamos organizados. Desmobilizados, sim.”

 Priscilla Gummidge

“Não se acovardou, não. Tá é foda ir pra rua quando você sabe que a polícia tem salvo-conduto para descer o cacete, que a mídia vai te transformar num ‘vândalo’.”

Marcelo

“O que o Guilherme Boulos disse é o que penso, em termos de fragilidade da esquerda. Essa mídia e esse descolamento do povo. Só descola porque não faz parte. E quanto à mídia, tiveram tempo de reformular, mas só agora volta ao tema de mídia direitona.” 

Queremos ouvir nossos leitores. Compartilhe conosco a sua opinião sobre a falta de voz do enorme número de insatisfeitos.

The post Por que as pessoas não estão nas ruas? appeared first on The Intercept.

Marines Tasked with Firing Howitzers in Syria Are Just “Advisers,” Says Sean Spicer

10 March 2017 - 1:50pm

The Pentagon has deployed several hundred marines to Northern Syria, the Washington Post and CNN reported this week. Their mission: firing long-range artillery to help recapture Raqqa, ISIS’s self-proclaimed capital city.

The marines are equipped with M777 howitzers, which can fire GPS-guided explosives up to 25 miles.

That’s a big change from the “train, advise and assist” role U.S. forces have been playing so far — although as with many previous troop deployments to Iraq and Syria, it was not debated, let alone authorized, by Congress.

But White House Press Secretary brushed off a question about the move, saying that sending “several hundred advisers” did not amount to “hostile action.”

Right-wing radio host John Fredericks asked Spicer on Thursday whether Trump was committed to seeking Congressional authorization for new deployments.

“I think there’s a big difference between an authorization of war than [sic] sending a few hundred advisors,” Spicer replied. “And I think most in Congress would probably agree with that as well.  I think that’s a big difference between a hostile action and going in to address some certain concerns, whether it’s certain countries in the Middle East or elsewhere.”

Spicer referred the question to the Department of Defense. But when reached by the Intercept, a Pentagon spokesman disputed Spicer’s characterization.

“This is fire support,” said Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a public affairs officer for the Marine Corps, explaining that the new deployment would fire long range artillery in an assault on Raqqa. “They will be providing partner support for the Syrian Democratic Forces.”

The U.S. has long tried to downplay its military footprint in Syria. When President Obama deployed 250 special forces to Syria in April 2016, despite repeatedly promising not to put U.S. “boots on the ground” in Syria, State Department Spokesman John Kirby tried to parse the meaning of “boots on the ground” to exclude special forces.

The Pentagon has maintained that the fight against ISIS is authorized by a 2001 Congressional resolution, which authorizes the President to use “necessary and appropriate force” against the “nations, organizations, or persons” involved in the 9/11 attacks.

Multiple members of Congress have criticized the resolution, because it has been stretched to cover numerous terror groups, like ISIS, that did not exist at the time of the 9/11 attacks. But the Obama administration long insisted that it did not need independent authorization to fight ISIS.

Top photo: Soldiers from the Syrian army fire a rocket at Islamic State group positions in the province of Raqqa, Syria on Feb. 17, 2016.

The post Marines Tasked with Firing Howitzers in Syria Are Just “Advisers,” Says Sean Spicer appeared first on The Intercept.

Em nova defesa do amigo Temer, Gilmar Mendes diz que caixa 2 não configura abuso de poder econômico

10 March 2017 - 1:24pm

Gilmar Mendes não esconde ter uma relação de companheirismo de mais de 30 anos com Michel Temer. O ministro do Supremo Tribunal Federal disse nesta sexta que o crime de caixa 2 “necessariamente, não significa um quadro de abuso de poder econômico”. Sua fala não poderia ter melhor timing. As delações da Odebrecht, que serão incluídas na ação contra a chapa Dilma-Temer, estão na reta final, com expectativa de que cheguem ao STF na segunda-feira, dia 13. O processo de cassação da chapa corre no Tribunal Superior Eleitoral, presidido por Mendes, pode tirar o atual presidente do posto.

“A opção do caixa 2 ou caixa 1 é talvez um problema das empresas, para que outros não saibam. Porque no momento em que se faz a doação pelo caixa 1, ela aparece nas nossas contas aqui (no TSE) e começa todo esse jogo de pressão, eventuais achaques.”

Foi, entre outras coisas, o que disse Mendes à BBC Brasil em entrevista divulgada nesta sexta-feira (10). Para o ministro, apenas as empresas prefeririam não se identificar abertamente com um candidato ou outro. Como se, para os candidatos, revelar ou não o vínculo com determinadas empresas fosse indiferente.

O ministro também disse que a presidente Dilma Rousseff, por ser a cabeça da chapa, “seria a responsável por todos esses abusos e excessos”. Parece se esquecer do cheque nominal de R$1 milhão que Temer recebeu da construtora Andrade Gutierrez durante a campanha de 2014.

Mendes aperta a mão do então presidente da Câmara dos Deputados Michel Temer, em 2010.

Foto: Antonio Cruz (ABR)

Muy amigos

Não é a primeira vez que Mendes vem a público em defesa de Temer. Mais cedo nesta mesma semana, quando questionado pela agência Reuters, o ministro disse que, mesmo que Temer seja cassado pelo TSE, ele ainda poderia voltar à Presidência. No caso, seria pela eleição indireta convocada especificamente em consequência de seu afastamento. A lógica, segundo o ministro, reside no fato de que Dilma seria a única responsável pelos atos, portanto apenas ela se tornaria inelegível.

Exatamente um mês antes, Mendes defendeu a polêmica nomeação de Moreira Franco para ministro da Secretaria-Geral da Presidência da República. Ironicamente, foi uma decisão recente de Mendes que fundamentou o pedido de bloqueio da nomeação de Moreira Franco.

Mendes é o principal autor do mandado de segurança publicado em março de 2016 que impediu a nomeação do ex-presidente Luiz Inácio Lula como ministro de Dilma usando o seguinte argumento:

“Primeiro: a operação “Lava Jato”, cujo Juízo competente é exercido pelo magistrado Sérgio Moro, tem revelado que diversas pessoas, sabidamente aliadas do Ex-Presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, seriam autoras da prática de crimes (diversos deles contra a Administração Pública), inclusive com sentenças condenações já proferidas.”

Já Moreira Franco é nominalmente citado 34 vezes na Lava Jato, mas isso não impediu sua nomeação. O ministro Celso de Mello (STF) considerou que torná-lo ministro não configurava obstrução da Justiça porque receber foro privilegiado não significa imunidade contra investigações. Não, significa apenas que, em vez de ser julgado por Sérgio Moro, Moreira Franco deverá responder diretamente ao Supremo, contando, entre outros, com o voto de Gilmar Mendes. Ainda bem que, por ali, o companheirismo é de longa data.

The post Em nova defesa do amigo Temer, Gilmar Mendes diz que caixa 2 não configura abuso de poder econômico appeared first on The Intercept.

Malware Attacks Used by the U.S. Government Retain Potency for Many Years, New Evidence Indicates

10 March 2017 - 12:04pm

A new report from Rand Corp. may help shed light on the government’s arsenal of malicious software, including the size of its stockpile of so-called “zero days” — hacks that hit undisclosed vulnerabilities in computers, smartphones, and other digital devices.

The report also provides evidence that such vulnerabilities are long lasting. The findings are of particular interest because not much is known about the U.S. government’s controversial use of zero days. Officials have long refused to say how many such attacks are in the government’s arsenal or how long it uses them before disclosing information about the vulnerabilities they exploit so software vendors can patch the holes.

Rand’s report is based on unprecedented access to a database of zero days from a company that sells them to governments and other customers on the “gray market.” The collection contains about 200 entries — about the same number of zero days some experts believe the government to have. Rand found that the exploits had an average lifespan of 6.9 years before the vulnerability each targeted was disclosed to the software maker to be fixed, or before the vendor made upgrades to the code that unwittingly eliminated the security hole.

Some of the exploits survived even longer than this. About 25 percent had a lifespan of a decade or longer. But another 25 percent survived less than 18 months before they were patched or rendered obsolete through software upgrades.

Chart: RAND

 

Rand’s researchers found that there was no pattern around which exploits lived a long or short life — severe vulnerabilities were not more likely to be fixed quickly than minor ones, nor were vulnerabilities in programs that were more widely available.

“The relatively long life expectancy of 6.9 years means that zero-day vulnerabilities — in particular the ones that exploits are created for [in the gray market] — are likely old,” write lead researchers Lillian Ablon and Andy Bogart in their paper “Zero Days, Thousands of Nights.”

Rand, a nonprofit research group, is the first to study in this manner a database of exploits that are in the wild and being actively used in hacking operations. Previous studies of zero days have used manufactured data or the vulnerabilities and exploits that get submitted to vendor bug bounty programs — programs in which software makers or website owners pay researchers for security holes found in their software or websites.

The database used in the study belongs to an anonymous company referred to in the report as “Busby,” which amassed the exploits over 14 years, going back to 2002. Busby’s full database actually has around 230 exploits in it, about 100 of which are still considered active, meaning they are unknown to the software vendors and therefore no patches are available to fix them. The Rand researchers only had access to information on 207 zero days — the rest are recently discovered exploits the company withheld from Rand’s set “due to operational sensitivity.”

While it’s not known how many of these exploits are in the U.S. government’s arsenal, Jason Healey, a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s School for International and Public Affairs, believes the U.S. government’s zero-day stockpile is comparable in size to Busby’s.

For many years, critics of the government’s use of zero days suspected the arsenal numbered in the thousands. But a report Healey published with his students last year, based in part on statistical analysis of the number of zero days that get discovered and disclosed each year to bug bounty programs, estimated that the government’s trove likely contained between two dozen and 225 zero-day exploits.

This would seem to jibe with statements made by government officials. Michael Daniel, former special adviser to President Obama on cybersecurity issues and a member of Obama’s National Security Council, has said in the past that “there’s often this image that the government has spent a lot of time and effort to discover vulnerabilities that we’ve stockpiled in huge numbers and similarly that we would be purchasing very, very large numbers of vulnerabilities on the open market, the gray market, the black market, whatever you want to call it. [But] the numbers are just not anywhere near what people believe they are.”

Shining a Light on the Government’s Zero-Day Policy

The government has long insisted that it discloses more than 90 percent of the vulnerabilities it finds or purchases, and that those it doesn’t disclose initially get reviewed on a regular basis to re-evaluate if they should be disclosed.

The problem with this is that the public doesn’t know how long the government is exploiting these security holes before they’re shared publicly — and therefore how long ordinary citizens are left exposed to Russian or Chinese nation-state hackers or cybercriminals who may discover the same vulnerabilities and exploit them.

One factor that can affect how quickly the government discloses vulnerabilities is their collision rate or rediscovery rate. This refers to how often the same vulnerabilities get discovered independently by two or more parties.

It’s a metric that is particularly important in the policy debate around the government’s use of zero-day exploits; if the U.S. knows about a vulnerability, there’s a good chance others do too and are quietly exploiting it. If the data shows there is high probability that criminal hackers or nation-state hackers from Russia or China could discover a vulnerability and create an exploit for it, this can be an argument for disclosing the vulnerability sooner rather than later to get it patched. But if that probability is low, the government can use it to justify nondisclosure and keeping people at risk longer.

The Rand researchers found that the collision rate for the exploits in the Busby database was indeed low. In a typical one-year period, only about 6 percent of the vulnerabilities got discovered by others. That figure jumped to 40 percent, however, when viewed across the entire 14 years of the database.

But there’s a slight problem with this analysis, says Columbia University’s Healey. The Rand researchers determined the collision rate based on publicly disclosed vulnerabilities — those discovered and reported by researchers as part of a vendor bug bounty program or made public in some other way, such as at conferences or in news articles. But this isn’t the collision that concerns critics of zero-day arsenals. They’re concerned about collisions with zero days that remain secret, such as those developed by other nation-state actors and criminal hackers and aren’t publicly disclosed.

“The collision rate is absolutely fascinating, but this is the wrong way to talk about it,” says Healey.

Healey says Rand should be looking for collisions with the zero days found in other gray market databases held by other exploit sellers. He says the kinds of researchers who participate in bug bounty programs tend to be looking for different kinds of vulnerabilities than researchers who are looking for vulnerabilities for offensive hacking. The latter will have different needs and also better resources to look for vulnerabilities.

It’s worth noting that another study released this week by cryptographer Bruce Schneier and Trey Herr of the Harvard Kennedy School found a higher collision rate when looking at vulnerabilities found in browser software and mobile phones.

“Between 15 percent and 20 percent of all vulnerabilities in browsers have at least one duplicate,” they wrote “For data available on Android between 2015 and 2016, 22 percent of vulnerabilities are rediscovered at least once an average of 2 months after their original disclosure. There are reasons to believe that the actual rate is even higher for certain types of software.”

But this study also involved vulnerabilities disclosed to bug bounty programs. Dan Guido, CEO of Trail of Bits, whose company does extensive consulting on iOS security, says, “I don’t think studying bug bounty collisions is representative of exploit use in the wild.”

Regardless of this limitation, Guido says the collision test conducted by Rand is still illuminating for the very fact that it involved at least one set of data consisting of live, in-the-wild exploits.

“Even with the caveats around the collision rate, using the best available data we have now [with those live exploits], is significantly lower than we expected,” he said.

Which begs the question — is it low enough that the government would be justified in holding on to exploits for years and not disclosing the vulnerabilities they attack?

Ari Schwartz, former senior director of cybersecurity in Obama’s White House who participated in the so-called Vulnerabilities Equities process where the government makes these assessments, says even a low collision rate is a problem.

“Let’s say it’s just 10 percent; is it worth doing disclosure for 10 percent? I think it is,” he says. “That’s still pretty high if you think about it — 1 in 10.”

Healey says the RAND study is an incredible asset to other researchers because of its use of live exploits that are in the wild. It makes the data and analysis more realistic than studies that only simulate scenarios and guess at conclusions, like what the consequences of not disclosing a vulnerability might be.

“We can theorize all we want about what’s good and what’s bad [in terms of disclosure], but this is going to shake things up, because now we can roll up our sleeves and actually come up with some real answers.”

They hope it may also encourage the owners of other exploit databases to share their collections with researchers.

The post Malware Attacks Used by the U.S. Government Retain Potency for Many Years, New Evidence Indicates appeared first on The Intercept.

As Trump Neuters Regulatory Commissions, Chuck Schumer Needs to Decide If He Will Fight or Give In

10 March 2017 - 11:43am

A spate of vacancies will soon turn the federal regulatory commissions that police financial trades, telecommunications, energy, and consumer protection into key political battlegrounds, with Donald Trump on one side and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on the other.

Instead of a single director, the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission, and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission each have five members, nominated by the president. But by statute, no more than three members can be from the president’s party. The Federal Election Commission’s six members are supposed to be evenly split. This is supposed to give some weight to diverse viewpoints.

As the Trump era begins, active members at the commissions have dwindled. Ann Ravel, a Democrat, just quit the FEC, leaving that agency one member short. The FCC has only three of its five seats filled; the FTC, SEC and CFTC have only two. The FERC’s two members do not constitute a quorum, meaning it cannot approve dozens of energy infrastructure projects or enforce several energy-related laws. The commissioners have had to delegate these operations to staff.

Trump has made a handful of nominations to fill Republican vacancies: longtime corporate lawyer Jay Clayton to chair the SEC, for example, and two picks, including a senior adviser to Mitch McConnell, for the FERC.

But Trump has not made any movement with regard to the positions that cannot go to Republicans — and there’s one such slot vacant on every one of these six commissions, with more coming down the pike.

In fact, the Trump administration has pulled several commission nominees left over from the Obama era, including one Democratic nominee to the CFTC.

That has led to concerns that Trump might choose conservative-leaning independents instead of Democrats, effectively silencing the opposition party on those commissions. It’s even possible that Trump will decline to fill minority party vacancies, along the lines of top adviser Steve Bannon’s vow to deconstruct the administrative state.

But there’s an arguably even grimmer scenario for progressives, and it involves Sen. Schumer.

Traditionally, the minority leader in the Senate — Schumer — has wide discretion to recommend minority-party commission members, who the president then nominates. In theory, the Democratic Senate caucus needs to agree on Schumer’s choices, but typically, the choice falls to the leader.

Those nominations matter — because while minority party panel members routinely get outvoted, they can create a record of opposition and carry the banner for the party’s ideas and principles. They also matter tremendously when the presidency changes. For example, Ajit Pai, a Republican FCC commissioner under Obama, routinely agitated against Democratic-favored positions for an open internet and expanded broadband access. Under the Trump administration, Pai became chair, and he has acted aggressively in the first two months, blocking a cap on prison phone rates and limiting a program for low-income families to purchase affordable broadband. Trump just re-nominated Pai to another five-year term.

And if it does come down to Schumer, will he select ideologically progressive nominees who would fight Trump’s deregulatory initiatives tooth and nail? Or will he select business-friendly nominees who will be willing collaborators.

“Schumer can lay out a Democratic governing agenda,” said Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Open Markets program at the New America Foundation (and Intercept contributor). “This is how you can tell whether the Democrats are serious.”

Early signs have not been encouraging. Schumer is reportedly interested in elevating his former Chief of Staff David Hantman — who currently lobbies for Silicon Valley firms — to a Democratic seat on the Federal Trade Commission.

The Capitol Forum, a subscription-based news service for policymakers and investors, first reported on the potential Hantman pick for the FTC, which regulates unfair business practices and antitrust violations. Hantman spent over a decade on Capitol Hill, working for Robert Torricelli, Dianne Feinstein, and finally Schumer.

But most recently, he’s represented Silicon Valley in its dealings with the government. And far from being a supporter of activist government and a counter-weight to Republican deregulatory impulses, Hantman is likely to be even more opposed to regulating the tech industry than his potential GOP colleagues.

Hantman served as vice president of global public policy for Yahoo — a top lobbyist position — from 2007 to 2012, then in a similar capacity for Airbnb from 2012 to 2015. He now runs Hantman Strategies, a lobby shop in D.C. for “independent political, public policy and communications advice to select companies.”

Hantman’s private-sector work suggests a belief that large Silicon Valley firms should be granted leeway from government regulations. At Airbnb, he explained his job in an internal memo as to “convince governments that allowing people to rent out their own homes or apartments should not be a problem,” seeking to toss out “antiquated laws.” Hantman represented the company at a 2015 New York City Council meeting. He refused to share data on Airbnb listings to determine which violated city statutes. Eventually, Airbnb lost the fight, as New York State passed legislation cracking down on illegal short-term rentals.

The tech sector will likely be a major FTC focus in the coming years. President Trump may choose as chair Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, who has been vocal about needing to investigate Google over improperly using its market power to get its apps installed on mobile phones. Venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who has called Google a monopoly, has been active in screening potential antitrust enforcers.

Google’s parent company Alphabet has scrambled to hire former Republican staffers in a bid to ingratiate itself to the new regime in Washington. But Hantman’s perceived friendliness to tech firms would provide a critical beachhead for Silicon Valley at the FTC, from the Democratic side of the aisle.

“The FTC is the agency that regulates short-term rental websites, and David Hantman is somebody who would be against regulating, I assume, given his testimony at the City Council hearing,” said New York City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal to the Capitol Forum.

Hantman’s wife, Jamie Brown Hantman, served as “Google’s first in-house lobbyist,” and before that, in George W. Bush’s White House, working on the Supreme Court confirmations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito. Brown Hantman now runs a lobbying firm called The JBH Group, and disclosure forms show that she has on more than one occasion received business from companies where her husband was employed. She was paid $25,000 a quarter from Airbnb from 2012-2016 to lobby for a vague portfolio of “programs and policies affecting the sharing economy.” She also lobbied for Yahoo when her husband worked there, specifically on antitrust issues involving partnerships between Yahoo and Google.

Brown Hantman’s ongoing lobbying, which often involves the tech sector, could lead to Hantman’s recusal on the FTC in cases involving those companies.

Schumer’s office declined to comment on whether Hantman would be chosen for the FTC position. Remarking on rumors that Trump would not grant Schumer the power to choose minority-party commission slots, a spokesman told The Huffington Post, “We intend to assert our prerogative on nominees as has always been done.”

The position of a minority party commissioner can be lonely but critical. Progressive fighters like Ravel at the FEC, Julie Brill at the FTC and Kara Stein at the SEC, worked to hold violators of the law accountable regardless of their wealth or privilege. Of the three, the only one currently serving is Stein, whose term is up in June.

In the face of a Republican onslaught of the regulatory state, they can serve as a last line of resistance, raising public awareness of the stakes of failing to enforce an insider trading scheme or allowing pharmaceutical giants to merge and jack up prices.

Historically, Democrats have not taken full advantage of this opportunity. During the Obama administration, Republicans routinely chose ideologues to serve as minority members of regulatory commissions. But Democrats often picked commissioners with ties to Senate leaders, regardless of their more corporate-friendly tendencies.

For example, Mark Wetjen, a former Harry Reid staffer who became a Democratic member of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, repeatedly undermined Democratic initiatives by siding with derivatives trading firms. Pamela Jones Harbour, a Democratic selection for the FTC under George W. Bush, was actually a political independent. She was later appointed as a senior vice president to sketchy multilevel marketing firm Herbalife.

Top photo: The seal of the Federal Communications Commission hangs behind an empty seat at FCC headquarters.

The post As Trump Neuters Regulatory Commissions, Chuck Schumer Needs to Decide If He Will Fight or Give In appeared first on The Intercept.

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden Blames Millennials for Government Leaks

10 March 2017 - 11:03am

Former CIA director Michael Hayden told the BBC this week that he blames millennials for the government’s secrets being leaked to the public.

“In order to do this kind of stuff, we have to recruit from a certain demographic,” he said, referring to government surveillance. “And I don’t mean to judge them at all, but this group of millennials and related groups simply have different understandings of the words loyalty, secrecy, and transparency than certainly my generation did.”

He specifically cited whistleblowers Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden and speculated that whoever recently gave the CIA spy tool files to Wikileaks was also likely a millennial.

“Culturally, they have different instincts than people who made the decision to hire them,” he said.

Hayden’s theory, however, doesn’t hold water.  Whistleblowers and leakers have been a fact of life throughout United States history — and before its existence, too.

In 1772, Benjamin Franklin — born about 276 years too early to be a millennial — obtained letters from Thomas Hutchinson, governor of Massachusetts, in which he mused about repressing the rights of colonists. Franklin leaked the letters, and they were used by the movement for independence to rile up the colonies against their British rulers.

It’s a tradition that has continued in generation after generation.

Consider Daniel Ellsberg, who was 40 when he leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press in 1971, exposing widespread government deceit about the Vietnam War. Or Mark Felt, who was almost 60 when he helped formed the basis for the Watergate stories under the pseudonym “Deep Throat.”

To the extent that Hayden is right that millennials are different, it’s that younger people value privacy — the core issue behind Snowden’s leaks — more than older Americans.

A 2013 Pew poll found that millennials were more skeptical of government surveillance than any other age group — with 45 percent of millennials saying it was more important for the federal government to “not intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terror threats” than “to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy.” Among those 65 years old and older, just 26 percent held that view.

A 2015 poll commissioned by the ACLU found that 56 percent of Americans between the ages of 18-29 had a favorable view of Snowden, while just 26 percent of those above the age of 55 shared that view.

Top photo: Students at the University of Washington join thousands protesting the election of Donald Trump in Seattle.

 

The post Former CIA Director Michael Hayden Blames Millennials for Government Leaks appeared first on The Intercept.

Paul Ryan Fundraised With Health Insurance Lobbying Firm Just Before His PowerPoint

9 March 2017 - 7:21pm

Just hours before House Speaker Paul Ryan held a press conference to sell his health care overhaul legislation — using a PowerPoint presentation mocked for misrepresenting basic facts  — he was doing something he’s much better at: fundraising.

The two things were related. The Thursday morning breakfast fundraiser he attended was hosted by a lobbying firm working to unwind the Affordable Care Act on behalf of health insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield, one of the big winners of Ryan’s proposed legislation.

The breakfast, according to an invitation, was sponsored by McGuireWoods PAC, the political action committee for the lobbying firm McGuireWoods. Blue Cross Blue Shield, an Anthem company, pays McGuireWoods $120,000 a year to lobby on changes to health reform, records show. Attendees of the event paid were asked to pitch in as much as $10,000.

Ryan’s American Health Care Act (AHCA), which rolls back most of the revenue-generating provisions of the ACA, reduces premium subsidies, and imposes deep cuts to Medicaid, has largely been panned by medical professionals, health policy experts, and political advocacy groups from across the ideological spectrum.

But the bill enjoys enthusiastic support from some corners of the health care industry — primarily health insurance firms and medical device companies that directly benefit from the legislation.

America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade group that lobbies on behalf of health insurance companies, wrote a letter to Congress on Wednesday praising much of the AHCA.

“The proposed legislation includes a number of positive steps to help stabilize the market,” wrote AHIP president Marilyn Tavenner, citing the bill’s provisions on “continuous coverage” and added flexibility for “health plans to offer consumers more choices.”

Alissa Fox, the senior vice president for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, another health insurance lobby group, also provided a statement praising the bill.

The ACHA includes a special 30 percent premium surcharge insurers can charge anyone who has gone without health coverage for at least two months. The bill also reduces the types of medical coverage Medicaid policies are required to cover — the type of flexibility insurers have sought in order to cover less health care costs.

As we reported earlier this week, insurance lobbyists are particularly fond of a tax change made by the Republican health bill that removes limitations on deductions for executive compensation. That reversal will reduce the tax bill for health insurance companies while incentivizing higher pay for insurance employees.

The ACHA would also permanently repeal the 2.3 percent excise tax on medical device tax, which was imposed by Obama’s health reform law. AdvaMed, the lobby group representing the largest medical device firms, released a statement commending the Republican-led House Ways and Means Committee for the repeal of the tax.

While some media outlets praised Ryan’s “wonky” style and use of bar graphs to make his case for the bill on Thursday, many reporters noted that the speaker stumbled when asked basic questions about the legislation.

Ryan notably called the ACA system of younger, healthier people helping to subsidize the insurance of elderly, sick patients a “fatal conceit.” But that general principle — of high- and low-risk consumers alike pooling their resources — is a fundamental element of all health insurance programs. Ryan also “made a series of misleading statements,” noted Politico’s Danny Vinik, who pointed out that the speaker cherry-picked data to exaggerate ACA premium increases.

Despite the perception of Ryan as a policy expert —  a brand carefully manufactured by friendly D.C. reporters — the speaker has devoted himself to relentless fundraising. Records show Ryan spent much of the year flying to resorts and huddling with lobbyists to raise huge amounts of cash to maintain his party’s control of the House of Representatives. The Team Ryan joint fundraising committee, hosted by McGuireWoods on Thursday morning, is allowed to raise as much as $244,200 per person.

Top photo: Speaker Paul Ryan presents the American Health Care Act in Washington on March 9, 2017.

The post Paul Ryan Fundraised With Health Insurance Lobbying Firm Just Before His PowerPoint appeared first on The Intercept.

New Evidence Contradicts Pentagon’s Account of Yemen Raid, But General Closes the Case

9 March 2017 - 6:06pm

The Pentagon’s top Middle East commander told Congress on Thursday that he found no signs of “poor decision-making or bad judgment” in a January raid in Yemen that killed 10 children and at least six women, as well as Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens.

“I made the determination that there was no need for an additional investigation into this particular operation,” said Gen. Joseph Votel.

Earlier on Thursday, The Intercept published its own investigation of the raid based on eyewitnesses, including a 5-year-old who described how his mother was gunned down while trying to flee what other family members said was indiscriminate gunfire from a helicopter.

The White House has tried to shame the raid’s critics into silence. Last month, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters “anyone who undermines the success of that raid owes an apology and [does] a disservice.” In a series tweets the next day, President Trump said criticism from Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., “emboldens the enemy.”

Media coverage has largely focused on Owens, the fallen Navy SEAL, and whether the raid produced intelligence — not on the massacre or village, which is now mostly abandoned.

After Owens’s father told Trump “not to hide behind my son’s death,” Trump invited the SEAL’s wife to the Capitol for his first joint address to Congress. Trump insisted the raid was a “massive success,” and was showered with praise by media pundits for paying tribute to the widow.

The Pentagon’s internal reviews often result in absolution for atrocities. In 2010, for example, U.S. forces killed seven people, including a pregnant women, after ambushing an Afghan village celebrating a birth. The Pentagon’s review found that it was an “appropriate” use of force, and soldiers faced no disciplinary measures.

After the U.S. bombed a hospital in Afghanistan, in 2015, the Pentagon’s investigation blamed “human errors,” and said the soldiers were “unaware” of what they were hitting.

Votel told reporters the raid targeted — but failed to kill a senior al Qaeda official. The Trump administration has previously maintained that the purpose of the raid was to gather intelligence by seizing Al Qaeda electronics.

Top photo: U.S. Central Command Commander Army Gen. Joseph Votel testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee March 9, 2017, in Washington.

The post New Evidence Contradicts Pentagon’s Account of Yemen Raid, But General Closes the Case appeared first on The Intercept.

A tecnologia da invisibilidade

9 March 2017 - 2:44pm

Na semana passada, o monólogo em tom de desabafo do humorista e escritor Assaf Harel na última edição do seu programa na TV israelense viralizou na internet. É fácil entender a popularidade do vídeo. Harel parece revelar uma verdade que, para muitos, precisa de decodificação: o estado de apartheid em Israel só existe por ser baseado na desumanização dos palestinos.

Não apenas por sionistas de direita, diga-se. O ponto de Harel é que a esmagadora maioria da população do país, vivendo sua vidinha do lado certo do muro, prefere ignorar o estado de opressão e miséria que seu governo impõe aos palestinos há décadas. “A inovação mais impressionante de Israel, mais que qualquer projeto de alta tecnologia ou armamento Rafael, é nossa impressionante habilidade para ignorar o que está acontecendo aos nossos vizinhos a poucos quilômetros de distância. Um povo inteiro transparente. Como se não existisse.”

Se há algum paralelo possível entre a ocupação das terras palestinas e o estado de exceção sob o qual vivem milhões de brasileiros em favelas, sem direitos e sob opressão militar e terrorismo de Estado, talvez o maior seja exatamente esse: o solipsismo dos privilegiados do lado de cá do muro.

Trata-se de conceito filosófico bastante elementar: baseia-se na negação de tudo o que está fora da experiência do indivíduo. Como um “só acredito vendo” in extremis, o solipsismo é uma poltrona cômoda para a moral dos indivíduos. Se o que eu não vejo não existe, mais fácil deixar de apontar os olhos para certas realidades e abrir uma cervejinha gelada – nas praias de Tel Aviv ou do Rio. Afinal, numa sociedade entorpecida e dormente, estamos tão acostumados ao assassinato de jovens negros em autos de resistência quanto a beber cerveja de milho.

Algumas das viagens de regresso mais estranhas que já fiz na vida duraram pouco mais de uma hora: sair de Porto Príncipe, no Haiti, e desembarcar em Miami, atravessar o check-point de Erez, em Gaza, e chegar a Tel Aviv, sair do Alemão numa tarde de operação policial e chegar a Botafogo. Em todas, chegando ao destino, a mesma sensação bizarra de normalidade. Do terror à banalidade do cotidiano, vestimos antolhos que nos fazem deixar de ter visto o que vimos e saber o que sabemos. E aí o trabalho é evitar que a Matrix nos cegue de novo e apague as ruínas da memória. E fazer isso sem cair na desesperança – ou desespero.

É sintomático que, não só em Israel, organizações que tentam dar visibilidade ao que está acontecendo ganhem a pecha de “extrema-esquerda”. É uma falácia, infelizmente cada vez mais popular. Como diz Harel, tachar de extremista a defesa de direitos humanos fazendo um paralelo com a extrema-direita que defende a violência – ou mesmo a assume com as próprias mãos – não faz nenhum sentido. É apenas mais uma tentativa de apagamento.

Essa desumanização do “outro” através de uma capa de invisibilidade está muito bem estruturada por uma grande imprensa que manipula a realidade e costuma trabalhar como assessoria de imprensa do Exército Israelense (lá) ou da Polícia Militar (aqui).

Um exemplo histórico disso, como já escrevi, foi a cobertura apologética e irresponsável do jornal O Globo sobre o início da ocupação das favelas pelas Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora e pelo Exército Brasileiro, com o mesmo tom triunfal dos releases sobre a Guerra do Iraque escritos pelos redatores do Donald Rumsfeld. Dentro das suas fronteiras, no ar-condicionado do aquário, foi fácil e prático ignorar os direitos civis negados aos moradores de favelas, negros e pobres desaparecidos ou assassinados pelas forças do Estado transformando-os em homo sacer contemporâneos.

Homo sacer é uma figura do direito romano arcaico, um ser humano excluído dos direitos civis que podia ser morto por qualquer um impunemente. No Brasil, não têm sido poucos. Ao longo de um período de 10 anos (2005-2014), foram registrados, apenas no estado do Rio de Janeiro, 8.466 casos de homicídio decorrentes de intervenção policial. Mais de dois por dia.

Quantos viraram notícia? E como? É através desse silêncio e do viés em notícias onde todos são igualmente tratados como “suspeitos” que a imprensa ratifica a marginalização dessas comunidades e o terrorismo de estado. Seus conhecidos dois pesos e duas medidas têm conseqüências dolorosas para quem não é branco e tampouco chegou à classe média.

Não precisamos nem mesmo ficar na violência policial. As reações ao caso do menino de 13 anos que morreu após ser perseguido por seguranças do Habib’s são triste exemplo, especialmente depois que um médico bolsonarista assinou o laudo necroscópico. Elas são as mesmas provocadas por qualquer corpo de brasileiro pobre no chão. Enquanto a vida de uns valer mais que a de outros – e nós preferirmos viver desviando o olhar para tranquilizar a consciência que nos resta – estaremos longe de qualquer futuro.

The post A tecnologia da invisibilidade appeared first on The Intercept.

“Trump holandês” é pior do que o original

9 March 2017 - 12:10pm

Tenha pena dos holandeses, se puder. O partido liderado por um populista de extrema-direita, anti-Islã e anti-imigrantes, chamado Geert Wilders está prestes a receber a maioria dos votos nas eleições parlamentares holandesas que serão realizadas na semana que vem. Mas os jornalistas que apelidaram Wilders de “Trump holandês” e “Donald Trump dos Países Baixos” devem  desculpas ao presidente dos EUA.

É verdade, Wilders está concorrendo como um desconhecido que quer “fazer da Holanda um grande país novamente” e insulta seus adversários no Twitter. É verdade, ele foi elogiado por diversos conservadores americanos de extrema direita, desde os legisladores republicanos Michele Bachmann e Steve King até os ativistas “anti-jihad” Frank Gaffney e David Horowitz. E, é verdade, ele usa um penteado bufante oxigenado.

Contudo, quando se trata do Islã e de muçulmanos, o espalhafatoso líder do Partido pela Liberdade faz o presidente dos Estados Unidos parecer moderado. Enquanto Trump tenta proibir a entrada de imigrantes de seis países de maioria muçulmana; Wilders quer proibir a imigração de todos os muçulmanos. Enquanto Trump planeja vigiar mesquitas; Wilders quer proibi-las. Trump afirma que vai erradicar o “terrorismo islâmico radical” da “face da terra”; Wilders quer erradicar o Islã, e ponto.

Acha que estou exagerando? Wilders defende que o Islã “não é uma religião, é uma ideologia (…) a ideologia de uma cultura atrasada”, uma ideologia “totalitária”. “O Islã é o cavalo de Troia da Europa”, declarou. “Se não impedirmos a islamificação agora, a [criação] da Eurábia e da Holandarábia serão apenas uma questão de tempo. Na opinião do político holandês, “não existe ‘Islã moderado’”.

Veja também esse tweet do ano passado: “#2017em3palavras: Islã nunca mais”.

#2017in3words

No More Islam

— Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) December 30, 2016

Islã nunca mais? Como se livrar de uma religião sem se livrar de seus 1,6 bilhão de adeptos? Essa é pura e simplesmente a linguagem do genocídio. Wilders sempre alegou odiar o Islã, e não os muçulmanos, mas seus ataques explícitos a instituições e imigrantes muçulmanos sugerem o contrário.

Trump pode ter se cercado de ideólogos anti-Islã, mas Wilders é o próprio ideólogo anti-Islã e, de acordo com seu irmão mais velho Paul (com quem não mantém contato), é assim há muito tempo. Wilders visitou um kibutz em Israel no fim de sua adolescência, e as mais de quarenta visitas subsequentes ao Estado judaico ajudaram a convencê-lo de que o Islã pretende “dominar” a civilização ocidental.

Há também outra diferença fundamental e muito importante entre Wilders e Trump. Perguntei à ex-deputada holandesa Fadime Orgu, que conheceu Wilders quando ambos eram membros do Partido Popular pela Liberdade e Democracia (VVD), partido de centro-direita, entre 1998 e 2004, sobre as constantes comparações entre Wilders e Trump na mídia. “Ele não é como Trump”, riu Orgu, uma das primeiras muçulmanas eleitas para o parlamento holandês. Wilders, diz ela, é um “político de verdade” — o terceiro mais antigo no parlamento holandês —, além de ser “esperto”.

De fato. Ao contrário de outros incitadores de extrema-direita, Wilders disfarça sua intolerância anti-muçulmanos por meio da linguagem do liberalismo e do Iluminismo. O demagogo holandês conquistou eleitores de esquerda defendendo que as posições tolerantes na Holanda com relação às questões sociais, como casamentos homoafetivos, estariam ameaçadas devido a uma “invasão islâmica”.

Mas sua ligação com o liberalismo é superficial e oportunista. Como é possível apoiar a liberdade de expressão e defender a proibição do Alcorão ao mesmo tempo? Como é possível apoiar a liberdade religiosa e, ao mesmo tempo, prometer fechar todas as mesquitas? Como é possível alegar estar combatendo o extremismo islâmico em nome dos direitos de homossexuais e ser aliado de Marine Le Pen na França e Matteo Salvini na Itália, ambos contrários aos direitos de homossexuais?

E como é possível alegar não ser racista ou xenófobo ao mesmo tempo que difama e ameaça imigrantes do Marrocos e seus filhos nascidos na Holanda? Wilders lançou sua candidatura em fevereiro acusando a “escória marroquina” de tornar as “ruas inseguras”. Pouco antes disso, em dezembro, um tribunal de Amsterdã o julgou culpado por insultos públicos e incitação da discriminação em declarações realizadas em um comício em março de 2014. Winston Ross do site Newsweek descreveu a ocasião em um perfil de Wilders:

Protegido por dois guarda-costas, [Wilders] se dirigiu a um pequeno pódio com “Eye of the Tiger” tocando em um equipamento de som barato, acompanhado de aplausos escassos. “Pergunto a todos vocês”, disse apontando para a plateia, “vocês querem mais ou menos marroquinos nesta cidade e na Holanda?” A plateia respondeu em coro animado, “menos, menos, menos!”. Wilders sorriu e disse “então, que isso seja providenciado”.

De novo, essa não é a linguagem do genocídio?

Wilders insiste que não estava defendendo a violência. No entanto, palavras geram consequências, e o discurso de ódio pode levar a crimes de ódio. Veja Anders Breivik, o autodenominado fascista que assassinou 77 pessoas na Noruega em 2011 como parte de sua “guerra civil” contra a “islamização contínua da Europa”. Breivik mencionou Wilders em tom de aprovação 30 vezes em seu manifesto on-line e parece ter comparecido a um comício de Wilders. Wilders pode ter chegado a criticar o crime de Breivik, mas também o reconheceu como um companheiro ideológico implicitamente quando o criticou por ter distorcido “de forma violenta” os “ideais libertários anti-islamização”.

Assim como nos EUA, no Reino Unido e (ao que tudo indica) na França, a “anti-islamização” é uma plataforma eleitoral eficaz na Holanda. Surpreendentemente, o partido de Wilders está empatado nas pesquisas com o Partido pela Liberdade e Democracia do primeiro ministro Mark Rutte. Será que o “Capitão Oxigenado” pode infringir um dos maiores abalos políticos à Europa desde a Segunda Guerra Mundial e conquistar o governo holandês? Por enquanto, todos os grande partidos políticos holandeses se comprometeram a não formar um governo de coalizão com o partido de Wilders. Cas Mudde, professor da Universidade da Geórgia e especialista em populismo, disse que, dessa forma, é “improvável” que Wilders se torne primeiro ministro na próxima quarta-feira , mas admite que “tudo é possível”.

Mesmo que não se torne primeiro ministro, Wilders já foi bem-sucedido em forçar a Holanda – e por associação, a União Europeia como um todo – à extrema-direita em pontos como Islã e imigração. “Por muito tempo, Wilders pôde definir a agenda política holandesa”, observou Mudde. Em Janeiro, por exemplo, em uma tentativa explícita de impressionar eleitores de Wilders, o primeiro ministro Rutte publicou uma propaganda ocupando uma página inteira nos jornais pedindo que as pessoas que “se recusam a se adaptar e que criticam nosso valores” a “ se comportarem de forma normal ou irem embora”. Por todo o continente, assim como do outro lado do Atlântico, políticos de todo o espectro político começaram a seguir seus passos e se apropriar de sua cartilha.

Por consequência, é difícil discordar das avaliações do próprio Wilders sobre o futuro. “Mesmo se eu perder essas eleições,” disse no mês passado, “o gênio não vai voltar para a lâmpada.”

The post “Trump holandês” é pior do que o original appeared first on The Intercept.

Lista de Janot causa alvoroço em Brasília, mas políticos não precisam se preocupar

9 March 2017 - 12:09pm

Planalto, Congresso e Esplanada dos Ministérios estão em alvoroço na expectativa de o procurador-geral da República, Rodrigo Janot, enviar ao Supremo Tribunal Federal a segunda lista com pedidos de investigação de integrantes do governo. No entanto, a trajetória da primeira leva de pedidos de Janot, enviada em março de 2015 ao STF, mostra que o corpo político de Brasília não tem muito com o que se preocupar, pelo menos nos próximos meses. Em dois anos, apenas 5 dos 50 nomes que constavam da primeira lista viraram réus no Supremo – o quinto, senador Valdir Raupp (PMDB-RO), se tornou réu apenas esta semana. Ninguém foi condenado.

The Intercept Brasil conversou com juristas para entender a razão de tanta demora nos trâmites investigativos e processuais e quais seriam as soluções para acelerar a análise dos processos. Eles apontam a prerrogativa de foro privilegiado de autoridades como um dos obstáculos para que as decisões sejam mais dinâmicas. Segundo a Constituição, as infrações penais do presidente, vice, parlamentares, ministros e o procurador-geral da República devem ser julgadas apenas pelo Supremo Tribunal Federal.

Senador Valdir Raupp (PMDB-RO) se tornou réu no STF na última terça-feira

Foto: Pedro França/Agência Senado

Para o professor de direito da Universidade de Brasília Paulo Henrique Blair de Oliveira, quando as decisões cabem a um tribunal colegiado, como é o caso do Supremo, é natural que as decisões demorem um pouco mais, porque não é fruto de uma só cabeça, mas de várias. “Já passou da hora de a gente rever essa questão da prerrogativa de foro, porque a regra é a igualdade. Quando há uma desigualdade é necessário fazer ajustes”, pontua.

Especialista em processo penal e professor da Universidade de São Paulo, Maurício Zanoide de Moraes, explica que quando é um juiz de primeira instância quem deve decidir sobre o recebimento de uma denúncia, essa decisão é tomada monocraticamente. No Supremo, a decisão é muitas vezes tomada de forma colegiada – no caso de Raupp, por exemplo, votaram os cinco ministros da 2ª Turma do STF.

Mudanças no foro privilegiado

O constitucionalista Wesley Machado, professor de direito na Universidade Católica de Brasília (UCB), concorda com os colegas e defende que a sociedade pressione o Congresso para reduzir o escopo de autoridades que têm a prerrogativa de foro. “Quem deveria ter foro: ministros do Supremo, o chefe do Poder Executivo, os chefes das casas legislativas e, também em razão do funcionamento, do Poder Judiciário e do Ministério Público”, afirma.

Nestes casos, Machado argumenta que o foro privilegiado garante a liberdade de atuação das autoridades. “A gente garante que algumas autoridades tenham liberdade para atuar, não sofram pressões, não possam ser processadas criminalmente em qualquer juízo. Então para algumas autoridades é extremamente importante a manutenção do foro” diz.

Uma das principais bandeiras constantes dos protestos nas rua, as propostas sobre o fim do foro privilegiado seguem paradas no Congresso. No total são 12 PEC’s sobre o tema. Parlamentares temem que em meio à iminente delação da Odebrecht, eles percam o direito de serem julgados apenas pelo STF e fiquem a mercê do juiz Sérgio Moro, de Curitiba.

Mas Machado também lista o volume de processos em trâmite no STF como um dos fatores que contribuem para a morosidade das ações envolvendo políticos. Além de Corte constitucional e de jurisdição para o julgamento de autoridades com foro, o STF é a última instância de recursos do Judiciário.

“No caso do ministro que vai suceder Teori Zavascki (Alexandre de Moraes), ele já chega no gabinete herdando sete mil processos. Então, dada grande quantidade de recursos e processos apresentados que são da competência do STF, isso dificulta um pouco a tramitação dos pleitos”, explica Machado.

Segundo Machado, o que poderia ser feito para desafogar a pauta do STF seria uma diminuição da possibilidade de recursos de processos até a Suprema Corte: “Nos casos triviais que não têm repercussão geral, que não têm relevância social ou jurídica, não deveria chegar até ao STF”.

Planalto teme paralisia do Congresso

O fato é que o procurador-geral deve inundar o STF com mais de uma centena de pedidos de abertura de inquérito, os primeiros como fruto de delações premiadas de 77 executivos e ex-executivos da Odebrecht. É esperada uma chiadeira geral em Brasília, visto que nomes da cúpula do Planalto, como Eliseu Padilha (Casa Civil) e Moreira Franco (Secretaria-Geral da Presidência), além de integrantes de grande parte dos partidos devem aparecer entre os listados.

Na ocasião, é provável também que Janot peça a retirada do sigilo de grande parte das delações, que devem ser acompanhadas de documentos, comprovantes e extratos bancários, para explicar o tim tim por tim tim da prática de lavagem de dinheiro e ocultação de bens.

No Palácio do Planalto, no entanto, as suspeitas sobre membros do governo não serão suficientes para que os citados sejam afastados. Conforme afirmou em outra oportunidade, o presidente Michel Temer só irá demitir os que virarem réus no STF. Enquanto isso, a ordem no Planalto é “arrumar a casa” para que o turbilhão que está por vir não interfira nas reformas em discussão no Congresso.

Consciente de que sofrerá desgastes com a segunda lista de Janot, a estratégia do Planalto é atuar para que o Congresso Nacional não fique paralisado em meio à série de denúncias que estão por vir. O objetivo é simples: mesmo com a enxurrada de inquéritos, tentar manter a coesão da base aliada. Se o governo vai conseguir sobreviver após a delação do fim do mundo, ninguém sabe.

The post Lista de Janot causa alvoroço em Brasília, mas políticos não precisam se preocupar appeared first on The Intercept.

Women and Children in Yemeni Village Recall Horror of Trump’s “Highly Successful” SEAL Raid

9 March 2017 - 9:00am

On January 29, 5-year-old Sinan al Ameri was asleep with his mother, his aunt, and 12 other children in a one-room stone hut typical of poor rural villages in the highlands of Yemen. A little after 1 a.m., the women and children awoke to the sound of a gunfight erupting a few hundred feet away. Roughly 30 members of Navy SEAL Team 6 were storming the eastern hillside of the remote settlement.

According to residents of the village of al Ghayil, in Yemen’s al Bayda province, the first to die in the assault was 13-year-old Nasser al Dhahab. The house of his uncle, Sheikh Abdulraouf al Dhahab, and the building behind it, the home of 65-year-old Abdallah al Ameri and his son Mohammed al Ameri, 38, appeared to be the targets of the U.S. forces, who called in air support as they were pinned down in a nearly hourlong firefight.

With the SEALs taking heavy fire on the lower slopes, attack helicopters swept over the hillside hamlet above. In what seemed to be blind panic, the gunships bombarded the entire village, striking more than a dozen buildings, razing stone dwellings where families slept, and wiping out more than 120 goats, sheep, and donkeys.

Three projectiles tore through the straw and timber roof of the home where Sinan slept. Cowering in a corner, Sinan’s mother, 30-year-old Fatim Saleh Mohsen, decided to flee the bombardment. Grabbing her 18-month-old son and ushering her terrified children into the narrow outdoor passageway between the tightly packed dwellings, she headed into the open. Over a week later, Sinan’s aunt Nadr al Ameri wept as she stood in the same room and recalled watching her sister run out the door into the darkness.

Nesma al Ameri, an elderly village matriarch who lost four family members in the raid, described how the attack helicopters began firing down on anything that moved. As she recounted the horror of what happened, Sinan tapped her on the arm. “No, no. The bullets were coming from behind,” the 5-year-old insisted, interrupting to demonstrate how he was shot at and his mother gunned down as they ran for their lives. “From here to here,” Sinan said, putting two fingers to the back of his head and drawing an invisible line to illustrate the direction of the bullet exiting her forehead. His mother fell to the ground next to him, still clutching his baby brother in her arms. Sinan kept running.

His mother’s body was found in the early light of dawn, the front of her head split open. The baby was wounded but alive. Sinan’s mother was one of at least six women killed in the raid, the first counterterrorism operation of the Trump administration, which also left 10 children under the age of 13 dead. “She was hit by the plane. The American plane,” explained Sinan. “She’s in heaven now,” he added with a shy smile, seemingly unaware of the enormity of what he had witnessed or, as yet, the impact of his loss. “Dog Trump,” declared Nesma, turning to the other women in the room for agreement. “Yes, the dog Trump,” they agreed.

According to White House press secretary Sean Spicer, the al Ghayil raid “was a very, very well thought out and executed effort,” planning for which began under the Obama administration back in November 2016. Although Ned Price, former National Security Council spokesperson, and Colin Kahl, the national security adviser under Vice President Biden, challenged Spicer’s account, what is agreed upon is that Trump gave the final green light over dinner at the White House on January 25. According to two people with direct knowledge, the White House did not notify the U.S. ambassador to Yemen in advance of the operation.

A girl stands in the burnt-out remains of a house destroyed during the U.S. Navy SEAL raid in the village of al Ghayil in Yemen on January 29, 2017.

Photo: Iona Craig

The Intercept’s reporting from al Ghayil in the aftermath of the raid and the eyewitness accounts provided by residents, as well as information from current and former military officials, challenge many of the Trump administration’s key claims about the “highly successful” operation, from the description of an assault on a fortified compound — there are no compounds or walled-off houses in the village — to the “large amounts of vital intelligence” the president said were collected.

According to a current U.S. special operations adviser and a former senior special operations officer, it was not intelligence the Pentagon was after but a key member of al Qaeda. The raid was launched in an effort to capture or kill Qassim al Rimi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, according to the special operations adviser, who asked to remain anonymous because details behind the raid are classified.

Villagers interviewed by The Intercept rejected claims that al Rimi was present in al Ghayil, although one resident described seeing an unfamiliar black SUV arriving in the village hours before the raid. Six days after the operation, AQAP media channels released an audio statement from al Rimi, who mocked President Trump and the raid. The White House and the military have denied that the AQAP leader was the target of the mission, insisting the SEALs were sent in to capture electronic devices and material to be used for intelligence gathering. A spokesperson for CENTCOM told The Intercept the military has not yet determined whether al Rimi was in al Ghayil when the SEALs arrived.

Although some details about the mission remain unclear, the account that has emerged suggests the Trump White House is breaking with Obama administration policies that were intended to limit civilian casualties. The change — if permanent — would increase the likelihood of civilian deaths in so-called capture or kill missions like the January 29 raid.

The village of al Ghayil in Yemen where U.S. Navy SEALs, attack helicopters, and drones launched an operation on January 29, 2017.

Photo: Iona Craig


The January mission was the fourth time U.S. forces have been involved in ground operations in Yemen. While none of those prior raids could be deemed successful — two were failed attempts to free an American hostage, photojournalist Luke Somers — they did not leave the same trail of destruction as the operation in al Ghayil.

The village is part of a cluster of settlements known as Yakla in the Qayfa tribal region of Yemen’s al Bayda province. A basic knowledge of the local political environment, combined with a grasp of the obvious challenges posed by the geographical layout of al Ghayil, would have provided substantial forewarning that this latest raid was a highly precarious undertaking. American military planners should have foreseen that their forces would face not only al Qaeda militants, but also heavy armed resistance from residents of al Ghayil and surrounding villages.

This area of al Bayda has been at war for more than 2 1/2 years, and the Qayfa tribe is renowned for its fighting prowess and a long-standing refusal to yield to the state. After the joint forces of Yemen’s northern Houthi rebels and military loyalists of the country’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, seized control of the capital, Sana, in September 2014, they swiftly moved southeast into al Bayda. Most of the Qayfa tribe, including the men of Yakla, have been fighting the Houthi-Saleh forces ever since. Saudi Arabia joined the fray in March 2015, leading a coalition of nations in a military intervention and aerial bombing campaign, supported by the U.S., to push back the Houthis, who the Saudis view as an Iranian proxy force. In theory, the residents of al Ghayil are on the same side as the United States in a civil war that has left more than 3 million people displaced and brought the country to the edge of famine.

Al Ghayil, just a few miles from Houthi-Saleh-controlled territory, came under Houthi rocket fire more than once in the early weeks of 2017, leaving the area of Yakla on high alert for attacks and residents in constant fear of losing their homes to a Houthi-Saleh incursion. The closest town, Rada — home to the nearest hospital — had been a no-go area for the population of Yakla since it fell under Houthi-Saleh control in October 2014.

When the U.S. Navy SEALs flew into al Ghayil in the early hours of January 29 — a deliberately chosen moonless night — local armed tribesmen assumed the Houthis had arrived to capture their village. After the firefight started, some of the men who ran to defend their families and homes saw colored lasers emanating from the weapons of their opponents, raising suspicions they might be facing Americans.

Shortly after the firefight erupted, Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens was shot by a bullet that hit just above his armored chest plate and entered his heart, according to the former senior special operations official briefed on the raid. Owens died shortly after he was hit.

Further confusion set in when the attack helicopters joined the assault. Knowing the Houthi-Saleh forces do not have an air force, residents could only assume it was the Saudi-led coalition attacking them from the air. They were not entirely wrong. Troops from the United Arab Emirates — leading players in the coalition’s two-year fight against the Houthis — also took part in the raid and might have been involved in flying the helicopters that fired on civilians. Dozens of UAE Apache gunships are currently stationed in Emirati-run military bases across Yemen.

The UAE government did not respond to multiple requests for comment on its role in the raid or answer queries regarding any casualties among its personnel.

According to the former senior U.S. special operations official and a current military consultant, both of whom were briefed on the raid, the SEALs discovered by the time they arrived in the village that their operation had been compromised. It is still unclear how those on the ground were tipped off, but a current consultant to the Joint Special Operations Command, which oversees SEAL Team 6, said the command is investigating whether UAE forces involved in the raid revealed the details of the mission before the SEALs arrived in al Ghayil. (However, local residents, who are used to hearing the buzz of drones in the remote area, said they noticed the unusual presence of helicopters around 9 p.m. the night before the raid, which raised concern.)

Some men in the surrounding villages grabbed their weapons and ran to help defend their neighbors when they heard the sound of a battle unfolding, according to residents. Mohammed Ali al Taysi, from the nearby village of Husun at Tuyus, dashed to his battered SUV, tearing down a dry riverbed in the dark to reach al Ghayil from the north. But just short of the village, a helicopter flew low overhead, pounding warning shots into the ground on either side of his vehicle. Al Taysi jumped out, firing his rifle toward the Apache before retreating into the night. Other armed men closer to the village descended from the mountainside on foot to support the tribesmen of al Ghayil, who already held the advantage of the high ground on the western side of the village. The SEALs had come in from the low ground to the north, approaching the homes of Abdulraouf al Dhahab and Mohammed al Ameri from the eastern slopes below.

According to those present, the firefight quickly escalated around the al Dhahab house, halting the SEALs’ advance. As the U.S. forces fought from the lower ground and more men descended the mountainside to join the shootout, airstrikes obliterated Mohammed al Ameri’s house on the hill above, killing three of his children, ages 7, 5, and 4, and seemingly destroying any possibility of retrieving laptops, hard drives, or other intelligence material from inside without digging through piles of rubble in the dark.

With one Navy SEAL dead and two others seriously wounded, the special operations forces began to withdraw. But before they departed, according to local witnesses, the MV-22 Osprey used to extract the retreating soldiers crash-landed, forcing another aircraft to land to pull out the operators. Airstrikes then deliberately destroyed the abandoned Osprey.

The gunfight had lasted the better part of an hour. It would be another hour or more before the skies fell silent and the sound of helicopters, aircraft, and drones faded. It was in the dawn light that the mass of bodies was revealed, the missing accounted for, and dead children identified. Smoke swirled into the air from the roofs still burning and the carcass of the smoldering Osprey in the distance.

Map of the village of al Ghayil in Yemen’s al Bayda province.

Map: The Intercept

This was not the first time residents of the remote Yakla area had lost family members to a U.S. attack. In December 2013, a drone strike on a wedding convoy killed 12 civilians. The groom, Abdallah al Ameri, survived that attack. But on January 29, the 65-year-old was killed standing unarmed beside his house as it was bombed. A picture posted online shortly after the raid showed his body lying in the rocky sand with his hand clasped around a blood-soaked head torch.

The aftermath of the raid’s destruction left villagers struggling to understand what the Americans were trying to accomplish. Abdulraouf, whose house appeared to be one of the targets, was no stranger to American attempts to kill him. He was the apparent target of at least three separate airstrikes between 2011 and 2013 in al Bayda province, including one in September 2012 that killed 12 civilians — a pregnant woman and three children were among the dead.

Following the deaths, Abdulraouf called on the families of victims to hire international lawyers to take their cases to court in the United States. Two of Abdulraouf’s brothers were also killed by American drone strikes as the U.S. was drawn into a long-running bloody feud that had split the family of some 18 brothers between those aligned with al Qaeda and those who stood with the state.

Although Abdulelah al Dhahab, a brother who survived the January raid but lost his 12-year-old son, denied Abdulraouf was an al Qaeda member, the bonds between the family and Yemen’s al Qaeda insurgency also extend to marital ties. Al Qaeda propagandist and American citizen Anwar al Awlaki married Abdularouf’s sister. Awlaki’s 8-year-old daughter, Nawar, was in the al Dhahab house the night of the raid. She bled to death after being shot in the neck — the second of Awlaki’s children to be killed by the United States since his own death by an American drone strike in September 2011. His eldest son, 16-year-old Denver-born Abdulrahman, was killed by a U.S. drone two weeks after his father.

Following the onset of civil war in March 2015, Abdulraouf played a key role in leading the self-described “resistance” of local armed militias loyal to the Saudi-led coalition, fighting on the pro-government side of Yemen’s internationally recognized president-in-exile, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. As a senior Qayfa tribal figure, Abdulraouf was a well-respected resistance leader. The day before the January raid, he was handing out salaries for pro-government fighters after collecting the money from the nearest Saudi coalition base in the neighboring province of Marib.

Although U.S. drone strikes killed a succession of leading AQAP figures in the first six months of 2015, drone, air, and sea-to-land bombings over the preceding 15 years were plagued by poor intelligence and numerous civilian casualties. Survivors of the al Ghayil operation were left to speculate what intelligence led American special operations forces to storm their village “as if they were coming to kill Osama bin Laden,” as one resident noted, puzzling over whether the U.S. thought it was going after the leader of the Islamic State rather than an apparent low-level al Qaeda militant of the same name, Abubakr al Baghdadi, who was killed in the raid. “Or the Americans were tricked into killing Abdulraouf, the leading fighter in Qayfa, to help the Houthis and Saleh,” hypothesized one anti-Houthi tribal fighter.

On at least one occasion in Yemen, the U.S. was deliberately fed false intelligence by the regime of then-President Saleh. In May 2010, it resulted in the erroneous killing of the deputy governor of Marib in a drone strike. As one anonymous American official was later quoted as saying, “We think we got played.”

Though the planning for the Yakla operation began many months ago, Abdulraouf’s house in al Ghayil was built recently. The modern cinder-block walls and PVC windows stood out among the simple stone huts dominating the rest of the village. The tribal leader had been living in a tent on the rocky hillside after being run out of the al Dhahab family homestead in the village of al Manasa by Houthi-Saleh forces in the fall of 2014.

One resident, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals, stated that Mohammed al Ameri’s home was used as a guest house by passing al Qaeda militants — aggressive men whom the rest of the villagers avoided. To get to Mohammed’s house, the SEALs had to pass the al Dhahab home, where Abdulraouf, his brother Sultan, and their guests were holding a late-night gathering with another tribal leader, octogenarian Saif Mohammed al Jawfi, who also died in the raid. The witness claimed the meeting in al Dhahab’s house was held to resolve an issue regarding one of Saif’s relatives who had been arrested by militants connected to the guest house, as well as to arrange the distribution of the U.S.-backed Saudi coalition cash payments to anti-Houthi resistance fighters.

Those in the village speculated about the exact target of the January 29 raid. Was the house of Abdulraouf and the tent beside it the objective? Did the U.S. military believe that Qassim al Rimi, the AQAP leader, was inside the house? Or was it the next building on the hillside above, the home of Mohammed al Ameri, the Navy SEALs were aiming for? Others ventured that a woman, Arwa al Baghdadi, might have been the focus.

Arwa al Baghdadi, according to her own social media postings, was imprisoned in 2010 and tortured by authorities in Saudi Arabia after her brother was shot dead by security forces. She was later used as an apparent bargaining chip in the 2015 release of a Saudi diplomat who had been kidnapped by AQAP in Aden three years earlier (Saudi officials say there was no connection). Arwa al Baghdadi, who fled to Yemen after her release from prison, was killed in the raid along with her son Osama, and another brother, Abubakr al Baghdadi. Her pregnant sister-in-law was shot in the stomach. The unborn infant, grazed by the bullet fired into his mother’s stomach, died following an emergency caesarean section at the 26 September hospital, a five-hour drive away in the neighboring province of Marib.

Many of al Ghayil’s residents denied any presence of al Qaeda militants in the village that night. Al Rimi’s statement after the raid offered condolences to the families of those killed, and along with AQAP propaganda channels, listed 14 men among the dead, although al Rimi stopped short of calling them AQAP members. (Eight of those names were not included in the toll of the dead that villagers provided to The Intercept, as they were not known to local residents. Family members disputed claims the remaining six men were members of AQAP.)

In the current context of Yemen’s civil war, AQAP has sought to frame the conflict as a sectarian struggle against Shiite Houthis. In that narrative, AQAP regularly describes all opponents of the Houthis as Sunni “brothers” or “one of us” — part of a long-term strategy to create a more seamless blend with the local population and tribes.

Children stand in the rubble of houses destroyed during a raid by U.S. Navy SEALs in the village of al Ghayil in Yemen on January 29, 2017.

Photo: Iona Craig

The only evidence released so far to back up Sean Spicer’s claim that “the goal of the raid was intelligence gathering, and that’s what we received” was a video posted by U.S. Central Command on February 3. CENTCOM presented the clip as confirmation of the “valuable” material collected during the raid and labeled the video as an “AQAP course to attack the West.” But it was quickly taken down after it was discovered that the footage was 10 years old — pre-dating the existence of AQAP in Yemen — and was readily available online. The U.S. government has yet to produce any further proof of intelligence collected from the raid.

There are other suspect details in the U.S. version of events. In the days after the raid, the Pentagon claimed that the women killed were armed and fought the incoming U.S. special operations forces from “pre-established positions.” Yet all of the witnesses to the attack interviewed by The Intercept in al Ghayil strongly challenged this accusation, citing a culture that views the prospect of women fighting, as Nesma al Ameri put it, as “eib” — shameful and dishonorable — and pointing out the practical implausibility of women clutching babies while also firing rifles. A CENTCOM spokesperson refused to provide any details about female fighters to support its assertion.

However, the names of the dead that villagers gave to The Intercept did not include one woman listed by AQAP media channels. Propagandists and supporters of the militants claimed one unnamed woman “fought them with her own gun,” with an additional claim that Arwa, the former Saudi prisoner, had thrown a grenade killing a U.S. soldier — assertions strongly denied by Abdulelah al Dhahab, who survived the lengthy gunfight around his brother’s home. Sheikh Aziz al Ameri, the head of the al Ameri clan, lost 20 members of his extended family, six of them children, the youngest only 3 months old. “Everyone who tried to run, they killed them,” he said, standing on the hilltop outside his home 11 days later.

In response to The Intercept’s findings, Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Security Project, called for a full investigation into the raid, including the legal basis for the operation, the adequacy of intelligence beforehand, what precautions were taken, and why any precautions failed.

“Each new revelation about this tragic operation is grievous and shocking,” Shamsi said. “Even in recognized armed conflict, there are rules to safeguard against the killings of civilians, and even under the Obama administration’s imperfect lethal force policy, which to the best of our knowledge remains in effect, there are constraints that should have prevented or at least minimized civilian deaths.”

Last week, the White House announced the Pentagon would be carrying out three reviews of the raid, looking into the death of Owens, the loss of the Osprey, and the civilian casualties.

During his first address to Congress on February 28, President Trump noted that Owens died “a warrior and a hero,” leading to a standing ovation for the Navy SEAL’s widow, Carryn Owens. Trump has made no mention of the relatives of the women and children who died that night.

By the time the whirring sound of drones returned to Yakla two days after the operation, the village of al Ghayil was largely deserted. With little reason to stay after their livestock had been eradicated, families fled in fear of further attack and imminent enemy takeover following the death of Abdulraouf al Dhahab, Qayfa’s most eminent adversary of the Houthi-Saleh forces. The majority of the men, women, and children who survived are now indefinitely displaced.

A month later, amid an unprecedented uptick in U.S. military activity in Yemen last week, the helicopters and drones returned to Yakla. Apaches descended on al Ghayil before dawn on March 2, carrying out “indiscriminate shelling,” according to Sheikh Aziz al Ameri, one of the few residents who remained in the village. Later that day, the Pentagon took responsibility for more than 20 airstrikes carried out in the early hours of the morning across three Yemeni provinces, including al Bayda.

Early on March 3, attack helicopters and drones returned yet again. An airstrike, apparently targeting Abduelah, the surviving brother of Abdulraouf al Dhahab, landed just outside the door of his house, killing three of his extended family members from their home village of al Manasa. Late that night, Abdulelah was yet again the apparent target of a drone strike that killed four men traveling with him in a car in Marib province. It is unclear if Abdulelah survived. At least six houses in al Ghayil were damaged the same night by yet more helicopter gunship fire. With the village coming under attack for the third consecutive night on March 5, Sheikh Aziz and his family finally fled; they are now living under trees several miles away. Less than 24 hours later, another drone strike killed two more children, brothers ages 10 and 12.

Pentagon spokesperson Capt. Jeff Davis said in a statement that the strikes targeting AQAP were conducted in partnership with the government of Yemen and were coordinated with President Hadi. Anti-Houthi resistance fighters on the front lines of the civil war, not far from Yakla, were also killed, according to residents of al Bayda. The following day, Davis told reporters that additional strikes were carried out early on Friday, bringing the total to more than 30 strikes in less than 36 hours — exceeding the 32 confirmed U.S. drone strikes in Yemen during all of last year.

Although Davis stated that “U.S. forces will continue to target AQAP militants and facilities in order to disrupt the terrorist organization’s plots, and ultimately to protect American lives,” NBC News reported the strikes were also part of “new directives” to aggressively pursue the Dhahab and Qayfa clans, citing a senior military intelligence source.

While the Yakla raid supposedly took place under presidential policy guidelines set up under the Obama administration — standards repeatedly used to defend the U.S. drone program — further developments last week indicate the Trump administration is no longer abiding by the condition of “near certainty” that civilians will not be killed or injured in operations.

A defense official speaking to the Washington Post stated that the military has been granted temporary authority to regard selected areas of Yemen as “areas of active hostility.” That change, while shortening the approval process for military action, effectively puts the U.S. on a war footing in any area of Yemen designated, but unlikely to be disclosed, by the military, noted Cori Crider, a lawyer at the international human rights organization Reprieve who has represented Yemeni drone strike victims. This authority has a lower bar: Civilian deaths have to be “proportionate” rather than avoided with a “near certainty,” as set out by the previous administration for the use of lethal force “outside areas of active hostilities.”

“This means that all of those much-vaunted ‘standards’ the Obama administration said they were using to minimize civilian casualties in drone strikes in Yemen have been chucked right out the window,” said Crider.

In a press briefing on March 3, Davis told reporters that the legal authority for carrying out the January raid and recent strikes “was delegated by the president through the secretary of defense” to U.S. Central Command. But when contacted by The Intercept, the Pentagon could not clarify whether al Ghayil was still considered to be outside areas of active hostilities during the botched raid.

In al Bayda, the continuing aerial bombardments are perceived by some as helping Saleh and the Houthis — who last month Spicer conflated with Iran and accused of attacking an American Navy vessel off Yemen’s western Red Sea coast. The Houthis had, in fact, hit a Saudi frigate.

Meanwhile, the villagers of al Ghayil are not calling for the usual tribal standard of compensation for the families of victims. Few wanted to be named saying so, but all expressed the same sentiment less than two weeks after the raid: This time, they want revenge, not a payout.

While President Trump continues to hail the mission as a success, quoting Defense Secretary James Mattis in Congress last week that intelligence gathered “will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemy,” in Yakla, the clearest outcome appears to be lengthening the list of America’s adversaries beyond al Qaeda.

Mohammed al Taysi, the tribesman who tried to join the fight in al Ghayil, put it succinctly as we parted company at dusk along the track out of Yakla. “If they come back,” he said, referring to the SEALs, “tell them to bring their caskets. From now we are ready for any fight with the Americans and the dog Trump.”

Iona Craig’s reporting from Yemen was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Top photo: Mabkhout Ali al Ameri stands with his 18-month-old son, Mohammed, in the village of al Ghayil in Yemen’s al Bayda province. Mabkhout’s wife, Fatim Saleh Mohsen, was shot in the back of the head by helicopter gunship fire as she fled with Mohammed in her arms during a U.S. raid on January 29, 2017. The vehicle in the background was also destroyed during the assault.

The post Women and Children in Yemeni Village Recall Horror of Trump’s “Highly Successful” SEAL Raid appeared first on The Intercept.

Women’s Strike Organizers Arrested in New York on a Day of Protests Worldwide

8 March 2017 - 5:41pm

Police in New York arrested three leaders of the Women’s March movement for blocking traffic outside the Trump International Hotel on Wednesday as they took part in the global “Day Without Women” strike, called to mark International Women’s Day.

Linda Sarsour was just arrested outside Trump International for disorderly conduct. pic.twitter.com/SOais39G7L

— Isaac Saul (@Ike_Saul) March 8, 2017

Shortly after they were detained, the group’s Twitter feed shared images of Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, and Carmen Perez inside a New York Police Department van with other activists.

Some of us have been arrested #DayWithoutAWoman pic.twitter.com/WSYVdrQjxA

— Women's March (@womensmarch) March 8, 2017

We are not sure what precinct we are being taken to at the moment. But we are together, reSisters. #DayWithoutAWoman pic.twitter.com/r10WBikdl8

— Women's March (@womensmarch) March 8, 2017

As Dayna Tortorici explained last week in the journal n+1, women in dozens of countries responded to the call for a one-day Women’s Strike.

In more than thirty countries, women will refuse to do work — any work, paid or unpaid — that they do not wish to do. They will not cook breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They will not clean, watch children, buy groceries, drive carpool, fold clothes, wash dishes, or have sex — at least the kind of sex that feels like work. They will not work the assembly line or the phones, take your order or ring you up. They will skip shifts at hospitals, universities, and labs. They will not send emails (“sorry for the delayed response!”) or schedule appointments, braid hair, paint fingernails, or wax groins. They will wear red, march in the streets, block bridges and roads, and make demands whose fulfillment is long overdue. Equal pay. Paid parental and medical leave. Universal child care. Universal health care. Freedom from sexual abuse. Freedom from deportation. Freedom from racism. Freedom from violence.

Outside the United States, among the largest gatherings in support of reproductive rights took place in Ireland and Poland, two traditionally conservative, Catholic nations where political leaders have resisted calls to make abortion safe and legal.

Thousands of protesters brought traffic to a standstill in the Irish capital, Dublin, chanting for the repeal of the country’s Eighth Amendment, which, since 1983, has given an unborn fetus the same right to life as a pregnant woman. The protest was organized by activists calling for a referendum to repeal the amendment.

Amazing turnout at #strike4repeal ?? pic.twitter.com/tMaeR1nVph

— Shannon (@_shxnn) March 8, 2017

Anyone who thinks young people don't care about politics should come witness #Strike4Repeal takeover of O'C Bridge pic.twitter.com/xPFVPssgDh

— Pádraig Rice (@PadraigRice) March 8, 2017

Women also rallied in the Polish capital, Warsaw, where a women’s strike in October had helped defeat a proposal to make abortion illegal.

Major demonstration in Warsaw's Constitution Square.#IWD2017 pic.twitter.com/HLeD4FbCcU

— Christian Davies (@crsdavies) March 8, 2017

Women's Day rocks Warsaw #IWD #8M pic.twitter.com/DdNs7PFvWk

— Sasha Vasilyuk (@SashaVasilyuk) March 8, 2017

While protests in the United States focused on the real and present danger of President Donald Trump, the movement has been embraced in dozens of countries, as activists in Sweden explained on YouTube.

#TrumpGlobalGag is an egregious attack on women's health and rights. Today, we're protesting for #NoAbortionBan pic.twitter.com/yfmjhCGYkI

— CHANGE (@genderhealth) March 8, 2017

Listen, for all of the criticism, you have to admit that @realDonaldTrump's cabinet was remarkably well prepared for #ADayWithoutAWoman

— Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) March 8, 2017

While Democrats in Washington expressed solidarity with the strike by wearing red to work, Sen. Elizabeth Warren explained that lawmakers decided not to remain home, fearing what their Republican counterparts might do in their absence.

No day off for us today. Can you imagine what bills the @SenateGOP would try to ram through if 16 @SenateDems women skipped a day of work? pic.twitter.com/OAv3QTRSrm

— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) March 8, 2017

The Trump administration, by contrast, attempted to mark the day in somewhat awkward ways, like having the first lady lunching with prominent female supporters of the president, including his daughter Ivanka, his adviser Kellyanne Conway, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, one of the few women in his cabinet.

Melania Trump hosts Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway and more at White House luncheon on #InternationalWomensDay pic.twitter.com/0sh8NiZjvo

— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 8, 2017

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the Department of Homeland Security, which could soon start separating mothers and children detained for illegal entry into the country, celebrated what it called its diverse staff by sharing an image of one female officer.

Women are a vital part of our workforce and today we celebrate #InternationalWomensDay pic.twitter.com/n8l3n9BDOV

— ICE (@ICEgov) March 8, 2017

Top photo: Linda Sarsour, left, one of the organizers of the Women’s March movement, shortly before she was arrested on Wednesday for blocking traffic outside a New York hotel owned by Donald Trump.

The post Women’s Strike Organizers Arrested in New York on a Day of Protests Worldwide appeared first on The Intercept.

Texas Lawmakers Push for Fetal Burial Bill on International Women’s Day

8 March 2017 - 5:22pm

If there is one word that can be safely applied to the anti-abortion lawmakers in Texas, it is “stubborn.”

Today, just a month after a federal judge in Austin blocked a new state health department rule that would require women bury aborted or miscarried fetal tissue, lawmakers in the Texas House State Affairs Committee held an hours-long hearing considering a bill that seeks to do exactly that.

The point of the measure is to honor the “dignity of the deceased” and nothing more, said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Byron Cook. “Let me be clear: This bill has nothing to do with the abortion procedure whatsoever.”

Of course the bill does directly impact the provision of abortion and women seeking such care, as noted by Judge Sam Sparks in a strongly worded January 27 order blocking the Department of Health Services rule. While state lawyers have argued that U.S. Supreme Court precedent protects Texas’ ability to pass a measure that demonstrates its interest in “potential life,” Sparks wrote that desire couldn’t justify a rule that relates to the disposal of aborted or miscarried tissue, an activity that occurs “when there is no potential life to protect.”

And Sparks derided the state’s suggestion that imposing a new cremation and burial scheme on health care providers wouldn’t lead to additional costs for patients — which could burden a woman’s ability to access safe and legal abortion — and concluded that the rule read more like a “pretext for restriction abortion access,” and less like a measure designed to honor fetal dignity.

During the Wednesday hearing on Cook’s bill, a lawyer for the state attorney general scoffed at Sparks’ ruling, noting that it has already been appealed it to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals — a notoriously conservative panel that often signs off on Texas’ draconian restrictions on reproductive autonomy, regardless whether those restrictions are constitutional.

Nonetheless, concerns about the measure persist. While the bill is clearly intended to attack abortion providers, Dr. Kimberly Carter, representing the Texas Medical Association and the Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said that there is concern about how the law would apply to women who seek miscarriage care at individual physician offices, at community health centers, or at birthing centers, among other places. Twenty-to-twenty-five percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, so that is hardly of little concern. She also noted that fetal tissue after miscarriage is often transported to a pathology lab for testing (as aborted remains are at times transported to crime labs when allegations of sexual assault have been made), and said that the pathology labs are “definitely not ready” to have to comply with a fetal burial law.

Still, many of the abortion foes that regularly testify in favor of such measures at the Texas Capitol did not appear to concern themselves with such practical matters and instead congratulated the committee for its commitment to addressing what one supporter called a “critical issue.”

“The bodies of victims of abortion should never be treated like medical waste,” said Joe Pojman, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life.

Cook’s bill is by no means the only pending measure seeking to restrict access to abortion access — nor is it the most extreme. Indeed, the hearing on Cook’s bill started to come off the rails mid-afternoon when a series of hardline anti-abortion activists testified against the measure as not going far enough.

Members of Abolish Abortion Texas, who have rallied around a measure that would criminalize abortion in the state, railed against Cook’s burial measure as not being sufficiently pro-life — how could lawmakers say that burying fetal remains offers dignity while still allowing the “murder of unborn babies,” many asked. And they took exception to the fact that Cook, who is also chair of the State Affairs Committee, would call up his own bill while as yet failing to schedule the criminalization bill for such a hearing. Not used to being the target of such pro-life animus, for much of the hearing Cook sounded perturbed by the turn of events.

The criminalization measure filed by North Texas Rep. Tony Tinderholt defines life at the point of fertilization and would require the enforcement of the state’s murder statutes against both doctors and women seeking care — despite the fact that doing so would violate constitutional protections. “Rep. Tinderholt would tell you Texans can decide, and the Legislature can decide if every human should be protected,” Tinderholt spokesman Luke Macias told the Austin Chronicle. “We shouldn’t have to ask permission from any court system along the way.”

Top photo: Anti-abortion activists hold placards before a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a Texas law placing restrictions on abortion clinics, outside of the Supreme Court on June 27, 2016 in Washington, DC.

The post Texas Lawmakers Push for Fetal Burial Bill on International Women’s Day appeared first on The Intercept.

Pages