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The Fifth Column https://thefifthcolumnnews.com We write the first draft of history Wed, 07 Nov 2018 01:56:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 https://i2.wp.com/thefifthcolumnnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/defaultlogo-5552e4c5v1_site_icon.png?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 The Fifth Column https://thefifthcolumnnews.com 32 32 126142724 A special International Joint Summons Aims to get more answers from Mark Zuckerberg https://thefifthcolumnnews.com/2018/11/a-special-international-joint-summons-aims-to-get-more-answers-from-mark-zuckerberg/ Wed, 07 Nov 2018 01:56:03 +0000 https://thefifthcolumnnews.com/?p=49126 Looks like there could be more questioning for Mark Zuckerberg.

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World (TFC) – For a few weeks earlier this year, the news was abuzz with the story of the large scale data misuse scandal between Facebook, and UK based political consultancy group Cambridge Analytica. You may remember it. Since that time, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has tried to dodge any summons by the UK Parliament to answer questions regarding data policies, internal governance practices, and Facebook’s agenda for ridding it’s website of disinformation, or “fake news.”

In an unprecedented move by the Parliaments of both the UK and Canada an international joint summons was officially given to Facebook last week requesting yet again that Zuckerberg appear and answer questions. Multiple world powers are vying for their opportunity to grill Zuckerberg regarding these topics. They may just get some more answers at the end of this month.

Background

 

The United States Congress had their opportunity in April of this year. The meeting between Congress and Zuckerberg hinged mostly on the internal leak from whistleblower and former Director of Research at Cambridge Analytica, Christopher Wylie. However, during those hearings, not much was suggested as far as reparations were concerned. It was the well polarized partisan attitude of Capitol Hill that was the key topic for most in attendance. A correspondent from Time magazine sums up the hearings well:

 

The problem, it seemed, were the senators questioning him. Rarely before has the senescence of this Senate — which, with an average age of 63, is the oldest in history — been so apparent. Their queries were clumsy, demonstrating limited fluency in the workings of social media and its jargon. When Zuckerberg’s replies were evasive, as they sometimes were, many of these lawmakers seemed ill-equipped to push back. At one point, Sen. Orrin Hatch, the 84-year-old Utah Republican set to retire this year, asked Zuckerberg how Facebook plans to stay free for its users. “Senator, we run ads.” Zuckerberg said flatly.

 

Or take for example the curious motive of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) during the hearings. His main issue of concern was which side of the politics line Facebook stands. Suggesting that right wing pages, and users leaning to the right were being discriminated against by Facebook using a “pervasive pattern of political bias.”

Cruz made no mention about the rampant misuse of data that was the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Why would he? He spent almost $6 Million dollars with the firm in 2016 for the exact problem Facebook tried to hide, “data analysis and online advertising.” It seems that Cruz has tossed to the wayside those constituents who may have had their personal data misused. It is evidently more important to him that the political rhetoric and ideologies he shares are featured prominently on Facebook. Zuckerberg’s response to Cruz was short and more humorous than consoling as he reminded Senator Cruz that Silicon Valley in CA is “an extremely left-leaning place.”

While the political right wanted to grill Zuckerberg regarding making Facebook a left leaning paradise, the Democrats in the room had a different mission… Election meddling. Democrats seemed more interested in prying any information they could from the CEO regarding the alleged claims of Russian meddling of the 2016 presidential race. To which, Russia continues to vehemently deny any involvement. Fielding numerous haphazard questions from various Democrats, Zuckerberg revealed that Facebook is working with the Mueller investigation into election meddling. “I want to be careful here because our work with the special counsel is confidential,” he said. “And I want to make sure that in an open session I’m not revealing something that’s confidential.”

Not much came from the special hearings except a lot of apologies, and the remainder of the year would not show signs of relief for the social media giant.

Image Source: mkhmarketing, Flickr, Creative Commons
The Demise of Facebook

 

Mass Media Purge

 

Fast forwarding to more recent news. Facebook and Twitter have both taken up campaigns to rid their websites of so called “fake news.” Unfortunately for those users, that means having lost all content uploaded… Maybe Cambridge Analytica has a backup?

 

Alex Jones, Censorship, Free Speech, Social Media, You, and Us – Pontiac Tribune

 

On a more serious note though, the entirety of this development seems more to indicate the rampant issues of corporate money influencing the politics that affect everyday lives. A closed door meeting between major corporation owners, (Think Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Google, etc.) and federal officials earlier this year only adds mud to this murky scenario. While Facebook and Twitter have promised that their reason for ridding some users (which hurts the revenue they obtain) is strictly based on the spread of misinformation. The facts show that independent media seems to be the actual target of their purging. And it only helps develop more questions, than provide answers.

It’s no secret that corporate run news outlets have been steadily losing readership, while independent media has been steadily increasing their numbers of followers, and producers. In the months leading up to the mass purging of well established pages, independent media across the board started seeing significant decreases in ad-revenue… Despite little to no fluctuation in readership.

Looking at this as a broad picture, it’s easy to theorize that behind the scenes major social media sites are taking down popular independent media pages citing their practice as boasting false information. Could we then speculate that this recent purge of sites has been done strategically to hopefully usher the population back to main stream media sites, where the rhetoric is government approved? That’s all for theorizing for now, I promise. Back to facts.

An unofficial, but rather telling list of Facebook pages purged in the most recent wave can be viewed here.

UK/Canada Joint Summons

 

The Parliament of the United Kingdom seems adamant about questioning Mark Zuckerberg about misinformation sharing, and more importantly, the violation of privacy rights of millions of Facebook users. Who could blame them? The congressional probe from the US Government has provided more questions than answers.

Canada has a vested interest in questioning Zuckerberg, for the same reasons, and also because a domestic company by the name of AggregateIQ (AIQ), which is the data enterprise associated with Cambridge Analytica. AIQ developed the Cambridge Analytica system, and is one of it’s data handlers. AIQ has already been called into sessions of questioning by Canadian authorities. 

 

 

According to Christopher Wylie, AIQ built the ‘Ripon’ platform that Cambridge Analytica used to target people using misappropriated Facebook data.”

The special joint Parliamentary hearing has a scheduled date of November 27th at the Westminster Parliament.

Interestingly, Zuckerberg has not traveled to the UK, nor (at the time of writing this) responded to the summons request. A source of The Fifth Column wishing to speak anonymously offered some insight on a possible reason for such a delayed response, if any at all:

 

“The government here are openly hostile to this social media platform because of the Cambridge Analytica scandal…. There was talk about this a while back, in that, Parliament wanted Zuckerberg to appear before a Parliamentary Committee to explain himself and he refused. Although I wouldn’t actually accuse him of doing anything I couldn’t prove in court, the general consensus of opinion among his opponents was that he was afraid of the consequences if he was caught lying. The penalties here for lying to parliament are severe and can involve a custodial sentence, although such powers are rarely, if ever, invoked.”

 

The verbiage on issues regarding contempt at the Parliament reads:

 

Generally speaking any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any Member or Officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results may be treated as a contempt even though there is no precedent of the offence.”  – Definition of contempt per factsheet G-06 of the House Disciplinary and Penal Powers UK.

 

It’s understood that there is a good deal of complicated information above to process while many accusations, and odd parallels exist. It’s highly encouraged that if you have read this far, you should click the hyperlinks associated, and read for yourself a bit further. With very little to draw a conclusion on, and future developments expected, a follow up article depicting the outcome of whatever proportion will be prioritized.

Read this far and want to go immediately delete Facebook? Earlier this year I highlighted some alternative social media sites up-and-coming for your browsing pleasure here.

By James Job – Contributor for The Fifth Column, and Editor at the Pontiac Tribune.

 

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Migrant Money Could be Keeping Nicaragua’s Uprising Alive https://thefifthcolumnnews.com/2018/10/migrant-money-could-be-keeping-nicaraguas-uprising-alive/ Tue, 16 Oct 2018 23:02:47 +0000 https://thefifthcolumnnews.com/?p=48535 Nicaragua (Conversation) – Protesting is now illegal in Nicaragua, according to President Daniel Ortega. The Central American country has been embroiled in deadly political turmoil for months. Demonstrations that began in April against an unpopular social security reform quickly transformed…

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Nicaragua (Conversation) – Protesting is now illegal in Nicaragua, according to President Daniel Ortega.

The Central American country has been embroiled in deadly political turmoil for months. Demonstrations that began in April against an unpopular social security reform quickly transformed into a broader movement aimed at ousting Ortega, Nicaragua’s authoritarian president.

Up to 450 people have since been killed, including a 16-year-old boy caught in the crossfire between government forces and demonstrators on Sept. 23.

The growing number of protesters arrested and charged with terrorism led the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to call on Ortega to stop what they called his government’s illegal detentions.

Instead, the president in late September banned protests entirely. Thity-eight Nicaraguans were arrested on Oct. 14 for planning to march against their government.

Ortega’s rise to power

Ortega, a former revolutionary leftist who ruled Nicaragua in the 1980s, returned to office in 2007. Over the past 11 years, he has grown ever more autocratic, abolishing presidential term limits, enriching his family and restricting civil liberties.

The common wisdom is that Ortega enjoyed such a long and, until now, uncontested reign because Nicaragua’s economy boomed under his stewardship, in part due to cheap and plentiful oil supplied by Hugo Chávez.

According to this theory, the growth allowed his government to pay for extensive anti-poverty programs, earning him widespread popularity in the Western Hemisphere’s second-poorest country – until the economy began to stagnate last year.

But that’s not the whole story behind Ortega’s long rise and sudden unpopularity.

While Nicaragua has prospered financially under his leadership, my research finds that migrants living in Costa Rica, the U.S. and Spain also greatly boosted the domestic economy by sending home millions of dollars each year.

Roughly 16 percent of the country’s population lives abroad. Their remittances, which last year totaled US$1.4 billion, have fueled consumption and tempered political pressure on Ortega’s government to reduce poverty.

Now, Nicaragua’s influential diaspora has turned its attention to the resistance against Ortega.

In a time when conflict and disaster are forcing even more people around the world to flee their homelands, these findings from Nicaragua underscore the central role that migrants can play in today’s globalized political economy.

Migration as an escape valve

Nicaraguans began migrating in significant numbers during Ortega’s first term, in the late 1980s.

The country was ravaged by civil war and burdened by debt. In 1989, Ortega’s socialist government was forced to undertake a series of austerity measures that left 14 percent of Nicaraguans unemployed.

Subsequent governments enacted even harsher budget cuts, further driving up unemployment and pushing hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans to seek work in neighboring Costa Rica.

Today an estimated 500,000 Nicaraguans live in Costa Rica, and more are fleeing the country’s political chaos ever day.

Another 222,000 Nicaraguans live in the United States, 80,000 in Panama and an estimated 30,000 in Spain.

Between 2007 and 2017 – the first decade of Ortega’s current administration – total migrant remittances to Nicaragua totaled $12.5 billion.

That’s more than 10 percent of Nicaragua’s annual gross domestic product, on average, and in many years substantially more than total foreign direct investment in the country.

Remittances also dwarf the roughly $3.7 billion in oil aid that Venezuela sent to Nicaragua during the same period.

Remittances took the pressure off Ortega

Ortega’s government indirectly benefited from this flood of foreign cash.

Migrant money helped poor Nicaraguans make ends meet and allowed consumers to keep pace with the expanding national economy – greatly reducing demand on Ortega’s government to reduce poverty and unemployment.

Still, Nicaragua remains very poor. About 40 percent of citizens survive on less than $2.50 a day.

As the director of Nicaragua’s Jesuit Migration Network, Lea Montes, explains, remittances keep many families housed and fed.

As she points out, “It costs a family of four about $400 a month to get by, but the minimum wage is only $177 a month here.”

Juana the florist

Take the case of 70-year-old Juana Jiménez, a single mother who in the mid-1990s received a U.S. work visa – her “gift from God” – and worked as a florist in Miami for nearly 20 years.

The $200 to $300 a month that Jiménez sent home covered medical expenses for her son Erik, who was born with severe disabilities, and saw her family through Nicaragua’s leanest post-revolutionary years.

Remittances, in both Nicaragua and other developing countries, have social benefits beyond keeping individual households out of poverty. Research shows that in such countries they have contributed to reductions in poverty, helped increase access to health care and improved school attendance by freeing children from the need to work.

Rather than complement government programs in those places, however, research shows that all to often, migrant remittances actually replace them.

For example, scholars Gary Goodman and Jonathan T. Hiskey have found that, in Mexico, local governments often reduce their expenditures in areas that consistently receive remittances from abroad.

And as remittances increase, electoral participation in democratic countries with high migration tends to decline. Rather than lobby public officials to upgrade their health clinic, say, or pave a road, citizens may look to the relatively well-off diaspora for solutions.

For a decade, the dual domestic impacts of international migration – economic growth and diminished citizen pressure – proved a winning combination for Ortega.

But then his government responded to April’s uprising with deadly repression.

Remittances and dictators

Nicaraguan migrants did not trigger the protests against Ortega, nor are they the reason the demonstrations grew and strengthened.

But, today, my research shows, they are now helping to keep this pro-democracy movement alive by informing the international community, creating international advocacy networks, housing refugees and channeling funds to anti-Ortega groups.

It is too soon to know precisely how critical, or how financially substantial, migrant support has been to Nicaragua’s insurgency.

But studies done in other countries show that migrants from authoritarian countries frequently fund protests against dictators.

According to political scientist Idean Salehyan, an expert in transnational rebellions, more than 50 percent of all national uprisings after World War II – including those in Cuba, Ireland, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – were spearheaded by insurgents abroad.

That’s because migrants do not just change their home countries financially. They also influence the way local residents think.

Having connections with migrants living in more developed countries can encourage local children to stay in school, improve access to health care and seed support for democracy.

Ultimately, the influx of ideas and mindsets acquired abroad, known as social remittances, can transform domestic politics.

At first, the mass exodus of Nicaraguans aided Ortega in his quest to amass power and wealth.

Now, those same migrants may contribute to his overthrow.The Conversation

This report prepared by Benjamin Waddell, Associate Professor of Sociology, Fort Lewis College for The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

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Forget Lemonade Stands, These ‘Kidtrepreneurs’ Are Running Million-Dollar Companies https://thefifthcolumnnews.com/2018/10/forget-lemonade-stands-these-kidtrepreneurs-are-running-million-dollar-companies/ Tue, 16 Oct 2018 16:45:38 +0000 https://thefifthcolumnnews.com/?p=48538 United States (FEE) – More and more kids are embracing their entrepreneurial spirits and running wildly successful businesses. hen most of us think of child entrepreneurs, our minds conjure up pictures of neighborhood lemonade stands and summer lawn mowing gigs. But…

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United States (FEE) – More and more kids are embracing their entrepreneurial spirits and running wildly successful businesses.

hen most of us think of child entrepreneurs, our minds conjure up pictures of neighborhood lemonade stands and summer lawn mowing gigs. But in the modern marketplace, today’s “kidtrepreneurs” aren’t just running small-scale businesses anymore—they are well on their way to building commercial empires.

Some are so successful, their parents have even had the rare opportunity of being employed by their own underage children. But these business-savvy kiddos aren’t just making a killing by creating products that consumers love. They are also learning how to embrace failure—a skill most people do not learn until well into adulthood, putting these entrepreneurial kids way ahead of the game.

Alina Morse is not your average CEO. At just 13-years-old, she is running a multimillion-dollar candy company, Zollipops, which she started years ago.

When Alina was just seven-years-old, she accompanied her father on a trip to the bank where the teller offered her a lollipop. Like all children, she was excited about the sugary treat, but her father told her that the candy would rot her teeth. Instead of getting angry, young Alina went into problem-solving mode. If she wanted to be able to eat lollipops, then she had to find a way to invent a recipe that wouldn’t be a detriment to her oral hygiene.

After identifying the problem, she set to work looking for the right solution. For two full years, she set to work doing online research, testing different recipes, and using a variety of different types of cooking equipment in order to make the production process as efficient as possible. After the research and development stage was complete and her first lollipop recipe perfected, Alina, accompanied by her father, made her first sales pitch, an endeavor that secured her product line a place on Whole Foods’s shelves around the country.

Zollipops, which now includes sugar-free lollipops, taffy, and hard candy, is currently sold in more than 7,500 stores across the country and employs six full-time employees and a handful of independent contractors. This year, her brand’s sales are even projected at $5 to $6 million—no small feat for such a small person. In fact, Alina’s business has become so profitable, her parents now work for her. And while others may not be quite as successful as she is, Alina isn’t the only kidtrepreneur in the game.

Just like Alina, twelve-year-old Owen Simoes’s business idea began with a problem. Owen has a passion for refinishing antique furniture. Spray paint used to be the typical go-to product of his trade, but he began to grow frustrated by its propensity for making messes. In addition to staining his parents’ lawn a variety of bright colors, spray paint also left stains on his hands for days.

He noticed that many other people in the crafting world had moved away from spray paint and started using chalk-based paint that adheres to almost any surface but is also washable and, therefore, much easier to clean up than spray paint. Unfortunately, all the chalk-based paint products offered in retail stores were too expensive. But this small obstacle didn’t stop Owen. He set to work inventing his own version of the paint.

After researching online and experimenting with different recipes, Owen perfected his own formula. He calls his concoction SquidInk, and it saved him so much money on paint supplies, he was able to turn his hobby into a profitable business by buying old pieces of furniture, refinishing them, and then reselling to consumers.

Operating out of two rooms below his father’s office and online, SquidFlip—the furniture flipping side of his company—has gained quite a following and even inspired the Boston Globe to run an article profiling the young entrepreneur’s success. But again, these two young teens are just two examples of many. And the internet is at least partially responsible for explaining this recent surge in entrepreneurial kids.

Since the internet has made information available to just about anyone, kids and teens not only have access to limitless sources of inspirational ideas but also to tutorials that show them how to put turn their ideas into a physical product. Online retailers like Amazon have also made finding the supplies needed to make your product easier than ever. And since online retail is such a huge part of our modern shopping experience, in order to build a consumer base all these kids really need to know how to do is build a web page and a social media following.

Commenting on the rise of kid entrepreneurs, Tufts University professor Richard Lerner, who has dedicated much of his work to dissecting the attributes of young and aspiring entrepreneurs, said:

Kids can become entrepreneurial by sitting in their bedroom and going online and starting a web page. Many of the technologies that exist now didn’t exist 10 years ago.

But what is perhaps most interesting about Learner’s research on young entrepreneurs are his findings on how the entrepreneurial mindset is helping to teach children how to cope with and embrace failure.

Along with his partner G. John Geldhof, Lerner published an article elaborating on their research regarding the mindset of young entrepreneurs, in which the pair writes:

One aspiring entrepreneur described winning an online business competition by repeatedly trying different strategies until he found a profitable approach to reselling used electronics online. Others described their ability to push through failures and persevere until they reached their goals.

It is rare for an entrepreneur to get it right on the first try. In fact, the road to entrepreneurship is often paved with routine rejection and a constant return to the drawing board to reformulate the strategy. And in order to make it in the world of business, you have to be willing to fail and also brave enough to use that failure to spark growth, something few adults are even capable of doing. But for these young entrepreneurs, failure is just a part of the process.

After young Owen started his business, his mother, Laura Simoes, was blown away by his ability to deal with rejection and disappointment. She commented:

When you’re trying to sell something and people are rejecting what you’re offering, that can be depressing and disappointing. His ability to manage his feelings around that takes a lot of maturity and sense of self.

Untainted by life’s hard knocks, children are free from much of the baggage carried by adults. This blank slate gives them more freedom to fail. And by failing well and often, these children have redefined the meaning of the word altogether.

When Arina’s mother, Sue Morse, described her daughter’s entrepreneurial spirit, she said:

Uninhibited. That’s how I would describe her. Alina hasn’t had five or 10 jobs where you had to follow this rule or that rule or do things in a certain way.

Arina has no idea that a “box” exists, which makes it easier to think outside of one. And this unbridled creativity has made her feel more comfortable with taking risks. When asked if she was scared to start her own company, she said. “I really didn’t see the risk, because I felt like I had nothing to lose.”

Given this tenacious spirit, it is no wonder that today’s kids have been able to harness the power of the internet to turn their ideas into something real.

This report prepared by Brittany Hunter for Foundation for Economic Education

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No More American LNG in China: Beijing Deals ‘Serious Blow to US Energy Sector’ https://thefifthcolumnnews.com/2018/10/no-more-american-lng-in-china-beijing-deals-serious-blow-to-us-energy-sector/ Tue, 16 Oct 2018 11:15:12 +0000 https://thefifthcolumnnews.com/?p=48531 United States (Sputnik) – The developments come amid the ongoing trade spat between Beijing and Washington. As of September 24, US President Donald Trump imposed additional tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods, while China retaliated with levies on $60 billion…

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United States (Sputnik) – The developments come amid the ongoing trade spat between Beijing and Washington. As of September 24, US President Donald Trump imposed additional tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods, while China retaliated with levies on $60 billion in American products, including a 10-percent tariff on US liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Beijing has put an end to its purchase of US liquefied natural gas (LNG), Reuters cited several sources as saying late last week.

In his opinion piece for Sputnik, political analyst Dmitry Lekukh pointed out that the move will deal a “very serious blow to the US energy sector given that last year the Americans supplied about 3.6 million tons of LNG to the Chinese markets.”

Lekukh recalled that in the past year, US LNG manufacturers have earned about one billion dollars per month from LNG exports to China.

“Given the constant reduction of Chinese coal capacities and the growth of the country’s gas needs, the US is now losing access to the most promising market in Southeast Asia,” he noted, adding that China is expected to become the leader among gas importers by November of this year.

As for the US, it will most likely face the problem of overproduction of liquefied gas “in view of the forced ‘political’ withdrawal of American LNG from the thriving Chinese markets,” according to Lekukh.

“For US energy structures, overproduction is very bad news in this case. Especially if you take into account the parallel capacity of the Russian Yamal region, compared to which American shale is not very competitive on Asian markets. Technically, Americans cannot be seen as Russia’s competitors [in this field]. Moreover, they themselves are partly to buy Russian LNG,” he added.

In this vein, Lekukh recalled that the US LNG manufacturers are also not very competitive as compared to “traditional suppliers from Qatar and other Gulf states which deliver the fuel to Southeast Asia.”

It is safe to assume, therefore, that the European markets may become “the most suitable victim of the American shale expansion – something that will neither be prevented by Nord Stream nor Turkish Stream [gas pipeline projects],” he pointed out.

“Of course, no one doubts that both the Nord Stream and Turkish Stream pipelines will finally be built. But this does not mean at all that all of Europe will sit out on the consumption of cheap and high-quality Russian pipeline gas. After all, Russia’s resource base is huge but far from unlimited,” Lekukh emphasized.

Therefore, he went on, Russia has started to think about the need for further “gas expansion” into the European markets amid reports about the planned consensus on limiting imports of Russian gas to Europe to the level of Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2, plus the “Turkish corridors” and “Soviet” routes.

“Given the fall in European [gas] production, this will be quite enough for American LNG to crawl into European markets. And such a situation on European routes will mean a sort of consensus among all relatively significant gas suppliers,” Lekukh concluded.

The views and opinions expressed by Dmitry Lekukh are those of the analyst and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

This report prepared by Sputnik

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Thousands in Gaza Mourn 7 Killed in Border Protests https://thefifthcolumnnews.com/2018/10/thousands-in-gaza-mourn-7-killed-in-border-protests/ Tue, 16 Oct 2018 01:03:47 +0000 https://thefifthcolumnnews.com/?p=48494 Palestine (Tasnim) – Thousands of Palestinians attended funerals Saturday for seven young men shot dead a day earlier by Israeli troops during fresh demonstrations along the Gaza border, a report said. Mourners on Saturday chanted slogans condemning Israel for shooting civilians…

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Palestine (Tasnim) – Thousands of Palestinians attended funerals Saturday for seven young men shot dead a day earlier by Israeli troops during fresh demonstrations along the Gaza border, a report said.

Mourners on Saturday chanted slogans condemning Israel for shooting civilians and called on the international community to deliver justice, AFP reported.

The Israeli army said five Palestinians had been killed during the protests Friday after they broke through the heavily-guarded border fence and attacked an army post.

The enclave’s health ministry said seven Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire.

On Saturday, the ministry named the victims as: Ahmed al-Taweel, 27, Mohammad Ismail, 29, Ahmad Abu Naim, 17, Abdullah Daghma, 25, Afifi Atta Afifi, 18, Tamer Abu Armaneh, 25 and Mohammad Abbas, 21.

At least 205 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since protests began on March 30.

The majority were killed during border demonstrations, though others have died in airstrikes and tank shelling.

The protesters are demanding to be allowed to return to land now occupied by Israel, from which their families fled or were expelled from during the 1948 war surrounding the creation of the regime.

They are also calling for Israel to end its crippling blockade of the strip.

This report prepared by Tasnim News Agency

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Syria Calls on UN to Probe Use of Banned White Phosphorus by US-Led Coalition https://thefifthcolumnnews.com/2018/10/syria-calls-on-un-to-probe-use-of-banned-white-phosphorus-by-us-led-coalition/ Mon, 15 Oct 2018 23:06:42 +0000 https://thefifthcolumnnews.com/?p=48496 Syria (Sputnik) – The US-led coalition has been accused of conducting strikes in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ez-Zor using white phosphorus, a munition prohibited for use against civilians or in civilian areas under several Geneva conventions. The Syrian Foreign Ministry…

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Syria (Sputnik) – The US-led coalition has been accused of conducting strikes in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ez-Zor using white phosphorus, a munition prohibited for use against civilians or in civilian areas under several Geneva conventions.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry has made a request to the United Nations to investigate the use of white phosphorus munitions in Saturday’s attack in the town of Hajin, Deir Ez-Zor province, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) has reported.

In letters sent to the UN and the UN Security Council on Sunday, Damascus said that civilians, mostly women and children, had been injured in the strikes, and that the US coalition’s use of white phosphorus has unfortunately become “habitual and persistent.”

“Syria is once again calling on the UN Security Council to take responsibility for ensuring peace and security throughout the world and to conduct an international investigation into these crimes, to condemn them and to take immediate measures to stop them and prevent their recurrence,” the statement published by SANA reads. In addition, Damascus is also calling on the UN “to end the illegal and hostile presence of the US and other forces on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Syrian media reported about the alleged strikes on Saturday morning. Later, a Pentagon spokesperson told Sputnik that while it would not “publicly discuss the use of specific weapons and munitions in operations…every weapons systems in the US inventory undergoes a legal review to ensure the weapon complies with the Law of Armed Conflict.”

On Saturday, Russian Duma defense committee deputy chairman Yuri Shvytkin told Sputnik that if media reports are confirmed, the issue “must be brought to the attention” of both the UN Security Council and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. For his part, Russian Senate defense committee deputy chair Alexei Kondratyev stressed that the US “must be held accountable” if it used white phosphorus, which is prohibited by international law in Syria.

Saturday’s suspected incident was not the first time Damascus has accused Washington of using the weapon in Syria. Last month, a coalition spokesperson denied the use of white phosphorus munitions in Deir ez-Zor following reports by the Russian military that two US F-15s had struck targets in the area using the substance, leading to major fires and suspected casualties.

The US-led coalition has been operating in Syria against Daesh* since 2014, but has not received approval for its operations by either the UN or the Syrian government.

This report prepared by Sputnik

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Challenge Populism: Re-inventing the World Togethere https://thefifthcolumnnews.com/2018/10/challenge-populism-re-inventing-the-world-together/ Mon, 15 Oct 2018 17:11:09 +0000 https://thefifthcolumnnews.com/?p=48498 World Wide (Conversation) – Democracies in the world are being rocked by a new wave of populism. Many scholars correctly analyse the flaws in populist discourse and practices. Populist politicians stoke fears and hate, exacerbate divisions and stereotypes, and distort…

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World Wide (Conversation) – Democracies in the world are being rocked by a new wave of populism. Many scholars correctly analyse the flaws in populist discourse and practices. Populist politicians stoke fears and hate, exacerbate divisions and stereotypes, and distort facts to serve their warped vision of reality. Proclaiming the goal of giving the power back to the people, they actually undermine the mechanisms of political deliberation and representation, while curbing judicial and media independence. In a nutshell, under the illusion or pretence of embodying “the people”, they capture power for their own clique.

All of that is true. But populism is currently attractive because it contains a grain of truth and responds to real anxieties that our globalised economy generates. If we want to be prepared for the post-populist period and hasten its coming, we must address these real issues.

The disenfranchised 99%

The grain of truth in populist discourse is that people do indeed feel disenfranchised and think that the elite is corrupt. Alas, these public perceptions themselves contain more than a grain of truth. There is a lot of talk about the concentration of wealth, and rightly so, but equally important is the concentration of power that has been fostered by the globalisation of the economy, the concentration of markets and the growing influence of money in politics.

Price mark-ups of corporations in world regions. The mark-up is the ratio of price over marginal cost and reflects the degree of monopoly power. It is close to 1 in competitive markets, and a mark-up of 1.6 reflects a high level of market power. J. De Loecker and J. Eeckhoudt, _Global Market Power_.

Key decisions determining people’s standard of living and employment are strongly influenced by decision-makers that have no direct connection to them: technocrats and politicians in Washington or Brussels, lobbyists, foreign CEOs with stratospheric salaries, and so on.

How was such a disenfranchisement of ordinary people possible? Let us briefly revisit history.

Beyond fascism, communism, and liberalism

Three ideologies have dominated the 20th century with a liberation narrative: fascism, communism, and liberalism. Fascism pretended to liberate the nation, as a collective, under the guidance of a strong leader, but negated the individual and did not recognise the equal dignity of human beings, up to the point of embracing mass extermination.

Communism was conceived around the idea of emancipating workers (as individuals, not just masses), but quickly morphed into a form of fascism when it came to power, with very dramatic consequences.

Liberalism, unlike the two totalitarianisms, was more securely grounded on the ideal of liberating every person, and conceived a combination of market economy and liberal democracy that has brought enormous social progress over a long period. But liberalism also failed in its emancipation project, and it is crucial to understand why.

Hitler poses for the camera, 1930. Both fascism and communism led to tragic consequences and liberalism failed as an emancipatory project. Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-10460, Hoffmann, Heinrich/Wikimedia, CC BY-ND

Historian Yuval Noah Harari criticises liberalism for having no answers to the big problems of ecological collapse and technological disruption. But its shortcomings are deeper and have always been there, repeatedly pushing disillusioned electorates into the arms of populists.

First, the market economy does not protect people from falling back into a state of dependence and subordination. Economic inequalities produce inequalities in status and power, globalisation displaces and concentrates economic power, and a free market generally produces labour market transactions in which many workers are trapped in a hierarchical authoritarian structure in which they lose their autonomy and dignity, as well as a say in key decisions affecting their livelihood.

Second, liberal democracy cannot properly embody the will of the people when it is reduced to a voting competition without suitable deliberation mechanisms and substantial citizen participation, and when globalisation concentrates power away from the national community. Using the label “democracies” to talk about countries where some form of free voting is in place but the political system does not really listen to the electorate is very inadequate, and does not help identify and address their democratic shortcomings.

Invent a new vision of emancipation

The Economist recently proclaimed that liberalism needed to be revived. But don’t we have enough of this cycle of populism-fascism and liberalism? It is time to revive, not liberalism, but the emancipatory project that communism and liberalism have both failed to advance satisfactorily, and invent a new vision of how real emancipation can be widely shared among all citizens.

To this end, we need to rethink the market and the productive firm. They generate many of the current problems (in particular through externalities and inequalities), but, well managed, they are essential to any conceivable successful society, because the market is a cornerstone of freedom and the productive firm is a key collaborative institution filling the gaps of the market. The market must be handled in a way that curbs its many failures, and corporations and all firms must be transformed into real associations of producers bringing different assets (capital, labour) together and sharing power, resources and status in a much more horizontal way than is common in the “capitalist” economy.

One can likewise imagine a new form of welfare state that fits this emancipatory project. Although the social-democratic welfare state is a proven concept that would deserve serious interest well beyond Scandinavia, it suffers from limitations which have reduced its ability to be the leading formula for the 21st century. The social-democratic recipe is a “grand bargain” between capital and labour but it does not fully address the structural imbalance in the capitalist economy.

A deeper form of social progress involves a more direct form of empowerment, requiring a welfare state that does not only accompany the formation of human capital and the determination of wages, but also seeks to enforce a more equitable power balance in all organisations at all levels, in particular in markets and firms. Such a welfare state is less about transferring resources than about granting rights to power and status in all institutions in which people are involved.

Inclusive development and innovation

Interestingly, this participatory approach is already promoted in developing countries by many actors such as the Indian Self-Employed Women Association (SEWA) and the international network WIEGO, or Gawad Kalinga around the Philippines. These examples show that this approach is not suitable only at a very advanced stage of development, but can actually help accelerate development.

Ela Bhatt, founder of the SEWA movement in India.

This participatory approach would steer technological innovation in a more inclusive direction, in particular in the choice of more labour-friendly technologies. If the key players of the economy were better internalising the human and environmental impact of their behaviour through their own inclusive governance, globalisation and innovation would naturally have a more human and ecological face. Democratic organisations also naturally have smaller gaps between the lowest and the highest wages on their payroll, thereby reducing the need for redistribution by the state. The more “pre-distribution” one has, the less redistribution one needs.

Of course, a standard safety net remains necessary because the market economy generates too much risk for individual earnings. It is a form of liberation to be guaranteed subsistence and basic services no matter what, as shown by the success of the social-democratic formula. But instead of distorting the economy by imposing a tax burden primarily on labour, the state can enhance the efficiency of the economy and protect the environment by taxing or pricing externalities and rents. This welfare state must also promote a sound division of labour in care work between the state and households, and see to it that women stop being burdened with excessive care duties.

This new democratic market economy is compatible with open borders to trade and capital investment, as is the social-democratic formula thriving in open economies.

Re-invent politics

This vision is quite the opposite of the socialist authoritarian approach. Instead of centralising power, it infuses participation through all institutions and organisations, making every citizen more involved in decisions at all levels.

The same emancipating movement would have to transform standard “politics”. Much needed reforms have to do with political funding, the media, voting rules, party formation, and the distribution of power within and between state institutions. Such reforms would separate politics from wealthy elites, curb the current trend toward polarising politics and would heavily invest in enhancing the quality of deliberation over policy.

It is also important to recognise that the quality of democratic politics and the degree of social cohesion are strongly interdependent. Working toward a more inclusive society greatly advances the cause of a better functioning democracy. Political institutions are highly vulnerable to the corruption induced by social disaggregation, and the best safeguard of democratic principles is a cohesive open society with limited inequalities.

Abandoning old ideologies

The old-fashioned opposition between pro-market and pro-government ideologies is completely wrongheaded. One needs both a vibrant market and an effective government. Each checks the other, and both need to be watched by civil society, in order to limit the effect of market and government failures and to empower people. Also, the imagined opposition between the market and the government hides the central role of the firm, which is neither a set of markets nor a public institution, but plays a key role in the fabric of society, along other civil society institutions.

The traditional private firm has historically been an important factor of economic and social progress, but it has also been the source of much social hardship and of excessive negative externalities. It can be turned into a much more positive factor of social progress. Similarly, the family is a central social and economic institution that can contribute a lot to the emancipatory project.

How can this vision of a better society become a reality? A lot can be done through local initiatives. For instance, many cities have developed participatory mechanisms (Porto Alegre and its participatory budget is only one among many).

Many firms have also horizontal and even democratic management structures (check this blog for many inspiring examples), and the same can be said about shifting norms of behaviour in families, NGOs, and religious communities.

Obviously, very strong vested interests will strive to preserve privileges of wealth and power. This is why a strong grassroots movement will be essential to trigger a real change in institutions, with the state ultimately guaranteeing for everyone the rights that many will already enjoy informally thanks to local, bottom-up initiative.

This report prepared by Marc Fleurbaey, Professor in Economics and Humanistic Studies, Princeton University for The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

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Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections https://thefifthcolumnnews.com/2018/10/facebook-meddles-in-the-2018-midterm-elections/ Mon, 15 Oct 2018 11:39:29 +0000 http://thegarrisoncenter.org/?p=14010   United States (Garrison) – On October 11, Facebook announced the removal of 559 pages and 251 accounts from its service, accusing the account holders of “spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior.” The purged users stand accused of posting “massive amounts…

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United States (Garrison) – On October 11, Facebook announced the removal of 559 pages and 251 accounts from its service, accusing the account holders of “spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

The purged users stand accused of posting “massive amounts of content … to drive traffic to their websites” with suspicious “timing ahead of US midterm elections.”

Facebook admits to “legitimate reasons” for such behavior — “it’s the bedrock of fundraising campaigns and grassroots organizations.” Not to mention the operations of CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and a bunch of other users/pages which weren’t purged.

Facebook also admits that it has previously “enforced this policy against many Pages, Groups and accounts created to stir up political debate …”

In other words, Facebook’s administrators are meddling in politics — including the 2018 US midterm elections — in the name of preventing meddling in politics.

Who benefits from the meddling? It doesn’t seem to fall along “left/right” lines in particular. The victims come from across the political spectrum — from Reverb Press on the left, to Right Wing News on the right, to the libertarian Free Thought Project — some with millions of Facebook followers.

The primary thread connecting victims of the purge seems to be that they are critics and/or opponents of the American political “mainstream” or “establishment.”

In a sense, this is nothing new. Even before Internet “social media,” the old guard “mainstream media” tended to draw fairly narrow lines on either side of the perceived political “center” or “consensus” and avoid coloring (or publishing e.g. reader letters that colored) very far outside those lines. One might support or oppose a tax increase, or even a particular tax, but opposing taxation in general? Why, that was just crazy and not worthy of consideration — or of column inches.

The Internet and social media threatened to change that. In fact, they DID change that … for a little while, at any rate. But now Facebook, Twitter et al. are part of the establishment, and they’re starting to act like it.

How can we fight that trend?

Some would have us classify social media as “public utilities” or something of the sort and regulate them as such. But who would regulate them? The very establishment in question.

On the other hand, it’s becoming clear that these companies are already looking more and more like extensions of the state — and the establishment the state serves — than like bona fide “private sector” actors.

What is to be done? From where I sit, the only real option is to see if the next generation of “social media” — sites/services like Diaspora, Mastodon, Minds, MeWe, Gab, et al. — can supersede Facebook and Twitter in the same way that Facebook and Twitter superseded print and television news and the more centralized/static site model of the older Internet.

This report prepared by  for The Garrison Center

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Tackling the Violence Faced by Women and Girls in Kenya https://thefifthcolumnnews.com/2018/10/tackling-the-violence-faced-by-women-and-girls-in-kenya/ Thu, 11 Oct 2018 17:00:00 +0000 https://thefifthcolumnnews.com/?p=48303 At look at violence in Kenya

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(HRW) – An article in Kenya’s Daily Nation recently profiled 10 women who were found murdered and warned other women they could be at risk of “a crime of passion.” “It appears that being young and upwardly mobile could put you at high risk of falling victim of a cold-blooded murder,” the article read, adding that none of the 10 victims profiled received any justice.

Violence against women is a serious problem in Kenya that affects women and girls from all walks of life. All too often, the media carries gruesome stories of women who have been burned, had their hands chopped off, or harassed and even undressed in public. While some of these cases have attracted widespread condemnation by Kenyans, often victims have been ridiculed and verbally abused for speaking out.

The 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey said 42 percent of women and 36 percent of men believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife for at least one of these reasons: if the wife burns the food, argues with him, goes out without telling him, neglects the children, or refuses sexual relations. According to the survey, 45 percent of women and girls aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence and 14 percent have experienced sexual violence.

Sexual violence against women and girls featured heavily in the post-elections violence, both in 2007-2008, and most recently in 2017. The Kenyan government response to violence against women and girls is inadequate. Many victims do not get justice, medical assistance, or counseling following sexual violence.

The Kenyan government should set up an Office of the Special Rapporteur on Sexual Violence, as recommended by both the Commission of Inquiry into the 2007-2008 Post-Election Violence and the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission. Both bodies recognized the widespread nature of and lack of consequences for crimes against women and girls.

If effectively set up, such an office could help strengthen efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, help people deal with the aftereffects of violence, and help make sure perpetrators are brought to justice.

The Kenyan government should not continue to tolerate crimes against women and girls.

Originally published by Human Rights Watch by Agnes Odhiambo

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UK Intel Claims Putin Aims to Make Libya “New Syria” to Pressure West – Reports https://thefifthcolumnnews.com/2018/10/uk-intel-claims-putin-aims-to-make-libya-new-syria-to-pressure-west-reports/ Wed, 10 Oct 2018 16:57:00 +0000 https://sputniknews.com/europe/201810091068717207-uk-intelligence-libya-syria-russia/ Libya the new Syria?

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(Sputnik) – The Sun newspaper alleged, citing a high-ranking source in the British government, that Moscow supported Haftar, “supplying his troops with heavy equipment.”

According to the publication, dozens of officers from Russian military intelligence service GRU and its special forces are already deployed in eastern Libya, “initially carrying out training and liaison roles.”

The newspaper claimed that two Russian military bases were already operating in the coastal cities of Tobruk and Benghazi, using Russian private military company Wagner Group as a cover for their activities.

The publication also wrote, without providing sources and proof, that “Russia’s devastating Kalibr anti-ship missiles and state-of-the-art S-300 air defence missile systems are also now believed to be on the ground in Libya.”

“It’s is extremely alarming Russia wants to open up a new front against the West in Libya, but it should also come as no surprise. They will without a doubt try to exploit migration routes across Africa,” the chairman of the UK parliament’s lower house’s Foreign Affairs committee, Tom Tugendhat, told the UK government in a statement, as quoted by the publication.

Tugendhat urged Downing Street to ensure a coordinated response, saying that the Libyan issue was linked to UK national security.

The lack of the single central government and army in Libya resulted in the surge of trafficking activities and the development of militant groups and terror organizations in the country. Libya is also the major gate for migrants from all of the Northern Africa, which attempt to cross the Mediterranean and settle in Europe, which became one of the main reasons of the European migration crisis in recent years.

After long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011, Libya descended into civil war and control of the country is now divided between two rival entities. The UN-recognized Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) controls the country’s western part, while its eastern regions are governed by the elected parliament backed by the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by military commander Khalifa Haftar.

Originally published by Sputnik

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