Category Archives: Alerts

The Battle For Net Neutrality Is In Full Effect

By: Jake Johnson of Common Dreams

“The FCC under Pai is handing over the internet to a few humongous gatekeepers who see the rest of us as products to be delivered to advertisers, not as citizens needing communications that serve democracy’s needs.”

Open internet advocates warned that “we’re running out of time” to save the web from corporate control and called on Americans to make their representatives’ phones “ring off the hook” Tuesday after FCC chairman Ajit Pai unveiled (pdf) his long-awaited plan to scrap net neutrality that critics slammed as “naked corporatism” designed to give a major gift to the telecom industry at the expense of the public.

“The reckless wrecking ball strikes again,” former FCC commissioner and current special adviser at Common Cause Michael Copps said in a statement. “FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s scorched-earth plan for net neutrality displays callous disregard for both process and substance. The chairman’s plan to do away with net neutrality will be a disaster for consumers and yet another handout for big business.”

Matt Wood, policy director at Free Press, said Pai’s plan “makes no sense” for a variety of key reasons.

“It ignores the will of people from across the political spectrum who overwhelmingly support these protections. It ignores the law and the courts, which have repeatedly upheld the 2015 Title II rules. And it ignores the vibrancy of the internet marketplace following adoption of that 2015 order, with incontrovertible economic data showing that both investment in networks and online innovation are flourishing under the very same rules Pai wants to destroy,” Wood said.

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Denver Declares It Illegal To Declaw Cats

By: Chris Morris of Fortune

Denver has taken a stand in the oft-controversial debate over declawing cats, with the City Council unanimously passing a ban on the practice Monday night. Critics have labeled the procedure, which is common in most states, as inhumane.

The city is the first municipality in the country outside of California to ban declawings. (Since 2003, eight cities in that state have prohibited the act.) Public opinion was strongly behind the bill, though some pet owners objected, saying any pain experienced by cats who underwent the procedure was temporary.

The bill applies only to elective declawing. Any medically required procedure is still permitted. The Colorado Veterinary Medical Association opposed the bill, somewhat surprisingly, saying it was an issue that should be left up to cat owners and their pets’ doctors.

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Countries Are Using Digital Disinformation To Manipulate Public Opinion

By: Alex Hern of The Guardian

The governments of 30 countries around the globe are using armies of so called opinion shapers to meddle in elections, advance anti-democratic agendas and repress their citizens, a new report shows.

Unlike widely reported Russian attempts to influence foreign elections, most of the offending countries use the internet to manipulate opinion domestically, says US NGO Freedom House.

“Manipulation and disinformation tactics played an important role in elections in at least 17 other countries over the past year, damaging citizens’ ability to choose their leaders based on factual news and authentic debate,” the US government-funded charity said. “Although some governments sought to support their interests and expand their influence abroad, as with Russia’s disinformation campaigns in the United States and Europe, in most cases they used these methods inside their own borders to maintain their hold on power.”

Even in those countries that didn’t have elections in the last year, social media manipulation was still frequent. Of the 65 countries surveyed, 30, including Venezuela, the Philippines and Turkey, were found to be using “armies of opinion shapers” to “spread government views, drive particular agendas, and counter government critics on social media”, according to Freedom House’s new Freedom on the Net report. In each of the 30 countries it found “strong indications that individuals are paid to distort the digital information landscape in the government’s favour, without acknowledging sponsorship”.

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Research Claims Earthquakes Due to Water and Oil Water Pumping

By: Jim Scott of Colorado University

A rash of earthquakes in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico recorded between 2008 and 2010 was likely due to fluids pumped deep underground during oil and gas wastewater disposal, says a new CU Boulder study.

The study, which took place in the 2,200-square-mile Raton Basin along the central-Colorado northern New Mexico border, found more than 1,800 earthquakes up to magnitude 4.3 during that period, linking most to wastewater injection well activity. Such wells are used to pump water back in the ground after it has been extracted during the collection of methane gas from

subterranean coal beds.

One key piece of the new study was the use of hydrogeological modeling of pore pressure in what is called the “basement rock” of the Raton Basin—rock several miles deep that underlies the oldest stratified layers. Pore pressure is the fluid pressure within rock fractures and rock pores.

While two previous studies have linked earthquakes in the Raton Basin to wastewater injection wells, this is the first to show that elevated pore pressures deep underground are well above earthquake-triggering thresholds, said CU Boulder doctoral student Jenny Nakai, lead study author. The northern edges of the Raton Basin border Trinidad, Colorado, and Raton, New Mexico.

“We have shown for the first time a plausible causative mechanism for these earthquakes,” said Nakai of the Department of Geological Sciences. “The spatial patterns of seismicity we observed are reflected in the distribution of wastewater injection and our modeled pore pressure change.”

A paper on the study was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. Co-authors on the study include CU Boulder professors Anne Sheehan and Shemin Ge of geological sciences, former CU Boulder doctoral student Matthew Weingarten, now a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, and Professor Susan Bilek of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro.

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Louis C.K Releases A Statement After Being Accused Of Sexual Assault

By: The Associated Press

Comedian Louis C.K. released the following statement on Friday following allegations of sexual misconduct in a New York Times report. The statement is unedited except for explicit language:

I want to address the stories told to the New York Times by five women named Abby, Rebecca, Dana, Julia who felt able to name themselves and one who did not.

These stories are true. At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my (penis) without asking first, which is also true. But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your (penis) isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.

I have been remorseful of my actions. And I’ve tried to learn from them. And run from them. Now I’m aware of the extent of the impact of my actions. I learned yesterday the extent to which I left these women who admired me feeling badly about themselves and cautious around other men who would never have put them in that position.

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Falsely Imprisoned Man Learns Law In Prison Library And Uses Knowledge To Free Himself 

By: by ELIZABETH CHUCK and DAN SLEPIAN of NBC

Attorney Jarrett Adams recently helped overturn an innocent man’s conviction — in the same state that, years ago, had sentenced him to prison for a crime he did not commit.

The case was Adams’ first professional win. But it was also deeply personal for the 36-year-old, who spent nearly 10 years behind bars after being wrongfully convicted of sexual assault in a case that Adams, who is black, believes was tainted by racism.

“This is a storybook,” Adams told NBC News’ Lester Holt. “It’s a storybook tale that you wouldn’t believe until you saw it … to have a conviction overturned and in a court, in a state, that I was wrongfully convicted.”

Adams was only 17 when an encounter at a party, an accusation, and a court-appointed attorney put his life on hold.

He had just finished high school on Chicago’s South Side and decided to go to the University of Wisconsin for a party, where he and his friends met a young woman and had what he describes as a “completely consensual encounter from beginning to end.”

Three weeks later, as Adams was getting ready to start junior college in the fall of 1998, he was arrested. An officer informed him that the woman said she was raped, and that he was being charged with a group sexual assault along with two other teenagers.

Adams had never been arrested before. He denied the crime from the start, and thought the misunderstanding would get resolved quickly.

Instead, he was extradited to Wisconsin, where he couldn’t afford legal assistance. A court-appointed attorney chose not to put on a defense, even though there was a witness who could have helped clear Adams: a student living in the dorm who could corroborate Adams’ timeline of events.
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Syria Signs The Paris Climate Agreement Leaving U.S.A As The Only Country Out

By: Akshat Rathi of QZ

It’s everyone against the United States of America.

When Donald Trump announced that he intends to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, the implication was that the US would join Syria and Nicaragua as the only non-signatories of the accord. The other holdouts had legitimate excuses: Syria was in the middle of a war and Nicaragua thought the agreement wasn’t ambitious enough.

Now, both countries have had a change of heart.

At the climate talks in Bonn, Germany today (Nov. 7), the Syrian government announced that it will sign the Paris climate agreement after all, according to Climate Tracker. Last month, Nicaragua also signed up. That leaves the US as the only country opting not to be part of the global consensus on climate action.

The Paris climate agreement sets out a goal to stop global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, a crucial threshold above which dangerous changes to the climate are likely irreversible. This requires the world to achieve net zero greenhouse-gas emissions by about 2050.

The climate accord lets each country determine its own plan of action. As per current commitments, even if Trump were to change his mind and re-engage the US in climate action, the total reduction in global emissions would still warm the planet beyond the 2°C threshold. In Bonn, countries are trying to figure out ways to work together to ensure we don’t cross that threshold.

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Tokyo Firm Grants 6 Day Additional Holiday To Non-Smoking Employees 

By: Chloe Farand if The Independent 

A Japanese company is granting its non-smoking staff an additional six days of holiday a year to make up for the time off smokers take for cigarette breaks. 

Marketing firm Piala Inc introduced the new paid leave allowance in September after non-smokers complained they were working more than their colleagues who smoked. 

Hirotaka Matsushima, a spokesman for the company, told The Telegraph: “One of our non-smoking staff put a message in the company suggestion box earlier in the year saying that smoking breaks were causing problems.”

Following the suggestion, the company’s CEO Takao Asuka decided to give non-smoking employees extra time off to compensate, Mr Matsushima added. 

The matter has been taken seriously by the Tokyo-based company which is reportedly based on the 29th floor of an office block — making any cigarette break last at least 15 minutes, according to staff. 
Mr Asuka hopes the scheme will create an incentive for the company’s staff to quit smoking. 

Efforts to reduce the number of smokers and impose tougher anti-smoking regulations have been seen across Japan in recent months. 

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Trump’s Camp Continues To Unravel, Now With Money Laundering and Guilty Verdicts 

By: ADAM GOLDMAN and NICHOLAS FANDOS of The New York Times 

President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was indicted Monday on charges that he funneled millions of dollars through overseas shell companies and used the money to buy luxury cars, real estate, antiques and expensive suits.

The charges against Mr. Manafort and his longtime associate Rick Gates represent a significant escalation in a special counsel investigation that has cast a shadow over Mr. Trump’s first year in office.

The two men appeared in the Federal District Court in Washington on Monday afternoon and pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Separately, one of the early foreign policy advisers to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about a contact with a professor with ties to Kremlin officials, prosecutors said on Monday.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was assigned in May to investigate whether anyone close to Mr. Trump participated in a Russian government effort to influence last year’s presidential election. Monday’s indictments indicate that Mr. Mueller has taken an expansive view of his mandate.

The indictment of Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates makes no mention of Mr. Trump or election meddling. Instead, it describes in granular detail Mr. Manafort’s lobbying work in Ukraine and what prosecutors said was a scheme to hide that money from tax collectors and the public. The authorities said Mr. Manafort laundered more than $18 million.

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Saudi Prince Declares War on Extreme Clerics

By: Tom Rogan of Washington Examiner 

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince declared war on the clerical elite who have long shaped Saudi society.

The man who will be Saudi Arabia’s next king, Mohammed bin Salman, did so by delivering an unequivocal message, “We are returning to what we were before, a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world.” The crown prince continued, “We will not waste 30 years of our lives wasting time dealing with extremist ideas. We will destroy them today,” he said.
Yet, it isn’t just what bin Salman said that matters, but also where and to who he said it.

After all, he said it to an unveiled Fox Business host, Maria Bartiromo, at an event designed to attract foreign entrepreneurial investment. Both those considerations — the unveiled American reporter sharing a royal stage on Saudi soil and the endorsement of capitalist dynamism — are incompatible with the worldview of the Saudi Ulama, or clerical elite.

By his actions, Mohammed bin Salman isn’t just throwing down the gauntlet to the Ulama; he’s goading them.

Still, while this is just the latest step in bin Salman’s ongoing effort to advance women’s rights and economic diversification, his Tuesday appearance was staggering for another reason. Because bin Salman pledged that Saudi Arabia will now build a new mega-city named Neom, stretching onto Egyptian and Jordanian soil. According to bin Salman, Neom “will be backed by more than $500 billion over the coming years by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia … as well as international investors.”

We’re also told that Neom will adopt “an idyllic lifestyle paired with excellent economic opportunities that surpass that of any other metropolis.”
In my opinion, however, this vision for the future is antithetical to that of the Ulama. They believe that Saudi Arabia’s future depends on its continued adherence to Wahhabi traditionalism and dominant religious authority over society. Moreover, the clerics have long believed that their position was assured as long as they continued to support the unilateral right of the House of Saud to rule the desert kingdom.
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