NYMHM for 21 Oct 2018

#newsyoumayhavemissed for October 21, 2018 is conscious of how everything is shadowed by the ghastly murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi—shadowed and yet more clear. As others have pointed out, his death requires us to look at the cost of American alliances, notably but not only in the war in Yemen, fought with American weapons and American mercenaries, according to a new investigation. It also should lead us to question the atmosphere in which journalists are at increasing risk.



1. US mercenaries fighting in Yemen—civilians at risk of starvation

Yet another group of civilians was killed last week by the Saudi-led, US-supported coalition that is at war with Yemen’s Shiite rebels. Over 10,000 people have been killed in the war so far, and the United Nations, along with aid workers, condemned the routine targeting of civilians. [NY Times]

Civilians are also at risk of starvation—12-13 million of them, according to Lise Grande, the UN’s humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen. [Irish Times]

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates hired American mercenaries—former US soldiers—to assassinate clerics and political leaders in Yemen, according to an investigation by Aram Roston of Buzzfeed and affirmed by Democracy Now. According to Roston, “Experts said it is almost inconceivable that the United States would not have known that the UAE—whose military the US has trained and armed at virtually every level—had hired an American company staffed by American veterans to conduct an assassination program in a war it closely monitors.” Roston’s point in his compelling and very detailed story is that this strategy—the use of targeted assassinations—changes the nature of war. Read the transcript of Amy Goodman’s interview with Roston (second link) and Roston’s full story (first link). [Buzzfeed, Democracy Now (1, 2)]

2. Attacks on journalists

Human Rights Watch explains why it matters so much whether Saudi Arabia is held to account for Khashoggi’s death. If you haven’t yet read Khashoggi’s last column for the Post—published posthumously in English and in Arabic—Khashoggi calls for an “independent international forum, isolated from the influence of nationalist governments spreading hate through propaganda,” which would give people in Arab countries—and elsewhere—access to information and dialogue that they seek.

The Committee to Protect Journalists tracks the number of journalists killed—44 in 2018—noting where they are located and what the circumstances are of their deaths.

Writing for Medium, Diane Hembree compares the kinds of hostility against the alternative press in the 80s to the terrifying situation of journalists now.

Meanwhile, Trump celebrated the assault on a Guardian reporter by Montana congressman Greg Gianforte.

3. Transgender people’s rights under siege

Under a new policy drafted by the Department of Health and Human Services, people’s sex would be defined as the one they were born with, with ambiguities about sex addressed by genetic testing. As the memo puts it, “Sex means a person’s status as male or female [is] based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.” This step is the latest and most draconian assault by the Trump administration on the rights of transgender people. [NY Times, Mother Jones]

4. Trump withdraws US from treaty on medium-range nuclear missiles

Claiming that Russia has violated the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, Trump has withdrawn from it. Experts on arms control point out that Trump could have called for negotiations with Russia, rather than ending the treaty unilaterally; the concern is that the end of the treaty will lead to further arms proliferation. Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, said that Trump’s decision was “reckless.” [BBC, NY Times]

5. Russia and the mid-terms: what intervention looks like

A criminal complaint unsealed Friday demonstrates how Russians draw on favorite conservative themes to develop a “false narrative” intended to shape American political responses and voting patterns. Notable in the NY Times story are translations of Russian memos on how issues are to be framed. The Mother Jones story has a more comprehensive overview. [NY Times, Mother Jones]

Business Insider also has some examples of divisive memes posted by Russians posing as right-wing Americans.

6. Georgia election

Last week we pointed out that Brian Kemp, a candidate for Governor of Georgia, had purged voters from the rolls in his capacity as Secretary of State of Georgia. He also investigated organizations involved in voter registration, according to Mother Jones. Now a new investigation by the Palast Investigative Fund reveals that Kemp has cancelled the registrations of 340,000 voters on the grounds that they have moved. They have not moved. [Guardian, Mother Jones]

7. Immigrants summarily discharged from the military

Earlier this year we included a story on how some immigrant recruits to the armed forces were suddenly being discharged—without explanation and sometimes without notification. An investigation by AP reporters Martha Mendoza and Garance Burke reveals that 502 immigrants were discharged between July 2017 and July 2018 for reasons that many of the recruits themselves say are false. Initially recruited under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, a program which invites international recruits with exceptional language or medical skills to enlist with a promise of future citizenship, recruits had their lives upended when their enrollment in the program was cancelled. Some are appealing. [AP]

8. Activists try to stop the pipeline

A group of activists in Louisiana has been chaining themselves to equipment, kayaking into construction sites and occupying trees in order to stop a 160 mile section of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which will cut through Native American lands, interrupt 700 bodies of water and land in a small African American community already overwhelmed by industrial development and waste. Pipeline projects have been environmentally disastrous in Louisiana, and residents have had little recourse. [Guardian] As Jody Meche, president of the local crawfisherman’s society, put it:

The people that were supposed to be looking out for me and my interests and my environment sold me out, no doubt. They’re billin’ us for killin’ us.


9. Americans less confident they can detect bots online

A study conducted by the Pew Research Center has found that Americans are increasingly unsure of their ability to determine whether online content is generated by a person or by an artificial source called a “bot.” In 2016 84% of Americans were confident that they could detect made up or “fake” news generated and posted by automated programs, but in the most recent study that figure has dropped to just 47%. The study examined the opinions of those who knew what a ‘bot’ is; of those 47% say they are “confident” that they can identify bots while only 7% claimed to be “very confident.” Most of those polled believe bots are used maliciously, while a small percentage (11%) held they had a positive influence in dispersing the news. This dramatic shift has implications for the overall faith people put into their news sources as it has been found in the most recent survey of internet traffic by security firm Imperva, 52% of ALL online traffic is bot generated. [techxplore]

10. Climate change causing a spike in New England ticks, and in moose mortality

A study conducted by the University of New Hampshire has found that ticks have become a leading cause of death for moose calves, killing seven in ten. Moose collect thousands of ticks which prey on their blood through the fall and winter, detaching in the spring. Longer falls and earlier springs mean more ticks are finding the time to hitch a ride through the winter, with devastating effect on young calves who can’t tolerate the blood loss and other subsequent problems associated with infestation. Scientists say that a moose calf with more than 35,000 ticks is in serious jeopardy but calves have been found dead with over 100,000 ticks recently. Moose are becoming symbol of the impact of climate change on New England wildlife, with numbers reported declining since 2015. [Gizmodo]

11. Water levels in Rhine at critical levels

An ongoing severe drought in Germany has lowered water levels throughout the country, including its most well-known river. The Rhine currently stands at just 77 centimeters (30 inches), which is four centimeters lower than the previous low record of 81 centimeters set in 2003. The extreme low water level has reduced the amount of shipping possible over the river while exposing things on the dried river bed that have never been seen before, such as a 110 pound WW2 era bomb. The drought is expected to cost Germany around five percent of its agricultural output and while rain is expected next week it is not anticipated to be enough to restore water levels. [Phys.org]