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Thu, 20 Feb 2020
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Journalist Abby Martin sues state of Georgia over law requiring pledge of allegiance to Israel

Abby Martin
© Facebook Screenshot
Journalist Abby Martin announces a federal free speech lawsuit to overturn Georgia's unconstitutional Israel boycott in partnership with CAIR and the Partnership for Justice Fund.
After refusing to sign a pledge of allegiance to the state of Israel, the state of Georgia shut down a media literacy conference featuring journalist and filmmaker Abby Martin at Georgia Southern University. Martin had recently released a documentary critical of the Israeli government called "Gaza Fights for Freedom." Now she is suing the state, claiming the decision is a violation of the First Amendment. Along with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), today she filed a federal free speech lawsuit against the university system of Georgia.

Martin was dismayed by the university's decision: "This censorship of my talk based on forced compliance to anti-BDS laws in Georgia is just one level of a nationwide campaign to protect Israel from grassroots pressure. We must stand firmly opposed to these efforts and not cower in fear to these blatant violations of free speech," she said.

Comment: Watch Abby Martin speak truth to oppressive power as only a few journalists in this day and age do:

Cow Skull

"We made it up": Ex-Infowars editor says he published lies about Muslim community to spread hate

Alex Jones of InfoWars
© Drew Angerer/Getty Images/InfoWars
Alex Jones of InfoWars
"And for what? Clickbait headlines, YouTube views?" former video editor Josh Owens writes in New York Times essay

A former Infowars video editor admitted that the outlet fabricated lies about a Muslim community in New York to push host Alex Jones' threats of sharia law in the United States.

Josh Owens, who spent years working for Infowars, wrote an essay for The New York Times Magazine describing how Jones' media empire made up facts to fit its narrative and how employees were subjected to Jones' angry, violent outbursts.

The day before Jones interviewed then-candidate Donald Trump on his show in 2015, Owens wrote that he traveled to Islamberg, a Muslim community in rural upstate New York, where Jones had instructed him to investigate what he called "the American Caliphate."

Though the Muslims that lived in the community had not been connected to any violence and some had publicly denounced ISIS, Jones wanted to push the far-right rumor that the community was a "potential terrorist-training center," Owens wrote.

Comment: So whatever accurate and good reporting Jones has done over the years can now get easily discredited by news of his fervent lying and really fake news. What an egomaniacal doofus.

Life Preserver

Trump's greatest vulnerability is the economy - just ask poor Americans

white rural poor americans
© Travis Dove/The New York Times
Four in 10 poor Americans are white, and many live in rural areas, yet most of the dollars to help the poor go to aid minorities in cities.
Rather than offer a report on the State of the Union, Donald Trump used his annual primetime slot in the House of Representatives to host a re-election rally. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, summed up the sentiment of the House majority when she stood behind Trump and ripped the text of his speech in half. "I tore up a manifesto of mistruths," she later said. But of all the lies he told, the president is proudest of the economy he claims is booming. Poor and low-income Americans know that the economy is, in fact, his greatest vulnerability.

Yes, the Dow is at a record high and official unemployment rates are lower than they have been in decades. But measuring the health of the economy by these stats is like measuring the 19th-century's plantation economy by the price of cotton. However much the slaveholders profited, enslaved people and the poor white farmers whose wages were stifled by free labor did not see the benefits of the boom.

In America today, 140 million people are poor or low wealth. While three individuals own as much wealth as all of them put together, the real cost of living has soared as wages have stagnated. Since the 1970s, the number of people who are paying more than a third of their monthly income in rent has doubled, and there is not a single county in the nation where a person working full-time at minimum wage can afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment. Sixty per cent of African Americans are poor or low-income, as are 64% of Hispanics, but the largest single racial group among America's poor and low-income - 66 million Americans - are white.

Comment: Trump isn't a 'threat to our democracy' because, as the author rightly pointed out, it's functionally a plutocracy - and always has been.

The real 'threat to our democracy' is the Democratic establishment, which won't do as the Republican establishment did in 2016 and yield to a real challenger.

What the US needs is for democracy to actually function within the Democratic Party, which in turn would force Trump's Republican Party to compete with them on the fundamental issue of eradicating or at least alleviating poverty.

Trump rants about the USA 'never becoming socialist' and holds up the craziest exemplars of lefty ideology expressed by middle-class coastal elites to earn strawman points. The Democratic establishment then reacts by playing kayfabe with him. Both then get away with ignoring the tens of millions of dirt-poor Americans whose atrocious conditions would make developing countries' 'authoritarian leaders' blush.


Voice on the Ground: Quarantine, Quakes and Coronavirus life in Sichuan, China

Coronavirus masked man

Chengdu, China
I was not planning to end up in the middle of a coronavirus outbreak here in the People's Republic of China for my long winter break. I had been planning on increasing my one-on-one language classes to five times a week for a few weeks, then jetting off to the beaches of Da Nang in Vietnam to rest up before teaching my spring courses. Instead, I am quarantined in my home in western China, barricaded on all sides, and watching coronavirus panic sweep the globe from the comfort of my wheelchair and screen.

When the news broke about the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan in the final days of January, I could not believe that I found myself thrust into an unfolding global drama. I had lived in Lebanon through two dozen bombings, been tortured in Oman (rescued by the US Embassy), and attacked by a rabid dog in remote Mongolia. Tired of trauma, I had moved to China this September for a quiet life of contemplation, training in tai chi with kung fu masters in Sichuan's Taoist mountain monasteries. Now, suddenly, I found myself just an eight-hour train ride away from a possible pandemic. I snapped into crisis mode and made sure to stock up on supplies in case we were in for a long haul.

Comment: See also:

Coronavirus came from meteor which hit China last year, claims scientist
People are dying needlessly: Orthomolecular treatments for coronavirus


Rape counselor and preschool teacher among suspects arrested in Ohio child sex sting

sex sting suspects
A preschool teacher and a rape crisis counselor were among 14 people arrested in a recent sexual predator sting in Jackson Township, Ohio.

"Operation Unsportsmanlike Conduct" ran from January 31 through February 3.

One of the suspects, 38-year-old Jerry Roeal Ragsdale, is listed in a police report as a preschool teacher. The Canton man is charged with disseminating matter harmful to a juvenile, attempted unlawful sexual conduct and importuning.

Another suspect, 48-year-old Cleveland Heights man Adam Eric Leidke, is a counselor at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, according to police.

President & CEO Sondra Miller of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center released the following statement to sister station WJW:


Virginia House of Delegates passes gun ban, confiscation bill

Gun bill
© GEORGE FREY/AFP via Getty Images
The Virginia House of Delegates passed a package of gun control proposals Tuesday on a near party line vote.

The proposal passed the House 51-48, with all Republicans, and several Democrats voting against the bill. The legislation includes a ban on the sale of several firearms defined as "assault weapons," including the popular AR-15.

Virginia residents who currently own these types of firearms will not be forced to participate in a mandatory buyback program as had initially been considered by state Democrats, but they will have to register the guns with the government. Additionally, the bill gives the state government the authority to confiscate suppressors and certain types of ammunition that are considered "high capacity."

Comment: See also:


Google set to fund Young Turks online course for creating 'local news' content. What could go wrong?

Cenk Uygur
© Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images
Cenk Uygur, of The Young Turks
The Young Turks (TYT), one of the largest progressive digital publishers on YouTube, is receiving funding from Google-owned YouTube to launch an online course called TYT Academy that focuses on the creation of digital-first local news. Sources say the investment is in the mid-six figures range.

Why it matters: The investment is part of YouTube's $25 million commitment to news efforts, which is part of the $300 million Google News Initiative that was announced in 2018.
  • As one of YouTube's most successful publishers with 4.6 million for its main account and millions of followers across its affiliated channels, TYT is a logical fit for this type of investment.

Comment: Given TYT's clear leftist bias, in a sane world, they would hardly be a logical choice for creating the syllabus for an online journalism school. But since Google's got an agenda to push, TYT and Cenk Uygur in particular, are indeed a perfect fit.


Russia & Ukraine announce new negotiators: Relations slowly warming up?

Dmitry Kozak
© Sputnik / Evgenii Biyatov
Dmitry Kozak, Russia's new Deputy Chief of Staff
For two decades he has been a big beast on the Moscow political stage, but the Kremlin has finally confirmed that Vladislav Surkov is no longer Russia's point man in Ukraine.

The news came over two weeks after it was first speculated in Russian media. He will be replaced by President Vladimir Putin's new Deputy Chief of Staff, Dmitry Kozak. Meanwhile, Kiev made a change of its own today, with Andriy Yermak coming in for Andrei Bogdan as President Volodymyr Zelensky's own Chief of Staff.

Some, including Echo of Moscow editor-in-chief Alexei Venediktov, believe the two moves are related, and a signal both governments want to make progress on ending the almost six-year-old conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Comment: Will fresh faces mean a new start for the endless 'peace talks' in Ukraine? Each has made a gesture to the other in making matching replacements in the negotiations, which would seem to undercut Timoshenko's charge of Zelensky bowing to the Kremlin. That the two new negotiators have had successful interactions previously bodes well.

Take 2

The age of celebrity is dead

brad pitt
© Getty Images
Come friendly bombs and fall on Hollywood, it isn't fit for doing good. Another year, another dreadful Oscars, another round of moral lectures from the beautiful people. It's all so tiresome. The only reason most people pay attention to these irritating award ceremonies is precisely so that they can be irritated.

So there was a vegan theme at this year's Academy Awards. So the show had no host. So Brad Pitt is angry about impeachment. So someone said 'workers of the world unite'. So Joaquin Phoenix is mad (in all senses) about what mankind is doing to the animal kingdom. So Natalie Portman, in what she called 'my subtle way', had the names of the women directors who weren't nominated for awards sewn into her dress.


Man throws away winning $100,000 lottery ticket, realizes mistake just in time

Lottery ticket
A South Carolina man is counting his lucky stars after almost making a very expensive mistake when he threw away his winning $100,000 lottery ticket before realizing he had actually won.

The incident happened when the unnamed man purchased a Palmetto Cash 5 ticket from a BP gas station in Newberry, South Carolina, and, when checking the numbers of the lottery results, saw that he had lost and threw his ticket in the trash.

The only problem is that he had actually won $100,000.

"I checked the results for the day before," the man told the South Carolina Education Lottery according to a statement.