About The Stranger

Each week (Sat. 12-2am) I stave off the evil and stale with the fresh and the weird on Mutiny Radio! (www.pcrcollective.org); the oddest topics, the most multifarious (that's multifaceted + nefarious) tunes, and newly-lacquered commentary on The Stranger in a Strange Land! Stay tuned for more adjectives! Follow The Stranger on Mixcloud

BLOCKED AGAIN! Federal Judge Puts Trump’s Revised Travel Ban On Hold

from March 15, 2017 at 09:14AM http://bit.ly/2n7Z0wT

The ruling came as opponents renewed their legal challenges across the country, asking judges in three states to block the executive order that targets people from six predominantly Muslim countries.

More than half a dozen states are trying to stop the ban, and federal courts in Maryland, Washington state and Hawaii heard arguments about whether it should be put into practice early Thursday.

U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson decision prevents the executive order from going into effect, at least for now. Hawaii had requested a temporary restraining order.

Hawaii also argued that the ban would prevent residents from receiving visits from relatives in the six countries covered by the order. The state says the ban would harm its tourism industry and the ability to recruit foreign students and workers.

In Maryland, attorneys told a federal judge that the measure still discriminates against Muslims.

Government attorneys argued that the ban was revised substantially to address legal concerns, including the removal of an exemption for religious minorities from the affected countries.

“It doesn’t say anything about religion. It doesn’t draw any religious distinctions,” said Jeffrey Wall, who argued for the Justice Department.

Attorneys for the ACLU and other groups said that Trump’s statements on the campaign trail and statements from his advisers since he took office make clear that the intent of the ban is to ban Muslims. Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller has said the revised order was designed to have “the same basic policy outcome” as the first.

The new version of the ban details more of a national security rationale. It is narrower and eases some concerns about violating the due-process rights of travelers.

It applies only to new visas from Somalia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen and temporarily shuts down the U.S. refugee program. It does not apply to travelers who already have visas.

“Generally, courts defer on national security to the government,” said U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang. “Do I need to conclude that the national security purpose is a sham and false?”

In response, ACLU attorney Omar Jadwat pointed to Miller’s statement and said the government had put out misleading and contradictory information about whether banning travel from six specific countries would make the nation safer.

The Maryland lawsuit also argues that it’s against federal law for the Trump administration to reduce the number of refugees allowed into the United States this year by more than half, from 110,000 to 50,000. Attorneys argued that if that aspect of the ban takes effect, 60,000 people would be stranded in war-torn countries with nowhere else to go.

In the Hawaii case, the federal government said there was no need to issue an emergency restraining order because Hawaii officials offered only “generalized allegations” of harm.

Jeffrey Wall of the Office of the Solicitor General challenged Hawaii’s claim that the order violates due-process rights of Ismail Elshikh as a U.S. citizen who wants his mother-in-law to visit his family from Syria. He says courts have not extended due-process rights outside of a spousal relationship.

Neal Katyal, a Washington, D.C., attorney representing Hawaii, called the story of Elshiskh, an Egyptian immigrant and naturalized U.S. citizen, “the story of America.”

Wall told the judge that if he is inclined to issue an injunction, it should be tailored specifically to Hawaii and not nationwide.

In Washington state, U.S. District Judge James Robart — who halted the original ban last month — heard arguments in a lawsuit brought by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, which is making arguments similar to the ACLU’s in the Maryland case.

Robart said he is most interested in two questions presented by the group’s challenge to the ban: whether the ban violates federal immigration law, and whether the affected immigrants would be “irreparably harmed” should the ban go into effect.

He spent much of Wednesday afternoon’s hearing grilling the lawyers about two seeming conflicting federal laws on immigration — one which gives the president the authority to keep “any class of aliens” out of the country, and another that forbids the government from discriminating on the basis of nationality when it comes to issuing immigrant visas.

Robart said he would issue a written order, but he did not say when. He is also overseeing the challenge brought by Washington state.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson argues that the new order harms residents, universities and businesses, especially tech companies such as Washington state-based Microsoft and Amazon, which rely on foreign workers. California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon have joined the claim.

Washington and Hawaii say the order also violates the First Amendment, which bars the government from favoring or disfavoring any religion. On that point, they say, the new ban is no different than the old. The states’ First Amendment claim has not been resolved.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate the original ban but did not rule on the discrimination claim.

___

Johnson reported from Seattle. Associated Press Writer Jennifer Sinco Kelleher contributed from Honolulu.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read more at: All TPM News http://bit.ly/1kKyqV3

Hate Crimes in U.S. Rose More Than 20 Percent During 2016 Presidential Campaign

from March 15, 2017 at 05:31PM http://bit.ly/2mFcRHT

Another new study also shows that terror attacks by a Muslim perpetrator got about four times more media coverage.

Researchers have determined that the rampant xenophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric that dominated much of the media’s attention during the 2016 presidential election led to a “very significant” increase in the number of reported hate-based acts of violence or intimidation across the U.S.

In 2016 there were 1,037 hate-related incidents in nine U.S. metropolitan areas, up from 841 in 2015, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. The FBI defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity.”

In recent months, incidents of hate directed against transgender womenAfrican-AmericansHispanicsMuslimsHindu AmericansSikh Americans and others have gained national media attention. The recent wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers and schools has even gained international attention, as President Donald Trump was criticized for his reluctance to denounce the attacks. But researchers say that such acts of violence and intimidation have been on the rise for much of 2016, as Trump’s campaign helped focus presidential politics on issues like illegal immigration and terrorism.

Cities including New York City, Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, registered double-digit increases last year. Cincinnati, a considerable part of Trump country, saw a 38.5 percent increase in hate crimes year-over-year.

But perhaps surprisingly, 2016 saw rates of hate-related incidents rise most sharply in the nation’s most liberal cities. Washington, D.C. saw such incidents increase 62 percent from 2015, while the number of anti-LGBT hate crimes in the District increased by 59 percent. Hate crimes related to ethnicity or national origin quadrupled in that nation’s capital last year, those related to religion tripled, those related to gender identity or expression nearly doubled, and those related to sexual orientation increased by about 50 percent.

New York City had 380 reported hate-related incidents last year, a 24 percent increase from 2015 and the highest number in over a decade.

“Based on the timing and the extraordinary increase we’ve been seeing, not only in New York but around the nation, you have to conclude that the presidential campaign was the major factor,” Stephen Davis, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for public information, told Bloomberg News last month.

“We’re getting enough data that appears to indicate a broad national increase,” said Brian Levin, the director of the nonpartisan Center for the Study of Hate Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. Hate crime data is notoriously difficult to track; Levin explained that his previously unreleased report is preliminary data, based on information provided by state and local law enforcement and government agencies.

The seven cities “do have a decent population and a statistically relevant number of cases where we can at least draw some preliminary conclusions about an overall trend,” Levin said. “I don’t think we can just explain away the increase with increased reporting”.

Furthermore, perpetrators appear to have been emboldened by Trump’s win. For example, 43 percent of 2016 hate crimes in Philadelphia happened post-election in November and December.

“We definitely saw an election-time bump,” Levin said.

In Chicago, the police department has received 13 reports of hate-related incidents during the first five weeks of 2017 — more than triple the number recorded in the first five weeks of 2016.

This most recent study is in line with a Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) report released in Feburary that found 1,372 reported incidents of hate, harassment or intimidation during the three months following the November election. Researchers at SPLC directly attributed the dramatic spike to Trump’s campaign, saying his success “energized the radical right.

“2016 was an unprecedented year for hate,” SPLC’s Mark Potok said in a statement. “The country saw a resurgence of white nationalism that imperils the racial progress we’ve made, along with the rise of a president whose policies reflect the values of white nationalists. In Steve Bannon, these extremists think they finally have an ally who has the president’s ear.”

The FBI’s most recent hate crime reportissued last November, showed incidents targeting Muslim-Americans jumped 67 percent in 2015. Trump announced his presidential run in June of that year and proposed his infamous Muslim ban in December.

“Trump’s run for office electrified the radical right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man’s country,” said Potok.

The number of hate groups in the United States rose to 917 in 2016 from 892 in 2015, the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism reported, and the most dramatic increase was in the number of anti-Muslim hate groups, which jumped to 101 in 2016 from 34 in 2015.

Another recently released study suggests that the media’s coverage of Muslims in America and throughout the world may be just as culpable in the rise of such incidents as the president of the United States. Researchers from Georgia State University found that although Muslims commit far fewer acts of terrorism than non-Muslims in the U.S., attacks by Muslims are written about 4.5 times more than other attacks.

“Whether intentional or not, US media outlets disproportionately emphasize the smaller number of terrorist attacks by Muslims, leading Americans to have an exaggerated sense of that threat,” the researchers wrote in the Washington Post.

The researchers examined all 89 terrorist attacks carried out in the U.S. between 2011 and 2015, as listed by the Global Terrorism Database, and found that Muslims perpetrated only 12.4 percent of those attacks but received 44 percent of the total news coverage in print media.

 

Read more at: Alternet http://bit.ly/1nDoAlo

Report: Ousted U.S. Attorney Was Investigating HHS Secretary

from March 17, 2017 at 07:52AM http://bit.ly/2mcLxVv

According to a source “familiar with the office,” ProPublica reported, Bharara’s employees were looking into stock trades made by Price, seemingly those that came to light during his confirmation process.

Before and during his confirmation hearing, Democrats accused Price of abusing his office for his own personal benefit, perhaps illegally.

Price bought stock in Zimmer Biomet the same month, March 2016, that he introduced legislation to delay the implementation of a measure that would have negatively affected that company.

And executives for Innate Immunotherapeutics Ltd. confirmed to the Wall Street Journal in late January that Price had been offered discounted shares in the company by invitation of Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), who owns a 17 percent stake in it. The Australian biotech company is trying to elbow its way into the American market. Price denied any wrongdoing to the Senate Finance Committee, and was eventually confirmed in the Senate on a party-line vote.

As a congressman, Price chaired the House Budget Committee and sat on the Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Health.

Bharara was fired after refusing to resign along with all remaining U.S. attorneys who had been appointed by the Obama administration. Asking U.S. attorneys to resign is standard for new administrations, but Bharara said in January, after meeting with then-President-elect Donald Trump in Trump Tower, that he had been promised that he would keep his job.

As U.S. attorney for New York’s Southern District, Bharara held a prominent position as top federal cop on Wall Street. Watchdog groups called on him in March to investigate Russian business ties to Trump that could violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

Bharara’s former office is now in the middle of an inquiry into Fox News.

Read more at: All TPM News http://bit.ly/1kKyqV3

Trump and the GOP Want to Make It Even Easier for Police to Get Military Gear

from March 16, 2017 at 06:38AM http://bit.ly/2nBwVfx

In his first speech as attorney general last month Jeff Sessions signaled that he intends to “pull back” on federal oversight of local law enforcement, reversing course on a key police reform strategy of the Obama administration. “We need, so far as we can, in my view, help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness,” said Sessions in remarks to the National Association of Attorneys General.

The announcement hardly came as a surprise to police accountability activists, who warned from the outset that Sessions’ nomination could weaken police reform efforts. Another development, flying below the radar, could spell further trouble for efforts to reign in potential abuses by local police.

In January 2017, Congressman John Ratcliffe (R-TX) introduced a bill would make it easier for local police to get their hands on surplus military equipment. The bill now has 16 co-sponsors in the House and was referred last month to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.

Since the 1990s, the Department of Defense (DOD) has been giving away excess gear through a federal program known as 1033. Most of the equipment is fairly mundane—office computers, treadmills and the like—but 1033 also makes weapons and tactical vehicles available to local police for just the cost of shipping. The program became the subject of nationwide scrutiny in 2014, when police used rifles and armored vehicles to confront protesters in Ferguson, Missouri following the killing of Black teenager Michael Brown.

Growing concern over police militarization led President Obama to announce, the following year, that law enforcement agencies would be banned from receiving certain items—including armed helicopters, grenade launchers and tracked armored vehicles—through federal programs. A new set of guidelines also designated gear such as mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAPs), 15-ton vehicles that can withstand roadside bombs, as "controlled" items subject to additional restrictions. The restrictions apply to the 1033 program, as well as programs administered by federal agencies such as the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, which also provide support to local law enforcement through grants or excess equipment transfers.

The “Protecting Lives Using Surplus Equipment (PLUS) Act” would essentially undo Obama’s 2015 executive order, which is deeply unpopular among law enforcement associations and police unions. Such groups have charged that the restrictions put police officers’ lives at risk—even though, as In These Times reported last year, the changes have done little to stem the overall flow of surplus gear to cops. The most recent figures, provided to In These Times by Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) spokesperson Susan Lowe, show that $544 million worth of excess DOD equipment was transferred to police departments in 2016. This actually represents an increase from the previous year’s total of $518 million. (Lowe stresses that these represent the original acquisition value of the property.)

Police departments in some states were able to significantly bulk up their armories after the Obama-era changes went into effect. In Mississippi, seven of the eight MRAPs currently in use by police in the state were acquired in the 2016 calendar year. In North Carolina, eight of that state’s 13 MRAPs were delivered to local agencies between October and December 2016. And 13 of the 14 law enforcement agencies with MRAPs in New Jersey obtained their vehicles in the second half of last year alone. Together these are just a fraction of the more than 200 MRAPs that were shipped to local police in calendar year 2016, according to the DLA’s Lowe). Even American Police Beat, a respected trade journal, candidly observed in a March 2016 report that following Obama’s executive order, “it was back to business as usual in a matter of months.”

In an interview with In These Times, Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the nation’s largest police union, said this characterization was “nonsense.” Instead, he charged, smaller police departments have endured financial stress during the past year as a result of the changes, given that they now have to pay for “vital” equipment out of their own budgets.

Pasco acknowledged that armored vehicles were still available to local police departments, but criticized the new requirement that all such acquisitions go through a civilian review process. To receive restricted items, law enforcement agencies must submit a request outlining why the items may be needed. The request must be approved by a mayor, city council or other elected body. That amounts to a judgement “being made by a person who has absolutely no law enforcement experience,” said Pasco.

The FOP was an early endorser of Donald Trump’s candidacy, and Pasco is hopeful that the organization will have the ear of his new administration. In the pre-election survey given by the FOP to all presidential candidates, Trump described 1033 as an “excellent program that enhances community safety” and promised to rescind President Obama’s executive order. “We take him at his word,” said Pasco.

Until a vote is scheduled on the PLUS Act, the FOP will be “talking to anybody who will listen about the problem with the executive order,” said Pasco. While he hopes that bill will sail through, he also invokes a possible executive action by President Trump. One way or another, he says, “the situation will be remedied.”

This story has been updated to clarify the scope of President Obama’s executive order.

Read more at: In These Times http://bit.ly/1uc5dD1

More than Mar-a-Lago: Members of all Trump clubs could have access to the president

from March 10, 2017 at 07:00AM http://bit.ly/2nxsEsG

President Donald Trump, third from right, and first lady Melania Trump, hidden at left, sit down to dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, third from left, and his wife Akie Abe, right, at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots is seated at left. The Trumps are hosting the Abes for the weekend. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, seated next to him, at dinner at Mar-a-Lago on Feb. 10, shortly before they had to scramble to react to a North Korean missile launch. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

With each of President Donald Trump’s trips to the Mar-a-Lago Club — and there have been four in the last five weekends — questions mount about who, exactly, is there with him.

Those wealthy enough to spend $200,000 for a club membership don’t have to try to schedule a meeting with Trump in Washington when they can bump into him at the winter White House and bend his ear for a moment or two.

It’s partly a matter of security, which the Secret Service is scrambling to deal with. But critics say it also is the public’s right to know.

And, it turns out, it’s not just club members and their guests that can mingle with Trump at what appears to be his favorite getaway; it’s also members of Trump’s many domestic and international golf resorts, who also are allowed to stay at Mar-a-Lago.

Trump is a man who likes to be liked, and reports that he is rubbing shoulders with those who have anted up to join one of Palm Beach’s havens of exclusivity don’t come as much of a shock. Last weekend, for example, Trump was spotted mixing with club members and guests by someone from the hometown newspaper. And Trump wasn’t the only VIP who had flown down from D.C. — dining with him one night were three cabinet secretaries and several top White House aides.

On Monday, eight Democratic senators wrote to Trump and Secret Service officials urging the administration to continue the practice that began in the Obama era of posting White House visitor logs online. And, given the amount of time the president is spending at Mar-a-Lago, they argued, those in attendance at the so-called “pinnacle of Palm Beach” when Trump is there should be disclosed as well, since these wealthy club members have far-better-than-average access to the president.

And visitors to the ornate former estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post can also include individuals who have paid their fees at other clubs in the Trump network.

There’s the Hudson Valley club, for instance, with its “breathtaking” mountain views. Or the Trump National Bedminster (N.J.), which is hosting the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open (and is where Trump may — or may not — want to be buried), or the one outside Washington, D.C., where the Senior PGA Championship will tee off this year.

And then there are the properties abroad: the Trump Doonbeg in Ireland, which dramatically hugs the Atlantic Ocean; the Trump International Golf Links, Scotland, draped along the North Sea; and the recently opened club in Dubai, among others.

“We do have reciprocity with other Trump National and International clubs,” a Mar-a-Lago spokeswoman told OpenSecrets Blog.

That’s a total of 13 other clubs, whose members can visit up to four times per year, according to another staffer at Mar-a-Lago. Which puts a much larger universe of people — thousands larger, in fact — in the position of potentially having conversations casual or substantive with Trump. And while the names of some (though far from all) Mar-a-Lago members have leaked out, the membership lists at the other clubs remain undisclosed.

“Those people don’t even need to buy membership in Mar-a-Lago to get the attention of the president,” said one Mar-a-Lago member, who asked not to be identified, in an interview.

“The American people deserve to know who is potentially paying to have the president’s ear,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) in an email. “They must stop stonewalling requests to clarify who is able to interact with the president at Mar-a-Lago,” including members of other Trump properties. Van Hollen was among the senators who signed the letter this week urging Trump to be transparent about these contacts.

The glitterati of Mar-a-Lago

The Florida paradise is now a place to relax and be seen for a wide array of new members, according to recent lists obtained by POLITICO. This new batch contains writers, CEOs, a Wall Street trader, real estate mavens and hedge fund executives.

It makes for quite the eclectic gathering. You might catch a glimpse of Thomas Peterffy, a Hungarian immigrant and Trump supporter who founded Interactive Brokers, making him the 36th richest person in the United States worth about $13.6 billion, according to Forbes. Or hedge fund executive John Sites and his wife, Cindy, who bought John Lennon’s former house for $23 million in 2016, or Lawrence Rolnick and Kimberly Sorrentino, who bought Trump’s nephew’s Palm Beach house for $8.9 million in 2015. (Only a row of hedges separates the residence from Mar-a-Lago‘s parking lot.) Carole Hankin is one of the highest paid superintendents in New York, while Martin “Buzzy” Schwartz, a Wall Street trader and dog and horse breeder, authored a book, Pit Bull: Lessons from Wall Street’s Champion Day Trader.

Best-selling author James Patterson is a member, as is well-known Republican lobbyist Ken Duberstein, whose clients include Alibaba, Amgen and America’s Health Insurance Plans, and William Koch, estranged brother of Charles and David.

A Center for Responsive Politics analysis found that the Mar-a-Lagians whose names have been publicized have spent a minimum of $4.9 million on federal-level political contributions since 1989. More than three-quarters of that has gone to Republicans.

Trump received only about $34,000 from this batch of members, appearing to receive the maximum of $5,400 from Katherine Carr, wife of journalist Howie Carr, and Peterffy.
Peterffy seems to have donated the most historically, around $570,000, to a mix of Dems and Republicans, including $16,000 to former Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.); $2,500 to Linda McMahon, Trump’s pick for the Small Business Administration who twice put a small fortune into trying to win a Connecticut Senate seat; and $5,000 to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Mica Mosbacher has given $286,000 to Republican politicians such as Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who got $8,000 and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who received $2,300. Mosbacher sent only $2,700 to Trump, despite being a national surrogate for him.
Myrna Haft of HHH Properties gave $145,500 to Dems like Hillary Clinton (she maxed out this campaign) and Sens. Murphy and Cory Booker (N.J.), while Gary Talarico — a specialist in “distressed investing” — gave $132,000 to Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), among others.
Clinton received at least $27,000 for her Senate and presidential runs from the combined donations of Joel and Cynthia Hirsch, Richard Horowitz, Andrea Schlossberg, Carole and Joseph Hankin and Haft.
Access denied, but evidence contradicts

Two club members who spoke with OpenSecrets Blog denied that Mar-a-Lago membership gave them special access to the president.

One of them, though, already knows Trump well: Mosbacher was a national surrogate for him during the 2016 campaign and is the widow of former Secretary of Commerce Robert Mosbacher — calls Trump “a family friend.”

Another member, who asked not to be named in this story, insisted that “Nobody is getting to influence the president by joining Mar-a-Lago.”

This member, who identifies himself as a progressive who didn’t vote for Trump, said he dined at the club on New Year’s Eve and that Trump was completely surrounded by Secret Service.

“I watched one man who has known Trump a very long time try to say hello and they would not let this person anywhere near him,” he said.

On the other hand, Lynn Aronberg, who owns a local public relations business, posted on Facebook a selfie taken with Melania Trump at the club that night. Plenty of fellow partiers are visible close by in the background.

And in February, club members were able to watch Trump, who was having dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and their wives, react to the unexpected North Korean launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile toward Japan. The administration’s response unfolded before the guests’ eyes; one club member snapped pictures of the president and his staff conducting official business from his ringside seat and posted them on Facebook.

Meanwhile, Mar-a-Lago’s standing as a private business creates a conflict-of-interest problem for Trump, ethics experts say, since the president is benefiting from club members’ initiation fees (which doubled to $200,000 at the start of the 2017) and dues. According to financial disclosure statements, Trump raked in $45.4 million in income from Mar-a-Lago from January 2014 to May 2016. Of course, it’s just one on a long roster of Trump businesses — including his hotel on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington — that are fueling debate about thorny issues raised by Trump’s public and private roles. It has also been reported that the days Trump has spent at Mar-a-Lago since becoming president have cost taxpayers an estimated $10 million in security and travel costs.

It’s all served to keep demand for rooms and seats at the restaurant high. Mar-a-Lago members and those from Trump clubs elsewhere are now too late to book a weekend stay at the Palm Beach hideaway anytime soon, though: The club is taking reservations only for Mondays through Thursdays until it closes for the summer, a staff member told OpenSecrets Blog. The good news is that there is weekend availability after the re-opening in November.

But, said one member who requested anonymity, the mood has changed since Trump was elected. While Trump’s daughter Ivanka used to sit just a few feet away from him at the swimming pool, he has not seen her since her father was elected.

Staff reporter Ashley Balcerzak and researcher Doug Weber contributed to this post.

 

 

The post More than Mar-a-Lago: Members of all Trump clubs could have access to the president appeared first on OpenSecrets Blog.

Read more at: OpenSecrets Blog http://bit.ly/1vZELhI

Congress is Trying to Roll Back Internet Privacy Protections As You Read This

from March 7, 2017 at 07:36AM http://bit.ly/2m7GTUt

Take ActionCall congress now!

Back in 2014 over 3 million Internet users told the U.S. government loudly and clearly: we value our online security, we value our online privacy, and we value net neutrality. Our voices helped convince the FCC to enact smart net neutrality regulations—including long-needed privacy rules.

But it appears some members of Congress didn’t get the message, because they’re trying to roll back the FCC’s privacy rules right now without having anything concrete ready to replace them. We’re talking here about basic requirements, like getting your explicit consent before using your private information to do anything other than provide you with Internet access (such as targeted advertising).  Given how much private information your ISP has about you, strict limits on what they do with it are essential.

Luckily, we can stop this train wreck before it happens. But we need your help: please call your senators and your representative right now and tell them to oppose any use of the Congressional Review Act (“the CRA”—they’ll know what it is) to roll back the FCC’s new rules about ISP privacy practices.

If you want more ammo for your conversation with congressional staff, read on. But if you’re already fired up, please click here to take action right now.

Together, we can stop Congress from undermining crucial privacy protections. 

What’s the tl;dr?

Late last year, the FCC passed rules that would require ISPs to protect your private information. It covered the things you would usually associate with having an account with a major company (your name and address, financial information, etc.) but also things like any records they keep on your browsing history, geolocation information (think cell phones), and the content of your communications. Overall, the rules were pretty darn good.

But now, Senator Flake (R-AZ) and Representative Blackburn (R-TN) want to use a tool known as a Congressional Review Act resolution to totally repeal those protections. The CRA allows Congress to veto any regulation written by a federal agency (like the FCC). Worse yet, it forbids the agency from passing any “substantially similar” regulations in the future, so the FCC would be forbidden from ever trying to regulate ISP privacy practices. At the same time, some courts have limited the Federal Trade Commission’s ability protect your privacy, too.

With the hands of two federal agencies tied, ISPs themselves would be largely in change of protecting their customer’s privacy. In other words, the fox will be guarding the henhouse.

Act Now

If we seem a little insistent that you take action to stop this, that’s because we sincerely believe that together, we can stop this disaster before it comes to pass. Every time someone calls their representative or senators, an angel gets its wings we’re one step closer to protecting the privacy of all U.S. Internet users. If we raise our voices the same way we did when it came to passing net neutrality, Congress won’t be able to ignore us.

Take ActionCall congress now!

So please, take action and call your senator and representative today, and tell them not to use the CRA to repeal the FCC’s privacy rules.

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Read more at: Deeplinks http://bit.ly/1o1WYaJ

A Dangerous California Bill Would Leave Students and Teachers Vulnerable to Intrusive Government Searches

from March 7, 2017 at 12:10AM http://bit.ly/2mGao39

A dangerous bill in California would make it easy for the government to search the cell phones and online accounts of students and teachers. A.B. 165 rips away crucial protections for the more than 6-million Californians who work at and attend our public schools.  Under the proposed law, anyone acting “for or on the behalf of” a public school—whether that’s the police or school officials—could search through student, teacher, and possibly even parent digital data without a court issuing a warrant or any other outside oversight. 

A.B. 165 runs contrary to our values. California is proud to be a leader in protecting the privacy of our citizenry. Not only is the right to privacy baked into the California Constitution, but in 2015 our lawmakers also passed CalECPA—heralded as “the nation’s best digital privacy law”—with broad support from Republicans, Democrats, civil libertarians, tech companies, and members of the law enforcement community. This law strikes the right balance when it comes to protecting privacy and empowering government officials to do their jobs. It ensures that when someone in the government wants to search our digital devices or a police offer wants to search our online accounts, they go to a judge and get a warrant based on probable cause. And it also ensures that the government can act swiftly when life and limb are on the line by providing an exemption when there is an emergency.

Some may argue that schools should have different rules.  But not only do Californians of all ages and backgrounds deserve and need digital privacy, A.B. 165 is a sledgehammer, not a scalpel. It destroys all the important CalECPA safeguards that protect Californians in the school context from wide-ranging government searches.

If A.B. 165 is enacted, CalECPA protections would be stripped from students and teachers, meaning:

  •  Anyone acting “for or on the behalf of” a public school can conduct a search—that could potentially be anyone from lunch room attendants to on-campus police officers.
  • School officials have no outside oversight when conducting searches and don’t have to report those searches to anyone.
  • School officials  aren’t required to notify anyone—the individual or parents or guardians—about a search
  • There are no clear limits on what digital data can be searched—photos, appointments, social media accounts, email accounts, text messages, and browser history could all be up for grabs.
  • There are no safeguards to protect how data is used or shared, including with federal agencies.

In effect, this means that a school official could search through the cell phones or online accounts of California students and teachers without any type of warrant or oversight and pass that data to federal agencies like U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or others.

As Pres. Donald Trump is announcing policies that open the door to rounding up and deporting millions of immigrants in the United States and stripping away the rights of transgender students, A.B. 165 creates a dangerous loophole in California’s privacy safeguards.

California students use cell phones to access and communicate deeply sensitive information, like learning about local political events, investigating reproductive health, discussing the immigration status of a family member, or exploring their own gender identity. We can show our students that their dignity and privacy matters by safeguarding their rights to read and communicate without the specter of unfettered government access. 

Unfortunately, backers of A.B. 165 are the same legislators who fought the passage of CalECPA two years ago. This bill may be aimed at California public schools, but make no mistake: the battle won’t stop here. If these legislators are able to destroy safeguards for our schools, they’ll turn to other communities and try to strip away these legal protections for other Californians. We need to hold the line.

A.B. 165 is currently in the privacy subcommittee of the California Assembly. That means that right now is a very important time to make sure all our California legislators hear us. Please speak out now against A.B. 165.

And if you are a California student or teacher who has witnessed the search of a digital device or online account on school property, please report it using our form.

Not in California? You can still make a difference. Please reach out to your friends in California and ask them to speak out, and please share this blog post on social media.

Take ActionOppose A.B. 165

 

And if you are with a nonprofit or business that wants to join our coalition in this fight, please email rainey@eff.org.

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Read more at: Deeplinks http://bit.ly/1o1WYaJ

Republicans All Over the Country Are Pushing These Anti-Protest Bills to Silence Peaceful Dissent

from March 5, 2017 at 11:52PM http://bit.ly/2mcSanu

As citizens unhappy about the Trump administration look to build on the momentum of the historic Women’s March with additional public expressions of outrage, Republicans across the country are quietly introducing legislation aimed at limiting and even criminalizing peaceful demonstrations.

According to a recent count from the American Civil Liberties Union, at least 17 states have proposed such anti-protest bills, many of which include language ostensibly aimed at improving measures such as public safety. But upon closer analysis, these bills all appear to share the intended goal of suppressing First Amendment rights by making peaceful dissent a crime with the threat of jail time and hefty fines.

Look no further than Minnesota for a prime example. Republican lawmakers there are advancing legislation to punish protesters who block highways and airport access. While the bill’s proponents insist it will protect highway safety, critics argue that the measure instead overwhelmingly targets people participating in demonstrations by saddling them with steep fines, all while having hardly any effect on furthering roadway safety.

The legislative move to suppress protests comes amid angry town halls that have erupted across the country, where thousands of constituents have railed against Republican lawmakers for their reluctance to speak out against the Trump administration, their ill-conceived plans to dismantle Obamacare, and more. Trump notably accused former president Barack Obama of being "behind" the ongoing protests.

Read more at: Politics | Mother Jones http://bit.ly/1tZ6E7y

These 5 Trump Cabinet Members Have Made False Statements to Congress

from March 3, 2017 at 07:15PM http://bit.ly/2mfNyhO

This story originally appeared on ProPublica.

As most of the world knows by now, Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not tell the truth when he was asked during his confirmation hearings about contacts with Russian officials.

But Sessions isn’t the only one. At least four other cabinet members made statements during their nomination hearings that are contradicted by actual facts: EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

The statements were all made under oath, except those of DeVos. It is a crime to "knowingly" lie in testimony to Congress, but it’s rarely prosecuted.

If you know of instances that we’ve missed, email us.

EPA Chief Scott Pruitt

The falsehood: Pruitt stated in testimony that he had never used a private email account to conduct business while he was Oklahoma’s attorney general.

The truth: Fox News 25 asked the state Attorney General’s office whether Pruitt had used a personal email. The answer was yes.

The Associated Press also received emails in response to a public records request showing Pruitt using a private account to conduct state business.

Pruitt’s response: None.

Education Secretary Betsy Devos

The falsehood: DeVos said during her confirmation hearings that she has not been involved in her family’s foundation, which has given millions of dollars to group that oppose LGBT rights.

"You sit on the board," Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., noted. DeVos responded, "I do not."

The truth: As The Intercept has detailed, tax filings have listed DeVos as vice president of the foundation’s board for 17 years.

DeVos’ response: She said the foundation’s nearly two decades of filings were the result of a "clerical error."

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin

The falsehood: In written testimony, Mnuchin denied that his former bank had used so-called "robo-signing" to improperly foreclose on homeowners. "OneWest Bank did not ‘robo-sign’ documents," Mnuchin wrote.

The truth: As the Columbus Dispatch detailed, OneWest Bank employees frequently signed documents in bulk without proper review, which is what robo-signing is. One employee testified that she typically signed about 750 foreclosure documents per week. The Dispatch noted that a judge stopped three OneWest Bank foreclosures "specifically based on inaccurate robo-signings." Reuters also detailed the bank’s robo-signing back in 2011.

Mnuchin’s response: A spokesman offered the following statement after the Dispatch‘s story: "The media is picking on a hard-working bank employee whose reputation has been maligned but whose work has been upheld by numerous courts all around the country in the face of scurrilous and false allegations."

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price

The falsehood: During his confirmation hearings, Price insisted that the discount he got on a biotech stock was "available to every single individual that was an investor at the time."

The truth: As the Wall Street Journal reported, fewer than 20 investors in the U.S. were offered the discount, including Price.

Price’s response: Price did not respond to the Journal’s story.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

The falsehood: Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., asked Sessions whether "anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign."

Session responded: "Sen. Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians."

The truth: Yes, he did.

Sessions’ response: His office’s first statement: "I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false."

An anonymous White House official gave a New York Times reporter a different take, saying Sessions and the ambassador did talk and "had superficial comments about election-related news."

Sessions’ spokeswoman later said Sessions often spoke with "foreign ambassadors as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee." Washington Post reporters asked all 26 members of the committee if they spoke to the Russian ambassador in 2016. Sessions was the only one.

Read more at: Politics | Mother Jones http://bit.ly/1tZ6E7y