Defunding bigotry: Sleeping Giants is picking Breitbart apart, one tweet at a time

The Washington Post reports: Hardly anyone paid attention last November when a strangely named Twitter account, Sleeping Giants, sent its first tweet into the digisphere. “Are you aware that you’re advertising on Breitbart, the alt-right’s biggest champion, today?” read the tweet, aimed at a consumer lending outfit called Social Finance. “Are you supporting them publicly?”

Within 30 minutes, Social Finance replied, tweeting that it would stop running ads on Breitbart.

It was, it turns out, the start of an odd, and oddly effective, social media campaign against Breitbart, the influential conservative news site headed by Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former campaign chairman and ex-chief White House strategist.

Sleeping Giants is a mysterious group that has no address, no organizational structure and no officers. At least none that are publicly known. All of its leaders are anonymous, and much of what it claims is difficult to independently verify. A spokesman for the group wouldn’t identify himself in interviews for this article.

But the group does have a singular purpose, pursued as relentlessly as Ahab chasing a whale: It aims to drive advertisers away from Breitbart. “We’re trying to defund bigotry,” the spokesman says. [Continue reading…]

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Germany faces first far-right party in parliament since World War Two

The Guardian reports: Germany is bracing itself for a watershed moment in its postwar history, with an overtly nationalist party is set to emphatically enter the country’s parliament for the first time in almost six decades.

Rightwing populist Alternative für Deutschland has strengthened its upward trajectory in the last week before the vote, with two polls published on Friday showing the party on third place.

Founded just four years ago as an anti-euro force, the AfD is polling on between 11% and 13%, with Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc and the Social Democrats dropping percentage points while the Left party slipped into fourth place.

According to polls by respected institutes INSA and Enmid on Friday, Merkel’s CDU/CSU alliance was on between 34% to 36% and the SPD on between 21% and 22%. Die Linke was polling at between 10% and 11%, the pro-business Liberal Democrats on 9% and the Greens had crept up to 8%.

The results would pave the way for the continuation of a grand coalition between the CDU/CSU and the SPD or a so-called Jamaica Coalition between Merkel’s conservatives and the FDP and Greens, never before seen on the national stage.

AfD leaders have urged their members to act as election observers, keeping a close eye on the voting process amid mounting suspicions within the party that their results might be manipulated, citing the threat the party posed to the established parties.

The AfD, under their top candidates Alice Weidel, a 38-year-old management consultant – who has made much of her same-sex relationship in recent days – and Alexander Gauland, a 76-year-old German nationalist with strong anglophile leanings, have made considerable strides over the course of the campaign in spite of a rightward lurch in its rhetoric criticised even by the party’s leader.

Vowing in its manifesto to ban all mosques and minarets, prohibit Muslim calls to prayer and criminalise people wearing the veil, the AfD has also called for a change in attitude to Germany’s historic crimes in the second world war.

If polls are accurate, the AfD is expected to garner between 60 and 85 parliamentary seats, and would become the largest opposition group in parliament if Merkel’s conservative alliance and the SPD agreed to continue their coalition. [Continue reading…]

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Theresa May asks EU for two-year Brexit transition period

The Guardian reports: Theresa May has proposed delaying a full Brexit until 2021 by asking EU countries to agree to a two-year transition period during which the UK would continue to enjoy unfettered access to the single market.

The prime minister said the government would be prepared to accept EU rules in that time, including allowing EU citizens to live and work in Britain, submitting to European laws and continuing to pay into the EU budget.

But although her speech was described as “constructive” by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, and appeared to have placated Boris Johnson, the two-year transition plan was immediately criticised by hardline Brexiters for lasting too long – and by business groups for being too short. [Continue reading…]

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Music: Erik Truffaz — ‘Doni Doni’

 

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Kim Jong-un calls Trump a ‘rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire’

In the first statement known to be issued directly in his name, Kim Jong-un says: The speech made by the U.S. president in his maiden address on the U.N. arena in the prevailing serious circumstances, in which the situation on the Korean Peninsula has been rendered tense as never before and is inching closer to a touch-and-go state, is arousing worldwide concern.

Shaping the general idea of what he would say, I expected he would make stereotyped, prepared remarks a little different from what he used to utter in his office on the spur of the moment as he had to speak on the world’s biggest official diplomatic stage.

But, far from making remarks of any persuasive power that can be viewed to be helpful to defusing tension, he made unprecedented rude nonsense one has never heard from any of his predecessors.

A frightened dog barks louder.

I’d like to advise Trump to exercise prudence in selecting words and to be considerate of whom he speaks to when making a speech in front of the world.

The mentally deranged behavior of the U.S. president openly expressing on the U.N. arena the unethical will to “totally destroy” a sovereign state, beyond the boundary of threats of regime change or overturn of social system, makes even those with normal thinking faculty think about discretion and composure.

His remarks remind me of such words as “political layman” and “political heretic” which were in vogue in reference to Trump during his presidential election campaign.

After taking office Trump has rendered the world restless through threats and blackmail against all countries in the world. He is unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of a country, and he is surely a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician.

His remarks which described the U.S. option through straightforward expression of his will have convinced me, rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last.

Now that Trump has denied the existence of and insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious declaration of a war in history that he would destroy the D.P.R.K. [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], we will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.

Action is the best option in treating the dotard who, hard of hearing, is uttering only what he wants to say. [Continue reading…]

After eight months in office, this is Donald Trump’s singular accomplishment on the world stage: he has managed to make the president of the United States appear less predictable and less credible than the leader of North Korea!

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A short history of ‘dotard,’ the arcane insult Kim Jong Un used in his threat against Trump

Rachel Chason and J. Freedom du Lac report: In the latest war of words between the United States and North Korea, Kim Jong Un did not pull any punches.

But he may have pulled out an old dictionary.

“I will surely and definitely tame the deranged U.S. dotard with fire,” Kim declared in an unusually direct and angry statement published Thursday by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency.

The North Korean leader’s warning about “fire,” which echoed President Trump’s August statement threatening “fire and fury,” was par for the course in the increasingly tense relationship. On Thursday, Trump announced new financial sanctions to further isolate the country as its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities rapidly escalate.

But Kim’s use of “dotard” was what raised eyebrows, prompting people around the world to Google the old-time insult.

Merriam-Webster defines the noun as “a person in his or her dotage,” which is “a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise and alertness.”

Urban dictionary, meanwhile, defines dotage as “a female’s adams apple.”

The word trended on Twitter, and searches for the term were “high as a kite” following the release of Kim’s statement, Merriam-Webster noted. [Continue reading…]

Journalists might react to Kim’s use of dotard by thinking, how quaint, but given the infrequent usage of the term, this may well be an indication that North Korea’s social media strategists are quite sophisticated. What better way of amplifying social media activity than by using a rarely used phrase that through searches, tweets, and posts has thereby now become firmly anchored to Trump.

Trump, on the other hand, has had the dubious success of loosely creating a link between Kim Jong Un and Elton John which will probably have no adverse consequences for either of them.

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In the war of words, North Korea just skewered Trump

The Guardian reports: North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, has issued a withering riposte to Donald Trump, likening his threat to destroy the regime to the “sound of a dog barking”, adding that he “felt sorry” for the US president’s advisers.

In his first speech to the UN general assembly, Trump said on Tuesday the US would be forced to “totally destroy” North Korea if Washington was forced to defend itself or its allies against the country’s missiles.

Referring to the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, by a nickname he gave him in a tweet last weekend, Trump said to the visible dismay of some in the hall: “Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime.”

Speaking to reporters outside his hotel after arriving in New York on Wednesday, Ri cited a Korean proverb when asked to respond to Trump’s vow to destroy his country.

“There is a saying that the marching goes on even when dogs bark,” Ri said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

“If he was thinking he could scare us with the sound of a dog barking, that’s really a dog dream,” he added. In Korean, a dog dream is one that makes little sense. [Continue reading…]

But elsewhere dog’s dreams are regarded as deeply meaningful?

Trump might feel bolstered by epithets such as “leader of the most powerful nation on Earth,” but when it comes to the art of hurling insults, he’s definitely trying to punch above his weight by taking on such well-practiced opponents.

Rocket man? Kim Jong-un surely took it as a compliment.

On the other hand, Trump might like to toy with the menacing appearance of being a mad dog, but not a barking dog — that has a ring too close to the truth.

The reality, as things currently stand, is that as North Korea flexes its muscles by testing intercontinental ballistic missiles, Trump fires back tweets.

Firing back tweets is better than starting a war.

If Trump wants to present himself as a powerful adversary he needs to demonstrate he has command over his own tongue — but there’s no hope of that happening in a man so demonstrably incapable of exercising self-control.

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Trump imposes new sanctions on North Korea, Kim says will ‘tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire’

The Washington Post reports: President Trump on Thursday announced new financial sanctions targeting North Korea as his administration seeks to build international support for more aggressively confronting the rogue nation, whose escalating nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities have reached what U.S. officials consider a crisis point.

The new penalties seek to leverage the dominance of the U.S. financial system by forcing nations, foreign companies and individuals to choose whether to do business with the United States or the comparatively tiny economy of North Korea. U.S. officials acknowledged that like other sanctions, these may not deter North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s drive to threaten the United States with a nuclear weapon, but is aimed at slowing him down.

Kim on Thursday reacted angrily to Trump’s remarks and actions this week, calling the president a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” and Trump’s earlier speech at the U.N. “unprecedented rude nonsense.” Kim said that he was now thinking hard about how to respond. [Continue reading…]

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Facebook to turn over thousands of Russian ads to Congress, reversing decision

The Washington Post reports: Facebook on Thursday announced it would turn over to Congress copies of more than 3,000 politically themed advertisements bought through Russian accounts during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, reversing a decision that had frustrated lawmakers.

The company has been struggling for months to address the steadily mounting evidence that Russians manipulated the social media platform in their bid to tip the presidential election in favor of Republican Donald Trump.

Democratic lawmakers in recent days had demanded that Facebook be more open about what it knows and to dig more deeply into its troves of data to analyze the propaganda effort, which the company has acknowledged involved at least 470 fake accounts and pages created by a shadowy Russian company that spent more than $100,000 targeting U.S. voters. Lawmakers particularly wanted copies of the ads bought through the fake accounts, some of which Facebook officials showed to Hill investigators and then took away, making further study impossible. The company said sharing the ads would compromise users’ privacy. [Continue reading…]

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How a Russian outlet sought to reach American voters on Twitter

Foreign Policy reports: Before Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had even wrapped up their respective bids to secure the nomination for president, Kremlin-funded media outlet RT was plotting to promote its election coverage in the United States, Foreign Policy has learned.

RT hoped to take over at least two Twitter accounts or handles for its media coverage: @NotHillary and @NotTrump. Their goal, RT told Twitter’s advertising department, was to use the accounts to push their 2016 election coverage, but neither handle or username has any identifying information tracing the owner back to the Russian government-funded media organization.

Twitter denied the request. The company declined to comment on the record on the specific accounts “for privacy and security reasons.” [Continue reading…]

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There is no Trump doctrine, only contradictions and bluster

John Cassidy writes: The things our President says. At a lunch with African leaders on Wednesday, Donald Trump praised the continent’s business potential by noting that many of his friends were “going to your countries to get rich.” A bit later in his remarks, he spoke about how effectively African countries had responded to some recent health-care crises, such as the Ebola outbreak, and added that “Nambia’s health system is increasingly sufficient.” (There is no country named Nambia.)

Anybody can mispronounce the name of an unfamiliar place, and it’s long been clear that geography isn’t one of Trump’s strengths. But he seems to view many foreign countries almost exclusively on the basis of how eager they are to play host to Trump-branded hotels and golf courses. (Ireland, Scotland, and Dubai are good, while continental European countries are bad.) Namibia, an arid, sparsely populated nation that gained independence from South Africa in 1990, clearly hasn’t made it onto the Trump Organization’s target list.

On Tuesday, addressing the United Nations General Assembly for the first time, Trump displayed a similar attitude toward the U.N. itself, noting how the organization’s presence on the East Side of Manhattan had boosted the fortunes of the nearby Trump World Tower condominium building, which was completed in 2001. “I actually saw great potential across the street, to be honest with you,” Trump said at the beginning of his speech. “And it’s only for the reason that the United Nations was here that that turned out to be such a successful project.” [Continue reading…]

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U.S. monitored Manafort after he left Trump campaign

The Wall Street Journal reports: U.S. authorities placed Paul Manafort under surveillance after he was ousted as Donald Trump’s campaign manager in the summer of 2016, according to U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter.

The surveillance, which was part of a counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference with the presidential election, didn’t involve listening to Mr. Manafort’s phone communications in real-time, the officials said.

But armed with a warrant, investigators still could have conducted clandestine surveillance of Mr. Manafort, possibly by obtaining copies of his emails and other electronically stored communications, or by having agents follow him or conduct physical searches of his property.

The surveillance began after Mr. Manafort left the Trump campaign in August, but it is not clear when it was suspended. Mr. Manafort resigned after a spate of publicity about his consulting work in Ukraine on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s allies. [Continue reading…]

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‘How do we use [this] to get whole?’: The most intriguing new Paul Manafort-Russia email

Aaron Blake writes: The trouble Paul Manafort is in is still coming into focus. The latest development: emails he sent to a Ukraine-based employee of his consulting business talking about setting up a briefing with a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin.

The Washington Post’s Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman, Carol D. Leonnig and Adam Entous just broke that big story, and it comes on the heels of a New York Times report this week that investigators have told Manafort they plan to indict him — apparently in hopes of getting him to flip on President Trump.

For me, though, the most intriguing email in The Post’s report is this one:

In one April exchange days after Trump named Manafort as a campaign strategist, Manafort referred to his positive press and growing reputation and asked, “How do we use to get whole?”

Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni said Wednesday that the email exchanges reflected an “innocuous” effort to collect past debts.

“It’s no secret Mr. Manafort was owed money by past clients,” Maloni said.

We can argue over what’s innocuous and what’s not, but that seems to be an acknowledgment from his own spokesman that Manafort was discussing how he could leverage his status as a leading strategist on an American presidential campaign to chase down debts he was owed — i.e. to enrich himself financially. [Continue reading…]

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Mueller wants lots of White House documents. Trump may be forced to comply

Cristian Farias writes: Just days before the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, a federal court in Washington quietly expanded the powers of Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel investigating the long-running Whitewater controversy. Thanks to that court order, the prosecutor could now look into whether Lewinsky and others “violated federal law” in connection with an unrelated civil lawsuit by Paula Jones against President Bill Clinton. And that meant Starr even had the authority to subpoena White House lawyers who may know about potential crimes implicating the president and his office.

That bit of ancient ’90s history is suddenly relevant. Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating potential criminal activity arising from Russia’s interference in the presidential election, may rely on legal precedent from that era and beyond to get the White House to cooperate with the probe. The New York Times reported Wednesday that Mueller has requested a detailed list of documents related to 13 areas of interest to his inquiry. They include some of Trump’s more troubling moments while in office, such as the firing of James Comey in May. Or the time Trump told Russian officials visiting the Oval Office that getting rid of the FBI director, whom he had relieved a day earlier, took “great pressure” off the administration. Or the circumstances surrounding the firing of Michael Flynn, who remained in his post as Trump’s first national security adviser, despite warnings from Sally Yates, then the acting attorney general, that he may be compromised by the Russians.

Ty Cobb, the attorney leading the White House response to Mueller, has already indicated that he wants to play nice with the special counsel and turn over as many documents as possible. But of all places, he seems to be facing resistance from within: Donald McGahn, the White House counsel, was described by Cobb — within earshot of a reporter — as someone who is “very conservative” with the production of documents, some of which he appears to keep “locked in a safe,” according to a Times report earlier this week. [Continue reading…]

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Who’s the world’s leading eco-vandal? It’s Angela Merkel

George Monbiot writes: Which living person has done most to destroy the natural world and the future wellbeing of humanity? Donald Trump will soon be the correct answer, when the full force of his havoc has been felt. But for now I would place another name in the frame: Angela Merkel.

What? Have I lost my mind? Angela Merkel, the “climate chancellor”? The person who, as German environment minister, brokered the first UN climate agreement, through sheer force of will? The chancellor who persuaded the G7 leaders to promise to phase out fossil fuels by the end of this century? The architect of Germany’s Energiewende – its famous energy transition? Yes, the very same.

Unlike Trump, she has no malicious intent. She did not set out to destroy the agreements she helped to create. But the Earth’s systems do not respond to mission statements or speeches or targets. They respond to hard fact. What counts, and should be judged, as she seeks a fourth term as German chancellor in the elections on Sunday, is what is done, not what is said. On this metric, her performance has been a planetary disaster.

Merkel has a fatal weakness: a weakness for the lobbying power of German industry. Whenever a crucial issue needs to be resolved, she weighs her ethics against political advantage, and chooses the advantage. This, in large part, is why Europe now chokes in a fug of diesel fumes.

The EU decision to replace petrol engines with diesel, though driven by German car manufacturers, predates her premiership. It was a classic European fudge, a means of averting systemic change while creating an impression of action, based on the claim (which now turns out to be false) that diesel engines produce less carbon dioxide than petrol. But once she became chancellor, Merkel used every conceivable tactic, fair and foul, to preserve this deadly cop-out. [Continue reading…]

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Twin earthquakes expose Mexico’s deep inequality

By Luis Gómez Romero, University of Wollongong

Early in the morning on Sept. 16, 1810, priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang the bell of his church in the small town of Dolores, near Guanajuato, Mexico. His parishioners gathered round, and he urged them to revolt against Spain’s two-year-old Napoleonic government.

Hidalgo’s call to arms, which later became known later as the Grito de Dolores (Cry of Dolores), triggered the Mexican War of Independence. Every September 15, the president of Mexico takes to the balcony of the National Palace in Mexico City to reenact it.

This year, just a week before Independence Day, a historic earthquake struck Mexico’s southern coast, killing nearly 100 people. So President Enrique Peña Nieto added a poignant element to his Grito by including in the incantation a reference to the impoverished states that were most devastated by the quake, crying “Long live the solidarity of Mexicans with Chiapas and Oaxaca!”

This year, the president’s ‘Cry of Pain’ included Oaxaca and Chiapas.

It was a nice twist on tradition, but these two states will need more than expressions of solidarity to recover. The 8.2 magnitude quake is the strongest Mexico has experienced in 100 years, surpassing even the Sept. 19, 1985 earthquake that killed up to 40,000 people in and around Mexico City, according to the highest estimates.

It was also significantly more powerful than the recent 7.1 magnitude earthquake that killed upwards of 200 people in and around Mexico’s capital on September 19.

[Read more…]

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5 things to know about the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan

Morgan L. Kaplan and Ramzy Mardini write: On Sept. 25, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) is expected to hold its long-awaited referendum on independence. While it has generated much nationalist excitement among Kurds in the KRI capital of Irbil and abroad, the central government in Baghdad and the international community have objected to the vote. The United States has mobilized diplomatic capital to persuade Irbil to postpone the vote. Last week, Western diplomats offered an alternative proposal: Postpone the vote and enter into new mediated negotiations with Baghdad. But without ironclad guarantees or a specified timetable, Irbil has rejected those initiatives, continuing to prepare for the referendum.

The referendum was never meant to be a silver bullet, ending negotiations on Kurds’ path to statehood. But recent escalations by all sides have produced a self-fulfilling crisis with the prospect of military conflict, fueled by both Arab and Kurdish nationalism.

Here are five things you need to know: [Continue reading…]

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Music: Avishai Cohen — ‘One For Mark’

 

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Lewandowski: Manafort should go to jail for the rest of his life if he colluded

The Hill reports: President Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said this week that, if anyone on Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian officials during the 2016 election, they should “go to jail for the rest of their lives.”

“I think if anybody, and I’ve said this, if Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, or Rick Gates or Carter Page, or anybody else attempted to influence the outcome of the U.S. election through any means that’s inappropriate – through collusion, coordination or cooperation – I hope they go to jail for the rest of their lives,” Lewandowski said at George Washington University on Tuesday, according to the Washington Examiner.

“It’s very simple. Our election process is too serious, our democracy is too important to allow people to try and try and have influence from the outside for their own gain,” he added.

Lewandowski’s comments came after CNN reported Tuesday that investigators had wiretapped Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, before and after the 2016 election. [Continue reading…]

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