Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio, shown here in February, plans to lobby the State Legislature early next year to match the city’s minimum wage to its living wage.
Richard Perry/The New York Times
Mayor Bill de Blasio, shown here in February, plans to lobby the State Legislature early next year to match the city’s minimum wage to its living wage.
Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to sign the order, which also raises the hourly wage, on Tuesday. The administration estimates that about 18,000 wage earners will be affected.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Plan for Dog Run Near Native American Memorial Is Called an Insult

Plans for a permanent enclosure near the memorial, which honors the Stockbridge Indians who died in the Revolutionary War, has pitted those who want to honor the past against those who see the run as a community resource.

The stone memorial honoring the Native Americans killed by the British on Aug. 31, 1778. The dog run is on the right. Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Republicans Air Early Attack Ad on Newborn Clinton

The Clinton family. (photo: Craig Ruttle/AP)
The Clinton family. (photo: Craig Ruttle/AP)

By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker
28 September 14
The article below is satire. Andy Borowitz is an American comedian and New York Times-bestselling author who satirizes the news for his column, "The Borowitz Report."
Republican Super PAC defended the broadcast, on Saturday morning, of an attack ad highly critical of Hillary Clinton’s newborn granddaughter, Charlotte, who was born on Friday.
The ad raises several serious questions about the newborn, at one point accusing her of being “related to Benghazi.”
In criticizing a one-day-old infant, the ad is believed to be the earliest political attack ad on record.
“Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky is fair game,” a spokesman for the Americans Concerned About Charlotte Super PAC said. “We have to assume that she is the presumptive Democratic nominee in 2052.”

Saturday, September 27, 2014


$199 Apple iPhone 6 Is Fiction, if Not Fantasy

Investors and consumers might want to look closely at the purchase plans carriers are offering for Apple’s new iPhones.

I found that if I bought the iPhone from AT&T and qualified as a good credit risk, I would receive a 0 percent loan for the full cost of the phone and could pay it off over 24 months at $27.05 a month, which comes to a little more than $649. Let’s round that off at $650. There’s no $40 upgrade fee. And there’s no $199 down payment. (I would have to pay sales tax on the $649 cost of the phone.) For me, I concluded, it would be cheaper to buy the phone from AT&T on the installment plan. If I used less data, it would be cheaper to buy the phone from AT&T through a service contract. And, of course, there are different deals on different carriers.
Once I started down this road, it made me pause. Do I really need to replace my phone every two years if it’s going to cost $650?
As Farhad Manjoo has explained in these pages, many people don’t need to buy new phones that often. In my case, if I keep my old phone a bit longer, I’ll save $25 every month, and that adds up.

Americans Who Have Not Read a Single Article About Syria Strongly Support Bombing It

(photo: Abdalghne Karoof/Reuters)
(photo: Abdalghne Karoof/Reuters)

By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker
25 September 14

The article below is satire. Andy Borowitz is an American comedian and New York Times-bestselling author who satirizes the news for his column, "The Borowitz Report."

n a positive development for the U.S.-led campaign of air strikes in Syria, a new poll indicates strong, broad-based support for the mission among people who have yet to read a news article about Syria.
According to the poll, released on Tuesday, the bombing campaign got a thumbs-up from people who had no information about Syria’s civil war, including its duration, the parties involved, and what a Sunni is.
Additionally, the air strikes garnered enthusiastic support from people who could not correctly identify the President of Syria, tell what the acronym ISIS stands for, or locate Syria on a map.
According to pollster Davis Logsdon, who supervised the survey for the University of Minnesota’s Opinion Research Institute, the poll numbers augur well for the mission going forward.
“People who have not read a single article about Syria are a key constituency because they represent an overwhelming majority of Americans,” he said. “And when you asked the follow-up question of whether they intended to read an article about Syria in the future, their answer was a resounding no.”
According to Logsdon, the bombing campaign also earned high marks from another important group, Americans who think that they maybe read a news headline about Syria but did not click on it.

Friday, September 26, 2014

    WCBS, the local station where he had worked for three decades, said the cause was a heart attack. He had appeared on a news broadcast on Wednesday, reporting on a 72-year-old Bronx man who was attacked while trying to stop a mugging. 
  • Thursday, September 25, 2014

    In Sunset Park, Videos of Confrontations Elevate Mistrust of Police

    Sandra Amezquita, who is pregnant, tried to stop the police from arresting her son, Jhohan Lemos. A video shows an officer grabbing Ms. Amezquita, who then falls to the ground on her abdomen.

    Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. spoke Tuesday at New York University School of Law. Last year, Mr. Holder told colleagues that ensuring equal access to lawyers was “our moral calling.”
    Julio Cortez/Associated Press
    Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. spoke Tuesday at New York University School of Law. Last year, Mr. Holder told colleagues that ensuring equal access to lawyers was “our moral calling.”
    Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is supporting a class-action lawsuit that accuses Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the State of New York of perpetuating a system that violates the rights of people who cannot afford to hire lawyers.
    Mayor Bill de Blasio received a standing ovation after his speech at the British Labour Party’s annual conference Wednesday in Manchester, England.
    Oli Scarff/Getty Images
    Mayor Bill de Blasio received a standing ovation after his speech at the British Labour Party’s annual conference Wednesday in Manchester, England.
    Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, a virtual unknown not so long ago, is now determined to cultivate a profile on the international stage.

    Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a Republican, said that Mr. de Blasio had been unfairly criticized for his foreign travel, noting that the job demanded fluency in international affairs.
    “When I ran for president, they challenged me on how much I knew about foreign policy,” Mr. Giuliani said. “I said I thought I knew more about foreign policy than most congressmen or senators.”

    Wednesday, September 24, 2014

    Stop-and-Frisk Plaintiff Oppose Police Union Appeal

    Video by Rafael Martínez Alequín

    Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al.

    CCR at City Hall, arguing against the Stay
    Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al. is a federal class action lawsuit filed against the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the City of New York that challenges the NYPD's practices of racial profiling and unconstitutional stop-and frisks. These NYPD practices have led to a dramatic increase in the number of suspicion-less stop-and-frisks per year in the city, with the majority of stops in communities of color.
    On August 12, 2013, a federal judge found the New York City Police Department (NYPD) liable for a pattern and practice of racial profiling and unconstitutional stop-and-frisks in a historic ruling (read our full August 12, 2013 press release), and on Jaunary 30, 2014, the City agreed to drop its appeal and begin the joint remedial process ordered by the court in August (read our full January 30, 2014 press release).
    Learn more about CCR's fight against discriminatory policing.
    Videos, media coverage, expert reports, and more.


    On August 14, 2014, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order (1) consolidating the unions' appeals of the denial of their intervention motions with the city's motion to withdraw its appeal, and (2) expediting consideration of both the unions' appeals and the city's motion, which will all be argued in the Second Sircuit on October 15, 2014. On August 6, 2014, the City of New York filed a motion to withdraw its appeal.
    On July 30, 2014, Southern District Court Judge Analisa Torres issued an Opinion and Order denying the police unions' motions to intervene, as well as granting the proposed modification of the District Court's August 2013 remedial decision.


    Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al. is a federal class action lawsuit filed against the New York City Police Department that charges the NYPD with engaging in racial profiling and suspicion-less stop-and-frisks of law-abiding New York City residents. According to CCR attorneys, the named plaintiffs in CCR’s case – David Floyd, David Ourlicht, Lalit Clarkson, and Deon Dennis – represent the thousands of New Yorkers who have been stopped without any cause on the way to work, in front of their house, or just walking down the street. CCR and the plaintiffs allege that the NYPD unlawfully stopped these individuals because they are men of color.
    Co-counsel on the case are the law firms Beldock, Levine and Hoffman, and Covington & Burling LLP.
    The Floyd case stems from CCR's landmark racial profiling case, Daniels, et al. v. City of New York, et al. that led to the disbanding of the infamous Street Crime Unit and a settlement with the City in 2003. The Daniels settlement agreement required the NYPD to maintain a written racial profiling policy that complies with the United States and New York State Constitutions and to provide stop-and-frisk data to CCR on a quarterly basis from the last quarter of 2003 through the first quarter of 2007. However, an analysis of the data revealed that the NYPD has continued to enagage in suspicion-less and racially pretextual stop-and-frisks.
    Floyd focuses not only on the lack of any reasonable suspicion to make these stops in violation of the Fourth Amendment, but also on the obvious racial disparities in who gets stopped and searched by the NYPD—90 percent of those stopped are Black and Latino, even though these two groups make up only 52 percent of the city’s population- which constitute a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
    The settlement agreement from Daniels required the NYPD to maintain a written racial profiling policy that complies with the U.S. and New York State Constitutions, required the NYPD audit officers who engage in stop-and-frisks and their supervisors to determine whether and to what extent the stop-and-frisks are based on reasonable suspicion and whether and to what extent the stop-and-frisks are being documented, and it required the NYPD to provide stop-and-frisk data to CCR on a quarterly basis, among other provisions.
    But after significant non-compliance with the consent decree and after new information released publicly by the City showed a remarkable increase in stop-and-frisks from 2002 to 2006, CCR decided to file this new lawsuit challenging the NYPD's racial profiling and stop-and-frisk policy.

    Top News

    In U.N., Obama Lays Out Plan for Larger U.S. Role in Mideast


    President Obama addressed United Nations General Assembly onWednesday in New York

     Credit Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

    President Obama offered a forceful new blueprint on Wednesday for deeper American engagement in the Middle East, telling the United Nations General Assembly that the Islamic State understood only “the language of force.”

    Wrong Turn on Syria

    No Convincing Plan

    Why bombing Syria now is a bad decision that draws America into a new war with no plan for long-term consequences.

    Mr. Obama has failed to ask for or receive congressional authorization for such military action. The White House claims that Mr. Obama has all the authority he needs under the 2001 law approving the use of force in Afghanistan and the 2002 law permitting the use of force in Iraq, but he does not. He has given Congress notification of the military action in Iraq and Syria under the 1973 War Powers Resolution, but that is not a substitute for congressional authorization.

    Tuesday, September 23, 2014

    Stewart Blows Up on GOP over Climate Change: ‘Pushing a Million Pounds of Idiot up a Mountain’

    Video 1343
    Jon Stewart on Monday slammed a U.S House hearing regarding climate change, comparing the Republican-led session to “pushing a million pounds of idiot up a mountain.”
    The Wednesday hearing featured testimony from John Holdren, President Barack Obama‘s adviser on science and technology. Stewart showed clips of Republicans Steve Stockman of Texas, Dana Rohrabacher of California and Larry Bucshon of Indiana doubting the effects of climate change.
    Stewart labeled Holdren the hearing’s “Sysyphus, charged with the impossible task of pushing a million pounds of idiot up a mountain.”
    “How far back to the elementary school curriculum do we have to go to get someone on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology caught up?” Stewart said. “Do we have to bring out the paper-machet and the baking soda so you can make a volcano?”
    Watch via Comedy Central:
    [Photo via Comedy Central/screen grab]

    Prosecutor Warns That Rikers Island Problems May Prompt U.S. Lawsuit

    Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, indicated that the de Blasio administration was not moving fast enough to address a culture of violence at the New York City jail complex.

    ‘F*ck It, I Quit’: Marijuana Forces TV Reporter To Quit On Air

    Posted on  

    The Nanny State
    CREDIT: AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

    Late Sunday night, local television reporter Charlo Greene was reporting on Alaska’s marijuana ballot initiative during her newscast, when she revealed herself to be the owner of Alaska Cannabis Club, a medical marijuana collective that connects medical marijuana patients and caregivers.
    “Now everything you’ve heard is why I, the actual owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, will be dedicating all of my energy toward fighting for freedom and fairness, which begins with legalizing marijuana here in Alaska,” she said. “And as for this job, well, not that I have a choice but, fuck it, I quit.”
    Watch it:
    In an online message, Greene elaborated on her dramatic exit. She said she was redirecting all of her energy toward the ballot initiative to legalize marijuana, Ballot Measure 2. That initiative will ask voters in November whether they want to legalize recreational marijuana, but Greene says she is joining the campaign for the sake of the medical community.


    Reporter explains why she cussed out her bosses and quit

    Charlo Greene was a reporter at a remote Alaskan television station, but she is now known all over the country.  Greene made the news for her dramatic exit from her job, while also announcing that she is going to run her own Cannibis Club.
    Greene’s exit was stunning.  During a media report on Cannibis, Greene simply said, “f*ck it, I quit,” and walked off the stage.  The look of her co-host was classic.  Her face appeared to be made of stone, as her brain slowly tried to process what just happened on the air.  It was a mess, and you can imagine the shock and dismay of all of Greene’s co-workers at the time.
    Of course Greene is going to be blackballed from the industry, effectively ending her career as a news reporter. But she doesn’t seem to care and is boldly moving on to the next stage in her life.  In fact, she is receiving support and applause from all over the world, and her youtube video received several million views within the first 24 hours online.
    Maybe she’s started some kind of a trend.

    “I wanted to draw attention to this issue. And the issue is medical marijuana,” she told the Alaska Dispatch News late Sunday. “Ballot Measure 2 is a way to make medical marijuana real … most patients didn’t know the state didn’t set up the framework to get patients their medicine.”
    What Greene means is that while Alaska was one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana in 1998, it still doesn’t have a mechanism for allowing medical marijuana dispensaries, and so Greene is operating her business in what she admits is a legal “gray area.” In fact, there is no legal way to dispense pot. So while doctors are allowed to recommend pot for a very limited number of conditions — cancer, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS — individuals buy and sell it at their own risk.
    Greene tried to get around this legal void in a way several state marijuana communities have, by forming a sort of collective in which patients are connected with “caregivers,” who grow the marijuana for a few patients and transfer it through the collective. The caregivers then donate the marijuana to the patients, and the Club reimburses growers for their expenses.
    This November’s ballot initiative will allow possession of marijuana for recreational use. But it will also for the first time create a mechanism for legal distribution, which Greene says is equally important for the medical community.
    On an IndieGoGo campaign message posted after her television appearance, Greene expresses broader support for recreational legalization — not just in Alaska but nationally. “Ballot Measure 2, the initiative to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska, isn’t just about marijuana in the Last Frontier, it’s about keeping the ball rolling on NATIONAL legalization,” she said. She notes that she has seen opponents of legalization use savvier techniques to misinform the public, and that polls are showing a swing away from legalization.
    Alaska is a state with a strong libertarian streak, and in the early months, several conservatives were vocal supporters of the initiative, even though the state Republican party formally came out against it. A May Public Policy Polling survey found support for legalization winning at 48 percent to 45 percent. But an August poll by the same firm found the split flip at 44 percent support to 49 percent opposed. At the end of August, the Alaska Conference of Mayors opposed the measure, while conservatives launched a formal coalition to support legalization earlier this month.

    Fox’s Hasselbeck Wants Voting Test; Trump Doesn’t Know His Senate From His House

    September 22, 2014 2:23 pm Category: Memo Pad, Politics 4 Comments A+ / A-
    Fox’s Hasselbeck Wants Voting Test; Trump Doesn’t Know His Senate From His House
    Boy, it’s a good thing Fox “News” doesn’t follow its own rules re: “Hollywood types,” like telling them to shut up and sing, act, or whatever evil, liberal-heathen thing they do for a living. Because how then could we enjoy the always-entertaining spectacle of News Barbie, aka Elisabeth Hasselbeck (whose stellar Palin-esque CV consists of Survivor, Style Network’s The Look for Less, and The View), bringing us her well-informed political views and knowledge of our nation’s history?

    Making her daily appearance on Fox & Friends (of course decked out in a pretty pink frock, because that’s how ladies dress), Hasselbeck was engaged in a conversation with Utah Civics Education Initiative co-chair Lorena Riffo-Jensen about the advantages of requiring civics tests for students. But that wasn’t nearly crazypants enough for Hasselbeck, who ventured forth with the suggestion that such a test should be required in order to vote.
    “Should you have to answer, I mean, the majority of these questions?” she babbled. “If not by graduation of high school, but by the time you vote?… It’s a more meaningful measure when you vote perhaps too.”
    Why, yes… by all means let’s return to the days of segregation and Jim Crow, where one had to pass an arbitrarily designed “literacy test” in order to vote. That certainly made for more “meaningful” election results… as, of course, did having the conservative Supreme Court appoint the president in 2000. However, these days, the idea of a civics test before voting would likely benefit Democrats far more than Republicans, who make it a point of pride to be as ignorant as possible, especially when it comes to the big, bad gubmint.
    Perhaps the first person to take the test should be Republican favorite and perpetual presidential candidate Donald Trump, whose knowledge of even the most basic tenets of how our government works can be summed up in one tweet:
    Yep. Not to be outdone by Sarah Palin—who thinks the Department of Justice is called “the Department of Law” and operates from the White House—The Donald is actually under the impression that a senator is next in line to be Speaker of the House of Representatives. The other chamber of Congress. Your average middle-schooler could tell you otherwise, but hey…
    So Lady Elisabeth might want to be careful what she wishes for—the party could lose millions of votes if her idea is implemented, as a large chunk of the Republican base is not exactly known for its literacy—or its civics expertise.
     Video: The Raw Story; Photo: About.com

    Monday, September 22, 2014

    De Blasio Turns Slow Day Into Adventure

    Mayor Bill de Blasio took a quick trip to Pittsburgh with his press secretary, Phil Walzak, that included baseball, beer and a performance by a Johnny Cash cover band.

    Queen Accepts Scotland's Apology

    Queen Elizabeth II. (photo: Lewis Whyld/WPA/Getty Images)
    Queen Elizabeth II. (photo: Lewis Whyld/WPA/Getty Images)

    By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker
    21 September 14
    The article below is satire. Andy Borowitz is an American comedian and New York Times-bestselling author who satirizes the news for his column, "The Borowitz Report.

    n the aftermath of Scotland’s “no” vote in the referendum on becoming an independent country, Queen Elizabeth II, of Great Britain, took to the airwaves on Friday morning to inform the people of Scotland that she “graciously and wholeheartedly” accepted their apology.
    “Although the matter of independence has been settled, one question remains very much open,” she said in an address televised across Scotland. “And my answer to that question is this: yes, I forgive you.”
    The Queen made only scant reference to her obscenity-laden tirade on Thursday, in which she reamed the Scots for even considering breaking away from the United Kingdom.
    “Like any parent with a naughty child, I became a little cross,” she said. “I forgive you for provoking me.”
    The Queen ended Friday’s address to the Scottish people on a conciliatory note. “Let us all, each and every one of us, move forward now as one great nation, enjoying the benefits and the history of our glorious and historic union,” she said. “Even the forty-five percent of you who are wankers.”

    Queen Rips “Scottish Bastards” in Angry Televised Address


    LONDON (The Borowitz Report)—In an eleventh-hour development that could have an unpredictable effect on the vote to determine Scottish independence, Queen Elizabeth II took to the British airwaves on Thursday to excoriate the Scots in a one-hour, profanity-laden tirade.
    The Queen’s speech began with the phrase “Listen, you Scottish bastards,” and became steadily saltier as the monarch blasted her subjects for having the impudence to consider leaving the fold.

    “I’ll make you heel like a litter of [Anglo-Saxon vulgarity] corgis,” she said, as her rage reached a crescendo.
    After the speech, British Prime Minister David Cameron made a desperate attempt at damage control, hoping to distance himself from the Queen’s paint-peeling rant.
    “The views of Her Majesty the Queen are her own,” he said in a hastily prepared statement. “Neither I nor my government consider the people of Scotland ‘bloody wanker


    Saturday, September 20, 2014


    Selim Zherka (known as Sam), publisher of The Westchester Guardian and regular critic of county politicians, was denied bail after prosecutors portrayed him as a dangerous thug.

    Friday, September 19, 2014

    Exclusive: Angry with Washington, 1 in 4 Americans open to secession


    By Scott Malone

    (Reuters) - The failed Scottish vote to pull out from the United Kingdom stirred secessionist hopes for some in the United States, where almost a quarter of people are open to their states leaving the union, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll found.
    Some 23.9 percent of Americans polled from Aug. 23 through Sept. 16 said they strongly supported or tended to support the idea of their state breaking away, while 53.3 percent of the 8,952 respondents strongly opposed or tended to oppose the notion.
    The urge to sever ties with Washington cuts across party lines and regions, though Republicans and residents of rural Western states are generally warmer to the idea than Democrats and Northeasterners, according to the poll.
    Anger with President Barack Obama's handling of issues ranging from healthcare reform to the rise of Islamic State militants drives some of the feeling, with Republican respondents citing dissatisfaction with his administration as coloring their thinking.
    But others said long-running Washington gridlock had prompted them to wonder if their states would be better off striking out on their own, a move no U.S. state has tried in the 150 years since the bloody Civil War that led to the end of slavery in the South.
    "I don't think it makes a whole lot of difference anymore which political party is running things. Nothing gets done," said Roy Gustafson, 61, of Camden, South Carolina, who lives on disability payments. "The state would be better off handling things on its own."
    Scottish unionists won by a wider-than-expected 10-percentage-point margin.
    Falling public approval of the Obama administration, attention to the Scottish vote and the success of activists who accuse the U.S. government of overstepping its authority - such as the self-proclaimed militia members who flocked to Nevada's Bundy ranch earlier this year during a standoff over grazing rights - is driving up interest in secession, experts said.
    "It seems to have heated up, especially since the election of President Obama," said Mordecai Lee, a professor of governmental affairs at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, who has studied secessionist movements.
    Republicans were more inclined to support the idea, with 29.7 percent favoring it compared with 21 percent of Democrats.
    Brittany Royal, a 31-year-old nurse from Wilkesboro, North Carolina, said anger over the "Obamacare" healthcare reform law made her wonder if her state would be better off on its own.
    "That has really hurt a lot of people here, myself included. My insurance went from $40 a week for a family of four up to over $600 a month for a family of four," said Royal, a Republican. "The North Carolina government itself is sustainable. Governor (Pat) McCrory, I think he has a better healthcare plan than President Obama."
    By region, the idea was least popular in New England, the cradle of the Revolutionary War, with just 17.4 percent of respondents open to pulling their state out.
    It was most popular in the Southwest, where 34.1 percent of respondents back the idea.
    That region includes Texas, where an activist group is calling the state's legislature to put the secession question on a statewide ballot. One Texan respondent said he was confident his state could get by without the rest of the country.
    "Texas has everything we need. We have the manufacturing, we have the oil, and we don't need them," said Mark Denny, a 59-year-old retiree living outside Dallas on disability payments.
    Denny, a Republican, had cheered on the Scottish independence movement.
    "I have totally, completely lost faith in the federal government, the people running it, whether Republican, Democrat, independent, whatever," he said.
    Even in Texas, some respondents said talk about breaking away was more of a sign of their anger with Washington than evidence of a real desire to go it alone. Democrat Lila Guzman, of Round Rock, said the threat could persuade Washington lawmakers and the White House to listen more closely to average people's concerns.
    "When I say secede, I'm not like (former National Rifle Association president) Charlton Heston with my gun up in the air, 'my cold dead hands.' It's more like – we could do it if we had to," said Guzman, 62. "But the first option is, golly, get it back on the right track. Not all is lost. But there might come a point that we say, 'Hey, y'all, we're dusting our hands and we're moving on.'"

    Why the US Government's Counter-Terrorism Tweeters Are Finding it Tough to Fight ISIS Online

    It's not just the lolcats.
      Fri Sep. 19, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

    In its ascent, ISIS—the murderous extremist group controlling territory in Syria and Iraq that President Barack Obama has declared war on—has wielded a powerful weapon: social media. Its extensive online presence, which ranges from the posting of lolcat-like photos to videos of violent beheadings, has extended the organization's reach and boosted recruitment efforts that have fueled its rapid growth. And the State Department has mounted an initiative to beat back the Internet propaganda of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL. But a senior State Department official says that because the group's social media messaging contains an "element of truth," it is hard to combat its online campaign.
    In 2011, the State Department launched the Center for Strategic Counter-terrorism Communication, which developed anti-terrorism Twitter accounts that were first directed at Al Qaeda. The goal: to directly engage with people overseas who were interested in or drawn to the beliefs and actions of extremist organizations. The online campaign is called "Think Again, Turn Away," and it includes accounts in several languages, including Arabic, Urdu, Somali and English. These Twitter feeds routinely posts articles and messages countering jihadist claims and arguments. The group also manages social media accounts on Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, and Google Plus.
    And there is snark: Once, when a known Australian jihadist was claiming to be fighting in the Middle East for the Islamic State, the State Department tweeted a videohttp://youtu.be/2QdKVAouUZM of him being arrested on a beach in the Philippines, mocking him for lying about his whereabouts. The tweet reads ".@MusaCerantonio Turns out that you were having fun on the beaches of the Philippines rather than doing #HijrahToIS." (The word "hijrah" refers to a journey first taken by Muhammad. "IS" is shorthand for the Islamic State.)
    On Wednesday, the State Department tweeted at a Muslim woman who praised ISIS for its free transportation, her profile displaying pink text and black ISIS flags. The department's retort: "ISIS will be charitable…if they decide not to kill you #Thugs #thinkagainturnaway."

    "If you want to defeat their message, you have to change the elements that make it powerful," a senior State Department official says. "You have to answer them, find the arguments, not bullshit. It isn't easy."
    Several State Department tweets feature extremists from New Zealand to England who have regretted joining ISIS. Other tweets highlight the consequences of ISIS' violent campaign, such as a pregnant Iraqi woman forced to give birth in a refugee camp. The State Department also posts articles about the arrests and legal troubles of extremists.
    The State Department was targeting ISIS militants months before the group was front-page news. This mission has been more challenging than countering Al Qaeda, according to the senior State Department official, because ISIS is far more advanced in utilizing social media.
    Some counter-terrorism experts have criticized the State Department's efforts to battle ISIS online. In a recent article in Time, Rita Katz, whose SITE Intelligence Group has been tracking jihadists' online activity for more than a decade, claimed the State Department's campaign "provides jihadists with a stage to voice their arguments."
    In 2012, the program had a $5 million dollar budget. But the digital outreach team, made up of around 45 staff members in 2012 including 20 native speakers of Arabic, Urdu and Somali, in charge of this online counter-terrorism effort has limited means of determining its success. According to a 2012 study in the Middle East Journal, only 4 percent of responses to the team's posts expressed positive views of the outreach efforts. Yet the State Department tweeters have become well known within certain quarters of the online world of Islamic extremists. ISIS and Al Qaeda followers have warned their online comrades to ignore the US government tweeters, with some vowing to silence or spam them.
    According to the State Department, no extremist has publicly declared that he or she has reconsidered joining ISIS or another extremist group because of the department’s messages.
    The Think Again, Turn Away project has run into one particular problem, according to the senior department official. ISIS uses its sophisticated social media skills to disseminate propaganda that has "an element of truth."
    A core component of ISIS' social media messaging is that tens of thousands of innocent people have been suffering and dying in Syria at the hands of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, that ISIS is a powerful counter-force opposing the Assad regime, and that it has racked up multiple successes in this endeavor, such as the radical group’s capture of a major Syrian military air base in August. These assertions have the benefit of being accurate. That makes it harder for the State Department to push a different narrative about ISIS and reach people who may be on the fence about joining its cause.
    The group's focus on Syria is "a very powerful argument" according to the senior State Department official. "It is a deep, burning, urgent grievance." By tying the tragedy of Syria to the group’s religious ideology, the State Department official says, ISIS promotes a compelling narrative of "sanctioned violence" and "victory" blessed by God. One of the group's mottos is "baqiya"—"here to stay" in Arabic—and its affiliates constantly post the phrase online.
    So how is the State Department trying to undermine the story the Islamic State pushes on line? The department's digital team regularly compare ISIS to Assad and highlight the violence and suffering it has caused in Syria. For example, on Tuesday, the State Department tweeted: "#ISIS to Syrians: What once was yours is now ours…#THIEVES #thinkagainturnaway." The tweet included a photo of a Syrian religious building painted black in the style of the ISIS flag.
    The Foggy Bottom tweeters also highlight the group's defeats, such as the battle to control the Mosul Dam, in which Kurdish soldiers pushed back ISIS fighters, and the Iraqi forces' recent attack that retook Fallujah University and killed about 30 ISIS rebels. But, the State Department official notes, "sometimes there is no good answer" to the group's propaganda. Devising a response that will turn off a prospective jihadist from ISIS' radicalizing content—and doing so in a tweet or Facebook post—is a struggle, he says: "it's like catching lightning in a bottle."
    "If you want to defeat their message, you have to change the elements that make it powerful," this official adds. "You have to stop [ISIS] from succeeding. You have to answer them, find the arguments, not bullshit. It isn't easy."

    Jenna McLaughlin

    DC Editorial Fellow
    Jenna McLaughlin is an editorial fellow with Mother Jones in the Washington Bureau. RSS |

    Female GOP Senators Propose Earning Seventy-One Percent as Much as Male Colleagues

    (photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
    (photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

    By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker
    18 September 14

    The article below is satire. Andy Borowitz is an American comedian and New York Times-bestselling author who satirizes the news for his column, "The Borowitz Report."

    wo days after voting against the Paycheck Fairness Act, a law that would help women to obtain equal pay, the four female Republicans in the United States Senate co-sponsored a bill that would slash their salaries to seventy-one per cent of what their male colleagues earn.
    The senators—Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)—said that the best way to take a stand against big government’s intrusive attempts to mandate equal pay for women was to take a twenty-nine-per-cent pay cut themselves.
    “The days of the federal government forcing us to earn as much as male senators are over,” Ayotte said. “We will not stop fighting until we make twenty-nine per cent less.”
    Fischer said that after voting down paycheck equity for women across America, the female Republican senators realized that they themselves were “burdened by the tyranny of equal pay” in the U.S. Senate.
    “All we are asking for is the same freedom from equal pay that other American women enjoy,” Ayotte said.
    Though the bill was just proposed on Wednesday morning, Murkowski said that it already has the unanimous support of male Republicans in the Senate.

    Monday, September 15, 2014

    Letitia James questions guard at de Blasio’s unoccupied home

    Even a top political ally of Mayor de Blasio thinks the city needs to stop shelling out big bucks to keep the NYPD posted outside his unoccupied Park Slope rowhouse.
    “I don’t understand why it’s still there,” Public Advocate Letitia James told The Post on Sunday.
    “Assuming that they no longer live there, it appears to me that it’s a waste of money and the post should be removed.”
    De Blasio and his family moved to Gracie Mansion on the Upper East Side from their Brooklyn home in July.
    But in the two months since — as first reported by The Post — NYPD officers continue to man an air-conditioned guard post at a cost of roughly $277,000 a year.
    The NYPD declined to comment on why a security detail remains, given the mayor’s new residence, and referred all questions to the mayor’s office.
    But de Blasio spokesman Phil Walzak referred a reporter’s questions back to the NYPD — saying, “We don’t comment on security matters.”
    James, a fellow Brooklyn Democrat, vowed during her campaign for public advocate last year to provide “checks and balances” on Hizzoner despite their shared leftist leanings. On Sunday, she said she is merely following up on that promise.
    “It’s worthy of an inquiry,” she said. “If in fact they’ve relocated to Gracie Mansion, the question of why we’re spending money on security at that location remains.”
    James will pursue the matter with the NYPD, but stopped short of saying her office would investigate.
    Comptroller Scott String­er also passed the buck to the Police Department.
    “Security is under the purview of the Police Department so I’m not going to comment,” he said.
    De Blasio and wife Chirlane McCray returned to the neighborhood last week to cast their primary ballots and stopped by the home.
    “I don’t know where the heck he’s living,” one council member said of the mayor. “Probably at both places.”

    White House Vows to Use Every Synonym for War Against ISIS

    Barack Obama. (photo: Alex Wong/Getty)
    Barack Obama. (photo: Alex Wong/Getty)

    By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker
    14 September 14
    The article below is satire. Andy Borowitz is an American comedian and New York Times-bestselling author who satirizes the news for his column, "The Borowitz Report."
    resident Obama has had two sleepless nights since learning that Rush Limbaugh praised his speech about Iraq and Syria this week, a White House source confirmed on Saturday.
    According to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the President has been unable to sleep since Limbaugh complimented him on the air and has been seen pacing back and forth in the Oval Office in a way that aides described as “worrisome.”
    “When he heard that [House Speaker John] Boehner and [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell liked his speech, he seemed to take that in stride,” the source said. “But this Limbaugh thing has pushed him over the edge.”
    After midnight on Friday, the source said, a member of the White House cleaning staff entered the Oval Office and found President Obama in his bathrobe and pajamas, staring at himself in a mirror.
    “What have I done?” the President reportedly said to himself.

    What the BRICS are Building

    In 1971, United States shocked the world when President Nixon effectively ended the Bretton-Woods system by taking the dollar off the gold standard. The founders of the Bretton-Woods system, having just come out of the Great Depression, were insecure about financial markets—and gold was thought to be just the backbone needed to stave off another economic disaster.
    Liberal economists such as Paul Krugman have argued that the Federal Reserve executed that move in order to keep the dollar as the primary currency trade note in the world, as has been the case. The American dollar has become the de facto fiat currency of the world—composing 61 percent of IMF currency holdings today.
    But Nixon’s move had consequences: one immediate and one that remains consequential to this day. The first was the so-called “Nixon Shock,” where global markets reacted negatively to the news. The International Monetary Fund tired of ameliorating the “Nixon Shock” and stated that exchanges through the IMF may be done through any type of trade except gold—and so the world turned its eyes to oil just as prices began to skyrocket in the 1970s.
    And so Western powers traded their gold hegemony for a different kind of hegemony grounded in the oil trade and the U.S. dollar, which went unchallenged for decades.
    Now through multilateral cooperation by Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—the so-called BRICS countries—a new challenger titled the BRICS Development Bank has emerged to take on the international economic order.
    Just as the Bretton-Woods system based currencies including the dollar on gold, the BRICS countries have developed a system where international investments and trade are based on power politics. This is important because the BRICS nations today account for much of the dollars invested in the oil trade today with trading partners in Eastern Europe, Middle Eastern partners of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OAPEC, Indonesia, and Venezuela.
    The simple move by BRICS is obviously a threat to the current order; the U.S. could lose its position as a major economic power in terms of the oil trade and the position of the dollar as a fiat currency—things it traded the Bretton-Woods system of gold hegemony for. The entire oil trade could be decentralized from dollars to local currencies, and with it, power would shift away from its current Western center.
    King Faisal similarly shifted trade from dollars to local currencies in 1973 when Saudi Arabia ended oil supplies through OAPEC due to the Yom Kippur War, which pressured the U.S. to force Israel to pullout from Egypt. Of course, such actions are not sought as we live in an inter-connected world today where diplomacy at international forums such as the United Nations reigns. However, leverage is important, and the capability of the BRICS to pull off such a move is present. This can also gradually happen through its current system as well; buying the dollar, diluting it by cashing it out, and trading it for local currency for investment to clients in developing nations such as in Africa or South Asia.
    The BRICS Development Bank was developed to support nations who have felt underrepresented in investment projects—an objective necessarily interlinked with the political actions. Much of the world is frustrated with the IMF—and the BRICS Development Bank will be a counter to policies that are frequently seen as out of touch and reincarnated tool of Western colonialism.
    While the bank has not yet flexed its muscles, it certainly has the firepower to change the future of international economic development.
    Parasaran Rangarajan studies at the Harvard Extension School. He is a consultant for the South Asia Analysis Group and editor-in-chief of the International Law Journal of London.

    Saturday, September 13, 2014

    NATO Loses Ukraine

     by Tom Sullivan
    Sat, 2014-09-13 20:56

    The United States and NATO attack on the Russian Federation has failed. The Ukrainians who refused to accept the legitimacy of the West’s puppet government emerged victorious on the battlefield. If there is any doubt on that point, Ukraine’s decision to sign the Minsk Protocol cease fire agreement is proof. President Poroshenko seemed like a man in the cat bird seat when western nations chose sides in a civil war and kicked out his predecessor. The road to hell was paved with very bad intentions.
    One wouldn’t know it from reading and viewing the corporate media, but the western gambit has been disastrous. More than 1 million people have been displaced (most fled to Russia), the economies of many countries have been damaged by sanctions, and atrocities such as the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 would have been avoided if there had been any grown ups at work in the western capitals.
    The talking heads should be telling us about the failing effort to prop up the empire, but instead they parrot the words of the losing side. After destroying Libya and killing president Gaddafi the evil empire concluded that they had found a winning formula. Fortunately for humankind, Bashir al Assad hangs on in Syria and all that NATO has to show for its misadventures is ISIS, which grows stronger by the day, beheads American journalists on video, and attacks the legitimacy of Saudi Arabia and the other gulf monarchies who worked hand in hand on the imperial project.
    Assad is still in power and Putin’s nemesis Poroshenko waved a flag of surrender but the United States and its allies won’t give up the failing strategy because they have no other plan for keeping the leaking ship afloat. Aggression is the only weapon they have and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is the order of the day. Putin is the winner by any standard but the United States won’t admit what is obvious to the rest of the world. Instead they dredge up phony claims of Russian treaty violations and behave as if Putin hasn’t pulled off a coup of his own.
    Obama and his partners in crime would do well to remember the events of September 2013, just one year ago. The United States accused Assad of using chemical weapons as a casus belli. The American people didn’t buy what their president was selling and the no vote in the British parliament crushed the effort to start a hot war.
    The signs of desperation in the capitalist West are obvious. Their “rebels” in Syria can’t defeat Assad, they can’t get support among their own people for war and yet they still used Ukraine’s political crisis to take on Putin and failed. The United States is committed to making war on the rest of the planet and uses its military and economic muscle to get its way. Peace is the last thing that the Nobel Peace Prize winning president wants to see.
    In light of reality in Ukraine, the recently concluded NATO summit in Wales was a truly surreal event. Even as NATO’s major undertaking crumbled, Barack Obama pretended as though nothing happened at all. The lies and aggressions make American presidents sound like delusional psychiatric patients who don’t know hallucination from reality. Just as George W. Bush made bizarre claims about aluminum tubes being a reason for an invasion of Iraq, Obama tells Estonians that they are about to be attacked by Putin.
    Ukraine acknowledged that its country would be broken up among the groups it had been fighting, with special status for the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. Rather than rethink its strategy, NATO announced that it was sending troops in a Rapid Response Force to Russia’s border. It seems that NATO’s motto is “nothing succeeds like failure.”
    The horrible truth is that for the United States and its allies, war is peace. They will continue fanning the flames until they crush the rest of the world or ignite a war they don’t really want. The latter is more likely to happen because they actively create conflict and stand in the way of peaceful resolutions. Ukraine has been trying to sign a ceasefire for several months but always succumbed to American pressure to hang on a little longer.
    Unfortunately there is more reason to fear than to rejoice at this juncture because of the insanity emanating from Washington. No one knows what our government will do next or where it will attack. We can only be certain of the uncertainty of events and that means the evil doers will not always get their way. Just ask Ukrainian president Poroshenko, the poster child of unintended consequences.
    Source: Margaret Kimberley, Black Agenda Report, 10 September 2014

    A different narrative of Libya under Gadaffi

    De Blasio and Bratton at odds over cop expansion plan

    Size matters, top cop Bill Bratton says. Except when he says size doesn’t matter.
    The commissioner’s latest observation that New York needs to hire at least 1,000 more cops contrasts with his earlier statements that 35,000 were enough. Those who fault him for flip-flopping have a point, but only up to a point.
    They forget that timing matters, too, and it’s now Bratton’s time to challenge his boss. Think of it as payback for the Al Sharpton fiasco.
    When Mayor de Blasio foolishly invited Sharpton to a City Hall discussion of police tactics and seated himself between Bratton and Sharpton, the rabble-rousing rev used the promotion to humiliate his host and demonize cops. His hectoring reportedly infuriated the mayor, who believed he could count on Sharpton to be a team player. Silly man.
    For his part, Bratton hid his fury, but is now getting even. The last thing de Blasio wants is to spend more money on hiring cops, which would be an admission that public safety is in jeopardy.
    And the cost of those cops, more than $100 million a year, would be money he couldn’t spend on his leftist splurges, though it would probably buy him some peace with police unions.
    The sense that the mayor and his police commissioner are in a tense dance is bolstered by the likelihood that Bratton didn’t give his boss a heads-up that he was going to use Monday’s City Council testimony to switch sides on the hiring issue. Nor can it be lost on City Hall that Bratton said additional cops were necessary because the entire department would be taken off the beat for re-training, a direct result of Sharpton’s agitation after the Eric Garner death on Staten Island.
    Such are the strains of a marriage born of mutual convenience. Payback is expensive, but cheaper than divorce.
    Bratton and de Blasio got hitched because the mayor’s anti-NYPD campaign last year raised fears he would be soft on crime and the city would revert to the mayhem of the David Dinkins era.
    To counter those fears, de Blasio made a show of soliciting advice from Bratton, a cop’s cop and a successful commissioner in Boston, New York and Los Angeles.
    For his part, Bratton wanted the Gotham job again badly enough to criticize Michael Bloomberg and Ray Kelly, despite record-low crime rates. His hiring, then, gave both him and de Blasio something they wanted.
    But the tension keeps surfacing. During an earlier dust-up, two friends of Bratton separately told me they believed he would be gone in a year because he and de Blasio have such fundamentally different ideas about policing and because of de Blasio’s political debts to Sharpton.
    They might still be proven right, but I wouldn’t underestimate Bratton’s improved skills at political in-fighting. He dared Rudy Giuliani to fire him, and Rudy took him up on the challenge.
    It was a misreading of his standing that Bratton is not likely to repeat. He’ll soon turn 67 and another firing or resignation in New York would be an unfortunate way to end his career.
    Indeed, in a casual conversation just before de Blasio hired him, Bratton joked to me that “I should have worked for Bloomberg” because Bloomy gave Kelly free rein at the NYPD.
    No commissioner worth the job would want it any other way, so my bet is that Bratton is both more patient and more confident in his ability to bend de Blasio his way. After all, pushing for more cops against the mayor’s wish is a pretty bold move for somebody who serves at the mayor’s pleasure.
    Still, crime is the one thing that binds them. If it goes up appreciably, neither will survive in his job.
    If they can keep crime down, and so far, they mostly have, they could stay together for four years, even though love has nothing to do with it.

    Let victis inspire response to Isis

    With President Obama set to outline a plan for more attacks against the Islamic State, two dead Americans deserve to be a big part of tonight’s speech. In fact, journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff might be alive if they had been of almost any other nationality.
    Remember, their executioners stressed that they were being beheaded as retaliation for limited bombing runs the United States carried out against the terror group.
    Foley was subject to torture and mock executions before he was slaughtered, former hostages told intelligence officials. They said American prisoners were always treated more harshly than Europeans.
    Sotloff’s murder confirms the point, and comes with an added twist. He was Jewish and had dual US-Israeli citizenship — facts not made public until his death because of fears he would be killed by his Muslim captors.
    A friend of his wrote in The Times of Israel that after Sotloff’s kidnapping, “friends and associates raced to systematically remove any reference online to his Israeli and Jewish roots. The US and Israeli media agreed to cooperate in concealing this information, in order not to further jeopardize his life.”
    The assumption — that being American would make him safer — proved to be more than false. He and Foley were singled out for death because of it.
    As such, the gruesome murders served as a declaration of war against America. The failure of Obama to understand that — and to go golfing instead of responding — is helping to push his poll numbers to the basement.
    A Washington Post-ABC poll finds that a majority of the country, 52 percent, now calls his presidency a failure. The poll finds that 59 percent view the Islamic State as a very serious threat, and 71 percent favor airstrikes.
    We’ll know Wednesday night whether Obama is as wise as the people he supposedly leads.

    Standing tall on this 9/11

    With Thursday marking the 13th anniversary of the terror attack that changed history, the memorial service will serve as a fresh reminder of that awful day —and show how far New York has come in rebuilding the site.
    The memorial and museum are finished, and the Freedom Tower is almost complete. Delays, disputes and overruns are legendary, and much of the surrounding area remains under construction.
    But kower Manhattan continues to grow with housing, shops, offices, families and parks. All of that is a vital part of the comeback of a city the terrorists tried to destroy, but couldn’t because New Yorkers wouldn’t let them.

    Trump record is Taj and go

    You know times are tough when even the legal bookies are going bust. Trump Entertainment Resorts filed for bankruptcy Tuesday, and its Taj Mahal could be the fifth Atlantic City casino to close this year.
    In court filings, the company says it has liabilities of up to $500 million and assets of no more than $50,000.
    Wow. Anybody who could dig a casino into a hole that deep definitely belongs in a government job.