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The Fight for Abortion Rights Turns to State Constitutions

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 03/07/2022 - 8:00pm in



Less than an hour after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional protection for abortion, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry crowed on Twitter that abortion was now illegal in the state. “Because of #SCOTUS ruling in #Dobbs, Louisiana’s trigger law banning #abortion is now in effect,” he wrote.

But exactly which trigger law Landry was referencing wasn’t clear. Louisiana has passed several such laws over the years, all of which remain on the books, variously overlap, prohibit different conduct, offer different exceptions, and impose different punishments. In its zeal to ban abortion, Louisiana has created a mess of contradictions.

That prompted the Center for Reproductive Rights to file suit in state court on behalf of several plaintiffs, including Shreveport’s Hope Medical Group for Women, arguing that the bans outlawing abortion in Louisiana violated the state’s constitution. “Louisiana’s rushed and poorly conceived trigger laws are unconstitutionally vague and violate due process,” said Joanna Wright, an attorney with Boies Schiller Flexner LLP and lead counsel on the case. “The Louisiana Constitution does not tolerate such a state of affairs and this lawsuit requires Louisiana to comport with the rule of law as required by its own constitution.”

On June 27, a state judge in New Orleans issued a temporary restraining order that blocked the laws from taking effect pending a hearing slated for July 8, thereby restoring abortion services. “We are committed to this monumental legal challenge,” Kathaleen Pitmann, administrator for the Hope clinic, said in a statement, “to ensure our patients’ wellbeing and so that they may draw strength from our dedication to this fight.”

Louisiana is among 13 states with trigger laws on the books; another nine have ostensibly retained pre-Roe laws banning abortion. Together, they constitute a group of zombie laws that have lain dormant waiting for a Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, which the court did on June 24 in the Mississippi case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In all, 22 states are poised to ban all or most abortions, while four more will likely try to do so in the coming weeks or months. But many of the states with anti-abortion statutes on the books have multiple, often competing laws, leading to confusion over which of the laws is actually controlling.

Anti-abortion actors have long claimed that overturning Roe — and sending the question of whether individuals should enjoy reproductive freedom back to state politicians — would simplify the legal landscape. But legal scholars say the opposite is true, as The Intercept has previously reported. The lack of a single standard regarding the legality of abortion is unleashing a flood of litigation as restrictions are challenged against individual state constitutions, and competing visions about reproductive freedom give rise to new interstate battles.

By striking down Roe, the Supreme Court gave “a green light to anti-abortion legislators to be as invasive as they possibly can,” said David Cohen, a professor at Drexel University’s Kline School of Law and co-author of “The New Abortion Battleground,” a forthcoming article in the Columbia Law Review. The looming legal fights, he said, will include an increased focus on state constitutional challenges. “People are going to be looking to the state court cases as the places where there can possibly be a win.”

Since the Dobbs ruling, 10 states have announced enforcement of their abortion bans: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio (which has a six-week ban), Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee (also a six-week ban), Texas, and Utah. But just as swiftly came the lawsuits challenging those restrictions. To date, legal challenges in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Utah have been successful — at least for now.

As in Louisiana, Texas’s various laws banning abortion have created a legal quagmire. Abortion access in Texas was already obstructed by the notorious sue-they-neighbor law, Senate Bill 8, which allows private citizens to sue anyone they imagine has violated the state’s six-week ban. Last year lawmakers also passed a trigger ban slated to take effect 30 days after the Supreme Court issues its official judgment in the Dobbs case — a final order that follows the roughly monthlong window during which a litigant can ask the court to reconsider.

In the meantime, however, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that the state could enforce a pre-Roe ban codified in 1925. In a legal advisory released just after the Dobbs opinion, Paxton encouraged state prosecutors to “immediately pursue” criminal charges against providers based on the old law. “Although these statutes were unenforceable while Roe was on the books, they are still Texas law,” he wrote. “Under these pre-Roe statutes, abortion providers could be criminally liable for providing abortions starting today.”

On June 27, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit on behalf of a handful of Texas abortion providers, arguing that the pre-Roe ban had been scrubbed from statute after 1973 and that its provisions conflicted with the newer trigger ban. The pre-Roe ban “cannot be harmonized with the trigger ban,” which establishes “an entirely different and irreconcilable range of penalties for the same offense” and “cannot be enforced consistent with due process,” the lawsuit reads. The following morning, a state judge in Houston issued a temporary restraining order and set a hearing on the matter. Paxton, however, rushed to the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court, which lifted the order on Friday without addressing any of the problems raised in the lower court.

“These laws are confusing, unnecessary, and cruel,” said Marc Hearron, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Texas’s trigger ban is not scheduled to take effect for another two months, if not longer. This law from nearly 100 years ago is banning essential health care prematurely, despite clearly being long repealed.”

Many states have multiple, competing abortion bans on the books, leading to confusion over which of the laws is actually controlling.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, only four states have constitutions that explicitly do not protect abortion rights. A majority of the first wave of lawsuits seeking to block bans are based on state constitutional protections that lawyers argue are more expansive than those provided in the U.S. Constitution. Lawsuits pending in IdahoOhio, and Utah, for example, cite broad privacy rights and liberty interests, arguing that abortion bans discriminate against women and violate equal protection guarantees. A suit in Oklahoma contends that the state’s competing abortion bans violate due process as well as a constitutional “right to personal autonomy and bodily integrity.” The Kentucky lawsuit argues that the state’s two abortion bans (a trigger ban and a six-week ban) violate state constitutional rights of privacy and self-determination.

A suit in Mississippi, meanwhile, filed on behalf of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, argues that the state’s Supreme Court already concluded in 1998 that the constitution explicitly protected abortion. “As confirmed by the Mississippi Supreme Court … the decision about whether and when to have children belongs to individuals and families, not to the state’s politicians,” said Rob McDuff, a lawyer with the Mississippi Center for Justice, which is among the groups representing the state’s lone abortion provider.

And in Florida, a suit challenging a new 15-week ban notes that in 1980, voters amended the state constitution to provide robust individual privacy rights, which were designed to include the right to abortion; in 2012, voters rejected an attempt to repeal that right. Protecting the right to abortion in Florida is considered crucial to maintaining access in the South.

On Thursday, a state district judge said he would block the law from taking effect. “Florida passed into its constitution an explicit right of privacy that is not contained in the U.S. Constitution,” state judge John Cooper said. “The Florida Supreme Court has determined, in its words, ‘Florida’s privacy provision is clearly implicated in a woman’s decision on whether or not to continue her pregnancy.’” The state is expected to appeal, which could imperil the injunction, said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, deputy director for reproductive freedom at the American Civil Liberties Union. “But we intend to continue to fight for that injunction to remain in effect at every level of the court system in Florida.”

During a joint press call with the ACLU and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which argued the Dobbs case, called the Supreme Court’s ruling a “crushing blow” that “upended the idea that a constitutional right is one that can be relied on.” But she noted that the three groups were longtime partners in the fight for reproductive freedom and would continue to press for equal rights. “We were, and are, ready,” she said. And the lawsuits that have been filed so far are just the beginning. “You can expect more cases to be coming,” she promised. “Every additional day and every additional hour that we can block a ban is making a huge difference for the patients in the waiting rooms.”

The post The Fight for Abortion Rights Turns to State Constitutions appeared first on The Intercept.

Steve Bray comments on the confiscation of his loudspeaker

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/07/2022 - 7:13am in

I suggest that he’s spot on about fascism… His fundraiser is remarkably, now getting on for a quarter of a million pounds. Patel and the ‘In Special Measures’ Metropolitan Police may have taken on a case that may run and run…... Read more

The Supreme Court's Shock-and-Awe Judicial Coup

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/07/2022 - 6:41am in

People walk past the Supreme Court on June 28, 2022 in Washington, DC

People walk past the Supreme Court on June 28, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

This is it. The moment for President Joe Biden and Congress to challenge the underlying legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court and advance an aggressive climate action agenda. There will be no better moment to take this stand for a transformed court, nor a more fateful one. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right: “We need to reform or do away with the whole thing, for the sake of the planet.”

Over the last few days, we have witnessed a shock-and-awe judicial coup, from stripping people of the right to terminate pregnancies (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization), to weakening the sovereign right of Indigenous tribes to enforce the law on their lands (Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta), to interfering with the rights of states to regulate the carrying of firearms (New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen), to enabling a return to Christian prayer in public schools (Kennedy v. Bremerton School District).

And now this: a decision that eviscerates the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate a major source of the carbon emissions destabilizing our planet. The EPA can still regulate CO2, but its capacity to regulate under the Clear Air Act is significantly reduced. It represents the culmination, as my colleague Sharon Lerner reports, of decades of “plotting against environmental regulations” by Koch Industries, and as The Lever has reported, this entire court has been shaped by the dark-money-bankrolled Judicial Crisis Network, which is is surely gearing up to toast the bountiful return on their patient investments this July 4 weekend.

History contains crossroads when a single set of decisions can alter the trajectory of a people — or even a planet. The Biden administration’s response to the Supreme Court’s 6-3 EPA ruling, hot on the heels of the other outrageous power grabs, is a moment like that. No juncture offers greater opportunity for courageous, transformational leadership, should such a thing be on offer anywhere in Washington, D.C.

Biden came to office promising an “all of government” approach to the climate crisis. It was a defining issue in the Democratic Party primaries and a winning issue for Biden in the general election. Why? Because voters are now fully engaged with the climate crisis — and they reliably are most engaged in the summer, when our warming world speaks loudest. But last fall, Biden let Sen. Joe Manchin push climate action way down his political agenda — and suddenly we stopped hearing much about it at all. I suppose the smartest guys in the room thought it was starting to smell like defeat. Thanks to great advice like that, Biden managed to demoralize much of his base, and some of his best appointees resigned.

With the court’s EPA ruling, Biden now has a chance to put climate back at the top of the agenda. He should seize it. As Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the dissent, “The court appoints itself — instead of Congress or the expert agency — the decision maker on climate policy.” she wrote. “I cannot think of many things more frightening.” A great many voters, if the stakes are clearly explained and kept top of mind through consistent messaging, will agree.

In fact, no issue gives the Democrats a platform for a more powerful or more unifying message than this Supreme Court ruling — both to radically reform the court and to communicate the dire urgency of the climate crisis and the need for bold policy. Moreover, by using the court’s EPA ruling to finally do more than send out opportunistic fundraising emails — and instead to draw the line and move to transform an obviously out-of-control, extremist court — Biden and the Democrats would be doing precisely what they have never done and what young climate activists have been pleading with them to do for years: Treat the climate emergency like an emergency.

The first rule of an emergency is that you do what it takes to end the emergency and get to safety. You don’t throw up your hands because the task is too hard. You certainly don’t let a gang of unelected, lifetime appointed political operatives — several of whom only have their seats because of trickery and lies — get in your way.

The first rule of an emergency is that you do what it takes to end the emergency and get to safety.

The Democrats’ base would take tremendous heart from seeing this kind of emergency footing response, but it would be most meaningful for young people, many of whom can vote. And those voices should not be discounted. This extremist court has positioned itself as an advocate for youth, children, and the unborn — from abortion to school prayer. Its willingness to light the future on fire for all kids alive today and yet to come puts the lie to this absurd claim. If the Democrats turn the EPA decision into a pivot point, not just for speeches and poems and yoga poses but for decisive action in defense of the future, it would upend the debate.

They should, moreover, connect the dots between the individual rulings and their underlying logic. For several of these justices, their casualness about climate apocalypse is inextricable from their Christian fundamentalist takes on abortion and prayer (and soon, given the chance, gay marriage and trans rights). They aren’t worried about the world burning because they think we are in the End Times and that their faith will protect them (and failing that, that their wealth and their guns will, which is the way Republicans enact the Rapture without divine intervention). Biden should get biblical on these theocrats and call them on flouting the duty to care for all of creation.

The rolling judicial coup coming from this court is by no means over. Next term, the Supreme Court will hear a redistricting case that could well make it far easier to concoct a legal pretense for overriding the popular vote in elections in favor of state-appointed electors — the very thing that Donald Trump attempted but failed to do, because enough people were afraid of ending up in jail. There is no reason to believe that a group of people whose very presence on the bench required grotesque abuses of democracy would somehow draw the line at thwarting it. The moment to stop them from getting the chance is right now.

Biden and the Democrats are currently careening toward a wave of defeats. But it’s not too late to get back on track. They have just been handed a winning platform: Use the Supreme Court’s attack on urgent carbon control as a catalyst to build a more meaningful democracy and take transformational climate action at the same time. If they decide to run with it, everybody on this planet wins. If they refuse, they deserve every loss coming their way.

The post The Supreme Court’s Shock-and-Awe Judicial Coup appeared first on The Intercept.

Cryptocurrency Titan Coinbase Providing “Geo Tracking Data” to ICE

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/06/2022 - 6:59am in

Coinbase, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the United States, is selling Immigrations and Customs Enforcement a suite of features used to track and identify cryptocurrency users, according to contract documents shared with The Intercept.

In August 2021, Coinbase sold a single analytics software license to ICE for $29,000, followed by a software purchase potentially worth $1.36 million the next month, but details of exactly what capabilities would be offered to the agency’s controversial Homeland Security Investigations division of were unclear. A new contract document obtained by Jack Poulson, director of the watchdog group Tech Inquiry, and shared with The Intercept, shows ICE now has access to a variety of forensic features provided through Coinbase Tracer, the company’s intelligence-gathering tool (formerly known as Coinbase Analytics).

Coinbase Tracer allows clients, in both government and the private sector, to trace transactions through the blockchain, a distributed ledger of transactions integral to cryptocurrency use. While blockchain ledgers are typically public, the enormous volume of data stored therein can make following the money from spender to recipient beyond difficult, if not impossible, without the aid of software tools. Coinbase markets Tracer for use in both corporate compliance and law enforcement investigations, touting its ability to “investigate illicit activities including money laundering and terrorist financing” and “connect [cryptocurrency] addresses to real world entities.”

According to the document, released via a Freedom of Information Act request, ICE is now able to track transactions made through nearly a dozen different digital currencies, including Bitcoin, Ether, and Tether. Analytic features include “Multi-hop link Analysis for incoming and outgoing funds,” granting ICE insight into transfers of these currencies, as well as “Transaction demixing and shielded transaction analysis” aimed at thwarting methods some crypto users take to launder their funds or camouflage their transactions. The contract also provides, provocatively, “Historical geo tracking data,” though it’s unclear what exactly this data consists of or from where it’s sourced. An email released through the FOIA request shows that Coinbase didn’t require ICE to agree to an End User License Agreement, standard legalese that imposes limits on what a customer can do with software.

When asked about the ICE contract and the data involved, Coinbase spokesperson Natasha LaBranche directed The Intercept to a disclaimer on its website stating “Coinbase Tracer sources its information from public sources and does not make use of Coinbase user data.” LaBranche did not answer questions about how ICE is using Coinbase Tracer, how it sources location data, or if the company imposed any limits on ICE’s use of the tool.

Coinbase has in recent years made a concerted effort to pitch its intelligence features to government agencies, including the IRS, Secret Service, and Drug Enforcement Administration. Earlier this month, Coinbase vice president of global intelligence John Kothanek testified before a congressional panel that his company was eager to aid the cause of Homeland Security. “If you are a cyber criminal and you’re using crypto, you’re going to have a bad day. … We are going to track you down and we’re going to find that finance and we are going to hopefully help the government seize that crypto.” Coinbase’s government work has proved highly controversial to many crypto fans, owing perhaps both to the long-running libertarian streak in that community and the fact that these currencies are so frequently used to facilitate various forms of fraud.

The Coinbase Tracer tool itself was birthed in controversy. In 2019, Motherboard reported that Neutrino, a blockchain-analysis firm the company acquired in order to create Coinbase Tracer, “was founded by three former employees of Hacking Team, a controversial Italian surveillance vendor that was caught several times selling spyware to governments with dubious human rights records, such as Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan.” Following public outcry, Coinbase announced these staffers would “transition out” of the company.

Homeland Security Investigations, the division of ICE that purchased the Coinbase tool, is tasked not only with immigration-related matters, aiding migrant raids and deportation operations, but broader transnational crimes as well, including various forms of financial offenses. “The contract provides a tool that supplements an HSI capability to investigative traffickers of deadly opioids on the dark web and cyber criminals who seek to attack critical infrastructure,” an ICE spokesperson wrote in a statement to The Intercept. “This tool does not reveal any sensitive personally identifiable information, is only referenced in criminal investigations, and it is not utilized in civil immigration enforcement.” The spokesperson did not respond to questions about how precisely it has used Tracer or might in the future, including the use of location data, noting “the agency does not provide specifics on investigative techniques, tools, and/or ongoing investigations or operations.”

Update: July 2, 2022

This article has been updated with a response from ICE.

Update: June 29, 2022

This article has been updated with a response from Coinbase and additional detail about the company’s business relationship with ICE.

Correction: June 29, 2022

A previous version of this article misattributed a quotation from Coinbase VP John Kothanek to the company’s CEO, Brian Armstrong.

The post Cryptocurrency Titan Coinbase Providing “Geo Tracking Data” to ICE appeared first on The Intercept.

Facebook Labels Abortion Rights Vandals as Terrorists Following Roe Reversal

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/06/2022 - 3:02am in

The day after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Facebook’s parent company, Meta, internally designated the abortion rights group Jane’s Revenge as a terrorist organization, according to company materials reviewed by The Intercept, subjecting discussion of the group and its actions to the company’s most stringent censorship policies. Experts say the decision, Meta’s first known policy response for the post-Roe era, threatens free expression around abortion rights at a critical moment.

The brief internal bulletin from Meta Platforms Inc., which owns Instagram and Facebook, was titled “[EMERGENCY Micro Policy Update] [Terrorism] Jane’s Revenge” and filed to the company’s internal Dangerous Individuals and Organizations rulebook, meaning that the abortion rights group, which has so far committed only acts of vandalism, will be treated with the same speech restrictions against “praise, support, and representation” applied to the Islamic State and Hitler. The memo, circulated to Meta moderators on June 25, describes Jane’s Revenge as “a far-left extremist group that has claimed responsibility on its website for an attack against an anti-abortion group’s office in Madison, Wisconsin in May 2022. The group is responsible for multiple arson and vandalism attacks on pro-life institutions.” Terrorist groups receive Meta’s strictest “Tier 1” speech limits, treatment the company says is reserved for the world’s most dangerous and violent entities, along with hate groups, drug cartels, and mass murderers.

Although The Intercept published a snapshot of the entire secret Dangerous Individuals and Organizations list last year, Meta does not disclose or explain additions to the public, despite the urging of scholars, activists, and its own Oversight Board. Speech advocates and civil society groups have criticized the policy for its secrecy, bias toward U.S. governmental priorities, and tendency to inaccurately delete nonviolent political speech. According to Meta’s most recent quarterly transparency report, the company restored nearly half a million posts between January and March in the terrorism category alone after determining that they had been censored erroneously.

Discussion of Jane’s Revenge was already technically subject to Tier 1 censorship stemming from another previously unreported internal speech restriction enacted by Meta last month. In May, just days after Politico published a leaked Supreme Court decision auguring the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the office of Wisconsin Family Action, an anti-abortion group, was vandalized. The very next day, Meta silently banned its roughly 2 billion users from “praising, supporting, or representing” the vandalism or its perpetrators, according to company materials reviewed by The Intercept. While these event-based restrictions are often temporary, the more recent use of the formal “terror” label suggests a more permanent policy position.

“This designation is difficult to square with Meta’s placement of the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters in Tier 3, which is subject to far fewer restrictions, despite their role organizing and participating in the January 6 Capitol attack,” said Mary Pat Dwyer, academic program director of Georgetown Law School’s Institute for Technology Law and Policy. “And while it’s possible Meta has moved those groups into Tier 1 more recently, that only highlights the lack of transparency into when and how these decisions, which have a huge impact on people’s abilities to discuss current events and important political issues, are made.”

The Wisconsin incident, which consisted of a small fire and graffiti denouncing the group’s anti-abortion stance, resulted in only minor property damage to the empty office. But the vandalism was rapidly designated a “Violating Violent Event,” a kind of ad hoc speech restriction that Meta distributes to its content moderation staff to limit discussion across its platforms in response to breaking news and various international crises, typically prominent events like the January 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol, terrorism, public shootings, or ethnic bloodshed.

“We are internally classifying this as a Violating Violent Event (General Designation),” reads the May 11 internal memo, obtained by The Intercept. “All content praising, supporting or representing the event and/or perpetrator(s) should be removed from the platform.” The dispatch instructed moderators to censor depiction and discussion of the vandalism under the Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy framework, which restricts speech about violent actors like terror cells, neo-Nazis, and drug cartels. “The office of a conservative political organization that lobbies against abortion rights was vandalized and damaged by fire in Madison, Wisconsin,” the memo continued. “A group called Jane’s Revenge took credit for the attack.” The number of victims of the “Violating Violent Event” is marked as “0.”

The Wisconsin Family Action designation is notable not only for the relative low severity of the attack itself, which Madison police are investigating as an act of arson, but also because it marks a rare foray by Facebook into limiting speech around abortion. Striking as well is the company’s choice to censor abortion rights action, even destructive action, given that throughout the long history of the American abortion debate, the overwhelming majority of violence has been conducted by those seeking to thwart access to the procedure via bombings and assassinations, not expand it. Earlier this month, Axios reported that “assaults directed at abortion clinic staff and patients increased 128% last year over 2020,” according to a report from the National Abortion Federation. And yet of the more than 4,000 names on the company’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations list, only two are associated with anti-abortion violence or terrorism: the Army of God Christian terrorist cell and one of its affiliates, the notorious bomber Eric Rudolph. While extremely little is known about Jane’s Revenge, including whether the vandalism is even being committed by the same actors and to what extent it is even a group, prominent right-wing politicians have begun demanding that the property damage be treated as domestic terrorism, a stance now essentially endorsed by Meta.

But the company also appears to have avoided censoring discussion of more recent anti-abortion acts comparable to the Wisconsin fire. On New Year’s Eve, arsonists destroyed a Planned Parenthood clinic in Knoxville, Tennessee, that had been riddled with bullets earlier in the year on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling. According to multiple sources familiar with Facebook’s content moderation policies, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not permitted to speak to the press, the New Year’s Eve Planned Parenthood torching was never similarly designated a “Violating Violent Event.” While anti-abortion advocates are still barred from inciting further violence against Planned Parenthood clinics (or anything else), Meta users now have far greater latitude to discuss — or even praise — that instance of anti-abortion violence than comparable acts from the other side.

The frequently malfunctioning nature of Facebook’s global censorship rules also means that the Wisconsin-specific update and more recent terror label, even if intended only to thwart future real-world acts of violence from either side of the abortion debate, could end up stifling legitimate political speech. While the company’s general purpose “Community Standards” rulebook places a blanket prohibition against any explicit calls for violence, only explicitly flagged people, groups, and events are subject to Meta’s far more stringent bans against “praise, support, and representation,” restrictions that bar users from quoting, depicting, or speaking positively of the entity or action in question. But the ambiguous formulation and frequently uneven enforcement of these rules means that speech far short of crossing the red line of violent incitement is subject to deletion. The Dangerous Individuals and Organizations ban on “praise, support, and representation” has been frequently cited by Facebook when deleting posts documenting or protesting Israeli state violence against Palestinians, for example, instances of which have at times been designated “Violating Violent Events” as well.

Jane’s Revenge is poorly understood, controversial, and subject to intense debate at precisely the time the Dangerous Individuals and Organizations designations mean that billions of people are limited in what they can say about the perpetrators, their motives, or their methods. Anything that could be construed as “praise,” however tentative, risks deletion. Indeed, even Facebook’s public description of the “praise, support, and representation” standard notes that any posts “Legitimizing the cause of a designated entity by making claims that their hateful, violent, or criminal conduct is legally, morally, or otherwise justified or acceptable” are prohibited.

“There are legitimate concerns that this might shut down debate.”

The company’s internal overview of the “praise” standard, obtained and published by The Intercept last year, directs moderators to delete anything that “engages in value-based statements and emotive argument” or “seeks to make others think more positively” of the sanctioned entity or event. While these internal rules permit “Academic debate and informative, educational discourse” of a violent entity or event, what meets the threshold for “academic debate” or “informative discourse” is left to Facebook’s thousands of overworked, low-paid hourly contractors to determine.

Content moderation experts who spoke to The Intercept said the policy threatens discussion and debate of abortion rights protests at a time when such speech is of profound national importance. “What we’ve seen in the past is that when Facebook bans certain types of harmful speech, they often catch counterspeech and other types of commentary in their content moderation net,” said Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “For example, efforts to ban terrorist content often result in the removal of counterspeech against terrorism or the sharing of documentation. The use of automated technologies only exacerbates this; therefore, it isn’t difficult to imagine that an attempt to ban vandalism against an anti-abortion group could also ban legitimate speech against such a group.”

Evelyn Douek, a Harvard Law School lecturer and fellow with the Knight First Amendment Institute, described the ad hoc censorship of “violating events” via the Dangerous Individuals and Organizations framework as “extremely capacious” and “one of Facebook’s most controversial and problematic policies,” both because these designations are made in secret and because they are so likely to constitute subjective political determinations. While Meta moderators are provided with an extensive rulebook containing this designation and countless others, the combination of the company’s increasing reliance on automated algorithmic content screening and the personal judgment calls of low-paid, overworked contractors creates erratic, faulty results. “There are legitimate concerns that this might shut down debate,” said Douek.

“Ukrainians get to say violent shit, Palestinians don’t. White supremacists do, pro-choice people don’t.”

Douek said the opacity of the censorship policy, paired with Facebook’s “incredibly blunt and error-prone” enforcement of speech restrictions, poses a threat to political discussion and debate around both abortion per se and the broader reproductive rights movement. Even those who don’t condone the methods of Jane’s Revenge have an interest in talking about them and perhaps even entertaining them: There is a vast universe of discourse about political direct action and violence, even vandalism, that isn’t in and of itself incitement, a swath of speech that could be vacuumed up by Facebook’s bludgeon approach to speech rules. “[Saying] you support the goals, the underlying policy of what Jane’s Revenge is fighting for, even if you disagree with their tactics, there’s all sorts of conversation here that we have about lots of different groups in society on the margins that I’m worried about losing.”

Significant as well is the fact that a free expression around relatively minor acts of violence would not only be censored in the first place but also subjected to the same limits Facebook uses for Al Qaeda and the Third Reich. “It’s somewhat remarkable that this act of vandalism was so quickly added to the list. It really is intended to be reserved for the most serious kind of incidents” like hate crimes, gun massacres, and terrorist attacks, Douek explained, “a policy that’s really targeted at the worst of the worst.” The decision to censor free discussion of Jane’s Revenge, responsible for a failed firebombing and a series of threatening graffiti incidents, makes the fact that Facebook did not similarly limit discussion of the Tennessee Planned Parenthood arson even more puzzling. Douek and York place that decision in a long history of Facebook putting its finger on the scales of political discourse in a way that often appears ideologically motivated, or on other occasions completely arbitrary. “It’s precisely the issue raised by their constant picking and choosing of ‘winners,’” York told The Intercept. “Ukrainians get to say violent shit, Palestinians don’t. White supremacists do, pro-choice people don’t.”

In an email to The Intercept, Meta spokesperson Devon Kearns confirmed the terror designation of Jane’s Revenge and said that the company “will remove content that praises, supports, or represents the organization.” Kearns stated that the company has a multifaceted process when determining which people and groups are restricted under the Dangerous Organizations policy, but did not say what it was or why Jane’s Revenge had been flagged but not other actors committing violence to advance their stance on abortion. Kearns further noted that users may appeal deletions made through the Dangerous Organizations policy if they believe it was made in error.

Assessing the merits of a decision made and implemented in secret is exceedingly difficult. Although Meta provides a generalized, big-picture overview of what sort of speech is barred from its platforms with a handful of uncontroversial examples (e.g., “If you want to fight for the Caliphate, DM me”), the specifics of the rules are concealed from the billions of people expected to heed them, as is any rationale as to why the rules were drafted in the first place. York told The Intercept that the Jane’s Revenge move is another indication that Meta needs to “immediately institute the Santa Clara Principles,” a content moderation policy charter that mandates “clear and precise rules and policies relating to when action will be taken with respect to users’ content or accounts,” among many other items.

Without the entirety of the company’s rules and their justification provided to the public, Meta, which exercises an enormous degree of control over what speech is allowed on the internet, leaves billions posting in the dark. Meta’s claim has always been that it takes no sides on any issue and only deletes speech in the name of safety, a claim the public generally has to take as an article of faith given the company’s deep secrecy in both what the rules are and how they’re enforced. “For a platform that is consistently insisting that it’s neutral and doesn’t have its finger on the scale, it’s really incumbent on Meta to be much more forthcoming,” Douek added. “These are highly charged political decisions, and they need to be able to defend them.”

The post Facebook Labels Abortion Rights Vandals as Terrorists Following Roe Reversal appeared first on The Intercept.

Atlanta's Gang Indictment Takes On an Institution

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 26/06/2022 - 9:00pm in



Jeffery Lamar Williams — the celebrated Atlanta trap recording artist better known as Young Thug — walked into Fulton County Jail in May to a standing ovation.

The arrest was an event. The jail, on Rice Street, shut down the intake of other arrestees to process him in. Atlanta’s city-contracted wrecker service diverted all its trucks to haul his many cars out of the rented property in Buckhead where police found him May 9. The entire city paused to take inventory on the massive gang arrest, with 27 other people — including a second superstar rapper, Sergio “Gunna” Kitchens.

Previous Fulton County prosecutors have been reluctant to invoke the law, concerned about the abuses of mass incarceration and its power to stigmatize Black defendants. But Atlanta today faces a rash of violence that distorts policies and murders good intentions.

While official claims about gang culpability for street violence ought to be taken with a grain of salt — such figures are often pulled out of thin air — Young Slime Life, the gang Williams is alleged to lead, left a trail of very real bodies, the victims of a seven-year gang feud.

Rising violent crime and the abuses attendant to gang prosecutions have received national attention amid the push for criminal justice reform following George Floyd’s murder. Local dynamics in Atlanta make discussions of such reforms — and of the abuses they target — especially fraught. On the one hand, a Black mayor and a Black prosecutor are charged with protecting poor Black people in Black neighborhoods, while white conservatives use Atlanta violence as a political punching bag. On the other hand, the machinery of rap music in Atlanta increasingly exploits real-world violence to promote the street “authenticity” of Atlanta trap, primarily to white audiences.

In the middle are austere jail cells, where Young Thug and many others now wait for their trials.

Violence is on the rise in Atlanta. The homicide rate is up by about one-third year-to-date and about 60 percent over pre-pandemic levels. The city is on pace for roughly 170 murders this year, compared with 99 in 2019.

The problem, as can be gleaned from police reports, appears to be terrifyingly basic: The cops increasingly describe killings as targeted. A small subset of shooters want to make sure their victims aren’t just bleeding but dead.

Sometimes that can look like the casually brutal murder of Anthony Frazier, a security guard at a seafood restaurant on Cleveland Avenue who took a bullet point-blank in the back of the head last month. Or it can be a plain hit, like the murder of Shymel Drinks, whose body was found beneath an overpass just south of downtown in March. Police described him as a member of a gang, allegedly killed by rivals in Young Slime Life as an act of reprisal.

This is what Atlanta’s gang war looks like. It has been raging in varying forms since 2015 and went into overdrive during the pandemic, reversing more than a decade of the city’s gains against violence.

“The murder rate in Atlanta is over the murder rate in Chicago!” bellowed Republican former Sen. David Perdue in a gubernatorial candidates’ debate in April. “What we have in Georgia is a runaway crime situation that the governor is burying his head about. … We have the highest murder rate in the country!”

Atlanta’s murder rate over the last 12 months is higher than Chicago’s: 36 per 100,000 people killed to Chicago’s 27 per 100,000. None of the rest of what Perdue said is true. Atlanta doesn’t crack the top 20 cities over 100,000 residents for murders. Georgia isn’t in the top 10 states for murder rates. Kemp still engaged in a bidding war for “tough-on-crime” credentials.

The rhetoric from white conservatives has had one of its intended effects: blunting reform efforts. Atlanta’s relatively progressive, Black political leadership has incrementally turned away from talk about reform and toward whatever can get the body count down, now.

Fulton County Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis photographed in her office on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. The prosecutor weighing whether Donald Trump and others committed crimes by trying to pressure Georgia officials to overturn Joe Biden’s presidential election victory said a decision on whether to bring charges could come as early as the first half of this year. Willis said in an interview with The Associated Press last week that her team is making solid progress, and she’s leaning toward asking for a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid the investigation. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)

Fulton County Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis in her office on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022.

Photo: Ben Gray/AP

Fani Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, sees gang prosecutions and state RICO charges as the answer to the uptick in violence. RICO — short for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act — is a law meant to take down drug cartels and mafia syndicates by piecing together individual crimes to argue that they’re part of a larger criminal enterprise. RICO cases — state or federal — are hard to beat.

The Young Slime Life, or YSL, indictment has 28 defendants, only a handful of whom can pay for a robust defense out of pocket. The wide net of the charges is designed to get people to fold and offer testimony to save their own skin.

Not everyone is convinced that it’s a good tactic.

“This sweeping indictment will come at a great expense to taxpayers and all Atlantans who would prefer violence intervention and thoughtful investment in solutions proven to be effective,” said Devin Franklin, an attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights. “The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office has invested tremendously in crafting a narrative of dangerousness in Atlanta without providing data to the public substantiating the contention that so-called repeat offenders are primarily to blame for harm in Atlanta.”

Some critics hold that the targets in this case are Black people who have risen from poverty, that perhaps the charges are a prosecutorial overreach in the face of political pressure to act. These critics would argue that RICO cases should be reserved for people with institutional power, like transnational criminal cartels, mafia crews, and corporate malefactors.

Should Black criminal enterprises be immune to drawing a RICO charge? The idea is fundamentally insulting.

There might be something to it, but to make that argument one must overlook the role of the music industry in Atlanta — an institution, one might say — and its intertwined relationship with the gang violence. Should Black criminal enterprises be immune to drawing a RICO charge? The idea is fundamentally insulting. Poor Black people’s lives lost in street warfare deserve the protection of the law.

When looking at the problem of street violence and its connection to Atlanta’s music industry as a question of racism, consider the corporate parentage of Young Thug’s label. Len Blavatnik is the owner of Warner Music Group, which owns the 300 Entertainment label that distributes the music of Young Thug on his YSL label. Blavatnik is a British-American billionaire born in the former Soviet Union, in what is now Ukraine, who made his fortune in the Russian fossil fuel and natural resource industries and later helped other oligarchs under sanctions divest their holdings. He donated $1 million to former President Donald Trump’s slush fund/inaugural committee.

If Atlanta’s musical infrastructure is cancerous because of the way street gangs are using their connection to music studios and recording executives to recruit new members into acts of violence, a RICO prosecution is an attack on structural power.

Young Thug’s rise to stardom ran in parallel with a gang war between feuding sets of Bloods. The conflict erupted in 2015, following the assassination of Bloods gang leader Donovan “Peanut” Thomas. Prosecutors allege that Williams — Young Thug — rented the car used by five gang members, including rising rap star Yak Gotti, to conduct the drive-by shooting that killed Thomas.

According to the indictment, Williams spoke with Kyle Oree, the leader of the cultlike gang Sex Money Murda, shortly after Thomas’s death. Prosecutors appear to have captured a call to Oree in jail, in which the hit is purportedly discussed. A few days after talking to Oree, Young Thug went on social media to argue that people who “get right into the courtroom and tell the God’s honest truth don’t get it, y’all n****s need to get fucking killed, bro, from me and YSL.”

Bringing charges against a group like the Young Slime Life gang proved challenging. Prosecutors had to disentangle YSL the music label, which is an imprint of Warner Music, from YSL the street gang, an outgrowth of South Atlanta organized crime around Cleveland Avenue, the latest iteration of previous gangs like Raised on Cleveland and 30 Deep.

Thomas’s murder divided Atlanta into two warring camps: YSL and YFN, another Blood gang in Atlanta loyal to Thomas. YFN is fronted by another popular rapper, Rayshawn Bennett, known as YFN Lucci.

The conflict only accelerated during the pandemic, though violence appears to have slowed down since the May 9 indictment and arrests.

Lucci is in Fulton County Jail — somewhere carefully isolated from Young Thug — awaiting trial on gang charges and a felony murder charge from a botched 2021 drive-by shooting on YSL gang members. Lucci allegedly drove the car. When their targets killed the triggerman in return fire, Lucci ditched the body in the middle of the street and sped away, the YFN gang indictment said.

Rapper YFN Lucci performs onstage on January 05, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Rapper YFN Lucci performs on Jan. 5, 2021, in Atlanta.

Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images

The arrest of alleged YSL gang member Christian “Big Bhris” Eppinger on February 7 ended in a bloody affair, with Eppinger allegedly firing six shots into an Atlanta cop during the arrest. Eppinger’s arrest started a 90-day clock ticking, with court rules demanding an indictment before then to continue to hold him. Willis, the district attorney, used it to build the broader YSL gang case.

The cases are sure to leverage Georgia’s unique gang law. Normally, prosecutors can’t use rap lyrics or Instagram photos of men holding guns while throwing up gang signs as evidence of a crime in an armed robbery case or an assault, because alone these things have nothing to do with those crimes. A judge would consider it improperly prejudicial.

But in a gang terrorism case under Georgia law, the prosecution has to prove that other crimes were committed as part of gang activity. So all evidence of gang activity becomes admissible, and that evidence can be used in the trials of all the other alleged gang members charged under the same statute. The Georgia law can be devastating for the defense: Juries see mountains of evidence from a wide array of crimes, along with testimony about gang signs and initiations.

Police and civic leaders began 2022 with calls for Atlantans to engage in nonviolent conflict resolution, because the city’s murders appeared to be driven by inexplicable spontaneous rage and not, say, the more statistically predictable drug deal gone bad or robbery attempt.

“I mean, folks are going to the finality of any argument, like the end of the argument is to end you, to end your life,” said Andre Dickens, Atlanta’s newly elected mayor, at a “Clippers and Cops” barbershop forum in January. “We’re finding that the person that’s dead also had a gun. So the person that shot was thinking, ‘I’ve got to shoot you before you shoot me,’ because so many people have guns right now.” He added, “A lot of times I’m seeing these things happening because people just don’t know how to settle a dispute — without going to a gun.”

Historically, Atlanta voters have picked their mayors based on issues of housing, transportation, and city service problems. A poll ahead of the Atlanta mayor’s race last year, though, showed that 48 percent of people considered crime to be the most important problem in the city, with about 61 percent of respondents saying they live within a mile of an area where they’d be afraid to walk alone at night.

On the campaign trail, Dickens took a balanced approach to fighting Atlanta’s growing crime problem. “While arrests for violent criminals are of course necessary, we simply cannot arrest our way out of a crime wave,” he said in his crime policy platform. “We need a comprehensive approach. Diversion and police alternatives are an integral part of managing Atlanta’s criminal justice system.”

The city is pursuing an expansion of its pre-arrest diversion initiative, ramping up its new Office of Violence Reduction, and planning to create a hospital-based violence intervention program at Grady Memorial. The early days of Dickens’s term, however, have largely focused on enforcement.

After three months in office, Dickens announced the creation of a repeat offenders unit in the police department to identify people most likely to commit an act of violence and get them off the street. The unit will direct citizen reviewers to follow the cases of recidivists, documenting the trials and reporting on the outcomes.

The worries about creating a stigma had been overcome by the politics of the crime surge.

Rap is still art, and artistic freedom is a hallmark of the First Amendment, said Devin Rafus, a criminal defense attorney at Arora Law. “Young men use lyrics and rap as a way to express their feelings, or how the community is growing up, or what they see on the street, and how to sort of break free from it,” he said. “To use that against someone in the future, and try and say, ‘Hey, you must be bad, or you must have committed this crime,’ because you talked about either committing a crime that’s similar or something totally different that’s bad as well. It’s just very prejudicial to a jury and to the defendant when they hear that information.”

“The statutes are stacked against us,” Rafus said. “I don’t think that just because someone writes a song, that that necessarily makes it true either then or in the future.”

“The statutes are stacked against us.”

That argument, though, has so far fallen flat in court. Deamonte “Yak Gotti” Kendrick’s lawyer made the connection between the case and the music plain in his ultimately unsuccessful argument for bond.

“They’re sending a message to every young kid today in the city who hopes to grow up and become a successful musician that whenever you go on YouTube and the internet and create as your art form, you’re going to have that used against you later,” Jay Abt, Kendrick’s lawyer, said. “And that is a shame on them. That is one of the greatest things that has blessed our city and our community and our state in the last two decades.”

The defense insists that this prosecution means to put rap on trial, and the aspirations of poor Black people who see music as the only way out of poverty along with it. They are arguing that Willis would prefer not to face the same fate as Chesa Boudin in San Francisco, cast out amid a perceived failure to be tough on crime.

The larger question is whether gang prosecutions tied to the music industry ultimately begin looking for targets in the music industry’s corporate penthouses. There are rich people at the top of this pyramid who are white, not from Atlanta, and profiting from Black misery, arguably being cultivated by these artists, in the name of selling records.

At some point, we must ask if the major labels are deliberately looking to promote artists who are themselves promoting violent street gangs because, in a fractured media landscape, “authentic” trap musicians are more reliably profitable.

Correction: June 27, 2022
This story previously referred to Len Blavatnik as a Russian oligarch. A billionaire enriched by the Russian fossil fuel and natural resource industries, Blavatnik was born in the former Soviet Union, now Ukraine, and holds dual citizenship in the United States and the United Kingdom.

The post Atlanta’s Gang Indictment Takes On an Institution appeared first on The Intercept.

More People Will Die

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 25/06/2022 - 7:04am in


Justice, Politics

A pro-choice supporter cries outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on June 24, 2022. - The US Supreme Court on Friday ended the right to abortion in a seismic ruling that shreds half a century of constitutional protections on one of the most divisive and bitterly fought issues in American political life. The conservative-dominated court overturned the landmark 1973 "Roe v Wade" decision that enshrined a woman's right to an abortion and said individual states can permit or restrict the procedure themselves. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

A pro-abortion supporter cries outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on June 24, 2022.

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

In a stunning, if expected, ruling, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday, ignoring decades of precedent to deny Americans a fundamental human right. The decision cleared the way for states to outlaw abortion and criminalize those who seek one or help others get them.

The ruling will quickly make abortion illegal in several states. Thirteen — Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming — have so-called trigger laws on the books meant to make abortion illegal in the event that Roe fell. Texas and Missouri declared abortion illegal within hours of the ruling. Others still have restrictions in place that can now be revived.

Those who aren’t able to get the abortion they want, need, and deserve will see their lives irreparably damaged.

Here’s a stark truth that’s crucial to keep in mind: More pregnant people in those states will die.

Medication abortion is safe and effective, but states have already been working to restrict it. In desperation, many pregnant people in states that ban abortion will still do what they can to obtain one. Abortion won’t disappear, but for many it will become deadly. Even people experiencing pregnancy complications will get caught up and have their lives threatened if doctors refuse to give them the treatment they need, as has happened in countries like Ireland and Poland.

Those who aren’t able to get the abortion they want, need, and deserve will see their lives irreparably damaged.

One researcher’s estimate is that a quarter of those who would have sought and previously been able to get an abortion will instead give birth. They will watch as their life’s dreams slip away. Forced birth will lead to diminished economic prospects and severe destitution for parents and their children.

In the seminal Turnaway Study of women who sought an abortion, despite comparable financial footing, those who were unsuccessful in getting an abortion were three times as likely to wind up living in poverty than those who were successful. They were also more likely to end up unemployed. Years later, people who can’t obtain abortions wind up with more debt and are more likely to have gone bankrupt or been evicted.

Children will suffer too. Legal abortion reduced the number of children living in poverty and improved children’s lives by making it more likely they would graduate college and earn enough to live on. Growing up in poverty, on the other hand, has huge negative effects on children’s education, involvement in the criminal justice system, and lifelong earnings and job potential.

It’s also far more difficult to parent while living in poverty and after carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. The Turnaway Study found that the mothers who didn’t get abortions reported worse emotional bonding with the children they were forced to bear. Other research has found that legalizing abortion reduced instances of child abuse and neglect.

Access to legal abortion, on the other hand, has, until this point, dramatically changed American women’s economic opportunities. Women who get the abortions they seek are more likely to be able to follow through on their plans for education and careers.

The legalization of abortion after the original Roe decision better enabled women to get higher levels of education, increased their participation in the labor force, boosted their earnings, and upped their ”occupational prestige,” in the words of two economists.

The reasons behind those trends aren’t hard to follow. Being a parent is difficult and expensive, especially in this country. Pregnancy itself is frequently penalized at work. Very few workers are offered paid family leave when their children are born, and there is no guarantee they’ll get paid sick leave when their children fall ill. The cost of child care has risen dramatically in recent decades, and that’s for parents who don’t live in a child care desert and can actually find a spot. Very few children are enrolled in public preschool.

Mothers in particular often fall subject to the motherhood penalty that sees them as less dedicated and competent workers and damages their pay relative to women without children and fathers — just when they need more income to support a family. One paper found that “children impose significantly larger penalties on the career trajectories of women relative to men.”

These outcomes will only be magnified for unwanted pregnancies and forced births.

The ability to control pregnancy and one’s own body is a bedrock right that Americans deserve regardless of the economic outcomes. But it is also true that, as well as denying pregnant people in this country a fundamental bodily right, the Supreme Court and the states that ban abortion are condemning them to financial suffering and possible death.

The post More People Will Die appeared first on The Intercept.

With the Corpse of Roe Still Warm, Far Right Plots Fascistic Anti-Abortion Enforcement

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 25/06/2022 - 5:35am in


Justice, Politics

 U.S. Capitol Police in riot gear return to their staging area after clear a path back to the Capitol for House Democrats after they spoke in front of the Supreme Court following the Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization decision overturning Roe v Wade was handed down at the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, June 24, 2022. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

U.S. Capitol Police in riot gear are seen in Washington, D.C., following the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022.

Photo: Bill Clark/AP

Given the makeup of the far-right Supreme Court, it has for some years been clear that Roe v. Wade would fall. Following Friday’s 6-3 decision to destroy all constitutional abortion rights, 22 states will enact their readied trigger laws for total or near-total abortion bans, with more expected to follow. Fascistic anti-abortionists have won in the courts, but they are already making clear that a victory in law is nothing to them if the laws are not brutally enforced to forge a Christian-nationalist nation through and through.

With the end of Roe achieved, the fascist right is setting its sights on shutting down and criminalizing all crucial sites of abortion solidarity and assistance that reproductive rights networks are fighting to build.

To get a sense of their expansive, draconian agenda, we need only look at the model legislation drafted by the National Right to Life Coalition — the sort of laws that Republicans in state houses will be no doubt swiftly proposing.

“Traditionally, abortion laws relied on criminal enforcement to make pro-life laws effective,” the powerful anti-abortion organization wrote. “However, current realities require a much more robust enforcement regime than reliance on criminal penalties.”

That is, for these groups, criminalization of abortion providers is not fascistic enough.

For these groups, criminalization of abortion providers is not fascistic enough.

The model legislation would seek to use Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations — or RICO — laws against anyone with any involvement in someone accessing an abortion. People could come under criminal suspicion for offering telehealth appointments; mailing or transporting abortion pills across state lines; potentially giving advice online about how to self-administer an abortion; or even “hosting or maintaining a website, or providing internet service, that encourages or facilitates efforts to obtain an illegal abortion.” All these activities would fall under “aiding and abetting.”

Drawing attention to the model law on Twitter, historian Thomas Lecaque noted, “IT DOESN’T STOP THERE THIS IS A BLUEPRINT FOR A CHRISTIAN NATIONALIST SURVEILLANCE STATE.”

The model legislation also makes clear that the route to enforcement should be vigilantism, following the lead of Texas’s vile Senate Bill 8. The law permits anyone to file a civil suit against any person who could be deemed to “abet” an abortion — potentially including an Uber driver who takes someone to an abortion appointment, or a therapist or pastor who has counseled a person on ending a pregnancy. The plaintiff need have no personal connection to the abortion seeker or fetus at all. The Texas law incentivizes anti-abortion crusaders to act as bounty hunters, promising $10,000 to those who bring successful suits against abortions performed in violation of the law.

We can expect a spate of such laws to pass in red states, and without Roe on the books, they can no longer be challenged on constitutional lines. The enemies of abortion access, in other words, won’t be letting up anytime soon — and reproductive rights will continue to be stripped from more and more people.

The Texas law was not built on a new concept. White supremacist, patriarchal rule in this country has always relied on the coalition of government forces, official police, and state-endorsed vigilantism.

There are many examples. The Jim Crow South, for instance, depended on the threat of lynching and mob violence to enforce white rule. From the fabled Texas Rangers to Klansmen to today’s right-wing militia groups armed with assault weapons, vigilantes have worked in tandem with immigration enforcement agents to hunt down and round up immigrants trying to cross the border. Before Kyle Rittenhouse shot dead two anti-racist protesters, he was thanked by police for his heavily armed presence in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Federal agents were advised by the Department of Homeland Security to publicly support the right-wing teen and claim that he “took his rifle to the scene of the rioting to help defend small business owners.”

As with the intersecting enforcement of racial hierarchy, we are seeing the shoring up of patriarchal power through a most American vigilantism, both outside of and inscribed into law.

We can be certain, too, that anti-abortionists will not wait to see whether all aspects of their bans and criminalization plans stand up in federal court before enacting them. The right makes laws realities through violence, and violent realities through law.

The right makes laws realities through violence, and violent realities through law.

S.B. 8 went into law while Roe was still on the books, despite being in clear violation of its now-dead protections. And a 26-year-old woman was arrested in Texas on murder charges in connection to a “self-induced abortion.” The charges were dropped, since no such murder statute currently exists in the state, but the incident highlighted the ways in which zealous law enforcement already polices and criminalizes abortion. This will only get worse, and poor women of color will suffer the most under the right’s forced-birth regime.

This is not to say that bold legislative efforts in abortion-protective states cannot work in effective opposition to block some of these Christo-fascist fantasies. The end of Roe, as a forthcoming and crucial paper in the Columbia Law Review notes, brings about an entirely new battleground of interstate juridical conflict. States that support access rights will move to pass laws that protect abortion providers who treat out-of-state patients, while anti-abortion states will seek to pass laws to prosecute out-of-state providers.

Legislators in Connecticut, for example, recently passed a bill designed to protect abortion providers who assist patients seeking refuge from abortion-ban states. Those of us in other blue states must push our legislators to do the same. The far right’s plans to criminalize interstate travel and online abortion solidarity must be forced to contend with robust protections for those activities where such protections can be made into law.

As is all too clear, however, when it comes to Congress and the federal government — and most any case that reaches the Supreme Court — the fascists have the upper hand against feckless Democrats. The ever-steeper uphill battle for universal abortion access will thus rely on the wisdom, experience, and cunning of those who have already been fighting on the front lines for reproductive justice, in the legal gray areas, in the streets and by the side of anyone seeking to end an unwanted pregnancy, in the collective struggle for lives worth living.

The post With the Corpse of Roe Still Warm, Far Right Plots Fascistic Anti-Abortion Enforcement appeared first on The Intercept.

Right-Wing Supreme Court Continues Its “Great Fraud” About the Second Amendment

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 25/06/2022 - 2:01am in


Justice, Politics

Twenty-four hours before the Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion on Friday, it significantly expanded gun rights with its decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen. In the Thursday ruling, the same six conservative justices who struck down Roe v. Wade voided an 111-year-old New York law that required applicants for a concealed carry permit to demonstrate that they had a special, specific need for self-defense.

This in turn will require other states with significant gun regulations — California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Hawaii — to change their laws. Other restrictions on guns will likely fall to lawsuits.

President Joe Biden then released a milquetoast statement: “I am deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s ruling … the Second Amendment is not absolute.” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said, “I’m sorry this dark day has come — that we’re supposed to go back to what was in place since 1788 when the Constitution of the United States America was ratified. And I would like to point out to the Supreme Court justices that the only weapons at that time were muskets.”

These responses should drive anyone concerned about America’s horrifying gun violence berserk with frustration — because they concede nearly the entire argument to the right before they begin. It is not the case that the Second Amendment was intended to grant individuals the right to carry arms, and thus present-day supporters of gun control now have to figure a way around that. On the contrary: The Second Amendment was never meant to have anything to do with individual gun rights. (It’s also distressing that Hochul, who graduated from law school, does not seem to know that while the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1788, the Bill of Rights wasn’t until 1791.)

The Second Amendment was never meant to have anything to do with individual gun rights.

The right argument for politicians to make on this issue — what’s both factually accurate and politically important — is that of Warren Burger. Burger was a Republican who was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court by President Richard Nixon in 1969 and served for 17 years until 1986. In retirement in 1991, Burger said that the Second Amendment “has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

“The very language of the Second Amendment,” wrote Burger, “refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires. … The Framers clearly intended to secure the right to bear arms essentially for military purposes.”

Understanding this requires some knowledge of U.S. history, but not that much.

The 13 original U.S. states were first bound together by the Articles of Confederation, which were ratified in 1781 just as the American Revolution effectively ended. But the system didn’t work well, with the central government so weak that the “united” part of the United States was largely a joke.

An effort began, led by James Madison, to create a new governing structure. This eventually became the Constitution, which was drafted in Philadelphia in 1787. But then it had to be ratified by the states.

This was by no means a sure thing. One key point of contention between the Federalists who supported the Constitution and the Anti-Federalists who opposed it were concerns over a standing army. “Standing armies are dangerous to the liberties of a people,” the Anti-Federalists stated. “The truth of the position might be confirmed by the history of almost every nation in the world.” And the Constitution gave the prospective new federal Congress the power “to raise and support Armies.”

Madison did not claim this was not an issue. However, he argued in Federalist No. 46:

The State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger … citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops.

Madison then pointed to the success of the American Revolution itself as proof of the effectiveness of militias against a regular army.

To assuage the concerns of those on the fence about the Constitution, Federalists in various states proposed that its ratification be linked to the adoption of amendments limiting the power of the federal government. This was crucial: As the National Archives explains it, “The Constitution might never have been ratified if the framers hadn’t promised to add a Bill of Rights.”

This was the context for the writing of the Second Amendment. The Bill of Rights was partially based on the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights. As the Library of Congress says, the Virginia Declaration was “uniquely influential” and “used by James Madison in drawing up the Bill of Rights.” Section XIII of the Declaration read:

That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that, in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and be governed by, the civil power.

The final language of the Second Amendment was, of course, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

A straightforward interpretation of this history was generally observed for a long time. In a key 1939 Supreme Court case, United States v. Miller, two men had traveled across state lines with an unregistered shotgun with a shortened barrel in violation of the National Firearms Act of 1934. A lower court held that part of the Act was an unconstitutional violation of the Second Amendment. In refuting this, the court declared that the “obvious purpose” of the Second Amendment was “to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of [state militia] forces. … It must be interpreted and applied with that end in view.”

In the legal world more generally, no law review article from 1888 (when they were first indexed) through 1959 ever concluded the Second Amend­ment guar­an­teed an indi­vidual right to a gun.

It’s only recently that the Supreme Court has veered toward its current view. In a key 2008 case, the court held that the meaning of “a well regulated Militia” was “all able-bodied men.” Hence it was unconstitutional for the government to prevent an individual from possessing a weapon even if it was “unconnected with militia service.”

This perspective clearly requires bizarre mental gymnastics and a resolute commitment to ignoring basic historical facts. But that’s the bread and butter of the current Supreme Court. To get a sense of where they fall on the political spectrum, it’s useful to compare their perspective to that of Jay Bybee, a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In a recent decision, Bybee wrote, “Our review of more than 700 years of English and American legal history reveals a strong theme: government has the power to regulate arms in the public square. … Indeed, we can find no general right to carry arms into the public square for self-defense.” Bybee is best known for signing off on the George W. Bush administration’s memos authorizing torture.

Meanwhile, away from the Supreme Court’s dense opinions, the case for eliminating limits on gun rights is simpler. On the wall of the lobby at the National Rifle Association’s headquarters in Virginia, you will read the stirring words “… the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” I.e., the inconvenient beginning of the Second Amendment has been edited out.

So Warren Burger was certainly right to say in 1991 that “the American people should have a firm understanding of the true origin and purpose of the Second Amendment.” But the unfortunate fact is that they definitely do not. The conservative faction of the Supreme Court likes it that way, and even top Democrats don’t seem inclined to explain it to anyone.

The post Right-Wing Supreme Court Continues Its “Great Fraud” About the Second Amendment appeared first on The Intercept.

Case of 11-Year-Old Brazilian Girl Denied Abortion Holds Stark Warning for Post-Roe U.S.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/06/2022 - 3:37am in


Justice, World

Women march shouting slogans against Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro and holding a banner in favor of legalizing abortion, to mark International Women's Day in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Tuesday, March 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Women march and hold a banner in favor of legalizing abortion, to mark International Women’s Day in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 8, 2022.

Photo: Andre Penner/AP

In recent weeks, a little girl was fighting for her abortion rights in a Brazilian court.

The 11-year-old child was being forced by the courts to carry a pregnancy after she was raped, The Intercept Brasil reported. The girl, with the support of her mother, had sought an abortion as soon as the pregnancy was discovered — when she was just 10 years old.

A hospital in Santa Catarina, the southern state where they live, refused to perform the procedure without seeking judicial approval first, as the fetus was then 22 weeks old: two weeks past the hospital’s policy of not performing abortions after 20 weeks.

Though a directive from the Brazilian Health Ministry recommends a 20-to-22-week cutoff for abortions, the penal code allows for abortions in cases of sexual violence, without imposing any limitation on weeks of pregnancy and without requiring judicial authorization. The pregnant child, however, found herself before a judge, the growing fetus putting her young life at greater risk with every passing day.

Instead of allowing the mother to take the girl for a legal abortion, Judge Joana Ribeiro Zimmer ordered that the girl be separated from her family and go into a shelter — allegedly to protect her from further abuse. But Ribeiro Zimmer also made telling comments that the move to effectively block the abortion was to avoid what the judge incorrectly called a “homicide.”

Only after the Intercept Brasil’s reporting was a court decision enacted this week that permitted the girl to leave the shelter. More than 29 weeks pregnant, she had the procedure on Thursday and was reported to be in good health.

More than 29 weeks pregnant, she had the procedure on Thursday and was reported to be in good health.

Ribeiro Zimmer was then placed under investigation by a national judicial body. My colleagues in Brazil obtained footage of the hearing in which the judge denied the girl abortion access, including a particularly disturbing exchange. The judge’s remarks mirror the words of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who has suggested that “safe haven” adoption laws justify banning abortions, since relinquishing a baby for adoption removes the “undue burden of motherhood.”

The cruelty of such logic was plain to see in the Santa Catarina courtroom. “Today, there is technology to save the baby. And we have 30,000 couples who want the baby, who accept the baby,” Ribeiro Zimmer told the pregnant girl’s mother. “Today’s sorrow for you and for her daughter is the joy of another couple,” she said. The mother responded in tears, “It’s joy, because they are not experiencing what I am.”

The Brazilian case is a grim reminder of what it looks like to put the fate of reproductive justice in the hands of a right-wing justice system.

Brazil’s abortion laws are highly restrictive: Providers and abortion seekers are criminalized, with exceptions only in cases when the pregnant person’s life is at risk, in the case of rape, or when the fetus has anencephaly, a condition in which parts of its brain and skull are missing. Many states in the U.S. already operate with similar harsh restrictions. A post-Roe reality has been the de facto status quo for years in dozens of states where abortion can’t be accessed and abortion providers and seekers are already policed and terrorized. Forced births are common. Now the post-Roe age is here in full force.

The girl’s case in Brazil has its counterparts in the U.S. In 2018, for example, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement illegally denied a pregnant minor held in its detention the ability to go to an abortion clinic, until the minor and her guardian sued.

The fall of Roe v. Wade is imminent, and 13 states are ready with trigger laws on the books to automatically ban all abortions in the first and second trimesters — many with no exceptions for rape. The U.S. power structure is replete with Ribeiro Zimmers: ideologues so committed to coercive pro-natalism, that any life, even that of an actual living child, is deemed disposable in service of the unborn.

The Brazilian case clarifies, too, the risks of fighting only for marginal abortion access. A world of reproductive justice is not one in which abortions are only permitted in cases of rape or when there is a risk to the pregnant person’s life. No one should have to announce that they were raped to end an unwanted pregnancy.

Anti-abortion extremists in the judiciary will always run roughshod over technical exceptions. Consider the arrest earlier this year of a 26-year-old woman in Texas on murder charges in connection to a “self-induced abortion.” The charges were dropped, since no such murder statute currently exists in the state, but the incident highlighted the ways in which zealous law enforcement already polices and criminalizes abortion. After Roe falls, it will only get worse.

The Brazilian case clarifies the risks of fighting only for marginal abortion access.

The American right, with its Christo-fascist tendencies, has of course decimated reproductive rights in this country. Liberals share some blame, however, in ceding so much of the discourse to a right-wing fulcrum. As feminist theorist Sophie Lewis wrote in a recent essay, the Clintonian “safe, legal, and rare” framework pathetically cast abortion as the problem — the thing that should rarely happen — rather than unwanted pregnancies, for which abortion is the cure.

The new fight for abortion needs to reject the mealy-mouthed Democratic Party approach of recent decades. Reproductive freedom cannot be something we approach with timidity.

We must fight for abortions as more than a right. Instead, it should be recognized as a social good. The battle must go hand in hand with the fights for universal health care and against the carceral state.

The case in Brazil shows how these struggles are interconnected. The power to confine a person — be it in a shelter, a detention center, or a prison — enables the authorities to readily prevent access to reproductive freedom, even in cases of legal abortion.

We don’t, however, need to just look to Brazil to find horrifying examples of forced pregnancies, just as we do not need to rely on an example from outside of U.S. borders to imagine the horror of a post-Roe world. Rather, the Brazilian case is a reminder that the anti-fascist struggle for bodily autonomy is an international one. We can be certain that Christo-fascists from the U.S. to Brazil to Hungary and beyond share an agenda to shore up patriarchal rule.

The left in the U.S. would do well to look to Latin America not simply for troubling presages of a post-Roe reality, but for inspiration. Feminist movements in countries like Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico with historically draconian abortion laws have seen a wave of reproductive rights victories legalizing and decriminalizing abortion. These movements were explicit in tying the struggle for abortion to the fight for LGBTQ+ rights and expanding access to citizenship — that is, against the intertwined fascist logics of border rule and denial of bodily autonomy.

It is within this robust, collective framework — not through limited calls for “privacy” and “individual choice” — that we in the U.S. should proceed. It is profoundly unconscionable that a raped child should be forced to carry a pregnancy to term. The lesson is not, however, to only protect abortions for abused children. All forced births should be deemed unacceptable.

Update: June 24, 2022
This story has been updated to include the latest information on the 11-year-old Brazilian girl’s status as well as the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.

The post Case of 11-Year-Old Brazilian Girl Denied Abortion Holds Stark Warning for Post-Roe U.S. appeared first on The Intercept.