Category Archives: News

Our planet just experienced the warmest six-month stretch ever recorded.

via io9

Our planet just experienced the warmest six-month stretch ever recorded. NASA GISS just announced that the previous month was the warmest September on record and that 2014 is poised to go down as the hottest year humans have ever experienced. Discouragingly, September 2014 saw global surface temperatures that were 0.77 degrees C hotter than the 20th century average.


SFBG Shutting Down

via The Bold Italic

This is some really sad news for San Francisco media. SF Weekly reported this morning that the San Francisco Bay Guardian is being shut down, after 48 years of raising hell and covering the hell out of the arts scene here. Apparently parent company San Francisco Print Media Company decided the SFBG wasn’t profitable enough. SFPMC publisher Glenn Zuehls told the Weekly,”The amount of money that the Bay Guardian loses each week is causing damage to the heart of the company and cannot justify its continued publication.” Although SFBG editor Stephen T. Jones said, “We are in discussions of the possibility of buying the paper. We’ll turn to our community and try to see if this is possible.” A statement on SFBG‘s website is a very stark and sad confirmation that the paper has ceased publishing.

The Guardian has been the heart of the city’s adamantly progressive, radically alternative culture for decades and I’m crushed to hear that it’s being let go. Many of us here at The Bold Italic have written for the Guardian at one point or another in our careers (Sarah Han worked on staff there for years) and are among the loyal who pick up the paper weekly to read all the excellent city and arts coverage they offer. I’ve also been inspired by the way publisher Marke Bieschke worked his way from being my favorite clubs columnist to helping keep the paper rooted in the community after original owner Bruce Brugmann sold it to the SFPMC.

Eviction Protesters March On Ed Lee’s House

via SFist

In a seriously ballsy move, affordable housing advocates flat-out stormed the front of Mayor Ed Lee’s house Saturday afternoon. Roughly 50 demonstrators gathered at a BART station and then marched to Mayor Lee’s home Saturday, with nearly as many on-duty police officers ready for them throughout the neighborhood. The march was organized by Eviction Free San Francisco, the folks behind Thursday’s raucous and shout-y eviction protest at the Paolo shoe store and an April protest at the house of Google executive Jack Halprin. These “mini-occupyings” at private homes and businesses are kind of becoming their thing.

SFist does not necessarily endorse staging protests at people’s private homes, and we’re sure as hell not publishing the mayor and his family’s address. (But hey, feel free to speculate in the comments based on clues in the photos!) And there is some precedent here. Gavin Newsom’s luxury apartment building was apparently targeted in a 2008 Care Not Cash protest. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel’s household has been targeted several times, as have been mayors’ homes in Washington DC and Seattle.

“We’re going to his house because that’s very personal,” Erin McElroy of Eviction Free San Francisco told SFist, against the din of bongo drums. “But it’s also very personal to be evicted.”

Several evictees grabbed the megaphone to tell their stories, which are pretty gut-wrenching when coming from senior citizens or schoolteachers holding babies. Lata Garrity, the sweet little old lady with the heart-shaped sunglasses seen above, is getting tossed out of her home of 32 years.

“I want the Ellis Act overturned until we have enough housing that at least people can find another place,” Ms. Garrity told SFist. “So many people are losing out, it’s not right.”

You can imagine that some of Mayor Lee’s neighbors were none too pleased with the protest. One parent stood in front of his house pleading that the demonstrators quit the chanting and drumming because he’d just put his kids down for a nap. “I understand where their feelings are coming from. I don’t know if this is the most effective way in order to make their statement,” the unhappy pop said of the protesters. “My kids are napping right now. It’s pretty disruptive.”

You can also imagine that SFPD was out in full force along the demonstrators’ route, particularly in front of Mayor Lee’s house. “All of the police officers are here to protect you,” one demonstrator shouted at the mayor’s (presumably empty) house. “But who will protect us?”

The demonstrators demanded, among other things, a citywide moratorium on all evictions in San Francisco. That probably will not happen even if Mark Zuckerberg himself comes down from on high in Dolores Park and gives Eviction Free San Francisco a billion dollars for their cause.

But tenant advocates in San Francisco are used to fighting uphill battles. “We fought for rent control. It was not given to us by the graciousness of City Hall,” said protester Patricia Kerman, herself a senior fighting an eviction. “If you don’t fight, you’ll never win. “

“Anybody who loves San Francisco should be out on the streets demanding that the mayor issue an emergency call to stop all the evictions going on,” Ms. Kernan told SFist. “After all, this is the city of St. Francis.”

We will note that Mayor Lee never emerged during the protest in front of his house. In fact, we would bet our World Series press passes that the mayor made a point to be nowhere near his home on this Saturday afternoon.

Kuwait urged to stop stripping citizenship

via Al Jazeera

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on Kuwait to stop targeting opponents through revoking their citizenship and to reinstate the nationalities of 33 people affected by the practice.

“Kuwaiti authorities should immediately stop stripping nationals of their citizenship because they exercise free speech or other legitimate human rights,” New York-based HRW said in a statement.

They should “reinstate the citizenship of people whose citizenship has been withdrawn on those grounds,” it added.

The oil-rich country, where citizens elect their parliament and which is traditionally seen as one of the more tolerant Gulf monarchies, was damaging its reputation, HRW said.

In the past few months, Kuwait has revoked the citizenship of 33 people and most of their family members.

HRW said that at least three of the cases appeared to be politically motivated.

In July, Kuwait withdrew the citizenship of the family of Ahmad Jabr al-Shemmari and shut down his satellite television station and newspaper, as the country was hit with a new wave of anti-government protests.

In August, Kuwait revoked the citizenship of a former Islamist opposition politician and his brothers and sisters, in addition to 10 activists, including leading cleric Nabil al-Awadhi.

Also stripped of his nationality was Saad al-Ajmi, spokesman of the Popular Action Movement, a nationalist opposition group.

Fake documents

A government statement last month said some of those who lost their citizenship had been naturalised because of fake documents.

Others had dual citizenship, which is outlawed in Kuwait, and some had their nationality revoked for security reasons, the statement said.

“The Kuwaiti authorities seem to think they can use the cover of the nationality law to target their critics and deter dissent,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at HRW.

“But Kuwait’s real message of official intimidation has rung out loud and clear,” he said.

“While Kuwait continues to strip people of citizenship for no good reason, its reputation as a tolerant country will continue to nosedive.”

Renewed clashes between police and protesters in Hong Kong

via Euronews

There have been fresh clashes between protesters and police in Hong Kong.

Earlier, police had cleared tents and barricades from the area.

Officers used pepper spray and batons and dozens of protesters were seen knocked to the ground or carried away by police.

Amongst those detained was Bangkok-based Getty photojournalist Paula Bronstein, who was taken away by police after standing on the bonnet of a car.

Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents Club issued a statement demanding her immediate release, and said police had threatened and intimidated other journalists covering the protests.

Talks between the Hong Kong government and student representatives are scheduled for Tuesday. The meeting will be moderated by the president of Lingnan University and will be broadcast live.

St. Louis Cop Allegedly Tried To Get Woman Fired Over Ferguson Tweets

via TPM News

The department announced on Thursday that officer Keith Novara was being investigated after the woman, real estate agent Leigh Maibes, alleged he had tried to get her fired for comments she posted to Twitter, according to the newspaper.

After the officer allegedly called the woman’s bosses to inform them of the social media activity, the woman apparently called Novara and recorded the conversation, which she posted to social media on Wednesday.

In the recording, the officer reportedly confirmed he had called Maibes’ employers to let them know about her social media activity.

“To me this feels like intimidation,” Maibes said in the recording.

Novara maintained he was simply giving her employer a “heads up” while acting in his capacity as a police officer.

The Post-Dispatch reported that Novara’s actions were under investigation but he had not been suspended.

Palestinian boy shot dead by Israeli forces

via Al Jazeera

sraeli forces have shot and killed a Palestinian boy in a village in the occupied West Bank, local medics and residents said.

Thirteen-year-old Bahaa Badr was shot as Israeli forces entered Beit Liqya near the separation wall with Israel, and were reportedly pelted with stones by local youths on Thursday.

It is unclear whether the boy took part in the confrontation, which the Israeli army described as an “illegal riot” in which residents threw Molotov cocktails at their forces, as they were exiting the village.

A military spokesperson said soldiers responded with live fire and the army would investigate the killing.

Director Ahmed Betawai of the Ramallah Hospital said the boy was shot three times in the chest and died of his wounds about two hours after the incident.

Tensions in the occupied West Bank have risen since Israel’s seven-week war in Gaza began in July and killed more than 2,000 Palestinians – mostly civilians – and more than 70 Israelis, almost all of them soldiers.

In recent days, tensions also spiked amid Palestinian charges that Israel is limiting access to Palestinian worshippers at the Haram al-Sharif in East Jerusalem.

Israel has occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem since capturing them in the 1967 war. Palestinians want the territories, along with the Gaza Strip, for a future state.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians mediated by the United States collapsed in April.

43 Mexican College Students Disappeared Weeks Ago. What Happened to Them?

from Politics | Mother Jones

Nearly three weeks have passed since 43 Mexican college students went missing in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero after clashing with local police suspected of having ties to the Guerreros Unidos cartel. A break in the case seemingly came earlier this week when a mass grave with 28 bodies was unearthed, but Mexican authorities later said the students were not among the dead. (That remains unclear.) What exactly is going on?

Let’s start from the beginning. Who are these college students?
The students went missing on September 26 after trying to collect money to attend upcoming protests against discriminatory hiring practices for teachers, according to the Guardian. The students were in Iguala, a town about two and a half hours inland from Acapulco. After fundraising and protesting in Iguala, the students apparently tried to hitchhike back to their rural teacher’s college in Tixtla, about two hours south of Iguala, but police say the students eventually commandeered three buses from a local terminal.

According to the Guardian, (and an eye witness), local police chased the buses down and apparently opened fire. The buses stopped, the unarmed students got out, and the attacks got worse. Many of the students apparently fled, but roughly 20 of them were taken away in patrol cars. Later, some of the students returned to the scene and were talking to reporters when they were assaulted again by police or other gunmen. Two students reportedly died, and one was left in a vegetative state. "The body of a third student was found dumped nearby later, his face reportedly skinned and his eye gouged out," the Guardian reported.

The students’ school, the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers College of Ayotzinapa, is one of more than a dozen around the country that formed after Mexico’s revolution with the goal of raising living standards for impoverished Mexicans and teaching poor farmers to read and write, according to the Christian Science Monitor. The schools are typically seen as leftist, and people from this school, in particular, were some of the major players in the run-up to the Tlatelolco Massacre, a violent clash between students and police in Mexico City in 1968 that led to dozens of deaths.

It’s unclear whether the students’ politics played a role in the attacks. Students from the school reportedly seized and vandalized Iguala’s city hall in June 2013, according to the Wall Street Journal, and have clashed with police there before. "They practically destroyed the building," an Iguala city councilman told the Journal. "That’s what these boys do. They cause trouble." The Journal added that the attacks could also have come about as the students were commandeering the buses; police could have feared that the students were going to disrupt a political rally organized by the mayor’s wife set for the same evening.

But what about the cops who led the assault on the students?
Four days after the attack, the state government charged 22 municipal police officers with murder, according to the Guardian, but many more might have been involved. Corruption among Mexican police is a well-covered issue, but this situation reflects how things have reached a whole new level. Ioan Grillo, a veteran reporter who has covered narco crime in Mexico for more than a decade, wrote in the New York Times that this was something new: "As I inhaled the stench of death on that hill, and saw photos of the mutilated student on the road, I felt as never before that I was covering an act of pure unadulterated evil."

Grillo explained that while the slaughtering of students may "seem inexplicable," the truth is that drug cartels have taken over so completely that they either control government officials or are themselves the government officials. "Being ruled by corrupt and self-interested politicians can be bad," Grillo wrote. "But imagine being ruled by sociopathic gangsters. They respond to rowdy students in the only way they understand: with extreme violence designed to cause terror. They stick the mutilated body of a student on public display in the same way they do rival traffickers."

After the attacks, the federal government took away the local police force’s power and brought in hundreds of its own cops.

Which cartel is behind the violence?
The working theory is that Guerreros Unidos (Warriors United) got the police to attack the students, mounted the attack themselves, or worked directly with police. According to Grillo, Guerreros Unidos is a cartel fighting to control a strategic drug transport area packed with marijuana and opium fields. The cartel operates valuable drug corridors in Guerrero and Morelos, the state immediately to the northeast, according to the Independent.

It’s hard to stay on top of the ever-evolving Mexican cartel breakdown, but here’s what we know: Guerreros Unidos was formed in 2009 after breaking away from the Beltrán Leyva Organization (BLO) following Arturo Beltrán Leyva’s death. According to InSight Crime, a foundation that studies organized crime in the Americas, Guerreros Unidos is in a bitter turf war with Los Rojos (also an offshoot of the BLO) and the Knights Templar (a separate cartel) for control of the area’s drug routes. The BBC has reported that the turf battle has taken a bite out of drug profits, so the cartel also makes money from kidnapping, extortion, and collecting fees.

The cartel’s extracurricular activities have put it in the crosshairs of the federal government, which, under President Enrique Peña Nieto, has been trying to look like it’s taking on the country’s most powerful cartels. The drug wars between the cartels and the Mexican federal government had apparently gotten quieter in recent times because, as the Washington Post notes, "the gore, it seems, was bad for business."

That pressure may have also led one of the leaders of Guerreros Unidos, Benjamín Mondragón Pereda, to kill himself earlier this week after being surrounded by police. Iguala’s mayor and police chief, both suspected of working closely with the cartel, are on the run.

What happened with the unearthing of the mass grave?
When word came after the students’ disappearance that there was a mass grave found nearby, it seemed reasonable that it was the final resting place for the bodies. But yesterday Mexican authorities announced that none of the 28 bodies belonged to any of the students. As the Post reported after the announcement, the news brought fresh hope for families that the students may still be alive, but "to the rest of Mexico, the news that 28 mutilated, charred corpses correspond to another group of victims is a new stop on a carousel of horrors."

There are at least eight more burial sites in just that area, the Post noted, and it’s possible the students are in one or more of them. (The Post notes that authorities haven’t said how many dead have been recovered, or who the bodies might be.) In fact, Guerrero is home to the largest mass grave ever found in Mexico: In 2010, authorities discovered more than 60 people who had been bound and gagged, some dismembered and decapitated, and thrown down a mine ventilation shaft.

So what’s next?
The disappearance and likely murder of the college students has led to mass protests across the country, with Mexicans once again arguing that the government isn’t doing enough to protect them. In Chilpancingo, the state capital of Guerrero, protesters have burned government buildings and demanded the resignation of the state’s governor. Meanwhile, the federal government has said it will continue to search for the students and try to identify the bodies found in the additional burial sites.

26 Arrested at Walmart Protest Outside Alice Walton’s Luxury NYC Condo

from Alternet

New York doesn’t even have a Walmart store, but the company still casts a shadow over the city.

One by one, 26 men and women in bright green T-shirts were handcuffed and guided into waiting paddywagons by grim-faced NYPD officers. The protesters gathered on the sidewalk cheered them on, their shouts of “Si se puede!” disrupting the early afternoon quiet on one of the most expensive streets in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in New York City. Armed with multilingual signs and accompanied by a brass band, these hundreds of workers, activists and allies rallied in front of the Park Avenue condo of Walmart heiress Alice Walton, asking that the voices of low-wage workers be heard.

“Alice, Alice, you can’t hide; we can see your greedy side!” they chanted, as curious tourists snapped photos on their camera phones and the building’s doormen exchanged dark looks. Unsurprisingly, Alice never showed up.

Walmart, the country’s largest retailer and the nation’s largest private employer, is notorious for its poor labor practices. Most recently, the company made headlines for cutting health benefits for part-time workers, but it’s also been called out for discriminating against pregnant employees, requiring workers to buy their own uniforms, and forcing people to work off-the-clock. The retail chain and its grinning smiley face mascot have become the symbol of our exploitative, low-wage service economy. 

But as it turns out, there aren’t any Walmart stores in the New York City area. Thanks to opposition from residents and the City Council, the company has been thwarted in its repeated efforts to open a branch here. Still, according to the crowd in front of Alice Walton’s $25 million apartment, Walmart touches their lives in profound ways. 

“What Walmart is doing is hurting New York City workers every single day,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, an organizer from the Alliance for a Greater New York. “Because they’re the largest employer in the country, they’re setting the standards. The worst aspects of the Walmart business model have been implemented by other low-wage retailers, fast food chains and other service industries.”

At Thursday’s march, workers from the carwash, retail, fast food and construction industries came together to air their common grievances: inadequate compensation, part-time hours that don’t provide a living wage, schedules that change from week to week, leaving them unable to pursue secondary employment or spend time with their loved ones. A full 37 percent of wage earners in New York City are paid less than $15 an hour, and nearly half of the city’s residents are classified as poor or nearly poor. The real point of the march was to acknowledge that they are all in it together.

“We all support the cause,” said Refugio Denicia, speaking in Spanish. “Workers support other workers; nobody else is going to do it.”

For the past 16 years, Denicia has worked six days a week at a carwash in Queens, where he earns a paltry $3.25 an hour. The rest of his $8 hourly wage is supposed to come from tips but he says he rarely makes that amount. Like many of the workers at the march, Denicia spoke only a few words of English.

Ruth Perez, a Brooklyn native who works as an assistant to the general manager at a Century 21 department store, used her day off to join the action. Because she’s worked at the store for 17 years, she says she now earns enough to get by, but knows that many others do not.

“We’re all hard workers and we all deserve a decent wage. When you’re making $7 or $8 an hour and the costs of living keep going up, it’s just not possible.”

Though low wages and high living costs are hardly unique to New York, other cities have come much further when it comes to improving working conditions for their lowest paid residents. Just this summer, Seattle’s city council passed a $15 minimum wage law and higher hourly minimums are on the November ballot in San Francisco and Oakland. As the New York Times editorial board put it in a recent op-ed, “New York State and New York City are lagging, not leading, in the drive for higher wages.”

Last November, Bill de Blasio won the mayoralty by promising to tackle income inequality in what the nonprofit Fiscal Policy Institute calls the nation’s most unequal city. He has made several tangible policy strides, such as expanding the city’s living wage law for 18,000 minimum wage workers who don’t receive benefits and extending the right to paid sick leave to half a million people. But for the workers on Park Avenue, the biggest change is that they now feel like the person in City Hall is listening to them—or even knows they exist. After all, these are the people who voted de Blasio into office and whom he swore to help: workers, residents of the outer boroughs, immigrants, minorities, women.

Antonio Ortiz, a mechanic at the Sweet & Low factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, said in Spanish, “I have much more hope than I did with Bloomberg. [de Blasio] seems like a person who doesn’t just look at one group or one neighborhood. He cares about people from different races, from different backgrounds.” 

In contrast to his predecessor, de Blasio has repeatedly spoken out against the giant retailer, insisting that Walmart has no place in New York City. His words were echoed yesterday by Public Advocate Letitia James and Comptroller Scott Stringer, who met with workers and labor activists at City Hall. For now, it seems, there is no chance a Walmart store will open in the five boroughs. But New York City workers will continue to beat back the long shadow that the company casts even here.

Betty Walston (“not to be mixed up with Walton!”), a middle-aged, ponytailed union worker from UFCW in New Jersey, had some parting words for the Walmart heirs.

“Pay your workers decently. They don’t expect to get rich. Let them not feel guilty for having to decide, every day, should I go to work or stay with my family? Just be human.” 

White People Support Voter ID Laws More After Seeing Black People Voting

via TPM News

The new University of Delaware study found that 67 percent of white Americans supported voter ID laws after the question was posed to them with text only or accompanied by a photo of white people voting. But that number increased to 73 percent when the same question is asked with an accompanying photo of African-Americans voting.

“Our findings suggest that public opinion about voter ID laws can be racialized by simply showing images of African American people,” David C. Wilson, who helped supervise the study, said. “The resulting increase in support for the laws happens independently of —even after controlling for— political ideology and negative attitudes about African Americans.”

The spike, from 67 percent to 73 percent, may not be huge but it’s still statistically significant, The Washington Post noted. While there was an increase among white Americans who were asked about their support for voter ID laws, an accompanying picture of black people voting did not cause African Americans or Hispanic voters to show stronger support for voter ID laws.

Here’s a graph of the study’s findings:

The survey results, flagged by the Post on Tuesday, are based on data from a 2012 Cooperative Congressional Election Study. Data from 1,436 adult respondents in a September 2012 survey was used. Broken down by ethnicity, 80 percent of those surveyed were white, 11 percent were African American and 7 percent were non-White Hispanic.