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Updated: 41 min 47 sec ago

Cambridge Analytica Denial of Prime Role in Data Scandal

1 hour 30 min ago

From Voice of America:

Cambridge Analytica unleashed its counterattack against claims that it misused data from millions of Facebook accounts, saying Tuesday it is the victim of misunderstandings and inaccurate reporting that portrays the company as the evil villain in a James Bond movie.

Clarence Mitchell, a high-profile publicist recently hired to represent the company, held Cambridge Analytica’s first news conference since allegations surfaced that the Facebook data helped Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election. Christopher Wylie, a former employee of Cambridge Analytica’s parent, also claims that the company has links to the successful campaign to take Britain out of the European Union.

“The company has been portrayed in some quarters as almost some Bond villain,” Mitchell said. “Cambridge Analytica is no Bond villain.”

Cambridge Analytica didn’t use any of the Facebook data in the work it did for Trump’s campaign and it never did any work on the Brexit campaign, Mitchell said. Furthermore, he said, the data was collected by another company that was contractually obligated to follow data protection rules and the information was deleted as soon as Facebook raised concerns.

Mitchell insists the company has not broken any laws, but acknowledged it had commissioned an independent investigation is being conducted. He insisted that the company had been victimized by “wild speculation based on misinformation, misunderstanding, or in some cases, frankly, an overtly political position.”

The comments come weeks after the scandal engulfed both the consultancy and Facebook, which has been embroiled in scandal since revelations that Cambridge Analytica misused personal information from as many as 87 million Facebook accounts. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before the U.S. congressional committees and at one point the company lost some $50 billion in value for its shareholders.

Details on the scandal continued to trickle out. On Tuesday, a Cambridge University academic said the suspended CEO of Cambridge Analytica lied to British lawmakers investigating fake news.

Academic Aleksandr Kogan’s company, Global Science Research, developed a Facebook app that vacuumed up data from people who signed up to use the app as well as information from their Facebook friends, even if those friends hadn’t agreed to share their data.

Cambridge Analytica allegedly used the data to profile U.S. voters and target them with ads during the 2016 election to help elect Donald Trump. It denies the charge.

Kogan appeared before the House of Commons’ media committee Tuesday and was asked whether Cambridge Analytica’s suspended CEO, Alexander Nix, told the truth when he testified that none of the company’s data came from Global Science Research.

“That’s a fabrication,” Kogan told committee Chairman Damian Collins. Nix could not immediately be reached for comment.

Kogan also cast doubt on many of Wylie’s allegations, which have triggered a global debate about internet privacy protections. Wylie repeated his claims in a series of media interviews as well as an appearance before the committee.

Wylie worked for SCL Group Ltd. in 2013 and 2014.

“Mr. Wylie has invented many things,” Kogan said, calling him “duplicitous.”

No matter what, though, Kogan insisted in his testimony that the data would not be that useful to election consultants. The idea was seized upon by Mitchell, who also denied that the company had worked on the effort to have Britain leave the EU.

Mitchell said that the idea that political consultancies can use data alone to sway votes is “frankly insulting to the electorates. Data science in modern campaigning helps those campaigns, but it is still and always will be the candidates who win the races.”

Government Moves to Regulate Tanzania Political Speech Online

1 hour 33 min ago

From Voice of America:

Bloggers and others running online platforms in Tanzania have two weeks to register with the government or face fines and jail time. Rights groups are expressing concern about the measure, which stems from a new law regulating online content.

The new law in Tanzania targets online platforms such as blogs, podcasts and live streaming content, for example via YouTube channels.

The government said it will monitor the platforms for hate speech, obscene content and threats to national security and public order.

Local bloggers fear the oversight will be used to stifle dissent.

Maxence Melo is the co-founder of Jamii forums, a website about corruption in Tanzania. He has been detained several times since 2015, with two formal arrests.

“We have been a lot of pressure from our government in the past years because authorities wanted to know our whistleblowers, and we said we cannot do this,” said Melo. “And most of the whistleblowers were people helping to reveal some misconduct in the government. As we speak, we are facing three trials, and all of them are about revealing our sources of our stories.”

Tanzania’s government spokesman declined VOA’s request for an interview.

On Friday, the Tanzania communication regulatory authority said the owners of online platforms must pay about $900 to get a license. The state agency also said it would use suspensions to force the removal of content it deems in violation of the law.

Those who fail to comply with the new regulations could face fines and up to a year in jail.

Reporters Without Borders has slammed the license fee as “exorbitant” and called the new law “the latest blow to free speech in Tanzania.”

Since taking office in 2015, President John Magufuli has cracked down on a range of issues, including corruption, tardiness among civil servants, and criticism of his government.

Newspapers seen as critical of his administration have been shut down or had their licenses suspended.In February, two opposition politicians were jailed for allegedly insulting the president.

Henry Maina is the East Africa regional director for Article 19, a global NGO that promotes freedom of expression and information worldwide.

“Tanzanians are beginning to organize themselves online, and so here is a clear measure of a state policy to try and close down civic space,” said Maina. “And in so doing, they are not only closing down civic space, but they are closing down virtual space so that Tanzanians cannot organize.”

Maina points to a regional trend. Countries including Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia have cut the internet or restricted access to certain social media sites during times of unrest.

Rights groups such as Article 19 urge restraint.

“There is a big discussion globally on how to regulate social media, but that must not be equated to criminalizing social media. Yes, regulation may be required,” but only for several purposes, Maina said, adding those would include protecting national security, public morality, public health and individuals’ reputations. “Any other reason that a state may throw up as a reason for regulating or controlling social media in itself will be a violation of human rights.”

In Tanzania, bloggers and other administrators of online platforms have until May 5 to register. Their licenses will then come up for renewal, for a fee, every three years.

Khaleed Abubakar contributed reporting for this story from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Charged Cambodian Journalist Flees Amid Crackdown

1 hour 42 min ago

From Voice of America:

A Cambodian journalist charged with “incitement to commit a felony” over his election coverage said on Tuesday that has fled the country fearing arrest and has been given refugee asylum status by the U.N. refugee agency.

Aun Pheap, 54, now in the United States, was charged in August last year along with a colleague, Zsombor Peter, a Canadian, after an interview with former opposition members. It was not immediately clear what felony they are suspected of inciting was.

The pair worked for the now closed Cambodia Daily and face up to two years in prison if found guilty.

The ruling party of Prime Minister Hun Sen and its allies have waged a crackdown against what they say are critics of the government, including human rights advocates and opposition lawmakers, in the lead up to the July 29 general election.

Hun Sen is expected to easily win the vote after the main opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party was dissolved in November and dozens of its lawmakers were banned from politics.

The English-language Cambodia Daily was shut down last year after it was given a month to pay $6.3 million for years of back taxes amid the crackdown, which has also extended to independent media.

“If I go back to Cambodia, it is for sure that I will be arrested,” Aun Pheap told Reuters on Tuesday from the United States where he is attending a journalism workshop and waiting to hear back about an asylum application there.

Aun Pheap said that the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) had granted him refugee status in January and that he left for the United States on March 25.

He denied the charges against him.

UNHCR did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment. A Cambodian government spokesman declined to comment.

Massive Armenian Protests as Political Talks Called Off

1 hour 44 min ago
link

From Voice of America:

Thousands of anti-government protesters marched in Armenia’s capital on Wednesday after planned talks between an opposition leader and the country’s acting prime minister were canceled.

The meeting was meant to discuss steps for a political transition following Monday’s resignation of Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan.

Acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetian, a Sargsyan ally, said the opposition was making new demands. He also proposed holding snap parliamentary elections as a way to resolve the political turmoil.

Opposition leader Nikol Pashinian of the Armenian National Congress said his side would boycott such an election if a member of the ruling Republican Party remains prime minister. He earlier said he was prepared to lead the country.

Largely peaceful protests began two weeks ago, triggered by accusations that Sargsyan, who served as president for a decade, manipulated the constitution to remain in power.

Congo Presidential Hopeful Rejects Any Deal With Kabila

1 hour 48 min ago
Kabila election billboard – link

From Voice of America:

Congolese opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi rejected suggestions that he might make a deal with President Joseph Kabila, at a rally which passed off peacefully Tuesday.

Tshisekedi is one of two main figures expected to seek to run in a delayed election scheduled for December.

Exiled businessman Moise Katumbi is the other.

Tshisekedi dismissed speculation he might accept the post of prime minister, something Kabila has offered in the past to appease opponents.

“There is nothing like any dialogue for a prime ministerial post,” Tshisekedi told the cheering crowd. “The [party] elected me to be presidential candidate, so how can I be lowered to prime minister? Rather, let me be led to the final victory in the presidential election.”

Kabila’s opposition is weak and divided. Many opposition politicians joined a power-sharing government after the death of opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, Felix’s father, last year.

Dozens have died in protests, most shot dead by security forces, since Kabila refused to step down at the end of his constitutional mandate in December 2016. But Tuesday’s rally was unusual in that it was permitted, watched closely by armed police.

Popular anger could easily boil over if elections are delayed again or are not perceived to be fair. In addition, several parts of the country are dealing with armed rebellions.

Donors have expressed concern about plans to use new electronic voting machines, saying the system is untested and could allow fraud. Congo’s government reacted by saying it would reject foreign aid for the poll.

“Their machine is a machine to cheat. The electoral register is corrupt and merits a serious audit,” Tshisekedi said.

The electoral commission has denied accusations of bias.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey is playing a dangerous game

1 hour 56 min ago

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey is playing a dangerous game that might lead to her upset in the Gubernatorial Race in 2018. Governor Ivey has made her first campaign ad the promotion of the Memorial Preservation Act, which many say was passed to protect the Confederate Monuments in Alabama.

Much can be said about racism in Alabama, but this week marks the opening of Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Monument for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL, which catalogues the era of racial terrorism in Alabama of African Americans.

The juxtaposition of Governor Ivey promoting the validity of Confederate statues with the first monument dedicated to the era Alabama wants to forget, that of lynching mobs and racial terror is odd and uniquely Alabamian.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey – link

However, it is not new, as former Senatorial candidate Roy Moore made atrocious statements on slavery that inflamed the state of Alabama for months before the December U.S. Senate Special Election and probably were the impetus of the record number of African Americans voting in a Senatorial election.

The power of the minority vote, even while the Alabama legislature seeks to undermine minority voters with Voter ID laws, proves that the narrative of slavery, the civil rights era, and systemic racism is not forgotten, but that African Americans have made it their mission in the state of Alabama not to let us forget it. And rightfully so.

Governor Ivey would be wise to take note of Moore’s disastrous run for Senate and focus on the issues plaguing Alabama. Governor Ivey has refused to participate in debates for the Republican primary and is using the Republican version of identity politics, playing up Southern Confederate history for votes.

Alabama deserves a Governor who will take the state into the future. America watched Alabama vote blue in December and say no to a candidate who did not hide behind coded language and aired his racism for America to see. Let’s not then reinforce the ideas about Alabama again by allowing a sitting Governor to “celebrate” Confederate history and forget the pain and continued trauma of African Americans in Alabama. Vote with your conscience, Alabama.

US Supreme Court Divided Over Texas Electoral District Fight

2 hours 3 min ago

From Voice of America:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday appeared divided along ideological lines as it heard a bid by Texas to revive Republican-drawn electoral districts thrown out by a lower court for diluting the clout of black and Hispanic voters.

Some of the conservative justices seemed willing during arguments in the case to accept that the Republican-led Texas legislature acted in good faith when it adopted new electoral maps in 2013 for state legislative and U.S. congressional seats.

Liberal justices seemed skeptical that those maps resolved racial discrimination concerns that caused earlier maps to be invalidated, and questioned whether it was premature to hear the case because a lower court had not yet issued a final ruling on the dispute.

The case is the latest in which the justices are pondering a practice known as gerrymandering in which electoral districts in states are drawn in a way that amplifies the power of certain voters — in this case white voters — at the expense of others.

The Supreme Court is currently weighing two other gerrymandering cases, involving electoral maps drawn by Republicans in Wisconsin and Democrats in Maryland. Those cases focus not on claims of racial discrimination but rather on whether districts drawn with the aim of entrenching one party in power violate the U.S. Constitution.

Rulings on hold

The high court in September put on hold two lower court rulings that had invalidated a series of Texas electoral districts. The justices then were divided 5-4, with the conservative justices backing Texas Republicans and the liberals dissenting, suggesting they could be similarly divided when they rule on the merits of the case by the end of June.

The position of the court’s frequent swing vote, conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy, was unclear, as he said little during the arguments.

Republican President Donald Trump’s administration backed Texas. Conservative Justices John Roberts, Samuel Alito and Justice Neil Gorsuch all appeared sympathetic to the state.

The maps, adopted in 2013 and challenged by individual voters and civil rights groups representing blacks and Hispanics, were based on court-drawn districts imposed for the 2012 election after prior Republican-draw maps were tossed as racially discriminatory.

Chief Justice Roberts said Texas has a “strong argument” that the new maps were adopted in large part to bring an end to long-running litigation over whether the maps were discriminatory.

“It does seem to me that at the very least … that ought to give them some presumption of good faith moving forward, which is significant to the determination of their intent to discriminate,” Roberts added.

Liberal justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor suggested Texas was still trying to avoid drawing districts with no racial taint.

“Are you ending a litigation, or are you ending the possibility of a court stopping you from discriminating?” asked Sotomayor, the court’s only Hispanic justice.

The state’s lawyer, Scott Keller, denied any discriminatory motive, saying, “This was not the legislature trying to pull a fast one on anyone.”

The lower court found that the configuration of two U.S. House districts violated the Voting Rights Act, a 1965 law that protects minority voters and was enacted to address a history of racial discrimination in voting, especially in Southern states.

Texas has 36 U.S. House districts, 25 held by Republicans and 11 by Democrats.

The same court found similar faults with Texas House of Representatives maps.

Gerrymandering typically is accomplished by packing voters who tend to favor a particular party into a small number of districts while scattering others in districts in numbers too small to be a majority.

Dog Sleds Rush in Ballots as Greenland Voting Polls Close

2 hours 6 min ago

From Voice of America:

Dog sleds carried some ballots to polling stations for Greenland’s election on Tuesday, a sign of the hurdles the country faces before it gains its long-held goal of independence from Denmark.

Just 56,000 people live on the huge Arctic island. It has no roads between the country’s 17 towns and only one commercial international airport.

Consequently, a local fisherman took ballots by dog sled 150 kilometers across Greenland’s ice sheet to Savissivik, one of the island’s most remote towns, near the U.S. air base in Thule, the government said in a press release.

Although most Greenlanders say they want independence at some point, they acknowledge acute social problems are more important. Besides the lack of infrastructure, they include poor housing, a low education level and an economy that depends on fishing and annual grants from Denmark.

Greenland, whose capital Nuuk is closer to New York than it is to Copenhagen, became a Danish colony in the early 19th century but has been gradually taking over governing powers since World War II.

The country has tried to attract foreign investment in its untapped hydrocarbon and mineral resources and in tourism, but the poor infrastructure and slow bureaucracy have limited development.

Now, Greenland is hoping rising commodity prices can help attract foreign investment to get a flagging mining program on the island back on track. Investors from China to Canada are watching.

Hype about a possible mining boom in Greenland after it achieved self-rule from Denmark in 2009 faded in a morass of red tape and a commodity price slump.

But the country’s sole producing mine started up last year and an anorthosite project is due to begin operations this year. Greenlanders’ hopes are rising again.

The country last voted in 2014, when the Social Democrat Siumut party won more than a third of votes. Kim Kielsen, a former policeman, became prime minister when Aleqa Hammond was forced to resign after a scandal involving spending of public money on hotels and flights.

Sara Olsvig of the left-wing Inuit Ataqatigiit party [IA] is a lead contender for prime minister in the current election. The most recent poll shows that the two parties are likely to continue working together in a coalition, possibly with
Demokraterne, Greenland’s third-biggest party.

Voting stations on Greenland’s west coast close at 2300 GMT. The result will be ready early Wednesday.

($1 = 6 Danish crowns)

The Very Worrying State of Global Press Freedom

2 hours 15 min ago

From Freedom House:

Press freedom is facing new threats in major democracies as well as in repressive states, where authorities are focusing their efforts on social media and other online platforms after reducing the independence of major print and broadcast outlets.

“Populist leaders today constitute a new and growing challenge to free expression in open societies, and interference from Russia and China has compounded the threat,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “The assault on press freedom is an attack against a core institution of democracy. Elected leaders who try to discredit factual, critical reporting are undermining democratic accountability and reasoned political debate.”

In advance of World Press Freedom Day, Freedom House compiled information from its most recent Freedom in the WorldFreedom on the Net, and Nations in Transit research projects and from its in-country programs. The analysis shows that media independence is under pressure in every region of the world, but also that dedicated journalists are still playing a vital role in even the most hostile environments.

While journalists face harassment and arrest in a growing number of countries, their work remains crucial in forcing leaders to answer for their abuses. From South Africa to Russia, courageous reporters have defied powerful interests to bring stories to the public, enabling their audiences to take action. “A free press allows citizens to hold their governments to account and, when necessary, to bring about real change,” Abramowitz said.

View the full report here: https://freedomhouse.org/report/special-reports/attacks-record-state-global-press-freedom-2017-2018

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

New App Monitors What Congress is Talking About

2 hours 43 min ago

From Propublica’s Jeremy B. Merrill:

When something happens in Congress, legislators love to brag about it — or condemn it — for their audience of journalists and professionals in Washington and for their constituents back home. The text of their public statements can provide a window into what members are thinking and what matters most to them in any given week.

new page on ProPublica’s Represent database — and a new Twitterbot — track what Congress members have said in the past week. It picks out the phrases that are most distinctive to that week’s batch of kudos and complaints contained in Congressional press releases.

Sometimes, what Congress talks about is obvious: “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” for instance, became a common phrase in the weeks after the school shooting there. Other times, it’s more obscure and sheds some light on what members of Congress are focusing on, even if it doesn’t break into national news.

Last week, for example, Congress talked about “RoboCop.”

By clicking the word to search for it in our database of years of press releases, you’ll see that members weren’t talking about cyborg police officers. It’s the name some Democratic senators gave their bill to require phone companies to distribute free tools to stop spam phone calls: “Repeated Objectionable Bothering Of Consumers On Phones.”

They also talked about the phrases “Former First Lady” and “Barbara Bush” — not surprising, as the wife of President George H.W. Bush and the mother of President George W. Bush passed away this week.

And the tool also correctly picked out that “Pruitt’s” was a common phrase last week, as legislators discussed EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s controversial travel and housing expenses.

And, as was noticed by several senators, “Vaisakhi” is a holiday celebrated by Sikhs.

“What Congress Talked About Last Week” is powered by the same machine-learning technology as the “Distinctive Topics” feature we launched last year that shows which members of Congress frequently focus on, for instance, “tax reform” or the “sage grouse.”

That technology is an algorithm called TF-IDF — for term frequency/inverse document frequency — which measures the ratio of a phrases’ frequency in one week’s press releases to its frequency in all the press releases in our database. So things Congress is always talking about — say, “Trump,” or “a bill” — get stripped out. We also strip out things that only one member of Congress talked about in a given week. You can see every week’s topics since we began calculating them here.

Best Practices to Guide State Voting System Security Spending

2 hours 56 min ago

From the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law:

In the coming days, state election officials around the country will receive their share of $380 million that Congress set aside for election security improvements. Today, a coalition of former state election experts, intelligence officials, and voting advocates from across the political spectrum sent a letter to election officials in all 50 states with recommendations on how to best allocate the new resources.

Signatories include individuals with a broad array of backgrounds and experience, including: former CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden (Ret.); Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, MIT professor Ronald Rivest, former Deputy US Chief Technology Officer Nicole Wong, and more.

“In the age of unprecedented hacking risks, researchers have found that electronic voting infrastructure — including voting machines and registration databases — have serious vulnerabilities,” they write. “While there’s no evidence that vote totals were hacked in 2016, there’s strong evidence that hackers have been testing the waters. …It is essential that states work with the Department of Homeland Security or other trusted providers to scan their systems for cyber vulnerabilities, and follow best practices identified by computer scientists, national security leaders, and bipartisan experts in elections administration to mitigate hacking risks.”

The letter shares five specific steps states must take to protect election infrastructure from foreign interference and hacking. The group urges state election officials to:

  • Replace paperless voting machines with systems that count a paper ballot — a physical record of the vote that is out of reach from cyberattacks.
  • Conduct robust post-election audits in federal elections which examine information verified by the voter to produce a high level of confidence in the election result.
  • Upgrade systems to ensure that states’ election websites, statewide registration systems, and election night reporting systems are defended against threats of intrusion and manipulation.
  • Prohibit wireless connectivity in voting machines to limit hacking vulnerabilities.
  • Train and educate election officials at all levels on how to incorporate security into their elections practices.

The suggested security measures largely echo the report language that accompanied the Congressional appropriation, as well as recommendations outlined by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and by a group of more than 100 computer scientists and other election administration experts.

To read the full letter, click here.

Trump Mulling Full Pardon for Boxing Legend Jack Johnson

Sun, 04/22/2018 - 14:30
link

From Voice of America:

President Donald Trump said Saturday that he was considering “a Full Pardon!” for boxing’s first black heavyweight champion, more than 100 years after Jack Johnson was convicted by an all-white jury of “immorality” in connection with one of his relationships.

Trump tweeted that actor Sylvester Stallone had called him to share Johnson’s story. The president said Johnson’s “trials and tribulations were great, his life complex and controversial.” The president added: “Others have looked at this over the years, most thought it would be done, but yes, I am considering a Full Pardon!”

Johnson was convicted in 1913 of violating the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for “immoral” purposes. The boxer died in 1946. His great-great-niece has pressed Trump for a posthumous pardon.

For the full Jack Johnson story, this documentary is highly recommended by DC Founder Adrian Tawfik. Fifty years before Jackie Robinson, there was Jack Johnson:

West Virginia To Try Blockchain Technology For Military Voters

Sun, 04/22/2018 - 14:12
link

Leaders in West Virginia are in the process of setting up the United States’ first portable blockchain voting system that will allow military members overseas to vote via the revolutionary technology instead of having to use mail-in ballots. It marks the latest step in a worldwide experiment to figure out a way to utilize mobile blockchain technology for secure elections.

“West Virginia is taking the lead in providing safe and accurate voting systems to encourage voter participation at every level,” West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner said in regard to the issue. The new technology is being set up for the May 8, 2018 primary elections for the upcoming November election.

The primaries that are scheduled for May 8, are for two upcoming Republican primaries for an open Senate seat in West Virginia and the West Virginia 3rd Congressional District election. Both are closed primary meaning only registered Republicans can vote.

link

The process of voting for overseas military members is a constant headache for states during an era when thousands in the military are deployed in places as far afield as Afghanistan, Germany and South Korea. According to the Mongolia County clerk, only a handful of participants are expected to try the new technology during this trial period.

The West Virginia solution will involve new technology known as blockchain that enables users to vote via cell phone. In response to the numerous concerns about possible outside influence during the 2016 Presidential election, there are several venture capital companies that are trying to develop blockchain technology for future elections. Blockchain is the same tech behind the rise in digital currencies like Bitcoin that have revolutionized international financial markets.

Today, many companies are proposing different methods of using blockchain for voting, viewing blockchain as a safer alternative to traditional voting machines. The technology is so safe, say some, that it could even be combined with biometrics and used to enable voting with your smartphone.

The West Virginia experiment is being conducted using technology developed by the Tusk/Montgomery Philanthropies in partnership with the New America and the Blockchain Trust Accelerator, and is connected with Voatz, a widely known blockchain startup company based in Boston Massachusetts. Voatz was recently able to raise 2.2 million to fund the project from the capital markets and announced the app would be available on iPhones or Android smartphones for download.

“We’re working hard to increase the level of confidence citizens have in our election process. Increased confidence results in increased participation” Warner continued. West Virginia had a relatively high voter turnout in the 2016 Presidential election with 57.2 percent of eligible voters participating, an increase over 2012, when turnout during the Presidential election was 54.96 percent.

“If the military or their family or other Americans working overseas are in an area where they may or may not have access to any kind of computer technology or scanner, they may not have access to regular postal service,” Mongolia County Clerk,  Carye Blaney said regarding the voting process. Mongolia County is one of the counties in West Virginia is one of the counties that will test out the new app.

Several benefits can be garnered from using an app for voting which include the ability for users to verify that their vote was recorded by looking at the blockchain app. The app allows users to vote from anywhere in the world, provided they have an internet connection and here’s no reason for election administrators to miscount or misunderstand the vote.

It is essential for the United States to test out new technology for elections as older voter machines have proven to be vulnerable to outside tampering and are becoming increasingly obsolete. This vulnerability is particularly acute in their ability to control of sensitive voting information stolen from databases after being left on machines after elections.

A tutorial on how the Voatz app works can be seen here:

This video features the announcement that followed Voatz’s $2.2 Million fundraising:

VIDEO: Why More Republican Women Are Running For Office

Sat, 04/21/2018 - 16:20

Video summary from PBS Newshour:

Seventy-five women are running for office in the Indiana state legislature, double the number that did in 2014, and the number of GOP women running for office has risen from 15 to 23. In a deep red state where women occupy five of seven statewide offices, this election reflects the tension between the party’s moderate and more conservative wings. Megan Thompson reports.

The video is about 10 minutes. Take a look:

Full video transcript:

CORRIE MEYER:

I can see him. He’s working in the kitchen. My name’s Corrie Meyer, I’m running for state senate.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

On a recent cold and rainy afternoon, Corrie Meyer walked door to door in Zionsville, a suburb of Indianapolis.

CORRIE MEYER:

I’m a first-time candidate. I’m a small business owner.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

Meyer is an urban planner and runs a consulting business. She’s worked in city government, but has never held elected office.

CORRIE MEYER:

I want to focus the policies that I work on, on workforce and economic legislation.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

Meyer wants a seat in the Indiana State Senate, which will decide the state budget next year and could reform the way congressional districts are drawn. She’s running in the May 8th Republican primary against Mike Delph, a 12-year incumbent who’s never had a primary challenge. Meyer says knocking on doors is her favorite part of campaigning.

CORRIE MEYER:

I’d love to have your support on May 8th.

MAN:

That sounds cool. Thanks for coming by in the rain.

CORRIE MEYER:

MEYER Yeah. No problem.

MAN:

Good luck.

CORRIE MEYER:

Nice to see you.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

You are a Republican challenging a Republican incumbent.

CORRIE MEYER:

Yeah.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

Why did you decide to run?

CORRIE MEYER:

I got frustrated with our age of turbulent politics, and I decided that I was gonna get in the game

CORRIE MEYER:

We will leave him a note saying, sorry to meet you.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

Meyer is one of 75 women running for the Indiana state legislature, double the number of four years ago. As in the rest of the country, this surge of women is mostly on the Democratic side, but the number of Republican women running here is up, too. 23 compared to 15 in 2014.

JENNIFER HALLOWELL:

We’re fortunate to have five of our seven statewide offices held by women, Republican women.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

GOP strategist Jennifer Hallowell says it’s a point of pride that Republican women hold so many state offices here – lieutenant governor, auditor, secretary of state, treasurer and schools superintendent.

JENNIFER HALLOWELL:

Also, the two women who serve Indiana in the congressional delegation are Republican women. And so we’re well represented in a lotta ways. But we need to keep striving for more women to run for office.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

So what motivates Republican women to run for office?

JENNIFER HALLOWELL:

I think that women are motivated by issues similar to men. You know, whether it’s taxes, or the economy, jobs. I reject this whole notion of women’s issues. Because every issue is a women’s issue.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

Similarly, Corrie Meyer, a 40-year-old mother of two, says she doesn’t feel the need to emphasize the fact that she’s a woman when she’s campaigning door-to-door.

CORRIE MEYER:

I figure my face would tell ’em that. (LAUGHTER) But believe it or not– they bring it up to me. I have had– 70-year-old men– say to me, “You’re a woman, the women are gonna make the difference, they’re gonna create change, and I’ll vote for you because you are a woman.” So while I don’t necessary carry that banner, the voters are carrying that banner.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

Why don’t you necessarily carry that banner?

CORRIE MEYER:

Because I’m qualified for this position. And I think that regardless of my gender, I know that I can succeed.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

Laura Wilson is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Indianapolis.

LAURA WILSON:

The gendered aspect, especially for the more conservative women, isn’t going to play the same kind of role that it would elsewhere, or certainly for a more liberal woman. And really with voters, I’m not sure that that would really resonate with your average Hoosier voter.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

With the Republican primary just a few weeks away, Corrie Meyer is focused on raising money. She spends several hours a week making calls with the help of a professional fundraiser.

MEYER:

How much do I ask him for?

FUNDRAISER:

$500.

CORRIE MEYER:

Hi Nate, this is Corrie Meyer calling. Would you consider supporting the campaign at $500?

MEGAN THOMPSON:

There are no polls on this local race, but Meyer’s picked up some big endorsements. Two firefighters unions, the district’s four Republican mayors and the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce all support her. And she’s attending fundraisers across the district, which covers a portion of Indianapolis and its suburbs.

CORRIE MEYER:

Hi, Corrie Meyer. Nice to see you. Corrie Meyer. Very nice to meet you. Can we put a sign in your yard?

MAN:

I’d be happy to do that.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

About 30 supporters gathered recently at this fundraiser in Carmel, where Meyer lives, to hand over checks and hear her pitch.

CORRIE MEYER:

I am running for effective workforce and economic legislation.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

As of the last campaign finance filing in January, Meyer’s opponent had $200,000 on hand. Meyer had $60,000 but says she’s doubled that since.

Her opponent Mike Delph is a lawyer and a major in the Army Reserve. He’s developed a reputation in the local media as a socially conservative and sometimes controversial Republican. He’s known for a bill to crack down on illegal immigration – aspects of which some in his own party opposed. And he pushed contentious bills requiring abortion doctors to tell women that life begins at conception and a fetus may feel pain.

In 2014 Delph led a controversial fight to ban gay marriage in Indiana. When the bill didn’t pass, he launched an overnight Twitter barrage that made headlines.

In a statement to NewsHour Weekend, Delph said his focus “has always been to apply conservative principles” to his work. He highlighted his work to cap property taxes, pass an income tax cut and an initiative to raise money for veterans. And, he said, he’s taking his primary challenge “very seriously.”

CORRIE MEYER:

Well I’ll just close with one question that I get a lot is, what makes you different. How are you different from Senator Delph.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

Corrie Meyer doesn’t attack her opponent on the issues but she does draw a contrast.

CORRIE MEYER:

I would use three words to differentiate myself. Effectiveness. Collaboration – that’s just in my soul. And then inclusion.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

And Meyer is pointedly not focusing on the hot-button social issues that have been divisive in Indiana and across the nation. In her literature, she touts herself as a pro-life conservative, but…

CORRIE MEYER:

My focus will really be on business issues, and it will not focus on abortion.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

She’s a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but…

CORRIE MEYER:

There’s a balance between having the right to own the gun and creating a safe environment.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

And she’s turned off by efforts to ban gay marriage.

CORRIE MEYER:

I think that– our obligation as a society is to love on each other, and not to place judgment.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

This isn’t surprising to Professor Laura Wilson. She says while Republican women fall all along the philosophical spectrum – for many, social issues aren’t what drives them.

LAURA WILSON:

A number of them, you know, really do stand in– in the more moderate wings of the Republican Party. And I see them as, kind of, the new, the new Republicans. Where they, they may have been involved in the party for a really long time, but they’re looking at economic, fiscal responsibility.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

Wilson says gender aside, the Mike Delph, Corrie Meyer race is also a case study of the wider battle within the Republican party, between its more conservative and moderate wings.

LAURA WILSON:

Where you have someone like Delph who’s more extreme, more outspoken within the party, even in Indiana. And then you have someone like Meyer who’s a new voice.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

Yet another issue at play here: President Trump lost this district in 2016. All across the nation, Democrats are targeting Republican incumbents in moderate districts like this. Looking to pick up seats in both the U.S. House and state legislatures. GOP insiders in Indiana fear that if the more-moderate Corrie Meyer loses the primary, this seat could flip Democratic in November. So how do Republican candidates talk about President Trump in districts he lost? It turns out, not easily.

CORRIE MEYER:

Hi! My name’s Corrie Meyer. I’m running for state senate.

MAN:

You are? Are you a Trump supporter?

CORRIE MEYER:

I believe — well I respect Mr. Trump, he’s our president.

MAN:

Are you a Trump supporter?

CORRIE MEYER:

Well, he’s done a lot of good things. He’s done our –

MAN:

Wait a minute, are you a Trump supporter?

CORRIE MEYER:

Ok … yes, I like the policies, no I don’t like his – no I don’t like this Twitter.

MAN:

You don’t like his mannerisms.

CORRIE MEYER:

Yes, I —

MAN:

But you like the results.

CORRIE MEYER:

Yes.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

While Meyer’s negotiating her public position on Trump, she’s also personally conflicted – on one hand, there are all the issues with women, from the alleged affairs to the Access Hollywood tape.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

How do you view all that?

CORRIE MEYER:

That is disturbing to me, as a woman. I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of that type of behavior.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

But, there’s a lot she likes, too.

CORRIE MEYER:

I think that he’s made some strong business decisions for the United States. I think that he’s taking a hard stance on North Korea and I think that, you know, that’s probably a great decision.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

And she took a lesson from his improbable win.

CORRIE MEYER:

He was a candidate that had never run for office before and he won. He bucked the system.

MAN:

Well, I gotta give you credit. Anybody who’d come out on a lousy day like this deserves to be voted for.

CORRIE MEYER:

Well, thanks.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

And so Meyer continues going door to door, asking for votes…

CORRIE MEYER:

I can count him as a vote.

MEGAN THOMPSON:

Hoping she, too, can buck the system.

CORRIE MEYER:

See ya later, buddy.

Pennsylvania picks between 5 different paper record voting machines

Sat, 04/21/2018 - 16:15

From the Pennsylvania Department of State:

The Department of State has invited five vendors to exhibit their voter-verifiable paper record voting systems at the Farm Show complex on April 26 so legislators, state and county officials, stakeholders and the public can explore the features and options offered by the new machines.

“We scheduled this demonstration so Pennsylvanians can see and learn about new voting systems that are available,” Acting Secretary of State Robert Torres said. “This is an opportunity for interested vendors to show how their voting systems work and for officials and the public to try them out.”

Earlier this month, Torres announced that he had informed counties to have new voter-verifiable paper record voting systems selected by the end of 2019, and preferably in place by the November 2019 general election. The department also issued an Invitation for Bid (IFB) to voting system firms in early April.

Only one of the systems that will be on display is currently certified for use in Pennsylvania. Several others are expected to complete the state certification process later this year. Under the PA Election Code, counties may only use systems certified by both the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

The department invited Unisyn Voting Solutions, Dominion Voting Systems, Election Systems & Software (ES&S), Hart InterCivic and Clear Ballot Group to display their voting equipment in the Commonwealth Room of the Farm Show complex from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The morning session will be invitation-only for county and state officials.

The public and media are invited to the afternoon session from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. Parking will be available in the lot off Wildwood Park Drive. Enter through the Cameron Street entrance. Handicap parking is available in the lot, and elevators to the exhibit area will be clearly marked.

The vendors were selected because their systems are certified by or are in the process of achieving certification from the EAC, and they have expressed interest in entering the Pennsylvania market.

Ultimately, counties will be able to choose from among any of the voting systems examined and certified after January 1, 2018, by both the EAC and the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Myanmar Policeman Testifies Arrested Reporters Were Set Up

Sat, 04/21/2018 - 15:51

From Voice of America:

A Myanmar police officer testified Friday that he and several colleagues were ordered to entrap two reporters working for the Reuters news agency, dealing a major blow to the government’s case against the journalists.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been detained since Dec. 12 on charges of violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act that could get them up to 14 years in prison. The two helped cover the crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where a brutal counterinsurgency operation last year drove about 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to neighboring Bangladesh.

Police Capt. Moe Yan Naing told the court that his superior had arranged for two policemen to meet the reporters at a restaurant and hand over documents described as “important secret papers” in order to entrap them.

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, counsel for the two journalists and Reuters, called on the prosecution to drop the case immediately, and if not she said the district judge should dismiss it.

“It is now clear to any impartial observer that this case is a bungled attempt to entrap two innocent young men,” she said in a statement. “The U.S., U.K., Canada, the U.N. and the European Union have already demanded the journalists’ release, and further action may follow if the case is not resolved.”

Moe Yan Naing said he and other colleagues who had been interviewed earlier by Wa Lone about their activities in Rakhine had been interrogated under the direction of Brig. Gen. Tin Ko Ko of the 8th Security Police Battalion.

Security forces in Rakhine have been accused of serious human rights violations, including rape and extrajudicial killings, against the persecuted ethnic Rohingya Muslims. Last week, Myanmar’s military announced it had sentenced seven soldiers to 10 years in prison for their part in the killings, a case covered by the two reporters.

According to the police captain, Tin Ko Ko ordered an officer who had previously spoken to Wa Lone to arrange the Dec. 12 meeting, and threatened other police officers he sent to the meeting that if they did not carry out the arrests, they would be sent to jail themselves.

“The reason why I testified the truth was because police should have their own standard and dignity,” Moe Yan Naing told reporters outside the courtroom after testifying as a prosecution witness. “Whatever I testified was the truth.”

He was able to speak to the media only briefly before being led away by a plainclothes security official. He has been under arrest since Dec. 12, apparently for having spoken to Wa Lone the month before.

Reuters issued a statement after the hearing saying that the court had “finally heard the truth.”

“One of the prosecution’s own witnesses admitted that the police received orders to plant evidence and arrest Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo on false charges,” it said. “This case cannot be squared with fairness or justice, and it’s time to bring it to an end. We call for our journalists’ immediate release.”

Clooney said “silencing critics through false arrests and arbitrary detention flies in the face of Myanmar’s professed dedication to the rule of law and free speech, and risks lasting damage to the country’s reputation and economy.”

“But the truthful testimony of a brave witness is a step in the right direction,” she said in Friday’s statement.

Defense lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said: “We cannot say exactly if the two journalists will be released or not, but police officer Moe Yan Naing has revealed the real case.”

“This is such a big risk for him for telling the truth,” Khin Maung Zaw said, expressing concern for his safety. “This is why you all journalists should watch closely over him because we don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t even know if he is coming in to the next hearing with an injured face.”

Other prosecution witnesses have earlier offered confusing and conflicting testimony, lending weight to the belief that the arrests were a clumsy setup by the government, which is sensitive to any reporting critical of its activities in Rakhine.

However, the judge has denied defense motions to drop the case.

“We are very surprised that the truth has been revealed, and we thought since the beginning that this case was set up,” said Than Zaw Aung, another lawyer for the reporters. “We did not expect that the police would testify like that. But this testimony will be a very strong support for the defendants.”

Wa Lone reaffirmed his innocence to journalists as he was boarding a police truck to be taken back to jail.

“The truth is coming out. I believe that truth and justice is coming,” he shouted.

Government spokesman Zaw Htay said he would not comment on the proceedings because the judiciary is independent and the trial is ongoing.

Why Former First Lady Dianne Bentley is Alabama’s Feminist Icon

Sat, 04/21/2018 - 15:38

I firmly believe that former First Lady Dianne Bentley is Alabama’s feminist icon. Bear with me, you may be thinking to yourself, what is feminist about her? When news of the divorce of Governor Robert Bentley and First Lady Dianne Bentley dropped, it was the gunshot heard around Alabama. My social media blew up with all kinds of theories. In Alabama, and in the South, people get married young. In Alabama, for that generation, the only way out of a marriage is to die. You want out of this marriage? You’re going to need to die.

When news hit of the divorce, what followed was an affair, a very awkward and cringe worthy affair between the 70-year-old Governor Bentley and his 40 something year old Communications Director, who was and still is married.

According to AL.com, Mrs. Bentley and her aides recorded audio on her cell phone that led to the infamous tape. Mrs. Bentley reportedly released the tape to the press, which began the investigation into Governor Bentley’s alleged use of state funds to hide the affair.

53rd Governor of Alabama Robert Bentley – link

About a year’s worth of investigative journalism led to the uncovering of Governor Bentley’s affair and misuse of state funds, which ultimately led to Governor Bentley pleading guilty to campaign finance ethics violations and paying fines, restitution, and 100 hours of community service.However, the quiet life of Mrs. Bentley continued. After the divorce, she got a garden house in Tuscaloosa, AL and chose to live a life with her children and grandchildren away from the spotlight. No one has really heard much from her.

In the era of stand by your man, Mrs. Bentley did not. Mrs. Bentley spent fifty years with Governor Bentley, only to have him commit adultery. While Hillary Clinton stood by Bill Clinton after his affair, it was the Southerner, Alabamian, who became the feminist icon. She did not stand by her man.

Across Alabama, I envisioned Evangelical women pointed to Governor Bentley and said to their husbands, “You ever do that to me; your lake house is mine. Your beach house is mine.” In the era of political spouses sticking with those who have committed adultery, Mrs. Bentley, a conservative Christian, decided to leave her man.

As alumni, I’ve gone to many events here in Birmingham. In one case, I met a woman who worked for Mrs. Bentley. She explained it was a bit like House of Cards. But, in revered tones and a deep Southern accent, she said, “I love Mrs. Bentley.”

Many people from other places demean Alabama, talk bad about this state, and yes, there is much to talk bad about it. In an era where America wanted to make Hillary Clinton a feminist icon, there is Mrs. Bentley, who probably didn’t want to be a feminist icon, being the feminist icon of our community.

I’m not an expert on Mrs. Bentley, but I predict she will never write about her experience, nor get on television to give news audiences a soundbite. She is a proud conservative Christian who made a choice in the face of everything she went through to leave a cheating spouse. By all accounts, while the world is trying desperately to promote women, we have a feminist icon in our midst who was courageous, in a way only Southern women can be, quiet, demure, and will give you hell if need be.

Why Artists Are Responsible For Moving Society Forward

Sat, 04/21/2018 - 15:18

From the PBS Newshour:

Composer and artist Samora Abayomi Pinderhughes wants to make music that makes listeners live differently. Pinderhughes gives his Brief but Spectacular take on his responsibility as an artist.

The video is about 4 minutes. Take a look:

Here is the full video transcript:

Judy Woodruff:

Next, we turn to another episode of our weekly Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask people about their passions.

Tonight, composer and artist Samora Abayomi Pinderhughes. He has performed everywhere, from the White House to Carnegie Hall.

His latest project is called The Transformations Suite.

Samora Abayomi Pinderhughes:

Too often, for me, music ends up being about the show, and then people clap, and they might talk about it, and then they go home. That makes no sense to me.

I want to make sure that, if somebody is moved by my music, that’s going to make them live differently.

Jazz is protest music, pure and simple. Jazz is music that came from the gutter, from the hood. Jazz is in and of itself as an improvisatory art form literally represents the idea of imagination in the moment.

I believe that the artist’s responsibility, like Nina Simone used to say, is to reflect the times. If we look at movements throughout history, there’s always been music for the movement. And those are my favorite artists. Harry Belafonte, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, they capture the essence of the moment.

What we do as artists is, we move people. And so if we can move people in service of moving a nation, towards an idea like justice for something or someone, then that is my responsibility.

Harry Belafonte talked to me about all the people in the civil rights movement being in their 20s and making all these incredible things happen, because that’s their energy, their vitality, their imagination.

It’s my generation’s time to take responsibility, to take ownership of our world. It’s very important for me, being African-American, mixed race artist and person, to illuminate the issues that are present in today’s world around police brutality, around incarceration, to hopefully be able to move forward in a way that is equitable and just for all people.

The Transformations Suite is a five-part tone poem combining music, theater and poetry to examine the history of African protest, both in the diaspora and specifically in America.

Every time, we play The Transformations Suite, it’s a different performance, because every city that we go, I ask the members of that community or the members of that school, what are the things that is — that are going on here that you find problematic? What are the things you’re fighting against or for, and then we put that in the music?

And I think a lot of people feel like me as far as the urgency of the moment, that we don’t have time to waste. So that’s what I mean when I say, I don’t have time for anything but urgency in my art. We really don’t have time for it as a society.

My name is Samora Abayomi Pinderhughes, and this my Brief But Spectacular take on my responsibility as an artist.

VIDEO: On Independent Redistricting and the Fair Representation Act

Sat, 04/21/2018 - 15:12

The Fair Representation Act (H.R. 3057) is being put forward as a possible solution to the constant controversies surrounding the redistricting process. A recent survey of 2,482 registered voters, fielded by Nielsen Scarborough, examined many aspects of popular opinion on election reforms from ranked choice voting and multi-member districts to but the the most groundbreaking is an analysis of opinion on redistricting and the various proposals for reform.

Democracy Chronicles friends at FairVote, a ‘nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms’ located in Maryland, recently held a great discussion on the topic. As a reminder of what is in the Fair Representation Act, FairVote’s website has the following explanation:

The Fair Representation Act report outlines a bold plan to increase competition and fairness in U.S. House elections and reduce polarization of Members elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. The report simulates the projected impact of HR 3057 – The Fair Representation Act, by analyzing a series of hypothetical district maps generated automatically by software using parameters meant to approximate the Act’s district-drawing rules.

The Fair Representation Act, HR 3057, would transform House elections through three primary reforms: 1) ranked choice voting, 2) multi-winner districts, and 2) independent redistricting commissions. We show that a U.S. House elected under the Fair Representation Act would look very different.

The video below shows a FairVote sponsored discussion on redistricting and is about 40 minutes. Take a look:

Michael Moore Sprays Flint Water at Michigan Capitol

Sat, 04/21/2018 - 14:46
Michael Moore – link

From an article by Jonathan Oosting of the Detroit News Lansing Bureau:

Filmmaker and liberal provocateur Michael Moore made a brief stop Friday at the Michigan Capitol, using a hose from a large “Flint water” truck to spray water in the direction of the historic building. Surrounded by a film crew, Moore directed from in front of multiple cameras, setting up shots for a future project that he and crews declined to discuss. The Flint native has been a vocal critic of how Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration handled the city’s water contamination crisis.

“Gov. Snyder, drink the water,” Moore said at one point, holding up a glass as he faced the Capitol, which sits on the opposite side of the street from Snyder’s actual office.

Video from the protest:

Sneak peak of Michael Moore's next film? He wouldn't say what the #flintwatercrisis film shoot at the Michigan Capitol was for pic.twitter.com/pjKnID0srs

— Jonathan Oosting (@jonathanoosting) April 20, 2018

Read more at the Detroit News Lansing Bureau.