• Two Muslim Women Are Headed to Congress. Will They Be Heard? – Foreign Policy

    In January 2019, Ilhan Omar, the congresswoman-elect from Minnesota’s 5th District—who wears a headscarf—will become the first veiled woman to serve in Congress. Much has changed in the past 17 years. The myth of saving Afghan women by bombing their country into oblivion has shown itself to be a devastating proposition. The Taliban are still around, and there is talk of making peace with them as the United States wearies of trying and failing to produce some sort of victory. Maloney is also around, winning her 14th term in last week’s midterm elections, even as Omar won her first. Nor will Omar be the lone Muslim: Joining her will be Rashida Tlaib, a longtime activist of Palestinian descent, who was elected in Michigan’s 13th District.

  • Bob Dylan’s Masterpiece, “Blood on the Tracks,” Is Still Hard to Find | The New Yorker

    In September, 1974, Bob Dylan spent four days in the old Studio A, his favorite recording haunt in Manhattan, and emerged with the greatest, darkest album of his career. It is a ten-song study in romantic devastation, as beautiful as it is bleak, worthy of comparison with Schubert’s “Winterreise.” Yet the record in question—“Blood on the Tracks”—has never officially seen the light of day. The Columbia label released an album with that title in January, 1975, but Dylan had reworked five of the songs in last-minute sessions in Minnesota, resulting in a substantial change of tone. Mournfulness and wistfulness gave way to a feisty, festive air. According to Andy Gill and Kevin Odegard, the authors of the book “A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of ‘Blood on the Tracks,’ ” from 2004, Dylan feared a commercial failure. The revised “Blood” sold extremely well, reaching the top of the Billboard album chart, and it ended talk of Dylan’s creative decline. It was not, however, the masterwork of melancholy that he created in Studio A.

    Ultimately, the long-running debate over the competing incarnations of “Blood on the Tracks” misses the point of what makes this artist so infinitely interesting, at least for some of us. Jeff Slate, who wrote liner notes for “More Blood, More Tracks,” observes that Dylan’s work is always in flux. The process that is documented on these eighty-seven tracks is not one of looking for the “right” take; it’s the beginning of an endless sequence of variations, which are still unfolding on his Never-Ending Tour.

    #Bob_Dylan #Musique

  • A look back at the 60’s “Minnesota Experimental City”, the brainchild of South African futurist Athelstan Spilhaus | News | Archinect

    In proposing his prototype 21st-century city, Spilhaus correctly diagnosed many of the shortcomings of the 20th-century one. He cottoned on early to concepts such as air pollution, even speculating that it was changing the Earth’s atmosphere. — The Guardian

    The Minnesota Experimental City has been documented in the film The Experimental City. Watch the trailer below...

    #urban_matter #experimental_city

  • How Vilification of George Soros Moved From the Fringes to the Mainstream - The New York Times

    On both sides of the Atlantic, a loose network of activists and political figures on the right have spent years seeking to cast Mr. Soros not just as a well-heeled political opponent but also as the personification of all they detest. Employing barely coded anti-Semitism, they have built a warped portrayal of him as the mastermind of a “globalist” movement, a left-wing radical who would undermine the established order and a proponent of diluting the white, Christian nature of their societies through immigration.

    In the process, they have pushed their version of Mr. Soros, 88, from the dark corners of the internet and talk radio to the very center of the political debate.

    “He’s a banker, he’s Jewish, he gives to Democrats — he’s sort of a perfect storm for vilification by the right, here and in Europe,” said Michael H. Posner, a human rights lawyer and former State Department official in the Obama administration.

    Mr. Soros has given his main group, the Open Society Foundations, $32 billion for what it calls democracy-building efforts in the United States and around the world. In addition, in the United States, Mr. Soros has personally contributed more than $75 million over the years to federal candidates and committees, according to Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service records.

    That qualifies him as one of the top disclosed donors to American political campaigns in the modern campaign finance era, and it does not include the many millions more he has donated to political nonprofit groups that do not disclose their donors.

    By contrast, the network of conservative donors led by the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch, who have been similarly attacked by some on the American left, has spent about $2 billion over the past decade on political and public policy advocacy.❞

    The closing advertisement for Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign featured Mr. Soros — as well as Janet L. Yellen, the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve at the time, and Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, both of whom are Jewish — as examples of “global special interests” who enriched themselves on the backs of working Americans.

    If anything, Mr. Soros has been elevated by Mr. Trump and his allies to even greater prominence in the narrative they have constructed for the closing weeks of the 2018 midterm elections. They have projected on to him key roles in both the threat they say is posed by the Central Americans making their way toward the United States border and what they characterized as Democratic “mobs” protesting the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

    The National Republican Congressional Committee ran an ad in October in Minnesota suggesting that Mr. Soros, who is depicted sitting behind a pile of cash, “bankrolls” everything from “prima donna athletes protesting our anthem” to “left-wing mobs paid to riot in the streets.” The ad links Mr. Soros to a local congressional candidate who worked at a think tank that has received funding from the Open Society Foundations.

    Even after the authorities arrested a fervent Trump supporter and accused him of sending the pipe bombs to Mr. Soros and other critics, Republicans did not back away. The president grinned on Friday when supporters at the White House responded to his attacks on Democrats and “globalists” by chanting, “Lock ’em up,” and yelling, “George Soros.”

    #Antisémitisme #Georges_Soros #Néo_fascisme #USA

  • Le scandale du dieselgate génère de gigantesques « cimetières » à VW RTS - 20 Octobre 2018

    Contraints de rappeler des centaines de milliers de véhicules à travers le monde, les constructeurs empêtrés dans le scandale des moteurs diesel doivent improviser des parkings géants pour stocker les voitures.
    Visé cette semaine par une enquête des autorités allemandes, le constructeur allemand Opel pourrait être obligé de rappeler quelque 100’000 voitures, comme ont déjà dû le faire les autres marques impliquées dans l’affaire du dieselgate.

    Après l’éclatement du scandale en 2015, VW, notamment, avait dû racheter 8,5 millions de véhicules pour les mettre au normes d’ici 2020, dans l’espoir de les remettre sur le marché. A l’heure actuelle, Volkswagen se targue d’un taux de réparation de quelque 80% - avec de fortes disparités d’un pays à l’autre.

    Mais le groupe a dû improviser des sites pour déposer des centaines de milliers de véhicules. L’un de ces « purgatoires » automobiles est le nouvel aéroport de Berlin Brandenbourg - un chantier interminable, empêtré dans des affaires de corruption et de malfaçon notamment.

    Vols de véhicules
    Aux Etats-Unis - où VW a dû débourser près de 15 milliards de dollars pour indemniser ses clients américains, un demi-million de véhicules ont été rappelés, certains ajustés et revendus. Mais les véhicules restants sont entreposés sur une quarantaine de sites : dans le désert californien, dans un ancien stade de foot dans le Michigan, dans un port de Tampa en Floride, ou encore une ancienne usine de papier dans le Minnesota.

    >> Voir la galerie photo de différents exemples :

    Ces dépôts gigantesques ont entraîné de nouvelles difficultés pour VW, notamment des vols. Certains sont allés se servir dans ces dépôts, ont ensuite truqué les immatriculations des voitures, avant de revendre les véhicules. Dans d’autres cas, VW a fait l’objet de plaintes - les habitants de certaines régions n’appréciant guère de vivre à côté de des immenses parkings.
    Sujet radio : Katia Schaer

    Dernière étape avant la casse ?
    Un important procès s’est ouvert en septembre devant le tribunal régional de Brunswick, en Allemagne. Des actionnaires de VW reprochent au groupe de ne pas les avoir informés des risques financiers générés par le Dieselgate et exigent des dédommagements à hauteur de 10 milliards de francs.

    A ces difficultés judiciaires s’ajoute l’introduction de nouvelles normes d’émission en Europe depuis le premier septembre. Des normes auxquelles l’industrie automobile - Volkswagen inclus - se dit mal préparée. Certaines villes veulent d’ailleurs interdire une partie de ces voitures.

    Raison pour laquelle VW vient d’annoncer le rachat de ses anciens modèles encore en circulation. Des voitures qui seront d’abord entreposées avant de, par milliers aussi, partir à la casse.

     #dieselgate #pollution #volkswagen #voiture #diesel #Allemagne #USA #tricheurs #polueurs #escrocs

  • Meet the Minnesota family that turned a soda machine company into a surveillance empire

    If Westby’s success proves anything, it’s that that digital surveillance technology is now so cheap — and so unregulated — that almost anyone can sell it.
    A ‘get-rich-quick’ scheme for the age of big data

    Westby’s strategy for selling sodas to inmates and selling tracking systems to parents were strikingly similar: Find a niche market and pump it with marked-up wholesale products for a huge profit.

    The market for surveillance technology meets every precondition for a Grade-A get-rich-quick scheme: Cheap inventory, little regulation, and high demand.

    First, surveillance tech is surprisingly cheap. According to the Yale Law Journal, the cost of location tracking dropped from $105/hour to $0.36/hour when the portable GPS was invented, and then fell to to $0.04/hour at most when smartphone GPS became roughly equivalent to professional receivers.

    Westby’s family business may be profit-forward, but it’s not malevolent (anyone who’s heard Patrick McMullan talk about healthcare and snow plows will tell you that). But customers deserve to know who is handling their data goes once it is collected.

    Once an app collects consumer data, nothing prevents it from sharing with subsidiaries, parent companies, or partners.

    When those partners are hidden — for instance, a quiz app that secretly collects data for a Russian political network or a childcare app operated by a for-profit prison company — consumers don’t know when they’re at risk.

    And, when the companies that make and sell surveillance apps aren’t regulated, it’s even harder to ensure that the tech is used responsibly.

    If we’re lucky, the future could have great snow plows. But in this new world, don’t expect control over your data and definitely don’t expect everyone who sells it to be as well-intentioned as Todd, Patrick, and Coach Danna.

    #Surveillance #Traçage #RFID #Prisons

  • Une juge fédérale d’Arizona décide que les Etats (des USA) ne peuvent pas punir une entreprise pour le boycott d’Israël
    Isaac Stanley-Becker, Washington Post, le 1er octobre 2018

    Dans sa vie professionnelle, cependant, il était tenu par une loi promulguée par l’Etat d’Arizona en 2016 exigeant de toute entreprise sous contrat avec l’État qu’elle certifie qu’elle ne boycottait pas Israël. Il a contesté la directive devant les tribunaux, affirmant qu’elle violait ses droits au titre du premier amendement.

    Un juge fédéral en Arizona a jugé sa plainte fondée. La juge américaine Diane Humetewa a émis une injonction la semaine dernière, bloquant l’application de cette mesure qui oblige toute entreprise passant un contrat avec l’état à fournir une garantie écrit qu’elle ne participe pas à des activités de boycott visant Israël.

    Cette conclusion est la deuxième cette année à revenir sur une vague de lois au niveau des Etats, qui utilisent les fonds publics pour décourager les activités anti-israéliennes. Elle est dans la lignée d’un jugement similaire prononcé en janvier, lorsqu’un juge fédéral du Kansas a statué pour la première fois que l’application d’une disposition de l’Etat obligeant les contractants à signer un certificat de non-boycott violait le droit d’expression garanti par le Premier amendement. Selon l’American Civil Liberties Union, des dispositions similaires sont en vigueur dans plus d’une douzaine d’États, dont le Maryland, le Minnesota et la Caroline du Sud.

    A propos du #Maryland :

    A propos du #Kansas :

    A propos de la #Caroline_du_sud :

    #Palestine #USA #Arizona #BDS #boycott #criminalisation_des_militants

  • Le GOP devient trumpiste

    Le GOP devient trumpiste

    Il y a eu quatre primaires pour la désignation des candidats républicains (GOP) pour les élections mid-term, dans les États du Minnesota, du Wisconsin, du Vermont et du Connecticut. Pour la première fois une grande tendance est apparue : pour être désignés par les électeurs du parti, il faut être “trumpiste”, c’est-à-dire radicalisé dans le sens du président (populiste, isolationniste, conservateur-sociétal, etc.). ZeroHedge.comécrit ce 15 août 2018 : « Même le Washington Post admet que “Trump a triomphé lors des primaires” ».

    C’était une des grandes inconnues de ces deux dernières années : l’évolution de l’attitude générale du GOP, qui s’était opposé au candidat Trump, vis-à-vis du président Trump. Il semble qu’on puisse avancer que le GOP a évolué vers le soutien du président en place. (...)

  • Le narcissisme pathologique de la civilisation (par Nicolas Casaux) – Le Partage

    Le 4 mai 2018, à l’université de St. Olaf, dans le Minnesota, aux États-Unis, Noam Chomsky a prononcé un discours organisé autour, selon lui, de « la plus importante question jamais posée dans l’histoire de l’humanité », à savoir « si oui ou non la vie humaine organisée survivra », sur la planète Terre, aux nombreux problèmes de notre temps, qui se posent de manière urgente, sur le court terme plutôt que sur le long.

    Dans une tribune récemment publiée sur le site du journal Libération, Élise Rousseau, écrivaine naturaliste, et Philippe J. Dubois, écologue, affirment que la « destruction de la nature » est un « crime contre l’humanité ». Il fallait oser. Cela revient grosso modo à dire que la destruction des abeilles (et de tout ce qui vit) est un crime contre Monsanto, la destruction du golfe du Mexique un crime contre BP, la destruction de Bornéo un crime contre Ferrero, etc.

    Ce qui relie cette tribune de Libé au discours de Chomsky, c’est une même perspective culturelle, quasi hégémonique aujourd’hui, qui considère que l’humanité (et plus précisément : la civilisation) est la principale (la seule  ?) chose dont l’humanité (la civilisation) devrait se soucier. Stratégie discursive ou véritable conviction  ? La question est ouverte. Seulement, quoi qu’il en soit, l’idée est mauvaise.

    #civilisation #effondrement

    • Sans cette dévalorisation de l’autre, cette absence d’empathie, de préoccupation pour l’autre, pour les autres (espèces vivantes), nous ne serions pas, en tant que culture, en train de dévaster la planète et d’exterminer ses habitants non humains. Sans cette absence d’empathie, de préoccupation pour l’autre, pour les autres (êtres humains), nous ne serions pas, en tant que culture, en train d’asservir et d’exploiter notre prochain de manière systémique. Une des principales raisons pour lesquelles nous en sommes rendus dans la situation désastreuse où nous sommes aujourd’hui correspond donc au narcissisme et à la psychopathie culturels de la civilisation industrielle. C’est parce que, de manière systémique (culturelle), nous ne nous soucions pas des autres (êtres humains ou espèces non humaines), mais seulement de nous-mêmes (l’individualisme de nos sociétés modernes), que nous les exploitons ou que nous les détruisons.

      Une question se pose alors, très différente de celle dont Chomsky affirme qu’elle est la plus importante de l’histoire de l’humanité : tandis qu’elle extermine les espèces vivantes à une cadence inégalée depuis qu’une météorite s’est écrasée sur la planète il y a plus de soixante millions d’années, à quel point est-il indécent et dément pour la civilisation (ou pour la vie humaine organisée) de continuer à se lamenter sur son seul sort  ? En réduisant, dans l’intention de la faire cesser, la destruction de la nature à un problème pour l’humanité (et plus précisément, pour l’humanité industrialisée), les auteurs de la tribune de Libé font appel à ce même narcissisme qui l’encourage en premier lieu. S’il y a un fond de vérité à la fameuse citation d’Einstein selon laquelle « on ne peut pas résoudre un problème avec le même type de pensée que celle qui l’a créé », alors, en toute logique, cela n’a aucune chance d’aboutir.

      J’ai quand même l’impression qu’il court deux lièvres à la fois en dénonçant et la défense de la civilisation (en rappelant que la civilisation, c’est l’État et que beaucoup d’être humains ont vécu et tentent encore de vivre sans) et l’#anthropocentrisme. Ça se voit dans l’extrait ci-dessous où on passe sans transition des non-humains aux « peuples indigènes »...

      Que des milliards de non-humains meurent chaque année, directement ou indirectement tués par la civilisation industrielle, qui pollue, contamine ou détruit par ailleurs tous les écosystèmes du globe, et dont l’expansion mortifère anéantit inexorablement, aujourd’hui encore, les peuples indigènes qui subsistent, ça ne pose pas problème, ça n’incite pas à agir. Que la destruction planétaire entreprise par la civilisation industrielle finisse par se retourner contre elle — Mon dieu, nous allons y passer nous aussi  ! — ça, c’est inadmissible. Il faut agir  ! Vite, sauvons notre peau.

      Moi qui suis assez branchée « écologie sociale » et qui vois le problème d’un conservationnisme masculin, blanc et bourge, j’ai envie de faire le tri dans ce gloubi-boulga plein de choses intéressantes. Oui, on a une sérieuse dérive anthropocentrique de la part des écologistes et plus aucun questionnement éthique. Mais un des buts que nous pouvons nous assigner, c’est celui d’une vie sur Terre vivable par tou·tes et pas seulement la conservation d’un système qui se porte mal, certes, mais qui est assez résilient pour se remettre de son problème humain (ça me rappelle un dessin de Terre malade qui explique qu’elle a chopé l’humain) dans des temps assez courts, genre quelques centaines de milliers d’années.

      C’est important, de prendre un peu de recul et de débusquer quand l’anthropocentrisme devient indécent, de remettre un peu d’éthique dans notre écologie, mais c’est à prendre avec des pincettes, comme les discours d’Yves Paccalet
      auteur de l’inoubliable L’humanité disparaîtra, bon débarras.

    • Oui certes, beaucoup de remue-méninge dans cet article angoissé et cependant les deux derniers paragraphes semblent laisser entrevoir une lueur, celle mise en évidence par Murray Bookchin avec son concept d’"écologie sociale", justement. Quant à savoir si c’est un bienfait pour « la planète » que l’humanité disparaisse (totalement ou du moins sous sa forme organisée), je pense que nous n’aurons jamais la réponse, ni nous à notre échelle de vie ni les générations survivantes à venir. Car même si les membres de cette humanité restreintes continuent à (se) raconter des histoires et à les transmettre, de là à ce que ces nouvelles « cultures » fassent le tour de la planète en quelques semaines et imprègnent les pensées de toutes et tous comme c’est actuellement le cas, non, ce ne sera plus possible. Donc, là non plus, pas la peine de creuser dans ce genre de sillon, nous n’avons d’autres choses plus utiles à faire.

  • Des victimes de prêtres américains obtiennent un accord de 210 millions de dollars Belga - 1 Juin 2018 - RTBF

    Un archidiocèse de l’Eglise catholique de l’Etat américain du Minnesota a conclu jeudi un accord à hauteur de 210 millions de dollars avec des centaines de victimes d’abus de membres du clergé, résolvant un conflit vieux de plusieurs années.

    L’archidiocèse de Saint-Paul et Minneapolis - qui a été placé en 2015 sous la protection de la loi sur les faillites - a indiqué que l’accord devrait répondre à toutes les plaintes, conclure le processus de #faillite et permettre la création d’un fonds financier spécial pour 450 victimes.

    « Les rescapés des abus peuvent s’attendre à des paiements dès que le tribunal approuvera le plan », a déclaré l’archevêque Bernard Hebda.

    « Je suis reconnaissant pour toutes les victimes rescapées qui se sont courageusement présentées », a-t-il déclaré lors d’une conférence de presse. « Je reconnais que les abus vous ont tellement volé (...). L’Eglise vous a laissé tomber, je suis vraiment désolé. »

    Les victimes ont accueilli l’accord avec soulagement, mais ont souligné que leurs cicatrices émotionnelles restent intactes.

    Cet accord a été possible grâce à une loi du Minnesota adoptée en 2013, qui permet de poursuivre des agresseurs présumés dans des cas auparavant prescrits. L’accord met fin à l’un des plus longs processus de prise en charge des abus liés à l’Eglise catholique aux Etats-Unis.

    En 2012, des experts ont évoqué au Vatican le chiffre de 100.000 mineurs victimes d’abus de milliers de membres du clergé aux Etats-Unis, certains cas remontant à 1950.

     #religion #pédophilie #culture_du_viol #catholicisme #église #eglise #justice #vatican #viol #prêtres #viols #histoire #usa #faillite #enfants

  • Des employés d’Amazon au Royaume-Uni feraient pipi dans des bouteilles par peur d’être punis s’ils prennent une pause

    La compagnie nie tout en bloc.<p>Des employés d’Amazon au Royaume-Uni seraient si désespérés de garder leur emploi qu’ils utiliseraient des bouteilles …!/format/jpg/quality/85/

  • Où est le repentir de l’Église ? demande une Autochtone au pape

    Honte, scandale, tromperie, déni, comble de l’hypocrisie : c’est en employant des mots très durs qu’une survivante des #pensionnats_autochtones s’adresse « d’égale à égal » au pape François, quelque temps après qu’il eut refusé de présenter des #excuses au nom de l’Église catholique pour « le mal » qui a été commis à grande échelle dans ces établissements.
    #Canada #Eglise_catholique #peuples_autochtones #abus_sexuels #violences_sexuelles #viols #Asiskikootewanapiskosis #Bernice_Daigneault
    cc @daphne @marty

    • #catholicisme #racisme #avarice

      Bernice Daigneault déplore également que l’Église catholique se soit jusqu’ici montrée si réticente à contribuer aux efforts du gouvernement du Canada pour indemniser les victimes des pensionnats. « C’est une honte », écrit-elle.

      On retrouve la methode habituel des catholiques, d’accord pour blanchir l’argent de la mafia, prendre 60% de commission sur les trafiques d’organes et sur la prostitution des enfants, les ventes d’armes... via la banque du vatican dont le pape à confié la direction à son ami pedophile australien amateur de capa magna. D’accord pour détourné les héritages, d’accord pour ne payé aucune impot en Italie (alors que c’est le premier propriétaire immobilier du pays), d’accord pour gratter les sous des malades, des orphelin·es, des mourrant·es, d’accord pour se pavané en robe en or, mais payé un centime pour les victimes surement pas.
      Pour rappel aux USA l’église catholique avaient déposé le bilan pour ne dédomagé aucune des victimes de pedoviol commis de manière industrielle comme le fait d’habitude cette organisation mafieuse.

      Plusieurs diocèses et archevêchés ont déposé le bilan

      L’Eglise catholique américaine est même « à court d’argent parce qu’elle a dépensé des milliards de dollars en frais judiciaires et dommages et intérêts », affirme Massimo Faggioli, historien à la faculté de théologie de l’université Saint Thomas, dans le Minnesota.

      Depuis les révélations du début des années 2000, elle a dépensé 3 milliards de dollars en procès ou thérapies, selon le site Neuf diocèses (sur 145) et trois archevêchés (sur 33) ont même déposé le bilan. Mais pour Jack M. Ruhl, spécialiste des finances de l’Eglise américaine et professeur de comptabilité à l’université de Western Michigan, l’institution n’est pas pour autant ruinée car elle reste « très fortunée, détentrice d’une énorme quantité de biens ».

      Le magazine The Economist avait évalué ses dépenses annuelles en 2010 à 170 milliards de dollars, soit davantage que le chiffre d’affaires de General Electric à la même époque (150 milliards).
      N’allez pas croire que les 3 milliards ont été dépensé pour les victimes, c’est les sous que leur ont coutés les avocats pour défendre leurs violeurs d’enfants et leur garantir l’impunité.

    • Pour rappel, le livre de @daphne, @marty et Mathieu Périsse de @wereport
      Église, la mécanique du silence

      2016, année noire pour l’Église catholique française, confrontée aux plus grands scandales de pédophilie de son histoire.
      Les auteurs ont enquêté pendant un an. De Lyon, où leur travail commence autour de l’affaire Barbarin, à la Guinée, en passant par Montauban, le Canada, Paris et Rome, ils révèlent de multiples affaires de prêtres pédophiles dissimulées par l’institution catholique.
      Ils ont écouté de nombreuses victimes, interrogé des lanceurs d’alerte au sein de l’Église, rencontré des prêtres auteurs d’abus sexuels, interviewé des hiérarques ecclésiastiques et eu accès à des documents confidentiels.
      Ils dessinent une stupéfiante machine à fabriquer du silence pour couvrir les crimes. Le livre raconte le système d’exfiltration mis en place par l’Église de France pour écarter les prêtres abuseurs… non pas des enfants mais des juges : mise au vert, mise en congé sabbatique, placement en abbayes ou mutation à l’étranger.
      Comment l’institution s’est-elle protégée en couvrant ses prêtres, sans jamais les dénoncer à la justice ? Et si le scandale était, au-delà des faits eux-mêmes, ce système organisé pour l’étouffer ?
      Un document essentiel pour comprendre l’engrenage du silence auquel ont été assignées des centaines de victimes.

  • An Alternative to Burial and Cremation for Corpse Disposal | WIRED
    Enfin une solution propre et sans gaspillage énergétique pour remplacer les enterrements et crémations traditionnels ?

    Alkaline hydrolysis ... was conceived in the mid-’90s to solve Albany Medical College’s problem of research rabbit disposal—the bodies were radioactive and therefore could not be burned or buried affordably—and in 2003 Minnesota became the first US state to allow its use on human remains. (The business of body disposal is highly regulated at the state level, and authorities are generally wary of novelty.) In the years since, a growing number of independent funeral homes have added alkaline hydrolysis to their list of services, and last October, California became one of a dozen or so states to legalize it. Jack Ingraham, CEO of Qico, a San Diego startup that’s joined the two established players in the field—the UK’s Resomation (creator of Fisher’s machine) and Bio-Response Solutions in Indiana—expects Utah to be next, with more states to follow as awareness spreads and demand grows. “Our goal is that, in 10 or 20 years, the term ‘cremation’ will be thought of entirely as a water-based process,” he says.

    Les origines du procédé sont beaucoup plus anciennes. Pour le savoir il suffit de consulter l’article de Wikipedia cité plus bas. Restons méfiants envers les auteurs de Wired l’organe central des libertarians étatsuniens.

    The alkaline hydrolysis machine turns cadavers into liquid and pure white bone.

    One obstacle to wider-spread adoption: Big Funeral needs to back it, and according to Fisher, who was a funeral director before working in body donation, industry leaders have been reluctant to offer it for a simple reason: “Money,” he says. “The big corporations—Service Corporation International, Carriage, Stewart Enterprises—have set up ­billion-dollar models to sell you a casket, give you a ride to the cemetery in that hearse, sell you the cemetery plot, and put up the marker.” Alkaline hydrolysis doesn’t require any of that.
    In a crematory retort, prosthetics melt or burn or, in the case of a pacemaker’s lthium-ion battery, explode. Titanium ball-and-socket hip joints don’t come out polished like a pristine mirror as they do in Fisher’s cupboard, they come out battered with carbon. The silicon breast implant that Fisher jiggles in his hand (“We call them jellyfish”) has already spent a good few years inside a woman and four hours inside the machine, but would melt like gum in a crematory. Other implants, like plastic urinary pessaries or penile pumps, would never even be seen by a crematory worker. They melt and escape into the atmosphere through the chimney along with the mercury in your teeth.

    Alkaline hydrolysis (body disposal) - Wikipedia

    The process was originally developed as a method to process animal carcasses into plant food, patented by Amos Herbert Hobson in 1888.

    #tradition #enterrement #environnement

    • Mais non @monolecte , une mère de la classe de ma fille était toute fière d’avoir enterré le président d’Allemagne. Elle m’a fait rire quand elle a raconté que l’essentiel de l’ambiance majestueuse de l’événement venait des bougies à chauffe-plat qu’elle avait acheté pour pas cher chez Ikea, alors qu’elle facturait au prix d’or une impressionnante cérémonie d’état.

      Chez nous c’est toujours un métier de petit commerçants ;-)

      L’engin pour l’aquamation vaut à peu près € 200.000. Ils ne sont pas prêt à investir dans de telles dimensions. Peut-être pendant le prochain génocide ce sera une affaire rentable.

      Les théories explicatives du nazisme et les interprétations sociologiques de la modernité : des théories de la modernisation aux perspectives postmodernes

      À partir des années 1970, l’effritement des« grands récits » d’émancipation modernes s’accompagne d’un scepticisme grandissant envers le projet des Lumières et les idéologies du progrès. Avec ce changement de paradigme, l’accent est mis sur la continuité du nazisme avec la modernité, dont Auschwitz devient le telos.

      Hitler a été porté par les commerçants et les artisans -

      Ce ne sont pas les ouvriers ou les chômeurs qui ont le plus contribué à l’accession d’Hitler au pouvoir, mais les petits commerçants, fermiers ou artisans indépendants. C’est ce que démontre une nouvelle étude de l’Université de Zurich.

      La mafia est une grande industrie, alors ...


  • Congresswoman Betty McCollum | Representing the 4th District of Minnesota

    Rep. Betty McCollum on Twitter: “I am horrified by the tragic wounding & killing of Palestinian protesters in Gaza last Friday. Attacks on peaceful Palestinian protesters must end, and the U.S. the international community must do more to support a resolution to the conflict.

  • Don d’organes : les femmes donnent davantage leur rein que les hommes

    S’il est de nombreux domaines où les femmes sont encore tenues dans une position inférieure à celle des hommes, il en est d’autres où elles les devancent souvent. C’est entre autres le cas pour ce geste généreux qu’est le don d’organes avec donneur vivant, tout au moins s’agissant du rein.

    Jagbir Gill (Université de Colombie britannique, Vancouver) et ses collègues publient, jeudi 8 mars, dans le Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, les tendances pour le don de rein aux Etats-Unis. Une fois les corrections statistiques apportées afin d’éliminer les biais possibles, il apparaît que la fréquence de don d’un rein est supérieure de 44 % chez les femmes par rapport aux hommes.

    L’équipe de chercheurs canadiens a travaillé à partir des registres de transplantation et de recensement de la population aux Etats-Unis, en se concentrant sur deux paramètres : le sexe et le revenu. Entre 2005 et 2015, le taux non corrigé de don de rein aux Etats-Unis pour les femmes et pour les hommes est respectivement de 30,1 et de 19,3 par million d’habitants. Et si la tendance reste stable pour les femmes (– 5 %), le don émanant d’un donneur masculin est en diminution au cours de la décennie 2005-2015 (– 25 %), ce qui accroît d’autant les différences.
    Prédominance féminine ancienne

    De même, si pour les deux sexes, le taux de don de rein reste plus stable parmi les individus ayant les revenus les plus élevés que chez ceux possédant les plus faibles, la diminution de l’acte de don est plus spectaculaire pour les hommes ayant des bas revenus. L’impact du niveau de revenu est donc plus prononcé chez les hommes. Cela pourrait notamment s’expliquer par la situation aux Etats-Unis où, contrairement à d’autres pays, notamment la France, être donneur d’organe implique pour le volontaire des coûts importants qui peuvent être lourds à supporter, voire être dissuasifs.

    En France, l’Agence de la biomédecine, qui suit l’activité du don d’organes et des greffes, précise que pour les greffés rénaux à partir de donneur vivant entre 2013 et 2017, les femmes représentent 62 % des donneurs et 34 % des receveurs. Une répartition que l’on ne retrouve pas pour le don de foie du vivant où les femmes constituent 41 % des donneurs et 46 % des receveurs.

    « Malgré la prédominance de femmes qui donnent, nous ne pouvons pas forcément en déduire, sans étude plus approfondie, que les hommes sont moins candidats au don du vivant. En effet, pour pouvoir être éligible au don, les candidats doivent répondre à des critères de compatibilité médicale, avoir un très bon état de santé, passer devant un comité spécialisé et devant le tribunal de grande instance. Autant d’étapes qui ne relèvent pas que de la “volonté de donner” », précise-t-on à l’Agence de la biomédecine.

    En effet, dans le don d’organe avec donneur vivant, il ne s’agit pas seulement d’une question de générosité. Dans un éditorial qui accompagne la publication de Jagbir Gill et de ses collègues, deux auteurs, Arthur Matas (Université du Minnesota) et Rebecca Hays (Université du Wisconsin), pointent les différents facteurs concourant à ces tendances aux Etats-Unis. La prédominance féminine parmi les donneurs est ancienne, soulignent-ils.
    Semaine nationale de mobilisation

    « La disparité est vraisemblablement multifactorielle et inclut des taux plus élevés de maladie rénale au stade terminal chez les hommes (ce qui fait que les membres de la famille non touchés ont plus de chances d’être des femmes) et des différences selon le sexe dans les taux de maladies concomitantes (par exemple l’hypertension artérielle), ce qui limite les volontaires pour le don », détaille l’éditorial.

    Cependant, le paramètre du sexe demeure important, comme le montre la treizième Semaine nationale de mobilisation pour le don de moelle osseuse, qu’organise du 10 au 18 mars l’Agence de la biomédecine. L’Agence dit « “Bravo et merci” à tous ceux qui ont pris le temps de s’inscrire comme donneurs de moelle osseuse pour, peut-être un jour, sauver des vies. En effet, la moelle osseuse a un rôle vital dans le fonctionnement du corps humain : elle est à l’origine de la production des cellules sanguines ».

    L’Agence précise qu’en « 2017, ils étaient 20 866 nouveaux inscrits sur le registre français, dont seulement 35 % d’hommes. Encourager le plus grand nombre d’hommes à devenir donneurs de moelle osseuse, c’est l’objectif prioritaire de cette nouvelle campagne ! » L’intérêt des dons de moelle osseuse masculin réside dans le fait qu’ils ne risquent pas de contenir des anticorps fréquemment produits chez les femmes au cours d’une grossesse et donc d’offrir plus de compatibilité en vue d’une greffe.

    #santé #genre #masculinité #virilité #don_d'organe

  • How Automation Could Worsen Racial Inequality

    Self-driving buses would knock out crucial jobs in black communities across the country. All across the world, small projects demonstrating driverless buses and shuttles are cropping up : Las Vegas, Minnesota, Austin, Bavaria, Henan Province in China, Victoria in Australia. City governments are studying their implementation, too, from Toronto to Orlando to Ohio. And last week, the Federal Transit Administration of the Department of Transportation issued a “request for comments” on the topic (...)

    #Lyft #Uber #voiture #discrimination #travail

  • ""Aux States, les hommes n’osent plus prendre l’ascenseur avec les femmes." Ah oui ?"

    Malgré les dénégations des féministes, qui appellent « #mythe_de_l’ascenseur » ce qui est pour elles une fable sans fondement réel, l’argument ressort sans cesse : aux Etats-Unis, des hommes éviteraient de monter les étages en compagnie de l’autre sexe, par pur instinct de protection ; dans ces cabines exiguës, où les odeurs de caoutchouc se mêlent à la chaleur des haleines, les #femmes pourraient facilement se muer en folles accusatrices.

    Qu’en est-il réellement ? Nous sommes partis en quête des origines de cette anecdote ressassée.

    (...) Dès 1996, auditionnée lors de la préparation d’un rapport sur la parité, Christine Delphy, grande figure du féminisme français, dénonce la « satanisation de l’Amérique » qui permet, selon elle, de discréditer les travaux des féministes d’outre-Atlantique :
    ""J’ai entendu dire, pour la première fois en 1994, de la bouche d’un participant à un débat télévisé, qu’’aujourd’hui, en Amérique, les hommes ont peur d’être dans un ascenseur seuls avec une femme’. Il énonçait cette ânerie comme un fait prouvé et vérifié.

    Depuis, je l’ai entendu dire au moins vingt fois.""

    (...) ’est aussi au début des années 1990 que l’essayiste Pascal Bruckner date le début de cette règle tacite de l’ascenseur qui pèserait selon lui sur les hommes. Il soutient mordicus que c’est un fait et non un mythe. « C’est archi connu, ceux qui disent le contraire sont des menteurs », assure Pascal Bruckner à Rue89.

    C’est un « chairman » de l’université américaine où il travaillait à l’époque qui lui en a parlé pour la première fois. Il lui aurait dit :
    ""Pascal, les règles ont changé : ne reçois jamais d’élève seule dans ton bureau et ne prends jamais l’ascenseur avec une femme seule car elle peut t’accuser." « 
    (...) Basée dans le Minnesota, Susan Strauss, une consultante, experte des problématiques de harcèlement au travail, n’a jamais entendu parler d’une telle règle. Même incrédulité du côté de Lori Rassas, elle aussi consultante en ressources humaines, mais à New York : »"Personnellement, je n’ai jamais entendu un homme me dire qu’il était inquiet de prendre l’ascenseur seul avec une femme.""

    (...) Si ce cliché prospère du côté français, c’est qu’il correspond au regard que nous portons sur les Américains, notamment sur la judiciarisation des rapports humains ou sur les excès de la droite conservatrice.

    (...) Andrea Curcio, professeure de droit à la Georgia State University souligne quant à elle que « le stéréotype de la femme fausse accusatrice a une longue histoire ». Selon elle, cette « atmosphère de méfiance » peut avoir « de réelles conséquences sur les carrières des femmes ».

    Surtout, « les cas de fausses accusations sont très rares par rapport au nombre de femmes qui ne rapportent pas des faits de harcèlement, d’agressions et même de viols ».

  • ’NO.’ God tells Michele Bachmann not to run for Al Franken’s Senate seat / Boing Boing

    A billboard mysteriously appears in St. Paul, Minn. in which God offers a special message to noted crazy ex-congresscritter Michele Bachmann. Hope she obeys The Lord.

    Bachmann served eight years in Congress, and said in an interview late last year with televangelist and noted con man Jim Bakker that she is asking God if she should run for Senate, should Al Franken’s seat become vacant.

    Coïncidence divine ou non ? Bachman Turner Overdrive - You ain’t seen nothing yet

    #USA #droite #politique #religion

  • Non à la guerre

    Non à la guerre

    En beaucoup de mots cette chose simple est dite, voire démontrée !

    Le peuple nord-américain, celui que l’on consulte pour nommer ses décideurs politiques et surtout économiques, a clairement affirmé dans un grand élan de “déplorabilité” (*) qu’il faisait plus que douter du bien-fondé des guerres de Bush et Obama. Il a rejeté l’hypothèse d’un gouvernement Clinton – la mère dans le jeu du petit nombre des familles régnantes – qui allait reproduire et amplifier le programme des guerres des néoconservateurs, guerres « préventives » comme unique horizon.

    Une étude publiée à l’été 2017, intitulée « Les guerres de Bush et Obama ont-elles coûté la Maison Blanche à Clinton ? » avait été menée par Francis Shen, enseignant en droit à l’Université du Minnesota, et Dougas Krine, un professeur en sciences politiques (...)

  • Dans les #mines d’#émeraude, des #femmes battent en brèche le machisme

    Longtemps, les femmes ont été interdites dans les mines de #Colombie, par superstition. Elles devaient se contenter de la quête improbable des précieuses pierres dans les déchets de terre noirâtre rejetés des galeries. Mais les temps ont changé : elles battent aujourd’hui en brèche le machisme au fond des mines.
    cc @daphne @albertocampiphoto @marty

  • The Spark - The Latest Editorial : Climate Change Bombs the World

    The country has been hit by extreme weather yet again.

    For two weeks, extreme cold swept over the eastern United States, from Minnesota with temperatures of 30 below zero, all the way down to Florida, where “frozen iguanas” were falling out of trees. This long cold snap culminated in a “bomb cyclone,” a winter storm that moved up the east coast, hitting Georgia with freezing rain and South Carolina with half a foot of snow before dumping several feet of snow on New England.

    Some people (including, of course, Donald Trump) may say that “global warming” can’t be real if such cold weather reaches the American South. In fact, these extreme weather events, even the ones bringing unusually cold weather, can indeed be attributed to human-caused climate change.

    Climatologists explain that while no single weather event can be attributed to climate change, the increase in the frequency of extreme weather events can be. And we’ve seen a very rapid increase in that frequency. Over the course of the last 30 years, the average number of “billion-dollar weather events” in the U.S. had been 5.5 per year. For the past five years, the average jumped up to 10.5. Last year? Fifteen! These events took place all over the country, from drought in the northern Plains states, to raging wildfires in California, to several extremely powerful hurricanes in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.

    There are not only more extreme events, but the events themselves are more extreme. Higher average temperatures mean greater moisture in the air, which translates into heavier rain. Higher temperatures also mean higher sea levels and higher storm surges and more flooding. These changes in temperature and moisture also have an effect on the Jet Stream, making these air currents less stable and more “wobbly” – meaning that cold air can more easily spill down from the Arctic, while warmer air moves north and takes its place. And sure enough, while the Southeast has had record cold temperatures, Alaska has been experiencing record warm weather.

    These changes in the Jet Stream also mean that weather patterns can “stall” in one place for longer – contributing to record rainfall and flooding when Hurricane Harvey stalled over Houston, for example, and unbroken drought and more extreme fires in the West.

    While the earth’s climate has changed in the past, getting both warmer and colder than it is now, those changes used to happen over much longer periods of time – thousands or even tens of thousands of years. But today’s changes, brought on by increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, have been squeezed into just over 100 years. That’s far more quickly than human societies are used to reacting – especially a society based on the production of profit above all else.

    Changes that rapid demand rapid response and reorganization from a society – both to reverse the problem and to deal with the consequences of those changes. And there ARE things that can be done, right now, to decrease the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and start repairing the damage. But this capitalist system, and the people who run it, are not about to jeopardize the profit of their top corporations by completely rearranging how energy is produced, how transportation flows, where people live, how food is produced. It is not even going to rebuild homes and cities to be able to withstand these more extreme events that carry more risk to the general population. If profit will not be made, these corporations, and the governments that represent them, are completely uninterested.

    And ordinary working people, with no other options and nowhere else to go, will be the ones to suffer disproportionally. Just ask the working class people of Houston, of Puerto Rico, of the fire-swept areas of California – and the frozen cities of South Carolina.

    Capitalism is completely unequipped to deal with the climate change that it has brought about. If humanity is to survive – if life as we know it is to continue on this earth – it is up to the working class to sweep capitalism aside.

  • What Happens When We Let Tech Care For Our Aging Parents | WIRED

    Arlyn Anderson grasped her father’s hand and presented him with the choice. “A nursing home would be safer, Dad,” she told him, relaying the doctors’ advice. “It’s risky to live here alone—”

    “No way,” Jim interjected. He frowned at his daughter, his brow furrowed under a lop of white hair. At 91, he wanted to remain in the woodsy Minnesota cottage he and his wife had built on the shore of Lake Minnetonka, where she had died in his arms just a year before. His pontoon—which he insisted he could still navigate just fine—bobbed out front.

    Arlyn had moved from California back to Minnesota two decades earlier to be near her aging parents. Now, in 2013, she was fiftysomething, working as a personal coach, and finding that her father’s decline was all-consuming.

    Her father—an inventor, pilot, sailor, and general Mr. Fix-It; “a genius,” Arlyn says—started experiencing bouts of paranoia in his mid-eighties, a sign of Alzheimer’s. The disease had progressed, often causing his thoughts to vanish mid-sentence. But Jim would rather risk living alone than be cloistered in an institution, he told Arlyn and her older sister, Layney. A nursing home certainly wasn’t what Arlyn wanted for him either. But the daily churn of diapers and cleanups, the carousel of in-home aides, and the compounding financial strain (she had already taken out a reverse mortgage on Jim’s cottage to pay the caretakers) forced her to consider the possibility.

    Jim, slouched in his recliner, was determined to stay at home. “No way,” he repeated to his daughter, defiant. Her eyes welled up and she hugged him. “OK, Dad.” Arlyn’s house was a 40-minute drive from the cottage, and for months she had been relying on a patchwork of technology to keep tabs on her dad. She set an open laptop on the counter so she could chat with him on Skype. She installed two cameras, one in his kitchen and another in his bedroom, so she could check whether the caregiver had arrived, or God forbid, if her dad had fallen. So when she read in the newspaper about a new digi­tal eldercare service called CareCoach a few weeks after broaching the subject of the nursing home, it piqued her interest. For about $200 a month, a human-powered avatar would be available to watch over a homebound person 24 hours a day; Arlyn paid that same amount for just nine hours of in-home help. She signed up immediately.

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    A Google Nexus tablet arrived in the mail a week later. When Arlyn plugged it in, an animated German shepherd appeared onscreen, standing at attention on a digitized lawn. The brown dog looked cutesy and cartoonish, with a bubblegum-pink tongue and round, blue eyes.

    She and Layney visited their dad later that week, tablet in hand. Following the instructions, Arlyn uploaded dozens of pictures to the service’s online portal: images of family members, Jim’s boat, and some of his inventions, like a computer terminal known as the Teleray and a seismic surveillance system used to detect footsteps during the Vietnam War. The setup complete, Arlyn clutched the tablet, summoning the nerve to introduce her dad to the dog. Her initial instinct that the service could be the perfect companion for a former technologist had splintered into needling doubts. Was she tricking him? Infantilizing him?

    Tired of her sister’s waffling, Layney finally snatched the tablet and presented it to their dad, who was sitting in his armchair. “Here, Dad, we got you this.” The dog blinked its saucer eyes and then, in Google’s female text-to-speech voice, started to talk. Before Alzheimer’s had taken hold, Jim would have wanted to know exactly how the service worked. But in recent months he’d come to believe that TV characters were interacting with him: A show’s villain had shot a gun at him, he said; Katie Couric was his friend. When faced with an onscreen character that actually was talking to him, Jim readily chatted back.

    Jim named his dog Pony. Arlyn perched the tablet upright on a table in Jim’s living room, where he could see it from the couch or his recliner. Within a week Jim and Pony had settled into a routine, exchanging pleasantries several times a day. Every 15 minutes or so Pony would wake up and look for Jim, calling his name if he was out of view. Sometimes Jim would “pet” the sleeping dog onscreen with his finger to rustle her awake. His touch would send an instantaneous alert to the human caretaker behind the avatar, prompting the CareCoach worker to launch the tablet’s audio and video stream. “How are you, Jim?” Pony would chirp. The dog reminded him which of his daughters or in-person caretakers would be visiting that day to do the tasks that an onscreen dog couldn’t: prepare meals, change Jim’s sheets, drive him to a senior center. “We’ll wait together,” Pony would say. Often she’d read poetry aloud, discuss the news, or watch TV with him. “You look handsome, Jim!” Pony remarked after watching him shave with his electric razor. “You look pretty,” he replied. Sometimes Pony would hold up a photo of Jim’s daughters or his inventions between her paws, prompting him to talk about his past. The dog complimented Jim’s red sweater and cheered him on when he struggled to buckle his watch in the morning. He reciprocated by petting the screen with his index finger, sending hearts floating up from the dog’s head. “I love you, Jim!” Pony told him a month after they first met—something CareCoach operators often tell the people they are monitoring. Jim turned to Arlyn and gloated, “She does! She thinks I’m real good!”

    About 1,500 miles south of Lake Minnetonka, in Monterrey, Mexico, Rodrigo Rochin opens his laptop in his home office and logs in to the CareCoach dashboard to make his rounds. He talks baseball with a New Jersey man watching the Yankees; chats with a woman in South Carolina who calls him Peanut (she places a cookie in front of her tablet for him to “eat”); and greets Jim, one of his regulars, who sips coffee while looking out over a lake.

    Rodrigo is 35 years old, the son of a surgeon. He’s a fan of the Spurs and the Cowboys, a former international business student, and a bit of an introvert, happy to retreat into his sparsely decorated home office each morning. He grew up crossing the border to attend school in McAllen, Texas, honing the English that he now uses to chat with elderly people in the United States. Rodrigo found CareCoach on an online freelancing platform and was hired in December 2012 as one of the company’s earliest contractors, role-playing 36 hours a week as one of the service’s avatars.

    After watching her dad interact with Pony, Arlyn’s reservations about outsourcing her father’s companionship vanished.

    In person, Rodrigo is soft-spoken, with wire spectacles and a beard. He lives with his wife and two basset hounds, Bob and Cleo, in Nuevo León’s capital city. But the people on the other side of the screen don’t know that. They don’t know his name—or, in the case of those like Jim who have dementia, that he even exists. It’s his job to be invisible. If Rodrigo’s clients ask where he’s from, he might say MIT (the CareCoach software was created by two graduates of the school), but if anyone asks where their pet actually is, he replies in character: “Here with you.”

    Rodrigo is one of a dozen CareCoach employees in Latin America and the Philippines. The contractors check on the service’s seniors through the tablet’s camera a few times an hour. (When they do, the dog or cat avatar they embody appears to wake up.) To talk, they type into the dashboard and their words are voiced robotically through the tablet, designed to give their charges the impression that they’re chatting with a friendly pet. Like all the CareCoach workers, Rodrigo keeps meticulous notes on the people he watches over so he can coordinate their care with other workers and deepen his relationship with them over time—this person likes to listen to Adele, this one prefers Elvis, this woman likes to hear Bible verses while she cooks. In one client’s file, he wrote a note explaining that the correct response to “See you later, alligator” is “After a while, crocodile.” These logs are all available to the customer’s social workers or adult children, wherever they may live. Arlyn started checking Pony’s log between visits with her dad several times a week. “Jim says I’m a really nice person,” reads one early entry made during the Minnesota winter. “I told Jim that he was my best friend. I am so happy.”

    After watching her dad interact with Pony, Arlyn’s reservations about outsourcing her father’s companionship vanished. Having Pony there eased her anxiety about leaving Jim alone, and the virtual dog’s small talk lightened the mood.

    Pony was not only assisting Jim’s human caretakers but also inadvertently keeping an eye on them. Months before, in broken sentences, Jim had complained to Arlyn that his in-home aide had called him a bastard. Arlyn, desperate for help and unsure of her father’s recollection, gave her a second chance. Three weeks after arriving in the house, Pony woke up to see the same caretaker, impatient. “Come on, Jim!” the aide yelled. “Hurry up!” Alarmed, Pony asked why she was screaming and checked to see if Jim was OK. The pet—actually, Rodrigo—later reported the aide’s behavior to CareCoach’s CEO, Victor Wang, who emailed Arlyn about the incident. (The caretaker knew there was a human watching her through the tablet, Arlyn says, but may not have known the extent of the person’s contact with Jim’s family behind the scenes.) Arlyn fired the short-tempered aide and started searching for a replacement. Pony watched as she and Jim conducted the interviews and approved of the person Arlyn hired. “I got to meet her,” the pet wrote. “She seems really nice.”

    Pony—friend and guard dog—would stay.
    Grant Cornett

    Victor Wang grew up feeding his Tama­got­chis and coding choose-your-own-­adventure games in QBasic on the family PC. His parents moved from Taiwan to suburban Vancouver, British Columbia, when Wang was a year old, and his grandmother, whom he called Lao Lao in Mandarin, would frequently call from Taiwan. After her husband died, Lao Lao would often tell Wang’s mom that she was lonely, pleading with her daughter to come to Taiwan to live with her. As she grew older, she threatened suicide. When Wang was 11, his mother moved back home for two years to care for her. He thinks of that time as the honey-­sandwich years, the food his overwhelmed father packed him each day for lunch. Wang missed his mother, he says, but adds, “I was never raised to be particularly expressive of my emotions.”

    At 17, Wang left home to study mechanical engineering at the University of British Columbia. He joined the Canadian Army Reserve, serving as an engineer on a maintenance platoon while working on his undergraduate degree. But he scrapped his military future when, at 22, he was admitted to MIT’s master’s program in mechanical engineering. Wang wrote his dissertation on human-machine interaction, studying a robotic arm maneuvered by astronauts on the International Space Station. He was particularly intrigued by the prospect of harnessing tech to perform tasks from a distance: At an MIT entrepreneurship competition, he pitched the idea of training workers in India to remotely operate the buffers that sweep US factory floors.

    In 2011, when he was 24, his grandmother was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, a disease that affects the areas of the brain associated with memory and movement. On Skype calls from his MIT apartment, Wang watched as his grandmother grew increasingly debilitated. After one call, a thought struck him: If he could tap remote labor to sweep far-off floors, why not use it to comfort Lao Lao and others like her?

    Wang started researching the looming caretaker shortage in the US—between 2010 and 2030, the population of those older than 80 is projected to rise 79 percent, but the number of family caregivers available is expected to increase just 1 percent.

    In 2012 Wang recruited his cofounder, a fellow MIT student working on her computer science doctorate named Shuo Deng, to build CareCoach’s technology. They agreed that AI speech technology was too rudimentary for an avatar capable of spontaneous conversation tailored to subtle mood and behavioral cues. For that, they would need humans.

    Older people like Jim often don’t speak clearly or linearly, and those with dementia can’t be expected to troubleshoot a machine that misunderstands. “When you match someone not fully coherent with a device that’s not fully coherent, it’s a recipe for disaster,” Wang says. Pony, on the other hand, was an expert at deciphering Jim’s needs. Once, Pony noticed that Jim was holding onto furniture for support, as if he were dizzy. The pet persuaded him to sit down, then called Arlyn. Deng figures it’ll take about 20 years for AI to be able to master that kind of personal interaction and recognition. That said, the CareCoach system is already deploying some automated abilities. Five years ago, when Jim was introduced to Pony, the offshore workers behind the camera had to type every response; today CareCoach’s software creates roughly one out of every five sentences the pet speaks. Wang aims to standardize care by having the software manage more of the patients’ regular reminders—prodding them to take their medicine, urging them to eat well and stay hydrated. CareCoach workers are part free­wheeling raconteurs, part human natural-­language processors, listening to and deciphering their charges’ speech patterns or nudging the person back on track if they veer off topic. The company recently began recording conversations to better train its software in senior speech recognition.

    CareCoach found its first customer in December 2012, and in 2014 Wang moved from Massachusetts to Silicon Valley, renting a tiny office space on a lusterless stretch of Millbrae near the San Francisco airport. Four employees congregate in one room with a view of the parking lot, while Wang and his wife, Brittany, a program manager he met at a gerontology conference, work in the foyer. Eight tablets with sleeping pets onscreen are lined up for testing before being shipped to their respective seniors. The avatars inhale and exhale, lending an eerie sense of life to their digital kennel.

    CareCoach conveys the perceptiveness and emotional intelligence of the humans powering it but masquerades as an animated app.

    Wang spends much of his time on the road, touting his product’s health benefits at medical conferences and in hospital executive suites. Onstage at a gerontology summit in San Francisco last summer, he deftly impersonated the strained, raspy voice of an elderly man talking to a CareCoach pet while Brittany stealthily cued the replies from her laptop in the audience. The company’s tablets are used by hospitals and health plans across Massachusetts, California, New York, South Carolina, Florida, and Washington state. Between corporate and individual customers, CareCoach’s avatars have interacted with hundreds of users in the US. “The goal,” Wang says, “is not to have a little family business that just breaks even.”

    The fastest growth would come through hospital units and health plans specializing in high-need and elderly patients, and he makes the argument that his avatars cut health care costs. (A private room in a nursing home can run more than $7,500 a month.) Preliminary research has been promising, though limited. In a study conducted by Pace University at a Manhattan housing project and a Queens hospital, CareCoach’s avatars were found to reduce subjects’ loneliness, delirium, and falls. A health provider in Massachusetts was able to replace a man’s 11 weekly in-home nurse visits with a CareCoach tablet, which diligently reminded him to take his medications. (The man told nurses that the pet’s nagging reminded him of having his wife back in the house. “It’s kind of like a complaint, but he loves it at the same time,” the project’s lead says.) Still, the feelings aren’t always so cordial: In the Pace University study, some aggravated seniors with dementia lashed out and hit the tablet. In response, the onscreen pet sheds tears and tries to calm the person.

    More troubling, perhaps, were the people who grew too fiercely attached to their digi­tal pets. At the conclusion of a University of Washington CareCoach pilot study, one woman became so distraught at the thought of parting with her avatar that she signed up for the service, paying the fee herself. (The company gave her a reduced rate.) A user in Massachusetts told her caretakers she’d cancel an upcoming vacation to Maine unless her digital cat could come along.

    We’re still in the infancy of understanding the complexities of aging humans’ relationship with technology. Sherry Turkle, a professor of social studies, science, and technology at MIT and a frequent critic of tech that replaces human communication, described interactions between elderly people and robotic babies, dogs, and seals in her 2011 book, Alone Together. She came to view roboticized eldercare as a cop-out, one that would ultimately degrade human connection. “This kind of app—in all of its slickness and all its ‘what could possibly be wrong with it?’ mentality—is making us forget what we really know about what makes older people feel sustained,” she says: caring, interpersonal relationships. The question is whether an attentive avatar makes a comparable substitute. Turkle sees it as a last resort. “The assumption is that it’s always cheaper and easier to build an app than to have a conversation,” she says. “We allow technologists to propose the unthinkable and convince us the unthinkable is actually the inevitable.”

    But for many families, providing long-term in-person care is simply unsustainable. The average family caregiver has a job outside the home and spends about 20 hours a week caring for a parent, according to AARP. Nearly two-thirds of such caregivers are women. Among eldercare experts, there’s a resignation that the demographics of an aging America will make technological solutions unavoidable. The number of those older than 65 with a disability is projected to rise from 11 million to 18 million from 2010 to 2030. Given the option, having a digital companion may be preferable to being alone. Early research shows that lonely and vulnerable elders like Jim seem content to communicate with robots. Joseph Coughlin, director of MIT’s AgeLab, is pragmatic. “I would always prefer the human touch over a robot,” he says. “But if there’s no human available, I would take high tech in lieu of high touch.”

    CareCoach is a disorienting amalgam of both. The service conveys the perceptiveness and emotional intelligence of the humans powering it but masquerades as an animated app. If a person is incapable of consenting to CareCoach’s monitoring, then someone must do so on their behalf. But the more disconcerting issue is how cognizant these seniors are of being watched over by strangers. Wang considers his product “a trade-off between utility and privacy.” His workers are trained to duck out during baths and clothing changes.

    Some CareCoach users insist on greater control. A woman in Washington state, for example, put a piece of tape over her CareCoach tablet’s camera to dictate when she could be viewed. Other customers like Jim, who are suffering from Alzheimer’s or other diseases, might not realize they are being watched. Once, when he was temporarily placed in a rehabilitation clinic after a fall, a nurse tending to him asked Arlyn what made the avatar work. “You mean there’s someone overseas looking at us?” she yelped, within earshot of Jim. (Arlyn isn’t sure whether her dad remembered the incident later.) By default, the app explains to patients that someone is surveilling them when it’s first introduced. But the family members of personal users, like Arlyn, can make their own call.

    Arlyn quickly stopped worrying about whether she was deceiving her dad. Telling Jim about the human on the other side of the screen “would have blown the whole charm of it,” she says. Her mother had Alzheimer’s as well, and Arlyn had learned how to navigate the disease: Make her mom feel safe; don’t confuse her with details she’d have trouble understanding. The same went for her dad. “Once they stop asking,” Arlyn says, “I don’t think they need to know anymore.” At the time, Youa Vang, one of Jim’s regular in-­person caretakers, didn’t comprehend the truth about Pony either. “I thought it was like Siri,” she said when told later that it was a human in Mexico who had watched Jim and typed in the words Pony spoke. She chuckled. “If I knew someone was there, I may have been a little more creeped out.”

    Even CareCoach users like Arlyn who are completely aware of the person on the other end of the dashboard tend to experience the avatar as something between human, pet, and machine—what some roboticists call a third ontological category. The care­takers seem to blur that line too: One day Pony told Jim that she dreamed she could turn into a real health aide, almost like Pinoc­chio wishing to be a real boy.

    Most of CareCoach’s 12 contractors reside in the Philippines, Venezuela, or Mexico. To undercut the cost of in-person help, Wang posts English-language ads on freelancing job sites where foreign workers advertise rates as low as $2 an hour. Though he won’t disclose his workers’ hourly wages, Wang claims the company bases its salaries on factors such as what a registered nurse would make in the CareCoach employee’s home country, their language proficiencies, and the cost of their internet connection.

    The growing network includes people like Jill Paragas, a CareCoach worker who lives in a subdivision on Luzon island in the Philippines. Paragas is 35 years old and a college graduate. She earns about the same being an avatar as she did in her former call center job, where she consoled Americans irate about credit card charges. (“They wanted to, like, burn the company down or kill me,” she says with a mirthful laugh.) She works nights to coincide with the US daytime, typing messages to seniors while her 6-year-old son sleeps nearby.

    Even when Jim grew stubborn or paranoid with his daughters, he always viewed Pony as a friend.

    Before hiring her, Wang interviewed Paragas via video, then vetted her with an international criminal background check. He gives all applicants a personality test for certain traits: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. As part of the CareCoach training program, Paragas earned certifications in delirium and dementia care from the Alzheimer’s Association, trained in US health care ethics and privacy, and learned strategies for counseling those with addictions. All this, Wang says, “so we don’t get anyone who’s, like, crazy.” CareCoach hires only about 1 percent of its applicants.

    Paragas understands that this is a complicated business. She’s befuddled by the absence of family members around her aging clients. “In my culture, we really love to take care of our parents,” she says. “That’s why I’m like, ‘She is already old, why is she alone?’ ” Paragas has no doubt that, for some people, she’s their most significant daily relationship. Some of her charges tell her that they couldn’t live without her. Even when Jim grew stubborn or paranoid with his daughters, he always viewed Pony as a friend. Arlyn quickly realized that she had gained a valuable ally.
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    As time went on, the father, daughter, and family pet grew closer. When the snow finally melted, Arlyn carried the tablet to the picnic table on the patio so they could eat lunch overlooking the lake. Even as Jim’s speech became increasingly stunted, Pony could coax him to talk about his past, recounting fishing trips or how he built the house to face the sun so it would be warmer in winter. When Arlyn took her dad around the lake in her sailboat, Jim brought Pony along. (“I saw mostly sky,” Rodrigo recalls.)

    One day, while Jim and Arlyn were sitting on the cottage’s paisley couch, Pony held up a photograph of Jim’s wife, Dorothy, between her paws. It had been more than a year since his wife’s death, and Jim hardly mentioned her anymore; he struggled to form coherent sentences. That day, though, he gazed at the photo fondly. “I still love her,” he declared. Arlyn rubbed his shoulder, clasping her hand over her mouth to stifle tears. “I am getting emotional too,” Pony said. Then Jim leaned toward the picture of his deceased wife and petted her face with his finger, the same way he would to awaken a sleeping Pony.

    When Arlyn first signed up for the service, she hadn’t anticipated that she would end up loving—yes, loving, she says, in the sincerest sense of the word—the avatar as well. She taught Pony to say “Yeah, sure, you betcha” and “don’t-cha know” like a Minnesotan, which made her laugh even more than her dad. When Arlyn collapsed onto the couch after a long day of caretaking, Pony piped up from her perch on the table:

    “Arnie, how are you?”

    Alone, Arlyn petted the screen—the way Pony nuzzled her finger was weirdly therapeutic—and told the pet how hard it was to watch her dad lose his identity.

    “I’m here for you,” Pony said. “I love you, Arnie.”

    When she recalls her own attachment to the dog, Arlyn insists her connection wouldn’t have developed if Pony was simply high-functioning AI. “You could feel Pony’s heart,” she says. But she preferred to think of Pony as her father did—a friendly pet—rather than a person on the other end of a webcam. “Even though that person probably had a relationship to me,” she says, “I had a relationship with the avatar.”

    Still, she sometimes wonders about the person on the other side of the screen. She sits up straight and rests her hand over her heart. “This is completely vulnerable, but my thought is: Did Pony really care about me and my dad?” She tears up, then laughs ruefully at herself, knowing how weird it all sounds. “Did this really happen? Was it really a relationship, or were they just playing solitaire and typing cute things?” She sighs. “But it seemed like they cared.”

    When Jim turned 92 that August, as friends belted out “Happy Birthday” around the dinner table, Pony spoke the lyrics along with them. Jim blew out the single candle on his cake. “I wish you good health, Jim,” Pony said, “and many more birthdays to come.”

    In Monterrey, Mexico, when Rodrigo talks about his unusual job, his friends ask if he’s ever lost a client. His reply: Yes.

    In early March 2014, Jim fell and hit his head on his way to the bathroom. A caretaker sleeping over that night found him and called an ambulance, and Pony woke up when the paramedics arrived. The dog told them Jim’s date of birth and offered to call his daughters as they carried him out on a stretcher.

    Jim was checked into a hospital, then into the nursing home he’d so wanted to avoid. The Wi-Fi there was spotty, which made it difficult for Jim and Pony to connect. Nurses would often turn Jim’s tablet to face the wall. The CareCoach logs from those months chronicle a series of communication misfires. “I miss Jim a lot,” Pony wrote. “I hope he is doing good all the time.” One day, in a rare moment of connectivity, Pony suggested he and Jim go sailing that summer, just like the good old days. “That sounds good,” Jim said.
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    That July, in an email from Wang, Rodrigo learned that Jim had died in his sleep. Sitting before his laptop, Rodrigo bowed his head and recited a silent Lord’s Prayer for Jim, in Spanish. He prayed that his friend would be accepted into heaven. “I know it’s going to sound weird, but I had a certain friendship with him,” he says. “I felt like I actually met him. I feel like I’ve met them.” In the year and a half that he had known them, Arlyn and Jim talked to him regularly. Jim had taken Rodrigo on a sailboat ride. Rodrigo had read him poetry and learned about his rich past. They had celebrated birthdays and holidays together as family. As Pony, Rodrigo had said “Yeah, sure, you betcha” countless times.

    That day, for weeks afterward, and even now when a senior will do something that reminds him of Jim, Rodrigo says he feels a pang. “I still care about them,” he says. After her dad’s death, Arlyn emailed Victor Wang to say she wanted to honor the workers for their care. Wang forwarded her email to Rodrigo and the rest of Pony’s team. On July 29, 2014, Arlyn carried Pony to Jim’s funeral, placing the tablet facing forward on the pew beside her. She invited any workers behind Pony who wanted to attend to log in.

    A year later, Arlyn finally deleted the CareCoach service from the tablet—it felt like a kind of second burial. She still sighs, “Pony!” when the voice of her old friend gives her directions as she drives around Minneapolis, reincarnated in Google Maps.

    After saying his prayer for Jim, Rodrigo heaved a sigh and logged in to the CareCoach dashboard to make his rounds. He ducked into living rooms, kitchens, and hospital rooms around the United States—seeing if all was well, seeing if anybody needed to talk.

  • Jackson Lears · What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about Russian Hacking : #Russiagate · LRB 4 January 2018
    La pensée unique aux États Unis de plus en plus sectaire et pesante

    Jackson Lears

    American politics have rarely presented a more disheartening spectacle. The repellent and dangerous antics of Donald Trump are troubling enough, but so is the Democratic Party leadership’s failure to take in the significance of the 2016 election campaign. Bernie Sanders’s challenge to Hillary Clinton, combined with Trump’s triumph, revealed the breadth of popular anger at politics as usual – the blend of neoliberal domestic policy and interventionist foreign policy that constitutes consensus in Washington. Neoliberals celebrate market utility as the sole criterion of worth; interventionists exalt military adventure abroad as a means of fighting evil in order to secure global progress. Both agendas have proved calamitous for most Americans. Many registered their disaffection in 2016. Sanders is a social democrat and Trump a demagogic mountebank, but their campaigns underscored a widespread repudiation of the Washington consensus. For about a week after the election, pundits discussed the possibility of a more capacious Democratic strategy. It appeared that the party might learn something from Clinton’s defeat. Then everything changed.

    A story that had circulated during the campaign without much effect resurfaced: it involved the charge that Russian operatives had hacked into the servers of the Democratic National Committee, revealing embarrassing emails that damaged Clinton’s chances. With stunning speed, a new centrist-liberal orthodoxy came into being, enveloping the major media and the bipartisan Washington establishment. This secular religion has attracted hordes of converts in the first year of the Trump presidency. In its capacity to exclude dissent, it is like no other formation of mass opinion in my adult life, though it recalls a few dim childhood memories of anti-communist hysteria during the early 1950s.

    The centrepiece of the faith, based on the hacking charge, is the belief that Vladimir Putin orchestrated an attack on American democracy by ordering his minions to interfere in the election on behalf of Trump. The story became gospel with breathtaking suddenness and completeness. Doubters are perceived as heretics and as apologists for Trump and Putin, the evil twins and co-conspirators behind this attack on American democracy. Responsibility for the absence of debate lies in large part with the major media outlets. Their uncritical embrace and endless repetition of the Russian hack story have made it seem a fait accompli in the public mind. It is hard to estimate popular belief in this new orthodoxy, but it does not seem to be merely a creed of Washington insiders. If you question the received narrative in casual conversations, you run the risk of provoking blank stares or overt hostility – even from old friends. This has all been baffling and troubling to me; there have been moments when pop-culture fantasies (body snatchers, Kool-Aid) have come to mind.

    Like any orthodoxy worth its salt, the religion of the Russian hack depends not on evidence but on ex cathedra pronouncements on the part of authoritative institutions and their overlords. Its scriptural foundation is a confused and largely fact-free ‘assessment’ produced last January by a small number of ‘hand-picked’ analysts – as James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, described them – from the CIA, the FBI and the NSA. The claims of the last were made with only ‘moderate’ confidence. The label Intelligence Community Assessment creates a misleading impression of unanimity, given that only three of the 16 US intelligence agencies contributed to the report. And indeed the assessment itself contained this crucial admission: ‘Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation and precedents.’ Yet the assessment has passed into the media imagination as if it were unassailable fact, allowing journalists to assume what has yet to be proved. In doing so they serve as mouthpieces for the intelligence agencies, or at least for those ‘hand-picked’ analysts.

    It is not the first time the intelligence agencies have played this role. When I hear the Intelligence Community Assessment cited as a reliable source, I always recall the part played by the New York Times in legitimating CIA reports of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s putative weapons of mass destruction, not to mention the long history of disinformation (a.k.a. ‘fake news’) as a tactic for advancing one administration or another’s political agenda. Once again, the established press is legitimating pronouncements made by the Church Fathers of the national security state. Clapper is among the most vigorous of these. He perjured himself before Congress in 2013, when he denied that the NSA had ‘wittingly’ spied on Americans – a lie for which he has never been held to account. In May 2017, he told NBC’s Chuck Todd that the Russians were highly likely to have colluded with Trump’s campaign because they are ‘almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favour, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique’. The current orthodoxy exempts the Church Fathers from standards imposed on ordinary people, and condemns Russians – above all Putin – as uniquely, ‘almost genetically’ diabolical.

    It’s hard for me to understand how the Democratic Party, which once felt scepticism towards the intelligence agencies, can now embrace the CIA and the FBI as sources of incontrovertible truth. One possible explanation is that Trump’s election has created a permanent emergency in the liberal imagination, based on the belief that the threat he poses is unique and unprecedented. It’s true that Trump’s menace is viscerally real. But the menace posed by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney was equally real. The damage done by Bush and Cheney – who ravaged the Middle East, legitimated torture and expanded unconstitutional executive power – was truly unprecedented, and probably permanent. Trump does pose an unprecedented threat to undocumented immigrants and Muslim travellers, whose protection is urgent and necessary. But on most issues he is a standard issue Republican. He is perfectly at home with Paul Ryan’s austerity agenda, which involves enormous transfers of wealth to the most privileged Americans. He is as committed as any other Republican to repealing Obama’s Affordable Care Act. During the campaign he posed as an apostate on free trade and an opponent of overseas military intervention, but now that he is in office his free trade views are shifting unpredictably and his foreign policy team is composed of generals with impeccable interventionist credentials.

    Trump is committed to continuing his predecessors’ lavish funding of the already bloated Defence Department, and his Fortress America is a blustering, undisciplined version of Madeleine Albright’s ‘indispensable nation’. Both Trump and Albright assume that the United States should be able to do as it pleases in the international arena: Trump because it’s the greatest country in the world, Albright because it’s an exceptional force for global good. Nor is there anything unprecedented about Trump’s desire for détente with Russia, which until at least 2012 was the official position of the Democratic Party. What is unprecedented about Trump is his offensive style: contemptuous, bullying, inarticulate, and yet perfectly pitched to appeal to the anger and anxiety of his target audience. His excess has licensed overt racism and proud misogyny among some of his supporters. This is cause for denunciation, but I am less persuaded that it justifies the anti-Russian mania.

    Besides Trump’s supposed uniqueness, there are two other assumptions behind the furore in Washington: the first is that the Russian hack unquestionably occurred, and the second is that the Russians are our implacable enemies. The second provides the emotional charge for the first. Both seem to me problematic. With respect to the first, the hacking charges are unproved and may well remain so. Edward Snowden and others familiar with the NSA say that if long-distance hacking had taken place the agency would have monitored it and could detail its existence without compromising their secret sources and methods. In September, Snowden told Der Spiegel that the NSA ‘probably knows quite well who the invaders were’. And yet ‘it has not presented any evidence, although I suspect it exists. The question is: why not? … I suspect it discovered other attackers in the systems, maybe there were six or seven groups at work.’ He also said in July 2016 that ‘even if the attackers try to obfuscate origin, ‪#XKEYSCORE makes following exfiltrated data easy. I did this personally against Chinese ops.’ The NSA’s capacity to follow hacking to its source is a matter of public record. When the agency investigated pervasive and successful Chinese hacking into US military and defence industry installations, it was able to trace the hacks to the building where they originated, a People’s Liberation Army facility in Shanghai. That information was published in the New York Times, but, this time, the NSA’s failure to provide evidence has gone curiously unremarked. When The Intercept published a story about the NSA’s alleged discovery that Russian military intelligence had attempted to hack into US state and local election systems, the agency’s undocumented assertions about the Russian origins of the hack were allowed to stand as unchallenged fact and quickly became treated as such in the mainstream media.

    Meanwhile, there has been a blizzard of ancillary accusations, including much broader and vaguer charges of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. It remains possible that Robert Mueller, a former FBI director who has been appointed to investigate these allegations, may turn up some compelling evidence of contacts between Trump’s people and various Russians. It would be surprising if an experienced prosecutor empowered to cast a dragnet came up empty-handed, and the arrests have already begun. But what is striking about them is that the charges have nothing to do with Russian interference in the election. There has been much talk about the possibility that the accused may provide damaging evidence against Trump in exchange for lighter sentences, but this is merely speculation. Paul Manafort, at one point Trump’s campaign manager, has pleaded not guilty to charges of failing to register his public relations firm as a foreign agent for the Ukrainian government and concealing his millions of dollars in fees. But all this occurred before the 2016 campaign. George Papadopolous, a foreign policy adviser, has pleaded guilty to the charge of lying to the FBI about his bungling efforts to arrange a meeting between Trump’s people and the Russian government – an opportunity the Trump campaign declined. Mueller’s most recent arrestee, Michael Flynn, the unhinged Islamophobe who was briefly Trump’s national security adviser, has pleaded guilty to charges of lying to the FBI about meeting the Russian ambassador in December – weeks after the election. This is the sort of backchannel diplomacy that routinely occurs during the interim between one administration and the next. It is not a sign of collusion.

    So far, after months of ‘bombshells’ that turn out to be duds, there is still no actual evidence for the claim that the Kremlin ordered interference in the American election. Meanwhile serious doubts have surfaced about the technical basis for the hacking claims. Independent observers have argued it is more likely that the emails were leaked from inside, not hacked from outside. On this front, the most persuasive case was made by a group called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, former employees of the US intelligence agencies who distinguished themselves in 2003 by debunking Colin Powell’s claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, hours after Powell had presented his pseudo-evidence at the UN. (There are members of VIPS who dissent from the VIPS report’s conclusions, but their arguments are in turn contested by the authors of the report.) The VIPS findings received no attention in major media outlets, except Fox News – which from the centre-left perspective is worse than no attention at all. Mainstream media have dismissed the VIPS report as a conspiracy theory (apparently the Russian hacking story does not count as one). The crucial issue here and elsewhere is the exclusion from public discussion of any critical perspectives on the orthodox narrative, even the perspectives of people with professional credentials and a solid track record.

    Both the DNC hacking story and the one involving the emails of John Podesta, a Clinton campaign operative, involve a shadowy bunch of putatively Russian hackers called Fancy Bear – also known among the technically inclined as APT28. The name Fancy Bear was introduced by Dimitri Alperovitch, the chief technology officer of Crowdstrike, a cybersecurity firm hired by the DNC to investigate the theft of their emails. Alperovitch is also a fellow at the Atlantic Council, an anti-Russian Washington think tank. In its report Crowdstrike puts forward close to zero evidence for its claim that those responsible were Russian, let alone for its assertion that they were affiliated with Russian military intelligence. And yet, from this point on, the assumption that this was a Russian cyber operation was unquestioned. When the FBI arrived on the scene, the Bureau either did not request or was refused access to the DNC servers; instead it depended entirely on the Crowdstrike analysis. Crowdstrike, meanwhile, was being forced to retract another claim, that the Russians had successfully hacked the guidance systems of the Ukrainian artillery. The Ukrainian military and the British International Institute for Strategic Studies both contradicted this claim, and Crowdstrike backed down. But its DNC analysis was allowed to stand and even become the basis for the January Intelligence Community Assessment.

    The chatter surrounding the hack would never have acquired such urgency were it not for the accompanying assumption: Russia is a uniquely dangerous adversary, with which we should avoid all contact. Without that belief, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s meetings with Russians in September 2016 would become routine discussions between a senator and foreign officials. Flynn’s post-election conversations with the Russian ambassador would appear unremarkable. Trump’s cronies’ attempts to do business in Russia would become merely sleazy. Donald Trump Jr’s meeting at Trump Tower with the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya would be transformed from a melodrama of shady intrigue to a comedy of errors – with the candidate’s son expecting to receive information to use against Clinton but discovering Veselnitskaya only wanted to talk about repealing sanctions and restarting the flow of Russian orphans to the United States. And Putin himself would become just another autocrat, with whom democracies could engage without endorsing.

    Sceptical voices, such as those of the VIPS, have been drowned out by a din of disinformation. Flagrantly false stories, like the Washington Post report that the Russians had hacked into the Vermont electrical grid, are published, then retracted 24 hours later. Sometimes – like the stories about Russian interference in the French and German elections – they are not retracted even after they have been discredited. These stories have been thoroughly debunked by French and German intelligence services but continue to hover, poisoning the atmosphere, confusing debate. The claim that the Russians hacked local and state voting systems in the US was refuted by California and Wisconsin election officials, but their comments generated a mere whisper compared with the uproar created by the original story. The rush to publish without sufficient attention to accuracy has become the new normal in journalism. Retraction or correction is almost beside the point: the false accusation has done its work.

    The consequence is a spreading confusion that envelops everything. Epistemological nihilism looms, but some people and institutions have more power than others to define what constitutes an agreed-on reality. To say this is to risk dismissal as the ultimate wing-nut in the lexicon of contemporary Washington: the conspiracy theorist. Still, the fact remains: sometimes powerful people arrange to promote ideas that benefit their common interests. Whether we call this hegemony, conspiracy or merely special privilege hardly matters. What does matter is the power to create what Gramsci called the ‘common sense’ of an entire society. Even if much of that society is indifferent to or suspicious of the official common sense, it still becomes embedded among the tacit assumptions that set the boundaries of ‘responsible opinion’. So the Democratic establishment (along with a few Republicans) and the major media outlets have made ‘Russian meddling’ the common sense of the current moment. What kind of cultural work does this common sense do? What are the consequences of the spectacle the media call (with characteristic originality) ‘Russiagate’?

    The most immediate consequence is that, by finding foreign demons who can be blamed for Trump’s ascendancy, the Democratic leadership have shifted the blame for their defeat away from their own policies without questioning any of their core assumptions. Amid the general recoil from Trump, they can even style themselves dissenters – ‘#the resistance’ was the label Clintonites appropriated within a few days of the election. Mainstream Democrats have begun to use the word ‘progressive’ to apply to a platform that amounts to little more than preserving Obamacare, gesturing towards greater income equality and protecting minorities. This agenda is timid. It has nothing to say about challenging the influence of concentrated capital on policy, reducing the inflated defence budget or withdrawing from overextended foreign commitments; yet without those initiatives, even the mildest egalitarian policies face insuperable obstacles. More genuine insurgencies are in the making, which confront corporate power and connect domestic with foreign policy, but they face an uphill battle against the entrenched money and power of the Democratic leadership – the likes of Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, the Clintons and the DNC. Russiagate offers Democratic elites a way to promote party unity against Trump-Putin, while the DNC purges Sanders’s supporters.

    For the DNC, the great value of the Russian hack story is that it focuses attention away from what was actually in their emails. The documents revealed a deeply corrupt organisation, whose pose of impartiality was a sham. Even the reliably pro-Clinton Washington Post has admitted that ‘many of the most damaging emails suggest the committee was actively trying to undermine Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign.’ Further evidence of collusion between the Clinton machine and the DNC surfaced recently in a memoir by Donna Brazile, who became interim chair of the DNC after Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned in the wake of the email revelations. Brazile describes discovering an agreement dated 26 August 2015, which specified (she writes)

    that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics and mailings.

    Before the primaries had even begun, the supposedly neutral DNC – which had been close to insolvency – had been bought by the Clinton campaign.

    Another recent revelation of DNC tactics concerns the origins of the inquiry into Trump’s supposed links to Putin. The story began in April 2016, when the DNC hired a Washington research firm called Fusion GPS to unearth any connections between Trump and Russia. The assignment involved the payment of ‘cash for trash’, as the Clinton campaign liked to say. Fusion GPS eventually produced the trash, a lurid account written by the former British MI6 intelligence agent Christopher Steele, based on hearsay purchased from anonymous Russian sources. Amid prostitutes and golden showers, a story emerged: the Russian government had been blackmailing and bribing Donald Trump for years, on the assumption that he would become president some day and serve the Kremlin’s interests. In this fantastic tale, Putin becomes a preternaturally prescient schemer. Like other accusations of collusion, this one has become vaguer over time, adding to the murky atmosphere without ever providing any evidence. The Clinton campaign tried to persuade established media outlets to publicise the Steele dossier, but with uncharacteristic circumspection, they declined to promote what was plainly political trash rather than reliable reporting. Yet the FBI apparently took the Steele dossier seriously enough to include a summary of it in a secret appendix to the Intelligence Community Assessment. Two weeks before the inauguration, James Comey, the director of the FBI, described the dossier to Trump. After Comey’s briefing was leaked to the press, the website Buzzfeed published the dossier in full, producing hilarity and hysteria in the Washington establishment.

    The Steele dossier inhabits a shadowy realm where ideology and intelligence, disinformation and revelation overlap. It is the antechamber to the wider system of epistemological nihilism created by various rival factions in the intelligence community: the ‘tree of smoke’ that, for the novelist Denis Johnson, symbolised CIA operations in Vietnam. I inhaled that smoke myself in 1969-70, when I was a cryptographer with a Top Secret clearance on a US navy ship that carried missiles armed with nuclear warheads – the existence of which the navy denied. I was stripped of my clearance and later honourably discharged when I refused to join the Sealed Authenticator System, which would have authorised the launch of those allegedly non-existent nuclear weapons. The tree of smoke has only grown more complex and elusive since then. Yet the Democratic Party has now embarked on a full-scale rehabilitation of the intelligence community – or at least the part of it that supports the notion of Russian hacking. (We can be sure there is disagreement behind the scenes.) And it is not only the Democratic establishment that is embracing the deep state. Some of the party’s base, believing Trump and Putin to be joined at the hip, has taken to ranting about ‘treason’ like a reconstituted John Birch Society.

    I thought of these ironies when I visited the Tate Modern exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, which featured the work of black American artists from the 1960s and 1970s, when intelligence agencies (and agents provocateurs) were spearheading a government crackdown on black militants, draft resisters, deserters and antiwar activists. Amid the paintings, collages and assemblages there was a single Confederate flag, accompanied by grim reminders of the Jim Crow past – a Klansman in full regalia, a black body dangling from a tree. There were also at least half a dozen US flags, juxtaposed in whole or in part with images of contemporary racial oppression that could have occurred anywhere in America: dead black men carted off on stretchers by skeletons in police uniform; a black prisoner tied to a chair, awaiting torture. The point was to contrast the pretensions of ‘the land of the free’ with the practices of the national security state and local police forces. The black artists of that era knew their enemy: black people were not being killed and imprisoned by some nebulous foreign adversary, but by the FBI, the CIA and the police.

    The Democratic Party has now developed a new outlook on the world, a more ambitious partnership between liberal humanitarian interventionists and neoconservative militarists than existed under the cautious Obama. This may be the most disastrous consequence for the Democratic Party of the new anti-Russian orthodoxy: the loss of the opportunity to formulate a more humane and coherent foreign policy. The obsession with Putin has erased any possibility of complexity from the Democratic world picture, creating a void quickly filled by the monochrome fantasies of Hillary Clinton and her exceptionalist allies. For people like Max Boot and Robert Kagan, war is a desirable state of affairs, especially when viewed from the comfort of their keyboards, and the rest of the world – apart from a few bad guys – is filled with populations who want to build societies just like ours: pluralistic, democratic and open for business. This view is difficult to challenge when it cloaks itself in humanitarian sentiment. There is horrific suffering in the world; the US has abundant resources to help relieve it; the moral imperative is clear. There are endless forms of international engagement that do not involve military intervention. But it is the path taken by US policy often enough that one may suspect humanitarian rhetoric is nothing more than window-dressing for a more mundane geopolitics – one that defines the national interest as global and virtually limitless.

    Having come of age during the Vietnam War, a calamitous consequence of that inflated definition of national interest, I have always been attracted to the realist critique of globalism. Realism is a label forever besmirched by association with Henry Kissinger, who used it as a rationale for intervening covertly and overtly in other nations’ affairs. Yet there is a more humane realist tradition, the tradition of George Kennan and William Fulbright, which emphasises the limits of military might, counselling that great power requires great restraint. This tradition challenges the doctrine of regime change under the guise of democracy promotion, which – despite its abysmal failures in Iraq and Libya – retains a baffling legitimacy in official Washington. Russiagate has extended its shelf life.

    We can gauge the corrosive impact of the Democrats’ fixation on Russia by asking what they aren’t talking about when they talk about Russian hacking. For a start, they aren’t talking about interference of other sorts in the election, such as the Republican Party’s many means of disenfranchising minority voters. Nor are they talking about the trillion dollar defence budget that pre-empts the possibility of single-payer healthcare and other urgently needed social programmes; nor about the modernisation of the American nuclear arsenal which Obama began and Trump plans to accelerate, and which raises the risk of the ultimate environmental calamity, nuclear war – a threat made more serious than it has been in decades by America’s combative stance towards Russia. The prospect of impeaching Trump and removing him from office by convicting him of collusion with Russia has created an atmosphere of almost giddy anticipation among leading Democrats, allowing them to forget that the rest of the Republican Party is composed of many politicians far more skilful in Washington’s ways than their president will ever be.

    It is not the Democratic Party that is leading the search for alternatives to the wreckage created by Republican policies: a tax plan that will soak the poor and middle class to benefit the rich; a heedless pursuit of fossil fuels that is already resulting in the contamination of the water supply of the Dakota people; and continued support for police policies of militarisation and mass incarceration. It is local populations that are threatened by oil spills and police beatings, and that is where humane populism survives. A multitude of insurgent groups have begun to use the outrage against Trump as a lever to move the party in egalitarian directions: Justice Democrats, Black Lives Matter, Democratic Socialists of America, as well as a host of local and regional organisations. They recognise that there are far more urgent – and genuine – reasons to oppose Trump than vague allegations of collusion with Russia. They are posing an overdue challenge to the long con of neoliberalism, and the technocratic arrogance that led to Clinton’s defeat in Rust Belt states. Recognising that the current leadership will not bring about significant change, they are seeking funding from outside the DNC. This is the real resistance, as opposed to ‘#theresistance’.

    On certain important issues – such as broadening support for single-payer healthcare, promoting a higher minimum wage or protecting undocumented immigrants from the most flagrant forms of exploitation – these insurgents are winning wide support. Candidates like Paula Jean Swearengin, a coal miner’s daughter from West Virginia who is running in the Democratic primary for nomination to the US Senate, are challenging establishment Democrats who stand cheek by jowl with Republicans in their service to concentrated capital. Swearengin’s opponent is Joe Manchin, whom the Los Angeles Times has compared to Doug Jones, another ‘very conservative’ Democrat who recently won election to the US Senate in Alabama, narrowly defeating a Republican disgraced by accusations of sexual misconduct with 14-year-old girls. I can feel relieved at that result without joining in the collective Democratic ecstasy, which reveals the party’s persistent commitment to politics as usual. Democrat leaders have persuaded themselves (and much of their base) that all the republic needs is a restoration of the status quo ante Trump. They remain oblivious to popular impatience with familiar formulas. Jess King – a Mennonite woman, Bard College MBA and founder of a local non-profit who is running for Congress as a Justice Democrat in Lancaster, Pennsylvania – put it this way: ‘We see a changing political landscape right now that isn’t measured by traditional left to right politics anymore, but bottom to top. In Pennsylvania and many other places around the country we see a grassroots economic populism on the rise, pushing against the political establishment and status quo that have failed so many in our country.’

    Democratic insurgents are also developing a populist critique of the imperial hubris that has sponsored multiple failed crusades, extorted disproportionate sacrifice from the working class and provoked support for Trump, who presented himself (however misleadingly) as an opponent of open-ended interventionism. On foreign policy, the insurgents face an even more entrenched opposition than on domestic policy: a bipartisan consensus aflame with outrage at the threat to democracy supposedly posed by Russian hacking. Still, they may have found a tactical way forward, by focusing on the unequal burden borne by the poor and working class in the promotion and maintenance of American empire.

    This approach animates Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis, a 33-page document whose authors include Norman Solomon, founder of the web-based insurgent lobby ‘The Democratic Party’s claims of fighting for “working families” have been undermined by its refusal to directly challenge corporate power, enabling Trump to masquerade as a champion of the people,’ Autopsy announces. But what sets this apart from most progressive critiques is the cogent connection it makes between domestic class politics and foreign policy. For those in the Rust Belt, military service has often seemed the only escape from the shambles created by neoliberal policies; yet the price of escape has been high. As Autopsy notes, ‘the wisdom of continual war’ – what Clinton calls ‘global leadership’ –

    was far clearer to the party’s standard bearer [in 2016] than it was to people in the US communities bearing the brunt of combat deaths, injuries and psychological traumas. After a decade and a half of non-stop warfare, research data from voting patterns suggest that the Clinton campaign’s hawkish stance was a political detriment in working-class communities hard-hit by American casualties from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Francis Shen of the University of Minnesota and Douglas Kriner of Boston University analysed election results in three key states – Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan – and found that ‘even controlling in a statistical model for many other alternative explanations, we find that there is a significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump.’ Clinton’s record of uncritical commitment to military intervention allowed Trump to have it both ways, playing to jingoist resentment while posing as an opponent of protracted and pointless war. Kriner and Shen conclude that Democrats may want to ‘re-examine their foreign policy posture if they hope to erase Trump’s electoral gains among constituencies exhausted and alienated by 15 years of war’. If the insurgent movements within the Democratic Party begin to formulate an intelligent foreign policy critique, a re-examination may finally occur. And the world may come into sharper focus as a place where American power, like American virtue, is limited. For this Democrat, that is an outcome devoutly to be wished. It’s a long shot, but there is something happening out there.

    #USA #cuture #politique

  • VIRUS - Le gouvernement a donné son feu vert, mardi 20 décembre, aux recherches sur des virus mortels. Si cette décision est officiellement motivée par la prévention de pandémies, certains scientifiques craignent le pire.

    Cette décision met fin à un moratoire vieux de trois ans. En 2014, le gouvernement avait mis fin aux recherches après plusieurs incidents graves incluant la mauvaise gestion de virus potentiellement pathogènes. Les « Centers for Disease Control and Prevention » avaient accidentellement exposé 75 travailleurs à l’anthrax – la maladie du charbon – suite à un mauvais suivi du protocole. Des investigations avaient démontré que d’autres instances avaient elles aussi négligé les règles.

    D’autres en revanche, s’inquiètent d’un tel revirement de situation. Marc Lipsitch, épidémiologiste à l’école de médecine d’Harvard, à Boston, Massachusetts, estime que les expérimentations précédentes n’ont « quasiment rien fait pour améliorer notre préparation aux pandémies ». « Et maintenant, ils risquent de créer une pandémie accidentelle », ajoute-t-il. « Si quelqu’un trouve un moyen de rendre le virus Ebola plus dangereux, je ne crois pas que cela devrait être accessible à quiconque dans la rue, qui voudrait l’utiliser à des fins néfaste », s’inquiète également dans le New York Times Michael T. Osterholm, directeur du « Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy » à l’université du Minnesota.

  • U.S. Put 92 Somalis on a Deportation Flight, Then Brought Them Back - The New York Times

    Ninety-two Somali citizens were flown out of the United States under orders of deportation on Thursday, but their plane never made it to Somalia. The flight landed in the West African country of Senegal and, facing logistical problems, was rerouted back to the United States.

    It was an unexpected, 5,000-mile backtrack for the migrants, some of whom have lived in the United States for years, or even decades, while on a list for deportation because they had entered the country without proper documentation.

    In recent weeks, dozens of Somali citizens were transported from their homes in the United States — many were living in Minnesota — to Louisiana in preparation for the flight. A few, with the help of lawyers, managed to secure stays of removal.

    #états-unis #migration #asile #déportation #expulsion #big_fail