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Hometown: London
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Member since: Sun Jul 1, 2018, 07:25 PM
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Somewhere Fred is screaming in rage


Ukraine war: mixed signals among Kyiv's allies hint at growing conflict fatigue


It is now almost 600 days since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and the war that has followed has tested the resilience of both countries. But it has also tested those in the west that have supported Ukraine from the start. This much was evident from the mixed reception Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, received last week when he visited the US and Canada. Meanwhile, tensions in Europe over support for Ukraine have flared up again. With the Ukrainian counteroffensive still not living up to – the perhaps inflated – expectations, we are beginning to see the first serious signs of a fraying consensus in the west about how seriously different governments are committed to supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes.

Zelensky’s North American visit started with a speech at the UN general assembly in New York in which he made a passionate appeal to fellow world leaders to uphold international law and order and support his country. While there remains widespread backing for the principles of sovereign equality and territorial integrity, it gets fuzzier when it comes to how to end the war. There are two camps: many western leaders following Ukraine’s line that the country’s territorial integrity needs to be restored first. Others – including a large number of countries in the global south – prefer to emphasise the importance of dialogue and an early cessation of violence. This pattern was repeated the following morning at the UN security council’s open debate on the war in Ukraine, with a predictable clash between Zelensky and the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, who presented very different accounts of causes and dynamics of the war.

But before the debate could conclude, the security council turned its attention to the crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh, a clear indication that Ukraine is not the only urgent issue on the global agenda. Zelensky continued to Washington DC where he secured another military aid package worth US$325 million (£192 million). This aid can be allocated by US president Joe Biden directly under the so-called presidential drawdown authority. A further US$24 billion in aid, which is subject to congressional approval, is more problematic. The Republican House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, would not commit to putting a bill to that effect on the legislative schedule before the end of the year. McCarthy also denied the Ukrainian president an opportunity to address a joint session of the House and the Senate, another sign of growing Republican resistance to the enthusiastic support offered to Ukraine by the Biden administration. Moving up to Canada, Zelensky received a universally warm reception and left with a military aid package worth C$650 million (£394 million).

Europe: growing division

Meanwhile, in Europe, three of Kyiv’s neighbours inside the EU – Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – defied the end of an EU-wide ban on grain imports from Ukraine. Poland then went one step further and also put a – temporary – halt on any weapons deliveries to Ukraine. This was decried by Zelensky in his speech before the UN general assembly as “political theatre” and a gift for Moscow. The grain dispute between Poland and Ukraine has been simmering for some time, and it was a question of when, not if, it would ultimately escalate. Importantly, it foreshadows other potential obstacles in Ukraine’s path to EU membership. Some of these are potentially within Ukraine itself. As Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, noted in her annual state-of-the-union address at the European parliament, “accession [to the EU] is merit-based”, she acknowledged “the great strides Ukraine has already made”. But accession negotiations will not be opened before a positive recommendation from the commission on Kyiv’s progress concerning seven conditions set in June 2022 when Ukraine was granted candidate status. This decision is expected before the end of 2023.


Andouille and Collard Greens Soup With Cornmeal Dumplings



Andouille sausage and smoked paprika fortify store-bought chicken stock for an intensely flavorful and smoky broth in which ribbons of collard greens are simmered until tender. Canned fire-roasted tomatoes add to the smokiness of the soup, and, combined with the andouille, bring a Creole flair to this soul food-inspired dish. Once the collard greens are tender, spoonfuls of cornmeal batter are nestled into the simmering broth and add a subtle sweetness to balance out the robust soup. If you’re unable to find andouille, you can substitute with another smoked sausage, such as kielbasa. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Andouille sausage can be found at well stocked supermarkets, butcher or specialty shops, or online.


Professionals in Sweden: pushing back hard against a RW plan to make them snitch on the undocumented


Workers in the welfare sector are currently giving Sweden’s government a significant headache in a dispute about upholding professional ethics. They are opposing a planned law that would require them to “snitch” on undocumented migrants. And since the successful implementation of the law would require their cooperation, the policy has reached something of an impasse. The political crisis centres on a proposal to force doctors, social workers, dentists, teachers and other welfare professionals to report undocumented patients, clients and students to the police. This is a demand many professionals, their unions and even employer associations argue is fundamentally antithetical to professional ethics and obligations to care for and serve all.

Experts in the fields of human rights and labour law have questioned the legality and reasoning behind the law, some comparing it to the kind of peer-surveillance that characterised the Soviet Union. Some doctors, teachers and social workers have pledged to resist and break the law if it is introduced. And, recently, thousands of people gathered in Stockholm and Gothenburg to protest on the matter. The proposal was introduced last year as part of the so-called Tidö agreement, a document outlining the basis of cooperation between the centre right to right wing government parties – the Liberals, the Moderates, the Christian Democrats and the radical right-wing Sweden Democrats. While the agreement covers several policy areas, migration and border control take centre stage. Four goals are outlined, aiming to bring about a “paradigm change” in asylum, immigration and integration policies.

I am a teacher, not the border police

The goals outlined in the agreement are similar to the British Home Office’s hostile environment policy introduced a decade ago. This consisted of a number of administrative and legislative measures designed to encourage or force people without residency permits to leave the country of their own accord. They might, for example, find it impossible to rent accommodation or register with a doctor. In a recent speech in parliament, prime minister Ulf Kristersson promised that Sweden’s intake of refugees will be kept at an “EU minimum”, implying the nation will meet its obligations but do no more than absolutely necessary. Last year, he claimed that immigration and “failed integration” of migrants are key drivers of Sweden’s economic and social problems.

The Tidö agreement reflects this narrative and promises to introduce a “requirement-based” integration policy, as opposed to a rights-based policy. Migrants will face tougher demands to learn Swedish and secure employment, but there may also be language testing for small children and aptitude tests to establish which migrants can remain in the country based on how well they have behaved. Migrants living in “exposed communities” – a term referring to areas characterised by “low socio-economic status” where “criminals impact local communities” – could expect to receive house calls from the authorities and to be stopped and searched on the street.

Pushing back.....................


I am a doctor, not the border police (officially from the Swedish Medical Association)

David McCallum was responsible for one of the most iconic samples in hip-hop history.


Label: Capitol Records – ST 2498
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album, Stereo
Country: UK
Released: 1967
Genre: Jazz, Funk / Soul, Pop, Stage & Screen
Style: Theme, Instrumental, Soul

William Samuels creates relocatable home as "radical departure" from standard house


The corrugated metal-clad modules of this home in New Zealand were designed to be easily moved by using a trailer, as an alternative to standard houses. Faced with the challenge of finding his own home in an unaffordable market, architect William Samuels developed Studio House as a dwelling that could be placed on leased land and then relocated or expanded should the need arise.

"Housing in New Zealand is at crisis point, with home ownership being unobtainable for so many in our country... we instead looked at alternative paths, building a relocatable house on leased land," explained Samuels. "By leasing land, we could direct our budget entirely towards the construction of the home, rather than sinking most of the available funds into the purchase of land."

Studio House is comprised of two timber-framed, barrel-vaulted modules, positioned side-by-side and slightly offset to create a 42-square-metre dwelling. One module contains a kitchen, study and bathroom and opens onto an area of wooden decking, while the other contains a living area and bedroom with a small mezzanine space above.

Intended as a "rethink of what we value when we think of home", William Samuels Architects prioritised a feeling of comfort and a connection with the outdoors, introducing high, vaulted ceilings with skylights at each end. The exteriors were clad entirely in corrugated zincalume panels and feature large, sliding glass doors, while inside wooden planks line the walls and ceilings.


Google's Fight Against Antitrust Hits a Roadblock


For decades, Google has dominated the internet search business nearly unchallenged while deploying anti-competitive and arguably illegal practices to maintain its stronghold. So it was no surprise that when President Biden appointed antitrust enforcers to put an end to it, Google immediately began a campaign to do everything possible to protect its monopoly, starting with discrediting the enforcers. Leading the charge against Google was Jonathan Kanter, the assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. In response, Google attempted to disqualify him from investigating and suing the tech giant. But recently, those efforts were dismissed outright in U.S. District Court. Kanter’s confirmation as assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division was a significant step forward for antitrust enforcement. Kanter spent most of his career in plaintiff-side private practice focused on encouraging antitrust enforcement. This doesn’t please Big Tech, which argues that Kanter should be recused from antitrust enforcement because his pre-government work focused on holding monopolies like Google accountable.

While it is clear why DOJ officials must recuse themselves from cases in which their former client is a defendant, it makes no sense to force an official to recuse himself based on work advocating for stringent enforcement of the law. If we want committed civil rights and environmental advocates to run the Justice Department’s divisions tasked with enforcing those areas of the law, shouldn’t we also want someone committed to antitrust enforcement to run the Antitrust Division? Would an attorney who represented one set of plaintiffs against pollution against Exxon be barred from regulating Exxon as head of the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division? As Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe explained: “The only substantial effect of Kanter’s recusal now would be to deny the DOJ access to his insights and years of expertise in prosecuting this case. It’s not hard to see why a company might want that.” It goes without saying that if a former Google official were in Kanter’s position now, the company would have no objections about his or her impartiality.

Indeed, at the same time that Google was seeking to disqualify Kanter, the company had no problem taking advantage of the expertise of a slew of former government officials. In fact, Google has at least a dozen former high-ranking DOJ officials on retainer, spread out across multiple elite law firms. That’s in addition to at least five members of its in-house legal team who previously worked at the DOJ. (This includes individuals like Jack Mellyn, who joined Google in November 2022 and previously served as the DOJ’s attorney adviser for competition policy and advocacy, and Kevin Yingling, who has been with Google since 2009 and previously was a trial attorney at the DOJ.) In one notable example, Google hired John Carlin, the former right-hand man of Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, who herself is a former lawyer for Apple. Carlin is now a partner at the mega-law firm Paul Weiss, which previously employed Kanter as he represented Google competitors. By hiring the firm, Google effectively paid it to switch sides.

So on the one hand, Google argues that the government cannot benefit from experienced antitrust litigators who have a sincere belief in antitrust litigation, but it also obviously believes it should be able to hire as many turncoat former DOJ officials, ready to fight on behalf of whoever is paying them, as it wants. If there is any ethical concern here, it is precisely this revolving-door behavior. In recent years, several former Big Tech lawyers have revolved in and out of the DOJ, only to return to representing their tech clients. Cushy corporate jobs worth far more than the stacks of cash and gold bricks recently found in the home of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) are widely available to top government officials willing to leverage their important government knowledge and relationships on behalf of corporate clients. Examples abound of current DOJ officials who have worked for Google and other Big Tech companies, in addition to the ones noted above. The current head of the DOJ’s Civil Division, Brian Boynton, previously served at the department in the Obama administration. In between his stints in government service, he returned to his old law firm, WilmerHale, where his clients included Google. That’s the very definition of the revolving door.


Strikers have twice had guns pulled on them by non-union truckers


ONTARIO, CALIFORNIA – The yellow-and-white big-rig truck approached slowly, maneuvering to turn into the Mopar Los Angeles Parts Distribution Center, owned by Stellantis. A half dozen striking members with UAW Local 230 formed a wall along the driveway, refusing to allow the truck entry. Trucks come to this Mopar site to engage in “cross-docking,” where they exchange parts that then go out to dealerships. Unionized Teamster drivers have refused to cross the picket lines; some have even joined UAW workers as they strike. So the trucking companies have been hiring non-union replacements to try to get parts moving. “We call them scabs,” said Mike Lacey, the strike captain on this past Sunday morning.

On two occasions during the first two days of the strike at this site, one of 38 parts facilities where workers walked out last Friday in an escalation of the UAW’s Stand Up Strike, a scene like this one became more dangerous when the truck driver pulled a gun on the strikers. In the incident that occurred when I was there, the UAW members seemed rather unfazed by this, holding their ground. After a short standoff, the truck reversed and pulled up the road toward another entrance. The workers told me they had locked that entrance with a new lock. But just to be sure, a few members piled into a van and took off toward that entrance.

The workers here take four-hour shifts four days a week, and get $500 a week in strike pay. Most of the ones I spoke with have been working here for 25 years or more. “We’re doing this for the next generation,” said Cheryl Sprinkle, a front-office worker with 29 years at the facility, who has enough seniority to retire in October. Her husband, who was also at the picket lines, retired in 2009 from the plant, and was involved in the last strike here, an independent walkout in 1991 that lasted three months and cost the couple a house they had just moved into. Cheryl moved back with her kids to the family’s house in Wisconsin until the strike settled.

Sprinkle and others explained the pay scale at the facility, which picks and distributes parts to dealers across Southern California. The starting salary for new hires is $15.76 an hour, the workers told me, and while it accrues with experience, there’s a cap at $25 an hour, which can only be reached after eight years. That’s what comes with being stranded on the second tier of lower-wage workers, which has affected all new hires since 2009, when the union agreed to a deal saving the auto companies from bankruptcy. But the more senior workers on the top tier haven’t been benefiting much either. Lacey, who has 25 years with the company, said that workers at Mopar Los Angeles have seen a cumulative raise of just 6 percent over the past 16 years.


Google Erects Cone of Silence Around Antitrust Case


The U.S. v. Google antitrust trial is the first major antitrust case of the century taking place amidst a resurgent anti-monopoly movement. Yet it is turning more into a meta news event about the historic lack of public access to the legal proceedings. Public interest in the case has effectively been neutered as Google continues to block open witness testimony and document exhibitions. The main lesson Google appears to have learned from the Microsoft antitrust case from the 1990s is that media scrutiny and bad headlines can sink a corporate defendant’s reputation, if not its case. “Working the refs” is probably the best way to sum up Google’s novel legal strategy in court, and so far it seems to be succeeding with federal district court Judge Amit Mehta.

The legal team has developed a coordinated effort to deny as much evidence as possible from entering into the public record. Google has opted to dissuade the judge from allowing what it calls confidential business information out into the public, which the firm’s attorneys argue will only generate “clickbait.” During the first week, Google’s lawyers unveiled its full-court-press obstruction strategy. The defendants raised “hearsay” objections throughout almost every witness examination run by the Justice Department, especially during that of the star opening witness, former Google chief economist Hal Varian. Documents that Google objected to disclosing included Varian’s own emails with reporters and an unedited transcript of an interview conducted with news publication CNET. At one point, Google’s interruptions became so incessant that even Judge Mehta grew tired with the tactics and pushed back. But he’s largely complied with the defendant’s demands.

Google’s pressure campaign continued into the second week, which resulted in over half of the week’s trial taking place in closed proceedings, per an analysis from Matt Stoller. Tuesday morning also began in closed session. By flooding the zone with objections, the company managed to put enough pressure on Judge Mehta to withhold from the public substantial amounts of documents and key witness examinations, including most of the testimony of Apple senior executive John Giannandrea and portions of testimony from Google’s VP of finance Mike Roszak. These witnesses were interrogated to build the government’s case that Google uses its monopoly over search engine functions to distort advertising markets. It also pays billions of dollars to be the default search engine on Apple and Android devices, which it then weaponizes through revenue-sharing agreements with partners to beat back rival search engines. Even the amount of money Google paid to Apple for default status has been kept secret, even though both are publicly traded companies and the figure represents revenue for Apple and an expense for Google.

When witness examinations take place in a closed trial, the news is only announced that day, and the court can come back into session at any time. During closed-door sessions, members of the press resort to waiting around just outside the courtroom, hoping to catch one of the lawyers to get a comment when they leave. These extensive closed-door sessions also dissuade reporters from showing up at all, unless the trial is their sole dedicated beat. Out in the hallway, one of the attorneys representing the delegation of state attorneys general who have joined the DOJ in the lawsuit mentioned that the truncated public accessibility in the trial was “totally unprecedented.” Jason Kint, a representative for a consortium of news publishers called Digital Content Next, has been attending the trial since the first week. He remarked that “Google’s fight to keep evidence sealed from the public helps soften press coverage and embarrassment for the company.” Furthermore, he noted that it’s a tactic to withhold information from regulators and elected officials in the U.S. and overseas, policymakers who could initiate further investigations or use the evidence to crack down on the company.


How Big Tech Is Undermining Childhood


an edited transcript

Robert Kuttner: Susan Linn is a psychologist, a child advocate, and a ventriloquist who worked with Fred Rogers. She virtually invented puppet therapy, working with cancer patients at Children’s Hospital using puppets. She is a lecturer at Harvard Medical School. Susan is also the founder of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which is now called Fairplay. She is the author of three important books: Consuming Kids, The Case for Make Believe, and most recently, Who’s Raising the Kids: Big Tech, Big Business, and the Lives of Children. Susan has written for several magazines, including the Prospect. Among her achievements as a child advocate, she convinced Disney to stop marketing Baby Einstein on the premise that it had any educational value. And the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood worked with the FTC to prevent Google from monetizing information on kids that Google had gotten through YouTube Kids. Susan has been my friend for more than 40 years. Susan, let me start by asking you, your book Consuming Kids was published almost two decades ago. What has worsened in the last two decades that persuaded you that there needed to be another book on this?

Susan Linn: The technology. You know, the technology didn’t get worse. It got better, it got more powerful. It made marketing to children more confusing, more omnipresent, more invasive than it ever was before. In 2004, the major concern was television. And that was powerful enough. But the new technologies are just so much more powerful.

Kuttner: What are some examples of that? Is the problem the medium? Or is it the message, or is it both?

Linn: It’s both. We have to remember that marketing doesn’t just sell products. It sells values as well. People don’t think enough about how the values of commercialism, the values of consumer capitalism, are really antithetical to democratic values. So we’re immersing kids in this culture, that tells them that “me first” is more important than cooperation; a culture that encourages them to think by impulse, to consume, consume, consume. Given the crisis of global warming, it is basically encouraging kids to adopt values that will ultimately destroy themselves and the planet.

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