Category Archives: Media Issues

Free Press Advocates Alarmed by US Government’s “Terrifying” Secret Rules for Spying on Journalists

“It makes me wonder, what other rules are out there, and how have these rules been applied?”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-17-2018

Press freedom advocates have obtained and released federal government documents detailing an invasive process officials can use to spy on journalists. (Photo: ACLU)

Journalists and free press advocates are responding with alarm to newly released documents revealing the U.S. government’s secret rules for using Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court orders to spy on reporters, calling the revelations “important” and “terrifying.”

The documents—obtained and released by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University through an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed last November—confirm long held suspicions that federal officials can target journalists with FISA orders. Continue reading

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After Cutting All UNWRA Humanitarian Aid, US to Award Israel with $3.3B/Year in Military Aid

The bill, combined with even more aid given to Israeli missile defense, would give $38 billion to Israel over the next ten years, roughly equivalent to $23,000 for every Jewish family living in Israel over the next decade.

By Whitney Webb. Published 9-14-2018 by MintPress News

President Donald J. Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at the United Nations General Assembly. Photo: White House

A massive spending bill, which would deliver $3.3 billion dollars in military aid to Israel over the next year, passed the House on Wednesday under cover of a media blackout. The U.S. Senate had passed a different version of the same bill in early August, a vote that also went largely unreported.

Now, after the House’s passage of a slightly altered version of the Senate’s spending bill, officially titled the “Ileana Ros-Lehtinen United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018,” all that remains is for the two chambers of Congress to reconcile their versions before the product is sent to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law. According to Skopos Labs, the bill now hasa 90 percent chance of being enacted. If enacted, the bill will be the largest aid package in American history. Continue reading

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The national prison strike is over. Now is the time prisoners are most in danger

Heather Ann Thompson, University of Michigan

Photo: Pixabay

Over the last few weeks men and women across the United States – and even as far away as Nova Scotia, Canada – have protested to demand humane treatment for the incarcerated.

In 2016, when prisoners engaged in similar hunger strikes, sit-ins, and work stoppages, their actions barely registered with the national media. As someone who regularly writes about the history of prisoner protests and prison conditions today, this lack of interest was striking. Continue reading

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Facebook Will Fail to Solve #FakeNews

Zuckerberg needs to step back for his company to succeed

By Juan Ortiz Freuler. Published 8-28-2018 by Common Dreams

“It has amassed such power that experts and public opinion refer to it as the digital public square: the place where people protest, sign up for public events, get information about politics, and more.” (Photo: Legal Loop)

Every policy-tweak Facebook attempts to roll out is faced with public criticism. This signals a structural problem: Facebook developed quicker than its own systems of governance and now struggles to carry its own weight. In other words, Facebook seems to lack the legitimacy to exercise the huge power it has amassed over the years.

If the user base were smaller, Facebook would have a group of like-minded individuals that could be more easily catered to. But Facebook has become very big and diverse. With over 2 billion active monthly users, it’s bigger and more diverse than any community we’ve ever seen. Continue reading

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Saudis Move to Behead Female Activist as Facebook Censors Anti-Saudi Content

Although Saudi Arabia has killed or injured several thousand women in neighboring Yemen, beheading a female is completely unprecedented inside the Kingdom thus far.

By Randi Nord. Published 8-23-2018 by Geopolitics Alert

Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for a 29-year-old woman activist for crimes such as chanting slogans at a protest. Beheading a woman is unprecedented in the kingdom. Meanwhile, Facebook has sprung into action to protect Riyadh’s back by initiating a crackdown on hundreds of accounts posting anti-Saudi content.

  • Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for five activists with non-violent charges.
  • All of the activists belong to the kingdom’s historically oppressed Shia minority. One is a woman.
  • Facebook has coincidentally begun removing anti-Saudi accounts under the guise of fighting “Iranian interference.”
  • A private cybersecurity firm with ties to the US military tipped off Facebook to the accounts.

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‘Potential War Crimes’: Lawmakers Demand Answers About US Role in Saudi Slaughter of Yemeni Civilians

Noting that he served on active duty as a Judge Advocate General officer in the U.S. Air Force, Lieu wrote that “a number of the coalition’s airstrikes look like war crimes.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-15-2018

Yemenis gather next to the destroyed bus after last week’s airstrike. Screenshot: PressTV

In the wake of the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition’s horrific bombing of a school bus last week that killed 40 Yemeni children and amid reports on Tuesday of dozens more civilian deaths after a new wave of Saudi bombings, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) has sent a detailed letter (pdf) to the Department of Defense Inspector General demanding an investigation into whether Trump administration officials violated U.S. or international law by assisting the Saudis in their assault on Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition, which receives essential military support and intelligence from the U.S., “has repeatedly hit civilian targets—including schools, hospitals, funerals, and weddings—nowhere near military targets,” Lieu writes, pointing to an analysis by the Yemen Data Project showing that a third of Saudi bombings in Yemen have hit civilian targets. “I previously served on active duty as a JAG [Judge Advocate General] and a number of the coalition’s airstrikes look like war crimes.” Continue reading

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‘We Just Bombed a SCHOOL BUS’: Outrage After US-Backed Saudi Coalition Slaughters Children in Yemen

At least 29 children were killed in the latest attack on civilians by Saudi and UAE forces, which are supported by the United States

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-9-2018

Dozens of children—most reportedly under the age of 10—were killed and wounded by an air strike launched by the U.S.-backed Saudi coalition in Yemen on Thursday. The attack targeted a school bus. (Photo: @FrancescoRocca/Twitter)

Declarations of outrage were followed by demands for an immediate investigation on Thursday after reports that the U.S.-backed Saudi coalition slaughtered dozens of innocent civilians, including many children traveling on a school bus, when it bombed an area near a crowded market in Yemen.

The International Committee of the Red Cross reported on Twitter that its medical team had received “the bodies of 29 children, all under 15 years old” and was treating “48 injured people, among them 30 children.” Continue reading

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‘Terrifying’: Poll Shows 43% of Republicans Think Trump Should Have Power to Shutter News Outlets for ‘Bad Behavior’

In an apparent win for the president’s hostile rhetoric, nearly half of Republicans also agree with his claim that “the news media is the enemy of the American people.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-7-2018

Screenshot: CNN

In the age of “media-bashing enthusiast” President Donald Trump—who regularly declares critical journalists and outlets “fake news” and “the enemy of the American people”—at least 43 percent of Republican respondents to a new survey said they believe “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.”

The Ipsos poll (pdf), first reported by The Daily Beast‘s Sam Stein, also found that nearly half of Republicans agree with one of the president’s most common claims: that “the news media is the enemy of the American people.” As Stein notes, “members of the press, as well as top officials at some of the nation’s leading publications, have objected to the phrase, arguing that it is both wildly inaccurate and deeply dangerous.” Continue reading

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In Bid for ‘Dystopian’ Surveillance Power, Facebook Asking Big Banks for Customer Data

“How much more of your personal existence are you willing to give up to continue to be a sieve of your data for a multi-billion dollar corporation?”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-6-2018

Screenshot: CNN

Apparently not satisfied with access to its users’ call history, text messaging data, and online conversations, Facebook has reportedly asked major Wall Street firms like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo to hand over their customers’ sensitive financial data as part of the social media giant’s ongoing attempt to become “a platform where people buy and sell goods and services.”

And according to the Wall Street Journal—which first reported on Facebook’s plans on Monday—the social media behemoth isn’t the only tech company that wants access to Americans’ financial data. Google and Amazon have also “asked banks to share data if they join with them, in order to provide basic banking services on applications such as Google Assistant and Alexa,” the Journal pointed out, citing anonymous sources familiar with the companies’ ambitions. Continue reading

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‘Insidious’: Emails Show Trump White House Lied About US Poverty Levels to Discredit Critical UN Report

With its attempt to falsify statistics and whitewash uncomfortable facts about poverty in America, the White House once again demonstrated its “contempt” for the poor, one critic argued

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-3-2018

Photo: Storify archive

Infuriated by a scathing United Nations report estimating that over 18 million Americans are living in “extreme poverty” and accusing the Trump administration of “deliberately” making such destitution worse with its tax cuts for the rich, the White House insisted in its June response to the U.N. analysis that the United States is overflowing with “prosperity” and that claims of widespread poverty are “exaggerated.”

But internal State Department emails and documents obtained by Foreign Policy and the non-profit journalism website Coda Story show that the Trump administration ignored advice of White House economic analysts and knowingly lied to the public about the severity of American poverty, which the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights Philip Alston described as “shocking.” Continue reading

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