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Thu, 25 Apr 2019
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ACLU sues Detroit, says cash bail system causing 'mass incarceration' of the poor

cash bail bonds
© AFP / Getty Images North America / Mario Tama
Detroit's bail system disproportionately harms poor defendants and violates their constitutional rights, according to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU in that city, where a third of the population lives below the poverty line.

The local branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the class-action suit on Sunday, claiming the bail process in Detroit's 36th District Court "punishes" the poor and needs immediate reform.

"A person's freedom should not depend on how much money they have," deputy legal director for the ACLU of Michigan, Dan Korobkin, said in a press release.


Young people are doing worse than their parents: Just a third of 30-year-olds are earning more than their dads

woman computer exec
© Shutterstock
Earning more than your parents has been a marker of success for more than 50 years but just a third of 30 year olds bring in a higher salary than their dads, experts say. Researchers found that more than half of men and women aged 30 earned more than their fathers in 2005.
Earning more than your parents has been a marker of success for more than 50 years but just a third of 30 year olds bring in a higher salary than their dads, experts say.

Researchers found that more than half of men and women aged 30 earned more than their fathers in 2005.

That figure began to drop from 2007 onwards, at the start of the last decade's financial crash, with earnings falling in real terms ever since.

Comment: See also:


Pledges of support for cathedral restoration pour in from France and around the world

Aftermath of Notre Dame fires
© Gigarama / «News Media»
Aftermath of Notre Dame fires
Some of France's richest families have promised to help restore the Notre Dame Cathedral after a devastating fire destroyed much of the historic Paris landmark.

French businessman Francois-Henri Pinault said Monday night he and his family (including his wife, actress Salma Hayek) will donate €100 million (US$113mn) to the cathedral's reconstruction.

"This tragedy strikes all the French and beyond all those who are attached to the spiritual values," he tweeted. "Faced with such a tragedy, everyone wishes to give life back to this jewel of our heritage."

Pinault is chair and CEO of the international luxury group Kering, which includes Gucci and Saint Laurent. He is also president of holding company Groupe Artemis, which owns the fine arts auction house Christie's.

Comment: The surge of nationalist pride in a French icon is admirable. The world-wide support for France is also admirable. Yet you can be sure it will be used to blunt, or even disarm, the Yellow Vest movement. "How can they be so selfish in the face of a national tragedy?"


Battling Notre Dame blaze results in 2 police officers, 1 firefighter injured, investigation into cause begins

firfighters notre dame
© Twitter / Pompiers de Paris
Firefighter on scene at the Notre Dame blaze
After roughly nine hours, French firefighters managed to bring the blaze at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris under control. Two police officers and one firefighter were injured during the operation.

Around 400 firefighters were deployed to fight the fire, which began at approximately 6:50pm local time (16:50 GMT) Monday. Rescue workers stopped short of waterbombing the structure in order to bring the blaze under control, but still managing to avoid the worst-case scenario of total collapse of the historic and iconic 35-meter tall building.

"Two policemen and one fireman were slightly injured," France's national fire service said in a tweet Tuesday morning.

Comment: A tragedy always has people looking for a source to blame. The Twitter feed of FactCheckEU had its hands full with rumors:

The most persistent has been the "mysterious man walking along one of the outside courses, seen during a live broadcast from Notre Dame. Given the low quality of video on most social media, people read nefarious things into the scene.

When viewed at the highest resolution and full-screen, the man's silver hard hat, yellow safety vest and the motions of unrolling a hose can be seen at 42:06. The camera pans back to include him in the scene without losing the other firefighters from the shot.


Stalin's approval rating hits historic high in Russia

© Sputnik / Valery Melnikov
Over 50 percent (the highest ever) of Russians positively view Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and his role in the country's history, a new poll reveals.

According to research conducted by the Levada Center, the share of Russians who regard Stalin with respect has grown 12 percent, while the share of those who perceive the Soviet leader indifferently or negatively decreased by almost three times since 2015.

As many as 70 percent consider Stalin's role in the country's history "rather positive," praising him for defeating Nazism. Meanwhile, 19 percent say he played a negative role.

Comment: See also:

Heart - Black

Serbian tabloids trumpet Notre Dame blaze was 'God's punishment' while Ukrainian and French pundits make jokes

Notre dame spire collapse
© Geoffroy Van derHasselt/Agence France-Presse
The spire of Notre Dame Cathedral collapses as smoke and flames engulf the iconic building in Paris on April 15

Comment: As the shock of the tragic fire at Notre Dame Cathedral wears off, it hasn't taken long for the event to be appropriated to advance various political agendas.

As investigators comb through the debris to find the cause of the fire that gutted the world-famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, two Serbian tabloids claim to know the real cause of the blaze in the 12th century Gothic church: a fluttering Kosovar flag.

The Alo and Informer tabloids -- which are closely linked to the Serbian government -- posted reports on their websites on April 15 saying the tragic fire was "God's punishment" for the flying of the Kosovar flag along with several others during a November ceremony at the cathedral to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

Notre Dame displayed the "fake state Kosovo's" flag and therefore "is now being destroyed by a disastrous fire," a report on the Informer website said, showing a photo with smoke billowing from the cathedral along with an inset photo of the vestibule with several flags, including Kosovo's, hanging from it.

Comment: A Ukrainian pundit jokes about Notre Dame blaze
A Ukrainian political commentator drew the ire of the French ambassador in Kiev after joking that Monday's devastating fire at Notre Dame might be linked to the visit of the frontrunner in the Ukrainian presidential election.

A staunch supporter of the incumbent Ukrainian president and frequent guest on president-friendly political talk shows in Ukraine seemed to cross the line when he tried to score a few political points for his patron amid the Notre Dame Cathedral fire.

On Monday, while the world was watching the huge blaze destroy the iconic gothic cathedral in Paris, Taras Berezovets found some tongue-in-cheek words of encouragement for French President Emmanuel Macron:

"Well, Macron is lucky that after Zelensky's visit, only Notre Dame de Paris burned down. Elysee Palace could have caught fire too," he tweeted in Russian. The tweet remained for about a day before being taken down by Berezovets.
ukraine joke notre dame fire
© Taras Berezovets/Twitter
The now-deleted tweet by Taras Berezovets.
Zelensky is a comedian-turned-politician who is slated to become the next president of Ukraine, much to the chagrin of the current leader, Petro Poroshenko. Like many other pundits, Berezovets has been busy these last two weeks, desperately trying to undermine Zelensky.

The tactless joke drew the ire of Isabelle Dumont, France's ambassador in Kiev, who retweeted it with a response in Russian: "How dare you! Shame." She also tagged the Ukrainian foreign minister and the ministry's official Twitter account.

The minister, Pavlo Klimkin, did find time to express his condolences to the French people over the damage done to the historic church, but is yet to respond to Dumont.

However, one foreign ministry did react to the French ambassador's tweet - Russia's.

"Why are you surprised? It's your school," the @MID_RF account responded, posting a cartoon published by French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo after a plane crash killed most members of a Russian military choir in 2016.

Ironically, Berezovets seems to have endorsed this assessment. After deleting the tweet, he posted an explanation on Facebook, citing Charlie Hebdo's work in his defense. "How is my right to free expression different from those of my French colleagues?" he asked before seizing the opportunity to attack Zelensky again over jokes he made as a comedian and accusing him of unleashing a "troll factory" to hound him for the tweet.
The French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo reacted in its usual crass fashion:
notre dame fire cartoon charlie hebdo
© Charlie Hebdo
Controversial satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was slammed after it ran a cartoon depicting the Notre Dame de Paris fire. Critics said it was surprisingly tame compared to the many times it joked about deadly disasters abroad.

The latest cover shows a grinning French President Emmanuel Macron whose head is shaped like the facade of the iconic Gothic church engulfed in flames. The issue hit the shelves on Tuesday - one day after Notre Dame Cathedral was partially destroyed in a heavy fire, with its spire and roof collapsing.

The word "Reforms" was written on the cover, along with the grotesquely-depicted Macron saying: "I'll start from the frame." It was a reference to a set of measures the president was due to announce in a televised address that day but had to promptly cancel due to the fire.

Some commentators on social media were not amused by Charlie Hebdo's latest cartoon.

"I love your paper. I read it almost every week, but for once it doesn't make me laugh," a French-speaking user wrote.

Particular ire came from Italians who believed the cartoon was too tame compared to more crass caricatures it ran which 'satirized' tragic events on Italian soil that, unlike the Notre Dame fire, claimed multiple lives. Among those were the deadly earthquake in 2016 (299 people killed and thousands left homeless), an avalanche in 2017 (29 killed), and the collapse of a high bridge in Genoa last August (43 killed).

"Hypocrites... Where is the irony and humor now?" one person from Milan wrote.

"A pity there were no deaths [in Notre Dame], eh? You could have come up with a much better irony. That's Italian sarcasm," another user said, while others sarcastically agreed that the magazine could have "done a much better job" mocking the burning cathedral.

"You didn't find humor for this rubble? For the people who died in the earthquake you did," an Italian commentator noted, referring to the way Charlie Hebdo compared the hundreds of Italians killed by the quake to pasta and lasagna.

"Deep and sincere pain for the great monument lost, but for you - only contempt," another added.

Others replied to the magazine with the same dark humor the publication routinely uses. "Excuse me, Charlie, do you have a light? I'm in Italy, and want a smoke after coffee," a user wrote.

Not everyone had an issue with the cover, though. "I don't like this type of humor, but as long as it's not hateful, why not?" a French-speaking commentator suggested, while another thanked Charlie Hebdo for "making me laugh, despite the great sadness I feel."

Some found the choice of metaphor befitting the current state of affairs in France, where President Macron and other politicians are "burning down" the nation's public services and its heritage.
comment charlie hebdo notre dame fire
© Lorena Fuentealba-Noterdaeme/Facebook
Charlie Hebdo is known for mocking politicians and other public figures, but also regularly draws criticism for publishing cartoons on religion, various disasters and terrorist acts, both at home and abroad. In 2015, two Islamist gunmen stormed the magazine's office in Paris, killing 12 people inside, including some of its prominent cartoonists. The attack happened after the magazine ran caricatures on Islam.


Twitter verifies over 10K accounts despite its verification program being on pause

Twitter verification
© bob al-greene / mashable
Twitter 'paused' verification to fix it, but it's still verifying thousands of accounts.
Jack Dorsey's mother and father, the '80s band Whitesnake, a "war room" associated with Donald Trump's reelection campaign - these are a few of the more than 10,000 accounts Twitter has quietly verified in recent months, despite putting its verification program on hold.

The company has said little publicly about verification, which it suspended in 2017 following backlash over its verification of a white supremacist. But data viewed by Mashable suggests the company is verifying a flurry of accounts each month despite the supposed break.

Celebrities, and others with backchannel connections to the company, are able to become verified as Twitter ignores everyday users and those without insider access. In many ways, this secretive process is now more opaque and unfair than it was when anyone could apply on Twitter's website. At a time when Twitter says it's trying to be more transparent about its rules, the lack of an official verification policy is hurting groups already susceptible to abuse, critics say.

On its official FAQ page, Twitter states "our verified account program is currently on hold. We are not accepting any new requests at this time." Despite the lack of an official request form, the company has continued to verify new accounts for more than a year. Some, such as the survivors of the Parkland shooting, or Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, have been well publicized. But many more have flown under the radar, such as Tim and Marcia Dorsey, the parents of Twitter's CEO, both of whom got a blue check at some point in the last four months.


Fake delivery man shoots Canadian woman with a crossbow in targeted attack

© Peel Regional Police
An example of the arrows used in the attack.
A Mississauga woman was shot with a crossbow when she answered the door to a fake delivery man in a targeted attack Peel police say they believe was carried out by a hit man and was meant to kill her.

The 44-year-old victim survived the bizarre 8 p.m. attack on her front doorstep on Bayberry Dr. in the area of Winston Churchill Blvd. and Argentia Rd. on Nov. 7, but she will never be the same again, according to police.

"The injuries that she sustained were absolutely devastating," said Peel police Det. Sgt. Jim Kettles at a news conference. "It involved damage to a lot of her internal organs. She'll be in recovery phase for the rest of her life ... Her life will never be the same."

Police have released video and photographs of the suspect hoping someone in the community can help identify him. A special hotline to try to catch the would-be killer has been set up at 905-456-5840.


NATO soldier arrested in Lithuania over drunken robbery of local resident

NATO soldier robbery Lithuania
© Antrankiai (asociatyvi nuotr.)
Upon arrest, a blood alcohol test indicated the suspect, aged in his mid-20s, was highly intoxicated. After being interrogated, he was released to continue his regular duties. Local police are still looking into the incident.
NATO has made the embarrassing admission that one of their soldiers serving in Lithuania is at the center of an investigation into the drunk mugging of a local last weekend.

The incident occurred on Sunday at around 4am, with a resident reportedly being robbed by five men who swiftly made off with a cool €1,000 (US$1,130) and two cell phones.

According to local media, a spokesperson from the Lithuanian Army's Strategic Communication Department admitted that one of the suspects in the incident was a Norwegian soldier on active duty in NATO's international battalion.

Comment: American and NATO soldiers are becoming known for their misadventures and complete disrespect for their host countries:


Gaza militants allegedly threaten Eurovision in Tel Aviv with rockets if Israel doesn't lift blockade

© AP Photo / Anja Niedringhaus
The Eurovision Song Contest is scheduled to take place between 14 May and 18 May in Tel Aviv, and coincides with Nakba Day, which commemorates the displacement of Palestinians after the War of Independence.

Gaza militants have threatened the Eurovision Song Contest with rocket attacks if Israel refuses to reach an agreement with Hamas on lifting the blockade around Gaza, Channel 20 reported on Monday.

A video that has been circulating in the Palestinian media in April has reportedly insinuated that Gazans would attack Israel and the contest if their demands were not met.

The graphic footage begins with images of Eurovision, and states, "You are invited to the big event," written in Hebrew and Arabic.

"But..." In an ominous change of music and tone, the video warned, "Don't celebrate and dance when there are two million Gazans suffering. If you want to celebrate, lift the siege and come to an agreement, don't digress."

Subsequently, the video zooms out, offering a satellite bird's eye-view of targeted hypothetical Eurovision buildings. Rocket sirens can be heard, and the sound of an explosion, accompanied by the words, "Implement the understanding so you can hold the festivities," appear on the screen.

It is not yet clear who released or created video.

Comment: Either these militants are becoming more like the Israelis in mentality and delivery, or the Israelis created this video. It sounds as if it was written by whoever runs the IDF's Twitter page...