There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!
As relatives desperately searched shelters for missing loved ones today, crews searching the smoking ruins of Paradise and outlying areas found six more bodies, raising the death toll to 29, matching the deadliest wildfire in state history.
Wildfires continued to rage on both ends of the state, with gusty winds expected overnight which will challenge firefighters.
The statewide death toll stood at 31 and appeared certain to rise.
Massive out-of-control wildfires are ripping through California, causing insurmountable destruction and the evacuation of thousands on both ends of the state.
On Saturday, firefighters hoped that a brief lull in howling winds would give them a chance to block, or at least slow, one of two massive wildfires that have killed at least 23 people and caused the evacuations of hundreds of thousands.
Here is how people can help;
California Volunteers: The state-run office manages programs and initiatives helping to increase public service in California. The group has activated for the disasters and has ways for you to help out, whether it be financially, volunteering or with donated goods, in each of the fires.
American Red Cross: The American Red Cross is helping those in northern and southern California with finding shelter and providing assistance. The organization has listed ways for you to help. If you would like to make a $10 donation, visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999.
CCF Wildfire Relief Fund: The organization helps provide intermediate and long-term recovery efforts for major California wildfires and has local initiatives to help out those affected by the blaze.
Violence against journalists worldwide is going up and is a grave threat to freedom of expression,” Mr Hunt said on Twitter. “If media reports prove correct, we will treat the incident seriously — friendships depend on shared values; British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt
Turkish officials accuse Saudi Arabia of murdering Khashoggi, 59,…
LONDON (AFP)|AIWA! NO!|-British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt will visit Saudi Arabia on Monday where he will press King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
During a trip to the region that includes a visit to the United Arab Emirates, Hunt will also seek to build support for UN efforts to end the conflict in Yemen, the Foreign Office said.
His visit comes amid an international diplomatic crisis over the murder of Saudi journalist Khashoggi, a US resident, at his country’s consulate in Istanbul in October.
“The international community remain united in horror and outrage at the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi one month ago,” said Hunt, who will also meet Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.
“It is clearly unacceptable that the full circumstances behind his murder still remain unclear.
“We encourage the Saudi authorities to co-operate fully with the Turkish investigation into his death, so that we deliver justice for his family and the watching world.”
During his brief visit to the Gulf, Hunt will also meet Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Yemeni Vice President Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar and Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani.
– International Declaration on Information and Democracy –
|JAVIER PALLERO@javierpallero, accessnow|AIWA! NO!|On November 2, an independent commission set up by Reporters Without Borders published a new declaration on issues relevant for human rights in the digital era. The “International Declaration on Information and Democracy: principles for the global information and communication space“ addresses difficult and pressing issues such as misinformation, privacy, and the role of tech intermediaries in ensuring freedom of expression.
The declaration, endorsed by a number of important figures in journalism and human rights, has valuable references to freedom of the press and the protection of journalists, and it calls for a better technological ecosystem for information exchange. Today at the Paris Peace Forum,12 countries launched a political process aimed at providing democratic guarantees for news and information and freedom of opinion – an initiative based on the declaration.
While we share that goal, our analysis offers a word of caution with regard to the recommendations on the role of internet information intermediaries. We explain why this part of the declaration may be problematic for the freedom of expression online if poorly implemented or interpreted by decision-makers.
A necessary call for better conditions for journalism
The declaration takes stock of the current challenges for the free press, which are shared by traditional and digital journalism. It reinforces the key role that journalists play in democratic societies, and makes a call to increase their safety. From our point of view, this clearly includes strengthening digital security, a challenge that journalists face in light of the illegal eavesdropping by both governments and private actors. Journalists need to be able to rely on technology that works for them and protects their sources. That’s why we view the protection of strong encryption as fundamental for the work of journalists, and we commend the declaration’s call for privacy for those participating in the public debate.
Privacy facilitates the exercise of the freedom of expression, which comprises the right to impart and receive information. Both technology and the press play an important role in facilitating our access to information in the public interest. The declaration recognizes this and stresses the social function of the press. We add that our ability to access the internet in times of political and social unrest is also essential in fulfilment of that role. Therefore, states should abstain from ordering internet shutdowns or blocking applications. Despite growing public awareness of such network interference, this dangerous trend is nevertheless escalating, as we recently indicated in a joint report to the United Nations Human Rights Council. We also call for increased attention to the wave of repressive legislation that is targeting online expression and putting journalists’ work and lives at risk.
Another laudable inclusion in the declaration is its call for further transparency. This includes transparency as a means of improving the quality of information but also as a way to understand more about how the content curation algorithms in digital platforms work.
Cautions and considerations regarding free expression
The declaration raises concerns about issues including liability for content dissemination, bias in digital platforms, and the proliferation of misinformation on the internet. We acknowledge and share those concerns. However, we worry that some parts of the declaration may be misinterpreted by decision-makers to adopt solutions that, without further analysis, could harm free expression.
Liability for expression — some important distinctions
The declaration makes note of liability for those participating in the public debate, particularly for content they disseminate or “help to disseminate.” There are critically important distinctions to be made in this area in order to avoid ill-informed implementations of this idea. First, there are technical intermediaries on the internet that help disseminate content, but, as a general rule, should not be held liable for third-party expressions. That is the case with regard to hosting and domain name providers, for instance, which do not participate in the curation or prioritization of content and merely provide technical infrastructure to web pages and apps to function. Legal sanctions for these intermediaries for the content they host would represent a disproportionate measure at odds with internationally recognized human rights principles.
When we consider social media platforms, there is no clear solution and any efforts in the area must be evidence-based. When platforms use algorithmic curation of content, it implies making a decision about the dissemination of information, but that decision is typically informed not only by the creators of the algorithm but also by the conduct of users. Further, design choices and decision-making for curation that rewards user engagement may create an incentive for companies that use these platforms for advertising to track and surveil users, which implicates other rights. The bottom line is that we need more information to understand how content consumption and dissemination really works. Before we engage in any public policy consideration of liability for digital intermediaries on content, which raises clear and significant risks for free expression, we must have clarity on the extent to which different actors in the information ecosystem exert influence over content creation and dissemination.
Neutrality — what kind?
The declaration also calls for “political, religious, and ideological neutrality.” It states that platforms should be neutral on those issues when “structuring the information space.” While we understand the concerns regarding possible bias in the curation of content, public policy actions based on the call for neutrality in the ”structuring” of the information space may leave room for abuse if important questions are not answered first. There is no doubt that arbitrary discrimination is an obstacle for the exercise of free expression. But, what could neutrality mean in the digital information context? Would that mean equal treatment for different kinds of information that are fed into a curation algorithm? Or would that mean striving for an ideal of a balanced output in search results or social media feeds? The definition of neutrality, as we can see, can be tricky. It implies a neutrality of information input, treatment, and output that is hard to achieve across diverse information systems. Take a search engine, for instance, and compare it with a social media service. A search engine indexes a broader range of information not directly influenced by the user, but its processing and presentation of search results is indirectly influenced by user behavior. That’s how search services offer personalized results. Should a search engine’s neutrality efforts be focused on non-discriminatory crawling of sources? Or should it be non-discriminatory in the processing and presentation of results? How is neutrality in a search engine compatible with user personalization? If this is a matter of degree, how much personalization or neutrality is enough, and who gets to decide that?
The question of “neutrality” for social media platforms is perhaps even more complicated. Users themselves input content, and users tend to follow the people and pages that they like. The choices they make reflect their own ideas, religious beliefs, and more. Should companies or governments intervene in the choices of users? To what degree? Should some content or user posts be sponsored to promote “neutrality” or diversity of opinion? Who makes that decision?
The information ecosystem today has characteristics that appear to be promoting polarization and reactivity, which in turn can have a negative effect in democracy. However, confronting this challenge will take much more than asking companies for “neutrality.” It requires addressing business models, information literacy, design for user choice, and social and educational problems. Consider the reports about the use of WhatsApp, a closed communication channel, to spread misinformation in Brazil before the recent elections. This could be considered a “neutral” channel since there is no algorithmic prioritization of the messages that run through the platform. Yet in the broader context of the information ecosystem in Brazil, including the dominance of this channel because WhatsApp is often “zero-rated” and therefore free to use, its use may also have increased the challenges for information diversity and fact-checking.
We agree with the declaration’s emphasis on the idea that with the greater influence, there is more responsibility and a corresponding need for increased transparency. However, given the considerations outlined above, assigning editorial responsibility or possible liability may not be an appropriate answer in all cases. Platforms should, instead, provide users with effective tools to exert the maximum amount of control over their information experience. By default. This could include options such as giving users the capacity to turn off prioritization in a news feed, or adjust it with their own preferences, for example, or to disable tracking and behavioral advertisements. This might represent the type of “neutrality” for platforms that would benefit users.
“Reliable” information — a difficult quest in the digital space
Finally, the declaration’s call for platforms to favor reliable information also raises complex issues for free expression. The declaration recommends as tools in this endeavor transparency, editorial independence, verification methods, and journalistic ethics. In addition to the challenges we explore above related to editorial responsibility, there are also challenges when it comes to a platform’s use of verification methods and journalistic ethics. The expression of opinion is protected as a fundamental human right, and opinion pieces are not necessarily “verifiable.” Speculation, theorizing, satire, and opinion present challenges to fact checking, online or off. It is also vital that neither states nor companies define journalistic ethics. On a number of social media platforms, one’s news feed contains a mix of personal opinion, news items, editorials, and advertising. Although journalistic ethics could play a role in the design of a news feed or help inform the development of a content curation algorithm, independent and human rights based human intervention is essential to mitigate the spread of misinformation on communication platforms.
Conclusion: in assigning responsibility, take care not to deputize platforms as guardians of truth or neutrality
All the issues we have explored are difficult, and a thorough analysis of all their implications would exceed the bounds of this post. The challenges the declaration seeks to address are only starting to be adequately researched and there is a need for more information from internet platforms.
However, we can start with one initial recommendation to those seeking to apply the content of the declaration to public policy decisions: avoid deputizing social media companies or any internet intermediary as a guardian of the truth or neutrality, as this risks consequences for free expression and other protected human rights. Social media platforms, and the dominant players in particular, must take heed of their responsibility to consider the human rights impacts of their products. If by encouraging them to take more responsibility, we also make them the arbiters of truth, however, we put those same rights at risk. And we transfer even more power from the people to dominant platforms.
Today, people access, create, share, comment on, and react to information in complex ways. In the challenges that this poses for our democracies, we must find solutions that empower us to deal with information in a constructive, but also fundamentally free way. This means putting users in control, by giving them more options for how they find, consume, and share content free from manipulation. It also means providing more transparency, especially with regard to ads, including political advertising. Finally, it means looking at the bigger picture and developing business models that do not reward poor quality information that increases “engagement” by playing on basic human instincts of fear, alarm and discord.
Nearly 70 world leaders travelled to Paris to mark 100 years since the end of the First World War.
|PARIS; LUKE BAKER, REUTERS|AIWA! NO!| – French President Emmanuel Macron used an address to world leaders gathered in Paris for Armistice commemorations on Sunday to send a stern message about the dangers of nationalism, calling it a betrayal of moral values.
“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism: nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism,” Macron said in a 20-minute address delivered from under the Arc de Triomphe to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.
“By pursuing our own interests first, with no regard to others’, we erase the very thing that a nation holds most precious, that which gives it life and makes it great: its moral values.”
Trump, who has pursued “America First” policies since entering the White House and in the run-up to the congressional elections this month declared himself a “nationalist”, sat still and stony-faced in the front row as Macron spoke.
There was no immediate response from either the White House or the Kremlin to Macron’s comments.
Leaders laud fallen soldiers on eve of armistice centennial
|AIWA! NO!|PARIS — Traveling from across the world to monuments honoring soldiers who fell 100 years ago, victors and vanquished alike marked those sacrifices Saturday ahead of Armistice Day and assessed alliances that have been redrawn dramatically since the dark days of World War I.
The leaders of former enemies France and Germany, in an intimate gesture that underscored their countries’ current roles as guarantors of peace in Europe, held their heads together at the site north of Paris where the defeated Germans and the Allies signed the agreement that ended the 1914-18 war.
After Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly snuggled her head into the neck of French President Emmanuel Macron, the two went inside a replica of the train car where the armistice was reached and put their names in a guestbook. Macron then took Merkel’s hand in his, again highlighting the changes on the continent where two world wars were fought in the 20th century.
“Our Europe has been at peace for 73 years. There is no precedent for it, and it is at peace because we willed it and first and foremost, because Germany and France wanted it,” he said.
Merkel was equally convinced of the power their friendship exudes.
“The will is there, and I say this for Germany with full conviction, to do everything to achieve a more peaceful order in the world even though we know we have very, very much work still ahead of us,” she said.
The open show of affection was a welcome antidote for Macron. Earlier Saturday, the French leader had a somewhat awkward meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. As Air Force One landed in Paris on Friday night, Trump wrote on Twitter he had been “very” insulted by comments Macron made in the days before that he considered anti-American.
A century ago, the entry of U.S. troops into World War I tipped the momentum toward its allies, including France and Britain. Even as he embarked on two days of observances for the Nov. 11, 1918 armistice, Trump said the United States now bears far too much of the burden to defend the West.
A flurry of Armistice-related diplomacy once again turned Paris, the jewel that Germany sought to take in 1914 but which the Allies successfully fought to defend, into the center of global attention Saturday as dozens of world leaders arrived in the French capital on the eve of the solemn centennial commemorations.
Merkel’s appearance in Compiegne marked how her nation’s bloodstained history with France has become a close alliance that is now the driving force behind the European Union.
In the four years of fighting, remembered for brutal trench warfare and the first use of gas, France, the British empire, Russia and the United States had the main armies opposing a German-led coalition that also included the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires.
Almost 10 million soldiers died. France lost 1.4 million and Germany 2 million.
Yet, despite a war that was supposed to end all wars, World War II pitted both sides against each other once again in 1940.
Across the line that once marked the Western Front, leaders lauded the courage of soldiers who were killed during the unprecedented slaughter, before converging on Paris for a dinner.
The armistice entered into force on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, and on Sunday 69 world leaders will commemorate the centennial of the event at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, underneath the Arc de Triomphe in central Paris.
At dawn Saturday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went to Vimy Ridge, the battlefield in northern France where Canada found its sense of self when it defeated German opposition against the odds.
Standing amid the white headstones against an ashen sky, Trudeau addressed the fallen, saying what Canada has achieved in the past century has been “a history built on your sacrifice. You stand for the values on which Canada was built.”
In southern Belgium’s Mons, Canadians were also lauding George Price, the last Commonwealth soldier to die in the war when he was shot by a German sniper two minutes before the armistice took effect.
Trump was looking beyond the tragedy of death and destruction, asking in a tweet: “Is there anything better to celebrate than the end of a war, in particular that one, which was one of the bloodiest and worst of all time?”
After his meeting with Macron, Trump had been scheduled to head to the battlefield of Belleau Wood, 90 kilometers (55 miles) northeast of the capital, where U.S. troops had their breakthrough battle by stopping a German push for Paris shortly after entering the war in 1917.
The battle of Belleau Wood proved America’s mettle to allies and foes alike, and by the time the war ended U.S. forces were at least an equal to any of the other major armies, which were exhausted and depleted.
However, Trump canceled his visit because of bad weather and immediately came in for criticism.
“It’s incredible that a president would travel to France for this significant anniversary – and then remain in his hotel room watching TV rather than pay in person his respects to the Americans who gave their lives in France for the victory gained 100 years ago tomorrow,” David Frum, a speechwriter for former President George W. Bush, tweeted,
The White House sent a delegation that included chief of staff John Kelly in Trump’s place. Ben Rhodes, who served as deputy national security adviser in the Obama administration, said the White House should have had a fallback plan for the president.
“There is always a rain option. Always,” Rhodes said.
Trump is scheduled to visit a different U.S. cemetery close to Paris on Sunday.
The Senate and House races in Florida have gone to a recount, and Stacey Abrams in Georgia is standing strong against Brian Kemp’s brazen attempts to steal the race in broad daylight. In short, the 2018 midterm elections are not over, but the Democrats fared far better than the early wisdom suggested.
|William Rivers Pitt, Truthout|AIWA! NO!|A number of late results across the country have broken for Democratic candidates. When all is said and done, they will pick up a total of between 35 and 40 House seats, representing “the biggest Democratic gain in the House since the post-Watergate election of 1974” according to The Washington Post. The Senate and House races in Florida have gone to a recount, and Stacey Abrams in Georgia is standing strong against Brian Kemp’s brazen attempts to steal the race in broad daylight. In short, the 2018 midterm elections are not over, but the Democrats fared far better than the early wisdom suggested.
This is what we’ve waited for This is it, boys, this is war The president is on the line As ninety-nine red balloons go by …
— Nena, “99 Luftballons”
There is a soul-searing symmetry to the fact that the morning after yet another man with yet another gun slaughtered yet another crowd of people in yet another all-American massacre, a mother who lost her son to gun violence and made that loss her cause of action won her election to Congress.
Six years ago, Jordan Davis was sitting in a car with friends at a Florida gas station when a man named Michael Dunn opened fire on them because he thought the music they were playing was too loud. Davis was killed in the hail of bullets. His mother, Lucy McBath, became a gun-violence activist and joined forces with the Parkland survivors after that nightmare unfolded.
McBath ran for the Georgia 6th House seat this year, and on Thursday morning, her Republican opponent Rep. Karen Handel conceded the race. “For me,” McBath told CNN back in May, “I was looking beyond my own tragedy, looking for the other tragedies that were most definitely going to happen if I didn’t keep talking about this crisis.” The victory marked the 29th House seat picked up by the Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections, further cementing their majority control of the chamber.
That is the election, in a nutshell, an amalgam of joy and sorrow. It is inspiring for what did happen and utterly galling for what might have been. Democrats handily won control of the House but lost ground in the Senate, a harrowing fact when one notes that Democratic Senate candidates collectively got 10 million more votes than their Republican opponents. Power in the Senate is further devolving to a hard-right Republican majority who only represent about 18 percent of the country. Nothing good comes from this.
Beto O’Rourke lost in heartbreaking fashion in Texas, as Andrew Gillum appeared to win Florida — although that may change. However, neither Scott Walker nor Kris Kobach will be governors come January. Voters in Oregon handily defeated an anti-choice ballot measure while voters in Alabama and West Virginia approved them. Ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid won in Idaho, Utah and Nebraska but lost in Montana. Nearly a million and a half people with felony convictions regained the right to vote in Florida, while four states passed “victims’ rights” measures that will exacerbate incarceration.
One of the most consequential outcomes of the 2018 midterms was the full-spectrum dominance of a diverse cross-section of women all across the country. “At least ninety-eight women were elected to the House on Tuesday night,” reports Margaret Talbot for The New Yorker, “eighty-four Democrats and fourteen Republicans — which means that more women will be serving in Congress than ever before.”
All this good, bad and ugly took place in the umbra of rampant national vote suppression by Republicans that begs the question: What would Tuesday’s results have been if so many millions of voters had not been deprived of the franchise in so many shamelessly rigged elections?
In Georgia, hundreds of voting machines meant for Democrat-leaning districts were left locked in a government warehouse, causing huge lines and long waits. In North Dakota, Native Americans who live on reservations were stripped of their voting rights because of a GOP-passed law requiring voters to have street addresses, which many reservation residents don’t have. The list of brazen efforts to suppress voting rights during this last election is seemingly endless and must be investigated down to the last stolen vote.
Towering over it all, however, is the change set to take place in the House of Representatives. Women, Muslims, African-Americans, war veterans, members of the Latinx and LGBTQ+ communities, young people, gun violence activists, teachers, union activists, all the people who Donald Trump disdains came together on Tuesday night to create this new truth:
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, House Banking Committee Chairman Maxine Waters, House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings, House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal and House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler.
On January 3, 2019, those people will stand athwart a renegade White House with subpoena power in hand and the popular winds at their back. That, more than anything, explains the incredible chaos which unfolded in the immediate aftermath of one of the most consequential elections in living memory.
It began with Donald Trump giving easily the most unsettling, unhinged press conference of his tenure, and brothers and sisters, that is saying something. The peak moment came when Trump shouted down CNN reporter Jim Acosta for asking questions about the Mueller investigation. At one point, it looked for all the world like the two of them were about to come to blows.
A White House aide attempted to take Acosta’s microphone away from him during the exchange, and Acosta discovered later in the day that his White House privileges had been summarily revoked. Adding insult to injury, the White House press office fobbed off a demonstrably doctored video claiming Acosta had been violent with the microphone-grabbing aide. The ruse was promptly exposed, and a variety of national press organizations are now raising every shade of Hell on Acosta’s behalf.
Mere minutes after his press conference meltdown, Donald Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, replacing him with confirmed lickspittleMatt Whitaker, who will now have immediate oversight control of the Mueller investigation. This despite Whittaker’s public attacks on the investigation and the fact that putting him in charge of the investigation may very well be flatly unconstitutional.
What sort of fellow is Mr. Whittaker? Esquire blogger Charles P. Pierce was able to flag some comments made by Whittaker during his 2014 run for Senate:
I have a Christian worldview. Our rights come from our Creator and they are guaranteed by the Constitution. So I would start all analysis of any law or anything else first with the Constitution and then work from there.
It is to be devoutly hoped (pun intended) that Mr. Mueller saw this storm coming and has the contents of his investigation saved on flash drives that are easy to swallow should the need arise. No, I am not kidding. The period of time between right now and January 3 may be, mark my words, the strangest and most dangerous passage this nation has crossed in decades.
Why? Because before Tuesday, Trump only suspected someone might come along with a big enough stick to do him actual damage. Now, he knows they’re coming for sure, and if Wednesday’s presser was any indication, he is not taking the new order of things in stride. Matters did not improve as the weekend, and Trump’s trip to Paris, came crashing together in yet another presidential fit of temper.
Mueller was waiting out the midterms, and Adam Schiff is measuring the drapes for his new office while sharpening his fangs with 40-grit sandpaper. Trump knows they’re coming now, and he can impede some of it, but not all of it before the building falls on him.
I could be wrong, but I believe we are about to bear witness to a scorched-earth retreat the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Boer War. I strongly suspect Donald Trump is going to try to burn everything, and everyone, to save himself from the awful grace of consequences. He can’t stop all of it, but between now and the first week of January, he’s going to try with all his might.
Sessions was only the beginning. Anyone who was hoping for a bit of quiet time after the midterms has not, frankly, been paying enough attention. Worse, what is happening now will seem tame by the new year. It definitely gets weirder from here
JEREMY Corbyn has been called in to meet the head of MI6 as spooks fear Brexit talks may collapse and spark a snap election.
Dan O’Donoghue , DAILY STAR|AIWA! NO!|The Labour leader is believed to have met Alex Younger, head of MI6 so he could be briefed on the agency’s work and the severity of the threats facing Britain.
Mr. Corbyn is reported to have met Mr. Younger at the organization’s headquarters in Vauxhall, south London, where he was told that “MI6 did not pursue its own agenda”.
Mr. Corbyn spent years as a backbench MP attacking the integrity of the intelligence services and in the aftermath of the Salisbury poisoning his spokesman provoked outrage after appearing to question British intelligence by saying: “There’s a history in relation to weapons of mass destruction and intelligence which is problematic, to put it mildly.”