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Here's the truth about the recent latest cyberattacks targeting the U.S. election

October 29, 2020 in Blogs

By Independent Media Institute

Two weeks before Election Day, cybersecurity threats and related disinformation originating overseas and targeting the 2020 election briefly were front-page news.

Threatening emails to voters supporting Democrats were purportedly sent by the Proud Boys, a pro-Trump white nationalist group. State voter registration databases in Alaska and Florida were purportedly breached, and videos containing non-public voter information were posted online. As federal agencies blamed Iran and Russia, an anxious electorate faced more worries.

“Sad but true, bad actors continue their attempts to undermine confidence in the election, now w/ a misleading video,” tweeted Chris Krebs, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) director, in one “Rumor Control” post on October 21. “Stay calm and vote on.”

The incidents—which were described, deconstructed, and debunked in non-technical terms in a Stanford Internet Observatory report issued two days later—came in the same week that the U.S. passed the 50 million mark for ballots already cast. The attacks may have been headline news, but they did not dent record turnout. Their false claims were swiftly outed and then drowned out by domestic noisemakers.

“Of course when it comes to spreading false information, the Russians have plenty of help from the President and his media allies,” wrote longtime journalist Nina Burleigh on Deep State blog, which monitors the world’s intelligence agencies, launching its series on foreign interference in the 2020 election.

Nonetheless, top federal officials who are allies of the president said the alleged Proud Boy emails and purloined voter registration data were concrete evidence of Russian and Iranian attempts to influence the 2020 election in its final weeks. But as news reports were filled with murky accusations, the Stanford researchers—who include some of Silicon Valley’s foremost cybersecurity experts—concluded that no election data or computer systems had been breached. Instead, the propagandists—and the researchers found no trace of Iranian involvement—fabricated content to fuel the impression that the 2020 nationwide election cannot be trusted.

“This series of events represents an active measures campaign intended to create the perception of a massive vulnerability in the U.S. election system that does not exist, and possibly to drive tension in the United States through the invocation of a well-known hate group,” …read more


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Here's what the Supreme Court's threat to mail-in ballots really means

October 29, 2020 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld

Two Supreme Court decisions issued Wednesday took no action to change 2020′s election rules in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, but statements from conservative justices warned that the high court would likely disqualify any absentee ballot received by election officials after Election Day—because those states’ legislatures had not extended the ballot return deadline.

“The important constitutional issue raised by this matter… could lead to serious post-election problems,” began the statement by Justice Samuel Alito concerning Pennsylvania, where the state supreme court extended the ballot deadline by three days to Friday, November 6.

“The provisions of the Federal Constitution conferring on state legislatures, not state courts, the authority to make rules governing federal elections would be meaningless if a state court could override the rules adopted by the legislature simply by claiming that a state constitutional provision gave the courts the authority to make whatever rules it thought appropriate for the conduct of a fair election,” Alito said, in a statement agreed to by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.

“In some respects, this case may be even more egregious,” wrote Gorsuch in his dissent in the North Carolina ruling, “given that a state court and the [statewide election] Board worked together to override a carefully tailored legislative response to COVID. Indeed, the president pro tempore of the North Carolina Senate and the speaker of its House of Representatives have intervened on behalf of the General Assembly to oppose revisions to its work.”

At first glance, the contention that state constitutions, state supreme courts and state boards of elections have no power to regulate elections without explicit authorization from federal authorities or state legislatures, could have radical implications. It would suggest states could not adopt policies that go beyond the federal standard. But, for now, the issue in play concerns the counting or the disqualifying of absentee ballots that will be received by officials after Election Day in two 2020 battleground states.

In recent days, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued rulings that rolled back accommodations made by lower federal courts after Republican-majority legislatures did not extend absentee ballot deadlines and loosen other voting rules in response to the pandemic. The newest Justice, Amy Coney Barrett, did not participate in either decision issued Wednesday.

The court’s conservatives said that they would have gone further in the <a target=_blank href="" …read more


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How artists have been on the front lines of political resistance for the past 50 years

October 29, 2020 in Blogs

By April M. Short

“There’s no us versus them—there’s just us. Everybody in the world is us.”

Shepard Fairey’s voice rings out over a haunting Damned Anthem cover of the Muse song “Uprising,” as images of recent protests in the U.S. flash across the screen at the beginning of the trailer for a new feature-length documentary, “The Art of Protest.” It is a montage of the scenes that have come to define American protests: police lined up in riot gear, a car that was dented after it sped toward a crowd, a woman with a bloodied face, men shouting and carrying Confederate flags, people cheering as a statue is torn down, climate activists carrying a large model of the Earth, a structure on fire and law enforcement aiming pepper spray and water cannons at people from behind shields and tanks.

The film, released for free to the public online in October via the
Rolling Stone website, is executive produced and distributed by Zero Cool films. The project was created by the anarchist artist collective Indecline and “Saving Banksy” director Colin Day. Indecline is responsible for many notorious art pieces, including the famed statues of a naked Donald Trump that popped up in cities across the country overnight prior to the 2016 election.

The film moves through a series of interviews with resistance artists from around the world, coupled with B-roll images of protests and art projects in the making. Its interview subjects range from
Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova; to Jello Biafra, former Dead Kennedys frontman (and so many other punk rock artists that the filmmakers plan to convert unused footage into a short documentary dedicated to punk); to Black Panther Party’s artist Emory Douglas; to gonzo illustrator Ralph Steadman; to transgender porn star Buck Angel, and many more. Colin Day estimates the film team has interviewed at least 40 people.

A filmmaker and founding member of Indecline who spoke with the Independent Media Institute anonymously says it was important to the film’s creators to include a range of artists—not
just the big names.

“We’ve got people you wouldn’t expect to hear from, from different corners of the art …read more


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Donald Trump and the American descent toward failed-state status

October 29, 2020 in Blogs

By TomDispatch

These past few months, it’s grown ever harder to recognize life in America. Thanks to Covid-19, basic day-to-day existence has changed in complicated, often confusing ways. Just putting food on the table has become a challenge for many. Getting doctors’ appointments and medical care can take months. Many schools are offering on-line only instruction and good luck trying to get a driver’s license or a passport renewed in person or setting up an interview for Social Security benefits. The backlog of appointments is daunting.

Meanwhile, where actual in-person government services are on tap, websites warn you of long lines and advise those with appointments to bring an umbrella, a chair, and something to eat and drink, as the Department of Motor Vehicles in Hudson, New York, instructed me to do over the summer. According to a September 2020 Yelp report, approximately 164,000 businesses have closed nationwide due to the pandemic, an estimated 60% of them for good. CNBC reports that 7.5 million businesses may still be at risk of closing. Meanwhile, more than 225,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus and, as a winter spike begins, it’s estimated that up to 410,000 could be dead by year’s end.

Then there are the signs of increasing poverty. Food banks have seen vast rises in demand, according to Feeding America, a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs. According to a study done by Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy, between February and September, the monthly poverty rate increased from 15% to 16.7%, despite cash infusions from Congress’s CARES Act. That report also concluded that the CARES program, while putting a lid on the rise in the monthly poverty rate for a time, “was not successful at preventing a rise in deep poverty.” And now, of course, Congress seems likely to offer nothing else.

The rate of unemployment is down from a high of 14% in April, but still twice what it was in January 2020 and seemingly stabilizing at a disturbing 8%. Meanwhile, schools and universities are struggling to stay viable. Thirty-four percent of universities are now online and only 4% are conducting fully in-person classes. …read more


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Inside the minds of the people who actually think Trump handled the pandemic well

October 29, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Countless critics of President Donald Trump, from liberals and progressives to Never Trump conservatives, have been arguing that Trump deserves to be voted out of office on Tuesday, Nov. 3, because of his wretched response to the coronavirus pandemic. The crisis has killed more than 227,900 people in the United States and over 1.1 million people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

But journalist Olga Khazan, this week in an article for The Atlantic, offers some reasons why many White males in Trump’s hardcore MAGA base actually admire his coronavirus response. And as absurd as their reasoning is, Khazan’s piece is still an interesting read.

“Some 82% of Republicans approve of Trump’s coronavirus response — a higher percentage than before the president was diagnosed with the virus,” Khazan explains. “This is despite the fact that more than 220,000 Americans have died and virtually every public health expert, including those who have worked for Republican administrations, says the president has performed abysmally.”

One of the interviewees for Khazan’s article is a McKinney, Texas resident and Trump supporter named Kurtis. Many Trump critics, Khazan observes, believe that leaving coronavirus to states and municipalities to cope with has been a disaster. But Kurtis told Khazan, “He left it up to each state to make their own decision on how they wanted to proceed” — and according to Kurtis, that was a victory for states’ rights.

Kurtis, discussing Trump’s recent hospitalization for coronavirus, told Khazan, “Trump’s willing to accept that risk to win for the American people. And Joe Biden is sitting in his basement.”

Khazan notes that according to Katherine Cramer, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Trump supporters believe that Trump is trusting Americans to make their own decisions during the pandemic. And sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild told Khazan, in essence, that as Trump supporters see it, Trump’s coronavirus response underscores his belief in the rugged individualism of White males.

“Many White men feel that their gender and race have been vilified, says the sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild,” Khazan writes. “Their economic prospects are bad, and American culture tells them that their gender is too. So, they’ve turned to Trump as a type of folk hero — one who can restore their sense of former glory. Exposing themselves and others to the coronavirus is part of …read more


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Day of the Dead: How Ancient Traditions Grew Into a Global Holiday

October 29, 2020 in History

By Iván Román

What began as ceremonies practiced by the ancient Aztecs evolved into a holiday recognized far beyond the borders of Mexico.

The Day of the Dead or Día de Muertos is an ever-evolving holiday that traces its earliest roots to the Aztec people in what is now central Mexico. The Aztecs used skulls to honor the dead a millennium before the Day of the Dead celebrations emerged. Skulls, like the ones once placed on Aztec temples, remain a key symbol in a tradition that has continued for more than six centuries in the annual celebration to honor and commune with those who have passed on.

Once the Spanish conquered the Aztec empire in the 16th century, the Catholic Church moved indigenous celebrations and rituals honoring the dead throughout the year to the Catholic dates commemorating All Saints Day and All Souls Day on November 1 and 2. In what became known as Día de Muertos on November 2, the Latin American indigenous traditions and symbols to honor the dead fused with non-official Catholic practices and notions of an afterlife. The same happened on November 1 to honor children who had died.

READ MORE: How the Early Catholic Church Christianized Halloween

Day of the Dead Traditions

Families decorate a relative’s grave with flowers at a cemetery in Tzintzuntzan, Michoacan State, Mexico on November 1, 2015.

In these ceremonies, people build altars in their homes with ofrendas, offerings to their loved ones’ souls. Candles light photos of the deceased and items left behind. Families read letters and poems and tell anecdotes and jokes about the dead. Offerings of tamales, chilis, water, tequila and pan de muerto, a specific bread for the occasion, are lined up by bright orange or yellow cempasúchil flowers, marigolds, whose strong scent helps guide the souls home.

Copal incense, used for ceremonies back in ancient times, is lit to draw in the spirits. Clay molded sugar skulls are painted and decorated with feathers, foil and icing, with the name of the deceased written across the foreheads. Altars include all four elements of life: water, the food for earth, the candle for fire, and for wind, papel picado, colorful tissue paper folk art with cut out designs to stream across the altar or the wall. Some families also include a Christian crucifix or an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint in the altar.

In Mexico, …read more