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Category: Journalism

Exposing Breitbart’s Lies At ALEC 41

Posted in Journalism, and MintPress News

In his recent article “Code Pink Stages Mini Protest at ALEC National Conference,” Breitbart.com’s California correspondent Jon Fleischman fabricates an encounter with an activist, erases a full day of anti-corporate protest, and makes a major source of corporate corruption in American state politics seem like a benign force for social good — all in just 250 words.

ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has helped corporations and rich private investors pass conservative legislation for over 40 years. The legislation is written by the corporations, then passed by conservative state legislators selected and groomed by the group. The group has faced increasing criticism and protest in recent years, especially since the 2011 publication of the Center for Media and Democracy’s ALECexposed.org, a site with hundreds of these model bills and a partial membership list of the organization. Several corporate members have dropped out of the group under this pressure.

Among other policies, ALEC lobbies for the privatization of education and police and undermines laws that encourage the use of renewable energy. It also crafted the Stand Your Ground legislation that may have contributed to the death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman.

Fleischman describes seeing a small group of protesters led by CODEPINK Dallas outside the cowboy-themed restaurant Eddie Deen’s Ranch, where ALEC held a kick-off dinner on the first night of its 41st national conference. Since the article features a photo of the group from inside the restaurant’s property, it’s clear that Fleischman was present on the night of July 30, 2014. But the rest departs significantly from reality.

Video: 5,000 Texans March For Gaza

Posted in Austin, Journalism, and MintPress News

“But we do not have much time. The revolutionary spirit is already worldwide. If the anger of the peoples of the world at the injustice of things is to be channeled into a revolution of love and creativity, we must begin now to work, urgently, with all people, to shape a new world.”

On Aug. 2, Sheikh Islam Mossaad ended his speech at the Texas Stands With Gaza rally by quoting these words of Martin Luther King, Jr. The quotation was preceded by a passionate speech invoking the spirit of dead Palestinian children and calling on the living youth of the world to take up their struggle.

It set the tone for a historic moment — the largest rally for Gaza in the Lone Star State since the beginning of Israel’s military offensive dubbed Operation Protective Edge, and likely the largest pro-Palestine rally ever in the state. A crowd of thousands grew through the speeches and swelled further as it turned from a rally on the state capitol grounds to a march down Congress, the central artery running through downtown Austin, to City Hall. People came off the sidewalks to stand against Israel’s war crimes, to stand with an oppressed people, until the peaceful march stretched to five blocks long and included at least 5,000 Gaza supporters.

Born To Fly: Extreme Action Heroes

Posted in Journalism, and SXSW

What comes to mind when you think of dancers? Elegant, graceful ballet? An experimental, intellectual modern dance routine? Swing and other forms of big band dance?

Then there’s the Streb Extreme Action Company, led by Elizabeth Streb, a uniquely talented and passionate choreographer. Using Streb’s “Pop Action Technique,” her “action heroes” defy death by climbing, spinning, dancing with swinging steel I-beams and hurling themselves through the air. Born To Fly, the new documentary from director/producer Catherine Gund, follows Streb and Company as they work toward their most audacious performance: a full day of events to celebrate the London Olympics that culminated with her dancers dangling hundreds of feet in the air from The London Eye.

The Streb heroes are passionate and, if not fearless, unafraid to look the potential consequences of their work in the face. All forms of professional-level dance are hard on the human body (dancers are famous for their feet, often damaged and ugly from repeated injury), yet we think of this art differently from other forms of human achievement. Elizabeth Streb repeatedly compares her work to boxing — when a boxer steps into the ring, it’s not about whether they’ll get hurt but how much. So it is with the Pop Action Technique, designed to prevent serious injuries and minimize others.

Vessel: Former Greenpeace Doctor Offers Worldwide Abortion Access (#SXSW)

Posted in Journalism, and SXSW

Every 10 minutes, a woman dies from a botched abortion. That’s 47,000 women every year. But what if there were an extremely safe way women could self-administer abortion, without needing the permission of the medical establishment or the state?

Vessel — the first documentary from filmmaker Diana Whitten — studies one woman’s efforts to get the abortion pill and the information needed to use it to women worldwide.

Dr. Rebecca Gomperts worked as a ships doctor aboard Greenpeace vessels but realized she could target a more personal issue — abortion. Because she’s from the Netherlands, where abortion is legal, she realized that if she took a ship into international waters she could help women get abortions even if they were illegal in their home country.

Edward Snowden Speaks To #SXSW (#SXSNOWDEN)

Posted in Journalism, and SXSW

Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower in exile, spoke to the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, Texas today. He appeared via a choppy videostream which was said to be routed through seven proxy servers. Joining the conversation in person were the ACLU’s Ben Wizner and Christopher Soghoian.

As the talk began, the atmosphere in the room itself was enlightening. I overheard many people joking, with a touch of discomfort, about whether they were now on an NSA list for attending, about how many Feds might be in the audience. “Can they arrest a few thousand of us on the way out?” quipped a woman seated next to me. In a sense, most of the tech geeks around me seemed to consider themselves dissidents.

The event was not without controversy. As the ACLU panelists reminded us, in the days leading up to the panel Kansas Representative Mike Pompeo made vague threats against SXSW and told them to cancel the Snowden speech.

The Internet’s Own Boy: Remembering Aaron Swartz (#SXSW)

Posted in Journalism, and SXSW

At the beginning of 2013, the Internet lost one of its most radical, most pioneering minds when Aaron Swartz took his own life. In just 26 years, Swartz pioneered technologies like RSS syndication and the Creative Commons (both of which are in daily use here at Firedoglake), was a founder at Reddit, and led a successful fight against the destructive proposed Internet legislation SOPA. The Internet’s Own Boy, the new documentary from Brian Knappenberger (We Are Legion), is the story of his life and death.

Though dying by his own hand, in the incredible outpouring of grief that followed online and off, almost all blamed the government. They had good reason to do so. Swartz faced decades in prison under the controversial Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Government prosecutors had literally told Swartz that they intended to “make an example of him” by forcing him to face maximum penalties if he fought in court. Believing himself innocent, he repeatedly refused deals that would have seen him pleading guilty to a felony and spending months in jail and longer without a computer.

Swartz’s “crime?” Downloading too many documents from JSTOR, a database of scientific and academic papers. Though most are paid for by tax dollars, JSTOR and other similar companies charge outlandish fees for access. Using a computer script and a laptop plugged directly into MIT’s network, Swartz had downloaded thousands of these documents. The Internet’s Own Boy sheds important new light on Swartz’s controversial activities and on the outlandish lengths the government went to prosecute him for them. No one knows what Swartz intended to do with the files, but the film reveals that he’d previously accessed other databases in order to do large scale statistical analysis. One likely theory is that Swartz planned to analyze the data to find links between polluters and the favorable academic research they sponsor.

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