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HRW on war on drugs: PH needs ‘international intervention’ – Rappler

Posted: February 20, 2017 at 7:49 pm

Describing the Philippine situation as a human rights calamity, Human Rights Watch Deputy Director Phelim Kine says the Philippines needs an ‘urgent international intervention’ to address human rights violations

Published 8:45 PM, February 20, 2017

Updated 7:14 AM, February 21, 2017

HUMAN RIGHTS. Human Rights Watch Deputy Director Phelim Kine says that the human rights problem in the country require international intervention. Photo by Marvin Tandayu

BOSTON, USA The Philippines needs global intervention to address the human rights violations involving the countrys war against drugs.

This was according to Human Rights Watch Deputy Director Phelim Kine on Saturday, February 18, at the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations (HPAIR) conference held at Harvard University.

“What we are advocating is that there is no way, in its current form, that the Philippine government can fix this. It needs to be an urgent international intervention or an international body investigation,” Kine explained.

Speaking before Asian youth delegates for the Humanitarian Affairs panel at the conference, Kine said that human rights violations in the Philippines is both unique and distressing because the president is giving his full support.

The president is an active cheerleader. He promised in a rally right before the election that he will fill Manila bay with the bodies of thousands of suspected drug users. He is one of the rare politicians who deliver on their promise. Unfortunately, they are extremely abusive, Kine said.

Since June 2017, 2,555 drug suspects have been killed at police drug operations while 3,930 others have been murdered by unidentified gunmen or vigilantes.

Following the scandal related to the murder of a South Korean businessman inside Camp Crame, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to stop all anti-drug operations nationwide in late January.

Despite this, drug-related killings continued.

The latest police tally given to the Agence France-Presse showed there were 4,076 “murder cases under investigation” on February 13. This was 146 more since Duterte ordered the PNP to withdraw from the war on drugs, which rights groups said only proved that the extrajudicial killings had slowed but not discontinued.

Describing the Philippine situation as a human rights calamity, Kine also said that what has been happening in the country is surprising and unfortunate considering the countrys history from a Ferdinand Marcos multi-decade authoritarian dictatorship which resulted to a strong civil society and free media.

The tragedy of the Philippines right now is that a sizeable part of the Philippine population have decided or accepted that a segment of the population is disposable, the human rights advocate added.

Where are the watchdogs?

Kine also criticized some leftist human rights groups in the Philippines specifically the Karapatan, an alliance of individuals, groups and organizations working for the promotion and protection of human rights for supposedly staying silent against the extrajudicial killings because President Duterte has identified itself as a leftist.

We have had a complete abrogation of betrayal of the civil society role in this…I think there really needs to be a radical self-examination by these self-proclaimed watchdogs of the public good as to how they fail 7000 plus people because they decided these people are not worth protecting, Kine suggested.

One of the campaign promises of Duterte includes ending the 40-year insurgency of the communist rebels that has killed around 40,000 people. The CPP claims it has 150,000 cadres but the military puts their number at around 4,000.

However, the Philippine president has recently scrapped the talks and the immunities of the NDF consultants days after the communist armed wing New People’s Army (NPA) terminated its 5-month-old unilateral ceasefire because of supposed ceasefire abuses by the military.

Kine ended his talk by emphasizing the role of human rights defenders in the country’s war on drugs, adding that they serve to “watch over the minority from the depredation of the majority. There are a very few places where the minority can turn that dynamic around.” Rappler.com

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Libertarians clash with Richard Spencer in DC | Washington Examiner – Washington Examiner

Posted: at 7:46 pm

There were some unhappy people at this weekend’s libertarian conference when they found Richard Spencer in the building.

Videos posted to social media Saturday showed the white nationalist, often associated with the alt-right movement, attracted a crowd at the International Students for Liberty Conference at a Washington, D.C., hotel.

Sitting at a table with a large white sign bearing his name, Spencer was met with chants of “fuck you,” but offered to talk with those who were willing. He mentioned he was invited to speak at the conference by people attending the event, though one account, citing a libertarian press source, disputed the claim.

Spencer broached topics such as President Trump’s travel ban and getting sucker-punched in the face in Washington, D.C., in January.

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At one point Spencer called Jeffrey Tucker, the content director for the Foundation for Economic Education, “totally awful.”

Later, Tucker himself confronted Spencer, saying, “You don’t belong here. Students for Liberty opposes everything that you stand for.” He called Spencer a “troll,” a “fascist” and a “liar.”

Spencer made headlines in November after he gave a toast in Washington, D.C., that drew approving Nazi-style salutes from several conferencegoers. “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” boomed Spencer, popularizer of the term “alt-right” to describe white nationalists, at a National Policy Institute gathering in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

Spencer then extended his right arm with a glass to toast that victory. Most members of the audience cheered. Some can be seen in a video excerpt of a forthcoming documentary extending their right arms and palms instead in unmistakable Nazi-style salutes.

Also from the Washington Examiner

Yiannopoulos’ book deal was worth a reported $250,000 and was expected to be released in June.

02/20/17 5:45 PM

Multiple accounts on social media said Spencer was eventually removed from the conference Saturday.

Spencer himself tweeted: “Looks like I was deported by a ‘libertarian’ lover of the deep state guys,” referring to Tucker. Deep state is when government and military officials are involved in secretly guiding the direction of government policy.

Top Story

H.R. McMaster replaces Mike Flynn as Trump’s national security adviser.

By Caitlin Yilek, Kelly Cohen

02/20/17 3:03 PM

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AI and automation are about to – The Outline

Posted: at 7:11 pm

It is difficult not to view Donald Trumps administration, regardless of its politics, as combative towards at least some portion of the American public. Unlike previous presidents who ultimately relied on messages that conveyed some attempt real or theatrical at national unity, Trumps team has decided to draw very clear lines between his supporters and everyone else. Whether it is the press, radical Islam, or the politically correct, Trumps style of leadership appears to rely on scapegoats. This bitter political ideology will likely be ineffective in guiding the country through the next decade of developments in the economy.

As artificial intelligence, robotics, and new forms of automation continue to flourish, the forms of work that millions of Americans rely on are at risk. The political solutions to navigating these changes are going to require broad public initiatives that havent been accomplished in decades, and everyone is going to have to be on board.

Before leaving the White House, President Obama commissioned a report titled Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and The Economy, that provides an in-depth look at the changes that will occur as automation becomes more sophisticated. Far from the doom and gloom projections of a workplace without humans, the report charts the subtle ways that, at scale, AI will have a tremendous impact on how our economy, and labor force, functions. Citing the current wave of AI, which the report describes as having begun around 2010, the study describes how the the types of jobs available in the economy are rapidly changing, and these changes are primarily impacting low income and less educated Americans.

According to the MIT Technology Review, 83 percent of jobs that pay less than $20 an hour are under threat from automation. Simply put, as technology makes things like ordering a cheeseburger, buying groceries, and shipping goods, require fewer human beings involved, the number of jobs available for poor Americans will shrink dramatically.

Ford, a company whose name is synonymous with the dream of American manufacturing jobs, recently announced goals to provide fully autonomous ridesharing by 2021, and earlier this month, allocated $1 billion for the autonomous vehicle startup Argo. Trumps former candidate for Labor Secretary, Andrew Puzder, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that, in areas like retail and foodservice, increases in minimum wage were to blame for the increase in automation. Of course, he also cites consumer preference as The major reason.

Lots of high-minded technological thinkers, particularly Elon Musk, have proposed a universal basic income, a form of wealth distribution that ensures every citizen receives a baseline income whether or not they are employed, as a likely solution to the problem of workforce automation. But the White House report takes a more somber approach, describing a basic income as giving up on the possibility of workers remaining employed. Instead, the report suggests a number of policy proposals (like Obamas national free community college initiative, and expanded unemployment benefits) as ways of actively facilitating the transition into a more AI driven economy.

In an interview with the MIT Technology Review, Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution calls for what he calls a universal basic adjustment benefit. Unlike a universal basic income, it would involve targeted benefits for those left out of the workforce, providing tools like wage insurance, job counseling, relocation subsidies, and other financial and career help.

The Future

A McKinsey report estimates that 59 percent of manufacturing jobs can be automated.

Uber has already made significant strides automating cars and delivery vehicles.

Manufacturing in the US has actually increased just not with the help of human workers.

Read More

LA Times

The White House report points out that the U.S. government spends roughly 0.1 percent of its GDP on programs to help people deal with changes in the workplace much less than similar developed nations. This funding has also declined over the past three decades.

This is where Trumps style of leadership appears, at worst, disastrously cynical, and at best, ignorantly short sighted. By invoking a bygone era of American manufacturing, Trump undoubtedly tapped into a significant form of anxiety present in a large portion of the country. But his solutions, a dramatic reduction in immigration and tax breaks for corporations who move sparse manufacturing jobs to the U.S., dont even take into account changes in technology.

The people left behind by the advances in automation have faced the steady creep of obsolescence, in the form of a shrinking number of available jobs, for the past decade, and Trump promised to rewind time, to a period before artificial intelligence. A post-election analysis from FiveThirtyEight found that one of the best predictors of whether or not a county voted for Trump wasnt unemployment or income, but its proportion of jobs that are considered routine, an economic term for jobs that are easily automated. Areas with a high percentage of routine jobs voted in significant numbers for Donald Trumps vision of an America stopped in time.

Republicans in the House and Senate, similarly, have no discernible plan for how to address technologys impact on the workforce. Theyve instead spent the past decade working single-mindedly on taking control of the government in order to enact an economic and moralistic vision frozen in the 1980s.

Im very worried that the next wave [of AI and automation] will hit and we wont have the supports in place, Lawrence Katz, an economist at Harvard told the MIT Technology Review. Katzs research is focused on how public spending on education in the 1900s helped America make the economic shift from agriculture to manufacturing. Theres plenty of reason to believe that, as Wireds Clive Thompson points out, the next blue collar job in America could be computer programming. An initiative to teach coding to the millions of Americans whose jobs will slowly phase out in the face of AI would take years to develop and enact, and it doesnt even appear to be on anyones mind.

The report from the final days of Obamas White House makes sure to point out that:

The next few years will find our government squabbling over a health care law that for the most part works, and passing dramatic forms of austerity that have never proven effective in the long term. The cost of attending college, a critical tool for finding a job in the new economy, will likely continue to rise unabated. All the while technology will continue to alter the way millions of Americans work, for better and for worse.

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AI and automation are about to – The Outline

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89% people want automation at workplace: Adobe – ETCIO.com

Posted: at 7:11 pm

NEW DELHI: Contrary to popular belief, 89 per cent of people are positive about the role robots can play in helping them in the workplace, rather than taking away jobs, says an Adobe study.

According to the Adobe Digital Insights Future of Work Report, people are open to man and machine collaboration for work benefits.

“The Future of Work looks promising, as robotics and automation gear up to enable employees to be more productive and creative in their roles,” said Abdul Jaleel, Vice President, People Resources India, Adobe.

Despite some concern around the impact of automation in the workplace, people are demonstrating positive commentary around how automation can undertake mundane tasks, and allow them to focus on creative and strategic responsibilities that matter most to them and their careers.

Robotics holds promise especially when it comes to the automation of traditionally mundane tasks.

Jaleel noted that automating document and signature processes, for example, could open up new possibilities for people as the tech revolution advances. Faster transportation and self-driving cars could revolutionise local travel.

“Moreover, the virtual office has big potential in the Future of Work. Work environments should continue to improve as employees demand more from their space, especially with automation ruling the minds of people,” he said.

The findings are based on over three million Future of Work — a phrase covering broad group of topics around what work would look like in the future — related social mentions across several digital platforms including Twitter, news, blogs and forums, between January 2016 to January 2017.

The study’s social analysis features regions including the US, UK, India and Australia.

The research is based on the analysis of select, anonymous and aggregated data from more than 5,000 companies worldwide that use the Adobe Digital Marketing Cloud to obtain real-time data and analysis of activity on websites, social media and advertising.

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Microsoft, UPMC’s technology collaboration includes health chatbot, population health tools – MobiHealthNews

Posted: at 7:09 pm

Microsoft and UPMC have partnered to improve healthcare delivery through a series of projects, Microsoft announced Thursday. The health system will work on Microsoft’s Healthcare NExT Initiative, which will focus on clinician empowerment and productivity with AI, officials said. The companies will work together to develop new tools that will first be implemented at UPMC before it hits the market.

The partnership will focus on products to empower patients and providers, while advancing UPMC’s immunology research.

“Despite UPMC’s efforts to stay on the leading edge of technology, too often our clinicians and patients feel as though they’re serving the technology rather than the other way around,” UMPC Chief Medical and Scientific Officer and President of Health Services Dr. Steven Shapiro said in a statement.

“With Microsoft, we have a shared vision of empowering clinicians by reducing the burden of electronic paperwork and allowing the doctor to focus on the sacred doctor-patient relationship,” he added.

The collaboration is part of multiple Healthcare NExT initiatives that include: HealthVault Insights, a research partnership with Tribridge and System C & Graphnet Care Alliance focused on finding insights on patient health, care plan adherence and patient engagement; and Microsoft Genomics, an Azure-powered genome analytics pipeline and partnership with BC Platforms and DNAnexus, among others.

Healthcare NExT also includes Microsoft’s AI chatbot, which officials said telehealth provider MDLIVE will use to help patients self-triage inquiries before speaking with a provider by video. Further, Premera Blue Cross will use the tech to improve the way patients find their health benefit information.

Microsoft also launched CGI ProperPay for claims analytics. The new service from its SaaS apps, provides predictive analytics, rules management and best practices to reduce healthcare claims fraud, waste and abuse, officials said.

“At Microsoft, we’re grounding our efforts in a set of core design principles that focus on the human benefit of AI, transparency and accountability,” officials said in a statement. “We believe that ethics and design go hand in hand. Further, we understand that security, privacy and compliance remain a top priority for health organizations.”

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Will the Science Community Go Rogue Against Donald Trump? – Truth-Out

Posted: at 7:04 pm

Petition Delivery and Climate Teach-In at Trump’s Transition Office against the Climate Denier Cabinet, December 20, 2016. (Photo: betterDCregion)

“Please let us remember that to investigate the constitution of the universe is one of the greatest and noblest problems in nature, and it becomes still grander when directed toward another discovery.”

In the age of Trump, the person writing those words has much to teach us about the impending scientific struggles of our own time.

So spoke Salviati on day two of his debate with Sagredo and Simplicio in a hypothetical discussion imagined by the great scientist and astronomer Galileo Galilei, for his book Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems, published in 1632.

In the Dialogue, Galileo puts forward his heretical view that the Earth and other planets revolve around the sun in opposition to the Catholic Church-sanctioned Ptolemaic system in which everything in the universe revolves around the Earth.

Galileo hoped that by adopting a conversational style for his argument, it would allow him to continue his argument about the true nature of the universe and evade the attentions of the Inquisition, which enforced Church doctrine with the force of bans, imprisonment and execution.

However, Galileo’s friend, Pope Urban VIII, who had personally authorized Galileo to write the Dialogue, didn’t allow sentimentality to obstruct power. Galileo was convicted of heresy and spent the rest of his days under house arrest — the Dialogue was banned by the Inquisition, along with any other book Galileo had written or might write.

Typically portrayed as the quintessential clash between religion and science, Galileo’s conflict with the Papacy was, in fact, just as rooted in material considerations of political power as it was with ideas about the nature of the solar system and our place within it.

Amid parallels to today’s conflict between Donald Trump and the scientific community over funding, research, unimpeded freedom of speech and the kind of international collaboration required for effective scientific endeavor, neither situation exists solely in the realm of ideas.

***

Galileo’s controversial and extended trial on charges of heresy coincided with the political and military problems faced by Pope Urban VIII.

Under pressure from what came to be known as the Thirty Years’ War raging across central Europe between Catholic and Protestant armies, Urban was attempting to shore up and re-establish the might of Rome through the Inquisition, racking up massive Papal debt from increased military spending, while promoting rampant nepotism and corruption.

The analogy with the U.S. of 2017 and the political and economic situation is quite striking, as today’s right wing seeks to assert its authority and impel the country politically and socially backward by launching attacks on immigrants, Native Americans, women and reproductive health, unions, and the gains of the LGBTQ, environmental and civil rights movements. These attacks have been extended across a broad swathe of society, encompassing both the arts and sciences.

After reports emerged in the first days of the Trump administration that he intended to defund the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities — responsible for 0.01 percent of the federal budget — Suzanne Nossel, writing in Foreign Policy, called this “an assault on the Enlightenment.”

Meanwhile, with the election of Trump and his comments on climate change, scientists in charge of the Doomsday Clock moved it another 30 seconds closer to midnight. This is the closest it’s been to midnight since 1953, at the height of the Cold War and following the decision by the U.S. to upgrade its nuclear arsenal with thermonuclear weaponry.

“The Trump administration needs to state clearly and unequivocally that it accepts that climate change is caused by human activity,” theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss said at a press conference announcing the Doomsday Clock time change. “Policy that is sensible requires facts that are facts.”

Unfortunately, fact-checking website Politifact has shown that 71 percent of Trump’s public statements range from “mostly false” to “pants on fire” levels of absurdity.

***

Within hours of Trump’s inauguration, rumors began to circulate that government agencies such as National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had been ordered to scrub references to climate change from their websites. There were other reports of gag orders on the Department of Agriculture and a freeze on EPA grants.

NASA climate scientist James Hansen was famously gagged during the presidency of George W. Bush, along with hundreds of others at seven different federal agencies who were ordered against using the term “global warming.”

However, scientists at the EPA say Trump’s mandate that any data collected by them — including information that is of direct consequence to people’s health and that of the planet — must first undergo political vetting before being release to the public takes things much further down the road to outright censorship.

As far as gutting the EPA entirely, it’s certainly not beyond possibility, considering that a key adviser to Trump and his head of transition for the EPA, Myron Ebell, called environmentalists “the greatest threat to freedom and prosperity in the modern world.”

One wonders if he had in mind an editorial in Nature, one of the world’s leading science journals, which, under the headline “Scientists Must Fight for the Facts,” described Trump’s energy plan as “a product of cynicism and greed” for its adherence to talking points taken directly from the fossil-fuel industry.

As bad as our air, water and soil is today, we know before the EPA’s creation under Richard Nixon in response to a wave of gigantic pro-environment marches in the 1960s and ’70s, things were much worse.

***

In response to these attacks — and the resulting increase in stress and anxiety over job security — scientists have called a March for Science on Earth Day, April 22, in Washington, D.C. Like the giant Women’s March on Washington the day after Trump’s inauguration, the science march has already spawned calls for solidarity protests in other cities across the country.

One-fifth of scientists in the U.S. are immigrants, meaning the lives of thousands of scientists and science students have already been affected by the travel ban, leaving people traumatized, but also mobilizing for the protests. A petition drawn up by academics against the anti-Muslim immigration ban, Academics Against Immigration Executive Order has garnered more than 20,000 signatures, including over 50 Nobel Laureates.

The head of the largest professional science organization in the world, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, physicist Rush Holt described the change under Trump as taking long-standing attacks against science in the U.S. to another level: “In my relatively long career I have not seen this level of concern about science…This immigration ban has serious humanitarian issues, but I bet it never occurred to them that it also has scientific implications.”

But resistance from scientists is emerging from all quarters. As Republicans tried to pass a bill to sell off more public land to corporations and fossil-fuel interests, workers at the National Park Service went rogue around the country, setting up their own social media sites to combat disinformation and let the public know what was happening.

***

Predictably, the March for Science has drawn controversy for “politicizing” science, even though scientists have signed a range of open letters calling for stronger action to combat climate change, and climate scientists have already held a rally in San Francisco in December last year protesting Trump’s election victory and his anti-science rhetoric.

By selecting Earth Day, the march is clearly connected to Trump’s specific and highly political attacks on government bodies and scientists associated with climate change research and other environmental concerns.

Despite this, renowned Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker tweeted: “Scientists’ March on Washington plan compromises its goals with anti-science PC/identity politics/hard-left rhetoric” — apparently because the website included information about the importance of diversity and intersectionality.

Meanwhile, science writer Dr. Alex Berezow, who penned a blatantly political book about the supposed anti-science proclivities of the left, tells us he won’t be on the march because it doesn’t mention white men, Christians or privately-funded science research.

More seriously, Robert Young, one of the co-authors of a report on rising sea level and its impact on the coastline of North Carolina — which drew the ire of the real estate lobby and conservative politicians, along with scathing humor from Stephen Colbert — argued in the New York Times that the march is a bad idea:

A march by scientists, while well intentioned, will serve only to trivialize and politicize the science we care so much about, turn scientists into another group caught up in the culture wars, and further drive the wedge between scientists and a certain segment of the American electorate.

On the other side of the debate, biologist Christina Agapakis tweeted, “Is it going to be a fuck yeah science facts march or a science is political and made by humans march?”

Agapakis importantly went on to argue that not having political demands doesn’t make any sense nor help achieve the goals of the scientists: “If 300 years of scientists pretending to be apolitical wasn’t enough to convince someone that climate change isn’t a hoax, then erasing political issues from the march isn’t going to change anyone’s mind either.”

As far as the substance of this discussion is concerned, one immediate and obvious question would be to ask who is “politicizing” science?

Given Trump’s rejection of climate change, his attacks on science, his appointment of the former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and his intended appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA — a federal department which Pruitt spent his tenure as attorney general of Oklahoma suing over a dozen times — if anyone is “politicizing” science, surely it’s already being done by the president.

Indeed, when the editors of the thoroughly mainstream USA Today issue a statement calling for Pruitt’s rejection as head of the EPA because Trump “couldn’t have nominated someone more opposed to the agency’s mission,” you know you’re involved in politics.

Although Texas Republican Congressman Lamar Smith might disagree. The inveterate climate denier and anti-science champion — but nevertheless somehow chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology — has said that listening to President Donald Trump, as opposed to the media or scientists, was likely “the only way to get the unvarnished truth.”

***

To talk of a supposedly apolitical science is wrongheaded to begin with. Science has been political since its modern inception with the Scientific Revolution, which began in part with Galileo’s experiments on projectile motion for the highly political purpose of launching more accurate cannonballs.

Science is as much a cultural artifact of society as art, music or fashion. Of course, science is about investigating the natural world through rationalism and empirically verified investigation, but the questions asked by scientists, what they obtain funding to investigate, and the methodology they use are all contoured and distorted by the society within which they are embedded.

We can see that contradiction with climate change research itself.

The reason we know so much about the atmosphere and climate is because climate research grew out of the military’s need in the 1950s to track wind currents so it could predict where radioactive fallout would be most severe following nuclear war (which scientists working on the Manhattan Project had made possible in the first place).

In the U.S., that research gave rise to the building of the interstate highway system to facilitate military transportation and the evacuation of population centers — which in turn generated the phenomenon of the suburbs and the growth of a culture centered around the automobile and fossil fuels.

There is a difference and a contradiction between the philosophy and method of science based in empirical evidence and rationalism and how it is practiced in a class-stratified society, by people just as subject to social prejudices and norms as anyone else.

Though some individual scientists may profess and even believe they are disinterestedly studying the way the universe works merely for the sake of it, science is part of class society. As such, it is faced with the same contradictions as any other facet of an unequal and exploitative social system.

However, because scientific explanation for the way the natural world works needs to correspond to objectively observable and experimentally verified facts and rationality, the contradictions inherent to it and the field’s intrinsically political nature are often more clearly expressed than other areas of human culture.

***

As has been repeatedly shown through history, science can be used to bolster the political status quo or help tear it down.

Famed American sociologist of science Robert K. Merton argued in the 1940s that science was a collective endeavor for the civic good, in which sharing of ideas within the scientific community and the wider public was a paramount consideration.

“The communism of the scientific ethos is incompatible with the definition of technology as ‘private property’ in a capitalistic society,” Merton wrote. “Patents proclaim exclusive rights of use, and often, nonuse.” According to Merton, science would come into conflict with rulers whenever efforts were made to enforce “the centralization of institutional control.”

One of the most infamous stories in the history of science is scientists’ role in justifying the characterization of racial superiority of the so-called “white race” with the rise of scientific racism in the 19th century — a precursor to Hitler’s anti-Semitic policies of the 1930s.

Another example of science justifying the status quo: Social Darwinism is rooted in the idea that we are genetically predisposed to behave in greedy and selfish ways — these human attributes are naturalized in modes that just happen to coincide with the values necessary for capitalism to survive.

And of course, it was scientists and engineers who developed atomic weapons, nerve gas, pesticides and fracking.

Conversely, a better understanding of the natural world through science also gives us wondrous things: birth control, modern medicine and vaccinations, to list only a tiny fraction of the vast contribution to socially useful knowledge and technologies we have obtained through scientific experiments and theoretical development. We are going to need to apply this knowledge and technology to avoid dangerous, human-induced climate change.

***

These examples illustrate what really irks Trump about science — and why the March for Science in Washington is such a crucial development.

Here it’s important to be clear about what Trump isn’t doing. He’s not saying corporations or private funding for science should be cut, only government funding of science — particularly climate science, while carefully exempting the military. The question Trump is ultimately posing — and what scientists and everyone else need to understand — is this: Should there be any science in the public good?

Trump is not telling businesses to stop doing science. He wants the federal government to stop doing science in the public interest. He wants an end to fact-based discourse wherever the facts run counter to right-wing ideology.

Understanding his assault on science in this manner connects it to the wider Republican and corporate attacks on public education and health care. It is the logical endpoint of capitalism in its most unrestricted form.

As such, it is an intensely political attack that can only be successfully repelled by a similarly political response.

We want and need more funding for all branches of science in the public good and an increase in research into areas of climate change, agro-ecology, renewable energy technologies, medical research and so on. We can only justify these on the grounds of our values, values that emerge from our political orientation and desire for just social outcomes with regard to health, clean air, and unpolluted soil and water.

This is really what scientists who are genuinely opposing the “politicizing” of science — as opposed to those with conservative politics using the complaint to oppose protest — mean: science can furnish us with facts about the way the physical world works, but it doesn’t tell us anything about what to do with those facts once we have established them.

For example, science and technology have furnished humans with the ability to hunt down and drive whales to extinction. But it tells us nothing about whether we should or not. Which is to say, science tells us nothing about what is right or wrong — that comes down to our values and is therefore an ethical and political question.

But most people would decry such a rigid attempt at fence-sitting, particularly when people’s lives and the health of the biosphere are at stake. And especially when one considers the already highly political nature of scientific research, grants and so on under capitalism. As radical educator Paolo Freire commented, “To sit on the fence in the struggle between the oppressed and the oppressor means to take the side of the oppressor, not to be neutral.”

***

Though is clearly attempting something even more extreme, we can learn much about state repression of publicly funded scientific knowledge, research and communication from the behavior of the conservative administration of Canada’s former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Under Harper, Canadian scientists were followed, threatened and censored, while libraries were closed and science research programs cut.

Noting that 24 percent of Canadian scientists reported being required to exclude or alter scientific information for non-science-based reasons, Robert MacDonald, a Canadian federal government scientist for three decades, commented:

That’s something you would expect to hear in the 1950s from eastern Europe, not something you expect to hear from a democracy like Canada in 2013…And I think, by all indication, that’s what our sisters and brothers are going to be faced with down in the United States.

The attacks, cuts and muzzling of scientists by the Harper government, particularly in any field even remotely connected to climate change, were extensive and systematic, undermining any claim to a democratic, truth-oriented administration.

Highlighting the purpose of the censorship, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations explained in the run-up to Canadian demonstrations by scientists in 2013:

In the absence of rigorous, scientific information — and an informed public — decision-making becomes an exercise in upholding the preferences of those in power.

In Canada today, as in most of the developed world, power has become increasingly concentrated in fewer hands — hands which are inevitably attached to the bodies of big business and the state. And in light of Prime Minister Harper’s agenda to rebrand Canada as the next energy superpower, it would seem that both the corporate interests and the state are focused on the expansion of the resource extraction industry in Canada.

In the federal capital of Ottawa, hundreds of scientists clad in lab coats carried a coffin in a funeral procession to mark the “death of scientific evidence.” This and dozens of smaller marches elsewhere had an observable impact on people’s perception of the Harper government.

In a lesson U.S.-based scientists should take to heart, the decline in popularity of the Harper government — and the subsequent electoral victory of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party, signaling a more positive, less hostile approach to science, if not a break with big business, including the energy industry — can be traced in part to the 2013 marches by scientists.

Hence, for all the naysayers in the scientific community who want empirical evidence about the efficacy of a political protest, look no further than the Canadian experience. According to one of the organizers with the group behind the protests, Evidence for Democracy — which is advising U.S. scientists on their march — commented, Trump’s attack on science:

absolutely echoes what we saw under George Bush in the States and what we saw under Harper, except it’s so much swifter and more brazen than what we saw under Harper…But at the same time there’s been a huge resistance coming out of the scientific community and that’s been really heartening to see.

***

Michael Mann, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, has written that “scientists are, in general, a reticent lot who would much rather spend our time in the lab, out in the field, teaching and doing research.” Nevertheless, Mann went on to call for a “rebellion” against Trump, due to the severity of Trump’s assault.

As Dr. Prescod-Weinsten, a cosmologist and particle physicist at the University of Washington, commented: “What history has taught us is that…[w]hen we work with extremist, racist, Islamophobic or nationalist governments, it doesn’t work for science.” Nor one could add, for humanity.

The assault on science must be recast and seen as entirely political. It is being made in order to further the interests of fossil fuel-based corporations. Beyond that, it is part and parcel of a larger political project to drive society back and call into question all forms of publically funded scientific, fact-based research, data gathering and dissemination in the interests of ordinary people and the public good.

Which brings us back to Galileo and what should be the purpose of scientific endeavor.

One of the other things that so angered the Inquisition was that Galileo chose to write his treatise not in Latin, the language of academia and the well to do, but in the language of common people. Galileo quite deliberately wrote his book in Italian so that it would be widely read — before being banned, it was a best seller — and discussed.

Galileo was doing science for the common good — presenting a fact-based, better understanding of the world to more clearly inform people of how their world worked. As Bertolt Brecht wrote in his essay on “Writing the Truth,” “The truth must be spoken with a view to the results it will produce in the sphere of action.”

Scientists must be political in order to be more effective scientists, not less effective. The struggle is really about the question and need to further democratize science. That means scientists seeing themselves as “citizen scientists” — in the mold of Rachel Carson, Barry Commoner, Carl Sagan or Stephen Jay Gould.

For Commoner, scientists are obligated to rebel to fulfill their mission of science in the public interest and for social good. He wrote:

The scholar’s duty is toward the development of socially significant truth, which requires freedom to test the meaning of all relevant observations and views in open discussion, and openly to express concern with the goals of our society. The scholar has an obligation — which he owes to the society that supports him — toward such open discourse. And when, under some constraint, scholars are called upon to support a single view, then the obligation to discourse necessarily becomes an obligation to dissent. In a situation of conformity, dissent is the scholars duty to society.

If science is all about taking a critical eye toward the investigation of natural phenomenon for the betterment of humanity, then rather than seeing protest and public involvement as somehow detrimental to that project, these should be seen as at the heart of the process.

We must pose the question: What are the goals we want for society? How can we help society realize those goals? To effectively answer those questions, scientists must necessarily dissent from those in power who seek to stifle empirical research and do so by informing and involving laypeople to aid their cause.

Making the March for Science on Earth Day big and political as possible is the best way to help further that process, push back Trump’s right-wing agenda and enlist more people to support science in the public good.

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Will the Science Community Go Rogue Against Donald Trump? – Truth-Out

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Trump Picks HR McMaster, Army Strategist, As National Security Adviser – New York Magazine

Posted: at 6:56 pm

Ad will collapse in seconds CLOSE February 20, 2017 02/20/2017 4:23 p.m. By Adam K. Raymond

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President Donald Trump has found his national security adviser and once again, its a general. On Monday, Trump named Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster as his replacement for former NSA Michael Flynn and called the 54-year-old a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience.

Trump made the announcement while sitting on a golden couch at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, where he also said that acting NSA Keith Kellogg, a retired lieutenant general, will serve under McMaster as chief of staff. Additionally, Trump said that former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, a candidate for the NSA job, will be asked to work with us in a somewhat different capacity.

A career Army officer, McMaster previously served as the director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, described by USA Today as an internal think tank that looks at future threats and how to deal with them. In 2014, he was named to Time magazines 100 most influential list and called the architect of the future U.S. Army. In the magazine, retired Lieutenant General Dave Barno described McMaster as an iconoclast who repeatedly bucked the system and survived to join its senior ranks.

The West Point graduate also has a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His dissertation was turned into the 1997 book Dereliction of Duty, which CNN said in 2006 is considered the seminal work on militarys responsibility during Vietnam to confront their civilian bosses when strategy was not working.

While McMasters academic bona fides may stand in contrast with Trumps the Times says hes seen as one of the Armys leading intellectuals he shares the presidents opinion that the U.S. military is too small. We are outranged and outgunned by many potential adversaries, he said at a 2016 hearing of the Air-Land subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Our army in the future risks being too small to secure the nation.

McMaster, who has been described as a blunt-spoken bulldog, joins Defense Secretary James Mattis, whose nickname is Mad Dog, and Homeland Security head John Kelly, a no-nonsense pragmatist, as one-time generals who have signed up to work in the Trump administration.

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The silly-sign makers were out in full force on Monday.

He was previously in charge of designing the Army of the future.

The right-wing provocateur came under fire for a video in which he defends relationships between younger boys and older men.

The Kremlin is trying to better understand Trump as worries reportedly grow in Moscow about his ability to lift sanctions.

The Defense Secretary arrives in Baghdad as a part of his world tour of walking back Trump statements.

Many opposed giving the right-wing provocateur a speaking slot even before seeing his defense of relationships between younger boys and older men.

The other two people involved with the plan were a pro-Putin Ukrainian lawmaker and a Trump business associate with links to the mafia.

Trumps fake Swedish news reflects a misleading right-wing narrative about refugee-perpetrated crime.

He warned that suppressing the media is how dictators get started, though he mostly avoided direct references to the president.

Trump has already chosen his 2020 opponents: the press and any version of reality that doesnt come from him.

Meanwhile, Trump is still looking for his next national-security adviser.

But the White House insists nobody is getting enhanced access to the president.

The senator (ambivalently, agonizingly) takes on the president.

An elite school allegedly had to cancel a field trip to the Central Parks Trump-affiliated Wollman Rink.

The Associated Press has a draft of a memo that suggests deploying as many as 100,000 National Guard troops.

Scott Pruitt will spearhead the Trump administrations efforts to increase water pollution and accelerate man-made climate change.

Michels displacement by Newt Gingrich is widely seen as a landmark on the road to partisan polarization. The path continues ever downward today.

25-year-old Siti Aisyah had apparently been paid for similar acts before.

The House Oversight chair is seeking charges against the exState Department employee who helped set up Hillary Clintons private email server.

A quest to repeat the Bush tax cuts, but without the fatal weakness.

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Trump Picks HR McMaster, Army Strategist, As National Security Adviser – New York Magazine

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Rep. Eddie Lumsden says Second Amendment rights should not be treated as privileges – Rome News-Tribune

Posted: at 6:55 pm

Campus carry legislation is back, with several bills up for consideration in the House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee this week.

Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a measure last year that would have allowed guns on college campuses, but state Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Rome, said he expects these to be more acceptable.

These are some modified bills, after having conversations with the governor, he said.

Lumsden, a retired Georgia State patrol trooper, sits on the committee that will consider House Bill 280 today. He quoted the Second Amendment in explaining his support of campus carry rights.

And a lot of urban campuses are very porous, so to speak,, he added. Just because you have a gun-free zone doesnt mean its gun-free.

HB 280 would allow people with permits to carry concealed firearms on all property owned or leased by a public institution of post-secondary education. The only exemptions would be at sports facilities, student housing to include fraternity and sorority houses and on-campus preschools.

An omnibus gun permit measure, HB 292, also is on the committees agenda. It contains a number of additions and revisions to the state law, including applications for airports, schools and courthouses. Other provisions address legalities for newcomers with permits from other states and people who have been involuntarily committed.

A subcommittee Lumsden sits on also will hold hearings on two gun bills today. HB 406 deals with reciprocal permit agreements between states. HB 232, requiring gun safety training to renew a permit, appears problematic to Lumsden.

Most conservatives dont believe its wise of government to require training because this is a right, not a privilege, he said. We all believe it would be a good thing, if youre going to carry a weapon, you be trained in its use. But this gets into constitutional questions.

The Georgia General Assembly officially reconvenes Tuesday for the 21st day of its 40-day session, which is slated to run through March 31.

Lumsdens election cleanup bill, HB 42, has already passed the House and is expected to come up for a full Senate vote Wednesday. It allows elections supervisors to correct mistakes on a ballot and lets communities use federal, rather than state, run-off dates to save money on elections.

Im told the lieutenant governor wants it to move. There are applications for some upcoming run-off elections, Lumsden said.

There are 18 candidates in an April 18 special election for the 6th Congressional District, vacated when Tom Price was tapped as President Donald Trumps secretary of health and human services.

Additionally, qualifying opens Wednesday for the election to replace state Sen. Judson Hill, R-Marietta, who is among those seeking Prices seat.

Lumsden also has two insurance housekeeping bills slated to move this week. HB 174 updates the law to acknowledge claims may be paid by check or other modern methods.

Right now, it uses legal tender, which means cash money, he said. Ive never seen a claim settled with cash.

HB 262 adds stand-alone dental insurance plans to the list of insurers that may use online, rather than printed, provider directories.

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Rep. Eddie Lumsden says Second Amendment rights should not be treated as privileges – Rome News-Tribune

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This Presidents’ Day, defend the First Amendment – The Hill (blog)

Posted: at 6:54 pm

In many ways, free speech is the right that protects all others, reinforcing every freedom that we hold dear and that so many have fought and died for.

This Presidents’ Day, we should reflect on the reasons our Founding Fathers enshrined this right in our First Amendment. And we must acknowledge that this fundamental right is under attackeven for those who have fought to protect it.

Brandon Coleman, a Marine Corps veteran, began working as a therapist at the VA hospital in Phoenix to provide care for his brothers and sisters in arms. When he found that veterans there were dying due to negligence, he spoke upand for that, he was punished. When he told management what was going on, they told him thats how people get fired. They even tried to use his own personal medical records against him, and issued a gag order to silence him.

Colemans VA experience reminds of President Abraham Lincoln, who famously said that we as a nation will never be destroyed from the outside. “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher, he said if the United States loses its freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.

Veterans like Brandon fought to defend us against external threats, but more and more are realizing that the biggest threat to our freedom is a government that is quick to limit our inalienable rights. The oath servicemen and women take to support and defend our Constitution doesnt end when we hang up our uniforms and return to civilian life.

Brandons case is one of many instances in which the very same government thats supposed to be protecting the right to free speech has tried to suppress it. Its not just happening at the VAlook at the way the government has intimidated religious groups by leaking donor lists, or the scandal at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in which the agency targeted certain groups because of their views on public policy.

Time and again, the government has silenced those it disagrees with by using citizens private information against them. Which makes it all the more concerning that a growing number of states are now trying to get more information about Americans who exercise their First Amendment rights.

In South Carolina, legislation was recently filed in the state Senate that would force essentially every nonprofit organization that educates citizens about public policy to disclose to the government the names, addresses, and employers of supporters who donate more than a certain dollar amount. Similar efforts have surfaced in both Nebraska and South Dakota. Touted under the banner of transparency, these so-called disclosure laws are nothing more than thinly-veiled attacks on free speech.

Throughout our history, the First Amendment has allowed citizens to challenge the government and powerful groups in all sectors, rooting out fraud and corruption. It has allowed marginalized groups to speak out against injustice, spurring progress toward equality. It has allowed millions of Americans to contribute to a marketplace of ideas, fostering a free society, a thriving culture and the largest economy in the world.

All too often today, our free speech right that was designed to hold the government accountable is being used by the government to harass, intimidate, and silence the very citizens the right is meant to protect.

With a new administration and a new Congress, there may now be a real opportunity to scale back and prevent further threats facing our First Amendment rights. But during these turbulent political times, we cant take that for granted.

Abolition, the womens movement, civil rights the inalienable right to free speech is what gave the foot soldiers in all of these movements the ability to speak up for themselves. Now that free speech is under attack, will we speak up for it?

Mark Lucas is the executive director of Concerned Veterans for America.

The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

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This Presidents’ Day, defend the First Amendment – The Hill (blog)

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Limbaugh: The First Amendment Doesn’t Give the Press ‘Immunity from Criticism’ – Mediaite

Posted: at 6:54 pm

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Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show today that the press reaction to President Trumps attacks on the media is giving him the impression that journalists believe they have immunity from criticism.

Limbaugh, who said on Fox News Sunday yesterday that the media wont be able to destroy Trump, picked up in particular on Chuck Todds reaction to Trumps media-bashing:

Limbaugh said that this gives the appearance of journalists thinking they can do whatever they want to public figures but also that since they are recognized in the First Amendment they have constitutional immunity.

The First Amendment, he argued, does not grant them immunity from criticism. It does not grant them freedom to be disagreed with. It does not grant them freedom from opposition.

And if this is all about holding powerful people accountable, Limbaugh added, how come there isnt this kind of brave declaration when it comes to powerful Democrats.

Listen above, via The Rush Limbaugh Show.

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Limbaugh: The First Amendment Doesn’t Give the Press ‘Immunity from Criticism’ – Mediaite

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