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If It Walks Like a Duck – ChicagoNow (blog)

Posted: February 18, 2017 at 4:36 am

If It Walks Like a Duck

In the Donalds words, there is no one less Anti-Semitic youve ever seen. There is no one less racist, so sayeth our tiny handed, orange tinged, and unhinged leader. Trump, it has been noted, has Jewish grandchildren, a Jewish daughter and son-in-law. And according to Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu has been a friend for decades and never once called him an Anti-Semite. His defense is the equivalent of Im not racist because I have black friends / family! His daughter may have taken on the faith, but Trump seems willfully ignorant on any subject that doesnt concern his favorite subject, himself.

Im really starting to wonder: at what point does his silence, outright deflection, and actions outweigh any pronouncement to the contrary? Trump took his sweet time in denouncing David Duke. His right-hand, Steve Bannon, is a man with very troubling thoughts on Jews and Judaism. Trump readily parrots stereotypes of Jews, sayingyoure not going to support me because I dont want your money, and in the process bombing in a room of conservative, Jewish donors. Retweets of white nationalism with anti-Semitic and racist overtones featured prominently in his campaign.

Jews were conspicuously left off the Holocaust Remembrance Day proclamation. There was no mention of the 6 million plus murdered, or how centuries of vibrant European Jewish life was snuffed out. True, Jews were not the only victims – Roma and Slavs were also targeted because of their ethnicity. Yet, Nazism hand-picked the Jews from the outset, a convenient minority that had sheltered blame since their European arrival. Discussing the Holocaust and leaving out the Jews is a lot like saying All Lives Matter when discussing a singular issues like police treatment of African American communities. There was speculation that its was either ignorance or oversight, but evidence shows the contrary. This was intentional.

The Jewish community represents perhaps 2% of our national population, yet we Jews represent 53.3% of religiously motivated hate crimes. Crimes went up 9% in 2015 alone, to say nothing of the rash of attacks and threats since election day. In January 2017, 57 bomb threats were made to 48 Jewish centers throughout the United States, prompting evacuations, police sweeps, and closures. While nothing was found, it has rattled the Jewish community. White supremacists have been emboldened to spray-paint swastikas, or vandalize synagogues (including here in Chicago). According to watchdog groups, the amount and tenor of Anti-Semitic language has skyrocketed. We cant afford to view these developments as idle threats. Even in a country where Jews have flourished, we remain targets of hate.

Against that backdrop, Jake Turx, an Orthodox Jewish reporter from Ami Magazine asked a softball of a question. While taking great pains to comment that Trump wasnt seen as Anti-Semitic, how was the government going to deal with the rise of Anti-Semitism? An easy answer would have been to say, The United States does not tolerate, nor condone Anti-Semitism. We will do everything we can to prevent its spread and prosecute those who perpetuate it. Easy. 15 seconds at most. Our fears are somewhat placated, and he can move on to whatever insanity he chooses.

Instead, Turx was cut off mid-question. Trump gave a customary non-answer while self-aggrandizing (surprise!). Turx persisted and was cut off yet again (quiet, quiet, quiet and sit down). There was nothing offensive about the question, but ever thin-skinned, Trump took it as a personal affront despite the lengthy preface. From CNN, later on in the news conference, Sirius XM’s Jared Rizzi said, I’ll follow up on my colleague’s question about anti-Semitism. It’s not about your personality or your beliefs. We’re talking about a rise in anti-Semitism around the country. Some of it by supporters in your name. What can you do to deter that?

In response, Trump said, Some of it is written by our opponents. You do know that? Do you understand that? You don’t think anybody would do a thing like that? He went on to insist anti-Semitism was coming from his political opponents, who were doing it to generate anger: Some of the signs you’ll see are not put up by the people that love or live Donald Trump.

What?!?! I cannot wrap my head around a man who somehow believes that being labeled an Anti-Semite (even though he wasnt!) is somehow worse than actual Anti-Semitism. And its not as if we dont know who is saying what or what groups are most committed to anti-Jewish ideology and action. We know there is a subset of the Right who do this. Richard Spencer, for one with his intimidation campaign in Whitefish, Mont. Trump is on the warpath against any group he believe to be opposed to him, whether its the entire mainstream press corps or anyone from the Democratic Party. Its true that Anti-Semitism is not unique to the Right, but in addition to deflecting the original question, hes perfectly fine spreading any lies that suit his agenda.

If walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and acts like a duck – it is a duck. I hope the pressure increases for Trump to formally denounce Anti-Semitism. I hope it leads him to actually address this rising tide. I hope he goes deeper than tired stereotypes. I hope, maybe, he listens to his daughter and son-in-law and acts, if for no other reason than deference to them. I hope he actually listens to real fears and concerns from the Jewish community. But, Im not holding my breath.

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If It Walks Like a Duck – ChicagoNow (blog)

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Facebook to use artificial intelligence to ID terrorist posts – The Daily Herald

Posted: at 4:17 am

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By Steven Overly

The Washington Post

Facebook plans to use artificial intelligence to identify posts that might promote or glorify terrorism, a move that follows growing concern about terrorists efforts to recruit on social networks.

In a 5,700-word missive posted Thursday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote that the technology will take many years to fully develop because it requires software sophisticated enough to distinguish between a news story about a terrorist attack and efforts to recruit on behalf of a terrorist organization.

Currently, Facebook largely relies on users to flag questionable content.

Zuckerberg also expounded on the companys efforts to build a global community through Facebook, and wrote that its success will depend on whether were building a community that helps keep us safe that prevents harm, helps during crises, and rebuilds afterwards.

Critics have taken aim at Facebook, along with other social networks, for what they see as insufficient efforts to police the content transmitted across its network. From propaganda shared by suspected terrorists to suicides streamed live to friends and family, social networks have inadvertently become a breeding ground for the unsavory sides of the Internet.

Terrorism has been a particularly sensitive topic. A Department of Justice official told CNBC last October that most cases of domestic terrorism begin with communication on social media and that terrorism groups are targeting their messages at young people.

Looking ahead, one of our greatest opportunities to keep people safe is building artificial intelligence to understand more quickly and accurately what is happening across our community, Zuckerberg wrote.

Facebook has attempted to tamp down potential terrorist propaganda for more than a year. A Wall Street Journal report from February 2016 said pressure from the government prompted the company to remove profiles of those suspected of supporting terrorism and scrutinize their friends posts more carefully.

In December, CNN reported that Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft would create a shared database to track and delete violent terrorist imagery or terrorist recruitment videos.

Facebooks attempts to filter, or not filter, content on its network has led to controversy before. The company came under fire for failing to stop fake news stories from circulating during the recent presidential campaign, but also alarmed conservatives who expressed concern their views were being suppressed. Zuckerberg acknowledged the fake news problem in his letter Thursday, though he did not say whether artificial intelligence might help solve that challenge as well.

The letter states:

There are billions of posts, comments and messages across our services each day, and since its impossible to review all of them, we review content once it is reported to us. There have been terribly tragic events like suicides, some live streamed that perhaps could have been prevented if someone had realized what was happening and reported them sooner. There are cases of bullying and harassment every day, that our team must be alerted to before we can help out. These stories show we must find a way to do more.

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Howard gives Barnett a hand on hustings – The West Australian

Posted: at 4:12 am

Time will tell if former prime minister John Howard’s visit to Perth helps Colin Barnett to an extraordinary election victory or amounts to a farewell from one enduring political figure to another.

Australia’s second-longest serving PM and the WA Premier, who will turn 78 and 67 respectively this year, strolled through central Perth’s Murray St mall and greeted mostly friendly strangers on Friday morning.

Labor leader Mark McGowan had similarly used the political star power of former WA Premier Geoff Gallop on Thursday, with the pair catching a train to the city from the former’s home in Rockingham.

Despite most polls pointing to a Labor win on March 11, Mr Howard disagrees.

“I believe the government will be returned because in the end West Australians will sensibly decide it is better to hang on to the government that’s done stuff and protected Western Australia than take a risk on somebody who’s inexperienced,” he told reporters.

Sport including the prospect of this year’s Ashes cricket being played at Perth’s new stadium dominated the conversation as the pair went in search of a coffee and before journalists began asking Mr Howard about the election.

“The great thing about Colin is he’s done things. The state premier is meant to look after schools and the education system of Western Australia has been more innovative with government schools than any other state with the introduction of what some people call charter schools,” he said.

“Western Australia was carrying the country for a number of years and let’s face it, if it hadn’t been for the resources boom in Western Australia a few years ago the whole nation would have been in trouble.

“I know the West Australian economy is not quite as robust as it was but that’s not the fault of the state government, it is the natural swings and roundabouts of a resource-based economy and there are signs to me that the WA economy is coming back.”

The pair attracted one or two less-than-pleasant greetings with a passer-by shouting “shame” at Mr Howard and another telling Mr Barnett he was wasting money on projects like the new stadium while hospitals and schools were suffering.

Mr Barnett pointed out that a lot of people relatively new to Australia but who remembered Mr Howard as PM were among those to warmly greet him, including a Malaysian man and Ghanaian man.

When the rest of the country turned against him for Kevin Rudd in 2007, there was actually a swing towards the coalition in WA where it gained seats.

Speaking of Mr Rudd, the former PM criticised his predecessor on Friday for giving his blessing to the WA Liberals’ preferences deal with Pauline Hanson’s One Nation.

“Utter disgrace from John Howard. He defended Hanson in 1996. Now once again.Pushing the Liberals further to the right,” he tweeted.

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Point/Counterpoint: On Liberal Capitalism – The Free Weekly

Posted: at 4:08 am

I hope to explain what libertarian capitalism is, and what anarcho-capitalism is. Government has two main aspects extent and purpose. Extent how much violence-power it wields can be gauged by how much a government taxes, spends, incarcerates, and so on. Anarchists, by definition, reject all government violence-power in principle, preferring voluntary cooperation.

Anarchists believe that all the good things that government currently produces, such as courts, police, roads, and education, can be done better and more morally by voluntary society the market. Anarcho-capitalists believe that private property (by entitlement, not decree) is generally the best way to solve the scarcity problem peacefully. This belief makes us capitalist. We favor out-competing government, not violent revolution, and work on projects such as private education (online learning) private money (crypto currency,) private courts, and private police firms. (Would citizens of Ferguson choose a belligerent all-white police patrol in a freed market with competing companies?)

Libertarian capitalists want an economy based on free markets and private property. Free markets, to us, mean no government intervention whatsoever no subsidies, cartelizing regulations, or licensure. We make a clear distinction between market capitalists and crony capitalists. Like our libertarian socialist cohorts, we strongly oppose corporatism, which is collusion between government and favored crony firms. If government is involved, it is not libertarian capitalism.

Anarcho-capitalists are the radicals we want no compulsory government whatsoever. More centrist libertarian capitalists are called minarchists since they want a minimal State limited to courts, police, and national defense. Redistribution and social engineering are not valid functions of government.

Libertarians see mainstream media as offering a false dichotomy between statist socialism and statist capitalism. Free market solutions are off their radar. To mainstream media, a treaty creating a trade cartel is a free trade agreement! Similarly, we are offered the choice between nationalized medicine and fascist medicine, with no mention of the free market alternative. Libertarians want people to consider voluntary alternatives to the government gun.

Some libertarian capitalist positions:

1) Anti-war and anti-imperialist. We oppose military intervention in foreign countries. Minarchists want a defense-only military, or no standing army at all. Anarcho-capitalists would rely for defense on insurance firms, guerrilla warfare, militias, and the lack of incentive to attack peaceful trading partners. Free markets create an automatic constituency for peace.

2) We are against neo-liberalism and other efforts of governments to control, regulate, or capture international trade. Trade should be voluntary, not enforced by governments. We oppose the corporatocracy; States should not be loan sharks to developing nations.

3) We are against corporatism. We think large corporations would mostly disappear in a freed market, lacking the government subsidies that give them advantages and create barriers for competition.

4) Employment is incidental to capitalism. It is fine so long as it is voluntary. We look forward to a time when everyone is an individual entrepreneur, cooperating with other producers as equal traders. (Here we disagree with libertarian socialists. We think employment is okay but sub-optimal; they think it is evil wage slavery.)

5) Anarcho-capitalists want voluntary society to prevail, and take over all (legitimate) functions that the state now does. Anarcho-socialists, our counterparts, concur.

Libertarianism, in essence, is about moving humanity away from the coercive rule of authorities, and toward a society where all activities are voluntary. Libertarian capitalists predict that, in a stateless society, many/most people will opt for some type of private property. Libertarian socialists think that many/most people will opt for some type of collective property. In a stateless society these wouldnt conflict; there is ample scope for experimentation in freedom.

Most libertarians hold a non-aggression ethic that one should not initiate force (violence) against others. Libertarians (as such) are not pacifists; we believe in self-defense, but the initiation of force is criminal. Most people agree with this non-aggression presumption in their personal lives, but statists give government a free pass. E.g. People who would never demand money from their neighbor at gunpoint, think nothing of voting for their government to do just that. Government, to statists, is above human morality. Libertarians, in contrast, hold everyone to the same moral standard.

Abel is a libertarian socialist, so he shares my belief in limited government. When he speaks against capitalism, keep in mind that he defines capitalism as only the statist type, corporatism. In past discussions he didnt address libertarian capitalism at all. But listen to him! Libertarian socialists have a very good critique of statist capitalism. Libertarian capitalists agree with his analysis of capitalism perverted by government. We hate Pinochet and fascism, too. The kind of capitalism libertarian capitalists favor is no-government free market capitalism the separation of economics and State.

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Equalities Secretary to seek UK assurances over benefits after … – AOL Money UK

Posted: at 4:08 am

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance is to seek assurances from the UK Government that it will not reduce the benefits of claimants in Scotlandwhen the bedroom tax is abolished.

Ms Constance will meet with the Department of Work and Pensions in London on Monday and stress that the abolition of the bedroom tax cannot be counted as a benefit income when it comes to the UK Government’s benefit cap.

Scottish Government ministers are concerned that when the bedroom tax is removed in Scotland, the UK Government will treat this as additional income for a household and impose the cap.

The Scottish Government is to provide 47 million next year in an attempt to mitigate the bedroom tax and will seek to abolish it “as soon as practically possible”.

Ms Constance said:”The bedroom tax is an abhorrent charge which makes the lives of those already struggling to make ends meet even harder – there’s no place for that in a modern Scotland.

“I make no secret of the fact we want to abolish it but what we also don’t want to see is anyone’s benefits being reduced again because by abolishing bedroom tax they end up over threshold for the UK benefit cap.

“It is not acceptable for the Scottish Government to give with one hand only for the UK Government to take away with the other.

“When these powers were transferred to Scotland there was a commitment there would be no claw back of benefits as a result of payment or eligibility decisions made by the Scottish Government.

“We need cast iron commitments from the UK Government that they will abide by those principles and that people won’t be penalised further.

“This issue has been raised with UK ministers on a number of occasions and I look forward to discussing this further at Monday’s meeting.”

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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA – Heritage Florida Jewish … – Heritage Florida Jewish News

Posted: at 4:03 am

Large swastika painted on car in Florida Jewish neighborhood

(JTA)A large swastika was spray-painted on the side of a car in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Boca Raton, Florida.

The incident occurred early Sunday morning, according to local report. The white swastika took up the entire drivers-side door of the black Ford Mustang.

The owner of the car is a teenager who is visiting Israel, the Miami Herald reported. It is not know if the teens visit to Israel made him the intended target.

This is a direct hate message, Yona Lunger, an activist in South Floridas Jewish community, told the Miami Herald. We are shocked, devastated.

Many Holocaust survivors live in the neighborhood, residents told local media.

The Palm Beach County Sheriffs Office has launched an investigation into the incident. Residents have asked the local police for increased patrols and some plan to install surveillance cameras, according to reports.

The swastika comes on the heels of several bomb threats on Jewish community centers in South Florida, part of a wave of bomb threats on JCCs across the country.

Poll: Americans nearly split over support for Palestinian state

(JTA)Americans are nearly evenly divided over support for a Palestinian state, according to the latest Gallup poll.

Some 45 percent of Americans back the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip and 42 percent oppose it, according to the poll taken during the first week of February. Some 13 percent said they have no opinion.

One year ago, support for a Palestinian state was at nearly the same level, 44 percent, but a lower percentage, 37 percent, opposed it. At that time, 19 percent said they had no opinion.

Broken down by political party affiliation, 61 percent of Democrats, 50 percent of Republicans and 25 percent of Independents are in favor of a Palestinian state.

The results are from Gallups annual World Affairs poll conducted Feb. 1-5. A random sample of 1,035 Americans over 18 was polled. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

The poll also asked respondents if their sympathies lie more with the Israelis or the Palestinians.

Some 62 percent of Americans said they sympathized more with the Israelis and 19 percent with the Palestinians in numbers that are similar to the past several years. Another 19 percent responded with no preference, broken down into 5 percent who say they sympathize with both equally, 6 percent who sympathize with neither, and 8 percent who responded that they have no opinion.

In the splits by political party, 82 percent of Republicans, 47 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Independents said they sympathized with Israel.

Asked about their opinions of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, some 49 percent of respondents said they viewed him favorably and 30 percent unfavorablyboth figures the highest recorded in the pollwith 13 percent saying they never heard of him and 8 percent saying they have no opinion.

Broken down by party, 32 percent of Democrats viewed Netanyahu favorably and 41 percent unfavorably, and 73 percent of Republicans viewed Netanyahu favorably and 11 percent unfavorably. In 2015, before Netanyahu spoke against the Iran nuclear deal in Congress, a speech that was boycotted by several Democratic members of Congress, 31 percent of Democrats viewed him favorably and 31 percent unfavorably, and 60 percent of Republicans favorably and 18 percent unfavorably.

McGill student leader doubles down on punch a Zionist today message

MONTREAL (JTA)A McGill University student leader who advised on Twitter to punch a Zionist today is refusing to resign or retract the comment amid rising Jewish anger on campus against him.

Council member Igor Sadikov did not relent at what was described as a tense meeting of the student union legislative council on Thursday.

According to witnesses who attended, Sadikov appeared to double down on his stance, arguing that Jews were not a a legitimate ethnic group, according to Bnai Brith Canada.

I have never felt so targeted, disgusted or disappointed in my life, Jewish McGill student Molly Harris later wrote in a post on Facebook.

Sadikov, who also is active in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, has denied he is anti-Semitic, noting that his father is Jewish and his mother is half-Jewish. He said his original tweet, which he later deleted, was meant to criticize a political philosophy, not Jews.

McGill has condemned Sadikov, joining the Jewish groups Bnai Brith, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The universitys undergraduate arts society formally called on Sadikov to resign and Bnai Brith asked police to investigate whether Sadikov had incited hatred with his tweet.

But the mass condemnation seemed to do little to appease pro-Israel students at McGill, who say they feel increasingly isolated and vulnerable on campus.

At the Thursday meeting, according to reports, council members voted by a wide margin against censuring Sadikov, while a leader of McGills BDS group asked why an individual pro-Zionist member of the council was not being impeached.

Critics at the meeting charged that council members stayed silent as Sadikov took his stand and also in reaction to the pro-BDS speaker.

McGills student union also has the power to impeach Sadikov, but has not moved to do so.

The campus newspaper, The McGill Daily, which Sadikov once served as editor, recently enacted a policy to ban pro-Zionist opinion from its pages.

British government proposes guideline to prevent municipal boycotts against Israel

(JTA)The British government has unveiled a proposed guideline that is meant to counteract and prevent the passing of resolutions in favor of boycotting Israel by local municipalities.

The Department for Communities and Local Government published its plan for ending such initiatives on Monday in a leaflet containing proposed additions and revisions to a document titled the Revised Best Value Statutory Guidance, which offers guidelines on various issues pertaining to local government, including procurement policies.

Authorities should not implement or pursue boycotts other than where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the Government, the proposal reads.

The British government has a longstanding policy of value for money in public procurement, the document further reads. Procurement legislation in the United Kingdom and the European Union requires public authorities to treat suppliers fairly and equally and this guidance has been updated to reflect that and make it clear that boycotts in public procurement are inappropriate outside where formal legal sanctions have been put in place.

Individuals who want to offer their feedback to the government, including arguments in favor and against the revision, must do so before March 28, the document states.

A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the national umbrella of the Jewish community of the United Kingdom, said his group warmly welcomes the Governments measures since these boycotts are divisive and undermine good community relations. The new steps will ensure that all suppliers of goods and services receive equal treatment and do not need to fear prejudice.

Resolutions favoring boycotts of Israel were passed recently in several municipalities in Britain, including the Leicester City Council in 2014. Similar measures were discussed but not taken in Nottingham.

The Conservative-led British government has threatened to fine municipalities that vote on boycotting Israel and has announced plans for laws making such initiatives illegal.

Amazon selling books in US, UK online stores that deny the Holocaust

(JTA)Amazon has removed books that deny the Holocaust from online stores in countries where Holocaust denial is illegal, but they remain available in the United States and the United Kingdom.

The British newspaper The Independent reported that the books were removed in some countries, including Italy, France and Germany, after Amazon was contacted about the sale of such books by The Sunday Times of London.

Among the books still available on Amazons U.S. and U.K. online stores are Did Six Million Really Die? by Richard Harwood; The Six Million: Fact or Fiction?, and The Myth of the Extermination of the Jews.

Gideon Falter, chairman of the British charity Campaign Against Antisemitism, told The Independent: Every day, Amazon promotes a selection of literature advocating Holocaust denial and Jew hatred. Anybody searching Amazon for books about the Holocaust, including children working on school projects, will inevitably be shown Amazons squalid cesspool of neo-Nazi titles.

One Amazon customer who complained to the company told The Sunday Times he received a message from Amazon saying, If you feel this book constitutes hate speech and malicious lies, then please check out the other hundred thousand books we carry to find something you like. I hope this helps!

Steven Goldstein, executive director of the U.S.-based Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, called for a boycott of Amazon until it stops selling the books everywhere.

When Amazon sells Holocaust denial books and even offers readers an opportunity to borrow Holocaust denial books on Amazon Kindle, Amazon is a repugnant accomplice to Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism of historic proportions, Goldstein wrote in a statement. This makes Amazon a worldwide embarrassment to human decency. We call on everyone to stop shopping at Amazon until all divisions of Amazon in every part of the world stop selling Holocaust denial books and other works immediately.

Russian lawmaker: Ancestors of Jewish politicians boiled us in cauldrons

(JTA)A Russian lawmaker in President Vladimir Putins party said the ancestors of two Jewish opposition politicians had killed Christians.

Christians survived despite the fact that the ancestors of Boris Vishnevsky and Maksim Reznik boiled us in cauldrons and fed us to animals, Vitaly Milonov said Sunday, according to Agence France-Presse.

Jewish groups and leaders condemned Milonovs statement.

For a State Duma deputy, it is unacceptable to make such irresponsible statements, said Rabbi Boruch Gorin, the spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, AFP reported.

The president of the Russian Jewish Congress told AFP that it was clear to any normal person that these lawmakers are of Jewish descent and that he means Jews.

The National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, an American nonprofit advocating for Jews in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, urged the Russian government to condemn the remarks.

Milonovs rhetoric invokes dangerous anti-Semitic hatred that has historically been used to justify widespread violence against Jews in Russia, the group said Monday in a statement. NCSEJ urges Russias local and national government to repudiate Milonovs remarks and make clear that he does not speak for the government of Russia or the Russian people.

In 2014, Milonov made statements suggesting that Jews killed Jesus.

They vilify any saint, it is in their tradition of 2,000 years, beginning with the appeals to crucify the Savior, ending with accusations of anti-Semitism against St. John of Kronstadt, Milonov said during a speech before the citys legislative council.

Milonov was advocating a bill to declare June 14 a municipal holiday in honor of John of Kronstadt, a 19th-century leader of the Orthodox Russian Church. His legacy remains controversial because of his membership in the Black Hundred, an ultranationalist and declaredly anti-Semitic movement that supported pogroms against Jews.

But Milonov said such criticism was based on complete lies, a modern neo-liberal fable with a sulfuric, deep history of Satanism.

Populist party in Germany set to oust member for denigrating Berlin Holocaust memorial

BERLIN (JTA)Germanys rising right-wing populist party voted to begin proceedings to oust a prominent member for calling Berlins Holocaust memorial a monument of shame.

Bjoern Hoecke, leader of the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, in the former East German state of Thuringia aroused ire nationwide with remarks in January denigrating the memorial and suggesting that more attention be paid to German victims of World War II.

Frauke Petry, who heads the 3-year-old AfD, said Monday that the expulsion procedure could take quite a while, but that she was convinced most party members would support the move.

Critics within the AfD said Hoeckes remarks threatened to destabilize the party, which hopes to become the third largest in the Bundestag in national elections in September.

The partys decision followed a legal and political evaluation of Hoeckes remarks.

He had told young supporters in Dresden on Jan. 17 that We Germansthat is, our peopleare the only people worldwide that has planted a memorial to shame in the heart of our capital.

Ten days later, the Buchenwald Concentration Camp Memorial barred Hoecke from entering for a memorial ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Hoecke has enjoyed some support from party leaders in his own state, as well as those in the former East German state of Brandenburg. Alexander Gauland, chair of the Brandenburg faction, told German radio rbb that no one should be thrown out after making one mistake. He also said he feared people would leave the party in protest.

In Thuringen, party leaders suggested the decision was politically motivated to force certain people and opinions out of the party

Petrys co-chair, Jrg Meuthen, reportedly also opposed her on the matter, saying he did not believe the expulsion procedure was likely to succeed, even though his speech was really very bad.

AfD President Georg Pazderski told the daily newspaper Tagesspiegel in Berlin that he thought Hoeckes speech had the potential to frighten off voters. Pazderski said Hoecke had endangered the partys goal of representing mainstream conservative Germans.

Following Mondays vote, Hoecke told reporters he was worried for the unity of the party. But he expressed confidence that the arbitration panel would not find him guilty of transgressing the partys legal statutes or principles. If he is found guilty, he can appeal.

The anti-immigrant party has been struggling with its extreme right-wing flank. Last July, it began proceedings to expel politician Wolfgang Gedeon over anti-Semitic writings. He remains a member of the Baden-Wrttemberg state parliament, though was forced to step down from the AfDs bloc.

One year ago, a court in Brandenburg rejected accusations that AfD party member Jan-Ulrich Weiss had published an anti-Semitic caricature.

Elena Roonan AfD candidate for the Bundestag from Nurembergrecently shared a photograph of Adolf Hitler online with the caption, Missing since 1945: Adolf, please call home! Germany needs you! The German nation!

The German media reported that Roon also shared an image of Hitler tearing his hair out in frustration, with the caption Islamists… I forgot about them!

The party chair in Bavaria has launched an investigation.

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Atheists and religiously unaffiliated need more representation – UConn Daily Campus

Posted: at 4:00 am

In the modern era, atheists, agnostics and other religiously unaffiliated persons have made great strides in gaining acceptance in society. One recent milestone was when President Obama signed an amendment to the International Religious Freedom Act to include protections for nonbelievers. A panel created by the law has criticized those countries that continue to persecute atheists, some of which even consider atheism an act of terrorism. Despite this, atheists at home still face large pockets of resistance in society and are one of the most underrepresented groups in the country in terms of political power.

According to polls taken by the Pew Research Center, more than one in five Americans are religiously unaffiliated. It should seem safe to assume that this ratio holds in government. Out of a Congress with 535 members, we should expect to see around 100 that are religiously unaffiliated. The number is close to 100 in a way, because its what we get if we take out the two zeroes. Only Democratic Representative Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona is unaffiliated.

There are many reasons why atheists face such severe underrepresentation. Historically, of course, atheists were not trusted and were treated as heretics. Religious people who formed the majority of the nation in its earlier days clearly did not like atheists, as eight states still have unenforceable provisions banning atheists from public office. Of course, thats just history. Nowadays, people are more accepting of views that differ from their own. Thats why a whopping 58 percentof people say they would vote for a qualified presidential candidate who was atheist.

This is disappointing, to say the least. If a person is qualified for office, you should at least be willing to vote for them no matter their religion or lack thereof. This holds especially true in a country where we are supposed to have a separation of church and state. In fact, you could argue that atheists would be the best for satisfying this vision, and would indeed be the best group for maintaining proper freedom of religion.

Why would an atheist, someone who doesnt believe in God, be the best for preserving freedom of religion? Because freedom of religion also includes equality and consistency in the law among different religions. In other words, no one law can be made that derives from the beliefs of just one religion. So banning something like shellfish or pork would be putting the interests of one religion above others and would be unconstitutional. While there are many religions in this country, the religiously unaffiliated are, well, unaffiliated. That makes them the ideal group to make laws that will ensure equality between different belief systems, sort of like a third party arbiter.

This ties into one of the major problems regarding new religious freedom laws. Because the overwhelming majority of politicians are Christian, these laws are often skewed. For example, laws have been passed that allow businesses to refuse service to homosexuals. These are unconstitutional acts, because religious belief does not give you the right to discriminate and because such acts deny equality among religions. Homosexual marriage may be considered a sin by some Christians, but if other religions dont consider it so then a law against it does not meet constitutional requirements.

Our country was born out of a desire to have fair representation in our government. The underrepresentation of the religiously unaffiliated is one of the most blatant cases of the continuing failure to realize this ideal. One way to remedy this would be for more religiously unaffiliated people to put themselves out there and run for office. But a lot of the responsibility lies on our society to stop being so hostile towards them. 49 percent of Americans would be unhappy if a family member married an atheist. And when 42 percent of the population is unwilling to vote for even a qualified atheist, very few will be willing to run. Those that do will likely feel coerced to hide or downplay their beliefs out of fear of opposition, in comparison to Christian politicians who are allowed and even encouraged to flaunt their beliefs for the public. No citizen should be effectively prevented from a political career because of their beliefs.

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Atheists and religiously unaffiliated need more representation – UConn Daily Campus

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NSA Split From Cyberwar Command Inevitable, Says Former Official – The Intercept

Posted: at 3:57 am

A former senior official at the National Security Agency says the planned split between the nations digital spying outfit and its offensive cyber military arm will happen, though likely not for a while.

Prior to the election in November, the outgoing Obama administration had moved to split the NSA, which is focused on espionage and intelligence gathering, from U.S. Cyber Command, which can conduct offensive military operations in cyberspace. Since assuming office in January, however, President Donald Trump has struggled to fill key government positions, like the national security adviser, making any immediate bureaucratic overhauls unlikely.

I think everybody says its inevitable, John Chris Inglis, the former deputy director of NSA, told The Intercept during an interview in San Francisco.

The question is whether you do that now or you do that in a year or two, he continued.

Inglis spoke to The Intercept following a speech he gave on combatting insider threats, entitled How to Catch A Snowden, at the RSA Conference, one of the largest annual cybersecurity events. Inglis was at the NSA in 2013 when Edward Snowden leaked a massive trove of documents to journalists on the surveillance programs.

Currently, the two agencies are under one roof and one dual-hatted director: Adm. Michael Rogers, who has also suggested an eventual split between his agencies. Theres been a heated debate about the benefits and downsides of separating the two entities as Cyber Command grows and develops its parallel mission. Figures like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., are vehemently against separating resources between espionage and attack in the digital space at least in the absence of clear policies from the White House.

Though Inglis tells The Intercept he believes the split is bound to occur, he says that President Trump and his White House have other fish to fry right now.

A separation in the coming months, especially with NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett retiring in the spring, might induce instability, Inglis said. And while Adm. Rogers has reportedly been no stranger to controversy and bad reviews facing sinking morale during a major NSA reorganization he doesnt appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

In the meantime, Cyber Command is still maturing. It was first formed under Gen. Keith Alexander and Ingliss leadership in 2009. Cyber Command in still early days needed the NSA, Inglis said. But the split makes sense in the long run, he argued.

The more they stay in that relationship, the less Cyber Command will need NSA, the more theyll be held back by NSA, and the less NSA will need Cyber Command, Inglis said. Its for both of their benefit to essentially give them on scene leadership that can focus entirely on what theyre supposed to do as agencies that are nominally independent but complimentary.

If that split were to happen, it might open the job of NSA director up to a civilian leader.At one point during the Obama administration, Inglis was regarded as a top candidate for the NSA job under the restructuring, though theres no indication hes currently under consideration.

Inglis tells The Intercept he would, if asked, accept a job in the Trump administration in a heartbeat.

Inglis is currently a managing director at Paladin Capital Group, a private equity firm that invests in companies around the world. He started as a computer scientist in the NSA, then worked in signals intelligence, and rose to become deputy director. He spent 41 years in the Department of Defense, nearly 30 of them at NSA.

Inglis would be a superb selection and it is no surprise that he would be willing to serve his country regardless of who was in office, Susan Hennessy, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former attorney at NSA, wrote in an email to The Intercept. He is trusted and respected both at NSA and within the government generally.

Describing the current situation as a tumultuous period, Hennessey said that the number of people qualified to lead the NSA is small. Inglis is one of the few people who would top anyones list for that role, Republican or Democrat, she added.

Having not been offered something, it would be inappropriate for me to say I want a job, especially if that job is now held by somebody, Inglis said, laughing.

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A Step Forward in Microsoft’s Legal Battle for Transparency about Government Data Requests – EFF

Posted: at 3:56 am

Last week, a federal court in Seattle issued a ruling in Microsofts ongoing challenge to the law that lets courts impose indefinite gag orders on Internet companies when they receive requests for information about their customers. Judge James Robarthe of recent Washington v. Trump fameallowed Microsofts claim that the gags violate the First Amendment to proceed, denying the governments motion to dismiss that claim. Its an important ruling, with implications for a range of government secrecy provisions, including national security letters (NSLs). Unfortunately, the court also dismissed Microsofts Fourth Amendment claim on behalf of its users.

When tech companies cant tell users that the government is knocking

Before looking at the substance of Judge Robarts ruling, its worth remembering why EFF thinks Microsofts lawsuit is important. In fact, wed go so far as to say that challenging gag orders imposed alongside government data requests is one of the key digital civil liberties issues of our time. Thats true for at least two reasons:

First, there has been a sea change in where we keep our sensitive personal information papers and effects protected by the Fourth Amendment and records of First Amendment-protected speech and associations. Just twenty or thirty years ago, most or all of this information would have been found in peoples homes. In order to get at your informationwhether by breaking down your door or serving you with a grand jury subpoenathe government usually couldnt help tipping you off. These days, private information is more likely to be stored in Microsoft Office 365 or with another third-party provider than a home office. In that case, you wont know the government is interested in your information unless you hear from the government or the third-party provider. But the government isnt always required to notify the targets of data requests, and it routinely gags providers from notifying their users. The long-standing defaultnotice that the government is after your informationhas in just a short time effectively flipped to no notice.

Second, gags distort the publics understanding of government surveillance and correspondingly place far more responsibility on providers. The statutory provision at issue in Microsofts lawsuit, 18 U.S.C. 2705, applies in criminal cases. This statute allows the government to gag service providers if a court finds that informing the user will result in one of several enumerated harmsdeath or injury to a particular person, destruction of evidence, witness tampering, and so on. But as Microsofts complaint explains, Section 2705 gag orders accompany at least half of the data demands the company receives, and courts often grant them without explicit findings of potential harm. In many cases, they also do so without setting a date for the gag to dissolve. The result is a de facto permanent gag order. Thats an abuse of what is intended as a limited power, granted to the government to protect specific, sensitive investigations.

Unless a provider takes extraordinary stepslike filing a facial constitutional challenge as Microsoft didits likely that the public wont be aware of this abuse. This intensifies the role that providers play as trustees of our data. Thats why EFF tracks both transparency reports and user notification as part of our annual Who Has Your Back report. We dont just rely on companies to keep our data secure, we also need them to stand up to the government on our behalf. Its a point often missed by those who dismiss companies growing commitments to privacy as empty marketing. If not Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook and all the others, then who?

The ruling: first party prior restraints and third-party Fourth Amendment rights

Despite the importance of these issues, the government argued that Microsofts challenge should be bounced out of court at the preliminary motion to dismiss stage. On the First Amendment claim, at least, the court disagreed. Microsofts basic argument will be familiar if youve followed EFFs NSL cases: when the government prevents you from speaking in advance, its known as a prior restraint. Under the First Amendment, prior restraints must meet exacting scrutiny and are rarely constitutional. Here, the court found that Microsoft had more than adequately alleged that Section 2705 does not meet this exacting scrutiny because it does not require courts to time-limit gags to situations where they are actually necessary based on the facts of the case.

This is nearly identical to one of the issues in EFFs NSL casesNSLs similarly allow the FBI to gag service providers indefinitely.However, NSLs are even more egregious in several ways: the FBI can issue them without any involvement by a court at all, and it need not even claim that one of the specified harms will actually result without an NSL gag. We hope the Ninth Circuit will consider our NSL clients arguments about their First Amendment rights as thoroughly as Judge Robart did here.

Finally, the court reached an unsatisfying conclusion about Microsofts attempt to raise its users Fourth Amendment rights. As EFF explained in our amicus brief earlier in the case, notice of a search is a core part of the Fourth Amendments protections. When Microsoft is precluded from notifying users, it is the only party with knowledge of the search and therefore should be able to raise its users Fourth Amendment rights. Nevertheless, the court found that Fourth Amendment rights are inherently personal and cannot be raised by a third party, leading it to dismiss Microsofts claim. We think thats wrong on the law, and we hope Microsoft will consider seeking leave to appeal. Meanwhile, well watch as the case progresses on Microsofts First Amendment claim.

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A Step Forward in Microsoft’s Legal Battle for Transparency about Government Data Requests – EFF

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ACLU calls Hogan Facebook policy ‘censorship’ – Baltimore Sun

Posted: at 3:44 am

The ACLU of Maryland contends Gov. Larry Hogan’s deletion of Facebook comments is tantamount to censorship.

The civil rights organization sent the Republican governor a letter Friday outlining its legal argument that Hogan violated the First Amendment rights of his constituents when he deleted their comments from his official Facebook page and banned some people from posting.

The letter said Hogan’s actions also violate the state’s social media policy, and it asked the governor to reinstate seven ACLU clients who have been banned.

“If he does not, we’ll take him to court,” said Deborah Jeon, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Hogan’s staff said in a statement they reinstated six out of the seven people, but could not find a Facebook profile for the seventh.

“We appreciate them identifying a handful of individuals out of the over 1 million weekly viewers of the page that may have been inadvertently denied access,” Hogan spokeswoman Amelia Chasse said in a statement. “We have already reinstated these individuals, however we will be monitoring them closely for any profane, violent, racist, or inappropriate posts including political spamming attacks.”

Chasse also said “the ACLU should be focusing on much more important activities than monitoring the governor’s Facebook page.”

Since he took office two years ago, Hogan has banned 450 people from leaving comments on his social media page, aides estimated. Scores were recently banned after Hogan’s page was bombarded with requests to take a position on Republican President Donald J. Trump’s controversial travel ban that barred immigrants from seven predominately Muslim countries from entering the United States.

Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer has said that the press staff considers such efforts “spam” and that they have a responsibility to curate the conversation online.

“We’ve had to remove and prevent coordinated political spam attacks from infiltrating and hijacking the page,” Mayer said when the controversy surfaced two weeks ago. “We have an obligation to the 146,000 people who likes the governor’s page to keep the conversation fresh, appropriate, and on topic.”

Hogan has not taken a position on the travel ban, and bristled at requests for him to make comments about the Trump administration. The governor did not support Trump as a candidate.

In their letter, the ACLU contend Hogan appeared to have blocked their clients “seemingly because you did not wish to address their questions on various issues or respond to their concerns about your silence in the face of violations of civil rights and liberties by President Donald Trump and his administration.”

Several other local politicians also ban posters on their Facebook page, according to The Washington Post, but do not exclude as many as the Hogan administration.

The Maryland Democratic Party and the government accountability group Common Cause have also criticized the governor for silencing constituents on Facebook.

ecox@baltsun.com

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ACLU calls Hogan Facebook policy ‘censorship’ – Baltimore Sun

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