Category Archives: Government

Tensions Rise In Middle East After Iranian General Dies In Drone Strike

By: David Brennan of Newsweek

A senior commander within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has warned that U.S. forces must leave the Middle East or risk deadly retailiation to the assassination of IRGC General Qassem Soleimani,

Soleimani—the influential commander of the Quds Force and director of the IRGC’s foreign military and covert operations—was killed in a U.S. drone strike outside Baghdad airport in Iraq on Thursday evening.

The general was one of the most powerful figures in Iran, and was credited with driving the country’s campaign of influence across the Middle East. From Yemen to Lebanon, Tehran’s regional strategy was said to have been formulated by the 62-year-old. Reports indicate he was killed soon after he arrived in Iraq from either Syria or Lebanon.

His killing marks a stunning escalation in the U.S.-Iranian conflict and has prompted threats of fierce retaliation against Americans and American interests in the Middle East.

Among those vowing revenge was General Mohammad Reza Naghdi, a senior officer within the IRGC and the coordinating deputy to the organization’s commander. According to the Associated Press, Naghdi said that “the White House must leave the region today or it must go to the market to order caskets for soldiers.”

He added, “We don’t want bloodshed. They have to choose by themselves.”

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Kenya Turns Salt Water To Drinking Water

By : The Hearty Soul

The Earth is a watery place. In fact, 71 percent of our planet is covered in water [1]. Despite this, one in nine people do not have access to safe drinking water – that’s around 785 million people [2].

The trouble is, 96.5 percent of all Earth’s water is found in the oceans in the form of saline water, and is not drinkable for humans. That only leaves us with rivers, lakes, and groundwater to satisfy our water needs [1].

According to the World Economic Forum, the global water crisis ranks as the number four risk in terms of impact on society [3]. Let’s face it – humans need water to survive.

If you’re reading this from Canada or the United States, you may not understand this crisis on a personal level. After all, you can turn on a tap and have safe drinking water instantly start flowing from the faucet. This, however, is not the case for billions of people living on other continents. One NGO (Non-Government Organization) is trying to change that.

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Trump Impeachment Official

By: BBC

Democratic lawmakers are preparing to approve two impeachment charges against the Republican president.

Mr Trump would then face a Senate trial next month, but members of his party control that chamber and are unlikely to remove him from office.

The president has called the process an “attempted coup” and a “scam”.

In a six-page letter to the Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, on the eve of the vote, the 45th president of the United States argued he had been treated worse than “those accused in the Salem witch trials”

As debate got under way in the House, President Trump was due to fly to Battle Creek, Michigan, for a “Merry Christmas” rally along with Vice-President Mike Pence.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters he would be happy to testify and produce documents for a Senate trial of Mr Trump “if that’s appropriate and required by law”.

At midday local time (1700 GMT) on Wednesday, members of the House began six hours of debate on the matter. They are expected to vote on both articles of impeachment afterwards. 

In her opening remarks Ms Pelosi said it was “tragic” that the president’s “reckless actions” had led to impeachment but said he had left lawmakers with “no choice”.

“The president is an ongoing threat to our national security, and the integrity of our elections, the basis of our democracy,” she said.

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Why Are People Planning To Storm Area 51

By Leah Asmelash and Brian Ries of CNN

Stretch those quads and prep that tinfoil hat!

Over 300,000 people have signed on to a Facebook event pledging to raid Area 51 in Nevada in a quest to “see them aliens.” 
The event, titled “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us,” is inviting users from around the world to join a “Naruto run” — a Japanese manga-inspired running style featuring arms outstretched backwards and heads forward — into the area.
“We can move faster than their bullets,” the event page, which is clearly written with tongue in cheek, promises those who RSVP for September 20.

What they’re after

The mysterious Area 51 has been the focus of conspiracy theories for decades, and many people think it’s where the US government stores its secrets about aliens and UFOs. 
The area was officially acknowledged as a military site in 2013, but the theories live on.
Though the September event is most certainly a joke, it comes just a few weeks after a group of US senators was briefedabout reported encounters between the US Navy and an unidentified aircraft — literally an unidentified flying object.
So what do they know? Where can we sign up to hear about that?

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Mitch McConnell and Slavery – A Dark Fable of Americas Past and Present

Compliments of Chauncy Vega, Salon Media

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell believes that reparations for the crimes done to black Americans, both during centuries of white-on-black chattel slavery and then 100 years of Jim Crow American apartheid are not deserved. On this point, McConnell said last month, “I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, when none of us currently living are responsible, is a good idea. We’ve tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We’ve elected an African American president.”

McConnell can try to outrun history and thus escape its grasp. But America’s ignoble history is looking him (and many other white people) in the face every day when he looks in the mirror. Researchers working with NBC News have discovered that McConnell’s great-great-grandfathers were slave-owners who held at least 14 black people as human property.

NBC News provides these details:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said recently he opposes paying government reparations to the descendants of American slaves, has a family history deeply entwined in the issue: Two of his great-great-grandfathers were slave owners, U.S. census records show.

The two great-great-grandfathers, James McConnell and Richard Daley, owned a total of at least 14 slaves in Limestone County, Alabama — all but two of them female, according to the county “Slave Schedules” in the 1850 and 1860 censuses.

The details about McConnell’s ancestors, discovered by NBC News through a search of ancestry and census records, came in the wake of recent hearings on reparations before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

 

CHAUNCEY DEVEGA

Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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Reparations Debate Takes Place In U.S

Compliments of BBC

Some witnesses said reparations would damage the relationship between white and black Americans, while others said it was imperative to achieve justice.

Several Democratic White House hopefuls have taken up the idea of reparations.

But Republican leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear no reparations bill will pass while he controls the Senate.

The House of Representatives judiciary subcommittee on the constitution, civil rights and civil liberties said Wednesday’s hearing would examine “the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, its continuing impact on the community and the path to restorative justice”.

Lawmakers considered a bill proposed by Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson-Lee to set up a commission to study the question of reparations for slavery.

Hundreds of people lined up outside the hearing venue and filled the overflow room to watch.

What are the arguments against reparations?

Republican witness Coleman Hughes, an African-American writer and New York student, argued during the hearing that such restitution “would insult many black Americans by putting a price on the suffering of their ancestors”.

“If we were to pay reparations today, we would only divide the country further, making it harder to build the political coalitions required to solve the problems facing black people today.

The second Republican witness, African-American former NFL player Burgess Owens, also rejected the idea, saying: “What strangers did to other strangers 200 years ago has nothing to do with us because that has nothing to do with our DNA.”

Congressman Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, was booed as he spoke against “the injustice of monetary reparations from current taxpayers for the sins of a small subset of Americans from many generations ago”.

The hearing was held on Juneteenth, which commemorates 19 June 1865 when Texas slaves finally learned they were free, two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

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Atmospheric Carbon Levels Are Reaching Dangerous Levels

By: Jon Queally of Common Dreams

Atmospheric levels of carbon registered 415 parts per million over the weekend at one of the world’s key measuring stations, a concentration level researchers say has not existed in more than 3 million years – before the dawn of human history.

Taken at the Mauno Loa Observatory in Hawaii by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the measure continues the upward trend of atmospheric carbon concentration that lies at the heart of the global warming and climate crisis:

415.26 parts per million (ppm) CO2 in air 11-May-2019 http://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/  First daily baseline over 415ppm

Writing on his Informed Comment blog Monday, historian Juan Cole said that life on Earth in that pre-historic era, known as the Pliocene Period, is not a place humans would recognize:

In the Pliocene, it was much hotter.

In the Pliocene, oceans were much higher, maybe 90 feet higher.

That is our fate, folks. That is what 415ppm produces. It is only a matter of time, and some of the sea level rise will come quickly.

Amsterdam, New Orleans, Lisbon, Miami – the list of cities that will be submerged is enormous.

Elsewhere online, reaction to the unsettling milestone was met with a mix of frustration, alarm, and fresh demands for urgent action to address the crisis.

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Mexico Wants To Decriminalize Drugs With The Help of U.S.A

By: Jason Lemon of Newsweek

Mexico’s president released a new plan last week that called for radical reform to the nation’s drug laws and negotiating with the United States to take similar steps.

The plan put forward by the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, often referred to by his initials as AMLO, calls for decriminalizing illegal drugs and transferring funding for combating the illicit substances to pay for treatment programs instead. It points to the failure of the decades-long international war on drugs, and calls for negotiating with the international community, and specifically the U.S., to ensure the new strategy’s success.

“The ‘war on drugs’ has escalated the public health problem posed by currently banned substances to a public safety crisis,” the policy proposal, which came as part of AMLO’s National Development Plan for 2019-2024, read. Mexico’s current “prohibitionist strategy is unsustainable,” it argued.

The document says that ending prohibition is “the only real possibility” to address the problem. “This should be pursued in a negotiated manner, both in the bilateral relationship with the United States and in the multilateral sphere, within the [United Nations] U.N.,” it explained.

Drug reform advocates have welcomed AMLO’s plan. Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told Newsweek that the Mexican president’s plan “reflects a shift in thinking on drug policy that is taking place around the world, including here in the U.S.”

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Sharing Economy Helping or Hurting?

By: Ephrat Livni of QZ

No kid ever dreamed of growing up and driving for Uber or styling for Stitch Fix. In part, that’s because none of those companies existed when most of today’s adults were young. It’s also because, besides its much-touted “flexibility,” the gig economy isn’t much of a place to build a career. Instead, over the course of less than a decade, the self-described “tech companies” that connect people to gig work have managed to erode hard-fought labor protections in place for a century.

In Hustle and Gig, to be published in March by University of California Press, sociologist Alexandrea Ravenelle interviews 80 gig workers who are struggling, striving, and succeeding. She analyzes their stories in the context of US employment history and concludes that “for all its app-enabled modernity, the gig economy resembles the early industrial age…the sharing economy is truly a movement forward to the past.”

Although gig work was initially seen as a way to maximize worker freedom and create opportunities, it has, in its short history, proven corrosive. Ravenelle notes that a small percentage of people are making lots of money via side hustles, but they tend to be those who need it least. For example, she speaks to independent hoteliers in New York renting out rooms and apartments via AirBnB, including a corporate lawyer and a man with a chain of laundromats. Because they already had capital, have steady sources of income apart from their side gigs, and are willing to skirt rental laws, these two individuals are able to invest heavily in their “gigs” and create lucrative businesses.

Sadly, those who most need to work can find themselves trapped in a cycle of struggle. Ravenelle interviewed men and women signed up to do tasks on Task Rabbit—prior to its acquisition by IKEA—and who drove for Uber, for example. They were not employees and so had no health insurance, workers’ compensation protections, employer contributions to Social Security and payroll taxes, paid time off, family leave protections, discrimination protections, or unemployment insurance benefits.

Sometimes, this gig work also requires an initial outlay of capital. (My own neighbor just traded in her old vehicle for a new car, taking on thousands of dollars in debt so that she can make extra money driving for Lyft.) At the very least, a potential worker needs a smartphone and wi-fi service. Ravanelle’s book boasts an image inside of a young man in a park panhandling for $30 to activate his phone service so that he can start picking up work.

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Would You Delete Facebook?

By: Ryan Mac

WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton defended his decision to sell his company to Facebook for $19 billion and encouraged students to delete their accounts from the social network in a rare public appearance at Stanford University on Wednesday.

As one of the guest speakers for Computer Science 181, an undergraduate class focused on technology companies’ social impact and ethical responsibilities, Acton, a 47-year-old Stanford alum, explained the principles behind founding WhatsApp and his fateful decision to sell it to Facebook in 2014. In doing so, he also criticized the profit models driving today’s tech behemoths, including Facebook and Google, as well as the Silicon Valley ecosystem in which entrepreneurs are pressured to chase venture capital and large exits to satisfy employees and shareholders.

“You go back to this Silicon Valley culture and people say, ‘Well, could you have not sold?’ and the answer is no,” he said, referring to his decision to make the “rational choice” to take “a boatload of money.”

“I had 50 employees, and I had to think about them and the money they would make from this sale. I had to think about our investors and I had to think about my minority stake. I didn’t have the full clout to say no if I wanted to,” he continued.

Despite selling WhatsApp in a deal that made him a billionaire several times over, Acton’s negative feelings about Facebook are no secret. He departed in November 2017 after more than three years at the company following tensions surrounding the introduction of ads onto the messaging platform, something he and fellow cofounder Jan Koum vehemently opposed. (Koum announced he was leaving Facebook last April, amid reports he disagreed with the company’s plans for monetizing WhatsApp and its approach to user data and privacy.)

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