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Sat, 03 Dec 2016
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Black Cat

Congress passes ban of online store 'gag orders' that prevent customers from posting negative reviews

© Jim Young / Reuters
Dissatisfied consumers soon won't have to fear punishment from online retailers for leaving negative comments, if a newly passed law making it illegal for businesses to retaliate against unflattering reviews is signed by President Barack Obama.

Congress passed the so-called Consumer Review Fairness Act on Monday, leaving it up to President Obama to decide the bill's fate.

Should he sign the act into law, online stores and businesses will be banned from using "gag clauses" to silence consumers who leave critical feedback on products and services.

Comment: If any company requires that you agree to terms that include limiting or removing your right to make a complaint in whatever way you choose then that company ought to be viewed as possibly having significant customer service issues, in which case you might want to reconsider doing business with that company.


South Florida family's missing dog found three years later -- in New Jersey

Bill Gerstein of Delray Beach and Bella
Missing dog reunited with owners after three years

Bill Gerstein couldn't believe it. Words he never thought he'd read were right there on his phone: Bella has been found.

Nearly three years after disappearing outside Gerstein's law office in Fort Lauderdale, the family's Maltese-Pomeranian mix was in an animal shelter in Paterson, New Jersey — about 1,200 miles from home. The shelter, which had checked Bella's microchip, sent him pictures. She looked ratty, her coat was in rough shape, but it was her. Gerstein got on a plane that day.

"It was jubilant for us to finally get her back," Gerstein, 45, said Tuesday, as Bella scampered about the living room, still getting acquainted with the family's other two inseparable dogs, Maya and Lily, two Cavapoos who became new additions while Bella was still missing. Bella occasionally growls and bares her teeth at Maya, who tends to avoid eye contact with Bella.

"I didn't have any realistic hope of seeing her again," Gerstein said. "The possibilities were endless: She could've been killed, she could've wandered into a swamp near our office."

Fortunately, Bella didn't wander into a swamp, but how she got to New Jersey is a mystery. Gerstein, whose immigration law office is near Commercial Boulevard and NW 31st Avenue in Fort Lauderdale, regularly brought Bella to work, and that's where she was last seen.

Comment: As heart-warming a story as this is, it's still a plug for microchips. How long before the push starts for microchipping children?


California aims to regulate cow flatulence to slow global warming

California is taking its fight against global warming to the farm.

The nation's leading agricultural state is now targeting greenhouse gases produced by dairy cows and other livestock.

Despite strong opposition from farmers, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation in September that for the first time regulates heat-trapping gases from livestock operations and landfills.

Cattle and other farm animals are major sources of methane, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas. Methane is released when they belch, pass gas and make manure.

"If we can reduce emissions of methane, we can really help to slow global warming," said Ryan McCarthy, a science adviser for the California Air Resources Board, which is drawing up rules to implement the new law.

Livestock are responsible for 14.5 percent of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, with beef and dairy production accounting for the bulk of it, according to a 2013 United Nations report.

Life Preserver

Escape from East Aleppo - tears, hugs and smiles

Civilians leaving beseiged Aleppo.
The momentum has shifted in Aleppo this week as the Syrian Army begin to advance, steadily driving out Western and Gulf-backed terrorist fighters under the command of Al Nusra Front - from their occupied enclaves in Eastern Aleppo. 21WIRE will post continuous ALEPPO UPDATES as we receive information...

21st Century Wire says...

These images and videos will never see the light of day in the corporate media editing rooms because they expose their almost six year narrative on Syria as one of the most criminal propaganda projects ever deployed against a sovereign nation, its people, its state and its national army.

The prolonged dehumanization of the majority of the Syrian people, the exploitation of their children as cynical props to further the NATO & Gulf state geo-political objectives in the region, the overt and covert endorsement of NATO State-proxy terrorism, the tacit endorsement of economic terrorism via the illegal US/EU sanctions against Syria, all amount to crimes against Humanity and the Syrian people.

Aleppo children

2 + 2 = 4

Council of Europe says Dutch anti-terror laws violate terror suspects' human rights

Dutch bills that could curtail the freedom of movement of terrorist suspects and strip them of their Dutch citizenship for joining terrorist organizations may violate human rights, the Council of Europe said, while asking the Netherlands for clarification.

In a letter to the Dutch government, the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, Nils Muiznieks, expressed concern about three legislative proposals passed this year by Holland's lower house parliament, the Tweede Kamer, warning that they may violate international human rights treaties.

Included in the legislation under scrutiny is the Temporary Administrative Measures Bill, which would allow restrictions to be placed on a suspect's freedom of movement and private and family life, the Council wrote in a statement.

Comment: If they're dual citizens, and they are proven to be members of terrorist organizations, then the law should be clearly written, and they should either be charged with a crime or sent back to the other country in which they are citizens. But Muiznieks is right about the danger of vague laws of this sort. Once they're on the books, it is a downward slope to disaster.

See also: Dutch MPs vote to ban burqas from being worn in public places


St. Petersburg, Russia, jails Hizb ut-Tahrir member

A court in the Russian city of St. Petersburg has jailed a member of the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir organization. Dmitry Mikhailov, an ethnic Russian, was found guilty on November 29 of organizing a Hizb ut-Tahrir cell in the city and sentenced to 16 years in prison on the same day. Mikhailov pleaded guilty.

A total of nine people linked to Hizb ut-Tahrir have been arrested and brought to trial in St. Petersburg since 2014. Most of them have been sentenced to long prison terms. Russia's Supreme Court banned the group in 2003, designating it a terrorist organization. The London-based Sunni political organization is also banned across Central Asia.

Hizb ut-Tahrir seeks to unite all Muslim countries into an Islamic caliphate but says its methods for reaching that goal are peaceful.

Comment: See also: "Moderate rebel" supporter, Hizb ut-Tahrir member at Chicago conference: "Islam ishere to dominate"

Hizb ut-Tahrir has been a great supporter of the "revolution" in Syria, i.e., supporting the moderate terrorists. They are relatively marginal in the United States, but their ideology shows that while they do not advocate violent means (they consider themselves a political, intellectual movement), their end goal is the same as the "rebels" in Syria: the creation of an "Islamic State" in the Middle East, thus their support of the "rebels". Gadaffi and Assad both went after this group in the years before the "revolutions" in both countries. There's a video of Ibn Thbait discussing the Syrian "opposition" with Ali Harfouch in 2013. In Part 1, Harfouch makes clear that all the fighting groups are Islamists advocating the creation of an Islamic state (the only secularists are exiles in suits living in foreign countries). In Part 2, Harfouch states:
Hizb ut-Tahrir is deeply rooted in the Syrian revolution and it is constantly coordinating with key figures, whether it's from the quote-unquote radical Islamic movement in terms of providing them advisory [sic] or with the quote-unquote more moderate movement in certain terms of warning them not to fall into neoliberal plots and so forth. [HuT's] role has been to orient the revolution ...
It's an interesting discussion, worth watching. They say that HuT maintains the "purity" of the revolution in Syria, subverting the U.S.'s aims of installing "moderate" groups in power and marginalizing the "radical Islamists" who are attempting to "uproot the political structures/neolib politics", i.e., "excluding Islam". So ironically, the very "moderate" groups we hear about in the news (e.g., Ahrar al-Sham, Noureddin al-Zenki, etc.) are ideologically opposed to those who could even remotely be considered "moderate", and actually disdain the U.S.'s alleged plans for Syria. It's kind of funny how much these guys resemble the neoliberal ideologues and social justice warriors in their apparent naivete about what exactly they are supporting with their respective "revolutions"...

Chart Bar

Trump effect: Carrier plant to keep jobs in U.S. after talks with Trump/Pence

© Joshua Lott for The New York Times
The Carrier plant in Indianapolis. The company had previously announced plans to move 2,000 factory jobs from Indiana to Mexico.
From the earliest days of his campaign, Donald J. Trump made keeping manufacturing jobs in the United States his signature economic issue, and the decision by Carrier, the big air-conditioner company, to move over 2,000 of them from Indiana to Mexico was a tailor-made talking point for him on the stump.

On Thursday, Mr. Trump and Mike Pence, Indiana's governor and the vice president-elect, plan to appear at Carrier's Indianapolis factory to announce a deal with the company to keep roughly 1,000 jobs in the state, according to officials with the transition team as well as Carrier.

Mr. Trump will be hard-pressed to alter the economic forces that have hammered the Rust Belt for decades, but forcing Carrier and its parent company, United Technologies, to reverse course is a powerful tactical strike that will hearten his followers even before he takes office.

"I'm ready for him to come," said Robin Maynard, a 24-year veteran of Carrier who builds high-efficiency furnaces and earns almost $24 an hour. "Now I can put my daughter through college without having to look for another job."


European Commission survey: 27 percent of Europeans think sex without consent can be justified

© Eric Thayer / Reuters
A Eurobarometer survey has shown alarming tendencies in attitudes towards sex without consent, with about 27 percent of respondents across the EU saying sex without consent is justifiable.

Most respondents cite reasons like being drunk or on drugs (12 percent), agreeing to go home with someone (11 percent), wearing revealing clothes, or not clearly saying no or physically fighting back (both 10 percent).

Sorted by country, those surveyed in Romania and Hungary tended to be the most likely to say each situation could justify sex without consent, while respondents in Sweden and Spain were among the least likely to say so.

Moreover, more than 40 percent of respondents in the EU believe that harassing women in the street by making sexually offensive jokes should not be illegal, with nine percent in Slovenia and eight percent each in Austria, Germany, and Lithuania saying it is not even wrong.


Saudi prince writes it's "high time" women be allowed to drive

© Faisal Al Nasser / Reuters
Saudi women should finally be allowed to drive, as it has become a "necessity," and not just a "social luxury," Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has posted on Twitter.

The prince posted a letter titled "It's high time that Saudi women started driving their cars."

"Preventing a woman from driving a car today is an issue of rights similar to the one that forbade her from receiving an education or having an independent identity," the royal family member wrote in the letter.

Alwaleed said that allowing women to drive will lead to job growth, citing an "urgent social demand predicated upon current economic circumstances."

Today, it is not just a "social luxury" for women to drive, but a "necessity," the prince added.

Stock Up

Hundreds of "Fight for $15" minimum wage protesters arrested across U.S.

© Lucy Nicholson / Reuters
Some of the activists that were arrested in a "Fight for $15" wage protest are taken away by police in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 29, 2016.
More than 150 people have been arrested at Fight for $15 protests, mostly in Detroit, Los Angeles and Cambridge, Massachusetts. This is the first Fight for 15 protest since Donald Trump became the president-elect.

Workers across the US staged demonstrations as part of a national day of action to demand an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, or what they call a living wage.

Fight for 15 protesters in Kansas City, Missouri were arrested Tuesday evening following a sit-in that blocked traffic.

In Durham, North Carolina, protesters also encountered police, chanting, "Hands up, don't shoot!"

Organizers for the campaign have promised that the protests, which they have called the Day of Disruption, will be the "largest, most disruptive" of the four-year campaign. The demonstrations both honor the anniversary of the Fight for $15 and respond to Trump's victory at the beginning of the month. They are expected to occur in 340 cities across the country.

Comment: On the one hand, raising the minimum wage will cause small businesses to lay off workers. On the other hand, major corporations make more than enough to accommodate wage increases. What no one is talking about is prices: medicine, education. The cost of living is simply too high for many Americans. It doesn't need to be that way.