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America's Voting Machinery Is Hackable, Falling Apart and Privatized—and the GOP Doesn't Care

February 15, 2018 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

Democrats issue a startling report on voting vulnerabilities and propose legislation to protect upcoming elections.

Democrats in Congress have issued what may be their most alarming report ever about the vulnerability of America’s voting machinery to sophisticated adversaries and the limited abilities of government at every level to stop Election Day chaos.

The “Congressional Task Force on Election Security Report,” from the party’s foremost experts on cyber threats in the House, gives new details on Russian hacking of the 2016 election and how the response across many layers of government was often poorly coordinated and marginally ineffective.

For example, as the 2016 presidential election came to a close, the Department of Homeland Security wanted to help states and counties by probing their computer systems to identify hacking vulnerabilities. But it noted that states and localities that sought help had to wait for weeks in October—a timeline out of sync with early November's Election Day. (The report said DHS is now trying to do better.)    

The report also restated how and why the nation’s electronic voting infrastructure is aging, cannot universally be trusted to accurately count votes, is not accompanied by thorough post-election audits to verify vote counts, and is made and maintained by a monopoly of private firms and contractors with little regulation or marketplace pressure to do better.

Its authors are sponsoring legislation to spend hundreds of millions to patch a national system beset by hacking pathways and other vulnerabilities. Not a single Republican in Congress took part in the hearings that produced the report. Nor have Republicans shown interest in acknowledging the cyber threats to voting or the millions needed to fortify the machinery for more trustable elections.

“The president and House Republicans have done nothing,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said at a press conference releasing the report and the legislation, where she recounted how every top intelligence official appointed by President Trump has recently said that Russia is already meddling in the upcoming 2018 election. “They have refused to take inventory of what our resources are and what they need to be. They have refused to assess what …read more


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Can We Stop Domestic Violence Before It Turns to Murder?

February 15, 2018 in Blogs

By Amanda Marcotte, Salon

A women’s shelter’s innovative program may help prevent partner murder.

While Donald Trump, who has his own history of credible allegations of violence towards women, is whining about how it's unfair to hold men accountable for domestic abuse,  a group of women in Massachusetts are fighting to save women's lives, one community at a time. In the early 2000s, the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, a domestic violence organization that serves a series of small towns in northeastern Massachusetts, developed an innovative program to prevent domestic homicide by targeting situations where abusive men showed signs that they might turn to lethal violence.

The program worked well and now the center is fundraising in hopes of teaching other communities how to use some or all of its program to prevent homicide in their own communities. With this approach, leaders of the Geiger Center also hope to help reshape the public understanding of domestic violence. They advocate for more focus on helping survivors not just escape violent situations but also get their lives back on track, and clearly putting the responsibility on abusers, not victims, to stop the abuse.

“We all read those stories that happen almost every day in our country about domestic violence homicides,” Suzanne Dubus, CEO of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, told Salon, meaning cases “where there’s a ton of history and the police know this guy’s dangerous and he goes and kills his wife and kids” — and often, as in the Texas church shootings last year, kills innocent bystanders as well. “We’re always jumping up and down on the sidelines going, wait a minute, there is a solution,” she said.

That solution is the Domestic Violence High Risk Team: A coalition of representatives from the shelter, law enforcement, health care providers, prosecutors and courts who meet regularly and share information about ongoing domestic violence situations in the community. As Rachel Louise Snyder detailed in the New Yorker in 2013, the group keeps dibs on abusers and their targets, monitoring the situation for signs that the abuser is escalating towards one of the many explosive acts of violence that leads to …read more


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Rob Porter Is My Ex-Husband—Here’s What You Should Know About Abuse

February 15, 2018 in Blogs

By Colbie Holderness, The Washington Post

Living in constant fear of Rob’s anger for years chipped away at my sense of self-worth.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Sunday that she has no reason not to believe statements that Jennifer Willoughby and I have made about our ex-husband, former White House aide Rob Porter. I actually appreciated her saying that she at least did not not believe us.

But I was dismayed when Conway, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” went on to say that she does not fear for White House communications director Hope Hicks, who has reportedly been dating Porter. “I’ve rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts.”

Borrowing Conway’s words, I have no reason not to believe her when she says that Hicks is a strong woman. But her statement implies that those who have been in abusive relationships are not strong.

I beg to differ.

Recognizing and surviving in an abusive relationship take strength. The abuse can be terrifying, life-threatening and almost constant. Or it can ebb and flow, with no violence for long periods. It’s often the subtler forms of abuse that inflict serious, persistent damage while making it hard for the victim to see the situation clearly.

For me, living in constant fear of Rob’s anger and being subjected to his degrading tirades for years chipped away at my independence and sense of self-worth. I walked away from that relationship a shell of the person I was when I went into it, but it took me a long time to realize the toll that his behavior was taking on me. (Rob has denied the abuse, but Willoughby and I know what happened.)

Telling others about the abuse takes strength. Talking to family, friends, clergy, counselors and, later, the FBI, I would often find myself struggling to find the words to convey an adequate picture of the situation. When Rob’s now ex-girlfriend reached out to both Willoughby and me, she described her relationship in terms we each found familiar, immediately following up her description with “Am I crazy?” Boy, I could identify with that …read more


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‘There’s an Alternative to the Top-Down Capitalist Corporation’

February 15, 2018 in Blogs

By Janine Jackson, FAIR

An interview with Richard Wolff on questioning economic fundamentals.

Janine Jackson interviewed Richard Wolff about questioning economic fundamentals for the . Richard Wolff, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

RW: My pleasure, and also my appreciation for exploring precisely what it is that needs to be explored more.

Related Stories

…read more


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The Real History Behind the Black Panther

February 15, 2018 in History

By Ryan Mattimore

Fantastic Four #52, where Black Panther was first featured. (Image courtesy of and Heritage Auctions)

“Black Panther,” one of the most highly anticipated movies of 2018, has already broken pre-sale ticket records for its parent company Marvel Cinematic Universe. But the journey from comic book to screen has taken more than 50 years: Black Panther, Marvel Comic’s first black superhero, debuted in Marvel’s “Fantastic 4” comic in 1966, and became a member of the Avengers two years later, but didn’t get his own comic until 1977.

The series centers on T’Challa, king of Wakanda, and the wealthiest fictional character in the Marvel universe. Unlike many other heroes, T’Challa inherits his mantle from his father T’Chaka (the previous king), and gains his powers—including superacute senses and enhanced strength and speed—from a combination of skill, divine favor and a special herb. In a 1990 interview with The Comics Journal, co-creator Jack Kirby described why he created the character: “I came up with the Black Panther because I realized I had no blacks in my strip…I had a lot of black readers. My first friend was…black! And here I was ignoring them because I was associating with everybody else.”

Fantastic Four #52, where Black Panther was first featured. (Image courtesy of and Heritage Auctions)

Black Panther’s story originates in the fictional nation of Wakanda, touted in the comic as the only African country that was never colonized—though many tried. Over the years, observers have drawn real-world parallels between Wakanda and Ethiopia, which was never officially colonized, but was occupied by Italy in the 1930s. Without outside powers extracting its resources, or imposing exploitative policies, Wakanda flourishes and becomes the most technologically advanced country on earth, rich in natural resources such as the fictional element Vibranium. (Sound familiar? It’s what Captain America’s shield is made of.)

To understand more about “Black Panther” and the history it reflects, we got some help from author Adilifu Nama, author of Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes.

HISTORY: Why is ‘Black Panther’ so important?

Adilifu Nama: What makes the Black Panther such a significant figure in American popular culture—as well as black popular culture—is its groundbreaking representation of blackness as more than a stereotypical and racist trope of inferiority. We have to keep in mind the historical context of the superhero’s first emergence—in 1966, against the backdrop of the Civil Rights and burgeoning black-power movement. That becomes important because in many ways [the emergence of a black …read more


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How We Got Trump's Clash with the Deep State

February 15, 2018 in Economics

By Christopher A. Preble

Christopher A. Preble

AMERICA’S FOUNDERS anticipated how a sprawling
national-security state could subvert the popular will, and even
endanger the nation’s interests. James Madison told his fellow delegates at the Constitutional
Convention in Philadelphia, “A standing military force, with
an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to

History informed his judgement. “The means of defense
against foreign danger,” he said, “have been always the
instruments of tyranny at home.”

George Washington agreed. In his Farewell Address, the general
turned president advised his countrymen to “avoid the
necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under
any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are
to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican

Another general-president, Dwight Eisenhower, echoed these
concerns. He worried that the evolving “military-industrial
complex” would acquire “unwarranted influence”
and “endanger our liberties or democratic processes.”
“Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry,” he
continued, “can compel the proper meshing of the huge
industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful
methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper

Alas, the citizenry is neither alert nor knowledgeable.

Which means that the actual conduct of foreign policy falls to
what Michael Glennon dubbed the Trumanites: “the network of
several hundred high-level military, intelligence, diplomatic, and
law enforcement officials within the executive branch who are
responsible for making national security policymaking.” And
within that executive branch, Glennon concludes in his book
Security and Double Government
, “The President …
exercises little substantive control over the overall direction of
U.S. national security policy.”

Even if you don’t buy Glennon’s argument, it seems
likely that the men and women responsible for executing U.S.
foreign policy are uninterested in the views of the many Americans
who actually pay for the nation’s wars, and the few Americans
who fight them.

Defenders of the status quo like to argue that it survives
because it works. The public is wrong to doubt the wisdom of wars
in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the foreign-policy elite sees it, the
American people can’t be expected to understand why we defend
wealthy allies, deploy hundreds of thousands of military personnel
in numerous foreign countries and align ourselves with some of the
world’s most reprehensible autocrats.

Dean Acheson, Truman’s secretary of state, presumably
spoke for many elites (though perhaps too candidly) when he
explained, “If you truly had a democracy and did what the
people wanted, you’d go wrong every time.”

In this sense, it isn’t merely inertia that explains why
U.S. foreign policy remains on autopilot, despite widespread public
dissatisfaction with the status quo. Rather, it’s the deep
state, doing what the deep state does.

Donald Trump tapped into the resentment engendered by the
establishment’s contempt …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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How a Solar Microgrid Is Helping an Indigenous California Tribe Achieve Community Resiliency

February 15, 2018 in Blogs

By Stan Greschner, AlterNet

The Chemehuevi are showing us what's possible. Let's follow their lead.

With this year’s major storms cutting power for millions of Americans for days—and in the case of Puerto Rico, months on end—the question of how we make our electrical grid and our communities more resilient is on a lot of people’s minds. But for people who live in remote communities where electricity has always been unreliable, or even nonexistent, resiliency is a way of life. And the solutions they are developing might just hold the key for the rest of us.

The Chemehuevi Indian Reservation comprises 30,000 acres at the edge of California's Mohave Desert, just west of the Colorado River as it flows into Lake Havasu. A branch of the Southern Paiute, the Chemehuevi have inhabited this region for thousands of years, weathering extreme heat, powerful winds, and the torrential rains of the monsoon season. Today, just around 350 people live on the reservation, in scattered ranch-style homes that dot the otherwise open landscape.

Several years ago, the tribe started looking into solar power, both as a low-cost clean energy resource and an economic opportunity for its members. Taking advantage of a state program for low-income households, the tribe partnered with nonprofit GRID Alternatives to put solar power on 80 homes on the reservation and train 20 tribal members in solar installation. The installations were a boon for residents, lowering energy costs by an average of 50 percent, but the grid-tied systems didn't solve one big problem: frequent power outages caused by weather and bird strikes.

“On occasion, power will be out for up to three days,” says Chemehuevi vice-chairman Glenn Lodge, “which is concerning especially for community members with medical conditions or tribal elders.”

The tribe began searching for a solution that would provide clean, affordable, uninterrupted power to their community center, a facility with a backup diesel generator that was providing critical services like meals and air conditioning to members during blackouts. Lodge and his team researched various options, ultimately leading to a grant for a solar micro-grid through the California Energy Commission …read more


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How Snowboarding Became a Mainstream Olympic Event

February 15, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

Chloe Kim of the United States during the Snowboard Halfpipe Final on day four of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Phoenix Snow Park, 2018. (Credit: XIN LI/Getty Images)
Chloe Kim of the United States during the Snowboard Halfpipe Final on day four of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Phoenix Snow Park, 2018. (Credit: XIN LI/Getty Images)

Skiing has been a method of transportation since prehistoric times and a competitive sport for more than a century. In contrast, skiing’s younger, hipper counterpart—snowboarding—only emerged in the 1960s, after surfing and skateboarding had already gained mainstream popularity.

Like skiing, surfing is also quite old. Native people of Hawaii and other Polynesian islands had been surfing for hundreds of years before the idea of riding waves on a long wooden board spread to American teenagers in California in the early 20th century. By the late ’50s, some young people began to attach wheels to boards so they could “surf” sidewalks. Soon, the Beach Boys were singing about catching waves, while duo Jan and Dean sang about “Sidewalk Surfin.’” (Admittedly, that song was a copy of the Beach Boys’ “Catch a Wave,” with different lyrics.).

Sherman Poppen’s invention the snurf board. (Credit: National Museum of American History/Smithsonian Institute)

If teens could ride waves and sidewalks, why not snow? That’s what American inventor Sherman Poppen was thinking when he bound together a set of children’s skis for his daughters in the mid-’60s. Just as it’s not clear who came up with the idea of skateboarding, it’s also a mystery as to who first tried to bring the idea of surfing to winter sports. (It’s not hard to imagine that some kids had already tried it on their sleds.) But in the history of snowboarding, Poppen stands out as the first person to market snowboards—or as he called them, Snurfers.

For a while, that name applied not just to boards, but to the sport itself. Starting in the late ’60s and lasting at least through the mid-’80s, enthusiasts competed in “snurfing” contests. And if not for the fact that Poppen trademarked his name when other companies began to sell their own Snurfers, we still might be watching snurfing at the Olympics today. (Though “snurfing” is over, the Snurfer company is still in business.)

Snowboarder at Snow Summits Ego Trip Super Park, designed to accommodate high caliber snowboarders in mind, (Photo by Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Snowboarder at Snow Summits Ego Trip Super Park, …read more