4 Activists Arrested Protesting Plan to Sell Offshore Oil Leases

while Obama was speaking in Baton Rouge, four environmental activists were arrested in New Orleans on Tuesday while occupying the headquarters of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in New Orleans. They were protesting the Interior Department’s decision to go ahead with a lease sale of up to 24 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas exploration and development. The sale is being held in the Superdome—the very building where thousands of displaced residents of New Orleans sought refuge during Hurricane Katrina 11 years ago.

— source democracynow.org

Turkey in Islamist, Authoritarian Rule

Funerals have begun in Turkey for some of the 42 people killed in the triple suicide bombing Tuesday targeting Turkey’s main international airport in Istanbul. The attack injured more than 230 people. Authorities said three attackers arrived at the airport’s international terminal by taxi and blew themselves up after opening fire. The airport is the 11th busiest in the world. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Turkey’s prime minister said the initial probe pointed to the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or Daesh. A senior Turkish official told the Associated Press the three suicide attackers were nationals of Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Earlier today, Turkish police raided 16 locations in Istanbul and detained 13 people on suspicion of involvement in the attack.

Turkey has seen an uptick in bombings since last year, when the United States began using Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base to carry out bombing raids in Syria and Iraq targeting ISIS strongholds. Tuesday’s attack came just one day after Turkey restored diplomatic ties with Israel after a six-year rupture.

Koray Çaliskan talking:

It’s really sad that this happened. We know that there is a threat of international terrorism, but unfortunately this threat got materialized more in Turkey. In the last 12 months, we saw 17 bombings that costed the lives of 294 people, wounded 1,009. Not even a single official left office, resigned. And the Islamist authoritarian AKP government did not accept that there was a security breach in Turkey.

Remember that these three ISIS terrorists entered Istanbul airport passing a security check with hand grenades, AK guns, Glock guns, and then they entered the airport building after the first security check and began to shoot at people during and after the second check. This is a great problem, and I believe, because Erdogan decided to be a president in a presidential system—as you know, Turkey is a parliamentary regime—they have not been working well to take care of security measures and also take aim at the heart of terrorist organizations.

One of the most important sources for open source security and intel, intelligence, is Twitter and Facebook and internet correspondence, right? In Turkey, Twitter is blocked right now. Facebook is blocked. We can’t talk to each other through Twitter. We can’t talk to each other through Facebook. Why? Because the government and Erdogan himself do not want people to criticize them, criticize their weakness.

I’ll give you another example. We had another unfortunate bombing in Brussels a few months ago, you would remember. It took Belgian authorities to open the airport six days, because they studied every security breach in that airport and fixed them and opened the airport. Six weeks—six days, excuse me. In Turkey last night, only six hours after the bombing, despite the unacceptable security breach in the gates of the airport, the government decided to open the airport. It costed 41 lives. Not even a single elected official resigned or forced to resign.

Nothing really works in this country. The economy is going bad. Democracy, we lost it. Technically, Turkey is a competitive authoritarian regime ruled by Islamists, authoritarian Islamists. In terms of security, you see what’s going on. No one really feels secure in this country anymore. And because of the Kurdish question and the increasing terrorist activities of PKK, the government doesn’t know what to do, other than bombing people, other than using military means, other than shutting down Twitter, other than doing what authoritarian leaders do, from North Korea to Syria, from Russia to Turkey.

: the warnings that had come in a few weeks ago of something like 30 or so ISIS fighters coming over the border from Syria. The Turkish government very much understood this, the possibility of an attack during Ramadan, and especially in these last days when people are traveling.

There has been intelligence about it. And, unfortunately, we hear about intelligence regarding what’s going to happen in Turkey from either U.S. Embassy or French Embassy or German Embassy. Our government doesn’t tell us anything about it. The U.S. told about possibility of bombings and that there has been—there have been close to 30 terrorists entering Turkey, planning attacks. We didn’t hear anything from our government.

This happened before. The last bombing in Istanbul was in Istiklal Street, very close to Gezi Park. And German Embassy asked German schools to be emptied, told their citizens to not to go to Istiklal Avenue and around it. Less than 24 hours later, we had a bombing in Istiklal Avenue. Our government didn’t tell anything, because, first, in their mind, if they warn people, they think that people will think that they are not doing their job properly. But on the contrary, if they warn us, if they take intelligence seriously, we would think that they are doing their job. Right now, no one really thinks that they are doing their job. They are just shouting at journalists, academics, intellectuals, for criticizing them.

: the timing. On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a restoration of ties with Turkey, including increased cooperation in oil and gas production. Turkey seeing an uptick in bombings since last year, when the United States started using Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base to carry out bombing raids in Syria.

I don’t think the bombing in Istanbul is related to Turkey’s establishing of the diplomatic relations with Israel and Kerry’s comments, for two reasons. First, you can’t—you don’t have time to respond that fast, if you’re a terrorist organization, two days after Israel and Turkey announced that. Two, in the last 12 months, there have been 17 bombings, Amy, in Turkey. You’re talking about one bombing, one terrorist attack, every three weeks. This is another threat. There is a war against Turkey that President Erdogan and the government of Islamist authoritarian AKP do not take seriously.

On the issue of rapprochement between Israel and Turkey, I think it is very sad that Turkey stepped back from its principles, its foreign policy principles. They said that they were against the blockade, the embargo of Palestinians, and they legitimized the blockade itself by agreeing to give the aid to Israel so that it can distribute the aid to any Palestinian anytime it wants. They got the money for the families of nine people the Israeli Defense Forces killed in international waters, thus violated international law. And Turkey accepted that they won’t be sued in Turkey or they won’t be taken to court in international justice system. This is a disgrace.

That was the Israeli military attack on the Mavi Marmara, that was trying attempt to break the blockade of Gaza.

So, that’s why, for two reasons, they are not related. I believe what Erdogan is trying to do is that he realized that he has been making a lot of mistakes. Russian planes were bombing ISIS, and they downed a Russian plane, with no legitimate reason. And they had to apologize from Russia. And in Turkey, they say that they didn’t apologize; they just said they were sorry, as if that was a substantive difference. They are planning to pay for the downing of the plane, and they are planning to get the money from Israel.

I don’t really understand what principles are changing here. On the one hand, they are criticizing the military coup d’état in Egypt; on the other hand, they are willing to make peace with them. On the one hand, they pretend as if they have principles; on the other hand, they do their best to violate those principles. I think they are losing control of foreign and domestic policy because of one reason: Erdogan’s dream of becoming a president of a presidential system.

: earlier this year, more than a thousand Turkish academics signed a peace petition. Several of them were jailed. Can you talk about Erdogan government’s reaction to dissenting voice

I signed that letter, too. First, it was signed by more than 1,200 academics. When Erdogan called us terrorists or voices of terror, 1,000 more academics signed it. Since then, more than 100 academics lost their jobs. They were fired from public and private universities. Four academics were jailed for more than a month; they are free right now. And many academics are being prosecuted, just because they criticized AKP’s handling of Kurdish question. This is another move of Erdogan to silence civil society in the country. He silenced the media. The most important editor-in-chief in the country, Can Dündar, was about to be killed, less than two months ago, after Erdogan targeted him. A fascist just began shooting at him, and the journalist’s wife prevented him from taking aim at Can Dündar. So the press is being silenced. The academics are being silenced. How can academics, who have PhDs from states, Europe, Turkey, accept to be terrorists? What Erdogan does is to do what all authoritarians do: If there is—if he is being criticized and if he doesn’t agree with academics or journalists, he accuses them of being with terrorists.

He has another strategy in addition to that. When you criticize him, he considers it as an insult or libel against the president. I have a court case. My next hearing will be in September. And I—the prosecutor general wants me to be jailed by eight years, three months for writing a tweet criticizing Erdogan. And the tweet didn’t even mention his name. So, imagine, there are hundreds of court cases like this. He is winning them. He is making money out of them. People are being in jail.

But what we see, unfortunately, is the following: Turkey is leaving democracy, and United States is just watching it. You cannot have a secure world with authoritarian leaders. Remember what happened in Cold War: We were at the brink of a nuclear war. And right now, world democracy is being threatened by poverty, mostly organized by capitalism, and by terrorism, mostly organized by organizations like ISIS. There is only one way to deal with this double threat: democracy now.

I’m not afraid, because my job is to tell the truth. I don’t tell the truth, I don’t do my job. How am I going to explain this to my children and to my students in the future? Am I afraid? I think right now intellectuals in Turkey are not afraid. They are concerned about their colleagues. They are concerned about Turkish democracy. But we will continue to tell the story of democracy, freedom, equality and liberty.

Koray Caliskan
associate professor of political science at Bogaziçi University in Istanbul.

— source democracynow.org

Walmart, Gap, H&M Called Out for Global Worker Exploitation and Abuse

Some of the world’s biggest retailers, including Walmart, Gap, and H&M, have failed to improve workplace safety three years after the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh killed more than 1,100 people and turned a spotlight on dangerous labor conditions faced by some of the world’s poorest workers.

A series of new reports released Tuesday by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, a coalition of rights groups and trade unions, finds that tens of thousands of laborers in Bangladesh are still making garments in buildings without proper fire exits, while pregnant workers in Indonesia and India face discrimination and wage theft.

In Cambodia, workers who demanded an extra $20 a month were shot and killed.

Meanwhile, Walmart has continued to benefit from forced labor in more than a dozen of its supplier factories in India, Cambodia, and Bangladesh, the report found. Workers described “harsh conditions with strict line leaders, tough supervisors and abusive management practices” including verbal abuse, threats, and denial of water breaks.

And due to a lack of transparency in the supply chain, Walmart has been able to evade accountability for many of its abusive practices, the report states.

Some progress among the various retailers has been made, such as structural repairs in several Bangladesh factories, but the delays in improving a vast quantity of conditions are “unacceptable,” Workers Rights Consortium executive director Scott Nova told the New York Times.

That includes H&M, which was the first to sign the post-Rana Plaza international deal known as the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. An earlier report from the Wage Alliance found that the company’s factories continue to allow wage theft, sexual harassment, and other workplace abuses in its factories. And many of those buildings have yet to be fitted with proper fire exits, the report (pdf) found.

Anannya Bhattacharjee, the international coordinator for the Wage Alliance, told the Times, “At this point, we do not see H&M working in a way that would prevent another Rana Plaza.”

Nova added, “It’s so grossly irresponsible to put thousands of workers into a building that doesn’t have [fire exits].”

Meanwhile, Gap factories continue to force laborers to put in more than 100 hours a week for poverty wages, the report states.

The reports from a global coalition of trade unions, worker rights, and human rights organizations—including Asia Floor Wage Alliance, Jobs with Justice, National Guestworker Alliance, National Domestic Workers Alliance, and the Clean Clothes Campaign—were released to coincide with the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) annual conference, taking place over the next 10 days in Geneva.

The reports expose wide-ranging exploitation and abuse across the seafood and garment sectors, and across the global supply chain as a whole.

“With these reports, which detail specific recommendations to improve working conditions worldwide including specific outlines for a cross-border living wage, the coalition is working to push the ILO to move forward with setting global standards for supply chains that include wage protections, freedom of association and freedom of migration,” according to the groups.

Whereas “[c]orporate and multi-stakeholder ‘corporate social responsibility’ schemes have had little if any positive impact on guaranteeing workers’ rights,” International Trade Union Confederation general secretary Sharan Burrow wrote on Tuesday, “[a]n ILO convention on decent work in global supply chains can and should form the backbone of any new approach to labour regulation and enforcement at the international level.”

A separate report released Tuesday by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation found that close to 46 million men, women, and children are enslaved across the world, many of them providing “the low-cost labor that produces consumer goods for markets in Western Europe, Japan, North America, and Australia.”

— source commondreams.org

Crackdowns on Teachers in Oaxaca and Police Killings

in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, where a deadly police crackdown against teachers has left at least eight people dead, more than a hundred wounded this week. On Sunday, police descended on teachers in the community of Nochixtlán, where they had set up blockades to protest against neoliberal education reforms and the arrests of two teachers’ union leaders last week on what protesters say are trumped-up charges. Democracy Now! correspondent Andalusia Knoll traveled to the area and interviewed survivors of Sunday’s deadly attack.

Gustavo Esteva talking:

we had a very bloody battle. It is—until now, we had a report of nine executed, assassinated, 23 disappeared, at least 21 arrested, 45 in the hospital, more than a hundred injured. It is—was a very bloody, long-announced battle. It was the—it is the beginning of the war. And we are surprised and amazed that the authorities are following the script, literally the script of 10 years ago—first the teachers’ mobilization, then the sit-in, then the repression. This is a very complex war. It doesn’t—it did not start in Oaxaca. The teachers’ struggle, it is a global struggle. It started in Colombia, in Brazil, in Chile, in the U.S.—everywhere. And today we are in a war trying to say a very firm no to this kind of education. It is useless instruction. We are discussing education. We have a plan of education. We can offer an alternative for—of education. And we are saying no very firmly to all the so-called structural reforms that mean basically a change of only ownership. They are selling our land, our territory. The people are resisting. And then we are resisting with them to oppose this kind of operation. This is a very complex war that just started. We are at the beginning of this very complex war against us, against our territory.

governor was in a party. He asked the intervention of the federal police, that those killing people were the federal police, not just the state police. It was an operation combined by the federal police and the state police.

Right now we have a curfew in Nochixtlán, in the place. We are—this moment, we don’t have any specific activity, but we are waiting for the next scenes of the battle. The battle has just started.

the last report we had, it is nine people were literally executed, assassinated. We had 23 people disappeared. We have at least 21 arrested. We have 45 people in the hospital. We have more of a hundred wounded. This is the last report. At the beginning, the police said that they had no firearms. Finally, when we had in Facebook lots of images of the police shooting in a very clear attack on the teachers, they finally accepted that at the end they brought people with firearms. But it was a very concerted attack. It was a very bloody battle against the teachers.

First, the teachers are saying no to what they call an educational reform that is not educational reform, that is bringing basically useless instructions instead of education. The teachers had a whole plan for real education for the indigenous people of Oaxaca. And they are saying no to a reform that put many people, of teachers, out of a job. It is not privatization of education, but abandoning the education, particularly in indigenous areas. Then it is—the teachers are joined by the indigenous people, protecting the education, real education, for the children. But the teachers are also saying no to the so-called structural reforms that basically means a change of ownership and selling our territories. Forty percent of Oaxaca has been sold for 50 years’ concessions to private companies. And the people are resisting, protecting their own territories, because it is basically indigenous territories. And then they are saying yes to a real education and no to this kind of operation dispossessing the people of their own land, their own territory.

And this is, of course, connected with the case of Ayotzinapa, the 43 that we are still missing, because it is again the evidence that in the case of Mexico, we cannot draw a line separating clearly the world of crime and the world of the institutions. It is the same thing for us. We are living in that kind of conditions. It is not the criminal assaulting the power or killing the people; it is the authorities mixed with criminals, are the final—for us, become the same kind of thing, attacking us, killing us, affecting all our lives.

We are just at the beginning of this battle. This is not the end. It was a very bloody weekend, but this is just the beginning. It was really clearly announced. We, in Oaxaca, knew very well that after the elections, that they were waiting for the elections to start this kind of repression. For us, the teachers are clearly the object now, because if they suppress, if they win over the struggle of the teachers, this will be intimidation by all the other people resisting. That is, then, the authorities did not learn the lesson of 10 years ago. They are following the script of 10 years ago. And then we are—we learned the lessons. And then we are beginning a very complex strategy for a long struggle.

2006, in the midst of a bloody state crackdown on striking school teachers in Oaxaca that sparked a popular uprising against the then-Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz over the months, a long rebellion. In 2006 in Oaxaca, gunmen with ties to the Mexican government shot and killed three people, including the U.S. journalist and activist Brad Will.

situation has deteriorated. It has not improved in these 10 years. We learned a lot of lessons. The experience is cemented in the hearts and the minds of the people here in Oaxaca. We learned a lot. We will not commit the same mistakes that we committed 10 years ago. I will add to that story of 10 years ago that after the teachers’ mobilization, there was a horrible, horrible media campaign against the teachers, then, after that, the repression. And this is exactly what we are seeing today. After the teachers’ mobilization, we had this horrible media campaign against them, preparing the public opinion for the repression, and then we had the repression this weekend. But we learned the lessons. We are prepared. Basically, one of the things that we are saying that we are trying to apply in the reality is that David can always win over Goliath if he fights in his own territory. We are saying that, for example, the teachers have, as people, as their own territory, the classroom. They can organize the first, the most important struggle in the classroom, trying to bring back real education for the people in Oaxaca. And second, we want also to be in the streets supporting this struggle that is really a very complex struggle. We are struggling for our life. Our movement has consolidated. We have for the first time, after lessons of 2006, conversations between the teachers and the civil society. We have something that we call espacial civil, civil space, where a hundred organizations, grassroots organizations, collectives, community organizations, NGOs, many people are together, joining the teachers in this very complex and long struggle. This is just the beginning.

there is a very clear linkage. This is an attack. The attack on the people of Ayotzinapa, these young men and women, has been basically for 15 years. They are trying to dismantle all these schools that are where the sons of the peasants are learning to become teachers for the peasants. They are not studying to leave their communities, but to stay in the communities as teachers. And they have been trying to disappear them as part of this general reform of the system of education. They want to dissolve these schools. And the students were trying to protest, to express their decision to continue their studies. And they were going to a protest in—around October the 2nd to commemorate the killing of students in 1968. That is when they were disappeared, attacked first by the police and then supposedly transferred to criminals in this very open association between the police and the criminals. Then we are seeing the same kind of things against indigenous people, against education, against real education for the indigenous people. We are seeing a very clear link between the two kind of things.

Urgent Action: Civil Society of Oaxaca emits humanitarian alert due to armed attack of the State against civilians.”

this is the espacial civil that I was talking about. We are expressing our decision—it’s an alert. We are really in trouble. We are in a very serious situation. This is not the end of something, but the beginning of something that is very dangerous for our lives, for all of us, for our condition.

Nine people were literally assassinated. Nine people. This is the last report we have. And 23 are disappeared. Then we don’t know if they are still alive or not. More than a hundred wounded. We have 45 in the hospital and more than a hundred wounded.

Gustavo Esteva
founder of the Universidad de la Tierra in Oaxaca and author of many books, including New Forms of Revolution. Gustavo has also been a columnist for La Jornada.


— source democracynow.org

Hitting Society With A Sledgehammer

Q: We are going to start with something we did not plan, we just got word about a tragedy in Connecticut. The Superintendent of Schools for the State of Connecticut just robo-called me to tell me, as a parent, that there has been a shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. 18 to 22 children killed. There were apparently two shooters, two teenagers, and one of the shooters is dead. The school has 600 students.

NC: Is there any motive, or anything?

Q: This is the latest. We don’t have much information.

NC: So there is nothing understood about the background?

Q: No. Nothing. So, does this say something about the society we live in?

NC: If it was just one incident you could think maybe [it was] some psychotic individual or something. But it’s been happening with unpleasant regularity, and it’s got to be a sign of social breakdown of some kind, which is not too surprising. I mean, the whole society has been under severe strain for about 30 years. [It’s] not at the level of Haiti or Central Africa or something but people don’t measure themselves against totally different circumstances—like nobody feels they’re rich because they’re richer than they were in the Stone Age. People judge their circumstances by what it ought to be, given what’s available in the society, given the wealth in the society, and given similar societies that they may know something about. After all, we’ve gone through a period of roughly a generation—late 70s, accelerating sharply in the 80s—of the US phase of the worldwide neoliberal assault against the populations of the world. It’s been taking different forms in different places.

This morning I happened to have a conversation with somebody in Slovenia. They were part of the old Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia collapsed in the 80s, partly under the impact of the [neoliberal] structural adjustment programs that were imposed by the international financial institutions.

Take a look at the Rwanda massacres. The conflicts go far back—I was writing about them in the 70s, happened to be in Burundi then but it was the same conflict, a lot of massacres—but in the 80s Rwanda was subjected to very destructive structural adjustment programs. It raised conflict, ethnic tensions, a society becomes dissolved, and relationships between people erode. We know what happened later. Actually it was discussed by anthropologists at the time working there, so it doesn’t surprise us.

Sometimes it can be more rapid like say Syria. If you go back two or three years it wasn’t that everyone loved each other but you didn’t have murderous Aloite-Sunni conflicts, and others rising too.

After the US invaded Iraq, for about two years Iraqis were confident that there would never be significant Sunni-Shiite conflicts because people lived together, there was a lot of intermarriage, just a lot of interaction between the two groups. But once you hit a society with a sledgehammer lots of things can happen.

And the US has been banged with a sledgehammer for about 30 years. The general facts people are familiar with: stagnation or decline for a considerable majority; plenty of growth—not growth at the level of the 50s and the 60s, the big growth period, but there’s growth—and wealth created and it’s going into very few hands. In fact for a tenth of a percent of the population it’s gone through the roof. It’s gotten much worse in the last ten years. There’s actual decline [for the population], which is quite unusual, even since the recession.

The outcome of the recession is that the perpetrators are richer and more powerful than ever. The big banks and so on are bigger, stronger, still protected by the government insurance policy so that they can get favorable credit ratings and interest rates because the credit agencies just take for granted that next time they crash the economy they’ll be bailed out, so therefore they’re secure. And even if people don’t know the details they can still sort of see it. Meanwhile for the general population: nothing.

Take a look at say the TARP legislation. TARP incidentally was a small part of the bailout. That’s what people focus on but [the bailout] was much broader than that. The Congressional legislation for the bailout had two components to it. One component was, “OK, we’ll bail out the perpetrators and get them functioning again.” You can argue about whether you should have done it or not but anyway, some justification for it. The other part was, “Do something for the victims!” That part was almost entirely abandoned, virtually nothing. Even if people don’t know those facts they see it in their lives. You can see that your lives are getting nowhere. There are a lot of these things, and much more like it.

People [come to believe] that the government is just an enemy. That ranges from the Tea Party types to ordinary people. Nobody expects the government to do anything for them. It’s an enemy.

You see it pretty dramatically with the attitude toward taxes. It’s taken for granted in the United States everyone wants their taxes reduced. Why? If you lived in a functioning democratic society you wouldn’t want that. In a functioning democratic society April 15th—or the equivalent of April 15th—would be a day of celebration. You’re getting together to fund the actions that you decided on. What’s better than that, you know? Here it’s a day of mourning. There’s an alien force coming to steal from you.

There are good studies in the political science literature [about this]—they study this pretty well—and it’s a well-established conclusion that a majority of the population, roughly maybe 70%—the lower 70% on the income scale—have absolutely no influence on policy. As you move up the income scale you get more influence. When you get to the very top they essentially get what they want. People may not read the political science literature but you’ve got to be pretty blind not to see it.

I think that shows up. I don’t think this has been studied, though it could be, but if you look at non-voters in the United States—almost half don’t vote and in Presidential elections way more [vote] than in Congressional elections—why don’t they vote? Part of the reason may just be it’s become difficult to vote, there are barriers put up and so on. Alright, that’s probably part of it. But I suspect a large part of it is just the understanding, “They don’t listen to us anyway.” “I have no influence on what goes on. Why should I bother voting?” That’s another form of indication of collapse of the society.

In fact it’s kind of interesting to look at the non-voters. Overwhelmingly they’re Democratic when they’re asked what they are, which means if they had voted it’d be a Democratic landslide. But they don’t bother, because what they want nobody pays any attention to anyhow, which happens to be correct.

One of the interesting results of the election was that there’s an almost linear relationship between income and party vote so as you go down the income level the vote for Democrats becomes higher. Below the median the Democrats would’ve won by a landslide. Above the median the Republicans would’ve won by a landslide. It’s not 100%—there’s all kind of other factors entering into it—but that correlation is pretty striking. And if you had added in those who didn’t vote, it’s even more dramatic. It’s not that the Democrats do anything for anyone beyond a token, but they do something. If you look over the years, people have made out somewhat better under Democratic administrations than Republican ones, not huge but somewhat, and it’s enough to recognize something.

A lot of rights are just being undermined and destroyed. The forms of social solidarity that allow people to combat this in a constructive way, those are being destroyed.

A very important fact is what’s happening to the union movement. The labor unions used to be the main cohesive force that carried people forward towards policies that are more beneficial to the general public. Again not 100%, but the tendency’s pretty strong and that’s of course the main reason why they’re so hated by the business world. They’ve been under sharp attack since the peak of their achievements. As soon as the Second World War was over the attack began, reinitiated I should say because this has happened over and over again in American history, and by now it’s very strong and the propaganda is working like a dream.

Take what happened in Michigan the other day, the so-called “right to work” law. The “right to work” conception is straight out of Orwell. The bills have absolutely nothing to do with right to work. If an individual person wants to make a personal contract with General Motors they can do it. Like you can make a contract with General Motors and say, “I’ll be your slave.” OK, they’ll make the contract with you. But if you want to work for General Motors and get the benefits of a union contract—and there are benefits—that’s why most workers want to join unions—there are real benefits: wages, working conditions, safety, pensions, all kinds of stuff—if you want to get those benefits and not pay for it, that’s what the so-called “right to work” laws are for. It’s really “right to scrounge” laws, but the propaganda is so strong that I haven’t seen a word in the press about this. It’s all “right to work.” And that sounds nice—that’s why I say it is right out of Orwell. You know, why shouldn’t people have a right to work? Should they have a right to scrounge? No, they shouldn’t have a right to scrounge. But that’s what these laws are about. And it’s been effective. There’s no doubt that it’s been effective. I mean, the union leadership has contributed to it as well in many ways. But nevertheless, it’s very effective propaganda and it’s led to blow after blow against working people and solidarity.

It’s happened before. Go back a little over a century. There were huge popular movements in the United States. It was late 19th century. It was mostly an agricultural country still. The Farmers’ Alliance, you know, the radical farmers groups were a huge movement, very radical incidentally, and none of this nonsense about “We’re out for ourselves.” They weren’t. They were working together. They wanted to have their own banks, their own marketing systems, all kinds of things, and they wanted to link up with the Knights of Labor—a huge working-class organization that was also quite radical if you look at their programs. I mean, these are the biggest popular democratic movements in modern history, certainly in American history, and they were really strong. They were finally broken up, in part by violence; it’s a very violent country. It’s related to what you just saw; there is a long history of violence in the country, and a very violent labor history in particular. [They were broken up] in part by violence but in part by something that’s being used very effectively now: racial strategies…trying to turn people against each other on the basis of race or ethnicity, and so on. That is the kind of thing that can be done. Reagan was the master of it.

Reagan was an extreme racist. He simply launched a war against African Americans. It is called the “drug war.” It is a war against African Americans. That is the way the “drug war” is formulated and shaped, and the execution of it from police discretion on through sentencing, and everything else. He combined it with an attack on poor people, which means mostly black people because of the race/class correlation. His favorite anecdote was this fantasy about the “welfare queens,” a rich black woman gets driven in her limousine to one of the dozen welfare offices she goes to, to pick up your hard earned money. OK, so everybody is against welfare, of course. I mean, who is in favor of that? I’m not in favor of that either. So, with a straight resort to racism, which is never very far below the surface in the United States, they were able, particular through Reagan, but then beyond, Clinton expanded it, and so on, they were able to break that kind of solidarity.

The same thing happened to the populist movement, it is a lot of what Jim Crow was about. You can exploit these things and it does break down bonds of solidarity, mutual aid and so on. The end result is you get a society that is just dissolving. People don’t talk to each other, they don’t have associations, they don’t participate together in things, they don’t work together for common goals, etc. OK, so you get things where people go crazy, particularly in a society where violence is just beneath the surface and constantly used against poor and weak people. So, you get things like the Columbine story, or, I don’t know what this is going to turn out to be, but it is one of several. There has been a long series of them.

— source https://chomsky.info/hitting-society-with-a-sledgehammer/

Facebook is using your phone’s location to suggest new friends—which could be a privacy disaster

After twice confirming it used location to suggest new friends, Facebook now says it doesn’t currently use “location data, such as device location and location information you add to your profile, to suggest people you may know.” The company says it ran a brief test using location last year. New story here.

Facebook’s ability to discern with creepy accuracy the “people we may know” has surprised, delighted, and horrified its users for years. While the magic sauce behind friend suggestions has always been a bit mysterious, it now includes some potentially unsettling information. Thanks to tracking the location of users’ smartphones, the social network may suggest you friend people you’ve shared a GPS data point with, meaning your friend suggestions could include someone whose face you know, but whose name you didn’t until Facebook offered it up to you.

Last week, I met a man who suspected Facebook had tracked his location to figure out who he was meeting with. He was a dad who had recently attended a gathering for suicidal teens. The next morning, he told me, he opened Facebook to find that one of the anonymous parents at the gathering popped up as a “person you may know.”

The two parents hadn’t exchanged contact information (one way Facebook suggests friends is to look at your phone contacts). The only connection the two appeared to have was being in the same place at the same time, and thus their smartphones being in the same room. The man immediately checked the privacy settings on his phone and saw that Facebook “always” had access to his location. He immediately changed it to “never.” (He also did not want to reveal his identity for this story.)

It turns out his suspicions were correct.

“People You May Know are people on Facebook that you might know,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “We show you people based on mutual friends, work and education information, networks you’re part of, contacts you’ve imported and many other factors.”

One of those factors is smartphone location. A Facebook spokesperson said though that shared location alone would not result in a friend suggestion, saying that the two parents must have had something else in common, such as overlapping networks.

“Location information by itself doesn’t indicate that two people might be friends,” said the Facebook spokesperson. “That’s why location is only one of the factors we use to suggest people you may know.”

Facebook has gotten more aggressive in its use of smartphone location data in the last year, tracking which stores you go to in order to tell advertisers if their online ads worked and letting advertisers use your phone’s location to geotarget you with ads. But until now, most people didn’t realize that Facebook was also tracking their phone’s location to suggest friends to them.

The implications of this are far-reaching. There are situations in which this could be incredibly useful. It means you could finally become Facebook friends with “Karen” from yoga class. Or if you meet awesome new people at a party, but forget to exchange numbers, last names, or Snapchat handles, Facebook could make new friendships happen by surfacing those party-goers to you. Great! Those are best case scenarios.

But there are plenty of scenarios in which Facebook casually connecting you with people because your phones were in the same place at the same time could end disastrously. Imagine going to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and then getting “Friend” suggestions the next day for members of the group along with their full names and profile information. Or getting hit on at the bar by a guy that gives you the creeps, giving him the cold shoulder and no information about yourself, but later getting a ‘Friend Request’ from him. Or visiting an abortion clinic and discovering that one of the abortion protestors outside was offered up your identity by Facebook.

Last year, Motherboard asked how Facebook was figuring out who people were going out on Tinder dates with. The report was ultimately inconclusive as experts said that data from Tinder doesn’t flow back to Facebook, but it may well have been location-based.

“Using location data this way is dangerous,” said Woodrow Hartzog, a law professor at Samford University, via email. “People need to keep their visits to places like doctor’s offices, rehab, and support centers discreet. Once Facebook users realize that the ‘People You May Know’ are the ‘People That Go To the Same Places You Do,’ this feature will inevitably start outing people’s intimate information without their knowledge.”

Most Facebook users who have the app on their phone with location access granted likely don’t realize this could happen. It’s not mentioned on Facebook’s help page about how “People You May Know” works.

“This is the kind of thing that people should be given explicit and multiple warnings about,” said Hartzog. “They should also be asked to affirmatively turn on the feature before their whereabouts are used to get them friends. Geolocation data is far more sensitive than most of the kinds of information people probably assume are used to suggest friends, such as alma mater and mutual friends.”

For now, if it’s troubling to you, the way you can prevent it is to turn off Facebook’s access to your location. It’s in your phone’s privacy settings.

— source fusion.net By Kashmir Hill