Tag Archives | United States

The War on ISIS: Views From Syrian Activists and Intellectuals

Syrian rebels from the “Al-Qasas Brigade” or “Justice Brigade” run through an olive grove to avoid Syrian Army snipers as they travel between villages on foot in the northwestern Jabal al-Zawiya area. By Freedom House via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Syrian rebels from the “Al-Qasas Brigade” or “Justice Brigade” run through an olive grove to avoid Syrian Army snipers as they travel between villages on foot in the northwestern Jabal al-Zawiya area. By Freedom House via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

via Dissent Magazine:

Conspicuously absent from the debate about ISIS and U.S. intervention—both in the mainstream and in the leftosphere—are Syrian voices. ISIS and U.S. officialdom occupy center stage, leaving the perspectives of Syrian civil society activists and writers out of the equation. While hardly surprising, this omission is troubling.

In an attempt to remedy this imbalance, I asked several Syrians—longtime activists and intellectuals from a range of backgrounds, including Kurdish, Palestinian, and Assyrian Christian—what they think about the ISIS crisis and Western intervention. Here are their responses.

Three Monsters

I am ambivalent about a Western attack against ISIS.

On the one hand, I would like to see this thuggish gang wiped from the face of the earth.

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Just-Released Bush Memos Show the White House Barely Able to Justify Spying on Us

Invasive Shrub: Euonymous alatus compactus

Invasive Shrub: Euonymous alatus

Is anyone surprised by this?

via Policy.Mic

The news: The U.S. Justice Department released a pair of decade-old memos Friday night that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says suggest that the “president’s power to monitor the communications of Americans is virtually unlimited” when trying to gain foreign intelligence.

The memos provide legal justification for the warrantless wiretapping started by the Bush administration in the wake of 9/11. Written by Jack Goldsmith, who was the head of Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel, they detail a program called “Stellar Wind” that allowed the NSA to monitor communications in the U.S. as long as one end of the communication was overseas and at least one person taking part was thought to be related to al-Qaida, according to the Washington Post.

The program was put under court control in 2007 after the New York Times exposed it two years earlier. But these memos provide the most thorough view we’ve ever had of the Bush administration’s surveillance efforts.

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Precognitive police

What could possibly go wrong? Color blind profiling? An excuse to shoot first and cover up later? A dystopian nightmare waiting to happen? What are your thoughts disinfonauts?

via aeonPP_image_Wiki

Predictive policing could help prevent crime. But do we want a future where computer oracles and spies track us from birth?

When a troubled young man named Adam Lanza stormed into Sandy Hook Elementary School and slaughtered 20 first-graders and six teachers in a small Connecticut suburb in December of 2012, a shroud of sorrow and confusion engulfed the United States and countries all over the world. Why were all these children murdered, and why did someone so clearly disordered have access to so many guns?

I covered the mass shooting for the New York Daily News, and worked 14-hour days interviewing victims’ families, attending press conferences, and doing as much on-ground reporting as possible. The toughest part of the coverage came a week in, at the memorial for a six-year-old named Dylan Hockley.

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What the Hell Is a Little Girl Doing With an Uzi?

OK Second Amendment defenders, what do you say to this question (posed by Cliff Schecter at Daily Beast) in the wake of the now notorious gun range death of a 9-year-old girl’s instructor: “What the Hell Is a Little Girl Doing With an Uzi?”

Yesterday afternoon, the “NRA Women” Twitter account sent out a simple and yet ghoulish message to its followers. With an embedded link to an article on their website, it reminded its adherents of “7 ways children can have fun at the shooting range.”

No matter that merely two days earlier, at the Bullets & Burgers Gun Range in the Las Vegas area, a 9-year old girl had been handed an Uzi, lost control while firing it in fully automatic mode, and accidentally shot the instructor standing next to her in the head (he later died after being airlifted to hospital).

Uzi of the israeli armed forces.jpg

Photo by Uziel Galishto (CC)

Hell, the gun range didn’t even shut down.

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The New Scientism

English: General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayd...

It seems to be that science in general has donned a new mask not unlike the worn out mask of religious zealots. Call it dogma. Call it power trip. Call it vested interest in research money, or furthering a career. Call it stagnation. It seems to me, that some pop scientists and their sycophants would like to think they have a monopoly on truth. Either way, Robert Anton Wilson may have pegged it when he said:

The totally convinced and the totally stupid have too much in common for the resemblance to be accidental.
Disinfonauts and others, be prepared. For your favorite “conspiracy theory” may be trodden upon in this article. Remember… No scratching. No hair pulling. No eye gouging. No hitting boobs or below the belt.

via Jacobin (please follow the link to read the entire article):

We can value scientific inquiry without viewing the natural sciences as free of politics.

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The United States of America Is Not For Black People

Kid Handcuffed in the Back of a Police Car, Oakland RiotsDo you agree with Greg Howard that “the United States of America is not for black people,” which he writes at Deadspin’s The Concourse?

The United States of America is not for black people. We know this, and then we put it out of our minds, and then something happens to remind us. Saturday, in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo., something like that happened: An unarmed 18-year-old black man was executed by police in broad daylight.

By now, what’s happening in Ferguson is about so many second-order issues—systemic racism, the militarization of police work, and how citizens can redress grievances, among other things—that it’s worth remembering what actually happened here.

Michael Brown was walking down the middle of the street in Ferguson’s Canfield Green apartment complex around noon on Saturday with his friend Dorin Johnson when the two were approached by a police officer in a police truck.

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Stop Giving Airtime to Crackpots

Here in America, there’s whole political ideologies consisting of crackpots and media pundits whose bread and butter is wingnuttery.

via Slate

English: "The removal of the cracked melt...

“The removal of the cracked melting pot” (1884), painting by Constantin Meunier (1831-1905) Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels, Belgium (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (CC)

In very welcome news, BBC journalists have been told to stop inviting crackpots on news shows in the name of balance.

Oh, I do so love this. It’s precisely the right thing to do, sorely needed and sorely overdue. In this specific case, back in 2012 the BBC was criticized for news shows inviting on people with fringe views, especially when the science being discussed was solidly understood.

Obviously, the topic most abused in this way was the reality of global warming. That should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying any attention at all.

But more broadly, most TV news shows do this, especially when they are done with a talk show format.

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A New Privacy Deal is in the Works Between US & EU

Flags_of_European_UnionRelations are somewhat tense between the European Union and the United States after the US was caught spying on EU countries. The Obama administration is now trying to quell any mistrust with a new privacy deal.

European Union citizens who have experienced breaches in their online privacy at the hands of state authorities while in the U.S. could be protected by American laws, under plans announced on Wednesday.

In a move that paves the way for a key data protection deal between the two governments, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Obama administration is looking to extend the guarantees made under the country’s Privacy Act to EU citizens. Currently, Europeans are not protected under this law, which allows U.S. citizens to see and correct records about themselves and challenge the misuse of the information.

‘Legislative action by the U.S. Congress establishing enforceable judicial redress rights for Europeans in the U.S.

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Pope Francis: Pets Can’t Substitute For Kids In A Relationship

Crazy CatCiting birth rate statistics in Italy and the United States, Pope Francis stated on June 2nd that couples who forgo child rearing to own pets are dooming themselves to an old age of loneliness.  [I know I’ve wanted to scream out the window at couples walking dogs “make babies, you losers!”]

Indeed birth rates across the Western world have fallen steadily over the past few hundred years , but especially in recent times, to far below replacement levels.  In the USA they have been falling more and more slowly since the “end” of the financial crisis, but remain relatively abysmal.

More, via The Salt Lake Tribune:

“It might be better — more comfortable — to have a dog, two cats, and the love goes to the two cats and the dog. Is this true or not? Have you seen it?”  Stated the pontificate, ““You can go explore the world, go on vacation, you can have a villa in the countryside, you can be carefree,”

“Then, in the end this marriage comes to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness ”

Francis  said without qualification that Jesus Christ would not approve of childless marriages.  “There are things that Jesus doesn’t like — [couples] who don’t want children, who want to be without fruitfulness.”

“Married life must be persevering, because otherwise love cannot go forward,” Francis said.

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Chicago Just Convicted A Thief Using Facial Recognition Technology

Now that the general public knows that they are being watched, may as well reinforce that with confirmation. No need to worry, right? You’ve done nothing wrong.

English: Different Types of Cctv Cameras

Different Types of Cctv Cameras (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

via Vocativ

For years, we’ve been hearing about how facial recognition software will help solve crime.

Privacy concerns aside, this is the idea: If a criminal is caught committing an offense on surveillance footage, the technology could theoretically scan the person’s face and produce a positive ID based on mug shots or DMV photos.

The problem is, the software kind of sucks, partially because surveillance footage is so grainy. This was one of the many subplots that unfolded in the wake of the Boston marathon bombing.

But the technology is getting smarter.

In Chicago, the tech was used—for the first time in the city’s history—to find a crook and lock him up in prison.

Pierre D. Martin, 35, was a small-time criminal with a long rap sheet, and his mug shot appeared in the police system.

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