Reconstruction: Crash Course Black American History #19

Sep 24, 2021

At the end of the Civil War, the United States was still a very divided place. 700,000 people had died in a bitter fight over slavery. Reconstruction was the political process meant to bring the country back together.

It was also the mechanism by which the country would extend the rights of citizenship to Black Americans, particularly those who had been recently emancipated.

Today we’ll learn about the Reconstruction amendments, the Freedman’s Bureau, and the election of 1876, among other things.

Social media misinformation stokes a worsening civil war in Ethiopia

As Tamu Shatallah walked past the inauguration stage draped in gold, his thoughts were on the deadly civil war that has plagued Ethiopia for nearly a year.

Mar 20, 2020: What happened next after a Facebook post caused tensions in Ethiopia?

It’s a war “between brothers, between sisters,” Tamu said. A war that, as far as he can tell, has done nothing for his country.

That stage in Ethiopia’s capital city Addis Ababa was where Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sat last week as he watched a procession of military bands, having just been elected to a second five-year term last week. Behind him, written in large letters was a message: “A new beginning.”

“I hope this new beginning brings peace,” said another local, Hatalesh Gabesa, as she looked at the sign on her way home from church. “Peace is more important than everything else.”

Ethiopia’s civil war is a conflict between the country’s new rulers and its old ones, who were based in the Tigray region in the north.

Sep 8, 2021: Doctors and local officials have said more than 120 civilians were massacred in Ethiopia’s Amhara region earlier this month, but forces from neighbouring Tigray rejected allegations they were responsible.

That’s where the war started, but it has now expanded south and east to neighboring states, displacing millions of Ethiopians. While there is no official death toll, some estimates put the number of dead in the tens of thousands.

The government has instituted a blockade around the areas controlled by Tigrayan rebels, which has meant cutting off the region to most humanitarian aid, medical supplies and fuel. It’s a growing humanitarian crisis that is steadily gaining more international attention — including from a whistleblower who addressed a U.S. senate committee hearing last Tuesday.

Facebook accused of ‘fanning ethnic violence’ in Ethiopian civil war

Frances Haugen, a former data scientist at Facebook, told members of a Senate subcommittee that her former employer bears some of the blame for the growing conflict in Ethiopia. More than once, Haugen accused Facebook’s algorithms of “literally fanning ethnic violence” in Ethiopia.

“My fear is that without action, divisive and extremist behaviors we see today are only the beginning,” Haugen said. “What we saw in Myanmar and are now seeing in Ethiopia are only the beginning chapters of a story so terrifying no one wants to read the end of it.”

Freelance journalist Zecharias Zelalem is one of the people attempting to document that story in real time. He reports extensively on Ethiopia and agrees with Haugen’s assessment.

“Just looking at the instances of documented evidence over the course of the past three years in which prominent Facebook posters would post unverified, often inflammatory posts or rhetoric that would then go on to incite mob violence, ethnic clashes, crackdowns on independent press or outspoken voices,” Zelalem said.

In one recent instance, Zelalem saw an inflammatory Facebook post from a media outlet that falsely blamed members of an ethnic minority group for carrying out murders and kidnappings that took place on Sept. 27.

The post quickly got hundreds of shares and likes. A day later, on Sept. 28, Zelalem said the village cited in the post was ransacked, burnt to the ground and the inhabitants were murdered.

“Despite multiple efforts to report the post, it remains up and live as of this moment,” he said.

Facebook says Ethiopia is a ‘company priority’

In Ethiopia, these are old ethnic tensions that are being stoked in new ways. As more pro-government and anti-Tigrayan rhetoric circulates online, Zelalem worries it is normalizing the violence the country has seen over the past year.

Facebook denies allegations that its platform has helped sow violence. A spokesperson sent NPR a statement saying that Ethiopia was a “company priority,” and that Facebook had added content reviewers in several local languages. The statement said Facebook had “worked to improve our proactive detection so that we can remove more harmful content at scale.”

Zelalem isn’t buying it.

“I can quite honestly say that Facebook has — if it has done anything, it’s not nearly enough, at least, because there have been more than enough documented incidents,” he said.

In the meantime, the crisis in Ethiopia is worsening. The international community has been pushing the country to allow more aid into the rebel-held regions, but that hasn’t worked.

The U.S. has threatened sanctions. And humanitarian groups say the country is still on a path toward famine.

The Ethiopian government, as it continues its social media messaging campaign, says the international community is exaggerating the crisis.

https://www.npr.org/2021/10/15/1046106922/social-media-misinformation-stokes-a-worsening-civil-war-in-ethiopia

‘Holocaust was a scam’ projected on Swedish synagogue during antisemitism summit

Words were seen on several buildings in country; neo-Nazi group claims responsibility for the incident

Swedish police are investigating how the words “the Holocaust was a scam” were projected onto the main synagogue in Malmö while the city was holding an international forum on combating antisemitism.

May 11, 2017: Neo-nazis on the rise in Sweden

The projection was seen on the Synagogue of Malmö and on other buildings in cities across southern Sweden on Wednesday night, the day of the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism.

Police are handling the case as a hate crime, the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported.

The Nordic Resistance Movement, a neo-Nazi group, claimed responsibility for the incident, according to Dagens Nyheter.

The conference had brought together heads of state and other prominent government officials from dozens of countries in a city known for its high rates of antisemitism.

Israel’s strikes in Gaza in 2009 triggered a wave of antisemitic assaults in Malmö, which had then over 1,000 Jews. Then-mayor Ilmar Reepalu reacted by instructing the local Jewish community to distance itself from Israel, giving many the impression that he was blaming the victims.

The Jewish community in Sweden’s third-largest city has since dwindled down to around 500.

Despite Wednesday’s synagogue incident, Katharina von Schnurbein, the European Commission’s coordinator on combating antisemitism, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Friday that she thinks the conference shows that “change is possible.”

“The fact that the conference happened in Malmö sends a message, that this sort of thing will not be accepted and will be confronted,” von Schnurbein said.

At the conference, she presented a new strategic plan for combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life in Europe, published by the European Commission on October 5.

Although the plan does not include a budget, von Schurbein said, “its different components will receive millions of euros in funding in the coming period.”

Among the goals of the plan is to set up a cross-European methodology for documenting and reporting antisemitic hate crimes.

On Tuesday, Jewish community leaders at a separate conference in Brussels complained that the EU plan was “not serious” because it does not address two issues that have alienated local Jews for years: bans on the ritual slaughter of animals and attempts to ban non-medical circumcision.

Von Schurbein said the plan does reference the ritual slaughter issue, by calling on members states to find “a fair balance between respect for the freedom to manifest religion and the protection of animal welfare.”

The EU Commission and her office intend to facilitate efforts to strike the balance, von Schnurbein said, “but when it comes to the document, the Commission is bound to the ruling of the European Court,” which in 2020 upheld the rights of states in Belgium to ban ritual slaughter.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/holocaust-was-a-scam-projected-on-swedish-synagogue-during-antisemitism-summit/

Masked men storm Moscow screening of film about Stalin-era famine

Authorities question staff of Russian NGO Memorial after mob disrupts screening of Mr Jones at its office

A group of masked men stormed the offices of a renowned human rights organisation in Moscow on Thursday to disrupt the screening of Mr Jones, a British co-produced film about the Holodomor, the Stalin-era famine that killed millions of peasants in Soviet Ukraine during the 1930s.

Nov 7, 2019: How Millions Of Ukrainians Died of Starvation During Stalin-Era Mass Famine

The 2019 movie, starring the British actor James Norton and directed by the Polish film-maker Agnieszka Holland, depicts the real-life story of Gareth Jones, a Welshman who is widely considered to have been the first journalist to document the famine, after repeated visits to the Soviet Union.

In footage posted online on Thursday evening, about 30 people are seen entering the office of Memorial, Russia’s oldest NGO, which documents Soviet-era repressions. The men are heard shouting “shame” and ordering viewers to leave because “the screening is over”.

Irina Sherbakova, Memorial’s lawyer, said that after the police were called, the authorities handcuffed the entrance doors to Memorial’s office and locked its staff and attenders inside for hours.

“It was strange, the police started to question us and not the ones who actually disrupted the movie. This looks like a planned attack on us to scare us away, approved by the authorities,” she said.

Nationalist activists frequently disrupt liberal, feminist and LGBT events, and Kremlin critics say the activists are able to freely operate with tacit approval from the authorities. “This isn’t the first and it won’t be the last attack on us,” Sherbakova said.

Memorial, which also speaks out about present-day human rights violations in Russia, has found itself under growing pressure from the authorities in recent years. In 2015 it was one of the first organisations to be labelled as a “foreign agent” under a 2012 law that obliges groups considered to have international funding to submit extensive documents every three months outlining their finances.

The screening of Mr Jones comes at a time when a growing number of Russians view Stalin in a favourable light. In a poll in May by the independent Levada Center, 56% of respondents agreed with the statement that the Soviet dictator was a “great leader” – double the number in 2016.

Scholars believe between 4 million and 7 million people perished during the famine, which was partly triggered by Soviet-led mass collectivisation. Ukraine has labelled the Holodomor as a genocide, an assertion rejected by the Kremlin, and interpretations of the famine’s causes have caused friction between the two countries.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/oct/15/masked-men-storm-moscow-screening-of-film-about-stalin-era-famine

Brazil pandemic probe to recommend Bolsonaro face 11 criminal charges, senator says

A Brazilian Senate probe into the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic will recommend in its final report due next week that President Jair Bolsonaro face 11 criminal charges, the senator leading the inquiry said on Friday, though it remains highly unlikely that he will face a trial on any such charges.

Oct 8, 2021: Brazil has the highest coronavirus death toll after the United States

Renan Calheiros said during a radio interview that the investigation launched in April has collected evidence to show that Bolsonaro should be formally charged with genocide against the country’s indigenous population, malfeasance, irregular use of public funds, violation of sanitary measures, incitement to crime and forgery of private documents, among other crimes.

The far-right president, who himself was infected with the coronavirus in July 2020, has railed against lockdown measures, pushed unproven cures, sowed vaccine doubts and downplayed the severity of COVID-19.

The report is scheduled to be released by the Senate investigative panel next Tuesday. The panel’s members the following day are set to vote on approving the text before sending it on the attorney general’s office on Thursday to decide if Bolsonaro and others should be charged.

The attorney general’s office can charge the president, but the Supreme Court, which would try him, must request authorization from the lower house to proceed. Experts say the lower house is highly unlikely to sign off on such a request.

The president’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Bolsonaro’s approval ratings have fallen in public opinion polls over his handling of the public health crisis. More than 600,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Brazil, second only to the United States.

The report is also likely to recommend that some of Bolsonaro’s sons and his former Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello also be charged with crimes, Calheiros said. Calheiros did not identify which sons may face charges.

https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/brazil-pandemic-probe-recommend-bolsonaro-face-11-criminal-charges-senator-says-2021-10-15/

CPAC set to stage far-right conference in Hungary, as federal prosecutors zero in

Viktor Orbán’s right-wing paradise will host its own version of CPAC, as U.S. organization faces federal probe

The American Conservative Union, the conservative grassroots organization that puts on the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, better known as CPAC, is taking its tested model for hosting right-wing gatherings to the authoritarian nation of Hungary

Mar 1, 2021: Social media lit up over the CPAC weekend after it was revealed that the stage was in the shape of a symbol commonly used by Nazis during the Second World War. CPAC organizer Matt Schlapp quickly took to Twitter to not only say that the symbol was not intentional, and also that those who point it out are engaging in “slanderous” behavior. The proof is on the stage though, and everyone saw it. Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins discusses this.

CPAC events have been held in various foreign countries over the years, but there is an unmistakable significance to staging one in the country ruled by right-wing despot Viktor Orbán, who has many fans among American conservatives and Trump supporters.

In a statement to Salon, CPAC’s acting communications director, Regina Bratton, acknowledged that the event is scheduled for late March of 2022 in Hungary, saying the organization hopes it will be a “huge success.”

“International CPAC in Tokyo” launched five years ago, Bratton said. “Since then, annual conferences have been added in Australia, Brazil and South Korea. There are plans for a CPAC Israel, and now organizers in Hungary who are passionate about protecting freedom have announced plans to host a future event,” she continued. “The battle for freedom is the same in America as it is around the world. It is a battle against socialism.” 

Yet CPAC organizers also appear to be distancing themselves somewhat from the Hungarian event, which Bratton later said in a phone interview was not “an official CPAC conference” and was not being “put on by our organization here in the Washington, D.C., metro area.” She described the sponsors of the Hungary conference as “an outside organization” comprised of “freedom-loving people” in that country. CPAC “was very happy the [Hungarian] government is allowing this to happen in their country,” Bratton said.

Asked about the relationship between the CPAC sponsors in Hungary and the American Conservative Union, Bratton was not specific, saying only, “I don’t believe they are a subsidiary of CPAC.”

Although the relationship between ACU and the Hungarian CPAC event remains unclear, a former ACU employee told Salon the attempt to draw a distinction was largely cosmetic, and that the Hungary gathering had been on the table since before the COVID pandemic. Another individual familiar with planning for the Hungary event told Salon that the ACU has been closely involved from the beginning. An ACU spokesperson declined to comment on these claims. 

Aug 5, 2021: The Truth Behind Tucker Carlson’s Disturbing Trip To Hungary

News of the CPAC event in Hungary was first reported by a Hungarian news site called “24.hu,” which quoted ACU executive director Dan Schneider saying, “Hungary is an excellent place to host the CPAC. The essence of conservative ideology is to preserve the best old values ​​for everyone,” he said, but “liberals are destroying everything traditional with their ‘strange ideas.'”

One former ACU chairman, Al Cardenas, told Salon he has no idea why the group is holding an event in Hungary, saying he hasn’t “heard of any reason” for the venture. 

Michael Edison Hayden, a spokesperson for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said he clearly saw a purpose behind the event. 

“It’s a threat,” he explained, adding that Orbán’s party, Fidesz, has “all but eliminated the free press, and have weakened democracy in that country to the point that it can’t even be considered a democracy anymore. There is no reason to bring [CPAC] to Hungary unless that is a clear statement that that’s what you want to do to the United States.” 

News of the Hungarian venture comes as ACU and its chairman, Matt Schlapp, reportedly find themselves targets of a federal probe. “Federal investigators are currently looking into possible criminal campaign-finance misdeeds at ACU during Schlapp’s tenure,” The Dispatch reported last week. “As part of the investigation, the FBI has interviewed former and current ACU employees about the financial dealings of the organization and its leaders.” 

When asked to comment on the reported investigation, Schlapp said he would respond with a statement. He did not do so before publication of this article. 

https://www.salon.com/2021/10/14/cpac-set-to-stage-far-right-conference-in-hungary-as-prosecutors-zero-in/

On Being Truly Educated – Noam Chomsky

May 26, 2015

Noam Chomsky is an eminent American theoretical linguist, cognitive scientist and philosopher, who radically changed the arena of linguistics by assuming language as a uniquely human, biologically based cognitive capacity.

He suggested that innate traits in the human brain give birth to both language and grammar.

The most important figure in “cognitive revolution” and “analytic philosophy”, Chomsky’s wide-ranging influence also extends to computer science and mathematics.

Alaska state senator who was banned from airline for refusing to wear a mask tests positive for COVID-19

  • An Alaska state senator who was banned from Alaska Airlines for not wearing a mask tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • “It’s my turn to battle Covid head on,” State Sen. Lora Reinbold announced on her Facebook page Tuesday. 
  • The state senator has not been able to travel to Alaska’s capital since she was banned from the airline. 

The Alaska GOP lawmaker who was banned from Alaska Airlines for refusing to wear a mask has tested positive for COVID-19. 

Apr 25, 2021: Airline bans Alaska state senator for violating mask rules

“It’s my turn to battle Covid head on,” State Sen. Lora Reinbold wrote on her Facebook page Tuesday. 

Reinbold has not been able to fly to Alaska’s capital since she was banned from Alaska Airlines for not wearing a mask earlier this year.

She said she was treating her case of COVID-19 with vitamins, a Vicks steamer, and ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug promoted by anti-vaccine and conspiracy theory communities as a treatment for the disease.

The FDA has warned that ivermectin — which is sometimes used in livestock — hasn’t been approved as a safe or effective treatment against COVID-19.

“When I defeat it, I will tell you my recipe,” she said. She also promised to stay out of the hospital. “Some of them seem like scary places these days,” she added. 

Reinbold was banned from Alaska Airlines in April when she refused to comply with their mask mandate. The airline then announced her suspension in the Anchorage Daily News

“We have notified Senator Lora Reinbold that she is not permitted to fly with us for her continued refusal to comply with employee instruction regarding the current mask policy,” said a spokesman for the airline. 

The ban came after a video posted to Twitter showing the state senator arguing with Alaska Airlines staff over the mask mandate. 

In March, she faced a temporary ban from most Alaska senate buildings for refusing to mask and for not complying with requirements to get a rapid COVID-19 test before entering the building. 

https://www.businessinsider.com/alaska-state-senator-banned-from-airline-tests-positive-covid-2021-10

New Filing Reveals Sinema Pads Campaign Coffers With More Pharma and Finance Funds

“This is what someone who’s bought and paid for looks like.”

U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the right-wing Arizona Democrat obstructing her party’s $3.5 trillion Build Back Better bill, is the recent beneficiary of six-figure largesse from pharma- and finance-linked donors apparently rewarding her opposition to the flagship social and climate investment legislation, according to campaign finance disclosures filed Friday.

Oct 14, 2021: Chris Hayes: “What are you doing here? If you don’t meet with your constituents, and you spend all your time doing everything except legislating all while holding up your party’s entire agenda, maybe you don’t want to be a United States Senator. Maybe it’s not the job for you.”

Politico and The Daily Poster report that Sinema raised over $1.1 million between July and September, with 90% of the campaign donations coming from outside Arizona. At least $100,000 of those contributions came from individuals or entities linked to the pharmaceutical and financial services industries.

According to Politico, Sinema has “raised more campaign money in the last three months than in any quarter since she became a senator.”

Politico reports:

Her individual donors… included a who’s-who of powerful people in the pharmaceutical industry. Top donors included the pharma giant Gilead’s CEO, Daniel O’Day, who gave $5,000 this past quarter. Another $2,900 came in from Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks. The executive chair of Merck’s board, Kenneth C. Frazier, also gave $2,900, as did the chair and CEO of Bristol Myers Squibb, Giovanni Caforio.

The CEO of Genentech, Alexander Hardy, gave $2,500. Meanwhile, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America’s executive vice president for policy and research, Jennifer Bryant, senior vice president for federal advocacy Anne Esposito, and executive vice president for public affairs Debra DeShong, each gave $1,000.

The Daily Poster adds that Sinema also received approximately $47,000 from executives at Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, a private equity firm that owns a large stake in Abzena, a company providing “outsourced research, development, and manufacturing services… to biopharmaceutical companies.”

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich noted earlier this week that Sinema has received over $750,000 from Big Pharma throughout her career.

While Sinema campaigned on a promise to “lower prescription drug prices,” she has been one of the staunchest congressional opponents of allowing Medicare to leverage its tremendous purchasing power to negotiate lower medication prices.

Among Sinema’s biggest financial services industry donors disclosed in the new filing are Goldman Sachs president John Waldron, who gave the maximum allowable amount of $5,800; Blackstone senior managing directors Giovanni Cutaia and Eli Nagler, who donated a combined $5,700; and Facebook co-founders Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who both gave the maximum amount. The Winklevoss twins have amassed a multi-billion-dollar cryptocurrency empire; Sinema is a member of the Senate subcommittee charged with regulating digital currencies.

The new disclosures came as Sinema traveled to Europe to raise more campaign cash, and as the head of an advocacy group linked to the billionaire-backed Koch network urged her to “stay strong” in her efforts to torpedo her party’s budget reconciliation package.

Responding to the new reports, musician and environmental activist Bill Madden tweeted, “This is what someone who’s bought and paid for looks like.”

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/10/15/new-filing-reveals-sinema-pads-campaign-coffers-more-pharma-and-finance-funds

Jan. 6 Committee Sets Bannon Contempt Vote For Tuesday – MSNBC

Oct 15, 2021

Biden says the Jan. 6 Committee subpoena holdouts should be prosecuted and a Capitol Police officer is charged with obstructing the investigation. Meanwhile an FDA panel recommends J&J Covid booster shot for adults.

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