SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Ricans have been in the streets for seven consecutive nights now, chanting “viva Puerto Rico libre” and demanding the resignation of the island’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló.
What initially set these protests off was the publication of nearly 900 pages of leaked text messages between Rosselló and some of his closest associates, including a ton of crass homophobic and misogynistic messages.
In those messages, now dubbed “Rickyleaks,” one of Rosselló’s advisers joked about feeding dead bodies, which were overwhelming the morgues in the wake of Hurricane Maria, to crows.
But Puerto Ricans have been suffering for a long time: Between austerity measures imposed to alleviate a ballooning debt crisis and Maria, which left an estimated 4,645 people dead, there’s a feeling that the texts were simply the final straw for Puerto Rican citizens.
“It’s the corruption in the midst of so much suffering and so much vulnerability at an island-wide level,” said Laura Rexach, a radio show host, who’s been out in the streets every day for the last week. “Everyone was suffering day to day.”
Protests began earlier in the week with violent clashes with police, who fired tear gas into the crowds outside the governor’s mansion. By the end of the week, they took on the feel of a street party. Old men reclined in beach chairs and watched as young protesters blasted music and did dances from Fortnite.
To Manuel Natal Albelo, an independent member of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives, the protests and scandals are something of a vindication. He’s been raising the alarm over what he saw as corruption in Rosselló’s administration for two years.
“The things that we always thought that were going on but we never got the confirmation — now we have them in close to 900 pages of private chats,” Natal said. “And that has provoked so much anger in people. That has to eventually get them to get out of their couch and get onto the streets and protest for what's right.”
Rosselló has issued public apologies since the chats came to light, but he refuses to step down.
The protests, however, show no signs of abating. While the streets of San Juan were quieter on Thursday night after a huge showing on Wednesday, more actions are planned for Monday. The people of Puerto Rico don’t appear to be willing to stand down until Rosselló is removed from office.
“There's no turning back,” said Aliana Bigio Alcoba, a retail worker. “Everything will be different from now on. I'm sure of it.”
Two Republican senators are diving into the fight against the threat of domestic terrorism — by introducing legislation targeting the decentralized antifascist movement known as “antifa.”
Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana unveiled a resolution this week “calling for the designation of Antifa as a domestic terrorist organization.” The resolution states that “Antifa is a movement that intentionally combines violence with the group’s alt-left positions.”
There are two problems with this: First: antifa hasn’t killed people, unlike the far-right. Second, there’s no domestic terror designation system that would make this possible. Organizations like the KKK or the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen are instead described as “hate groups.”Antifa isn’t killing people. But the far-right is.
The FBI has said that domestic terrorism poses a growing and very real threat to national security. However, that threat isn’t coming from antifa, whose members sometimes damage property and brawl with fascists or police but haven’t been linked to any killings in the U.S.
There is a threat, though, from far-right extremists whose members accounted for 73% of extremist murders in the U.S. between 2009 and 2018, according to the Anti-Defamation League. This is compared to 23% by jihadists.
At a recent hearing on Capitol Hill, acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan described white supremacist violence as a “huge issue” and an “evolving and increasingly concerning threat.”
Cruz and Cassidy were spurred into action by a recent incident in Portland, Oregon, involving right-wing blogger Andy Ngo. Ngo was beaten up by antifa during a Proud Boy rally in late June, and said he suffered a brain hemorrhage as a result.
He soon appeared on every conservative news outlet telling his story, and became a martyr in the rage against antifa. President Donald Trump even referenced the incident at his rally in North Carolina earlier this week.
The Republican senators also point to a series of incidents involving ICE officers and antifa. For example, the ICE office in southwest Portland, was shut down “for days” due to “threats and occupation by Antifa members,” according to the resolution.
They also noted that the Portland’s Rose City Antifa chapter “explicitly rejects the authority of law enforcement officers” and are opposed to the “civil treatment” of members of far-right groups like Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer by police.
Portland law enforcement’s “civil treatment” of far-right groups was brought to light earlier this year. A local paper published hundreds of text messages between a police lieutenant and the leader of Patriot Prayer.
The last item on the resolution calls on the federal government to “redouble its efforts” to combat the spread of “all forms of domestic terorrism, including white supremacist terrorism.”There is no domestic terrorism designation system
It is not currently possible to designate antifa as a domestic terror group, because there is no explicit domestic terror statute.
The terror group designation system is currently overseen by the State Department. One of the main criteria for the terrorist designation is that the group operates primarily oversees.
The fact that the U.S. does not have a domestic terror law was spotlighted in a series of recent hearings on Capitol Hill, which were convened to talk about the growing threat posed by the far-right. Intelligence officials were asked why, for example, the Pulse Nightclub shooter, who pledged allegiance to ISIS, a foreign terror group, was charged with terrorism, when the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, who left 11 dead, was only charged with hate crimes.
However, legal experts have warned that adjusting the law to allow for domestic terror designations could open up the potential for the system to be abused to target protest groups — like antifa, or even Black Lives Matter.The senators missed a glaring PR opportunity
Although there is no explicit domestic terror statute, the 2001 Patriot Act created a definition of domestic terror that the FBI uses to open investigations. Under the Patriot Act, domestic terror is defined as “violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law” that are intended to “intimidate or coerce a civilian population,” to influence the policy of government by intimidation or coercion” or “to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.”
The examples that Cruz and Cassidy give in their resolution don’t quite fit the bill. It would be hard to argue that occupying an ICE office was violent and endangered human life. Similarly, the incident in Portland between Ngo and some antifa-affiliated activists would also be difficult to frame as terrorism.
In fact, the only recent incident that could possibly fit the description wasn’t even included in the legislation. Last weekend, a 69-year-old armed man was shot dead by police after he threw incendiary devices at an ICE facility in Tacoma, Washington. The man, who was described by friends as an anarchist and anti-fascist, had already been in trouble with the law for lunging at an officer who was trying to arrest a protester in 2017.
The incident provoked an uproar on the right, who said that it was further proof that antifa pose a domestic terror threat.However, it also puts the Dems in a tight spot.
Some Republican support on this bill is a gimme. Since its black-clad activists burst onto the protest scene during the 2016 election cycle, antifa has been a favorite boogeyman of the GOP.
The legislation does succeed in one thing: It forces Democrats to draw a line in the sand. Conservative media has been hammering Democrats about forcefully “condemning” antifa, often borrowing language used by mainstream media about Trump’s failure to forcefully condemn the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville in Aug. 2017.
However, Democrats run the risk of alienating their constituents if they condemn antifa with the same language they use to condemn the far-right.
“The Squad” — Reps. Ilhan Omar, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley — have been criticized by conservative media for not speaking out strongly about the Tacoma incident. A blogger with Rebel Media, a far-right Canadian media outlet, asked Omar if she condemned the Tacoma incident earlier this week. Omar ignored his question.
As of Thursday, a truck was driving around DC displaying rolling images of “The Squad” on screens, plus a link to a petition, which was organized by Rebel Media: “Democrats who REFUSED to condemn ICE facility attack MUST denounce Antifa violence!”
Cover: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) addresses the Faith and Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority Policy Conference at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel June 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
July 20, 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing — one of the greatest achievements in human history.
However, millions of moon truthers somehow still believe the Apollo moon landings were a hoax.
Among them is Bart Sibrel, a documentary filmmaker famous for getting punched in the face by Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin after he pushed a Bible on him to make him swear that he went to the moon.
“I mean I would bet my life on it that the moon missions were fraudulent,” Sibrel told VICE News.
Randy Walsh is a Toronto-based, self-proclaimed "moon landing investigator," who's written a book about the missions being faked, called "The Apollo Moon Missions: Hiding a Hoax in Plain Sight."
“I think within my lifetime within our lifetime we will see an admission that the Apollo Moon missions were faked,” he said.
Marcus Allen is a London-based photographer and conspiracy theorist, who publishes a conspiracy theory magazine called Nexus.
Marcus said, “If people want to believe it has entirely their affair. I happen to know it's not true. It's fake. It's false. It's a fabrication. NASA have indulged themselves in fake news for 50 years. How sad is that.”
This segment originally aired July 19, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.
WASHINGTON — The Democratic National Committee is getting smoked by its GOP counterpart in fundraising — and some major Democrats are panicked it could hurt their chances at defeating President Trump next year.
The DNC brought in just $22.9 million over the last three months including $9.5 million in June, according to a campaign finance report filed Saturday night with the Federal Election Commission. That’s less than half the Republican National Committee’s haul over the same time period: $51 million.
The DNC had just $9.3 million in the bank at the end of June, less than a quarter the $44 million RNC had — and that doesn’t even factor in the DNC’s $5.7 million in debt. The RNC and President Trump’s campaign had a combined $100 million in the bank.
The huge cash disparity puts Democrats behind the eight-ball in the time-and money-consuming process of building out strong voter contact programs in the states that will determine whether Trump gets reelected.
“They need to get their shit together. Now,” said Adam Parkhomenko, a Hillary Clinton campaign alumna who served as the DNC’s national field director for the final few months of the 2016 campaign.
“When Hillary became the nominee in 2016 she was handed nothing, the DNC was nothing and there was nothing to build on,” he said. “You’d think we would have spent the last few years making sure this would never happen again, and it has.”
Trump’s campaign and the RNC are already using their massive cash advantage to sow the ground for next year’s election, spending more than $60 million this year alone on digital operations including $10 million on ads and building out a ground game infrastructure that takes months if not years to develop.
Democrats can’t keep up.Haven't "received a dime"
While their top presidential candidates are raising big money, the tedious years-long work of building out party voter files, identifying voters’ top concerns, and turning them out to vote is the purview of the national party, the DNC. The party’s current lack of cash could hamstring their eventual nominee and hurt down-ticket candidates, especially in states that aren’t presidential battlegrounds and are especially cash-strapped.
“This is a real problem that our party and the major donors are not facing.”
“This is a real problem that our party and the major donors are not facing,” said Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb, who said her party hasn’t “received a dime yet” of money the DNC promised to them earlier in the year and hasn’t been able to hire field staff she’d planned on.
The party’s fundraising woes began long before DNC Chairman Tom Perez took over in early 2017. The DNC has been outraised by the RNC in every two-year campaign cycle since 2010, following a disastrous move by President Obama to spin off his own campaign into a separate operation, starving the party of resources for years.
“Under President Obama we completely ignored our state and DNC infrastructure and now we’re paying a major price,” said Kleeb.
Other hurdles face the DNC. The GOP always has a natural advantage with big donors as the party of big business and billionaires. Small-dollar donors are rarely eager to give to a committee instead of a candidate — and the DNC’s perceived bias towards Clinton in the 2016 primaries badly damaged the DNC’s image. Democrats don’t have the White House, so they don’t have a fundraiser-in-chief, and a crowded presidential field is sucking up most donor attention and resources.
Democrats credit Perez for cleaning up some of the mess he inherited. The party has grown from 30 to 200 employees as fundraising has improved, and the DNC recently hired 1,000 rising college seniors to be full-time organizers after graduation.
The committee parted ways with longtime finance chairman Henry Muñoz in early May and replaced him with Chris Korge, a major Democratic Party donor. Under Korge, the DNC raised $3.2 million more in June than May. But with the Democratic National Convention just a year away, Perez is running out of time to right the ship.
“The one thing that has been changed is they replaced their finance chair with a guy who’s a very good money-raiser,” said former DNC Chairman Ed Rendell.
Korge argued the DNC is hitting its internal fundraising marks and promised it would raise more than it did during the 2016 cycle. While he admitted the GOP would vastly outraise them, he pointed out that the DNC and Clinton outspent the RNC and Trump by a wide margin in 2016 and Trump still won.
“We’re running a very tight organization, we’re managing our money in a way that maximizes our effectiveness and helps us build our team as fast as we possibly can,’” Korge said. “They [Republicans] will not have one bell or whistle that we don’t have as good or better than them. I am 100% convinced of it.”
Many major liberal donors don’t buy it, however, and continue to refuse to give to the DNC, instead backing candidates or outside groups.
“People arent giving to the DNC because they don’t know why the fuck they should,” said Democratic strategist Tracy Sefl. “What is it that you’re paying for? People think messaging is what the DNC does. It’s not that at all, it’s the nuts and bolts boring stuff [that matters].”
Korge’s response to scared Democrats?
“Don’t panic. Write a check.”
Cover: Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, speaks during the Democratic National Committee (DNC) IWillVote Gala fundraising event in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., on Thursday, June 6, 2019. (Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
There's a lot of people who hate America, at least if you believe Fox News and President Trump.
The president spent the week blasting four minority congresswomen — three born in the United States and the fourth a naturalized citizen — saying they should “go back” to where they came from because they've criticized the U.S.
But do you know who's sounded a lot like a hater of the U.S. himself, over and over again? President Trump.
He has a long history of bashing America, its leadership and its people. He even wrote an entire book, “Crippled America,” about all the problems he's had with this country, setting himself up to "make America great again."
We took a spin through the archives of Trump speeches and media appearances and put together a, far from complete, compendium of the unkind words Donald Trump has had for the country, some of which even came since he moved into the Oval Office.
The mother of Eric Garner wants “real action,” and all she got were words from Bill de Blasio at their meeting Thursday night.
The NYC mayor met with Garner’s family behind closed doors for the first time since the DOJ decided to drop the case against Officer Daniel Pantaleo earlier in the week, which kicked off continuous protests. Now, it’s up to de Blasio to decide if the officer will remain on the force — and his indecision has led to immense criticism from both his New York constituents and American voters he hopes to win for his 2020 presidential bid.
“Actions speak louder than words, and so far I still haven’t seen action,” Eric Garner’s mother Gwen Carr said to a crowd of protesters immediately after leaving Gracie Mansion Thursday. “I want to see action and will not stop fighting for my son until Pantaleo and all the other officers who did wrong are fired.”
The family and protesters say the mayor demanding that Garner’s killer be fired would go a long way in ensuring that he never wears the badge again. But de Blasio has, instead, resorted to repeated condemnations of Pantaleo's actions and court decisions made by local and federal municipalities.
“For the family, no part of the justice process has provided any satisfaction or closure,” de Blasio said in a statement following Thursday's meeting. “In effect, they feel that door after door has been closed in their face. I wanted to directly provide the family with an update as to the next steps in the City’s disciplinary process. Even as they are feeling so much anger and pain, I wanted them to know they are seen and they are heard.”
In July 2014, Officer Pantaleo approached Garner on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes. When Garner pulled his away from the officer as he was being placed under arrest, Pantaleo employed the use of illegal chokehold to restrain him. The chokehold ultimately killed the Staten Island father of six, and his dying words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for the then-growing national movement against the police killings of unarmed black men.
“It’s been five years since NYPD officers killed my son Eric. While he pleaded 11 times for his life and de Blasio has still taken no real action to address this brutal injustice,” Carr said after Thursday’s meeting. “It is outrageous that I have had to be fighting for five years to get the Mayor to do his job to make sure that there is accountability when the NYPD murders our children. The mayor has been dragging his heels and obstructing accountability at every turn for the past five years.”
The mayor also spent most of a 40-minute interview with Hot 97’s Ebro Wednesday deflecting questions about his indecision and insisting that Pantaleo’s fate ultimately rests on the shoulders of NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill. The commissioner, who’s waiting for a police administrative judge who oversaw Pantaleo’s disciplinary hearing to make a recommendation, is set to make his decision by the end of August.
De Blasio’s indecision echoes fellow 2020 candidate Pete Buttigieg, who’s facing his own set of campaign setbacks for his handling of the police shooting that killed 54-year-old Eric Logan in his home city of South Bend, Indiana. At the recent Democratic debate, he tried to do damage control by taking responsibility for the police department’s failures. He also took questions from black women voters at a campaign stop at Essence Fest in New Orleans earlier this month.
Like Buttigieg, de Blasio’s lack of agency will undoubtedly have major implications on the viability of his already rocky campaign.
De Blasio already has a fraught relationship with his police force. He ran for and won on ending stop-and-frisk practices in his initial campaign for Mayor in 2014. He has also regularly condemned the use of lethal force by police. Even now, he’s touting his record on police reform on the national stage, one of many reasons the most powerful cop union in New York is trolling the mayor as he campaigns around the country.
Protests in New York are expected to continue well into next week as part of the “11 days of outrage” campaign following Tuesday’s federal court decision. Last night, five protesters were arrested for disorderly conduct in front of Gracie Mansion.
Cover: Democratic presidential candidate New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during the National Education Association Strong Public Schools Presidential Forum Friday, July 5, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
by Olivia Riggio
Three years after tech reporter Christopher Calnan was terminated from the Austin Business Journal, he received threats from its parent company for the same reason he was hired and praised for in the first place: his ability to cover breaking news about the powerful Austin-based Dell Technologies Inc.
“They recruited me because they were having a hard time getting any real, breaking news at all,” Calnan said. “Even in the interview, they asked me if I could break anything on the company, because Dell was the big company in Austin.”
Calnan had worked for the American City Business Journals (ACBJ)—a company that runs 43 local business news outlets across the country—for 11 years, and was recruited to the Austin Business Journal (ABJ) after three years of covering technology at ACBJ’s Boston-based Mass High-Tech.
ACBJ is owned by Advance Publications, Inc., perhaps best known as the parent company of Conde Nast, which owns 18 publications, including the New Yorker, Wired and Vogue. Advance is also the majority shareholder of the social media/news aggregator site Reddit. Advance was founded by the Newhouse family, which funds the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University, one of the most renowned journalism schools in the country.
Calnan’s issues with Advance and Dell began in 2015, when he wrote an article for ABJ about Dell CEO Michael Dell accepting an award from the environmental group Keep America Beautiful. The article pointed out that Dell had paid $75,000 to sponsor tables at the luncheon where he was presented with the award.
Calnan said during his reporting process, he reached out to Dell for comment and received no objections to the story. But after leaving the office on vacation, Calnan returned to find the story removed from ABJ’s site. He was asked to delete the accompanying tweets.
“When I came back into the office, my publisher told me Michael Dell personally called our corporate office, and two weeks after I was called in for a surprise performance review and I was told that my job was in jeopardy,” Calnan said.
Calnan said he believes the performance review served to cover up the true reason behind his ultimate termination: corporate censorship by ABJ for fear of Dell’s wrath.
“It was all handled behind closed doors, and they tried to cover it with the annual review,” Calnan said. “I hadn’t had an annual review in over three years.”
In fact, prior to this incident, Calnan had received glowing reviews from his higher-ups and the business news community. In 2010, he was awarded ACBJ’s Eagle Award for Excellence for 2009, recognized his reporting prowess and work ethic. In a 2012 performance review, he was described as “one of the most professional reporters we know,” whose ethics were “above reproach.”
But In 2016, Calnan said, Dell denied him press access to the company’s annual conference, DellWorld, with a spokesperson even telling his editors that they would allow anyone else from ABJ.
“They wouldn’t give me press credentials to DellWorld, and my editors didn’t even object to that,” Calnan said.
Calnan’s job was terminated that same year, after he wrote an article about Dell planning to move the 2017 conference from Austin to Las Vegas, and highlighted that the move would cost the Texas city millions in annual revenue.
Upon termination, Calnan was offered an $8,500 nondisclosure agreement, which he refused. He moved back to Boston and later published articles on his website, ChristopherCalnan.com, continuing to write about Dell’s censorship tactics and his own experience with them.
Paul Sweeney, an Austin-based tech reporter of 30 years, spent months researching and reporting on Calnan’s story and Dell’s censorship tactics for the Texas Observer. Two years later, the article’s draft remains unpublished.
“The editor at the Texas Observer didn’t feel it was strong enough,” Sweeney said.
From what I recall, it was that it was too circumstantial.… I stand by the story. Everything I wrote about was documented, or I talked to people. There’s no question on the information. … Maybe he wanted more of a smoking gun than I gave him, but the theme of the story is this is what happens to a good reporter, this is the way they do it.… The story isn’t that Michael Dell showed up in the office and walked up and pointed at him and said, “Off with his head.” … It’s very subtle. There are phone calls made, there’s a paper trail created…a period of ostracization.
However, since Sweeney’s story, Advance has taken even more steps against Calnan. This past March, Calnan received a letter from Advance’s attorney, threatening legal action on two claims that Calnan and his attorney easily refuted.
The first was an allegation that Calnan was illegally accessing one of ABJ’s Twitter accounts to post his own content. “Please be advised that any future attempt by you to improperly use an ACBJ social media account may result in ACBJ pursuing all available legal remedies against you, including the civil and criminal remedies available under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act,” the lawyers wrote.
However, the account in question, @ABJTech, was formerly Calnan’s, @abjcanlan. After his termination, the company took over the account and changed the name. The articles that were shared on @ABJTech were posted via bit.ly, because Calnan’s usurped Twitter account and bit.ly accounts were linked.
The second claim was that Calnan was infringing on copyright by creating a website called Business Journal Network with the domain name, austinbizjournal.com, names confusingly similar to that of American City Business Journals. One article he had posted on his own website allegedly appeared on the site, but Calnan said he had never heard of it, and still said he has not visited the page. The site with the domain name austinbizjournal.com no longer exists.
When Calnan and his attorney responded to Advance refuting their claims, they did not receive a reply.
Neither Advance nor ABJ responded to FAIR’s requests for comment.
Steve Gilmore, a member of Dell’s global communications team responded to FAIR via email: “Our only comment on this matter is that any suggestion of Dell involvement in ABJ’s HR matters, at any level, is simply baseless.”
However, as Sweeney said, Michael Dell need not walk into newsrooms and demand reporters be fired to have an effect on personnel matters. Calnan said he had heard his pieces sparked Dell to threaten legal action.
“One of my editors told me that the company threatened them with a lawsuit,” Calnan said.
But why would a subsidiary of Advance, a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate, fear a libel suit for stories based in fact about a public figure who would need an extremely high burden of proof to win? Calnan said he was never able to find out, but that he knows Dell is a big advertiser for many outlets.
In Austin, Dell has just about as much influence as money can buy. Michael Dell is worth $35 billion, and his philanthropy has placed his name on the Dell Children’s Medical Center, Dell Seton Medical Center, Dell Diamond baseball field, Dell Medical School at the University of Texas, Michael and Susan Dell Hall and more.
So when it comes to unfavorable press, Sweeney said, “He just has the ability, apparently, to call the top executives and put out any kind of brush fire.”
Sweeney also said tech outlets like ABJ often work as mouthpieces for powerful companies, rather than upholding the journalistic ethic of being critical of power.
“Something like these business journals are designed to be the booster press,” Sweeney said.
After Calnan left ABJ, the company certainly made efforts to boost Dell. Calnan’s successor, Mike Cronin, penned an article (7/19/17) about Dell’s clever product placement in the Spider-Man: Homecoming film.
“It was uncritical,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney told FAIR corporate headquarters are gaining more power over what content outlets publish.
“I want readers to realize that their news is being sanitized,” Calnan said. “It’s being company-approved.”
Featured image: Christopher Calnan
Iran's Revolutionary Guard have seized a British-flagged oil tanker off the Strait of Hormuz, Iranian media reported Friday.
The incident comes a day after President Trump announced that an American warship shot down an Iranian drone in the same waters. Iranian officials have denied that it was one of their drones, claiming all of their drones were accounted for.
The tanker, named Stena Impero, was captured and guided to shore by Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces, the Iranian Tasnim news agency reported on Friday.
“We are urgently seeking further information and assessing the situation following reports of an incident in the Gulf,” a spokesman for the UK Ministry of Defence said on Friday.
The company that owns the vessel, Stena Bulk, said it has lost contact with the ship.
The tanker “was approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters,” the company said in a statement on its web site. “We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north towards Iran.”
The company said there are 23 sailors on board, and there have been “no reported injuries.”
“We are in close contact with UK government authorities,” the company said.
The seizure makes good on a promise from a Revolutionary Guards Commander two weeks ago to capture a British ship in response to the seizure of an Iranian tanker called Grace 1 by UK forces in Gibraltar.
“If Britain does not release the Iranian oil tanker, it is the authorities’ duty to seize a British oil tanker,” Mohsen Rezai tweeted.
The Strait of Hormuz is one of the most strategically important waterways in the world due to its role as a key energy transportation lane, and has become the focal point in Iran’s escalating tensions with the west.
Conflict in the area has picked up in recent weeks, after Iran shot down a U.S. spy drone it claimed had crossed into its airspace. The incident brought Trump within minutes of launching a strike against Iran, he claimed, before pulling back at the last moment.
Trump has said the U.S. military was “cocked & loaded to retaliate,” but that he decided not to launch an attack that would kill some 150 Iranians in response to the loss of an unmanned drone.
The U.S. has deployed more forces to the region in recent weeks, including the USS Boxer that was involved in yesterday’s altercation, to help guard commercial ships against Iran’s escalatory actions.
Cover: In this July 2, 2012 file photo, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboat moves in the Persian Gulf while an oil tanker is seen in background. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)
"Se Siente Cabrón": We Talked To iLe About Creating Puerto Rico's Protest Anthem with Bad Bunny and Residente
Puerto Rico’s uprising against Governor Ricardo Rosselló is the act of resistance that singer-songwriter Ileana Cabra Joglar, better known as iLe, always dreamed about.
“Sometimes, I feel like I’m dreaming. But then I realize this crucial moment in history is a reality,” said iLe, who released a protest song, titled “Afilando los Cuchillos,” with Bad Bunny and Residente on Wednesday. “It’s the best feeling.”
The song, which refers to the Puerto Rican government as a “dictatorship,” takes a stand against the homophic and sexist group messages among the governor and his top aides that leaked last week — as well as years of corruption, Hurricane Maria deaths, and the closing of public schools. At the time, Bad Bunny was touring in Europe, while Residente was in New York, and iLe in Puerto Rico. Each of their parts were recorded separately and put together in one day. According to iLe, they had no time to polish the song; they simply wanted to use their talent in a crude and direct way to carry their message: Ricky, vete ya.
iLe has been protesting in the streets, alongside thousands of boricuas, since Saturday to demand that Rosselló resign. But like many others, her grievances go back much further than the recent allegations.
The 30-year-old’s most recent album, “Almadura,” released in May, is an ode to female strength, her island, and a plea for political action against the colonial status of Puerto Rico. One of its songs, “Desde Aquí,” alludes to a battle — and that's exactly what's happening in Puerto Rico right now. After several days of peaceful protests, a small group clashed with police and were tear gassed.
VICE News caught up with iLe on the sixth day of #RickyRenuncia protests in Puerto Rico. She described the overwhelming energy on the island that led her to express herself in the best way she knows: music.
VICE News: How does it all feel?
iLe: I am super excited. I’ve been protesting since last Saturday, and I have seen the crowd grow. For a moment during the protests, I felt this energy of indignation, frustration, and anger. But I felt accompanied. I feel people’s perception is widening. It is a strange sensation though because at the same time, it gives me a great deal of shame that it is our own government that has mismanaged everything and that, in a certain way, proves Trump was right [that Puerto Rico’s government is corrupt]. . That’s the most disgusting aspect to me. The government of the United States also has a guilt in all of this, but for what we are specifically protesting, it directly hits home.”
VICE NEWS: How did you channel your indignation? Is that when you came together with Residente and Bad Bunny to do the song?
iLe: We wrote that song to tell a story of what is happening right now in Puerto Rico by expressing ourselves in the crudest way possible, cruder than what the government has given us. And all we've read in the chats, not only the insults, but the corruption strategies with our own funds. It all feels very intense, but the people's reaction is very powerful so we won’t stop. It has been like a domino effect: People arrive anywhere they’re summoned because they’re pissed, they’re tired of it. It feels like Hurricane Maria when we stood up to help one another. Se siente bien, cabrón.
VICE NEWS: There was no promotion of the song, and no one even expected it. How did it come to be? What’s the story behind the lyrics?
iLe: It was something from the heart, from the soul, just expressing what we really feel. For us, music is our best tool. It is natural that we look for that way of expression in all this. Bad Bunny was in Europe, René [Residente] in New York, and I’m here in Puerto Rico, so we had to record the day before it was released. It’s not very polished because there was no time. It’s crude and direct. That’s how people perceived it.”
VICE NEWS: What’s your personal reason for protesting?
iLe: I remember protesting since I was little. My family educated me to protect my country. Corruption is the biggest issue right now. The [chat] insults are critical but for me that is secondary. You have to be as awake as we are now, forewarned, before they abuse us again. I hope this massive demonstration teaches to be more alert when voting for these figures and question whether these people are really working for the good of everyone or just want to profit themselves.
VICE NEWS: How are these protests different than the ones you’ve attended throughout the years?
iLe: I’ve seen all kinds of people with different ways of thinking and across generations. We are in a moment where we are questioning so many things. We do not know enough of our history, the struggles of our country, our heroes. We would understand a lot of things today if we had given more space and recognition to these people, not only in politics but also in music. Right now, we are asking for that information. We are demanding to know. Having doubts and questioning is the first step. We are ruling out any political ideal and fighting for our rights right now. If there is something that unites us, it is the love for our country. And that is the moment that we have arrived to: It’s not about the political ideal but about the love for your country.
VICE NEWS: Your music is very political.You encourage people to rise up with your songs. Puerto Rico is awakening now. How do you feel to finally achieve that in such a historic way?
iLe: It is truly moving. People are responding to that feeling that it is our duty to protect our country and not let anyone take advantage of us. This is a critical and important moment, and it’s becoming stronger and stronger. I knew that this energy existed within us but, being a colony for so long — and having been humiliated and crushed for so many centuries — when a moment like this arrives, we don’t know how to react. Now's the time to not think so much about things and just go out and respond to what’s happening in the island.
VICE NEWS: Rosselló maintains his posture of not resigning, after all of this. What is your answer to that?
iLe: It's total brazenness. Coming from the family he comes from, one knows that these people stand firm with their lies and deception. They do not have any kind of honor and respect towards the people. It does not surprise me, but it angers me that he continues to underestimate the Puerto Rican people by not giving up. That moment will come. We just have to continue protesting to accelerate that process. It’s a lack of respect that we also have to wait for him to resign. After he resigns, we can’t stop this because there are more corrupt politicians in power. We must continue protesting until we achieve true justice and have transparent people, who truly care for the well being of Puerto Rico. That’s something we’ve never had and something worth continue fighting for. But for now, our goal is that Rosselló resigns.
VICE NEWS: Do you think that artists and public figures have had something to do with the massive success of #RickyRenuncia protests?
iLe: Maybe. None of us have deviated from the message and the purpose of coming together. We’re all on the same page. The more people join in better. I would actually like to see more artists, especially the urban genre that connects so much with Puerto Rico, speaking. There is a lot of fear of speaking out against the government still. I question why some artists are silenced. After they talk about patriotism and pride, they are quiet when the people need them the most. I urge all artists, from all spaces, to join the fight because they too are part of the government's abuse.
Cover image: In this May 30, 2019 photo, Puerto Rican singer Ileana Cabra, also known has iLe, poses for a portrait inside the Ruth Fernandez Cultural House in San Juan, Puerto Rico. iLe sings against hate and machismo in her latest album “Almadura.” The album also includes two romantic songs featuring pianist Eddie Palmieri. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
Have you always wanted to know what it would be like to be a part of Roxane Gay’s book club? Well, we have great news for you!
The acclaimed author hosts a lively conversation on Colson Whitehead’s " The Nickel Boys," the follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, " The Underground Railroad." She's joined by Debbie Millman, designer and host of the Design Matters podcast; Mira Jacob, the acclaimed author of " Good Talk"; and Open Mike Eagle, a hip-hop artist and comedian.
"The Nickel Boys" is a novel set in Jim Crow-era Florida, about a young boy who gets sent to a reform school. Gay calls it a book about “a young man who is falling in love with civil rights and then has all of his civil rights taken from him… No matter how good he is, goodness does not overcome racism and it does not overcome corruption.”
This segment originally aired July 18, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.
For AOC, the offensive posts in the secret Facebook group of Border Patrol staff are very personal, and she wanted to know what the head of Homeland Security was doing about it.
During a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez probed Kevin McAleenan about the photoshopped images of her — engaging in oral sex with a detained migrant and an illustration of the president forcing her head into his crotch — that were posted in the recently revealed group of some 9,500 CBP staff.
"Did you see the images of officers circulating photoshopped images of my violent rape?" Ocasio-Cortez asked.
He said he had.
The offensive AOC posts were among a trove of racist and sexist “jokes” found on the Facebook site called “I’m 10-15,” including some mocking migrant children’s deaths and threatening physical harm to another congresswoman, Rep. Veronica Escobar.
AOC asked McAleenan if he’d seen these other disturbing posts and images, and how thousands of CBP staff could have been involved in the group for so long, without leadership knowing about the offensive photos and comments in circulation.
The awkward exchange took place weeks after a ProPublica report revealed at least 9,500 former and current Border Patrol agents were involved in the group, established about two years ago.
McAleenan replied to Ocasio-Cortez saying he'd seen the posts and launched an investigation within minutes of learning about the officers’ dishonorable conduct.
But she pressed: Considering these agents are responsible for the safety of migrant women and children, she wanted to know if the ones who circulated the violent images are still on the job today. McAleenan couldn’t say exactly. He could only reiterate there’s an “aggressive investigation” underway looking into the agents who violated agency conduct.
He added that Homeland Security has already put officers on administrative duties as a form of punishment, but he didn’t know which agents correspond with which posts.
Then came a bold question by AOC: whether the Trump administration’s migrant family separation policy contributed to a “dehumanizing culture” within Customs and Border Protection.
McAleenan balked, saying, “We do not have a dehumanizing culture at CBP. This is an agency that rescues 4,000 people a year.”
The DHS chief agreed that the Facebook posts were “unacceptable,” but then he downplayed the extent of the problem: “I don’t think it’s fair to apply them to the entire organization or that even the members of that group believed or supported those posts," he said.
Cover: United States Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Democrat of New York) listens during the House Committee on Financial Services hearing regarding Facebooks new crypto currency Libra on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., U.S. on July 17, 2019. Credit: Stefani Reynolds / CNP | usage worldwide Photo by: Stefani Reynolds/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
WASHINGTON — Prosecutors unveiled an astonishing level of detail this week about President Trump’s conversations with his former attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, in the moments when Cohen was committing felonies on behalf of his boss.
The minute-by-minute phone records between Trump, his campaign, and Cohen paint the most damning and detailed portrait yet of Trump’s role in illegal hush-money schemes to quiet any new sex scandals during the campaign — a plot prosecutors have already said Trump personally directed.
Yet despite the mountain of evidence, Trump will not be charged, prosecutors indicated, saying the case is now “effectively concluded.” For that, Trump can again thank a once-obscure government legal document that has played an outsized role in his presidency: The “OLC memo” — which forbids the indictment of a sitting president.
“It is hard to imagine any other rationale for dropping this case other than the OLC opinion against indicting and prosecuting a sitting President.”
The OLC memo appears to be the biggest, if not only, reason that Trump won’t be charged anytime soon for his role in the hush-money payments, former prosecutors and legal observers told VICE News.
“It is hard to imagine any other rationale for dropping this case other than the OLC opinion against indicting and prosecuting a sitting President,” said Joseph Moreno, a former prosecutor based in New York.
That same memo saved Trump from being charged by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, whose investigation uncovered evidence of obstruction of justice that more than 1,000 former federal prosecutors argue would have easily been enough to indict anyone other than the President of the United States
But the OLC has become a sort of get-out-jail-free card for Trump that’s valid for as long as he is president. And given the five-year statute of limitations on the illegal campaign finance crimes involved, if Trump wins reelection in 2020, his temporary pass could easily become permanent.
Documents released Thursday showed how communications between Trump and Cohen kicked into high gear a month before the 2016 election, just as Cohen was scrambling to keep stories about Trump having sex with adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal from going public.
The effort reached a fever pitch just hours after a bombshell rocked Trump’s campaign in early October: The Access Hollywood recording of Trump profanely boasting about groping women.
The next day, Cohen was on the phone with Trump and Hope Hicks, Trump’s spokeswoman. Immediately afterwards, Cohen rang up David Pecker — the media mogul and Trump supporter whose National Enquirer tabloid paid $150,000 to McDougal to effectively silence her story about having an affair with Trump.
Trump and Cohen had spoken by phone only five times in the preceding five months. But they had at least five calls over the next few weeks, including the day after Cohen wired $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have slept with Trump.
Cohen has also produced an audio recording of himself talking to Trump about the hush-money scheme, and a check signed by Trump that Cohen says was meant as reimbursement.The OLC Obstacle
The evidence against Trump is hard to ignore, but some legal experts caution that prosecutors may have hesitated because they lacked sufficient proof that Trump knowingly broke campaign finance law.
“SDNY may have lacked evidence of willfulness,” said Barbara McQuade, the former U.S. Attorney for Detroit, though noting that could theoretically have been overcome by hauling Trump in for an interview.
Harry Sandick, a former prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, said there very well may have been a variety of reasons Trump was not indicted, but added, “the OLC opinion is foremost.”
For Democrats in charge of investigating Trump, that is cause for outrage.
“The inescapable conclusion from all of the public materials available now is that there was ample evidence to charge Donald Trump with the same criminal election law violations for which Michael Cohen pled guilty and is now serving time in prison,” said Adam Schiff, the Democratic leader of the House Intelligence Committee.
“The inescapable conclusion from all of the public materials available now is that there was ample evidence to charge Donald Trump”
Cohen is now serving a three-year prison sentence in Otisville, New York, after pleading guilty to campaign finance violations connected with the payoffs, along with other financial crimes and lying to Congress.
The documents “demonstrate that Donald Trump was intimately involved in devising and executing a corrupt scheme to prevent his affair with Stormy Daniels from being revealed in the final weeks of the 2016 election,” Schiff added.
Democrats plan to give the OLC memo a starring role in next week’s Congressional testimony from special counsel Mueller. They intend to hammer home the evidence of obstruction of justice in Mueller’s 448-page report, and point out how the policy appears to be all that’s standing in the way of indicting Trump for obstruction.
But Democrats have little recourse to challenge the OLC memo, besides impeachment — a step they’ve so far been unwilling to take.
Cover: This combination of file photo shows, from left, President Donald Trump, attorney Michael Cohen and adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Search warrants unsealed Thursday, July 18, 2019, shed new light on the president's role as his campaign scrambled to respond to media inquiries about hush money paid to two women who said they had affairs with him. (AP Photo/File)
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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has led the public charge for a universal $15 minimum wage, but some of his presidential campaign employees are complaining privately that they’re not being paid much.
Field organizers for Bernie’s campaign say they work 60 hours per week and make a salary of $36,000 annually, according to ongoing wage negotiations reported by the Washington Post Thursday. That’s an average of $13 per hour.
The Post obtained copies of letters between Sanders staff and Bernie’s campaign manager Faiz Shakir outlining the employees’ demands. Field organizers — who were the first of any major presidential candidate to unionize — are reportedly preparing to send Shakir a letter that refers to their salary as “poverty wages.”
“Given our campaign’s commitment to fighting for a living wage of at least $15.00 an hour, we believe it is only fair that the campaign would carry through this commitment to its own field team,” the letter reads, according to the Post.
The Democratic-controlled the House of Representatives this week passed a measure to bring the national minimum wage to $15 per hour, though its chances of winning in the Senate are slim. Sanders introduced a bill in the Senate earlier this year that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15.
“If you work 40 hours a week, you should not live in poverty,” Sanders said in January.
Field organizers have traditionally earned low salaries, with average wages at around $37,000 annually, Glassdoor estimates show. Sanders campaign staff have requested a salary of $46,800 for field organizers and $62,400 for regional field directors.
Shakir reportedly suggested raising organizers’ pay to $42,000, but the union rejected that offer and argued that it would force employees to pay more in health care costs. The campaign currently pays all healthcare premiums for salaried employees making $36,000 or less.
The letter field organizers have reportedly drafted also makes reference to the effect of their salaries on morale. “Many field staffers are barely managing to survive financially, which is severely impacting our team’s productivity and morale,” it reads, according to the Post. “Some field organizers have already left the campaign as a result.”
Sanders’ staff have engaged in ongoing wage negotiations with Shakir since at least May, but they remain unresolved. Shakir did not immediately respond to a request for comment from VICE News but touted Bernie’s “pro-worker and pro-labor” stance in a statement to the Post.
“We know our campaign offers wages and benefits competitive with other campaigns, as is shown by the latest fundraising reports,” Shakir told the Post on Thursday. “Bernie Sanders is the most pro-worker and pro-labor candidate running for president. We have tremendous staff who are working hard. Bernie and I both strongly believe in the sanctity of the collective bargaining process and we will not deviate from our commitment to it.”
Cover image: Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks about his "Medicare for All" proposal Wednesday, July 17, 2019, at George Washington University in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
WASHINGTON — A group of House Republicans is urging their members to pressure Amazon to resume selling a set of controversial gay conversion therapy books, after the platform announced this month it would no longer carry works by the “father of conversion therapy.”
The Republican Study Committee, a conservative caucus that includes more than 70% of all GOP House members, issued a handout during a private meeting in the Capitol Wednesday asking members to “contact Amazon with concerns” about what they referred to as “Amazon censorship.”
Amazon removed books by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, a clinical psychologist who is credited with originating gay conversion therapy, a debunked — and in some cases illegal — pseudoscientific method of trying to turn gay people straight.
Nonetheless, the Republicans want to lobby to get his books — such as “A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality” and “Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality” — back in circulation.
“In recent days, Amazon has banned the sale of several books addressing unwanted same-sex attraction,” according to the handout, obtained by VICE News. “Catholic psychologist, author and therapist Dr. Joseph Nicolosi (deceased) penned multiple books to assist men struggling with unwanted homosexual attractions, feelings and lifestyles.
“The company is choosing to censor speech.”
“These books were available on Amazon until an LGBT activist repeatedly petitioned Amazon to remove the ‘homophobic books’ from the company’s website. Amazon removed Dr. Nicolosi’s books and those of several other authors on similar topics,” the document continues. “It is not clear that any of the banned books have violated an Amazon policy, but rather that the company is choosing to censor speech.”
The handout was issued a day after representatives from Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple were grilled about antitrust issues in a House committee hearing. Separately, the effort to pressure Amazon would open a new front in Republicans’ years-long fight with tech companies, which they claim censor conservative viewpoints.
When the Amazon decision was first reported, the company confirmed to news outlets the books were removed because they violate Amazon’s content guidelines. Conservative media outlets heavily covered the decision as another instance of censorship.
The Republican Study Committee memo recommended that members read a story from the Federalist, which charged that Amazon is being hypocritical because it still sells books by Adolph Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Benito Mussolini, Timothy McVeigh and David Duke.
“The gay community, a supposedly oppressed and marginalized group, wields an extravagant amount of power today, and does so without regard for the rights of anyone who chooses to not support them,” according to the article. “How long until the most widely read book in the world is banned because it takes a dim view of homosexuality?” the author asks, referencing the Bible.
Both Republican Study Committee Chairman Mike Johnson of Louisiana and Missouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler, chairwoman of the group’s Values Action Task Force, which originated the document, did not respond to requests for comment.
Several members of the study committee had not yet heard of the initiative when asked about it Thursday by VICE News. That included the three co-chairmen of the Values Action Task Force, which focuses on promoting conservative values in Congress.
North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker, the former chairman of the Republican Study Committee and the current chairman of the group’s prayer caucus, said he also had not yet heard about the push to pressure Amazon, but said he generally agrees with the idea, arguing Amazon should not be in the business of banning speech.
“People ought to be able to have the right to express their opinion.”
“If this author has called for some kind of tactics of harassment or violence, then that's one thing. But if he's just said, ‘Here's what I believe is the best path forward,’” that’s another thing, Walker said. “The speech part of that is where my concern is, from a liberty standpoint. People ought to be able to have the right to express their opinion.”
Eighteen states and even more U.S. territories and municipalities have banned conversion therapy based on sexual preference or gender identity, including bans approved in four states plus Puerto Rico just this year. The practice has been opposed by prominent medical groups including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Conversion therapy can have an adverse affect on mental health and increase the risk of suicide, according to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Homosexuality.
Roughly 700,000 LGBTQ adults in the United States have undergone conversion therapy at some point in their lives, according to a 2018 study by the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, a think tank dedicated to researching sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy.
Although Amazon removed Nicolosi’s books, several other books advocating conversion therapy remain on the platform.
A Change.org petition signed by more than 80,000 people had been calling for Amazon to remove Nicolosi’s books, but it has now shifted its mission to getting Amazon to specifically ban all conversion therapy content.
Sky Gray, the leader of the online petition, said in an e-mail that he anticipates the effort to ban conversion therapy books will get harder now that members of Congress are involved.
”It shouldn't be surprising that the conservatives are in support of conversion therapy; they've made it clear they are in the past,” Gray said. “It looks like this is going to be a bigger fight than previously anticipated, though I knew it would be an uphill battle. Looks like the hill just got a lot steeper, with this knowledge in mind.”
Cover: Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, speaks at The Economic Club of Washington's Milestone Celebration in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
After Bianca Devins’ brutal murder, incels and trolls gleefully circulated photos of her mutilated body across the internet. But within days, the #RIPBianca hashtag and her tagged Instagram photos was transformed into an endless stream of bubblegum pink, fluffy white kittens, candy hearts, and glittery pink clouds.
The dreamy imagery is coming from a vast community of “e-girls,” an online subculture influenced by video games, anime, and grunge that Devins belonged to.A screenshot of the #RIPBianca hashtag on Friday morning.
For these girls and young women, many of whom face harassment and threats on a regular basis, Devin’s brutal murder hit way too close to home.
“Finding out about Bianca was terrifying,” said Ashley Eldridge, a 19-year-old e-girl. “I worry about stuff like that happening all the time. I’m constantly scared that someone is going to recognize me in real life and follow me.”
The e-girl community was almost instantly privy to the incredible violence Devins suffered in the final moments of her life, sometime in the early hours of Sunday morning. Her killer stabbed her to death and then shared pictures of her dead body on social media, including her Discord server. Police suspect her boyfriend, a 22-year-old online influencer Brandon Clark who police say she’d met through Instagram about two months earlier.
“Sorry fuckers,” Clark wrote on Discord after her death. “You’re going to have to find someone else to orbit.”
Members of her Discord server, which is a social media platform for the gaming community, notified the Utica Police Department.
The narrative that quickly formed was that Devins had been murdered by one of the many obsessed men in her online community — called “incels” or “beta orbiters” — who snapped, tracked her down in real life, and killed her. That’s at least partly because many e-girls face near constant harassment, and a stalker finding them in real life is their greatest fear.
In reality, the relationship between Devins and Clark was more complex. Police said the two were dating, and had attended a concert together in Queens earlier that night. They’d even met each other’s families.
Police said Clark was still uploading pictures of the crime scene to an Instagram story when they arrived at the scene and held him at gunpoint. He attempted suicide with a knife, was treated for his injuries, and has since been charged with second degree murder.Gamergate to TikTok
The label “e-girl” started as a derogatory term among some men in the gaming community who accused girls and young women of using their sexuality to draw more viewers to their Twitch or YouTube profiles. Broadcasting video games there can sometimes be a source of income.
The term is rooted in the 2014 Gamergate controversy, when a massive harassment campaign targeted female video game industry professionals with rape and death threats. The campaign drew attention to simmering toxic masculinity in the online gaming community, and has been described as a precursor to the fomentation of incel or modern men’s rights movements, which are defined by their deep resentment of women.
“It was like calling a girl a bitch or a ho,” said Mel, a 17-year-old e-girl, who asked that her full name be withheld for safety reasons. “Now there’s a newer generation: it’s a word to call a pretty, alternative girl.”
Now that the “e-girl” label today has been reclaimed by teens and young women, it’s more broadly associated with a hyper-feminine, cosplaying cartoon-like style that became famous through TikTok. There are e-girls who game, e-girls who hang out on the imageboard site 4chan, e-girls who Instagram, and e-girls with their own Discord community.
Eldridge, who has 115,000 followers on TikTok and nearly 10,000 on Instagram, said these days, e-girl is more of an aesthetic. “It’s a girl who posts stuff on the internet and looks alternative and edgy in their own way,” said Eldridge. “I like to think of it as the 2019 version of a scene girl on the internet.”
As Rusty Fawkes, a 22-year-old e-girl put it: “e-girl is just a term for a girl on the internet.”
But the notion that e-girls are grifters out to exploit lovelorn men persists, even if young girls and women have reappropriated the term.
When Belle Delphine, an e-girl and cosplayer in the United Kingdom made waves for selling her bathwater to her Instagram fans for $30 per container, death threats followed.
One person wrote on Reddit: FUCK I CANNOT FUCKING STAND EGIRLS! Egirls are fucking whores who need to fucking die the most painful and brutal death that can be afforded to end their miserable excuse of an existence. I am so fucking tired of fucking egirls thirst trapping incels into buying them shit. Like, seriously, fucking BATHWATER for sale? Fucking disgusting and I look down upon any "man" who would pay money for such bullshit. I will fucking slit the throat of every fucking short haired, goth looking, beta-attracting egirl I can. Sorry fuckers, you're gonna have to find somebody else to orbit
Fawkes has made a career out of being a full-time e-girl. She has over 225,000 followers on TikTok where she both embraces and makes fun of e-girl culture. In one recent video, Fawkes was painted entirely blue, wearing a preppy tennis outfit, glasses, and a blue wig in pigtails, complete with a green beanie. She’s also holding a Nintendo controller. A caption at the bottom of the video reads “I don’t even know how to play.” She shrugs, and another caption says she doesn’t know how to turn on the controller.
“I got into e-girl culture when I was 19,” said Fawkes. “I’ve always been really into Japan, and I’ve been playing video games since I was about 5 years old. I started cosplaying at 16, and kept it going from there. It’s a job.”Rusty Fawkes as Zelda from Breath of the Wild. Photo courtesy of Fawkes.
She has more than 60,000 followers on Instagram, who are invited to donate to her Patreon account if they want exclusive access to photoshoot selects, or if they want to talk one-on-one with her. She also makes extra cash through livestreaming her gaming sessions to her more than 4,000 Twitch followers.
But no matter the platform, harassment and threats are part of the package.
“It can be quite hostile,” said Fawkes. “I think when you bring something that’s potentially sexual in any way, you kind of open yourself up to this new form of hate that wasn’t there previously. People have issues with it, especially when you bring it into places where it’s not supposed to be.”
Fawkes says for the most part, she tries to ignore the harassment. “I’ve gotten things in the past, like people saying they wish I was dead. The only thing I’ve had that was scary when someone emailed me saying they’d found out my phone number and were gonna come and find where I live,” Fawkes said. “Most of the time, these things are just empty threats.”
Signing onto the community isn’t a decision that should be made lightly — because in Fawkes’ eyes, it’s irreversible. “Once you put yourself out on the internet like this, that’s it,” she said. “You’re out there forever.”
Going pro as an e-girl can be lucrative, but the possibility of earning money isn’t the only incentive. For some, the e-girl community is an opportunity for social reinvention — and a gathering place for misfits and misanthropes.
Mel said she found community online when she struggled to make friends in school. “There are people I met when I was 13 who I still talk to every day, and who I consider myself super close to — closer than anyone I know in real life.”
She’s mostly focused on growing her Instagram presence and is on Discord, but occasionally dips into certain forums on the imageboard site 4chan, which Devins also frequented.
“Sometimes I’ll go on 4chan just to look and see what people are posting. To see what else is going on,” said Mel. “I don’t really get posted on there. But for other girls, the harassment is the worst on 4chan. There are whole threads dedicated to them, posting pictures, personal information, friends’ information. It’s horrible.”A photo from Ashley Eldridge's Instagram account, courtesy of Eldridge.
But Mel says she still experiences a lot of harassment on Instagram. “I get tons of DMs saying creepy stuff, from adult men, even teachers, asking me weird, uncomfortable things, saying they’re going to find me.”
Mel was in the same Instagram community as Bianca Devins. When the news of her death began percolating through social media, she couldn’t help but feel like it could have been her.
“You never know who could do something like this,” said Mel. “I’m terrified some crazy man or incel is gonna find me and hurt me.”
The 17-year-old said she doesn’t tell her parents about the harassment or her fear, because she doesn’t want them to be scared, or try to convince her not to be an e-girl. For her, the good parts about being an e-girl still outweigh the bad.
“It’s an outlet for me, where I can talk about problems, mental health issues, and make new friends around the world. I don’t want it to be taken away from me.”
Cover: A photo of Bianca Devins from her Instagram account.
On Climate, ‘Looking at the Structural Barriers to Progress Is Important’ - CounterSpin interview with Zoë Carpenter on GOP’s Oregon power grab
Janine Jackson interviewed Zoë Carpenter about the GOP’s Oregon power grab for the July 12, 2019, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.PlayStop pop out
Janine Jackson:The bizarre experience in Oregon last month, in which Republican lawmakers fled the senate—and the state—to prevent the quorum necessary for a vote on climate legislation, might have looked, as our guest writes, like a bit of “Wild West political theater.” But in truth, it’s a deeply unfunny story about the power of corporate interests and a small group of ideologues to squash legislation more than a decade in the making.
Zoë Carpenter reported on the story behind the stunt in Oregon for The Nation, where she’s associate Washington editor. She joins us now by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome to CounterSpin, Zoë Carpenter.
Zoë Carpenter:Thanks for having me.
JJ: Even as it seemed like absurdist theater, the Oregon standoff was scary: One GOP Senator Brian Boquist now has to give 12 hours’ notice before he shows up at the capitol, because of threats that he made, including, after Gov. Kate Brown suggested sending state police to bring back the runaway lawmakers, and Boquist said that they should “send bachelors and come heavily armed.” He also told the senate president, on the senate floor, “If you send the state police to get me, Hell is coming to visit you personally.” That’s scary.
But the implications of the situation, as you report it, are as disturbing in terms of what they say about people’s ability to respond legislatively to climate disruption. So what was, first of all, the legislation that was going to be voted on in Oregon?
ZC: The legislation was essentially a cap-and-trade bill. It was often referred to as “cap-and-invest” legislation, because the revenue that would have been raised through the carbon marketplace would have been reinvested in a variety of different areas, including jobs program in communities that are most affected by climate change, and in some infrastructure, in particular in rural areas.
So the largest polluting companies in Oregon would have been required to buy credits for their carbon pollution. And then that limit on their pollutions would gradually be ratcheted down, to either lower their emissions or purchase more credits, on a regional exchange that includes California and some Canadian provinces.
JJ: Oregon does have a kind of particularly swampy situation, you might say, in terms of corporate/political coziness, yeah?
ZC: Yeah, it’s actually pretty striking. In contrast to Oregon’s reputation as a sort of liberal hippie paradise, the state actually has incredibly weak campaign finance laws. So, for example, there are no limits on what corporations and individuals can contribute to candidates. And there are only four other states in the entire US that are so permissive. One of the results of that has been that Oregon environmental laws are actually much weaker than neighboring states, California and Washington.
JJ: The storytelling can be unhelpfully reductive. The bill’s opponents ran a line of, as one sheriff was quoted:
This state was built by the timber industry and by farms, ranchers, construction and other blue-collar industries, not on coffee businesses and marijuana dispensaries.
But sometimes news media can cast things almost as crudely, and your piece, I think it’s interesting that it underscores that there aren’t really any monolithic players here. It’s more complicated than that. How so?
ZC: I think in terms of the general narrative that you hear, it’s generally painted as an urban vs. rural story. And to some extent, it is true that most of the support for this bill came from the more liberal, urban areas of Oregon—you know, the Portland to Eugene corridor, essentially. But there were lots of businesses that operate in rural areas—for example, some major forest donors—who were supportive of the legislation.
And another thing that got lost is what the bill actually could have done for rural areas in terms of the reinvestment dollars. And, of course, in terms of the broader goal to limit the damage from climate change, which will impact rural areas and constituents in pretty serious ways.
When you have a bill that’s this complicated—it’s a pretty technocratic approach to climate policy-making—your communication strategy has to be really clear. And I think there was a lot of disinformation that was allowed to persist, regarding the impacts on rural places.
JJ: Key for me in your piece was this sentence:
The villains in this narrative are out-of-touch Democrats using their legislative supermajority to run roughshod over loggers, ranchers and other working people, while the corporations actually affected by the regulation are largely invisible.
I think from a narrative perspective, from a media perspective, if you’re leaving out the most powerful actors, if you’re leaving out corporations, and just making it kind of ranchers vs. latte drinkers, you’re really telling the story wrong, in a fundamental way.
ZC: Yeah, it’s missing, basically, the infrastructure of power that makes this kind of legislation either pass or not. For example, I write about one CEO, Andrew Miller, who runs a big timber company. He is one of the largest Republican donors in Oregon. He’s spent many, many years trying to use his money to affect state politics — largely ineffectively, when it comes to electing his allies. But in this case, his influence was not often mentioned.
But there are ties between him and a so-called grassroots group, called Timber Unity, that does appear to have a lot of membership among people that work in the forest products industry, among other industries, many of whom are his employees. So the connection between him and his influence, and this so-called grassroots group, that’s an example of something that was not really covered in media portrayals of this conflict, but that, I think, was actually very important.
JJ: And it’s going to be very important, looking at those connections going forward, because, as you say, this legislation is going to be complicated; you know, responding to climate disruption is not going to be simple. And so we’re going to need people to parse it in a way that’s helpful. The sort of thing that happened in Oregon, with the running away to neighboring states, doesn’t happen often. It’s not unique, but it doesn’t happen often.
But it is frightening to think that people might look on this as a viable tactic: If you don’t get your way legislatively, you run away and shut things down and, in the case of these Republicans, threaten actual physical violence against people who might try to get things running again.
And the thing is, it seemed to work. I mean, the bill died, isn’t that right?
ZC: Yeah, that’s correct. Walkouts have been used by both parties in recent years.
ZC: Democrats in Wisconsin, for example. I think what was notable and different here were the threats of violence that accompanied the walkout.
ZC: And the fact that the legislation that they were walking out over did have broad public support.
One final point I’ll make is that Democrats were also at fault here. There were three holdout Democrats in the Senate. And, honestly, once the walkout ended, the Democrats could have called the vote on the legislation, but it wouldn’t have passed, because of those three holdout Democrats. All three of them have stronger ties to corporations than many of their colleagues, including one in particular who was concerned about the legislation’s impact on Boeing, even though Boeing would not directly be affected by this emissions cap.
JJ: I read a piece by Carolyn Kormann in the New Yorker about the Oregon standoff. And she said, yes, but if you look around, there are other good signs of progress in the 2018 midterms; more than 600 candidates on all levels were elected who had clean energy in their platforms, and six states have just done what Oregon did not do, which is follow through on what voters supported and pass major climate legislation.
So I guess another thing I would say for journalism is, it’s probably helpful to not just put a gloss on it, but to look at what’s happening in different states and different tactics and things like that, in terms of not just telling the story in a more granular way, but also in a more kind of hopeful way, that things are happening differently in different places.
ZC: I don’t think journalists should go looking for hope, unless it’s real, you know?
ZC: I think the enormity of the challenge that we’re facing is really severe, and we should be scared about that. But yes, it is very helpful to hear about the different tactics that are working or not working in other places.
JJ: Yeah, I just think the urgency is such that the point of parsing these setbacks should be, “How do we do it differently going forward?” I mean, that to me, that’s the response to urgency as well. I don’t want feel-goodism. But, golly, we can’t pull up the covers.
ZC: To your point, I mean, looking at the structural barriers to progress is important. I think we talk a lot about the political barriers, whether we’re electing people who believe that climate change is an urgent issue, and want to do something about it. That’s one issue. But then, once those people get elected, what are the structures in place that will or will not allow them to actually move forward on those policies? At the federal level, the filibuster in the Senate may become a huge issue after 2020, depending on who gets elected.
JJ: That’s an excellent point.
We’ve been speaking with Zoë Carpenter, associate Washington editor at The Nation.You can find her recent article, “Behind Oregon’s GOP Walkout Is a Sordid Story of Corporate Cash,” online at TheNation.com. Thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin, Zoë Carpenter.
ZC: Thanks for having me.
A few hours after Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzman was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday, a team of U.S. Marshals loaded the Sinaloa cartel leader into a helicopter, presumably shipping him off to a federal supermax prison in Colorado, where the 62-year-old kingpin is expected to spend his remaining years alone in a 7x12-foot cell.
He will likely never been seen or heard from again.
But before disappearing forever from public view, Chapo was allowed a few minutes to speak his mind. At his sentencing hearing, Judge Brian Cogan permitted Chapo to address the court. He read slowly in Spanish from a prepared statement, which was relayed in English through a translator. This is the official record of his statement, as transcribed by the court reporter, with a few explanatory notes added for clarity:
JUDGE COGAN: All right. Mr. Guzman, you have the right to be heard. Is there anything that you would like to say?
EL CHAPO: Yes, Your Honor. Thank you very much.
I thank you, Your Honor, for allowing me to say a few words. Do I stand?
JUDGE COGAN: It is up to you, Mr. Guzman, whichever you want. I think you should probably sit because it is easier to talk into the microphone.
THE SPANISH INTERPRETER: "Will you translate for me?" "Yes, sir."
EL CHAPO: First of all, I would like to thank my wife, my family, my daughters for their unconditional support during this large — this long proceeding. They have supported me and they will continue to support me.
To my mother, my brothers, my sisters and everybody, all the people who prayed for me, their prayers have given me the strength to bear this torture that I have been under for the last 30 months. And I would like to thank my private attorneys and the public defenders, especially the attorneys Michele and Michael, and all the paralegals.
Chapo was represented during his trial by three private attorneys: Jeffrey Lichtman, William Purpura, and Eduardo Balarezo. In the months after his extradition from Mexico, his lawyers were court-appointed public defenders Michelle Gelernt and Michael Schneiderman.
EL CHAPO: As you know, Your Honor, the conditions of my confinements under which I've lived for the last 30 months have been total torture. I have been forced to drink unsanitary water. I have been denied access to fresh air and to sunlight. The only light that I get in my cell comes through a duct, and the air that comes into the cell is forced in and it makes my ears, my throat, my head hurt. In order to sleep, I have to use plugs made out of toilet paper in my ears because of the noise that the air duct makes and this has affected me during this time.
After his extradition in January 2017, Chapo was held in the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a high-security federal jail in Manhattan. His attorneys repeatedly challenged the conditions of his confinement, arguing that the extreme solitary — Chapo was alone in a cell for up to 23 hours per day, with no outdoor exercise — was tantamount to torture. Judge Cogan repeatedly denied his pleas for relief, including a request for bottled water and normal earplugs, after prosecutors argued that he might use the items in an escape plot.
EL CHAPO: My wife has not been allowed, to this date, to visit me. I have not been allowed to hug my daughters. It has been psychological, emotional, mental torture 24 hours a day. With all due respect, it's been torture. It's the most inhumane situation I've lived in my life. It's been lack of respect for human dignity. I was forced... these last 30 months have been filled with torture and we are in the 21st century. We would not be subjected to these cruel and inhumane treatment.
Chapo was not allowed to see his wife, Emma Coronel, likely because she is suspected of having helped orchestrate his 2015 escape from a Mexican prison. Chapo was also denied contact visits with his 7-year-old twin daughters, though they were allowed to see him in jail. Chapo is also under “Special Administrative Measures” (SAMs), which prevent him from contacting anyone other than his lawyers and a handful of close relatives. Under the restrictions, anyone who passes a message from Chapo could face prosecution.
EL CHAPO: I thank the prison guards. Their good treatment of myself has allowed me to bear this torture. And to the Marshals here in the courthouse during the three months that my trial lasted when they have me here, when they transport me from the jail to the courthouse, from the courthouse to the jail.
When I was extradited to the United States I expected to have a fair trial, a trial where justice would be blind and where my fame, my reputation, would not be a determining factor in the administration of justice. But what happened was actually the opposite even though you, Your Honor, gave the jury instructions to not watch media and to -- and the jury promised to follow the rules. They did the opposite. They looked at all the articles where I was exposed to the most horrible accusations against me, which were not true. These accusations damaged my opportunity to be judged only on the evidence presented at trial.
A member of the jury told a newspaper that they had violated the law and that they have lied to you. In response, you decided to do nothing. You didn't want to question not even one member of the jury to determine if I had received justice and you didn't want to bring the jury back to question the jury because that would have resulted in a new trial, a trial where this second time I would have received justice.
Chapo is referring to an interview with an anonymous juror published by VICE News on February 20, eight days after his conviction. The juror said several members of the jury disobeyed the judge’s orders and read about the case in the media, including reports that a government witness accused Chapo of drugging and raping young girls.
EL CHAPO: So what you did was you alleged that the actions of the jury were not important because there was a lot of evidence against me. You alleged that the actions of the jury were not important because there was a lot of evidence against me to find me guilty. If that was the case, then I ask you, why did we go to trial? Why not rather sentence me from day one? The jury was not necessary, then.
Judge Cogan denied Chapo’s request for a new trial, saying the “mountain range of evidence” presented during the trial outweighed any harm that might have been caused by jurors reading news reports about the case.
EL CHAPO: Since the Government of the United States is going to send me to a prison where my name will not ever be heard again, I take advantage of this opportunity to say there was no justice here. My case was stained and you denied me a fair trial when the whole world was watching and where the press was present, judging everybody's actions at every moment. And this then can be denied to any other person in other cases where nobody's watching.
What happened here leaves very clear that the United States is not better than any other corrupt country of those that you do not respect.
Thank you, Your Honor.
JUDGE COGAN: Thank you, Mr. Guzman.
After Chapo spoke, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gina Parlovecchio delivered a rebuttal for the government, arguing that “justice was served” with Chapo’s conviction. She also noted that Chapo appeared unrepentant with his final remarks.
“Throughout his criminal career, this defendant has not shown one shred of remorse for his crimes, and you heard that today,” Parlovecchio. “He is not sorry for his crimes.”
A complete transcript of the entire proceeding is viewable in full below.
Cover: In this courtroom sketch, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, foreground right, reads a statement through an interpreter during his sentencing in federal court, Wednesday, July 17, 2019, in New York. The Mexican drug kingpin, who was convicted in February 2019 on multiple conspiracy counts in an epic drug-trafficking case, was sentenced to life behind bars in a U.S. prison Wednesday. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
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Four Chicago cops were fired Thursday night over accusations that they helped cover up the murder of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager, nearly five years ago, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Jason Van Dyke, the officer who shot and killed the 17-year-old, infamously argued he feared for his life, since McDonald was carrying a small knife when officers found him high on PCP late one night in October 2014. But dashcam footage revealed more than a year after McDonald’s death showed Van Dyke shot the teen as he appeared to walk away from officers. He then shot McDonald several times after the teen fell to the ground and lay dying.
For years, officers Richard Viramontes, Janet Mondragon, Stephen Franko, and Daphne Sebastian have been accused of lying to protect Van Dyke, who’s now serving a nearly seven-year prison sentence for murder, or getting in the way of justice. But only now did the Chicago Police Board vote to fire them. They had been on desk duty since 2016.
Viramontes, Mondragon, and Sebastian were all at the scene of McDonald’s murder, according to the Tribune, but allegedly lied about what they saw that night. Three of the officers omitted details from the night of the incident, and Franko, their supervisor, approved their false police report.
Other officers who allegedly aided in the cover-up — former cop Joseph Walsh, suspended officer Thomas Gaffney, and former detective David March — were acquitted of conspiracy and obstruction charges in January after a Cook County judge ruled the dashcam footage alone didn’t prove a cover-up occurred.
The four officers’ punishments comes during a contentious week for community relationships with law enforcement.
On Tuesday, the Department of Justice declined to bring federal civil rights charges against the New York City cop accused of choking and killing Eric Garner five years ago. And the Philadelphia Police Department moved to suspend and potentially fire 13 officers this week after an advocacy group unearthed hundreds of cops’ racist, homophobic, and violent Facebook posts.
Cover up: In this Nov. 24, 2015 file photo, Chicago police officers line up outside the District 1 central headquarters during a protest of the police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty, File)
This week on CounterSpin: There’s a vigorous public argument right now—mainly among Democrats, along with some IRBF’s, the Inexplicable Republican Best Friends to whom elite media offer op-ed space to offer assuredly good-faith counsel to Democrats — about “electability.” The upshot for many seems to be that to beat Trump, Democrats should run someone as much like him as possible, and must on no account run a “nontraditional” candidate, no matter how excited people are about them. It’s very “Fears Not Hopes” — and is it even true? A new data-driven study says no, actually; white men are not inherently more “electable” than women or people of color. We’ll talk about the Electability Myth with Brenda Choresi Carter, director of the Reflective Democracy Campaign.PlayStop pop out
Also on the show: As Trump amps up his racist attacks on congresswomen of color, some corporate media are still fairly contorting themselves to describe such attacks as racism-adjacent. Denaturing the word “racism” has a particular history in this country, worth knowing as you hear pundits talk about racially-charged this and -tinged that—as is the fact that, when it comes to media, the people who decide whether “racism” is the right word are the least likely to have experienced it. We’ll talk about the power of language and the language of power with Lawrence Glickman, American Studies professor at Cornell University and author of the recent Boston Review article, “The Racist Politics of the English Language.”PlayStop pop out
Plus Janine Jackson takes a quick look at the upcoming Democratic presidential debates.PlayStop pop out