The Intercept

As UK Polls Tighten, Jeremy Corbyn Mocks Theresa May for Refusing to Attend Debate

31 May 2017 - 2:19pm

After a dramatic tightening in the polls ahead of next week’s general election in the United Kingdom, and a series of nervous performances by Prime Minister Theresa May, the opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, spent much of the day mocking his rival for refusing to even attend a televised debate on Wednesday night.

At tonight's #BBCdebate I'll set out our vision of a Britain #ForTheMany. Will @Theresa_May come & defend her record of working for the few? pic.twitter.com/OCFgWQsbWY

— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) May 31, 2017

Corbyn, the left-wing Labour Party leader, had initially intended to skip the debate himself, since the Conservative prime minister would not be present, but, buoyed by new polling that shows his party closing on the Conservatives and an assured performance in a televised forum earlier in the week, he changed course and tried to goad May into joining him.

.@Theresa_May come & debate me. Any time. Any place. Britain deserves to see the only two people who could be the next Prime Minister debate pic.twitter.com/hM6wK9e32B

— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) May 31, 2017

As Corbyn noted, the prime minister had agreed to participate in the televised town hall hosted by Channel 4 News and Sky on Monday, but only on the condition that she not be on stage at the same time as her rival.

When May was asked about her decision to send Amber Rudd, the outgoing home secretary, to understudy for her in a debate with Corbyn and leaders of the other parties, she laughed nervously — as she tends to when put on the spot — before suggesting that debates were trivial compared to the important work of preparing for imminent negotiations with the European Union over Britain’s exit. That response was quickly turned into a viral ad by Corbyn.

Britain deserves to see a debate between the two candidates for Prime Minister. Refusing to join tonight's #BBCdebate is a sign of weakness. pic.twitter.com/nsTjv12kS6

— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) May 31, 2017

May’s critics were quick to note that if she does see electoral politics as a distraction from the important work of trying to keep Brexit from imploding the British economy, it seems reasonable to ask why she chose to dissolve parliament and force this election in the first place.

PM who called election instead of preparing for Brexit criticises rival for doing election not preparing for Brexit. https://t.co/oSWZzRIA8L

— David Schneider (@davidschneider) May 31, 2017

May’s decision to avoid the debate stage makes sense given how underwhelming she was in this week’s televised town hall — during which some audience members openly laughed at her — but it is a dramatic reversal from the “presidential style” campaign her advisers initially charted for her, in which her supposedly clear advantage over Corbyn as a plausible prime minister was supposed to be the main focus.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s reelection campaign has been so focused on herself that her party’s name is not featured on the bus she tours the country in.

Photo" Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

While polling continues to show May’s Conservative Party ahead in the national popular vote, albeit by as little as three percentage points in some recent surveys, the British Parliament is elected not on that basis but in 650 head-to-head contests for seats, which can vary widely from the overall share achieved by the leading parties.

One new seat-by-seat analysis, released on Tuesday by the polling firm YouGov, suggests that May’s gamble in calling an early election could backfire dramatically — with her party remaining the largest one in the new Parliament, but losing up to 20 seats and no longer holding the majority necessary to form a government on its own.

Tonight: we reveal YouGov's first seat by seat projection of the campaign – suggests Tories fall 16 seats short of overall majority pic.twitter.com/8ouPRHTZ7m

— Sam Coates Times (@SamCoatesTimes) May 30, 2017

That result would produce what is known as a hung Parliament, in which no party would have the undisputed right to form a government on its own, making it necessary to broker some sort of coalition, like the Conservative alliance with the Liberal Democrats that ruled from 2010 to 2015. At this moment, however, with the Liberal Democrats still reeling from the damage that coalition did to their party, and horrified by the Conservative-led plans for Brexit, such an arrangement seems unlikely. A breakdown of seats along the median line of the YouGov projection could even make it impossible for any plausible coalition to command a majority, making yet another general election necessary.

The ensuing chaos would probably be fatal to May, given that she previously had a secure majority that would have allowed her to rule until 2020, after the Brexit negotiations were concluded, but was seduced into forcing an early election by the widespread belief that Labour was so weak under Corbyn’s leadership that a Conservative landslide was inevitable.

Stephan Shakespeare, YouGov’s chief executive, cautioned that his firm’s model, which points to the possibility of a hung Parliament, also includes enough “leeway” that the Conservatives could still end up with as many as 345 seats when the votes are counted on the 8th of June, giving May the increased majority she expected.

1/ The figures shown in The Times are midpoints of a range. Today’s seat estimates are: CON 275-344, LAB 227-289 https://t.co/UkjRSGCg5g pic.twitter.com/SKwev2u34Q

— YouGov (@YouGov) May 31, 2017

One of May’s senior advisers, Jim Messina, who was Barack Obama’s campaign manager in 2012, derided the YouGov projection later on Wednesday.

Spent the day laughing at yet another stupid poll from .@yougov. Hey .@benleet do you want to bet for charity? I'll take the over.

— Jim Messina (@Messina2012) May 31, 2017

While polls suggest that Corbyn is unlikely to appeal to a wide enough swathe of the British electorate to win a majority of seats for Labour, his popularity with meme-creating younger voters — energized by a more progressive platform than the centrists who led the party before him — could yet deny May the majority she expected at the campaign’s outset.

No one spits bars like Jeremy Corbzy… ? @JeremyCorbyn @Stormzy1 #GE2017 pic.twitter.com/v7HQPhMNON

— JOE.co.uk (@JOE_co_uk) May 30, 2017

As Nate Silver points out, one reason for the wide variation in what British pollsters expect to happen is that their models disagree on the question of what the electorate will look like.

The HuffPost average shows Conservatives only 3 points ahead. Those adjustments make a huge difference for some polls. pic.twitter.com/l4toi3Ys75

— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) May 30, 2017

If, as in past elections, older voters go to the polls in far larger numbers than the young, the Conservatives could still win a comfortable majority.

This poll would be a 3% Tory lead but it turns into 12% because of weighting predicted turnout by age and class at the last election. https://t.co/GYLVWgBEB5

— Matt Monk (@mattjemonk) May 30, 2017

It remains possible, however, that Corbyn’s supporters are right to guess that enthusiasm for him could produce a spike in turnout from younger voters, meaning that expectations could still be upended next Thursday.

Bridging the generational divide via @Angry_Voice#Brexit #GE2017https://t.co/FS9sysDrD2 pic.twitter.com/gXKF1vwNGu

— BluKIP Nonsense ? (@UKIPNFKN) May 31, 2017

The post As UK Polls Tighten, Jeremy Corbyn Mocks Theresa May for Refusing to Attend Debate appeared first on The Intercept.

The Numbers Don’t Lie: White Far-Right Terrorists Pose a Clear Danger to Us All

31 May 2017 - 1:34pm

O Sean Duffy, where art thou?

Back in February, the Republican congressman from Wisconsin told CNN’s Alysyn Camerota that white terrorists of the far right variety did not pose the same level of danger to Americans as so-called “Islamist” or “jihadist” terrorists. Why? “I don’t know, but I would just tell you there’s a difference,” proclaimed Duffy, who went on to dismiss as a “one-off” the attack on a mosque in Quebec by a Trump-supporting white nationalist, in which six Muslim worshippers were killed.

One-off? Seriously? Has Duffy been reading the news in recent days? On May 20, Richard Collins III, a black, 23-year-old U.S. Army second lieutenant, was murdered while visiting the University of Maryland by a member of a Facebook group called “Alt-Reich: Nation.” According to University of Maryland police chief David Mitchell, the group promotes “despicable” prejudice against minorities “and especially African-Americans.”

Canadian security forces patrol after a fatal shooting in the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec in Quebec city on Jan. 29, 2017.

Photo: Renaud Philippe/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

On May 26, 53-year-old U.S. Army veteran Rick Best and 23-year-old recent university graduate Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche were murdered, while 21-year-old poet Micah David-Cole Fletcher was severely injured, by a knife-wielding white supremacist when the three of them tried to prevent him from harassing a Muslim woman in a headscarf on their commuter train in Portland, Oregon.

Why isn’t Duffy back on CNN decrying the threat posed by such vile domestic terrorists? Why aren’t the Republican political and media establishments loudly alerting voters to the white-skinned far right menace in their midst?

Can you imagine the tweetstorm from President Donald Trump if two U.S. soldiers — one serving, one a veteran — had been killed on U.S. soil by Islamist terrorists in the space of a single week? Can you imagine the rolling coverage on Fox News if it had been a ranting Muslim man who had slashed the throats of three Good Samaritans trying to protect two women on a train in Portland?

For far too long, those of us who have warned of the threat from far right, white supremacist terrorists have been accused of trying to shift attention away from the threat of ISIS and Al Qaeda — of acting as Muslim apologists.

For far too long, a veritable industry of politicians, pundits and self-styled security “experts” have strived to minimize the domestic terror threat from far right groups while inflating the threat from foreign jihadists.

Compare and contrast: Islamist terrorists are depicted as wild-eyed fanatics driven to kill by their religious faith or ideology, while far right terrorists — be it the shooter of two Hindus in a bar in Kansas in February, or the killer of nine black worshippers in a church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, or the murderer of six Sikh worshippers in a temple in Duffy’s own state of Wisconsin in 2012 — are almost always “mentally ill.” After the recent double murder in Oregon, it didn’t take long for Portland police spokesman Pete Simpson to announce: “We don’t know if [the suspect] has mental-health issues.” (Isn’t it weird how we Muslims seem somehow immune to “mental-health issues”? Mashallah.)

Alana Simmons leaves a message on a board in front of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church after a mass shooting at the church left nine people dead, on June 22, 2015.

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Today, the terror threat from far right white supremacists is the terror threat that dare not speak its name. Leading conservatives, and even some liberals, are keen to downplay the danger that they pose and to divert and deflect attention away from home-grown white extremists and towards what President Trump likes to call “radical Islamic terrorism.”

Yet the numbers don’t lie — even if the Islamophobes do. “Since September 12, 2001,” noted a recent report prepared for Congress by the Government Accountability Office, “the number of fatalities caused by domestic violent extremists has ranged from 1 to 49 in a given year… fatalities resulting from attacks by far right wing violent extremists have exceeded those caused by radical Islamist violent extremists in 10 of the 15 years, and were the same in 3 of the years since September 12, 2001.” Imagine that.

The report continues: “Of the 85 violent extremist incidents that resulted in death since September 12, 2001, far right wing violent extremist groups were responsible for 62 (73 percent) while radical Islamist violent extremists were responsible for 23 (27 percent).” That’s a margin of almost three to one.

The report points out that “the total number of fatalities is about the same for far right wing violent extremists and radical Islamist violent extremists over the approximately 15-year period,” with the latter edging out the former by 119 to 106. However, the report also acknowledges that “41 percent of the deaths attributable to radical Islamist violent extremists occurred in a single event — an attack at an Orlando, Florida night club in 2016.”

Islamist terrorists, it seems, are more deadly in terms of the number of people killed in each of their attacks, yet far right terrorists are far more active in carrying out attacks on U.S. soil. A plethora of reports and studies — from the New America Foundation to the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point — have backed the GAO on this point. One group of researchers even found that “compared to Islamist extremists, far-right extremists were significantly more likely to… have a higher level of commitment to their ideology.”

Meanwhile, U.S. law enforcement agencies, according to a survey carried out by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, “consider anti-government violent extremists, not radicalized Muslims, to be the most severe threat of political violence that they face.”

Forget Congressman Duffy: these agencies won’t get much sympathy from their new Republican president either. As Reuters reported in early February, less than two weeks after Trump’s inauguration, the White House expressed a desire to “revamp and rename a U.S. government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it focuses solely on Islamist extremism… and would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States.”

The news was met with glee in far right circles. “Donald Trump,” wrote Andrew Anglin, editor of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website, “is setting us free.”

Why would a president who has repeatedly retweeted white supremacist Twitter accounts such as WhiteGenocideTM, appointed a white nationalist to be one of his delegates in California, accepted campaign donations from white nationalist leaders, picked a white nationalist as his chief strategist in the White House, and been officially endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, want to turn a blind eye to the domestic terror threat from white supremacists and nationalists and put American lives in danger?

I couldn’t possibly imagine.

Top photo: A young woman comforts a crying man outside the courtroom after Jeremy Christian was arraigned in Portland, Ore. on May 30, 2017. Christian was in Multnomah County courtroom facing two counts of felony aggravated murder and other charges for a stabbing incident on a Portland light-rail train.

The post The Numbers Don’t Lie: White Far-Right Terrorists Pose a Clear Danger to Us All appeared first on The Intercept.

Why The Intercept’s Newsroom Needs You

31 May 2017 - 1:00pm

Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill have explained why they founded The Intercept and why we need your support to sustain and expand our journalism.

Now I want to tell you a little bit about how our newsroom works, and how by becoming a member you can be a key part of our future.

In today’s fast-paced, hyper-partisan, and crowded media landscape, The Intercept cuts through the din with sharp, informed, truth-driven reporting — based on information we dig up ourselves.

Our reporters do much of this digging the old-fashioned way: attending events, cultivating sources, making phone calls, knocking on doors. Jamie Kalven’s explosive four-part series on the Chicago Police Department, for example, relied on extensive interviews and court records to expose how corrupt cops were protected by high-level officials.

Intercept reporters also ferret out newsworthy documents by making Freedom of Information Act requests, as Lee Fang and Nick Surgey did for their recent piece about how Republican members of Congress were enticing donors with the promise of meetings with senior legislative staff.

But more and more, as word has spread that The Intercept takes its commitment to whistleblowers seriously, it’s a tip that leads us to a revelatory story: A source emails us at tips@theintercept.com, or reaches out via our SecureDrop server, to share some materials or point us in a certain direction. All too often, the tantalizing lead fizzles into a dead end. But once in a while, it guides us to a story that urgently needs to be told.

Take, for example, the story we published this past weekend on the Blackwater-style private security firm TigerSwan. Reporting on a leak of more than 100 internal documents, the piece exposed how TigerSwan used tactics and language developed on the battlefields of the war on terror against the peaceful indigenous-led movement opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline — in close coordination with police agencies.

The point is, our reporters, editors, developers, and research staff work hard to find and report the most revealing stories — stories that bring accountability to the powerful, often contradicting the prevailing narrative in the process. When the Pentagon boasts of a successful military operation, The Intercept looks at the incident from a different angle. Our reporters take the time — and sometimes the physical risk — to listen to witnesses of airstrikes, to question whether the targets were Al Qaeda operatives or innocent villagers in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This kind of reporting requires resources. With the support of First Look Media and its founder, Pierre Omidyar, we have been able to pursue our journalism free of the obligation to court advertisers. But we believe that it is healthy for media to be funded at least in part through the direct support of the public whose interests it is dedicated to serving. That’s where you come in.

As an Intercept reader, you want us to pursue the truth, no matter where it leads. Put simply, the more you support us, the more journalism we can deliver. We’re in this for the long haul, and we want you to come along for the ride.

The post Why The Intercept’s Newsroom Needs You appeared first on The Intercept.

Intercepted Podcast: There’s Something About Jared

31 May 2017 - 6:01am

Subscribe to the Intercepted podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, and other platforms. New to podcasting? Click here.

 

Jared Kushner is sort of like Donald Trump’s less savvy version of Don Corleone’s consigliere. But did he make the Russians an offer they couldn’t refuse? This week on Intercepted: The scandal spotlight shines on Trump’s influential (and strangely quiet) son-in-law as questions abound over Kushner’s alleged meetings with Russian officials to establish secret back channel communications. We talk to amateur punk rocker turned national security correspondent Spencer Ackerman of The Daily Beast. Organizer and scholar Mariame Kaba offers a people’s history of prisons in the U.S. and the politicians — both Democrats and Republicans — who have made them what they are today. And we hear an incredible rendition of “The Partisan” from composers and musicians Leo Heiblum of Mexico and Tenzin Choegyal of Tibet. They met this week at the home of legendary composer Philip Glass and perform for the first time together on Intercepted.

Transcript coming soon. 

The post Intercepted Podcast: There’s Something About Jared appeared first on The Intercept.

Pentagon Will Be Hosting A Ramadan Iftar Dinner This Year — But White House and State Are AWOL

30 May 2017 - 6:24pm

Saturday marked the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, where Muslims fast from sun up to sundown.

Since the Clinton administration, various government agencies including the White House have held iftar dinners — the meal Muslims consume in the evening following their fast — to honor Muslim Americans and the global Muslim public.

The Trump administration appears to be breaking that tradition, at least partially.

Reuters reported on Monday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had officially declined a request from the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs to host a Ramadan event, “breaking with a bipartisan tradition in place with few exceptions for nearly 20 years.” Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright held the first State Department iftar in 1999.

Meanwhile, the White House is staying mum on whether it will host its own iftar event — a tradition that has existed since First Lady Hillary Clinton hosted a White House Ramadan celebration in 1996. It did not respond to requests for comment from The Intercept.

We talked to numerous individuals who had been invited and attended iftars in the past and asked them if they had received an invitation to the White House this year.

“I have not, and I don’t anticipate receiving one — especially given that Rex Tillerson broke the tradition of having a State Department Ramadan event as well,” Ziad Ahmed, a Muslim-American activist who attended the White House iftar in 2015 told The Intercept.

“No,” Rabiah Ahmed, director of Media & Public Affairs at the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) told The Intercept. Three individuals affiliated with MPAC attended the White House iftar in 2015.

Additionally, a spokesperson for Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress and a staple of White House iftars in the past, confirmed that the office had not received an invitation.

However, we did find one agency that will be continuing the tradition. The Pentagon confirmed to The Intercept that it will be hosting an iftar dinner in mid-June.

“The IFTAR dinner is scheduled for 15 June,” Lt. Colonel Eric D. Badger of the Pentagon’s Press Operations wrote to us.

The Pentagon has been holding its iftar dinner for the past 18 years, and Secretaries of Defense typically use the events to honor Muslim Americans who served in the armed forces.

For instance, at last year’s iftar, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter invited Sheikh Nazeem Abdul Karriem, a Muslim-American veteran who fought for the United States during the second world war, helping storm the beaches at Normandy.

Almost 4,000 American Muslims serve in the U.S. military, and the Department of Defense relies on close cooperation with numerous Muslim-majority countries as part of its daily operations. Taking the small step to thank these people appears to be one that the Pentagon is willing to take.

Top photo: President Barack Obama stands at the podium and speaks as he hosts an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan in the State Dining Room of the White House in 2013, in Washington.

The post Pentagon Will Be Hosting A Ramadan Iftar Dinner This Year — But White House and State Are AWOL appeared first on The Intercept.

Áudios e delações escancaram “o esquema” de Aécio & cia e mostram como a política é feita na prática

30 May 2017 - 6:23pm

A profusão de áudios vazados por delatores, ex-amigos e investigadores no Brasil da Lava Jato tem ajudado a desnudar os processos de produção de estratégias políticas, notas e opiniões na imprensa, salsichas, financiamento de salsicheiros e compra de apoio político na bancada do boi.

Quem escuta com atenção os áudios dificilmente encontra conversas do tipo “Fomos pegos, descobriram nosso esquema”, mas uma certa surpresa, misturada com indignação, com o avanço de suspeitas sobre eles.

Nesta segunda (29), por exemplo, chegou ao público o áudio de uma conversa entre o senador afastado Aécio Neves (PSDB-MG) e o aliado Zezé Perrella (PMDB-MG). Aécio estava chateado porque o colega se gabava em uma entrevista por não constar da lista de investigados do procurador-geral da República, Rodrigo Janot – que tinha o aliado como um dos alvos. Perguntava se Perrella havia se esquecido de como sua campanha havia sido financiada. E argumentava que declarações como a dele nivelavam o seu grupo político ao dos adversários, estes sim, segundo ele, bandidos. Aecio Neves durante sessão do impeachment em  agosto 2016. Em novo áudio, senador demonstra chateação com amigo.

ANDRESSA ANHOLETE AFP/Getty Images

Perrella, ao pedir desculpas a quem lhe falava como chefe, justificava a declaração como resultado da tensão provocada pela “história do helicóptero” (em 2013, a aeronave de uma empresa de seu filho foi apreendida com 445 kg de cocaína). E, num surto de cinismo ou ironia macabra, concluiu: “Não faço nada de errado, só trafico”. A conversa é interrompida por risos nervosos.

Em outro diálogo, desta vez com Joesley Batista, dono da JBS, Aécio defendeu a troca do delegado-geral da PF. Há um ano, o senador mineiro já havia sido citado em um diálogo gravado pelo ex-presidente da Transpetro, Sérgio Machado, com Romero Jucá. “Quem não conhece o esquema do Aécio?”, questionou o delator.

Foi nesta conversa, sem saber da gravação, que o senador de Roraima definiu a estratégia para levar Michel Temer à Presidência: para conter a Lava Jato, era preciso botar o Michel num grande acordo nacional, “com Supremo, com tudo”. Ministro do Planejamento na época da divulgação, Jucá caiu pouco depois.

“Ótimo, ótimo”

Antes mesmo da mudança de governo, alguns diálogos interceptados já causavam constrangimento às antigas lideranças políticas. Então prefeito do Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes (PMDB-RJ), apontado como possível presidenciável por aliados, chegou a se queixar, em conversa com o ex-presidente Lula, da “alma de pobre” do petista. “Todo mundo que fala no meio, eu falo o seguinte: imagina se fosse aqui no Rio esse sítio dele (em Atibaia). Não é em Petrópolis, não é em Itaipava. É como se fosse em Maricá. É uma merda de lugar”.

Ex-governador da Bahia, Jaques Wagner também teve conversa interceptada com Lula na qual comemorava quando o ex-presidente contava que Marta Suplicy havia sido chamada de “puta” por manifestantes na Avenida Paulista. “É bom pra nega aprender”, disse Wagner.

Em outra conversa, Lula se queixava com um advogado da “ingratidão” do procurador-geral da República, Rodrigo Janot, ao decidir investigá-lo.

De todos, porém, o diálogo mais constrangedor foi entre Joesley Batista e Michel Temer, no qual o presidente ouve o dono da JBS narrar como comprou juízes e um procurador e reage de forma, digamos, pouco espantada. “Ótimo, ótimo”, respondeu o peemedebista.

A exposição de lideranças destituídas das máscaras do discurso treinado por marqueteiros, e da própria forma como marqueteiros eram pagos pelos clientes, deixou amedrontados os esperançosos e esperançosos os amedrontados.

O que temos observado, nestes tempos, não é a desconstrução das lideranças políticas, mas dos mitos criados em torno delas. Aqui a construção dos afetos políticos se esborracha. O que temos observado, nestes tempos, não é a desconstrução das lideranças políticas, mas dos mitos criados em torno delas; expostas a olho nu, sem a mediação dos discursos ensaiados, derretem. É uma ferida narcísica e tanto para quem confiava nos discursos oficiais e dormia tranquilo com a sensação de que, longe dali, alguém em Brasília saberia como lidar em caso de incêndio. Ninguém parece saber, e quem diz o contrário ou mente ou está iludido.

Talvez resida na sensação de desamparo, resultado da descoberta de que em política não há pai, mãe nem santo fora das planilhas da Odebrecht, a chave para compreender a desilusão de quem observa em um passado em linha reta (um outro mito) a solução para todos os problemas.

Em entrevista concedida há dois anos, o filósofo Vladimir Safatle definiu, em uma entrevista há dois anos,  a mobilização em torno do Estado-nação como uma gestão social do medo, daí o apelo a soluções autoritárias observado aqui e mundo afora. A esperança, por sua vez, significa expectativa de que um bem ocorra no futuro – algo que, grifo meu, parece diluído a cada novo vazamento de conversa privada entre agentes públicos em um tempo em que até o santo protetor dos animais seria suspeito, em algum momento, de maus tratos ou zoofilia.

Qual, então, o caminho?

A resposta está em aberto, e não será encontrada pelos atalhos dos lugares-comum da internet. Uma pista, porém, pode estar no que Safatle chama de capacidade de lidar com a dimensão contingente dos acontecimentos. “Firmar seu desamparo quer dizer que você entra nas relações sabendo que não vai encontrar no outro aquilo que o ampara”, diz.

Levado para o campo político, é possível pensar numa outra relação entre representantes e representados quando esta relação deixa de ser mediada pela construção de mitos ou pela crença apaixonada em deuses ou demônios. O grau de exposição dessa fronteira ainda mal divisada entre a vida pública e privada, o legítimo e o legal, demandará uma outra ideia de transparência e participação política – uma participação que, ao destituir o sujeito político da aura que separa eleito e eleitores, os aproxima numa espécie de coautoria de projetos, acompanhamento e cobrança. Isso exigirá um salto de amadurecimento aos que se situam entre o imobilismo e o ativismo infantil costurado entre bonecos infláveis, panelas na janela e memes lacradores.

Isso exigirá um salto de amadurecimento aos que se situam entre o imobilismo e o ativismo infantil costurado entre bonecos infláveis, panelas na janela e memes lacradores.

Além das consequências jurídicas em torno da validade das gravações como provas e da legalidade de sua divulgação, há um impacto político profundo na forma como seus agentes se organizam em uma época de intensa transformação tecnológica e expansão dos canais de compartilhamento. Se antes era possível filtrar ou barrar notícias desabonadoras pelo funil dos veículos tradicionais, hoje qualquer pensamento solto, expresso em voz alta ou à meia voz, pode cair nas redes e enfrentar seus tribunais.

Não tem marqueteiro político capaz de impedir a sentença de que o rei, gravado em conversas privadas, está nu. Por nu entenda-se não apenas com as mãos atoladas em dinheiro sujo (não são poucos, diga-se), mas com um inesperado despreparo e descolamento da realidade expostos a quem quiser ver ou ouvir.

Em uma cultura política baseada em mitos – o pai dos pobres, o homem do povo, o cidadão honesto e, mais recentemente, o gestor aplicado – fica difícil explicar ao eleitor como a outrora raposa política se deixa gravar em conversa imprópria com investigado em residências oficiais; ou como o deputado temente a Deus engordou as burras na Suíça; ou que o defensor dos oprimidos andava em companhia de empreiteiros graúdos; ou como o herdeiro incorruptível do príncipe civil defendia em voz alta (e aos palavrões, para desespero dos filhos das Senhoras de Santana) interferência na Polícia Federal para salvar a própria pele.

Mais do que tramoia, as conversas divulgadas lícita ou ilicitamente mostram articuladores políticos desconectados com a nova régua estabelecida, ainda que de forma confusa, pelos representados, sobretudo a partir de 2013.

 

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Eleições indiretas fortalecem a agenda de reformas imposta pela elite financeira

30 May 2017 - 5:16pm

A imprensa tradicional não entrou no coro pelas diretas (de novo), mas abraçou a saída de Temer. E o faz de tal forma que já especula quais seriam os nomes para sua substituição, inclusive com cotação atualizada em tempo real. Apesar de serem vários os “pré-candidatos” elencados para possíveis eleições indiretas, salta aos olhos o fato de todos apresentarem um único discurso sobre as reformas trabalhista e da Previdência: o da necessidade da aprovação e do seguimento dos trabalhos. De Cármen Lúcia a Rodrigo Maia, todos se mostram afinados com a agenda econômica “pró-mercado” de redução do Estado, aquela que segue os interesses da elite financeira.

“Não são nomes soltos, são nomes que fazem parte de acordos para manter, ou não, determinadas agendas.”

Mais do que listar os nomes cotados para uma possível retirada de Temer, é importante analisar o que eles representam. “Qualquer nome que se considere agora, temos de pensar que não são nomes soltos, são nomes que fazem parte de acordos para manter, ou não, determinadas agendas”, observa Flávia Biroli, cientista política e professora da Universidade de Brasília (UnB). Ela pontua que todos os nomes levantados defendem que se mantenha a agenda que ela chama de “desmonte do Estado e dos direitos adquiridos pela Constituição de 88”:

“Com a crise política, temos uma indefinição dos grupos partidários, mas não uma indecisão dos interesses colocados. Existe uma agenda de desmonte do Estado que Temer vinha cumprindo. Está claro que algo aconteceu no meio do caminho, mas só com o tempo entenderemos o quê.”

E os indicados são…

No momento em que a palavra “governabilidade” volta a estampar manchetes, surge a lista dos potenciais candidatos para uma potencial eleição:

_Rodrigo Maia _Henrique Meirelles _Gilmar Mendes _Nelson Jobim _Cármen Lúcia _Tasso Jereissati

Maia é o presidente da Câmara e tem trabalhado ao máximo para aprovar as reformas. Meirelles é o pai das reformas e já afirmou que está disposto a seguir com elas mesmo se Temer não permanecer no poder. Mendes é defensor das reformas, notadamente da “modernização da legislação trabalhista”, que já chamou de “engessada e obsoleta”. Jobim é sócio do banco BTG Pactual, postula pela diminuição da máquina pública e por uma estratégia agressiva a favor da Reforma da Previdência, como se pode observar no vídeo abaixo:

Cármen Lúcia, apesar de historicamente se posicionar como parte do Judiciário — em suas palavras, um espaço que “não é político” —, tem tido um comportamento cada vez mais politizado. Sobre indiretas ou diretas, defendeu que se siga a Constituição (que prevê eleições  indiretas em caso de vacância da Presidência nos dois últimos anos do mandato), “ou vamos ter mais problemas”. A presidente do STF se encontrou com Rodrigo Maia fora da agenda oficial no dia 23 de maio para falar de benefícios fiscais concedidos a empresas. Antes, porém, no início do mesmo mês a ministra se reuniu com 11 grandes empresários para falar das reformas e da conjuntura econômica nacional. Esta foi sua segunda reunião com o empresariado, a outra foi feita em janeiro.

O senador Tasso Jereissati (PSDB) durante uma sessão da Comissão de Assuntos Econômicos do Senado, em 29 de outubro de 2009.

Foto: EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images

Jereissati, foi alçado a presidente interino do PSDB após o então presidente nacional do partido, Aécio Neves (PSDB-MG), ser afastado das funções de senador pelo Supremo Tribunal Federal. Aécio é acusado de receber R$ 2 milhões em propina da JBS. Ex-governador do Ceará, Jereissati preside também a Comissão de Assuntos Econômicos do Senado, que analisa e debate as reformas. Ele tem imprimido força para agilizar as discussões e aprová-las logo. Seu envolvimento com o empresariado é congênito: a Jereissati Participações S.A., holding de seu irmão Carlos, controla empresas como a rede shopping centers Iguatemi, a La Fonte Telecom S.A, o Grande Moinho Cearense e que tem grande parte das ações da Oi.

Outras personalidades apontadas como potenciais candidatos, como o ex-presidente Fernando Henrique Cardoso, por exemplo, foram tidas como menos prováveis em análises feitas por The Intercept Brasil com cientistas políticos e nos bastidores do Congresso. São nomes que carregam uma oposição muito forte entre os parlamentares e que teriam poucas chances de eleição.

Henrique Meirelles, é um dos cotados para substituir Temer em caso de afastamento do presidente.

AFP/Getty Images

O professor Ernani Carvalho, da pós-graduação em ciência política da Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE), está em Paris participando do seminário “Quelle droite a pris le pouvoir au Brésil?” (“Qual direita tem tomado o poder no Brasil?”), que debate as mudanças na agenda do país desde a saída de Dilma Rousseff. Ele falou ao The Intercept Brasil sobre os possíveis candidatos em caso de afastamento de Temer:

“No atual cenário do país, é bem provável que os nomes Rodrigo Maia, Henrique Meirelles e Tasso Jereissati  sejam realmente os que, no primeiro plano, estariam cotados para exercer essa segunda presidência-tampão”.

Ele descarta Gilmar Mendes e Cármen Lúcia por achar difícil que abandonem posições tão importantes na Suprema Corte por “pretensões eleitoreiras”. Já Nelson Jobim, ex-ministro do STF, teria mais chances. Mas Carvalho acredita que o nome será de alguém que já está ativo na política: “É um jogo que hoje está muito mais dentro do Congresso Nacional do que fora dele. As lideranças de fora do Congresso têm importância e apitam muito, mas é pouco provável que saia algum candidato do ambiente externo ao Congresso”.

Manifestantes no ato pelas “Diretas já” e contra as reformas, em Copacabana, no dimngo, 28 de maio de 2017.

Foto: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Porém, não nos precipitemos. Todos estes nomes listados e debatidos, no entanto, devem levar em conta que, caso de fato Temer saia, o Congresso passará por uma reconfiguração. Será necessário, a quem quer que seja, costurar alianças caso queira aprovar as reformas que já são reprovadas por 71% da população. “Não sei se eles teriam disposição, composição política e tempo para isso”, avalia Adriano Oliveira, professor de ciência política da UFPE.

Oliveira ainda pontua que existe uma precipitação por parte da mídia e de analistas políticos em já considerar Temer como carta fora do baralho. Em seu ponto de vista, Temer vem dado sinais de que se agarra ao posto (e com mãos de ferro):

“O que observo da semana passada até hoje são movimentos que permitem a Temer se fortalecer. Ele fez dois pronunciamentos à nação onde demonstrou proteger a classe política da Lava Jato, demonstrou ter vontade e disposição para manter as reformas que o mercado exige. Colocou o exército nas ruas como uma mensagem às manifestações contrárias a ele e, por fim, nomeou um novo ministro da Justiça que fez declarações contra a Lava Jato.”

Rodrigo Maia (DEM), fecha o trio de principais indicados a uma possível eleição indireta.

Photo: Dida Sampaio/Agencia Estado via AP Images

Para o cientista político, o mercado financeiro ainda não bateu o martelo sobre a saída de Temer, sob o risco de maior instabilidade caso o país troque novamente de presidente. “No final, vai ocorrer um processo de negociação política e avaliação do setor produtivo. Desde a semana passada o presidente encaminhou uma mensagem para esse setor produtivo e vejo certa paciência por parte deste setor, no momento”, pontua Oliveira.

Já Carvalho acredita que a tendência mais forte é em acreditar na saída de Temer. Ainda assim, ele não descarta a possibilidade de uma reviravolta que mantenha Temer no poder:

“Se os custos potenciais para a escolha de uma sucessão de Temer forem mais altos do que mantê-lo aos trancos e barrancos à frente da Presidência — mesmo ele estando com sérios problemas com a Lava Jato e se pondo uma dúvida muito grande sobre a possibilidade de ele conseguir conduzir as reformas estruturais as quais se prestou a fazer — há a possibilidade de reversão.”

O presidente Michel Temer fala durante Fórum de investimentos, em São Paulo, no dia 30 de maio de 2017.

Foto: NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images

Sobre a cabeça de Temer ainda pairam duas ameaças. A primeira é o julgamento da chapa Dilma-Temer que voltará ao Tribunal Superior Eleitoral no próximo dia 6. Uma cassação pelo TSE seria a forma mais rápida e “menos traumática” de afastamento do presidente, segundo analistas. Ao que tudo indica, no entanto, é mais provável que algum dos ministros faça um pedido de vista na próxima terça. Assim, o julgamento seria novamente adiado, dando mais tempo de permanência a Temer e abrindo espaço para acalmar os ânimos da opinião pública. A aposta nos pedidos de vista se dá porque dois dos sete ministros, Admar Gonzaga e Tarcísio Neto, foram empossados há menos de um mês.

O próprio ministro Gilmar Mendes, presidente do TSE, amigo pessoal de Temer e um dos cotados como “possíveis candidatos” para sua substituição, afirmou esta semana ser “absolutamente normal” o pedido de vista, tratando-se de um processo de alta complexidade. Mendes também disse que “não cabe ao TSE resolver crise política”.

Uma delação de Loures colocaria Temer em risco por se tratar de um de seus principais assessores.

Foto: NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images

A segunda ameaça é uma possível delação do deputado afastado Rodrigo Rocha Loures (PMDB-PR). Ele ficou conhecido como o “deputado da mala” por ter sido flagrado recebendo uma mala com R$ 500 mil de executivos da JBS. Segundo os delatores da empresa, o dinheiro seria um suborno para que o ex-deputado Eduardo Cunha (PMDB-RJ) não fizesse delação premiada. Uma delação de Loures colocaria Temer em risco por se tratar de um de seus principais assessores.

O novo advogado de Loures, Cezar Bitencourt, assumiu o caso na segunda, 29, dizendo que delação seria “o último recurso”. Antes disso, o responsável por sua defesa era José Luís de Oliveira Lima, que também defendeu um dos executivos da empreiteira Galvão Engenharia e o sócio da OAS José Adelmario Pinheiro Filho (Léo Pinheiro) no âmbito da Lava Jato. Ambos fizeram delações.

Nesta terça, 30, Loures — que estava na corda bamba desde o fim de semana — perdeu o cargo de deputado. Na Câmara, ele é suplente do ex-ministro da Justiça, Osmar Serraglio, que rejeitou o cargo de ministro da Transparência para voltar ao seu assento no Congresso. Fora do  cargo, Loures perde também o foro privilegiado.

Isso não necessariamente tira do STF o inquérito do qual ele é parte — que envolve Temer e o senador Aécio Neves, ambos com foro privilegiado. Caberá ao relator da Lava Jato, ministro Edson Fachin, decidir se o encaminhamento segue no STF ou se passa a parte relativa a Loures para as mãos do juiz Sergio Moro. Indo para Moro, a pressão por uma delação aumenta.

Nas palavras do professor Adriano Oliveira, da UFPE, “o momento é de esperar, mas mantendo-se atento aos eventos”. Neste raro momento de calmaria em Brasília, parece se aproximar novamente uma tempestade perfeita.

The post Eleições indiretas fortalecem a agenda de reformas imposta pela elite financeira appeared first on The Intercept.

The U.S. Has Released 417 Alleged Terrorists Since 9/11. The Latest Owned an Islamic Bookstore.

30 May 2017 - 5:01pm

Once considered so dangerous by the U.S. Department of Justice he was kept in solitary confinement for more than six months, Abdulrahman Farhane, a Moroccan-born U.S. citizen, will be released today from a Brooklyn halfway house, not far from where he once operated an Islamic bookstore.

Farhane will be the 417th defendant to be released following a conviction on terrorism-related charges after the 9/11 attacks. He pleaded guilty to his role in what the government described as a plot to send money to fighters in Afghanistan and Chechnya. Farhane was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

His case was a touchstone in the War on Terror, because it involved one of the earliest investigations after 9/11 as well as two informants and two FBI agents who all would become notable figures in their own rights.

Farhane, a father of six children whose House of Knowledge on Atlantic Avenue sold religious books, bumper sticks, and various gadgets, came to the FBI’s attention in the days after 9/11 when an informant claimed the bookstore owner had “radical views of Islam.” The informant, Mohamed Alanssi, was a Yemini man who had worked at the U.S. embassy in Sana’a in the 1970s. He had a trail of debts and a history of failed businesses in Yemen and the United States, and his handler at the FBI was agent Robert Fuller (who later played a role in the extraordinary rendition of Canadian Maher Arar and oversaw the controversial FBI sting involving the so-called Newburgh Four).

Alanssi discussed with Farhane the possibility of sending money to Afghanistan and Chechnya. Alanssi made it clear in these conversations that he wanted the money sent to terrorists, and Farhane wanted to help, according to FBI recordings. (Farhane later told the FBI in an interview that “he did not want to be rude” to his customer.) Farhane then introduced Alanssi to Tarik Shah, a jazz bassist who played at Bill Clinton’s inauguration, telling the FBI informant that Shah could help him smuggle money out of the country.

The FBI informant nurtured his relationships with Farhane and Shah, but couldn’t push the case forward. After two years, the FBI introduced a second informant, an ex-convict and former Black Panther named Saeed Torres (who also went by the name Theodore Shelby). Torres, who was later featured in the documentary “(T)ERROR,” rented an apartment in a building in the Bronx owned by Shah’s mother, and recorded conversations with Shah in which the jazz bassist obsessed about martial arts and his ambitions to train Muslims in hand-to-hand combat. Torres then introduced Shah and one of his friends, a doctor named Rafiq Sabir, to an undercover FBI agent, who led them in a pledge to Al Qaeda. The agent, Ali Soufan, later spoke out publicly about CIA torture and started a security consulting company that does business with the Qatari government.

As the FBI was building its case against Farhane, Shah, Sabir, and a Washington, D.C., taxi driver named Mahmud Faruq Brent, Alanssi publicly divorced himself from the FBI. In November 2004, he sent a fax to Fuller, his FBI handler, reading: “Why you don’t care about my life and my family’s life?”

Alanssi, wearing a suit and tie, doused himself in gasoline and walked up to the northwest guardhouse of the White House. He asked the Secret Service agents to deliver a message to President George W. Bush. The guards turned him away. Alanssi then set himself on fire, burning about 30 percent of his body.

The Justice Department first indicted Shah, Sabir, and Brent, and then later added Farhane to the indictment, based on recordings in which Farhane discussed sending money overseas. Farhane and Shah were accused of conspiring to transfer money to be used to buy communications equipment for terrorists. Farhane was also charged with making false statements to the FBI to cover up his involvement, according to the government.

During his first appearance in court, Farhane told the judge: “I’m not guilty. I didn’t do anything. This is my country. I love my country.”

Farhane’s lawyer at the time, Michael Hueston, added: “He had no run-ins with the law until Mr. Alanssi came along.”

While Farhane maintained that he was not involved in terrorism, he pleaded guilty to the charges to avoid a longer prison sentence. Shah and Brent also pleaded guilty, and received sentences of 13 and 15 years, respectively. Sabir was found guilty at trial and received 25 years.

Farhane is the first of the group to be released. Shah and Brent are scheduled to be released from federal prison next summer.

Top photo: The Al-Farooq mosque, center, on Atlantic Avenue in the Brooklyn borough of New York on March 5, 2003.

The post The U.S. Has Released 417 Alleged Terrorists Since 9/11. The Latest Owned an Islamic Bookstore. appeared first on The Intercept.

Gun Rights Group Takes a Shot at Elizabeth Warren — Over Effort to Make Hearing Aids Cheaper

30 May 2017 - 10:50am

A small-time K Street battle between hearing aid manufacturers on one side and electronics firms who want to make cheaper ones on the other has attracted the attention of a radical gun rights group, looking to take a shot at one of the bill’s backers.

A bipartisan group in in the Senate introduced a bill in March to make hearing aids more affordable by allowing them to be sold-over-the counter. Only a handful of manufacturers make hearing aids, and most state laws restrict the selling of hearing aids to licensed audiologists, giving them an effective monopoly.

After a huge markup by the manufacturer, the audiologists add another premium, bundling the cost of the device with the cost of their services.

As a result, hearing aids are out of reach for more than 80 percent of people with hearing impairment. So a market has sprung up for affordable sound amplification devices. They are not hearing aids, and users will struggle with them in noisy situations like restaurants, but they’re better than nothing.

The devices — they’re called personal sound amplification products (PSAPs) — can’t legally be advertised as treating hearing loss without FDA approval, but marketers of them push as close to the line as they can. They are popular with hunters, who use them to hear animals in the woods and also to compensate for rifle-related hearing loss.

The bill wouldn’t stop PSAPs from being sold the way they are now. But it would give sound companies like Massachusetts-based Bose access to a brand new market, and drive down the cost of hearing aids for millions of hearing-impaired people.

The bill has the support of powerful Republicans in both the House and Senate. But it also has a powerful Democratic supporter: Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

That — and, apparently, that alone — is enough to have the bill in the crosshairs of a group of ultra-conservative gun rights advocates — the Gun Owners of America — and their political allies.

The GOA says it has two beefs with Warren’s involvement: they don’t trust her, and they don’t want her to get a win.

Cosponsored by more Senate Republicans than Democrats, and backed by the ultra-conservative Niskanen Center, Warren’s bill is a rare example of truly bipartisan healthcare reform. Progressives back efforts to lower the cost of hearing aids, and conservatives can support the idea of ending a government-guaranteed monopoly and allowing competitive markets to set prices.

For the GOA, it’s an attack on hunting. The group circulated a letter earlier this month on Capitol Hill, claiming that the bill would allow the FDA to regulate sound amplification devices frequently used by hunters.

That it isn’t true. Warren’s bill wouldn’t affect the sale of any PSAPs unless companies market them as a medical solution to hearing loss. So cheaper PSAPs, like the kind frequently used for hunting, would still be widely available, but upmarket hearing aids — customizable to your own type of hearing loss — would be far cheaper.

“In the past, anti-gun senators like Warren have used any pretext, however attenuated, to interfere with hunting and the exercise of Second Amendment rights,” the GOA letter reads. “And we can only interpret this legislative initiative to be the most recent of these.”

The letter singles out Warren for criticism without mentioning any of the bill’s conservative backers.

When asked by The Intercept why GOA neglected to criticize or even name the bill’s Republican cosponsors, Mike Hammond, legislative counsel of GOA, said that the Republicans were really just working with her so they could claim a bipartisan legislative victory.

“My larger question is,” said Hammond, “at a time in which Warren in particular is sitting on everything that Republicans care about, why should they be intermediaries, pushing something she desperately wants, just for the sake of saying, well, we passed this bipartisan legislation?”

The bill has also triggered massive lobbying expenditures by both sides – hearing aid manufacturers and lobbying groups have spent more than $150,000 dollars trying to stop Warren’s bill, according to the Boston Globe. But audio device companies like Bose have also spent money in support of the bill, hoping to enter the market for over-the-counter hearings aids.

The bill has — or had — serious momentum, getting attached to a must-pass piece of legislation related to the FDA and coming in for praise from diverse quarters. But opponents hope yoking it to the culture wars at the last minute will make it too controversial for Republican leaders in the end.

Meanwhile, there are about 12,000 audiologists in the U.S. who make a significant portion of their income through the sale of hearing aids, and they’re worried about the future of their industry. Jodi Follweiler, who owns and runs JLF Hearing Aid Sales & Services in Kutztown, Pa., is a strong supporter of Warren, but is torn on the bill. “I get why she’s doing it, and if I weren’t in the industry I’d probably support it. But it’s going to kill me,” she told The Intercept. “The irony is it’ll be great for hunters, but they’re used to voting against their own interests, so this is nothing new for them.”

Ryan Grim contributed reporting. Disclosure: Follweiler is his uncle’s sister.

Top Photo: U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren listens during a hearing before Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 9, 2017.

The post Gun Rights Group Takes a Shot at Elizabeth Warren — Over Effort to Make Hearing Aids Cheaper appeared first on The Intercept.

The U.S. Has Ramped Up Airstrikes Against ISIS In Raqqa, and Syrian Civilians Are Paying the Price

30 May 2017 - 10:30am

On April 24, a group of Syrian women bundled themselves and their children into a car and attempted to flee the small town of Tabqa, outside of Raqqa. In recent months the sleepy principality had become the site of raging battles between Islamic State militants and U.S.-backed proxy forces, waging a campaign to drive ISIS from the country. Packed into the fleeing car were 11 people, including eight members of the al-Aish family: three women between the ages of 23 and 40, and five children, the youngest one just 6 months old.

The al-Aish family’s flight from a warzone was similar to millions of other desperate journeys made by Syrian civilians over the past six years. But they would not make it to safety. As they fled Tabqa, their car was hit by an airstrike, reportedly carried out by the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. All 11 people were killed in the strike, in what local reports described as a “massacre.”

“A U.S.-led coalition warplane targeted heavy machine guns at civilians trying to flee the city of Al-Tabaqa, which is witnessing heavy clashes between gunmen,” reported the local anti-ISIS activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently. The air raid led to “the death of a whole family.” Following the attack, photos of the young children from the al-Aish family circulated widely on social media and local news sites, including pictures of 3-year-old Abdul Salam and 6-month-old Ali.

Photos shared on social media showed 6-month-old Abdul Salam Al Aish and 3-year-old Ali al Aish, who were killed in a U.S. airstrike near the town of Tabqa.

The strike that killed the al-Aish family was just one of an estimated 9,029 strikes carried out by the U.S.-led coalition in Syria since 2014. The independent monitoring group Airwars estimates that coalition strikes in Syria and Iraq over the past several years have killed between 3,681 and 5,849 civilians, compounding the suffering of people who have already endured years of civil war. In recent months, local media have reported a steady stream of airstrikes that have hit civilian targets, including several particularly egregious strikes on packed schools and mosques.

But worse days for civilians in northern Syria could still be ahead, as the United States and its allies prepare for a terminal offensive against Raqqa — the last urban stronghold of ISIS and the capital of its deteriorating proto-state.

“Rarely a day goes by now when we don’t see three or four civilian casualty incidents attributed to coalition airstrikes around Raqqa,” Airwars director Chris Woods told The Intercept. “All of the local monitoring groups are now reporting that the coalition is killing more civilians than Russia on a regular basis.”

And when Woods refers to the coalition in Syria, he is largely referring to the United States. Based on announcements from U.S. Central Command (Centcom), Airwars estimates that the overwhelming majority of coalition strikes have come from U.S. warplanes.

But in contrast to Iraq, where the coalition is providing air support for local forces fighting to retake the city of Mosul, there has been little public attention paid to the air campaign in Syria. “We have been killing a lot of civilians in and around Raqqa for quite some time now, yet these incidents are rarely admitted by the coalition and there is almost no interest from international media,” Woods says. “We have to question where the empathy is for the local population.”

A chart from Airwars showing the proportion of airstrikes in Syria carried out by the United States in comparison with its coalition allies.

Screenshot: airwars.org

During the Syrian Revolution, Raqqa briefly became a center of civic activism after locals expelled government forces from the city in 2013. But the power vacuum that followed the government’s retreat led to months of vicious infighting between loosely-knit Free Syrian Army fighters and extremist groups. By 2014, the Islamic State had begun to assert its control over the city, assassinating rivals, conducting public executions, and declaring Raqqa the capital of its newly formed theocracy.

Today as many as 200,000 civilians are believed to remain trapped in Raqqa. In recent weeks gruesome videos have emerged of people being killed by ISIS fighters as they attempted to flee the city, along with reports of deaths caused by coalition airstrikes. Last week, 16 civilians were allegedly killed in one airstrike that hit the village of al-Baruda, west of Raqqa. The dead in that strike reportedly included a woman and her five children, and several couples — people whom local activists said had been refugees from fighting in other parts of Syria.

Kinda Haddad, a Syria analyst with Airwars, told The Intercept that there has been a significant increase in civilian casualty incidents caused by coalition airstrikes since January. A disproportionate number of those killed have also reportedly been women and children. Families have been killed while bunkering down in their homes or making last-ditch attempts to drive to safety. “A lot of the civilians left in ISIS territories are the most desperate. Anyone with money and means has already left, while the ones who have remained until today had no other option,” Haddad said. 

The airstrikes, as well as alleged atrocities carried out by U.S. allies, have embittered some Syrian activists towards the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State campaign, including those who have spent years documenting the abuses of both ISIS and the Assad government.

“We saw the same thing in Aleppo when the Russians were bombing the city. There were daily massacres for a couple of months before the city fell that angered many people there, among both the moderate groups and the non-moderate groups,” Haddad says. In an interview on CBS News “Face the Nation” this Sunday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that the United States had shifted towards “annihilation tactics” in its fight with ISIS militants, as the battle moves towards its final phase.

But as the U.S. accelerates its strikes, the situation for civilians has become more bleak. “Maybe [the coalition] saw what Russia did in its campaign and decided that it had worked,” said Haddad, reflecting on the spiking death toll in recent months.

Meanwhile, the ground campaign against ISIS in northern Syria is currently being led by a U.S.-armed proxy group, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as one of its major component forces. In recent weeks the SDF has reportedly begun preparations for a final assault against Raqqa, one that may end up being as bloody as the Iraqi military effort in Mosul. Recent reports have revealed that U.S. ground forces are taking a direct role in the Raqqa campaign, providing artillery support for local forces.

Given past precedent, military experts say that once the ground battle moves into the city of Raqqa itself the risk to innocent people is likely to increase significantly. Faced with grinding urban conflict U.S.-backed troops will likely call in air support to hit ISIS positions, a risky prospect in a city still inhabited by hundreds of thousands of civilians. This has been the case in Mosul, where civilians have been trapped in heavy fighting in the dense old city. This week, Centcom admitted that one of its strikes in Mosul had killed 105 civilians, but blamed an ISIS booby-trap for the scale of the explosion.

“Anytime you have urban military operations, avoiding civilian casualties inevitably becomes harder,” says Jay Morse, a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel judge advocate and senior military advisor at the Center for Civilians in Conflict. “You have to operate under the assumption that there are civilians everywhere in the city, especially in an operation where the ultimate goal is to liberate these civilians from ISIS.”

Foreign Policy recently reported that the U.S. military will no longer confirm which nation is responsibility for civilian deaths caused by coalition airstrikes. Centcom began taking responsibility for civilian casualties from its strikes in 2015 (though with numbers far lower than those given by outside reports.) Its allies, however, including France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands and Australia, have pressured Centcom to stop specifying which country carried out which strike. This move will likely make the air campaign in Iraq and Syria more resistant to public scrutiny, making it even harder for civilians to obtain recognition or recompense for harm.

Although airstrikes may be seen as a way to defeat terrorists more quickly, Morse says that civilian protection cannot be considered a secondary concern in a conflict being driven in part by a cycle of retributive violence. “You have tactical and operational victories when you are trying to secure cities and buildings, but part of defeating ISIS and similar groups is about not giving them opportunities to recruit more fighters,” he says, citing the impact on public opinion when civilians are killed in U.S. military operations.

Thanks to cameraphones and social media, the deadly consequences of U.S. military operations are indeed being recorded, shared and watched around the world on an unprecedented scale. But while civilian deaths are regularly reported in local media outlets in the Middle East, they are seldom reported in detail by international media. 

“Civilian harm and the damage that these types of conflicts cause is always underreported and is always underemphasized,” Morse says. “But these are the people who are suffering the most, frankly from both sides.” 

Top photo: Syrian refugee widow Hawla Shafi, who fled from Raqqa city due to ongoing civil war, walks with her children near an abandoned electric transformer building in Sanliurfa, Turkey on March 16, 2017.

The post The U.S. Has Ramped Up Airstrikes Against ISIS In Raqqa, and Syrian Civilians Are Paying the Price appeared first on The Intercept.

As Putin Looks On, Macron Says Russian State News Channels Spread Lies About Him

29 May 2017 - 8:14pm

The first meeting between Emmanuel Macron, the newly elected president of France, and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, was bound to be a little awkward, given that Macron’s aides had all but publicly blamed Russia for a massive cyber attack on his campaign on the eve of the election.

Asked about those suspicions on Monday, at a joint news conference with the Russian president in Versailles, Macron said that the subject had not come up during their working lunch — because he had already raised it when Putin called to congratulate him on his victory. “When I say things once, I don’t usually repeat myself,” Macron added.

Moments later, however, the French president left little doubt that he was convinced that the Russian government had tried to prevent his election, by spreading false rumors about him through two state-owned news networks, Russia Today and Sputnik.

Macron lays into Russian media "lies" during campaign. Next to Putin. Haven't seen him that angry since Le Pen debate pic.twitter.com/T9lQwY2HoK

— Sophie Pedder (@PedderSophie) May 29, 2017

Standing next to Putin, Macron told Xenia Fedorova, the head of the Kremlin-financed channel RT France, that her reporters had been denied access to his campaign headquarters before the vote because they had been acting not as journalists but as propagandists.

?? Avec #Poutine à ses côtés, #Macron qualifie d'organes de propagande @sputnik_fr et @RTenfrancais, médias financés par le Kremlin pic.twitter.com/6RiMDYjYU8

— B3infos (@B3infos) May 29, 2017

“When news organizations sow defamatory untruths, they are no longer journalists, they are influence operations,” Macron said, as Putin shifted uneasily from side to side. “Russia Today and Sputnik were influence operations during this campaign, which on several occasions produced untruths about about me personally and my campaign.”

Macron added that he considered the blatant rumor-mongering by the two outlets — which included promoting false claims that he had a gay lover and an off-shore bank account — to have been part of an attempt to interfere in France’s democratic process.

“I will never give in to that,” Macron said. “Never.”

Instead of reporting on his campaign, Macron said, the two Kremlin-funded outlets aimed at readers outside Russia had simply published “serious falsehoods” and “lying propaganda.”

Margarita Simonyan, who oversees the Russia Today network from Moscow, responded with indignation. “If you follow Macron’s logic,” she wrote on Twitter, “then all the mainstream media should be expelled from Russia.”

After describing dialogue with Russia as essential to solving a number of problems, Macron also said that he had been frank about the need for Putin to stop the brutal treatment of members of the LGBT community in the Russian republic of Chechnya.

His campaign team shared video of those remarks, and a quote from his denunciation of the Russian state media outlets, on Twitter.

Nous avons évoqué le cas des personnes LGBT en Tchétchénie. J'ai très précisément indiqué au président Poutine les attentes de la France. pic.twitter.com/aWosf3Nw4t

— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) May 29, 2017

Quand des organes de presse répandent des contre-vérités infamantes, ce ne sont plus des journalistes : ce sont des organes d'influence.

— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) May 29, 2017

The post As Putin Looks On, Macron Says Russian State News Channels Spread Lies About Him appeared first on The Intercept.

PM que chamou manifestante de terrorista em Goiás é acusado de execução, ameaçar juiz e mais

29 May 2017 - 1:15pm

“Agressão seria evitada se não tivessem terroristas protestando”, justificou o tenente-coronel da PM Alessandri da Rocha ao defender seu colega de farda, o capitão Augusto Sampaio, que quebrou o cassetete na cabeça de Mateus Ferreira da Silva, de 33 anos, durante um protesto na greve geral no fim de abril, em Goiânia. Mateus sobreviveu ao ataque, passou por uma cirurgia para reconstruir ossos da face, e Sampaio segue a sua vida apoiado por seus compadres de farda.

Alessandri e Sampaio têm mais coisas em comum do que a farda: uma vida “interessante”, cheia de processos e acusações. Alessandri da Rocha Almeida, que atualmente preside a Associação dos Oficiais da Polícia e Corpo de Bombeiros Militar de Goiás (Assof PM-BM), é acusado de duplo homicídio junto com seu primo, Frederico da Rocha Talone. Vinte anos depois de serem acusados de matar a facadas Martha Maria Cozac (44) e seu sobrinho, Henrique Talone Pinheiro (11), eles foram absolvidos pelo por 4 x 3 pelo Tribunal do Júri em agosto passado. O Ministério Público pede a anulação do julgamento e uma nova sessão.

Durante essas duas décadas em que o processo rastejou na justiça, foram ouvidas 31 testemunhas e surgiram diversas controvérsias. Os jurados chegaram a admitir que uma testemunha apresentada pela defesa dos réus mentiu. Já o Ministério Público afirma que as provas foram “equivocadamente ignoradas” pelo juri e que “há nítida contrariedade entre o conjunto de provas com o veredicto”. A prisão preventiva de ambos chegou a ser decretada em dezembro de 2010, mas eles não chegaram a ser presos.

Parte da apelação do Ministério Público, que pede a anulação do Juri que absolveu Alessandri e Frederico

Mas Alessandri – e outros 16 policiais militares de Goiás – viram o sol nascer quadrado em 2016, graças à Operação Sexto Mandamento, da Polícia Federal, que investiga a atuação de um grupo de extermínio em Goiás. O tenente-coronel se vê como vítima e diz que foi denunciado apenas por já ter sido citado em outros casos, como no duplo homicídio – como se isso fosse pouco.

O nome de Alessandri voa alto. Aparece inclusive na Comissão Interamericana de Direitos Humanos (CIDH) da Organização dos Estados Americanos (OEA), em Washington.

Isto por causa de sua ação na desocupação de uma área particular do Setor Parque Oeste Industrial, em Goiânia, em fevereiro de 2005, que resultou em dois mortos, 14 feridos e 800 detidos. A desocupação é classificada como uma das maiores já feitas no país, com 1800 policiais. A investigação da Polícia Civil identificou Alessandri como autor de uma execução sumária e policiais que estavam sob seu comando, de terem tentado matar outras três pessoas durante a desocupação. À época, Alessandri era capitão. Nada disso impediu sua ascensão na carreira. O caso chegou à OEA em 2014. Depois dos seis acusados serem absolvidos, a absolvição foi cassada porque segundo o Tribunal de Justiça, o julgamento foi prejudicado por falta de testemunhas. No fim, o caso foi arquivado.

Documento do MPF – Procuradoria da República em Goiás, sobre o Caso Parque Oeste Industrial , datado de abril de 2006

O juiz outrora responsável pelo caso, Jesseir Coelho de Alcântara, é o mesmo que – segundo o MP, citando a PF – foi ameaçado pelo militar durante o julgamento do caso Cozac. Alessandri o acusa de perseguição na Operação Sexto Mandamento.

“Quando teve a apuração do fato, da Operação Sexto Mandamento, a polícia [federal] fez algumas interceptações telefônicas e teve a palavra do Alessandri de que a minha hora iria chegar. Foi o termo usado ‘a hora dele vai chegar’. Uma expressão até certo ponto lacônica, mas que denota ameaça”, disse o juiz ao The Intercept Brasil.

Alcântara afirmou ainda que não há perseguição ou rixa pessoal e que seus atos estão dentro da legalidade. “Quando ele fala que foi tudo ilegal, o tribunal confirmou a prisão e eles foram para Campo Grande. O Alessandri não estava dentre as prisões que eu pedi, pode estar em outras. Aqui de Goiânia não estava”, reiterou. Alessandri passou quatro meses preso em Campo Grande.

Parte da apelação do Ministério Público, que pede a anulação do Juri que absolveu Alessandri e Frederico

Procurado por The Intercept Brasil, Alessandri da Rocha Almeida informou por meio de sua secretária que não tem nada a declarar sobre o caso, “que foi julgado e absolvido”.

Um crime nem de longe perfeito

O duplo homicídio pelo qual Alessandri responde ocorreu em 6 de outubro de 1996, quando os corpos de Martha e Henrique foram encontrados no interior de um imóvel em Goiânia. Eles foram mortos a facadas, e estavam com com pés e mãos atados com cadarços, vendados e amordaçados. Martha estava nua. Sua camisola foi usada como mordaça.

Inicialmente se pensou em latrocínio – roubo seguido de morte -, já que o carro de Martha, objetos pessoais e um cheque tinham sido levados. Mas, não apenas não havia indícios de arrombamento, como os autores do crime trancaram a porta na saída e cobriram os corpos. De acordo com o MInistério Público, isso mostra que as pessoas que adentraram o local eram conhecidas das vítimas e tinham familiaridade com o funcionamento e a rotina do local. Os poucos bens levados seriam para dissimular a situação, segundo o MP.

Acusados de duplo homicídio, Alessandri e Frederico, no dia do julgamento, em junho de 2016

Foto: Hernany César/TJGO

Frederico era empregado de Martha, responsável por serviços de contabilidade da empresa dela e ainda, primo em terceiro grau do garoto.. Tanto a firma quando a casa em que Martha morava – e onde foi encontrada morta ficavam em um terreno do pai de Frederico. De acordo com a denúncia, o álibi de Frederico – que disse estar na academia – não foi comprovado, nem os hematomas que apresentava em seu corpo, justificados. O carro de Martha foi encontrado a 400 metros da casa de Frederico, e um cartão de banco da vítima foi achado na casa da avó do acusado.

Depois de interrogado, a primeira pessoa para quem Frederico ligou foi Alessandri, seu primo. O militar tinha ainda o comportamento “pouco usual”, de acordo com o MP, de acompanhar as investigações e frequentemente tentar intervir no processo.

Aceso o alarme, o MP verificou os antecedentes criminais de Alessandri, onde “verificou-se que ele ostentava personalidade violenta”, era envolvido com o tráfico de drogas, participou de roubo a banco e era réu em quatro processos judiciais por crimes de lesão corporal e ameaça”.

Parte da apelação do Ministério Público, que pede a anulação do Juri que absolveu Alessandri e Frederico

Investigado, seu álibi no Rio de Janeiro não foi comprovado. Sem álibi, ele forjou um recibo de hotel em Roraima, que depois foi declarado falso pela perícia.

Uma ligação telefônica de Alessandri interceptada pela polícia mostrou uma mulher dizendo “não era para matar o menino, somente a mulher”. Ademais, o áudio da Polícia Federal indica que Alessandri ameaçou, além do Juiz do caso, também o delegado Carlos Fernandes de Araújo e coagiu testemunhas. Não sendo pouco, criou “fraudulentamente suspeitos diversos para o crime, a fim de afastar suas responsabilidades” e adulterou provas. Os acusados ainda tentaram subornar policiais civis com R$ 200 mil e uma caminhonete. O delegado do caso à época foi substituído.

Política

Alessandri, outrora assessor parlamentar do Conselho Nacional de Comandantes Gerais das Polícias Militares e Corpos de Bombeiros Militares, é um homem que sabe fazer política. Através da associação que preside homenageou recentemente o presidente do Tribunal de Justiça do Estado de Goiás (TJ-GO), desembargador Gilberto Marques Filho. É no TJ que responde a processos.

No fim de abril, a associação organizou um evento que reuniu policiais e políticos. Uma oportunidade para mostrar seu poder e expandi-lo estrategicamente. Foi então que ele posou com o governador do estado, Marconi Perillo, e apoiou a candidatura antecipada do deputado federal Jair Bolsonaro à Presidência da República. De acordo com o convite do evento, estavam entre os presentes Daniel Pereira (vice-governador de Rondônia), o senador Wilder Morais, os militares deputados federais Alberto Fraga (DEM-DF), Major Olímpio (SD-SP), Major Rocha (PSDB-AC), Capitão Augusto (PR-SP), subtenente Gonzaga (PDT-MG) e Cabo Sabino (PR-CE) e o deputado estadual Major Araújo (PRP-GO).

Para quem anda em Brasília articulando contra os resultados da Operação Sexto Mandamento e pedindo legislação contra abuso de autoridade para responsabilizar juízes e promotores, nada mal.

Foto no topo da página: Presidente do TJGO – onde Alessandri responde a processo – foi homenageado pela Associação dos Oficiais que ele preside.

The post PM que chamou manifestante de terrorista em Goiás é acusado de execução, ameaçar juiz e mais appeared first on The Intercept.

We Need Memorial Day to Obscure the Unbearable Truth About War

29 May 2017 - 8:38am

If you’re anywhere near Washington, D.C. this Memorial Day, I strongly recommend a visit to Arlington National Cemetery. There may be nowhere where American history is more highly concentrated in all its kooky cruel splendor — and so there’s also no better place to ask questions about it.

For instance, the grounds and the mansion at the entrance of Arlington once belonged to Robert E. Lee’s wife. Did we just seize it all during the Civil War, like a normal country? Not exactly: Instead we created a transparent sham where she was required to show up in person to pay her $92.07 in property taxes for 1864, and when she didn’t it was sold off at a public auction, with the U.S. government as the only bidder.

What about John F. Kennedy’s grave: Is all of him in there? No, his brain was removed during his autopsy and his body was buried without it. (The brain then spent some time at the National Archives before vanishing in 1966.)

And are there any Wiccans buried at Arlington? Presumably there always have been. But in 2007 the military added a pentacle to its official list of religious symbols that can be engraved on headstones, so it now can be publicly recognized.

But of course if you spend time with the dead from the Civil War and the Boxer Rebellion and Iwo Jima and Apollo 1, you’ll also find yourself asking larger questions. Every time I’ve gone there, as I’ve looked out from Lee’s hilltop mansion at the hundreds of thousands of soldiers quietly feeding the freshly-mown grass, I’ve wondered why human beings just can’t stop fighting wars.

The fervent pomp of Arlington to me always exudes desperation, as though we’re trying to suppress any acknowledgement that war’s the silliest thing people do. We sort ourselves into teams based on imaginary lines, dress up in costumes, pledge allegiance to pieces of cloth, and then mercilessly slaughter total strangers.

This reality – that waging war is both extremely unpleasant and fundamentally ridiculous, yet we keep doing it – indicates that it must serve some important purpose.

And all the history books I’ve ever read and all the history I’ve lived through suggests what that is: Wars are less about conflicts between societies than about conflicts within societies. Every country has a militaristic right-wing, and nothing helps that right-wing triumph over their domestic enemies more than a state of war. And just like a pharmaceutical company that doesn’t want to cure diseases when managing them is so profitable, their top priority is never bringing the war to an end, but maintaining and expanding their power within the country.

Amazing enough, Donald Trump recently told the National Governors Association exactly this, even if neither he nor they understood what he was saying. “We never win. And we don’t fight to win,” Trump declared. “$6 trillion we’ve spent in the Middle East … and we’re nowhere.”

But obviously Trump himself is somewhere: He’s in the White House. And lots of that $6 trillion is somewhere too, in the bank accounts of defense contractors. So if you understand who the real “we” are, we in fact have won the war on terror and are still winning. U.S. politics have been shoved hard to the right, making Trump possible, and since 2001 the value of Lockheed Martin stock has sextupled. The real we likewise have no interest in “fighting to win” in the sense Trump means — because that would require raising taxes on billionaires and drafting their children out of Stanford and Yale to go die in the sand, something that would quickly lead to the defeat of any president who tried it.

This perspective on the purpose of war was directly expressed by George W. Bush and his circle before he ever became president. Texas journalist and Bush family friend Mickey Herskowitz was hired to write a Bush biography for the 2000 campaign, and spent hours interviewing him. Herskowitz later said that Bush was already thinking about attacking Iraq — because, Bush said, “One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander in chief.” According to Herskowitz, people around Bush, including Dick Cheney, hoped to “Start a small war. Pick a country where there is justification you can jump on, go ahead and invade.” Why? Because, Bush told Herskowitz, that would give him “political capital” that he could use to “get everything passed that I want to get passed.”

In other words, the actual country of Iraq had little to do with the Iraq War. Its main purpose wasn’t beating Saddam Hussein, it was beating Americans who wanted to stop Bush from privatizing Social Security.

Soldiers in the Old Guard walk over a puddle while placing flags at graves in Arlington National Cemetery during “Flags In” in preparation for Memorial Day May 25, 2017 in Arlington, Va.

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Meanwhile, the motivations of our official enemies are the same: i.e., they’re consumed with gaining power in their own societies, and from their perspective we exist mainly as bit players in that drama. A key focus of Al Qaeda when planning its 2000 attack on the USS Cole was filming it so the footage could be used in a recruitment video — one needed, as the 9/11 Commission report put it, for “their struggle for preeminence among other Islamist and jihadist movements.” Unfortunately, the terrorist with the camera overslept and missed his compatriots blowing themselves up. So Al Qaeda then filmed a reenactment and used that tape instead. Thus 17 Americans on the Cole were killed in real life, but zero Americans had to die to create what Al Qaeda truly wanted, a way to consolidate influence in their world.

The same dynamic was involved in the 9/11 operation itself. According to the commission’s report, part of Osama bin Laden’s motivation was that he believed the attack would benefit al Qaeda “by attracting more suicide operatives, eliciting greater donations, and increasing the number of sympathizers willing to provide logistical assistance.” Just excise the word “suicide” and bin Laden sounds exactly like George W. Bush, planning to inflict spectacular ultra-violence thousands of miles away in hopes of getting bigger campaign contributions.

For Saddam Hussein’s part, all his foreign policy had one goal, keeping him in power for the next week. It’s true his 1990 invasion of Kuwait could easily have led to his overthrow and death in the medium term, and in fact it did in the long term. But that was irrelevant from his perspective, since the invasion eliminated the dire threats he faced in short term. As he explained after he was captured by the U.S., he had created an enormous military establishment during the Iran-Iraq War, something dangerous in a region with a long history of army coups. He went into Kuwait, he said, in part just to keep his generals busy.

What’s most surprising isn’t that politicians start wars to consolidate their own power, but that the people don’t always simply assume that leaders choose war for that reason. Of course, the main calculation for politicians when making decisions is whether or not those decisions will help tighten their grip on the levers of society. From prime ministers to dictators, anyone who doesn’t think about that first and foremost will be, evolutionarily speaking, selected against, and quickly find themselves outside the palace walls.

That’s why we need a Memorial Day, I believe, and so does seemingly every country on earth. At Arlington and at all the world’s solemn military cemeteries you can witness the endless ocean of young men and women who have been shot, gassed, incinerated, ripped limb from limb, shredded, driven to suicide. In the best of situations they died because of talented warmongers in other countries. In the worst it’s because we ourselves were so weak that we handed over power to killers who were delighted to see us die if it gave them a three week bump in their Gallup approval rating. We have to draw a veil of consecration across all of it, because looking at it directly is unbearable.

Top photo: A soldier in the Old Guard places flags at graves in Arlington National Cemetery during “Flags In” in preparation for Memorial Day May 25, 2017 in Arlington, Va.

The post We Need Memorial Day to Obscure the Unbearable Truth About War appeared first on The Intercept.

Bethune-Cookman Had A Reason To Invite Betsy DeVos To Give That Calamatous Commencement Speech

29 May 2017 - 7:40am

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s commencement speech at the historic black university Bethune-Cookman did not go well.

Students turned their backs, and some heckled and booed her. The event was such a disaster that many wondered what the university was thinking to have invited a speaker so opposed by its student body in the first place. What upside could there be in a scenario where the likely downside was so apparent?

But DeVos is not just in charge of giving flowery addresses to colleges and universities. She also administers the nation’s federal student loans — and through that perch holds life-or-death power over many higher-education institutions, particularly for-profit ones.

Bethune-Cookman, as it happens, recently formed a new affiliation with a for-profit school under fire for its practices. If the school, Arizona Summit Law School, loses its ability to take federal loans, the school becomes effectively defunct.

Bethune-Cookman entered into the affiliation agreement with Arizona, a for-profit college based in Phoenix, in March. It is owned by Infilaw Corporation, which also operates law schools in North Carolina and Florida.

Its sister school Charlotte School of Law was put on probation by the American Bar Association late last year over its consistently low bar-passage rates. In December, the Obama administration blocked the school’s ability to accept federal student aid, a potential death knell.

Arizona Summit Law School is plagued by many of the same problems as Charlotte School of Law. In 2016, only 25 percent of its students passed the Arizona bar exam on their first try (at Arizona State University, the rate was 77 percent). Above The Law editor Elie Mistal was critical of the agreement, writing in The New York Times last spring that “encouraging African-American students to attend Arizona Summit will not help them achieve their goals. It will hobble them. Going to a law school that doesn’t prepare most of its students to pass the bar is not an ‘opportunity,’ unless ‘opportunity’ means being saddled with debt that you’ll spend the rest of your life trying to pay back.” And three-quarters of the students will be trying to pay that debt back without the benefit of a law license, if those statistics don’t improve.

Bethune-Cookman will be forming a scholarship program to send its students to the law school, and will also work together on certain marketing and academic support programs. The law school’s president Donald Lively told the Arizona Republic that while the school will maintain its for-profit status in the agreement, it is working towards achieving nonprofit status. The affiliation agreement could be a prelude to a possible acquisition.

David Halperin, a higher education policy expert who has worked on for-profit college accountability, noted that DeVos has the power to hold Arizona Summit Law School accountable — or not.

“The Education Department can’t formally stop one school from acquiring another, but it does control who is eligible for federal student aid and on what terms. The Department has the power to cut off federal aid for abuses, as it did with Charlotte Law,” he said. “It also can declare that a school’s conversion from for-profit to non-profit status is bogus — because the school is still operating like a for-profit and enriching the previous owners — and keep treating the school as a for-profit for purposes of federal law.”

A Bethune spokesperson didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment, but if DeVos’s invitation to speak was more about protecting the school’s ties to an infamous for-profit than it was providing the students at commencement an experience they could recall fondly, at least it makes a little more sense.

Or maybe not. The students in the audience never got the memo, and DeVos left humiliated. Bethune-Cookman leadership is probably wishing they’d found some other way to do DeVos a solid.

Top photo: United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos applauds students as they are introduced during commencement exercises, in Daytona Beach, Fla., on May 10, 2017.

The post Bethune-Cookman Had A Reason To Invite Betsy DeVos To Give That Calamatous Commencement Speech appeared first on The Intercept.

The Democratic Campaign For Georgia Governor Is Being Fought Over Free College

29 May 2017 - 7:19am

Two Georgia Democrats are running for the party’s nomination to seek the governor’s mansion in 2018: House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and a member of her caucus, House Democrat Stacey Evans.

The two legislators agree on many issues, but Evans, the newest entrant in the race, appears poised to draw her contrast around an issue that has galvanized progressives nationally, and one that led to a bitter feud among Democrats in Georgia just a few years ago: free college.

Underneath it is a debate that is as much about tactics as it is about ideology, a question of whether Republican assaults should be resisted in full or met with compromise in order to mitigate damage.

The issue is HOPE, which in Georgia stands for Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally, the name of the grant and scholarship established by former Georgia Governor Zell Miller in 1993. Miller’s program for students was simple: the newly established state lottery will pay for your public college tuition if you have a “B” average in high school and maintain it in college.

The program was initially offered only to students with a family income below $66,000, but within a couple years, that income cap was abolished. Through 2006, 900,000 Georgia students had received tuition assistance from HOPE.

In 2011, the year after the tea party wave, Georgia faced a shortfall in lottery revenue. Rather than look at ways to raise revenue to pay for HOPE, Georgia’s Republican governor Nathan Deal and his allies in the legislature instead decided they would make it much more difficult to get.

One of the new requirements they enacted was that students would have to hit a 3.7 GPA in high school in order to be eligible for tuition-free scholarships; another was a 1200 score on the SAT. Additionally, they’d have to maintain a 3.3 GPA while in college to keep the full ride, which would be renamed the Zell Miller Scholarship. Those below that threshold would now only receive partial subsidies under HOPE — increasing their tuition costs and thus student debt.

Two Democratic Responses

While many Democrats opposed the governor’s proposal — it targeted the crown jewel program that the party had established in the state, after all — Abrams chose to work with Deal, arguing that it was the only viable path to saving HOPE.

“We are happy to have found a bipartisan solution to save the nation’s most valuable higher education scholarship program,” Abrams said in a news release after meeting with Deal. “We will join with our Republican colleagues by supporting an initiative offered by Gov. Nathan Deal.”

Evans, the daughter of millworkers who used the HOPE Scholarship to be the first in her family to graduate from college, led the opposition to the cuts. She and other Democrats argued that HOPE should be protected for those who need it most — people from working-class and middle-class backgrounds. She proposed a restoration of the income cap at $140,000.This would have ensured that the state would continue to subsidize tuition for students below that threshold while cutting back on subsidies for students from richer families.

Evans, who grew up in rural North Georgia, reminded her colleagues during floor debate that poor Georgians are much less likely to achieve the high GPA and SAT score necessary to meet the stringent new requirements for a tuition-free scholarship.

“I could not make up for the fact that I didn’t have 18 years at a dinner table with educated parents sharing vocabulary, talking about reading, giving me the tools I would need to score high on an SAT,” she said, noting that while she graduated high school with a GPA of 3.8, she did not get a 1200 SAT score.

Evans lost. Abrams won. When Deal signed into law the cuts to HOPE, Abrams stood at his side, offering him Democratic validation for removing the promise of tuition-free education for thousands of students.

Governor Nathan Deal, seated, signs the HOPE Scholarship bill into law at the capitol in Atlanta, on March 15, 2011.

Photo: John Amis/AP

When the cuts were signed into law, the number of students receiving HOPE fell considerably almost immediately. As Politifact notes, the “number of HOPE recipients dropped from about 250,000 in 2010-2011 to about 200,000 in 2013-2014, and scholarship and grant awards in that period were down about $215 million, from $747.6 million to $532.9 million.”

Technical students were hit particularly hard. Between the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years, 30 percent fewer HOPE grants were given.

(The legislature partially reversed cuts to technical students in 2014, an election year, thanks to an effort Evans led.)

A December 2016 report from the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts looked at the impact the HOPE cuts had on the state’s students. It found that the changes to the program “reduced the average award amount for over 80% of HOPE recipients.”

It also charted the decline in the average HOPE award following 2011’s overhaul. The full-tuition Zell Miller award, as you’ll recall, was gifted to those who achieved the higher benchmark of a 3.7 GPA and a 1200 SAT score:

A HOPE-Focused Campaign?

Abrams’s campaign has little to say about what happened to HOPE. On her campaign website, her biography only briefly seems to allude to her role in the HOPE cuts: “She has brokered compromises that led to progress on transportation, infrastructure, and education.”

In a 2016 interview, however, she continued to defend her endorsement of Deal’s cuts. “I was very proud to work closely with the Republicans and with Governor Deal to figure out ways to preserve the HOPE Scholarship,” she told the interviewer. In the same interview, she explores the idea of expanding need-based aid.

Evans, on the other hand, is making it a cornerstone of her bid for Governor. She is running on making technical colleges tuition-free and touting her opposition to Deal’s overhaul of HOPE.

When she announced her gubernatorial bid on Thursday, the bulk of her message was about HOPE. “Evans has served in the Georgia House of Representatives from Cobb County since 2011 and is known across the state for voraciously fighting against drastic cuts to the HOPE Scholarship. Her work restored affordable and tuition free technical education, making college possible for tens of thousands of Georgians,” her campaign’s statement offers.

“It gutted the program that was responsible for everything that’s good in my life,” Evans told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, on the day she announced her bid, speaking of the HOPE cuts of 2011. “The Stacey Evans born today doesn’t have the same opportunity that the Stacey born in 1978 had.”

 

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Villagers Say Yemeni Child Was Shot as He Tried to Flee Navy SEAL Raid

28 May 2017 - 10:18am

Five civilians including a child were killed and another five were wounded in the latest U.S. Navy SEAL raid in Yemen, according to eyewitness accounts gathered by The Intercept.

The raid by U.S. commandos in the hamlet of al Adhlan, in the Yemeni province of Mareb on May 23, also destroyed at least four homes. Navy SEALs, with air support from more than half a dozen attack helicopters and aircraft, were locked in a firefight with Yemeni tribesmen for over an hour, according to local residents.

Details from five eyewitnesses in the village conflict with statements made by the Department of Defense and U.S. Central Command, which have not acknowledged that civilians were harmed. Official military reports claimed seven militants from the Yemen-based Al Qaeda branch, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, were killed “through a combination of small arms fire and precision airstrikes.” Two commandos were also reportedly lightly wounded in the gunfight. Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis told reporters on May 23 there were “no credible indications of civilian casualties.”

Yet village residents gave a list of 10 names of civilians killed and wounded during the raid. Fifteen-year-old Abdullah Saeed Salem al Adhal was shot dead as he fled from his home with women and children. Another child, 12-year-old Othman Mohammed Saleh al Adhal, was injured but survived.

An additional seven men who were guests in one house in the village were also killed, according to a senior figure in al Adhlan whose name is being withheld for fear of reprisals from AQAP. He was not able to identify the guests but they appear to account for the seven Al Qaeda militants Central Command claimed were killed.

College student Murad al Adhal, 22, the elder brother of 15-year-old Abudullah who was shot and killed, described how he woke to the sound of gunfire around 1:30 a.m. as the SEALs took control of buildings on the mountainside overlooking the village.

“I walked out of my house and I saw the nearby hills were filled with the American soldiers,” he said. When Apache helicopter gunships began firing into buildings, women and children started running out of their homes. “My little brother Abdullah ran for his life with the other women and children. They killed him as he was running.” Murad was shot in the leg.

Residents in al Adhlan described to The Intercept how commandos also shot dead unarmed Nasser Ali Mahdi al Adhal, who was at least 70 years-old. An account by Reprieve, a London-based human rights group, said Nasser was partially blind. The elderly man was killed while attempting to greet the Navy SEALs, after apparently mistaking them for visitors, according to Reprieve.

Local residents estimated some 40 to 60 commandos stormed the village with the support of eight or nine attack helicopters and other aircraft that repeatedly strafed the villagers’ homes. Dozens of animals — livestock belonging to the villagers — were also killed in the barrage of gunfire and airstrikes.

The Intercept collected these accounts through phone interviews with residents and interpreters who visited the hospital where the wounded were taken. The Pentagon did not respond to a request for comment on The Intercept’s findings and civilian casualties in the raid.

The operation in al Adhlan, a hamlet in the village of al Khathlah in the district of al Jubah in Mareb, is the second U.S. Navy SEAL raid in Yemen acknowledged by the military since Donald Trump took office. The first, on January 29 in al Ghayil, about 40 miles from al Adhlan, left a Navy SEAL dead along with at least 10 children under the age of 13 who were amongst 26 villagers killed in addition to eight apparent Al Qaeda members. Trump billed the operation as “highly successful.” Another raid by Navy SEALs in March on Yemen’s southern coast was aborted at the last minute. There have also been more than 80 drone strikes on Yemen since Trump took office, a significant escalation of a campaign that had tapered off at the end of President Barack Obama’s second term.

“Al Adhlan are not al Qaeda”

The aim of the al Adhlan raid was to gather electronic equipment such as cell phones and laptops in order to gain “insight into AQAP’s disposition, capabilities and intentions,” according to Central Command’s statement. This was also the supposed intention of the January mission, although it later emerged that the actual target of the first raid was AQAP leader Qassem al Raymi. None of the villagers in al Adhlan spoken to by The Intercept were aware of any materials or people taken by commandos on May 23.

The accounts given by al Adhlan residents throw into question the veracity of U.S. official accounts. The eyewitness testimony also raises serious questions about intelligence gathering methods and the ability of decision-makers to determine who is and who is not an Al Qaeda militant amidst Yemen’s multifaceted conflict where loyalties are fluid and pragmatically based.

The senior figure from the village described a long-running confrontation over the issue of locals providing guest-houses for Al Qaeda militants. A tribal dispute began in 2015 after a drone strike in the area, when the senior figure confronted other tribal leaders who were reluctant to ban Al Qaeda members from the area. A recent U.S. drone strike, on April 30, had revived the issue.

The senior villager said that in that attack two brothers were killed who were not Al Qaeda but had been living alongside them. The pair of brothers were also the brothers of Murad al Adhal, who survived the May 23 raid with a gunshot wound. Murad narrowly escaped being killed along with his siblings in the drone strike after getting out of the targeted Toyota Hillux moments before it was hit. (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, detailed a strike on April 30 in Mareb, which killed four, possibly five, men in a car. Central Command claimed all of the occupants were Al Qaeda militants.)

The April drone attack spurred the senior figure to action.

“I just needed more time to save my own people from this. There was a collective effort to kick out Al Qaeda,” he said. He expressed his anger that rather than being offered support to oust the militants his fellow tribesmen and civilians have instead been killed.

AQAP released a statement in response to the raid through its media channels on May 26, praising the local tribesmen who they said died as “heroes” while denying there was an Al Qaeda camp in the village. The country’s civil war has assisted the militants in one of their main objectives of creating a more seamless existence with local tribal groups.

But the reaction from the villagers after the raid was one of anger toward all sides: Al Qaeda, the U.S. government, the Yemeni government, as well as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Local residents say Emerati forces were involved in the raid alongside U.S. forces, which was also the case in the January operation in al Ghayil. On May 26 al Adhlan tribesman gathered to protest the Navy SEAL mission under the banner “al Adhlan are not Al Qaeda.”

One of those killed in the May 23 raid, Al Khader Saleh Salem al Adhal, was a soldier in the Yemeni army currently fighting on the U.S.-supported side in the country’s complex civil war. Yemen’s conflict pits military units loyal to former president and previous U.S. ally, Ali Abdullah Saleh, along with the predominantly Shia Houthi rebels, against a local Yemeni resistance and anti-Houthi military units backed by a Saudi Arabian-led coalition of regional nations. The coalition is in turn aided by the United States, which has been providing weapons and crucial logistical support to the Saudi Kingdom and its allies in their fight against the Houthi-Saleh forces since March 2015. The Saudis, who view the Houthis as an Iranian proxy, have been the main financial backer and weapons supplier to the military and local tribes fighting in Mareb, including in al Adhlan.

During his visit to Riyadh earlier this month Trump announced a new arms deal, with Saudi Arabia agreeing to buy at least $110 billion of U.S. weapons and equipment. The announcement came despite concerns raised by lawmakers and human rights groups over evidence of apparent war crimes and the high proportion of civilian casualties in the Saudi-led air war, as well as the worsening humanitarian crisis caused by the war. On May 25 U.S. Senators introduced a resolution to block part of the sale.

Yemenis are also experiencing the world’s worst hunger crisis, with seven million people facing the possibility of famine as a direct result of the conflict, in no small part due to restrictions on imports imposed by the Saudi-led coalition that have impacted essential food supplies. Alongside severe food shortages, a rapidly escalating Cholera outbreak has killed more than 400 people this month.

Shuaib Almosawa contributed reporting to this article.

Top photo: Yemeni men walk past a mural depicting a U.S. drone and reading “Why did you kill my family” on December 13, 2013 in the capital Sanaa.

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Batalha de perícias: papo entre Temer e Joesley causa racha na grande imprensa

28 May 2017 - 9:15am

Os grandes grupos de mídia entraram em parafuso após a divulgação de áudios que afogaram na lama um presidente ilegítimo que já estava com ela no pescoço. Eles, que andam juntinhos desde Vargas, que apoiaram com entusiasmo o golpe de 64 e sempre estiveram alinhados na maioria dos momentos mais cruciais da história do país, agora parecem não estar falando a mesma língua. O entrosamento no apoio ao governo Temer já não é mais o mesmo, o que ficou evidenciado pela batalha das perícias travada entre Folha e O Globo durante a semana.

Com Temer se segurando na ponta do pé à beira do abismo, o Grupo Bandeirantes fez Boechat ler um editorial confuso, contorcionista, aparentemente indignado com os casos de corrupção envolvendo Temer, mas, ao mesmo tempo, confirmando seu apoio ao governo. O trecho final é um primor:

“(…) se delitos forem confirmados, a impunidade não é uma opção. Mas as dúvidas são muitas e o presidente começa a se defender.

Enquanto isso, o Brasil continua precisando seguir o seu  rumo – finalmente claro e eficiente – adotado pelo atual governo, depois de anos de insensatez. O país quer seguir adiante e não abre mão de persistir na recuperação já iniciada da economia e dos empregos. Esclarecidas todas as dúvidas, a Band espera e acredita que possa o presidente Temer dar sequência às medidas que, de fato, atendam os interesses dos brasileiros.”

Não custa lembrar que, entre julho e agosto de 2016, a Band recebeu 1.129% de aumento de repasses de verba publicitária em relação ao mesmo período de 2015. Esse é disparado o maior aumento de verbas estatais que um veículo recebeu desde a posse de Temer. Fica um pouco mais fácil compreender essa crença de que o país tomou finalmente “um rumo claro e eficiente depois de anos de insensatez”.

E as delações da Lava Jato começam a respingar na imprensa. O jornalista Cláudio Humberto, colunista do Grupo Bandeirantes, apareceu como achacador em uma das caguetagens da Friboi/JBS. Segundo o delator Ricardo Saud, lobista da empresa e mais conhecido agora como o “homem da mala”, o jornalista teria cobrado um mensalão de R$18.000 durante dois anos em troca do compromisso de parar de falar mal da empresa. Humberto, que foi assessor do ex-presidente Collor, garante que tudo é mentira e ajuizou uma queixa-crime contra Saud. Ele garante que o contrato que tinha com a JBS era apenas de publicidade, e não de compra de silêncio. Independentemente da confirmação desses fatos, é curioso que o Grupo Bandeirantes permita que o jornalista siga comentando a política nacional em programas da casa –  inclusive comentários sobre a delação da JBS – como se nada tivesse acontecido. Outros jornalistas da empresa já pressionam pelo afastamento do colega até que tudo fique esclarecido.

 

Globo x Folha

Uma grande treta se iniciou no fim de semana passado. Na sexta-feira (19/05), O Globo publicou editorial pedindo a renúncia do presidente após a revelação da conversa gravada por Joesley. Um espanto! O Grupo Globo descobriu que Temer é corrupto e decidiu abandonar o barco, depois de passar um ano assistindo aos inúmeros casos de corrupção nas quais ele esteve diretamente envolvido. Nunca é tarde para Poliana acordar.

No domingo, o herdeiro da Folha, Otávio Frias Filho, afirmou em sua coluna que “ainda é cedo para dizer que a administração Temer acabou”. Para ele, é “discutível” afirmar que o presidente cometeu crimes. Para mim, discutível é a sanidade auditiva de quem não reconhece pelo menos um crime naquela conversa clandestina na calada da noite. Há tantos crimes no áudio –  de obstrução de justiça até a prevaricação em suborno de procurador – que não é razoável imaginar que ainda faltam provas para alguém formar sua convicção.

Com essas divergências de opiniões expostas e em meio à batalha das perícias, Marcelo Coelho usou sua coluna na Folha para criticar duramente a Globo. Costumeiramente ponderado, Coelho subiu o tom e fez um apanhado de casos históricos em que a Globo abandonou o jornalismo para defender seus interesses e “deu sinais de se recusar a perceber a realidade”. Lembrou das Diretas Já, do Caso Proconsult e do debate Collor x Lula. Esqueceu de falar do apoio ao golpe de 64, mas talvez seja porque os militares contaram também com a fidelidade canina do seu empregador .

Em direito de resposta oferecido pela Folha, o diretor de jornalismo da TV Globo, Ali Kamel, escreveu coluna intitulada “Vamos falar de Coelho?” em que acusa o jornalista de mentir. Kamel mirou no jornalista, mas quis atingir a Folha.

Com o governo largado ferido na estrada, o secretário-geral da Presidência, Moreira Franco, foi ao encontro de João Roberto Marinho para reclamar do súbito abandono – especialmente da TV Globo – e ouviu que a empresa “continuará a fazer jornalismo”. A reunião foi noticiada por Mônica Bergamo na Folha.

No momento em que Temer está mais exposto e frágil do que nunca, me parece que a grande questão por trás desse racha na mídia é se a presença de Temer se tornou ou não um empecilho para a aprovação das reformas draconianas. Se ele cair, o Congresso irá escolher um nome igualmente comprometido com as reformas. Por outro lado, pode ser que sua queda alongue ainda mais a crise política e dificulte a aprovação delas. Talvez esse dilema, somado à briga de egos, que tenha causado a divisão. Mas isso é mais um palpite do que uma opinião. O momento é nebuloso demais para se tirar conclusões.

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Donald Trump’s War on Journalism Has Begun. But Journalists Are Not His Main Target.

28 May 2017 - 9:02am

Wars are rarely announced in advance, but President Trump provided an abundance of warning about his intention to wage an assault on journalism. During the election campaign, he called journalists an “enemy of the people” and described media organizations he didn’t like as “fake news.” You can pretty much draw a direct line between his words and the actions we’ve seen lately — which include journalists physically prevented from asking questions of officials, arrested when trying to do so, and in a now-famous example from Montana, body-slammed to the ground by a Republican candidate who didn’t want to discuss his party’s position on healthcare.

This is most likely a prelude. From virtually the moment Trump took the oath of office, a deluge of irritating leaks has poured forth about, for instance, his private complaints against senior aides and his late night habits when he is upstairs at the White House without a tweet-blocking retinue of aides. Matters of crucial substance have also been leaked, such as his own disclosure of highly classified information to Russia’s foreign minister, and his obstruction-of-justice-worthy request to James Comey that the FBI restrain its investigation of Michael Flynn. Just a few days ago, there was another leak that wasn’t even Trump-centric, disclosing information about the British investigation into the suicide bombing in Manchester.

“These leaks have been going on for a long time, and my administration will get to the bottom of this,” Trump warned in a statement on Thursday. “The leaks of sensitive information pose a grave threat to our national security. I am asking the Department of Justice and other relevant agencies to launch a complete review of this matter, and if appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Trump is known for his post-thinking bluster but here he means what he suggests about indictments. Of course he’s using national security as a fig leaf to obscure his principal concern about the damage to his own image, which is being shredded. He is taking advantage of the unfortunate groundwork laid by his predecessor, Barack Obama, who oversaw an unprecedented crackdown on the press by deploying the draconian Espionage Act against leakers. Far worse is almost certainly coming from Trump. One of the recent leaks that embarrassed him revealed, ironically, his demand to Comey that the FBI put journalists in jail if they refuse to disclose their sources.

Director of Oval Office Operations Keith Schiller escorts reporters out of the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 16, 2017, during President Donald Trump’s meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

Journalists are not the real target of Trump’s war on journalism, however. We are the highly-visible collateral damage, the broken glasses on the bruised body of free expression. The true targets – the people whom the Trump administration most wants to punish and silence – are the government officials who provide us with the news for our stories. The First Amendment protects journalists but not their sources; there is no constitutional right to tell journalists the truth.

These people, our sources, are incredibly vulnerable, lacking in most cases the financial and legal resources that are available to most journalists. When journalists are threatened by the government, there is a ready-made community to defend them, including advocacy groups that will rise to their aid, and a social network of colleagues who will stand by their side. A government official who leaks to a journalist has almost none of that. Instead of gaining the support of co-workers when punishment is threatened, the likeliest outcome is ostracism, because everyone else fears for their job. If you are a journalist and the government goes after you, the odds are quite good that your employer will strongly support you, but a government leaker faces the opposite predicament – their employer is the one attacking them.

Financial ruin usually comes next. I have written about several of the most notable Espionage Act prosecutions in recent years, including the case of Stephen Kim, a State Department diplomat accused of disclosing classified information to a journalist. (The information about North Korea, according to a State Department official quoted in court documents, was “a nothing burger.”) Facing the possibility of more than a decade in prison if he was convicted by a jury, Kim agreed to a plea deal and a sentence of 13 months. The case drained his finances as well as his relatives’, and he often considered killing himself. “Everything was just a blur,” he told me. “I compare it to losing all five senses at the same time. You don’t see anything, you don’t smell anything, you don’t hear anything. Nothing. That’s the only way I can describe it.”

 

Stephen Kim, a former State Department expert on North Korea, leaves federal court in Washington on April 2, 2014 after a judge sentenced him to 13 months in prison for passing classified information to a journalist.

Photo: Cliff Owen/AP

Here’s a bit of what I wrote about his ordeal:

After devoting more than a decade of his life to preventing North Korea from building a nuclear arsenal, he was now accused of helping Pyongyang. How could he live with the stain of what his government accused him of doing? Espionage. What could he say to his young son? To his elderly parents? “Every single day, I thought about killing myself,” Kim said. He went online to find out how many sleeping pills or Tylenol he would need to swallow to end his life. He considered jumping in front of a train, because that would be quick. He made plans for letting people know he had committed suicide, deciding that he would send a note to a friend and explain that it should be opened on a certain day; inside he would place his house and car keys. “It’s a ruthless calculus — you don’t think like a normal person,” Kim told me. “I’m not proud of it, but I’m not ashamed of it, either. Why should I be? Have you gone through what I have?”

Outcomes vary, but none are enviable. Edward Snowden, who leaked a trove of documents from the National Security Agency, has been able to avoid prison by gaining political refuge in Russia. He fled because if you are indicted under the Espionage Act, as he was, you are not allowed to present a public-interest defense — meaning, you are not allowed to justify the crime of leaking by arguing it was done to disclose to the public even greater crimes the government was committing. Chelsea Manning, who as an Army soldier leaked thousands of documents that disclosed U.S. war crimes, was sentenced to 35 years in prison, though she is now free after serving seven years and receiving a pardon from Obama as he left office.

Today’s leakers can expect no mercy from the incensed Trump administration, which is stacked, no surprise, with a murderers’ row of First Amendment antagonists, leading off with Trump. Next to him, there is Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said, when asked in March if there would be indictments, “We’ve never seen this kind of leaking. It’s almost as if people think they have a right to violate the law, and this has got to end, and probably it will take some convictions to put an end to it.”

His number two at the Department of Justice, Rod Rosenstein, was the driving force behind the prosecution last year of Gen. James Cartwright, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about leaking to reporters (Cartwright was later pardoned by Obama and did not go to prison). In a sentencing memo, Rosenstein painted a stark picture, writing that “the need for deterrence is strong. Every day across the United States government, individuals are entrusted with highly sensitive classified information. They must understand that disclosing such information to persons not authorized to receive it has severe consequences.”

For Trump, who himself has disclosed a surprising amount of sensitive intelligence, the national security argument is window dressing. The leaks he truly despises are the ones that embarrass him personally. This points to a key problem of leak crackdowns: a large amount of information is classified mainly because it would embarrass the government if made public. Senior officials routinely exaggerate the national security repercussions and brush aside the benefits to our society. But even former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has acknowledged, for instance, that the consequences of Manning’s leak were “fairly modest.”

Nonetheless, Trump’s war on journalism is moving ahead. The resistance to it should not be modest.

Top photo: Reporters near the West Wing of The White House in Washington on May, 15, 2017, following news reports that President Trump revealed classified information to visiting Russian officials.

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Trump’s “America First“ Infrastructure Plan: Let Saudi Arabia and Blackstone Take Care of It

27 May 2017 - 11:26am

Throughout the presidential campaign, Donald Trump blasted his rival for taking money from Saudi Arabia, which, he regularly charged, has a horrific human rights record and was behind the attack on September 11.

“You talk about women and women’s rights? So these are people that push gays off buildings. These are people that kill women and treat women horribly. And yet you take their money,” he complained.

Trump, of course, has never been married to anything he has said in the past. But even by Trumpian standards, a recent series of deals he struck with Saudi Arabia stand out.

The two that made the news — a $110 billion arms deal and a $100 million gift to an Ivanka Trump-inspired endowment — are remarkable in their own right.

But the third, which was rolled out much more quietly, is no less stunning: The Saudi kingdom joined forces with a top outside adviser to Trump to build a $40 billion war chest to privatize U.S. infrastructure.

The vehicle would employ the same kind of public-private partnerships, known as P3s, the Trump administration has endorsed for its trillion dollar infrastructure plan. The deal hands over control of projects to rebuild American roads and bridges to the private sector and a foreign country.

The Saudi Public Investment Fund announced its $20 billion investment with Blackstone, the private equity giant whose CEO, Stephen Schwarzman, chairs the Strategic and Policy Forum, a key group of private-sector advisers to President Trump. In recent months Schwarzman has become a key adviser to the president, speaking to him “several times a week,” according to Politico. Schwarzman, who has an estate near Mar-a-Lago and has known Trump for years, is a Republican megadonor, giving over $4 million to Super PACs that support conservative candidates in the last election cycle.

The Saudi investment was announced when Trump was in Saudi Arabia and was touted by the White House as part of Trump’s commitment to render deals for outside investment in America. Blackstone described the deal as “the culmination of a year’s discussions” and insisted the White House was not involved.

But the managing director of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, Yasir Al Rumayyan, explicitly said that the deal “reflects our positive views around the ambitious infrastructure initiatives being undertaken in the United States as announced by President Trump.”

The timing was also notable, coming just after Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner negotiated a $110 billion arms sale to the Saudis. Kushner and Blackstone have a long history; Blackstone is one of the largest lenders to Kushner’s business, with over $400 million in financing since 2013.

Schwarzman, of course, is not a disinterested adviser to the president. He and his firm stands to gain massively from public policy decisions, whether Trump’s reversal on Chinese currency manipulation (Blackstone is heavily invested in China and even warned investors that labeling China a currency manipulator would harm the company financially) or the administration’s reticence on closing the carried interest loophole (which not only benefits Blackstone but Schwarzman himself). The loophole generates billions of dollars for Blackstone.

“Donald Trump brokering a deal between Saudi royalty and private equity magnates associated with both the Republican and Democratic Party is about as much corruption and self-dealing as can be squeezed into a single sentence,” said Jeff Hauser, director of the Revolving Door Project. “This deal essentially constitutes the singularity of corruption and represents all that is broken with our global politics.”

Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman, flanked by President Donald Trump and Chris Liddell, the assistant to the president for strategic initiatives, right, speaks during a meeting with business leaders in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington on April 11, 2017.

Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

This conflict carries over to infrastructure, a business Blackstone has been focused on since last year. They’re looking to capitalize on Trump’s victory, and his long-promised plan to use private money to leverage around $200 billion in public funds over ten years for building projects. The infrastructure plan surprisingly got slipped into Trump’s budget proposal.

“There is broad agreement that the United States urgently needs to invest in its rapidly aging infrastructure,” said Blackstone president Tony James this week. James is a donor to Democratic presidential candidates.

Most Democrats have dismissed Trump’s infrastructure plan as “sleight-of-hand,” because his budget actually cuts transportation spending, more than offsetting the $200 billion investment. The cuts include zeroing out a popular state grant program called TIGER, along with slashes to Amtrak and other transit projects.

In addition to P3s, Trump’s advisers talk of using a model popular in Australia, where proceeds from sales of public assets get funneled into new projects. So under the Trump plan, direct federal investments in infrastructure would be lowered, while private control of projects would ramp up. This benefits Blackstone and Saudi Arabia.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, in a puzzling statement, characterized the Trump budget as not a cut in infrastructure spending, but a “dropoff.”

State and local governments don’t lack private capital for infrastructure; municipal bonds are a $3.7 trillion market. Advocates are concerned that companies like Blackstone want an equity stake in infrastructure that will prove more costly than muni bond funding. P3s could generate high tolls and user fees, as the private sector expects a greater return on investment.

In addition, critics charge that P3s narrow where infrastructure projects happen; replacing water systems for the poor in Flint won’t make back the kind of money that a bridge or toll road connecting an affluent suburb might. P3s more generally have been criticized for limiting democratic control of public assets.

“Why would we take some of the resources we have and hand them away to Wall Street?” asked Donald Cohen of the anti-privatization group In the Public Interest. “And give them control over the asset for 20, 30, 40, 50 years?”

Saudi Arabia put up half of Blackstone total investment in their infrastructure fund. A single investor putting that big a commitment into one private equity fund is atypical, and would essentially have a foreign government profit from fees like toll roads.

When the United Arab Emirates attempted to use the state-owned company Dubai Ports World to buy six U.S. seaports in 2006, it generated significant controversy, stoked by right-wing media figures like Lou Dobbs and Democrats such as Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, was saw an opportunity to damage then-President Bush. The deal eventually fell apart, as Dubai Ports World sold off its stake. By contrast, the Blackstone-Saudi deal has not registered much comment.

But Saudi Arabia’s money will get funneled through a close Trump adviser in a grab for state and local infrastructure, with the expectation of billions of dollars in profits off the roads, bridges, and transit systems the public uses every day. Blackstone expects to use the $40 billion in the infrastructure fund to leverage the purchase of $100 billion in projects, fully 10 percent of Trump’s total commitment.

James told The New York Times that Blackstone could “establish overnight a leadership position” in infrastructure with the Saudi investment. Blackstone’s stock has surged since the Trump election and went up over 7 percent when the Saudi deal was announced.

Schwarzman, whose most recent birthday party featured trapeze artists, live camels, and Gwen Stefani, was in Riyadh last week for a whirlwind of dealmaking known as the U.S.-Saudi CEO Forum.

The private equity titan is hardly the only financier personally benefiting from an advisory position with the Trump administration. For example, legendary trader Carl Icahn, another adviser, has been using his influence to get the administration to change ethanol rules that would save companies he owns hundreds of millions of dollars. Icahn has also been personally speculating on financial instruments related to his push for changes in ethanol rules.

Top photo: President Donald Trump is welcomed by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud upon arrival at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh on May 20, 2017.

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Navio de $25 milhões dado à família Erdogan é apenas uma de muitas revelações no Malta Files

27 May 2017 - 9:55am

Qual o presente perfeito para um líder mundial que tem tudo? Que tal comprar um navio petroleiro de 25 milhões de dólares em segredo para a família dele? Foi isso que o bilionário Azeri, Mübariz Mansimov, deu para Recep Tayyip Erdogan, o cada vez mais autoritário presidente turco, em 2008. A descoberta, publicada na sexta no Black Sea, El Mundo e outros veículos, é o resultado de um projeto iniciado há alguns meses pela rede do European Investigative Collaborations (EIC).

Mansimov se tornou um cidadão turco dois anos antes e adotou um nome turco, Mübariz Gurbanoglu, alegadamente por sugestão de Erdogan. Após o acordo ser selado, seus negócios na Turquia deslancharam, incluindo contratos lucrativos com empresas estatais.

Mansimov também é “um amigo” de Donald Trump e compareceu à sua cerimônia de posse. “Quando os 39 andares do bloco residencial e comercial Trump Towers abriram em Istambul em 2009, Mansimov foi o primeiro cliente – comprando oito apartamentos, incluindo a cobertura”, de acordo com a matéria do Black Sea.

O acordo é complexo. Mas, em resumo, funciona assim: Mansimov adquiriu um navio e abriu uma empresa para abrigá-lo em 2007. Em outubro de 2008, outra empresa registrada na Ilha de Man, que pertencia ao cunhado de Erdogan e ao seu filho, comprou todas as ações por 25 milhões de dólares. No dia seguinte, essa firma fez um empréstimo de 18 milhões de dólares arranjado por Mansimov. Normal, até agora. No entanto, documentos mostram que Mansimov se comprometia a cobrir os sete anos de empréstimo para a empresa, mais juros, em troca de direitos de leasing ao longo de 2015 (os 7 milhões restantes do preço da compra foi pago por um amigo próximo de Erdogan por motivos desconhecidos). A empresa de Mansimov, que controla dois terços da produção de petróleo no Mar Negro, estendeu a opção de leasing até 2020 por 1,2 milhões de dólares por ano. Somando tudo, o acordo chega a uma transferência de 21,2 milhões de dólares de Mansimov para a família de Erdogan. Apesar de ter supostamente vendido o navio para o amigo próximo que pagou 7 milhões em 2011, em três instâncias desde então, o cunhado de Erdogan assinou documentos atestando ser o “único proprietário” do petroleiro.

O rastro de papéis dessa rede emaranhada de transações começa no Malta Files, uma investigação liderada pel0 EIC, baseada no vazamento de um tesouro secreto de 150 mil documentos de uma empresa que fornece serviços jurídicos, financeiros e administrativos baseada em Malta, além de uma versão garimpada do registro público das empresas de Malta. No total, mais de 50 mil empresas estão incluídas. O projeto uniu 49 jornalistas de 13 veículos de comunicação em 16 países, incluindo o The Intercept Brasil, Agência Sportlight, L’Espresso, Le Soir, NRC, Der Spiegel, the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism/TheBlackSea.eu, Mediapart, Politiken, NewsWeek Sérvia, El Mundo, Expresso, Dagens Nyheter e Malta Today.

Malta, um arquipélago no Mediterrâneo com menos de meio milhão de residentes, apresenta o imposto mais baixo para empresas em toda a União Européia e se tornou um destino preferido para sonegação de impostos nos Estado Unidos. A divulgação dos Arquivos Malta também expôs esquemas internacionais da máfia italiana, o império de empréstimos de um bilionário Russo, o primeiro-ministro da Turquia, Binali Yildrim, estrelas do futebol e oligarcas europeus donos de iates, entre outros.

Enquanto as redes internacionais de empresas e proprietários interligados são bastante complexas, a essência do esquema é fácil de seguir: a taxa do imposto na França é de 33,33%; em Malta, a taxa efetiva para atividades internacionais de empresas de estrangeiros é de apenas 5%; tirando vantagem da política de fronteiras abertas entre países membros da União Europeia, uma firma parisiense pode abrir uma subsidiária em Malta, declarar lucros por aquela subsidiária, pagar 5% ao governo maltês e repatriar o resto dos lucros livre de impostos, enganando legalmente a França sobre qualquer de suas receitas. Malta ganha dinheiro por nada, a empresa economiza 85% de gastos com impostos e os contribuintes franceses perdem milhões.

Uma investigação do jornal Malta Today estima que a política de imposto amigável a negócios rendeu ao país quase 248 milhões de euros em receita em 2015 e custou 4,2 bilhões em perdas na coleta de impostos a outras nações. Essas somas aumentaram em mais de 10 vezes desde 2006. Um estudo patrocinado por Green MEPs no Parlamento Europeu descobriu que 14 bilhões de euros em impostos da União Europeia deixaram de ser pagos entre 2012 e 2015.

O banco central de Malta em Valletta.

Foto: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

Estruturas corporativas disponíveis em Malta para esconder os proprietários de uma empresa também podem ser utilizadas para facilitar fraudes e atividades ilegais, algo que a nação nega, mas que levou um ministro da fazenda alemão a nomear Malta como “o Panamá da Europa”.

O Ministro da Fazenda de Malta, Edward Scicluna, disse que os Arquivos de Malta são “notícia falsa”, completando que a cobertura “é injusta e ameaça a economia e postos de trabalho”. Outros países da União Européia “querem provar do nosso sucesso, especialmente no mercado de iGaming (jogos digitais)”, afirmou.

O primeiro ministro Joseph Muscat, respondendo às publicações disse que: “eles tentaram dizer que há algo ilegal em nossos serviços financeiros, quando a verdade é que nossos sistemas financeiros são os mesmos de quando nos juntamos à União Européia. Foi aprovado pela EU e pela OCDE e nós estamos dentro dos parâmetros.”

Clique aqui para ver todas as matérias de parceiros d0 EIC sobre o Malta Files (a lista continuará sendo atualizada assim que novas notícias forem publicadas).

The post Navio de $25 milhões dado à família Erdogan é apenas uma de muitas revelações no Malta Files appeared first on The Intercept.

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