The Intercept

Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s New Communications Director, Said Citizens United Made Possible a “Sleeper Cell” of Hedge Fund Managers

21 July 2017 - 8:20pm

Anthony Scaramucci is nothing if not a visionary.

The brash former hedge fund manager was named communications director for the White House on Friday, but he’s been sharing his thoughts about politics for long time now.

And Scaramucci has donated enormous amounts of money to a wide panoply of politicians. He was national finance co-chair for the 2016 Scott Walker presidential campaign, raised money for Jeb Bush, and then personally maxed out to Trump’s campaign and gave $100,000 to Rebuilding America Now, a pro-Trump Super PAC. His hedge fund, Skybridge Capital, also donated $75,000 to a Mitt Romney Super PAC in 2012 and $100,000 to Karl Rove’s Super PAC in 2013.

All of Scaramucci’s Super PAC contributions would have been illegal before the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision.

Notably, in 2011 Scaramucci described the significance of Citizens United in ways strikingly similar to the views of the ruling’s critics – and strikingly different from the Court majority’s blasé perspective on whether its decision would make the U.S. political system more corrupt.

Scaramucci’s outlook was quoted in a New Yorker article about how deeply the feelings of Wall Street’s super-rich were being hurt by even the mildest criticism from Barack Obama.

According to the piece, one evening after the day’s activities at an annual hedge fund conference Scaramucci organizes in Las Vegas, he and twenty “financiers and politicians” enjoyed an eight course dinner of “blinis with caviar; a fennel, grapefruit, and pomegranate salad; cocoa-encrusted beef tenderloin; and blue-cheese panna cotta.”

The wealthiest guest was another hedge fund manager, billionaire Leon Cooperman. By that moment Cooperman had garnered attention for repeatedly comparing Obama’s 2008 election to the rise of Hitler. (Cooperman claimed he didn’t mean they were similar as people).

Here’s what Scaramucci said about Citizens United, himself and Cooperman:

Scaramucci, the organizer of the dinner, told me the next day that the guests had witnessed the “activation” of a “sleeper cell” of hedge-fund managers against Obama. “That’s what you see happening in the hedge-fund community, because they now have the power, because of Citizens United, to aggregate capital into political-action committees and to influence the debate,” he said. “The President has a philosophy of disdain toward wealth creation. That’s just obvious, O.K.? We talked about it all night.” He later said, “If there’s a pope of this movement, it’s Lee Cooperman.”

By contrast, here’s what the conservative Supreme Court majority proclaimed in the Citizens United decision:

[W]e now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption. That speakers may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that those officials are corrupt. The appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.

Now get this: The politicians in attendance at the dinner were Al Gore and the then-mayor of Los Angeles, Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa. Villaraigosa was so eager to hear more about Cooperman’s fascinating ideas that, according to the New Yorker, he gave the hedge fund manager his direct phone number. Now out of office, Villaraigosa is running for governor of California in 2018.

So on the one hand, there’s actual hedge fund manager Scaramucci celebrating the fact that thanks to Citizens United he and his friends “now have the power” to “aggregate capital” to change U.S. politics. On the other hand, the Supreme Court is certain that Americans won’t “lose faith in our democracy” just because a Democratic politician feels he has to cozy up to a billionaire who believes that Obama’s election was kind of like Hitler taking power.

“Apparently the sleeper cell has now seized the White House communications office,” says Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen. “But that’s less eyebrow-raising than it might be, since they also have an accessory in the Oval Office.”

Top photo: Anthony Scaramucci during a television interview in New York on April 18, 2017.

The post Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s New Communications Director, Said Citizens United Made Possible a “Sleeper Cell” of Hedge Fund Managers appeared first on The Intercept.

Justice Department’s Demand for Extreme Secrecy in Reality Winner Trial Contested by Defense

21 July 2017 - 2:03pm

The Justice Department is seeking to impose extreme secrecy rules in the trial of alleged Intercept source and whistleblower Reality Winner that could prevent her defense team from citing countless publicly available news articles in appearances before the court — and even prevent Winner herself from seeing evidence relevant to her defense.

On July 20, Winner’s defense lawyers moved to challenge those arguments, accusing the government in a court filing of attempting to use the pre-trial discovery process to unfairly gag them from discussing issues both vital to the case and the public at large.

Winner was accused last month of leaking a classified National Security Agency document to The Intercept that describes attempts by alleged Russian hackers to gain access to election infrastructure in the United States. She faces charges under the Espionage Act, a 100-year-old law meant for spies and saboteurs, which the government has warped into an anti-leaking statute used to go after sources of journalists attempting to inform the American public. Winner’s trial is set for the end of October.

Under the rules established under the Classified Information Procedures Act, the defense has the right to access certain classified documents from the government that may be relevant to Winner’s case. In response, the government filed for a protective order that will prevent the defense team from revealing the classified information in those documents in its legal filings or to the public.

A protective order surrounding discovery material, by itself, is fairly standard procedure. However, the government is going a step further: They are arguing that the defense would be barred from discussing any information that has appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, or any other newspaper if the defense “knows or have reason to know” any of that information is also contained in classified discovery documents they will receive.

The protective order would restrict “our right to cite and quote information in the public domain, such as articles in newspapers, broadcast journalism and online publications,” the defense wrote in their brief. “The order proposed by the Government imposes upon Defense Counsel the duty to question the source of reports in the New York Times or matters discussed on Morning Joe and then to confer with the security officer before repeating or citing these facts even though the information is clearly in the public domain.”

Essentially, the government is trying to bar Winner’s lawyers from discussing large swaths of journalism done around the election, cybersecurity, the Trump administration, and Russia in court, unless each time, they go back and scour thousands of pages of documents to make sure none of their references are also cited in the documents that were handed over.

This is a critical point given that the trial may hinge on whether the prosecution can prove the document Winner is alleged to have leaked could have “damaged” national security. Winner’s team may want to use these stories to provide the jury with much-needed context around the document at issue — to show, for example, that the public interest in election security is extremely high, or that leaking the material in question couldn’t possibly have damaged national security given the mountains of stories about Russian hacking that came before it.

Think about it: Literally everyone in the country has been talking about alleged Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election. It has not only been the subject of front page stories in the nation’s leading newspapers on an almost daily basis, but it has been publicly discussed by virtually every member of Congress, all the intelligence chiefs, and Presidents Obama and Trump. Yet much of this discussion could be barred from the public courtroom if the government has its way.

What’s more, the government argues that Winner herself isn’t allowed to see any of the classified documents handed over to her lawyers at all. As the defense writes in their brief: “The Sixth Amendment right to counsel includes the right to confer with counsel.” What the government is essentially doing here is cutting Winner out from her own defense team, which may have to make key arguments in the case without being able to consult with her about the relevant facts. As her lawyers make clear, “Her telephone calls are taped, and all of her outgoing mail is being reviewed by Government agents. There is no risk to national security that could flow from her being allowed to view the evidence that may be used against her.”

These tactics are likely just the beginning of the government’s attempts to cut off virtually every avenue of defense for Reality Winner. The Justice Department has been cruelly effective in all of the Espionage Act cases aimed at the sources of journalists in recent memory.

Since Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg’s days, sources charged under the Espionage Act have been prohibited from explaining their motive to their jury — e.g., informing the public — for leaking information to journalists. Or take the example of Thomas Drake, the NSA executive who was indicted for allegedly giving information on NSA waste, fraud, and abuse to the Baltimore Sun in the mid-2000s. The Justice Department filed briefs in his case demanding that Drake not even be allowed to say the word “whistleblowing” or make any arguments related to the government’s rampant overclassification epidemic in front of the jury. In other cases, prosecutors have convinced judges they don’t have to show actual harm to national security, only the potential for such harm — a much lower bar.

Time will tell exactly what Winner will and won’t be able to tell her jury. But whatever one’s views on Russia’s influence on the 2016 election, everyone can agree that the American public has a strong interest in seeing the evidence the U.S. government has on Russian hacking, and that the woman accused of leaking material on the subject should not be muzzled from using information already in the public domain to defend herself.

Trevor Timm is the executive director of Freedom of the Press Foundation. He is also the co-founder of the Stand With Reality campaign, which is raising money for Winner’s legal defense and awareness about the Espionage Act’s use against the sources of journalists. First Look Media, The Intercept’s parent company, has provided legal support for Winner’s defense through the Press Freedom Defense Fund, and contributed $50,000 in matching funds to the Stand With Reality campaign. You can donate to the campaign here.

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Aumento de impostos escancara contradição de Henrique Meirelles

21 July 2017 - 12:29pm

O aumento da alíquota do Programa de Integração Social (PIS) e da Contribuição para o Financiamento da Seguridade Social (Cofins), anunciado no fim da tarde desta quinta (20) pelo governo, escancara uma realidade: no mundo político (e econômico também, neste caso), não é possível confiar no que é dito.

Queridinho do mercado, o ministro da Fazenda, Henrique Meirelles, usou o programa “A voz do Brasil”, em 31 de outubro do ano passado, para tranquilizar a todos e garantir que não haveria aumento de impostos, graças à mais uma solução mágica que havia sido elaborada na gestão Temer: a Proposta de Emenda Constitucional (PEC) que estabeleceu um teto para os gastos públicos para os próximos 20 anos.

“Só seria necessário (aumentar impostos) se as despesas continuassem a crescer descontroladamente. No momento em que o governo corta na carne, elimina a necessidade de aumentar impostos”, disse o ministro à época.

O contexto era basicamente o seguinte: a PEC havia sido aprovada em primeira e segunda discussão na Câmara, faltando ser ratificada pelo Senado. O texto, porém, estava longe de ser uma unanimidade, era fortemente atacado pela oposição, que alegava que a mudança poderia causar reflexos nos gastos em áreas primordiais, como saúde e educação, além de programas sociais.

No meio do rolo compressor do governo, nada melhor então do que contar uma pequena mentira como a que não haveria aumento de impostos para tentar tranquilizar empresários e trabalhadores de que aquela seria mais uma solução eficiente do governo. Em 15 de dezembro de 2016, a proposta foi promulgada no Senado, sendo a primeira grande “vitória”de Temer. Este ano, mesmo em meio à crise política provocada pela delação do dono da JBS, Joesley Batista, foi a vez da aprovação da impopular reforma trabalhista.   

Alíquota do PIS/Cofins vai dobrar

Nesta quinta, o ministro que tinha dito há oito meses que os impostos não aumentariam usou uma nota para confirmar o que já vinha se comentando nos últimos dias nos bastidores do Planalto: o governo vai sim ter que tirar mais dinheiro do contribuinte para poder fechar suas contas. No caso da gasolina, o PIS/Cofins quase dobrará, passando de R$ 0,3816 para R$ 0,7925 por litro. Haverá também aumento no diesel e no etanol. A Petrobras calcula que o impacto para o consumidor seja de 7%.

Para tentar amenizar as críticas, a equipe econômica também anunciou também cortes na própria carne:

“Do lado das despesas, serão contingenciados, adicionalmente, R$ 5,9 bilhões dos gastos previstos no Orçamento de 2017. Esse valor deverá ser compensado por receitas extraordinárias que ocorrerão ainda este ano”, informou a nota divulgada pelo Planalto.

O pato ressuscitou. No prédio da Fiesp, protesto contra o aumento de impostos anunciado na quinta pelo governo.

Foto: Fábio Vieira/FotoRua/Folhapress

Apesar de ser o queridinho do mercado, Meirelles já vê reações negativas do aumento do PIS/Cofins entre o empresariado. A Fiesp (Federação das Indústrias do Estado de São Paulo) colocou novamente o pato na rua para protestar contra a medida. O presidente da entidade, Paulo Skaf, disse nesta sexta (21) que “temos que ser radicais” e “nenhum governo pode aumentar impostos”.

Ao mesmo tempo em que anuncia uma medida tão impopular, Temer convive também com outra contradição, já que precisa agradar aos parlamentares que vão decidir, no início de agosto, se ele continua ou não na presidência. Se for aceito o prosseguimento da denúncia da PGR por corrupção passiva, ele terá que se afastar do cargo por 180 dias.

O pacote de bondades do governo chega a R$ 15 bilhões nas últimas semanas, de acordo com levantamento feito pelo jornal “O Globo”.  Nesta leva, somente em junho, foram liberados mais de R$ 500 milhões em restos a pagar de anos anteriores de emendas parlamentares. Até o ex-deputado preso Eduardo Cunha entrou nesta leva, com mais de R$ 1,6 milhão liberados.

Já saímos dessa recessão, continuamos a crescer e vamos construir um país com taxas de crescimento sustentáveis mais elevadas

O mais curioso nisso tudo é que nas cerimônias que vêm sendo realizadas no Planalto por Temer para divulgar suas bondades, o ministro Henrique Meirelles está quase sempre ao seu lado, tentando reforçar a imagem de que tudo está bem.

“Entramos numa recessão profunda, por questões estruturais. Já saímos dessa recessão, continuamos a crescer e vamos construir um país com taxas de crescimento sustentáveis mais elevadas”, disse Meirelles durante cerimônia de sanção do texto da reforma trabalhista na semana passada.

A questão que fica é: e aí, dá para acreditar?

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Now It’s Time for Tax Cuts — and Republicans Are More Divided Than Ever

21 July 2017 - 10:19am

When presidents fail, it creates a snowball effect. George W. Bush couldn’t privatize Social Security and his legislative agenda never recovered. Bill Clinton’s abandonment of health care reform led it to tackle small-ball measures. Both were punished by voters for their failures in the next midterm, losing control of Congress and the ability to get anything else done. Voters don’t like losers.

That’s bad news for House Republicans. Fresh off the (probable) failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they are pivoting to tax cuts. But along the way, for procedural reasons, they need to pass a budget.

The budget resolution is critical to the entire agenda for next year, because it sets up what’s called a budget reconciliation bill, which allows the Senate to get around the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster. Without a budget resolution, there likely will be no tax cut package, the next big item for Trump.

Here’s how that’s going. Freedom Caucus members went public about their fears of being cut out of the deal. Nevertheless, GOP leaders persisted, releasing a budget resolution this week with $203 billion in mandatory spending cuts and trillions more in other reductions. That infuriated the more moderate members of bunch. It also included a “deficit-neutral” tax reform that includes an unpopular tax increase conservatives can’t stand. Sound familiar?

[Clarification: The budget resolution instructs the Ways and Means Committee to devise a deficit-neutral tax reform, but does not specify any specific tax cuts or increases to accomplish that. While Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., did suggest amending the resolution to exclude a border adjustment tax from any future bill, the resolution did not require the border adjustment tax, although that is the main revenue-raiser being discussed by the House GOP. We regret any impression that the budget resolution required that tax to be instituted.]

Freedom Caucus conservatives want more cuts and no offsetting tax increases, and moderates want fewer cuts. With only 22 votes needed to kill the budget, both sides could have the votes to do the deed.

The head of the Freedom Caucus confidently predicted the resolution doesn’t have the votes to pass the House. By Tuesday night, House leaders were already scaling back their ambitions, vowing to pass only a handful of the necessary appropriations bills. One Freedom Caucus member threatened a poison-pill amendment in the Budget Committee that would kill the biggest revenue-raiser in the bill, the unpopular “border adjustment tax.” On Wednesday night, House Budget Committee chair Diane Black disposed of that amendment, and the budget resolution squeaked through committee, but it’s viability on the floor is anything but certain.

“I have serious concerns about the budget in its current form,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., head of the moderate caucus. “The focus of this budget should be on reconciliation instructions for tax reform. … Trying to use mandatory savings in the same reconciliation instructions is going to make tax reform much harder, not easier. Anybody with a pair of eyes can see this.”

The budget resolution is really a fight over tax cuts, and even more so a fight about deficits. The House GOP blueprint insists on revenue neutrality, making it difficult to pass, because you have to find acceptable tax increases from a Republican caucus that hates them all.

If all that fails, Republicans have said they’ll pursue a “shell” budget — which has close to nothing in it, but still allows the filibuster to be busted. But conservative Republicans in the Senate — enough to kill it — have said they won’t support a shell.

It would be a lot easier to square this circle in a winning environment. But with only gridlock to show for six months of work, lawmakers are frustrated and paranoid, worried as much about being cut out of negotiations as they are the next election cycle. I’m calling it — the budget resolution won’t pass. Which means most of Trump’s agenda won’t pass, at least not legislatively.

Top photo: House Budget Chair Diane Black, R-Tenn., and Ways and Means Chair Kevin Brady, R-Texas, key stewards of the Republican health care overhaul legislation, board an elevator off the House chamber after GOP leadership decided to pull the troubled bill off the House floor.

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Trump’s EPA Chemical Safety Nominee Was in the “Business of Blessing” Pollution

21 July 2017 - 8:50am

Michael Dourson, President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, founded and ran a toxicology consulting firm whose work enabled DuPont to avoid providing clean water to people in West Virginia after the company contaminated the area around one its plants with a dangerous industrial chemical.

In 2000, DuPont was seeking a consulting company to guide the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in a delicate project. DuPont had used PFOA to make Teflon and other products and allowed the chemical to seep into water near the plant. The assignment was to help the state set safety levels for PFOA that would determine when DuPont had to provide clean water to residents.

After asking around, a DuPont employee named Timothy Bingman decided Dourson’s consulting firm, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA), was just the right company for the job. “I’ve talked to a number of colleagues that use external toxicity peer review services to see who they like as contractors,” Bingman wrote in an email to his DuPont colleagues that had the subject line “Prospective Contractors for PFOA Review.” “While everyone had a few names to offer, the common theme that emerged was that TERA (i.e. Mike Dourson) was the leading choice.” TERA had “a very good reputation among the folks that are still in the business of blessing criteria,” Bingman explained, going on to describe the company’s ability to “assemble a package and then sell this to EPA, or whomever we desired.”

TERA didn’t disappoint. In 2002, the company helped West Virginia set a safety threshold of 150 parts per billion (ppb) — a number that stayed in place from 2002 to 2006, and determined whom DuPont was obligated to provide with clean water during this period. That number was 150 times higher than the maximum safety level DuPont’s own scientists had determined in 1988 — 1 pbb — based on internal company research showing that PFOA was toxic to both workers and lab animals.

In May 2016, the EPA set a national drinking water health advisory level for PFOA at .07 ppb — thousands of times lower than TERA’s number. As research has increasingly tied PFOA to kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, immune deficiency and other health problems, several regulatory agencies have arrived at safe drinking water levels that are even tinier fractions of TERA’s. Minnesota, for instance, recently proposed a level of .035 ppb. Vermont set an even lower drinking water standard of .02 ppb. And New Jersey has proposed, though not yet officially set, a level of .014.

Attorneys investigating how the consultants arrived at 150 ppb were unable to obtain the notes from the discussions that led to it. A science advisor at the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection later admitted that she had shredded documents from the meeting and that the state agency had a “standard practice and policy of destroying documents they anticipate might be the subject of a subpoena in this litigation,” according to a court document.

In 2015, DuPont was found liable for negligence in the case of a woman who developed kidney cancer after drinking water contaminated by PFOA. The company was ordered to pay $1.6 million in damages.

If confirmed by the Senate, the man who helped put forward the extremely high level of PFOA contamination would oversee the implementation of the recently overhauled chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act. In that role, Dourson could decide which chemicals are subject to the high priority reviews laid out in the new law, how many company-related risk evaluations the EPA will grant, and how the EPA will use its newly expanded authority to test chemicals. Dourson, who has worked for Dow, will also be in a position to make decisions about the pesticide chlorpyrifos, a chemical manufactured by Dow that the EPA was poised to ban before Trump took office.

Dourson has worked for a variety of other government agencies, industry groups, and companies, including the Petroleum High Production Volume Testing Group, the American Flame Retardant panel of the American Chemistry Council, and the Brominated Flame Retardant Industry Panel.

The EPA issued a press release on Monday with the headline “Widespread Praise for Dr. Michael Dourson.” Among the accolades it presented was one from Samuel M. Cohen, who along with Dourson was a witness for DuPont in the kidney cancer trial over PFOA and also co-authored a paper with Dourson that was paid for by the American Chemistry Council. Cohen described Dourson as “a leader in the field of risk assessment” and “well suited for the position of Assistant Administrator for the EPA.”

Michael Dourson and the EPA did not respond to a request for comment.

Top photo: The Washington Works DuPont plant in Parkersburg, WV on Wednesday, August 5, 2015.

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J Street, a Reliable Foe of BDS, Urges Congress to Oppose Israel Anti-Boycott Act For Now

20 July 2017 - 3:12pm

A bill backed by 43 senators and 247 House members seeks to effectively criminalize support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls for economic pressure to force Israel to ends its human rights abuses against the Palestinians.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, would levy penalties of up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine — leading many to claim, such as the ACLU did, that it is a serious threat to free speech.

But the bill has an unlikely opponent.

J Street, founded in late 2007 to promote a two-state solution, opposes the Israeli occupation and general treatment of the Palestinians, but also has refused to endorse the Palestinian-led nonviolent boycott movement. Its activists regularly find themselves at odds with left-wing groups such as Jewish Voices for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine who view BDS as the best way to end the occupation of the Palestinians. Thus J Street often lobbies in favor of anti-BDS legislation.

However, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act is a step too far for even these reliable opponents of BDS.

On Tuesday, J Street Vice President of Government Affairs Dylan J. Williams sent an email to foreign policy staffers on Capitol Hill urging them to oppose the legislation as it is currently written primarily because of its impact on free speech:

As you know, J Street has serious concerns with the “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” (S.720/H.R.1697) as written, which would undermine decades of US policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, bolster the settlement enterprise and harm the prospects for a two-state solution. I’ve included our full analysis of the bill below.

In that analysis, we recommended that Members consult with free speech experts on possible Constitutional concerns with the bill. Accordingly, I want to make sure that you saw the letters issued by the ACLU yesterday opposing both the Senate and House versions of the bill on the grounds that they would impose penalties in “direct violation of the First Amendment.”

With all these serious concerns about the bill, we wanted to again urge your boss not to cosponsor or otherwise support this legislation unless and until these issues are resolved.

In the full analysis, J Street also warned that in addition to threatening free speech, the legislation blurs the line between Israel and the settlements enterprise. They note that the legislation makes no real distinction between boycotting the entire state of Israel, and boycotting the settlements, which are considered illegal under international law. “This bill could give Attorney General Jeff Sessions the power to prosecute any American who chooses not to buy settlement products for a felony offense,” Williams warned. “That kind of authority should not be given to any administration, let alone one that has engaged in extreme rhetoric against political opponents, including threats to ‘lock [them] up.'”

Read J Street’s full analysis of the bill:
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Top photo: Demonstrators march to protest the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in front of the White House in Washington on Nov. 9, 2015.

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Até preso, Eduardo Cunha é um dos beneficiados pelo pacote de bondades de Temer

20 July 2017 - 12:30pm

Preso preventivamente em outubro de 2016 e condenado em março deste ano a 15 anos e 4 meses de prisão pelo juiz Sérgio Moro por corrupção, lavagem de dinheiro e evasão de divisas, o ex-deputado Eduardo Cunha teve sete emendas parlamentares pagas nos últimos cinco meses pelo governo de Michel Temer.

Os valores que chamam mais atenção foram desembolsados pela União no início de junho, já no meio da crise política enfrentada pela gestão Temer após a divulgação da investigação baseada nas delações dos executivos do Grupo JBS. Ao todo, foram três emendas de Cunha neste período, que somaram R$ 1.671,5 milhão: no dia 1º, R$ 928,4 mil para Seropédica e, no dia 2, R$ 500 mil para Cachoeiras de Macacu e R$ 243,1 mil para Engenheiro Paulo de Frontin, todas no Rio de Janeiro, estado do ex-deputado. O dinheiro foi destinado à “estruturação da rede de atenção básica de saúde” dos municípios.

Ao todo, foram três emendas de Cunha neste período, que somaram R$ 1.671,5 milhão.

As emendas de Cunha entraram no meio de um pacote de bondades que aconteceu após a intensificação da crise política em Brasília. Ao todo, em junho, foram desembolsados R$ 507,4 milhões de restos a pagar pendentes dos anos anteriores para todos os deputados, pouco mais de um terço dos R$ 1,5 bilhão que foram liberados também de restos a pagar nos primeiros seis meses deste ano. Os dados foram dados levantados por The Intercept Brasil no Portal Siga Brasil, de acompanhamento da execução orçamentária.

As emendas foram empenhadas em 2016 e entraram nos chamados restos a pagar.

A liberação do recurso das emendas elaboradas por um deputado preso acontece porque o governo pode prometer o recurso (empenhar), mas só executar o pagamento em outro, quando o serviço já foi prestado. No caso de Cunha, as emendas foram empenhadas em 2016 e entraram nos chamados restos a pagar, que são exatamente os valores referentes aos anos anteriores. A demora para a liberação pode causar transtornos nos municípios, já que os contratados já entregaram seus trabalhos.

No início deste ano, outras quatro emendas de Cunha, de valores bem menores, já haviam sido pagas pelo governo. Em 9 de fevereiro, R$ 16.497 para a cidade de Belford Roxo; R$ 12,4 mil para Guapimirim; e R$ 45,4 mil para Itaboraí. Em 15 de março, R$ 17.022 para Barra Mansa. O dinheiro foi voltado para ações nas áreas de urbanismo e saúde.

Trocado da CCJ por um nome pró-Temer, Delegado Waldir (PR/GO) cita "barganha" de uma organização criminosa que quer se manter no poder: ?

— George Marques (@GeorgMarques) July 10, 2017

Após garantir uma vitória artificial na Comissão de Constituição e Justiça (CCJ) da Câmara na quinta (13), derrotando o relatório de Sérgio Zveiter (PMDB-RJ) que recomendava o prosseguimento da denúncia de corrupção contra Temer, deputados da oposição acusaram o governo de comprar deputados por intermédio de liberação de emendas e distribuição de cargos a aliados. Revoltado com a retirada de seu nome por um nome pró-Temer, o deputado Delegado Waldir (PR/GO) esbravejou na CCJ chamando as trocas de “barganha” feitas por uma “organização criminosa que quer se manter no poder”.

Maior valor foi para cidade de antigo aliado

As emendas parlamentares individuais são dotações inseridas no Orçamento da União que abastecem os redutos eleitorais dos congressistas com recursos para obras e ações em saúde e educação, entre outras – inclusive o desvio para outros fins. Em ano eleitoral ou pré-eleitoral, a preocupação dos políticos com recursos se acentua. É rotineiro em Brasília, em pleno recesso parlamentar, deputados serem vistos peregrinando por ministérios na tentativa de liberar o restante dos recursos para irrigar suas bases.

O Deputado Estadual Fabio Silva (PMDB), ligado a Cunha, tem sua base política em Seropédica (RJ), cidade que recebeu emenda de mais de R$ 900 mil de ex-parlamentar preso.

Foto: jose lucena/Futura Press/Folhapress

No caso de Cunha, a emenda de maior valor que foi paga este ano (R$ 928,4 mil) foi para a cidade de Seropédica, na Baixada Fluminense, por exemplo, não à toa. O município é reduto do deputado estadual Fábio Silva (PMDB/RJ) que, no ano passado, tentou sem sucesso a candidatura a prefeito.

Fábio é um aliado histórico do ex-deputado e chegou a empregar em seu gabinete na Assembleia Legislativa do Rio Altair Alves Pinto, apontado como uma espécie de “faz tudo” de Cunha. Altair teve o seu apartamento vasculhado pela Polícia Federal em maio, como parte das investigações decorrentes da delação de Joesley Batista, da JBS. O executivo apontou Altair como sendo o homem que recebia o dinheiro para o ex-presidente da Câmara.

Emendas impositivas foram tramadas por Cunha

Tendo os recursos liberados agora, mesmo preso, Cunha foi um dos principais articuladores da implementação das emendas impositivas, quando presidia a Câmara dos Deputados, em 2015. Naquela época, o peemedebista era desafeto e inimigo declarado do Palácio do Planalto, ocupado pela então presidente Dilma Rousseff.

Com articulação de Cunha, o Congresso aprovou a obrigatoriedade do empenho de emendas parlamentares até o limite de 1,2% da receita corrente líquida, incluindo custeio ao Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS). Com o orçamento impositivo valendo, o Executivo se vê obrigado a liberar os repasses indicados por deputados e senadores, respeitada a capacidade de pagamento do governo e dos demais poderes.

O objetivo do congressista era evitar qualquer negociação com o Executivo, garantindo a execução.

No entanto, sem que as emendas tivessem um caráter impositivo, o empenho dos recursos dependeria de negociação política dos interessados com o Executivo, barreira que Cunha desejava superar a todo custo. O objetivo do congressista era evitar qualquer negociação com o Executivo, garantindo a execução.

A execução obrigatória, no entanto, deixou uma brecha para a barganha política: o pagamento efetivo pode ser postergado. Problemas burocráticos, como a falta de documentação correta dos entes beneficiados, também pode resultar num atraso na liberação dos valores.

O portal Siga Brasil confirmou que foi liberado um grande volume de recursos de emendas do ex-deputado Eduardo Cunha em junho de 2017, mas explicou que não existe prazo determinado para que o governo pague as emendas empenhadas.

Foto em destaque: Cunha na Câmara quando ainda a presidia, em abril de 2016. Luis Macedo/ Agência Câmara

The post Até preso, Eduardo Cunha é um dos beneficiados pelo pacote de bondades de Temer appeared first on The Intercept.

Cameroonian Troops Tortured and Killed Prisoners at Base Used for U.S. Drone Surveillance

20 July 2017 - 11:00am

Troops in the West African nation of Cameroon have tortured prisoners at a remote military base that is also used by U.S. personnel and private contractors for drone surveillance and training missions.

As the U.S. military has fortified the Cameroonian site, known as Salak, and supported the elite local troops based there, the outpost has become the scene of illegal imprisonment, brutal torture, and even killings, according to a new investigation by The Intercept and the Goldsmiths, University of London-based research firm Forensic Architecture, based on extensive research by Amnesty International. Nearly 60 victims held at Salak described to Amnesty International how they were subjected to water torture, beaten with electric cables and boards, or tied and suspended with ropes, among other abuses.

Forensic Architecture investigated conditions of detention and torture at two sites of illegal incarceration, run by Cameroon’s security forces, to accompany a new report by Amnesty International. See the full investigation here.Video: Forensic Architecture


No evidence has emerged that U.S. personnel were involved in torture, but photos and videos from Salak show U.S. soldiers and civilian contractors near the facilities where prisoners were held, and detainees testified to seeing and hearing Americans in uniform during their imprisonment.

“We can’t be 100 percent sure that Americans were aware of the torture,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty International’s lead researcher on a new report about abuses by Cameroonian forces. “But our evidence demonstrates that at Salak these practices occur in places that are accessible and can be visible to U.S. and other foreign personnel.”

Salak serves as ground zero for Cameroon’s fight against the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, a campaign that the United States has thrown its full support behind. Last month, President Donald Trump sent a letter to Congress outlining current “deployments of U.S. Armed Forces equipped for combat.” In addition to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia, Trump mentioned Cameroon, where “approximately 300 United States military personnel are also deployed, the bulk of whom are supporting United States airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations in the region.”

Over the last decade, the United States has devoted hundreds of millions of dollars to Cameroon (more than $111 million in security assistance since 2015) while training its elite military force and providing everything from arms to humanitarian aid to development assistance.

“We are proud of the Cameroonian Security Forces’ commitment to protecting Cameroonian citizens,” said U.S. Ambassador Michael Hoza in a speech earlier this month. Last spring, Hoza praised the conduct of Cameroon’s elite Rapid Intervention Battalion (known by its French acronym, BIR), which Amnesty specifically accuses of torture. “In their training, conduct, and leadership, the BIR exhibited all of the values we expect in our own armed forces — professionalism, protection of the civilian population, and respect for human rights,” Hoza wrote.

The new report by Amnesty International — which catalogues the cases of 101 individuals subjected to illegal incarceration, torture, or extrajudicial killing by Cameroonian security forces at multiple sites — stands in sharp relief to the ambassador’s comments and raises serious questions about ongoing U.S. support.

“During torture, they asked me in French to confess that I was a member of Boko Haram,” one former detainee told Amnesty. “They beat me with a wooden plank and a chain as they tried to force me to eat pork. I am Muslim and I don’t eat pork so I refused, and I was tortured. They beat me several times with the wooden plank, which had a nail stuck into it. I was beaten everywhere, especially on my legs and ankles. I received so many blows that I passed out.”

U.S. Africa Command did not respond to questions about whether the command was aware of reports of abuses being carried out at Salak. Multiple requests to the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon for an interview with Ambassador Hoza went unanswered, as did requests for interviews with the offices of Cameroon’s president and prime minister as well as the Cameroonian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Between December 2013 and February 2015, two buildings appeared on the western side of Salak, and foundations were laid in the southwest corner for hangars.

Photos: Google Earth

“Everyone says they are Americans”

For years, the U.S. military has maintained an outpost in Douala, Cameroon, and a drone base in the remote town of Garoua. Little, however, has been reported about the U.S. facilities known as the “Salak Compound office” or the nearby “Team Maroua House Office.”

The Cameroonian airfield and military base at Salak, in the northern border region wedged between Nigeria and Chad, expanded as Boko Haram’s indiscriminate attacks on civilians increased, leaving tens of thousands across the region injured or dead and millions of others displaced, and following the April 2014 kidnapping of 276 girls from a school in Chibok, Nigeria, which generated international attention.

Satellite imagery shows the significant expansion of the base, including the construction of two buildings between December 2013 and January 2015 later described to Amnesty International by witnesses as “the Americans’ buildings.” By 2015, a U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion appeared to be beefing up fortifications at the camp. Around the same time, the U.S. Defense Department arranged for Insitu, a subsidiary of the defense giant Boeing, to supply Cameroon’s military with six ScanEagle surveillance drones worth $9.3 million, according to contracting documents.

Between February 2015 and February 2017, the northwestern section of the base was expanded to make room for a ScanEagle unmanned aerial system.

Photos: Google Earth

Today, Salak serves as the headquarters of Operation Alpha, the BIR’s internationally backed counterterrorism campaign against Boko Haram, and an increasingly integral site for the U.S. military’s operations in West Africa.

“Maroua and nearby Salak air field are important hubs for our security assistance efforts in the region, and we regularly have small numbers of U.S. personnel (military and/or contractor) in the area supporting Cameroon’s aviation, logistics, counter-improvised explosive devices and force protection capabilities,” Capt. Jennifer Dyrcz, a spokesperson for AFRICOM, told The Intercept by email. “U.S. Africa Command does intend to assist Cameroon in refurbishing and improving Salak air field for Cameroonian use.”

Yet Amnesty International found that Salak is also used as an illegal prison to hold people detained by the BIR. The prisoners are mostly men — often military-age, often Muslim, and often members of the Kanuri ethnic minority — but women and children as young as 7 have also been held there.

“We’re not talking about real Boko Haram fighters, but about people arrested on suspicion of supporting Boko Haram, who are just ordinary people who were at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Allegrozzi, of Amnesty International. “[The Cameroonian security forces] often arrest people on the basis of little to no evidence. These civilians are then transferred to illegal detention facilities.”

The human rights group documented pervasive use of stress positions, suspension by ropes, and water torture in addition to sleep deprivation, extraction of fingernails, burning, and electric shocks. Former detainees, their families, lawyers and others also described beatings with chains, batons, machetes, and other objects.

“In Salak, I was permanently chained up. I was only given one meal per day, and I was tortured at least three times. The first two times, men in plain clothes beat me severely all over my body with electric cables,” one former detainee told Amnesty.

Amnesty estimates that dozens of prisoners died as a result of torture and other ill treatment in detention facilities run by the Cameroonian security forces between 2013 and 2017, but the number could be far higher. Former detainees at Salak described a routine process by which corpses of those who died in group cells after being tortured were wrapped in plastic by other detainees and transported off site by BIR troops.

Multiple detainees witnessed white men, sometimes identified specifically as Americans, exercising or working in an open-air “garage” immediately south of the detention cells.

“During my detention in Salak, I saw white men there on several occasions. Most of the time, I saw them from the windows of my cell. I saw them jogging in the early morning, from the back window of my cell. … I also saw them standing or talking from the front window of the cell — the window that faced the garage,” recalled one former prisoner.

Another detainee, held from February to July 2016, told Amnesty:

I saw white men in Salak many times and I heard them talking in English. I think they were Americans. Everyone said they were Americans and we knew American soldiers stocked material in Salak. I saw them running from the back window of my cell, especially in the morning, as well as standing in front of our cell, just where the garage was. Some were wearing plain clothes, others were in uniform. The uniform was like camouflage clothing, green and beige.

Further evidence of a persistent American presence on the base comes from public social media postings by a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, now employed by Boeing subsidiary Insitu, who began working at the base this spring. Forensic Architecture discovered photographs geotagged at Salak and shared on social media by the American veteran, who did not respond to The Intercept’s requests for comment. The images offer an unprecedented window into activities at the base and line up with previously reported details about U.S. operations in Cameroon.

For instance, photos uploaded in April show a “skyhook,” which is used to land ScanEagle drones by plucking them out of the sky, as well as signal relay equipment located near a shipping container that the veteran referred to in a photo caption as “The Office.”

Top: BIR soldiers in discussion with unidentified foreign personnel. The device in the background is the “skyhook” for a ScanEagle drone. Bottom: On top of containers referred to as “The Office,” there appears to be a communications array probably linked to the ScanEagle unmanned aerial system.

Photos: Facebook

In photographs posted to the veteran’s Facebook account in May, white men can be seen donning night vision goggles alongside members of the Centre Anti-Terroriste, a training program associated with BIR. (Publicly available contract information shows that in 2015 and 2016, the U.S. military purchased night vision goggles for Cameroonian forces.)

A video posted that same day by the veteran shows U.S. and Cameroonian forces playing a game of night vision soccer on a tree-lined square at the south side of the Salak base. At least one person can be heard speaking English with an American accent.

It’s impossible to know if all the white men on the base were Americans and which Americans were active duty military personnel. “What I can say is a small number of contractors and U.S. forces rotate in and out interminably based on mission,” AFRICOM’s Jennifer Dyrcz replied when asked if U.S. personnel were living on the Salak base.

Ilaria Allegrozzi of Amnesty International says there is no question that Americans serve there. “This was not challenged by the U.S.,” she says, referring to conversations with Ambassador Hoza and other U.S. officials regarding the U.S. troop presence at Salak. “Our evidence show that American personnel is present at Salak. They’re there.”

This map shows the conclusions drawn from Forensic Architecture’s spatial analysis of Salak. See the full investigation here. Source: Forensic Architecture, 2017


Spatial analysis by Forensic Architecture, utilizing satellite imagery, open-source material, and 3D modeling to geolocate the Air Force veteran’s photos, confirms the precise areas visited by Americans. Combined with interview material obtained by Amnesty International, the group’s work indicates Americans — and possibly French military personnel and Israeli contractors — have apparently unrestricted access to Camp Salak, and have regularly been present at, or very near, sites where detainees have been incarcerated or tortured.

Such abuses should come as no surprise to the U.S. government. The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor has long chronicled human rights violations in line with Amnesty International’s findings. In 2007, the State Department’s annual human rights report noted that “more than 100 persons were reportedly beaten after members of the Rapid Intervention Brigade arrested them in and around Maroua, in the Far North Province. The victims were detained for several days at Salack [sic], where many of them were stripped naked, blindfolded and beaten, then held in a cell with water on its floor.” In every State Department human rights report since 2010, BIR troops have been cited for assaults, killings, and other outrages against noncombatants. Last year’s report specifically cited previous investigations by Amnesty International into torture and deaths at Salak.

The United States has a long history of supporting and working with foreign forces accused of torture, and recent events suggest the practices continue. Just last month, the Associated Press reported that U.S. military interrogators were collaborating with forces from the United Arab Emirates who tortured detainees in Yemen. A video also recently surfaced that appears to show U.S.-allied troops in Syria torturing prisoners.

And from the Philippines to Vietnam to Iraq, Americans have engaged in such acts themselves. Following the 9/11 attacks, the United States began employing methods of torture — including water boarding and stress positions — under the euphemism “enhanced interrogation.” According to the new Amnesty International report, when researchers confronted a representative of Cameroon’s minister of defense with accounts of prisoners being bound, suspended by ropes, and beaten, he claimed the practice was “exploitation approfondie.” Translation: enhanced interrogation.

The post Cameroonian Troops Tortured and Killed Prisoners at Base Used for U.S. Drone Surveillance appeared first on The Intercept.

Jeff Sessions Wants to Make “Legalized Theft” Great Again

20 July 2017 - 10:51am

Donald Trump’s Justice Department revived a federal program on Wednesday that gives state and local law enforcement more power to seize property from people who haven’t been charged, let alone convicted, of a crime.

The practice — known as “civil asset forfeiture” — became widespread as part of the drug crackdown in the 1980s, after Congress passed a law in 1984 that allowed the Department of Justice to keep the property it seized. At the time, forfeiture was billed as a way to undermine the resources of large criminal enterprises, but law enforcement saw it as a way to underwrite their budgets, and have overwhelmingly gone after people without the means to challenge the seizures in court.

The practice has become so widespread that in 2014, law enforcement officers took more property from American citizens than all home and office burglaries combined.

Civil liberties organizations have called asset forfeiture “legalized theft,” and as the practice has become more widespread, it has become deeply unpopular. According to a poll last year by the Cato Institute, 84 percent of Americans oppose property seizures from people not convicted of a crime. Most states have passed laws restricting the practice, or banning it outright.

But Donald Trump has shown strong, personal support for civil forfeiture. At a meeting of sheriffs at the White House in February, after being told that a Texas state legislator was trying to reform the practice at a meeting of sheriffs in February, Trump said “We’ll destroy his career.”

It appeared that Trump was learning about the practice for the first time.

On Wednesday, the Justice Department reopened a specific loophole that allows state and local police to sidestep state laws through a practice known as adoptive forfeitures. The loophole allows state and local law enforcement to continue to pillage the property of citizens even in the face of local bans on the practice, as long as they refer the case to federal agencies after they seize property. They get to keep up to 80 percent of what they take, and can use it for their own budgets. The feds take a 20 percent cut of the loot.

That loophole had been a 30-year policy of the Department of Justice, until the Department under Obama banned it in 2015. In response to its reinstatement, the ACLU released a statement calling the move “part of Sessions’ agenda to bring back the failed and racist War on Drugs.” The move was even opposed by members of Trump’s own party. Republican Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said the practice violates the Fifth Amendment, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, released a statement saying “the DOJ seems determined to lose in court before it changes its policies for the better.”

The department also released guidelines that purport to limit the use of adoptive forfeitures. They require the Department of Justice to police itself and ensure that “adoptions involve property lawfully seized” — a measure that civil liberties advocates say is woefully inadequate.

“These purported safeguards amount to little more than self-policing, and we all know how well that works,” said Kanya Bennett, a lawyer for the ACLU that focuses on criminal justice issues. “We can’t trust the very law enforcement agencies that stand to profit from a forfeiture to police themselves.”

The guidelines list certain conditions that must be met to allow adoptive forfeitures for cash amounts less than $10,000. One of the conditions is that police are allowed to make adoptive forfeitures as long as it is alongside an arrest, something that Bennett says is deeply problematic, and may incentivize more arrests.

“At least one of these safeguards will promote more entanglement with the criminal justice system because it suggests all cash seizures under $10k are legitimate if they occur incident to arrest.”

“The real safeguard is the one that Attorney General Sessions is reversing — that would have prevented local law enforcement from circumventing more restrictive state forfeiture laws that are trying to protect against civil liberty violations.”

Top photo: U.S. marshals post a copy of a federal government complaint on the door of the Razi School in 2009 in New York. The school was among the assets seized by the federal government in a civil complaint in federal court seeking the forfeiture of more than $500 million in assets of the Alavi Foundation and an alleged front company.

The post Jeff Sessions Wants to Make “Legalized Theft” Great Again appeared first on The Intercept.

More Trump Populism: Hiring a Bank Lawyer to Attack CFPB Bank Rules

20 July 2017 - 8:00am

President Trump and Republicans in Congress have broadcast their every intention to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The president’s budget attempted to defund it and leading Republicans have called for its director to be fired and replaced with a more Wall Street-compliant regulator.

But much like the bulk of Trump’s agenda, that assault remains in the aspirational phase, and the agency continues to do its work. Earlier this month, the CFPB released a major new rule, flat-out barring financial institutions from using forced arbitration clauses in consumer contracts to stop class-action lawsuits.

Now, Trump has sent out his lead attack dog to overturn the arbitration rule – a former bank lawyer who has used the very tactic CFPB wants to prevent.

Class-action lawsuits are often the only way abusive behavior is checked. Take one of the more flagrant examples, relating to overdraft fees. Millions of Americans are painfully familiar with the little perforated postcard that kindly arrives in the mail, courtesy of your financial institution, informing you that you have overdrawn your bank account and have been assessed a fee. Or, sometimes, you get three of them in the mail.

In order to make sure you get three and not one, banks in the past would re-order your transactions. The case of Gutierrez v. Wells Fargo is instructive here: a federal class-action case in California, the suit charged the bank with debit card reordering, or altering the sequence of debit card withdrawals to maximize overdraft fees. So if a cardholder with $100 in their account made successive withdrawals of $20, $30, and $110 over the course of a day, instead of getting hit with one $35 overdraft fee, Wells Fargo would reorder the transactions from high to low, thus earning three fees.

The plaintiffs won a $203 million judgment in 2010. But in an appeal before the 9th Circuit in 2012, Wells’ lawyers argued that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2011, AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, gave Wells Fargo the right to compel arbitration and quash the case, even after the judgment was rendered.

The 9th Circuit ruled that Wells Fargo never requested or even mentioned arbitration for five years of litigating the case. Only after losing in court and getting a potential lifeline from the Supreme Court did the lawyers take the shot. “Ordering arbitration would… be inconsistent with the parties’ agreement, and contradict their conduct throughout the litigation,” the court ruled.

Wells Fargo eventually paid California customers, but only after six years of appeals. Yet the company is still trying to use arbitration to quash a similar class action on overdraft fees, which would affect consumers in the other 49 states. Over thirty banks have been sued for this conduct, and every one of them settled the case except Wells Fargo.

Banks have a lot riding on the CFPB rule. Luckily for Wells Fargo, a former senior attorney of theirs is now a top federal regulator. In fact, Keith Noreika worked on that class-action defense in Gutierrez v. Wells Fargo before becoming the acting chair of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

In May, President Trump hired Noreika to take over OCC, in an unusual arrangement where he would serve as a “special government employee,” retained to perform “temporary duties” for not more than 130 days, and exempt from most ethics rules or Senate confirmation.

His first high-profile move is to insert himself into the CFPB rulemaking process, the bureaucratic equivalent of laying down in the street in front of the bus.

Right before CFPB released its final arbitration rule, Noreika charged in a letter that the rule could create “safety and soundness concerns.” On Monday, Noreika asked CFPB to delay publishing the rule in the Federal Register until OCC could review it for safety and soundness concerns. Essentially, Noreika is saying that allowing consumers to band together to stop petty theft by banks threatens the ability of those banks to survive. CFPB already sent the rule to the Federal Register, and called Noreika’s request “plainly frivolous.”

Noreika threatened to use Section 1023 of Dodd-Frank, which allows the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), composed of the major bank regulators, to halt CFPB rules if they put the safety, soundness, or stability of the banking system at risk. The chair of the FSOC, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, could stay the rule for 90 days pending a vote of the ten-member Council. Seven votes would be needed to set aside the rule.

On Tuesday, Sherrod Brown, ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, wrote to Noreika about his objections. Brown noted that CFPB made its rule and the research behind it publicly available for two years, and collaborated with safety and soundness regulators throughout the rulemaking process. OCC never raised any objections in that time, even after Noreika was named acting chair. “The argument that consumer protections will jeopardize the soundness of banks is as specious today as it has been in the past,” Brown wrote.

Brown also cited a case study in CFPB’s 2015 arbitration report, which “deals with banks manipulating the order in which they process checking account transactions to charge their customers more overdraft fees.” CFPB found that consumers benefited from class actions in the overdraft case, while those barred saw little restitution.

“It is especially surprising that you are not familiar with these outcomes,” Brown wrote. “Previously, as an attorney in private practice, you represented Wells Fargo in just such a case, and attempted to quash a class action brought by consumers harmed in exactly the same way by invoking Wells Fargo’s forced arbitration clause.”

Noreika is in fact required to recuse himself from matters involving Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, and others, because he has previously represented all of them as a lawyer. Because the arbitration rule isn’t targeted at a specific bank, Noreika is getting around that restriction.

Using FSOC to nix the CFPB rule is a long shot, though it could delay its taking effect. In addition, Congress can overturn the rule by majority vote in both chambers through the Congressional Review Act, as it has done 14 times this year. They have 60 legislative days to take those votes. Senate Republicans are preparing the legislation, led by Banking Committee Chair Mike Crapo.

Top photo: Keith Noreika, acting Comptroller of the Currency, listens during a Senate Banking Committee hearing in Washington on June 22, 2017.

The post More Trump Populism: Hiring a Bank Lawyer to Attack CFPB Bank Rules appeared first on The Intercept.

Netanyahu Tells European Leaders Concern for Palestinian Rights Is “Crazy”

19 July 2017 - 3:07pm

The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, was caught on tape on Wednesday urging four European leaders to help him undermine a provision of a European Union trade agreement that imposes an obligation on Israel to respect the rights of the millions of Palestinians it rules in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In private remarks to the leaders of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia that were accidentally broadcast to members of the Israeli media outside the room, Netanyahu was overheard calling it “crazy” for the E.U. to insist that Israel honor Article 2 of an association agreement signed in 1995 which makes trade with the bloc conditional on Israel’s “respect for human rights and democratic principles.”

Recordings of the Israeli leader’s comments, made by correspondents for Haaretz and Israel’s Channel 2 News, were quickly posted online.

Listen to Netanyahu's hot-mic moment with Eastern Europe leaders blasting the EU

— (@haaretzcom) July 19, 2017

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— Elad Simchayoff (@Elad_Si) July 19, 2017

“The European Union is the only association of countries in the world that conditions the relations with Israel,” Netanyahu said, “on political conditions — the only one!”

“We have a special relationship with China, and they don’t care,” he added. “I mean, they don’t care about the political issues.”

“It’s absolutely — may I say — I think it’s crazy. I think it’s actually crazy,” Netanyahu said.

In recent years, Israel has destroyed hundreds of European-financed structures — including schools, playgrounds and solar panels — built to help Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Netanyahu and his ultranationalist supporters have harshly criticized European governments for providing financial support to Israeli rights groups, including Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem, which work to expose abuses by Israel’s military in the occupied territories.

The prime minister and members of his right-wing coalition government have also complained bitterly about an E.U. directive issued in 2015 to clarify that the label “Made in Israel” cannot be used for products from Israeli settlements built in the occupied territories, which are illegal according to both the Fourth Geneva Convention and the United Nations Charter.

After Netanyahu’s complaints were made public, the European Union’s delegation to Israel responded with a statement that it still expects his government to show “respect for international humanitarian law” and make progress towards a two-state solution.

1/2 #EU has deeper, broader relations with #Israel than with almost any 3rd country & we continue to advance them, economic and political

— EU in Israel (@EUinIsrael) July 19, 2017

2/2 Upgrading to next level must be based on our shared values, incl. respect for international humanitarian law, steps to 2-state solution

— EU in Israel (@EUinIsrael) July 19, 2017

Netanyahu’s appeal for help to the four premiers of former Soviet bloc nations — Viktor Orban of Hungary, Beata Szydlo of Poland, Bohuslav Sobotka of the Czech Republic, and Robert Fico of Slovakia — was also notable for his claim that Israel was a bulwark of “European” values in the Middle East.

“Don’t undermine that one European, Western country that defends European values and European interests and prevents another mass migration to Europe,” Netanyahu told the leaders, who have resisted the resettlement of refugees in their countries on the grounds that Muslim migrants could dilute their national character.

In his pitch, the Israeli prime minister seemed to barely sublimate an appeal to the anti-Muslim sentiment of European racists who constantly hype fears about their Judeo-Christian civilization being “overrun” by Muslim invaders.

“I think Europe has to decide if it wants to live and thrive or if it wants to shrivel and disappear,” Netanyahu said. “I am not very politically correct — I know that’s a shock to some of you. It’s a joke: but the truth is the truth.”

“We are part of the European culture,” Netanyahu added. “Europe ends in Israel. East of Israel, there is no more Europe.”

Netanyahu’s private description of Israel as part of Europe, and the recent increase in pressure on Israel from the E.U. calls to mind the analysis of the historian Tony Judt, in an interview published in The London Review of Books shortly after his death in 2010.

Asked by Kristina Boži?, “Is there anything Europe can do to exert pressure on Israel?” Judt’s reply is worth quoting at length:

Israel wants two things more than anything else in the world. The first is American aid. This it has. As long as it continues to get American aid without conditions it can do stupid things for a very long time, damaging Palestinians and damaging Israel without running any risk.

However, the second thing Israel wants is an economic relationship with Europe as a way to escape from the Middle East. The joke is that Jews spent a hundred years desperately trying to have a state in the Middle East. Now they spend all their time trying to get out of the Middle East. They don’t want to be there economically, culturally or politically – they don’t feel part of it and don’t want to be part of it. They want to be part of Europe and therefore it is here that the EU has enormous leverage. If the EU said: ‘So long as you break international laws, you can’t have the privileges of partial economic membership, you can’t have internal trading rights, you can’t be part of the EU market,’ this would be a huge issue in Israel, second only to losing American military aid. We don’t even have to talk about Gaza, just the Occupied Territories.

Why do Europeans not do it? Here, the problem of blackmail is significant. And it is not even active blackmail but self-blackmail. When I talk about these things in Holland or in Germany, people say to me: ‘We couldn’t do that. Don’t forget, we are in Europe. Think of what we did to the Jews. We can’t use economic leverage against Israel. We can’t be a critic of Israel, we can’t use our strength as a huge economic actor to pressure the Jewish state. Why? Because of Auschwitz.’ I understand this argument very well. Many of my family were killed in Auschwitz. However, this is ridiculous. Europe can’t live indefinitely on the credit of someone else’s crimes to justify a state that creates and commits its own crimes.

If Zionism is to succeed as a representation of the original ideas of the Zionist founders, Israel has to become a normal state. That was the idea. Israel should not be special because it is Jewish. Jews are to have a state just like everyone else has a state. It should have no more rights than Slovenia and no fewer. Therefore, it also has to behave like a state. It has to declare its frontiers, recognise international law, sign international treaties and agreements. Furthermore, other countries have to behave towards it the way they would towards any other state that broke those laws. Otherwise it is treated as special and Zionism as a project has failed.

People will say: ‘Why are we picking on Israel? What about Libya? Yemen? Burma? China? All of which are much worse.’ Fine. But we are missing two things: first, Israel describes itself as a democracy and so it should be compared with democracies not with dictatorships; second, if Burma came to the EU and said, ‘It would be a huge advantage for us if we could have privileged trading rights with you,’ Europe would say: ‘First you have to release political prisoners, hold elections, open up your borders.’ We have to say the same things to Israel. Otherwise we are acknowledging that a Jewish state is an unusual thing – a weird, different thing that is not to be treated like every other state. It is the European bad conscience that is part of the problem.

Top photo: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informs the press about his meeting with V4 – Visegrads countries prime ministers, a press conference in Budapest, Hungary, on July 19, 2017.

The post Netanyahu Tells European Leaders Concern for Palestinian Rights Is “Crazy” appeared first on The Intercept.

U.S. Lawmakers Seek to Criminally Outlaw Support for Boycott Campaign Against Israel

19 July 2017 - 12:30pm

The criminalization of political speech and activism against Israel has become one of the gravest threats to free speech in the west. In France, activists have been arrested and prosecuted for wearing t-shirts advocating a boycott of Israel. The U.K. has enacted a series of measures designed to outlaw such activism. In the U.S., governors compete with one another over who can implement the most extreme regulations to bar businesses from participating in any boycotts aimed even at Israeli settlements, which the world regards as illegal. On U.S. campuses, punishment of pro-Palestinian students for expressing criticisms of Israel is so commonplace that the Center for Constitutional Rights refers to it as “the Palestine Exception” to free speech.

But now, a group of 45 Senators – 30 Republicans and 15 Democrats – want to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine. The two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Rob Portman of Ohio. Perhaps the most shocking aspect is the punishment: anyone guilty of violating its prohibitions will face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000, and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.

The proposed measure, called the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720), was introduced by Cardin on March 23. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that the bill “was drafted with the assistance of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee [AIPAC].” Indeed, AIPAC, in its 2017 Lobbying Agenda, identified passage of this bill as one of its top lobbying priorities for the year:

The bill’s co-sponsors include the senior Democrat in Washington, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, his New York colleague Kirsten Gillibrand, and several of the Senate’s more liberal members, such as Ron Wyden of Oregon, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Maria Cantwell of Washington. Illustrating the bipartisanship that AIPAC typically summons, it also includes several of the most right-wing Senators such as Ted Cruz of Texas, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Marco Rubio of Florida.

A similar measure was introduced in the House on the same date by two Republicans and one Democrat. It already has amassed 234 co-sponsors: 63 Democrats and 174 Republicans. As in the Senate, AIPAC has assembled an impressive ideological diversity among supporters, predictably including many of the most right-wing House members –  Jason Chaffetz, “Dutch” Ruppersberger, Liz Cheney, Peter King – along with the second-ranking Democrat in the House, Steny Hoyer.

Among the co-sponsors of the bill are several of the politicians who have become political celebrities by positioning themselves as media leaders of the anti-Trump #Resistance, including three California House members who have become heroes to Democrats and staples of the cable news circuit: Ted Lieu, Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell. These politicians, who have built a wide public following by posturing as opponents of authoritarianism, are sponsoring one of the most oppressive and authoritarian bills that has pended before Congress in quite some time.


Last night, the ACLU posted a letter it sent to all members of the Senate urging them to oppose this bill. Warning that “proponents of the bill are seeking additional co-sponsors,” the civil liberties group explained that “it would punish individuals for no reason other than their political beliefs.” The letter detailed what makes this bill so particularly threatening to basic civic freedoms:

It is no small thing for the ACLU to insert itself into this controversy. One of the most traumatic events in the organization’s history was when it lost large numbers of donors and supporters in the late 1970s after they defended the free speech rights of neo-Nazis to march through Skokie, Illinois, a town with a large community of Holocaust survivors.

Even the bravest of organizations often steadfastly avoid any controversies relating to Israel. Yet here, while appropriately pointing out that the ACLU “takes no position for or against the effort to boycott Israel or any foreign country,” they categorically denounce this AIPAC-sponsored proposal for what it is: a bill that “seeks only to punish the exercise of constitutional rights.”

The ACLU has similarly opposed bipartisan efforts at the state level to punish businesses who participate in the boycott, pointing out that “boycotts to achieve political goals are a form of expression that the Supreme Court has ruled are protected by the First Amendment’s protections of freedom of speech, assembly, and petition,” and that such bills “place unconstitutional conditions on the exercise of constitutional rights.” The bill now co-sponsored in the Congress by more than half of the House and close to half of the Senate is far more extreme than those.


Thus far, not a single member of Congress has joined the ACLU in denouncing this bill. The Intercept this morning sent inquiries to numerous non-committed members of the Senate and House who have yet to speak on this bill. We also sent inquiries to several co-sponsors of the bill – such as Congressman Lieu – who have positioned themselves as civil liberties champions and opponents of authoritarianism, asking:

Congressman Lieu: Last night, the ACLU vehemently denounced a bill that you are cosponsoring – to criminalize support for a boycott of Israel – as a grave attack on free speech. Do you have any comment on the ACLU’s denunciation? You’ve been an outspoken champion for civil liberties; how can you reconcile that record with an effort to make it a felony for Americans to engage in activism that protests a foreign government’s actions? We’re writing about this today; any statement would be appreciated.

This morning, Lieu responded: “Thank you for sharing the letter. The bill has been around since March and this is the first time I have seen this issue raised. We will look into it” (the Intercept will post any response from Rep. Lieu, or any late responses from others, as soon as they are received).

Senator Cantwell told The Intercept she is “a strong supporter of free speech rights” and will be reviewing the bill for First Amendment concerns in light of the ACLU statement.

Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, when asked by the Intercept about the ACLU’s warning that the bill he is co-sponsoring criminalizes free speech, affirmed his support for the bill by responding: “I continue to support a strong U.S./Israel relationship.”

Meanwhile, some co-sponsors seemed not to have any idea what they co-sponsored – almost as though they reflexively sign whatever comes from AIPAC without having any idea what’s in it. Democratic Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, for instance, seemed genuinely bewildered when told of the ACLU’s letter, saying “what’s the Act? You’ll have to get back to me on that.”:

And there is this similar exchange with another co-sponsor, one of AIPAC’s most reliable allies, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who said: “I’d want to read it . . . . I’d really have to look at it.”

Perhaps most stunning is our interview with the primary sponsor of the bill, Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin, who seemed to have no idea what was in his bill, particularly insisting that it contains no criminal penalties. Cardin either has no idea how draconian his own bill is, or is purposely feigning ignorance. Either way, there is no question that, as the ACLU put it, “violations would be subject to a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty o f $ 1 million and 20 years in prison.”

That’s because, as Josh Ruebner expertly detailed when the bill was first unveiled, “the bill seeks to amend two laws – the Export Administration Act of 1979 and the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945,” and “the potential penalties for violating this bill are steep: a minimum $250,000 civil penalty and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years imprisonment, as stipulated in the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.”

The bill is designed to extend the current prohibition on participating in boycotts sponsored by foreign governments to cover boycotts from international organizations such as the U.N .For that reason, Ruebner explains, the bill – by design – would outlaw “campaigns by the Palestine solidarity movement to pressure corporations to cut ties to Israel or even with Israeli settlements.”


This pernicious bill highlights many vital yet typically ignored dynamics in Washington. First, journalists love to lament the lack of bipartisanship in Washington, yet the very mention of the word “Israel” causes most members of both parties to quickly snap into line in a show of unanimity that would make the regime of North Korea blush with envy. Even when virtually the entire world condemns Israeli aggression, or declares settlements illegal, the U.S. Congress – across party and ideological lines – finds virtually complete harmony in uniting against the world consensus and in defense of the Israeli government.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md.

Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

Second, the free speech debate in the U.S. is incredibly selective and warped. Pundits and political officials love to crusade as free speech champions – when doing so involves defending mainstream ideas or attacking marginalized, powerless groups such as minority college students. But when it comes to one of the most systemic, powerful, and dangerous assaults on free speech in the U.S. and the west generally – the growing attempt to literally criminalize speech and activism aimed at the Israeli Government’s occupation – these free speech warriors typically fall silent.

Third, AIPAC continues to be one of the most powerful, and pernicious, lobbying forces in the country. In what conceivable sense is it of benefit of Americans to turn them into felons for the crime of engaging in political activism in protest of a foreign nation’s government? And this is hardly the first time they have attempted to do this through their most devoted Congressional loyalists; Cardin, for instance, had previously succeeded in inserting into trade bills provisions that would disfavor anyone who supports a boycott of Israel.

Finally, it is hard to put into words the irony of watching many of the most celebrated and beloved Congressional leaders of the anti-authoritarian Resistance – Gillibrand, Schiff, Swalwell and Lieu – sponsor one of the most oppressive and authoritarian bills to appear in Congress in many years. How can one credibly inveigh against “authoritarianism” while sponsoring a bill that dictates to American citizens what political views they are and are not allowed to espouse under threat of criminal prosecution? Whatever labels one might want to apply to the sponsors of this bill, “anti-authoritarianism” should be not be among them.


Top photo: Demonstrators protest outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office in New York Cit on June 9, 2016.

The post U.S. Lawmakers Seek to Criminally Outlaw Support for Boycott Campaign Against Israel appeared first on The Intercept.

Lula e as elites

19 July 2017 - 11:45am

Na cobertura da condenação criminal de Lula por Sergio Moro no caso do tríplex, várias vozes críticas da imprensa acabaram por proferir outras “sentenças” contra o ex-presidente.

A “acusação”, nestes casos, é de que Lula desenvolveu excessiva proximidade com as elites, “crime” (no sentido político) que, se nem sempre autoriza o justiçamento jurídico que caracterizou a sentença de Moro, ajuda a explicar o revés que se abateu sobre o ex-presidente e, talvez o mais importante, lança dúvidas sobre a sua capacidade de representar interesses progressistas nas eleições de 2018.

Em comentário ao programa Democracy Now!, o editor e co-fundador do The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald, questionou “qual a real ameaça de Lula aos oligarcas?”, ponderando que ele (Lula) “formou alianças com plutocratas e empresários do ramo do petróleo e construção civil”, “ganhou dinheiro fazendo negócios com figuras poderosas” e “não é o Lula de 1986, um sindicalista agitador e socialista ferrenho, ele se integrou à estrutura de poder”.

Em artigo para a The New Yorker, o jornalista e escritor Alex Cuadros registrou que, quando esteve no poder, Lula “decidiu não bater de frente com o sistema. Para viabilizar sua agenda progressista, ele decidiu trabalhar com o sistema, fazendo alianças com políticos da velha guarda que, mesmo tendo sido apoiadores da ditadura e do mercado, sempre colocaram a patronagem acima da ideologia”.

Na Folha de São Paulo, o filósofo Vladimir Safatle tratou da sentença de moro como “mais um resultado desta política conciliatória –a adaptação ao modelo de corrupção funcional do sistema brasileiro e, consequentemente, a fragilização completa de figuras um dia associadas, por setores majoritários da população, a alguma forma de esperança de modernização social”.

Essas preocupações são pertinentes e legítimas, mas perdem de vista importantes elementos do passado, do presente, e até mesmo do futuro da vida política de Lula, um político cuja história se confunde com a história do próprio Brasil pós-redemocratização.

A aproximação de Lula com as elites foi uma exigência da democracia no Brasil

Em primeiro lugar, a aproximação de Lula com as elites foi uma exigência da democracia no Brasil. Lula não é o “sindicalista agitador e socialista ferrenho” porque o eleitorado brasileiro lhe sinalizou, por mais de uma vez, que aquela persona jamais chegaria à presidência.

Depois da derrota em primeiro turno nas eleições de 1998, Lula aprendeu essa lição e se apresentou, em 2002, como candidato da conciliação, que não faria transformações drásticas na estrutura social e econômica do Brasil, mas que apenas ampliaria o espaço material e simbólico da população mais pobre. Na definição simples de Emilio Odebretch, “a coisa que ele mais quer é ver a população carente, sem prejuízo, essa é que é a visão mais correta dele, não é tirar de um para dar ao outro, não, [mas] como pode, aquele que pode, ajudar o outro a crescer”.

Com mote (“que todo brasileiro possa fazer três refeições por dia”) e slogan (“Brasil, um país de todos”) condizentes com o papel de “Lulinha paz e amor”, Lula não apenas foi reeleito em 2006, quando o PT já estava seriamente abalado por denúncias de corrupção, como também fez de Dilma Rousseff sua sucessora, em 2010.

Lula da Silva, entre o presidente da Fiesp, Paulo Skaf, e a ex-primeira-dama Marisa Letícia, morta neste ano, em exposição de fotos de Ricardo Stuckert, seu ex-fotógrafo oficial, na Fiesp em julho de 2011.

Por outro lado, foi a pouca disposição de Dilma para compor (no Executivo, adotando perfil tecnocrático nos Ministérios; no Congresso, reduzindo o espaço do PMDB, e na economia, dobrando a aposta na busca por uma “nova matriz econômica”) que ensejou reação crescente das elites, culminando com a não aceitação dos resultados eleitorais em 2014 e com o golpe de 2016.

Contra isso, não bastou Dilma ter tentado trazer Lula para o governo em uma época na qual ele sequer havia sido denunciado criminalmente. Conversas foram veiculadas ilegal e repetidamente nos jornais, Dallagnol fez comício, Celso de Mello lançou brados de indignação, as camisas da CBF ocuparam as ruas, e uma incomum liminar de Gilmar Mendes lançou Dilma (e Lula) no fogo do impeachment, admitido no Congresso “por Deus”, “pela família” e até mesmo pela memória de ex-torturadores. Reações que não se repetiram depois, quando acusados e denunciados por crimes bem mais graves passaram a ocupar cadeiras dos Ministérios e do próprio Planalto.

o elemento mais problemático do atual quadro brasileiro não parece estar na ligação contingente de Lula com as elites

Que as elites tenham prosperado com Lula e rejeitado Dilma não quer dizer que, em algum momento, tenham aceitado Lula e o reconhecido como um dos seus. Para Leo Pinheiro, Lula era o “Brahma”. Para Emilio Odebretch, que assim teria aprendido de Golbery, Lula era o “bon vivant”, que “gosta de uma cachacinha”. Para a força tarefa, já disseram jornalistas com acesso privilegiado a informações da Lava Jato, era o “nine”[nove, em inglês, em referência ao fato de o ex-presidente ter perdido um dedo quando torneiro mecânico]. Para o juiz de Brasília que primeiro interrogou o ex-presidente, era o “Seu Luís Inácio”.

Das galhofas com os caracteres físicos ao tratamento que dispensam no trato cotidiano do ex-presidente, sobram evidências de que, para tais segmentos e seus afiliados das classes médias e médias altas, Lula deve ser proscrito da vida política nacional. Aspiração para a qual uma condenação sem provas cabais por corrupção e lavagem de dinheiro, que em democracias liberais avançadas deveria ser motivo de vergonha e questionamento, vira motivo de celebração.

Diante disso, o elemento mais problemático do atual quadro brasileiro não parece estar na ligação contingente de Lula com as elites. Lula já se reinventou uma vez e poderia se reinventar novamente. As elites é que, ao contrário de outros tempos, não parecem mais dispostas a participar de qualquer estratégia de composição. E isso, como ocorreu outras vezes na história, tende a ser obstáculo não apenas para a política progressista, mas para a própria política democrática.

Foto em destaque: Os patinhos da Fiesp (Federação das Indústrias de São Paulo) em frente ao Congresso Nacional em outubro de 2015. Foto: Pedro Ladeira/Folhapress

The post Lula e as elites appeared first on The Intercept.

Trumpcare Is Dead. “Single Payer Is the Only Real Answer,” Says Medicare Architect.

19 July 2017 - 11:00am

Thanks to a pair of defections from more GOP senators late yesterday, the Republican plan to repeal and replace or simply repeal the Affordable Care Act is dead — for now.

But the health care status quo is far from popular, with 57 percent of Americans telling Gallup pollsters in March that they “personally worry” a “great deal” about health care costs.

Many health care activists are now pushing to adopt what is called a “single payer” health care system, where one public health insurance program would cover everyone. The U.S. currently has one federal program like that: Medicare. Expanding it polls very well.

One of the activists pushing for such an expansion is Max Fine, someone who is intimately familiar with the program — because he helped create it. Fine is the last surviving member of President Kennedy’s Medicare Task Force, and he was also President Johnson’s designated debunker against the health insurance industry.

Fine, now 91, wrote to The Intercept recently to explain that Medicare was never intended to cover only the elderly population, and that expanding it to everyone was a goal that its architects long campaigned for.

“Three years after the enactment of Medicare, in Dec. 1968, a Committee of 100 leading Americans was formed to campaign for single payer National Heath Insurance.  The campaign leaders were UAW pres. Walter Reuther, Dr. Michael DeBakey, Nat. Urban League Pres Whitney Young and Mary Lasker, a leader in the formation and funding of NIH,” he wrote.”The NY Times and other newspapers gave front page play to the announcement of the campaign for ‘Medicare for All’ but the Committee gained even more attention when, shortly before xmas, pres-elect Nixon, emerging from his doctor’s office in San Diego, denounced us as socialists who were trying to create a problem when none existed.”

Fine noted that this movement towards single payer has “risen and fallen over the years,” reaching a high point in the early 70s when former Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy’s bill covering all Americans with government health insurance had 36 co-sponsors.

But the Democratic Party decided to go a different direction, turning instead to private insurance to cover Americans. Fine said he met with former First Lady Hillary Clinton’s health care task force in the early 1990’s, and advised them to incrementally expand Medicare, starting first with children and then lowering the age for the elderly.

“They had the money but not the interest in the idea,” he lamented, “instead spending a year developing a complex bill that was DOA on [Capitol] Hill.”

Shortly after Trump won the nomination to be the Republican Party’s presidential contender, Fine wrote to his campaign to offer him a plan to expand Medicare. “Start with Medicare for children and all military vets (half are already under Medicare because they are over 65), then 60-65, etc. etc,” Fine said he advised. “An important conservative result: the VA hospital system would became available to all, for services and for badly-need additional training hospitals for young doctors.”

After the death of the Senate healthcare bill yesterday, The Intercept reached out to Fine for comment about where Congress should go next. “Single payer is the only real answer and some day I believe the Republicans will leap ahead of the Democrats and lead in its enactment,” he speculated, “just as did Bismarck in Germany and David Lloyd George and Churchill in the UK.”

Otto Von Bismarck, a conservative German leader known as one of the fathers of the welfare state — the Social Security Administration even maintains a webpage honoring him for establishing the first public retirement program in the world — helped establish the foundations of the modern German health insurance system in 1883.

David Lloyd George was a member of the British Liberal Party (the successors to the Whigs, not to be confused with the Labour Party) who was inspired by Von Bismarck’s work in Germany. He spearheaded the passage of the National Insurance Act of 1911, which created a system of health insurance to cover industrial workers.

And although Winston Churchill was not the driving force behind the establishment of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, he both supported it in theory and later prevented his fellow Tories from strangling it during his 1951 to 1955 tenure as prime minister.

All three are examples of conservative politicians coming to terms with popular demands for the government to act to prevent their citizens from being financially destroyed by sickness and injury. It remains to be seen whether the GOP will learn the same lesson.

Top photo: President John F. Kennedy gestures during his speech before a rally on medical care for the aged at New York’s Madison Square Garden on May 20, 1962.

The post Trumpcare Is Dead. “Single Payer Is the Only Real Answer,” Says Medicare Architect. appeared first on The Intercept.

Revenge Attacks on Families of ISIS Members Could Start a New Cycle of Violence in Iraq

19 July 2017 - 7:14am

On the streets of Mosul, jubilant celebrations of the long-awaited victory against the Islamic State in Iraq haven’t stopped for days. Civilians blast music from their cars and dance in the street, and Iraqi soldiers drive through the city in the humvees they once fought from, waving the Iraqi flag. Young couples snap selfies and picnic on the banks of the Tigris River at sunset, celebrating the gradual return to normal life after the Islamic State’s brutally oppressive three-year reign.

In a village 30 kilometers south of Mosul, the liberation has a darker side. Um Ali, a 50-year-old widow with kind but tired eyes, can’t get to sleep at night.

“There have been grenade attacks,” she said, sitting on the floor of her sparsely decorated sitting room. Two bouquets of plastic flowers adorn a TV stand. A copy of the Koran sits in a window, framed by shattered glass.

“It’s gotten to the point that I can’t leave my house,” she continued, looking out the front door of her home towards the locked wrought iron gate. “I know people want to hurt me — and I feel guilty.”

Um Ali’s late husband was an ISIS supporter. Over the past few weeks, attacks against so-called “ISIS families” have increased significantly across areas that the extremist group once controlled, including her village. Local vigilantes — many of them determined to avenge the death of a family member killed by ISIS — throw rocks, grenades and improvised explosive devices at the homes of wives or siblings of known and suspected ISIS members. Last month, a group of vigilantes captured 15 suspected ISIS members and beat them to death, leaving their corpses on the side of the road to Mosul to rot in the desert sun.

“ISIS killed people,” Um Ali said. “We are an ISIS family — and now people will treat us the same way that we treated them.” (The Intercept is identifying Um Ali by a pseudonym to protect her identity.)

Three years ago, insurgent fighters from the Islamic State stormed Um Ali’s village, telling local men that if they didn’t join the cause they were cowards who would suffer the consequences. Her husband — a policeman, who Um Ali said was never particularly good at thinking for himself — was easily persuaded to join the growing insurgency.

“The ISIS fighters said if you don’t join ISIS, you’re afraid. You’re not a good man,” she recalled. “ Besides the pressure from the militants, her husband’s position as a policeman meant that if he didn’t acquiesce to the Islamic State when they first arrived, he would have become one of the first of their targets.

For the next two and a half years, Um Ali’s husband worked as a judge in the local tribal court, settling disputes between family members and neighbors. Their three sons also joined the Islamic State’s insurgency. They were teenagers, excited to be a part of a movement and easily susceptible to extremist ideology.

“I never really accepted their work with ISIS, but we were also afraid. We knew if we didn’t work with ISIS, that we could have a lot of problems,” Um Ali said. Families who refused to join or associate with ISIS came under special scrutiny and harassment, and were often arrested for offenses as small as being caught with a packet of cigarettes or for refusing to adhere to a strict Islamic dress code for both men and women.

In November of last year, Iraqi Security Forces advanced on their village, one of the first battles of a brutal offensive to demolish the Islamic State’s presence in Iraq once and for all. Um Ali’s husband fled deeper into ISIS-controlled territory, and was later killed in an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition. Her sons followed their father into the quickly shrinking Caliphate only to later detonate themselves as suicide bombers on the front lines of the battle.

Now, Um Ali and her two youngest daughters live alone in the house they once shared as a family, bearing the consequences of their husband, father, and brothers’ actions.

“My worst fear is that I will be evicted,” she said, looking at her youngest daughter, who is only 10 years old. “I’m not afraid of death, personally. But I am afraid that if I do die, and we are in an unfamiliar place, there will be no one to take care of my girls.”

Along with revenge attacks, forced evictions are increasing as well. Earlier this month, a group of ISIS victims’ families in the nearby village of Qayyarah compiled a list of names, and, with the backing of local tribal leaders, went door-to-door to the people on the list, demanding that they sign next to their names promising that they would leave, or face consequences. Iraqi Security Forces are also forcing the families of alleged ISIS members into “rehabilitation camps.” Hundreds of families, mostly women and children, are being held in the high-security, prison-like camps, forbidden from freely moving in and out until they are cleared of any ties to the extremist group.

This isn’t the first time that Iraq has seen retaliatory violence and collective punishment. When the country erupted into sectarian violence after the U.S. invasion in 2003, Shia militia death squads routinely abducted and brutally murdered Sunni men, who they saw as members of the Sunni insurgency threatening the power Shias had gained after the fall of Saddam Hussein, or as Al Qaeda. Since many of the militia members who carried out these killings were also in the security forces at the time, families of the murdered rarely saw justice for their loved ones.

These extrajudicial killings, coupled with the mass arrest and imprisonment of suspected Al Qaeda affiliates in notorious prisons like Abu Ghraib and Tajji, and later, the arrest and detention of some of the prisoners’ families, contributed to the marginalization of Iraqi Sunnis, a major factor in the rise of the Islamic State.

Belkis Wille, senior Iraq researcher with Human Rights Watch, told The Intercept that the current wave of retaliation could restart the cycle of violence. “Of course, there’s a human rights issue — which is the violations that are happening against these families,” she said. “But from a national security standpoint, it is extremely unstrategic as well. They are rounding up families, and putting them into poorly-serviced camps with no schools, and tons of children. It’s the perfect breeding ground for extremism.”

While Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has given lip service to the importance of reconciliation in the wake of ISIS, the central government has remained silent on the issue of revenge attacks and the punishment of ISIS families. In neighborhoods like Um Ali’s, enforcing the rule of law is left to local tribal leaders and policemen — many of whom have deep-seated grudges of their own.

“I am affected — and there are a lot of people who are affected like me,” said Col. Yassin Ahmed Abbas, a senior police officer in Hammam al-Alil, a small town south of Mosul. In 2014, his brother was abducted by Islamic State militants. He hasn’t heard from him since.

“Don’t believe that anyone who lost a family member will forget this,” he continued. Abbas estimates that approximately 400 people were killed by ISIS in Hammam al-Alil alone, during the group’s two-and-a-half-year reign in the village and the brutal battle that eventually ousted them. While he neither confirmed nor denied taking part in any attacks himself, he repeatedly referred to people who were harmed by ISIS but don’t take action as “cowards.”

With so many in his district haunted by ISIS’s violence, right now Abbas is focused on arresting suspected ISIS members and cracking down on remaining sleeper cells in the area. He believes that revenge attacks against the suspects’ families are inevitable.

“I know our situation will stay like this. I know that no matter what we do, we will keep fighting, and killing each other,” he said, sitting back in his office chair. One of his subordinates brought in an ISIS suspect, his hands tightly bound in front of him, and his arms covered in bruises.

“I cannot stop a father who lost his son from taking his revenge,” he said.

The post Revenge Attacks on Families of ISIS Members Could Start a New Cycle of Violence in Iraq appeared first on The Intercept.

Intercepted Podcast: Veni, Vidi, Tweeti

19 July 2017 - 6:01am

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Donald Trump enjoyed playing fireman and asking where the fire is. Hint: all around you, Mr. President. This week on Intercepted: Falling, falling is Babylon the great! Just the greatest. The best. Tremendous. The famed rebel academic, Alfred McCoy, whose book on narcotrafficking the CIA tried to stop from being published, lays out his meticulously argued theory that the U.S. empire will fall by the year 2030. The Washington Post’s media columnist, Margaret Sullivan, explains why she is not yet convinced that Trump colluded with Russia and talks about Trump ratcheting up the war on whistleblowers and the existence of a free press. Jeremy weighs in on the mounting civilian death toll from U.S.-led strikes in Iraq and Syria. Under Trump, that toll has skyrocketed to 360 civilians killed per month.


Transcript coming soon. 

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Reportagem de “O Globo” em sentença: nova polêmica entre Moro e defesa de Lula

18 July 2017 - 8:07pm

O despacho publicado nesta terça (18) pelo juiz federal Sérgio Moro, que rejeitou os questionamentos da defesa de Lula em relação à sentença de 9 anos e 6 meses de prisão do ex-presidente por corrupção passiva e lavagem de dinheiro, expôs uma polêmica que envolve imprensa e judiciário: é legítima a utilização de reportagens ou mesmo editoriais nas decisões de magistrados?

No caso de Lula, os advogados colocaram sob suspeita o uso por Moro de um texto publicado no dia 10 de março de 2010, no jornal O Globo, que apontava o ex-presidente como o dono de uma cobertura no Guarujá, no prédio que passara da Cooperativa Habitacional dos Bancários de São Paulo (Bancoop) para a construtora OAS. A discussão em torno de o tríplex ter sido ou não de Lula e ter sido reformado ou não pela empreiteira a pedido de sua família são pontos chave do processo, que deve ser analisado em segunda instância nos próximos meses.

A reportagem de “O Globo” falava sobre o futuro incerto, à época, para os cooperados que adquiriram cotas do imóvel, já que a obra estava parada e já apresentava problemas. O texto dizia: “é nele (prédio do Guarujá) que a família Lula da Silva deverá ocupar a cobertura triplex, com vista para o mar”.

“Dar valor probatório a tal matéria seria ‘temerário’ e ainda seria contraditório ao exposto pelo juiz”

Para a defesa do ex-presidente, “dar valor probatório a tal matéria seria ‘temerário’ e ainda seria contraditório ao exposto pelo juiz no item 136 (da sentença) de que julgaria o caso segundo leis e provas e não segundo o ‘posicionamento da imprensa a respeito do caso'”.

Moro rebateu, dizendo que a reportagem faz parte de “vários elementos probatórios, que tornam inconsistente o álibi da defesa de que qualquer discussão sobre o apartamento triplex só teria surgido em dezembro de 2013″. O magistrado ainda disse que “a matéria citada não é opinativa, mas somente informa, sem qualquer acusação ou intenção de acusar, que, já em 10/03/2010, se tinha conhecimento da relação do ex-presidente com o apartamento triplex, o que a defesa também não consegue explicar”.

Na semana passada, após a divulgação da sentença de Moro, “O Globo” publicou uma nova reportagem somente para relembrar a referência feita pelo juiz a textos publicados no jornal. A autora da reportagem de 10 de março, porém, já foi desligada da empresa, durante um dos cortes de jornalistas promovidos nos últimos anos.

A citação de “O Globo” não é um fato isolado em casos recentes de grande repercussão no país. Num contexto diferente, o ministro do Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF) Marco Aurélio Mello citou um editorial do jornal “O Estado de São Paulo”, na decisão de 30 de junho que liberou o senador Áecio Neves para retomar suas atividades, depois de ter sido afastado, após as acusações de recebimento de propina do grupo JBS.

Sejam quais forem as denúncias contra o senador mineiro, não cabe ao STF, por seu plenário e, muito menos, por ordem monocrática, afastar um parlamentar do exercício do mandato.

“É mais que hora de a Suprema Corte restabelecer o respeito à Constituição, preservando as garantias do mandato parlamentar. Sejam quais forem as denúncias contra o senador mineiro, não cabe ao STF, por seu plenário e, muito menos, por ordem monocrática, afastar um parlamentar do exercício do mandato. Trata-se de perigosíssima criação jurisprudencial, que afeta de forma significativa o equilíbrio e a independência dos Três Poderes. Mandato parlamentar é coisa séria e não se mexe, impunemente, em suas prerrogativas”, diz o trecho do editorial intitulado “Em nome da lei, o arbítrio”, publicado pelo jornal em 15 de junho.

Defesa de Temer citou “Estadão” e “Folha”

O “Estadão” também apareceu nas páginas da defesa do presidente Michel Temer entregue no início do mês na Comissão de Constituição e Justiça (CCJ) da Câmara. A CCJ derrubou o parecer do deputado Sérgio Zveiter que pedia o prosseguimento da processo contra Temer por corrupção passiva. O tema será novamente discutido em plenário no início de agosto.

“O apoio de todos ao saneamento ético da Nação, não representa a adesão a ilegalidades, pois estas não podem ser combatidas com outras ilegalidades”, disse o trecho citado pelos advogados, como parte dos argumentos usados para criticar a utilização do instrumento da delação premiada.

No mesmo documento, a defesa do presidente citou reportagem da “Folha de São Paulo”, que encomendou laudo de um perito que diz que o áudio gravado pelo dono da JBS Joesley Batista tinha mais de 50 edições. “É como um documento impresso que tem uma rasura ou uma parte adulterada. O conjunto pode até fazer sentido, mas ele facilmente seria rejeitado como prova”, diz o trecho da matéria citado na defesa de Temer.

O autor do laudo utilizado pela “Folha”, Rodrigo Caires, acabou sendo alvo de uma reportagem do concorrente “O Globo”, afirmando que o profissional teria usado um equipamento amador para realizar o estudo. No fim de junho, um relatório da Polícia Federal constatou que o áudio gravado por Joesley não tinha edições.     

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Mitch McConnell Has Run Out of Excuses for Not Accomplishing Anything

18 July 2017 - 5:49pm

Mitch McConnell became leader of Senate Republicans at the precise moment it stopped mattering. It was January 3, 2007, and Democrats had just swept both the House and Senate in a wave election that was a thorough rejection of the GOP in Washington.

Even though the Bush administration had two years left, McConnell would be doing no governing from the minority during that time. Next came the election of Barack Obama, and McConnell’s now-famous decision to oppose anything his administration offered with as much solidarity as could be mustered. With only 40 members to keep in line, he kept his conference largely together — though one glaring exception was losing Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter, not just on the stimulus, but as a Republican altogether. In April 2009, Specter became a Democrat, giving the party 59 senators. When Al Franken was finally sworn in in July, following an endless recount, Democrats briefly held a filibuster-proof majority.

The question now is whether Specter was the exception that proved the rule of McConnell’s skill in leadership, or a forecast of things to come.

After three unsuccessful cycles, McConnell finally took back the upper chamber in 2014, but still did no governing, operating instead as an opposition party would in a parliamentary system. Just how ingrained that thinking was came through in a revealing comment from House Speaker Paul Ryan after his failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “Moving from an opposition party to a governing party comes with some growing pains,” said Ryan, whose party had controlled the House for six years by that point. “And, well, we’re feeling those growing pains today.”

After Ryan pulled the original House ACA repeal from the floor, McConnell had a spring in his step as he addressed reporters. “Sorry that didn’t work out,” he offered. He was, of course, anything but sorry. For a brief moment, he thought he had dodged his own bullet. After campaigning for six years on repealing Obamacare, the hope was that the failed House effort would be enough and the Senate could move on to the business of tax reform. But the House bill came back to life and the lower chamber passed the politically toxic potato across the Capitol to the Senate.

The House bill was never designed to become law, and it’s anything but clear that McConnell made a real effort to make it one. A decisive number of Republican senators from states that had expanded Medicaid, many of which are facing a cataclysmic opioid problem, were nervous about slashing the program. “Leadership made a strategic choice to side with conservatives on Medicaid from the outset, and that undermined just about any chance of them securing widespread support from key moderates,” said one Senate Republican aide, who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record.

To mollify the moderates, McConnell told them that the cuts would never actually happen, as Congress has a way of punting tough decisions like that in perpetuity. His comment was leaked, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., stunningly charged McConnell with a “breach of trust” for the suggestion.

This was the same Johnson that McConnell and the Koch brothers abandoned for dead in July 2016, presuming that he would lose his race to Russ Feingold. He was down by nine points at the time, but Johnson pulled off an upset, and now haunts McConnell.

On Monday night, two GOP senators, Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas, announced simultaneously they would block McConnell’s bill from coming up for a vote — McConnell’s snake of obstruction finally devouring its own tail.

McConnell on Monday night floated a new plan: The Senate would vote on repeal, with no replacement. On Tuesday, three moderate women in McConnell’s conference said they would block that vote, too. “I did not come to Washington to hurt people,” West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito said.

Three is enough to kill it. “We’re toast,” as Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) put it to reporters on Tuesday.

At a lunch meeting Tuesday, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus showed up, only to duck out and hide behind a trash can.

This photo, courtesy of @tedbarrettcnn: Reince Priebus ducking out of Senate lunch for a phone call, obscured by giant trash bin

— MJ Lee (@mj_lee) July 18, 2017

As the meeting dragged on, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., emerged and took the microphones that were waiting for McConnell, taunting his fellow Republicans with their past votes for repeal.

Sen. Pat Roberts, Moran’s colleague from Kansas, pretended to take a phone call from President Trump, who was busy calling for the filibuster to be abolished — apparently under the mistaken impression that he needed 60 votes, not 50, to pass repeal.

“Hello, Mr. President,” Roberts said into the phone as reporters laughed. “Well, the better approach is just to get the hell out of here,” he advised the pretend president.

A subdued McConnell emerged later. “My suspicion is there’ll be hearings about the crisis that we have and then we’ll have to see what the way forward is,” he said.

A reporter asked what he would tell the public about a wasted seven months and broken campaign promises. McConnell corrected him: it has been only six months. And we confirmed Neil Gorsuch.

“Well, we have a new Supreme Court justice. We have 14 repeals of regulation and we’re only six months into it — the last time I looked, Congress goes on for two years. We’ll be moving on to comprehensive tax reform and infrastructure,” he said. “There is much work left to be done for the American people and we’re ready to tackle it.”

McConnell also promised a vote in “the very near future” on the doomed attempt to repeal much of Obamacare with no replacement.

Top photo: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), arrives at the U.S. Capitol on July 18, 2017 in Washington.

The post Mitch McConnell Has Run Out of Excuses for Not Accomplishing Anything appeared first on The Intercept.

Surpresa de Secretário de Segurança do Rio com violência reflete falta de planejamento histórico

18 July 2017 - 3:14pm

“O estado não perdeu o controle”, disse o secretário de segurança do Rio, Roberto Sá, na manhã desta segunda (17) à Rádio CBN. Na noite de domingo, no “Fantástico“, afirmou que se soubesse que “essas tragédias se sucederiam com essa crueldade e frequência”, ele “estaria em casa”.

Policiais foram presos com drogas, por roubo, acusados de extorsão, sequestro e de roubo a banco, facções em guerra, corpos esquartejados encontrados nas ruas. Foram 21 chacinas entre março de 2016 e março de 2017. Ruas e túneis foram fechados até na Zona Sul da cidade – o que pode ser considerado como o rompimento de um limite porque, como disse o ex-secretário José Mariano Beltrame, em 2007, ‘um tiro em Copacabana é uma coisa. Na Favela da Coréia é outra‘.

Especialistas no tema e moradores vêm alertando há anos que o único plano estruturado de segurança do Estado – o projeto das Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora (UPPs) – é falho e insuficiente. Por que Roberto Sá insiste em dizer não sabia desse cenário? Todas as notícias linkadas até aqui, nesta matéria, são no mínimo de um ano antes de ele substituir Beltrame. Então, como você aceita um cargo sem conhecer a realidade da pasta que assume? E aqui vale lembrar que Roberto Sá foi o número 2 da segurança, o braço direito de Beltrame, por quase uma década.

Então, só posso crer que ele sabia e assistiu à prisão de Eike Batista e de Sérgio Cabral, pai e padrinho das UPPs respectivamente, por desvios e corrupção, por exemplo. Ele não só assistiu à retórica repetida de Beltrame, como as assimilou.

Depois da morte de Vanessa, uma criança de 10 anos, no Complexo do Lins, este mês, ficou tão óbvia a reciclagem de recurso que foi ele capa de jornal:

Capa do Jornal Extra, de 07 de julho

Foto: Reprodução do Facebook

Para Roberto Sá, a UPP foi “ousadia demais” e virou “preço caro” para o Rio. Mas na verdade, cara foi a falta de planejamento que eu questionei ainda em 2010: a falta de metodologia de um programa, a não revisão de estratégia, a importação de um programa para áreas com situações de violência extremamente peculiares que impediriam o sucesso do programa. Bem como o descarte e sucateamento da então UPP Social, que teria a função de levar serviços públicos a áreas “pacificadas”, mas foi relegada a uma autarquia sem nenhum poder político de barganha.

Em uma década, 35 crianças morreram vítimas de bala perdida no estado; só neste ano, foram cinco mortes. Durante todas elas Roberto Sá estava em cargo público na Secretaria de Segurança. Ele sabe que a situação é insustentável.

Sabe, mas mesmo assim coloca a culpa na crise econômica. Sabe que durante a gestão Beltrame – e dele próprio –, a Secretaria de Segurança teve orçamento recorde e ultrapassou Educação e Saúde. Foram 35 bilhões investidos de 2007 a junho de 2016. A falta de dinheiro pode piorar a situação hoje, mas não é responsável por ela.

A falta de segurança é uma estratégia para quem vive de vender soluções.

A crise no Rio é prioritariamente política, e foi instaurada pelo chefe de ambos os secretários e seus parceiros, cujos crimes passaram despercebidos. Por esse ângulo, as UPPs foram um sucesso: garantiram a reeleição de Cabral, a eleição de seu sucessor Pezão e muitos contratos e contatos. A falta de segurança é uma estratégia para quem vive de vender soluções. Estamos na estaca zero.

Mas, e agora? É bem difícil estruturar políticas sem dinheiro, quando viaturas não rodam por falta de combustível e servidores estão sem salário, mas isso é classificado como “mero aborrecimento“.

Moradores protestam após morte de Vanessa Santos, 10 anos, baleada na cabeça, dentro de casa no “pacificado” Complexo do Lins, no dia 06 de julho

Foto: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Então, o que funcionava antes que não funciona agora? Apesar de esse “funcionava” ser bem relativo, as coisas poderiam sim não ter piorado. Enquanto o Instituto de Segurança Pública – que não é independente do Governo do Estado – tinha suas estatísticas questionadas, o Rio de Janeiro perdia uma grande chance. Para além do marketing e do uso político, as UPPs poderiam ter sido um programa efetivo.

A história hoje seria outra se a contratação de profissionais fosse planejada; se o investimento em treinamento dos policiais fosse adequado, se as condições de trabalho nas unidades fossem adequadas, se os salários não fossem defasados e pagos em dia, etc. E isso só faria sentido se as ações do governo viessem casadas com uma reavaliação da política de drogas, pautada pela descriminalização e legalização das drogas selecionadamente ilícitas. E Beltrame sabia disso, tanto que passou quase dez anos falando em legalização e dificuldades do programa, embora suas ações se descolassem do discurso.

Os governos tentaram colar nas UPPs o rótulo de polícia comunitária, contrariando o que diziam moradores e policiais. O colapso da segurança pública no Rio se deu porque há um único programa para dar conta de situações de violência diversas, em áreas com dinâmicas criminais completamente diferentes umas das outras; porque a política de ocupação – e não integração – focada em áreas que em sua maioria compunham rotas turísticas foi conduzida por uma polícia altamente militarizada, nada comunitária; e porque o pouco que foi feito não foi seguido de outras políticas de Estado, como saneamento básico e educação.

Polícia a favela sempre teve. Houve Centro Integrado de Policiamento Comunitário (CIPOC) em 1983; Grupamento de Policiamento em Áreas Especiais (GPAE) nos anos 2000 e Destacamentos de Policiamento Ostensivo (DPO), posteriormente conhecidos como Postos de Policiamento Comunitário (PPC) depois. Era para ter ficado claro que o problema não é falta de polícia.

The post Surpresa de Secretário de Segurança do Rio com violência reflete falta de planejamento histórico appeared first on The Intercept.

Entrevista Exclusiva: Carmen Aristegui y su Hijo Hablan Sobre el Escándalo del Software Espía del Gobierno

18 July 2017 - 11:37am

Read in English.

Como el hijo de la periodista más famosa de México, Emilio Aristegui Flores está acostumbrado a que la gente enloquezca por un momento del tiempo de su madre.

Carmen Aristegui, la perspicaz investigadora y defensora de la libertad de prensa, constantemente llama la atención de sus colegas periodistas y de los ciudadanos en la calle, por igual. En un país gobernado por poderosas y corruptas personas, Aristegui, una mujer implacable con su micrófono, ha sido una inspiración – una irritante – para muchos. Para Emilio, de 18 años, es una dinámica con la que ha crecido y que, para él, tiene todo el sentido. Lo que le cuesta más trabajo entender es que su propio gobierno se esfuerce lo suficiente como para desplegar herramientas de espionaje multimillonarias diseñadas para derrocar a terroristas y otras amenazas de seguridad nacional, contra él, un niño adolescente. Y todo esto para llegar a su madre.

Desde hace dos años, los teléfonos de Carmen y Emilio Aristegui fueron vigilados por una sofisticada herramienta de hackeo llamada Pegasus, en un gran escándalo de vigilancia que acaba de ser revelado hace algunos meses. Los expertos forenses que investigan las herramientas en cuestión, dicen que la agresividad de la campaña en México es diferente a cualquier cosa que hayan visto. Y mientras que los objetivos vigilados incluyen a muchas figuras de los medios mexicanos, científicos del gobierno e investigadores internacionales de derechos humanos, cada uno de ellos, unido por desafíos que han expuesto públicamente a la administración del presidente mexicano Enrique Peña Nieto, parece que a nadie le ha ido peor que a Emilio y su madre.

Un estudio de sus teléfonos reveló que cada uno de ellos fue atacado decenas de veces con mensajes hechos a la medida para hacerlos clickear, incluso cuando Emilio, que tenía 16 años cuando los ataques comenzaron, estaba asistiendo a la escuela secundaria en los Estados Unidos.

En una entrevista con The Intercept, Aristegui calificó los ataques como “siniestros.” Al vigilar a su familia con herramientas diseñadas para combatir el terror y el crimen, Aristegui dijo a The Intercept que el gobierno mexicano está tratando a sus críticos como “enemigos de Estado.” Ella está exigiendo respuestas no sólo como periodista, sino también como madre.

“¿Para qué querían saber de mi hijo Emilio?” – preguntó Aristegui. “¿Para qué el gobierno de Enrique Peña Nieto quería conocer las amistades, las comunicaciones, las fotografías, qué hace, qué dice, en tiempo real? Porque eso es Pegasus. Que tú estás con alguien y te están escuchando. Tu estás hablando, viendo, o haciendo algo con alguien en tu casa, en un café en donde quieras y están ahí, escuchando y viendo todo lo que haces. Todo lo que haces en tu recamara, en tu regadera, en la cocina, en tu oficina, con tus amigos, con quien quieras, es siniestro. Y es más siniestro aún, si se hace en contra de un joven adolescente.”

La historia de cómo Aristegui y su hijo fueron envueltos en un escándalo de vigilancia extrema, enfatiza la situación que cada vez se hace más grave para los periodistas en México – una nación donde los asesinatos de periodistas no se resuelven – y refleja el peligro que representa la utilización de equipos de espionaje privado en el mercado, en democracias débiles con tendencia al autoritarismo.

En entrevistas con The Intercept – las primeras de Emilio con un medio de comunicación – la familia Aristegui nos describe cómo comenzaron los ataques; nos hablan acerca de la tolerancia a la disidencia en México, y cómo es que la familia planea seguir adelante. Los hackeos que experimentaron están respaldados por una serie de informes recientes publicados por The Citizen Lab, un equipo de investigación forense en la Escuela Munk de Asuntos Globales de la Universidad de Toronto, en colaboración con un equipo de ONGs mexicanas, incluyendo R3D, Social Tic y el Artículo 19. Los informes forenses han sido mejorados por historias de colección publicadas por la oficinas del New York Times de la Ciudad de México.

Hasta la fecha no hay evidencia definitiva que vincule concretamente al gobierno mexicano con los hackeos, aunque los expertos de Citizen Lab han dicho que la información forense que han recopilado y que apunta a la participación del gobierno es “tan buena como se puede.” El New York Times informó que “desde 2011, por lo menos tres agencias federales mexicanas han comprado cerca de 80 millones de dólares de software espía” de NSO Group, la compañía israelí que fabrica Pegasus. La empresa insiste que sus productos sólo se venden a los gobiernos, y el uso de tecnologías invasivas contra activistas y opositores políticos sería ilegal bajo la ley mexicana.

Desde el punto de vista de Aristegui, no hay duda de dónde reside la responsabilidad. “El gobierno mexicano es el responsable final de todo esto, porque Pegasus, es un sistema israelí que sólo se vende a los gobiernos. Y el gobierno mexicano ha adquirido Pegasus y otros sistemas de espionaje. Y entonces nosotros no tenemos más que decir, que el gobierno mexicano es el responsable de este espionaje,” dijo. “El gobierno mexicano tiene que explicar claramente por qué y para qué utilizó esos sistemas de espionaje, con dinero público que se pagaron, para espiar a periodistas, al hijo de una periodista, y defensores de derechos humanos.”

Sin embargo, tiene poca fe en que el gobierno llevará a cabo una investigación creíble sobre sí mismo. “Por eso los que somos afectados por esta situación y las personas que están preocupadas por el tema, estamos pidiendo que haya una investigación independiente del gobierno mexicano,” dijo, “que incluya, de preferencia, expertos internacionales. Una investigación que sí logre descubrir y sancionar las conductas que están detrás de Pegasus.”

La periodista Carmen Aristegui habla en la Cuidad de México en junio, 2017.

Photo: Bernardo Montoya/AFP/Getty Images

Según Aristegui y los expertos forenses que examinan su caso, los problemas de la periodista veterana comenzaron después de que su página web, Aristegui Noticias, publicara una importante historia en noviembre de 2014 revelando que la esposa del presidente Peña Nieto, Angélica Rivera, había recibido un contrato de bienes raíces por parte de un contratista cercano a su esposo, abriendo el camino para la compra de una casa de 7 millones de dólares, fuera del presupuesto de la familia. “Esa casa que está ubicada en una de las zonas más lujosas de México, pues estaba a nombre de un contratista, de un empresario amigo del presidente, que tenía el registro legal de este domicilio que el presidente y su familia ocupaban,” explicó Aristegui. El llamado escándalo de la Casa Blanca finalmente obligó a la primera dama a renunciar a la propiedad y, dos años después, el propio presidente ofreció una disculpa. Aunque este hecho estuvo lejos de rendir cuentas oficiales, fue un logro, pero tuvo un precio. “Esa investigación periodística nos costó a los periodistas que hicimos ese trabajo, que nos echaran de la radio mexicana,” dijo Aristegui. En los siguientes meses, la oficina de Aristegui fue despedazada y ella fue atacada con una serie de demandas, incluyendo una que la acusaba de “uso excesivo de la libertad de expresión.”

“Se ha intentado aniquilar nuestro trabajo a través de la censura, a través de juicios en nuestra contra, a través de agresiones como un allanamiento a este lugar donde tú estás,” dijo Aristegui a The Intercept.

A raíz de lo sucedido de la Casa Blanca, Aristegui comenzó a recibir misteriosos mensajes de texto en su teléfono personal. El primero llegó el 12 de enero de 2015, dos meses después de que la historia de la Casa Blanca se publicara. El mensaje le informó a Aristegui que su “mensaje anterior no fue enviado” y proporcionó un enlace. Más de dos docenas de mensajes le llegarían durante el próximo año y medio. El contenido varió y evolucionó con el tiempo. Varios de los primeros mensajes reflejaban las conocidas suplantaciones de identidad (reclamaciones sobre saldos vencidos en varias cuentas), pero pronto se volvieron más específicos. Un mensaje, recibido en julio de 2015, informó que Anonymous había anunciado planes para hackear el sitio web de Aristegui, y proporcionó un enlace para más información. Otro pretendía venir de la Embajada de los Estados Unidos, diciéndole a Aristegui que había un problema con su visa.

Aristegui hizo todo lo posible por ignorar los enlaces dudosos que llenaban su bandeja de entrada. “En un primer momento, yo dije, y consulté a personas que me dijeron: es un sistema que se mete en tu teléfono, la recomendación es simplemente que no lo abras y ya. No lo abras y no le hagas caso y que el asunto siga. Y así lo hicimos en un primer momento,” declaró Aristegui. Pero los mensajes seguían llegando, y en marzo de 2016, quien los enviaba, giró su atención al hijo de Aristegui, Emilio, que asistía a la escuela secundaria en Massachusetts. El primer mensaje que Emilio recibió estaba hecho para captar su atención: un enlace a un sitio de noticias informando que la presidencia estaba considerando encarcelar a periodistas involucrados en el reporte de la Casa Blanca. Otros parecían venir de amigos preguntando si Emilio había cambiado sus cuentas de Facebook y Twitter. Al igual que su madre, Emilio recibió un mensaje falso de la Embajada de los Estados Unidos sobre su visa – una posible violación de la ley de los Estados Unidos considerando el estatus de Emilio como estudiante, estudiando legalmente en los Estados Unidos en ese momento.

Para Emilio, el ataque electrónico fue desconcertante. “Es una situación en la que uno se encuentra como adolescente, en la cual, no puedes realmente tomar mucha acción porque es algo a lo que alguien no está acostumbrado. No creces para saber qué hacer, no hay realmente una enseñanza que alguien te pueda dar al respecto de la situación,” dijo Emilio. “Sigo en shock.” Aunque inicialmente trató de ignorarlos, Emilio describió los mensajes que recibió como “diabólicos” en su diseño, atrayéndolo con “información de quién soy, en qué estoy interesado, con quién me relaciono, ya perfectamente hechos para tratar de convencerme a mí de hacer click, y bueno, que mi teléfono sea intervenido por Pegasus.”

Para el verano de 2016, los atacantes que perseguían a la familia Aristegui volvieron a cambiar sus tácticas, alternando entre madre e hijo con nuevos mensajes en diferentes días. “Emilio y yo recibimos muchísimos mensajes de este tipo,” dijo Aristegui. “Había mucha intención de meterse en nuestras conversaciones privadas.”

Una presentación sobre el funcionamiento del software Pegasus en una conferencia de prensa en Ciudad de México en junio, 2017.

Photo: Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images

Aunque para Aristegui era evidente que algo estaba ocurriendo, no le fue posible comprender a mayor profundidad lo que estaba sucediendo, sino hasta principios de este año, cuando los investigadores de The Citizen Lab publicaron un informe revelando que un destacado científico que trabajaba con el Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública del gobierno mexicano, así como dos directores de ONGs, habían sido observados por una sofisticada tecnología de vigilancia, comercializada exclusivamente a los gobiernos. Cada uno de ellos había estado involucrado en una campaña para apoyar un impuesto sobre las bebidas azucaradas – un tema que los expertos en salud pública consideran crítico, dado el aumento de las tasas de obesidad y enfermedades relacionadas a ello en México. Los esfuerzos por elevar los impuestos al refresco en México se han logrado con un intenso retroceso político y corporativo, con situaciones tan extremas como que el CEO de Coca Cola haya llamado personalmente al presidente Peña Nieto para solicitar su apoyo para oponerse a un impuesto.

Citizen Lab había investigado previamente un caso similar en los Emiratos Árabes Unidos, en el que el teléfono celular de un activista fue hackeado con un software espía de alta calidad, exclusivo del gobierno. Citizen Lab determinó que la compañía israelí secreta NSO Group era responsable de la tecnología que permitía el hackeo del teléfono del activista, y parecía que la misma herramienta funcionaba en México.

Anunciándose como “un líder en la guerra cibernética,” NSO ha insistido que sus herramientas de vigilancia están estrictamente diseñadas para su uso por “agencias gubernamentales autorizadas,” como un medio para combatir el “terror y el crimen.” El producto que hizo a NSO famoso, a pesar de los esfuerzos de la compañía por mantener un perfil bajo, es Pegasus, una herramienta diseñada para permitir que el gobierno obtenga acceso remoto a los teléfonos celulares engañando a las personas para hacer clic en vínculos que exponen el sistema operativo de sus teléfonos. Descrito por Forbes como el “kit de espionaje móvil más invasivo del mundo,” Pegasus permite a los clientes de NSO, un acceso virtualmente irrestricto y en tiempo real a las características más sensibles del teléfono, incluyendo micrófono, cámara, mensajes de texto y lista de contactos.

Si bien la empresa es israelí, NSO mantiene lazos significativos con los Estados Unidos. Francisco Partners Management LLC, una firma estadounidense de capital privado, compró la compañía por 120 millones de dólares en 2014 (según se informa, NSO ahora está a la venta, con un precio superior a los mil millones de dólares). La compañía, que operaba bajo un nombre diferente, pagó previamente al ex consejero de seguridad nacional de la administración de Trump, Michael Flynn, más de 40,000 dólares para trabajar como miembro del consejo asesor.

Después de que Citizen Lab publicara su informe en febrero, concluyendo que la misma tecnología de Pegasus detectada en el caso de los EAU había sido usada contra los activistas de impuestos de refresco en México, Aristegui se puso en contacto con los investigadores forenses y les entregó los mensajes que ella y Emilio habían recibido. Las sospechas de los Aristegui fueron confirmadas — ellos también habían sido atacados con el software espía de Pegasus. Y no eran los únicos.

Activistas y periodistas participan en una manifestación contra el espionaje en Ciudad de México en junio, 2017.

Photo: Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images

En un informe publicado en junio, Citizen Lab reveló que descubrió “más de 76 mensajes con enlaces al marco de explotación de NSO Group.” Los individuos afectados fueron dos de los colegas de Aristegui, Rafael Cabrera y Sebastián Barragán, y Carlos Loret de Mola, un conocido conductor y periodista de investigación mexicano. En el momento en que empezó a recibir mensajes inquietantes, de Mola estaba reportando un posible encubrimiento por parte del gobierno federal, derivado de una operación en la que las fuerzas de seguridad mexicanas mataron a 42 presuntos narcotraficantes. Las pruebas forenses examinadas por Citizen Lab también apuntaban los intentos de hackear los teléfonos de los periodistas Salvador Camarena y Daniel Lizárraga. De acuerdo con Citizen Lab, en el momento en que los dos periodistas comenzaron a recibir mensajes de texto vinculados a Pegasus, estaban “investigando pruebas de posesiones en alta mar relacionadas con funcionarios corruptos y personas prominentes en México.”

En un caso particularmente escalofriante, Citizen Lab también descubrió evidencia de que los defensores legales del Centro Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez habían sido golpeados con vínculos de explotación NSO. Por más de dos años, el Centro PRODH, como es conocido en México, ha brindado apoyo legal a los padres de estudiantes de una escuela de enseñanza rural llamada Aytozinapa. En septiembre de 2014, una contingencia de más de 100 estudiantes de la escuela, la mayoría de ellos estudiantes de primer año, fue blanco de un ataque coordinado por las fuerzas de seguridad mexicanas. Seis estudiantes fueron asesinados en el asalto, dos docenas resultaron heridas y 43 desaparecieron a manos de la policía local — un pedazo de hueso perteneciente a uno de los estudiantes fue recuperado más tarde. Al resto de los estudiantes no se les ha visto desde entonces. El crimen sacudió a México, y en 2015, The Intercept publicó los resultados de la investigación de siete meses sobre la desaparición de los estudiantes, lo que reveló evidentes lagunas en la investigación del gobierno sobre el caso. En medio de protestas públicas que incluyeron algunas masivas en todo el país, el gobierno mexicano invitó a un equipo de investigadores independientes de derechos humanos altamente respetados, nombrados por la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, a investigar el crimen. Este mes, el Citizen Lab reveló que los expertos independientes también fueron atacados con el software espía NSO; los ataques comenzaron poco después de que el equipo “criticó al gobierno mexicano por injerencia en su investigación mientras preparaban su informe final” sobre la desaparición de los estudiantes.

Aristegui se apresura a poner el calvario de su familia en el contexto apropiado. “Tristemente, hay casos peores que los nuestros,” dijo. “México se ha convertido en uno de los países de más alto riesgo para ejercer la tarea periodística. México tiene en los últimos 15 años una lista de más de 100 muertos; 100 periodistas muertos.”

Sin embargo, Aristegui argumentó que las fuerzas que se apuntaron contra ella y otros, revelan verdades incómodas sobre el estado de la democracia en México. “Yo creo que el gobierno mexicano tiene un talante autoritario,” explicó. “El gobierno mexicano de Peña Nieto no es un gobierno de definición democrática. Sus conductas, y el espionaje es una de ellas, sus expresiones, y en muchos sentidos los resultados de este gobierno son producto de un talante autoritario, no de un ejercicio democrático real. Un talante democrático incluye el respeto a la disidencia, a la oposición o a la tarea de los periodistas críticos.”

“Si no, ¿de qué democracia estamos hablando?” preguntó Aristegui.

Emilio, por su parte, sigue tendiendo dificultades para creer que todo el calvario haya ocurrido. La secundaria es lo suficientemente extraña como para aparte agregarle historias de noticias internacionales que informan que tú y tu madre fueron el blanco de una campaña de hackeo patrocinada por el Estado. Eso lleva las cosas a otro nivel. “Con mis amigos hay indignación,” dijo. “Porque pues al final de cuentas, si yo soy intervenido, pues ellos también. Por nuestra edad, nosotros también lo hemos tomado como una sorpresa. No es algo que esperes que te vaya a pasar,” Emilio añadió. “La reacción de ellos también es algo inesperada porque, ¿o lo tomas con humor o lo tomas con seriedad, o los dos? Porque es una cosa muy fuerte, espiar a un menor edad, y en especial que reside en el extranjero. Pues mis amigos sí lo han visto como algo también muy raro.”

Tan intensa como fue la experiencia, Emilio sigue siendo un firme partidario del trabajo de su madre. “Yo personalmente admiro muchísimo a mi mamá, es una líder para mí, es la persona más importante en mi vida y yo estoy más que orgulloso del trabajo que hace, y pues ojalá y le pueda seguir los pasos también. Yo creo que ella debería de seguir trabajando como lo está haciendo porque me parece que le está haciendo muy bien a este país que lo necesita mucho,” dijo.

The post Entrevista Exclusiva: Carmen Aristegui y su Hijo Hablan Sobre el Escándalo del Software Espía del Gobierno appeared first on The Intercept.