Free Sticker: “VOTE THEM OUT!” – Moveon.org

The last few weeks of Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate have thrown into sharp relief just how corrupt Trump is—and how far Republicans will go to protect him from any consequences for his criminality.

But we won’t forget their complicity in Trump’s crimes. We won’t forget their sham proceeding with no witnesses and no documents. And in November, we’ll make sure that they pay for it at the ballot box.

To help spread this message far and wide, MoveOn has just printed a big batch of “Vote Them Out” stickers, and we’re giving them away for free, while supplies last.

Just click here or on the image below to order your sticker now.

We don’t yet know exactly what Trump will say tonight during the State of the Union, but if he follows his old patterns, he will certainly use this national air time to promote conspiracy theories, demonize immigrant and refugee communities, lie about his record, and work to demoralize Democrats and progressives while rallying his base. And he may brag about his impending “total exoneration.”

But if his goal is to stamp down our energy, he has already failed. We are outraged, and we are turning that outrage into action.

For the next nine months, MoveOn members and our allies will flex our muscles and build an unstoppable grassroots movement to defeat Republicans up and down the ballot, and elect Democrats to the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives.

Will you help us spread the message, Robert? Click here to order your free “Vote Them Out” sticker now.

Thanks for all you do.

–Kelly, Oscar, Tzyh, David, and the rest of the team

Petition to Protect Humpback Whale Habitat

Sign Oceana’s petition and tell NMFS to protect the critical habitat that humpback whales call home on the U.S. West Coast >>

SIGN NOW


Humpback whales off the U.S. West Coast need your help. Horrific commercial whaling decimated humpback whales, and while some populations have recovered, others remain endangered or threatened with extinction. Right now, we have a chance to help these whales by establishing critical habitat protections in the ocean areas where they feed.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is considering establishing more than 175,000 square nautical miles of ocean off California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska as critical habitat for humpback whales. This would expand vital protections for these whales under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and help make sure they have enough food to eat at their summer feeding grounds — but only if we act now.

YOU have an opportunity to voice your support for humpback whales right now. NMFS has invited members of the public to comment on the proposed protections, and we must do all we can to protect iconic humpback whales. Special interests are already trying to weaken these proposed protections. We can’t let that happen.

To this day, the ESA is one of our nation’s most effective laws – successfully preventing more than 99% of species under its care from going extinct. Critical habitat designations like this one are a crucial part of the success of the ESA by helping to prevent the destruction of habitat and harm of vulnerable marine life.

We know that these protections will make a real impact on the recovery of vulnerable humpback whale populations. Humpback whales come to waters off the U.S. West Coast and Alaska to feed, primarily on krill, herring, anchovy and other forage fish – some of the same forage species that Activists like you have helped us win victories to protect. Protecting humpback critical habitat will help ensure that there is enough food for these whales to thrive.

Establishing critical habitat protections now will also reinforce existing protections by safeguarding their homes, giving humpback whales the best chance at recovery. Robert, will you add your voice to make them a reality?

Sign the petition now: Tell NMFS to protect humpback whales and establish critical habitat along the coasts of California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska >>

SIGN NOW
We know how to save vulnerable humpback whales, we just need to act NOW.

For the oceans,
Ben Enticknap
Pacific Campaign Manager and Senior Scientist
Oceana

Sign this petition to reform the Patriot Act!

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the USA Patriot Act was signed into law — legislation that was intended to protect the American people from future acts of terrorism.

Instead of being an effective means of identifying individuals with nefarious intentions, however, the Patriot Act instead facilitates ongoing instances of gross abuses and violations of Americans’ constitutional rights. In 2018, for example, the government collected 434 million records related to 19 million phone numbers — despite listing just 11 targets.

Sign the petition: We refuse to live in a police state under the PATRIOT Act.

SIGN THE PETITION
On March 15, the Patriot Act is up for reauthorization. If no reauthorization is passed, provisions of the Patriot Act would expire, partially reverting the U.S. back to a pre-9/11 surveillance policy.

The Patriot Act is an unethical and unconstitutional surveillance of American citizens. Reforming the Patriot Act is a critical priority! Extending these authorities for any period of time absent major reform reflects an abandonment of Congress’s most basic responsibilities.

Sign the petition: We demand clear and common-sense reforms to the Patriot Act now!

SIGN THE PETITION
Thanks for all you do,
Erin Tulley, Daily Kos

 

Daily Kos, PO Box 70036, Oakland, CA, 94612.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s criticism of Facebook is his funniest joke

Yes, there is hate speech on social media, but is that all there is to it?

by
Sacha Baron Cohen arrives at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California on September 22, 2019 [Reuters/Mario Anzuoni]
Sacha Baron Cohen arrives at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California on September 22, 2019 [Reuters/Mario Anzuoni]

In late November, actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen gave a talk at the Anti-Defamation League about hate speech and anti-Semitism on social media. He called Big Tech and social media “the greatest propaganda machine in history,” adding: “Just think what Goebbels could have done with Facebook.”

Shortly after, Facebook rejected the accusation, releasing a statement saying that hate speech is banned on the platform.

Baron Cohen’s speech has received much attention and widespread support, particularly in mainstream media which echoed and disseminated his observations.

The charge of being “the greatest propaganda machine in history” is, of course, loaded and draws our attention to other propaganda machines that existed long before Facebook and which might have a claim to that dubious distinction. Among them are the American war machine and the Israeli hasbara, neither of which Baron Cohen seems to reject. 

State propaganda and monopoly of information

There is some element of truth to what Baron Cohen says. There are people on the racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and white supremacist lunatic fringe that take advantage of social media to propagate hate.

But is that all there is to Facebook?

Has it, perhaps inadvertently, also provided a venue for those at the mercy of state and corporate propaganda to talk back at it, reasserting alternative narratives to those presented by, let’s say, the BBC and the New York Times?

I would daresay that those media organisations are, if not the greatest, then certainly major propaganda machines supporting a settler colony that the UK and US have been chiefly responsible for creating and sustaining. They have had that monopoly for decades – deciding and determining the terms of debate on Israel’s colonisation of Palestine.

Facebook and other social media platforms have, all their troubling dimensions notwithstanding, offered sites of resistance to their hegemony.

For those of us old enough to remember the mode of media coverage prior to the emergence of the internet, Baron Cohen’s observations actually sound quite ludicrous.

I remember vividly when the Iranian Revolution of 1977-1979 broke out. Then a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, I felt despair at being at the mercy of the New York Times, the Washington Post, or any one of the three major US networks (ABC, CBS or NBC) – or particularly BBC radio – to tell me what was happening in Iran.

I remember driving to a Radio Shack shop in the King of Prussia suburb of Philadelphia to buy a short-wave device in order to listen to Tehran Radio and find out what was happening in my homeland. This is not to say that Tehran Radio told the truth and the New York Times spread lies. It just means we all needed more than one dominant and hegemonic source of news to make up our own minds.

Books have been written on how the New York Times and other major corporate media have helped state propaganda machineries. Consider Edward S Herman and Noam Chomsky’s 1988 classic Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media or Richard Falk and Howard Friel’s 2007 book The Record of the Paper: How the New York Times Misreports US Foreign Policy. They both document how monopoly over information, whether state or corporate, has helped justify to the public enormous atrocities and kept it purposefully ignorant of the truth.

Breaking the monopoly

Perhaps the case of the Palestinian national liberation struggles of the last 70 years is the most potent example of how the internet and social media has enabled Palestinians and supporters of the Palestinian cause to counter the sustained course of Israeli propaganda in order to put the history of their dispossession and the robbery of their homeland on the global stage.

The internet started to break the powerful monopoly on how Palestine was portrayed in the 1990s. At first, it gave dissenting voices access to a wider audience.

I remember how one day, shortly after he had started his column for the Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly in 1993, my colleague and eminent literary theorist Edward Said came to me on campus at Columbia University and declared, “Al-Ahram has liberated me!”

Forget about the New York Times, the chief organ of liberal Zionism, even the so-called progressive outlets like The Nation would not publish his critical assessments of Israeli thievery pre- and post-Oslo Accords.

What was the print circulation of Al-Ahram Weekly? Rather small. But its website gave people around the globe access to Said’s emancipatory writings.

Baron Cohen would most probably not like that. Said’s voice was not racist or anti-Semitic. It was and remains liberating and empowering for the dispossessed around the world.

Then social media not only opened up spaces for wider discussion on the Palestinian cause, connecting the diaspora and foreign supporters to Palestinians in Palestine, but also enabled grassroots organising and public documentation of Israeli violations and crimes.

Take the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Founded in 2005, a year after Facebook started and a year before Twitter was launched, it has managed to grow exponentially thanks to social media, which has helped spread its message and boost the effectiveness of its campaigns. It can rally support for boycott action across the world through a network of organisations and volunteers maintained on social media platforms.

The campaign has managed to make enough noise on social media and otherwise to get major artists to cancel events in Israel, including Snoop Dogg, Shakira, Laurin Hill and many others. In 2017, in response to an online BDS letter, New Zealand artist Lorde tweeted: “Noted! Been speaking w many people about this and considering all options. Thank u for educating me I am learning all the time too” before cancelling her concert in Tel Aviv.

The success of the BDS campaign has much to do with the increasing access to information about Israeli crimes on the internet, and especially on social media. Over the past decade, Palestinians and supporters of their cause have increasingly been able not only to document daily Israeli oppression but to post it online for the world to see.

Whether it is shocking images of children killed by Israeli fire in Gaza, videos of Israeli snipers shooting an unarmed Palestinian and celebrating it, or footage of Israeli soldiers carrying out an extrajudicial killing – Palestinians can broadcast to the world Israeli violence in real-time on social media.

If it were up to the New York Times and BBC, it is unlikely any of these crimes would be properly reported. It is only because Palestinian voices have been empowered and amplified online that we hear in detail about what is happening in Palestinian lands.

Who is to throw the first stone?

I have no love lost for Big Tech. To me, they are big corporations and as such, are as immoral and hazardous as every other big corporation. And there is no doubt of the enormity of the horror of white supremacy and its proponents’ use of these platforms to promote hatred.

But social media and the interconnectedness it has encouraged also mean we are not at the mercy of any state or corporate media to decide what is “fit to print”.

The question is not whether Facebook is or is not vulnerable to abuse by racist and xenophobic groups. Of course it is. But who is the person levelling these charges and where is the podium from which he launches this attack.

Baron Cohen makes money out of perpetuating the worst stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims in his films and shows. And the ADL, where he gave the speech, is itself known for its racist activism

The cause of Zionism that Baron Cohen and the ADL fully embrace has totally discredited the charge of anti-Semitism and weaponised it against those who dare criticise the horrors of the settler colony against Palestinians.

But none of that in and of itself discredits what he says. Even a broken clock is accurate twice a day.

There is rampant racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, etc and social media can be a cesspool for entertaining such nefarious ideas. But we need to be even and identical in our criticism of all of these terrorising forms of racism in one breath. We cannot denounce just one while trading in the others.

The internet is a blessing and it is a curse. But it has made the world a more level playing ground to oppose and end abuse of power.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 

Petition: Tell Congress to Ban surprise medical bills.

It’s bad enough that Americans have to pause in the midst of medical emergencies to ask if insurance companies will cover the cost of treatment. But it’s even worse that visits to “in-network” providers can still result in hundreds or thousands of dollars in surprise medical bills.1

Today, one in five emergency room visits — and 70 percent of critical air ambulance transports — result in surprise medical bills. When healthcare providers and insurance companies can’t agree on how much treatment costs, they turn around and bill patients for the difference.2

Insurance companies’ greed has broken our healthcare system in more ways than we can count. But right now, we have a chance to take real, bipartisan action to end surprise medical billing, and we can’t let it go to waste.

One surprise medical bill can tip someone into bankruptcy, and they are growing more and more common. Maybe the insurance company pads its profits by paying the hospital or ambulance less than the treatment costs. Or providers demand higher and higher fees that the insurance company won’t pay. Or the insurer reimburses the hospital, but not the doctor who provided treatment. Regardless, the story ends the same: patients end up stuck paying for the balance, with no warning and through no fault of their own.3

The good news is that there is new momentum behind legislation that would ban this “balance billing,” based on three commonsense principles:4

  • Ban surprise balance billing and fully protect patients with no exceptions, especially in emergency situations where people can’t make sure they will see an in-network provider
  • Contain costs by establishing a reasonable payment level between providers and insurers based on actual prices, not corporate greed
  • Ensure comprehensive protection nationwide so federal law reinforces the strongest state laws and helps people in states with no protections


A bipartisan consensus in Congress is emerging against surprise medical bills but insurers and emergency medical providers are fighting back to preserve their profits.5 It’s up to us to fight for the strongest possible legislation with no loopholes or handouts.

Sign CREDO’s petition to Congress: Ban surprise medical bills.

SIGN THE PETITION
Thank you for speaking out,

Heidi Hess, Co-Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Apple changes Crimea map to meet Russian demands

Apple iPhoneImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Apple has complied with Russian demands to show the annexed Crimean peninsula as part of Russian territory on its apps.

Russian forces annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014, drawing international condemnation.

The region, which has a Russian-speaking majority, is now shown as Russian territory on Apple Maps and its Weather app, when viewed from Russia.

But the apps do not show it as part of any country when viewed elsewhere.

Apple Weather app lists Crimea as part of RussiaImage copyrightAPPLE WEATHER
Image captionThe Apple Weather app now lists Crimea as part of Russia
Apple Map showing CrimeaImage copyrightAPPLE MAPS
Image captionApple Maps does not show a border between Crimea and Russia

The State Duma, the Russian parliament’s lower house, said in a statement: “Crimea and Sevastopol now appear on Apple devices as Russian territory.”

Russia treats the naval port city of Sevastopol as a separate region.

The BBC tested several iPhones in Moscow and it appears the change affects devices set up to use the Russian edition of Apple’s App Store.

Apple had been in talks with Russia for several months over what the State Duma described as “inaccuracy” in the way Crimea was labelled.

The tech giant originally suggested it could show Crimea as undefined territory – part of neither Russia nor Ukraine.

But Vasily Piskaryov, chairman of the Duma security and anti-corruption committee, said Apple had complied with the Russian constitution.

He said representatives of the company were reminded that labelling Crimea as part of Ukrainian territory was a criminal offence under Russian law, according to Interfax news agency.

“There is no going back,” Mr Piskaryov said. “Today, with Apple, the situation is closed – we have received everything we wanted.”

He said Russia was always open to “dialogue and constructive co-operation with foreign companies”.

Apple has not yet commented on the decision.

Google, which also produces a popular Maps app, does not show Crimea as belonging to either Russia or Ukraine on its maps.

However, it uses the Russian spelling of Crimean place names, rather than the Ukrainian spelling, on its maps in Russia.

Most of the international community, including the EU and the US, does not recognise the annexation of Crimea to Russia.

The loss of Crimea is a deep wound for Ukrainians. Shortly after the peninsula was annexed in early 2014, a separate conflict broke out in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions when separatists moved against the Ukrainian state.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of sending its troops to the region and arming the separatists.

Moscow denies this but says that Russian volunteers are helping the rebels. More than 13,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

The BBC does not show Crimea as part of Russia on its maps, but shows a dotted line to mark disputed territory.

Sasha Baron Cohen: Facebook would have let Hitler buy anti-Semitic ads

Sacha Baron Cohen in Los Angeles, California, on September 22, 2019

British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen has said if Facebook had existed in the 1930s it would have allowed Hitler a platform for his anti-Semitic beliefs.

The Ali G star singled out the social media company in a speech in New York.

He also criticised Google, Twitter and YouTube for pushing “absurdities to billions of people”.

Social media giants and internet companies are under growing pressure to curb the spread of misinformation around political campaigns.

Twitter announced in late October that it would ban all political advertising globally from 22 November.

Earlier this week Google said it would not allow political advertisers to target voters using “microtargeting” based on browsing data or other factors.

Analysts say Facebook has come under increasing pressure to follow suit.

Addressing the Anti-Defamation League’s Never is Now summit, Baron Cohen took aim at Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg who in October defended his company’s position not to ban political adverts that contain falsehoods.

“If you pay them, Facebook will run any ‘political’ ad you want, even if it’s a lie. And they’ll even help you micro-target those lies to their users for maximum effect,” he said.

“Under this twisted logic, if Facebook were around in the 1930s, it would have allowed Hitler to post 30-second ads on his ‘solution’ to the ‘Jewish problem’.”

Baron Cohen said it was time “for a fundamental rethink of social media and how it spreads hate, conspiracies and lies”. He also questioned Mr Zuckerberg’s characterisation of Facebook as a bastion of “free expression”.

“I think we could all agree that we should not be giving bigots and paedophiles a free platform to amplify their views and target their victims,” he added.

Facebook has not commented on the remarks.

Earlier this month, an international group of lawmakers called for targeted political adverts on social media to be suspended until they are properly regulated.

The International Committee on Disinformation and Fake News was told that the business model adopted by social networks made “manipulation profitable”.

A BBC investigation into political ads for next month’s UK election suggested they were being targeted towards key constituencies and certain age groups.