Facebook censors Arizona teachers’ group

This Associated Press video from the USA says about itself:

Zuckerberg Grilled Over Facebook Role in Myanmar

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) over the company’s role in inciting violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. (April 10 2018)

By Jerry White in the USA:

Facebook censors Arizona educators’ rank-and-file committee group

7 May 2018

Facebook has disabled the Arizona Educators Rank and File Committee group, which was initiated by the WSWS Teacher Newsletter to provide a forum for teachers in Arizona and other states to communicate …

The social media company posted a notice Sunday morning saying, “Group Has Been Disabled” and alleging that “Arizona Educators Rank and File Committee has content that goes against our Community Standards on fraud and spam.” It continued, “Using misleading or inaccurate information to artificially collect likes, followers, or shares is not allowed. Contacting people for commercial purposes without their consent is also not allowed.”

In a letter of protest to Facebook, the WSWS wrote: “We have reviewed your community standards and we are not in violation of any of them. We demand to know in detail what specific standards you alleged we have violated.

“The Arizona Educators Rank and File Committee includes more than 100 members and has provided teachers in Arizona and other states a forum to discuss their fight to defend public education. On what grounds has our Facebook group been flagged and by whom? …

You have not substantiated any of the charges against us. …

“We demand that you immediately reverse your undemocratic decision and allow the Arizona Educators Rank and File group to continue to be a forum for teachers to communicate and coordinate their struggles.” …

Denouncing the threat to permanently delete the Arizona Educators Rank and File Committee group, a teacher from Phoenix, said, “As an international mode of free expression for individuals, groups, and communities, Facebook should not decide what is acceptable for communication, since we live in a country that values all points of view and where it is acceptable and encouraged to voice all opinions and biases. To do otherwise is a form of oppression which should not be tolerated in a democracy that protects free speech.

“I have begun to make connections by speaking and listening to members on this group. I am on board. Censorship cannot be tolerated or ignored. …

“As a history teacher”, another member of the rank-and-file group from Arizona said, “you don’t have to look too far to see how censorship has been used in this country to suppress critical thought, to [not] consider various points of view— and to control the masses into taking on a certain position. The fact that Facebook shut down this site only further reinforces my suspicions that there are some larger, very powerful structures at work here that are looking to dismantle public education.”

In the name of fighting “fake news”, “Russian meddling” and “divisiveness”, Facebook, Google and other technology monopolies, along with the Democratic Party and the military-intelligence apparatus, are engaging a sweeping attack on free speech on the Internet.

The WSWS has been a particular target because it has increasingly become the center of working-class opposition among autoworkers, teachers and other sections of the working class in the US and internationally. Teachers, all workers and all those opposed to this attack on democratic rights must demand that Facebook reverse its decision and stop its censorship.

Teachers ‘£4K worse off in Tory Britain’. Labour warns schools face crisis without government funding: here.

Facebook, the world’s largest social media company, is looking to open an “internet content control center” in the iconic Torre Glòries in the Spanish city of Barcelona. This modern-day iteration of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth will implement Facebook’s latest “community guidelines” to censor content on the social media platform under the catch-all phrase of “combating fake news”: here.


Peccaries mourning their dead?

This 13 December 2017 from Arizona in the USA says about itself:

Pig-like animals called peccaries were filmed visiting a corpse in the days after death and pushing it with their snouts. Read more here.

Saguaro cactus evolution, new study

This video from the USA says about itself:

Saguaro National Park

28 November 2012

Saguaro, Arizona — Home to America’s largest cacti, majestic plants, magnificent desert sunsets.

From the University of California – Berkeley in the USA:

Saguaro and other towering cacti have a scrambled history

Long lives of columnar cacti muddle scientists’ efforts to understand group’s evolutionary history

Summary: Biologists continue to debate the genealogy of the cactus family, even differing by a factor of 10 about how many different genera there are. A study based on new genome sequences of four columnar cacti, including saguaro and cardon, illustrates why this is. Because of the long lives of these columnar cacti, ancient genes drop out at random and give the impression of parallel evolution in those species that retain the genes.

Visitors to Mexico and the U.S. Southwest can’t help but stand in awe of the solitary and majestic saguaro, the towering clusters of the organ pipe cactus and Baja’s cardón, the appropriately named “elephant” cactus. The saguaro alone can grow to a height of more than 75 feet.

Scientists have now sequenced the complete genomes of four of these columnar cacti, and found, to their surprise, that their family relationships are not so straightforward as their shapes suggest.

According to Noah Whiteman, a UC Berkeley associate professor of integrative biology who is a coauthor of a paper appearing this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the cactus family tree and the giant cacti in particular — the giant saguaro, organ pipe, senita and cardón, also called the Mexican giant cactus — have been very difficult to trace. Found only in the Americas, cacti have adapted to a broad range of environments, with a current count of 1,438 species. Yet scientists disagree by a factor of 10 about how many genera of cacti these species represent.

This is in part because the same traits — succulence and a columnar form, for example — seem to have evolved separately in different lineages: what’s known as parallel evolution.

In the study, led by Whiteman’s colleagues at the University of Arizona and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, the scientists created individual family trees of each gene shared across all species. They found that their histories were scrambled as a result of long generation times — saguaro cacti can live 150 years or more — making it difficult to understand the relationships among the species even with complete genomic information.

They did determine, however, that some similarities, like the succulent flesh that makes some cacti a good emergency source of water, resulted from ancient genes that were retained by some cacti but lost by others. What looked like parallel evolution, with some species gaining new genes and new functions, was actually just the random loss of genes in all the other species.

The findings could have implications for the fate of these cacti, which are losing habitat because of human development in arid areas of the Americas.

“Many species are endangered, and the fact that we don’t understand their relationships makes this fraught,” said Whiteman, who is also a faculty member with the Center for Computational Biology and an affiliate of the University and Jepson Herbaria and the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.

The work also addresses a recently recognized complication in interpreting the evolution of all plants and animals.

“Only with whole-genome sequencing were we able to see this pattern of incomplete lineage sorting, called hemiplasy, which looks superficially like convergent or parallel evolution, or homoplasy,” he said. “It’s an important advance because one could mistake such patterns as evidence for parallel evolution at the molecular level, which is a hot topic in evolutionary biology right now.”

Trump pardons racist Arizona sheriff Arpaio

This 27 August 2017 video from the USA is called The Real Reason Donald Trump Pardoned Joe Arpaio.

By Kevin Martinez and Patrick Martin in the USA:

Trump pardons former Arizona sheriff: A green light for anti-immigrant violence and repression

28 August 2017

Late Friday night, the White House released a statement by President Trump announcing a presidential pardon for Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, the state capital and fifth most populous city in the US. Voted out of office last November, Arpaio built his reputation on police brutality and racism, particularly directed against immigrants.

He was facing a jail term on criminal contempt charges for defying a federal judge’s 2011 order to stop racially profiling Latinos, detaining them on mere suspicion of being undocumented and turning them over to federal immigration agencies. Arpaio was an early supporter of Trump’s presidential campaign and shared his racist and xenophobic views on immigration and “law and order.”

Trump chose to announce the pardon on a Friday evening when public attention and media coverage were focused on the impact of Hurricane Harvey on Texas. He foreshadowed the decision in a right-wing speech last Tuesday at a rally in Phoenix, less than a week after his public defense of the neo-Nazi rampage in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left one antifascist protester dead.

Press reports based on White House sources reveal that Trump had sought to block the trial and conviction of Arpaio in the spring, when the former sheriff was facing contempt charges in federal district court. He discussed the case with White House counsel Donald F. McGahn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but was advised against attempting to shut down the case by executive order.

On July 31, Arpaio was convicted of misdemeanor contempt of court by the federal judge, with sentencing set for October. He faced up to six months in jail, but Trump had already decided on a pardon and waited barely three weeks before intervening. The White House ignored the usual pardon procedure, which requires a detailed study by the Justice Department unit that handles pardon petitions, the passage of five years from conviction and sentencing, and a statement of remorse.

The final trigger came with a two-page letter to McGahn from Arpaio’s lawyer, sent Friday morning, pleading for presidential action before the sentencing to forestall the possibility that the former sheriff would be “sentenced, handcuffed, given a ‘perp walk’ and incarcerated.” In other words, Arpaio had to be spared the treatment he had dealt out to thousands of innocent people, although with much greater brutality. Only hours later, the White House announced the full pardon.

At the rally in Phoenix, Trump declared that Sheriff Arpaio faced a prison term for “just doing his job,” suggesting that a similar “get-out-of-jail-free” card will be awarded in the unlikely event that a police officer is convicted in any of the hundreds of cases of police murder that occur every year in the United States.

There were the usual protests from congressional Democrats, and even a few from Republicans such as Senator John McCain of Arizona and House Speaker Paul Ryan. But none of those objecting to the action—mainly on procedural grounds—pointed to its clear political significance, coming on the heels of Trump’s positive comments about the Charlottesville neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

What the Democrats and Republicans really object to is the fact that Trump’s open embrace of racists and bigots shatters the US government’s claims to be defending “freedom and democracy” at home and abroad.

Arpaio’s misdemeanor conviction originated from a judge’s 2011 court order barring him from racially profiling Latinos during patrols and turning them over to immigration officials. He defied the order and kept jailing immigrants until he was voted out of office in November of 2016.

As sheriff of Maricopa County, Arpaio established a tent city in 1993 to jail inmates in the triple-digit Arizona heat. In his own words, he described the tent city as a concentration camp. Despite condemnation from Amnesty International, the prison camp survived Arpaio’s entire tenure and was only shut down by newly elected Sheriff Paul Penzone in April of this year.

Arpaio was also infamous for reintroducing chain gangs, a barbaric practice that was discontinued in the United States as far back as the 1950s and viewed as a relic of chattel slavery. Arpaio reintroduced the practice in 1995, imposing forced labor on men, women, and even children incarcerated in juvenile detention centers.

The former sheriff was also infamous for forcing inmates to wear pink underwear and refusing to investigate sex crimes, particularly when the victims were children of undocumented immigrants.

Arpaio took special delight in humiliating his prisoners, overwhelmingly poor and working-class Arizonans locked up for trivial drug offenses or crimes against private property. The sheriff’s department website published images from the jail that housed pretrial detainees and featured a “mugshot of the day.”

Critics of Arpaio were themselves harassed by the police. When Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon called for a federal investigation into Arpaio’s enforcement tactics, the sheriff demanded access to the mayor’s emails and phone logs. He arrested reporters for the New York Times under false pretenses in 2007, for which he was ultimately ordered to pay $3.75 million in legal fees.

Family members of inmates who died in Arpaio’s custody filed lawsuits against him, resulting in a total of $42 million in settlement claims during his tenure. From 2004 to 2008 alone, 64 inmates died in his custody, mostly from illnesses that would have been treatable in normal medical settings. Several inmates were found beaten to death by his guards.

After a three-year investigation by the Justice Department, a report was released stating that the Maricopa County sheriff’s office had “a pervasive discriminatory bias against Latinos” that reached “the highest levels of the agency.” The Justice Department declared that Arpaio was responsible for “unconstitutional policing” and the worst pattern of racial profiling in US history.

Trump’s pardon of Arpaio is a warning to the working class and a signal that the state is preparing police-state forms of rule. The use of concentration camps, the inhumane treatment of prisoners and the open appeal to racism are seen as pluses and not minuses by the Trump administration and powerful sections of the ruling class for which it speaks.

The pardon also comes as Trump is preparing further measures to attack the democratic rights of immigrants in addition to his notorious border wall. Last week, Trump threatened to trigger a shutdown of the federal government if Congress failed to authorize money to build the wall in budget legislation that must be passed before the end of the current fiscal year on September 30.

Numerous press reports suggest that Trump is planning to freeze future admissions to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or scrap the program altogether. Under DACA, nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children are allowed to work or continue their education without fear of deportation.

Under the program, implemented by executive order during the Obama administration, enrollees are required to reveal their undocumented status to the government, setting them up, with a change in administration or government policy, for possible rounding up and deportation. The program exemplifies the two-faced character of the immigration “reforms” enacted by Obama and the Democrats, which completely accept and institutionalize the reactionary premise that undocumented workers are criminals.

With Trump’s election, the potential within the program for mass detention and deportation is poised to become reality.

Attorney General Sessions discussed plans for DACA at the White House last Thursday. Ten state attorneys general have threatened to file a federal lawsuit against the program unless it is halted by September 5. The most likely outcome is a suspension of the program, which would block new enrollment and prevent those currently enrolled from reenrolling when their two-year exemption from deportation expires.

Whatever the precise form of the administration’s attack, the eventual result will likely be the rounding up of young men and women, who in most cases have no memory of any country other than the United States, and their deportation to countries whose language they frequently cannot speak.

Before Trump Pardoned Him, Arpaio Was Promoted by Media: here.

Joe Arpaio Is No Aberration: here.

Donald Trump is a ‘textbook racist’, claims Duke University professor. Jay Pearson criticises President’s ‘insensitive, disrespectful and mean-spirited statements and actions’: here.

Trump pardons convicted anti-immigrant sheriff Arpaio

This video from the USA says about itself:

25 August 2017

Trump just signed a memo banning trans people from the military. Brett Erlich, Grace Baldridge, and Amberia Allen, the hosts of The Young Turks, break it down.

“(CNN) President Donald Trump on Friday directed the military not to move forward with an Obama-era plan that would have allowed transgender individuals to be recruited into the armed forces, following through on his intentions announced a month earlier to ban transgender people from serving.

The presidential memorandum also bans the Department of Defense from using its resources to provide medical treatment regimens for transgender individuals currently serving in the military.

Trump also directed the departments of Defense and Homeland Security “to determine how to address transgender individuals currently serving based on military effectiveness and lethality, unitary cohesion, budgetary constraints, applicable law, and all factors that may be relevant,” the White House official said.

The White House official who briefed reporters on the memo on Friday evening declined to say whether current transgender troops would be allowed to remain in the military under those policy guidelines.”

Read more here.

Trump Signs Memo Banning New Transgender Service Members. The move also stops the military from paying for gender reassignment surgeries: here.

By Ryan J. Reilly in the USA:

Trump Pardons Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Who Illegally Targeted Latinos

The self-declared “law and order” president backs a man who defied a court order.

WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump on Friday pardoned a notorious former Arizona sheriff who willfully violated a federal judge’s order by unlawfully detaining individuals his officers claimed might be in the country illegally.

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had previously proclaimed himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” was convicted of criminal contempt last month for violating a 2011 order that barred Arpaio and his office from detaining individuals solely based on suspicions about their legal status. Arpaio, 85, was scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 5.

“Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration,” the White House said in a statement late Friday. “Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is a worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.”

Trump’s pardon of Arpaio, the first of his presidency, amounts to a tacit endorsement of Arpaio’s discriminatory tactics and reads as a favor to a political ally. The media-savvy former sheriff, known for parading inmates around in pink underwear, supported the former reality TV star’s presidential campaign and spoke at the Republican National Convention last summer. Both men were prominent promoters of the racist conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States.

Arpaio, who served as sheriff from 1993 through 2016, had long been accused of discriminatory practices against Latinos. A 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division concluded there was reasonable cause to believe that Arpaio and his office engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful policing and racial profiling. Arpaio’s officers called Latinos “wetbacks,” “Mexican bitches,” “fucking Mexicans” and “stupid Mexicans,” the Justice Department found, and Latino drivers were four to nine times as likely to be stopped by his officers as non-Latino drivers were. A lawsuit filed by the Justice Department was settled in 2015.

“With his pardon of Arpaio, Trump has chosen lawlessness over justice, division over unity, hurt over healing,” Cecillia Wang, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement Friday. “Once again, the president has acted in support of illegal, failed immigration enforcement practices that target people of color and have been struck down by the courts. His pardon of Arpaio is a presidential endorsement of racism.”

Arpaio took a break from dinner with his wife on Friday night to call into Sean Hannity’s program on Fox News. Hannity said Arpaio was “convicted… only of criminal contempt” and said he was “very relieved” for Arpaio.

Arpaio said it was “great” to hear about the pardon and that he loves the president.

Hannity, who apparently thought that a former sheriff charged with a federal crime would have somehow landed in his former county jail, joked with Arpaio about the conditions in Arpaio’s former facility, referencing pink underwear and the bologna sandwiches served there.

But Arpaio said incarceration wouldn’t have been that big of a deal.

“Sean, it’s federal, I could play bocce… it would’ve been alright,” he said.

At a Tuesday evening rally in Phoenix, Trump had signaled that the pardon was coming. The president claimed Arpaio had been “convicted for doing his job.” But Trump said, “I’ll make a prediction: I think he’s going to be just fine, OK?”

Ahead of his trial, the Justice Department had argued that Arpaio “viewed his defiance of the federal government’s directives on immigration as a badge of honor” and “bragged about his deputies’ contemptuous immigration enforcement practices to the press.”

In finding Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt, U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton said in July that the former sheriff had shown “flagrant disregard” for the 2011 order banning him from detaining people because he thought they were in the country illegally.

“Not only did Defendant abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise,” Bolton ruled on July 31. “The evidence at trial proves beyond a reasonable doubt and the Court finds that Judge Snow issued a clear and definite order enjoining Defendant from detaining persons for further investigation without reasonable suspicion that a crime has been or is being committed; that Defendant knew of the order; and that Defendant willfully violated the order by failing to do anything to ensure his subordinates’ compliance and by directing them to continue to detain persons for whom no criminal charges could be filed.”

Arpaio’s lawyers have since moved for an acquittal, arguing that the government’s handling of the case reeked of “unconstitutional selective prosecution.” They questioned the court’s “motivations” in not allowing a jury trial. They also claimed that the verdict was driven by the desire “to vindicate the authority of a fellow judge.” And they argued that Arpaio had a right to be present for the issuing of the verdict, which was in fact emailed to his lawyers. The prosecution has not yet responded to the defense’s motion.

Trump’s pardon of Arpaio skipped over the typical review process for pardons, which are usually routed through the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney.

The pardon came less than two weeks after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned deadly when a neo-Nazi sympathizer crashed his vehicle into a crowd of anti-racist demonstrators. Trump faced criticism for what was seen as his lackluster condemnation of white supremacists and his attempt to equate the racists in Charlottesville with those who turned out to oppose them. Civil rights advocates like Vanita Gupta, the former chief of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, warned that pardoning Arpaio ― who she said “personifies the same bigotry and intolerance we witnessed in Charlottesville” ― would sow hate and division.

“If President Trump uses his power to pardon a discredited law enforcement official who persistently engaged in illegal racial profiling of the Latino community, it will not be a dog whistle to the so-called ‘alt right’ and white supremacists, but a bull horn,” Gupta said.

Controversial Trump Adviser Sebastian Gorka Leaves White House. He has long faced questions about his ties to Nazi sympathizers and far-right Hungarian political groups: here.