Monthly Archives: October 2020

Watchdog Fights Back as Facebook Attempts to Shut Down Research Exposing ‘Political Disinformation’ in Ad Practices

“Rather than combat the rampant disinformation and hate on its platform, Facebook has decided to go after the people who are helping voters understand who is trying to influence their votes.”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-26-2020

In response to Facebook’s attempt to cancel a NYU research project that has been collecting data about the company’s ad-targeting practices, Common Cause has launched a petition imploring the social media giant to “shut down disinformation on their platform—instead of trying to shut down the advocates and academics who are trying to expose it.” (Photo: Legal Loop)

In response to Facebook’s attempt to shut down a New York University research project that has been collecting data about the social media corporation’s ad-targeting practices, progressive advocacy group Common Cause has launched a petition drive imploring the technology behemoth to “let the program continue and instead shut down the rampant disinformation on the platform.”

After researchers at the NYU Ad Observatory recruited more than 6,500 volunteers to collect data about the ads Facebook shows them by using a specially designed browser extension, the social media giant informed the university in a mid-October letter that the project violates the site’s rules against bulk data collection, according to reporting from The Hill late last week. Continue reading

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‘Victory for Humanity’: Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons to Take Effect as Honduras Becomes 50th Nation to Ratify

The United States has not ratified the treaty and the Trump administration is actively urging nations to withdraw from it.

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-25-2020

“This is a new chapter for nuclear disarmament,” Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), said in a statement. (Photos: ICAN/Aude Catimel)

The global movement working to abolish nuclear weapons celebrated a “historic milestone” Saturday after Honduras became the 50th country to ratify the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, pushing the agreement over the threshold required to enter into force.

Honduras’ ratification sets the stage for the international treaty to take effect on January 22, 2021 despite the refusal of the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, and other powerful nuclear-armed nations to sign on to the agreement (pdf), which requires that signatories “never under any circumstances… develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess, or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” Continue reading

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Constitutional Law Experts Endorse Democrats’ Bill to Create 18-Year Term Limits for Supreme Court Justices

They called it “a critical piece in prescribing how our country’s leaders can work to depoliticize the Supreme Court and its confirmation process.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-23-2020

Constitutional law experts on Friday endorsed a bill that would create 18-year term limits for U.S. Supreme Court Justices. (Photo: Matt Wade/flickr/cc)

Over two dozen constitutional law experts on Friday endorsed legislation recently introduced by a trio of House Democrats that would establish 18-year term limits for U.S. Supreme Court justices.

The endorsement letter (pdf) signed by professors and scholars across the country, along with a former U.S. senator and a former chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court, comes as the Senate GOP is trying to confirm right-wing Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s third nominee to the high court, before the November general election. Continue reading

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Quietly Signed Trump Order Denounced as ‘Declaration of War’ Against Federal Employees

The order sets up Trump’s “cronies to burrow into permanent jobs in the U.S. government,” said one critic.

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-23-2020

Photo: AFGE

After years of complaining that career federal employees are part of the “deep state” and aim to undermine his administration, President Donald Trump this week took a major step toward remaking the federal government as one without nonpartisan civil servants—signing a little-noticed executive order that would strip potentially hundreds of thousands of government employees of their job security.

Under the order, signed late Wednesday, career federal employees could be fired with little or no cause, lose their right to due process, and potentially lose union representation. Continue reading

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Saudi Arabia, Belarus Among Countries Joining US-Led Coalition Claiming Women Have ‘No International Right to Abortion’

“This administration doesn’t seem content to stop until it has fully trampled on the rights, autonomy, and dignity of women and girls everywhere.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-22-2020

Protest against changes in abortion law in Poland,. Photo: Zorro2212/Wikimedia Commons/CC

Further distancing itself from longtime U.S. allies regarding reproductive rights, the Trump administration on Thursday joined 32 countries in signing a declaration claiming that pregnant people have “no international right to abortion.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended the virtual signing ceremony for the so-called “Geneva Consensus Declaration” after the administration formed an international coalition comprised of countries where abortion care is banned or severely restricted, to counter the United Nations’ support for reproductive rights. Continue reading

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‘Vote These Monsters Out’: Trump Officials Weigh Deep Funding Cuts to Covid-19 Relief, Newborn Screenings in Democrat-Led Cities

“Besides shameless graft, Trump’s central agenda is tormenting the people who didn’t vote for him.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-21-2020

Screenshot: ABC news go

Documents obtained by Politico reveal that the Trump White House is weighing millions of dollars in federal funding cuts to Covid-19 relief, newborn screenings, and other crucial healthcare programs in Democrat-led cities, a move critics decried as politically motivated “retribution” that could have a devastating impact on poor and sick Americans amid the ongoing pandemic.

Politico reported late Tuesday that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has “identified federal grants covering… nearly 200 health programs that could be in line for cuts as part of a sweeping government-wide directive the administration is advancing during the final weeks of the presidential campaign and amid an intensifying pandemic Trump has downplayed.” Continue reading

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Investing $2 Trillion in US Clean Energy and Infrastructure Could Create Millions of ‘Good Jobs,’ Analysis Finds

“We don’t have to choose between a strong economy or a healthy environment—we can have both,” says an EPI data analyst.

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-20-2020

A solar PV array in Gerlach, NV. Photo: BlackRockSolar

Pursuing trade and industrial policies that boost U.S. exports and eliminate the trade deficit while investing $2 trillion over four years in the nation’s infrastructure, clean energy, and energy efficiency improvements could support 6.9 to 12.9 million “good jobs” annually by 2024, according to an analysis published Tuesday.

The new report from a trio of experts at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a U.S.-based think tank, comes as the country continues to endure the public health and economic consequences of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 220,000 lives and millions of jobs in the United States alone this year. Continue reading

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‘Demented’: Oil Giant Refreezing Rapidly Melting Permafrost So It Can Keep Climate-Killing Arctic Drilling Alive

The effort represented such “mindless idiocy” for many that 350.org ran a “help us out with this caption” contest in response.

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-19-2020

An oil pipeline stretches across the landscape outside Prudhoe Bay in North Slope borough, Alaska. “New absurdities from Big Oil,” said the Energy Watch Group, which advocates for renewable energy, in response to the reporting. “What do you do when the Arctic is melting, threatening your drilling infrastructure—but you really don’t want to stop drilling? Right, cooling the ground beneath the infrastructure and keep on drilling.” (Photo illustration: Original by Bonnie Jo Mount/via Getty Images/with overlay)

Reporting out Monday detailing how oil giant ConocoPhilips’ obsession with drilling in the arctic regions of Alaska is so intense that it has devised ways to artificially freeze rapidly melting permafrost to maintain its drilling operations has climate campaigners howling over the ironic—and destructive—absurdity of the situation.

According to journalist Nat Herz, reporting for the Guardian with support of Fund for Environmental Journalism (FEJ), “ConocoPhillips had a problem” as it continued to drill for oil and gas beyond the Arctic Circle: Continue reading

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FCC Head and Internet’s Most Hated Man Ajit Pai Just Vowed to Kill First Amendment Rights Online

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has vowed to reinterpret Section 230 of the Communications Act on President Trump’s orders in a move that threatens to curb what’s left of Americans’ first amendment rights online.

By Raul Diego.  Published 10-16-2020 by MintPress News

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/CC

Citing “censorship outcry” from the three branches of government, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced yesterday via tweet the agency’s intention to move forward with regulation of social media by looking to modify Section 230 of the Communications Act, which protects the likes of Facebook and Twitter from the parts of the U.S. code that opens publishers to legal challenges over the content posted to their platforms, which inevitably puts content creators, themselves, in the cross hairs of the legal system without the benefit of their first amendment rights.  Continue reading

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Critics Say Deregulatory Rush Shows Even If Defeated the Trump White House Willing to ‘Scorch the Earth Before They Go’

From bomb trains to biometrics to workers’ rights, the administration is pushing for last-minute rollbacks that could prove hard for its successor to overturn.

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-17-2020

President Donald Trump signs an executive order in the White House. Photo: White House/flickr

With President Donald Trump’s re-election very much in doubt, his administration is rushing to ram through regulatory rollbacks that could adversely affect millions of Americans, the environment, and the ability of Joe Biden—should he win—to pursue his agenda or even undo the damage done over the past four years.

Reporting by the New York Times details how the administration is cutting corners as it scrambles to enact as much of its agenda as possible before ceding power on January 20 if Trump loses the election. Required public comment periods and detailed analyses, according to the Times, are being eschewed in favor of streamlined approval processes that have left even staunch deregulation defenders sounding the alarm. Continue reading

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