Daily Archives: February 9th, 2017

The man who declared the ‘end of history’ fears for democracy’s future

Ishaan Tharoor reports for The Washington Post:

Francis Fukuyama, an acclaimed American political philosopher, entered the global imagination at the end of the Cold War when he prophesied the “end of history” — a belief that, after the fall of communism, free-market liberal democracy had won out and would become the world’s “final form of human government.” Now, at a moment when liberal democracy seems to be in crisis across the West, Fukuyama, too, wonders about its future.

“Twenty five years ago, I didn’t have a sense or a theory about how democracies can go backward,” said Fukuyama in a phone interview. “And I think they clearly can.”

Fukuyama’s initial argument (which I’ve greatly over-simplified) framed the international zeitgeist for the past two decades. Globalization was the vehicle by which liberalism would spread across the globe. The rule of law and institutions would supplant power politics and tribal divisions. Supranational bodies like the European Union seemed to embody those ideals.

But if the havoc of the Great Recession and the growing clout of authoritarian states like China and Russia hadn’t already upset the story, Brexit and the election of President Trump last year certainly did.

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Private Eye hits highest circulation in its 55-year history

Dominic Ponsford reports for Press Gazette:

Private Eye hit its biggest ever print circulation in the second half of 2016 – up 9 per cent year on year, according to ABC.

The title has also revealed that the 2016 Christmas issue achieved the biggest sale in the title’s 55-year history,  287,334 copies.

The circulation period followed the UK vote in favour of Brexit and coincided with Trump’s inauguration as US president.

Ian Hislop, who has been editor of Private Eye for 30 years, said both issues were probably a factor in the title’s success.

He told Press Gazette: “This is our biggest sale ever, which is quite something given that print is meant to be dead.”

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Wikipedia just ruled the Daily Mail to be an unreliable source

Thomas G. Clark writes for Another Angry Voice:

Image result for daily mail wikipediaTo the untrained eye the Daily Mail may appear to be a newspaper, but it’s no such thing. It’s an extreme-right propaganda empire that has been owned and operated by the tax-dodging billionaire Harmsworth family for generations.

I’m sure we can all think of examples that demonstrate that the Daily Mail is savagely right-wing propaganda rag: Their support for Hitler and Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in the 1930s; their homophobic rants; their smearing of dead war heroes; their constant anti-immigrant hatemongering; their support for extreme-right candidates on the continent; their blaming a murder victim for their own death; their habit of mocking the gullibility of their own readers; their support for Theresa May’s effort to scrap parliamentary sovereignty and turn herself into an all-powerful autocrat who can make and repeal laws as they please.

Interestingly Wikipedia have cottoned on to what an incredibly dodgy extreme-right propaganda empire the Daily Mail is, and after deliberation, the consensus amongst the community of Wikipedia editors is that the Daily Mail is an unreliable source that should no longer be used as a reference (unless absolutely necessary).

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Why the White House Wants the Media to Talk About Terrorism

Abigail Tracy writes for Vanity Fair:

Image result for Why the White House Wants the Media to Talk About Terrorism[…] When asked during Monday’s daily White House press briefing for examples of attacks the media allegedly failed to cover, Sean Spicer walked back Trump’s comment, proffering that President Trump merely meant press coverage of Islamic terrorism was lacking—not nonexistent. “He felt members of the media don’t always cover some of those events to the extent that other events might get covered,” Spicer said. “Protests will get blown out of the water, and yet an attack or a foiled attack doesn’t necessarily get the same coverage.” A reporter demanded that Spicer release a list of the supposedly under-reported attacks the president had in mind, and Spicer agreed. Hours later, the White House delivered, releasing a list of 78 terrorist attacks.

The media pounced on the hastily compiled list, which was rife with misspellings and typos, and began picking apart the selection. Critics highlighted that many of the attacks the White House claimed were under-covered, such as the San Bernardino and Orlando nightclub shootings, actually fueled weeks of coverage. Others, which didn’t receive much coverage, were smaller incidents, far from the U.S. and Europe, which resulted in few or no casualties. Terrorist attacks perpetrated by non-Islamic extremists—such as white supremacist Dylann Roof, who killed nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina church—were also missing from the list.

But in playing Trump’s game, the media may already have lost. For one, Spicer effectively moved the goalposts, turning a controversy over an obviously false Trump claim—“it is not even being reported”—into a broader conversation about what kinds of attacks journalists cover. TV news producers and assignment editors may think twice, in the future, about whether to cover smaller terrorist incidents or failed plots, of which the White House wants to increase public awareness. List-gate also forced the press to spend half a day debating the total number of attacks occurring across the world, drumming up fear and helping to buttress the president’s defense of his embattled immigration order.

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‘Human Slaughterhouse’: Amnesty International Claims Up to 13,000 Hanged at Syrian Prison

Amy Goodman speaks to Nicolette Waldman, an Amnesty International researcher who specialises in detention issues, about the report she co-authored which claims that as many as 13,000 people have been hanged in a Syrian government military prison in recent years. (Democracy Now!)

Iran Hawks Take the White House

Philip Giraldi writes for The American Conservative:

The United States is adding new sanctions on Iran over that country’s alleged misdeeds, and nearly all of those allegations are either out-and-out lies or half-truths. It has a familiar ring to it, as demonizing Tehran has been rather more the norm than not since 1979, a phenomenon that has included fabricated claims that the Iranians killed American soldiers after the U.S.’s armed interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. This time around, the administration focused on the perfectly legal Iranian test of a non-nuclear-capable, medium-range ballistic missile and the reported attack on what was initially claimed to be a U.S. warship by allegedly Iranian-backed Yemeni Houthi fighters. The ship was later revealed to be a Saudi frigate.

Donald Trump’s national-security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, “officially” put Iran “on notice” while declaring that “The Trump Administration will no longer tolerate Iran’s provocations that threaten our interests. The days of turning a blind eye to Iran’s hostile and belligerent actions toward the United States and the world community are over.”

Ignoring the fact that Iran cannot actually threaten the United States or any genuine vital national interests, the warning and follow-up action from the White House also contradict Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to avoid yet another war in the Middle East, which appears to have escaped Flynn’s notice. The increase in tension and the lack of any diplomatic dialogue mean that an actual shooting war might now be a “false flag,” false intelligence report, or accidental naval encounter away.

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Trump Administration Preparing for Deeper Involvement in Yemen?

Gregory Wilpert speaks to CODEPINK’s Medea Benjamin who says the recent failed US Navy Seal raid shows that the Trump administration’s plans for Yemen will contribute to making the horrific humanitarian crisis there worse. (The Real News)

It’s Not Foreigners Who are Plotting Here

Nora Ellingsen writes for LawFare:

A little more than a week ago, Benjamin Wittes posted a piece about the malevolence and incompetence of Trump’s Executive Order on visas and refugees—an order that, in his words, is both wildly over-inclusive and wildly under-inclusive. If we take the ban and its stated purpose at face value (which Ben argued we should not), at best, the ban is ineffective and fails “to protect Americans.” At worst, as many experts have suggested over the past few weeks, the Executive Order is completely counterproductive. As ten bipartisan former national security officials—four of whom were briefed regularly on all credible terrorist threat streams against the U.S. as recently as a week before the EO—said in a legal brief on Monday:

We view the order as one that ultimately undermines the national security of the United States, rather than making us safer…It could do long-term damage to our national security and foreign policy interests, endangering U.S. troops in the field and disrupting counterterrorism and national security partnerships.

Ben’s piece touched a nerve. It has received nearly half a million pageviews, according to Google Analytics, and was featured this week on This American Life.

In this post, I want to follow up on and flesh out an aspect of the piece that has gotten a lot of attention but much of it in the vein of repetition, not elucidation. Specifically, Ben pointed to some of the most compelling empirical evidence on the issue of ineffectiveness: the EO wouldn’t have blocked the entry of any of the individuals responsible for recent terrorist attacks on American soil. Other media organizations have elaborated on the theme, with various news outlets running stories showing that no one from any of the seven countries included in the Executive Order has carried out a fatal attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. But there’s more to say on this subject and more data to share on it, and I suppose I’m as good a person as any to shed some light.

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TSA’s Own Files Show Doubtful Science Behind Its Behavior Screening Program

Cora Currier reports for The Intercept:

Newly released documents from the Transportation Security Administration appear to confirm the concerns of critics who say that the agency’s controversial program that relies on body language, appearance, and particular behaviors to select passengers for extra screening in airports has little basis in science and has led to racial profiling.

Files turned over to the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act include a range of studies that undermines the program’s premise, demonstrating that attempts to look for physical signs of deception are highly subjective and unreliable. Also among the files are presentations and reports from the TSA and other law enforcement agencies that put forth untested theories of how to profile attackers and rely on broad stereotypes about Muslims.

The TSA has deployed behavior detection officers, or BDOs, at security checkpoints and in plainclothes throughout airports to look for travelers exhibiting behaviors that might betray fear, stress, or deception. According to the documents, these officers engage in “casual conversations” such that the passengers don’t realize they “have undergone any deliberate line of questioning.”

These spotters can pick people out for extra screening, refer them to law enforcement or immigration authorities, or block them from boarding a plane.

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Alleged Mastermind Tells Obama 9/11 Was America’s Fault

Carol Rosenberg reports for McClatchy:

Khalid Sheik Mohammed poses for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at at the U.S. Navy Base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in this undated photo.The alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 terror attacks wrote former President Barack Obama in a long suppressed letter that America brought the 9/11 attacks on itself for years of foreign policy that killed innocent people across the world.

“It was not we who started the war against you in 9/11. It was you and your dictators in our land,” Khalid Sheik Mohammed, 51, writes in the 18-page letter to Obama, who he addressed as “the head of the snake” and president of “the country of oppression and tyranny.” It is dated January 2015 but didn’t reach the White House until a military judge ordered Guantánamo prison to deliver it days before Obama left office.

[…] The Kuwait-born Pakistani citizen of Baluch ethnic background, lists a long litany of U.S. overseas interventions — from Iraq and Iran to Vietnam and Hiroshima — to justify the worst terror attack on U.S. soil.But he is particularly focused on the cause of the Palestinians, highlights civilian suffering and accuses Obama of being beholden to special interests, notably Israel and “the occupier Jews.” Israel gets 39 mentions while Osama bin Laden gets a dozen, including once to excoriate Obama for the mission that hunted down and killed the founder of the al-Qaida movement for the 9/11 attacks.

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