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Thu, 24 Oct 2019
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Idiocy! Bed Bath & Beyond pulls black jack-o'-lanterns after 'black face' complaint

black jack-o’-lanterns
Bed Bath & Beyond has removed black jack-o'-lanterns from sale after a News 12 investigation that stemmed from complaints in Nyack about the product.

A Halloween display in front of a law firm was taken down in Nyack because the jack-o'-lanterns upset some community members. The jack-o'-lanterns are painted black with a white mouth.


SJWs as Bourgeois Bolshies: Book Review of 'The House of Government'

soviet pride poster LGBT
© designboom.com
I'm reading one of the best books I've ever seen, historian Yuri Slezkine's The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution. It's a massive — over 1,000 pages — history of the Bolshevik movement, focusing on the people who lived in a vast apartment building constructed across the Moskva River from the Kremlin, for party elites. In the 1930s, during the purges, it was the most dangerous address in the country. The secret police came for people there all the time.

The book has given me a breakthrough in understanding why so many people who grew up under communism are unnerved by what's going on in the West today, even if they can't all articulate it beyond expressing intense but inchoate anxiety about political correctness. Reading Slezkine, a UC-Berkeley historian, clarifies things immensely. Let me explain as concisely as I can. All of this is going into the book I'm working on, by the way.

In my book, I identify two main factors that make the "soft totalitarianism" we're drifting into different from the hard totalitarianism of the communist years. One is the vastly greater capabilities of surveillance technology, and its penetration into daily life in this current stage of capitalism. The other is the pseudo-religion of Social Justice, the holy trinity of which is Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. The mathematician James Lindsay last year wrote an insightful essay analyzing Social Justice ideology as a kind of postmodern religion ("faith system," he writes). Reading Slezkine on Bolshevism illuminates this with new depth.


Police arrest man after standoff at museum on French Riviera

French museum
On Wednesday French police succeeded in detaining a man who was holed up and shouting threats for around four hours in an archaeological museum in the coastal city of Saint-Raphaël, along the French Riviera.

On the walls of the museum, several messages had been written in Arabic. One allegedly read, "the museum is going to become a hell." Authorities refrained from confirming the translation.

Yellow Vest

Beirut's half-hearted concessions spark Lebanese unity, organizers proclaim 'it's what we've been dreaming of'

Lebanese protesters
© AP/Hassan Ammar
Lebanese anti-government protest in Beirut, October 20, 2019
Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Lebanon to protest corruption, economic instability and the ruling class's austerity measures, continuing to grow after half-hearted concessions from Beirut. For political organizers, the unity between sects, genders, and nationalities is "what we have been dreaming of."

The mass protests will go down in history as the first time the working class in Lebanon has come together in solidarity despite differences in sect and demographic, Jana Nakhal, an urban planner and Central Committee member of the Lebanese Communist Party, told Radio Sputnik's By Any Means Necessary Monday.

The unrest in Lebanon began five days ago in response to the government's attempt to impose taxes on tobacco and internet calls through messaging apps like WhatsApp. However, the protests have since evolved into a call for the resignation of government officials and the transfer of power to a council of judges until new elections can be held.

Comment: Is Lebanon showing signs of a color revolution? So far the uprising is aimed at the ineptitude of the government to rectify and resolve troubling financial and civil issues. However, the fine line separating these two agendas may quickly disappear as foreign intervention seizes its opportunity to foment a power play.

Sputnik: 22/10/2019: Lebanese Government approves 17-point economic plan
The Lebanese government has endorsed a 17-point economic reform plan, including measures to resolve the electricity crisis in the hope to address demands of mass protests that have been ravaging the country since last week, the presidential office said on Monday.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri unveiled a package of economic measures at the government's session in the Baabda presidential palace.

"The Council of Ministers has approved the reform plan and is now discussing the last item related to electricity," the Lebanese president's office wrote on Twitter. The office noted that "the atmosphere is calm, and the debate process is positive," with the reform plan comprising 17 points.

After discussing the reform plan, the council also approved a draft budget for 2020. The prime minister stressed that the next budget would have a 0.6-percent deficit and would not include any new taxes. The government will also boost support for the poorest families.
See also:


Bare facts about Gaza demonstrators may be correct, but the rest of the story is purposefully missing

© Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters
Palestinians run for cover from Israeli fire and tear gas on Israel-Gaza border, May 14, 2018.
Media coverage of Israel's massacre of Palestinian protesters during the first weekend of multiweek demonstrations in Gaza offered textbook examples of how syntax and word choice shape, and even distort, representations of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even if the facts are accurately stated, the ways in which sentences are constructed, and the extent to which details are contextualized, can subtly lead readers astray.

Consider for instance the enormous consequence of choosing passive rather than active language to convey what happened. "At least 15 Palestinians die as Israel responds to protest," wrote the Guardian in one early headline. "15 dead in Gaza demonstrations" read the front page of this newspaper, and the New York Times led with a similar formulation: "Confrontations at Gaza Fence Leave 15 Dead."

Such phrasing separates facts from the agency that makes them intelligible. After all, those Palestinians (the actual number varies according to reports) did not simply drop dead: They were shot, deliberately. Simply splitting subject from verb, however, obscures who did what to whom and under what circumstances. "Israeli troops kill 15 Palestinians at Gaza protest," for example, would tell a different story — and would cue a different response from readers.


Global terrorist list of 3M names supplied to banks; targets Muslims for service denial without trial

praying palestinians
© Reuters/Ammar Awad
Palestinian men pray to mark the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Adha in Jerusalem's Old City.
A massive, ever-growing database used by the world's largest banks to track terrorism financing and other crimes has compiled millions of names from unverified sources - including scandal sheets and search engine results.

The World-Check database adds 25,000 names every month to its massive risk database, used by 49 of the world's 50 largest banks to monitor possible financial, regulatory and reputational liabilities. Over three million people are currently on the list - many not convicted of any crime, some not even aware they are suspected of one.

Getting on the list is easy - employees scour publicly available sources, from court records to search engine results, and apparently make little effort to verify what they find. An investigation by Al Jazeera found hundreds of thousands of Muslim names, some seemingly absurd.

Comment: See also:


UK lawmakers urge gov't to decriminalize drugs - 'It could save lives and money'

syringe and spoon
© AFP / Dominick Reuter
A cross-party group of lawmakers have urged the UK government to consider decriminalizing drugs in Britain and treat it as a health and not a criminal issue, in order to curb the high rates of drugs-related deaths.

A report conducted by UK MPs on The Health and Social Care Committee has concluded that the government should carry out a consultation on decriminalization. They claim it would "save money" for the criminal justice system and allow more funds to be transferred into prevention and treatment that would help "save lives."

There would need to be sufficient funds provided to offer alternative approaches, such as supervised facilities where drug users could take drugs in a safe environment, the report said.

Stock Down

McKinsey: Half of world's banks deemed too weak to survive a downturn

Global money
© Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach
A new survey from consultancy McKinsey & Co has found that a majority of banks globally may not be economically viable because their returns on equity aren't keeping pace with costs.

The study looked at 1,000 banks in developed and emerging countries and found that just over a third had made a return on capital of just 1.6 percent over the past three years. This compares to returns of just over 17 percent for top banks over the same period.
"Nearly 35 percent of banks globally are both sub-scale and suffer from operating in unfavorable markets, as well as having flawed business models. To survive a downturn, merging with similar banks may be the only option, if a full reinvention is not feasible."
According to the report, banks are not as well-prepared for a downturn as they were when the global financial crisis erupted in 2007 in terms of profitability. According to the consulting firm:
"While the jury is still out on whether the current market uncertainty will result in an imminent recession or a prolonged period of slow growth, the fact is that growth has slowed.

"This is likely the last pit stop in this cycle for banks to rapidly reinvent business models and scale up via acquisitions. The time for bold and critical moves is now."

Eye 1

World's biggest facial recognition scheme will debut in India next month

facial recognition

The first casualty of the absence of regulatory framework for facial recognition technology is people's right to privacy.
With the tender submission date to procure the National Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) just 20 days away, India is closer to install worlds largest facial recognition system to track and nab criminals.

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), under Home Ministry, asked for the bids on July 8 which will be closed on November 8. The winner to provide AFRS will be announced on November 8. "This is an effort in the direction of modernizing the police force, information gathering criminal identification, verification and its dissemination among various police organizations and units across the country," said NCRB in its 172-page document. The beneficiaries will be Ministry of Home Affairs, NCRB and state police forces.

The benefits will be "a robust system for identifying criminals, missing children /persons, unidentified dead bodies and unknown traced children/persons all over the country; a repository of photographs of criminals in the country; enhanced ability to detect crime patterns and modus operandi across the states and communicate to the state police departments for aiding in crime prevention". With the help of the software, the state police personnel can check the suspect with the hotlist of criminals.

Comment: The ultimate face control: Facial recognition technology could enslave mankind like never before


Jordan Peterson and Joker

jordan peterson joker joaquin phoenix
I don't go to the movies much these days, partly because everything is on Netflix or can be procured elsewhere. But also because movie theaters have lost their appeal: they are like empty temples to a deity who has long departed.

And then there is a general sense of movie fatigue: of what has been called 'superhero fatigue', but also romantic comedy fatigue, and action movie fatigue, and fatigue of just about every genre that Hollywood produces. Hollywood movies don't have the communal appeal that they used to, and the creative spirit has moved to TV. Television today is more expansive, daring, darker, and has richer, broader narratives.

That is not to say that cinema is dead. It is just sleeping. Certainly there are some diamonds in the trash heap of modern movies. Like Joker.