April 13, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 10:49 PM


Trump sanctuary city idea could help migrants stay in US (ASTRID GALVAN and MORGAN LEE, 4/13/19, AP)

An idea floated by President Donald Trump to send immigrants from the border to "sanctuary cities" to exact revenge on Democratic foes could end up doing the migrants a favor by placing them in locations that make it easier to put down roots and stay in the country.

The plan would put thousands of immigrants in cities that are not only welcoming to them, but also more likely to rebuff federal officials carrying out deportation orders. Many of these locations have more resources to help immigrants make their legal cases to stay in the United States than smaller cities, with some of the nation's biggest immigration advocacy groups based in places like San Francisco, New York City and Chicago. The downside for the immigrants would be a high cost of living in the cities.

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University announced this week that an analysis found that immigrants in sanctuary cities such as New York and Los Angeles are 20% less likely to be arrested out in the community than in cities without such policies.

Bring them all.

Posted by orrinj at 2:57 PM


Posted by orrinj at 11:07 AM


Posted by orrinj at 10:56 AM


Algeria in revolt: "We woke up and you will pay!": The abdication of President Bouteflika is a historic victory for the Algerian people -- but the struggle for a true democratic transition is far from over. (Hamza Hamouchene, 12 April 2019, Open Democracy)

Nine years ago, Algeria seemed to be immune to this revolutionary fever and was viewed as the exception to the rule, despite harboring the same set of conditions for revolt. At the time, the government suggested that Algeria already had its "spring" over two decades earlier, referring to the short-lived democratic transition following weeks of demonstrations in October 1988 that forced the regime to give way to political pluralism and an independent press. However, these gains in civil liberties and the "democratic transition" were aborted by the military coup and the civil war of the 1990s.

In addition to ongoing forms of repression, collective memories of hundreds of thousands of deaths and brutal state violence underpinning the eradication of the Islamist opposition may help explain the failure of an uprising to take root in Algeria during the 2010-2011 period. The spectre of the civil war and the fear of bloody violence have been further exacerbated by the intervention in Libya, the counter-revolution in Egypt and the carnage and foreign interference in Syria.

Additionally, oil and gas revenues -- which prices peaked in the late 2000s -- were used to purchase social peace domestically and to secure international acquiescence. Domestically, the hydrocarbon bonanza was used to pacify the population and prevent the intensification of popular anger. Externally, by virtue of being the third largest provider of natural gas to Europe after Russia and Norway, and given the dwindling production in the North Sea and the Ukrainian crisis, Algeria hoped it could leverage this position to play an even more important role in securing Europe's energy supplies, and by extension Western collusion and approval.

These factors do no longer constitute a brake on people's desire for meaningful change as popular discontent from below converged with a deep crisis within the ruling classes leading to the indignation of the oppressed to burst forth and find its expression in the streets.

Algeria has been undergoing an acute multi-dimensional crisis for some time now. The country has been experiencing a political crisis for decades -- in particular since the 1992 military coup and the ensuing brutal civil war. The origins of this crisis date back to the colonial era, though its most recent manifestations are the direct result of the politics of a parasitic accumulation and entrenched corruption: a militaro-oligarchic nexus that denies the Algerian people their right to self-determination and dispenses with popular legitimacy for the benefit of domestic and international capital.

This crisis has been exacerbated by several factors, not in the least by the ailing Bouteflika's general absence from the political stage. The crisis has been compounded by intra-elite power struggles, culminating in the fall of Algeria's long-term king maker, the Military Intelligence Agency (DRS) Chief in 2015 and the cocaine scandal of 2018, which led to the sacking of the head of police, a few generals and other high functionaries in the Ministry of Defense.

In a context of the failure of the institutionalized opposition and social movements to articulate and carry out a viable alternative, we predicted in 2016 that the slump in oil prices may just hammer the final nail in the coffin of a rentier, non-productive and de-industrialized economy that is highly dependent on oil and gas exports, the main source of foreign currency.....With the oil prices plummeting and with foreign currency reserves (estimated at $179 billion at the end of 2014) deemed to not last beyond 2016-2017, the 1988 experience could easily be replicated and the crisis has the potential to escalate into a full explosion that will threaten the country's national security and possibly its territorial integrity.

The recent events come at a time of an acute economic crisis characterized by crippling austerity measures following the decline of oil and gas export revenues, coupled with an intensification of infighting and divisions within the ruling elites after the imposition of the candidacy of Bouteflika for a fifth term at the helm of the state.

The triad of power consisting of the presidency, military intelligence (DRS) and the armed forces' high command showed its first signs of weakness in 2008 when the DRS started clashing with the two other centers of power. In 2019 the split was complete, when the decisive entrance of the people unto the political stage effectively forced the armed forces' high command to distance itself from the presidency. The military clearly intervened to put an end to Bouteflika's reign in order to safeguard the regime in place.

Such public displays of rivalry and dispute are symptomatic of the deep-seated contradictions and instability of the current ruling block and the crisis of hegemony within it, which has opened up new spaces for resistance.

This is a significant moment in the popular dynamic that started in February 2019 as this is only one victory in the long struggle for radical change that must include the overthrow of Major General Gaid Salah too; a key loyal figure in Bouteflika's regime and a supporter of his fifth term before backtracking under the pressure of the growing popular movement. The army leadership is definitely not to be trusted, as was made clear by Major General Salah's initial threats towards movement before adopting a more conciliatory tone. The Algerian people need to be more vigilant and determined than ever in order to halt the counter-revolutionary forces from hijacking this historic uprising.

Now that Bouteflika resigned, it is absolutely necessary to implement a truly democratic transition, and the people should not yield to calls for applying article 102 of the constitution, which would allow the leader of the upper house to take over and to organize elections in 90 days after the presidency has been declared vacant by the constitutional council (as the incumbent is too ill to exercise his functions).

Basically, if applied to the letter, this will keep the current system in place and will not guarantee free and transparent elections. The people are asking for popular sovereignty which cannot be curtailed by rigid legalistic and constitutionalist arguments. This is a unique moment in Algeria's history to impose a new revolutionary paradigm, which go beyond legal and constitutional frameworks in order to radically challenge the status quo and create a fundamental break with the oppressive system in place.

There are already several proposals to resolve the crisis and to initiate a kind of a transition that will satisfy peoples' demands and give them back their stifled sovereignty. The army command must not interfere with this process and must stick to its constitutional role of guaranteeing national security. Algerians did not revolt to replace some oppressors with others.

For this reason, the balance of forces must be shifted significantly towards the masses by maintaining the resistance (marches, occupations of public spaces, general strikes, etc) to force the army command to yield to people's demand for system change entailing the removal of the entire old political guard.

Converting the most brutal dictatorship in the region into a multi-confessional democracy demonstrated that no regime is immune.

Posted by orrinj at 10:49 AM


Trump Contradicts White House Over Sending Migrants to Sanctuary Cities (Davis Richardson, 04/12/19, NY Observer)

"Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities," tweeted the president on Friday. 

No one has ever accused him of having a functioning brain cell, but it's cute how he thinks people who brave the gangs of the four Mexicos won't cross from VT to NH.

Posted by orrinj at 10:44 AM


What is next for Turkey after the local elections? (Fahrettin Altun, 4/13/19, Al Jazeera)

The People's Alliance - between the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) - received over 53 percent of the national vote and maintained its popularity. Meanwhile, opposition candidates made some gains, notably in the capital Ankara. The mayorship in Istanbul is still contested and the Supreme Electoral Council, an independent legal body, is handling challenges as per Turkish law in a transparent fashion.

After Turkey wrapped up the municipal vote, for the first time in many years, it is entering a long election-free period that will last until 2023. In these four-and-a-half years, the Turkish presidency will focus on three main issues: the economy, the crisis in Syria and its defence capabilities.

On the home front, getting the Turkish economy back on track will be the administration's top priority. In recent months, Turkey experienced an unprecedented and potentially devastating economic assault that it managed to survive.

The lesson learned from that episode was that the Turkish government needed to take necessary steps to make the nation's economy more resilient to external shocks. By 2023, Turkey hopes to have strengthened its economy through export-driven growth, investment in technology and job creation.

Last week, Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak unveiled the administration's plan for structural transformation, which places emphasis on strengthening Turkey's free market economy, implementing tax reforms and promoting a more just distribution of wealth.

Reiterating the country's commitment to fiscal discipline, Albayrak pledged to deliver debt securities worth $4.92bn to capitalise state banks and help private banks to raise their capital levels to address short-term issues. In the long run, the administration plans to introduce a new individual pension system based on income level. The Turkish government will unveil a plan to combat inflation on food prices next month.

Once you secure a revolution you have to deliver on its promises.

Posted by orrinj at 10:39 AM


Ilhan Omar Falls Victim to the Outrage Exhibitionists (Conor Friedersdorf, 4/13/19,  The Atlantic)

When the ideological left engages in what is variously denigrated as "political correctness," virtue-signaling, performative wokeness, or "social-justice warrior" cry-bullying, many on the right find it easy to spot the flaws in those modes of discourse. But that discernment vanishes when the populist right indulges in the same vices (even as progressives become unusually attuned to their downsides).

Last month, Representative Ilhan Omar attended a banquet hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, where she delivered remarks for roughly 20 minutes.

A major theme was prejudice against Muslims. "Here's the truth," she said. "For far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen. Frankly, I'm tired of it. And every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it. CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties."

Omar's meaning was clear: Many Muslims felt collectively blamed for something that was indisputably perpetrated by a tiny fraction of their coreligionists and marshaled new resources to protect their civil rights in response.

it's just a choice of PCs between the wings.

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


REVIEW: SOMNOX: This fuzzy robot promises to help its bedtime companions fall asleep more quickly, sleep more deeply, and wake up more refreshed--all by simply cuddling.  (ARIELLE PARDES, 4/13/19, Wired)

LET'S GET THIS out of the way: I am sleeping with a robot. (No, not like that, you sicko.) I hold it in my arms each night and feel its chest rise and fall against mine. Without arms to hold me back, it is forever my little spoon. Without a voice to bid me sweet dreams, it simply sits there, purring against me.

The robot with which I sleep is called the Somnox. The $600 device promises to help its bedtime companions fall asleep more quickly, sleep more deeply, and wake up more refreshed--all by simply cuddling. It is shaped like an oversized butternut squash and covered in baby-soft fabric; contained within is a motorized breathing mechanism, which expands and contracts like a lung in miniature. Hold it against you and, without much effort, your breathing begins to synchronize with it. This slows down your heart, which makes you feel relaxed, which guides you gently and swiftly toward sleep.

The Somnox was created by four engineering students in the Netherlands who, in their course of study, were left "personally exposed to the effects of sleep deprivation.". They put the Somnox on Kickstarter in 2017, offering better sleep in exchange for €100,000 (about $113,000) in crowdfunding. The internet, desperate to wake up feeling more rested, doubled their goal within a month.

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 AM


Iraqis leading efforts to enrich Arabic Wikipedia (Gilgamesh Nabeel, April 13, 2019, Al Monitor)

Leading enlightenment efforts is not something new to Iraqis, who are the inhabitants of Mesopotamia -- once the cradle of civilization. In ninth-century Baghdad, Abbasid ruler Harun al-Rashid established Bayt al-Hikmah -- the Arabic name for the House of Wisdom -- to house the monumental activity of the translation of Greek and Persian works into Arabic. This institution flourished in the reign of his son al-Ma'mun, making Baghdad the world's biggest hub of science.

"We chose this name for its historical significance," said Rayyis. He added, "That institution was a beacon of science, tolerance and exchange of cultures. The passion for science brought people of different religions and cultures -- all Jews, Muslims, Christians and others -- into one institution altogether."

Rayyis dreams of recreating that atmosphere. "We want to rekindle our people's golden age and join the global civilization," he said.

For Omar Mohammed, a Paris-based Iraqi scholar and creator and administrator of Mosul Eye, translation is such a valuable magical means. "We need it to build a new future -- a future devoid of dictatorship and ignorance," he said.

This project reminded Mohammed of Farah Antoun, a pioneer Tripoli-born enlightenment figure, writer and translator in the 19th century when he translated works into Arabic. "Hearing of Mutar's translation project made me very happy, for the freedom to access knowledge is a way to achieve eternal freedom," said Mohammed.

Upon meeting Mutar in New York this month, Mohammed suggested some books be translated into Arabic.

"Mutar promised to dedicate the project to Mosul University," he said, adding, "We are trying to make the website accessible in Mosul with more contributions from Mosul University scholars."

Currently, the House of Wisdom 2.0 project has a Facebook community of some 84,000 fans.

"We have added more than 900 articles to the Arabic Wikipedia and translated 12 books," said Mutar. He noted, "We lifted the ranking of the Arabic language to the 17th language in Wikipedia from the 19th."

While Arabic is the fourth most spoken language among internet users, only 6% of online content is available in Arabic.

"With our project, the Arabic Wikipedia is ranked 17th, preceded by the Ukrainian Wikipedia," said Rayyis. He added, "There are more than 400 million Arabic speakers, while Ukrainian is spoken by about 35 million people worldwide. We are proud of translating the full English Wikipedia content on biological evolution into Arabic -- more than 500 essays."

What is special about the House of Wisdom 2.0, according to Rayyis, is that it is a nonprofit project. "We translate hundreds of articles every month, voluntarily upload them to the Arabic Wikipedia and make them available to everyone for free," he said.

While concentrating on topics debunking conspiracy theories, topics banned in some Arab countries and content that makes people question more, Mutar emphasizes that they have no agenda other than spreading knowledge.

"We are not a political or anti-religion organization, but we embrace some of these controversial books and content because we believe Arab youth should be allowed to make up their own minds about how they want to live their lives," he said.

The reactions they get are quite encouraging.

"Within a few months, 80,000 fans followed us on Facebook," said Rayyis. "The majority of them are from Iraq, especially Baghdad, Najaf, Mosul and Basra. We have received hundreds of supportive messages so far," Rayyis added.

"It is a forum for those who adore knowledge and want to be part of an enlightened society," wrote Ismail Berwari, a lawyer from Dahuk in Iraqi Kurdistan, advising people to follow the project's page on Facebook.