Saturday, April 22, 2017

GOP's Willful Ignorance

The situation in Syria has basically been unchanged over the past four years-- other than the thousands of Syrians that have died at the hands of Assad (using weapons provided by Russia). But it seems that a lot of Republicans have changed their minds regarding U.S. airstrikes in Syria.

What do you think made the difference between 2013 and 2017? 

Friday, April 21, 2017

So Much For Nepotism Laws

After Donald Trump was elected, he said his children would serve no role in his administration.

Mere months later, the Trump White House announced Ivanka Trump would join the administration as a senior adviser to Donald Trump. But in an attempt to assuage taxpayers, they said Ivanka's role would be unpaid. 

Then came reports that Ivanka would be issued government equipments and communication devices-- for what reason, if she's not a government employee?   She is also going to be issued a top government clearance-- again for what reason if she is not a government employee and has no demonstrated need to see classified information?  Aren't security clearances supposed to be granted on a need to know basis?

This week provided further revelations that made clear that Trump's flouting of nepotism laws would be costing taxpayers even MORE money.  The White House announced that  Ivanka ( “special” assistant to the president) has hired a chief of staff.   And she will also be getting a taxpayer-funded spokesperson.

The White House is assuring everyone that Ivanke will still be following all ethics laws, however.  Who really believes that BS, anyway?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Think Twice About Going Back To United

The doctor dragged off a United Airlines flight suffered even further insult from the callous airline.   It has now come to light that on top of physically ejecting a paying customer, the airline did not take the time to release their luggage to Dr. Dao and his wife, instead sending it back to Kentucky and leaving them with nothing.

To make matters worse, United’s promise to reimburse the cost of the flight to the other terrorized passengers comes with a catch.  In order to get the refund, the affected customers have to promise not to sue United.  But the hits keep coming.

The same day of the infamous Chicago incident, a man on a United flight from Houston to Calgary was stung by a scorpion. The venomous creature fell from an overhead bin and landed on Richard Bell's hair as he was eating lunch in his business class seat.   United offered the passenger compensation, but the victim mysteriously refused to comment on the terms of that compensation.

On top of those stinging reports came another story of United's cruelty.  Last week, an elderly woman with a degenerative bone disease and severe arthritis was left in distress and pain after a United light from Los Angeles to Melbourne turned into a 16-hour ordeal thanks to callous United Airlines crew.

94-year-old Australian grandmother, Paz Orquiza was returning from what will likely be her last-ever visit to family in Los Angeles.  Orquiza's family had booked her a $3,600 business class ticket so she could fly in comfort. Her daughter, Rose, flew in economy, helping out with feeding and chair adjustments.  There were no problems with these arrangements on the outbound trip to Los Angeles..

But when the mother and daughter boarded the return flight to Australia, the United crew wouldn't allow the Rose to leave economy to help her elderly mother - and United staff wouldn't help either,  The flight attendant, without any sympathy or compassion, told the daughter that she could either take her mother to economy class, buy a business-class ticket for herself or leave the elderly woman to suffer on her own.

And so the 94-year-old-- who spends most of her days bed-bound--  was moved to the more cramped economy class.  Upon arrival to Australia, the elderly woman's legs had swollen, her neck was stiff and her whole body ached.  According to her daughter, her mother suffered great distress and pain from the ordeal, requiring strong pain medication and Valium to help with sleep.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Patriots Snub Trump

There was a BIG difference between the photo of the New England Super Bowl champs when they visited Obama back in 2015 and when they visited Trump earlier today.   Can you tell?

A whopping thirty-four players elected to skip the ceremony, another embarrassment for the embattled Trump.  The full list of boycotting players:  Tom Brady, LaGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden, Dion Lewis, James White, Danny Amendola, Michael Floyd, Martellus Bennett, Shaq Mason, LaAdrian Waddle, Alan Branch, Malcolm Brown, Chris Long, Vincent Valentine, Dont'a Hightower, Barkevious Mingo, Malcom Butler, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Cyrus Jones, Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan, Ryan Allen, Jonathan Freeny, Tre Jackson, Greg Scruggs, Chris Barker, Trevor Bates, Jamil Douglas, Chase Farris, Tyler Gaffney, Woodrow Hamilton, Devin Lucien, and DeAndrew White. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Which Way Did He Go, George? Which Way Did He Go?

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier that the Trump administration had said was steaming toward North Korea was actually conducting exercises off the coast of Australia, a U.S. defense official has acknowledged.

Last week, Trump boasted that he was sending an "armada" to North Korea.  "Very powerful," he added. 

Just a few days later, on April 15, the U.S. Navy published a photo showing the USS Carl Vinson Strike Group transiting the Sunda Strait.  From April 16 to 18, the website Go Navy reported that the Vinson group was in the Indian Ocean.  Oops!

What followed was a glorified rendition of Willoughby the hound dog-- with White House and Defense officials contradicting each other and pointing fingers.   A Defense Department spokesperson was unsure if the Navy had had any conversations with Defense Secretary Mattis’ office or the Joint Staff following the mix-up, but said it was “not the Navy’s place” to speak with the White House about it.

The communications mix-up has raised eyebrows among Korea experts. "If you threaten them and your threat is not credible, it's only going to undermine whatever your policy toward them is. And that could be a logical conclusion from what's just happened," said North Korea expert Joel Wit at the 38 North monitoring group, run by Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.

The White House had no comment, referring questions to the Pentagon. The Pentagon directed all queries to U.S. Pacific Command.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

United Brutalizes Paying Customer For The Convenience of United Employees

A man was violently dragged off a United Airlines after the company says it overbooked the flight.

Video posted to social media shows the man screaming as security personnel pry him out of his chair, causing his head to bash against an armrest. He’s then dragged down the aisle on his back as horrified witnesses film on their phones and scream out in disgust.

According to witnesses, airline staff were initially looking for one volunteer to give up a seat before the flight from Chicago to Louisville boarded. Passengers were offered $400 and a hotel stay.

Witnesses stated that after the flight boarded, staff announced that they now needed four people to volunteer to give up seats for United employees (not due to overbooking as United claimed).  The amount was increased to $800, and passengers were told the plane wouldn’t leave until four people volunteered.

When nobody offered, staff announced a computer would select four people. One couple cooperated and left. The man who was later to be brutalized by the airline was also selected.

United later released a cold-hearted statement, saying, "one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate.  We apologize for the overbook situation. Further details on the removed customer should be directed to authorities.”

When the airline's attempt to deflect blame to "authorities" failed, United CEO Oscar Muñoz was forced to put out an additional statement, apologizing for having to “re-accommodate these customers.”  Muñoz later tried to blame the beat-up customer, labeling him as "belligerent".

In response, many are vowing to never do business with the airline again. The incident also comes just two weeks after the company found itself in hot water for refusing to allow three girls to board a flight because they were wearing leggings.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Trump Follows Tried-and-True GOP Formula: When There's Trouble At Home, Start A War in the Middle East

After four years of grandstanding, Trump flip-flopped on Syria last night.  So what changed?  Some picture of suffering children?  There were plenty of suffering children back in 2013.

So far today, there has been little to no outrage among Republicans-- many of the same people who said back in 2013 that Obama could not constitutionally take military action in Syria without prior congressional authorization.  What's the difference now?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Warning To Pedestrians in South Yorkshire: Get Off The Road

Don't follow this one too closely
After 33 attempts, 14 different instructors, 85 lessons and $12,000 in taxi fares over 25 years, Christian Whiteley-Mason of South Yorkshire, England finally passed his driving test.

"I can't believe I've actually finally passed after all these years," said the mechanically misfortuned motorist. "I'm still in shock!"  The 42-year-old home care manager first took a drivers test in 1992 and quickly racked up a succession of test fails.  Even his husband Darren, thought he'd never pass, joking with him 'You're an accident waiting to happen.'

"There was this one examiner at the Barnsley test center who I used to pray I didn't get. She was notoriously tough and she failed me every time.  I had 56 lessons with my first instructor and eventually he told me to just give up as I would never pass," admitted the tortured Tyke.

By 2003, after Christian had failed his test a monumental 32 times, he admitted defeat and finally gave up on his dream of driving and decided it wasn't for him.  "I'd just had enough, I just thought I¹m never going to get it.," said Christian.

Even when he turned 40 and decided to give it another go, he had a few additional lessons but didn't stick with it, and never got as far as taking his test.  "I just got bored with it," Christian admitted. "I couldn't see the point."

But by his tenth wedding anniversary, Christian had increasingly been required to travel for work and was finding it more difficult to get by without being able to drive. "I had to either get taxis or rely on other people and it was costing me a fortune. So in January that was it, I just decided I was going to go for it."

Christian recounted the days leading up to the fateful day:  "There must be a God because I prayed every night that I wouldn't get that same examiner who'd kept failing me, and [the day of the test] I didn't."  Not only did he pass on his first attempt, but he only got marked down for three minor errors.  Admittedly, Christian increased his chances by taking the automatic-only driving test. 

"I'm so proud of myself. It's changed my life to be honest. I felt like I'd achieved everything I really wanted to achieve, this was the one thing left I had to do.  My motto was always been don¹t stop believing,"  Christian told reporters.  He celebrated the occasion by buying a second hand smart car, which he named Percy.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Trump Continues His War On Privacy

Visitors to the U.S. could be forced to provide cellphone contacts and social-media passwords and answer questions about their ideology, according to Trump administration officials, measures that could intrude into the lives of millions of foreigners.

The changes could apply to visitors from America’s closest allies as well as other nations and include subjecting more visa applicants to intense security reviews. Together, they would amount to the “extreme vetting” touted by Trump.

Administration officials conducting a review of vetting procedures aim to replace what they see as a presumption toward letting people into the country with a more skeptical outlook.  “If there is any doubt about a person’s intentions coming to the United States, they should have to overcome—really and truly prove to our satisfaction—that they are coming for legitimate reasons,” said Gene Hamilton, senior counselor to the Department of Homeland Security.

Their full scope has yet to be publicly discussed and would be sure to generate significant controversy, both at home, from civil libertarians and others who see the questions as infringing on privacy rights, and abroad, as other nations could impose retaliatory requirements on Americans seeking visas.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Bill O'Reilly Enters No-Ad Zone

Over a dozen companies have pulled advertising from the “The O’Reilly Factor” following revelations that the bombastic host has paid millions of dollars in hush money to keep the accusations of sexual harassment out of the headlines and the court room.

Following an explosive New York Times report that O’Reilly and Fox News had paid around $13 million in settlements addressing complaints brought by five of the conservative host’s previous female colleagues, advertisers moved to remove their commercials from the hit show. Among the first were automakers Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai.

The exodus gained momentum after the NYT article, with Mitsubishi Motors, T. Rowe Price, Wayfair, Bayer, Credit Karma and Lexus among those confirming to reporters that they had pulled advertising from O’Reilly’s show.

BuzzFeed News reached out to about 50 companies that advertise on “The O’Reilly Factor” and confirmed Tuesday that automaker BMW, Sanofi Consumer Healthcare and marketing company Constant Contact had pulled commercials.  Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline also told BuzzFeed that it has temporarily pulled advertising.

Insurance company Allstate, the men’s clothing line Untuckit and pet food company Ainsworth Pet Nutrition all confirmed Tuesday that they are withdrawing commercials from the show, NBC News reported.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Thai Junta Provides No Justice For Dead Policeman

Red Bull heir gets away with murder
Vorayuth Yoovidhaya, the grandson of the billionaire who invented the energy drink Red Bull, has once again failed to appear at a Bangkok prosecutor's office to face charges for killing a police officer with his Ferrari in 2012.

The ongoing failure by the Thai military junta to bring Vorayuth to justice are now commonly cited as the most prominent example of the untouchability of the super-rich in Thailand.

Police Sergeant-Major Wichian Klanprasert was riding his motorbike along Bangkok's Sukhumvit Road when he was hit by a grey Ferrari, which dragged his body more than 300 feet down the road, before driving off.  Investigating officers followed a trail of brake fluid to a luxury home less than a kilometer away, owned by one of Thailand's wealthiest families.

The badly-dented Ferrari was there, but initially the police were persuaded by private guards to detain a driver employed by the family as their main suspect.  When the police subsequently discovered the car had actually been driven by 27-year-old Vorayuth, he was tested and found to have excessive alcohol in his blood - but he claimed this was from drinking at home after the accident.

The police calculated that Vorayuth was driving over 100 mph, over twice the speed limit.  It took the police six months to prepare criminal charges of speeding, reckless driving causing death, and fleeing the scene of an accident.  At the time, Bangkok police chief Kamronwit Thoopkrajang promised the public that the culprit in Sergeant-Major Wichian's death would be brought to justice, or he would resign.

Throughout 2013, Vorayuth failed to appear seven times to hear the charges, with his lawyers providing an array of justifications, from him being on business overseas to feeling unwell.  In September 2013 the prosecutor ordered police to arrest him after his seventh no-show, but nothing happened.  At the end of that month, the statute of limitations on the speeding charge expired. Against a backdrop of growing political turmoil in Thailand, the case faded from public view.

Public interest in it was revived only after a horrifying road accident last year, involving another wealthy young man who drove his luxury car at high speed into another vehicle, killing two graduate students.  People started asking what had happened to the Red Bull heir-- and the military junta, which had promised to address the abuses of previous governments, felt forced to act.

In March last year, the Attorney-General announced that he would once again press charges against Vorayuth.  But throughout 2016, lawyers for the Red Bull heir successfully postponed repeated requests for him to report to the prosecutor's office, claiming that their client had filed a complaint of unfair treatment to the National Legislative Assembly, the military-appointed parliament.

The police continue to insist they can do nothing.  Asked by the BBC why they have not issued an arrest warrant against the accused, as requested three and a half years ago, they said that it is up to the Attorney-General's office to act.  The Attorney-General's office says he cannot be indicted unless he appears in person.

According to his lawyers, Vorayuth is currently on business in the UK. The Attorney-General has once again granted a postponement, to next month.

The statute of limitations on the most serious charge against Vorayuth, of reckless driving causing death, expires in the year 2027.  Few people are betting that he will face any legal sanction, or any consequences before that deadline frees him completely.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Putin Government Rounding Up Gay Men

More than 100 gay men have been detained and at least three have been killed by authorities in Chechnya, according to a Russian newspaper cited in a report in the New York Times.

According to government and police sources, the new developments follow a week of rumors about gay men mysteriously disappearing off the streets of the Russian republic.  Dozens of men between the ages of 16 and 50 have been detained “in connection with their non-traditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such,” according to Novaya Gazeta.

The report blamed local authorities for the men’s detention and identified three men as murder victims. It’s thought that the actual number of dead may be higher.

A spokesman for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who is a vocal supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, denied that any such activities have taken place. He further suggested that there are no gay people in the country at all.

“You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” spokesman Alvi Karimov said in a statement obtained by Radio Free Europe on Saturday. “If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”

The Russian Federation is known for its hostility to the LGBTQ community. Since 2013, it has upheld an anti-gay propaganda law that sharply curtails the public expression of LGBTQ identities.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Violent Protests Amid Constitutional Crisis In Paraguay

Demonstrators in Paraguay have set fire to the country's parliament building during violent protests against a bill that would lift presidential term limits.  One activist was killed and at least 30 others injured, including three lawmakers and a senator.  It was the worst violence of its kind since Paraguay became a democracy in 1992.

Under the 1992 constitution, introduced after the dictatorship, a head of state may only serve a single five-year term. But sitting President Horacio Cartes is trying to remove the restriction and run for re-election.

Protesters were photographed smashing in windows of the congress building in the capital, Asuncion and setting fire to the interior.  Protesters ransacked the offices of those who had backed the bill, according to reports.

Opposition activist Rodrigo Quintana, 25, was killed by a rubber bullet fired by police when they stormed the offices of the opposition Liberal party.  "The police barged in, threw people face down to the ground," according to Liberal Party leader Efrain Alegre, who was also hurt. "They came in aggressively, breaking the doors, it was savagery."

In a statement released on Twitter, President Cartes appealed for calm. "Democracy is not conquered or defended with violence and you can be sure this government will continue to put its best effort into maintaining order in the republic," he said.

Protesters had taken to the streets following a secret meeting of 25 senators - a slight majority of the house - which approved a bill to amend the constitution.  The bill must also be approved by the other house of parliament - the chamber of deputies - where President Cartes' party holds an outright majority.  A similar proposal had been previously rejected in August.  Before the secret vote took place, Congress voted first to change the rules that required lawmakers to wait a year before voting again.

Opponents say the bill will weaken the country's democratic institutions.  Opposition senator Desiree Masi said: "A coup has been carried out. We will resist and we invite the people to resist with us."

Paraguay was controlled by military ruler General Alfredo Stroessner, who seized power in a coup, from 1954 until 1989.  The new constitution in 1992 created the modern government but there has been a long period of political instability and party infighting, as well as a failed coup attempt.

President Cartes' term is due to end in 2018.  The change, if approved, would also allow former President Fernando Lugo to run again.  Lugo was ousted in 2012 over his handling of a land eviction in which 17 people were killed.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Dictator Maduro Engineers Takeover of Venezuelan Congress

Dictator Nicholas Maduro tightened his grip even further on Venezuela by engineering a Supreme Court takeover of the functions of Congress.

The Maduro-controlled Supreme Court had already annulled most National Assembly decisions since the opposition won a legislative majority in late 2015 due to voter fury over an unprecedented economic crisis.  But late on Wednesday, the court issued a new ruling declaring that it was assuming complete control of the legislature’s role in the Venezuelan government.

“As long as the situation of contempt in the National Assembly continues, this constitutional chamber guarantees congressional functions will be exercised by this chamber or another chosen organ,” the court said in its decision.

The contempt charge stems from vote-buying accusations against three lawmakers from southern Amazonas state.  Although the three legislators are no longer members of congress, the supreme court continues to use their case as an excuse to usurp the powers of congress, saying that parliamentary leaders did not handle their case properly.

The Venezuelan supreme court has been stacked over the years with political allies and supporters of Maduro.  Critics of Maduro called the "contempt" charge an excuse for the president to consolidate unchecked power over the country and muzzle the opposition-- as his popularity plummets amid widespread disgust over a severe recession, hyperinflation and acute shortages of food and medicine.

The controversial Supreme Court ruling was instigated by Maduro's desire to obtain approval for oil joint ventures without the constitutionally-required vote by congress.  Maduro is now desperately attempting to raise funds for bond payments and a reeling economy, by selling stakes in its oil fields to foreign countries.  Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA recently offered Russia’s Rosneft a stake in the Petrolia oil joint venture.

Spooked by the opposition’s warning that investment deals bypassing Congress would not be valid, foreign oil companies are closely following the developments and refusing to comment on the political situation.

The opposition promised new street protests-- but that tactic has failed in the past despite marches that have drawn hundreds of thousands of protesters.

Last year, the opposition pushed for a referendum to recall Maduro and force a new presidential election, but Maduro officials thwarted those efforts.  In addition, the Maduro government also postponed local electoral races that were supposed to have been held in 2016.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Dirty President Delivers Dirty Air and Dirty Water For Dirty Coal Owners

“You’re going back to work”  

Put that lie in the Trump Hall of Fame next to “We’re going to have insurance for everybody”

Trump signed an executive order this week to dismantle the Clean Power Plan.  Along for the ride as glorified stage props were a set of coal miners provided for the occasion by some of the mining executives who were there to see Trump deliver on his promise to dismantle environment protections for his corporate overlords.  Trump said to the coal miners standing nearby: "You know what it says, right? You're going back to work."  But the problem is this:  Trump’s actions won’t help miners. They won’t help the industry.

What Trump’s executive orders will do is enable more polluting forms of surface mining-- especially, mountaintop removal (MTR).  MTR is important to mining companies because it's the cheapest way to mine in the Appalachians. And the reason it’s the cheapest is that it takes fewer people. By enabling MTR, Trump allows producers that use it to undercut producers working with methods that both employ more people and are less harmful to the environment.

The bottom reality is this: There are zero new coal power plants under construction. There are zero in the planning stages. There are zero being proposed.

The coal industry can’t make a comeback, because there’s simply nowhere else to sell any coal. In fact, even with Trump in office signing away environmental laws left and right, more coal-fired plants are closing. The shrinking market that remains will be dominated not by coal from the Ohio and West Virginia miners that flanked Trump, but from Wyoming, where thick seams, high automation, and economies of scale make coal much less costly to produce.

And thanks to Bush-Cheney deregulated franking, it was actually cheap natural gas that wiped out demand for coal in Appalachia, not Obama regulations. And it was mountaintop removal mining that wiped out the mining jobs.  Which means that these misguided folks have failed for a heaping dose of Trump bullshit.   Even the largest mine owner in Ohio says that the jobs are not coming back even if demand for coal increases.

Untold numbers of coal miners have died over the years because of blatant disregard for safety by greedy mine owners. Pensions have been stolen and health care for black lung rolled back. And now they have voted for the man who is colluding with these greedy bastards to set them back even further.  How many times do these folks have to be screwed over before they recognize who is messing with their lives and their families?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

GOP Destroys Privacy Protections In An Effort To Please Its Corporate Overlords

In the latest movement by the GOP to benefit corporations at the expense of ordinary Americans, Congress has just swept aside widely popular online privacy protections.  In a party-line vote, House Republicans freed Internet service providers (Verizon, AT&T and Comcast) from following consumer protections (approved just last year) that had sought to limit what companies could do with information such as customer browsing habits, app usage history, location data and Social Security numbers. The rules also had required providers to strengthen safeguards for customer data against hackers and thieves.

If Trump signs the legislation as expected, providers will be able to monitor their customers’ behavior online and, without their permission, use their personal and financial information to sell highly targeted ads.

The providers could also sell their users’ information directly to marketers, financial firms and other companies that mine personal data — all of whom could use the data without consumers’ consent. In addition, the Federal Communications Commission, which initially drafted the protections, would be forbidden from issuing similar rules in the future.

Search engines and streaming-video sites already collect usage data on consumers. But Internet providers know much more about a person’s activities because they can see all of the sites a customer visits.  And although consumers can easily abandon sites whose privacy practices they don’t agree with, it is far more difficult to choose a different Internet provider. Many Americans have a choice of only one or two broadband companies in their area, according to federal statistics.

Advocates for tough privacy protections online characterized the new legislation as a tremendous setback for America.  “Today’s vote means that Americans will never be safe online from having their most personal details stealthily scrutinized and sold to the highest bidder,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Python Swallows Indonesian Man Whole


Shocking video from Indonesia shows the sickening moment a dead man was cut out of a 23-foot-long python's stomach after being swallowed whole.  Reticulated pythons are boa constrictors that suffocate their victims before swallowing them whole.

25-year-old Akbar Salubiro, went missing after setting off to harvest palm oil in a remote village on the island of west Sulawesi, Indonesia.  After he failed to return home, concerned friends and relatives found a giant python sprawled out in Akbar's own back garden the next evening - and feared he had been suffocated and swallowed.  Akbar's lifeless body was found inside the serpent after horrified locals sliced open its belly using a 18-inch long hunting knife.

The shocking video can be viewed by clicking here

Akbar's wife, Munu, was away at the time and only found out when pictures and video emerged in the news, local media reported.  Village secretary Salubiro Junaidi said: 'People had heard cries from the palm grove the night before Akbar was found in the snake's stomach.  When the snake was captured, the boots Akbar was wearing were clearly visible in the stomach of the snake.  Residents cut open the belly of the snake and Akbar was lifeless."

Monday, March 27, 2017

Warrantless Searches Of U.S. Citizens Under Scrutiny

Escalating concerns about customs officials demanding access to travelers’ cellphones, tablets and laptops have prompted a leading free speech watchdog to take the government to court, to disclose its rules for digital privacy at the border.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University has filed a freedom of information lawsuit seeking to obtain the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) rules for “suspicionless” searches of mobile devices from US citizens and non-citizens alike.  The lawsuit seeks internal DHS directives for compelling travelers to surrender their devices; data establishing the frequency with which they occur;  procedures on what is done with the information stored on those devices, particularly when the devices belong to first amendment-protected professionals such as journalists; and any privacy or anti-discrimination assessment DHS has performed to audit its policies.

Concern about the device searches pre-date the Trump administration. DHS first began permitting warrantless searches of U.S. citizens at the border back in 2009.  The searches intensified toward the end of Obama’s tenure (fewer than 5,000 searches in 2015, growing to 25,000 in 2016).

The Trump administration’s focus on border security has intensified the trend. After the White House introduced executive orders cracking down on immigration and foreign travel, particularly among Hispanics and Muslims, DHS conducted 5,000 device searches in February alone.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Islamaphobia or Big Brother Run Amok?

The Georgia Department of Public Health has refused to issue an infant a birth certificate with the last name the couple chose for their daughter: Allah.   State officials say the child's name — ZalyKha Graceful Lorraina Allah — does not fit the naming conventions set up by state law. They say that ZalyKha's last name should either be Handy (mother's last name), Walk (father's last name) or a combination of the two.

The ACLU of Georgia has filed suit on behalf of the baby's parents, who say they can't get a Social Security number for their daughter because they don't have a birth certificate. They also anticipate problems with access to health care, schools and travel. Already, they said, they had to cancel a trip to Mexico.  "We have to make sure that the state isn't overstepping their boundaries," Walk said. "It is just plainly unfair and a violation of our rights."

ACLU of Georgia Executive Director Andrea Young said the state's decision is an example of government overreach and a violation of the First and 14th amendments. In addition, Handy and Walk have a three-year-old son who was given a birth certificate for his name, Masterful Allah, with no problem.  

Carlton F.W. Larson, a law professor at the University of California, Davis, has written extensively about parental rights to name their children.  "Naming your child is an expressive action," Larson said. "And the idea that you get to name your child, and not the state, is a fundamental right. The state would need to have a compelling reason for rejecting a name, and I don't see it. I would hope that (Handy and Walk) would win this case."

Friday, March 24, 2017


In a devastating setback for the baby president, Trump told Paul Ryan to pull his Obamacare Repeal bill, saying that he would now move onto other things and blaming everyone else in the world but himself.  In the end, wonderboy Ryan just couldn't deliver the votes.  Over 60 times previously, House Republicans passed bills to repeal Obamacare-- but when the chips were down they failed miserably.

Less than 24 hours earlier, Trump had issued an ultimatum to the House, demanding a vote on what he had identified as a top legislative priority ― and threatening to move on to other legislative items if they refused.  Trump’s demand was an audacious act of political brinkmanship, designed to rattle and win over dissident Republican lawmakers who were objecting to the bill. But the gambit failed, and it failed spectacularly.

Despite their repeated claims that Obamacare was a disaster and was spiralling out of control, both Trump and Ryan indicated they were now ready to move on from health care to other issues.  The nation's health care couldn't have been so catastrophic, I guess.  Even in defeat, the two GOP leaders were singing from different sheets of music-- Ryan saying they would focus next on immigration, and Trump saying they would next move to tax reform.  Get your act together, boys!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Male GOP Decide On Women's Health Care

Mike Pence tweeted a photo of a group of Republicans discussing whether the Trumpcare bill should mandate that health insurance plans provide essential benefits, including maternity services.  As one would expect, the reaction was immediate.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Discovery That Hate Groups Are Profiting From Google Leads To Boycott

At least four major U.S. firms have pulled millions of dollars in advertising from Google’s platform after it was revealed that their ads were appearing next to extremist content.

An investigation by the Times found major brands were appearing next to YouTube videos promoting extremist views - generating revenues for the creators. 
The initial investigation led more than 250 British brands to pull their advertising.

Despite Google’s efforts to contain the controversy, it appears to have now caught the attention of the U.S. advertising industry - creating a huge problem for Google as it seeks to reassure brands their ad spend is not funding hate groups.

The Times is reporting that AT&T and Verizon, as well as car rental company Enterprise and pharmaceutical giant GSK, have withdrawn all non-search advertising.

The company has apologized and promised better tools for advertisers.

According to The Times, Verizon’s advertisements were appearing along side videos made by Wagdi Ghoneim, an Egyptian cleric who had been banned from the U.S. over extremism, and Hanif Qureshi, whose teachings inspired the assassination of a Pakistani politician.

“We are deeply concerned that our ads may have appeared alongside YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate,” AT&T said in a statement.  "Until Google can ensure this won’t happen again, we are removing our ads from Google’s non-search platforms.”

In response to the latest boycott, Google said: “We’ve begun an extensive review of our advertising policies and have made a public commitment to put in place changes that give brands more control over where their ads appear.”

Monday, March 20, 2017

Muslim Electronics Ban

Now Trump is banning electronics from select Muslim countries (as if Muslim travelers themselves weren't enough).  Two questions:

1.  If the threat of explosive devices in laptops is so great, why aren't they being banned on all incoming flights?

2.  Aren't x-ray detectors in airports worldwide supposed to be able to detect explosives?

Or is Trump really attempting to benefit U.S. airlines (whose flights aren't affected by the ban) by driving customers away from foreign carriers?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Loose Lips Sink Ships

Recent comments made by a senior White House policy advisor have contributed to a federal judge’s decision to put a nationwide hold on Trump’s Muslim Ban 2.0.

Creepy Stephen Miller was one of Trump’s most vocal mouthpieces following the disastrous roll-out of the administration’s first Muslim ban that sparked massive protests around the country.  Shortly after federal judges struck down that order, Miller appeared on television to stump a watered-down version, assuring Fox News it would include only “minor technical differences.”

According to the new ruling:
    On February 21, Senior Advisor to the President, Stephen Miller, told Fox News that the new travel ban would have the same effect as the old one. He said: “Fundamentally, you’re still going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country, but you’re going to be responsive to a lot of very technical issues that were brought up by the court and those will be addressed. But in terms of protecting the country, those basic policies are still going to be in effect.”
Those “plainly worded statements” led U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson to issue his temporary restraining order against the ban. There is nothing “’secret’ about the executive’s motive specific to the issuance of the executive order,” Watson said later in his ruling.  “Any reasonable, objective observer would conclude ... that the stated secular purpose of the Executive Order is, at the very least, secondary to a religious objective of temporarily suspending the entry of Muslims,” Watson wrote.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Trump Credibility Is Circling The Drain

Trump blasted as “fake news” Rachel Maddow’s scoop last night in which she reported on Trump 2005 tax returns. 

The two pages show Trump wrote off more than $100 million in business losses to reduce his federal taxes in 2005.  They also show Trump paid $36.5 million in federal income taxes on reported income of $152M, which is an effective tax rate of 24%.

The problem with Trump's claim is that the White House had already confirmed the authenticity of the document to news outlets.  Ooops!

David Cay Johnston, the Pulitzer-prize winning reporter, who had received the tax return and reported on it first, tweeted:
Gee, Donald, your White House confirmed my story. POTUS fake Tweet. Sad!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tillerson Tries To Hide His Real Concerns About Climate

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is now being accused of using an email alias account for many years to discuss climate change matters while he was CEO of ExxonMobil-- in what appears to be a concerted effort to keep sensitive communications out of the eyes of the public, Exxon’s shareholders, and, possibly, investigators.

Tillerson sent messages from an account named "Wayne Tracker" to discuss the risks posed by climate change, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a court filing about his office’s fraud investigation of the company. Tillerson, whose middle name is Wayne, used the "Wayne Tracker" account on the Exxon system from at least 2008 through 2015, Schneiderman said.

The bottom line? According to the charge, Exxon failed to disclose Tillerson’s alias email account as part of an investigation into whether ExxonMobil misled investors about the impacts of climate change, meaning that no documents connected to that account were collected as part of that investigation.


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