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Apple restricts AirDrop file-sharing in China that protesters have used

Apple reportedly implemented restrictions on the iPhone's AirDrop file sharing feature in China, which has frequently been used by protesters to avoid censorship......»»

Category: topSource: foxnewsNov 27th, 2022

Kash Patel Says Jan. 6 Committee Buried Key Evidence From His Testimony

Kash Patel Says Jan. 6 Committee Buried Key Evidence From His Testimony Authored by Samantha Flom and Jan Jekielek via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), As the former chief of staff to the Defense Department under the Trump administration, Kash Patel was one of the first people the now-shuttered House Jan. 6 Committee sought testimony from in its investigation of the Capitol breach. Former Chief of Staff to the Department of Defense Kash Patel speaks during a campaign rally at Minden-Tahoe Airport in Minden, Nevada, on Oct. 08, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) Despite this, the transcript of his deposition was one of the last to be released as the committee concluded its work, and the reason, according to Patel, was simple. “I gave them the hard truths that they didn’t want the answers to because it didn’t fit their political narrative,” he told The Epoch Times’ Jan Jekielek on the Jan. 6 episode of his Kash’s Corner podcast. Burying the Evidence Revisiting the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and the aftermath, Patel held that the committee failed to abide by its own rules when it excluded the exhibits he and his legal team entered into the record during his deposition. Among those exhibits, of which Patel said there were roughly nine, was a key report (pdf) released in November 2021 by the Biden Defense Department (DoD), which concluded that the actions the department took under the Trump administration to prepare for the Jan. 6 protests were “appropriate” and “complied with laws, regulations, and other applicable guidance.” The Jan. 6 Committee in the Canon House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Dec. 19, 2022. (Al Drago/Getty Images) That report, Patel said, along with his testimony that former President Donald Trump’s authorization of the deployment of 20,000 National Guardsmen to protect the Capitol, contradicted the committee’s conclusions that Trump was responsible for the violence that occurred that day. Patel also noted that, when they were offered additional assistance from federal law enforcement, both Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Capitol Police (USCP) declined. In fact, on Jan. 5, 2021, Bowser announced publicly that she would not be requesting additional federal law enforcement, sharing a letter she had written that stated as much to her Twitter account. “To be clear, the District of Columbia is not requesting other federal law enforcement personnel, and discourages any additional deployment without immediate notification to, and consultation with, MPD [Metropolitan Police Department] if such plans are underway,” Bowser wrote in the letter to Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. Likewise, according to the Capitol Police’s official Jan. 6 timeline, the Pentagon contacted USCP to confirm if a request for National Guardsmen was being considered. The next day, USCP Deputy Chief Gallagher replied that “a request for National Guard support is not forthcoming at this time after consultation with COP [chief of police] Sund.” According to Patel, both Bowser’s letter and USCP’s timeline were also submitted as exhibits but were not released along with the transcript of his deposition. Under the House’s rules (pdf) for deposition procedure, “the transcript and any exhibits shall be filed, as shall any video recording, with the clerk of the Committee.” While the committee released exhibits from other interviews with the supporting materials for its final report, none of the exhibits listed as being on file with the committee include those produced by Patel. “No surprise, the Jan. 6 Unselect Committee broke its rules, broke the House rules, broke its commitment—and not just orally, but in writing to my legal team—by saying the exhibits would be included,” he said. “They excluded every single exhibit.” Unanswered Questions Patel also slammed the committee for failing to investigate significant questions and concerns that remain largely unexplained. The majority of his deposition, he noted, was not even about Jan. 6 but other, unrelated matters the committee simply wanted information on. “That just showed me that all they cared about, this committee, was setting up perjury traps and looking for political ammunition, not the facts,” he said. A Capitol Police officer stands with members of the National Guard behind a crowd control fence surrounding Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 7, 2021. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images) One question Patel said he is still seeking an answer to is why a “no-climb” fence was not constructed around the Capitol prior to Jan. 6. Patel recounted how he showed up at the scene on Jan. 6, after the protests had broken out, to find no fence had been erected to help secure a perimeter. Noting that he had to buy the fence himself and have the National Guardsmen put it up later that day, he wondered: “If we could do it that fast, why wasn’t it done before? What are they going to say, optics? They didn’t have the intelligence? This committee never bothered to examine that question.” Further, according to Patel, he and other DoD officials offered to remove the fence after the protests had subsided, but their offers were rejected by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the incoming Biden administration. The fence would remain up for half a year, serving as a reminder of the events of Jan. 6 to all who passed by. “That’s what I believe that this partisan political charade was about,” Patel said. “They wanted the optics before Jan. 6 with no security, and they wanted the optics after Jan. 6 with heavy security to show that their political narrative was the one that was right. But when you look at the underlying facts, their narrative is defeated.” Another unexplained mystery Patel pointed to was the role played by Ray Epps, a former Arizona Oath Keepers leader who was filmed encouraging protesters to enter the Capitol on Jan. 6. While Epps maintains that he was at the Capitol that day to support Trump, many have come to believe that he was there as a provocateur, potentially on the orders of the FBI. Noting that the FBI has repeatedly failed to give a straight answer on whether Epps is an operative of theirs or not, Patel said: “Look, as a former federal prosecutor who ran sources and informants, if the answer is, ‘This guy is not on our payroll, and we don’t know him, and he did absolutely nothing for the United States government,’ you come out hard and fast out of your press office and say those things. And those things have never been said by this DOJ or FBI about Ray Epps.” Patel also pointed to the recent revelation that Pelosi’s office played a key role in planning security for the event and the fact that the FBI withheld a crucial report indicating thousands of protesters could show up at the Capitol as additional mysteries that should be investigated by the Republican-controlled House. “Look, if the FBI and DOJ are willing to subpoena my records from five years ago, maybe we can get this Congress to actually subpoena some records of consequence to answer some of these questions.” Read more here... Tyler Durden Wed, 01/11/2023 - 17:40.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytJan 11th, 2023

Donald Trump"s docket: The latest on key cases and investigations as Trump runs for the White House in 2024

Donald Trump and his business are tangled in at least a dozen significant federal and local investigations and lawsuits. Here's the latest on all of them. Former President Donald Trump addresses the America First Agenda Summit in Washington, DC, on July 26, 2022.Drew Angerer/Getty Images Trump and his businesses are tangled in at least a dozen significant investigations and lawsuits. Under inquiry are alleged mishandling of documents, efforts to overturn the election, and more. On November 15, Trump officially launched a bid for president in 2024. It's hard to keep track of Donald Trump's very busy legal docket. The former president — who on November 15 officially launched his 2024 presidential bid — is the subject of at least four major investigations into wrongdoing relating to his handling of White House documents, the election, the insurrection, and his finances — probes based in Florida; Fulton County, Georgia; Washington, DC; and New York.Trump's business was also convicted in state court in Manhattan for a C-Suite-wide payroll tax-dodge scheme, earning the company felony status and a likely $1.6 million fine. On top of all that, Trump is fighting or bringing a grab-bag of important lawsuits that could financially cripple his international real-estate and golf resort empire.Keep up to date on the latest of Trump's legal travails with this guide to the ever-evolving Trump docket.Indictments Trump with his former CFO Allen Weisselberg at Trump Tower in 2017.Evan Vucci/APThe Trump Organization Payroll Case The Parties: The Trump Organization was found guilty of 17 tax-fraud counts on December 6, 2022 in a speedy, slam-dunk conviction in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.The Issues: A four-woman, eight-man, mostly working-class jury held Trump's real estate and golf resort business criminally liable for a 2005-2018 tax-dodge scheme admittedly run by the company's two top financial executives.The two, former CFO Allen Weisselberg and top payroll executive Jeffrey McConney, helped themselves and a half-dozen other company execs cheat on their income taxes by partially paying them with pricey perks and benefits, including free use of luxury cars and apartments, that were never reported to tax authorities.What's next: The company faces a maximum of $1.6 million in penalties at sentencing before the trial judge. New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, scheduled for January 13. Additional potential repercussions include a heightened hesitancy among banks to lend to a company with felony status and an energized Trump probe in the Manhattan district attorney's office. Government corruption watchdogs also have renewed reason to urge the federal government to cease doing business with the former president.Criminal investigationsFulton County Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis in Atlanta, on Jan. 4, 2022.AP Photo/Ben Gray, FileThe Fulton County election interference probeThe parties: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, Trump, and his Republican associates The issues: Willis is investigating whether Trump and his associates tried to interfere in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Her probe has expanded to also include investigating an alleged scheme to send a fake slate of electors to Georgia's state Capitol in an attempt to overturn the elections.She's notified Rudy Giuliani, Trump's former personal attorney, that he's a target in the investigation. Giuliani testified for six hours under a court order on August 17.What's next: Sen. Lindsey Graham testified on November 22 to the grand jury, after losing a court battle against its subpoena. Several more Trump aides are fighting subpoenas of their own.Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.Jon Cherry/Getty ImagesThe Justice Department investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 electionThe parties: Federal investigators are increasingly scrutinizing the role Trump and his allies played in the effort to overturn the 2020 election.The issues: The Justice Department is facing pressure to prosecute following a string of congressional hearings that connected the former president to the violence of January 6, 2021, and to efforts to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.In a series of eight hearings, the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol described Trump's conduct in criminal terms and pointed to an April court decision in which a federal judge said the former president likely committed crimes in his effort to hold on to power. In that ruling, Judge David Carter called Trump's scheme a "coup in search of a legal theory."Prosecutors have asked witnesses directly about Trump's involvement in the effort to reverse his loss in the 2020 election and are likely to issue more subpoenas and search warrants in the weeks ahead.In June, federal investigators searched the home of Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who advanced Trump's baseless claims of election fraud.On the same day, federal agents seized the phone of John Eastman, a lawyer who helped advise Trump on how to overturn the 2020 election. Thomas Windom, a top prosecutor in the Justice Department's inquiry, revealed in late July that investigators had obtained a second warrant allowing a search of Eastman's phone. Rep. Liz Cheney, the top Republican on the panel, lost her primary bid for reelection on August 16.What's next: The Justice Department has remained largely silent about how and whether it would consider charges against Trump. But in July, prosecutors asked witnesses directly about the former president's involvement in the attempt to reverse his electoral defeat. The House select committee is expected to issue a report and complete its work by the year's end.FBI agents descended on Mar-a-Lago on August 8, 2022, with a search warrant.Darren SamuelsohnThe Justice Department investigation into the handling of classified documentsThe parties: The FBI searched Trump's estate in South Florida, Mar-a-Lago, on August 8 as part of an investigation into the possible mishandling of government records, including classified documents. Trump and his lawyers alleged prosecutorial misconduct and condemned the search as politically motivated.The issues: Early in 2022, Trump turned over 15 boxes of documents — including some marked as classified and "top secret" — to the National Archives. But federal investigators scrutinizing the former president's handling of records reportedly grew suspicious that Trump or people close to him still retained some key records. The FBI seized about a dozen boxes of additional documents during the raid of Mar-a-Lago, in a search that immediately demonstrated how Trump's handling of records from his administration remains an area of legal jeopardy.What's next: In December, a federal appeals court ended a vetting process for the thousands of records seized from Mar-a-Lago.US District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee on the federal trial court in South Florida, established the review process at the former president's request. The Justice Department has argued that the special master review has intruded on and delayed its investigation.During oral arguments on November 22, the chief judge of the 11th Circuit raised concerns about the precedent that would be set if the special master review was allowed to continue."Other than the fact that this involves a former president, everything else about this is indistinguishable from any pre-indictment search warrant," said Chief Judge William Pryor, a George W. Bush appointee. "And we've got to be concerned about the precedent that we would create that would allow any target of a federal criminal investigation to go into a district court and to have a district court entertain this kind of petition."The investigation for the Mar-a-Lago case, as well as the fake elector investigation, is now under the purview of Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, who US Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed in November.Lawsuits against TrumpThe front page of the lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James accusing former President Donald Trump, his family and his business of a decade of padding his net worth to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in bank loans and tax breaks.Jon Elswick/APThe NY AG's civil filing against the Trump family and Trump OrganizationThe parties: New York Attorney General Letitia James has sued Trump, his family, and the Trump Organization.The issues: James says she has uncovered a decade-long pattern of financial wrongdoing at Trump's multi-billion-dollar real-estate and golf resort empire.She alleges Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in bank loans and that he also low-balled his properties' worth for tax breaks. Trump has derided the AG's efforts as a politically motivated witch hunt.The 220-page lawsuit arose from a three-year investigation and makes multiple, corporation-crippling demands that would eventually be decided by a Manhattan judge.The demands include that the company pays back $250 million Trump allegedly pocketed by misleading banks about his worth. It further requests that Trump and his three eldest children — Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump, who have all served as Trump Organization executives — be permanently barred from running a company in New York state.The suit also demands that for the next five years, an independent receiver be put in place to monitor the company's finances and that Donald Trump be personally barred from purchasing property in New York or borrowing from a New York-registered bank over those same five years.Perhaps most extremely, it asks the judge to pull the Trump Organization's New York papers of incorporation. That's the charter that lets Trump draw revenue from his New York properties, including the lucrative commercial rents at his Manhattan skyscrapers. These hamstringing demands, if ordered by a judge, would run Trump's corporate headquarters out of New York. Trump would also be barred from selling, buying, collecting rent from, or borrowing against any property in New York, potentially putting the Trump Organization out of business entirely. What's next:  Barring a settlement, next comes an "eye-glazing" litigation slog — legal filings, courtroom arguments, decisions, and appeals — that could go on for two years before a trial can decide if anything material actually happens to the Trumps and the family business. James is the winner in the first of that litigation. On November 3, state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron granted her request that an independent monitor supervise the company finances because the company is continuing to commit fraud.But in announcing her office's lawsuit, the AG also revealed that she has referred her findings of alleged financial and tax fraud to federal prosecutors in New York and to the Internal Revenue Service.Either of those referrals could more quickly result in federal criminal charges and a bill for millions of dollars in back taxes and penalties.Supporters of then-President Donald Trump protest inside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DCBrent Stirton/Getty ImagesLawsuits alleging 'incitement' on January 6The Parties: House Democrats and two Capitol police officers accused Trump of inciting the violent mob on January 6.The Issues: Trump's lawyers have argued that his time as president grants him immunity that shields him from civil liability in connection with his January 6 address at the Ellipse, where he urged supporters to "fight like hell."A federal judge rejected Trump's bid to dismiss the civil lawsuits, ruling that his rhetoric on January 6 was "akin to telling an excited mob that corn-dealers starve the poor in front of the corn-dealer's home."Judge Amit Mehta said Trump later displayed a tacit agreement with the mob minutes after rioters breached the Capitol when he sent a tweet admonishing then-Vice President Mike Pence for lacking the "courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country."What's Next: Trump has appealed Mehta's ruling to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit and requested an oral argument. In a late July court filing, Trump's lawyers said the immunity afforded to the former president cannot be "undercut if the presidential act in question is unpopular among the judiciary.Advice columnist E. Jean Carroll is pictured in New York in 2020.Seth Wenig/APE. Jean Carroll v. TrumpThe Parties: Advice columnist E. Jean Carroll is suing Trump for defamation, battery, and emotional distress in federal court in Manhattan. The lawsuit was first filed in June 2019 and has been amended since.The Issues: Carroll's lawsuit alleges Trump defamed her after she publicly accused him of raping her in a Bergdorf-Goodman dressing room in Manhattan in the mid-90s.Trump responded to Carroll's allegation by saying it was untrue and that she was "not my type." Trump also denied ever meeting Carroll, despite a photo to the contrary.What's next: Arrangements for the sharing of evidence are ongoing behind the scenes, including for the possible collection of Trump's DNA.Carroll has said she wants to compare Trump's DNA with unidentified male DNA on a dress she wore during the alleged rape. The trial is tentatively set for February 6, 2023; Carroll has said she would never settle the case.Although Carroll's allegations are more than 30 years old, a New York law that took effect on November 24 — the Adult Survivors Act — gives sex assault victims a one-year window to file civil cases regardless of when the incident occurred, so long as they were 18 or older at the time. Carroll added rape allegations to her lawsuit after the law took effect.Donald Trump, right, sits with his children, from left, Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Trump International Hotel on July 23, 2014, in Washington.Evan Vucci/APThe 'multi-level marketing' pyramid scheme caseThe Parties: Lead plaintiff Catherine McKoy and three others sued Trump, his business, and his three eldest children, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump, in 2018 in federal court in Manhattan.The Issues: Donald Trump is accused of promoting a scam multi-level marketing scheme on "The Celebrity Apprentice." The lawsuit alleges Trump pocketed $8.8 million from the scheme — but that they lost thousands of dollars. Trump's side has complained that the lawsuit is a politically motivated attack. What's Next: The parties are figuring out a trial date for the case, which is expected to land in late 2023 or early 2024. Michael Cohen, Trump's former attorney, testifies before the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill February 27, 2019 in Washington, DC.Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesMichael Cohen's 'imprisonment' caseThe Parties: Trump fixer-turned-critic Michael Cohen sued Donald Trump, former Attorney General Bill Barr, and more than a dozen federal prison officials and employees, in federal court in Manhattan in 2021.The Issues: The president's former personal attorney is seeking $20 million in damages relating to the time he spent in prison for financial crimes and lying to Congress about Trump's dealings in Congress. Cohen says in his suit that he had been moved to home confinement for three months in the spring of 2020 due to the pandemic, but was then vindictively thrown into solitary confinement when he refused to stop speaking to the press and writing a tell-all book about his former boss. A judge ordered him released after 16 days.What's Next: A decision is pending on defense motions to dismiss the case.Singer Eddy Grant performs in concert in honor of Nelson Mandela in Hyde Park, London June 27, 2008.Andrew Winning/ReutersThe Electric Avenue copyright caseThe Parties: Eddy Grant, the composer/performer behind the 80s disco-reggae mega-hit "Electric Avenue," sued Donald Trump and his campaign in federal court in Manhattan in 2020.The Issues: Grant is seeking $300,000 compensation for copyright infringement. His suit says that Trump made unauthorized use of the 1983 dance floor staple during the 2020 campaign. About 40 seconds of the song played in the background of a Biden-bashing animation that Trump posted to his Twitter account. The animation was viewed 13 million times before being taken down a month later. Trump has countered that the animation was political satire and so exempt from copyright infringement claims. He's also said that the campaign merely reposted the animation and have no idea where it came from.What's Next: There was an August 21 deposition completion deadline for both sides — including for Trump and Grant. Pretrial motions are not due to be filed until October.Lawsuits brought by Trump Donald Trump v. Mary Trump The Parties: The former president counter-sued his niece Mary Trump — and the New York Times — in 2021 in New York State Supreme Court in Dutchess County.The Issues: Mary Trump, the Times, and three of its reporters  "maliciously conspired" against him, Trump alleges, by collaborating with the Times on its expose of and breaching the confidentiality of the family's 2001 settlement of the estate of Mary Trump's father, Fred Trump Sr. What's Next: Mary Trump's motion to dismiss is pending in the state Supreme Court in Manhattan, where the case has since been transferred to.Hillary Clinton.Photo by: Mike Smith/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty ImagesDonald Trump v. Hillary ClintonThe Parties: Trump has sued Hillary Clinton, her campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and prominent Democrats including former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and former Clinton campaign chair John Podesta in a federal court in southern Florida in March, 2022.The Issues:  Trump alleged in this unusual use of federal racketeering statutes that Clinton and her campaign staff conspired to harm his 2016 run for president by promoting a "contrived Trump-Russia link." The defendants succeeded in getting the massive lawsuit dismissed in September; a federal judge in Florida said the suit was structurally flawed and called it "a two-hundred-page political manifesto" in which Trump detailed "his grievances against those that have opposed him."What's Next: Trump's side has promised to appeal the dismissal.Camila DeChalus and C. Ryan Barber contributed to a previous version of this story.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 19th, 2022

Apple restricted AirDrop capabilities in China ahead of anti-government protests, leaving dissenters without key communication tool as demonstrations spread

The restrictions, which limit the ability to receive AirDrop content from "Everyone" to just 10 minutes, were enacted in China earlier this month. Protesters angered by strict anti-virus measures called for China's powerful leader to resign, an unprecedented rebuke as authorities in at least eight cities struggled to suppress demonstrations Sunday that represent a rare direct challenge to the ruling Communist Party.AP Photo/Ng Han Guan Apple limited the use of AirDrop tools in China earlier this month ahead of anti-government protests. The restrictions, which limit sharing via AirDrop to up to 10 minutes, are exclusive to China.  Demonstrations erupted across the country this weekend in response to strict zero-COVID policies.  As anti-government protests continue to swell across China, a key communication tool used by dissenters for organizing and sharing information has now been curbed — Apple's AirDrop feature. Restrictions to AirDrop were enacted exclusively in China earlier this month after it was used to share posters opposing President Xi Jinping and the Chinese government, and just weeks before widescale protests against the state's strict zero-COVID policies began this weekend. The changes, which were first reported by 9to5Mac on November 7, include limiting the amount of time an iPhone user can use the "Everyone" setting to receive content from anyone — both contacts and non-contacts — to just 10 minutes. Typically, users can opt to receive AirDrop content from everyone for an unlimited period of time. The tool has been used among protesters to disseminate information about demonstrations, and was pivotal to organizing protests in Hong Kong and bypassing China's "Great Firewall" in 2019, Quartz reported. Apple did not immediately respond to Insider's request to comment.Earlier this month, the company told Bloomberg it intends to roll out the setting globally to prevent unwanted file sharing. For now, changes to the feature remain exclusive to China, and some say they may be impeding mass protests that erupted across the country this weekend in response to COVID-19 measures after 10 people died in an apartment fire in Urumqi city, Xinjiang.Some locals are blaming virus control barriers for the deaths of the residents, as videos emerged depicting a far-away firetruck failing to properly extinguish the flames, Insider reported.Tension escalated on Saturday when a vigil for the victims of the fire morphed into a full-fledged protest, with attendees yelling "we don't want PCR tests" and decrying the government, according to The Financial Times. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 27th, 2022

Donald Trump"s docket: The latest on key cases and investigations centered on the ex-president and his businesses

Donald Trump and his business are tangled in at least a dozen significant federal and local investigations and lawsuits. Here's the latest on all of them. Former President Donald Trump addresses the America First Agenda Summit in Washington, DC, on July 26, 2022.Drew Angerer/Getty Images Trump and his businesses are tangled in at least a dozen significant investigations and lawsuits. Under inquiry are Trump's alleged mishandling of sensitive documents, efforts to overturn the US election and possible financial wrongdoing. Check back here for updates on Trump's legal troubles, and for details on what's coming next. It's hard to keep track of Donald Trump's very busy legal docket. The former president is the subject of at least four major investigations into wrongdoing relating to his handling of White House documents, the election, the insurrection, and his finances — probes based in Florida, Fulton County, Georgia; Washington, D.C., and New York.Trump's business also remains under indictment in Manhattan for an alleged payroll tax-dodge scheme. On top of all that, Trump is fighting or bringing a grab-bag of important lawsuits that could financially cripple his international real estate and golf resort empire.Keep up to date on the latest of Trump's legal travails, both criminal and civil, with this guide to the ever-evolving Trump docket.Indictments Trump with his former CFO Allen Weisselberg at Trump Tower in 2017.Evan Vucci/APThe Trump Organization Payroll Case The Parties: The Manhattan DA is prosecuting The Trump Organization. The Issues: Trump's real estate and golf resort business is accused of giving its executives pricey perks and benefits that were never reported as income to taxing authorities.The company's co-defendant, former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, has pleaded guilty to the 15-year, payroll tax-dodge scheme.As part of his August 18, 2022 plea deal, Weisselberg agreed to serve 5 months in jail and pay back $2 million in back taxes and penalties.What's next: Weisselberg also agreed to testify for the prosecution if lawyers for the Trump Organization fight the indictment at trial; an October 24 trial date has been set.Weisselberg would describe to jurors a tax-dodge scheme in which company executives, himself included, received some pay in off-the-books compensation that included free apartments, cars, and tuition reimbursement. But Weisselberg is hardly the ideal prosecution witness. He still works for Trump Org as a special advisor, and Trump's side is hoping to turn his testimony to its advantage.The Trump Organization could face steep fines if convicted of conspiring in the scheme by omitting the compensation from federal, state, and city tax documents and by failing to withhold and pay taxes on that compensation.Criminal InvestigationsFulton County Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis in Atlanta, on Jan. 4, 2022.AP Photo/Ben Gray, FileThe Fulton County election interference probeThe parties: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, Trump, and his Republican associates The issues: Willis is investigating whether Trump and his associates tried to interfere in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Her probe has expanded to also include investigating an alleged scheme to send a fake slate of electors to Georgia's state Capitol in an attempt to overturn the elections.She's notified Rudy Giuliani, Trump's former personal attorney, that he's a target in the investigation. Giuliani testified for six hours under court order on August 17.What's next: A federal appeals court temporarily halted on Sunday a court order for Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, the former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to testify before the Fulton County special grand jury on Tuesday, August 23.Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.Jon Cherry/Getty ImagesThe Justice Department investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 electionThe parties: Federal investigators are increasingly scrutinizing the role Trump and his allies played in the effort to overturn the 2020 election.The issues: The Justice Department is facing pressure to prosecute following a string of congressional hearings that connected the former president to the violence of January 6, 2021, and to efforts to prevent the peaceful handoff of power.In a series of eight hearings, the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol described Trump's conduct in criminal terms and pointed to an April court decision in which a federal judge said the former president likely committed crimes in his effort to hold onto power. In that ruling, Judge David Carter called Trump's scheme a "coup in search of a legal theory."Prosecutors have asked witnesses directly about Trump's involvement in the effort to reverse his loss in the 2020 election and are likely to issue more subpoenas and search warrants in the weeks ahead.In June, federal investigators searched the home of Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who advanced Trump's baseless claims of election fraud.On the same day, federal agents seized the phone of John Eastman, a lawyer who helped advise Trump on how to overturn the 2020 election. A top prosecutor in the Justice Department's inquiry, Thomas Windom, revealed in late July that investigators had obtained a se cord warrant allowing a search of Eastman's phone. Rep. Liz Cheney, the top Republican on the panel, lost her primary bid for reelection on August 16. What's next:  The Justice Department has remained largely silent about how and whether it would consider charges against Trump, but in July, prosecutors asked witnesses directly about the former president's involvement in the attempt to reverse his electoral defeat. FBI agents descended on Mar-a-Lago on August 8, 2022, with a search warrant.Darren SamuelsohnThe Justice Department investigation into the handling of classified documentsThe parties: The FBI searched Trump's estate in South Florida, Mar-a-Lago, on August 8 as part of an investigation into the possible mishandling of government records, including classified documents. Trump and his lawyers alleged prosecutorial misconduct and condemned the search as politically motivated.The issues: Early in 2022, Trump turned over 15 boxes of documents — including some marked as classified and "top secret" — to the National Archives. But federal investigators scrutinizing the former president's handling of records reportedly grew suspicious that Trump or people close to him still retained some key records. The FBI seized about a dozen boxes of additional documents during the raid of Mar-a-Lago, in a search that immediately demonstrated how Trump's handling of records from his administration remains an area of legal jeopardy.What's next: A federal judge in South Florida granted Trump's request for an outside arbiter — known as a special master — to review the more than 11,000 documents retrieved from Mar-a-Lago, including about 100 records marked as classified. Judge Aileen Cannon halted the review of those records as part of the Justice Department's criminal inquiry but said intelligence agencies could continue assessing the potential national security risk raised by Trump's hoarding of government records at his West Palm Beach estate. In response, the Justice Department said that bifurcation was unworkable and that Cannon's order had effectively paused the national security assessment.The Justice Department asked Cannon to exclude the 100 classified documents from the special master review. If she declines to do so by September 15, the Justice Department signaled that it would go to the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.Lawsuits against TrumpThe front page of the lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James accusing former President Donald Trump, his family and his business of a decade of padding his net worth to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in bank loans and tax breaks.Jon Elswick/APThe NY AG's civil filing against the Trump family and Trump OrganizationThe parties: New York Attorney General Letitia James has sued Trump, his family and the Trump Organization.The issues: James says she has uncovered a decade-long pattern of financial wrongdoing at Trump's multi-billion-dollar hotel and golf resort empire.She alleges Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in bank loans, and low-balled his properties' worth for tax breaks. Trump has derided the AG's efforts as a politically motivated witch hunt.The 220-page lawsuit arose from a three year investigation and makes multiple, corporation-crippling demands that would eventually be decided by a Manhattan judge.The demands include that the company pay back $250 million Trump allegedly pocketed by misleading banks about his worth. It further requests that Trump and his three eldest children — Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump, who have all served as Trump Organization executives — be permanently barred from running a company in New York state.Th suit also demands that for the next five years, an independent receiver be put in place to monitor the company's finances and that Donald Trump be personally barred from purchasing property in New York or borrowing from a New York-registered bank over those same five years.Perhaps most extremely, it asks the judge to pull the Trump Organization's New York papers of incorporation. That's the charter that lets Trump draw revenue from his New York properties, including the lucrative commercial rents at his Manhattan skyscrapers. These hamstringing demands, if ordered by a judge, would run Trump's corporate headquarters out of New York. Trump would also be barred from selling, buying, collecting rent from or borrowing against any property in New York, potentially putting the Trump Organization out of business entirely. What's next:  Barring a settlement, next comes an "eye-glazing" litigation slog — legal filings, courtroom arguments, decisions and appeals — that could go on for two years before a trial can decide if anything material actually happens to the Trumps and the family business. But in announcing her office's lawsuit, the AG also revealed that she has referred her findings of alleged financial and tax fraud to federal prosecutors in New York and to the Internal Revenue Service.Either of those referrals could more quickly result in federal criminal charges and a bill for millions of dollars in back taxes and penalties.Supporters of then-President Donald Trump protest inside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DCBrent Stirton/Getty ImagesLawsuits alleging 'incitement' on January 6The Parties: House Democrats and two Capitol police officers accused Trump of inciting the violent mob on January 6.The Issues: Trump's lawyers have argued that his time as president grants him immunity that shields him from civil liability in connection with his January 6 address at the Ellipse, where he urged supporters to "fight like hell."A federal judge rejected Trump's bid to dismiss the civil lawsuits, ruling that his rhetoric on January 6 was "akin to telling an excited mob that corn-dealers starve the poor in front of the corn-dealer's home."Judge Amit Mehta said Trump later displayed a tacit agreement with the mob minutes after rioters breached the Capitol when he sent a tweet admonishing then-Vice President Mike Pence for lacking the "courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country."What's Next: Trump has appealed Mehta's ruling to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit and requested an oral argument. In a late July court filing, Trump's lawyers said the immunity afforded to the former president cannot be "undercut if the presidential act in question is unpopular among the judiciary."Trump leaves Trump Tower in Manhattan on October 18, 2021 in New York City.James Devaney/GC ImagesGalicia v. TrumpThe Parties: Lead plaintiff Efrain Galicia and four other protesters of Mexican heritage have sued Trump, his security personnel, and his 2016 campaign in New York.The issues: They say Donald Trump sicced his security guards on their peaceful, legal protest outside Trump Tower in 2015. The plaintiffs had been demonstrating with parody "Make America Racist Again" campaign signs to protest Trump's speech announcing his first campaign for president, during which he accused Mexican immigrants of being "rapists" and drug dealers. Trump fixer-turned-critic Michael Cohen said in a deposition that Trump directly ordered security to "get rid of" the protesters; Trump said in his own deposition that he didn't even know a protest was going on until the next day. His security guards have said in depositions that they were responding to aggression by the protesters.What's next: Trial is set for jury selection on October 31 in NY Supreme Court in the Bronx.Advice columnist E. Jean Carroll is pictured in New York in 2020.Seth Wenig/APE. Jean Carroll v. TrumpThe Parties: Advice columnist E. Jean Carroll sued Trump for defamation in federal court in Manhattan in June 2019.The Issues: Carroll's lawsuit alleges Trump defamed her after she publicly accused him of raping her in a Bergdorf-Goodman dressing room in Manhattan in the mid-90s.Trump responded to Carroll's allegation by saying it was untrue and that she was "not my type." Trump also denied ever meeting Carroll, despite a photo to the contrary.What's next: Arrangements for the sharing of evidence are ongoing behind the scenes, including for the possible collection of Trump's DNA.Carroll has said she wants to compare Trump's DNA with unidentified male DNA on a dress she wore during the alleged rape. The trial is tentatively set for Feb. 6, 2023; Carroll has said she would never settle the case.Carroll's lawyers say they are also getting ready to additionally sue Trump for battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.Although Carroll's allegations are more than 30 years old, a New York law that takes effect on November 24 — the Adult Survivors Act — gives sex assault victims a one-year window to file civil cases regardless of when the incident occurred, so long as they were 18 or older at the time.  Donald Trump, right, sits with his children, from left, Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Trump International Hotel on July 23, 2014, in Washington.Evan Vucci/APThe 'multi-level marketing' pyramid scheme caseThe Parties: Lead plaintiff Catherine McKoy and three others sued Trump, his business, and his three eldest children, Donald Trump, Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump, in 2018 in federal court in Manhattan.The Issues: Donald Trump is accused of promoting a scam multi-level marketing scheme on "The Celebrity Apprentice." The lawsuit alleges Trump pocketed $8.8 million from the scheme — but that they lost thousands of dollars. Trump's side has complained that the lawsuit is a politically motivated attack. What's Next: The parties say in court filings that they are working to meet an August 31 deadline for the completion of depositions. Michael Cohen, Trump's former attorney, testifies before the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill February 27, 2019 in Washington, DC.Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesMichael Cohen's 'imprisonment' caseThe Parties: Trump fixer-turned-critic Michael Cohen sued Donald Trump, former Attorney General Bill Barr, and more than a dozen federal prison officials and employees, in federal court in Manhattan in 2021.The Issues: The president's former personal attorney is seeking $20 million in damages relating to the time he spent in prison for financial crimes and lying to Congress about Trump's dealings in Congress. Cohen says in his suit that he had been moved to home confinement for three months in the spring of 2020 due to the pandemic, but was then vindictively thrown into solitary confinement when he refused to stop speaking to the press and writing a tell-all book about his former boss. A judge ordered him released after 16 days.What's Next: A decision is pending on defense motions to dismiss the case.Singer Eddy Grant performs in concert in honor of Nelson Mandela in Hyde Park, London June 27, 2008.Andrew Winning/ReutersThe Electric Avenue copyright caseThe Parties: Eddy Grant, the composer/performer behind the 80s disco-reggae mega-hit "Electric Avenue," sued Donald Trump and his campaign in federal court in Manhattan in 2020.The Issues: Grant is seeking $300,000 compensation for copyright infringement. His suit says that Trump made unauthorized use of the 1983 dance floor staple during the 2020 campaign. About 40 seconds of the song played in the background of a Biden-bashing animation that Trump posted to his Twitter account. The animation was viewed 13 million times before being taken down a month later. Trump has countered that the animation was political satire and so exempt from copyright infringement claims. He's also said that the campaign merely reposted the animation and have no idea where it came from.What's Next: There was an August 21 deposition completion deadline for both sides — including for Trump and Grant. Pretrial motions are not due to be filed until October.Mary Trump speaks to Katie Phang on MSNBC on June 17, 2022.MSNBCMary Trump v. Donald TrumpThe Parties: The former president's niece sued him and his siblings in 2020 in the state Supreme Court in Manhattan.The Issues: Mary Trump alleges that she was cheated out of at least $10 million in a 2001 court settlement over the estate of her late father, Fred Trump, Sr. Mary Trump alleges she only learned by helping with a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times article that she'd been defrauded by her Uncle Donald, her aunt, Maryanne Trump Barry, and the late Robert Trump, whose estate is named as a defendant.The Times' 18-month investigation "revealed a business empire riddled with tax dodges," the Pulitzer Committee said in praising the piece. Lawyers for the Trumps have countered that it's far too late for Mary Trump to sue over a 2001 settlement that she had knowingly participated in.What's next: The defendants' motion to dismiss, including on statute of limitations grounds, is still pending.Lawsuits brought by Trump Donald Trump v. Mary Trump The Parties: The former president counter-sued his niece Mary Trump — and the New York Times — in 2021 in New York state Supreme Court in Dutchess County.The Issues: Mary Trump, the Times and three of its reporters  "maliciously conspired" against him, Trump alleges, by collaborating with the Times on its expose of and breaching the confidentiality of the family's 2001 settlement of the estate of Mary Trump's father, Fred Trump, Sr. What's Next: Mary Trump's motion to dismiss is pending in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, where the case has since been transferred to.Hillary Clinton.Photo by: Mike Smith/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty ImagesDonald Trump v. Hillary ClintonThe Parties: Trump has sued Hillary Clinton, her campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and prominent Democrats including former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and former Clinton campaign chair John Podesta in a federal court in southern Florida in March, 2022.The Issues:  Trump alleged in this unusual use of federal racketeering statutes that Clinton and her campaign staff conspired to harm his 2016 run for president by promoting a "contrived Trump-Russia link." The defendants succeeded in getting the massive lawsuit dismissed in September; a federal judge in Florida said the suit was structurally flawed and called it "a two-hundred-page political manifesto" in which Trump detailed "his grievances against those that have opposed him."What's Next: Trump's side has promised to appeal the dismissal.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytSep 23rd, 2022

The 20 best books by John Grisham, the bestselling author of legal thrillers like "A Time to Kill" and "The Pelican Brief"

From the Jake Brigance books to "The Firm," these are John Grishman's best courtroom thrillers, according to Goodreads. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.From the Jake Brigance books to "The Firm," these are John Grishman's best courtroom thrillers, according to Goodreads.Amazon/Insider John Grisham is the master of the courtroom thriller. He's written 28 number-one bestselling novels. You'll find his 20 best books below, according to their Goodreads ratings. Read more: The best new beach reads for 2022 If you think of a heart-pumping legal thriller, you probably picture John Grisham, one of the most successful authors in modern history.Since his debut novel, "A Time to Kill," earned him mainstream popularity, Grisham has written dozens of courtroom thrillers  — including 28 consecutive number-one fiction bestsellers. "The Firm," Grisham's second book, once spent 47 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list. And, for the next two decades, he was the author of one of the 10 bestselling novels of the year. Below, you'll find Grisham's 20 most unmissable books, ranked by Goodreads readers. It's worth noting that this list is ranked by rating, so sequels may be out of chronological order. Beware of unwanted spoilers, and if you're looking for the most recent book, check out Grisham's 2022 novel, "Sparring Partners."The 20 best John Grisham books, ranked by their Goodreads ratings: Descriptions provided by Amazon and lightly edited for clarity and length.20. "The Reckoning"Amazon"The Reckoning," available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.29October 1946, Clanton, Mississippi.Pete Banning was Clanton, Mississippi's favorite son — a decorated World War II hero, the patriarch of a prominent family, a farmer, father, neighbor, and a faithful member of the Methodist church. Then one cool October morning he rose early, drove into town, and committed a shocking crime. Pete's only statement about it — to the sheriff, to his lawyers, to the judge, to the jury, and to his family — was: "I have nothing to say." He was not afraid of death and was willing to take his motive to the grave.John Grisham takes us on an incredible journey, from the Jim Crow South to the jungles of the Philippines during World War II; from an insane asylum filled with secrets to the Clanton courtroom where Pete's defense attorney tries desperately to save him. 19. "A Painted House"Amazon"A Painted House," available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.29Until that September of 1952, Luke Chandler had never kept a secret or told a single lie. But in the long, hot summer of his seventh year, two groups of migrant workers — and two very dangerous men — came through the Arkansas Delta to work the Chandler cotton farm. And suddenly mysteries are flooding Luke's world.A brutal murder leaves the town seething in gossip and suspicion. A beautiful young woman ignites forbidden passions. A fatherless baby is born... and someone has begun furtively painting the bare clapboards of the Chandler farmhouse, slowly, painstakingly, bathing the run-down structure in gleaming white. And as young Luke watches the world around him, he unravels secrets that could shatter lives — and change his family and his town forever....18. "The Brethren"Amazon"The Brethren," available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.29They call themselves the Brethren: three disgraced former judges doing time in a Florida federal prison. One was sent up for tax evasion. Another, for skimming bingo profits. The third for a career-ending drunken joyride.Meeting daily in the prison law library, taking exercise walks in their boxer shorts, these judges-turned-felons can reminisce about old court cases, dispense a little jailhouse justice, and contemplate where their lives went wrong. Or they can use their time in prison to get very rich — very fast.And so they sit, sprawled in the prison library, furiously writing letters, fine-tuning a wickedly brilliant extortion scam — while events outside their prison walls begin to erupt. A bizarre presidential election is holding the nation in its grips, and a powerful government figure is pulling some very hidden strings. For the Brethren, the timing couldn't be better. Because they've just found the perfect victim.17. "Rogue Lawyer"Amazon"Rogue Lawyer," available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.29On the right side of the law — sort of — Sebastian Rudd is not your typical street lawyer. His office is a customized bulletproof van, complete with Wi-Fi, a bar, a small fridge, and fine leather chairs. He has no firm, no partners, and only one employee: his heavily armed driver, who also so happens to be his bodyguard, law clerk, confidant, and golf caddie. Sebastian drinks small-batch bourbon and carries a gun. He defends people other lawyers won't go near: a drug-addled, tattooed kid rumored to be in a satanic cult; a vicious crime lord on death row; a homeowner arrested for shooting at a SWAT team that mistakenly invaded his house. Why these clients? Because Sebastian believes everyone is entitled to a fair trial — even if he has to bend the law to secure one.16. "Camino Island"Amazon"Camino Island," available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.29A gang of thieves stage a daring heist from a vault deep below Princeton University's Firestone Library. Their loot is priceless, impossible to resist.Bruce Cable owns a popular bookstore in the sleepy resort town of Santa Rosa on Camino Island in Florida. He makes his real money, though, as a prominent dealer in rare books. Very few people know that he occasionally dabbles in unsavory ventures.Mercer Mann is a young novelist with a severe case of writer's block who has recently been laid off from her teaching position. She is approached by an elegant, mysterious woman working for an even more mysterious company. A generous monetary offer convinces Mercer to go undercover and infiltrate Cable's circle of literary friends, to get close to the ringleader, to discover his secrets.But soon Mercer learns far too much, and there's trouble in paradise.15. "The Chamber"Amazon"The Chamber," available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.99In the corridors of Chicago's top law firm: 26-year-old Adam Hall stands on the brink of a brilliant legal career. Now he is risking it all for a death-row killer and an impossible case.Maximum Security Unit, Mississippi State Prison: Sam Cayhall is a former Klansman and unrepentant racist now facing the death penalty for a fatal bombing in 1967. He has run out of chances — except for one: the young, liberal Chicago lawyer who just happens to be his grandson.While the executioners prepare the gas chamber, while the protesters gather and the TV cameras wait, Adam has only days, hours, minutes to save his client. For between the two men is a chasm of shame, family lies, and secrets — including the one secret that could save Sam Cayhall's life... or cost Adam his.14. "The Racketeer"Amazon"The Racketeer," available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.29In the history of the United States, only four active federal judges have been murdered. Judge Raymond Fawcett has just become number five.His body is found in his remote lakeside cabin. There is no sign of forced entry or struggle. Just two dead bodies: Judge Fawcett and his young secretary. And one large, state-of-the-art, extremely secure safe — opened and emptied.Who is the Racketeer? And what does he have to do with the judge's untimely demise? His name, for the moment, is Malcolm Bannister. Job status? Former attorney. Current residence? The Federal Prison Camp near Frostburg, Maryland.On paper, Malcolm's situation isn't looking too good these days, but he's got an ace up his sleeve. He knows who killed Judge Fawcett, and he knows why. The FBI would love to know. And Malcolm Bannister would love to tell them. But everything has a price — especially information as explosive as the sequence of events that led to Judge Fawcett's death. And the Racketeer wasn't born yesterday.13. "The Street Lawyer"Amazon"The Street Lawyer," available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.29Michael Brock is billing the hours, making the money, rushing relentlessly to the top of Drake & Sweeney, a giant DC law firm. One step away from partnership, Michael has it all. Then, in an instant, it all comes undone.A homeless man takes nine lawyers hostage in the firm's plush offices. When it is all over, the man's blood is splattered on Michael's face — and suddenly Michael is willing to do the unthinkable. Rediscovering a conscience he lost long ago, Michael is leaving the big time for the streets where his attacker once lived — and where society's powerless need an advocate for justice.But there's one break Michael can't make: from a secret that has floated up from the depths of Drake & Sweeney, from a confidential file that is now in Michael's hands, and from a conspiracy that has already taken lives. Now Michael's former partners are about to become his bitter enemies. Because to them, Michael Brock is the most dangerous man on the streets.12. "The Confession"Amazon"The Confession," available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.29An innocent man is about to be executed. Only a guilty man can save him.In 1998, in the small East Texas city of Sloan, Travis Boyette abducted, raped, and strangled a popular high school cheerleader. He buried her body so that it would never be found, then watched in amazement as police and prosecutors arrested and convicted Donté Drumm, a local football star, and marched him off to death row.Now nine years have passed. Travis has just been paroled in Kansas for a different crime; Donté is four days away from his execution. Travis suffers from an inoperable brain tumor. For the first time in his miserable life, he decides to do what's right and confess. But how can a guilty man convince lawyers, judges, and politicians that they're about to execute an innocent man?11. "The Testament"Amazon"The Testament," available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.29In a plush Virginia office, a rich, angry old man is furiously rewriting his will. With his death just hours away, Troy Phelan wants to send a message to his children, his ex-wives, and his minions — a message that will touch off a vicious legal battle and transform dozens of lives.Because Troy Phelan's new will names a sole surprise heir to his 11-billion-dollar fortune: a mysterious woman named Rachel Lane, a missionary living deep in the jungles of Brazil.Enter the lawyers. Nate O'Riley is fresh out of rehab, a disgraced corporate attorney handpicked for his last job: to find Rachel Lane at any cost. As Phelan's family circles like vultures in D.C., Nate goes crashing through the Brazilian jungle, entering a world where money means nothing, where death is just one misstep away, and where a woman — pursued by enemies and friends alike — holds a stunning surprise of her own.10. "The Rainmaker"Amazon"The Rainmaker," available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $4 In a courtroom thriller, John Grisham tells the story of a young man barely out of law school who finds himself taking on one of the most powerful, corrupt, and ruthless companies in America — and exposing a complex, multibillion-dollar insurance scam. In his final semester of law school, Rudy Baylor is required to provide free legal advice to a group of senior citizens, and it is there that he meets his first "clients," Dot and Buddy Black.Their son, Donny Ray, is dying of leukemia, and their insurance company has flatly refused to pay for his medical treatments. While Rudy is at first skeptical, he soon realizes that the Blacks really have been shockingly mistreated by the huge company, and he just may have stumbled upon one of the largest insurance frauds anyone's ever seen — and one of the most lucrative and important cases in the history of civil litigation. The problem is, Rudy's flat broke, has no job, hasn't even passed the bar, and is about to go head-to-head with one of the best defense attorneys — and powerful industries — in America.9. "The Runaway Jury"Amazon"The Runaway Jury," available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $7.46They are at the center of a multimillion-dollar legal hurricane: 12 men and women who have been investigated, watched, manipulated, and harassed by high-priced lawyers and consultants who will stop at nothing to secure a verdict. Now the jury must make a decision in the most explosive civil trial of the century, a precedent-setting lawsuit against a giant tobacco company. But only a handful of people know the truth: that this jury has a leader, and the verdict belongs to him.He is known only as Juror #2. But he has a name, a past, and he has planned his every move with the help of a beautiful woman on the outside. Now, while a corporate empire hangs in the balance, while a grieving family waits, and while lawyers are plunged into a battle for their careers, the truth about Juror #2 is about to explode in a crossfire of greed and corruption — and with justice fighting for its life.8. "The Pelican Brief"Amazon"The Pelican Brief," available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.29To Darby Shaw, it was no more than a legal shot in the dark — a brilliant guess. To the Washington establishment, it was political dynamite. Suddenly Darby is witness to a murder — a murder intended for her. Going underground, she finds there is only one person she can trust — an ambitious reporter after a newsbreak hotter than Watergate — to help her piece together the deadly puzzle.Somewhere between the bayous of Louisiana and the White House's inner sanctums, a violent cover-up is being engineered. For someone has read Darby's brief. Someone who will stop at nothing to destroy the evidence of an unthinkable crime.7. "The Client"Amazon"The Client," available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.2911-year-old Mark Sway and his younger brother were sharing a forbidden cigarette when a chance encounter with a suicidal lawyer left Mark with knowledge of a bloody and explosive secret: the whereabouts of the most sought-after dead body in America.Now Mark is caught between a legal system gone mad and a mob killer desperate to cover up his crime. And his only ally is a woman named Reggie Love, who has been a lawyer for all of four years. Prosecutors are willing to break all the rules to make Mark talk. The mob will stop at nothing to keep him quiet. And Reggie will do anything to protect her client — even take a last, desperate gamble that could win Mark his freedom... or cost them both their lives.6. "Sycamore Row" (Jake Brigance, #2)Amazon"Sycamore Row," available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.29"A Time to Kill" is one of the most popular novels of our time. Now we return to that famous courthouse in Clanton as Jake Brigance once again finds himself embroiled in a fiercely controversial trial — a trial that will expose old racial tensions and force Ford County to confront its tortured history.Seth Hubbard is a wealthy man dying of lung cancer. He trusts no one. Before he hangs himself from a sycamore tree, Hubbard leaves a new, handwritten will. It is an act that drags his adult children, a Black maid, and Jake into a conflict as riveting and dramatic as the murder trial that made Brigance one of Ford County's most notorious citizens, just three years earlier.The second will raises far more questions than it answers. Why would Hubbard leave nearly all of his fortune to his maid? Had chemotherapy and painkillers affected his ability to think clearly? And what does it all have to do with a piece of land once known as Sycamore Row?5. "A Time to Kill" (Jake Brigance, #1)Amazon"A Time to Kill," available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.29The life of a 10-year-old Black girl is shattered by two drunken and remorseless white men. The mostly white town of Clanton in Ford County, Mississippi, reacts with shock and horror at the inhuman crime — until the girl's father acquires an assault rifle and takes justice into his own hands.For 10 days, as burning crosses and the crack of sniper fire spread through the streets of Clanton, the nation sits spellbound as defense attorney Jake Brigance struggles to save his client's life — and then his own.4. "The Guardians"Amazon"The Guardians," available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.27In the small Florida town of Seabrook, a young lawyer named Keith Russo was shot dead at his desk as he worked late one night. The killer left no clues. There were no witnesses, no one with a motive. But the police soon came to suspect Quincy Miller, a young Black man who was once a client of Russo's. Quincy was tried, convicted, and sent to prison for life. For 22 years he languished in prison, maintaining his innocence. But no one was listening. He had no lawyer, no advocate on the outside. In desperation, he writes a letter to Guardian Ministries, a small nonprofit run by Cullen Post, a lawyer who is also an Episcopal minister.Guardian accepts only a few innocence cases at a time. Cullen Post travels the country fighting wrongful convictions and taking on clients forgotten by the system. With Quincy Miller, though, he gets far more than he bargained for. Powerful, ruthless people murdered Keith Russo, and they do not want Quincy Miller exonerated.3. "The Firm"Amazon "The Firm," available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $7.45When Mitch McDeere signed on with Bendini, Lambert & Locke of Memphis, he thought he and his beautiful wife, Abby, were on their way. The firm leased him a BMW, paid off his school loans, arranged a mortgage, and hired him a decorator. Mitch McDeere should have remembered what his brother Ray — doing 15 years in a Tennessee jail — already knew. You never get anything for nothing.Now the FBI has the lowdown on Mitch's firm and needs his help. Mitch is caught between a rock and a hard place, with no choice — if he wants to live.2. "The Judge's List" (The Whistler #2)Amazon "The Judge's List," available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $13.80In "The Whistler," Lacy Stoltz investigated a corrupt judge who was taking millions in bribes from a crime syndicate. She put the criminals away, but only after being attacked and nearly killed. Three years later, and approaching forty, she is tired of her work for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct and ready for a change.Then she meets a mysterious woman who is so frightened she uses a number of aliases. Jeri Crosby's father was murdered 20 years earlier in a case that remains unsolved and that has grown stone cold. But Jeri has a suspect whom she has become obsessed with and has stalked for two decades. Along the way, she has discovered other victims.Suspicions are easy enough, but proof seems impossible. The man is brilliant, patient, and always one step ahead of law enforcement. He is the most cunning of all serial killers. He knows forensics, police procedure, and most important: he knows the law.He is a judge, in Florida — under Lacy's jurisdiction.He has a list, with the names of his victims and targets, all unsuspecting people unlucky enough to have crossed his path and wronged him in some way. How can Lacy pursue him, without becoming the next name on his list?1. "A Time for Mercy" (Jake Brigance, #3)Amazon"A Time for Mercy," available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $9Clanton, Mississippi. 1990. Jake Brigance finds himself embroiled in a deeply divisive trial when the court appoints him as the attorney for Drew Gamble, a timid 16-year-old boy accused of murdering a local deputy. Many in Clanton want a swift trial and the death penalty, but Brigance digs in and discovers that there is more to the story than meets the eye. Jake's fierce commitment to saving Drew from the gas chamber puts his career, his financial security, and the safety of his family on the line.In what may be the most personal and accomplished legal thriller of John Grisham's storied career, we deepen our acquaintance with the iconic Southern town of Clanton and the vivid cast of characters that so many readers know and cherish. The result is a richly rewarding novel that is both timely and timeless, full of wit, drama, and — most of all — heart.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJul 27th, 2022

How to access the hidden files on your Mac computer

Hidden files can be worth searching if you've had an important document go missing on your computer. Accessing hidden files on your Mac may help you find lost files. Maskot/Getty Images You can show hidden files on your Mac by accessing the three libraries that your computer has. You can also use Finder or the Terminal app to find hidden files on a Mac. Or, it's possible to use a third-party file manager to view all your Mac files in one place. Visit Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories. Sometimes computers malfunction, and that can mean your files get moved to folders you've never visited before. That's when looking in your hidden files can help.On a Mac, there are many areas where a hidden file could appear. In fact, there are three separate libraries where you can look for hidden files. Note: Deleting hidden files isn't the best way to clear up space because it can cause issues for your computer. Here's how to find the hidden files on your Mac.How to show hidden files on Mac in Finder1. Click the Finder app in your bottom toolbar (it's the half-tone face icon). If you don't see your computer's name listed in the Finder sidebar, continue to the next step. Otherwise skip to step four.2. Click Finder in the top toolbar and select Preferences. Go into your Finder's Preferences. Devon Delfino 3. In the pop-up window, select the Sidebar tab, then check the box next to your computer's name. Tick the box next to your computer's name, under "Locations." Devon Delfino 4. Go into Finder and select your computer's name in the sidebar.5. Click Macintosh HD. Select the "Macintosh HD" folder. Devon Delfino 6. Press Command + Shift + period key. Hidden files will then appear, and some, if not all, will be greyed out. The keyboard shortcut will expose your hidden files in that area of your computer. Devon Delfino 7. Repeat the keyboard shortcut to hide the files again.Quick tip: You can also repeat the keyboard shortcut in other areas, like your documents or applications folder, to find moroe hidden files.How to show hidden files on Mac in TerminalFor those who aren't familiar with Terminal, it's basically a command-line system that allows you to take control over, and interact with, your operating system.To the uninitiated, it might not be worth the effort. But if you're already familiar with the Mac Terminal, you may find that this process is a bit faster:1. Open the Terminal (if you haven't added it to your dock, you can find it by clicking the launchpad and searching for Terminal). Search for Terminal in your Launchpad. Devon Delfino 2. Paste in defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles true and hit Return. Paste in the command on the Terminal. Devon Delfino 3. Paste in, or type out, killall Finder and hit the return key again.To make the files hidden again, change true to false in the original command.How to find the Library folder and different types of librariesYour Mac actually has three libraries, and each are accessed in different ways:Library: This is found via Finder, and is accessed by completing the steps in the first section of this article.~/Library: Hidden in your home file, you can find this library by opening Finder, pressing Command + Shift + H, and then using the Command + Shift + period key shortcut.System Library: To access this library, you'll need to complete the steps to find the Library. From the Macintosh HD folder, double-click System. You'll see the system library folder inside. Open the System folder to view your system library. Devon Delfino Try using third-party file managersA third-party file manager can provide a slightly more convenient way to view your hidden files alongside all your other data since it would all be visible on one interface. Some examples of file managers include:Path Finder: This features AirDrop and DropBox integration as well as a folder sync tool. It has a 30-day free trial, after which it costs $36.muCommander: You can use universal bookmarks with this manager, and customize the interface and set up keyboard shortcuts for easier use. It's available for free.How to uninstall or delete apps on your Mac computerHow to make a zip file on your Mac computer, to save some storage space and clear digital clutterHow to create folders on a Mac computer and organize your filesHow to open a RAR file on your Mac computer, for downloading or sharing a large number of filesRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderSep 30th, 2021

YouTube and Twitter are blocking links and videos sharing a BBC documentary in India about its prime minister

A senior advisor to the Indian government called the BBC documentary "hostile propaganda" on Twitter and said videos and links sharing it are blocked. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets his cabinet colleagues as he arrives on the opening day of the winter session of the Parliament, in New Delhi, India, on December 7, 2022.AP Photo/Manish Swarup YouTube and Twitter blocked links to a BBC documentary about Indian PM Narendra Modi in India. The documentary investigates Modi's role in the 2002 Gujarat riots that killed around 1,000 people. An advisor to the Indian government called the documentary "hostile propaganda" on Twitter. Links and videos of a BBC documentary about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are being blocked on YouTube and Twitter in India.The two-part documentary, "India: The Modi Question," investigates claims about Modi's involvement in the 2002 riots in Gujarat where he was serving as chief minister at the time. Over 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed during the violence that was prompted by the murder of a group of 59 Hindu pilgrims.Kanchan Gupta, a senior adviser to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, tweeted on Saturday that the office "issued directions for blocking multiple" YouTube videos showing the first episode of the documentary. The ministry also ordered Twitter to block "over 50 tweets with links to these YT videos," he said.He tweeted that the ministry is using "emergency powers under the IT Rules," introduced by Modi in 2021, and that YouTube and Twitter have complied in India.Modi is part of the BJP, or Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been India's ruling political party since 2014 when Modi took office. He has denied contributing to the violence depicted in the documentary.  Gupta criticized the documentary on Twitter, calling it "hostile propaganda," and "anti-India garbage." He accused the BBC of having a "colonial mindset," and said the documentary was "undermining the sovereignty and integrity of India."A YouTube spokesperson told Insider in a statement that, "The video in question has been blocked from appearing by the BBC due to a copyright claim." A spokesperson for the BBC said it "has not asked Twitter to remove any content relating to the documentary. As is our standard practice, we issue Takedown Notices to websites and other file sharing platforms where the content infringes the BBC's copyright." The documentary has been broadcast only in the UK on the BBC's video on-demand service. The spokesperson said the documentary "examines the tensions between India's Hindu majority and Muslim minority and explores the politics of India's PM Narendra Modi in relation to those tensions.""The documentary was rigorously researched according to highest editorial standards. A wide range of voices, witnesses and experts were approached, and we have featured a range of opinions – this includes responses from people in the BJP. We offered the Indian Government a right to reply to the matters raised in the series – it declined to respond," the spokesperson said.Twitter did not immediately responded to Insider's request for comment.Two Parliamentary members of the opposition party All India Trinamool Congress, shared links to the documentary. Derek O'Brien's tweet was removed; Mahua Moitra shared an archived link to the video but it longer works. In a tweet with the link she said, "Sorry, Haven't been elected to represent world's largest democracy to accept censorship."Twitter CEO Elon Musk responded to a tweet asking him about The Intercept's article on removing the documentary and said it was the first he'd heard of it."It is not possible for me to fix every aspect of Twitter worldwide overnight, while still running Tesla and SpaceX, among other things," Musk tweeted.Musk has called himself  "a free speech absolutist," but clarified in another tweet in April that, "By 'free speech', I simply mean that which matches the law. I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 25th, 2023

Rainberry Inc., maker of BitTorrent, shutters San Francisco office

The tech pioneer behind peer-to-peer file sharing software μtorrent is laying off 92 employees......»»

Category: topSource: bizjournalsJan 20th, 2023

United Airlines Fourth-Quarter and Full-Year Financial Results: Achieved 9.1% Pre-tax Margin Ahead of Schedule in Q4

Q4 2022 pre-tax margin exceeded 2019 and vaulted United to an industry-leading position The changes United made to increase staffing and resources and invest in technology and infrastructure created strong operations and allowed United to recover quickly after winter storm Elliott Remains confident in hitting its 2023 financial performance targets fueled by United Next progress CHICAGO, Jan. 17, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- United Airlines (UAL) today reported fourth-quarter and full-year 2022 financial results. The company exceeded adjusted operating margin1 guidance in the fourth quarter reporting a 11.1% operating margin; 11.2% operating margin on an adjusted basis1. Additionally the company reported a 9.1% pre-tax margin on a GAAP basis and 9.0% on an adjusted basis1, achieving its 2023 target ahead of schedule. The company grew operating revenue by 14% and TRASM (total revenue per available seat mile) by 26%, both versus fourth quarter 2019. The company remains confident in the 2023 United Next adjusted pre-tax margin1 target of about 9%. United was able to recover quickly from significant irregular operations in December as a result of winter storm Elliott. During the key holiday travel days between December 21 and 26, nearly 36% of all United flights were exposed to severe weather. Despite that impact, 90% of United customers made it to their destination within 4 hours of their scheduled arrival time. The company credits significant investment in its people, resources, technology and infrastructure over the past few years with its ability to recover from significant weather events.  "Thank you to the United team that, last month, managed through one of the worst weather events in my career to deliver for so many of our customers and get them home for the holidays," said United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby. "Our dedicated team used our state-of-the-art tools to prepare for the bad weather, take care of our customers and quickly recover once the worst of the weather had passed. Over the last three years, United has made critical investments in tools, infrastructure and our people – all of which are essential investments in our future. That's why we've got a big head start, and we're now poised to accelerate in 2023 as our United Next strategy becomes a reality." Fourth-Quarter Financial Results Net income of $843 million, adjusted net income1 of $811 million. Capacity down 9% compared to fourth-quarter 2019. Total operating revenue of $12.4 billion, up 14% compared to fourth-quarter 2019. TRASM of up 26% compared to fourth-quarter 2019. CASM of up 21%, and CASM-ex1 of up 11%, compared to fourth-quarter 2019. Operating margin of 11.1%, adjusted operating margin1 of 11.2%, both up over 2 pts. compared to fourth-quarter 2019. Pre-tax margin of 9.1%, adjusted pre-tax margin1 of 9.0%, both up and around 1 pt. compared to fourth-quarter 2019. Average fuel price per gallon of $3.54. Full-Year Financial Results Net income of $737 million, adjusted net income1 of $831 million. Operating margin of 5.2%, adjusted operating margin1 of 5.5%. Pre-tax margin of 2.2%, adjusted pre-tax margin1 of 2.5%. Ending available liquidity2 of $18.2 billion. Key Highlights Announced the largest widebody order by a U.S. carrier in commercial aviation history: 100 Boeing 787 Dreamliners with options to purchase 100 more. Also added 100 additional Boeing 737 MAX aircraft by exercising 44 options and adding 56 new firm orders. This historic purchase is the next chapter in the ambitious United Next plan and will bolster the airline's leadership role in global travel for years to come. Officially opened the United Aviate Academy, the only major U.S. airline to own a flight training school, with a historic inaugural pilot class of 80% women or people of color. Launched Calibrate, an in-house apprenticeship program that will help grow and diversify its pipeline of Aircraft Maintenance Technicians. Launched a new, national advertising campaign – "Good Leads The Way" – that tells the story of United's leadership in areas like customer service, diversity and sustainability, and captures the optimism fueling the airline's large ambitions at a time of unprecedented demand in air travel. Announced and began the expansion of its Flight Training Center in Denver, already the largest facility of its kind in the world. Announced a historic commercial agreement with Emirates that will enhance each airline's network and give customers easier access to hundreds of destinations around the world. Also announced a new direct flight between Newark/New York and Dubai beginning in March 2023, subject to government approval. Appointed by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, United Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby served as the Co-Chair of the Homeland Security Advisory Council and also served on the Board of Directors of the Business Roundtable as the Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee. Hosted the first Eco-Skies Alliance Summit, bringing together leaders, corporate customers, and senior U.S. government officials for important discussions on sustainable aviation fuel, best practices of how to reduce carbon emissions from flying and how to collaborate on future sustainability solutions. Operational Performance In the fourth quarter, on-time arrival performance (arrival within 14 minutes of schedule) was at 80%, the best quarterly performance of 2022. United finished first among network carriers for on-time departures and completion at its three largest hubs – Denver, O'Hare and Houston – for the fourth-quarter and full-year 2022. In 2022, over 650,000 passenger connections were saved with ConnectionSaver, resulting in United achieving the lowest misconnect rate ever for the fourth quarter and full year (excluding 2020/2021). In the fourth quarter, Inflight Service, Check-In and Club Satisfaction beat their record from last quarter and ended with their highest quarterly performance since the launch of the NPS (Net Promoter Score) survey in 2020.  Customer Experience In 2022, 80% of domestic departures were operated on a dual-cabin aircraft, up from 67% in 2019. Despite the severe operating conditions during winter storm Elliott, 43% of our customer surveys included a compliment for something a United employee did to help them. Debuted free "bag drop shortcut" – a simple way for customers at United's U.S. hubs to skip the line, check their bag in a minute or less on average, and get to their flight. Began offering eligible T-Mobile customers free in-flight Wi-Fi and streaming where available on select domestic and short-haul international flights. United, with Jaguar North America, launched the first gate-to-gate airport transfer service powered by an all-electric fleet in the U.S. at Chicago O'Hare International Airport. Announced the return of kids' meals on board on select United flights where complimentary meals are served. Announced the opening of United Club FlySM, a new club concept for a U.S. airline at Denver International Airport. Opened the new United ClubSM location at Newark Liberty International Airport, a 30,000-square-foot space offering travelers a modern design, enhanced amenities and culinary offerings. Debuted new custom amenity kits for United Polaris® from Away ahead of summer travel. Debuted new plant-based menu items from Impossible Foods as part of United's goal to add more vegan and vegetarian options to its culinary lineup amidst growing demand for plant-based meat. Network Announced the 2023 summer schedule that includes adding new service to three cities – Malaga, Spain; Stockholm, Sweden; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates – United will be the No. 1 airline to Europe, Africa, India and the Middle East next summer with service to 37 cities, more destinations than all other U.S. airlines combined. Launched a new alliance partnership with Virgin Australia, began year-round, nonstop service between San Francisco and Brisbane, Australia and became the largest carrier between the United States and Australia. Began year-round, nonstop service between Washington, D.C., and Cape Town, South Africa and expanded to year-round nonstop service between New York/Newark and Cape Town, South Africa. Expanded the airline's codeshare agreement with Star Alliance member Singapore Airlines, making it easier for customers to travel to more cities in the United States, Southeast Asia and other destinations in the Asia-Pacific region. Announced a joint business agreement with Air Canada for the Canada-U.S. transborder market, building on the companies' long-standing alliance, that will give more flight options and better flight schedules to customers traveling between the two countries. Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) In the fourth quarter, over 7,700 volunteer hours were served by more than 1,000 employee volunteers. In the fourth quarter, nearly 13 million miles were donated to 40 participating nonprofit organizations during United's Giving Tuesday 2022 campaign by over 700 donors, including nearly 2 million miles matched by United. In the fourth quarter, more than 4 million miles and over $111,000 were raised for Hurricane Fiona and Hurricane Ian relief efforts. In 2022, through a combination of cargo-only flights and passenger flights, United transported over 1 billion pounds of cargo, including approximately 121 million pounds of medical shipments and approximately 10,500 pounds of military shipments. United Airlines Ventures announced a strategic investment in NEXT Renewable Fuels (NEXT), which is acquiring a permit for a flagship biofuel refinery in Port Westward, Oregon, with expected production beginning in 2026. Announced a $15 million investment in Eve Air Mobility and a conditional purchase agreement for 200 four-seat electric aircraft with options to purchase 200 more, expecting the first deliveries as early as 2026. Launched United for Business Blueprint™, a new platform that will allow corporate customers to fully customize their business travel program contracts with United. United Airlines Ventures and Oxy Low Carbon Ventures announced a collaboration with Cemvita Factory to commercialize the production of sustainable aviation fuel intended to be developed through a revolutionary new process using carbon dioxide and synthetic microbes. Announced a strategic equity investment in Natron Energy, a battery manufacturer whose sodium-ion batteries have the potential to help United electrify its airport ground equipment like pushback tractors and operations at the gate. U.S. President Joe Biden appointed United President Brett Hart to the Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Along with the PGA TOUR, announced that it will award 51 golf teams at Historically Black Colleges and Universities with more than half a million dollars in grants to fund travel for golf tournaments and recruiting efforts. Announced a new collaboration with OneTen, a coalition committed to upskill, hire and advance Black talent into family-sustaining careers over the next 10 years. United Airlines Ventures announced an investment in and commercial agreement with Dimensional Energy, another step forward to reaching United's pledge to become 100% green by achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, without relying on the use of traditional carbon offsets. Became the first U.S. airline to sign an agreement with Neste to purchase sustainable aviation fuel overseas. Over 42 million miles and more than $400,000 donated to World Central Kitchen, Airlink, American Red Cross, and Americares in support of Ukraine relief efforts by United's customers, with an additional 5 million miles and $100,000 matched by United. Earned a top score of 100% on the 2022 Disability Equality Index for the seventh consecutive year and was recognized as a "Best Place to Work" for Disability Inclusion. Hosted more than 100 volunteer events for United's 2nd Annual September of Service with more than 1,600 United employees volunteering 6,500 hours. Became the first airline to donate flights in support of the White House's Operation Fly Formula and transported Kendamil formula free of charge from Heathrow Airport in London to its Washington Dulles hub. Earnings Call UAL will hold a conference call to discuss fourth-quarter and full-year 2022 financial results, as well as its financial and operational outlook for first quarter 2023 and beyond, on Wednesday, January 18, at 9:30 a.m. CT/10:30 a.m. ET. A live, listen-only webcast of the conference call will be available at ir.united.com. The webcast will be available for replay within 24 hours of the conference call and then archived on the website for three months. Outlook This press release should be read in conjunction with the company's Investor Update issued in connection with this quarterly earnings announcement, which provides additional information on the company's business outlook (including certain financial and operational guidance) and is furnished with this press release with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on a Current Report on Form 8-K. The Investor Update is also available at ir.united.com. Management will also discuss certain business outlook items during the quarterly earnings conference call. The company's business outlook is subject to risks and uncertainties applicable to all forward-looking statements as described elsewhere in this press release. Please see the section entitled "Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Statements." About United United's shared purpose is "Connecting People. Uniting the World." From our U.S. hubs in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York/Newark, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., United operates the most comprehensive global route network among North American carriers. United is bringing back our customers' favorite destinations and adding new ones on its way to becoming the world's best airline. For more about how to join the United team, please visit www.united.com/careers and more information about the company is at www.united.com. United Airlines Holdings, Inc., the parent company of United Airlines, Inc., is traded on the Nasdaq under the symbol "UAL". Website Information We routinely post important news and information regarding United on our corporate website, www.united.com, and our investor relations website, ir.united.com. We use our investor relations website as a primary channel for disclosing key information to our investors, including the timing of future investor conferences and earnings calls, press releases and other information about financial performance, reports filed or furnished with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, information on corporate governance and details related to our annual meeting of shareholders. We may use our investor relations website as a means of disclosing material, non-public information and for complying with our disclosure obligations under Regulation FD. We may also use social media channels to communicate with our investors and the public about our company and other matters, and those communications could be deemed to be material information. The information contained on, or that may be accessed through, our website or social media channels are not incorporated by reference into, and are not a part of, this document. Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Statements:  This press release and the related attachments and Investor Update (as well as the oral statements made with respect to information contained in this release and the attachments) contain certain "forward-looking statements," within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, relating to, among other things, the potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and other macroeconomic factors and steps the company plans to take in response thereto and goals, plans and projections regarding the company's financial position, results of operations, market position, capacity, fleet, product development, ESG targets and business strategy. Such forward-looking statements are based on historical performance and current expectations, estimates, forecasts and projections about the company's future financial results, goals, plans, commitments, strategies and objectives and involve inherent risks, assumptions and uncertainties, known or unknown, including internal or external factors that could delay, divert or change any of them, that are difficult to predict, may be beyond the company's control and could cause the company's future financial results, goals, plans, commitments, strategies and objectives to differ materially from those expressed in, or implied by, the statements. Words such as "should," "could," "would," "will," "may," "expects," "plans," "intends," "anticipates," "indicates," "remains," "believes," "estimates," "projects," "forecast," "guidance," "outlook," "goals," "targets," "pledge," "confident," "optimistic," "dedicated," "positioned" and other words and terms of similar meaning and expression are intended to identify forward-looking statements, although not all forward-looking statements contain such terms. All statements, other than those that relate solely to historical facts, are forward-looking statements. Additionally, forward-looking statements include conditional statements and statements that identify uncertainties or trends, discuss the possible future effects of known trends or uncertainties, or that indicate that the future effects of known trends or uncertainties cannot be predicted, guaranteed or assured. All forward-looking statements in this release are based upon information available to us on the date of this release. We undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events, changed circumstances or otherwise, except as required by applicable law or regulation. Our actual results could differ materially from these forward-looking statements due to numerous factors including, without limitation, the following: the adverse impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic on our business, operating results, financial condition and liquidity; execution risks associated with our strategic operating plan; changes in our network strategy or other factors outside our control resulting in less economic aircraft orders, costs related to modification or termination of aircraft orders or entry into less favorable aircraft orders, as well as any inability to accept or integrate new aircraft into our fleet as planned; any failure to effectively manage, and receive anticipated benefits and returns from, acquisitions, divestitures, investments, joint ventures and other portfolio actions; adverse publicity, harm to our brand, reduced travel demand, potential tort liability and voluntary or mandatory operational restrictions as a result of an accident, catastrophe or incident involving us, our regional carriers, our codeshare partners or another airline; the highly competitive nature of the global airline industry and susceptibility of the industry to price discounting and changes in capacity, including as a result of alliances, joint business arrangements or other consolidations; our reliance on a limited number of suppliers to source a majority of our aircraft and certain parts, and the impact of any failure to obtain timely deliveries, additional equipment or support from any of these suppliers; disruptions to our regional network and United Express flights provided by third-party regional carriers; unfavorable economic and political conditions in the United States and globally (including inflationary pressures); reliance on third-party service providers and the impact of any significant failure of these parties to perform as expected, or interruptions in our relationships with these providers or their provision of services; extended interruptions or disruptions in service at major airports where we operate and space, facility and infrastructure constrains at our hubs or other airports; geopolitical conflict, terrorist attacks or security events; any damage to our reputation or brand image; our reliance on technology and automated systems to operate our business and the impact of any significant failure or disruption of, or failure to effectively integrate and implement, the technology or systems; increasing privacy and data security obligations or a significant data breach; increased use of social media platforms by us, our employees and others; the impacts of union disputes, employee strikes or slowdowns, and other labor-related disruptions on our operations; any failure to attract, train or retain skilled personnel, including our senior management team or other key employees; the monetary and operational costs of compliance with extensive government regulation of the airline industry; current or future litigation and regulatory actions, or failure to comply with the terms of any settlement, order or arrangement relating to these actions; costs, liabilities and risks associated with environmental regulation and climate change, including our climate goals; high and/or volatile fuel prices or significant disruptions in the supply of aircraft fuel (including as a result of the Russia-Ukraine military conflict); the impacts of our significant amount of financial leverage from fixed obligations, the possibility we may seek material amounts of additional financial liquidity in the short-term, and the impacts of insufficient liquidity on our financial condition and business; failure to comply with financial and other covenants governing our debt, including our MileagePlus® financing agreements; the impacts of the proposed phaseout of the London interbank offer rate; limitations on our ability to use our net operating loss carryforwards and certain other tax attributes to offset future taxable income for U.S. federal income tax purposes; our failure to realize the full value of our intangible assets or our long-lived assets, causing us to record impairments; fluctuations in the price of our common stock; the impacts of seasonality, weather events, infrastructure and other factors associated with the airline industry; increases in insurance costs or inadequate insurance coverage and other risks and uncertainties set forth in Part I, Item 1A. Risk Factors, of our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021, as well as other risks and uncertainties set forth from time to time in the reports we file with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The foregoing list sets forth many, but not all, of the factors that could impact our ability to achieve results described in any forward-looking statements. Investors should understand that it is not possible to predict or identify all such factors and should not consider this list to be a complete statement of all potential risks and uncertainties. In addition, certain forward-looking outlook provided in this release relies on assumptions about the duration and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, the timing of the return to a more stable business environment, the volatility of aircraft fuel prices, customer behavior changes and return in demand for air travel, among other things (together, the "Recovery Process"). The COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken in response may continue to impact many aspects of our business, operating results, financial condition and liquidity in a number of ways, including labor shortages (including reductions in available staffing and related impacts to the company's flight schedules and reputation), facility closures and related costs and disruptions to the company's and its business partners' operations, reduced travel demand and consumer spending, increased operating costs, supply chain disruptions, logistics constraints, volatility in the price of our securities, our ability to access capital markets and volatility in the global economy and financial markets generally. If the actual Recovery Process differs materially from our assumptions, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our business could be worse than expected, and our actual results may be negatively impacted and may vary materially from our expectations and projections. It is routine for our internal projections and expectations to change as the year or each quarter in the year progresses, and therefore it should be clearly understood that the internal projections, beliefs and assumptions upon which we base our expectations may change. For instance, we regularly monitor future demand and booking trends and adjust capacity, as needed. As such, our actual flown capacity may differ materially from currently published flight schedules or current estimations. Non-GAAP Financial Information:  In discussing financial results and guidance, the company refers to financial measures that are not in accordance with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). The non-GAAP financial measures are provided as supplemental information to the financial measures presented in this press release that are calculated and presented in accordance with GAAP and are presented because management believes that they supplement or enhance management's, analysts' and investors' overall understanding of the company's underlying financial performance and trends and facilitate comparisons among current, past and future periods. Non-GAAP financial measures such as adjusted operating margin (which excludes special charges (credits)), CASM-ex (which excludes the impact of fuel expense, profit sharing, special charges and third-party expenses), adjusted pre-tax margin (which is calculated as pre-tax margin excluding operating and nonoperating special charges (credits) and unrealized (gains) losses on investments, net) and adjusted net income typically have exclusions or adjustments that include one or more of the following characteristics, such as being highly variable, difficult to project, unusual in nature, significant to the results of a particular period or not indicative of past or future operating results. These items are excluded because the company believes they neither relate to the ordinary course of the company's business nor reflect the company's underlying business performance. Because the non-GAAP financial measures are not calculated in accordance with GAAP, they should not be considered superior to and are not intended to be considered in isolation or as a substitute for the related GAAP financial measures presented in the press release and may not be the same as or comparable to similarly titled measures presented by other companies due to possible differences in method and in the items being adjusted. We encourage investors to review our financial statements and publicly-filed reports in their entirety and not to rely on any single financial measure. Please refer to the tables accompanying this release for a description of the non-GAAP adjustments and reconciliations of the historical non-GAAP financial measures used to the most comparable GAAP financial measure and related disclosures. -tables attached-  UNITED AIRLINES HOLDINGS, INC STATEMENTS OF CONSOLIDATED OPERATIONS (UNAUDITED)  Three Months Ended December 31, % Increase/ (Decrease) 2022 vs. 2019 Year Ended December 31, % Increase/ (Decrease) 2022 vs. 2019 (In millions, except per share data) 2022 2021 2019 2022 2021 2019 Operating revenue: Passenger revenue $  11,202 $    6,878 $    9,933 12.8 $ 40,032 $ 20,197 $ 39,625 1.0 Cargo 472 727 316 49.4 2,171 2,349 1,179 84.1 Other operating revenue 726 587 639 13.6 2,752 2,088 2,455 12.1 Total operating revenue 12,400 8,192 10,888 13.9 44,955 24,634 43,259 3.9 Operating expense: Aircraft fuel 3,317 1,962 2,249 47.5 13,113 5,755 8,953 46.5 Salaries and related costs 3,000 2,579 3,078 (2.5) 11,466 9,566 12,071 (5.0) Landing fees and other rent 657 681 650 1.1 2,576 2,416 2,543 1.3 Depreciation and amortization 624 619 606 3.0 2,456 2,485 2,288 7.3 Regional capacity purchase 571 601 725 (21.2) 2,299 2,147 2,849 (19.3) Aircraft maintenance materials and outside repairs 600 399 475 26.3 2,153 1,316 1,794 20.0 Distribution expenses 434 235 417 4.1 1,535 677 1,651 (7.0) Aircraft rent 59 63 67 (11.9) 252 228 288 (12.5) Special charges (credits) 16 56 130 NM 140 (3,367) 246 NM Other operating expenses 1,745 1,405 1,630 7.1 6,628 4,433 6,275 5.6 Total operating expense 11,023 8,600 10,027 9.9 42,618 25,656 38,958 9.4 Operating income (loss) 1,377 (408) 861 59.9 2,337 (1,022) 4,301 (45.7) Nonoperating income (expense): Interest expense (479) (429) (161) 197.5 (1,778) (1,657) (731) 143.2 Interest income 156 6 30 420.0 298 36 133 124.1 Interest capitalized 32 23 20 60.0 105 80 85 23.5 Unrealized gains (losses) on investments, net 32 (125) 81 (60.5) 20 (34) 153 (86.9) Miscellaneous, net 12 88 13 (7.7) 8 40 (27) NM Total nonoperating expense, net (247) (437) (17) NM (1,347) (1,535) (387) 248.1 Income (loss) before income taxes 1,130 (845) 844 33.9 990 (2,557) 3,914 (74.7) Income tax expense (benefit) 287 (199) 203 41.4 253 (593) 905 (72.0) Net income (loss) $      843 $     (646) $      641 31.5 $      737 $ (1,964) $   ...Full story available on Benzinga.com.....»»

Category: earningsSource: benzingaJan 17th, 2023

NBC News host scoffs at Sen. Ron Johnson after he said the media was biased during a charged interview: "You can go back on your partisan cable cocoon"

On "Meet The Press," Johnson repeatedly claimed the media was biased whenever Chuck Todd challenged his falsehoods. A file photo of Ron Johnson.Drew Angerer/Getty Images Sen. Ron Johnson appeared on NBC News' "Meet the Press" on Sunday. Johnson and NBC News Host Chuck Todd repeatedly cut each other off throughout the interview. Johnson repeatedly claimed that the media was biased whenever Todd called him out.  During a heated exchange on Sunday, NBC News host Chuck Todd repeatedly shut down Sen. Ron Johnson.Todd kicked off the "Meet The Press" interview by asking Johnson — the highest Republican on the Homeland Security Committee's Subcommittee on Investigations — for his thoughts on the Justice Department's investigation into classified documents that were found at President Joe Biden's former office and Delaware home.The Wisoncon Republican said he believed that Biden should be investigated like Trump, but went on to discuss his belief that a special counsel should be appointed to investigate Hunter Biden's laptop."Senator, senator, do you have a crime that you think Hunter Biden committed because I've yet to see anybody explain. It is not a crime to make money off of your last name," Todd said, adding "You're targeting Hunter Biden multiple times on this show, Senator." Johnson replied by saying, "You know, part of the problem, and this is pretty obvious to anybody watching this, is you don't invite me on to interview me, you invite me on to argue with me." He continued: "Part of the reasons our politics are inflamed is we do not have an unbiased media. We don't. It's unfortunate. I'm all for free press. It needs to be more unbiased."Todd refuted: "Look, you can go back on your partisan cable cocoon and talk about media bias all you want. I understand it's part of your identity." Todd said, apparently referring to Johnson's many Fox News interviews. Though the two interrupted each other throughout the entire 13-minute show, they also discussed the denial around Biden's 2020 election victory and current political tensions. Johnson originally backed the baseless idea that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. He said on a radio show in June 2022 that Rep. Mike Kelly gave him a list of "alternate" electors to send to former Vice President Mike Pence.Todd attempted to ask about the incident on Sunday before Johnson interrupted, prompting the two to go back and forth again.Johnson denied having "very much" involvement in the 2020 election fraud scheme."What you ought to do is go back and read my opening statement. And that pretty well lays out exactly what I thought about the 2020 election. But the news media never does that. They smear me. They lie about me. They make these things up," Johnson told Todd, later refuting the idea that the recent insurrection in Brazil looked similar to the January 6, 2021 insurrection.Johnson also told Todd he'd appreciate an opportunity to come onto the show at a later date to discuss "lies" the media has told about him. "Senator Ron Johnson, I look forward to our face-to-face at some point. Thanks for coming on and sharing your perspective with us," Todd said as he wrapped up the interview."So do I," Johnson said in closing.Johnson and NBC News did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytJan 15th, 2023

The Jan. 6-style attack on Brazil"s capital came after Bolsonaro followed the Trump election playbook

"As in the US, a central grievance of Brazil's far-right protesters was that the elections were somehow 'stolen' from them," one expert told Insider. US President Donald Trump (L) speaks with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro during a dinner at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on March 7, 2020.JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images The attack on Brazil's capital came after Bolsonaro closely followed Trump's election playbook.  Like Trump, the Brazilian leader riled up his supporters with baseless claims of election fraud. One Brazilian security expert described the attack as "an insurrection foretold." Just over two years after a deadly assault on the US Capitol, supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro — incensed over his election defeat and refusing to accept the results — stormed the Congress, presidential palace, and Supreme Court in Brasília. Though security forces regained control of the buildings, January 8 is being described as one of the worst assaults on Brazil's democracy in nearly four decades. The attack in Brazil's capital came after Bolsonaro followed a near-identical playbook to that of former US President Donald Trump in the lead-up to the fatal January 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C. in 2021.Bolsonaro, like Trump, spread baseless claims of voter fraud ahead of Brazil's presidential election — sowing doubts about the integrity of the electoral process. And, much like Trump, Bolsonaro refused to concede after he was defeated and would go on to skip the inauguration of his successor. Bolsonaro's supporters have also been protesting since election day, with some calling for military intervention.In the run-up to Brazil's election, pundits and experts warned that Bolsonaro's rhetoric was setting the stage for the South American country to see its own version of the January 6 riot. "The storming of Brazil's democratic institutions by a violent mob was an insurrection foretold" and "telegraphed in advance," Robert Muggah, co-founder of the Igarape Institute, a Rio de Janeiro-based think tank, told Insider. "The parallels between this week's violent protests in Brazil and the US insurrection two years ago are anything but coincidence," he added, characterizing Bolsonaro as a "fawning admirer" of Trump. "As in the US, a central grievance of Brazil's far-right protesters was that the elections were somehow 'stolen' from them," Muggah said. "Their claims may have no substance, but they hardly come as a surprise: former president Jair Bolsonaro, his three elected sons, and a clutch of advisers and influencers spoon-fed supporters a steady diet of disinformation and misinformation for years."Many of those involved in the mayhem in Brasília on Sunday behaved similarly to the pro-Trump insurrectionists on January 6, he said, describing them as "rank amateurs.""They spent much of their time trashing offices and taking selfies, including with several state military police officers who seemed reluctant to intervene," Muggah said. There were also key differences between January 6, 2021 in the US and the tumultuous events in Brazil's capital on January 8, including the fact Bolsonaro was not physically present in Brasília on the day of the attack and was no longer president. The former Brazilian president is currently in Orlando, Florida. Trump was still in office during the January 6 riot and delivered a speech filled with falsehoods about the 2020 election right before his supporters stormed the Capitol building.The January 6 events also occurred as US lawmakers met to certify the 2020 election results — prior to US President Joe Biden's inauguration. When Bolsonaro's supporters rioted on Sunday, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had already been sworn in as Brazil's new president the week before. But there are still clear connections between the two days of political violence and the circumstances surrounding them, raising concerns about the increasingly global nature of the far-right movement and its anti-democratic activities.Valentina Sader, the associate director at the Atlantic Council's Latin America Center, said that the attack in Brazil's capital on all three branches of government was "inspired by the United States' January 6 riots" and that the US and the West "should see what happened in Brazil as yet another failed attempt by the extreme right to undermine democracy."Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.Jon Cherry/Getty ImagesSupporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro clash with security forces as they raid the National Congress in Brasilia, Brazil, 08 January 2023. Groups shouting slogans demanding intervention from the army broke through the police barrier and entered the Congress building, according to local media. Police intervened with tear gas to disperse pro-Bolsonaro protesters. Some demonstrators were seen climbing onto the roofs of the House of Representatives and Senate buildings. (Photo by Joedson Alves/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)Joedson Alves/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images"The links between Bolsonaro and Trump are really direct and obvious," Brian Klaas, a political scientist and expert on authoritarianism at University College London, said Monday in a social media post. "Steve Bannon and Eduardo Bolsonaro, Jair's son, are clear conduits for sharing strategies and talking tactics. And they don't even hide it. It was in plain sight." Indeed, there have for years been close ties between Trump and Bolsonaro, who is often referred to as the "Trump of the Tropics."Eduardo Bolsonaro, a federal congressman and the former Brazilian president's son, traveled to Florida after Brazil's presidential election and met with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort. He was also advised by former Trump aides Steve Bannon and Jason Miller during the visit to Florida, according to reporting from the Washington Post. Bannon, among the most incendiary and controversial voices on the US far right, has cast doubt on the results of Brazil's election and referred to the Bolsonaro supporters involved in Sunday's violence as "freedom fighters.""One of the many lessons emerging from the Brazilian protests is that democracy can and should not be taken for granted," Muggah said. "The very buildings that were ransacked by protestors on Sunday were the settings for a jubilant inauguration less than a week earlier.""Too often, democracies start unraveling when large segments of the population lose faith in institutions and mistrust elected authorities," he added, underscoring threats to democracy and how the degradation of democratic institutions can be accelerated not just by political leaders but also by disinformation — as was also the case on January 6.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 9th, 2023

Twitter alternatives like Mastadon see downloads plunge

Emerging rivals include Mastadon, Hive Social, Counter Social, Post.News, Spoutible, and Jack Dorsey's upcoming Bluesky. Elon Musk and a Twitter logo are seen in this illustration photo in Warsaw, Poland on 30 November, 2022.STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images Elon Musk's chaotic reign at Twitter proved a huge boost to smaller rivals. Usage of several Twitter alternatives has surged in recent months. With tricky user interfaces, security issues, and uneven beta launches, success could be fleeting. Never before have there been so many possible alternatives to Twitter, even if none seem to be anywhere close to a real replacement for the platform.Long before Elon Musk came along, Twitter users bemoaned the service yet remained addicted to it. A potent mix of news, opinion, comedy, cringe and unpredictable drama has kept it a fixture for a decade-plus. And it is easy to use, the hallmark of American-born social media companies. Whatever the benefits of a decentralized network like Mastodon, easy to use it is not."There is a usability hurdle," said David Carr, senior insights manager at SimilarWeb, who has been tracking Mastodon's trajectory. "You have to choose a server and really, people don't like to make decisions. It's more like, 'Just tell me what to do.'"Still, Mastodon and other new potential Twitter rivals have grown, particularly since Musk officially took control of Twitter at the end of October, data gathered by Insider shows. Daily usage of Mastodon, Hive Social, and Counter Social are all up dramatically over the last two months. Meanwhile, at least half a dozen other Twitter-like platforms have recently been launched in beta or are set to be early next year, including Post.News, Spoutible, Mozilla.Social and Bluesky, founded by none other than Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey.If ever there was a time for a text-based platform to threaten the hold Twitter has over its user base, it's now. Investors are looking to back new social media companies, as not only Twitter, but Instagram and Facebook, have lost some of their edge. These emerging services probably won't be acquired, with antitrust authorities limiting Big Tech M&A, so they have a chance to grow on their own.Most importantly, people seem ready and willing to try something new. With refinement and good features, any of these platforms could feasibly be the next Twitter. Or they could fizzle out, and instead be the next Clubhouse. There are already signs of trouble for several of these new offerings: Downloads have plunged recently, suggesting interest may already be waning. See below for a complete look at some of the new platforms so far available for use and their performance since Musk took over Twitter.MastodonMastodon's emphasis on decentralization only appeals to the most tech-savvy.Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto via Getty ImagesMastodon was founded in 2016 in Germany by Eugen Rochko, so the only truly new part of the platform is the attention it's getting as a Twitter alternative. It is a text-based social platform, or "microblogging" site, home to independent servers, or "instances." New users have to find a server to join and be admitted to, along with a few other steps before being able to post and use the platform. In early November, the hashtag TwitterMigration was trending on Mastodon for several days as Twitter users set up accounts amid Musk's chaotic takeover. After the billionaire enacted his first round of Mass layoffs, former Twitter employees even set up their own server on Mastodon, Macaw.Social.For just the month of November, Mastodon's web traffic jumped 1,000% year-over-year on just 200 of its more popular servers, according to SimilarWeb data. The platform has about 1,000 servers set up, but some host only one user. Downloads of its iOS app are up more than 4,000% since Oct. 24, with daily active users up 6,000% to more than 1 million, according to Apptopia data. However, downloads have started to drop off over the last month, falling by 52%. Daily users have held steady though, at 1.4 million, a major increase from its usage prior to Musk's takeover of Twitter, which typically hovered around 20,000 daily users.   Hive SocialHive SocialHive was first launched in 2019 by Raluca Pop, now 24 years old. Unlike Mastodon, Hive is a centralized platform and its user interface is more straightforward and similar to the set-up process of Twitter or Instagram, in that all it takes to get an account and start posting is some basic information. The app is easiest to describe as a cross between Twitter and Instagram, with a focus on images and text and similar features like re-posting, comments and likes, with the addition of easy to add music and color themes.Like Mastodon, the service has seen huge growth since Musk took over Twitter. Downloads of the iOS app have grown 290,000% to 1.5 million since Oct. 24, with daily users up 660,000% to 321,000, according to Apptopia data. A major user security issue revealed at the end of November is at least partly to blame for Hive's 88% drop in downloads over the last month. Yet, it has maintained more than 500,000 daily users.Counter SocialA look at a homepage of Counter Social, a new Twitter alternativeCounter SocialCounter Social launched in 2020, started by the pseudonymous self-identified "hacktivist" The Jester. The platform is not trying to be all things to all people – it blocks entire countries from access, like Russia, China and Iran. It has a more unique interface that defaults to a dashboard showing a few columns of posts similar in look to TweetDeck. It refreshes constantly, offering a more kinetic feel than other social platforms, and there is a $4.99 per month upgrade available that unlocks a number of features, including live streams of network news, emergency radio traffic, and ephemeral file sharing and voice calls and various additional privacy features. The platform has received less public and media attention than Mastodon or Hive, but that doesn't mean it hasn't also grown in the wake of Musk's Twitter takeover. It's reached 110,000 downloads of its iOS app, an increase of 4,500% since the end of October, with daily users up 2,500% to about 18,000, according to Apptopia. Monthly usage is still up by 44%, although, like Mastodon and Hive, downloads have dropped off in the last month, falling by 83%. Post.News (beta)Post launched only in November, earlier than planned because as founder and former Waze CEO Noam Bardin wanted to capitalize on the moment created by Musk of people actively looking for alternatives to Twitter. It may have worked. Still in Beta, Post now has more than 300,000 active users and more than 600,000 people on a waitlist to join, according to Bardin. It has also received an undisclosed amount of funding from VC fund Andreessen Horowitz and Scott Galloway, the NYU professor and media personality. Bluesky (expected to launch in 2023)Born in 2019 as a research project at Twitter still under Jack Dorsey, Bluesky is now being built wholly independent of the platform he founded. Dorsey has shared little detail about Bluesky, beyond it being designed as a decentralized social network protocol. In October, not long before Musk took control of Twitter, Bluesky began to allow signups for a waitlist, saying its beta will "launch soon."   Spoutible (expected to launch in 2023)Spoutible comes out of Bot Sentinel, a tool created by Christopher Bouzy, that identifies, tracks and flags Twitter bots or accounts that are engaging in targeted or coordinated online attacks and disinformation campaigns. Announced at the start of December, Spoutible is being described as a new social platform that will allow users to "spout off" while avoiding harassment and other such issues. A beta version of the platform is expected in late January.Mozilla.Social (expected to launch in 2023)The latest Twitter alternative to be announced comes from Mozilla, the organization that runs the Firefox browser. Mozilla said just this week it is planning to launch its own publicly accessible instance in the "Fediverse." A portmanteau of federation and universe, the Fediverse is essentially a group of independent but interconnected servers that interact and offer their own software packages. Mastodon is also part of the Fediverse, for example. "An open, decentralized, and global social service that puts the needs of people first is not only possible, but it's absolutely necessary," Mozilla said. Mozilla.Social is expected in early 2023.Do you work for a social media company or are you someone else with insight to share? Contact Kali Hays at khays@insider.com, on secure messaging app Signal at 949-280-0267, or through Twitter DM at @hayskali. Reach out using a non-work device.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 9th, 2023

California Law Allowing Private Residents To Sue Gunmakers Takes Effect

California Law Allowing Private Residents To Sue Gunmakers Takes Effect Authored by Jill McLaughlin via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), A new California gun law allowing private citizens to sue manufacturers and retailers for selling banned firearms went into effect this year. California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks to reporters at Del Mar Fairgrounds in Del Mar, Calif., on Feb. 18, 2022. (Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP) California’s new regulations give private citizens the ability to sue anyone who imports, distributes, manufactures, or sells assault firearms, homemade weapons, ghost guns, or .50 BMP rifles. The law, Senate Bill (SB) 1327, also restricts the sale of firearms to anyone under 21 years old. These restrictions are already enforced by California; however, this new law allows citizens to sue violators for at least $10,000. This is modeled after the Texas Heartbeat Act which allows private citizens to sue anyone involved in providing abortions after a doctor has detected a fetal heartbeat. In that law, citizens can file lawsuits against doctors, clinics, or anyone involved in the abortion. “California explicitly passed this bill, SB 1327, as sort of a response to Texas’s policy decision,” Attorney Jim Manley, with the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation, told The Epoch Times. “This is sort of a weird way of restricting certain rights by not involving the state in the process.” The law creates another layer of restrictions for firearms dealers by doubling down on existing California gun bans. However, firearms deals are not able to challenge SB 1327 because the state has been removed from imposing the restrictions, and instead, individual citizens would be enforcing them, Manley said. “Assault weapons, .50 BMGs, and firearms being sold to people under 21 were already illegal in California,” Manley said. “And the [law] is explicit in saying this does not change that. This just creates another avenue to enforce those restrictions.” When California lawmakers first wrote SB 1327, the state did not have restrictions on homemade firearms or ghost guns. But within a month of passing the bill, the state included them. It’s rare for a state to institute “double enforcement”—with private cause of action laws and criminal penalties—for the same restrictions, Manley said. The additional layer of restrictions means that even if a judge overturned the state’s criminal restrictions on gun laws, private citizens would still be able to enforce them. “It’s kind of a weird, convoluted situation,” Manley said. The new law was first passed by legislators who included a “fee-shifting” provision allowing the state to collect attorney’s fees from anyone who sued over the law. But a federal judge in San Diego blocked this provision in December. The Gun Owners of California organization was against the legislation, saying the law would create “a legal mess and is designed to bankrupt gun businesses.” “The judge found [the law] was unconstitutional and he called it tyrannical,” Gun Owners of California Executive Director Sam Paredes told The Epoch Times. The group doesn’t anticipate the law to be enforced until the legal resolution is completed. “We’re waiting to see what the state’s going to do,” Paredes said. The Texas abortion rights law was passed before the Supreme Court issued the historic June 24 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 precedent that legalized abortion in the United States. The ruling essentially made Texas’s law moot, said Manley, of the Pacific Legal Foundation. The California law would be automatically repealed if the Texas abortion rights law is totally invalidated by the United States or Texas supreme courts. Tyler Durden Fri, 01/06/2023 - 19:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 6th, 2023

"Take Them To The Slaughterhouse": Trustee Calls For "Culling" DEI Critics

"Take Them To The Slaughterhouse": Trustee Calls For "Culling" DEI Critics Authored by Jonathan Turley, John Corkins, vice president of the Board of Trustees of the Kern Community College District Board, has a simple solution for those faculty who question diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs: take them to the slaughterhouse. Corkins has since apologized but the Board conspicuously failed to address other glaring problems with his extreme rhetoric.At the meeting, Corkins responded to students and faculty complaining about a racially hostile environment. Faculty opposed to DEI policies were referenced as part of this threat. Corkins declared that there are “abusive” faculty that “we have to continue to cull.” He added: “Got them in my livestock operation and that’s why we put a rope on some of them and take them to the slaughterhouse. That’s a fact of life with human nature and so forth, I don’t know how to say it any clearer.” Corkins has since apologized and insisted “My intent was to emphasize that the individuals who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting have my full support…several African-American faculty, students and statewide representatives … bravely shared their feelings of fear based on the actions of a small group of faculty members and their feelings of disappointment in the district for allowing these actions to continue.” Notably, however, the video of the Dec. 13 meeting does not give details on the specific racial incidents. There is reference to an ongoing investigation. However, there are references to faculty who have opposed DEI measures. That would likely include a  group called the Renegade Institute for Liberty with history Professors Matthew Garrett and Erin Miller, who teach at Bakersfield College. The group filed a federal lawsuit against the district after they were allegedly threatened with termination for questioning the use of grant money to fund social justice initiatives at their college. They are both tenured. The opposition to DEI measures has led some to object that the group makes them feel unsafe on campus. That reportedly included calls to terminate faculty who oppose DEI to create a safer environment. While apologizing for calling for the killing of such faculty, Corkins does not address why faculty should be targeted if they oppose DEI measures. The hearing and the statements made against these faculty members creates a chilling environment for academic freedom. The message is clear that these professors are viewed as a dangerous element on campus. The Board has an obligation to address this uncertain line. Corkins apologizes for calling for the killing of critics but not why criticism of DEI itself is a matter for action. There may be conduct that is threatening or violent. There is no indication of any criminal complaint, but there is a need to preserve an open and tolerant environment. However, that also includes tolerance for opposing views on issues like DEI. There is no major campaign to remove Corkins. I am less inclined for such removal as I am interested in greater clarity on the rights of free speech and academic freedom.  Everyone makes dumb comments in unguarded moments. I accept that Corkins was carried away by the emotion of the moment. Moreover, Corkins was referencing “abusive” faculty and not necessarily putting all DEI critics in that category. That is precisely what should be clarified. However, it would likely be a different story if a board member called for the “culling” of DEI supporters or groups on the left. There remains a double standard in how such controversies are handled in academia. The support enjoyed by faculty on the far left is in sharp contrast to the treatment given faculty with moderate, conservative or libertarian views. Anyone who raises such dissenting views is immediately set upon by a mob demanding their investigation or termination. This includes blocking academics from speaking on campuses like a recent Classics professor due to their political views. Conservatives and libertarians understand that they have no cushion or protection in any controversy, even if it involves a single, later deleted tweet. At the University of North Carolina (Wilmington) one such campaign led to a professor killing himself a few days before his final day as a professor. I have defended faculty who have made similarly disturbing comments on the left, including “detonating white people,” abolish white people, denouncing police, calling for Republicans to suffer,  strangling police officers, celebrating the death of conservatives, calling for the killing of Trump supporters, supporting the murder of conservative protesters and other outrageous statements. I also defended the free speech rights of University of Rhode Island professor Erik Loomis, who defended the murder of a conservative protester and said that he saw “nothing wrong” with such acts of violence. (Loomis was later made Director of Graduate Studies of History at Rhode Island). Even when faculty engage in hateful acts on campus, however, there is a notable difference in how universities respond depending on the viewpoint. At the University of California campus, professors actually rallied around a professor who physically assaulted pro-life advocates and tore down their display. When these controversies arose, faculty rallied behind the free speech rights of the professors. That support was far more muted or absent when conservative faculty have found themselves at the center of controversies. The recent suspension of Ilya Shapiro is a good example. Other faculty have had to go to court to defend their free speech rights. One professor was suspended for being seen at a controversial protest. The message from this hearing could be viewed by some as affirming  that criticism of DEI is now viewed a threatening language. For conservative, libertarian, or contrarian faculty, it is not clear if such views will now be tolerated or viewed as grounds for termination (or a barrier to hiring). This comes at a time when many faculties have indeed “culled” their ranks of conservatives. A new survey of 65 departments in various states found that 33 do not have a single registered Republican.  In a recent column, the editors of the legal site Above the Law mocked those of us who objected to the virtual absence of conservative or libertarian faculty members at law schools. Senior editor Joe Patrice defended “predominantly liberal faculties” based on the fact that liberal views reflect real law as opposed to junk law.  (Patrice regularly calls those with opposing views “racists,” including Chief Justice John Roberts because of his objection to race-based criteria in admissions as racial discrimination). He explained that hiring a conservative academic was akin to allowing a believer in geocentrism (or that the sun orbits the earth) to teach at a university. It is that easy. You simply declare that conservative views shared by a majority of the Supreme Court and roughly half of the population are invalid to be taught. It is not limited to faculty. Polls now show that 60 percent of students fear sharing their views in class. Various polls have shown the same fear with some showing an even higher percentage of fearful students. There is a growing orthodoxy taking hold on our campuses with growing intolerance for dissenting faculty and students alike. There are faculty who have raised concerns over DEI initiatives, land acknowledgment, and other policies. Even with the apology, the Board has allowed the underlying threat to linger. It should state why the opposition of faculty members, including filing in court, could be deemed as threatening or unacceptable viewpoints. Tyler Durden Tue, 01/03/2023 - 20:20.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytJan 3rd, 2023

Insider spent 18 months investigating 175 murders of transgender people. Here"s what we found.

We reported eight stories on cases from Alabama to Washington on law enforcement killings, hate crimes, intimate partner violence, and more. Insider investigated 175 recent homicides of transgender people.Insider Killings of transgender people doubled between 2019 and 2021, as anti-trans legislation and rhetoric accelerated. Most of the killers were young men in their teens and twenties, many of whom were intimate with their victims. At least 39 transgender people were killed in acts of intimate violence, by spouses, partners, boyfriends, housemates, dates, or clients. Only 28 killings out of 175 cases Insider examined resulted in murder convictions; only one resulted in a hate crimes conviction. Nearly two-thirds of victims were misgendered or misnamed by law enforcement. Starting in November, Insider published its series "Deaths in the family," a comprehensive investigation into five years of transgender homicides. It features infographics illustrating our starkest findings, including that homicides spiked just as states accelerated their introduction of anti-trans legislation, and eight long reads on law enforcement killings, hate crimes, intimate partner violence, the vulnerabilities of sex workers, unsolved cases, how transphobia colors the criminal justice system, the troubled history of police and the transgender community, and the fatal attack on an LGBTQ nightclub, Club Q, in November.Read more about each of those stories below.Insider compiled a comprehensive account of the rising fatal violence targeting transgender peopleInsider database of transgender homicides, 2017 – 2021Deaths in the family: Investigating 175 transgender homicides over 5 yearsA wave of hatred crashed down on transgender communities over the last five years, as anti-trans rhetoric and legislation began to dominate the cultural conversation. During that same period, murders of transgender people spiked, doubling between 2019 and 2021. Prompted by this growing crisis, and building on previous reporting, Insider filed hundreds of public-records requests and sent reporters around the US to gather information on homicides targeting transgender and gender nonconforming, nonbinary, and two-spirit people across the United States and Puerto Rico from 2017 through 2021.The FBI doesn't track crimes by gender identity. So we sifted through 175 cases to fill in the gaps. Among our unique findings: Most victims were Black women; most victims knew their killers; most killers were young men in their teens and 20s; and only 16 percent of cases led to murder convictions.Only one killing was successfully prosecuted as a hate crimeLeft to right: Layla Pelaez Sánchez, Nikki Kuhnhausen, and Serena Angelique Velázquez RamosInsider database of transgender homicides, 2017 – 2021'Love us in private and kill us in public': How transphobia turns young men into killersNikki Kuhnhausen was killed at age 17 while on a date in Vancouver, Washington, by a man who called transgender people "disturbing" and "disgusting" and used a Russian anti-gay slur."I was born here, but my culture, my roots, and everything it's for me it's even disturbing when I'm around like a gay person or somebody bi or transsexual or something," David Bogdanov told an officer. "So for me it's just very disturbing and disgusting when people are like this."Bogdanov was convicted of murder in Nikki's death — and was the only killer of a transgender person over the past five years convicted of a hate crime. Hate crimes charges were filed in only two other cases, that of Layla Pelaez Sánchez and Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, which are still pending.Intimate partner violence dominated killings of transgender womenWhile Jaylow McGlory's Facebook page remained aglow with adoring posts about Desmond Harris and their new love, Harris' private texts to her turned threatening.Facebook image obtained by the Alexandria Police DepartmentShe called him her 'king.' He shot her dead.When Desmond Harris agreed to be Jaylow McGlory's "official" boyfriend in June 2017, her joy, on social media at least, was incandescent. The next day, she posted a picture of Harris and commented, "daddy my king."Soon, however, Harris' texts to McGlory turned threatening. They moved in together, but there were fights — and death threats. The night Jaylow was killed, she dialed her brother Jimmie McGlory, distraught and sobbing, begging him to drive over to pick her up.But police and prosecutors alike refused to acknowledge Jaylow was a woman or recognize that the pair were in a domestic relationship. Harris successfully argued self-defense at trial, claiming she had tried to rape him.Catherine Shugrue dos Santos of New York City's Anti-Violence Project told Insider that for transgender people, escaping domestic violence is especially difficult, because many shelters don't serve transgender people — and because many transgender people have experienced bias, harassment, or even violence from police.Sex workers were particularly vulnerableCharmaine Eccles met Ashanti Carmon when she was a teenager, and referred to her as her "daughter."Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for InsiderThe unsolved murders of Eastern AvenueFor transgender women of color, discrimination often means working in marginal economies like sex work. But it puts them at high risk for violence.Zoe Spears and Ashanti Carmon were both sex workers who frequented Eastern Avenue, a well-known stroll near Washington, D.C. In the early-morning hours of March 30, 2019, according to an eye-witness account, the two were on a date together when a man in a white car pulled up. After threatening Carmon, he shot her in front of Spears. A few months later, Spears met with police to recount her version of what happened that night. Just weeks after her police interview, she, too, was shot and killed — despite telling police she feared for her life and requesting protection orders against two men she said harassed her in the wake of Carmon's murder. Police continue to deny a connection between the two killings, something community members have trouble believing.There were no criminal charges filed in any of the police killings we trackedAn expert report prepared for Sean Hake's family by criminologist Paul McCauley described the conduct of the officers who shot him as "reckless."Paul McCauleyThey called 911 for assistance. Then police used lethal force.Sean Hake, Jayne Thompson, and Scout Schultz all had knives during their fatal encounters with law enforcement — and all were in the midst of a mental health crisis. But in each case, officers failed to try less-lethal force or deescalate the crisis situation they walked into before opening fire.Kiwi Herring was also shot by police who responded to a call for assistance. In that case, the identity of the officers involved had been shielded from the public; Insider was able to identify them by filing public records requests.No officers involved in any of these cases were criminally charged.More than a third of cases remain unsolvedJa'Koya Dowdell with a photograph she saved of her and Jaheim "Bella" Pugh, her chosen sister.Breahna Crosslin for InsiderA gender nonconforming teen was killed at a party in small town Alabama. Why haven't police solved the case?Jaheim "Bella" Pugh, 19, was tough to miss the night she was shot at a crowded party, dressed in a shiny rainbow jumpsuit, glittery eyeshadow, and a long, curly wig. Two years later, no one has been arrested for Pugh's murder. The police arrested one suspect, but prosecutors let him go. Another suspect was killed before an arrest could be made. A third man was fingered as suspicious by someone who knew him. Many in the area heard the rumors about that night, but most of those who know the truth remain silent.Like more than a third of all killings targeting transgender people over the past five years, Pugh's case remains unsolved. Her chosen sisters Ja'Koya Dowdell; her cousin, Carmen Dowdell; and their friend Jasmine Johnson, all told Insider they were traumatized by Pugh's death.The police have a long, troubled history with transgender communitiesA crowd of protesters confront police outside the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, June 28, 1969.NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images53 years after Stonewall, police dealings with transgender people are still poisoned by abuse and disrespectThe NYPD, and police departments across the country, used to routinely arrest queer and transgender people for cross-dressing under archaic "masquerade" bans. Participants recall that the Stonewall Uprising in 1969 was sparked by one such incident, when police tried to haul away Stormé DeLarverie.Since then, police departments across the country sought to mend the distrust by appointing LGBTQ liaisons. But for many of them, the work was simply piled on top of their already heavy caseload. And despite new sensitivity guidance at many police departments, problems persist: When Insider examined 175 homicides of transgender people from 2017 to 2021, nearly two-thirds were misgendered or misnamed by the police.Missteps and bias were frequent in the legal systemSan Antonio's River Walk, where Kenne McFadden was pushed into the river by her date in April 2017 and drowned.Kaylee Greenlee Beal for InsiderThe judge called Kenne McFadden a 'nuisance' — and let the man accused of killing her walk freeOne April night in 2017, Kenne McFadden was hanging out in her favorite place with someone she knew: Mark Daniel Lewis, 19. Surveillance video captured the two standing close together and sharing a cigarette. A park police officer saw them hugging. At some point, police records indicate, they kissed. Later that night, Lewis approached the park officer, according to a police report. "Do you know the guy I was with on the River Walk?" Lewis said, misgendering McFadden. "Well, I kind of pushed him in the river." Her body was discovered by a tourist the next day.A prosecutor didn't think a jury would sympathize with McFadden, who wasn't, in his words, "born a woman." And a judge accepted Lewis' claim of self-defense. Lewis was never held responsible in her death. From judges to attorneys to jurors, criminologist Rayna Momen told Insider, key players in the criminal legal system "do not value trans lives, do not care to understand them, do not have any interest in humanizing these individuals as victims, and instead often really view them as blameworthy."Colorado Springs was a center for anti-trans vitriol long before the deadly Club Q attackLeia-jhene Seals mourns the Club Q dead at a November 20 vigil at All Souls Unitarian Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Seals was performing at Club Q when the shooter entered the nightclub.RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty ImagesPreached at, spat on, threatened, Colorado Springs' transgender community grapples with the Club Q attackColorado Springs has been a center of anti-LGBTQ vitriol since the early 1990s, when it became home to a growing number of Christian right ministries, including Focus on the Family. That ministry now reinforces anti-transgender messaging to millions of followers nationwide.Those who stoke anti-trans bias are "essentially creating a boogeyman and then unleashing forces on that boogeyman," one expert on extremism told Insider. Then they deny responsibility.Many media reports said the Club Q attacker's motives were unknown. But Insider found that the alleged shooter often deployed a common anti-gay slur and was steeped in extremist culture. A friend said he ran an extremist website, which Insider reviewed; it was populated with racist and homophobic memes calling for violence.Experts call the killings that result from participation in online extremism stochastic, or "scripted," violence, because perpetrators are acting in response to demonizing rhetoric rather than to the command structure of a radical militia or extremist cell."The shooting was a tragedy, but it strengthened their enemy," Erin, a local transgender woman, told Insider. "We still want to come together — come together despite adversity." Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 31st, 2022

The "world"s coolest dictator" rounded up 60,000 people in a supposed crackdown on MS-13. A shrimp farming community is fighting back.

The MS-13 gang made El Salvador one of the most violent places not at war. The "world's coolest dictator" created a new layer of misery. Residents of the Bajo Lempa meet weekly at a retreat center to discuss the mass arrests.Fred Ramos for InsiderGang violence has made El Salvador one of the world's most violent places not at war. The crackdown by its "Bitcoin president" created a new layer of misery.SISIGUAYO, EL SALVADOR — On the morning that Walber Rodriguez was arrested last May, he was just two minutes from his home in Sisiguayo, El Salvador.Walber and his wife Estefany had worked the overnight shift at the shrimp cooperative, and then taken their six-year-old daughter Michelle to visit a relative. Walber was driving the family motorcycle, and Estefany and Michelle sat behind him. They were headed home.Walber was pulled over at "El Ceibo," a gathering place in Sisiguayo that's marked by a sturdy tree with an abundant canopy. Soon, Walber's sister, mother, and father had arrived, trying to reason with the officer, who knew them by name. They didn't understand why Walber was being handcuffed. Sisiguayo was a place that saw police and soldiers as allies. Back in 2015, when the MS-13 gang descended on the hamlet looking to recruit local teenagers, the cops had come down hard, even murdering some of the gang members, and Walber and his neighbors had raised money to build a new police station. Now, backup was arriving for the officer. Two navy soldiers showed up, including one who had been with Walber just the night before, watching a soccer game, and informed the others that Walber was "a working man." A patrol vehicle full of additional cops followed. No one named anything that Walber had done wrong. Yet the family's pleas didn't work. "Look," said the officer who led Walber off, flipping his wrist to the sky, "this comes from above." Within days of Walber's arrest, the Rodriguezes learned he was being accused of belonging to MS-13. "El Ceibo," a gathering place in Sisiguayo, is marked by a sturdy tree with an abundant canopy. It was here that Walber Rodriguez was arrested on May 1, 2022.Fred Ramos for InsiderScenes like this have been playing out across El Salvador since March, when President Nayib Bukele declared a "state of exception" and suspended certain constitutional rights, ostensibly to deal with MS-13 and two offshoots of the rival Barrio 18 gang, Barrio 18 Sureños and Barrio 18 Revolucionarios — all of which have terrorized El Salvador and made it one of the world's most violent places not at war. The declaration was meant to be temporary, lasting 30 days, but Bukele's administration has renewed it nine times. More than 60,000 people, mostly working-age men, have been arrested, while signs along roadways feature cinematic images of heavily-armed police ridding the country of "terrorists." Just as commercial fishermen trawl their way through columns of water to maximize their catch, Salvadoran authorities have rounded people up indiscriminately and with flimsy explanations.The 'world's coolest dictator' Even before authorities crushed in tens of thousands in a span of mere weeks, El Salvador's prisons were overcrowded and disease-ridden. It now tops the list of countries with the highest percentage of their populations behind bars, according to the World Prison Brief, a distinction that has been previously held by the United States. The supposed targets, MS-13 and Barrio 18, began in Los Angeles in the late twentieth century and arrived in El Salvador by way of gang members deported from the US. In 2018, then-President Donald Trump referenced MS-13 to say the US had allowed "animals" to cross into the country, and to justify draconian immigration policies. In El Salvador, the gangs have become one of the country's biggest employers, and they have cemented their power through backroom deals with elected leaders. That appears to have continued under Bukele, a former executive at a family public relations firm who was elected president in 2019 and has fashioned himself, in his ever-changing Twitter bio, as the "world's coolest dictator." Outside El Salvador, Bukele is best known for adopting Bitcoin as a national currency. A sign in the capital, San Salvador, announces the anti-gang crackdown.Fred Ramos for InsiderLast year, the US Treasury sanctioned two senior officials from Bukele's administration for cutting a deal with the gangs in exchange for support in the 2021 midterm elections — which saw Bukele's New Ideas party win a supermajority — and committing fewer homicides. What preceded the state of exception was a horrific weekend in which the gangs killed nearly 90 people. It, too, was allegedly a product of that deal: Salvadoran journalists at the investigative news outlet El Faro reported that the rampage was MS-13's retribution for a break-down in the agreement. The cooperation doesn't end there. Earlier this year, when the U.S. federal court of the Eastern District of New York requested the extradition of MS-13's leadership to stand trial on terrorism charges, Bukele-allied judges blocked some of the extraditions. The administration then released one of the wanted gang leaders from prison, and a senior official helped him flee to Guatemala. The administration denies all this, and, so far, things appear to be going Bukele's way. Tough-on-crime stances have historically been as popular in El Salvador as in the United States. And, as in the U.S., the public is primed to believe that anyone targeted by police is guilty until proven innocent. A Gallup poll released in October recorded Bukele's public approval at 86%. Police make an arrest in San Salvador on June 14th, 2022.Fred Ramos for InsiderThe word on the street, according to family members gathered at prisons for news of loved ones, is that while local gang cliques have gone quiet, they're still out there — hiding in full knowledge of the police, whose focus is elsewhere. According to the Passionist Social Services, nearly 40% of the murders in El Salvador since the beginning of the state of exception have been committed by police. Meanwhile, the administration has steadily eroded public access to information about who they are taking and why. El Faro obtained documents involving 690 arrests between March and April, and found that, overwhelmingly, the police are using criteria like "looking suspicious" or "acting nervous" to justify the arrests. Bukele, for his part, has breezily mentioned a margin of "one percent error." "This time, they're not coming out," he tweeted about the state of exception detainees in mid-April. The administration is building a new prison that Bukele says will house 40,000 "terrorists" who "will be cut off from the outside world." But, by terrorists, the president seems to mean people like Walber. 'Until we can embrace them'Once it became clear that Walber had been caught up in the crackdown, the Rodriguez family's hope for a quick release evaporated. By this point, they had discovered that they were not alone. All around them in Sisiguayo and the surrounding Bajo Lempa valley, people were arrested with no satisfactory explanation. The sons of two cousins who lived in a nearby community, Mario and Pablo, were among the first to be taken; their boys were handcuffed while drinking beers after a soccer game. Another neighbor was arrested even though he'd obtained and was carrying around his spotless police record, believing, wrongly, that such a thing would matter to police. He was detained holding his one-year-old in his arms.Residents of the Bajo Lempa who'd been touched by the arrests had begun meeting weekly at a nearby retreat center. There were only about a dozen attendees then, most of them trembling in fear and unable to tell their stories without crying. Now, Estefany, along with Walber's sister, Glenda, and Walber's parents, Tomas and Margarita, became the group's newest members. The group had started in April, launched by Rossy Iraheta Marinero and José Salvador Ruiz, known as Chamba  — two lay pastoral guides whose faith follows the tenets of Latin American liberation theology. They came from the same limited economic reality as their neighbors, and, in fact, they have full-time jobs and families. None of their own relatives had been detained. But they'd been stirred by the plight and compelled by their own theological solidarity practices to act. In the early days, they found that even civil society organizations that were traditionally fearless in denouncing state violence seemed reluctant to aid the so-called "terrorists." A handful of human rights organizations, principally one called Cristosal and a feminist collective in San Salvador, stepped up and, through them, the group has now filed 111 claims of habeas corpus  — a legal demand that prosecutors present their evidence against a detained person, or forfeit custody. "The families have hope that their loved ones are still alive, but they don't have certainty of that," Rossy told me. They also created a website where they posted photos of their imprisoned kin, and composed a song, "Until we can embrace them," that enshrines their suffering and their demands.   Few groups elsewhere in the country have coalesced in this way to lobby. Rossy evokes groups in Argentina and Mexico – and even in El Salvador itself – who never stopped agitating for justice on behalf of loved ones who had been disappeared by the state in earlier decades, leaving maps for others to follow. "A long battle" lies ahead, Rossy cautioned them in one meeting. "You have to be prepared."Outside MarionaWalber, and many of the others from the Bajo Lempa, had ended up at a prison informally known as Mariona, for the municipality where it's located. Under the state of exception, prisons were sealed off. Not even lawyers could get in. There was no protocol for finding out how Walber was doing, or if he was even alive. In El Salvador, it falls to families to help feed and clothe incarcerated relatives. Although the State provides meals to those in prison, Bukele has limited the men to two meager plates per day, as punishment. To leave supplemental food and other essentials, or to elicit a nugget of information from a bureaucrat at the prison's entrance, Estefany, Glenda, and others from Sisiguayo had no choice but to camp out outside Mariona. It's mostly men who have been arrested, and, in the first months of the crackdown, it was mostly women waiting outside prisons, by the thousands, for days at a time, sharing meals and makeshift cardboard mattresses. Everyone was taking on debt to afford the litany of expenses that follow an arrest, and some said they'd lost their jobs because they had spent so many days waiting. It was rumored that some police were offering to trade a man's freedom for sex or money.Glenda Rodriguez walks to the Mariona prison to get news of her brother, Walber Rodriguez, on June 20, 2022.Fred Ramos for Insider The jailings came so fast that Cristosal rushed to set up an online system where families could report arrests and sign up for support as they navigated the justice system. Families described traveling hours to a public defender's office and finding a line so long they lost hope of being seen. There's now about one public defender for every 200 arrests. Initial hearings include up to 500 defendants simultaneously, and Bukele has warned he'll be monitoring judges for "favoring delinquents."  If a name disappears from the register of detainees, it could mean they'd been moved to another prison, or to a hospital, or to a morgue. The country's major newspapers run regular reports of families being unceremoniously delivered the lifeless bodies of loved ones. One of the few men who'd been held at Izalco prison and then released told the Salvadoran outlet La Prensa Grafica that prisoners had been made to run barefoot in circles for hours. When one man fell from exhaustion, the guards broke his ribs, and he died eight days later, the man said. This is the kind of news the families of the Bajo Lempa live in terror of receiving. 'We fear each other again'Sisiguayo sits in the fertile valley where the Lempa river makes its final stretch through El Salvador before flowing out to the Pacific Ocean. Here, the air tastes salty and thick, a reminder of the mangrove forests and the ocean just beyond them. Homes are one-story cinderblock structures, painted in tropical greens and blues and surrounded by clotheslines, palm trees and outhouses. A communal speaker system broadcasts news and emergency alerts.A sunbaked dirt road connects Sisiguayo to the nearest highway, and along it, residents commute by bicycle or motorbike, bending around the cows, horses and dogs that loll about. Every year around November, the rainy season leaves behind deep potholes, so each family gives the share of money they can spare to pay for gas to power the construction equipment loaned from the mayor's office to fortify the road. Most young people work in shrimp cooperatives, where many tasks are nocturnal. It's a life of little sleep and hard manual labor. Night shifts start at around three in the morning. The workers return home for breakfast at about nine, and head off to a second job, like seasonal farming or bricklaying. Here, as everywhere else, the state of exception has been a financial drain. More than a dozen men from one of the shrimp cooperatives were netted in the crackdown, and what normally takes the cooperative two weeks to accomplish now takes two or three months. Roxana, another one of the Rodriguezes' neighbors, was hit especially hard by the arrests. Her two sons, a daughter-in-law and a brother-in-law were rounded up, as well as her boyfriend Jeremias' two nephews. Now, she spends much of her time running endless arrest-related errands. Her youngest daughter, who's 12, had to leave school to help run the family's corner store and care for Roxana's 5-year-old grandchild. Within the first six weeks, the costs ballooned to around $1000 — a small fortune that's twice the amount Roxana spent to open and fully stock her shop. By the late summer, Jeremias is usually out in the fields alongside Roxana's two boys and his two nephews, planting corn for the family to eat. With them in prison, he had to forgo the crop this year, because it's too much to handle alone.  The state of exception "has a human cost that we still can't fully see," said Noah Bullock, Executive Director of Cristosal. "There is the torture, the inhumane treatment, the more than eighty deaths in prisons, and that's only talking about the people who are detained. Life projects that people have built slowly over generations are suddenly paralyzed and collapsed. There's the loss of income and the simultaneous expenses. The social cost of being stigmatized as 'terrorists.'" The administration seems unperturbed by the volume of blameless people it has locked up. "There will always be victims in war," Vice President Felix Ulloa has said of the state of exception. Walber's father, Tomas, at home in Sisiguayo, on June 17, 2022.Fred Ramos for InsiderThe last time state security forces were targeting the people of the Bajo Lempa en masse and without explanation, it was in the middle of a civil war. From late 1979 until 1992, vicious US-backed government forces clashed with a leftist guerrilla movement. More than 75,000 Salvadorans died and thousands more were disappeared. A United Nations truth commission later found that 85% of the war kidnapping, torture and murder were committed by the government forces, including police and military. Walber's parents were among those fighting on the side of the guerrillas. In 1992, when they dropped their rifles after U.N.-brokered peace talks, they were given land as a way to return to civilian life. Margarita, Tomas and their neighbors came to inhabit Sisiguayo, with its rich coastal tracts, generous for fishing and farming. For Margarita, her son's senseless arrest reminded her of the state-sponsored kidnappings that had led her to take up arms. "That's what most hurts," she told me. "Now we fear each other again."  A photo of Walber Rodriguez's father, Tomas, from when he was a member of a guerrilla group during the Salvadoran civil war, hangs in his house.Fred Ramos for InsiderThe Bajo Lempa is also a flood plain, a condition that was exacerbated by poor government management of the hydroelectric dams that line the river. During repeated devastating floods in the past three decades, the people of the region, the Rodriguez family among them, lobbied and protested, even marching about sixty miles on foot to the capital to demand better dam administration. For Walber and his older sister Glenda, who were children at the time, this was an early education in democracy. The Bajo Lempa won. San Salvador committed to building the levies needed to ameliorate the annual floods, and to communicating its plans to discharge water from the dams, so the communities in harms' way could evacuate in time.Now, they are again under siege. Surf City Abroad, Bukele is best known for two things. First, his announcement, at the Bitcoin 2021 conference in Miami, that his government would "push humanity at least a tiny bit in the right direction" by adopting Bitcoin as a national currency. Second, his "Surf City" initiative along El Salvador's 190-mile Pacific coastline, where consistent eight-to-ten-foot waves in prime spots makes it one of the best surfing destinations in the Americas. Bukele's target audience for Surf City is Bitcoin enthusiasts and international surfers. And everyone knows that Surf City is his. After the apparent breakdown in negotiations between the administration and MS-13, the gangs left a message for Bukele in the form of a mangled cadaver on the highway that connects the beaches to the capital.By June 2022, Bloomberg estimated that Bukele's crypto gamble had cost El Salvador nearly $56 million. That same month, as thousands of Salvadorans were being locked up, Surf City was playing host to the World Surf League's Championship Tour at a beach called Punta Roca. "Eighty-two degree water, no wetsuits!" a voice thundered from the loudspeaker.Nearby, cameramen grumbled to a Salvadoran surfer that they couldn't pan without a uniformed man with a rifle coming into the image.  Locals, who in theory stand to benefit from all of this, were remarking that whitewashing the entrance wall to one beach, El Tunco, and stamping it with an English name left it looking like a drive-through bank. "It was good that he saw the potential in our waves," Enzo, who runs a couple of cafes in the area, told me one evening. Promised infrastructural improvements, like finally completing a waste-water treatment plant so that businesses aren't reliant on bottled water, haven't arrived. Meanwhile, new luxury apartments with a base price of $400,000 are being marketed to crypto enthusiasts, prompting worry that excessive development will smother the area's natural beauty and put everyone out of business. It's almost as if Surf City is Bukele's Potemkin Village, thrown up to boost his standing in a handful of elite circles as he loses legitimacy elsewhere. Bukele "wants to promote the country as a place that other people can buy," said Bullock of Cristosal. "But what is his plan for the middle-aged man who has sold coconuts in Punta Roca his whole life? El Tunco already has local commerce and its own identity. Why not honor that identity?"'Dad's not working, is he?'When Walber was jailed, Estefany told their six-year-old, Michelle, that Walber had gone out of town for a job. When Estefany and Glenda left for days camped outside the prison, she said they were studying. Michelle's questions became harder to escape. When he was away working, Walber usually sent a flood of adoring messages to his daughter on Estefany's phone, but this time, there were none to show. Before ten days had passed, Michelle cornered her mom: "Dad's not working, is he?"  At six, Michelle is absorbing that her life is built on shifting sands — a father in prison, a mother who might withhold the truth. Estefany tried to explain, saying, "The authorities make mistakes." But it's just another tectonic lesson for a child. Walber and Estefany have known each other since they were kids and they've been partners for years, but it was only last year that they finally got married. They were the first in the family to have a real wedding, and Glenda remembers how they both giggled when they asked her to save the date — Dec. 17. Graduation photos of Walber Rodriguez, left, and his sister, Glenda Rodriguez, right, at the family house in Sisiguayo.Fred Ramos for InsiderEstefany's dress, which Glenda and Margarita helped her choose, was the color of red wine and had a sparkling brooch at the bosom. Walber had splurged on a new oxford shirt, jeans, and white tennis shoes. He also surprised Estefany with a wedding ring, which he had secretly saved for months to buy. It was a luxury she had never imagined. The cake, a single-tier white sphere adorned with fruit, held the children rapt until it was time to dig in. When Glenda thinks about the politicians and the police who get to return home to their families at night, so easy in their freedom, it fills her with rage. They can't even begin to comprehend what they have stolen from their people.'No one else will defend him but us' The retreat center where the families met every week was a thirty-minute crawling drive down the potholed dirt road from where Walber was arrested. In late June, 54 days after Walber's arrest, three-dozen of them sat as they usually did, in a circle of plastic chairs in an open-air pavilion, roofed in ceramic tile and ringed in a garden of carefully-manicured green.Rossy stood in the middle of the circle, wearing flip-flops and a white tunic embroidered with flowers, calling on people to speak. Chamba kept a notebook propped between his thigh and the arm of his wheelchair. The families were debating: Should they stay the course, and pursue their habeas corpus claims in court? Or was it time to take to the streets? The habeas corpus route had been Rossy's idea. Back in 2020, right when COVID-19 upended global travel, Rossy was in Ecuador at a theological conference. Bukele was about to close the borders and implement some of the most restrictive pandemic measures in the world. She managed to get onto the last flight into the Salvadoran airport and ended up at a quarantine center for six weeks. Desperate for a way out, a lawyer friend advised her to file a habeas corpus claim. It worked – she was released. Now, it's a tactic that more than 1,800 other Salvadorans across the country have also used since March, but to little effect since the administration has wrenched the legal system into its orbit, forcing many judges to retire and intimidating the rest, along with flooding the system with many times more defendants than it can handle. Members of the group have been harassed by the police, and there was always concern that cops might show up in the middle of the meeting to arrest everyone. One woman who had started attending after her husband was arrested was then herself arrested. Now, the neighbors couldn't agree on what was best. The state of exception allowed the police to detain anyone for any reason. If they protested and ended up incarcerated alongside their loved ones, who would defend them then?  People clamored to speak. Rossy called on a gray-haired man in a cowboy hat. He was one of the many who had spent consecutive days and nights on the street outside Mariona, where his son was being held, and while there, he heard rumor that the guards take vengeance on prisoners whose families caused trouble out front. He rose slowly, and then stated his firm opposition to any public action. He reminded the group that it wasn't only themselves who would pay the price for protesting. When he took up arms in the civil war, he said, it was his own life he was putting at risk. But now, any action might put his son's life at risk. When he finished speaking, Glenda – who, at 28 years old, was among the youngest group members – raised her hand. "I may not have as much life experience as many of you. And I didn't live the war fighting in the mountains like many of you did," she began. But, she continued, she did know that all of El Salvador's civil rights victories, including democracy itself, were the product of struggles on the street. She too had camped outside Mariona, and she had learned that viral malicious rumors appeared on social media as part of an attempt to silence families. A meeting of the Bajo Lempa families on June 17, 2022.Fred Ramos for Insider"If the state is going to kill my brother, it will do so whether or not I speak out. If it will incarcerate me – the same is true," she reasoned. "No one else will defend him but us." Finally, there was simply the value of the truth: "The president wants to make this country look like a wonderland, like everything is Surf City," she said – but the world needed to know what was really happening in El Salvador.  The group ultimately decided that Glenda was right: it was time to take the streets. And just as each Bajo Lempa family had discovered that they were not alone when they found the group, now they saw there were hundreds of families around the country who, like them, were ready to march in San Salvador. They began regularly joining the others in the capital to protest and speak to the media, while continuing their habeas corpus petitions. Just before Christmas, the families of the Bajo Lempa packed a bridge on a main thoroughfare and demanded their loved ones be freed. For now, the Bukele administration remains unmoved. The group is now planning to sue their government in an international human rights court.One day last summer, before anyone comprehended how long this would last, Roxana told me something that multiple women in the Bajo Lempa echoed: Since her children were detained, she has been dreaming of them. In one dream, she was sitting at home in the dark, and one of her three sons walked through the front door. He paused in the threshold. She thought it was Cristian, the only one who has not yet been taken. But when he stepped out of the shadow, she saw that it was Javier, her youngest. He was dressed just as he had been on April 27, the night the police hauled him away. She called to him – and then the dream ended. "As a mother," she said, "you wake up to a nightmare."This reporting was supported by the International Women's Media Foundation's Howard G. Buffett Fund for Women Journalists.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 27th, 2022

The "world"s coolest dictator" rounded up 60,000 people in a crackdown on MS-13. A shrimp farming community is fighting back.

The MS-13 gang made El Salvador one of the most violent places not at war. The 'world's coolest dictator' created a new layer of misery. Residents of the Bajo Lempa meet weekly at a retreat center to discuss the mass arrests.Fred Ramos for InsiderGang violence has made El Salvador one of the world's most violent places not at war. The crackdown by its "Bitcoin president" created a new layer of misery.SISIGUAYO, EL SALVADOR — On the morning that Walber Rodriguez was arrested last May, he was just two minutes from his home in Sisiguayo, El Salvador.Walber and his wife Estefany had worked the overnight shift at the shrimp cooperative, and then taken their six-year-old daughter Michelle to visit a relative. Walber was driving the family motorcycle, and Estefany and Michelle sat behind him. They were headed home.Walber was pulled over at "El Ceibo," a gathering place in Sisiguayo that's marked by a sturdy tree with an abundant canopy. Soon, Walber's sister, mother, and father had arrived, trying to reason with the officer, who knew them by name. They didn't understand why Walber was being handcuffed. Sisiguayo was a place that saw police and soldiers as allies. Back in 2015, when the MS-13 gang descended on the hamlet looking to recruit local teenagers, the cops had come down hard, even murdering some of the gang members, and Walber and his neighbors had raised money to build a new police station. Now, backup was arriving for the officer. Two navy soldiers showed up, including one who had been with Walber just the night before, watching a soccer game, and informed the others that Walber was "a working man." A patrol vehicle full of additional cops followed. No one named anything that Walber had done wrong. Yet the family's pleas didn't work. "Look," said the officer who led Walber off, flipping his wrist to the sky, "this comes from above." Within days of Walber's arrest, the Rodriguezes learned he was being accused of belonging to MS-13. "El Ceibo," a gathering place in Sisiguayo, is marked by a sturdy tree with an abundant canopy. It was here that Walber Rodriguez was arrested on May 1, 2022.Fred Ramos for InsiderScenes like this have been playing out across El Salvador since March, when President Nayib Bukele declared a "state of exception" and suspended certain constitutional rights, ostensibly to deal with MS-13 and two offshoots of the rival Barrio 18 gang, Barrio 18 Sureños and Barrio 18 Revolucionarios — all of which have terrorized El Salvador and made it one of the world's most violent places not at war. The declaration was meant to be temporary, lasting 30 days, but Bukele's administration has renewed it nine times. More than 60,000 people, mostly working-age men, have been arrested, while signs along roadways feature cinematic images of heavily-armed police ridding the country of "terrorists." Just as commercial fishermen trawl their way through columns of water to maximize their catch, Salvadoran authorities have rounded people up indiscriminately and with flimsy explanations.The 'world's coolest dictator' Even before authorities crushed in tens of thousands in a span of mere weeks, El Salvador's prisons were overcrowded and disease-ridden. It now tops the list of countries with the highest percentage of their populations behind bars, according to the World Prison Brief, a distinction that has been previously held by the United States. The supposed targets, MS-13 and Barrio 18, began in Los Angeles in the late twentieth century and arrived in El Salvador by way of gang members deported from the US. In 2018, then-President Donald Trump referenced MS-13 to say the US had allowed "animals" to cross into the country, and to justify draconian immigration policies. In El Salvador, the gangs have become one of the country's biggest employers, and they have cemented their power through backroom deals with elected leaders. That appears to have continued under Bukele, a former executive at a family public relations firm who was elected president in 2019 and has fashioned himself, in his ever-changing Twitter bio, as the "world's coolest dictator." Outside El Salvador, Bukele is best known for adopting Bitcoin as a national currency. A sign in the capital, San Salvador, announces the anti-gang crackdown.Fred Ramos for InsiderLast year, the US Treasury sanctioned two senior officials from Bukele's administration for cutting a deal with the gangs in exchange for support in the 2021 midterm elections — which saw Bukele's New Ideas party win a supermajority — and committing fewer homicides. What preceded the state of exception was a horrific weekend in which the gangs killed nearly 90 people. It, too, was allegedly a product of that deal: Salvadoran journalists at the investigative news outlet El Faro reported that the rampage was MS-13's retribution for a break-down in the agreement. The cooperation doesn't end there. Earlier this year, when the U.S. federal court of the Eastern District of New York requested the extradition of MS-13's leadership to stand trial on terrorism charges, Bukele-allied judges blocked some of the extraditions. The administration then released one of the wanted gang leaders from prison, and a senior official helped him flee to Guatemala. The administration denies all this, and, so far, things appear to be going Bukele's way. Tough-on-crime stances have historically been as popular in El Salvador as in the United States. And, as in the U.S., the public is primed to believe that anyone targeted by police is guilty until proven innocent. A Gallup poll released in October recorded Bukele's public approval at 86%. Police make an arrest in San Salvador on June 14th, 2022.Fred Ramos for InsiderThe word on the street, according to family members gathered at prisons for news of loved ones, is that while local gang cliques have gone quiet, they're still out there — hiding in full knowledge of the police, whose focus is elsewhere. According to the Passionist Social Services, nearly 40% of the murders in El Salvador since the beginning of the state of exception have been committed by police. Meanwhile, the administration has steadily eroded public access to information about who they are taking and why. El Faro obtained documents involving 690 arrests between March and April, and found that, overwhelmingly, the police are using criteria like "looking suspicious" or "acting nervous" to justify the arrests. Bukele, for his part, has breezily mentioned a margin of "one percent error." "This time, they're not coming out," he tweeted about the state of exception detainees in mid-April. The administration is building a new prison that Bukele says will house 40,000 "terrorists" who "will be cut off from the outside world." But, by terrorists, the president seems to mean people like Walber. 'Until we can embrace them'Once it became clear that Walber had been caught up in the crackdown, the Rodriguez family's hope for a quick release evaporated. By this point, they had discovered that they were not alone. All around them in Sisiguayo and the surrounding Bajo Lempa valley, people were arrested with no satisfactory explanation. The sons of two cousins who lived in a nearby community, Mario and Pablo, were among the first to be taken; their boys were handcuffed while drinking beers after a soccer game. Another neighbor was arrested even though he'd obtained and was carrying around his spotless police record, believing, wrongly, that such a thing would matter to police. He was detained holding his one-year-old in his arms.Residents of the Bajo Lempa who'd been touched by the arrests had begun meeting weekly at a nearby retreat center. There were only about a dozen attendees then, most of them trembling in fear and unable to tell their stories without crying. Now, Estefany, along with Walber's sister, Glenda, and Walber's parents, Tomas and Margarita, became the group's newest members. The group had started in April, launched by Rossy Iraheta Marinero and José Salvador Ruiz, known as Chamba  — two lay pastoral guides whose faith follows the tenets of Latin American liberation theology. They came from the same limited economic reality as their neighbors, and, in fact, they have full-time jobs and families. None of their own relatives had been detained. But they'd been stirred by the plight and compelled by their own theological solidarity practices to act. In the early days, they found that even civil society organizations that were traditionally fearless in denouncing state violence seemed reluctant to aid the so-called "terrorists." A handful of human rights organizations, principally one called Cristosal and a feminist collective in San Salvador, stepped up and, through them, the group has now filed 111 claims of habeas corpus  — a legal demand that prosecutors present their evidence against a detained person, or forfeit custody. "The families have hope that their loved ones are still alive, but they don't have certainty of that," Rossy told me. They also created a website where they posted photos of their imprisoned kin, and composed a song, "Until we can embrace them," that enshrines their suffering and their demands.   Few groups elsewhere in the country have coalesced in this way to lobby. Rossy evokes groups in Argentina and Mexico – and even in El Salvador itself – who never stopped agitating for justice on behalf of loved ones who had been disappeared by the state in earlier decades, leaving maps for others to follow. "A long battle" lies ahead, Rossy cautioned them in one meeting. "You have to be prepared."Outside MarionaWalber, and many of the others from the Bajo Lempa, had ended up at a prison informally known as Mariona, for the municipality where it's located. Under the state of exception, prisons were sealed off. Not even lawyers could get in. There was no protocol for finding out how Walber was doing, or if he was even alive. In El Salvador, it falls to families to help feed and clothe incarcerated relatives. Although the State provides meals to those in prison, Bukele has limited the men to two meager plates per day, as punishment. To leave supplemental food and other essentials, or to elicit a nugget of information from a bureaucrat at the prison's entrance, Estefany, Glenda, and others from Sisiguayo had no choice but to camp out outside Mariona. It's mostly men who have been arrested, and, in the first months of the crackdown, it was mostly women waiting outside prisons, by the thousands, for days at a time, sharing meals and makeshift cardboard mattresses. Everyone was taking on debt to afford the litany of expenses that follow an arrest, and some said they'd lost their jobs because they had spent so many days waiting. It was rumored that some police were offering to trade a man's freedom for sex or money.Glenda Rodriguez walks to the Mariona prison to get news of her brother, Walber Rodriguez, on June 20, 2022.Fred Ramos for Insider The jailings came so fast that Cristosal rushed to set up an online system where families could report arrests and sign up for support as they navigated the justice system. Families described traveling hours to a public defender's office and finding a line so long they lost hope of being seen. There's now about one public defender for every 200 arrests. Initial hearings include up to 500 defendants simultaneously, and Bukele has warned he'll be monitoring judges for "favoring delinquents."  If a name disappears from the register of detainees, it could mean they'd been moved to another prison, or to a hospital, or to a morgue. The country's major newspapers run regular reports of families being unceremoniously delivered the lifeless bodies of loved ones. One of the few men who'd been held at Izalco prison and then released told the Salvadoran outlet La Prensa Grafica that prisoners had been made to run barefoot in circles for hours. When one man fell from exhaustion, the guards broke his ribs, and he died eight days later, the man said. This is the kind of news the families of the Bajo Lempa live in terror of receiving. 'We fear each other again'Sisiguayo sits in the fertile valley where the Lempa river makes its final stretch through El Salvador before flowing out to the Pacific Ocean. Here, the air tastes salty and thick, a reminder of the mangrove forests and the ocean just beyond them. Homes are one-story cinderblock structures, painted in tropical greens and blues and surrounded by clotheslines, palm trees and outhouses. A communal speaker system broadcasts news and emergency alerts.A sunbaked dirt road connects Sisiguayo to the nearest highway, and along it, residents commute by bicycle or motorbike, bending around the cows, horses and dogs that loll about. Every year around November, the rainy season leaves behind deep potholes, so each family gives the share of money they can spare to pay for gas to power the construction equipment loaned from the mayor's office to fortify the road. Most young people work in shrimp cooperatives, where many tasks are nocturnal. It's a life of little sleep and hard manual labor. Night shifts start at around three in the morning. The workers return home for breakfast at about nine, and head off to a second job, like seasonal farming or bricklaying. Here, as everywhere else, the state of exception has been a financial drain. More than a dozen men from one of the shrimp cooperatives were netted in the crackdown, and what normally takes the cooperative two weeks to accomplish now takes two or three months. Roxana, another one of the Rodriguezes' neighbors, was hit especially hard by the arrests. Her two sons, a daughter-in-law and a brother-in-law were rounded up, as well as her boyfriend Jeremias' two nephews. Now, she spends much of her time running endless arrest-related errands. Her youngest daughter, who's 12, had to leave school to help run the family's corner store and care for Roxana's 5-year-old grandchild. Within the first six weeks, the costs ballooned to around $1000 — a small fortune that's twice the amount Roxana spent to open and fully stock her shop. By the late summer Jeremias, is usually out in the fields alongside Roxana's two boys and his two nephews, planting corn for the family to eat. With them in prison, he had to forgo the crop this year, because it's too much to handle alone.  The state of exception "has a human cost that we still can't fully see," said Noah Bullock, Executive Director of Cristosal. "There is the torture, the inhumane treatment, the more than eighty deaths in prisons, and that's only talking about the people who are detained. Life projects that people have built slowly over generations are suddenly paralyzed and collapsed. There's the loss of income and the simultaneous expenses. The social cost of being stigmatized as 'terrorists.'" The administration seems unperturbed by the volume of blameless people it has locked up. "There will always be victims in war," Vice President Felix Ulloa has said of the state of exception. Walber's father, Tomas, at home in Sisiguayo, on June 17, 2022.Fred Ramos for InsiderThe last time state security forces were targeting the people of the Bajo Lempa en masse and without explanation, it was in the middle of a civil war. From late 1979 until 1992, vicious US-backed government forces clashed with a leftist guerrilla movement. More than 75,000 Salvadorans died and thousands more were disappeared. A United Nations truth commission later found that 85% of the war kidnapping, torture and murder were committed by the government forces, including police and military. Walber's parents were among those fighting on the side of the guerrillas. In 1992, when they dropped their rifles after U.N.-brokered peace talks, they were given land as a way to return to civilian life. Margarita, Tomas and their neighbors came to inhabit Sisiguayo, with its rich coastal tracts, generous for fishing and farming. For Margarita, her son's senseless arrest reminded her of the state-sponsored kidnappings that had led her to take up arms. "That's what most hurts," she told me. "Now we fear each other again."  A photo of Walber Rodriguez's father, Tomas, from when he was a member of a guerrilla group during the Salvadoran civil war, hangs in his house.Fred Ramos for InsiderThe Bajo Lempa is also a flood plain, a condition that was exacerbated by poor government management of the hydroelectric dams that line the river. During repeated devastating floods in the past three decades, the people of the region, the Rodriguez family among them, lobbied and protested, even marching about sixty miles on foot to the capital to demand better dam administration. For Walber and his older sister Glenda, who were children at the time, this was an early education in democracy. The Bajo Lempa won. San Salvador committed to building the levies needed to ameliorate the annual floods, and to communicating its plans to discharge water from the dams, so the communities in harms' way could evacuate in time.Now, they are again under siege. Surf City Abroad, Bukele is best known for two things. First, his announcement, at the Bitcoin 2021 conference in Miami, that his government would "push humanity at least a tiny bit in the right direction" by adopting Bitcoin as a national currency. Second, his "Surf City" initiative along El Salvador's 190-mile Pacific coastline, where consistent eight-to-ten-foot waves in prime spots makes it one of the best surfing destinations in the Americas. Bukele's target audience for Surf City is Bitcoin enthusiasts and international surfers. And everyone knows that Surf City is his. After the apparent breakdown in negotiations between the administration and MS-13, the gangs left a message for Bukele in the form of a mangled cadaver on the highway that connects the beaches to the capital.By June 2022, Bloomberg estimated that Bukele's crypto gamble had cost El Salvador nearly $56 million. That same month, as thousands of Salvadorans were being locked up, Surf City was playing host to the World Surf League's Championship Tour at a beach called Punta Roca. "Eighty-two degree water, no wetsuits!" a voice thundered from the loudspeaker.Nearby, cameramen grumbled to a Salvadoran surfer that they couldn't pan without a uniformed man with a rifle coming into the image.  Locals, who in theory stand to benefit from all of this, were remarking that whitewashing the entrance wall to one beach, El Tunco, and stamping it with an English name left it looking like a drive-through bank. "It was good that he saw the potential in our waves," Enzo, who runs a couple of cafes in the area, told me one evening. Promised infrastructural improvements, like finally completing a waste-water treatment plant so that businesses aren't reliant on bottled water, haven't arrived. Meanwhile, new luxury apartments with a base price of $400,000 are being marketed to crypto enthusiasts, prompting worry that excessive development will smother the area's natural beauty and put everyone out of business. It's almost as if Surf City is Bukele's Potemkin Village, thrown up to boost his standing in a handful of elite circles as he loses legitimacy elsewhere. Bukele "wants to promote the country as a place that other people can buy," said Bullock of Cristosal. "But what is his plan for the middle-aged man who has sold coconuts in Punta Roca his whole life? El Tunco already has local commerce and its own identity. Why not honor that identity?"'Dad's not working, is he?'When Walber was jailed, Estefany told their six-year-old, Michelle, that Walber had gone out of town for a job. When Estefany and Glenda left for days camped outside the prison, she said they were studying. Michelle's questions became harder to escape. When he was away working, Walber usually sent a flood of adoring messages to his daughter on Estefany's phone, but this time, there were none to show. Before ten days had passed, Michelle cornered her mom: "Dad's not working, is he?"  At six, Michelle is absorbing that her life is built on shifting sands — a father in prison, a mother who might withhold the truth. Estefany tried to explain, saying, "The authorities make mistakes." But it's just another tectonic lesson for a child. Walber and Estefany have known each other since they were kids and they've been partners for years, but it was only last year that they finally got married. They were the first in the family to have a real wedding, and Glenda remembers how they both giggled when they asked her to save the date — Dec. 17. Graduation photos of Walber Rodriguez, left, and his sister, Glenda Rodriguez, right, at the family house in Sisiguayo.Fred Ramos for InsiderEstefany's dress, which Glenda and Margarita helped her choose, was the color of red wine and had a sparkling brooch at the bosom. Walber had splurged on a new oxford shirt, jeans, and white tennis shoes. He also surprised Estefany with a wedding ring, which he had secretly saved for months to buy. It was a luxury she had never imagined. The cake, a single-tier white sphere adorned with fruit, held the children rapt until it was time to dig in. When Glenda thinks about the politicians and the police who get to return home to their families at night, so easy in their freedom, it fills her with rage. They can't even begin to comprehend what they have stolen from their people.'No one else will defend him but us' The retreat center where the families met every week was a thirty-minute crawling drive down the potholed dirt road from where Walber was arrested. In late June, 54 days after Walber's arrest, three-dozen of them sat as they usually did, in a circle of plastic chairs in an open-air pavilion, roofed in ceramic tile and ringed in a garden of carefully-manicured green.Rossy stood in the middle of the circle, wearing flip-flops and a white tunic embroidered with flowers, calling on people to speak. Chamba kept a notebook propped between his thigh and the arm of his wheelchair. The families were debating: Should they stay the course, and pursue their habeas corpus claims in court? Or was it time to take to the streets? The habeas corpus route had been Rossy's idea. Back in 2020, right when COVID-19 upended global travel, Rossy was in Ecuador at a theological conference. Bukele was about to close the borders and implement some of the most restrictive pandemic measures in the world. She managed to get onto the last flight into the Salvadoran airport and ended up at a quarantine center for six weeks. Desperate for a way out, a lawyer friend advised her to file a habeas corpus claim. It worked – she was released. Now, it's a tactic that more than 1,800 other Salvadorans across the country have also used since March, but to little effect since the administration has wrenched the legal system into its orbit, forcing many judges to retire and intimidating the rest, along with flooding the system with many times more defendants than it can handle. Members of the group have been harassed by the police, and there was always concern that cops might show up in the middle of the meeting to arrest everyone. One woman who had started attending after her husband was arrested was then herself arrested. Now, the neighbors couldn't agree on what was best. The state of exception allowed the police to detain anyone for any reason. If they protested and ended up incarcerated alongside their loved ones, who would defend them then?  People clamored to speak. Rossy called on a gray-haired man in a cowboy hat. He was one of the many who had spent consecutive days and nights on the street outside Mariona, where his son was being held, and while there, he heard rumor that the guards take vengeance on prisoners whose families caused trouble out front. He rose slowly, and then stated his firm opposition to any public action. He reminded the group that it wasn't only themselves who would pay the price for protesting. When he took up arms in the civil war, he said, it was his own life he was putting at risk. But now, any action might put his son's life at risk. When he finished speaking, Glenda – who, at 28 years old, was among the youngest group members – raised her hand. "I may not have as much life experience as many of you. And I didn't live the war fighting in the mountains like many of you did," she began. But, she continued, she did know that all of El Salvador's civil rights victories, including democracy itself, were the product of struggles on the street. She too had camped outside Mariona, and she had learned that viral malicious rumors appeared on social media as part of an attempt to silence families. A meeting of the Bajo Lempa families on June 17, 2022.Fred Ramos for Insider"If the state is going to kill my brother, it will do so whether or not I speak out. If it will incarcerate me – the same is true," she reasoned. "No one else will defend him but us." Finally, there was simply the value of the truth: "The president wants to make this country look like a wonderland, like everything is Surf City," she said – but the world needed to know what was really happening in El Salvador.  The group ultimately decided that Glenda was right: it was time to take the streets. And just as each Bajo Lempa family had discovered that they were not alone when they found the group, now they saw there were hundreds of families around the country who, like them, were ready to march in San Salvador. They began regularly joining the others in the capital to protest and speak to the media, while continuing their habeas corpus petitions. Just before Christmas, the families of the Bajo Lempa packed a bridge on a main thoroughfare and demanded their loved ones be freed. For now, the Bukele administration remains unmoved. The group is now planning to sue their government in an international human rights court.One day last summer, before anyone comprehended how long this would last, Roxana told me something that multiple women in the Bajo Lempa echoed: Since her children were detained, she has been dreaming of them. In one dream, she was sitting at home in the dark, and one of her three sons walked through the front door. He paused in the threshold. She thought it was Cristian, the only one who has not yet been taken. But when he stepped out of the shadow, she saw that it was Javier, her youngest. He was dressed just as he had been on April 27, the night the police hauled him away. She called to him – and then the dream ended. "As a mother," she said, "you wake up to a nightmare."This reporting was supported by the International Women's Media Foundation's Howard G. Buffett Fund for Women Journalists.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 27th, 2022

The "world"s coolest dictator" rounded up 60,000 people he claims are MS-13 gang members. A shrimp farming community is fighting back.

The MS-13 gang made El Salvador one of the most violent places not at war. The 'world's coolest dictator' created a new layer of misery. Residents of the Bajo Lempa meet weekly at a retreat center to discuss the mass arrests.Fred Ramos for InsiderGang violence has made El Salvador one of the world's most violent places not at war. The crackdown by its "Bitcoin president" created a new layer of misery.SISIGUAYO, EL SALVADOR — On the morning that Walber Rodriguez was arrested last May, he was just two minutes from his home in Sisiguayo, El Salvador.Walber and his wife Estefany had worked the overnight shift at the shrimp cooperative, and then taken their six-year-old daughter Michelle to visit a relative. Walber was driving the family motorcycle, and Estefany and Michelle sat behind him. They were headed home.Walber was pulled over at "El Ceibo," a gathering place in Sisiguayo that's marked by a sturdy tree with an abundant canopy. Soon, Walber's sister, mother, and father had arrived, trying to reason with the officer, who knew them by name. They didn't understand why Walber was being handcuffed. Sisiguayo was a place that saw police and soldiers as allies. Back in 2015, when the MS-13 gang descended on the hamlet looking to recruit local teenagers, the cops had come down hard, even murdering some of the gang members, and Walber and his neighbors had raised money to build a new police station. Now, backup was arriving for the officer. Two navy soldiers showed up, including one who had been with Walber just the night before, watching a soccer game, and informed the others that Walber was "a working man." A patrol vehicle full of additional cops followed. No one named anything that Walber had done wrong. Yet the family's pleas didn't work. "Look," said the officer who led Walber off, flipping his wrist to the sky, "this comes from above." Within days of Walber's arrest, the Rodriguezes learned he was being accused of belonging to MS-13. "El Ceibo," a gathering place in Sisiguayo, is marked by a sturdy tree with an abundant canopy. It was here that Walber Rodriguez was arrested on May 1, 2022.Fred Ramos for InsiderScenes like this have been playing out across El Salvador since March, when President Nayib Bukele declared a "state of exception" and suspended certain constitutional rights, ostensibly to deal with MS-13 and two offshoots of the rival Barrio 18 gang, Barrio 18 Sureños and Barrio 18 Revolucionarios — all of which have terrorized El Salvador and made it one of the world's most violent places not at war. The declaration was meant to be temporary, lasting 30 days, but Bukele's administration has renewed it nine times. More than 60,000 people, mostly working-age men, have been arrested, while signs along roadways feature cinematic images of heavily-armed police ridding the country of "terrorists." Just as commercial fishermen trawl their way through columns of water to maximize their catch, Salvadoran authorities have rounded people up indiscriminately and with flimsy explanations.The 'world's coolest dictator' Even before authorities crushed in tens of thousands in a span of mere weeks, El Salvador's prisons were overcrowded and disease-ridden. It now tops the list of countries with the highest percentage of their populations behind bars, according to the World Prison Brief, a distinction that has been previously held by the United States. The supposed targets, MS-13 and Barrio 18, began in Los Angeles in the late twentieth century and arrived in El Salvador by way of gang members deported from the US. In 2018, then-President Donald Trump referenced MS-13 to say the US had allowed "animals" to cross into the country, and to justify draconian immigration policies. In El Salvador, the gangs have become one of the country's biggest employers, and they have cemented their power through backroom deals with elected leaders. That appears to have continued under Bukele, a former executive at a family public relations firm who was elected president in 2019 and has fashioned himself, in his ever-changing Twitter bio, as the "world's coolest dictator." Outside El Salvador, Bukele is best known for adopting Bitcoin as a national currency. A sign in the capital, San Salvador, announces the anti-gang crackdown.Fred Ramos for InsiderLast year, the US Treasury sanctioned two senior officials from Bukele's administration for cutting a deal with the gangs in exchange for support in the 2021 midterm elections — which saw Bukele's New Ideas party win a supermajority — and committing fewer homicides. What preceded the state of exception was a horrific weekend in which the gangs killed nearly 90 people. It, too, was allegedly a product of that deal: Salvadoran journalists at the investigative news outlet El Faro reported that the rampage was MS-13's retribution for a break-down in the agreement. The cooperation doesn't end there.: Earlier this year, when the U.S. federal court of the Eastern District of New York requested the extradition of MS-13's leadership to stand trial on terrorism charges, Bukele-allied judges blocked some of the extraditions. The administration then released one of the wanted gang leaders from prison, and a senior official helped him flee to Guatemala. The administration denies all this, and, so far, things appear to be going Bukele's way. Tough-on-crime stances have historically been as popular in El Salvador as in the United States. And, as in the U.S., the public is primed to believe that anyone targeted by police is guilty until proven innocent. A Gallup poll released in October recorded Bukele's public approval at 86%. Police make an arrest in San Salvador on June 14th, 2022.Fred Ramos for InsiderThe word on the street, according to family members gathered at prisons for news of loved ones, is that while local gang cliques have gone quiet, they're still out there — hiding in full knowledge of the police, whose focus is elsewhere. According to xxx, nearly 40% of the xxx murders in El Salvador since the beginning of the state of exception have been committed by police. Meanwhile, the administration has steadily eroded public access to information about who they are taking and why. El Faro obtained documents involving 690 arrests between March and April, and found that, overwhelmingly, the police are using criteria like "looking suspicious" or "acting nervous" to justify the arrests. Bukele, for his part, has breezily mentioned a margin of "one percent error." "This time, they're not coming out," he tweeted about the state of exception detainees in mid-April. The administration is building a new prison that Bukele says will house 40,000 "terrorists" who "will be cut off from the outside world." But, by terrorists, the president seems to mean people like Walber. 'Until we can embrace them'Once it became clear that Walber had been caught up in the crackdown, the Rodriguez family's hope for a quick release evaporated. By this point, they had discovered that they were not alone. All around them in Sisiguayo and the surrounding Bajo Lempa valley, people were arrested with no satisfactory explanation. The sons of two cousins who lived in a nearby community, Mario and Pablo, were among the first to be taken; their boys were handcuffed while drinking beers after a soccer game. Another neighbor was arrested even though he'd obtained and was carrying around his spotless police record, believing, wrongly, that such a thing would matter to police. He was detained holding his one-year-old in his arms.Residents of the Bajo Lempa who'd been touched by the arrests had begun meeting weekly at a nearby retreat center. There were only about a dozen attendees then, most of them trembling in fear and unable to tell their stories without crying. Now, Estefany, along with Walber's sister, Glenda, and Walber's parents, Tomas and Margarita, became the group's newest members. The group had started in April, launched by Rossy Iraheta Marinero and José Salvador Ruiz, known as Chamba  — two lay pastoral guides whose faith follows the tenets of Latin American liberation theology. They came from the same limited economic reality as their neighbors, and, in fact, they have full-time jobs and families. None of their own relatives had been detained. But they'd been stirred by the plight and compelled by their own theological solidarity practices to act. In the early days, they found that even civil society organizations that were traditionally fearless in denouncing state violence seemed reluctant to aid the so-called "terrorists." A handful of human rights organizations, principally one called Cristosal and a feminist collective in San Salvador, stepped up and, through them, the group has now filed 111 claims of habeas corpus  — a legal demand that prosecutors present their evidence against a detained person, or forfeit custody. "The families have hope that their loved ones are still alive, but they don't have certainty of that," Rossy told me. They also created a website where they posted photos of their imprisoned kin, and composed a song, "Until we can embrace them," that enshrines their suffering and their demands.   Few groups elsewhere in the country have coalesced in this way to lobby. Rossy reminds the families ofthat they are not friendless in their woe, evoking groups in earlier decades in Argentina and Mexico – and even in El Salvador itself – who never stopped agitating for justice on behalf of loved ones who had been disappeared by the state in earlier decades, leaving maps for others to follow. "A long battle" lies ahead, Rossy cautioned them in one meeting. "You have to be prepared."Outside MarionaWalber, and many of the others from the Bajo Lempa, had ended up at a prison informally known as Mariona, for the municipality where it's located. Under the state of exception, prisons were sealed off. Not even lawyers could get in. There was no protocol for finding out how Walber was doing, or if he was even alive. In El Salvador, it falls to families to help feed and clothe incarcerated relatives. Although the State provides meals to those in prison, Bukele has limited the men to two meager plates per day, as punishment. To leave supplemental food and other essentials, or to elicit a nugget of information from a bureaucrat at the prison's entrance, Estefany, Glenda, and others from Sisiguayo had no choice but to camp out outside Mariona. It's mostly men who have been arrested, and, in the first months of the crackdown, it was mostly women waiting outside prisons, by the thousands, for days at a time, sharing meals and makeshift cardboard mattresses. Everyone was taking on debt to afford the litany of expenses that follow an arrest, and some said they'd lost their jobs because they had spent so many days waiting. It was rumored that some police were offering to trade a man's freedom for sex or money.Glenda Rodriguez walks to the Mariona prison to get news of her brother, Walber Rodriguez, on June 20, 2022.Fred Ramos for Insider The jailings came so fast that Cristosal rushed to set up an online system where families could report arrests and sign up for support as they navigated the justice system. Families described traveling hours to a public defender's office and finding a line so long they lost hope of being seen. There's now about one public defender for every 200 arrests. Initial hearings include up to 500 defendants simultaneously, and Bukele has warned he'll be monitoring judges for "favoring delinquents."  If a name disappears from the register of detainees, it could mean they'd been moved to another prison, or to a hospital, or to a morgue. The country's major newspapers run regular reports of families being unceremoniously delivered the lifeless bodies of loved ones. One of the few men who'd been held at Izalco prison and then released told the Salvadoran outlet La Prensa Grafica that prisoners had been made to run barefoot in circles for hours. When one man fell from exhaustion, the guards broke his ribs, and he died eight days later, the man said. This is the kind of news the families of the Bajo Lempa live in terror of receiving. 'We fear each other again'Sisiguayo sits in the fertile valley where the Lempa river makes its final stretch through El Salvador before flowing out to the Pacific Ocean. Here, the air tastes salty and thick, a reminder of the mangrove forests and the ocean just beyond them. Homes are one-story cinderblock structures, painted in tropical greens and blues and surrounded by clotheslines, palm trees and outhouses. A communal speaker system broadcasts news and emergency alerts.A sunbaked dirt road connects Sisiguayo to the nearest highway, and along it, residents commute by bicycle or motorbike, bending around the cows, horses and dogs that loll about. Every year around November, the rainy season leaves behind deep potholes, so each family gives the share of money they can spare to pay for gas to power the construction equipment loaned from the mayor's office to fortify the road. Most young people work in shrimp cooperatives, where many tasks are nocturnal. It's a life of little sleep and hard manual labor. Night shifts start at around three in the morning. The workers return home for breakfast at about nine, and head off to a second job, like seasonal farming or bricklaying. Here, as everywhere else, the state of exception has been a financial drain. More than a dozen men from one of the shrimp cooperatives were netted in the crackdown, and what normally takes the cooperative two weeks to accomplish now takes two or three months. Roxana, another one of the Rodriguezes' neighbors, was hit especially hard by the arrests. Her two sons, a daughter-in-law and a brother-in-law had all been rounded up, as well as her boyfriend Jeremias' two nephews. Now, she spends much of her time running endless arrest-related errands. Her youngest daughter, who's 12, had to leave school to help run the family's corner store and care for Roxana's 5-year-old grandchild. Within the first six weeks, the costs ballooned to around $1000 — a small fortune that's twice the amount Roxana spent to open and fully stock her shop. By the late summer, Jeremias, is usually out in the fields alongside Roxana's two boys and his two nephews, planting corn for the family to eat. With them in prison, he had to forgo the crop this year, because it's too much to handle alone.  The state of exception "has a human cost that we still can't fully see," said Noah Bullock, Executive Director of Cristosal. "There is the torture, the inhumane treatment, the more than eighty deaths in prisons, and that's only talking about the people who are detained. Life projects that people have built slowly over generations are suddenly paralyzed and collapsed. There's the loss of income and the simultaneous expenses. The social cost of being stigmatized as 'terrorists.'" The administration seems unperturbed by the volume of blameless people it has locked up. "There will always be victims in war," Vice President Felix Ulloa has said of the state of exception. Walber's father, Tomas, at home in Sisiguayo, on June 17, 2022.Fred Ramos for InsiderThe last time state security forces were targeting the people of the Bajo Lempa, en masse and without explanation, it was in the middle of a civil war. From late 1979 until 1992, vicious US-backed government forces clashed with a leftist guerrilla movement. More than 75,000 Salvadorans died and thousands more were disappeared. A United Nations truth commission later found that 85% of the war kidnapping, torture and murder were committed by the government forces, including police and military. Walber's parents were among those fighting on the side of the guerrillas. In 1992, when they dropped their rifles after U.N.-brokered peace talks, they were given land as a way to return to civilian life. Margarita, Tomas and their neighbors came to inhabit Sisiguayo, with its rich coastal tracts, generous for fishing and farming. For Margarita, her son's senseless arrest reminded her of the state-sponsored kidnappings that had led her to take up arms. "That's what most hurts," she told me. "Now we fear each other again."  A photo of Walber Rodriguez's father, Tomas, from when he was a member of a guerrilla group during the Salvadoran civil war, hangs in his house.Fred Ramos for InsiderThe Bajo Lempa is also a flood plain, a condition that was exacerbated by poor government management of the hydroelectric dams that line the river. During repeated devastating floods in the past three decades, the people of the region, the Rodriguez family among them, lobbied and protested, even marching about sixty miles on foot to the capital to demand better dam administration. For Walber and his older sister Glenda, who were children at the time, this was an early education in democracy. The Bajo Lempa won. San Salvador committed to building the levies needed to ameliorate the annual floods, and to communicating its plans to discharge water from the dams, so the communities in harms' way could evacuate in time.Now, they are again under siege. Surf City Outside El Salvador, Bukele is best known for two things. First, his announcement, at the Bitcoin 2021 conference in Miami, that his government would "push humanity at least a tiny bit in the right direction" by adopting Bitcoin as a national currency. Second, his "Surf City" initiative along El Salvador's 190-mile Pacific coastline, where consistent eight-to-ten-foot waves in prime spots makes it one of the best surfing spots in the Americas. Everyone knows that Surf City is his, and that Bukele's target audience is Bitcoin enthusiasts and international surfers. After the apparent breakdown in negotiations between the administration and MS-13, the gangs left a message for Bukele in the form of a mangled cadaver left on the highway that connects the beaches to the capital.By June 2022, Bloomberg estimated that Bukele's crypto gamble had cost El Salvador nearly $56 million. That same month, as thousands of Salvadorans were being locked up, Surf City was playing host to the World Surf League's Championship Tour at a beach called Punta Roca. "Eighty-two degree water, no wetsuits!" thundered from the sportscaster.Nearby, cameramen grumbled to a Salvadoran surfer that they couldn't pan without a uniformed man with a rifle coming into the image.  Locals, who in theory stand to benefit from all of this, were remarking that whitewashing the entrance wall to one beach, El Tunco, and stamping it with an English name left it looking like a drive-through bank. "It was good that he saw the potential in our waves," Enzo, who runs a couple of cafes in the area, told me one evening. And promised infrastructural improvements, like finally completing a waste-water treatment plant so that businesses aren't reliant on bottled water, haven't arrived. Meanwhile, new luxury apartments with a base price of $400,000 are being marketed to crypto enthusiasts, prompting worry that excessive development will smother the area's natural beauty and put everyone out of business. It's almost as if Surf City is Bukele's Potemkin Village, thrown up to boost his standing in a handful of elite circles as he loses legitimacy elsewhere. Bukele "wants to promote the country as a place that other people can buy," said Bullock of Cristosal. "But what is his plan for the middle-aged man who has sold coconuts in Punta Roca his whole life? El Tunco already has local commerce and its own identity. Why not honor that identity?"'Dad's not working, is he?'When Walber was jailed, Estefany told their six-year-old, Michelle, that Walber had gone out of town for a job. When Estefany and Glenda left for days camped outside the prison, she said they were studying. Michelle's questions became harder to escape. When he was away working, Walber usually sent a flood of adoring messages to his daughter on Estefany's phone, but this time, there were none to show. Before ten days had passed, Michelle cornered her mom: "Dad's not working, is he?"  At six, Michelle is absorbing that her life is built on shifting sands — a father in prison, a mother who might withhold the truthcapable of deceiving her. Estefany tried to explain, saying, "The authorities make mistakes." But it's just another tectonic lesson for a child. Walber and Estefany have known each other since they were kids and they've been partners for years, but it was only last year that they finally got married. They were the first in the family to have a real wedding, and Glenda remembers how they both giggled when they asked her to save the date — Dec. 17. Graduation photos of Walber Rodriguez, left, and his sister, Glenda Rodriguez, right, at the family house in Sisiguayo.Fred Ramos for InsiderEstefany's dress, which Glenda and Margarita helped her choose, was the color of red wine and had a sparkling brooch at the bosom. Walber had splurged on a new oxford shirt, jeans, and white tennis shoes. He also surprised Estefany with a wedding ring, which he had secretly saved for months to buy. It was a luxury she had never imagined. The cake, a single-tier white sphere adorned with fruit, held the children rapt until it was time to dig in. When Glenda thinks about the politicians and the police who get to return home to their families at night, so easy in their freedom, it fills her with rage. They can't even begin to comprehend what they have stolen from their people.'No one else will defend him but us' The retreat center where the families met every week was a thirty-minute crawling drive down the potholed dirt road from where Walber was arrested. In late June, 54 days after Walber's arrest, three-dozen of them sat as they usually did, in a circle of plastic chairs in an open-air pavilion, roofed in ceramic tile and ringed in a garden of carefully-manicured green.Rossy stood in the middle of the circle, wearing flip-flops and a white tunic embroidered with flowers, calling on people to speak. Chamba kept a notebook propped between his thigh and the arm of his wheelchair. The families were debating: Should they stay the course, and pursue their habeas corpus claims in court? Or was it time to take to the streets? The habeas corpus route had been Rossy's idea. Back in 2020, right when COVID-19 upended global travel, Rossy was in Ecuador at a theological conference. Bukele was about to close the borders and implement some of the most restrictive pandemic measures in the world. She managed to get onto the last flight into the Salvadoran airport and ended up at a quarantine center for six weeks. Desperate for a way out, a lawyer friend advised her to file a habeas corpus claim. It worked – she was released. Now, it's a tactic that more than 1,800 other Salvadorans across the country have also used since March, but to little effect since the administration has wrenched the legal system into its orbit, forcing many judges to retire and intimidating the rest, along with flooding the system with many times more defendants than it can handle. Members of the group have been harassed by the police, and there was always concern that cops might show up in the middle of the meeting to arrest everyone. One woman who had started attending after her husband was arrested was then herself arrested. Now, the neighbors couldn't agree on what was best. The state of exception allowed the police to detain anyone for any reason. If they protested and ended up incarcerated alongside their loved ones, who would defend them then?  People clamored to speak. Rossy called on a gray-haired man in a cowboy hat. He was one of the many who had spent consecutive days and nights on the street outside Mariona, where his son was being held, and while there, he heard rumor that the guards take vengeance on prisoners whose families caused trouble out front. He rose slowly, and then stated his firm opposition to any public action. He reminded the group that it wasn't only themselves who would pay the price for protesting. When he took up arms in the civil war, he said, it was his own life he was putting at risk. But now, any action might put his son's life at risk. When he finished speaking, Glenda – who, at 28 years old, was among the youngest group members – raised her hand. "I may not have as much life experience as many of you. And I didn't live the war fighting in the mountains like many of you did," she began. But, she continued, she did know that all of El Salvador's civil rights victories, including democracy itself, were the product of struggles on the street. She too had camped outside Mariona, and she had learned that viral malicious rumors appeared on social media as part of an attempt to silence families. A meeting of the Bajo Lempa families on June 17, 2022.Fred Ramos for Insider"If the state is going to kill my brother, it will do so whether or not I speak out. If it will incarcerate me – the same is true," she reasoned. "No one else will defend him but us." Finally, there was simply the value of the truth: "The president wants to make this country look like a wonderland, like everything is Surf City," she said – but the world needed to know what was really happening in El Salvador.  The group ultimately decided that Glenda was right: it was time to take the streets. And just as each Bajo Lempa family had discovered that they were not alone when they found the group, now they saw there were hundreds of families around the country who, like them, were ready to march in San Salvador. They began regularly joining the others in the capital to protest and speak to the media, while continuing their habeas corpus petitions. Just before Christmas, the families of the Bajo Lempa packed a bridge on a main thoroughfare and demanded their loved ones be freed. For now, the Bukele administration remains unmoved. The group is now planning to sue their government in an international human rights court.One day last summer, before anyone comprehended how long this would last, Roxana told me something that multiple women in the Bajo Lempa echoed: Since her children were detained, she has been dreaming of them. In one dream, she was sitting at home in the dark, and one of her three sons walked through the front door. He paused in the threshold. She thought it was Cristian, the only one who has not yet been taken. But when he stepped out of the shadow, she saw that it was Javier, her youngest. He was dressed just as he had been on April 27, the night the police hauled him away. She called to him – and then the dream ended. "As a mother," she said, "you wake up to a nightmare."This reporting was supported by the International Women's Media Foundation's Howard G. Buffett Fund for Women Journalists.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 27th, 2022

Trump"s lawyers keep getting slammed for filing conspiratorial lawsuits. Here are the 16 sanctioned so far.

Former President Donald Trump's election challenges have resulted in numerous sanctions for lawyers representing him or working on his behalf. Howard Kleinhendler, Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, and Alina Habba are all among the 16 lawyers who have been sanctioned for lawsuits supporting former President Donald Trump.AP; AP; Reuters; Getty Images Lawyers representing Trump keep getting sanctioned by courts. At least 16 of them have been slapped by judges, mostly for litigation challenging elections. Alina Habba, Rudy Giuliani, and Sidney Powell are all among those who have been sanctioned. When lawyers try to help Donald Trump with his problems, they often end up with problems of their own.Sixteen different lawyers have been sanctioned over failed lawsuits brought on the former president's behalf. Their attempts include litigation seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and pushing a conspiracy theory blaming the Russia investigation on a smattering of Democratic party operatives.The risks of working as a lawyer for Trump, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen previously told Insider, comes from the mogul's refusal to take a loss."For Donald, the only option is victory at any cost," Cohen, who was disbarred following a criminal conviction based on actions he took on Trump's behalf, told Insider. "This even includes having counsel act in ways detrimental to their reputation and career."Many of Trump's lawyers, even if they are not sanctioned, end up needing lawyers of their own to ward off the worst consequences. Christina Bobb, for example, has now been entangled in the Justice Department's investigation into Trump taking classified documents to Mar-a-Lago and has hired a defense attorney of her own.It's not just Trump, either. Lawyers for MyPillow mogul Mike Lindell and failed Arizona governor nominee Kari Lake have also been sanctioned for failed litigation seeking to cancel votes.Still, as many 16 lawyers have been personally sanctioned because of their work for Trump, and Insider has compiled a list. Alina HabbaWhat does Trump do when he wants to sue his perceived enemies? He turns to Alina Habba.She began representing him in September 2021, completing the settlement of a sexual misconduct lawsuit Summer Zervos filed against him. More recently, she settled a lawsuit brought by protesters who alleged his security guards beat them up.But she's more prominently represented him on the offense, filing lawsuits against the Pulitzer Prize board for awarding newspapers that dug into Trump's ties with Russia, his niece Mary Trump for providing the New York Times his tax returns, and the New York attorney general's office for investigating his business practices.Those lawsuits have not been successful. The least successful, however, was a sprawling lawsuit Trump filed against Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, and several other figures linked to Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. The lawsuit alleged they worked in cahoots to spin a false narrative about Trump's links to Russia, which harmed him in the 2016 election (which he won) and dogged him during his presidency with the Mueller investigation (which resulted in no charges against him).Former U.S. President Donald Trump's lawyer Alina Habba leaves Trump Tower to meet with New York Attorney General Letitia James for a civil investigation on August 10, 2022 in New York City.James Devaney/GC ImagesDonald M. Middlebrooks, the Florida-based federal judge overseeing the case, tossed Trump's lawsuit in September, describing it as "a two-hundred-page political manifesto outlining his grievances against those that have opposed him." Even before then, a defendant in the case named Charles Dolan filed a motion for sanctions against Habba and her colleagues, pointing out that he was incorrectly described as a Clinton campaign official and a chairman of a national Democratic party organization in the lawsuit.The judge granted Dolan's motion in October. His role in Clinton's 2016 campaign, the judge found, was limited to being a door-knocking volunteer and certainly had nothing to do with convincing the FBI to investigate Trump."The rule of law is undermined by the toxic combination of political fundraising with legal fees paid by political action committees, reckless and factually untrue statements by lawyers at rallies and in the media, and efforts to advance a political narrative through lawsuits without factual basis or any cognizable legal theory," Middlebrooks wrote.Habba has appealed the sanctions ruling. Clinton and other people named in the lawsuit who are actually in her circle separately filed their own motion for sanctions against Habba in October, which remains pending.Michael T. MadaioHabba's lower-profile law partner at Habba Madaio & Associates was also sanctioned by the Florida judge over the Clinton lawsuit.Peter TicktinHabba and Madaio are based in New Jersey. To file their lawsuit against Clinton and the Democratic National Committee in Florida, they needed to recruit a Florida-based lawyer to vouch for them. They ended up working with Ticktin, who has his own law firm in the town of Deerfield Beach. He was sanctioned, too.Jamie Alan SassonSassoon, a partner at The Ticktin Law Group involved in the case, bore the brunt of Middlebrooks's sanctions ruling as well.Habba, Madaio, Ticktin, and Sasson were collectively required to pay more than $66,000 in fines and fees for the failed lawsuit.Rudy GiulianiMore than any other issue, Trump's quest to overturn the 2020 election results has brought much grief to his lawyers.Rudy Giuliani — once a leading Republican presidential candidate, mayor of New York City, and US Attorney for the Southern District of New York — took up the mantle of election conspiracy theorist in the waning days of Trump's presidency.He was part of Trump's "Elite Strike Force" of lawyers trying to convince judges to cancel votes and have Trump declared the victor. Things got really bad for Giuliani through a lawsuit in Pennsylvania where he represented the Trump campaign and asked a judge to toss out 700,000 mail-in ballots and block the certification of election results.Former Mayor of New York and attorney to Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesThe case was tossed, and Biden's victory certified. In New York, a state appeals court suspended Giuliani's law license in 2021 after finding he made "demonstrably false and misleading" statements about voter fraud.Washington, DC, temporarily suspended his license soon afterward. Giuliani is currently engaged in a contentious battle over whether he will be able to continue practicing law in the nation's capital city.A DC bar organization has also filed an ethics charge against Jeffrey Clark, a former Trump Administration Justice Department official who tried to overturn the election results, which remains pending.Sidney PowellSidney Powell's time on Trump's "Elite Strike Force" was brief. Trump dropped her only days after announcing the team.Undeterred, Powell struck it out on her own — on Trump's behalf. She filed lawsuits in Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Georgia alleging that rival election technology companies, in cahoots with each other, manipulated vote results to hand Biden his victories in those states.Each and every lawsuit was dismissed. They later spurred defamation lawsuits from the election technology companies, Dominion and Smartmatic, which are ongoing.Sidney Powell, attorney for President Donald Trump, conducts a news conference at the Republican National Committee on lawsuits regarding the outcome of the 2020 presidential election on Thursday, November 19, 2020.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesIn Michigan, attorneys for the city of Detroit went an extra step and filed for sanctions, which were granted by US District Court Judge Linda V. Parker in August 2021.Powell has appealed the sanctions. The state of Wisconsin is also pursuing sanctions against Powell for her lawsuit in that state.Lin WoodThe rabble-rousing Georgia-based lawyer was sanctioned alongside Powell in the Michigan case. Though he said he wasn't aware his name was on Powell's lawsuit, Parker found him "not credible" in her ruling, pointing out that he took credit for filing the lawsuit ahead of the sanctions hearing.Emily NewmanYet another attorney who signed off on Powell's Michigan lawsuit, Newman was sanctioned as well.Gregory RohlRohl played the role of local counsel to help Powell file her Michigan lawsuit. In a sanctions hearing, he said he played only a minimal part in the preparation of the lawsuit and spent a short time reading it. Parker didn't find his claims persuasive.Scott HagerstromHagerstrom was another Michigan-based lawyer in Powell's suit, also sanctioned.Stefanie Lynn JunttilaAnother player in Powell's Michigan lawsuit, Junttila filed a grammatically challenged appeal to the judge's decision not to overturn the state's election results. Parker found her argument that her briefs were protected by the First Amendment to be made in an "illogical and incoherent fashion."Julia Z. HallerHaller was also a member of Powell's legal team in the Michigan sanctioned in the case.Brandon JohnsonJohnson, too, was sanctioned in the Michigan case for signing onto the failed lawsuit.Howard KleinhendlerParker repeatedly hammered Kleinhendler as "dishonest" in her sanctions order. In particular, she said he didn't tell the truth about Joshua Merritt, an IT consultant who falsely represented himself as a former US military intelligence official and claimed to have evidence of election fraud in an affidavit supporting Powell's lawsuit.Howard Kleinhendler outside a Manhattan courthouse in 2021.AP Photo/Mary AltafferKleinhendler had also argued in a hearing that the judge should suspend the ratification of Michigan's votes merely because he suspected wrongdoing."Litigants and attorneys cannot come to federal court asserting that certain acts violate the law based only upon an opportunity for — or counsel and the litigant's suspicions of — a violation," Parker wrote.Ernest J. WalkerIn Colorado, a pair of Trump-supporting lawyers, Walker and Gary D. Fielder, filed a lawsuit seeking $160 billion in damages because Biden won the 2020 election.The judge overseeing the case rejected it, calling the suit's conspiratorial claims "the stuff of which violent insurrections are made," and sanctioned the two."This lawsuit was filed with a woeful lack of investigation into the law and (under the circumstances) the facts," US Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter wrote. "The lawsuit put into or repeated into the public record highly inflammatory and damaging allegations that could have put individuals' safety in danger. Doing so without a valid legal basis or serious independent personal investigation into the facts was the height of recklessness."Gary D. FielderLike Walker, Fielder was sanctioned for the Colorado lawsuit. Neureiter called it a "cut-and-paste job" that recycled elements of other failed lawsuits seeking to overturn election results. The two attorneys weren't able  to independently defend the lawsuit's false claims in court, the judge said.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 27th, 2022

You’d Better Watch Out: The Surveillance State Is Making a List, And You’re On It

You’d Better Watch Out: The Surveillance State Is Making a List, And You’re On It Authored by John & Nisha Whitehead via rutherford.org, “He sees you when you’re sleeping He knows when you’re awake He knows when you’ve been bad or good So be good for goodness’ sake!” —“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” You’d better watch out—you’d better not pout—you’d better not cry—‘cos I’m telling you why: this Christmas, it’s the Surveillance State that’s making a list and checking it twice, and it won’t matter whether you’ve been bad or good. You’ll be on this list whether you like it or not. Mass surveillance is the Deep State’s version of a “gift” that keeps on giving…back to the Deep State. Geofencing dragnets. Fusion centers. Smart devices. Behavioral threat assessments. Terror watch lists. Facial recognition. Snitch tip lines. Biometric scanners. Pre-crime. DNA databases. Data mining. Precognitive technology. Contact tracing apps. What these add up to is a world in which, on any given day, the average person is now monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways by both government and corporate eyes and ears. Big Tech wedded to Big Government has become Big Brother. Every second of every day, the American people are being spied on by a vast network of digital Peeping Toms, electronic eavesdroppers and robotic snoops. This creepy new era of government/corporate spying—in which we’re being listened to, watched, tracked, followed, mapped, bought, sold and targeted—has been made possible by a global army of techno-tyrants, fusion centers and Peeping Toms. Consider just a small sampling of the tools being used to track our movements, monitor our spending, and sniff out all the ways in which our thoughts, actions and social circles might land us on the government’s naughty list, whether or not you’ve done anything wrong. Tracking you based on your phone and movements: Cell phones have become de facto snitches, offering up a steady stream of digital location data on users’ movements and travels. For instance, the FBI was able to use geofence data to identify more than 5,000 mobile devices (and their owners) in a 4-acre area around the Capitol on January 6. This latest surveillance tactic could land you in jail for being in the “wrong place and time.” Police are also using cell-site simulators to carry out mass surveillance of protests without the need for a warrant. Moreover, federal agents can now employ a number of hacking methods in order to gain access to your computer activities and “see” whatever you’re seeing on your monitor. Malicious hacking software can also be used to remotely activate cameras and microphones, offering another means of glimpsing into the personal business of a target. Tracking you based on your DNA. DNA technology in the hands of government officials completes our transition to a Surveillance State. If you have the misfortune to leave your DNA traces anywhere a crime has been committed, you’ve already got a file somewhere in some state or federal database—albeit it may be a file without a name. By accessing your DNA, the government will soon know everything else about you that they don’t already know: your family chart, your ancestry, what you look like, your health history, your inclination to follow orders or chart your own course, etc. After all, a DNA print reveals everything about “who we are, where we come from, and who we will be.” It can also be used to predict the physical appearance of potential suspects. It’s only a matter of time before the police state’s pursuit of criminals expands into genetic profiling and a preemptive hunt for criminals of the future. Tracking you based on your face: Facial recognition software aims to create a society in which every individual who steps out into public is tracked and recorded as they go about their daily business. Coupled with surveillance cameras that blanket the country, facial recognition technology allows the government and its corporate partners to identify and track someone’s movements in real-time. One particularly controversial software program created by Clearview AI has been used by police, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to collect photos on social media sites for inclusion in a massive facial recognition database. Similarly, biometric software, which relies on one’s unique identifiers (fingerprints, irises, voice prints), is becoming the standard for navigating security lines, as well as bypassing digital locks and gaining access to phones, computers, office buildings, etc. In fact, greater numbers of travelers are opting into programs that rely on their biometrics in order to avoid long waits at airport security. Scientists are also developing lasers that can identify and surveil individuals based on their heartbeats, scent and microbiome. Tracking you based on your behavior: Rapid advances in behavioral surveillance are not only making it possible for individuals to be monitored and tracked based on their patterns of movement or behavior, including gait recognition (the way one walks), but have given rise to whole industries that revolve around predicting one’s behavior based on data and surveillance patterns and are also shaping the behaviors of whole populations. One smart “anti-riot” surveillance system purports to predict mass riots and unauthorized public events by using artificial intelligence to analyze social media, news sources, surveillance video feeds and public transportation data. Tracking you based on your spending and consumer activities: With every smartphone we buy, every GPS device we install, every Twitter, Facebook, and Google account we open, every frequent buyer card we use for purchases—whether at the grocer’s, the yogurt shop, the airlines or the department store—and every credit and debit card we use to pay for our transactions, we’re helping Corporate America build a dossier for its government counterparts on who we know, what we think, how we spend our money, and how we spend our time. Consumer surveillance, by which your activities and data in the physical and online realms are tracked and shared with advertisers, has become big business, a $300 billion industry that routinely harvests your data for profit. Corporations such as Target have not only been tracking and assessing the behavior of their customers, particularly their purchasing patterns, for years, but the retailer has also funded major surveillance in cities across the country and developed behavioral surveillance algorithms that can determine whether someone’s mannerisms might fit the profile of a thief. Tracking you based on your public activities: Private corporations in conjunction with police agencies throughout the country have created a web of surveillance that encompasses all major cities in order to monitor large groups of people seamlessly, as in the case of protests and rallies. They are also engaging in extensive online surveillance, looking for any hints of “large public events, social unrest, gang communications, and criminally predicated individuals.” Defense contractors have been at the forefront of this lucrative market. Fusion centers, $330 million-a-year, information-sharing hubs for federal, state and law enforcement agencies, monitor and report such “suspicious” behavior as people buying pallets of bottled water, photographing government buildings, and applying for a pilot’s license as “suspicious activity.” Tracking you based on your social media activities: Every move you make, especially on social media, is monitored, mined for data, crunched, and tabulated in order to form a picture of who you are, what makes you tick, and how best to control you when and if it becomes necessary to bring you in line. As The Intercept reported, the FBI, CIA, NSA and other government agencies are increasingly investing in and relying on corporate surveillance technologies that can mine constitutionally protected speech on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in order to identify potential extremists and predict who might engage in future acts of anti-government behavior. This obsession with social media as a form of surveillance will have some frightening consequences in coming years. As Helen A.S. Popkin, writing for NBC News, observed, “We may very well face a future where algorithms bust people en masse for referencing illegal ‘Game of Thrones’ downloads… the new software has the potential to roll, Terminator-style, targeting every social media user with a shameful confession or questionable sense of humor.” Tracking you based on your social network: Not content to merely spy on individuals through their online activity, government agencies are now using surveillance technology to track one’s social network, the people you might connect with by phone, text message, email or through social message, in order to ferret out possible criminals. An FBI document obtained by Rolling Stone speaks to the ease with which agents are able to access address book data from Facebook’s WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage services from the accounts of targeted individuals and individuals not under investigation who might have a targeted individual within their network. What this creates is a “guilt by association” society in which we are all as guilty as the most culpable person in our address book. Tracking you based on your car: License plate readers are mass surveillance tools that can photograph over 1,800 license tag numbers per minute, take a picture of every passing license tag number and store the tag number and the date, time, and location of the picture in a searchable database, then share the data with law enforcement, fusion centers and private companies to track the movements of persons in their cars. With tens of thousands of these license plate readers now in operation throughout the country, affixed to overpasses, cop cars and throughout business sectors and residential neighborhoods, it allows police to track vehicles and run the plates through law enforcement databases for abducted children, stolen cars, missing people and wanted fugitives. Of course, the technology is not infallible: there have been numerous incidents in which police have mistakenly relied on license plate data to capture out suspects only to end up detaining innocent people at gunpoint. Tracking you based on your mail: Just about every branch of the government—from the Postal Service to the Treasury Department and every agency in between—now has its own surveillance sector, authorized to spy on the American people. For instance, the U.S. Postal Service, which has been photographing the exterior of every piece of paper mail for the past 20 years, is also spying on Americans’ texts, emails and social media posts. Headed up by the Postal Service’s law enforcement division, the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) is reportedly using facial recognition technology, combined with fake online identities, to ferret out potential troublemakers with “inflammatory” posts. The agency claims the online surveillance, which falls outside its conventional job scope of processing and delivering paper mail, is necessary to help postal workers avoid “potentially volatile situations.” Now the government wants us to believe that we have nothing to fear from these mass spying programs as long as we’ve done nothing wrong. Don’t believe it. The government’s definition of a “bad” guy is extraordinarily broad, and it results in the warrantless surveillance of innocent, law-abiding Americans on a staggering scale. As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, surveillance, digital stalking and the data mining of the American people—weapons of compliance and control in the government’s hands—haven’t made America any safer. And they certainly aren’t helping to preserve our freedoms. Indeed, America will never be safe as long as the U.S. government is allowed to shred the Constitution. Tyler Durden Sat, 12/24/2022 - 22:10.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 25th, 2022