FEMA: ‘Not Our Job to Deliver Water and Food’ to Puerto Ricans

from October 15, 2017 at 05:01PM http://bit.ly/2yOfGA8

Photo Credit: Nenad Novacic / Shutterstock

FEMA says it is not their responsibility to distribute food and water to Puerto Rican survivors of Maria and Irma, according to a recent report by Rachel Maddow.  They can’t be serious?! Oh yes, they are.   

That was the response Rachel got when FEMA was asked why it has been almost 3 weeks since the last hurricane hit Aibonito, a small town high in the mountains about an hour south of San Juan, and FEMA has yet to deliver a single bottle of water.

FEMA claims the roads aren’t passable,   For the record, when I say “about an hour south” I mean Google Maps puts the drive — right now — at 1 hour and 5 minutes if I take the autopista (highway).  BUT it also says there are portions of the road that are closed.  Soooo you have to take route 173 and that takes 1 hour and 24 minutes.  Maybe Google is wrong, right?  It would be nice if someone on the ground could actually make the trip…. oh wait… what’s that?  The MSNBC film crew already made the trip and it took them “about an hour and a half.”  

As the MSNBC video shows, they got there no problem because the road was clear. No bridges out, no trees in the way, no mudslides, no raging rivers.  Not even bad hombres. I realize the last menace would be Mexicans and there shouldn’t be any Mexicans clogging up the roads in Puerto Rico right now. But we all know to the Trump Klan, Puerto Ricans are just Island Mexicans, so they probably worry about that sort of thing.

Presented with the fact of Maddow’s team having video evidence directly contradicting their claims,  FEMA then dropped this bombshell: Apparently, FEMA says it is the mayor’s job to distribute food and water. They are just there to help people fill out paperwork. Forget the fact that about half of the people in Puerto Rico have no access to clean water. Forget the fact that it is now confirmed that people are dying from waterborne diseases like leptospirosis because they lack potable water. Forget the fact mayors in small towns didn’t even have satellite phones until a couple days ago.  Forget the fact mayors don’t have fleets of trucks at their disposal. They sure as hell don’t have gas for the trucks they do have.  Oh… and when they do, look out the window because the situation can always change on you.  That picture above was from Monday in downtown Santurce, on Fernández Juncos, looking towards Isla Grande airport in Miramar.  Good thing FEMA doesn’t have to deal with that.  We’d really be screwed.

Maybe it’s just too damn bad.  A real tragedy.  If only there was something we could do. If only FEMA could help.  Yeah, I know.  That’s hard to swallow. Especially when FOX News reported THIS about FEMA in Lakeland, FL responding to the crisis following a recent hurricane that hit there

LAKELAND (FOX 13) – People who are worn out from Hurricane Irma are getting help in Polk County.

On Friday, FEMA starting handing out free food and water at 11 different sites around the county, including Victory Church.

A long line of cars formed at 8 a.m., and continued throughout the day. Many of the people who came still don’t have electricity.

The difference?  Unlike Aibonito, Lakeland is over 70% white, and that is the darkest part of Polk County.  But I’m sure that has nothing  to do with it.  While we are pretending this isn’t the most racist federal government in 70 years, explain something to me Mike Pence, you shameless hypocrite. 

When you stood in a House of God in Puerto Rico and declared from the pulpit after reading scripture:

“We are with you today, we are with you tomorrow.”

Were you being literal?  Did you only mean you were with Puerto Ricans until October 8th?  I ask because shortly after you went off to do your Sunday Football PR stunt, you guys let the Jones Act reactivate. Not only did you throw up a choke point on every domestic relief operation heading towards Puerto Rico, you also raised the prices on EVERYTHING coming in to Puerto Rico at a time when people are desperately trying to get stuff to family and friends stranded on an island. In the middle of water. Big water. Ocean water.  You know this isn’t like Lakeland Florida where folks can drive to Georgia if they need to.  Way to go, douchebag.

I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked by this.  I mean, yeah you guys are a bunch of white supremacists and all, but this sure doesn’t sound like the Christian thing to do.  Especially from a guy who has the balls to let his wife lead a church in prayer after reading a bible passage that says:

“Love one another with mutual affection.” 

I’ll be honest.  I’m not shocked.  Not even a little bit.  This confirms what I have been saying all along. 

The game plan in Puerto Rico is clear.

The sons of bitches are going to grind those poor bastards into dust, trigger a mass exodus of those who can afford to leave, and then swoop in and buy up the land at fire sale prices so they can build high priced condos to use as real estate for their next international money laundering scheme.

What surprises me? There are still Puerto Ricans who think the most racist government in 70 years is going to help them.


Read more at: Alternet http://bit.ly/2kwQVCk

Poll: Solid Majority Wants Trump To Fix Obamacare Instead Of Sabotaging It

from October 13, 2017 at 09:49AM http://bit.ly/2ifM07Z

A a solid majority of the public — 71 percent — wants to see President Donald Trump make Obamacare work instead of dismantling the law, according to a recent poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

While the poll was conducted before the White House announced that Trump would end crucial subsidies for insurers under Obamacare, 60 percent of respondents said they want to keep the payments in tact. The payments help low-income people afford insurance coverage. On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order to make it easier for people to purchase more stripped down insurance plans.

Thirty percent considered the subsidies — called cost-sharing reduction (CSR) — a bailout to insurance companies and said the program should end.

Democrats (93 percent) and Independents (74 percent) were far more supportive of the idea than Republicans. About half of the Republicans surveyed — 48 percent — said they’d like to see the Trump administration make the current health care law work. Four in 10 Republicans said Trump should make the law fail, according to the poll.

About 66 percent said they thought it was more important to craft legislation to stabilize the Affordable Care Act than it was to continue trying to repeal and replace the law. Exactly 30 percent of those surveyed thought repeal and replacement efforts were more important.

The foundation fielded a random sample of 1,215 U.S. adults from Oct. 5-10, using landlines and cell phones. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.

Read the full poll report here.

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

Background Check Official Says He’s ‘Never Seen’ Mistakes Like Kushner’s

from October 13, 2017 at 07:45AM http://bit.ly/2gH7g2P

The official who oversees background checks for most of the federal government told Congress on Wednesday that he has never seen as many mistakes on a background check form as Jared Kushner has made.

Charles Phelan, the director of the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB), oversees background checks for most of the federal government but did not handle President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser’s security clearance application.

During a Wednesday House Oversight subcommittee hearing, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) noted that Kushner had to submit an addendum to his SF-86 security clearance form four times after omitting contacts with foreign officials.

“Can you recall if there has ever been an applicant having to submit four addenda detailing over 100 errors and omissions being able to maintain their security clearance once those errors and omission have been identified?” Krishnamoorthi asked Phelan.

“I have not seen the breadth of all the applications, but I have never seen that level of mistakes,” Phelan replied.

Phelan added that the NBIB had not handled Kushner’s security clearance.

“I don’t know in the particular cases you’re talking about because we had no visibility in our organization into any of those activities. Those were done by other organizations,” he said.

Earlier in the hearing, Phelan also noted that the online form for security clearances is built in such a way that it’s easy for applicants to make mistakes.

In a statement Thursday, Jamie Gorelick, Kushner’s attorney, reiterated that his form “was prematurely submitted and, among other errors, did not list any contacts with foreign government officials,” and that it had been quickly updated.


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

Federal Employees Had Puerto Ricans Give Them a ‘Spa Day’ While Administering Disaster Relief: Report

from October 13, 2017 at 05:21AM http://bit.ly/2gklZEg

Photo Credit: Mironmax Studio / Shutterstock

A veteran doctor who’s worked on humanitarian missions in ten countries affected by disaster quit abruptly after allegedly witnessing federal disaster relief staffers in Puerto Rico bring in citizens to provide them with a “spa day” on the taxpayers dime.

The doctor spoke with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, and provided images and descriptions of what she saw, as well as her resignation letter.

According to the doctor, the disaster relief employees “used the triage tents that are supposed to be for medical care and instead brought in local Puerto Rican residents to give the medical workers cut-rate manicures and pedicures,” all while on the clock.

“I find this gross misuse of taxpayer funds and abuse of our privileged positions personally abhorrent,” the doctor wrote in her lengthy resignation to her superiors at the National Disaster Medical System, a cooperative agency between Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Defense and Veterans Affairs departments.

The doctor said she opposed the “optics of NDMS medical personnel responsible for seeing injured and ill Puerto Ricans who have no homes, food or supplies having a spa day on taxpayer money,” which she found “personally abhorrent.”

When Maddow’s producers reached out to NDMS, they said they’d been aware of the situation and were investigating it.

Watch Maddow detail the first responders’ “spa day” on the taxpayers’ dime below, via MSNBC.


Noor Al-Sibai is a news writer for Bustle whose work has appeared in Everyday Feminism and in various local publications around North Carolina. 

Read more at: Alternet http://bit.ly/2kwQVCk

Trump’s Latest Attack on Obamacare Violates Oath to Uphold Constitution, Adding to List of Impeachable Offenses

from October 13, 2017 at 05:21AM http://bit.ly/2zq7iUG

Trump is now crossing the lines set by conservatives for removal from office.

President Trump’s executive orders Thursday to sabotage the Affordable Care Act—aka Obamacare—is crossing a new legal threshold that could become part of a growing list of ultimately impeachable actions, much like Richard Nixon faced a deepening list of offenses before he resigned from office in 1974.

That’s because Trump’s willful destruction of Obamacare, a law passed by the Congress—not a regulation promulgated by federal departments—would violate his oath to uphold the Constitution, whose Article Two demands that the president “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”    

“Trying to destroy the law through non-enforcement isn’t just a normal exercise of presidential discretion,” Noah Feldman, Harvard Law School professor and legal columnist, wrote this summer for Bloomberg.com, anticipating Trump’s actions and discussing the Constitution’s “Take Care” clause. “The Constitution recognizes that the president can’t necessarily enforce every law. But it requires a good-faith effort. And declining to enforce the law so that the law itself ceases to be able to function isn’t good faith.”

What’s new and different about Trump’s presidency at this time is his actions—and his threats tied to governmental actions—which are clashing with different constitutional duties and rights he has sworn to uphold. These are being noticed by legal scholars like Feldman, members of Congress, political insiders, and pundits on the right and left.

Seen in isolation, Trump’s anti-constitutional actions—attacking the press and free expression (the First Amendment), taking the military into Syria without congressional approval (Article One, Section 8), profiting from foreign governments’ use of his properties (Article One, Section 9), and abusing his pardon powers (Article Two) by pardoning white nationalist Joe Arpaio—don’t seem to add up to much. But collectively, they are triggering and crossing constitutional thresholds in a manner that has little precedent.

Democrats wanted to impeach President George W. Bush over his war of choice in Iraq. Republicans wanted to impeach President Barack Obama over his use of executive orders in response to congressional inaction. But never before has the president trounced so many constitutional strictures. Trump’s tenure is pushing America into a mounting constitutional crisis that breaks with the past and even triggers the impeachment thresholds set by conservatives.   

“There needs to be profound abuses of power that demonstrate unfitness for the president’s public trust,” wrote Jane Chong in a myths-about-impeachment piece for lawfareblog.com, where she is the deputy managing editor. Chong is also a National Security and Law Associate at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank.

It’s instructive to see how the right—not progressives—views impeachment and Trump’s trouncing of fundamental duties and rights. Unfitness for public trust, as Chong notes, is a value judgment based on an accumulated record. Much the same threshold was cited in an impeachment-rejecting piece by Gene Healy for the libertarian Cato Institute after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. (Trump’s critics said that move was an impeachable offense for obstructing the FBI investigation into his 2016 campaign and Russia.)

Quoting Joseph Story, who served on the Supreme Court from 1811 to 1845, Healy noted, “the [impeachment] remedy ‘is not so much designed to punish an offender, as to secure the state against gross official misdemeanors. It touches neither his person, nor his property; but simply divests him of his political capacity.’”

In other words, those on the right are concerned about presidential actions that impede a functioning government—to “secure the state.” That, of course, includes protecting constitutional rights. The question seems to be, how bad do Trump’s actions have to be before both parties say enough. The misdeeds have to severely break with historic normal partisanship, Chong noted.

“Partisanship be damned, our country enjoys a strong default against undoing national elections,” she wrote. “Only two presidents in our history have been impeached, and none has been successfully removed (though President Richard Nixon almost certainly would have been both impeached and convicted had he not resigned). To put that into numerical perspective, for a healthy 35 percent of our history, a U.S. president has coexisted with a House controlled by the opposing party (that’s 80 of the past 228 years since the start of the Washington administration). But only two presidents have suffered the disgrace of impeachment. Those two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, were Democrats who were each ultimately acquitted by a Republican-controlled Senate.”

Trump doesn’t disappear into the normal partisan woodwork these conservatives are defending. Each month, and sometimes each week, his words and actions clash with the Constitution he’s sworn to uphold. The substance and stakes are rising—and that’s been noted by liberals and conservatives alike.

How many examples do we need to cite? On Thursday, his executive order on Obamacare collided with the “Take Care” clause. (Obamacare defenders didn’t respond to requests for comment on whether they’d be filing suits on this basis.) Later on Thursday night, he issued a statement saying he was immediately ending the $7 billion in subsidies for 7 million low-income Obamacare enrollees. Some media accounts said on Friday that was a ploy to force Democrats to the bargaining table.) 

Days before, Trump’s threat to take away the NFL’s tax-exempt status was “a clear violation of the First Amendment,” Harvard Law’s Feldman wrote. “It’s true that the NFL had voluntarily given up its tax break two years ago, which means that Trump’s threat wouldn’t have practical effect… [But] the First Amendment bars presidential bullying that includes a concrete threat to take government action against a private citizen or group in order to coerce speech.”

Trump’s pardon of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio should be deemed constitutionally invalid, wrote Northwestern Law School professor Martin Redish in the New York Times (hours before it was announced), because it trashed the due process rights (Fifth Amendment) of Arpaio’s victims to seek redress.

Trump’s denial of Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign was “a deliberate deception or fraud” and therefore an impeachable offense, Bob Bauer, a lawyer with long ties to Democrats, wrote in Foreign Policy. “He is misrepresenting matters within his knowledge as president. Intelligence officials have briefed him on the Russia activities. He knows they are not a hoax. And his part in drafting the statement for Trump Jr. shows that he has been even more actively engaged in deceiving the public.”

Trump’s tweets urging Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prosecute Hillary Clinton were an impeachable offense, wrote Richard Painter, a Republican lawyer who was George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer. “Pressuring [an attorney general] to prosecute the person who lost the election is an impeachable offense if we value free elections,” he tweeted in response. 

The examples go on and on. Seen individually, in their respective silos, they all face grueling legal fights, since the White House will argue it has the power to do what it wants no matter what legal scholars and critics say. But even conservatives who say that Trump need not worry about impeachable offenses, as the National Review’s Andrew McCarthy argued in June, lay out the very standard that Trump is now broaching—especially as his statements embracing nuclear war with North Korea are escalating.

“Impeachable offenses—high crimes and misdemeanors—need not be indictable offenses,” McCarty wrote. “They need to be profound abuses of power that demonstrate unfitness for the president’s public trust.”

Trump’s attack on Obamacare Thursday, via executive orders, is one such abuse of power. His continuing flouting of the Constitution’s duties and rights are others. His embrace of war against North Korea and likely rejection of the U.S.-Iran nuclear arms pact—against his top generals’ advice—is another.

In 1974, Richard Nixon resigned instead of facing near-certain impeachment on a growing list of actions, including not funding a congressionally passed law, the Clean Water Act (like Trump’s Obamacare moves). What’s different today is the Republicans in Congress would have to agree to remove Trump through the available constitutional remedies.

While that likelihood seemed remote when Trump was sworn in last January, his escalating constitutional offenses, his mismanagement in office and his abuses of power are pushing the country toward a constitutional crisis, which principled conservatives say is grounds for removal. How this ends up is anybody’s guess, but with each passing week the stakes keep rising.   

Read more at: Alternet http://bit.ly/2kwQVCk

Many Latinos are struggling in California’s wildfires, but Spanish-language information is scarce

from October 13, 2017 at 05:07AM http://bit.ly/2gHKUOI

Unpredictable winds continue to fan the fires engulfing huge swaths of land in northern California Thursday. Authorities say more than two dozen people have died and hundreds are still missing, as of Thursday afternoon.

Evacuations in Napa and Sonoma counties have put some 25,000 people out of their homes. Many of these residents only speak Spanish, but most emergency information is delivered in English.

At the beginning of the week, as fires were starting to spread, Spanish speakers had one place to turn for emergency information — KBBF, a bilingual community radio station serving the region. On the morning of Oct. 9, Hugo Mata went on-air for his weekly, one-hour show about the environment, Nuestra Tierra. Hugo Mata is an environmental educator, but on that day, he was the go-to source for wildfire information.

“I had my show ready, but when I got [to the radio station], I started getting a lot of phone calls,” Mata says. ” They wanted to know the status of the fires. So everything that I had ready for the show was completely changed, and we opened the mics.”

Mata’s radio show was a beacon for Spanish speakers in the fire zone.

“There’s a local radio station that was basically 24/7 fire information in English, but there was nobody else providing information in Spanish. So KBBF basically just started doing that on Monday morning,” Mata says.

Staff hit the phones and called authorities to determine the location and direction of the fires, available shelters and other vital information for its Spanish-speaking listeners.

The KBBF audience had an urgent need for information.

“Many of those fires were so unexpected,” Mata says. “Some callers said that they only had like two or three minutes to react because there was no time for them to gather anything. So it was almost immediate. A lot of people lost their houses and they didn’t take anything with them.”

Mata and his KBBF colleagues have been updating information frequently for the thousands of Napa and Sonoma residents displaced by the fires. He says that the community has pulled together in the crisis.

“We are hearing from all of the different centers, about the support that they’re getting from the community and the volunteer teams that they have,” he says. “They are in need of different supplies, and there are many shelters throughout Sonoma County and also Napa County where people can still go if they have to be evacuated. Each one of [the area’s] cities has at least seven or eight shelters that are open and they’re still receiving more people.”

But despite the need, some people have been reluctant to seek help. Mata says that’s because of persistent rumors.

“They’re afraid that their information is going to be shared with ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] or with other federal agencies, which is not true,” he says.

Mata is emphatic on this point: “It’s safe. They’re safe shelters when people go in there.”

Shelter volunteers ask for minimal personal information.

“All they ask for is names,” Mata says. “And the areas they were evacuated from.”

Listen to emergency information on the California wildfires, in Spanish.

With some 450 people still reported missing, friends and family far from the fire zone are eager to learn what has become of their loved ones.

“Wegistering when they go to these different shelters helps, because they need to know who’s there,” says Mata.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department has launched a bilingual texting service, which provides subscribers updates about fires. Reports are based on the user’s zip code.

People outside the region can hear the latest news, as it’s heard in the Sonoma and Napa valleys, by clicking on KBBF’s live stream.

Read more at: PRI.org Latest from The World and the GlobalPost https://www.pri.org/

Brazil is accused of stripping away LGBT rights

from October 13, 2017 at 11:37AM http://bit.ly/2if0aGC

A recent court ruling has opened a fierce debate in Brazil about the use of controversial psychology to make people heterosexual.

Last month, a Brazilian federal judge decided psychologists could perform “conversion therapy,” a widely discredited practice meant to change a person’s sexual orientation.

The so-called therapy has also caused controversy in the US, where a growing number of states are outlawing the practice. But while the US has never taken a federal stance on it, Brazil’s Federal Council of Psychology banned the practice back in 1999.

That didn’t stop a group of 23 evangelical psychologists from carrying out the “treatment.” Leading member Rozangela Alves Justino describes herself as a “missionary” who is “directed by God to help people who are homosexual.” She lost her license for continuing to perform the therapy and then brought her case to court.

Judge Waldemar Cláudio de Carvalho’s ruling means that Justino and her colleagues can resume their work.

“We consider it a huge setback to have to reaffirm, in the 21st century, that homosexuality is not a disease, disorder or perversion,” Brazil’s psychology council said in a statement following the judge’s decision.

Just want ‘to help people who come with a desire to change’

Justino has defended the practice on the basis that her patients are uncomfortable with their sexuality. “I think it’s cruel to be a person who wants to help and to be gagged, unable to help people who come with a desire to change,” she said in a 2009 interview. Neither Carvalho nor Justino have issued statements since the Sept. 15 ruling.

“All reputable psychiatric and psychological associations have condemned this practice as utterly unethical,” Graeme Reid, head of Human Rights Watch’s LGBT division, told PRI. “People who are offering these services are acting contrary to world medical opinion. It reveals the prejudice that gives drive to this kind of so-called treatment.”

Brazil has long had a gay-friendly reputation. It’s one of the world’s largest nations to recognize same-sex marriage. But that’s just part of the story. LGBT individuals here also suffer discrimination, violent attacks or other serious problems leading to suicide. Today, researchers say the growing power of evangelical Christian groups is fueling prejudice and intolerance in the country’s political, professional and cultural circles. Increasingly, those outside of the heteronormative or religious mainstream are becoming targets for intolerance.

Carvalho’s decision represents a second setback for LGBT Brazilians in September alone. On Sept. 11, one of Porto Alegre’s biggest art museums made the decision to close a queer art exhibition following a barrage of threats from right-wing protesters, who also harassed museumgoers. Among their claims, protesters from the evangelical-backed Movimento Brasil Livre say the exhibition promoted pedophilia, blasphemy and bestiality.

Although the ruling and the museum closure were both bloodless, they represent a subtle erasure of LGBTQ rights to public space and participation. Jurema Werneck, director of Amnesty International in Brazil, said the country should do more to uphold its citizens’ constitutional rights. “These debates make explicit the vulnerable situation of the LGBT population, particularly the trans population,” she said.

Angelo Brandelli Costa, a researcher at Porto Alegre’s Catholic University who specializes in LGBT psychology and homophobia, says Brazil is lagging. Where other countries have put in place social inclusion programs, he says, Brazil is still struggling to uphold basic human rights — such as safety on the street — for LGBT people.

“Public space for debate is taken by conservatives, who use the space for discussing repressive measures when we should be looking at protective measures,” Costa said in a phone interview.

Brazil’s second-largest television network, owned by a conservative evangelical bishop, has helped elect 24 current congressmen in Brasilia. And at local levels, powerful Pentecostal and Baptist churches are gaining influence in city and state governments across the country, posing a challenge to secular moderates but also to other members of the clergy in what’s traditionally been considered the world’s largest Catholic nation.

Costa added, “The biggest danger is that we are losing time debating what has already been consolidated in scientific literature when we should be debating protective measures.”

Harmful treatment for something that’s not a disease

International health experts and rights advocates have broadly denounced conversion therapy, also sometimes called “reparative therapy.” The World Health Organization said it promises “‘cures’ for an illness that does not exist.” And the American Psychiatric Association has cautioned about the risks for patients who receive it, including depression and self-destruction.

United Nations research points out that suicide rates are higher among those who suffer discrimination — a phenomenon that Costa further backs up with research. “In comparison to heterosexuals, LGBT youth from low-income backgrounds are hugely vulnerable to suicide,” he said. “It’s clear that this prejudice and discrimination has an effect on victims, with the rise in suicides and depression, and that the larger visibility of contrary groups causes this effect for the victims.”

Suicides are taken into account in the deaths recorded by Grupo Gay da Bahia, a nongovernmental watchdog, although they are far outnumbered by gruesome murders. The NGO, which is the only Brazil-based organization monitoring crimes against LGBT in the country, recorded 343 violent LGBT deaths in 2016 — approximately one every 25 hours. So far in 2017, Grupo Gay da Bahia has already recorded more than 300 related deaths.

The group’s founder and coordinator Luiz Mott called the increase “very worrying.”

Mott also pointed to the refusal of certain local leaders, including Rio de Janeiro’s evangelical Mayor Marcelo Crivella, to support gay pride parades. “All of this reflects an increase in intolerance, which unfortunately could further increase the number of lethal crimes,” he said.

Related: Rio just elected a very conservative mayor. Activists are worried about LGBT rights.

Crivella, who was the bishop of a controversial megachurch, wrote in the past that homosexuality was a “terrible evil,” but later apologized for that characterization during the campaign for Rio mayor.

He has funded an office of sexual diversity that’s coordinating smaller gay pride parades in neighborhoods across Rio now that city funding has been withdrawn for the flagship parade in Copacabana.

However, on Oct. 1, Crivella’s office posted a video on social media showing the mayor promising a group that the queer art show would make its way to Rio “only if it’s at the bottom of the sea.” The Rio Art Museum, known as the MAR, which receives funding from the city government, has since decided not to host the exhibition.

Researcher Costa says that rollbacks to LGBT rights are a casualty of Brazilian evangelicals’ aim to raise their profile and sway on national politics.

The group’s congressional bloc also played a key role in supporting last year’s impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff for budgetary crimes.

“With the end of a left government in power, these progressive issues end up stuck as a part of a leftist agenda,” Costa said. “With the current political polarization, LGBT issues end up lost as well.”

Read more at: PRI.org Latest from The World and the GlobalPost https://www.pri.org/

The new DHS plan to gather social media information has privacy advocates up in arms

from October 12, 2017 at 12:48PM http://bit.ly/2kRac1D

Sam Sinai was coming back to the US last month, after visiting family in Iran. When he got to Logan International Airport in Boston, US Customs and Border Protection agents told him he’d been selected for extra screening.

“I was asked for some information about what I did abroad and my address abroad and my address here,” he says.

Nothing unusual, he thought. He’d been asked similar questions before. But then the agent said something that made him do a double take.

“[He] told me that there might be a call from the government regarding my political beliefs,” Sinai recalls.

Wait a minute, he thought. Political beliefs?

The agent didn’t give him any more details. And Sinai left the airport. Later, he mulled over why the agent had brought up his politics.

Then it clicked. They might have looked him up online.

Sinai is a PhD student at Harvard University and a dual citizen of Iran and the US. He says he occasionally writes online about US-Iran relations. In the past, he’d answered questions posted on Quora, “a question-and-answer site where questions are asked, answered, edited and organized by its community of users.” His contributions to the site are a mix of science and politics. He’d answered questions that range from “What are plants’ stem cells, and what purpose do they serve?” to “Why has the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] never sampled areas where suspected earthquakes occurred in Iran?”

“I think the adversarial approach that the US takes towards Iran is counterproductive,” Sinai explains, sitting at a cafe not far from the Harvard University campus. “I advocate for a more conciliatory approach.”

Sinai says, as an American citizen, he never imagined he could be questioned about his political stance. So far, he says, no one from the government has contacted him. But it’s been on his mind.

And rightly so.

Back in September, the Department of Homeland Security announced in the Federal Register that it had been collecting information from social media accounts of immigrants and foreign visitors. According to that notice, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is part of DHS, keeps the data it collects from immigrants in what’s known as their “A File.” According to DHS, data gathered includes “social media [accounts], aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results.”

According to Edward Hasbrouck, DHS has been collecting social media data since the Obama administration — for at least five years. Hasbrouck works for The Identity Project, a civil liberties and human rights project focused on travel-related issues and freedom of movement.

He explains that under the Privacy Act of 1974, DHS should have gotten approval from the Office of Management and Budget before it started tracking social media information.

“This has been going on for at least five years without their complying with even those minimal notices that are supposed to give the public awareness of what’s going on,” he says. So now, he adds, the DHS has published this notice in order to legitimize what it has been doing.

“It’s good news that we at least know that this is happening,” says Nuala O’Connor, president and CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit that promotes freedom on the internet. “The bad news is … we find this to be a gross invasion of individual privacy and really far more information that is necessary to do the important work of the Department of Homeland Security.”

O’Connor, who worked for DHS during the George W. Bush administration, says she was surprised by the extent of the information DHS tracks.

“Think of your Facebook account and your Facebook messenger and your news feed and things that you post; […] likes or dislikes or commentary that you make on other people’s pages, even search results.” All that gets scooped up and kept as part of a user’s immigration records. And the same happens on other social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and more.

What was also shocking to privacy and civil rights advocates was whose data was being collected.

“Immigrants of any kind,” explains O’Connor, “lawful permanent residents, what we know as green card holders, and naturalized citizens, people who’ve gone through the immigration process and become full US citizens and, of course, through what they’re collecting, also information about anyone who has contact with them online in any form of social media.”

A DHS official said in a statement that the DHS notice does not represent new policy. “DHS, in its law-enforcement and immigration-process capacity, has and continues to monitor publicly-available social media to protect the homeland,” the official wrote in an email.

But the Office of Inspector General published a report back in February that said the DHS pilot programs to screen social media accounts “lack criteria for measuring performance to ensure they meet their objectives.”

Meanwhile, advocates like Hasbrouck also worry about the sheer amount of the data that gets collected and how it gets processed. “There’s no way they have enough warm bodies to read this stuff,” he says. “It’s only going to be grist for the mill of robotic profiling.”

That means probably using keywords and algorithms, which can be misleading. “Words that might seem scary in one context,” explains O’Connor, “in another context might be a child doing a book report on a story about some tragic event, or a reporter covering such an event.

Visa applicants or immigrants might also post in a language other than English, which adds to the complicated task of deciphering legitimate threats

This type of invasive, wholesale data collection can be traced back to the days after 9/11. But more recent events have played a part as well. After the attack in San Bernardino, California, officials became concerned about how terrorists use social media. That’s because the attackers, Tashfeen Malik and her husband Syed Rizwan Farook, had talked about jihad and martyrdom in private Facebook messages.

Lawmakers argued that had immigration officials had access to those messages and, had they checked them, they might have been able to flag the attackers. Less than two weeks after the attack, 24 senators, led by Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, sent a letter to the secretary of Homeland Security requesting that, as soon as possible, DHS expand social media background checks for visa applicants.

DHS argues that it only collects data that’s publicly available. But the messages Malik and her husband sent were private. That means even with the latest expansion of the social media screening, DHS would technically not have access to this data.

Shaheen said in a statement that her letter “was clearly intended to close security gaps in the visa application process and should not be misconstrued to justify this administration’s immigration policy overreaches or violate the privacy of law-abiding, legal residents.”

Others raised concerns, too. Last year, David Kaye, special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression at the United Nations, sent a letter to the US ambassador to the UN, raising concern about how the US collects social media information from visa applicants.

“I am concerned that affected travellers lack sufficient guidance on what information to provide, how the information may be used, and the consequences of not providing it,” he wrote, “I am also concerned that, without sufficient guidance, relevant government officials might have largely unfettered authority to collect, analyze, share and retain personal and sensitive information about travellers and their online associations.”

In response to Kaye’s concerns, Jason Mack, US deputy permanent representative to the UN Human Rights Council, wrote “[US Customs and Border Protection] performs searches and inspections in full compliance with all applicable federal laws and constitutional protections, consistent with U.S. human rights obligations.”

The public has until Oct. 18 to submit comments regarding the new DHS social media collection policy. About 2,000 comments have been submitted so far, many in opposition. One from F. Fitter is critical that the policy will have a broad chilling effect on freedom of speech.

“When officials have the power to deny visas based on their arbitrary interpretation of an individual’s social media history, ALL Internet users will rightfully worry that those rules will someday be applied to them. Their resulting fear of openly expressing personal and political views will have an unacceptable chilling effect on free speech. […] Finally, applying these rules to naturalized citizens places them in a special category separate from natural-born citizens. Implying as it does that naturalized citizens are somehow “tainted” at birth and remain so forever, it is a grotesque perversion of the citizenship process, an insult to adults who have worked hard to be considered worthy of citizenship, and a particular insult to those naturalized as children.”

For Sinai, the Iranian who was told he’d be contacted about his political beliefs, the new DHS protocols are reminiscent of intimidation tactics the Iranian government uses.

“I had a lot of friends who were politically active and I could see that they would be harassed,” he says. “I always felt like that was unjust and uncalled for and I don’t think it’s a good policy there, I don’t think it’s a good policy here.

Sinai says he hasn’t changed his online behavior, even though he was shaken after that exchange at the airport. He just wants to focus on his scientific work. Right now, he’s designing tools that help people with genetic conditions like Huntington’s disease.

He says he would like to stay in the US, as long as he’s treated fairly.

“If I don’t feel like I am a citizen like everyone else here,” he says, “obviously I would look to go places where I am welcomed for my science and merits rather than my nationality or background.”

Read more at: PRI.org Latest from The World and the GlobalPost https://www.pri.org/

Puerto Ricans Are So Desperate They’re Trying to Drink Toxic Water at Hazardous Waste Sites

from October 12, 2017 at 09:48AM http://bit.ly/2ymDTe2

While Trump threatens to pull his Puerto Rico aid, citizens on the island are dying of thirst and disease.

As Donald Trump waffles between cruelly threatening to pull aid from Puerto Rico and pathetically whining about criticism of his terrible relief efforts there, the island continues to deal with ongoing devastation. According to a FEMA report, nearly 40 percent of Puerto Ricans have no access to clean drinking water. The situation is so dire that some residents are attempting to get water from polluted, contaminated and toxic sources.

“There are reports of residents obtaining, or trying to obtain, drinking water from wells at hazardous waste ‘Superfund’ sites in Puerto Rico,” the Environmental Protection Agency notes in a press release cited by Reuters. CBS News Correspondent David Begnaud tweeted an image of the report.


On the ground, groups of volunteer veterans have taken to social media to get out the message about how poorly this administration is handling aid efforts. In a widely shared video posted Monday, a group of four veterans, including a man identified as former Staff Sergeant and Cavalry Scout Jason Maddy, describe the lack of supplies coming in.

“We have an urgent message to get out about what’s really going on here in Western Puerto Rico,” Maddy says into the camera. “Right now, we’re only giving out, to people in the mountains, one small meal and six bottles of water per family. That is all they’re getting.”

“And the meals are really just kind of a snack pack,” another veteran, Chris Davis, says. “We can’t figure out why supplies aren’t coming in from San Juan. The local government here is doing all that they can.”

“In this area, we’re really the only ones here — we’re 12 volunteer veterans,” Maddy adds. “And people are hurting really bad right now.”


Brock Long, the head of FEMA appointed by Trump in April, has helped elevate the president’s attacks against officials who have not been praiseful of the administration’s response. Pleas for help from San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz have largely been met with insults from Trump, even as the grossly undercounted death toll rises and the situation remains bleak.

"We filtered out the mayor a long time ago,” Long said during a Sunday television appearance. “We don’t have time for the political noise."

Read more at: Alternet http://bit.ly/2kwQVCk

Neo-Confederate Leader Behind Arrest Warrant For Black Man Beaten In C’Ville

from October 11, 2017 at 01:44PM http://bit.ly/2yjTE7Z

One of the most enduring and shocking moments from the white nationalist march on Charlottesville this summer was the parking garage beating of counter-protester DeAndre Harris by a crowd of khaki-clad white nationalists, who swarmed around the 20-year-old with flagpoles and shields.

One of the hate group leaders involved in that clash successfully persuaded a local magistrate on Monday to issue an arrest warrant for Harris on a felony charge of “unlawful wounding,” complicating an ongoing police investigation into the men who attacked the counter-protester.

Both Harris’ lawyer and the League of the South, a neo-Confederate organization, say Harold Ray Crews, the group’s North Carolina chairman, pursued the warrant. In order to do so, he took advantage of a quirk in the judicial system, according to a Charlottesville police detective and Harris’ lawyer.

After trying to file a compliant with police, Crews apparently went to the magistrate’s office, which requires only a police report based on the complainant’s testimony and the determination of probable cause to issue a warrant. In a statement, S. Lee Merritt, Harris’ attorney, Merritt attributed the charge to a “successful campaign” by the League of the South to “manipulate the Charlottesville judiciary and further victimize Mr. Harris.” He denied that his client was involved in causing the head injuries Crews sustained.

Charlottesville police detectives and Merritt have expressed surprise that local authorities issued the warrant at all.

“This is the first time I’ve seen this situation happen,” Merritt told TPM.

In a Wednesday phone call, Merritt told TPM that Crews and his fellow League of the South members have been discussing pressing charges against Harris on their podcast, “Southern Nationalist Radio,” “for quite some time,” but that he did not expect “a magistrate to sort of decide to independently run with it.”

Charlottesville Det. Sgt. Jake Via, who is supervising the parking garage case, told the Washington Post that he, too, was “not expecting this.”

“We were expecting to do our own investigation into the man’s allegations,” Via told the newspaper.

Crews, a 48-year-old North Carolina real estate lawyer who describes himself as a “Southern Nationalist” on his Twitter bio, did not respond to TPM’s email and phone calls requesting comment. But the League of the South posted several items celebrating the pending arrest of the “young negro male” involved with “harassing their members” in the parking garage.

Crews has deep ties to the League, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, has reported that he runs their Facebook, website and a related YouTube channel that’s posted under his own name.

His allies have celebrated the arrest warrant as a victory for their side, with white nationalist blogger Hunter Wallace calling Harris’ charge the end of “another race hoax” and prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer cheering “the end of the Deandre Haris [sic] myth.”

Both Merritt, Harris’ attorney, and the white nationalists say they believe the copious video evidence of the incident will vindicate them. Video shows the man that Merritt says identifies as Crews trying to stab a counter-protester with the pole of a Confederate flag, and Harris swinging a flashlight in response. Merritt said in a statement that the flashlight “did not make significant contact” with Crews before Harris was kicked to the ground by six white nationalists who beat him with wooden sticks and a shield, leaving him with a spinal injury, cranial lacerations and several fractures. Photos show Harris bleeding profusely from his head.

According to Merritt’s statement, the injury Crews sustained to his head came from “a completely separate subsequent incident” involving a clash “between at least four white males,” which was also appears to have been captured in multiple photographs.

Three of the white nationalists involved in the parking garage beating have since been arrested.

As the Post reported, Commonwealth’s Attorney Warner “Dave” Chapman, a Democrat, will decide whether to prosecute the case once the warrant is served against Harris.

Merritt told TPM he is working with Charlottesville police to determine the terms of Harris’ surrender, but would not release the date out of “concerns about his safety and people knowing he’s in town.”

“He had to leave Charlottesville because he no longer felt safe in the city,” Merritt said of Harris, who was a resident of the city at the time of the August rally. “He couldn’t continue his job as an assistant school teacher because of anxiety that he gets around large crowds. He was doing a pretty good job recovering. But there’s still this angst of him being charged after being the recipient of this brutal attack. It’s set him back emotionally.”

This post has been updated.

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