In the early moments of the uprising in Baltimore after police killed Freddie Gray, Baltimore city officials monitored social media. The officials labeled activists and other users, who were posting about reported rioting, protest activity, and police action, as “threats.”
The spreadsheet listing individuals deemed to have posted “threats” was released in a cache of 7,000 internal emails sent during the uprising by city officials.
It is unclear who specifically was compiling this list. No agency is listed in the spreadsheet as being responsible. However, what is apparent is officials followed hashtags and essentially criminalized certain flows of information being shared by individuals.
Officials compiled 71 “threatening” pieces of content from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube on April 27 [PDF].
Each threat was designated as some kind of a “violation.” These “violations” included “chatter,” “cyber threat,” “riot,” “physical threat,” “threat,” “violence,” and “rebellion.”
“All of Your Anonymity is Gone”
One of the activists singled out was @ConstantNatalie. She has the distinction of being the only user who was accused of promoting “rebellion,” which is not defined anywhere in the spreadsheet.
Remarkably, @ConstantNatalie was nowhere near Baltimore. She was in Chicago. The posting that garnered attention was not her own posting either. It was something she retweeted about providing medical attention to protesters from @brazenqueer (who was not listed as posting a “threat”).
Natalie recalled the experience of having a “beast”—the surveillance state—look at you and then later you find your name in a government document.
“It feels like all of your anonymity is gone,” she stated. “Once [the state] starts monitoring, then they start digging.” And, “Those in power want people, who are posting to social media in times of rebellion, to “be quiet and good in the face of horrific injustice.”
Other people noted in the spreadsheet were @UntoldCarlisle, a journalist, and Deray McKesson, a prominent voice in the movement for black lives.
The city tracked the following hashtags: #Baltimorecitypolice, #AmeriKKKa, #justiceforfreddie, #justiceforfreddie, #FreddieGray, #Amerikkka, #Amerikkka, #BaltimoreRiots, #BaltimoreRiots #idgt, and #mondawmin, #Baltimore, #OPFREDDIE, #blacklivesmatter, etc.
Essentially, city officials criminalized a select group of people, who engaged in freedom of expression and associated their expression of political discontent with any of these hashtags. (more…)
There is increasing concern that Shell’s presence in the Arctic will lead to an oil spill, as the company begins to drill in the Chukcki Sea off the shore of Alaska.
Shell is no stranger to the Chukchi Sea. In 1988, the firm spent $300 million to drill for oil only to find dry holes.
Today Shell’s technology is more advanced, but that does not mean it can protect against potentially disastrous spills. A report by the Department of Interior—specifically the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management—found a 75 percent chance of a large oil spill in the Arctic should drilling occur.
The search for oil in the Arctic is viewed as a necessity by the oil industry. According to the U.S. Geological Service, there are potentially 90 billion barrels of oil under the Arctic ice. The National Petroleum Council, comprised mostly of oil and gas companies, released a report earlier this year highlighted the usefulness of depending on Arctic oil:
Arctic exploration today may provide a material impact to U.S. oil production in the future, potentially averting decline, improving U.S. energy security, and benefiting the local and overall U.S. economy.
Erik Milito, director of upstream at the oil industry-funded American Petroleum Institute, argued on behalf of Arctic drilling as essential for U.S. energy security:
The safe and responsible development of oil and natural gas in the Arctic is critical to our economy and national security…Failure to develop these resources would put America’s global energy leadership at risk at a time when Russia and other Arctic nations are forging ahead.
Although, a 2012 report co-written by API’s Arctic Oil Spill task force found, in spite of some advantages, “logistical challenges” in responding to an oil spill.
John Deans, a Greenpeace Arctic campaigner specialist, told Firedoglake an oil spill in the Arctic would be a “catastrophe.” Moreover, he said risky extractions, such as tar sands, are slightly similar to drilling in the Arctic, yet the latter carries more risks.
“With the Arctic, it is another extreme extraction. The environmental risks are so much higher and difficult to deal with,” Deans said. (more…)
EDINBURGH — Private, for-profit schools in Africa funded by the World Bank and U.S. venture capitalists have been criticized by more than 100 organizations who’ve signed a petition opposing the controversial educational venture.
A May statement addressed to Jim Kim, president of the World Bank, expressed deep concern over the global financial institution’s investment in a chain of private primary schools targeting poor families in Kenya and Uganda and called on the institution to support free universal education instead.
The schools project is called Bridge International Academies and 100,000 pupils have enrolled in 412 schools across the two nations. BIA is supported by the World Bank, which has given $10 million to the project, and a number of investors, including U.S. venture capitalists NEA and Learn Capital. Other notable investors include Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Pierre Omidyar and Pearson, a multinational publishing company.
In a speech delivered in April, Kim praised BIA as a means to alleviate poverty in Kenya and Uganda. Critics responded that many Kenyans and Ugandans cannot afford private education, further arguing that this type of investment merely supports Western businesses at the expense of local public services.
A section of the letter addressed to Kim asserts:
“We, civil society organisations and citizens of Kenya and Uganda, are appalled that an organisation whose mandate is supposed to be to lift people out of poverty shows such a profound misunderstanding and disconnect from the lives and rights of poor people in Kenya and Uganda. If the World Bank is serious about improving education in Kenya and Uganda, it should support our governments to expand and improve our public education systems, provide quality education to all children free of charge, and address other financial barriers to access.”
Opposition to educational neocolonialism
The statement reflects a growing global movement questioning Western policies pushing private education in developing countries. It was written and signed by 30 organizations in Uganda and Kenya and supported by 116 organizations around the world, including Global Justice Now and ActionAid. They claim BIA uses highly standardized teaching methods, untrained low-paid teachers, and aggressive marketing strategies targeted at poor households.
In his speech supporting BIA, Kim said that “average scores for reading and math have risen high above their public school peers.” Opponents questioned these figures, noting that they appear to have been taken directly from a study conducted by BIA itself.
Global Justice Now added that the World Bank president’s assertion that the “the cost per student at Bridge Academies is just $6 dollars a month” was misleading.
“This suggestion that $6 is an acceptable amount of money for poor households to pay reveals a profound lack of understanding of the reality of the lives of the poorest,” Global Justice Now, a London-based organization promoting social justice, wrote on its website in May.
Hello, am looking forward to Shadowproof, and will happily begin with a Friday Over Easy for that new presence. As you know, I am usually previewing today what will be the Art and Archaeology feature Saturday, and as you see above, this is about Avebury, England’s, stone circle. It is a fascinating place to visit, a community that evolved in an inexplicable monument, the circle of strategically placed but puzzling huge stones.
As the Lake winds down after the long run, I wanted to let y’all know that tomorrow nite will be my last LN post. However, Suz will have the honor of closing down the LN/LLN posts on Saturday nite, I hope to see y’all there…! It has been a great pleasure to post and host y’all here at the Lake…!
SANAA, Yemen — Five months have passed since Saudi Arabia declared war on Yemen, and for all its might, political resolve and military arsenal, the kingdom has yet to bring the poorest nation on the Arabian Peninsula to heel.
Its institutions in tatters, its military apparatus reduced to rubbles, and with no economy to speak of, Yemen’s imminent collapse has been foretold time and time again by experts and state officials. Yet these predictions have not quite come to fruition.
Yet this dedication to opposing Riyadh’s actions doesn’t mean Yemenis aren’t suffering. The World Health Organization issued a statement in June, warning that a “major health crisis is unfolding in Yemen, where hospitals have been destroyed, health workers killed and critical shortages of food, medical supplies and fuel are causing large-scale suffering.”
In early July, the United Nations declared the situation in Yemen to be the highest level of humanitarian emergency. According to a U.N. report published July 7, over 1,500 civilians have been killed, 3,600 have been injured, and over a million have been displaced in the ongoing conflict.
By U.N. estimates, about 80 percent of all Yemenis — more than 20 million people — are in need of humanitarian aid.
In late March, Amnesty International confirmed the deaths of at least six children under the age of 10 during a Saudi-led air raid that killed 25 people. The report read: “The organization spoke to medical personnel at four different hospitals where the dead were taken after being pulled from the rubble of 14 houses that were hit in a residential neighbourhood near the city’s international airport.”
Already the poorest and most vulnerable population in the Peninsula and arguably the Greater Middle East, Yemenis have seen their livelihoods and freedom of movement disintegrate under Saudi Arabia’s war momentum. In late April, Saudi Arabia bombed Sanaa International Airport, effectively trapping civilians within Yemen’s borders.
Despite mounting evidence of abuses and war crimes, it would take the international rights community several months to stand up to the oil giant. On July 27, Human Rights Watch unequivocally slammed Saudi Arabia for a litany of human rights violations. The report reads:
“Saudi-led coalition airstrikes that killed at least 65 civilians, including 10 children, and wounded dozens in the Yemeni port city of Mokha on July 24, 2015, are an apparent war crime. Starting between 9:30 and 10 p.m., coalition airplanes repeatedly struck two residential compounds of the Mokha Steam Power Plant, which housed plant workers and their family members.”
With fierce battles raging across Yemen, and as warplanes continue to rain lead onto heavily populated areas, Saudi Arabia has been looking for innovative ways to exert pressure onto the resistance movement. It is now withholding humanitarian aid to Yemen’s civilians to tame the growing insurrection movement against its rule and thus secure victory in the face of international law — all under the guise of the United Nations.
The kingdom is holding hostage not just Yemen but to some extent the international community, using the United Nations’ humanitarian institutions to wage war. It’s using institutions meant to offer relief as a means of weaponizing aid.
Hassan Jayache, a senior leader of the Houthi movement, which took control of Yemen earlier this year, told MintPress News that local NGOs have found themselves caught in a political web, forced to surrender their neutrality to secure not just funding but access to areas where aid is needed.
“The Saudis have exerted political pressures onto local NGOs and international aid organizations, demanding that aid be restricted to pre-approved segments of the population, based on political affiliations and according to religious criteria,” Jayache said.
“In other words, Al Saud has decided to starve the Shias of Yemen, hoping to break the Houthis’ momentum.”
Turning aid agencies into weapons of war
Mohammed Al-Emad, a Yemen-based journalist and political commentator, says Saudi Arabia called on several media organizations in the Middle East, the United States and Europe, demanding that “coverage on Yemen be sanitized and in keeping with Riyadh’s chosen political narrative.”
As many of you know, Firedoglake has been on hiatus for eight months while I recovered from hip replacement surgery. During that time I’ve been contemplating what the next chapter should be for the website. After some personal reflection, I have decided to pass the torch on to Kevin Gosztola and Brian Sonenstein, who will launch their own media organization called Shadowproof that will build on the success of FDL.
Kevin, who has continued to publish to FDL during hiatus, will be the organization’s Managing Editor. You might know him from the work he has done covering Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou, and other whistleblower cases. His Dissenter column was an enormous success at FDL, and he will continue to publish the column at Shadowproof.
Brian has spent the last year developing his own website, Prison Protest, which has focused on incarceration and prisoners’ rights. He worked for FDL for nearly six years. During his time at FDL, he was responsible for directing advocacy campaigns, including the Occupy Supply fund, the Just Say Now campaign to legalize marijuana, and various efforts in support of whistleblowers like Manning and Kiriakou. At Shadowproof, he will publish a column on prisons and criminal justice and also be the site’s Publishing Editor.
Kevin and Brian will be joined by fellow FDL veteran Dan S. Wright, who will publish a column called The Bullpen focusing on the super-rich and the influence of money in politics. Our old friend Kit O’Connell will be their social media manager, editor and a contributor, with a focus on community engagement.
I’m very happy that the nearly two hundred thousand posts published to FDL over the past ten years will be archived on the Shadowproof website. No person who has contributed posts to FDL need worry that their work will be lost.
The dogs and I have really loved being a part of the FDL community for over a decade, and are so very thankful for all of the great friends we’ve made and the experiences we have had. But we feel it’s time to hand over the helm to new, young energetic voices like Kevin, Brian, Dan and Kit. Moreover, it’s the right time in their careers when they should be stepping into leadership positions. I am so proud of all of the work they’ve done, and look forward to watching their growth as they lead their own organization.
I want to thank everyone over the years who has helped to make FDL a huge success. I urge those who have supported FDL to support Shadowproof, because it’s going to be amazing.
Welcome to Thursday’s Over Easy, a continuation of Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner and its tradition of giving an overview of news our everyday media doesn’t cover, issues that we ought to consider outside the U.S. scene. Now, I am back from that world and view, and glad of it though there are things I miss. It’s been really hard to get back onto schedule for me, hope you are all patient with me.
The UAE announced that fuel subsidies will be cut, which will bring regular fuel to 24% more in cost than it has shown for drivers there. The move is meant to encourage drivers to cut back on their profligacy in use of petroleum products and pollution.
“It’s not a huge increase,” said Mashfique Chowdhury, the editor of UAE-based motoring site DriveArabia. “People who can afford gas guzzling cars should still be able to afford them. It might hit the low-income groups more if commuting costs double.
Mohamed Noweir, the managing director of UAE car classifieds site Carmudi, said that the higher prices could spur on sales and availability of hybrid vehicles – currently a rarity in the Gulf.
“Who knows, maybe we’ll see hybrids picking up in the UAE. There could be a chance for you to see as many Teslas in Dubai than you see in California,” added Noweir, referring to the all-electric sports cars produced by the upstart U.S. automaker.
Always good to have an appearance by former Assistant Secretary of State P.J. Crowley, who resigned after describing the imprisonment and maltreatment of Bradley Manning – for releasing information about U.S. surveillance – as ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.
As journalists quizzed US state department spokesman John Kirby earlier this week about the fight against the so-called Islamic State, one simply asked, “Who is shooting at whom?”
It is actually a good question and a major problem as the United States tries to convert significant tactical effort on multiple fronts into a workable long-term strategy. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the US-led international effort to “degrade and ultimately destroy” IS, just how effective the coalition has been remains unclear.
As a practical matter, while the US has established a training programme for the moderate opposition, the graduation rate has been so modest that it is likely to be months if not years before those forces can make a difference.
Sadly, there is probably time. If the analogy of the Thirty Years War is accurate, this complex Middle East conflict is far from over.