Philippines whale sharks video

This video says about itself:

1 June 2018

Jonathan travels to Oslob, Cebu, Philippines to swim with wild whale sharks that are actually fed every day for the tourists. We used to joke about “chumming” for an animal that eats mostly plankton, but in Oslob, they are actually doing it, and making thousands of people into shark lovers along the way.

Do you think feeding the whale sharks is OK? Or wrong? Please leave us a comment, but please be polite.

A new scientific study has tracked juvenile whale sharks across the Philippines emphasizing the importance of the archipelago for the species. The study is the most complete tracking study of whale sharks in the country, with satellite tags deployed on different individuals in multiple sites: here.

Already the world’s largest shark species, male whale sharks can swim around the ocean for up to 130 years, according to a recently published study by scientists at Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) and collaborators from the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme: here.

Surprise! This shark looks like a male on the outside, but it’s made babies. Bigeye houndsharks found off India’s coast had female reproductive systems, by Yao-Hua Law, 10:00am, July 10, 2018.

Australian oil spying on East Timor, whistleblowers persecuted

This video says about itself:

Spying on the neighbours: Timor bugging could be criminal case

26 November 2015

Australia’s bugging of East Timor ahead of gas negotiations may be illegal under Australian law according to experts, meaning some cabinet ministers may face prosecution.

Now it is over two years later. But it looks like not these cabinet ministers, but the whistleblowers exposing their crimes are prosecuted.

By Mike Head in Australia:

Ex-spy and lawyer face jail for exposing Australian bugging operation in East Timor

30 June 2018

Nearly four years after raiding their homes and offices, the Australian government has laid serious criminal charges against a former intelligence officer and his lawyer for exposing Australia’s spying operation against East Timorese ministers during talks over disputed oil and gas rights in the Timor Sea.

In a move clearly intended to send a wider chilling political message, the pair face up to two years jail for making known to the public that the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), the country’s overseas spy agency, surreptitiously bugged the East Timor cabinet room in 2004 under the guise of providing aid to the tiny state.

Attorney-General Christian Porter personally authorised the prosecution, so the decision was taken at the highest levels of the Liberal-National government. The lack of any Labor Party criticism points to a bipartisan move, in line with the Gillard Labor government’s rejection of East Timor’s initial 2012 complaint about the bugging.

The decision to place the pair on trial indicates that much is at stake for Australia’s military-intelligence apparatus and political establishment. This is both in terms of protecting the escalating operations of the US-linked apparatus itself, and of covering up Australia’s protracted bullying of East Timor, which has become a testing ground for Washington’s drive to combat growing Chinese influence in the region.

Independent member of parliament Andrew Wilkie revealed under parliamentary privilege on Thursday that a former ASIS officer, who can be identified only as Witness K, and his lawyer, former Australian Capital Territory Attorney-General Bernard Collaery, had been charged by the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions.

Witness K, ASIS’s head of technical operations in 2004, revealed the bugging operation and was going to be a key witness in East Timor’s case in the International Court of Justice at The Hague to overturn the 2006 Timor Sea treaty ultimately imposed by Canberra.

But Witness K was unable to give evidence after his passport and documents were seized and home raided, along with Collaery’s Canberra office, in December 2013 by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the federal police.

The ruling establishment regards the pair’s exposure of one of ASIS’s many illegal operations as a threat to the US-led “Five Eyes” global surveillance network, of which ASIS is a key part, together with the Australian Signals Directorate, the electronic spying agency.

This network is at the centre of Washington’s escalating trade war and military offensive against China, including preparations for war to reassert US hegemony over the Indo-Pacific region, which it established through World War II.

After Wilkie’s speech, prosecutors confirmed the pair had been charged with breaching the Intelligence Services Act by “conspiring” to “communicate” ASIS “information”. A maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment applies because the alleged offence was committed before the maximum sentence was increased to 10 years in 2014.

The confirmation came on the same day as the Labor Party joined hands with the government to ram through parliament two huge “foreign interference” bills that constitute the greatest assault on fundamental legal and democratic rights in Australia since World War II.

As part of that legislation, wider secrecy provisions have been expanded. Previous jail terms of two years for leaking classified documents have been increased to up to 10 years for communicating “inherently harmful information” (i.e., even if not classified as secret), or information that “is likely to cause harm to Australia’s interests.” These punishments now apply not only to whistleblowers who allegedly leak information but to anyone who helps make it public.

While denouncing “foreign interference,” supposedly by China, the government is criminalising any exposure of US-backed Australian “interference,” including in East Timor.

By charging Collaery, as well as “Witness K”, the government is also attacking the principle of lawyer-client privilege, a centuries-old protection against authoritarian rule. This is not the only core legal and democratic right threatened. Media reports indicate that the government will apply to have the trial heard in secrecy, overturning another key principle—the right to a public trial.

Addressing the media on Thursday, Collaery said the charges were an attack on freedom of expression, the legal profession, and on him personally for acting as a lawyer. Collaery also threw doubt over the government’s case. He denied that his client was a whistleblower. “He went with his complaint to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, received approval and I received approval to act”, Collaery said.

The charges are the latest development in a saga stretching back to 2004, when ASIS planted listening devices in East Timor’s cabinet room while the Howard Liberal-National government was coercing the impoverished state into relinquishing its territorial rights to the lucrative Greater Sunrise oil and gas field.

ASIS’s illegal surveillance was just part of a concerted campaign of economic and diplomatic bullying by Canberra, from the day that it sent troops to occupy the territory in 1999, supposedly to protect the Timorese people, and continuing long after nominal independence was granted in 2002.

The Timorese leadership was coerced into dropping its request for a demarcation of the maritime border between the two countries in line with international law, which would have allocated East Timor the majority share of the undersea oil and gas fields. The chief beneficiaries were Woodside Petroleum and other Australian, US and European energy conglomerates, which secured the rights to mine the reserves.

The bugging operation also assisted the violent regime-change operation that Canberra launched in 2006 against then Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri’s Fretilin government. This involved the instigation of a split within the Timorese armed forces, followed by a renewed Australian military intervention.

Under the 2006 oil and gas treaty, the Australian government secured 50 percent of the revenues from the $40 billion Greater Sunrise gas project in the Timor Sea and deferred the setting of a maritime boundary for 50 years. By international law, Greater Sunrise should be in East Timor’s territory. However, Canberra had declared in 2002 that it would no longer abide by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in settling the Timor border.

In March this year, the Australian government finally agreed to a treaty with East Timor that essentially conceded that their undersea boundary should be set at halfway point between the two countries, in line with international law, thus placing most of the vast untapped gas reserves within East Timor’s territory.

Nevertheless, the Australian government and the transnational energy giants that control the gas fields remain adamant that East Timor cannot have the gas processing operations, and all the associated profits.

After more than 15 years of illegally denying Timorese sovereignty in the disputed zone, there were concerns in both Canberra and Washington that Australia’s defiance of UNCLOS was opening the door for China to acquire greater influence in East Timor and the Asia-Pacific region.

Beijing had politically exploited the issue to undercut the denunciations from Washington and Canberra of China’s refusal to recognise a US-orchestrated international tribunal ruling in 2016 rejecting China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

As the Chinese economy has grown rapidly over the past two decades, Chinese agencies and companies have been increasingly active in East Timor, as throughout the region, funding infrastructure and establishing business operations.

The territory is a strategic part of the Indonesian archipelago, which is pivotal to Washington’s war preparations against China. Critical sea lanes, on which China depends for its trade, pass through Indonesia and have been identified by the Pentagon as “choke points” to be blockaded in the event of war.

As the documents released by US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden have proven, Australia’s spy agencies are central to the NSA’s vast global surveillance operations, with Australian diplomatic missions, including in East Timor, Indonesia and China, functioning as NSA listening posts.

Despite protests in East Timor and Australia, and opposition by lawyers and human rights groups, the Australian government is proceeding with its extraordinary prosecution of an intelligence agent identified as “Witness K” and his lawyer Bernard Collaery. They face up to two years’ jail for exposing a sordid espionage operation in Dili in 2004 that sought to secure Australian imperialism’s hold over oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea: here.

Confident of the opposition Labor Party’s support, recently-installed Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week reinforced his government’s determination to proceed with the extraordinary trial of an intelligence officer and his lawyer for exposing an Australian espionage operation against the tiny state of East Timor: here.

After days of intensive backroom collaboration, the opposition Labor Party today sought to assist the crisis-wracked Liberal-National Coalition government to push through encryption-cracking and computer-accessing laws during the final hours of this year’s last parliamentary session. Labor’s support for the bill, with only token amendments, will hand extraordinary powers to the spy and police forces, setting a global precedent that has been demanded by the US intelligence and military establishment: here.

Australia’s government is pushing ahead with two major trials of military and intelligence whistleblowers. It also intends to hold hearings behind closed doors, further defying widespread public opposition. Canberra’s authorities are determined to persecute and jail anyone who exposes the criminal activities of the country’s US-linked spy agencies and armed forces: here.

Neonazi dog whistling by Trump’s Homeland Security department?

This video from the USA says about itself:

16 January 2018

‘Your silence is complicity’: Corey Booker spits fire at DHS secretary for covering up Trump’s racism.

From daily The Forward in the USA:

Are ‘14’ And ‘88’ Nazi Dog Whistles In Border Security Document — Or Just Numbers?

Aviya Kushner

June 28, 2018

Sometimes a dog whistle can be a number, not a word. The number “88” appeared in a strange context in a press release from Homeland Security calling for building a border wall, along with a headline that had a total of fourteen words — but until today, no one seems to have noticed.

Today, the press release, originally issued in February, is getting some attention from journalists covering the “hate and extremism” beat. Here is an example, from Christopher Mathias, who covers hate and extremism for The Huffington Post.

What is happening, for those needing a translation, is this: The number “88” is code for Heil Hitler. And 14 is white-supremacist shorthand.

Like in the Ukrainian neonazi gang Combat14, C14.

In the C14 name, the C alludes to C18, the (originally English, later international) neonazi terror gang Combat 18. In which 18, the first and eighth letters in the alphabet, stands for ‘AH’=Adolf Hitler. The 14 in the C14 name stands for the ’14 words’, a racist neonazi slogan.

“One of the most common white supremacist symbols, 88 is used throughout the entire white supremacist movement, not just neo-Nazis. One can find it as a tattoo or graphic symbol; as part of the name of a group, publication or website; or as part of a screenname or e-mail address,” the ADL’s hate symbol database notes.

Most of the press release, titled “We Must Secure The Border And Build The Wall To Make America Safe Again”, uses percentages, as do many statistical reports.

But the second-to-last line is what is drawing attention on Twitter, because it has this curious wording: “On average, out of 88 claims that pass the credible fear screening, fewer than 13 will ultimately result in a grant of asylum.”

That’s odd. Normally, a report might say something like “less than 15 percent ultimately result in a grant of asylum.”

It may just be coincidence, and on a day when journalists are shot, everyone with a connection to media is understandably on edge. But there is one other factor to consider, say those who hear a dog whistle: what if this “88” is read in conjunction with the headline, which has 14 words?

The 14-word thing is its own signal. As the ADL hate symbol database explains in its unpacking of 88:

The number is frequently combined with another white supremacist numeric code, 14 (shorthand for the so-called “14 Words” slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”) in the form of 1488, 14/88, 14-88, or 8814.

That slogan can be understood as something not very far from the press release headline: “We Must Secure The Border And Build The Wall To Make America Safe Again.”

Coincidence? Maybe.

But a numerical system of interpretation can be a way for a group to communicate with itself. In Jewish tradition, gematria is one system of Biblical commentary. Each letter in the Hebrew alphabet has a numerical value, and some commentators use this symbol of numbers to arrive at additional meanings. Some see profound meaning in this, others have always dismissed it as mere coincidence.

In the case of the DHS press release, it may be coincidence — or it may be more, a signal to those who know the system of codes.

What can be said for sure is this: It is unusual to use the statistic “13 out of 88.” It could, of course, be a typo. And the headline bearing the requisite “14 words” is not soothing for anyone who has spent time with hate databases.

But right now, those are the only definite take-aways.

In a time of fear and anxiety, it is important to take extra care before drawing conclusions. Still, from now on, it may be wise to watch the numbers, not just the words.

Aviya Kushner is The Forward’s language columnist and the author of The Grammar of God.

Donald Trump’s Supreme Court candidates

This video from the USa says about itself:

Roe v. Wade‘s Future Under Trump’s Supreme Court

29 June 2018

TYT’s Cenk Uygur discusses the future of Roe v. Wade with the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court of the U.S., enabling Trump to choose a replacement.

By Ed Hightower in the USA:

Who are Trump’s 25 candidates for the Supreme Court?

30 June 2018

With justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement set to take effect on July 31, President Trump plans to replace him with a candidate from a list he first presented during his 2016 presidential campaign.

The list of candidates was created with input from the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, two Republican-oriented organizations that serve to guarantee the appropriate political pedigree of those on the list.

The 25-person list represents a who’s who of right-wing judicial activists, essentially guaranteeing a majority on the court who will be in a position to outlaw abortion, curb regulations on corporations and sanction dictatorial forms of government.

Below is a review of the 25 potential nominees, listing their state of residence, most recent judicial post and a brief political biography.

Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Barrett is a former Notre Dame Law professor and recent Trump nominee to the appeals court, confirmed by the Senate in October 2017. A former law clerk for the arch-reactionary Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Barrett has written that her Catholic beliefs cannot be set aside when she sits on the bench. She views the birth control requirement in the Affordable Care Act as violative of religious liberty and questions the Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion. Barrett was confirmed in the Senate to her current appointment with the support of three Democrats: Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, and Tim Kaine.

Britt Grant of Georgia, Supreme Court of Georgia. Like virtually everyone on the list, Grant is a member of the right-wing Federalist Society, which advocates the so-called “originalist” or “textualist” view of constitutional jurisprudence. She worked in the George W. Bush White House on the Domestic Policy Council and served as Georgia’s solicitor general from 2015 to 2017. While working as the counsel for legal policy in the Office of the Georgia Attorney General, Grant contributed to an amicus brief in the infamous case Shelby County v. Holder urging that the enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act be “edited and reviewed.”

Brett Kavanaugh of Maryland, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. A trusted Republican partisan, Kavanaugh is a protégé of Kenneth Starr, whom he served both in the solicitor general’s office under George H.W. Bush and then as independent counsel during the Whitewater investigation into the Clinton family’s real estate dealings. He later wrote the Starr Report detailing Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, leading to impeachment proceedings. Kavanaugh also represented Cuban national Elian Gonzalez pro bono during the political stunt to keep the child from returning to Cuba. He represented president George W. Bush in the Bush v. Gore lawsuit to prevent a vote recount in Florida.

Joan Larsen of Michigan, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Another veteran of the George W. Bush White House, Larsen wrote one of the legal memos on indefinite detention in the early days of the war on terror, which has not been made public.

She served as a deputy assistant U.S. Attorney General from 2002 to 2003, the period during which the Office of Legal Counsel, led by John Yoo, drafted legal rationales for water boarding, stress positions and sleep deprivation (everything except major organ damage). Larsen denies involvement in these memos, which would constitute a war crime under the Nuremburg standard. Like others on the list, she clerked for Antonin Scalia and wrote a eulogy for him published in the New York Times.

Mike Lee of Utah, United States Senator. Lee stands out for something of a libertarian streak, opposing military action not authorized by Congress as well as the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping. On other matters he largely parrots the current Supreme Court’s right wing.

William Pryor of Alabama, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Trump actually mentioned Pryor in a GOP primary debate in February 2016, as an example of the kind of justice Trump would like to appoint. A vocal reactionary, he has called Roe v. Wade “the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law” .He later added, “I stand by that comment. I believe that not only is [Roe] unsupported by the text and structure of the Constitution, but it has led to a morally wrong result. It has led to the slaughter of millions of innocent unborn children.”

While serving as Attorney General of Alabama, Pryor wrote an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) urging the Supreme Court to uphold a Texas law banning sodomy, which he equated to prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, incest and pedophilia. He does however oppose discrimination against transgender people.

Amul Thapar of Kentucky, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. As a judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, Thapar sentenced a nun to a 35-month prison term on terrorism charges for unlawfully entering and defacing a nuclear weapons bunker at a military facility. He is a regular speaker at Federalist Society events.

Raymond Kethledge of Michigan, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Another Sixth Circuit justice, Kethledge boasts a solid pro-business record on that court. He wrote a book on leadership that included a favorable profile of Pope John Paul II.

Keith Blackwell of Georgia, Supreme Court of Georgia. A younger potential nominee, Blackwell has a legal practice background in criminal prosecution and in commercial litigation. He serves as a member of the Board of Advisors for the Atlanta Chapter of the Federalist Society

Charles Canady of Florida, Supreme Court of Florida. Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992 as a Republican, Canady coined the misleading and inflammatory term “partial-birth abortion” during the drafting of the 1995 “Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act,” a political provocation aimed at weakening Roe v. Wade and deepening a fascistic base in the Republican Party.

Steven Colloton of Iowa, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. A clerk for right-wing justice William Rehnquist from 1989 to 1990, Colloton served in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel under president George H.W. Bush between 1990 and 1991. From 1995 to 1996 Colloton served as an associate independent counsel in the Office of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.

Allison Eid of Colorado, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. As a Colorado Supreme Court justice and as an academic, Eid stood out as thoroughly far right, as a pro-business, pro-police voice. Eid opposes campaign finance laws, laws prohibiting gerrymandering, and those supporting public education. She is reportedly a frontrunner for a Trump nomination.

Raymond Gruender of Missouri, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Gruender boasts the political advantage of a sympathetic personal background: he prevented his father, who had just shot and killed Gruender’s mother, from then killing his 11-year-old brother. Apart from this, Gruender supports laws that restrict access to abortion, including a South Dakota law requiring women to listen to a list of bogus health problems supposedly related to abortion including “increased risk of suicide.” Like many of his cohorts on the Trump list, he also doubts the legality of requiring health plans to provide contraception.

Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. A frontrunner at least at one time, Hardiman is noteworthy for being the first member of his family to attend college, for working his way through Georgetown Law School as a cab driver, and for being a political reactionary opposed to inmates’ rights and free speech, unless that speech is the posting of the Ten Commandments on public property.

Thomas Lee of Utah, Supreme Court of Utah. A former law clerk of the reactionary “originalist” Clarence Thomas, Lee also served as the faculty advisor for the Federalist Society student chapter at Brigham Young University law school. Lee’s judicial opinions and other writings closely follow those of the late Antonin Scalia and his close colleague, Clarence Thomas. He served in the administration of George W. Bush, defending it against claims by Guantanamo Bay inmates illegally detained without trial or access to a lawyer.

Edward Mansfield of Iowa, Supreme Court of Iowa. Mansfield’s record shows opposition to the rights of criminal defendants in regard to the death penalty and hostility to sexual harassment claims by women. He wrote a concurring opinion in Gartner v. Iowa Department of Health (2013) that showed dismay that Iowa law required that a same-sex spouse be listed on a child’s birth certificate in the same manner as would apply to a heterosexual couple.

Federico Moreno of Florida. A Venezuelan-born Catholic and former federal public defender, this candidate was one of the first Hispanics to serve in the federal judiciary and one of very few minorities on Trump’s list. As he is only a trial court judge, he is not the most likely pick.

Kevin Newsom of Alabama, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Yet another Federalist Society card-carrier, Newsom joined that organization in 1999 and has held a number of posts in it. He also became a member of the Chamber of Commerce’s Chamber Litigation Center in 2014, evidence of his pro-business philosophy. In a venomous attack on Roe v. Wade, he compared the decision legalizing abortion to the Dred Scott opinion, which sanctioned slavery.

Margaret Ryan of Virginia, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. Ryan attended law school through the Marine Corps Law Education Program at Notre Dame Law School. She clerked for Clarence Thomas between 2001 and 2002, an indicator that she ascribes to right-wing extremism of the originalist variety.

David Stras of Minnesota, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Another Federalist Society jurist and former Clarence Thomas clerk, Stras has praised the reactionary former Supreme Court justice Pierce Butler, who believed that Social Security and other New Deal programs were unconstitutional. He has described the Supreme Court’s rulings on school integration, abortion and homosexual rights condescendingly as “ventures into contentious areas of social policy.” This is a textbook argument for letting each state decide the fate of critical democratic and civil rights.

Diane Sykes of Wisconsin, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. A Google search for this candidate returns a page of her credentials maintained by the Federalist Society, whose events regularly feature Sykes as a contributor, including a November 2016 national convention titled “The Jurisprudence and Legacy of Justice Scalia.” Like William Pryor, Sykes earned a mention from then candidate Trump in a February 2016 Republican primary debate as a promising Supreme Court prospect. Conservative commentators consider her an easier confirmation prospect than some other candidates with a similar political inclination.

Timothy Tymkovich of Colorado, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Still another Federalist Society favorite, and like Sykes, a member with a home page and a list of speaking events, Tymkovich gave a green light to religious challenges of health care plans at the appellate court level in Hobby Lobby v. Sibelius. In 1996, while serving as Colorado Solicitor General, he argued that a state law banning local governments from enacting legal protections for homosexuals did not violate the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution’s equal protection clause in Romer v. Evans (for a portrait of judicial reaction, readers should examine Scalia’s dissent in that case). Only his age bodes ill for his likelihood as a Supreme Court nomination, as Trump and congressional Republicans will no doubt aim to make the most of the court’s life appointment term.

Robert Young of Michigan, Supreme Court of Michigan (Ret.). One of the few minority candidates on Trump’s list, Young, who is African-American, played a right-wing role in Michigan and Detroit-area politics before becoming general counsel for Michigan State University. At 67 years old, he is not a likely finalist. Like most everyone else on the list, he fancies himself a “judicial traditionalist” or “textualist” which means that states and large corporations can do as they please.

Don Willett of Texas, Supreme Court of Texas. The 51-year-old product of the Republican Party machine in Texas served on George W. Bush’s presidential campaign and transition team, before serving as Special Assistant to the President and Director of Law and Policy for the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, a political agency designed to replace what remained of the social safety net with religious charities. Later, as Deputy Texas Attorney General for Legal Counsel in 2003, Willett fought to protect a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the state capitol. He formerly took to mocking president Trump from the right via Twitter, a practice that ceased some months ago.

Patrick Wyrick of Oklahoma, Supreme Court of Oklahoma. A friend of the oil and gas industries, the 37-year-old Wyrick has practiced law for just eleven years, one year less than the American Bar Association’s minimum suggested practice term for a Supreme Court justice. Nonetheless, he stands an excellent chance of receiving Trump’s support. His protégé is the current head of the Environmental Protection Agency, the antiregulatory fanatic Scott Pruitt. As Oklahoma’s Solicitor General, Wyrick filed an amicus brief in support of religious objections to reproductive services covered by insurance plans in Hobby Lobby v. Sibelius. Espousing the fraudulent notion of a corporation’s right to religious freedom, he argued that a company’s “religious faith is no less worthy of respect and protection than is the religious faith practiced by church members.”

This brief review of Trump’s Supreme Court candidates makes clear that Anthony Kennedy’s replacement will represent a rancid ideological mixture of influences from Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and William Rehnquist, all seething reactionaries once viewed as the extreme right wing of the high court.

SCOTUS SPOILER? Leonard Leo, the judicial activist advising on President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick to replace Anthony Kennedy, has said that two names on the president’s shortlist — Raymond Kethledge and Thomas Hardiman — have less-established conservative records than other possible picks, making it harder to line up right-wing support. Here’s everything you need to know about Trump’s top picks. [Reuters]

European Union crackdown on refugees

This video says about itself:

Fortress Europe? Hungary’s anti-migrant fence – [BBC] Newsnight

6 August 2015

Hungary has erected a fence to keep out migrants. It’s 110 miles long, nine feet high and covered in razor wire, and its message to migrants is clear: keep out. Will it work? And is this the future for Europe’s borders? Nick Thorpe reports.

By Johannes Stern in Germany:

European Union adopts far-right refugee policy

30 June 2018

Shortly after the conclusion of the European Union (EU) summit in Brussels on Friday, another tragedy took place in the Mediterranean. According to media reports, a boat with 120 refugees on board sunk off the Libyan coast. Only a few people were rescued and estimates suggest over 100 lost their lives. According to witnesses, large numbers of Moroccan and Yemeni families were on the boat, including babies, women, and children.

As a result of the blockading and criminalization of rescue workers, several accidents in the days leading up to the summit saw the drowning of around 220 people. This is a conservative estimate, according to the head of the UN refugee agency UNHCR. According to UN figures, more than 16,346 people have lost their lives since 1 January 2014 (up to 18 June 2018), and since 2000, the death toll is around 35,000.

Responsibility for this mass murder lies with the EU and its national governments, which agreed on a dramatic intensification of their anti-refugee policy at the Brussels summit.

Plans include hermetically sealing off fortress Europe and deporting refugees en masse to war zones in the Middle East and Africa. “The European Council recalls that the member states must ensure effective control of the EU’s external borders with financial and material support of the EU. Furthermore, it notes that the repatriation of irregular migrants must be significantly increased”, stated the official conclusions from the summit.

To enforce the crackdown on refugees, the European border agency Frontex will be “expanded through an increase in its budget and an expansion of its mandate”. In addition, the establishment of de facto concentration camps in North Africa and inside the EU was agreed. In the summit statement, these camps were euphemistically referred to as “debarkation platforms” and “control centres” for “resettlement and new settlement”.

National measures, including border controls within the EU, are explicitly permitted. “Concerning the situation within the EU, the secondary migration of asylum seekers between member states is threatening the integrity of the common European asylum system and the Schengen legal system. The member states should adopt all necessary internal legal and administrative measures against these migration movements and cooperate closely in so doing”, states point 11 in the agreement.

The measures targeting refugees expose the EU as a reactionary monstrosity, which the national governments, their differences notwithstanding, are using to shift European political life sharply to the right. Other sections of the summit agreement include the “strengthening of European defence capacity”, the censorship of the Internet, the expansion of a European police state, and the continuation of austerity policies.

The EU has shifted so far to the right that it was applauded by nationalist and right-wing extremist forces throughout Europe following the Brussels summit. In a press statement, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who governs in Vienna in coalition with the far-right Freedom Party and whose government will take over the EU presidency on July 1, declared that he would “apply pressure” to ensure the results of the summit would be implemented. He expressed satisfaction that “more partners who support our line and that many who campaigned for a Europe of open borders have reconsidered their position.”

In Rome, Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini stated that he was “satisfied and proud”. Europe had been forced by Rome’s firm hand to discuss Italy’s proposals–and ultimately to accept them, he claimed. He would now wait on “concrete promises.”

Among Salvini’s fascistic proposals were the deportation of “all 600,000” immigrants in Italy and the counting of all the Sinti and Roma living in the country, in preparation for their deportation.

In Germany, Armin-Paul Hampel, foreign policy spokesman for the far-right AfD, backed the summit agreement. “It’s moving in the right direction. This is something we’ve been saying for a long time, that the problem must be dealt with at the European borders and not only after immigrants have travelled for thousands of kilometres with the help of criminal gangs and smugglers”, he said on Deutschlandfunk. The “decisive thing” now will be the implementation of the measures, “if these reception centres are going to work, yes or no.”

The Christian Social Union also declared its satisfaction with the outcome. It was “the outcome of a debate in Germany, which is finally engaging with the refugee problem at the European level”, stated CSU parliamentary group leader Alexander Dobrindt in Berlin. A series of points, including better protection of external borders, are demands “that we in the CSU have been calling for strongly for some time.” In addition, he pointed out that in the summit document “the adoption of national measures is explicitly provided for”. They would be “prepared to make use of this”, and believe “still that national measures are required.”

The agreement in Brussels has also prepared at least a temporary truce in the dispute within the grand coalition between the CDU and CSU. CSU deputy leader Manfred Weber appealed in the Münchner Merkur for a positive assessment of the summit’s results. Referring to Chancellor Angela Merkel, he said, “She has delivered.”

For her part, Merkel praised the summit outcome at a press conference and pointed to the necessity for national measures like those demanded by the CSU. They had “developed a comprehensive immigration strategy, which comprises the external borders and the control of these borders, incorporates external actions, meaning actions outside of the EU, and focuses on the internal issues, what we currently call secondary migration”, she said.

Already in her government statement on Thursday, Merkel declared in typical CSU style, “It’s about order, management, effective, sustainable. It’s about our internal security and the EU’s internal security. Both national and European measures are required for this.”

On Friday, Merkel announced the completion of “European” repatriation agreements with Spain and Greece. Both countries are ready “to start accepting asylum seekers once again if they have been stopped on the German-Austrian border by German authorities and have a EURODAC entry from the relevant state”, a government press release declared. In exchange, the member states would “receive more common support on the external borders…financially as well as the provision of more police officers.”

The fact that all governing parties in Europe—from … the social democratic PSOE Spanish government, Germany’s grand coalition, and the openly far-right governments in Italy, Austria, and Eastern Europe—are cooperating so closely to intensify the terror against refugees underscores the correctness of the International Committee of the Fourth International’s perspective. To beat back these dangerous political developments, which recall the darkest periods in European history, workers and young people must take up a struggle against all factions of the capitalist class and consciously fight for a socialist programme.

EU backs anti-immigrant deal after Italy threatens to torpedo Brussels summit: here.

Big United States opposition to Trump’s xenophobia

This video says about itself:

USA: Over 1,000 protest family separation in Brownsville

29 June 2018

Over 1,000 people protested outside the federal courthouse for the Southern District of Texas in Brownsville on Thursday, decrying the separation of undocumented children from their parents.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) National Campaigns Director Natalie Montelongo attended the protest. She said: “there was a recent injunction that happened two nights ago that demanded that children under five be reunited within 14 days and the rest of the children within 30 days, but we must continue vocalising our views and mobilising in action to make sure the administration implements that.”

Here are the best pictures from the “Families Belong Together” marches over the weekend.

By E.P. Milligan and Patrick Martin in the USA:

Opposition mounts to Trump administration’s persecution of immigrants

30 June 2018

A wave of protests began Thursday over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy that has resulted in the separation of over 2,000 immigrant children from their families. The demonstrations across the country foreshadow the national day of action in defense of immigrants scheduled today.

More than 1,000 demonstrated in Brownsville, Texas, a city located on the border with Mexico. Brownsville emerged as a major focal point of popular anger due to the existence of a mass child detention center within the city. The facility, located in a converted Wal-Mart shopping center, currently holds around 1,500 immigrant boys in hellish conditions. Organizers of the protest played a widely shared audio clip of detained immigrant children crying for their parents. The clip evoked a deep emotional response from the crowd, with many in attendance bursting into tears themselves.

Hundreds of women staged a sit-in occupation of the Senate’s Hart Office Building in Washington, D.C., following a morning of protests and marches in D.C. from Freedom Plaza to the Department of Justice as well as Congress. D.C. police responded to the action with mass arrests, taking 575 women into custody—more than twice the number arrested during protests surrounding Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The Washington protest was organized by groups close to the Democratic Party, and at least one congresswoman, Representative Pramila Jayapal, was among those arrested, along with actress Susan Sarandon and other prominent liberals. Its purpose was to associate the Democrats with the mass opposition to the Trump administration’s policy, although in substance, if not rhetoric, the Trump policy is a continuation of the mass deportations and abusive treatment of immigrants under Barack Obama.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers set up a barricade in front of the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. a day ahead of the Saturday protests. The agency sealed off the building, claiming protesters planned to occupy it. Officers erected temporary fencing outside the building and set up a perimeter patrol blocking the entrance.

ICE facilities in a number of cities have seen operations disrupted or blocked outright by protesters. The longest blockade has been in Portland, Oregon, where a tent city has been erected, cutting off access to an ICE office, halting the operation of immigration courts. Federal Protective Service officers moved in on Thursday, clearing the part of the encampment that was on property leased by the federal government.

Similar encampments have been erected outside of ICE buildings in larger cities like Los Angeles and New York, and there have been widespread smaller protests.

Protesters in Grand Rapids, Michigan occupied a Board of Commissioners meeting concerning Kent County’s contract with ICE. After the meeting was suspended, around 100 protesters marched on a major intersection chanting “ICE out of Kent County.” Police arrested seven protesters who walked into the intersection and began blocking traffic.

Trump has been quick to react to the wave of protests, urging the police to use violence and intimidation to suppress the growing discontent. “Leftwing Activists are trying to block ICE officers from doing their jobs and publicly posting their home addresses – putting these selfless public servants in harm’s way”, he tweeted. “These radical protesters want ANARCHY – but the only response they will find from our government is LAW AND ORDER!”

Though Trump signed an executive order on June 20 that ended the official separation of children from their parents, thousands of children still remain in detention facilities with no outside contact. So far, only five have been reunited with their families. The vast majority of children remain in the bureaucratic legal quagmire of the deportation machine, while parents have little to no way to locate and contact them. Because detainees may frequently await processing for years or even go “missing”, it is likely some families will never be reunited.

On June 26, a federal judge in San Diego issued a court order with nationwide effect, requiring the Trump administration to reunite all children younger than five with their detained parents by July 10, and all children five and older by July 26. This was widely interpreted in the media and in legal circles as effectively requiring the imminent release of the detained parents, since under terms of a consent decree entered into by the federal government some 20 years ago, known as the Flores agreement, children may not be detained in federal immigration facilities for more than 20 days.

However, the Washington Post reported late Friday that the Trump administration is proposing instead to modify the Flores agreement so that parents and children can be detained together indefinitely.

According to papers filed with the San Diego federal court, the Justice Department gave the following notice to the judge who issued the June 26 order, Dana Sabraw: “The government will not separate families but detain families together during the pendency of immigration proceedings when they are apprehended at or between ports of entry.”

As the Post explained, “The new filing does not explicitly say the Trump administration plans to hold families in custody beyond the 20-day limit, but by saying officials plan to detain them ‘during the pendency’ of immigration proceedings, which in many cases can last months, they imply that families will spend that time in detention.”

In other words, the Trump “solution” to the cruelty of family separation is the provocation of family imprisonment, jailing teenagers, younger children, even babies along with their parents. Once this new posture becomes more widely known, it is bound to inflame popular hostility to the vicious anti-immigrant bigotry and repression unleashed by the White House.

A Pew Reports poll issued this week found broad and growing sympathy for immigrants, both “legal” and “illegal”, and widespread rejection of the lying propaganda of Trump, such as his claims that immigrants are responsible for crime or that they take the jobs of American workers. Trump’s efforts to whip up anti-immigrant hysteria appeal to only a small minority of the population, but he relies on the cowardice and complicity of both the Democratic Party and the corporate media.

The Democratic Party is posturing as the ally of the growing movement in defense of immigrants partly for its immediate electoral purposes, but mainly to block any wider challenge to the repressive anti-immigrant policies that both corporate-controlled parties support.

Many prominent Democratic politicians, such as New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the newly nominated Democratic candidate for Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her defeated rival Representative Joseph Crowley (D-New York), have embraced the call to “abolish ICE.”

True for Ocasio-Cortez. Not true for Crowley. Though Crowley criticized ICE during his primary election campaign, he opposed abolishing it.

All are opposed, however, to any policy of “open borders” that would allow immigrants to come and go freely and live and work in the country of their choice. Instead, the Democratic Party merely seeks to rebrand ICE and CPB. “You need some kind of agency to deal with immigration, but ICE is not that”, de Blasio said on The Brian Lehrer Show on WYNC.

Reports from New York City reveal the Trump administration and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) thugs are continuing their attacks on immigrant refugee children. The victims include youth who reached the United States unaccompanied by their parents, as well as children separated from their parents by the US government. NY1 has posted video of children, sent almost 2,000 miles from the Texas border to New York City, being led in the dead of night through East Harlem streets to the Cayuga Center that arranges foster care. This was followed by a report revealing that 466 students from New York City and surrounding counties, who were no longer showing up at their schools between last October and March, had in fact been taken into custody by ICE agents, but the federal government was not reporting this to the schools or to city or state agencies: here.

In a column in the Guardian July 5, (“Protest all you like, Susan Sarandon. In effect you work for Trump”), commentator Marina Hyde asserted that American actress Susan Sarandon was an “asset” of Donald Trump. Sarandon’s great crime? Failing to endorse Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, and instead calling for a vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party. The event that immediately occasioned Hyde’s indignation was Sarandon’s arrest June 28 at a protest in Washington against Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policies and the brutal breaking up of immigrant families: here.