Twitter reinforces ban

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FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018, file photo, Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist, walks the corridors of Capitol Hill after listening to testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington. On Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, Twitter confirmed it has removed accounts linked to conspiracy-monger Alex Jones and Infowars. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018, file photo, Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist, walks the corridors of Capitol Hill after listening to testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington. On Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, Twitter confirmed it has removed accounts linked to conspiracy-monger Alex Jones and Infowars. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

Twitter removes accounts linked to Alex Jones, Infowars

By The Associated Press

Wednesday, October 24

Twitter has removed some accounts thought to be used to circumvent a ban on conspiracy-monger Alex Jones and Infowars, the company said Tuesday.

A Twitter spokesman confirmed that the accounts had been removed but provided no additional comment. The company says it usually does not discuss specific accounts.

Twitter permanently suspended realalexjones and infowars from Twitter and Periscope in early September, later than many other tech companies such as Apple and Facebook. It said it based that action in reports of tweets and videos that violated its policy against abusive behavior.

The ban underscored the difficulty many social-media services face in trying to consistently apply their rules against harassment and other bad behavior. It was also likely from the start that Jones and his supporters would find ways to get around Twitter’s ban by setting up new accounts or posting from existing accounts that were not part of the initial purge.

Twitter said Tuesday it would continue to evaluate reports regarding other accounts potentially associated with realalexjones or infowars and would take action if it finds content that violates its rules or if other accounts are used to try to circumvent their ban.

As of Tuesday afternoon, an account for Alex Jones podcasts was still up on Twitter, as was another called “InfowarsFeed” that hasn’t tweeted since 2008.

Other tech companies, including PayPal, YouTube, Apple and Spotify, have limited or banned Jones’ activities on their sites.

Infowars has said the moves are intended to sabotage the site just weeks before the midterm elections.

On Twitter and elsewhere, Jones has done such things as describe survivors of a shooting in Parkland, Florida, “crisis actors” and saying the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 was fake. He had about 900,000 followers on Twitter. Infowars had about 430,000.

Opinion: Welcome to Budapest on the Potomac

By John Feffer

The Trump administration has begun a minority revolution in the United States.

It came to power without the support of the majority of American voters. It has transformed the political balance of the Supreme Court by appointing Brett Kavanaugh, whom a majority of Americans oppose.

The president has belittled this majority opposition by accusing anti-Kavanaugh demonstrators of being stooges of financier George Soros. The administration is undermining the media, which a majority of Americans trust, by labeling its reporting “fake news.”

On the foreign policy front, the president has soft-pedaled national security concerns about Russia, even though 60 percent of Americans believe that the Kremlin meddled in the last presidential election.

The Trump administration is now attempting to consolidate this minority revolution through undemocratic means. It is doubling down on the Republican Party’s previous efforts at voter suppression by purging voter rolls and engaging in racial gerrymandering. It is transforming the federal courts at all levels by pushing through appointments as quickly as possible in case Congress changes hands. And it is dismantling as much of the regulatory state as it can — in favor of big business — and shifting as much of the nation’s wealth to the rich before the majority can regain the political helm.

It’s not difficult to predict the future of this strategy. That’s because this agenda has already been successfully implemented.

In Hungary.

All of the principal features of the Trump revolution have already been pushed through in this small, central European country. Current Prime Minister Viktor Orban, like Donald Trump, was once a liberal. But he saw opportunity on the right side of the political spectrum and redefined himself accordingly.

Unlike Trump, Orban has always been a politician. He served as Hungary’s prime minister from 1998 to 2002, which served as his apprenticeship. The voters didn’t highly rate his performance and fired him after one term.

But Orban regained power in 2010 — with considerably more support than Trump has ever achieved — and has held onto it ever since. He has tried to concentrate as much power as possible into his own hands. Knowing that the judiciary represents an obstacle to that self-empowerment, Orban has forcibly remade the institution, running afoul of European Union norms and eliciting EU warnings. Trump and the Republican Party have no such external institution to flout in their transformation of the federal judiciary.

Orban has lashed out against another pillar of democracy: the free press. He has been stridently anti-immigrant. He has praised Vladimir Putin and openly patterned his illiberal democracy on the Russian model. He has accused the opposition of being stooges of George Soros.

No surprise, then, that Orban became the first foreign leader to endorse Trump’s run for the presidency.

It’s not far-fetched to imagine that Trump — or at least Trump’s advisers — have looked to Orban’s dismantling of the liberal state for inspiration. That’s what happened with Poland. In 2011, Polish politician Jaroslaw Kaczynski declared that one day he would make sure that “we will have Budapest in Warsaw.” Kaczynski’s party, Law and Justice, won in 2015 and has proceeded to do just that.

And now Trump is attempting to create Budapest in Washington.

Trump and Orban are not just pursuing similar revolutions separately. Unlike the Obama and George W. Bush administrations, Trump has cultivated warm ties with Orban. The State Department hasn’t criticized any of Orban’s anti-democratic moves. A. Wess Mitchell, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, visited Hungary last May to discuss closer cooperation on security issues.

The Hungarian government, to offset all the criticism it gets from Brussels, touts the Trump administration’s support of “our support for persecuted Christians, our economic achievements, and approach to illegal migration.”

Meanwhile, Steve Bannon, Trump’s former top ideologist who called Orban “Trump before Trump,” has also visited Hungary and secured Orban’s support for his own anti-EU project.

Trump and Orban are lynchpins of a new Alt-Right International — along with Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy and potentially Brazil — that wants to rewind all efforts at international cooperation to address human rights, migration, corruption and transparency. They can also count on the support of right-wing populist fellow travelers like Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Shinzo Abe’s Japan, Narendra Modi’s India, and Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines.

Trump would love to have the electoral mandate that Orban currently enjoys. But even without that majority support, Trump will still follow the Hungarian blueprint: consolidate political power, tilt the economic playing field toward his rich backers, undermine the press, capture the judiciary, and declare war on “politically correct” culture.

Welcome to Budapest on the Potomac.


John Feffer directs the Foreign Policy In Focus project at the Institute for Policy Studies. He is the author of the book “Aftershock: A Journey Into Eastern Europe’s Broken Dreams” (2017) and the novel “Frostlands” (November 2018). He wrote this for

Report tags clergy accused of sex abuse in San Francisco bay

Tuesday, October 23

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A law firm suing California bishops for the records of priests accused of sexual abuse released its own report Tuesday listing more than 200 clergy in the San Francisco Bay Area it says are accused of misconduct.

Minnesota-based Jeff Anderson & Associates compiled the list from lawsuits and public websites to publicize the breadth of the problem, said attorney Jeff Anderson. He accused church leaders of keeping quiet to protect themselves and the Roman Catholic Church, putting children at risk.

The Catholic Church is reeling from a grand jury report released in August that estimated hundreds of priests in Pennsylvania molested more than 1,000 children since the 1940s. The report accused senior church officials of systematically covering up complaints.

The report released Tuesday notes that the “vast majority of the claims” have not been proven in court. Anderson’s firm first said the number of accused clergy was higher, but lowered the number because some of the accused clergy worked at more than one diocese.

Tuesday’s report lists 135 clergy members accused in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, including names, photos and background information, 95 accused in the Diocese of Oakland and 33 in the Diocese of San Jose. In San Jose, that’s more than double the 15 included in a report released last week by Bishop Patrick McGrath.

“San Jose has done something that is less than the full truth,” Anderson said, adding that bishops overall have “made a lot of promises, but we’ve seen no action and very few disclosures.”

Mike Brown, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, said Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone is conducting listening sessions. Brown said the archdiocese could release a list of names as part of a broader response in November.

“To assist the victims is the primary concern, or any victims who have not come forward. It probably would help very much to have credibly accused clergy’s names,” Brown said.

A spokeswoman for the Oakland diocese, Helen Osman, referred The Associated Press to a statement earlier this month in which Oakland Bishop Michael C. Barber said he would release the names of credibly accused clergy within 45 days.

Liz Sullivan, spokeswoman for the Diocese of San Jose, said it is “heart-breaking to see the list of so many who have betrayed and abused innocent children in these horrific ways,” and said the diocese is reviewing the names.

Anderson said his firm also plans to sue the Vatican on Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco.

He represents two clients who say they were abused by priests who plan to allege that the Vatican failed to “adequately address child sexual abuse by its priests, leaving numerous children at risk,” according to a draft of the lawsuit Anderson provided.

He filed a similar lawsuit earlier this month in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging California bishops should also be held responsible for abusive priests. His firm released a report with the names of 307 clergy in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles it says was accused of sex abuse.

This story has been corrected to change the number of clergy involved based on revised numbers from the law firm.

Associated Press writer Paul Elias also contributed to this report.

Truth and Reconciliation for Gender-based Offenses

By Matthew Johnson

I was very inspired by the bold New York Times piece “Eight Stories of Men’s Regret,” published in response to the polarized debate over now-Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Not only is it brave to confess one’s past transgressions, but it is also necessary for accountability, which is the missing link of #MeToo.

Perhaps most importantly, these actions will inspire others to do likewise. #MeToo should get much of the credit: Its hashtag inspired other, albeit less catchy, offshoots (#HimThough and #IDidThat) that focused on male accountability. This was the necessary counterpart to the outpouring of sexual assault survivor solidarity in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein exposé.

It is likely that these offshoots lacked the staying power of #MeToo primarily due to the reluctance of men to participate. Nonetheless, there is a tendency within #MeToo and beyond it to chastise men for speaking up in areas deemed sensitive to women — arguing that men need to listen rather than speak, defend, mansplain, etc. — but the question remains: What does male accountability look like? It certainly cannot be reduced to passive listening. This is how you would scold a child with some poor parenting. In the case of an adult, passive listening can only be the beginning of accountability.

This effort by men to publicly confess in a thoughtful, self-reflective manner is a major step forward in the fight for accountability. I can recall that one of the most powerful and inspiring moments from my years of anti-war activism (which led me to anti-violence and women’s rights activism) was watching the teary-eyed testimony of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans confess during the Winter Soldier testimonies the crimes they committed against civilians. I can also recall, on video, the steely-eyed white South African police officers recounting how they tortured and murdered black freedom fighters during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

While the latter example was far less inspirational, truth is critical to any resolution of conflict or reparation of harm. It is the fulcrum of the lever of accountability — and of justice by extension.

It must be noted for the sake of fairness that accountability cannot be limited to one gender, and we cannot assume that men only harm women or that men are the only ones who cause harm. A major flaw of truth and reconciliation processes has been selective justice — that they have only scratched the surface in most cases. If these eight regretful men had gone deeper into their pasts, the reader may have learned where their lack of respect for boundaries originated. While they were all influenced by rape culture and violent socialization to some extent — just by being American men in their particular cases — no boy or man is immune from direct victimization. A victimized man is often a dangerous man due to the hyper-masculine need to disguise weakness or compensate for it in (often) violent ways.

While mainstream society has come a long way in recent months in propping up survivors and calling out perpetrators for violent and sexist behavior (despite the painful lurch backward so evident in the Kavanaugh confirmation process), it is time that we hear more from those perpetrators in the context of truth and reconciliation.

Matt Johnson, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is co-author of Trumpism.

A new kind of voting faces Election Day test in Maine


Associated Press

Wednesday, October 24

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Voters marking a single candidate on a ballot? That’s so 20th century.

A new way of voting in Maine allows people to rank candidates from best to worst with provisions for additional voting rounds, candidate eliminations and extra tabulations to ensure there’s a consensus winner who collects a majority of the votes.

The ranked-choice voting system will be used for the first time in history in U.S. House and Senate races in Maine on Election Day.

Advocates hope the concept will spread to other states, providing more choices for restless voters and tempering hyper-partisan politics.

“There’s the saying, ‘As Maine goes, so goes the nation,’” said Rob Richie, from electoral reform group FairVote, referring to the days when Maine’s early election served as a national bellwether. “Other states will be looking to Maine’s experience with interest.”

The system works like this: Voters rank candidates. A candidate garnering a majority of first-place votes is the winner.

If there’s no majority winner, the last-place candidate is eliminated and the losing candidate’s second-place votes are reallocated for another voting round. The computerized tallies are repeated in a game of political survivor until someone captures a majority.

Maine residents approved the system in 2016 after nine of the past 11 gubernatorial elections resulted in winners who had failed to get a majority of the vote. The current governor, tough-talking Republican Paul LePage, first won election with about 38 percent of the vote in 2010.

In a twist of fate, the system won’t be used for the governor’s race or legislative races, which also are on the Nov. 6 ballot, because of concerns it runs afoul of the Maine Constitution.

But it was used without any major problems in June’s primary . And it will be used again in November’s federal races. And the idea is gaining momentum in other states, including Massachusetts, Richie said.

Cushing Samp, of Saco, said she began advocating for the new system after she volunteered for an independent candidate four years ago. Many voters told her they liked the independent but “didn’t want to throw their vote away.”

Supporters say the system removes the “spoiler” effect and allows voters to cast tallies for a third-party or independent without fear of a wasted vote. That’s because their second-choice would be counted if there’s no majority winner.

“It allows you to vote for the person who you really like regardless of what that person’s chances of winning are,” she said.

The potential impact could be seen in the liberal, southern 1st Congressional District. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, would be a shoo-in under traditional voting, but a three-way race with ranked-choice voting changes the calculus.

Independent Marty Grohman sees a path to victory if Pingree fails to reach 50 percent of first-place votes and if he collects enough second-choice votes from supporters of Republican Mark Holbrook in the next round.

To the north, Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s Democratic challenger, Jared Golden, could be aided by second-choice votes from two independents under a similar scenario in the more conservative 2nd Congressional District.

For the system to work as intended, voters have to rank the candidates, but it’s unclear how many will do so when they get to the polls. Both Poliquin and Pingree say they intend to cast a single vote for themselves, instead of ranking the candidates.

Ranked-choice proponents say the system discourages candidates from making negative attacks for fear of alienating supporters of other candidates, thus shifting debate from political extremes to the political center.

Critics say voters are not well served by homogenized campaigns and that fiery rhetoric is good for differentiating the candidates.

Some, like Patty Keyes, of Belfast, said voting should be kept simple. The new system “just complicates things.”

Also called instant runoff, the system is used in 11 local jurisdictions across the country, including mayoral elections in Maine’s largest city.

But there’s nothing instant about the process in Maine.

If there’s no first-round winner, then the ballots have to be shipped to the state capital and scanned into computers before additional tallies can be completed.

It took eight days before the winners were announced in the ranked-choice primary elections in June in which extra rounds were necessary.

No one challenged the outcome in the courts. But that remains a possibility if a loser decided to challenge a ranked-choice conclusion.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a Democrat, was skeptical because the voter-approved referendum instituting ranked-choice voting didn’t include any provisions for how such an election would be conducted. Election officials scrambled to put rules into place.

Voters seemed to be patient about the delayed results.

Dunlap is now a believer. “We had a lot of a success. We learned some lessons. We made some adjustments. Now we know what the blueprint looks like,” he said.


Ranked-choice voting in Maine:


Child death toll hits 7 in viral outbreak at rehab center

Wednesday, October 24

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Another child has died following a severe viral outbreak at a New Jersey rehabilitation center for “medically fragile children,” bringing the death toll to seven, the facility said Wednesday.

There have been 18 cases overall of adenovirus at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) northwest of New York, the state Health Department said. The 227-bed, for-profit facility cares for children and elderly residents.

The agency had said Tuesday that six children died this month. But the center said it learned Tuesday night that another child had died.

Adenoviruses are a group of common viruses that typically cause mild illnesses, from cold-like symptoms to conjunctivitis. But people with weakened immune systems, particularly children, are at higher risk of severe illness.

The strain afflicting the children is usually associated with acute respiratory illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which on its website instructs health workers to report unusual clusters to state or local health departments.

The Health Department hasn’t released the names or the ages of the victims.

The CDC is providing technical assistance to the state. In the past 10 years, cases of severe illness and death from the type of infection found at the facility have been reported in the United States, though it’s unclear how many deaths there have been.

The center’s website says it helps educate “medically fragile children.” The facility was instructed not to admit new patients until the outbreak ends, and the Health Department said the number of new cases appears to be decreasing.

FILE – In this Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018, file photo, Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist, walks the corridors of Capitol Hill after listening to testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington. On Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, Twitter confirmed it has removed accounts linked to conspiracy-monger Alex Jones and Infowars. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File) – In this Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018, file photo, Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist, walks the corridors of Capitol Hill after listening to testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington. On Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, Twitter confirmed it has removed accounts linked to conspiracy-monger Alex Jones and Infowars. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
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