Turkish guards will be charged in embassy protest, officials say

The New York Times reports: Law enforcement officials plan to announce charges Thursday against a dozen members of the Turkish president’s security detail for their involvement in a brutal attack on protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence here last month, two American officials said on Wednesday.

The authorities have already charged several others, including two Americans and two Canadians, with taking part in the violent skirmish.

The Washington police have been investigating the May 16 attack along with the State Department and the Secret Service. The police planned to announce the charges at a news conference on Thursday morning, according to the two officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the charges before they were made public. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s commerce secretary finds the effects of political oppression in Saudi Arabia very appealing

Business Insider reports: The Saudi government banned all forms of protest in 2011 in the wake of the Arab Spring.

“Regulations in the kingdom forbid categorically all sorts of demonstrations, marches, and sit-ins, as they contradict Islamic Sharia law and the values and traditions of Saudi society,” a Saudi interior ministry statement said at the time.

A counterterrorism law enacted in 2014 reinforced the ban on dissent, characterizing any act that “undermines” the Saudi state or society as an act of terrorism.

Both laws were enacted under King Abdullah, who died in January 2015. But dissidents and activists continue to be jailed and publicly tortured through 2017, according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Trump’s speech in Riyadh on Sunday did not mention Saudi Arabia’s human-rights violations, which include public floggings, coerced confessions, and death sentences for crimes such as nonviolent drug offenses. Most executions are carried out by beheading, according to Amnesty International. [Continue reading…]

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‘The internet is broken,’ says pioneer of social media, Evan Williams

The New York Times reports: Evan Williams is the guy who opened up Pandora’s box. Until he came along, people had few places to go with their overflowing emotions and wild opinions, other than writing a letter to the newspaper or haranguing the neighbors.

Mr. Williams — a Twitter founder, a co-creator of Blogger — set everyone free, providing tools to address the world. In the history of communications technology, it was a development with echoes of Gutenberg.

And so here we are in 2017. How’s it going, Mr. Williams?

“I think the internet is broken,” he says. He has believed this for a few years, actually. But things are getting worse. “And it’s a lot more obvious to a lot of people that it’s broken.”

People are using Facebook to showcase suicides, beatings and murder, in real time. Twitter is a hive of trolling and abuse that it seems unable to stop. Fake news, whether created for ideology or profit, runs rampant. Four out of 10 adult internet users said in a Pew survey that they had been harassed online. And that was before the presidential campaign heated up last year.

“I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place,” Mr. Williams says. “I was wrong about that.” [Continue reading…]

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Video shows Erdogan watching his security guards beating up peaceful protesters in Washington

 

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State Dept condemns ‘brutal attack’ carried out by Turkish officials against peaceful protesters in Washington

 

The New York Times reports: Supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, including his government security forces and several armed individuals, violently charged a group of protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence here on Tuesday night in what the police characterized as “a brutal attack.”

Eleven people were injured, including a police officer, and nine were taken to a hospital, the Metropolitan Police chief, Peter Newsham, said at a news conference on Wednesday. Two Secret Service agents were also assaulted in the melee, according to a federal law enforcement official.

The State Department condemned the attack as an assault on free speech and warned Turkey that the action would not be tolerated. “We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms,” said Heather Nauert, a State Department spokeswoman.

A group of Republican lawmakers went a step further, calling the episode an “affront to the United States” and calling for Turkey to apologize. [Continue reading…]

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After Trump welcomed Erdogan, the Turkish president’s bodyguards beat up protesters in Washington

CNN reports: Nine people were injured during a protest outside of the residence of the Turkish ambassador in Washington, DC on Tuesday, according to the official Twitter account of Washington, DC fire and EMS department.

About two dozen demonstrators showed up outside of the embassy just hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with President Donald Trump at the White House.

“We are protesting (Erdogan’s) policies in Turkey, in Syria and in Iraq,” said Flint Arthur of Baltimore, Maryland.

Arthur accused Erdogan supporters of breaching police lines and attacking protesters on at least three separate occasions.

A Facebook video captured at the scene shows several protesters covered in blood.

“They think they can engage in the same sort of suppression of protest and free speech that they engage in in Turkey,” Arthur said. “They stopped us for a few minutes … but we still stayed and continued to protest Erdogan’s tyrannical regime.”

The victims were transported to George Washington University Hospital.

The incident came as Trump extended a warm welcome to Erdogan, an authoritarian-style leader who had a strained relationship with the previous US administration. [Continue reading…]

This is a particularly lame piece of reporting. There aren’t many observers who had any difficulty in identifying the men in dark suits, recognizing them as not merely Erdogan “supporters” but more importantly as representatives of the Turkish state.

This isn’t authoritarian-style behavior — it’s authoritarianism plain and simple and it’s being given license to operate on the streets of Washington D.C.. And note who the police arrested and who they just waved away.

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Hasan Minhaj at WH Correspondents’ Dinner: ‘I am watching the news, but it feels like I am watching CNN watch the news’

 

Hasan Minhaj: My favorite entertainment channel is in the building tonight — CNN is here, baby.

Now, you guys have some really weird trust issues going on with the public.

I am not going to call you fake news but everything isn’t breaking news.

You can’t go to DEFCON 1 because Sanjay Gupta found a new moisturizer.

Every time a story breaks you have nine screens — nine boxes on the screen! I am trying to watch the news not pick a player in Street Fighter. It’s giving me anxiety.

If you have nine “experts” on a panel, what is your barrier of entry?

“Here to talk about transportation infrastructure is my Uber driver, Gary. Gary, what ‘a you got?” — it just says Gary 4.8 stars.

“I dunno know — I got a mint.”

“Thanks Gary, let’s go to the next countdown clock.”

All you guys do is stoke up conflict.

Don [Lemon], every time I watch your show it feels like I am watching a reality TV show.

CNN Tonight should just be called “Wait a second, now hold on, stop yelling at each other, with Don Lemon.”

You know your news, right? Come on. But every time I watch CNN it feels like you are assigning me homework.

“Is Trump a Russian spy? I don’t know, you tell me. Tweet us at AC 360.” No, you tell me.

I am watching the news, but it feels like I am watching CNN watch the news.

Just take an hour, figure out what you want to say, then go on the air.

We are in a very strange situation where there is a very combative relationship between the press and the president, but now that you guys are “minorities,” just for this moment, you may understand the position I was in. It is the same position a lot of minorities feel like they are in in this country. And it’s: do I come up here and just try to fit in and not ruffle any feathers? Or do I say how I really feel? Because this event is about celebrating the First Amendment and free speech.

Free speech is the foundation of an open and liberal democracy, from college campuses to the White House.

Only in America can a first-generation Indian-American Muslim kid get on this stage and make fun of the president — the orange man behind the Muslim ban.

And it’s a sign to the rest of the world — it’s this amazing tradition that shows the entire world that even the president is not beyond the reach of the First Amendment.

But the president didn’t show up. Because Donald Trump doesn’t care about free speech. The man who tweets everything that enters his head, refuses to a knowledge the amendment that allows him to do it.

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The government is demanding to know who this Trump critic is. Twitter is suing to keep it a secret

The Washington Post reports: Twitter filed a lawsuit Thursday against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, asking the court to prevent the department from taking steps to unmask the user behind an account critical of the Trump administration.

The tech company said that allowing DHS access to that information would produce a “grave chilling effect on the speech of that account,” as well as other accounts critical of the U.S. government. The case sets up a potential showdown over free speech between Silicon Valley and Washington.

According to Twitter’s court filings, Homeland Security is “unlawfully abusing a limited-purpose investigatory tool” to find out who is behind the @ALT_USCIS account. Its Twitter feed has publicly criticized the administration’s immigration policies, particularly the actions of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) division of Homeland Security. [Continue reading…]

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Americans’ right to protest is in grave danger under Trump, United Nations warns

Amanda Erickson writes: The right to protest is fundamental to American democracy. The country was born, after all, out of decades of civil disobedience by people angry about taxation without representation. (In Washington, FWIW, we are still angry.)

But according to United Nations human rights investigators, this very basic principle is under attack. Over the past few months, on the heels of a fresh wave of organizing by liberals, at least 19 states have introduced measures that would criminalize peaceful protest. In places such as Minnesota, Michigan and Iowa, Republican lawmakers have proposed laws that would stiffen penalties for demonstrators who block traffic. In North Dakota, GOP leaders are pushing a bill that would allow motorists to run over and kill agitators, as long as the crash was accidental. In Indiana, conservatives want to instruct police to use “any means necessary” to remove activists from a roadway. Opponents worry this could lead to more brutal police response.

Colorado lawmakers are considering a big increase in penalties for environmental protesters. Activists who tamper with oil or gas equipment could be, under the measure, face felony charges and be punished with up to 18 months behind bars and a fine of up to $100,000. A bill pending in the Virginia state legislature would dramatically increase punishment for people who “unlawfully” assemble after “having been lawfully warned to disperse.” Those who do so could face a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

In Missouri, some lawmakers want to make it illegal to wear a robe, mask or disguise (remarkably, a hoodie would count) to a protest. Lawmakers in North Carolina want to make it a crime to heckle lawmakers.

Taken together, the United Nations warns, these bills represent an “alarming and undemocratic” trend that could have a chilling effect on activism. [Continue reading…]

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The future of free speech, trolls, anonymity and fake news online

Pew Research Center: The internet supports a global ecosystem of social interaction. Modern life revolves around the network, with its status updates, news feeds, comment chains, political advocacy, omnipresent reviews, rankings and ratings. For its first few decades, this connected world was idealized as an unfettered civic forum: a space where disparate views, ideas and conversations could constructively converge. Its creators were inspired by the optimism underlying Stuart Brand’s WELL in 1985, Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web and Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow’s 1996 “Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace.” They expected the internet to create a level playing field for information sharing and communal activity among individuals, businesses, other organizations and government actors.

Since the early 2000s, the wider diffusion of the network, the dawn of Web 2.0 and social media’s increasingly influential impacts, and the maturation of strategic uses of online platforms to influence the public for economic and political gain have altered discourse. In recent years, prominent internet analysts and the public at large have expressed increasing concerns that the content, tone and intent of online interactions have undergone an evolution that threatens its future and theirs. Events and discussions unfolding over the past year highlight the struggles ahead. Among them:

To illuminate current attitudes about the potential impacts of online social interaction over the next decade, Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center conducted a large-scale canvassing of technology experts, scholars, corporate practitioners and government leaders. Some 1,537 responded to this effort between July 1 and Aug. 12, 2016 (prior to the late-2016 revelations about potential manipulation of public opinion via hacking of social media). [Continue reading…]

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A violent attack on free speech at Middlebury

Peter Beinart writes: My fellow liberals, please watch the following video. It suggests that something has gone badly wrong on the campus left.

The events leading up to the video are as follows. One of the student groups at Middlebury College is called The American Enterprise Club. According to its website, the Club aims “to promote … free enterprise, a limited federal government, a strong national defense.” In other words, it’s a group for political conservatives.

This year, the AEI Club invited Dr. Charles Murray to speak. That’s crucial to understanding what followed. When leftists protest right-wing speakers on campus, they often deny that they are infringing upon free speech. Free speech, they insist, does not require their university to give a platform to people with offensive views. That was the argument of the people who earlier this year tried to prevent ex-Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking at the University of California at Berkeley. And it was the argument of those who opposed Murray’s lecture at Middlebury. “This is not an issue of freedom of speech,” declared a letter signed by more than 450 Middlebury alums. “Why has such a person been granted a platform at Middlebury?”

The answer is that Middlebury granted Murray a platform because a group of its students invited him. Those students constitute a small ideological minority. They hold views that many of their classmates oppose, even loathe. But the administrators who run Middlebury, like the administrators who run Berkeley, consider themselves obligated to protect the right of small, unpopular, minorities to bring in speakers of their choice. Denying them that right—giving progressive students a veto over who conservative students can invite—comes perilously close to giving progressive students a veto over what conservative students can say. If it is legitimate for campus progressives to block speeches by Milo Yiannopoulos or Charles Murray, why can’t they block speeches by fellow students who hold Yiannopoulos or Murray’s views? [Continue reading…]

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Criticizing Russian airstrikes in Syria lands blogger in jail

Human Rights Watch reports: A court in Russia has sentenced Alexei Kungurov, a 38-year-old blogger from Tyumen, Western Siberia, to two-and-a-half years in prison for “justification of terrorism.” His crime? A blog post he wrote in October 2015, after Russian warplanes conducted their first airstrikes in Syria.

In the post, Kungurov offered his analysis of the Syria conflict and vehemently criticized Russia’s intervention. In the opening paragraph, he wrote that the post set out to “debunk” several “myths” created by “Putin’s regime” and delivered to the public through “zombie-boxes” by pro-Kremlin media. He strongly disagreed with the official argument that Russia’s involvement in Syria was preventive and aimed at fighting terrorists to stop them from eventually coming to Russia. Rather than fighting terrorists in Syria, Kungurov argued, Russia was “helping them.”

During pretrial investigation, the regional department of the Federal Security Service (FSB) sent requests to journalists and media outlets in Tyumen asking for information on any other “defamatory” or “extremist” materials published by Kungurov. This fall, his family received anonymous threats and his LiveJournal account was hacked. At Kungurov’s trial, the prosecution failed to adequately explain which specific phrases or expressions were “justifying” terrorism.

Under Russian law, the maximum punishment for this offense is five years in prison, but the court took into consideration that Kungurov has two small children and no criminal record.

One can agree or disagree with Kungurov’s opinion. His post, however, contains no calls for violence but is a criticism of Russia’s Syria policy. It is a case of officials attempting to shut down public debate on an important foreign policy issue under the pretext of “combating terrorism.” It is also part and parcel of Russia’s ongoing crackdown on free speech, especially online. [Continue reading…]

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U.S. government begins asking foreign travelers about social media

Politico reports: The U.S. government quietly began requesting that select foreign visitors provide their Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts upon arriving in the country, a move designed to spot potential terrorist threats that drew months of opposition from tech giants and privacy hawks alike.

Since Tuesday, foreign travelers arriving in the United States on the visa waiver program have been presented with an “optional” request to “enter information associated with your online presence,” a government official confirmed Thursday. The prompt includes a drop-down menu that lists platforms including Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube, as well as a space for users to input their account names on those sites.

The new policy comes as Washington tries to improve its ability to spot and deny entry to individuals who have ties to terrorist groups like the Islamic State. But the government has faced a barrage of criticism since it first floated the idea last summer. The Internet Association, which represents companies including Facebook, Google and Twitter, at the time joined with consumer advocates to argue the draft policy threatened free expression and posed new privacy and security risks to foreigners.

Now that it is final, those opponents are furious the Obama administration ignored their concerns. [Continue reading…]

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Twitter suspends Richard Spencer, other prominent alt-right accounts

The Washington Post reports: Ever since alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulous sent actress Leslie Jones a string of deeply offensive tweets, insulting the comedian’s race and intelligence, Twitter has made banning abusive accounts a priority.

At the time, the company offered a statement, which read in part:

. . . our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others . . . we’ve seen an uptick in the number of accounts violating these policies and have taken enforcement actions against these accounts, ranging from warnings that also require the deletion of Tweets violating our policies to permanent suspension.

We know many people believe we have not done enough to curb this type of behavior on Twitter. We agree. We are continuing to invest heavily in improving our tools and enforcement systems to better allow us to identify and take faster action on abuse as it’s happening and prevent repeat offenders

Recently Twitter suspended many more accounts associated with the alt-right, which is the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that ‘white identity’ is under attack by multicultural forces using ‘political correctness’ and ‘social justice’ to undermine white people and ‘their’ civilization.”

Included among them was the verified account of Richard Spencer, which The Washington Post described as a leader of the alt-right and “one of the most media-savvy thinkers in the movement.” [Continue reading…]

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Iranian human rights activist given six years in prison for hand-written unpublished story

IranWire reports: On Tuesday, October 4, writer and human rights activist Golrokh Ebrahimi received a strange phone call ordering her to present herself at Evin Prison by noon on Wednesday evening to start serving her prison sentence. By law, authorities much convey such an order by way of a written summons. But that was not the only unusual thing about the call.

“The arresting officer used the phone of Navid Kamran, a codefendant of mine,” Ebrahimi told IranWire hours before presenting herself at Evin. “They had gone to his shop to arrest him and used his phone. When I answered the call, the man who introduced himself as an agent of the Centre for the Implementation of Sentences said that I must present myself to serve the sentence. I said that I had received no official summons or a call from Evin Court. ‘You are using my friend’s phone to call me and it might be a joke,’ I said. ‘I don’t know you and I have no idea who is talking to me.’ He answered back that ‘you might think this is a joke but we are here to arrest your friend and you must present yourself at Evin’s court right away.’ I said that I could not get there by the end of business hours but perhaps I could do it the next day. He said that I would be arrested if I did not present myself by the next day.”

Ebrahimi’s ordeal began when the Revolutionary Guards arrested her along with her husband, Arash Sadeghi, at his workplace in Tehran on September 6, 2014. The Guards had no arrest warrant, but took the couple to their home, ransacked the place, and confiscated their computers, CDs, and notes. Among the confiscated items was a story about the punishment, under Islamic law, of death by stoning. According to a report from Amnesty International, “The story describes the emotional reaction of a young woman who watches the film, The Stoning of Soraya M, which tells the true story of a young woman stoned to death for adultery — and becomes so enraged that she burns a copy of the Quran.” [Continue reading…]

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With Facebook’s flaws in the spotlight, Mark Zuckerberg’s silence is deafening

Espen Egil Hansen writes: In every TV studio where Facebook’s powerful position is being debated, one chair remains empty. In every newspaper article, every blogpost and every Facebook thread that challenges the company, one participant is missing.

Where is Mark Zuckerberg? A man now more powerful than most state leaders.

When I wrote an open letter to Zuckerberg earlier this month, I had three objectives.

First and foremost, Aftenposten wanted to stop Facebook’s censorship of the documentary photo The Terror of War. We did – but our victory was only symbolic. It just made Facebook see what everybody else is seeing: this picture is a documentation of the horrors of war – not nudity.

My second objective was to encourage debate on Facebook’s ever more powerful role as the world’s most important distributor of news and content. We succeeded in this as well, and I am pleased to see that the debate was international.

Most conspicuous, however, is the deafening silence from Facebook. Yes, they distribute written statements, which are dutifully read out by news anchors at the end of reports, but real participation is more the exception than the rule. Here in Scandinavia, Facebook has even gone so far as to leave it to a Swedish PR company to answer inquiries from the media. This company in turn will tell the press to quote “a spokesperson for Facebook”. [Continue reading…]

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Mark Zuckerberg accused of abusing power after Facebook deletes Vietnam War ‘napalm girl’ post

The Guardian reports: Norway’s largest newspaper has published a front-page open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, lambasting the company’s decision to censor a historic photograph of the Vietnam war and calling on Zuckerberg to recognize and live up to his role as “the world’s most powerful editor”.

Espen Egil Hansen, the editor-in-chief and CEO of Aftenposten, accused Zuckerberg of thoughtlessly “abusing your power” over the social media site that has become a lynchpin of the distribution of news and information around the world, writing, “I am upset, disappointed – well, in fact even afraid – of what you are about to do to a mainstay of our democratic society.”

“I am worried that the world’s most important medium is limiting freedom instead of trying to extend it, and that this occasionally happens in an authoritarian way,” he added.

The controversy stems from Facebook’s decision to delete a post by Norwegian writer Tom Egeland that featured The Terror of War, a Pulitzer prize-winning photograph by Nick Ut that showed children – including the naked 9-year-old Kim Phúc – running away from a napalm attack during the Vietnam war. Egeland’s post discussed “seven photographs that changed the history of warfare” – a group to which the “napalm girl” image certainly belongs.

Egeland was subsequently suspended from Facebook. When Aftenposten reported on the suspension – using the same photograph in its article, which was then shared on the publication’s Facebook page – the newspaper received a message from Facebook asking it to “either remove or pixelize” the photograph. [Continue reading…]

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