Japan’s Trafficking of Sex Slaves in World War II Unites North Korea and South Korea

On Tuesday, for the first time in two long years, representatives of the Koreas will meet across a polished wood table on the heavily militarized border between North and South. The room in which they’ll sit, in the village of Panmunjom, is the backdrop to numerous Korean action films. For most observers of the region, unnerved by the escalating insults of the Trump era, the talks come as good news.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, an experienced politician and human rights lawyer, campaigned on peaceful relations with Pyongyang and more equitable domestic policies. But since his inauguration in May, after the dramatic impeachment of his predecessor Park Geun-hye, Moon has presided over a government-wide audit, shaking out each ministry like a poorly laundered sheet.

The painful history of Korean “comfort women” may figure into the nuclear standoff with North Korea — seeding tensions between Tokyo and Seoul, while easing relations between the two Koreas.

One result of that process has come to bear not only on domestic politics, but on regional ties as well: The painful history of Korean “comfort women” may figure into the nuclear standoff with Kim Jong Un — seeding tensions between Tokyo and Seoul (and, by extension, between Washington and Seoul), while easing relations between the two Koreas.

In 2015, then-President Park, the daughter of a 1970s military dictator aligned with Tokyo, signed an agreement with Japan intended to extinguish the claims of women victimized during World War II. Then-President Barack Obama praised the deal as a “lasting settlement to this difficult issue,” while North Korea called it a “humiliating” concession to Japan. Historians estimate that some 200,000 women from areas colonized by Tokyo were conscripted as sex slaves by the imperial army. Their stories became known in the early 1990s, when Korean, Filipina, Taiwanese, and Dutch women in their 60s and 70s came forward, despite severe local stigmas, with stomach-turning stories of capture, imprisonment, and daily rape.

Private Japanese charities have since offered compensation, and Japanese officials have tendered vague apologies. But the government has largely maintained that comfort women were sex workers employed in privately owned brothels, brokered by Korean middlemen. Japan has also sent emissaries to oppose the building of small monuments to comfort women — symbolized by a bronze statue of a seated girl — in far-flung Palisades Park, New Jersey, and Glendale, California.

A supporter offers flowers to a memorial statue honoring

A supporter offers flowers to a memorial statue honoring “comfort women,” Japanese military sexual slavery victims during World War II, at Glendale Peace Monument during a candlelight vigil on Jan. 5, 2016, in Glendale, Calif.

Photo: Ringo Chiu/AFP/Getty Images

Just before the new year, a South Korean task force reviewing the 2015 deal released its findings. Unbeknownst to the public, Park had, in exchange for a dubiously constituted $ 8.8 million compensation fund, agreed that the Korean government would free Tokyo of legal liability, dismantle the girl statue in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul (the site of weekly protests), and disavow the term “sex slave.” No comfort women had been consulted.

Kang Kyung-wha, South Korea’s foreign minister, announced that the pact would be carefully reviewed and possibly amended. (It now appears that it will largely remain in place.) She apologized for the “incredible pain” caused to surviving grandmothers and their families, and Moon received eight comfort women to the Blue House, Seoul’s presidential residence, bowing from his waist in respect. Japan was outraged. Any re-evaluation of the agreement, the Japanese foreign minister said, would constitute a betrayal that could undermine regional responses to North Korea.

The U.S. has long tried to soothe relations between South Korea and Japan, its primary allies in Asia. Mintaro Oba, who worked on Northeast Asian affairs in Obama’s State Department, said that the audit of the comfort women deal was concerning at a time when the U.S. needs “Korea and Japan to demonstrate unity and cooperation in the face of the North Korea threat and a rising China.” The comfort women issue is an unusual thread uniting China, South Korea, and North Korea. China called on Japan to proceed responsibly after the task force report was announced; North Korea’s distaste for the 2015 agreement, and Japan in general, are well known.

Despite Moon’s best efforts to pursue a more conciliatory politics, his term to date has been constrained by the uptick in North Korean missile tests and Donald Trump’s tweets.

This year marks the 73rd anniversary of Korean independence from Japan, followed not long after by the Koreas’ fretful separation from each other. In that time, their interests and fates have diverged to the present extreme. Relations worsened under Moon’s two predecessors, who were skeptical of any engagement with the North. And, despite Moon’s best efforts to pursue a more conciliatory politics, his term to date has been constrained by the uptick in North Korean missile tests and Donald Trump’s tweets.

By comparison, the past week has been extraordinary. January began with a rapid exchange of speeches and press briefings delivered by North and South Korean leaders. There was Kim Jong Un, in a gray suit patterned after his grandfather’s, with talk of a doomsday button and mass-produced missiles, but also a wish for “the improvement of inter-Korean relations [as] the starting point for peace.” The Koreas reopened their long-dormant cross-border phone line and agreed to Tuesday’s meeting; more surprising still, the U.S. abided South Korea’s request to postpone joint-military drills until after the upcoming Winter Olympics are held in Pyeongchang.

The Olympics will be, for now, the main subject of conversation between the Koreas. In September, a figure-skating pair from Pyongyang, Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik, qualified for the games, but their participation, like all things inter-Korean, must be negotiated. (In 1988, the first time South Korea hosted the Olympics, North Korea was denied the chance to co-host, and boycotted.) More than 75 percent of South Koreans support the inclusion of North Korean athletes in the Olympics.

Nuclear matters will not — and functionally cannot — be discussed. “South Korea understands that it must be in lockstep with the U.S., whether it wants to or not,” said Soojin Park, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center and a former spokesperson for the Ministry of Unification in Seoul. Moon’s progressive agenda makes him vulnerable to accusations of disloyalty to the U.S., especially among those who lived through the Korean War. “There are still a lot of constraints on how far Moon can go before inviting conservative backlash,” said Jenny Town of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University. But, she added, there’s also a “feeling that what Trump is doing is pushing us closer to war.”

In a recent speech to an audience of senior citizens, Moon promised to “unify the national discourse” around North Korea. His appeal to older South Koreans might be aided by his fight for the comfort women. Even before the task force made its findings known, the vast majority of the country did not accept the terms of the 2015 deal. Soojin Park says that the South Korean government, though wary of “letting this historical matter poison current international relations,” was obligated to re-examine its pact with Japan. “It’s not possible for the government to simply ignore the comfort women.”

Correction: January 9, 2018, 7:03 a.m.
An earlier version of this piece incorrectly identified the room in which the leaders of North and South Korea would be meeting.

Top photo: In this handout photo released by the South Korean Presidential Blue House, South Korean President Moon Jae-in meets “comfort women,” former South Korean sex slaves at the Presidential Blue House on Jan. 4, 2018 in Seoul, South Korea.

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The Intercept

False Flag Wars: The Gulf of Tonkin

The Gulf of Tonkin incident is the most notorious false flag in American history. It resulted in the death of millions of people. Declassified documents reveal the North Vietnamese did not attack the United States on August 4, 1964. In fact, the CIA, through its South Vietnamese proxy, invaded North Vietnam and the standoff in the Gulf of Tonkin was a result of those illegal covert raids conducted under OPLAN 34A. President Lyndon Johnson’s Secretary of State, Robert McNamara, lied to a joint session of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees about the role played by the Navy in the phantom attacks. Declassified documents also reveal a number of senators knew the incident in the Gulf of Tonkin was a false flag. A March 1968 closed session of the Foreign Relations Committee withheld a committee staff investigation that raised doubts over whether the Tonkin incident ever took place. On August 7, Congress passed a joint resolution in response to the phantom attacks in the Gulf of Tonkin. The authorization to use military force was a direct violation of the Constitution. Congress did not formally declare war as specified by Article I, Section 8, Clause 11.

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Show Notes

The Truth About Tonkin

Gulf of Tonkin

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

Declassified Vietnam Era Transcript Shows That US Senators Knew Gulf Of Tonkin Was A Stage Event

Gulf of Tonkin Miscellaneous Memoranda and Notes

Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Historical Series), 1968

Gulf of Tonkin confirmed as False Flag

Interactive: Presidents historically have ignored War Powers Resolution

Unilateral Rocket Man

A Long History of Constitutional War Power Violations

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It’s Time to Confront the Scourge of Capitalism in the Food System

While it’s customary to blame consumer companies and their advertising campaigns for predatory and manipulative messages, it’s time to look beyond that critique to the truly deadly ingredient in the mix: capitalism itself. After all, the proliferation of lifestyle diseases is a direct result of lifestyle advertising promoted and subsidized under our capitalist system.

Mr. Peanut joins other Kraft Heinz mascots in Times Square for the kick-off event of the 'Feed Your Family, Feed The World' program, on April 27, 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Jason Kempin / Getty Images for Kraft Heinz)Mr. Peanut joins other Kraft Heinz mascots in Times Square for the kick-off event of the ‘Feed Your Family, Feed The World’ program, on April 27, 2017, in New York City. (Photo: Jason Kempin / Getty Images for Kraft Heinz)

In December, the Kraft Heinz Company launched a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in response to “prolonged negative perceptions” about the health risk associated with its products. Between 2014 and 2016, Kraft Heinz’s net income fell by an astounding 24 percent, due in no small part to concerns about the corporation’s nutritional record. Kraft’s new “Family Greatly” campaign attempts to dissuade parents from substituting Kraft classics for more nutritious alternatives. Ostensibly, it enjoins parents to cut themselves some well-deserved slack, by reminding them “nobody’s perfect.” The predatory character of this advertising campaign should come as no surprise given that it has been administered by the Leo Burnett Co. advertising house of the creator of both Marlboro Man and Ronald McDonald, the originator behind both “lifestyle advertising” and “lifestyle diseases.” While much ink has been spilled critiquing the likes of Burnett (see the work of Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, Adbusters and Juliet Schor), his advertising model has only grown stronger and more perverse over the decades. Therefore, a restatement of old critiques will not be enough to consign predatory advertising to the dustbin of history. The “silent ingredient in our food system” — capitalism — must be reintroduced into the food discourse, according to Eric Holt-Giménez’s A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism. Only then will steps be taken to remedy the structural causes of predatory advertising.

The Recrudescence of Marlboro Man

One of the most despised figures in advertising — the Marlboro Man — stands for deceit, depravity and the callousness of Corporate America. But when he first trotted onto the nation’s TV screens, the Marlboro Man symbolized something that even the staunchest anti-capitalist is for: hope. For the men of 1950s suburbia, working 9-to-5 jobs and engaging in the regimented rituals of family life, the Marlboro Man was a vicarious glimpse into the free and unencumbered life of the fictional “Great American Cowboy.” Marlboro Man turned each cigarette into a time machine — a tiny escape pod that could jettison the loyal Marlboro smoker from his soul-crushing suburban existence into a daydream of sweet sea breezes and roaring open plains: a few moments of freedom for scarcely a few dollars per pack. No wonder they sold like wildfire.

Kraft’s new “Family Greatly” campaign is essentially a modern rendition of Marlboro Man. But while it retains the fundamental appeal to vicarious escape, what is being escaped from is different, and the escape route has changed as well. At the heart of the campaign is a rather dubiously administered in-house study, which finds that 80 percent of parents surveyed feel pressure to be perfect, yet almost 80 percent of children that participated prefer parents who aren’t. The implication, of course, is that parents should cut themselves some slack, since by the only measure that really counts in the end, the children’s measure, they’re doing a splendid job as is. Images of teary-eyed parents embracing their fawning children to string quartets and cascading keys help tease out this inference. Just as the Marlboro Man ads presented an escape from the regimented rigmarole of suburban life in the 1950s, the Family Greatly campaign presents an escape from the intensely one-sided, unattainably perfectionist character of 21st Century parenting.

Sentimental as notions of freedom and family are, both Marlboro Man and Family Greatly are, in the end, about as warmhearted as a cold-blooded cobra. The Marlboro Man showed suburbia’s disenfranchised what was beyond their reach, not what they could strive for. The message was not “live a meaningful life,” it was “smoke two packs a day and forget you have a meaningless life.” In much the same way, Family Greatly doesn’t tell parents what they can do to “family greatly,” it tells them what they must not do if they wish to have intimate, sincere relationships with their children — they must not stop serving up that good ‘ol mac-n-cheese, because if they do, then they’re trying too hard, and missing out on the little moments that make a strong parent-child bond.

However, of course, a diet composed mostly of mac-n-cheese doesn’t give families more time together; it takes time away by endangering children’s health. Echoes of Margaret Thatcher’s “There is No Alternative,” reverberate with the Family Greatly campaign. Marlboro Man may have been slain, but it appears that his legacy of using people’s existential heartaches against them, has survived.

Battle for the Plates of the People

While predatory advertising seems more entrenched than ever, there is a silver lining in the fact that Kraft has not undertaken its campaign from a position of strength but rather one of weakness. Changing public perceptions about Kraft reflect a nutritional awakening at the national level. Between 2004 and 2014, the number of Google searches for “fruits and vegetables” nearly doubled, and there has been a concomitant increase (76 percent) in the number of farmers markets registered with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). An unprecedented 80 percent of North Americans surveyed, are now willing to pay premiums for healthier foods. Parents have been particularly vocal (they are referred to as “cadres” and “fanatics” in marketing journals). A recent study found that 80 percent of parents questioned were concerned about the health of their children, and 91 percent supported at least one serving of fruit with every school meal. Parents are seeing the casualties of the corporate food regime in front of their eyes, and they fear their own children will be next. To reassure them — or rather, silence them — advertisers like Leo Burnett Co. have engineered licentiously deceptive ruses that attempt to turn the very love parents feel for their children against their struggle for a healthier future.

Rather than cater to demands for healthier meals, the corporate food regime has redirected billions into advertising. Kraft tripled its advertising expenditures (between 2014 and 2016), spending upwards of $ 700 million in some years. But Kraft isn’t the only one. Between 2009 and 2012, fast-food advertising expenditures in the US as a whole increased by 8 percent, reaching an eye-watering $ 4.6 billion in 2012. That year, McDonalds alone spent more on advertising than all fruit and vegetable producers did, combined. But fast food only accounts for about a third of net advertising. The total advertising bill in 2002 was a staggering $ 12.7 billion — most of which promoted fast food, processed snacks and soft drinks. This level of spending made possible an exposure rate of 10 food ads per hour of TV watched in 2002. By 2009, that figure had increased to 12.7 per hour.

Many have seen these food advertisements for what they are — attempts to silence inconvenient consumer preferences, and mold the citizen into an unremitting consumer — and have mounted a resistance in response. Adbusters has released a series of “spoof ads” targeting fast-food ads (McDonalds in particular) as part of their “culture jamming” activist strategy. The UK’s Committee of Advertising Practice banned junk food advertising across children’s media, including online and social media, in December of 2016. Across the pond, KFC was forced to pull ads that claimed that “fried chicken can in fact, be part of a healthy diet” in 2004.

Capitalism: The Secret Ingredient

Why must food producers buck consumer preferences in the first place? Why not just provide the healthy foods people demand? Why spend more than $ 10 billion a year trying to convince them to continue eating unhealthily? Consider that the US’s 7 billion livestock animals consume five times as much grain as the entire US population. What would happen if Americans suddenly took drastic health measures and cut their meat consumption in half? Where would the grain that once fed the now-redundant livestock go? Latin America is still sore about NAFTA and the corn dump. The biofuels industry seems to be far less keen on corn, now that the dirtiness of corn production has become public knowledge. If there is no market, prices have to fall, and when prices fall, farmers increase production rather than decrease it, as we saw in the Dust Bowl. Why? According to Holt-Giménez’s A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism, it’s to keep up with the interest payments on the loans they took out to finance the huge fixed costs associated with starting up a farm in the capitalist system. Of course, because all farmers are increasing their production at the same time, the glut is exacerbated and prices fall even further. When corn becomes so cheap, it isn’t even worth transporting to the cities, it ends up “rott[ing] in silos in the countryside” while the urbanites go hungry, Holt-Giménez writes.

Advertising is capital’s bulwark against such crises of over-accumulation. It keeps demand for overproduced commodities high enough to keep the food system solvent, quarter to quarter. So vital is advertising to the soundness of the food system that the state actively subsidizes it. The USDA’s checkoff program, a mandatory pooling program that consolidates funds from across the food industry, reinvests $ 750 million per year into marketing and research for commodities covered by the program (more if you count the multiplier effect). Checkoff dollars fund some odious efforts, like the push to promote Domino’s Wisconsin pizza, which has almost twice as much cheese as the regular Domino’s pizza. Another example is the egg checkoff’s illegal involvement in the egg industry’s lawsuit against Hampton Creek, producer of the non-egg based mayonnaise, “Just Mayo.” In addition to these direct subsidies, the USDA provides an indirect subsidy in the form of protection from negative advertising. For instance, in 2009, at the height of the H1N1 “swine-flu” outbreak, USDA Secretary General Tom Vilsack had the term “swine flu” dropped from national news broadcasts because it could hurt pork sales, saving the hog industry hundreds of millions in lost sales and food-safety lawsuits. Throw on an annual $ 80 million tax subsidy, along with favorable access to foreign markets, and you have just enough demand to keep the system solvent for another quarter.

But “solvent” isn’t “successful.” Cheese is the number one source of saturated fat in the Standard American Diet (SAD), and Americans are already eating more than twice the daily recommended amount. Egg, the key ingredient in mayonnaise, is the most concentrated source of cholesterol in the SAD, and as of 2015, 71 million Americans had high cholesterol. A non-egg mayonnaise is something to be welcomed onto supermarket shelves, not attacked in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit. By boosting demand for unhealthy foods, the checkoff program increases annual health care costs by $ 7.8 billion, and that number is rising, according to D.R. Simon’s Meatonomics. Similarly, the tax subsidy for food advertisers has cost us about $ 352 million in extraneous health care costs and a staggering 4,538 quality life years lost each year since its inception. As Khalid M. Alkharfy presciently puts it, “We are obviously being conditioned to look at food as an entertainment.” Sometimes, the emergence of large-scale hyper-stimulating forms of entertainment signal a society in decline: Think gladiator games in Rome before the fall.

The Necessity of a Systemic Critique

Lifestyle advertising has encouraged the proliferation of lifestyle diseases. The existential heartaches of ordinary people have been exploited by advertisers like Leo Burnett Co. to market lethal products like cigarettes and fast food. Rather than cater to consumer demands for nutritious foods, Kraft and other food conglomerates have stepped up, and in some cases tripled, advertising expenditures in order to “re-educate” consumers. In response, parents and consumers have organized and won major political victories, initially in Europe, but increasingly in the United States as well. As encouraging as these signs are, a lasting solution to the epidemic of malnutrition and the cultural annihilation wrought by predatory advertising will need to address the systemic contradictions inherent in the capitalist food system. Without access to the means of production, farmers will continue to be straddled with interest payments which force them to increase production in response to price declines, ultimately reproducing chronic oversupply and creating the raison d’être for licentious advertising ala Leo Burnett Co.

To counter the recrudescence of despicable characters like the Marlboro Man — and the senseless suffering they create — concerned parents, food activists, minimalists, consumer protection activists and cultural critics, along with any other interest group concerned about the pernicious effects of dissolute advertising on ordinary people’s lives, need to set their sights on the structural flaws of the food system. Let the recrudescence of Marlboro Man be matched by a recrudescence of structural critiques of the food system that get to the heart of the problem. As Holt-Giménez presciently puts it, “If you don’t set the menu, you’re on the menu.”

Truthout Stories

SpaceX to launch top secret ‘Zuma’ payload after weeks of delays

SpaceX will finally launch Zuma, a mysterious “restricted” payload for the US government, on Sunday – weather permitting. A series of snaps and poor weather have delayed the project for months.

The launch is set to take place at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida between 8pm ET and 10pm ET January 7 (1am and 3am GMT on January 8). Zuma was originally slated for a November takeoff, but was delayed a number of times due to issues with the fairing, the cone that protects spacecraft during liftoff.

READ MORE: SpaceX posts stunning footage of Falcon Heavy on Florida launchpad

Its January 5 launch date was also delayed due to “extreme weather” as the area experienced cold temperatures and high altitude winds as a result of the ‘bomb cyclone’ storm that hit the East Coast this week. According to the Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron, ‘go’ conditions for Sunday’s launch are at 80 percent.

“Team at the Cape completed additional propellant loading tests today,” SpaceX said in a tweet Friday.

All that’s known about the mysterious Zuma is that it is a secret US government payload, contracted by aerospace and defense company, Northrop Grumman. It’s been described as a “restricted payload.”

“The US Government assigned Northrop Grumman the responsibility of acquiring launch services for this mission,” Lon Rains, communications director at Northrop Grumman’s Space Systems Division said in a November statement. “We have procured the Falcon 9 launch service from SpaceX.” 

Zuma is headed for low-Earth orbit (LEO), which is up to 1,200 miles (1931 km) above the Earth. Objects move around Earth quickly in LEO, completing rounds every 90-120 minutes, Space.com reports. About eight minutes after takeoff, the rocket’s first stage will attempt to land back at the Cape.

SpaceX has conducted two national security launches in the past. In May 2017, it dispatched a satellite from the National Reconnaissance Office and in September, it launched a robotic X-37B space plane for the US Air Force.

You can watch a live stream of the launch here.

SpaceX said a backup launch window will open at 8pm EST on Monday, January 8, in case Sunday’s launch doesn’t go ahead.

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RT US News

Lee Camp Fixes NY Times’ Irresponsible Reporting Of Police Brutality Incident

media accountability

The NY Times reporter goes with the government/police line that the REAL problem is the pranksters who call the cops. Sure, we shouldn’t like pranksters calling the cops. BUT the real point is – it SHOULDN’T MATTER. If the cops are called to the wrong place, they should be rational enough to figure out, “Hey, there is no crime going on here. Let’s not kill anybody.”

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MintPress News

Enough About Steve Bannon. Rupert Murdoch’s Influence on Donald Trump Is More Dangerous.

For quite a while, there has been a bull market in stories about Steve Bannon calling the shots in the incorrigible tangle of neurons that passes for Donald Trump’s brain. Michael Wolff’s new book about the dysfunctional White House, “Fire and Fury,” adds a marvelous coda to this narrative, with Bannon, in his waning days in the West Wing, telling the insane truth about the most ridiculous and frightening presidency ever.

Bannon deserves every bit of attention and disgust that has come his way in recent times. His racism, laundered through Breitbart News and the White House, has fueled the far right and fanned Trump’s enfeebled instincts. Bannon’s hatred of immigration and Muslims is so fierce that he even concocted a tale about seeing the dangers of Islam firsthand when a Navy vessel he had served aboard in 1979 stopped in Pakistan – except, as it turns out, the vessel did not stop in Pakistan.

But the attention Bannon demands of us should not obscure the rival media impresario with truly Manchurian levels of influence over the president: Rupert Murdoch. One of the less-noted passages in Wolff’s book explains that the president reveres Murdoch, regularly seeking advice from the founder of the Fox empire, a condition that made Bannon jealous of Murdoch’s power over Trump. The book quotes Roger Ailes, who ran Fox News for Murdoch until being dismissed for sexual harassment, as noting that “Trump would jump through hoops for Rupert.”

Wolff’s book may not be the whole truth, but its account of Trump’s infatuation with Murdoch is consistent with reports elsewhere. Murdoch and Trump speak frequently – “Murdoch here,” their phone calls begin, according to the New York Times, which reports that Trump counts Murdoch “as one of his closest confidants.” The men have known each other for decades, since the days when Murdoch owned the New York Post and Trump was one of its fawning obsessions (“Best Sex I’ve Ever Had,” read a famous Post headline from 1990, referring to an apparent remark from Trump’s then-mistress and future short-term wife, Marla Maples).

Murdoch’s conservative ideas have never been in the shadows, and his media empire’s embrace of dirty tricks has been evident since it was revealed that one of his papers hacked the phones of a murder victim and the relatives of deceased soldiers. But the ethical brutality of the Trump era has seemed to relieve Murdoch of the burden of dressing up his views and morals. Murdoch had delayed his dismissal of Ailes in 2016 (with a $ 40 million severance package), after which he denied there was a culture of abuse at Fox, despite several male hosts and executives resigning or getting fired for harassing women. “It’s all nonsense,” he said last month.

We don’t know the instructions given to Trump in his “Murdoch here” conversations, but we do know the instructions the president gets from Fox News. There’s a cottage industry, in which the Kremlinologists of social media correlate Trump’s statements and tweets to what he has apparently just watched on Fox and, in particular, his favorite show on the network, Fox & Friends. Of course, it’s distressing that a president spends as much time as Trump does watching television (while eating cheeseburgers in bed, according to Wolff), but the fact that he mimics what he hears on a cable channel that promotes conspiracytheories and racists is … oh God, it would be a pleasure to conjure something more absurd and less chilling.

Fox News is not on autopilot. Its unhinged condition is not a consequence of its anchors and producers deciding, autonomously, that they would like to take the network where no network has gone before. This is Murdoch’s doing. After Ailes left, Murdoch assumed the position of the network’s executive chair and led its swan dive into the far-right gutter. “Rupert Murdoch is in charge,” noted Fox anchor Bill Hemmer a year after Ailes’s departure. According to the Daily Beast, Murdoch often presides over the morning news meetings; Vanity Fair quotes a former Fox executive as saying Murdoch “is having the time of his life running” the network.

Fox was never balanced or fair, and Ailes was not a nice guy. But according to Tamara Holder, a lawyer and former Fox contributor, Ailes at least made sure the network didn’t totally lose it. Holder, who left the network at the end of 2016 after accusing a senior executive of sexual misconduct (the executive was fired and Holder received a settlement), views Ailes’s dismissal and death a year later as key factors. According to Holder, Ailes required at least a bit of balance, if only a fig leaf, in the network’s coverage. “The one thing they’re missing is the Roger Ailes control button,” Holder told me. “Roger was good at overseeing things and calling it when he saw it was a little out of control.”

In the wake of Wolff’s book, there is no shortage of headlines about Bannon’s quotes and their fallout. The wealthy Mercer family, in response to Trump banishing Bannon from his set – er, his presidency – is distancing itself from Bannon’s projects. But Bannon’s malevolent influence on Trump and America is slighter than that of Murdoch and Fox. While the reach of Bannon’s Breitbart News is large in relation to its modest size – it is headquartered in the basement of a three-story townhouse in Washington, D.C. — Fox News is a globe-spanning entity with more than 1,000 employees and 90 million subscribers, including a particularly avid one at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The power behind the throne of the xenophobic right in the United States is not the millionaire banker from Goldman Sachs, but the billionaire immigrant from Australia.

Top photo: President Donald Trump is embraced in New York City by Rupert Murdoch, Executive Chairman of Fox News, during a dinner to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the World War II Battle of the Coral Sea, on May 4, 2017.

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The Intercept

Nuke your dinner without raising a finger: Amazon trolled over microwave voice control

Amazon is being mocked online for the latest update to its smart personal assistant – Alexa can now control microwaves, saving people the mere ‘micro’ seconds it takes to switch on the device after placing your food inside.

Twitter users are deriding the new addition to Alexa’s skill-set teasing that there is finally help out there to work the “complicated” microwave.

Others have questioned the practicality of the control, pointing out that a person will still have to physically put the food in the microwave.

And of course, as with many smart device developments, it begs the question are people really that lazy?

Alexa, the voice assistant of Amazon Echo, can already control cameras, door locks, lights, entertainment systems, and thermostats in the home.

Privacy activists have previously raised concerns over the internet connected assistant and its equivalents warning that these devices harness too much individual data and are open to being hacked.

The upgrades announced by Amazon, Thursday, will initially apply to microwaves before being extended to conventional ovens and other smart cooking appliances.

Customers will be able to set microwave cook times, modes, power levels, and more by simply using their voice to tell Alexa what to do.

Alexa’s cooking capabilities will be first rolled out in the US before being made available elsewhere. The functions don’t work with existing microwaves and ovens, so anyone wishing to avail of the new facility will have to fork out on a new machine.

Whirlpool is expected to launch its connected microwaves in the near future. GE Appliances, Kenmore, LG, and Samsung are also working on using the cooking capabilities in the Smart Home Skill API to let customers control their ovens and more appliances by using Alexa.

READ MORE: For fuel’s sake! Oregonians freak out over prospect of pumping their own gas

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RT US News

New Project Veritas Dossier Compiles Photos of James O’Keefe’s Known Associates

The Washington Post got lucky. After reporters there smelled something fishy about a tip from a source about former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, they began looking skeptically into the woman’s background.

The woman claimed she was from Alabama and had been impregnated by Moore, who coerced her into having an abortion. None of that was true, but she did give her real name: Jaime Phillips. Some online sleuthing eventually connected the dots: She was a plant sent by James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas to attempt to embarrass the Post.

Previous O’Keefe infiltrators at different organizations had used fake names, and an O’Keefe operative is unlikely to make the mistake of being honest next time, which would make unraveling the scheme more difficult for the next targeted group.

So one of O’Keefe’s previous victims has a solution: an expansive dossier of 149 of O’Keefe’s known associates, meant to serve as a resource for activists, lawyers, and journalists.

ProjectVeritas.Exposed” – a project of The Undercurrent, a political web show sponsored by American Family Voices — is made up of dozens of profiles of undercover operatives, funders, and other O’Keefe associates, with information compiled from social media and news articles, and in some cases, information from interviews conducted with targets. The Intercept was able to review the dossier ahead of its publication.

The dossier was largely assembled by Undercurrent Executive Producer Lauren Windsor, who has long battled O’Keefe online. Windsor is a partner at the firm Democracy Partners, which was infiltrated by O’Keefe last year and is currently suing him, Project Veritas, and operatives Allison Maass and Dan Sandini.

Maass posed as a progressive activist, using a cover story and falsified documents to obtain an internship with Democracy Partners. The website, displaying the profiles as a photo array, scrolls back to associates from O’Keefe’s days as a student at Rutgers University, where he started a conservative magazine called The Centurion.

The site devotes a section to Project Veritas funding as well, as the group has been sanctioned or denied a license to seek donations in Utah, Mississippi, Wisconsin, and Maine, and is at risk of losing its ability to fundraise in New York,according to the Washington Post. There’s also a Florida fundraising ban that applies specifically to O’Keefe and not the organization. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Project Veritas isn’t required to disclose donors.

O’Keefe’s many public misfires have cost his organization credibility in the mainstream press and political circles, but Windsor argues that as long as he has a link to the Trump administration, he should be considered dangerous.

“James O’Keefe has shown himself to be an agent of Donald Trump,” said Windsor. “Trump’s foundation donated $ 20,000 to O’Keefe in 2015, and O’Keefe proceeded to target Trump’s Democratic rivals for the presidency, embedding operatives within both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns. O’Keefe’s schemes conveniently provided ammunition for Trump talking points on voter fraud, violence at Trump rallies, and the ‘fake news’ media. This is political espionage and it’s a major threat to election integrity.”

Embedding in political campaigns is becoming a staple of O’Keefe’s election-year ratfucking. In 2016, beyond Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, O’Keefe tried to embed operatives as interns or volunteers within the Senate campaigns of Democrats Russ Feingold, Deborah Ross, and Ted Strickland. O’Keefe didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Top photo: James O’Keefe, President of Project Veritas Action, walls to the podium to speak at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015.

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The Intercept

Don’t Call the Cops If You’re Autistic, Deaf, Mentally Ill, Disabled or Old

Life in the American police state is an endless series of don’ts delivered at the end of a loaded gun: don’t talk back to police officers, don’t even think about defending yourself against a SWAT team raid (of which there are 80,000 every year), don’t run when a cop is nearby lest you be mistaken for a fleeing criminal, don’t carry a cane lest it be mistaken for a gun, don’t expect privacy in public, don’t let your kids walk to the playground alone, don’t engage in nonviolent protest near where a government official might pass, don’t try to grow vegetables in your front yard, don’t play music for tips in a metro station, don’t feed whales, and on and on. Here’s another don’t to the add the growing list of things that could get you or a loved one tasered, shot or killed: don’t call the cops.

Sometimes it’s dangerous enough calling the cops when you’re not contending with a disability. Unfortunately, the risks just skyrocket when a disability is involved, especially if you are autistic, hearing impaired, mentally ill, elderly, suffer from dementia, disabled or have any other condition that might hinder your ability to understand, communicate or immediately comply with an order.

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Show Notes

Steve Silberman, “The Police Need to Understand Autism,” The New York Times

Kent Erdahl, “Australian woman’s death at hands of police called homicide,” USA Today

Shaun King, “Black Indianapolis man shot by cops after calling police to report robbery,” Daily News

Peter Eisler, Jason Szep, Tim Reid and Grant Smith, “Shock Tactics,” Reuters

David M. Perry and Lawrence Carter-Long, “Media coverage of law enforcement use of force and disability,” Ruderman Family Foundation

Michael Burns, “Jury exonerates police for treatment of autistic man,” Greenville News

Cleve R. Wootson Jr., “Police used a Taser on a grandfather, who’s now in intensive care. They say it was for his safety,” The Washington Post

Christian Boone, “Mom of Georgia Tech student shot by police speaks out,” Atlanta Journal Constitution

James Doubek, “Oklahoma City Police Fatally Shoot Deaf Man Despite Yells Of ‘He Can’t Hear,’” NPR

Stephen Greenspan, “The Preventable Death of Ethan Saylor,” Psychology Today

Bill Chappell, “North Miami Officer Is Arrested Over Shooting Of Therapist During Standoff,” NPR

Artemis Moshtaghian, “Dallas school police use handcuffs to restrain 7-year-old boy,” CNN

Russell Contreras, “Things to know one year after APD shooting of James Boyd,” Albuquerque Journal

Liam Stack, “N.C. Trooper Investigated in Fatal Shooting of Deaf Motorist,” The New York Times

Amiel Fields-Meyer, “When Police Officers Don’t Know About the ADA,” The Atlantic

Wesley Lowery, Kimberly Kindy, Keith L. Alexander, Julie Tate, Jennifer Jenkins, Steven Rich, “Distraught People, Deadly Results,” The Washington Post

“Police immune over arrest of mentally ill woman,” Chicago Tribune

Brandy Zadrozny, “Protecting Your Mentally Ill Child From the Cops,” The Daily Beast

Tim Prudente, “Police Get Schooled On Special Needs Interactions,” The Baltimore Sun

Steve Silberman, “Making Encounters With Police Officers Safer for People With Disabilities,” The New York Times

Don’t Call the Cops If You’re Autistic, Deaf, Mentally Ill, Disabled or Old

Battlefield America: The War on the American People

Rutherford Institute

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