The Intercept

CEOs Praised For Backing the Paris Accord Also Funded Lobbyists Pushing Trump to Withdraw

4 June 2017 - 11:30am

The chief executives of Dow Chemical and Corning Inc., among other business leaders, were portrayed in the media as environmental champions for opposing President Donald Trump’s move on Thursday to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

Andrew N. Liveris, the chief executive of Dow, said in an initial statement that he was “disappointed” with Trump’s decision. “Leaders don’t leave tables,” he later said, “Leaders stay.” In May, Liveris and Corning chief Wendell Weeks were among the signatories to an open letter in the Wall Street Journal in to “express our strong support for the U.S. remaining in the Paris Climate Agreement.”

Yet both companies back one of the few business groups to openly lobby the Trump administration in support of withdrawing from the plan.

The Industrial Energy Consumers of America, a trade group that lobbies on behalf of industry, petitioned the administration to consider ditching the Paris accord. The membership packet for the group lists Dow and Corning as members

“IECA fails to see the benefit of the Paris Climate Accord,” the group wrote in an April 24 letter to G. David Banks, an environmental official in White House. The following month, IECA wrote another letter, this time directly to Trump, again blasting the accord for raising “the prospects for loss of competitiveness and jobs” in energy-intensive industries.

Dow, Corning, and the IECA did not provide a comment when contacted on Friday. IECA members also include Koch Industries, Weyerhauser Company, MillerCoors, Olin Corporation, and Alcoa, among others.

After Trumps withdrawal from the accord on Thursday, IECA released a statement applauding the move. “The U.S. should never be a party to a global or bilateral agreement that does not provide a level playing field for manufacturing,” the statement read.

The post CEOs Praised For Backing the Paris Accord Also Funded Lobbyists Pushing Trump to Withdraw appeared first on The Intercept.

A realidade paralela dos políticos brasileiros

4 June 2017 - 7:53am

Quando foi perguntado sobre sua experiência na área da segurança pública, o novo ministro da Justiça de Temer disse que ela se limitava ao fato de ter sido assaltado. Para dar aquela incrementada no currículo, afirmou também ser sobrinho de duas senhoras que já foram vítimas da violência urbana. Essa declaração dada sem nenhum constrangimento mostra que Torquato Jardim vive numa realidade paralela e, portanto, está em sintonia com o quadro atual da democracia brasileira.

Com essas credenciais, Torquato passa a ocupar a vaga deixada por Serraglio que, não sabemos se já foi assaltado, mas é integrante de um grupo político com vasta experiência em assaltar os cofres públicos. Diferente de Torquato, Serraglio não teve carreira de destaque na área jurídica – muito menos na política –  e a única coisa que o credenciava ao cargo era o fato de ser homem forte de Cunha que, segundo Renan Calheiros, “manda no governo Temer de dentro da prisão”.

Temer resolveu tirar Serraglio do cargo justamente na semana em que foram publicadas conversas de Aécio criticando a fraqueza do ex-ministro, a quem chamou de “um bosta do caralho” por não conseguir domar a Lava Jato. Para evitar que Serraglio voltasse para a Câmara e fizesse com que seu suplente Rocha Loures (PMDB-PR), o Homem da Mala, perdesse o foro privilegiado, Temer tentou empurrá-lo para o Ministério da Transparência. Mas, por algum motivo ainda desconhecido, a manobra não foi bem sucedida. Serraglio negou o convite e reassumiu seu mandato na Câmara. Agora, Loures – o homem que Temer considera ser “da sua mais estrita confiança” –  foi preso e pode virar o mais novo delator da praça. E tudo o que Temer não precisava agora é de outro amigo “falastrão”.

Como se nada estivesse acontecendo, o presidente ilegítimo foi a São Paulo para se reunir com empresários, grandes investidores nacionais e estrangeiros. Diferentemente das reuniões clandestinas que costuma ter com empresários na calada da noite, o jantar aconteceu às claras no Hotel Hyatt. Temer sequer lembrou da crise política e, segundo o Valor, ninguém ali estava interessado nela mesmo:

“Convidados ouvidos pelo Valor disseram que, para a maioria, saber das perspectivas de continuidade das reformas foi mais importante do que eventuais informações sobre as denúncias que envolvem Temer”

Não importa que as pesquisas indiquem que a grande maioria da população seja contra as reformas e deseje a convocação de eleições diretas. Temer tomou o poder com apoio maciço da FIESP e do mercado e é para eles que irá prestar contas. Um presidente de uma empresa estrangeira chegou a bater o martelo: “Se o governo conseguir aprovar a reforma trabalhista, ninguém mais tira ele da Presidência. Porque tudo o que se quer é que as reformas sejam aprovadas”.

Quem também estava despreocupado com o lamaçal na qual Temer está mergulhado era o nosso ilustríssimo prefeito João Doria Jr. Ele, que se mostrou revoltado com a corrupção logo após a divulgação dos áudios da delação da JBS que complicam Temer, não parecia nem um pouco preocupado e fez o que faz de melhor: intermediar a relação entre governo e empresários.

“Temer mostrou-se interessado em ouvir os empresários após seu discurso de cerca de 15 minutos. O prefeito de São Paulo, João Doria, decidiu, então, assumir, o papel de “mestre de cerimônias” e provocar os empresários a falar. ‘Puxa a fila e fala sobre isso’, disse Doria a um executivo que tentava elogiar o trabalho da equipe econômica.”

Enquanto trata moradores em situação de rua como lixo a ser varrido e multiplica as cracolândias pela capital paulista, o homem que diz representar o novo na política busca estreitar os laços entre o empresariado/mercado e o governo das velhas raposas da politicagem. Apostando na desgraça da classe política, Doria vai se apresentar nas eleições de 2018 como um cidadão revoltado com a corrupção, apesar de continuar sendo um bajulador de empresários e de políticos corruptos.

No último dia 17, Doria foi a Nova York receber da Câmara do Comércio Brasil-EUA o prêmio de Personalidade do Ano. O Homem da Mala atravessou o oceano para prestigiar a pataquada do seu aliado político, enquanto pipocavam as denúncias contra ele no Brasil. Loures é amigo de Doria e sempre foi habitué dos eventos promovidos pela empresa de lobby do prefeito.

O Homem da Mala abraça João Doria Jr em evento da Lide. (Foto: Reprodução/Facebook Rodrigo Rocha Loures)

Também vivendo uma vida louca numa realidade paralela, Michel Temer apareceu no Twitter, como se nada estivesse acontecendo, para fazer um anúncio histórico à nação:

Acabou a recessão! Isso é resultado das medidas que estamos tomando. O Brasil voltou a crescer. E com as reformas vai crescer mais ainda.

— Michel Temer (@MichelTemer) 1 de junho de 2017

Com o crescimento de 1% do PIB no primeiro trimestre em relação ao último do ano passado, Temer quer passar a ideia de que finalmente colocou a economia nos trilhos. O crescimento foi mascarado pela agropecuária, que teve um crescimento de 13% graças à safra recorde de grãos. Diferentemente do ano passado, em 2017 o clima ajudou e a produção de milho e soja teve a maior alta dos últimos 20 anos – o que não irá se repetir nos próximos trimestres.

O presidente comemora o “fim da recessão” fingindo não saber que o consumo das famílias continua caindo e o desemprego aumentando. Ou seja, o país está perdendo de 7 a 1 e ele está gritando “É TETRAAAA!” Aécio é outro que segue convicto numa realidade paralela. Enquanto diversos áudios de suas conversas nada republicanas são divulgados, o mineiro aparece nas redes trabalhando normalmente.

Me reuni hoje com os senadores Tasso Jereissati, Anastasia, Cássio C. Lima e José Serra. Na pauta, votações no Congresso e agenda política. pic.twitter.com/JF5MTNvSQQ

— Aécio Neves (@AecioNeves) 31 de maio de 2017

Nem parece que seus parentes foram presos e ele só não está na cadeia porque ainda desfruta de foro privilegiado.

Mas Aécio tem ido além. Em uma das conversas interceptadas, o senador usou as expressões  “motoqueiros malucos”  e “passeio de moto”. A conversa é claramente cifrada e nem o tucano mais fanático acreditaria que o assunto principal é moto. Para a PGR e a PF, os “motoqueiros malucos” são os delatores, enquanto “passeio de moto” significa delação. Mas o mineirinho tem apostado firme na realidade paralela e enviou para STF quatro fotos que provariam que aquela foi apenas uma conversa entre amigos motociclistas.

Então ficamos assim: todo brasileiro tem currículo para ser ministro da Justiça. Doria não tem nada a ver com a velha política. O Brasil saiu da recessão. E Aécio não rouba, só faz motocross.

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Saudi Arabia Lavishes Conservative U.K. Officials With Gifts, Travel, And Plum Consultancies

4 June 2017 - 7:00am

New figures released by British Parliament show that, at a time when U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s ties to Saudi Arabia have become an election issue, conservative government officials and members of Parliament were lavished with money by the oil-rich Saudi government with gifts, travel expenses, and consulting fees.

Tory lawmakers received the cash as the U.K. backs Saudi Arabia’s brutal war against Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has made the U.K.’s uneasy alliance with the Saudis an election issue, with voters going to the polls on June 8. The Tories’ ties to Saudi Arabia, Labour leaders charge, have resulted in record weapons sales — conservative governments have licensed £3.3 billion ($4.2 billion) in arms sales to the Saudi military since the onset of the Yemen campaign — and a reluctance to criticize human rights abuses.

While Tory politicians have defended the arms sales to Saudis as a move to shore up Britain’s allies in the region, Tory members of Parliament have collected £99,396 ($128,035) in gifts, travel expenses, and consulting fees from the government of Saudi Arabia since the Yemen war began.

The Kingdom’s financial ties to Tory parliamentarians are detailed in the register of financial interests, a disclosure published by Parliament.

Some of the the Saudi kingdom’s largesse came in the form of gifts. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, who has come under fire for defending a mass execution in Saudi Arabia that included a nonviolent government critic, accepted a watch from the Saudi ambassador worth £1,950 ($2,514). Tory MP Charlotte Leslie, who has presided over parliamentary debate regarding foreign policy in the Middle East, received a food basket from the Saudi Embassy with an estimated value of £500 ($644).

The Saudi Arabian government has also picked up the tab for four expense-paid junkets taken by Tory lawmakers to visit the Kingdom since the Yemen war began. The costs for accommodation, travel, and meals for the lawmakers range from £2,888 ($3,724) to £6,722 ($8,668). At least 18 conservative lawmakers have participated in the trips, according to the register of financial interests.

Tory Rehman Chishti, one of the participants in a Saudi junket last year, was also paid £2,000 ($2,579) per month as an advisor to the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, a state-backed think tank in Saudi Arabia. The arrangement began in February 2016.

The gift-giving appears to be part of an influence effort on both sides of the Atlantic. As the Intercept has reported, the Saudi Arabian government has rapidly expanded its lobbying presence in Washington, D.C., hiring consultants and public relations experts with close ties to President Donald Trump. Since 2015, the number of registered agents working for the Saudi Kingdom grew from 25 to 145 individuals.

The arms trade is one of several issues confronting Saudi Arabian officials. This week, The Guardian revealed that Prime Minister Theresa May’s conservative government has signaled that it will suppress a report on foreign funding for extremist groups, which is believed to document Saudi ties to Islamic fundamentalists.

The post Saudi Arabia Lavishes Conservative U.K. Officials With Gifts, Travel, And Plum Consultancies appeared first on The Intercept.

Standing Rock Documents Expose Inner Workings of “Surveillance-Industrial Complex”

3 June 2017 - 11:57am

On a freezing night in November, as police sprayed nonviolent Dakota Access Pipeline opponents with water hoses and rubber bullets, representatives of the FBI, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, North Dakota’s U.S. Attorney’s Office, and local law enforcement agencies frantically exchanged emails as they monitored the action in real time.

“Everyone watch a different live feed,” Bismarck police officer Lynn Wanner wrote less than 90 minutes after the protest began on the North Dakota Highway 1806 Backwater Bridge. By 4 a.m. on November 21, approximately 300 water protectors had been injured, some severely. Among them was 21-year-old Sophia Wilansky, who nearly lost her arm after being hit by what multiple sworn witnesses say was a police munition.

The emails exchanged that night highlight law enforcement efforts to control the narrative around the violent incident by spreading propaganda refuting Wilansky’s story, demonstrate the agencies’ heavy reliance on protesters’ social media feeds to monitor activities, and reveal for the first time the involvement of an FBI informant in defining the story police would promote.

The exchange is included in documents obtained by The Intercept that reveal the efforts of law enforcement and private security contractors to surveil Dakota Access Pipeline opponents between October and December 2016, as law enforcement’s outsized response to the demonstrators garnered growing nationwide attention and the number of water protectors living in anti-pipeline camps grew to roughly 10,000. Although the surveillance of anti-DAPL protesters was visible at the time — with helicopters circling overhead, contingents of security officials watching from the hills above camp, and a row of blinding lights illuminating the horizon along the pipeline’s right of way — intelligence collection largely took place in darkness.

In addition to the email communications, The Intercept is publishing 15 internal situation reports prepared by the private security firm TigerSwan for its client, Dakota Access parent company Energy Transfer Partners, as well as three PowerPoint presentations that TigerSwan shared with law enforcement. The documents are part of a larger set that includes more than 100 internal TigerSwan situation reports that were leaked to The Intercept by one of the company’s contractors and more than 1,000 Dakota Access-related law enforcement records obtained via public records request.

Last week, The Intercept published an exclusive report detailing TigerSwan’s sweeping enterprise, over nine months and across five states, which included surveillance of activists through aerial technology, social media monitoring, and direct infiltration, as well as attempts to shift public opinion through a counterinformation campaign. The company, made up largely of special operations military veterans, was formed during the war in Iraq and incorporated its counterinsurgency tactics into its effort to suppress an indigenous-led movement centered around protection of water.

An image of a gorilla overseeing the Standing Rock camp appears in an October 18, 2016, daily intelligence update the private security firm TigerSwan circulated to law enforcement.

Photo: Daily Intelligence Updates

Federal Agencies Circulate Dubious Theories

Roughly eight hours prior to Sophia Wilansky’s injury, Bismarck police officer Lynn Wanner — who, records indicate, acted as a liaison between intelligence agencies and field officers throughout the anti-DAPL protests — alerted local, state, and federal law enforcement partners that an “FBI inside source” was “reporting propane tanks inside the camp rigged to explode.” Wanner’s email about the FBI informant echoes the story the Morton County Sheriff’s Department would later tell journalists about Wilansky’s injury.

“We probably should be ready for a massive media backlash tomorrow although we are in the right. 244 angry voicemails received so far,” wrote Ben Leingang, a North Dakota state official, at about 10 p.m. on November 20. By morning, images of Wilansky’s severely injured arm were circulating online.

TigerSwan fretted about the backlash, too. “Protesters are claiming over 100 injuries associated with the demonstration and will surely contort video of the event into anti-DAPL propaganda,” the security firm noted in its internal report that next morning.

As another day passed, U.S. Attorney’s Office National Security Intelligence Specialist Terry Van Horn sent an email to members of various federal agencies noting the FBI’s claim that “a source from the camp reported people were making IED’s from small Coleman type propane canisters.” Van Horn added that Wilansky “was witnessed throwing an IED while on the bridge, it detonated early and caused the below injuries (see graphic photos).”

Less than an hour later, Van Horn emailed to the thread the text of a Facebook post from the page Netizens for Progress and Justice. “This wasn’t caused by law enforcement, it was caused by dumbass ‘direct action’ protesters that think they are doing the right thing without any consideration for the safety and welfare of honest protesters nearby that are caught up in things,” the post read, going on to describe a theory of the injury that conflicted even with law enforcement’s propane tank theory.

“How can we get this story out?” replied Maj. Amber Balken, a public information officer for the National Guard, which was also involved in policing the protests. “This is a must report,” Balken added, suggesting the name of a local conservative blogger. Cecily Fong, a public information officer with the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, replied by promising to “get with” the blogger to circulate the article.

As The Intercept reported last week, Netizens for Progress and Justice also frequently published content produced on behalf of TigerSwan, including videos critical of pipeline opponents. Fong declined to comment on the exchange. Neither Van Horn nor Balken replied to a request for comment. The FBI declined to comment on any involvement it had in the protests, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.

Ultimately, police promoted a story about the incident that echoed the claims of the FBI informant. On November 22, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department distributed press releases implying that Wilansky’s injury had been caused by a protester’s IED.

The Intercept reached Lauren Regan, an attorney representing Sophia Wilansky, and read the text of Van Horn’s email to her over the phone. “So much of it is totally factually incorrect,” Regan said.

“There has never been any evidence I have seen or heard of that gave any credibility to the allegation that propane tanks were being rigged as explosive devices,” continued Regan, who is a staff attorney at the Oregon-based Civil Liberties Defense Center. “To me, the timing of that revelation, in light of their having just basically blown a white woman’s arm off, always seemed extremely dubious.”

Sophia Wilansky’s father, Wayne Wilansky, agreed that “there’s not a shred of truth” to Van Horn’s account of Wilansky’s injury. “Obviously, disinformation is a major component of how they dealt with the protests,” he told The Intercept.

A water protector loads up on goggles and milk of magnesia in anticipation of a confrontation with police as she prepares to cross the bridge to Turtle Island at Standing Rock on Nov. 24, 2016, during an ongoing dispute over the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Surveillance Reports Paint Protesters as Desperate and Deviant

The internal situation reports from around the time of Wilansky’s injury contain their own examples of disinformation, invasive intelligence-gathering practices, and a fixation on the purported violence of DAPL’s opponents. At times, TigerSwan refers explicitly to informants and infiltrators. A document from October 3, for example, explains the ways the company monitored members of the American Indian Movement “mostly through social media” and “informant collection” in order to gauge the effectiveness of their security practices and “develop possible counter-measures moving forward.”

The documents, four of which were first published by Grist, include the names of dozens of pipeline opponents, labeling some as “persons of interest.” They describe meetings with law enforcement, including campus police at the University of Illinois and Lincoln Land College, as well as TigerSwan’s attempts to pressure officers into more aggressive action against protesters.

In the reports, TigerSwan declares success in accessing hard-to-find Facebook content, noting in an October 10 document, “The social media cell has harnessed a URL coding technique to discover hidden profiles and groups associated with the protesters.”

But TigerSwan’s intelligence was far from perfect and its interpretation of events was frequently off. For example, one document referenced a shell necklace that, TigerSwan speculated, marked members of the Mississippi Stand group who “have been arrested for the cause.” Mississippi Stand member Alex Cohen told the Intercept that the necklaces had nothing to do with arrests and were merely gifts given to a number of members by people indigenous to the area of one of their camps.

Overall, TigerSwan depicted the situation on the ground as volatile, at times painting the anti-pipeline camps as rife with drug use and “sexual deviance,” its inhabitants likely to stir violence. The security company found ways to interpret even the most benign social gatherings as potentially dangerous. One document previewed a casino concert featuring Jackson Browne and Bonnie Rait, fretting that it would draw “numerous outside influencers.” The document predicted, “Depending on the progress of drilling by then, the project could be adversely affected if not counter measured.”

After November 8, TigerSwan noted that “the election of President-elect Trump is likely to have a positive effect for the project overall and cooperation from the Federal level will likely improve after 20 JAN.” At the same time, TigerSwan commented on protesters’ post-election “despair,” writing on November 12 that “the DAPL protesters are inherently desperate and are not looking for a peaceful solution regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in turn we can expect this situation to become more volatile than it has ever become before.”

On November 13, TigerSwan again insisted on the likelihood of violence erupting. “Most locals are now carrying weapons to protect themselves, their families and their property,” that report notes. “They have also expressed frustration with what they see as a lack of action by law enforcement.” Around the same time, TigerSwan and law enforcement expressed concerns about the impact the death of a protester might have on the pipeline project. “The use of force or death of a protester or rioter will result in the immediate halt to DAPL operations, which will likely permanently halt the entire project,” the PowerPoint presentations TigerSwan shared with law enforcement warned.

Weeks later, the Obama administration would deny the pipeline company a key federal permit, putting construction on hold. In January, President Donald Trump revived the project. The pipeline began service to customers last Thursday.

A fusion center in Maryland.

Photo: Robert A. Reeder/Washington Post/Getty Images

Fusion Centers and the “Surveillance-Industrial Complex”

The email chain from the night of the Backwater Bridge incident and other documents represent detailed illustrations of the work of a so-called fusion center. In 2007, President George W. Bush signed the 9/11 Commission Act, which allocated $300 million to the Department of Homeland Security for the establishment of fusion centers, originally intended to facilitate sharing of anti-terrorism intelligence among different state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies. According to the DHS website, there are currently 77 fusion centers nationwide, with every state home to at least one.

Brendon McQuade, a doctoral candidate at the State University of New York, Cortland, who is working on a dissertation on fusion centers, said that the records pertaining to the North Dakota State and Local Intelligence Center’s monitoring and repression of Standing Rock demonstrations offer unique insight into how fusion centers are used for political repression. “We’ve seen hints of this monitoring of the online presence of Black Lives Matter and Occupy protests, but never such explicit evidence of it as in the documents you’ve collected,” he told The Intercept after reviewing a selection of the documents.

According to former FBI Special Agent Michael German, who is now with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, fusion centers have become part of a broader “surveillance-industrial complex” in which security agencies and the corporate sector merge together in a frenzy of mass information gathering, tracking, and surveillance. Federal support for fusion centers is predicated on increased government access to “non-traditional information sources,” he notes. And one of the goals of fusion centers is to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure, 85 percent of which is owned by private interests.

“The insidious thing is that the role of private-sector entities in fusion centers has grown up without any specific legislation authorizing it,” said German, who co-authored a 2007 report on behalf of the ACLU called “What’s Wrong with Fusion Centers?” “Instead, the development of these techniques and relationships, such as the one involving TigerSwan and North Dakota law enforcement, has occurred within the closed-off world of law enforcement.”

A private security guard and guard dog threaten protesters at a work site for the Dakota Access Pipeline near Cannon Ball, N.D., on Sept. 3, 2016.

Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Legal Ambiguity

TigerSwan’s status as a private company has enabled it to operate with virtually no transparency or oversight. The North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board confirmed in an email to The Intercept this week that TigerSwan still has not obtained a license to work as a private security firm in the state despite nine months on the ground. The company’s close collaboration with law enforcement, to which it has regularly fed intelligence, raises serious questions.

“The line between private security and law enforcement at DAPL has been nonexistent,” Bruce Ellison of the National Lawyers Guild, who also works with the Water Protector Legal Collective, told The Intercept. “They have been one in the same.”

Still, it’s not clear that either TigerSwan or law enforcement crossed a legal line with their surveillance activities. Private companies have few obligations to protect constitutional rights to free speech, association, or privacy. And while public agencies, including law enforcement, do have that obligation, they also have ample leeway to operate in invasive and unethical ways that are nonetheless legal. As The Intercept reported in January, detailed guidelines govern the FBI’s activities involving confidential informants and covert online work. But the guidelines are filled with loopholes that ultimately allow FBI agents to spy on just about anybody if they get the right approvals.

If TigerSwan were meeting regularly enough with the FBI, acting at the bureau’s behest, or even simply feeding agents information, it could represent an end-run around FBI rules. However, as Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at the City University of New York School of Law who directs the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) project, put it, “The guidelines are one thing, but the legal baseline for what’s constitutional and what’s not constitutional is another.”

To a large degree, unless they were found to be acting at the direction of government, TigerSwan’s agents would likely be held to similar standards as regular citizens, their most likely violations being things like trespassing.

Despite the legal ambiguity, TigerSwan’s actions raise questions. “You have these privatized actors that are performing what are commonly understood to be government functions — whether or not we’ve agreed that these are acceptable government functions,” said Kassem. “Private corporations are taking these actions on a scale that is unheard of before — this isn’t your local private eye investigative service, we’re talking about tactics that the military uses overseas.”

“We need to be looking at whether our laws are sufficient to protect political groups from disruption, interference, and a tax by people who are infiltrating or surveilling their activities,” said Kris Hermes, an author and activist who has worked for years providing legal support at protests as a member of the National Lawyers Guild. “What it has done is thrown a chilling blanket over political organizing today whereby everybody feels that they should be engaging in some kind of security culture to avoid the snooping of law enforcement or private security firms. That has a far-reaching effect that I don’t think is appreciated enough. It prevents people from engaging effectively in First Amendment activity.”

Modern-Day Pinkertons

The privatization of law enforcement and its subjugation to corporate interests are hardly a novelty, though the increased militarism of the domestic policing of dissent has taken on sinister overtones in the wake of the so-called global war on terror.

In the late 19th century, Allan Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency offered private detective and security services to public and corporate clients. The “Pinkertons,” as they were known, relied heavily on undercover agents and often acted as agents provocateur, triggering violence as much as they engaged in surveillance and propaganda.

Through their involvement as armed guards during labor conflicts, the Pinkertons “became a shorthand for the abusive power of unchecked capitalism,” Paul O’Hara, a history professor at Xavier University who wrote a book about them, told The Intercept. To workers, the Pinkertons were “hired thugs for capital” and “a symbol of corporate power,” he wrote. Their activities led to two congressional investigations and the Anti-Pinkerton Act of 1893, which barred the federal government from contracting with the Pinkertons and similar groups. But the act largely failed in its intent, and the Pinkertons set the stage for public partnerships with mercenary groups continuing to this day.

TigerSwan never responded to The Intercept’s repeated requests for comment, oscillating instead between following and blocking these reporters on Twitter. The company did, however, retweet a comment by a reader of The Intercept. He had called TigerSwan “modern day Pinkertons.”

Documents published with this story:

The Intercept has redacted the names of persons identified in internal TigerSwan and public documents unless those persons have directly communicated their willingness to be included. The names of senior TigerSwan and law enforcement personnel have not been redacted. To search all TigerSwan documents published by The Intercept, go to the TigerSwan project page on DocumentCloud.

Top photo: Military veterans confront police guarding a bridge near Oceti Sakowin Camp on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Dec. 1, 2016, outside Cannon Ball, N.D.

The post Standing Rock Documents Expose Inner Workings of “Surveillance-Industrial Complex” appeared first on The Intercept.

Hacked Emails Show Top UAE Diplomat Coordinating With Pro-Israel Think Tank Against Iran

3 June 2017 - 8:54am

The email account of one of Washington’s most connected and influential foreign operatives has been hacked. A small tranche of those emails was sent this week to media outlets, including The Intercept, HuffPost and The Daily Beast, with the hacker promising to release a trove publicly.

The hotmail account belongs to the UAE’s Ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al-Otaiba, and The Intercept can confirm it is the one he used for most Washington business. HuffPost confirmed at least one of the emails as authentic and the UAE has confirmed that Otaiba’s account was indeed hacked.

Otaiba’s influence derives largely from his pocketbook, as the ambassador is well known for throwing lavish dinner parties, galas and hosting powerful figures on extravagant trips. Several Christmases ago, he sent out iPads as gifts to journalists and other Washington power players as gifts. There’s no telling what kind of messages might reside in that inbox.

The hackers used a .ru email address, associated with Russia, and referred to themselves as GlobalLeaks, tying themselves to DCLeaks, a website that previously released Democratic emails. The intelligence community has said DCLeaks is a Russian-operated website, which means that the Otaiba hackers are either connected with Russia or trying to give the impression that they are.

Russia and the Gulf monarchies, client states of the United States, are longtime rivals, backing opposing sides in Syria and clashing for decades over Iran, a Russian client state and a Gulf enemy.

The emails provided so far to the The Intercept show a growing relationship between the United Arab Emirates and the pro-Israel, neoconservative think tank the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

On the surface, the alliance should be surprising, as the UAE does not even recognize Israel. But the two countries have worked together in the past against their common adversary, Iran.

On March 10 of this year, FDD CEO Mark Dubowitz authored an e-mail to both the UAE’s Ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al-Otaiba and FDD senior counselor John Hannah — a former deputy national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney — with the subject line “Target list of companies investing in Iran, UAE and Saudi Arabia.”

“Dear, Mr. Ambassador,” Dubowitz wrote. “The attached memorandum details companies listed by country which are doing business with Iran and also have business with the UAE and Saudi Arabia. This is a target list for putting these companies to a choice, as we have discussed.”

Dubowitz’s attached memorandum includes a lengthy list of “Non-U.S. businesses with operations in Saudi Arabia or UAE that are looking to invest in Iran.”

The list includes a number of major international firms, including France’s Airbus and Russia’s Lukoil.

Presumably, the companies are being identified so that the UAE and Saudi Arabia can pressure them over investing in Iran, which is seeing an expansion of foreign investment following the 2015 nuclear deal.

Israel and the Gulf monarchies have grown closer in recent years, as both sides fear that Iran is moving closer to normalization with the West and will therefore increase its own influence and power in the region. But admissions of the alliance between the two are still rare in public. One high-level Israeli official, discussing the relationship on background for a previous HuffPost profile of Otaiba, laid out the politics of it. “Israel and the Arabs standing together is the ultimate ace in the hole. Because it takes it out of the politics and the ideology. When Israel and the Arab states are standing together, it’s powerful,” he said.

The hacked emails demonstrate a remarkable level of backchannel cooperation between a leading neoconservative think tank — FDD is funded by pro-Israel billionaire Sheldon Adelson, an ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is one of the largest political donors in the United States  — and a Gulf monarchy.

Hannah and Otaiba are frequently chummy in the exchanges. On August 16 of last year, Hannah sent Otaiba an article claiming that the UAE and FDD were both responsible for the brief military coup in Turkey. “Honored that we’re in your company,” Hannah wrote to Otaiba.

In another email exchange in late April of this year, Hannah complains to Otaiba that Qatar — a rival Gulf government that has clashed with the UAE in recent months over various issues — is hosting a meeting of Hamas at an Emirati-owned hotel. Otaiba responds that it’s not the Emirati government’s fault, and that the real issue is the U.S. military base in Qatar, “How’s this, you move the base then we’ll move the  hotel :-).”

The emails detail the proposed agenda of an upcoming meeting between FDD and UAE government officials that is scheduled for June 11-14. Dubowitz and Hannah are listed as attending, as well as Jonathan Schanzer, FDD Vice President for Research. UAE officials requested for meetings include Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince who commands the armed forces.

The agenda includes extensive discussion between the two on Qatar. They are scheduled to discuss, for instance, “Al Jazeera as an instrument of regional instability.” (Al Jazeera is based in Qatar.)

There is also “discussion of possible U.S./UAE policies to positively impact Iranian internal situation”; included among the list of policies are “political, economic, military, intelligence, and cyber tools,” which are also brought up as a possible response to “contain and defeat Iranian aggression.”

FDD has been involved in shaping Mideast policy debate during the Trump administration, so it is likely that the UAE views it as an important conduit to pressure Trump to adopt its more hawkish line on Iran. David Weinberg, a senior fellow at the organization, was quoted last month as saying that the UAE is “ecstatic” about the Trump administration’s approach to the region.

“They have been looking for some time for an American partner to push-back against Iran,” he told Arabianbusiness.com. “They are looking for America to turn rhetoric into action.”

Otaiba has also developed a close relationship with President Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner. The two first met last June at the behest of Thomas Barrack, a billionaire investor and Trump backer. A Politico article last February described Kushner as “in almost constant phone and email contact” with the ambassador.

Whatever the UAE’s agenda, it isn’t promoting democracy. From the previous profile:

As protests spread in Egypt, Otaiba pushed the White House hard to support Mubarak, without success. After the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in a democratic election, he filled the inbox of Phil Gordon, the White House’s top Middle East adviser, with missives savaging the Brotherhood and its backers in Qatar. (Gordon declined to comment.) “He’d robo-email people,” says the former White House aide. “You can be sure when Yousef has something to say on a topic like that, high-level people throughout the State Department and in the White House are going to hear it, in very similar if not identical emails.”

We’re now getting a sense of what those emails looked like. In an email sent on July 3, 2013, shortly after the Egyptian military deposed elected Muslim Brotherhood-backed president Mohamed Morsi, Otaiba lobbied former Bush administration officials Stephen Hadley — now a consultant at RiceHadleyGates — and Joshua Bolten on his view on Egypt and the wider Arab Spring.

“Countries like Jordan and UAE are the ‘last men standing’ in the moderate camp. The arab spring has increased extermism at the expense of moderation and tolerance,” he lamented.

He described Morsi’s overthrow in glowing tones. “Today’s situation in Egypt is a second revolution. There more people on the streets today than January of 2011. This is not a coup, this is revolution 2.0. A coup is when the military imposes its will on people by force. Today, the military is RESPONDING to people’s wishes.”

Egypt today is a virtual dictatorship. And a close ally of both the U.S. and the UAE.

Top photo: A picture taken in downtown Dubai on May 31, 2017, shows Burj Khalifa and the Dubai skyline.

The post Hacked Emails Show Top UAE Diplomat Coordinating With Pro-Israel Think Tank Against Iran appeared first on The Intercept.

Farewell to Scott Pelley, Who Once Asked the Worst Question Possible About the Iraq War

2 June 2017 - 4:28pm

Scott Pelley was ejected this week from the anchor chair at the “CBS Evening News,” thanks to the show’s poor ratings. But before we get too sad for him, it’s worth remembering that in 2008, Pelley, as a correspondent for “60 Minutes,” was responsible for one of the the most sadly funny pieces of retrospective journalism on the run-up to the Iraq War.

That January 24, Pelley interviewed George Piro, the FBI agent who had interrogated Saddam Hussein when he was captured after the March 2003 U.S. invasion. According to an article on CBS News’ website, this was one of Pelley’s key questions:

As the U.S. marched toward war and we began massing troops on his border, why didn’t he stop it then and say, “Look, I have no weapons of mass destruction.” I mean, how could he have wanted his country to be invaded?

So according to Pelley’s understanding of the run up to war, Saddam Hussein could have prevented war simply by speaking up and saying Iraq had no banned weapons. But for some inscrutable reason, he kept silent, thereby forcing the U.S. to invade.

Back on earth, anyone with a cursory interest in news and politics — which you might think would include a correspondent for “60 Minutes” — knew that the reality was exactly the opposite. By the time the George W. Bush administration came into office in 2001, Iraq had been screaming for a decade that it had complied with the relevant UN resolutions and surrendered all its so-called weapons of mass destruction. Then, in December 2002, Iraq made a “final and full” declaration about its WMD programs — which was excoriated by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell because it “brazenly … denies the existence of any prohibited weapons programs at all.”

But the real coup de grace was a February 26, 2003, televised statement by Saddam Hussein, less than a month before the U.S. invaded:

I believe that that noise and the fleets that have been brought around and the mobilization that’s been done were, in fact, done partly to cover the huge lie that was being waged against Iraq about chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

And it was on that basis that Iraq actually accepted Resolution [1441], accepted it, even though Iraq was absolutely certain that what it had said, what the Iraqi officials had kept saying, that Iraq was empty, was void of any such weapons, was the case. But Iraq accepted that resolution in order not to allow any misinterpretation of its position.

And, indeed, in order to make the case absolutely clear that Iraq was no longer in possession of any such weapons.

Yet somehow Pelley missed this — despite the fact it was broadcast on U.S. television, on the CBS network, on a show he may be familiar with called “60 Minutes.”

Top photo: A portrait of Scott Pelley on the set of “CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley.”

The post Farewell to Scott Pelley, Who Once Asked the Worst Question Possible About the Iraq War appeared first on The Intercept.

Ireland Set to Have Its First Openly Gay Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar

2 June 2017 - 2:58pm

Leo Varadkar, a gay lawmaker, was elected the leader of Ireland’s ruling Fine Gael party on Friday, making him the country’s prime minister-elect, set to take power after the Irish parliament reconvenes in 10 days.

Varadkar, a doctor who served as health minister, came out about his sexuality during a live radio interview in 2015. Born in 1979 to an Indian doctor from Mumbai and an Irish Catholic nurse from County Waterford, he will also become Ireland’s youngest-ever taoiseach — the Irish word for “leader” — and the first son of an immigrant to lead the nation.

New leader of Fine Gael Leo Varadkar @PA pic.twitter.com/05613lZGXy

— Brian Hutton (@magicbathtub) June 2, 2017

While Varadkar is a member of a center-right party, his election seems to confirm a rapid shift in Irish society away from social conservatism and narrowly defined nationalism.

Ireland is on course to have its first openly gay Prime Minister – Leo Varadkar pic.twitter.com/Xy706J4zLo

— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) June 2, 2017

After he made his sexuality public, Varadkar campaigned in favor of a ballot initiative that legalized gay marriage the same year. When that referendum passed by an overwhelmingly majority, the final total — 62 percent in favor and 38 percent opposed — alerted the world that Ireland had changed dramatically.

Varadkar has been criticized, however, for not moving quickly enough to repeal Ireland’s ban on abortion, which was reinforced in 1983, when 67 percent of the country voted to amend Ireland’s constitution, giving a fetus the same right to life as its mother.

He told The Irish Times last year that he disagreed with that amendment, but supported keeping right to life language in the Constitution. “What we have at the moment,” he said, “is this kind of absolute right to life where the unborn’s life is equal to that of a pregnant mother, I don’t agree with that. I think that is too restrictive.” He suggested that a broader definition of threats to the health of a mother should be considered.

Colm O’Gorman, the executive director of Amnesty Ireland, began pushing Varadkar on the issue immediately after hailing his election.

Congratulations @campaignforleo Looking forward to engaging with you on critical human rights issues in the coming years.

— Colm O'Gorman (@Colmogorman) June 2, 2017

Beyond time to get on it with.It would be fitting & proper if you made announcement of referendum to #repealthe8th your 1st act as Taoiseach

— Colm O'Gorman (@Colmogorman) June 2, 2017

The post Ireland Set to Have Its First Openly Gay Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar appeared first on The Intercept.

Clinton Says Obama Broke Through The Racial Barrier Because He’s An “Attractive, Good Looking Man”

2 June 2017 - 2:20pm

During her Wednesday interview at ReCode’s Code Conference 2017, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton blamed her loss at least partly on misogyny, while claiming that President Obama was able to overcome racial barriers due to his appearance.

“So I never said I was a perfect candidate, and I certainly have never said I ran perfect campaigns, but I don’t know who is or did,” she told interviewer Kara Swisher. “And at some point it sort of bleeds into misogyny. And let’s just be honest, you know, people who have a set of expectations about who should be president and what a president looks like, you know, they’re going to be much more skeptical and critical of somebody who doesn’t look like and talk like and sound like everybody else who’s been president.”

She then attempted to explain Barack Obama’s success and her failure by complimenting his looks.

“And you know, President Obama broke that racial barrier, but you know, he’s a very attractive, good-looking man with lots of —”

“Well, he’s likable enough,” Swisher quipped, a reference to a remark Obama made in a debate during the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries.

“He’s likable enough, absolutely!” Clinton responded.

Clinton’s remarks are reminiscent of then-Senator Joe Biden, a Democrat from Delaware, describing Obama in 2007 as a candidate who is “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” Biden later apologized.

Top photo: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during the Women in the World Summit at Lincoln Center in New York, on April 6, 2017.

The post Clinton Says Obama Broke Through The Racial Barrier Because He’s An “Attractive, Good Looking Man” appeared first on The Intercept.

Jared Kushner Still Has a Job Because Washington Only Fears Republicans

2 June 2017 - 12:45pm

We don’t know the reality underlying recent reporting about Jared Kushner’s meetings this past December with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. and the head of Russia’s government-owned development bank. The only two plausible explanations seem to be that Kushner was involved in something supremely sketchy, or that he’s extraordinarily naïve and incompetent.

What we do know for certain is that if the Washington Post and New York Times had run similar stories about the top-level son-in-law aide to a Democratic president, that son-in-law would have been out the White House door before the dead-tree versions of the newspapers hit doorsteps the next morning.

Or not. It’s more than likely that, if a Democratic president attempted to put their son-in-law in a comparable position of power, the intense outcry would have prevented it from happening at all. Try to imagine Hillary Clinton proposing that Chelsea’s husband Marc Mezvinsky – like Kushner, a rich New Yorker with a convict father and no relevant experience — should be in charge of reinventing government, solving the opioid epidemic, reforming the criminal justice system, and negotiating peace in the Middle East.

Even speculating about such a thing, however, is irrelevant, because a Democratic president who’d bragged that she’d fired the director of the FBI in order to relieve the “pressure” of a counterintelligence investigation would already have been impeached 37 times. In the run up to the 2016 election, prominent Republicans were calling for Clinton impeachment hearings to start on her inauguration day, or even before she took office.

All of this is a symptom of the extraordinary rightward tilt of the U.S. political system — one that goes deeper than even most Democrats and progressives understand — and which makes it unlikely that we’ll ever get the full story about President Trump and Russia, nefarious or not.

To take a particularly salient example, there hasn’t been a significant investigation headed by a Democratic special prosecutor or independent counsel since the Nixon administration. The last one was Archibald Cox, who’d been solicitor general during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and then was the first special prosecutor appointed to look into Watergate.

After Richard Nixon ordered the Justice Department to fire Cox in 1973, the next special prosecutor was Leon Jaworski. Nominally a Democrat, Jaworski voted for Nixon in 1960 and again in 1968. After Watergate, he went on to support George H.W. Bush in the 1980 presidential primaries and then, after Bush lost, founded “Democrats for Reagan.”

And that’s essentially it. In the subsequent four decades it became accepted D.C. wisdom that a special prosecutor investigating a Republican administration can’t be a Democrat, whereas one investigating a Democratic administration must be a Republican.

So Lawrence Walsh, who ran the Iran-Contra inquiry beginning in 1986, was a member of the GOP. For his troubles he was mercilessly attacked by his fellow Republicans.

The first independent counsel to investigate Whitewater during Bill Clinton’s presidency was Robert Fiske, a Republican. When he found that White House aide Vince Foster had in fact killed himself rather than being murdered by the Clinton octopus, columnists and GOP politicians predictably declared that this raised “questions about Fiske.” So he was replaced by Kenneth Starr, another Republican, whose inquiry went so far afield from Whitewater that he ended up looking into Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, leading to Clinton’s impeachment. Whitewater was finally wound down in 2003 by Robert Ray, a third Republican.

Next up was John Danforth, a special counsel for an investigation of the FBI’s siege of Waco, Texas, and, of course, a Republican.

Patrick Fitzgerald, who was appointed in 2003 by then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey to look into the Valerie Plame affair, broke the pattern, sort of. Fitzgerald wasn’t a Republican, but he wasn’t a Democrat either; he was a self-declared independent.

Things have returned to normal, however, with the appointment of Robert Mueller to head the investigation into whatever happened with Russia and the Trump campaign in 2016: Mueller is a Republican.

A similar phenomenon exists with two key D.C. power positions, director of the FBI and secretary of defense.

Since the ultra-conservative J. Edgar Hoover, there have been six FBI directors, three appointed by Democratic presidents and three appointed by Republicans. All six directors have been Republicans, although James Comey recently changed his longtime GOP registration.

Not all defense secretaries have been Republicans. But three of the seven chosen by Democratic presidents since Jimmy Carter have been — and in fact President Obama simply kept George W. Bush’s secretary of defense, Robert Gates, who served under Obama longer than he did under Bush. Meanwhile, six of the seven defense secretaries appointed by Republican presidents post-Nixon have been Republicans, while James Mattis does not have a declared political allegiance.

President Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates during the Armed Forces Farewell Tribute for Gates at the Pentagon’s River Terrace Parade Field in Washington on June 30, 2011.

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images


Then once appointed anywhere in the government, officials make all their decisions in an environment where the main danger to their careers and power come from the Republican Party, not the Democrats.

An in-depth New York Times examination of why Comey broke with FBI policy to publicly discuss the FBI’s 2016 investigation of Clinton — while following the rules and keeping that of the Trump campaign under wraps — was headlined “Comey Tried to Shield the FBI From Politics. Then He Shaped an Election.” But what the Times article reveals is that the “politics” Comey feared was solely attacks from Republicans. Michael Steinbach, the FBI’s former top national security official, is quoted saying that if Comey had not revealed the Clinton emails found on Anthony Weiner’s computer and Clinton went on to win, Republicans’ fury would have been so intense that he didn’t “think the organization” — the FBI — “would have survived.” None of the people around Comey had any comparable apprehension that keeping the Trump investigation secret could lead to Democrats destroying the bureau.

Similar D.C. stories are legion. In 2009, right-wing provocateur James O’Keefe released misleadingly edited videos about the 40-year-old Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, which did critical work registering poor voters. Within weeks, congressional Democrats, then with large majorities in both chambers, killed federal funding for ACORN. Five separate investigations later found that ACORN personnel had not broken any laws or misspent government money. Nonetheless, within a year, ACORN collapsed.

Then in 2010, Andrew Breitbart posted an excerpt from a video of a speech by Shirley Sherrod, a Department of Agriculture official, falsely presented to make it appear that Sherrod held bigoted views toward white people. It quickly spread throughout the rest of the right-wing media ecosystem. Predictably, the Obama administration immediately folded, asking Sherrod for her resignation the same day. Even prominent progressive Benjamin Jealous, then head of the NAACP, criticized her. Sherrod later sued Breitbart for defamation, settling the case in 2015 with undisclosed terms.

And now, as the Trump administration gets going, government staff reportedly fear being personally targeted by right-wing media attacks more than ever before.

In the end, what’s most remarkable about this phenomenon is that both parties and the journalists who cover them have accepted it as the natural state of American politics. No one in D.C. seems even to perceive anything could be any different. Republicans and their conservative media apparatus are engaged in a continuous war against Democrats — or any Republican who moves an inch out of lock step. Democrats exist in a permanent defensive crouch, willing to throw any part of their coalition to the wolves at a moment’s notice and failing to even articulate this dynamic, let alone fight it. For their part, many Washington journalists allow Republicans to set the agenda by credulously covering even the flimsiest of attacks at legitimate scandals.

So don’t fear for Jared Kushner or Donald Trump. As Bruce Bartlett, a GOP apostate and former staffer for Jack Kemp, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, glumly put it, if Watergate happened today, “Nixon would have finished his term.”

Top photo: Jared Kushner, senior White House adviser, attends a luncheon with Mauricio Macri, Argentina’s president, and U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington on April 27, 2017.

The post Jared Kushner Still Has a Job Because Washington Only Fears Republicans appeared first on The Intercept.

Shadowy Chinese Conglomerate Cultivated Ties to the Most Powerful U.S. Politicians

2 June 2017 - 9:42am

A few years ago, Guo Wengui, a pugnacious Chinese billionaire known for his hardball business tactics, left his native China to live in self-imposed exile in Manhattan. He recently began unleashing a torrent of purported insider information on how China’s political power brokers have enriched themselves.

Among the dizzying array of allegations, Guo claimed that a mysterious Chinese conglomerate has illicitly enriched the family of one of the most senior members of the Communist Party. The conglomerate, HNA Group, has attracted attention with a multibillion-dollar spending spree, acquiring stakes in over 20 multinational firms from across the globe.

Those allegations remain far from proven — Guo has yet to substantiate many of them — but the attention on HNA Group may raise eyebrows over attempts by the conglomerate to court American political elites. Over the years, the firm has built relationships with everyone from Obama to Trump administration officials, as well as members of the Bush and Clinton dynasties.

Guo’s purported revelations have already rocked China. Using YouTube and interviews with U.S.-based news outlets to broadcast his claims, Guo alleged that family members of a powerful official named Wang Qishan secretly own shares in HNA Group, which has skyrocketed in value. The charges are particularly scandalous because Wang, who serves as President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption czar, has remade the Chinese political landscape by cracking down on graft and imprisoning officials, many of whom are perceived as adversaries of factions loyal to Xi.

Although Guo did not provide evidence that Wang’s relatives own shares of HNA Group, the explosive allegations have generated sustained controversy. The New York Times’s Michael Forsythe was able to partially corroborate at least one of Guo’s other claims about another senior party official using a shell company to enrich his family.

It’s not clear if Guo’s allegations will end up tainting Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, but the claims have already brought attention to HNA Group, where the firm and its executives have recently been seeking to build business and other relationships with powerful figures in the U.S.

Earlier this year, Anthony Scaramucci, a prominent supporter of President Trump’s campaign, sought to divest from his hedge fund, SkyBridge Capital, and join the White House as a staffer. HNA Group came forward to buy a stake in Scaramucci’s company. The move, reported by the New York Times, was widely perceived as an effort to influence the new administration.

HNA Group also developed financial ties to a prominent Democrat who served in the Obama administration. Before he was appointed by President Obama to serve as the U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke, the former governor of Washington state, provided legal assistance to Hainan Airlines, HNA Group’s flagship subsidiary. The revelation is buried in Locke’s personal finance disclosure, which was filed with the Office of Government Ethics. Hainan Airlines, notably, established a Beijing-Seattle direct flight in 2008.

And before HNA Group courted Trump, the company courted Jeb Bush and Bill Clinton. In February 2013, Bush met with HNA Group President Tan Xiangdong to discuss “cooperation in the broad market between China and the United States,” according to the HNA Group website. Soon after, HNA Group was among a pool of investors to finance a company set up by Bush called BH Logistics, which used $26 million in investor money to buy shares in a liquid petroleum shipping company.

Also in 2013, Clinton traveled to Beijing to speak at the China Philanthropy Forum, an event that hosted HNA Group chairman Chen Feng as a speaker. After the forum, Clinton met with Chen.

Chen Guoqing, the brother of HNA Group Chair Chen Feng, serves as chair of HNA Group North America and has become increasingly involved in American think tanks. Chen Guoqing serves on the board of trustees to the China Institute and the Asia Society and is a member of the Committee of 100, an influential organization that represents prominent Chinese-American business leaders.

HNA Group has attracted attention in the business world for its seemingly limitless appetite for international expansion.

Over the last few years, the firm has purchased major stakes in microchip manufacturer Ingram Micro, Brazilian airline Azul SA, aircraft leasing firm CIT Group, cargo handler Swissport, Virgin Australia, and Carlson Hotels, as well as making major investments in multinational firms Hilton Hotels and Deutsch Bank. The expansion has made HNA Group, which began as a small regional airline company, into a behemoth with a $145 billion portfolio.

The shopping spree, which also includes luxury real estate, has been financed by a $60 billion line of credit from Chinese state-owned banks, a usually large amount of debt financing typically reserved for state-owned companies involved in advancing official government policy.

In recent months, Chinese censors have blocked coverage of Guo. And in April, Chinese authorities issued a “red notice” seeking Guo’s arrest over corruption charges. Guo called the corruption charges “pure fabrication,” claiming officials were merely pursuing him because they were fearful of further revelations.

The post Shadowy Chinese Conglomerate Cultivated Ties to the Most Powerful U.S. Politicians appeared first on The Intercept.

French President Emmanuel Macron Offers Refuge to American Climate Scientists

1 June 2017 - 8:21pm

Just one hour after Donald Trump said that he was withdrawing the United States from the global climate accord negotiated in Paris — saying that he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris” — the new French president, Emmanuel Macron, offered refuge in France to American climate scientists.

In a three-minute address to the American people streamed live from the Élysée Palace, Macron offered hope for the future, and a message of solidarity that seemed to echo those delivered in the cold war era by American presidents speaking to captive nations behind the Iron Curtain — or aimed at resistance fighters in an occupied country.

“Tonight, I wish to tell the United States, France believes in you — the world believes in you,” Macron said. “I know that you are a great nation. I know your history — our common history.”

To all scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision of the US: pic.twitter.com/qxjPX8MhKt

— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) June 1, 2017

“To all scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision of the president of the United States, I want to say that they will find in France a second homeland,” he continued. “I call on them: come and work here with us. To work together on concrete solutions for our climate, our environment. I can assure you, France will not give up the fight.”

At the end of his remarks, the French president made it crystal clear that his message was intended as a rebuke of not just his American counterpart’s decision, but his entire worldview.

“I call on you to remain confident,” Macron said, standing in front the of the flags of both France and the European Union. “We will succeed, because we are fully committed, because wherever we live, whoever we are, we all share the same responsibility: Make Our Planet Great Again.”

We all share the same responsibility: make our planet great again. pic.twitter.com/IIWmLEtmxj

— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) June 1, 2017

Macron’s social media team made sure that closing rejoinder to Trump and Trumpism was not missed by those lacking the strength or the stamina to make it to the third minute of his speech.

pic.twitter.com/3g5LYO9Osj

— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) June 1, 2017

Trump, whose beef with climate scientists might actually stem back to his deep dismay at no longer being allowed to use aerosol hairspray, finished his own remarks by claiming a second time that he was acting to put the interests of Pittsburgh ahead of those of Paris. With this refrain, he was apparently hoping to con ill-informed voters into believing that the international agreement negotiated in the French capital, in which 197 nations agreed to limit fossil-fuel emissions for the global good, was somehow to the unique benefit of the French people.

The same minute Trump finished speaking, however, the mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto, reminded him that the city had in fact voted overwhelmingly against him.

Fact: Hillary Clinton received 80% of the vote in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh stands with the world & will follow Paris Agreement @HillaryClinton https://t.co/cibJyT7MAK

— bill peduto (@billpeduto) June 1, 2017

Peduto also confirmed that the city’s government would continue to honor its obligations under the Paris framework.

In his own response to Trump’s decision, Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, held out hope for working with local governments in American cities and states, while expressing regret at what he called a decision by “the United States federal government.”

We are deeply disappointed that the United States federal government has decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 1, 2017

“We are all custodians of this world,” Trudeau added, “and that is why Canada will continue to work with the U.S. at the state level, and with other U.S. stakeholders, to address climate change and promote clean growth.”

The post French President Emmanuel Macron Offers Refuge to American Climate Scientists appeared first on The Intercept.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Wants People In Georgia To Self-Diagnose Before Heading To The Emergency Room

1 June 2017 - 6:17pm

Blue Cross Blue Shield is quietly telling its individual market patients in Georgia that it will stop reimbursing some emergency room visits.

The revelation comes from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which reports that Georgians are getting letters warning them that the insurer will no longer cover emergency room visits unless it determines them to have been necessary.

This raises the worry from some public health advocates that patients will be afraid to go to the emergency room out of the fear that their treatment will not be reimbursed by their insurer. Laura Harker, a policy analyst who studies Georgia’s health care system at the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, explained some of the possible outcomes to The Intercept.

“Patients do not always know if they are having a true emergency or not. This policy could make some patients more likely to put off care that they need,” Harker said. “Many hospitals in rural Georgia are already struggling financially, and this policy could further hurt their bottom line. If BCBS decides that a visit does not count as an emergency, the hospital would most likely not get paid at all. Many patients wouldn’t be able to afford the full cost of an ER visit or they could end up with medical debt.”

Debbie Diamond, a spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, did not provide a copy of the letters being sent to patients to The Intercept. She did, however, offer a defense of the policy.

“Please know that this policy is not intended to keep our members away from the emergency room if that is where they need to be treated. We worked with four board-certified emergency medicine doctors employed by Anthem, our parent company, to develop a list of non-emergency conditions that would be better treated by a patient’s primary care doctor than in an emergency room,” she wrote in an e-mail. “The list includes conditions such as suture removals, athlete’s foot, common cold symptoms and seasonal allergies including itchy eyes.”

“If a member choses to receive care for these common ailments in the ER when a more appropriate setting is available, their claim will be reviewed by an Anthem medical director using the prudent layperson standard before a determination is made,” she continued. “In reviewing the claim, the medical director considers the member’s presenting symptoms that may have appeared to be an emergency even if the diagnosis turned out to be a non-emergency ailment.”

The Medical Association of Georgia, the top lobbying group for physicians in the state, expressed concerns about the shift.

“What Blue Cross is asking patients do is determine without a clinical background whether their certain situation is truly an emergency, which is a lot to ask of a patient when they’re obviously presenting themselves to the emergency room because they do have concerns,” Executive Director Donald Palmisano told The Intercept.

As the AJC reports, BCBS is the only insurer in the health insurance marketplace in 96 of Georgia’s 159 counties. Particularly in rural Georgia, it has a monopoly over patients. As the Washington Post noted in 2014, southwest Georgia is “one of the most expensive places in the nation to buy health insurance.”

One way to weaken that monopoly would be for Georgia to expand Medicaid. Its Republican governor and GOP-dominated legislature have blocked the expansion, and national BCBS funded Republican Governors Association ads attacking unsuccessful Democratic candidate gubernatorial Jason Carter, who campaigned on expanding Medicaid during the 2014 cycle.

By not expanding Medicaid, Georgia puts more of the onus for covering the cost of caring for patients on the hospitals themselves. Hospitals respond by charging people who can pay — namely, insurance companies — more.

The unnecessary use of emergency departments for ailments that would be better treated at an urgent care center is indeed a real issue, said Palmisano and Harker. But the solution, they said, is better education and preventative and comprehensive care, rather than warning patients their trip to the ER may or may not be covered.

“I’m happy to say that I’m glad that I do not have Blue Cross Blue Shield as my health insurance company with this kind of restriction,” Palmisano said.

Top photo: Patients line the wall of the trauma unit in the emergency room at Grady Hospital in Atlanta on Feb. 18, 2011.

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A saída de Trump do Acordo de Paris vai colocar o mundo em chamas?

1 June 2017 - 5:07pm

Agora que Donald Trump anunciou que vai tirar os Estados Unidos do acordo climático de Paris, e os ativistas ambientais corretamente se mobilizam diante dessa guinada distópica, é hora de falar sem meias-palavras: praticamente todos os pontos fracos, decepcionantes e inadequados no Acordo de Paris são resultado do lobby americano desde 2009.

O fato de o acordo comprometer os governos a manter o aquecimento da temperatura da Terra abaixo de 2 graus célsius, em vez de um alvo muito mais firme e seguro de 1,5 graus, foi algo conquistado pelo lobby dos Estados Unidos.

O fato de o acordo deixar a cargo de cada nação o quanto cada país irá se esforçar para que essa meta seja cumprida, permitindo que eles chegassem a Paris com compromissos que nos colocaram num rumo desastroso cujo efeito será mais de 3 graus de aquecimento, foi algo conquistado pelo lobby dos Estados Unidos.

O fato de o acordo tratar mesmo essas metas insuficientes como não vinculantes, o que significa que os governos, aparentemente, não têm nada a temer mesmo se ignorarem seus compromissos, é outra coisa que foi conquistada pelo lobby dos Estados Unidos.

O fato de o acordo expressamente proibir os países pobres de buscar reparação financeira para os danos causados por catástrofes climáticas foi algo conquistado pelo lobby dos Estados Unidos.

O fato de o documento firmado em Paris ser um “acordo” e não um tratado – até o fato de que Trump possa encenar sua saída do acordo em slow motion enquanto o mundo pega fogo atrás dele – foi algo conquistado pelo lobby dos Estados Unidos.

Eu poderia falar sobre isso por horas e horas. Por muito tempo, os EUA tiveram ajuda de “ilustres” petro-estados como a Arábia Saudita nessa sabotagem por trás dos panos. Ao pressionar agressivamente para enfraquecer o Acordo de Paris, os negociadores norte-americanos normalmente argumentam que um acordo mais consistente seria recusado pela Câmara e pelo Senado dos EUA – controlados pelos republicanos. Isso provavelmente é verdade. Mas algumas dessas medidas que enfraquecem o acordo – especialmente as que tentam reduzir a desigualdade entre países ricos e pobres – foram conquistadas apenas por hábito, porque cuidar dos interesses das empresas norte-americanas é o que os Estados Unidos fazem nas negociações internacionais.

Quaisquer que sejam os motivos, o resultado final foi um acordo que tem um objetivo de temperatura decente, mas cujo plano para alcançá-lo é frágil e tremendamente fraco para isso. James Hansen, indiscutivelmente o cientista climático mais respeitado do mundo, chamou o acordo de “falso, uma fraude, na verdade”, porque “não há ação, apenas promessas”.

Acompanhado dos senadores Edward Markey, Maria Cantwell e Tom Carper, o senador Brian Schatz, à direita, fala durante coletiva de imprensa para persuadir Trump a não retirar os EUA do Acordo de Paris no Capitólio.

Foto: Alex Wong/Getty Images

No entanto, fraco não é o mesmo que inútil. O poder do Acordo de Paris foi sempre o que os movimentos sociais decidiram fazer com ele. Tendo um compromisso claro de manter o aquecimento abaixo de 2 graus celsius, ao mesmo tempo que busca “esforços para limitar o aumento de temperatura para 1,5º C”, significa que não há espaço no orçamento global de carbono para descobrir novas reservas de combustível fóssil.

Esse simples fato, mesmo sem obrigação jurídica por trás disso, tem sido uma potente ferramenta nas mãos de movimentos contra novos oleodutos, campos de fracking e minas de carvão, bem como nas mãos de jovens corajosos – que levam o governo dos EUA à Justiça por não terem protegido o seu direito a um futuro seguro. E, em muitos países, incluindo os EUA até recentemente, o fato de os governos falarem dessa meta só da boca para fora os deixou vulneráveis a esse tipo de pressão popular. Como disse o jornalista e cofundador do 350.org, Bill McKibben, no dia em que o Acordo de Paris foi revelado, “os líderes mundiais estabeleceram um objetivo de 1,5º C – nós vamos pressioná-los loucamente para que eles cumpram isso”.

Em muitos países, essa estratégia continua a funcionar, independentemente de Trump. Algumas semanas atrás, por exemplo, uma delegação de nações de ilhas do Pacífico viajou para as areias betuminosas de Alberta para exigir que o primeiro-ministro Justin Trudeau pare de expandir a produção dessa fonte de combustível de uso intensivo de carbono, argumentando que sua falha em evitar essa exploração viola seu belo discurso e as promessas feitas por ele em Paris.

Essa foi a rotina do movimento global de justiça climática quando se tratava de Paris: tentar manter os governos além da letra fraca do acordo. O problema é que assim que Trump se mudou para a Casa Branca, ficou perfeitamente claro que Washington não era suscetível a esse tipo de pressão. Isso faz parecer meio ridículo quem ficou histérico quando soube que Trump estava batendo em retirada do acordo. Porém, assim que o acordo foi publicado, nós sabíamos que esse retrocesso estava nos planos de Trump. Sabíamos no momento em que ele nomeou Rex Tillerson para o Departamento de Estado e Scott Pruitt para a EPA (a agência ambiental dos EUA). Nós confirmamos quando ele assinou a papelada para iniciar as obras dos oleodutos Keystone XL e Dakota Access Pipeline na primeira semana do mandato.

Por meses, ouvimos falar do cabo de guerra entre quem queria que os EUA permanecessem no acordo (Ivanka Trump e Rex Tillerson) e aqueles que queriam que os EUA pulassem fora (Pruitt, Steve Bannon, estrategista-chefe da Casa Branca, e o próprio Trump). Mas o próprio fato de que Tillerson (fortemente ligado às petroleiras) pudesse ser o fiel da balança nessa disputa mostra o absurdo da situação.

Foram empresas petrolíferas, como a que Tillerson trabalhou por 41 anos, cujo incansável lobby ajudou a garantir que os compromissos assumidos em Paris não tivessem mecanismos vinculantes. Por isso, um mês após o acordo ter sido negociado, a Exxon Mobil, com Tillerson ainda no comando, publicou um relatório afirmando que “esperamos que petróleo, gás natural e carvão continuem a atender cerca de 80% da demanda global até 2040”. Era uma mera expressão de arrogância costumeira das empresas. A Exxon sabe muito bem que, se quisermos uma chance decente de manter o aquecimento abaixo de 1,5 a 2 graus, o objetivo declarado do Acordo de Paris, a economia global precisa abolir os combustíveis fósseis até meados do século. Mas a Exxon ofereceu essas garantias aos seus investidores – e alegou que apoiava o acordo – porque sabia que o Acordo de Paris não tinha força vinculativa.

É a mesma razão pela qual a facção de Tillerson da gestão Trump achou que poderia conciliar a permanência no Acordo de Paris ao mesmo tempo que desmantelava a peça central do compromisso dos Estados Unidos no acordo, o Clean Power Plan. Tillerson, melhor que quase qualquer um no mundo, sabe o quão legalmente fraco é o acordo. Como CEO da Exxon, ele ajudou a garantir isso.

Então, enquanto tentamos entender tudo isso, não sejamos bobos: a gestão Trump nunca esteve dividida entre aqueles que queriam destruir o Acordo de Paris e aqueles queriam respeitá-lo. Estava dividida entre aqueles que queriam destruí-lo e aqueles que queriam ficar nele, ignorando-o completamente. A diferença é somente de óptica: a mesma quantidade de carbono é vomitada de todo modo.

Alguns dizem que não é esse o ponto – que o risco real na retirada dos EUA é que isso vai encorajar todos os outros países a diminuir sua ambição e logo todos irão romper com o Acordo de Paris. Talvez, mas não necessariamente. Assim como o desastre de Trump na saúde pública está encorajando outros países a levar em conta um sistema público de saúde pela primeira vez em décadas, o incêndio climático de Trump só alimentou mais a ambição climática em estados como a Califórnia e Nova York. Em vez de jogar a toalha, coalizões como a New York Renews, que está pressionando o estado de NY a usar 100% de energia renovável até 2050, estão ficando mais fortes a cada dia.

Fora dos EUA, os sinais também não são tão ruins. A transição para as energias renováveis já acontece de modo acelerado na Alemanha e na China – os preços estão caindo tão fortemente, que forças muito maiores do que Trump estão impulsionando essa mudança. Claro, ainda é possível que a retirada do Trump provoque um retrocesso climático global. Mas também é possível que ocorra o contrário – que outros países, sob a pressão de populações que estão furiosas com as ações de Trump, se tornem mais ambiciosos se os Estados Unidos se tornem realmente nocivos. Eles podem até mesmo decidir endurecer o Acordo sem os negociadores dos EUA para atrapalhá-los.

Há outro ponto, cada vez mais ouvido dos movimentos sociais mundo afora: para sanções econômicas contra os EUA diante do vandalismo climático de Trump. Veja que coisa louca – mesmo que isso não esteja escrito no Acordo de Paris, se você decide tocar fogo no mundo, você deveria pagar um preço por isso. E isso deve ser verdade se você é o governo dos Estados Unidos ou a Exxon – ou alguma fusão bizarra dos dois.

Um ano atrás, a sugestão de que os EUA enfrentassem uma punição tangível por colocar em risco o restante da humanidade seria alvo de risada nas rodinhas do establishment: ninguém colocaria suas relações comerciais em perigo por uma coisa tão pequena quanto o planeta Terra. Mas esta semana, em sua coluna no Financial Times, Martin Wolf escreveu: “Se os EUA se retirarem do acordo de Paris, o resto do mundo deve considerar sanções contra eles”.

Estamos a um longo caminho de que os parceiros comerciais dos EUA adotem uma medida drástica dessas, mas não apenas os governos podem impor punições econômicas para esse tipo de comportamento imoral. Os movimentos sociais podem pedir boicotes e desinvestimentos para as empresas – assim como foi feito contra o regime de apartheid sul-africano. Não apenas contra empresas de petróleo, mas também contra o conglomerado de Trump. Pressão moral não funciona contra Trump, mas a pressão econômica talvez funcione.

Ou talvez seja hora de sanções econômicas vindas dos consumidores.

Foto em destaque: Donald Trump deixa a Trump Tower, em Nova York, depois de falar à imprensa em Dezembro de 2016.

Tradução: Charles Nisz

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Trump and Putin Could Form “Axis of Mass Destruction” on Climate, French Minister Fears

1 June 2017 - 1:56pm

France’s new environment minister, Nicolas Hulot, does not mince words when it comes to the possible consequences of Donald Trump pulling the United States out of the Paris climate accord.

Such an act, Hulot said in March, when Trump first signaled that he might withdraw from the agreement to limit carbon emissions, would be “a veritable middle finger to our children,” and could even expose the American president one day to charges of “crimes against humanity.”

Worst of all, Hulot told French television, was the danger that Trump’s action could encourage his fellow climate skeptic, Vladimir Putin, to ignore the restrictions on industrial emissions. Together the two leaders could create, Hulot warned, “an axis of mass destruction between two great powers,” with catastrophic consequences for the planet.

Hulot, who was an environmental activist before joining President Emmanuel Macron’s new government, expressed his concern after Trump ordered the E.P.A. to rescind restrictions on carbon emissions and Putin said that the melting of Arctic ice was most likely a natural process that Russia should take advantage of, not try to stop.

Putin’s remarks, which horrified Hulot, were made during a forum on the future of the Arctic, days after Trump moved ahead with his campaign promise to lift regulations on coal, oil and gas producers imposed by former President Barack Obama.

Speaking in the Russian Arctic city of Arkhangelsk, Putin told the American business channel CNBC that it was “impossible” to stop the warming of the planet, which was more likely caused by “some global cycles on Earth or even of planetary cycles,” than man-made factors like industrial emissions. Climate skeptics, like Trump and E.P.A. head Scott Pruitt, Putin added, “may not be at all silly.”

The only argument Putin offered for this view was an apparently apocryphal story about an Austrian explorer supposedly reporting that Arctic glaciers had already started melting at some point between the 1930s and 1950s. That proved, Putin said, that the melting had started before a spike in industrial emissions.

Even though the explorer Putin cited, Julius von Payer, had visited the Arctic in the 1870s, not the 1930s — and it is not clear if the tale of him describing global warming is fact or fiction — by calling this proof that melting started before man-made emissions, the Russian president appeared to overlook the fact that the industrial revolution was well underway in the 19th century.

Putin has a long history of climate skepticism, which has earned him lavish praise from conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones. His views appear to have changed little since 2003, when he told an international conference that a spike in temperatures would mean Russians could “spend less on fur coats” while “agricultural specialists say our grain production will increase, and thank God for that.”

Although the Russian president surprised some observers at the Paris climate talks two years ago when he pledged to cut Russian emissions of greenhouse gas by 70 percent by 2030, a closer analysis of Russian industrial output showed that the levels Putin proposed would actually represent a 40 percent increase.

As the science writer Hannah Waters explained this week, the Paris accord is less an anti-business measure — as Trump famously claimed when he called it a hoax “created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive” — than “a giant trade agreement to accelerate the development and deployment of renewable energy.”

Paris is a giant trade agreement to accelerate the development & deployment of renewable energy. U.S. leaving to promote coal is just dumb.

— Hannah Waters (@hannahjwaters) May 31, 2017

That is certainly the view taken by the new French president, who said that he tried to convince his American counterpart to stick with the pact during their meeting last week.

J'ai dit au président américain combien il me semblait indispensable que les États-Unis puissent confirmer l'accord de Paris. pic.twitter.com/Kj1ov45Faz

— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) May 27, 2017

That said, Macron, like the leaders of other nations, might not be that sorry to see the U.S. retreat from the development of renewable technologies under Trump. Such a self-inflicted wound could make it easier for French companies to recruit and retain talented researchers, entrepreneurs and engineers who might otherwise join American firms.

To that end, it is worth recalling that in February, even before his election, Macron made a direct appeal to American workers in the field of climate change to move to France, in a video that has racked up more than 23 million views on Facebook and was widely shared on Twitter.

I have a message for you guys. #ScienceMarch pic.twitter.com/ZnkFIIksdx

— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) February 10, 2017

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Com Temer abalado por denúncias, Maia e Eunício fazem avançar projetos para favorecer setor privado

1 June 2017 - 1:50pm

Enquanto busca sobreviver à pressão pela renúncia e à debandada de aliados, o Palácio do Planalto força a continuidade das reformas. “Vamos deixar o Judiciário trabalhar sossegado, vamos deixar o Legislativo trabalhar em paz, vamos deixar o Executivo trabalhar em paz”, suplicou Temer em um evento esvaziado no Planalto para a posse de Torquato Jardim no Ministério da Justiça. No Congresso, os presidentes das Casas Rodrigo Maia (DEM/RJ) e Eunício Oliveira (PMDB/CE) aproveitaram a semana de estranha calmaria em Brasília para aprovar projetos de interesse do mercado e sinalizar que, ao menos no Congresso, não há espaços vazios.

Tentando estancar a sangria política e o derretimento de seu governo, na última semana, Temer usou as redes sociais para fazer um pronunciamento a fim de acalmar investidores. Na ocasião disse que as manifestações em Brasília foram exageradas, que o “Brasil não pode parar” e que pretende “colocar o Brasil nos trilhos”:

Em pronunciamento nas redes sociais, Temer vê "exageros" em manifestações e alega que colocará o Brasil "nos trilhos": ?? pic.twitter.com/4glcITY7SW

— George Marques (@GeorgMarques) May 25, 2017

“A agenda da Câmara, em sintonia com a do presidente Temer, tem como foco o mercado, o setor privado”, discursou Maia nesta terça, 30, no Fórum de Investimentos Brasil 2017, em São Paulo. Posteriormente e alinhado aos interesses patronais, Maia repetiu que a “Câmara vai manter a defesa da agenda do mercado”. Em The Intercept Brasil contamos como os projetos em discussão no Congresso (reformas da Previdência e Trabalhista) fortalecem a agenda de reformas imposta pela elite financeira brasileira.

Precisamos urgentemente continuar as reformas, diz Robson Braga de Andrade no programa da @soracy. https://t.co/FMoc35d70e

— CNI Brasil (@CNI_br) May 30, 2017

No Congresso, as falas de Maia foram percebidas como um recado direto aos agentes econômicos. Ele vem se mostrando como alternativa à atual crise política. Nos bastidores, tanto a base do governo quanto a oposição avaliam que, agora,  as reformas têm poucas chances de aprovação no Congresso com Temer no poder. As saídas costuradas para a aprovação dos projetos passariam, por sua vez, por meio de Medida Provisória, o que demonstra fraqueza do governo. A crítica situação política de Temer relembra os derradeiros dias de Dilma Rousseff na Presidência da República. O que os difere é que Temer ainda tem algum capital político para barganhar com o Congresso.

Maia aproveita “calmaria” para continuar manobrando

Capitão das reformas, Maia aproveitou a semana de movimento fraco no Congresso para tentar laçar a bancada do Nordeste pelo cabresto. E conseguiu. Colocou em pauta a PEC 304/2017, que não considera cruel a prática das vaquejadas, em contraposição ao que decidiu, em setembro, o Supremo Tribunal Federal. A proposta conta com forte campanha dos deputados do Norte e Nordeste. Na terça, ao perceber que não haveria quórum para aprovar a PEC, Maia retirou a proposta de pauta. Na noite do mesmo dia, enviou uma mensagem a todos os deputados comunicando que o texto estaria na pauta no dia seguinte. Nesta quarta, 31, a PEC que permite tanto a vaquejada como o rodeio foi aprovada por 373 votos favoráveis e 50 contrários (6 abstenções). Por se tratar de uma mudança na Constituição, eram exigidos, ao menos, 308 votos para a aprovação.

Na Comissão de Constituição e Justiça (CCJ) da Câmara, onde tramita a PEC do deputado Miro Teixeira (Rede/SP) propondo eleições diretas em caso de vacância do cargo presidencial nos dois últimos anos do mandato, o rolo compressor do governo vem impedido a análise da matéria. Ontem, as tentativas da oposição de chegar a um denominador comum com a base do governo não surtiu efeito. “Não há acordo sobre essa proposta”, disparou Alceu Moreira (PMDB/RS). Na oposição, Maria do Rosário (PT/RS) e Alessandro Molon (Rede/RJ) compunham as roucas vozes que pediam para que o projeto fosse colocado em discussão e que denunciavam o esvaziamento da CCJ. No mesmo dia, a CCJ do Senado aprovou a PEC do senador Reguffe (sem partido/DF) para eleições diretas. O texto deve ser enviado ao plenário do Senado para deliberação.

Brazil's Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered President Michel Temer to be questioned in writing, the latest development in an explosive corruption scandal that has him fighting for his political life. The embattled leader will have 24 hours to respond to questions from the federal police in a case involving Brazil's largest meat company JBS, a court statement said.<br />
/ AFP PHOTO / EVARISTO SA (Photo credit should read EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)" />

Eunício Oliveira, presidente do Senado

Foto: AFP/Getty Images

Por falar no Senado, Eunício Oliveira também trabalhou nesta semana a fim de emitir sinais aos agentes especuladores do mercado de que também está na briga em caso de eventual eleição indireta. Na noite desta quarta, 31, os senadores aprovaram a Medida Provisória 759, que estabelece regras para regularização de terras da União ocupadas na Amazônia Legal e disciplina novos procedimentos para regularização fundiária urbana, revogando as regras atuais da Lei 11.977/2009.

A MP 759 tem sofrido diversas críticas por parte de  ONGs de defesa ambiental e também pela Procuradoria Federal dos Direitos do Cidadão (PFDC), do Ministério Público Federal (MPF), que enviou ao Congresso Nacional uma nota técnica criticando a proposta e afirmando que a medida tende a agravar os problemas do campo. Para a Procuradoria, as propostas apresentadas pela MP impactam em direitos fundamentais como a moradia e ao meio ambiente e intensifica o grave problema da regularização de terras no Brasil.

“A facilitação da transferência de terras públicas a pessoas de alta renda, o que em tese é possível pelas disposições constantes da MP 759, viola objetivos fundamentais da República Federativa do Brasil, elencados no art. 3′ da CR/88′ ‘, diz trecho da nota assinada pela procuradora Deborah Duprat. O texto aponta ainda que em relação ao desmatamento a MP 759 não possui instrumentos eficazes para detê-lo e que deixaria ainda mais frágil a proteção ambiental no solo brasileiro.

Ainda nesta quarta-feira (31), os congressistas aprovaram o fim do foro privilegiado. O texto sofreu alteração de última hora para favorecer a classe política: foi retirada a possibilidade de prisão de parlamentares em segunda instância, até que o processo seja julgado em última instância, no caso o STF. Nada como um pouco de espírito corporativista para temperar a atual crise política brasileira.

 

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James O’Keefe Hit by Group He Stung With Million-Dollar Lawsuit

1 June 2017 - 11:37am

Conservative provocateur James O’Keefe III will be hit with a million-dollar lawsuit on Thursday, sources behind the filing tell The Intercept.

The lawsuit accuses O’Keefe and his organization, Project Veritas, with breaking local and federal wiretap laws and running afoul of other statutes, dubbing him and two colleagues “modern-day Watergate burglars.”

O’Keefe operative Allison Maass posed as a progressive activist, using an elaborate cover story and falsified documents, to win an internship with the Democratic campaign consultants Democracy Partners.

“Basically O’Keefe and Maass were modern day Watergate Burglars. They used fraud to get Maass a position as an intern at Democracy Partners so they could steal documents and secretly videotape conversations,” said Joe Sandler, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs. “There is no question that, in doing so, they violated federal and D.C. law and should be held liable for the damages suffered by our clients as a result.”

O’Keefe’s scheme involved having a man claiming to be a potential donor to the Democratic group Americans United for Change ask Robert Creamer, a principal at Democracy Partners, if his niece, going by the name Angela Brandt, could do volunteer work. Brandt was in fact Maass.

Maass, much like the burglars who broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters ahead of the 1972 campaign, pilfered a large cache of documents. Maass also secretly filmed interactions with Democracy Partners staff.

O’Keefe worked closely with the right-wing local news chain Sinclair Broadcast Group in rolling out the videos produced from the sting. President Trump’s top adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner had struck a deal during the campaign with Sinclair that exchanged access for favorable coverage. Sinclair is deeply influential at the local level, having the trust of local television networks.

Project Veritas also distributed the videos through the conservative outlet Breitbart, which was a veritable arm of the Trump campaign during the election; its former honcho, Steve Bannon, took a leave to officially run Trump’s campaign, though he stayed in close touch with reporters there, according to sources familiar with the relationship. The Trump Foundation previously gave Project Veritas $10,000 and, after the election, Trump called O’Keefe to thank him and invite him to the inauguration.

O’Keefe told The Intercept he plans to aggressively challenge the suit and would be offering a lengthier statement shortly. (We’ll update this post when he does.)

Creamer, a plaintiff in the Thursday suit, was a central figure in the videos released by O’Keefe. The videos alleged a voter-fraud scheme and came after Trump had made unfounded accusations of widespread fraud. He used the videos to claim vindication of his claims.

Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute of Public Representation agreed to take on the case as well, suggesting that it may have legal merit.

Institute of Public Representation head Yael Bromberg said her center got behind the case “because the fraud that O’Keefe and Project Veritas perpetrate debase our politics and has no place in our democracy.”

“When we heard about the manner and method which it took place, it occurred to us this is an issue about democracy, not partisanship,” she added. “This is not about journalism it’s about political espionage.”

It is legal in Washington to record a conversation with another person without their consent, but Bromberg argued that O’Keefe and Maass are not shielded by that law because of the civil conspiracy, fraud and duplicity behind the project.

Top photo: Conservative undercover journalist James O’Keefe holds a news conference at the National Press Club Sept. 1, 2015 in Washington. O’Keefe promised that people will resign from their jobs as his “Army of Exposers” record and release undercover videos during the 2016 campaign.

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Will Trump’s Slow-Mo Walkaway, World in Flames Behind Him, Finally Provoke Consequences for Planetary Arson?

1 June 2017 - 11:33am

Now that it seemsvirtually certain that Donald Trump will withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, and the climate movement is quite rightly mobilizing in the face of this latest dystopian lurch, it’s time to get real about something: Pretty much everything that is weak, disappointing, and inadequate about that deal is the result of U.S. lobbying since 2009.

The fact that the agreement only commits governments to keeping warming below an increase of 2 degrees, rather than a much safer firm target of 1.5 degrees, was lobbied for and won by the United States.

The fact that the agreement left it to individual nations to determine how much they were willing to do to reach that temperature target, allowing them to come to Paris with commitments that collectively put us on a disastrous course towards more than 3 degrees of warming, was lobbied for and won by the United States.

The fact that the agreement treats even these inadequate commitments as non-binding, which means governments apparently do not have anything to fear if they ignore their commitments, is something else that was lobbied for and won by the United States.

The fact that the agreement specifically prohibits poor countries from seeking damages for the costs of climate disasters was lobbied for and won by the United States.

The fact that it is an “agreement” or an “accord” and not a treaty — the very thing that makes it possible for Trump to stage his action-movie slow-mo walk away, world in flames behind him — was lobbied for and won by the United States.

I could go on. And on. Often the U.S. had help in this backroom bullying from such illustrious petro-states as Saudi Arabia. When aggressively lobbying to weaken the Paris accord, U.S. negotiators usually argued that anything stronger would be blocked by the Republican-controlled House and Senate. And that was probably true. But some of the weakening — particularly those measures focused on equity between rich and poor nations — was pursued mainly out of habit, because looking after U.S. corporate interests is what the United States does in international negotiations.

Whatever the reasons, the end result was an agreement that has a decent temperature target, and an excruciatingly weak and half-assed plan for reaching it. Which is why, when it was first unveiled, James Hansen, arguably the most respected climate scientist in the world, called the agreement “a fraud really, a fake,” because “there is no action, just promises.”

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) , right, speaks as Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA), Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) listen during a news conference to urge President Donald Trump to not withdraw from Paris Climate Agreement at the Capitol May 24, 2017 in Washington.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

But weak is not the same as useless. The power of the Paris Agreement was always in what social movements resolved to do with it. Having a clear commitment to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius, while pursuing “efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 C,” means there is no room left in the global carbon budget to develop new fossil fuel reserves.

That simple fact, even without legal enforcement behind it, has been a potent tool in the hands of movements against new oil pipelines, fracking fields, and coal mines, as well as in the hands of some very brave young people taking the U.S. government to court for failing to protect their right to a safe future. And in many countries, including the U.S. until quite recently, the fact that governments at least paid lip service to that temperature target left them vulnerable to that kind of moral and popular pressure. As author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben said on the day the Paris deal was unveiled, world leaders set a “1.5 C goal — and we’re damn well going to hold them to it.”

In many countries, that strategy continues regardless of Trump. A few weeks ago, for instance, a delegation from low-lying Pacific Island nations traveled to the Alberta tar sands to demand that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stop expanding production of that carbon-intensive fuel source, arguing that his failure to do so violates the spirit of the fine words and pledges he had made in Paris.

And this was always the task for the global climate justice movement when it came to Paris: to try to hold governments to the strong spirit, rather than the weak letter, of the agreement. The trouble is that as soon as Trump moved into the White House, it was perfectly clear that Washington was no longer susceptible to that kind of pressure. Which makes some of the histrionics in the face of the news that Trump seems to be officially withdrawing a bit baffling. However the Paris Agreement decision went, we all already knew that significant U.S. backsliding on climate was in the cards under Trump. We knew it as soon as he appointed Rex Tillerson to head the State Department and Scott Pruitt to head the EPA. We had it confirmed when he signed his Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline executive orders in his first week on the job.

For months we have been hearing about the supposed power struggles between those who wanted to stay in the agreement (Ivanka, Tillerson) and those who favoured leaving (Pruitt, chief strategist Steve Bannon, Trump himself). But the very fact that Tillerson could have been the voice of the “stay” camp should have exposed the absurdity of this whole charade.

It was oil companies like the one Tillerson worked at for 41 years whose relentless lobbying helped ensure that the commitments made in Paris lack any meaningful enforcement mechanisms. That’s why one month after the agreement was negotiated, Exxon Mobil, with Tillerson still at the helm, came out with a report stating that “we expect oil, natural gas, and coal to continue to meet about 80 percent of global demand” between now and 2040. It was a bald expression of hubris by the purveyors of business as usual. Exxon knows full well that if we want a decent chance of keeping warming below 1.5 – 2 degrees, the stated goal of the Paris Agreement, the global economy needs to be virtually fossil-free by mid-century. But Exxon could offer those assurances to its investors — and claim it supported the agreement — because it knew that the Paris accord had no binding force.

It’s the same reason why the Tillerson faction of the Trump administration thought it could reconcile staying in Paris while simultaneously dismantling the centerpiece of the United States’ commitment under the agreement, the Clean Power Plan. Tillerson, better than almost anyone on the planet, knows how legally weak the agreement is. As CEO of Exxon, he helped make sure of that.

So as we try to make sense of this latest drama, make no mistake: The Trump administration was never divided between those who wanted to shred the Paris Agreement and those wanted to respect it. It was divided between those who wanted to shred it and those who wanted to stay in it but completely ignore it. The difference is one of optics; the same amount of carbon gets spewed either way.

Some say that’s not the point — that the real risk in the U.S. withdrawing is that it will encourage everyone else to lower their ambition, and soon everyone will be breaking up with Paris. Perhaps, but not necessarily. Just as Trump’s health care disaster is encouraging states to consider single payer more seriously than they have in decades, Trump’s climate arson is so far only fuelling climate ambition in states like California and New York. Rather than throwing in the towel, coalitions like New York Renews, which is pushing hard for the state to transition entirely to renewable energy by 2050, are getting stronger and bolder by the day.

Outside the U.S., the signs aren’t bad either. The transition to renewable energy is already proceeding so rapidly in Germany and China, and prices are dropping so sharply, that forces far larger than Trump are propelling the shift now. Of course it’s still possible that Trump’s withdrawal will provoke global backsliding. But it’s also possible that the opposite will happen — that other countries, under pressure from their populations who are enraged by Trump’s actions on pretty much every level, will become more ambitious if the U.S. officially goes rogue. They might even decide to toughen the agreement without U.S. negotiators slowing them down at every turn.

And there is another call that is increasingly being heard from social movements around the world — for economic sanctions in the face of Trump’s climate vandalism. Because here’s a crazy idea: Whether or not it’s written into the Paris Agreement, when you unilaterally decide the burn the world, there should be a price to pay. And that should be true whether you are the United States government, or Exxon Mobil — or some Frankenstein merger of the two.

A year ago, the suggestion that the U.S. should face tangible punishment for putting the rest of the rest of humanity at risk was laughed off in establishment circles: Surely no one would put their trade relationships in danger for anything so frivolous as a liveable planet. But just this week, Martin Wolf, writing in the Financial Times, declared, “If the U.S. withdrew from the Paris accord, the rest of the world must consider sanctions.”

We’re likely a long way from major U.S. trading partners taking that kind of a step, but governments are not the only ones that can impose economic penalties for lethal and immoral behavior.  Movements can do so directly, in the form of boycotts and divestment campaigns targeting governments and corporations, on the South African model. And not just fossil fuel corporations, but Trump’s branded empire as well. Moral suasion doesn’t work on Trump. Economic pressure just might.

It’s time for some people’s sanctions.

Naomi Klein’s new book, “No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need,” will be published this month.

Top photo: Donald Trump walks back into an elevator after emerging to speak to the media at Trump Tower following meetings on Dec. 6, 2016 in New York City.

The post Will Trump’s Slow-Mo Walkaway, World in Flames Behind Him, Finally Provoke Consequences for Planetary Arson? appeared first on The Intercept.

Even Elizabeth Warren Gets Harassed by Debt Collectors — And It’s About to Get Worse for Everyone

1 June 2017 - 9:10am

The calls started two or three months after Elizabeth Warren got a new cellphone number many years ago. They were looking for Gus.

“I’d get them in spurts. I’d get maybe 10 calls in the space of three or four days. And I’d say ‘no, no, no’ every time. And then I wouldn’t hear anything more for several months and I’d say, ‘OK, that problem’s gone away,’” Warren said in an interview with The Intercept.

“And then it would start again — and I’d get calls for Gus.”

Even Washington’s most powerful denizens aren’t immune from the signature annoyance purveyed by the multibillion-dollar debt collection industry — and it could be about to get worse. President Trump’s Federal Communications Commission is fielding petitions from industry groups to allow them to increase the frequency of such calls, and to reach out to friends and family of Gus, too. The current FCC commissioner, Ajit Pai, has previously voted against efforts to limit debt collection calls.

Warren, a senator from Massachusetts, made her name as an academic through her work on bankruptcy and later went on to dream up, then push through Congress, then run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Despite her steady rise to influence and power, she couldn’t make the calls stop.

“This went on for maybe four or five years [before] I finally thought, I’m gonna track this down and make this stop,” the former Harvard law professor said. “So I tried — and I could never figure out who I was talking to and each time they’d assure me it was going to be fixed. And each time I’d get another collection call within the space of a few hours.”

Warren never played the senatorial card — What good would it do? — but she did try a few different approaches, she said. “I told them I was a lawyer and that I did debt collection law and that they could not still be calling on a debt that was this old. And I would try to throw out a few legal phrases and they did absolutely no good. Zero, none,” she said.

The calls weren’t all intimidating or rude, she said. “Some of them called and were very friendly. ‘Hey, Gus! How’s it going?’ And I’d say, ‘I’m not Gus.’ ‘Yeah, well, Gus — When’s Gus gonna be there?’ And I’d say, ‘Gus has not had this number for six years at least.’ And the answer was, ‘Ah, Gus, my man!’” she said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks on Oct. 23, 2015, in New York.

Photo: Thos Robinson/Getty Images

“Sometimes over the years they’d be robocalls; sometimes the kind where you answer the phone and there’s a pause — so you can tell it’s being dialed somewhere else — and then someone comes on and starts reading from a script; sometimes they’d leave voicemails for me to tell me where I can call back.”

Warren first relayed the story of Gus to me a little more than a year ago. I had been moderating a panel on the fifth anniversary of the report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which explored the deep fraud and abuse that had precipitated the crisis. I had forgotten to silence my phone, and during the panel, it rang — with a call from a debt collector. I can’t remember what unpaid bill they were after, but I told former FDIC Chair Sheila Bair, seated to my left, who the caller had been. Bair responded with what she recalled Wednesday as an “experience from hell with credit reporting agencies.”

At a department store, she broke her cardinal rule of having just one credit card, going for a big discount on offer. When the bill came, she paid it, but she was off by $2 and so got hit with a late fee of 10 bucks. She ignored it, and the department store reported her to the credit reporting agencies, ultimately knocking her score down a full 100 points. It took her six months and an extraordinary amount of effort to clean up.

Her husband, meanwhile, who has a fairly common name, had spent years getting debt collection calls intended for somebody else. “They don’t pay them well, they don’t train them well,” said Bair of the staff at the various companies, analogizing it to the financial crisis. “We certainly saw that during the mortgage crisis, with the servicers who didn’t have real training. It just complicated a really dysfunctional system.”

I told Warren, too, and she responded with her tale of Gus. Interviewed about it again this week, she said she made one final effort last spring to make the calls stop, but failed. Later in the year, as part of the John Podesta email dump by WikiLeaks, her number was posted online. So she got rid of it. “That’s the only way I finally solved the problem … I got rid of the phone number,” Warren said. “As far as I know, there’s still debt collectors calling that number.” (If they’re still calling, they’re hitting a dead end. The number is currently not in service.)

For Bair and Warren, who are financially stable, the calls were a nuisance rather than a major threat to their well-being. But if the founder of the CFPB and one of the most powerful FDIC chairs in American history can’t make debt collection calls stop, what chance does anybody else have?

“There’s no rationality on the other end,” Warren said. “Actually, I shouldn’t say that, because it was perfectly rational. They were doing what made sense to them, and that is, they’d buy up these debts, they had a phone number attached to it, at least the one for Gus, and they’d just work ’em over, and keep working ’em over and working ’em over. And I thought about what it must’ve been like for Gus, because they never gave up, not ever.”

It made her think back to her seminal study on bankruptcy. In their survey of people who’d gone through bankruptcy, Warren and her colleagues asked what the factor was that had pushed them toward filing. “A huge number of people responded, ‘To stop the collection calls. They call in the morning, they call at night, they call day long, they call my cell, they call my office, and I can’t live like this anymore.’ I got just a little taste of that personally.”

I asked if there was anything she had learned through the experience that she didn’t pick up in her academic, legal, or political work. She paused and concluded, “Debt collection calls suck.”

Top photo: Sen. Elizabeth Warren listens to her cellphone on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Oct. 6, 2015.

The post Even Elizabeth Warren Gets Harassed by Debt Collectors — And It’s About to Get Worse for Everyone appeared first on The Intercept.

Os números não mentem: o terrorismo de extrema-direita é uma grande ameaça para os EUA

1 June 2017 - 9:09am

Ó, Sean Duffy, onde estás tu, Sean Duffy?

Em fevereiro, o deputado republicano do Wisconsin disse a Alysyn Camerota, da CNN, que os terroristas brancos de extrema-direita não eram uma ameaça tão grande aos americanos quanto os “islamistas” e “jihadistas”. Por quê? “Não sei, mas eu diria que há uma diferença”, afirmou Duffy. Em seguida, o deputado classificou como “fato isolado” o ataque a uma mesquita no Quebec, praticado por um nacionalista branco partidário de Donald Trump, no qual seis muçulmanos morreram.

“Fato isolado”? Sério? Será que Duffy não tem acompanhado o noticiário ultimamente? No dia 20 de maio, Richard Collins III, segundo-tenente do exército americano, negro de 23 anos, foi assassinado durante uma visita à Universidade de Maryland por um membro de um grupo do Facebook autodenominado “Alt-Reich: Nation”. De acordo com o chefe de polícia da universidade, David Mitchell, o grupo promove uma “abominável discriminação” contra minorias, “principalmente afro-americanos”.

Forças de segurança canadenses patrulham o local do atentado ao Centro Cultural Islâmico do Quebec, na cidade de Quebec, no dia 29 de janeiro de 2017.

Foto: Renaud Philippe/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

No dia 26 de maio, o veterano do exército dos EUA Rick Best, de 53 anos, e o recém-formado Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, de 23, morreram esfaqueados por um supremacista branco ao tentarem defender uma muçulmana que estava sendo hostilizada em um trem na cidade de Portland. No mesmo ataque, o poeta de 21 anos Micah David-Cole Fletcher ficou gravemente ferido.

Por que Duffy não voltou à CNN para denunciar esses terríveis atos de terrorismo doméstico? Por que o Partido Republicano e a imprensa conservadora não estão alertando o eleitorado contra a ameaça do terrorismo de pele branca e ideias de extrema-direita?

Imaginem a enxurrada de tuítes de Donald Trump se dois soldados dos EUA – um da ativa, outro da reserva – tivessem sido mortos em território americano por terroristas islâmicos em apenas uma semana. Qual não seria a cobertura da Fox News se um fanático muçulmano tivesse cortado a garganta de três bons samaritanos que tentavam proteger duas mulheres indefesas no trem de Portland?

Já chega de acusar aqueles que denunciam a ameaça dos supremacistas brancos de extrema-direita de desviar a atenção do público do Estado Islâmico e da Al Qaeda. Não podemos ser acusados de apologia ao islamismo.

Essa verdadeira máquina de políticos, comentaristas e autodenominados “especialistas em segurança” não pode mais minimizar a ameaça terrorista que vem de grupos americanos de extrema-direta, ao mesmo tempo em que exagera o perigo representado pelo jihadismo internacional.

Façamos uma comparação: os terroristas islâmicos são caracterizados como fanáticos de olhar feroz que matam em nome de sua religião ou ideologia. Já os terroristas de extrema-direita – como o assassino de nove fiéis de uma igreja em Charleston, no estado da Carolina do Sul, em 2015, ou o homem que matou, em 2012, seis sikhs em um templo no Wisconsin, o estado do próprio Duffy – são quase sempre descritos como “desequilibrados mentais”. Após o duplo homicídio de Portland, o porta-voz da polícia local, Pete Simpson, logo declarou: “Não sabemos se o suspeito tem problemas mentais”. Não é incrível como nós, muçulmanos, parecemos ser imunes aos tais “problemas mentais”? Graças a Alá!

Alana Simmons deixa uma mensagem em um quadro diante da Igreja Metodista Episcopal Africana Emanuel em homenagem às vítimas do massacre que deixou nove mortos em 17 de junho de 2015. (foto de 22 de junho de 2015).

Foto: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Atualmente, o terrorismo dos grupos supremacistas brancos é uma ameaça da qual não se ousa falar. Líderes conservadores – e até certos liberais – tendem a minimizar o perigo e desviar a nossa atenção para o que o presidente Trump chama de “terrorismo islâmico radical”.

Porém, os números não mentem – ao contrário dos islamofóbicos. Um recente relatório encomendado pelo Congresso americano ao Government Accountability Office (órgão equivalente à Controladoria Geral da União, no Brasil), afirma: “Desde 12 de setembro de 2001, o número de mortes causadas por extremistas domésticos variou entre 1 e 49 a cada ano. (…) O número de mortes causadas por terroristas de extrema-direita foi superior às provocadas por extremistas islâmicos em 10 dos 15 anos analisados e igual em três”. Ora, vejam só.

O relatório prossegue: “Dos 85 incidentes de violência terrorista com vítimas fatais desde 12 de setembro de 2001, 62 (73%) foram causados por grupos de extrema-direita; grupos extremistas islâmicos radicais foram responsáveis por 23 (27%)”. A proporção é de quase três para um.

O documento observa que “o total de mortes provocadas por grupos de extrema-direita e islamistas radicais nos últimos 15 anos foi praticamente o mesmo”. O terrorismo islâmico causou 119 mortes, contra 106 dos grupos de extrema-direita. No entanto, o relatório também reconhece que “41% das mortes atribuídas ao terrorismo islâmico ocorreram em apenas um ataque – o atentado a uma boate em Orlando, na Flórida, em 2016”.

Aparentemente, os terroristas islâmicos são mais letais em seus ataques, mas os terroristas de extrema-direita cometem atentados nos EUA com muito mais frequência. Diversos estudos e relatórios – da New America Foundation ao Centro de Combate ao Terror de West Point – corroboram o relatório da Controladoria americana. Um grupo de pesquisadores chegou até a afirmar que “comparados aos islamistas, os radicais de extrema-direita têm muito mais chances (…) de desenvolver uma maior devoção à sua ideologia”.

Seguindo a mesma lógica, as agências de segurança americana, de acordo com uma pesquisa do Centro Triangle de Estudos de Terrorismo e Segurança Nacional, “consideram os extremistas antigoverno – e não os muçulmanos radicais – como a mais grave ameaça de violência politicamente motivada nos EUA”.

Mas isso não importa para o deputado Duffy, e tampouco para o nosso novo presidente republicano. Como fomos informados pela Reuters em fevereiro, menos de duas semanas depois da posse de Donald Trump, a Casa Branca declarou que iria “reformular e renomear um programa do governo criado para enfrentar todo tipo de ideologia violenta, direcionando-o exclusivamente ao combate ao extremismo islâmico (…), deixando de visar grupos como os supremacistas brancos, que também já realizaram atentados nos Estados Unidos”.

A notícia foi recebida com festa pela extrema-direita. “Donald Trump está nos libertando”, escreveu Andrew Anglin, editor do website neonazista Daily Stormer.

O presidente americano cita repetidamente páginas de supremacistas brancos, como a conta de Twitter “WhiteGenocideTM” (“Genocídio Branco”, em português); nomeou um nacionalista branco como um de seus delegados na Califórnia; aceitou doações de campanha de líderes nacionalistas brancos; designou um deles como chefe de estratégia da Casa Branca; e recebeu o apoio oficial da Ku Klux Klan. Então por que ele faria vista grossa ao terrorismo doméstico cometido por supremacistas brancos e nacionalistas que colocam a vida de americanos em perigo?

Por que será?

Foto do alto da página: Uma jovem tenta consolar um homem em prantos do lado de fora do tribunal, após uma audiência com Jeremy Christian, em 30 de maio de 2017. Christian será julgado por homicídio e outros crimes depois de ter esfaqueado três pessoas em um trem em Portland.

The post Os números não mentem: o terrorismo de extrema-direita é uma grande ameaça para os EUA appeared first on The Intercept.

Dear White People liberta a arte negra de referências brancas

31 May 2017 - 5:16pm

Recentemente, participei de um evento com formato que gostaria de ver cada vez mais difundido entre artistas em geral e, principalmente, artistas negros/as, o Polifônica Negra, em Belo Horizonte. Experimentos cênicos, debates, provocações, conversas, fragmentos de trabalhos em construção, ocupação de espaços espalhados pela cidade e tamanho perfeito para que coubéssemos todos, no fim da noite, em uma imensa mesa de bar com mais conversas, debates, provocações, parcerias etc… Escapamos de um formato de evento que tem me incomodado cada vez mais, que é aquele que se pretende apenas laudatório e que, para mim, funciona mais como armadilha, prendendo o artista em sua zona de conforto, do que como gatilho de novas experiências, possibilidades, ideias e, sobretudo, crescimento e amadurecimento artísticos.

Já há no Brasil uma arte negra que se sustenta sem a necessidade de estar em diálogo com referências, temas e questionamentos não negros.

Um dos questionamentos levantados pelo filósofo Renato Nogueira foi até que ponto nós, artistas negros, estaríamos produzindo em reação a ou a partir da conversa com um cânone branco. A resposta da atriz Grace Passô, com a qual concordo, é que já há no Brasil uma arte negra com poética, estética e formatos próprios, que se sustenta sem a necessidade de estar em diálogo com referências, temas e questionamentos não negros. A arte se liberta quando isso acontece, e um dos maiores exemplos disso vem de uma das séries mais comentadas da temporada, Dear White People, da Netflix.

O exemplo é mais claro ainda para quem assistiu ao filme homônimo, de 2014, que lhe deu origem e que funcionava mais como um tipo de manual de educação racial para brancos, ficando aquém de suas possibilidades. A série abandonou essa linha, focando em mostrar os problemas e a hipocrisia enfrentados por alunos negros em uma universidade de ponta estadunidense, predominantemente branca e tida como pós-racial. O toque interessante fica por conta do reitor negro, que não posso deixar de comparar à figura do presidente Barack Obama em um país no qual parte da população acreditou que havia acabado com o racismo ao eleger um presidente negro.

Talvez, a partir desta ideia de pluralidade, também possamos nos livrar de uma outra que é bastante antiga e danosa: a da culpa coletiva.

Foto: divulgação

O ponto de partida é uma festa blackface que aconteceu na sede da Revista Pastiche, comandada por alunos brancos, e denunciada no programa de rádio da personagem principal, Sam, uma jovem mestiça que apenas se percebeu negra quando não foi convidada para uma festa de brancos. A série tem 10 episódios, dedicados à abordagem dos pontos de vistas e das histórias de personagens diferentes. O que, por si só, já é uma grande contribuição à desconstrução de uma ideia de identidade única para os negros, como se todos devessem pensar e agir da mesma maneira. Talvez, a partir desta ideia de pluralidade, também possamos nos livrar de uma outra que é bastante antiga e danosa: a da culpa coletiva. É interessante perceber como, por exemplo, o racismo faz com que um crime cometido por um negro seja quase que invariavelmente colocado na conta de um grupo (“negros são violentos”, “negros são perigosos”), contribuindo para a construção e propagação de um estereótipo racista que tem efeitos, inclusive, na abordagem policial mais frequente, violenta e justiceira. Isso não acontece com os brancos. Os crimes cometidos pelos réus e investigados na Lava Jato, por exemplo, todos brancos, são tratados como falha de caráter humano, e não de um determinado grupo racial.

“Ser um negro despreocupado é um ato revolucionário.”

Resisto à vontade de comentar episódio por episódio, embora cada um deles tenha material suficiente para ganhar um artigo inteiro. De modo geral, a série é uma grande contribuição para trazer à tona assuntos que nem sempre são tratados fora da comunidade negra. Atenho-me, então, a dois deles; não por serem os mais importantes, mas porque possuem ligação direta com alguns episódios do nosso “racismo à brasileira”.

O primeiro deles é o episódio 5, dirigido por Barry Jenkins, o premiado diretor de Moonlight. Trata, sobretudo, de vulnerabilidade, através do personagem Reggie, um militante antirracista bastante ativo e consciente. Por isto, talvez, o mote do episódio seja “ser um negro despreocupado é um ato revolucionário”, e Reggie e seus amigos tentem passar um dia sem se preocupar com racismo.

Foto: Adam Rose/Netflix

Na saída de uma sessão de cinema, a personagem Joelle diz uma das melhores frases da série, referindo-se ao diretor Tarantino: “Só porque deixou J. Lee Fox matar alguns racistas em Django acha que pode usar todos os estereótipos de negros existentes”. Aqui, do que se fala é do “branco bem intencionado”, que cito na coluna “É difícil fazer com que os “bem intencionados” entendam racismo”.

O branco bem intencionado, tido como aliado, volta a aparecer um pouco mais tarde em uma festa na casa de um amigo de Reggie. O amigo, branco, convida Reggie a fazer dupla com ele em um jogo de conhecimento gerais, que Reggie domina do princípio ao fim, não errando uma única pergunta e ainda tirando onda com a afirmação: “Mesmo este jogo sendo culturalmente viciado (não havia perguntas sobre cultura negra, apenas cultura branca, considerada “cultura geral”) eu estou vencendo, porque eu sei sobre a minha cultura e a cultura de vocês”. Não há nada mais verdadeiro, tanto lá como aqui, onde é preciso que exista uma lei – nem sempre respeitada – que obrigue a falar sobre cultura negra nas escolas, para que crianças negras possam ter algum ponto de referência positivo fora do cânone branco, muitas vezes racista.

Na mesma festa, provando que é quase impossível ser revolucionário através da despreocupação, Reggie chama a atenção do amigo branco para uma letra de rap racista tocada na festa, na qual é dita a palavra “nigger”. “Achei estranho me censurar”, responde o “aliado”, “pois você vem na minha casa, bebe da minha bebida e ainda me ataca?”. Ou seja: como Tarantino, ele também quer carta branca para ser racista de vez em quando, já que pode ser considerado um “aliado”. Ou ainda, por se considerar um aliado, amigo de negros, suas atitudes não podem ser consideradas racistas. Este tipo de “salvo-conduto” é bastante invocado, e é necessário se entender que conviver com negros, ter filhos negros, amigos negros e mesmo parceiros ou parceiras negros/as não imuniza ninguém contra o racismo, do mesmo jeito que conviver com mulheres – e até ser filho/a de uma! – não imuniza ninguém contra o machismo.

Na continuação, o episódio 6 também traz duas cenas bem interessantes. A primeira é quando o editor branco da revista Pastiche procura Sam para que, juntos, implantem a ideia genial (como nenhum preto pensou nisto antes!) que ele teve para acabar com o racismo na universidade. Lembrei-me imediatamente da ideia “genial” da equipe de marketing do Neymar, comprada por milhares de brasileiros brancos que, como ele, nunca haviam se dedicado a pensar ou estudar o assunto, de pagar mico tirando fotos comendo banana para acabar de vez com o racismo no futebol, usando a hashtag #Somostodosmacacos.

 

Não faço esta ligação com o futebol por acaso, mas por perceber que, no Brasil, assim como técnicos de futebol, temos técnicos em racismo aos milhares. A diferença é que pelo menos os técnicos de futebol gostam e acompanham o esporte, enquanto que os técnicos raciais aparecem apenas nos momentos em que um caso atinge a mídia. Sem conhecerem direito as regras do jogo, opinam sobre o que vale e o que não vale, atuando no ataque mas, na verdade, fazendo a própria defesa, numa atitude de negação. Não é raro vê-los se colocarem – ou a alguém bem próximo de si – no lugar do racista e querer negar que seja racismo aquilo que também faz parte deles mesmos. Afinal, há aquela pesquisa que aponta que os brasileiros pensam em si mesmos como uma ilha de democracia racial cercada de preconceitos por todos os lados.

A segunda cena é de uma garota branca, dançando para expressar sua dor e, com ela, acabar com o racismo no campus. “Ok, garota. Já pode acabar com seus 15 minutos de ’12 anos de escravidão'”, diz Sam, comparando-a ao personagem de Brad Pitt no filme de Steve McQueen. Para quem não se lembra, Brad Pitt entra em cena apenas para figurar como o salvador do escravizado Solomon Northup. A necessidade de um branco salvador-herói é bastante comum em materiais desenvolvidos por brancos sobre negros, mas também está presente na vida real. No Brasil alguém chegou a apelidar o fenômeno como “Síndrome de Princesa Isabel”, termo muito citado na internet recentemente, não só pela passagem do 13 de maio, mas também pelo caso envolvendo a professora Elika Takimoto.

 

Há muito mais em Dear White People, que merece ser visto e revisto até que se entendam todas as tiradas, as frases que parecem jogadas ali por acaso, a sutileza de algumas situações que nos são apresentadas. Há problemas com a série, claro, como o levantado por Murilo Araújo em sua análise no excelente canal Muro Pequeno, em relação ao único casal de lésbicas da série apresentar uma relação bastante confusa. Mas os acertos superam, em muito, as deficiências.

 Eles falam de si e entre si, de um modo que boa parte da audiência branca nunca teve a oportunidade de observar.

Fico pensando na polêmica causada apenas pelo teaser da série, que fez com que pessoas brancas promovessem um boicote à Netflix porque o seriado iria contribuir para o genocídio da população branca. Não creio que estivessem falando de modo literal, invocando o tal do racismo reverso, mas creio que deve ser a morte para algumas delas não se verem no centro de um seriado chamado “Dear White People”. Aqui, a centralidade é nos personagens negros, aos quais é dado tempo suficiente para se desenvolverem, cada qual a seu modo, e mostrarem, cada qual a seu modo também, como o racismo – sutil ou escancarado – afeta suas vidas. Eles falam de si e entre si, de um modo que boa parte da audiência branca nunca teve a oportunidade de observar.

Os personagens brancos, por sua vez, não são vilanizados, mas tratados como geralmente são os personagens negros: sem muita profundidade, mais ou menos caricatos, sem grande importância a não ser como acessórios de uma história que, definitivamente, não é sobre eles. Pergunto-me quando a televisão ou as produtoras brasileiras terão coragem de investir em um projeto como este. E desanimo ao ver que a nossa maior produtora de dramaturgia anuncia como novidade a criação de uma Casa de Roteiristas com uma equipe de criadores que mais se parece com o ministério do Temer. Não é a toa que vem perdendo audiência: as mesmas histórias, os mesmos pontos de vistas, as mesmas vozes que, quando tentam falar das e pelas minorias, no máximo, podem aspirar vir a ser como Tarantino.

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