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Government Retaliates against Kazakhstan Civil Society Groups

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 13:21

Nursultan Nazarbayev – link

Here is a press release from Freedom House, independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy:

In response to an Almaty appellate court’s decision to uphold a large fine against the International Legal Initiative, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“Freedom House strongly condemns the court’s decision, which aims to cripple legitimate and important work by a respected civil society organization,” said Robert Herman, vice president for international programs. “The misuse of tax inspections and fines is a disturbing new tactic for stifling dissent.”

In late 2016, the Kazakhstani government began targeting three prominent Almaty-based human rights NGOs for snap tax inspections, in response to their activism during the trial of activists Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayan. After months of onerous inspections, two of these NGOs were fined several thousand dollars for failing to pay corporate tax on grants from U.S. and Western donors, despite exemptions given to grants guaranteed by standing bilateral assistance treaties. As one of the affected organizations, ILI appealed the verdict in February and again on April 6, 2017.

Kazakhstan is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2017, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2017, Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2016, and receives a democracy score of 6.64 on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2017.

Trying to Pin Down the State of New Jersey’s Redistricting Laws

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 13:16


So far, the high court has taken the view that redistricting is mainly a matter of politics

Back when I was a Catholic-school lad attempting to talk my way out of some tight spot, the nuns would often say to me, “You think you’ve got an answer for everything.” In that regard, I yield to the superior skills of the governor. Even though he is a product of the public schools, Chris Christie…


South Africa to Hold Secret Vote to Oust President Zuma

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 12:58


South Africa’s top jurists ruled parliament can hold a no-confidence vote against the president

South Africa’s top jurists ruled Thursday parliament can hold a no-confidence vote against the president by secret ballot — but left the ultimate decision to the house’s speaker, who has been one of the president’s staunchest defenders. “The Speaker of the National Assembly has the constitutional power to prescribe that voting in a no-confidence motion in…


Johannesburg (dpa) – South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled Thursday that the speaker of parliament can order a secret ballot in an upcoming no-confidence vote against President Jacob Zuma, a move that would open the way for members of his own party to vote against him. That might make it possible to eventually oust the president, who…


‘I Know That Voting Machines Can Be Hacked, Because I Have Done It’

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 12:54


Expert has been hacking election systems for years and says you can do it without leaving a trace

The Senate Intelligence Committee held a hearing on Russian election hacking yesterday, and the expert testimony wasn’t all that reassuring. Because while federal officials assure us that they didn’t succeed, one expert left us with more questions about the integrity of our 2016 vote. He should know, because J. Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science…


North Carolina Ballot Access Bill Moves Forward

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 10:23

The North Carolina bill is designed in a way that would benefit the Green Party in particular by helping candidates from parties that already have gained ballot access in previous elections. According to Ballot Access News post by election expert Richard Winger, the bill recently was passed out of the state’s House Committee. Here is a bit of what the latest changes to the existing bill would do:

  1. It moves the independent candidate petition deadline from April to June (it had always been in June, except that a bill passed earlier this year moved it to April, which is clearly unconstitutional);
  2. It says that a party that is not otherwise on the ballot, but which placed its presidential nominee on the ballot in at least 40 states at the last presidential election, is on the ballot for president only, even without a petition, in the upcoming presidential election;
  3. It minimizes the odds that any party with its own primary will ever again have a run-off primary (current law says a runoff primary is needed if no one got 40%, but the bill lowers that to 30%).

The Green Party was on the ballot in 44 states in the last election with its candidate Jill Stein, so it would immediately benefit if the bill was passed. As of May 2017, according to Ballotpedia, the Libertarians are the only third party recognized in North Carolina. According to Chapter 163, Article 9, Section 96 of the North Carolina General Statutes:

Any group of voters which shall have filed with the state board of elections petitions for the formulation of a new political party which are signed by registered and qualified voters in this state equal in number to 2 percent of the total number of voters who voted in the most recent general election for governor. Also the petition must be signed by at least 200 registered voters from each of four congressional districts in North Carolina.

According to their website, the North Carolina Green Party (NCGP) is a “membership-based, dues-paying party funded by individual working-class members, not corporate and elite interests”. On local Green Party efforts to gain ballot access:

The Green Party is revitalizing our planet and our democracy without the corrupting influence of corporate and PAC money. In North Carolina, we’re working to achieve ballot access so we can run Greens at all levels of government, and we’re building grassroots people power as well. Because we believe change will come when progressive and radical people’s movements decide that movement activism must also include this critical element: building our own political power outside the confines of the capitalist Democratic and Republican parties.

And the website also claims:

The state of North Carolina has the most undemocratic and difficult ballot access law in the nation in terms of shear number of signatures it requires the Green Party or an independent candidate to gather.

The Efficiency Gap System Can Solve Redistricting For Good

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 23:59

Two academics came up with the efficiency gap system that is key to the upcoming redistricting case before the Supreme Court known as Gill v. Whitford. University of Chicago law professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos and a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California Eric McGhee are the authors of the unique system for measuring the effects of redistricting. A recent article in Vox by Dylan Matthews had some interesting tidbits about the efficiency gap:

University of Chicago law professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos and political scientist Eric McGhee devised one promising option, which notes that gerrymandering forces the losing party to “waste” votes by placing all its voters into a small number of districts where the party gets a landslide, rather than spreading out those voters so they can have more impact.

Stephanopoulos and McGhee argue that fair districting requires a roughly equal number of wasted votes for each party, and that districting schemes where one party is wasting many more votes are unconstitutional. They call their metric the “efficiency gap,” calculated by taking the difference between the number of “wasted votes” for each party, and dividing that difference by the total number of votes.

According to the SCOTUSBlog, an organization”devoted to comprehensively covering the U.S. Supreme Court without bias and according to the highest journalistic and legal ethical standards”, the issues that will be decided in Gill v. Whitford include:

  1. Whether the district court violated Vieth v. Jubelirer when it held that it had the authority to entertain a statewide challenge to Wisconsin’s redistricting plan, instead of requiring a district-by-district analysis;
  2. whether the district court violated Vieth when it held that Wisconsin’s redistricting plan was an impermissible partisan gerrymander, even though it was undisputed that the plan complies with traditional redistricting principles;
  3. whether the district court violated Vieth by adopting a watered-down version of the partisan-gerrymandering test employed by the plurality in Davis v. Bandemer;
  4. whether the defendants are entitled, at a minimum, to present additional evidence showing that they would have prevailed under the district court’s test, which the court announced only after the record had closed; and
  5. whether partisan-gerrymandering claims are justiciable.

Nicholas Stephanopoulos is an expert in election law while is a political scientist who studies elections, legislative behavior, political reform, and surveys and polling. Here is the abstract from the full paper on the efficiency gap, titled “Partisan Gerrymandering and the Efficiency Gap” from October 1, 2014 in the University of Chicago Law Review by Nicholas Stephanopoulos and Eric McGhee:

The usual legal story about partisan gerrymandering is relentlessly pessimistic. The courts did not even recognize the cause of action until the 1980s; they have never struck down a district plan on this basis; and four sitting Justices want to vacate the field altogether. The Supreme Court’s most recent gerrymandering decision, however, is the most encouraging development in this area in a generation. Several Justices expressed interest in the concept of partisan symmetry — the idea that a plan should treat the major parties symmetrically in terms of the conversion of votes to seats — and suggested that it could be shaped into a legal test.

In this Article, we take the Justices at their word. First, we introduce a new measure of partisan symmetry: the efficiency gap. It represents the difference between the parties’ respective wasted votes in an election, divided by the total number of votes cast. It captures, in a single tidy number, all of the packing and cracking decisions that go into a district plan. It also is superior to the metric of gerrymandering, partisan bias, that litigants and scholars have used until now. Partisan bias can be calculated only by shifting votes to simulate a hypothetical tied election. The efficiency gap eliminates the need for such counterfactual analysis.

Second, we compute the efficiency gap for congressional and state house plans between 1972 and 2012. Over this period as a whole, the typical plan was fairly balanced and neither party enjoyed a systematic advantage. But in recent years — and peaking in the 2012 election — plans have exhibited steadily larger and more pro-Republican gaps. In fact, the plans in effect today are the most extreme gerrymanders in modern history. And what is more, several likely will remain extreme for the remainder of the decade, as indicated by our sensitivity testing.

Finally, we explain how the efficiency gap could be converted into doctrine. We propose setting thresholds above which plans would be presumptively unconstitutional: two seats for congressional plans and eight percent for state house plans, but only if the plans probably will stay unbalanced for the rest of the cycle. Plans with gaps above these thresholds would be unlawful unless states could show that the gaps either resulted from the consistent application of legitimate policies, or were inevitable due to the states’ political geography. This approach would neatly slice the Gordian knot the Court has tied for itself, explicitly replying to the Court’s “unanswerable question” of “how much political…effect is too much.”

How One Florida Town is Trying to Regulate Money Politics Locally

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 23:34


With federal efforts to regulate money politics lacking, it’s up to state and local governments to take action. The recent article, “Defend Our Democracy ordinance means limiting big money and foreign influence in elections can start right in St. Petersburg”, is by Ellen L. Weintraub, a member of the Federal Election Commission writing exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times. Here is an excerpt:

In a nutshell: Citizens United blew open the floodgates to allow corporations to spend unlimited sums in our elections. But ironclad federal law prohibits foreign nationals from directly or indirectly spending in our elections at any level. So it’s still illegal for foreign nationals to contribute through any sort of corporation. But when a corporation spends in politics, no one is asking, “Does any of your money come from foreign nationals?”

Under the Defend Our Democracy ordinance, St. Petersburg will begin to ask corporations that question. Any corporation that wants to spend money to influence St. Petersburg elections must certify that it is not “foreign-influenced,” that is, either (1) more than 5 percent owned by a single foreign national, (2) more than 20 percent owned by more than one foreign national, or (3) a corporation in which foreign-national owners call the shots on its political activities.

This is a simple, common-sense requirement, one fully backed up by federal law. It is the kind of reform that is only happening at the local level in the current political climate. It is the kind of disclosure that has been upheld in court over and over again. It is the kind of law that will protect the citizens of St. Petersburg and bolster their faith in their elections.

According to Ballotpedia:

The St. Petersburg City Council is the city’s primary legislative body. It is responsible for adopting the city budget, approving mayoral appointees, levying taxes, and making or amending city laws, policies and ordinances. The widget below automatically displays information about upcoming city council meetings.

The Center for Public Integrity, one of the country’s ‘oldest and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organizations’ summed up the problem with Citizens United in an article titled, “The ‘Citizens United’ decision and why it matters: Nonprofits or political parties?” by John Dunbar. Take a look:

The Citizens United ruling, released in January 2010, tossed out the corporate and union ban on making independent expenditures and financing electioneering communications. It gave corporations and unions the green light to spend unlimited sums on ads and other political tools, calling for the election or defeat of individual candidates.

In a nutshell, the high court’s 5-4 decision said that it is OK for corporations and labor unions to spend as much as they want to convince people to vote for or against a candidate.

The decision did not affect contributions. It is still illegal for companies and labor unions to give money directly to candidates for federal office. The court said that because these funds were not being spent in coordination with a campaign, they “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

The Story of Yemen’s Toppled Dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 21:15

Yemen’s president for three decades was a wily political operator but a poor administrator

Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh took over North Yemen in 1978, and became president of the whole republic after its two halves were united in 1990. The only man to ever serve as president of a unified Yemen, he proved to be a wily political operator, manipulating the country’s tribal system and fending off sustained…


Are American Elections Safe? Homeland Security Chief Says No

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 21:08


Former US secretary of homeland security Johnson told lawmakers he was extremely concerned

Russia and other adversaries will continue to attack the American election infrastructure, and U.S. states need to do more to protect their systems, former Obama officials said Wednesday. “I do believe that the Russians will continue their activities,” says Michael Daniel, former cybersecurity coordinator for the Obama administration, referring to hacking attacks by Russian intelligence during…


Washington (dpa) – Former US secretary of homeland security Jeh Johnson told lawmakers Wednesday he was extremely concerned by Russian efforts last year to breach the US electoral system. Johnson told the House intelligence committee at a hearing on Russian interference in the US election that he was increasingly concerned ahead of the November vote by…


VIDEO: Using Poetry to Fight For Sudanese Free Speech

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 14:43

As part of a series looking at some of the lesser seen sides of some of the world’s most misunderstood countries, Benjamin Zand heads to Sudan. A country long-ravaged by terrorism and civil war – in this episode he meets the people using poetry to fight for free speech, in a place that regularly ranks towards the bottom in press freedom and free speech.

Towards a Nationwide Automatic Voter Registration System

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 14:28


Automatic voter registration is now used in multiple states and can be a big tool in the election reformer’s kit. Adam Gitlin, a former counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, wrote recently at the Hill:

Senior members of Congress last week introduced a bill that would automatically register Americans to vote when they interact with a wide range of government agencies, unless they decline. The reform not only expands access to the most fundamental right in our democracy and increases participation, it also reduces mistakes on the rolls and enhances the security of voting infrastructure. In short, it brings election administration into the 21st Century.

The initiative, led by Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.), and Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), comes amid increased momentum for automatic registration at the state level. Eight states and the District of Columbia have approved the policy, and 32 states have introduced bills to implement or expand the reform in 2017. Oregon — the first state to jump on board — has already fully implemented automatic registration, and early research on its effects on turnout is encouraging.

According to a permanent posting by the National Conference of State Legislatures:

Automatic voter registration can be seen as new, or it can be seen as an updated version of processes put in place by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). That law, also known as “motor voter,” pioneered a new way of registering to vote in America. It required most states to provide citizens with an opportunity to register to vote when applying for or renewing a driver’s license.

Now, states are taking this model one step further. Instead of giving someone the choice to register at the motor vehicle agency, some states automatically register that person to vote, unless the person decides to opt-out of voter registration. As of February 2017, seven states and the District of Columbia have authorized automatic voter registration. See the table below for details.

The problem that needs solving with such a system was outlined by the PEW Research Center:

Research in Pew’s report underscores the need for registration systems that better maintain voter records, save money, and streamline processes.

Our democratic process requires an effective system for maintaining accurate voter registration information. Voter registration lists are used to assign precincts, send sample ballots, provide polling place information, identify and verify voters at polling places, and determine how resources, such as paper ballots and voting machines, are deployed on Election Day. However, these systems are plagued with errors and inefficiencies that waste taxpayer dollars, undermine voter confidence, and fuel partisan disputes over the integrity of our elections.

Voter registration in the United States largely reflects its 19th-century origins and has not kept pace with advancing technology and a mobile society. States’ systems must be brought into the 21st century to be more accurate, cost-effective, and efficient.

How Karen Handel Defeated Ossoff In the Georgia Special Election

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 14:14

Karen Handel – link

On Tuesday, Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff in the Georgia 6th Congressional District special election in what was the most expensive House race in the history of American politics. With over $50 million being spent by both sides, Handel was able to defeat Ossoff in what was anticipated to be a very close race, according to polls leading up to the election.

As 100% of precincts have been reported, Handel defeated Ossoff 51.9%-48.1%. With just under 260,000 votes casted, Handel was able to receive roughly 10,000 more votes than Ossoff.

Jon Ossoff – link

The runoff that occurred Tuesday night was the result of the single-ballot special election held on April 18, 2017. If one candidate were able to receive a majority of the vote on April 18, the House seat would already be filled.

Democrats were hopeful that Ossoff would be able to win outright in April, however, to their disappointment, Ossoff was only able to win 48.1% of the vote, thus leading to the runoff last night.

A couple factors could have contributed to Handel’s victory.

The first is the longstanding history the Georgia 6th Congressional District House seat has been in GOP control. The Georgia 6 District has been represented by a Republican since 1979. Turnout was high for this special election, so it is very possible that voters saw the very realistic possibility of losing GOP control in their district and felt the need to preserve Republican control of the district by the power of their vote.

Another is the fact that John Ossoff does not live in the 6th District where he was running. According to Politifact, “Depending on how you map it, he [Ossoff] lives about 2 to 6 miles either from the district or the neighborhood where he was raised.”

President Trump took to Twitter in his usual fashion to point out this possible turn-off to voters. On the morning of June 20, Trump tweeted “Democrat Jon Ossoff, who wants to raise your taxes to the highest level and is weak on crime and security, doesn’t even live in district.”

Ossoff not living in the district he was campaigning in could have proved to be extremely problematic, as Representatives tend to run on the message of being in closest connection with their local citizens. It is much tougher to make this claim if you are Jon Ossoff, seeing as though he does not live in the Georgia 6 District.

The Georgia 6 special election looked promising for Democrats. It was seen that if Ossoff was able to pull out the victory Tuesday night, Democrats would be able to gain lots of momentum in preparation for the 2018 Midterm Elections. As The New York Times put it, “Mr. Ossoff appeared so close to victory that Democrats were allowing themselves to imagine a win that would spur a wave of Republican retirements, a recruitment bonanza and a Democratic fund-raising windfall heading into the 2018 midterm elections.”

However, Republican support in the Georgia 6 District is still strong, and Republicans can breathe a heavy sigh of relief for the time being after Karen Handel’s impressive victory on June 20.

Key Republican Slams Californian Top-Two Election System

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 13:41

One time supporter of top two wonders if the new system harmed chances for Republicans in California. A new post on Ballot Access News, “California Republican Tony Quinn, a Prominent Backer of Top-Two, Now Bemoans Consequences for his Party”, posted by Richard Winger had the story:

Tony Quinn, a California Republican with more than thirty years experience in government and in the political consulting business, has this column in Fox & Hounds. The column expresses fear that the November 2018 California gubernatorial election will only have two Democrats on the ballot. He writes that if that happens, Republican voters will not turn out to vote, and any statewide ballot measures will be decided mostly by Democratic voters. For the last few years, California law has dictated that all statewide initiatives appear only on general election ballots, not primary ballots. Quinn was a fervent backer of the top-two system when it passed in June 2010.

As Quinn explains:

With as many as 10 Republican-held congressional districts at risk in 2018, California alone could produce more than half the gains Democrats need to return Nancy Pelosi again as House Speaker.

A top two Democratic runoff for governor in 2018 makes this scenario all the more likely; millions of GOP voters will simply stay home (as many Republicans refused to vote in the race between the two Democrats running for the US Senate in 2016). With no candidate to articulate opposition to the gas tax increase, and by implication to the methods of allocating public funds in this state, the effort to make the tax a political issue will have failed, and California Republicans will simply continue unabated their descent into a long night of darkness.

More on the top two system from the Independent Voter Project, a partner of Democracy Chronicles:

In 2008, the Independent Voter Project (“IVP”) authored California’s “Top-Two” nonpartisan open primary proposition (“Top-Two Primary”). California voters passed the proposition in 2010. The Top-Two primary fundamentally changes the traditional approach to elections. Under a traditional primary system, whether the primary is “open,” “closed,” “semi-closed,” or any other iteration, the PURPOSE of the primary election is for political parties to choose which candidate best represents THEM.

Then, after the primary, voters participate in the general election and choose from the field of candidates predetermined by the political parties. Under a nonpartisan Top-Two system, instead of having separate primaries for each political party, there is one single primary. All candidates, voters, and political parties participate on the same ballot, and the rules are the same for everyone. Unlike a traditional system, the PURPOSE of the primary is to narrow the candidate field to the “top-two” candidates who best represent ALL OF US, regardless of the candidate or voter’s party affiliations.


FEC Needs to Refocus on Foreign Money in Politics Issue

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 13:29


Foreign money from dark sources may be entering into political campaigns thanks to lax laws and enforcement. Thanks to Election Law Blog for a posting titled, “FEC Commissioner Weintraub Pushes Again for FEC to Consider Foreign Money Issue”. The Federal Election Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub’s letter to the FEC was titled, “Discussion of Commission’s Response to Alleged Foreign Interference in American Elections”. Take a look at this excerpt:

The mere allegation that foreign interference may have occurred shakes the faith of Americans in our democracy. The FEC must find out the facts of what happened during the 2016 U.S. presidential election and move swiftly and firmly to fix any problems we find. Only then can we begin to restore the American people’s resilient but battered faith that our federal elections belong to us – and not to some foreign power.

Since I last broached the issue of foreign money in our elections at the Commission’s January 12, 2017, meeting, the Commission and the American public have learned quite a bit about the possible scope of foreign intrusions into the 2016 presidential election. Just last week, Bloomberg News reported the shocking news that Russia had made incursions into voter databases and software systems in 39 states. TIME reported in May that American intelligence officials have found that Russian agents bought ads on Facebook to target specific American populations with election-related propaganda. The Intercept reported earlier this month that “Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election.”

The organization CREDO Action has gathered 160,457 signatures for a petition on this subject with the following text:

The Federal Election Commission has the power and obligation to monitor and enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act. It must thoroughly investigate not only Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election but potential collusion by the Trump campaign.

According to their website:

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is the independent regulatory agency charged with administering and enforcing the federal campaign finance law. The FEC has jurisdiction over the financing of campaigns for the U.S. House, Senate, Presidency and the Vice Presidency.

Their mission is “to protect the integrity of the federal campaign finance process by providing transparency and fairly enforcing and administering federal campaign finance laws”.

Lebanese Entrepreneur Turns Beirut Slum Into Vast Canvas

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 13:04

For one entrepreneur Beirut’s Ouzai neighborhood is the perfect canvas upon which to paint dreams

It has a tough reputation, but for one entrepreneur Beirut’s Ouzai neighborhood is the perfect canvas upon which to paint dreams of a better Lebanon. Having left the area as a child and made his money working across the globe, Ayad Nasser has returned to Lebanon to create a place he has named “Ouzville”. And whether…


58 Percent Turnout For Most Expensive Race in House History

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 13:02

Most expensive race in House history turns out nearly 58 percent of Georgia district’s voters

By Jeffrey Lazarus, Associate Professor of Political Science, Georgia State University. Republican candidate for Georgia’s 6th District Congressional seat Keran Handel declares victory with her husband Steve. AP Photo/John Bazemore I’m a political science professor living in Georgia’s 6th House district, where Republican Karen Handel eked out a victory of nearly four points over Democrat John…


Republican Karen Handel won a tightly fought congressional race in Georgia Tuesday against Democrat challenger Jon Ossoff, in a race billed as a referendum on the presidency of Donald Trump so far. The election was the most expensive in congressional history, with at least $57 million spent by the campaigns and outside groups, nearly twice the…



What We Know About Saudi Arabia’s Next King

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 12:56

Salman, often referred to as ‘MBS’, has leapfrogged the king’s nephew Mohammed bin Nayef

King Salman, the 81-year-old ruler of Saudi Arabia, elevated his son, Mohammed bin Salman, to the role of crown prince on Wednesday, meaning that the 31-year-old is now the next in line to the Saudi throne. Salman, often referred to by his initials ‘MBS’, has leapfrogged the king’s nephew Mohammed bin Nayef, who has been unexpectedly…


Mohammad bin Salman, who was the deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia, has been announced as the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Wednesday. He will succeed former crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, who also happens to be Prince Salman’s uncle. The major reshuffle that took place via a surprise royal decree, saw Nayef, who was next…


King for life? – link

How Separate Are Hong Kong’s Politics From China?

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 12:52

Rimsky Yuen and Carrie Lam – link

On July 1, Hong Kong will get a new leader. Carrie Lam will take over from CY Leung as Hong Kong’s Chief Executive

On July 1, Hong Kong will get a new leader. Carrie Lam will take over from CY Leung as Hong Kong’s Chief Executive after winning a March election with 777 of the voting committee’s 1,194 ballots—or 0.1 percent of the population. Beijing openly and widely supported Lam in the election, though Hong Kong is an administrative…


Syrian Artist Paints Trump and Other World Leaders as Refugees

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 21:01

Syrian artist Abdalla Al Omari’s “Vulnerability Series” portrays world leaders as refugees in a series of paintings on show at a gallery in Dubai.

From Abdalla Al Omari’s bio:

Syrian painter, performing artist and filmmaker Abdalla Al Omari was born in Damascus in 1986. In 2009, Al Omari simultaneously graduated from the Damascus University with a degree in English Literature and the Adham Ismail Institute for Visual Arts.

Omari started his career as a full-time artist represented by Kamel Gallery in Damascus 2012, where he collaborated in a workshop at the gallery with Syrian pioneering artists Ghassan Sibai and Fouad Dahdouh. Abdalla Omari’s paintings were featured with Ayyam Gallery since early 2012 at The Young Collector’s Auction where his captivating portrait garnered much attention and sold over estimate.

His works are aquired by art institutions like : Barjeel Art Foundation UAE, Ayyam Gallery UAE, Kamel Gallery Damascus, the ministry of culture, Syria, and in private collections around the world.


Georgia Special Election Tweets Traced to One Source

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 20:03


A new article by Shawn Musgrave at Politico had the story:

With Georgia’s special House election going down to the wire, it’s no shock that Twitter is saturated with Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel. But what is surprising is just how much of the traffic traces to a single, identifiable source. Accounts related to one entrepreneurial Donald Trump supporter, Robert Shelton, aka @RobertsRooms, have flooded hashtags about the 6th Congressional District election with anti-Ossoff and pro-Handel messaging.

Also, the article revealed the mechanisms are not automated in this instance:

Tamara Leigh, another player in social media management for Trump-leaning political candidates, who said she worked with Shelton on the Faulkner campaign, said there are no bots — that is, mechanically generated traffic — in this line of social media promotion. Rather, she explained, hired social media guns of both parties pay “like-minded” Twitter users to get campaign messages trending. They’re still working out how to use Twitter to maximize benefits for their clients.

“I think it’s exciting — you’re going to see more of this in 2018,” said Leigh.

Here is a taste of what they are posting:

Also, the New York Times did a recent write-up about the growing use of twitter bots in politics that you should take a look at. Here is an excerpt:

On social media, our political battles are increasingly automated. People who head to Twitter to discuss their ideals are, often unwittingly, conversing with legions of bots: accounts preprogrammed to spew the same campaign slogans, insults or conspiracy theories hundreds or thousands of times a day. And one of their most competitive battlegrounds is the prime digital real estate that opens up every time President-elect Donald J. Trump tweets. Any supporters or critics who reply quickly enough to Mr. Trump can see their own tweets showcased right beneath the biggest spectacle on Twitter. But in this fast-draw contest, propaganda bots always best human beings.