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Doctors brave Algerian protest ban and march in capital

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 21:14

Some 1,000 striking trainee doctors took to the streets of Algeria’s capital Monday to demand the scrapping of compulsory public service in defiance of a ban on protests in the city. The demonstrators — wearing black armbands or surgical masks emblazoned with “angry doctors” — managed to gather for a sit-in in the heart of Algiers…


Special Oscars Poll Demonstrates Pairwise Vote Counting

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 16:42

This year’s Academy Awards competition, which is also called the Oscars, provides an opportunity to better understand why governmental elections often produce such wild results.

A new Oscars poll at demonstrates how voting should be done.

Why another Oscars poll? The usual approach for nearly every online poll is to ask each voter which choice is their favorite, and then count these preferences to yield one count for each choice. The choice with the biggest count is — incorrectly — assumed to be the most popular.

This simplistic kind of vote counting works fine when there are just two choices. And sometimes it works when there are three, or possibly four, choices. But each added choice increases the likelihood that the winner will not be the most popular choice.

This year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has nominated nine (9) movies in the Best Picture category. This is too many choices for simplistic vote counting because the choice with the most single-mark votes is not necessarily the most popular.

Only if one of the choices receives more than half the votes can we be sure that the choice is really the most popular. Yet that becomes less likely as the number of choices increases.

Interestingly the choice with the fewest single-mark votes is not necessarily the least popular. Alas, the official AMPAS voting process makes this mistaken assumption.

When there are more than two choices, pairwise counting provides a much fairer way to handle voting. This approach requires asking each voter to fully rank all the choices, using what’s called a 1-2-3 ballot. Each voter indicates his or her first choice, then a second choice, then a third choice, and so on.

If a voter isn’t sure how to fully rank all the choices, then more than one choice can be ranked at the same preference level. And if a voter really doesn’t want to think beyond their first choice, it’s OK to rank a single choice as most popular and leave all the remaining choices ranked as equally least-popular, which is equivalent to how we currently have to mark election ballots.

With this extra ranking information it becomes possible to look at each pair of choices, one pair at a time. For each pair, we can count how many voters prefer one of the two choices over the other, and count how many voters have the opposite preference.

Usually we can look at all these pairwise counts and quickly see which one of the choices (which can be a political candidate or a movie or an actor or an actress) is clearly the most popular choice.

The NewsHereNow Oscars poll allows you, or anyone who is familiar with the Oscar-nominated movies, to rank the movies using a 1-2-3 ballot. And then computer software automatically does the pairwise counting and correctly identifies which movie is really most popular among the voters. (If you should want the calculation details, you can view the software’s source code at in the CPSolver account.)

The software also identifies which movie is second-most popular, third-most popular, and so on, down to least popular. For all nine movies! In contrast, simplistic single-mark ballots, on which each voter can only mark a single choice, does not provide enough information to calculate this full popularity ranking. (Remember that the choice with the fewest single-mark votes is not necessarily least popular.)

There is another advantage to pairwise counting. It allows the NewsHereNow Oscars poll to combine the actors category with the actresses category, so we can learn how any pair of actor and actress compares in popularity. This poll also combines both original screenplays and adapted screenplays into a single question so that we can find out which screenplay is really best overall. With this grouping the poll has only three questions:

  1. movies
  2. actors/actresses
  3. screenplays

Although this Oscars poll has just three questions, we can still identify winners in these five official categories:

  • best picture
  • best actor
  • best actress
  • best original screenplay
  • best adapted screenplay

That’s because 1-2-3 ballots and pairwise counting makes it possible to calculate the full popularity ranking of all the choices in each question, from most popular, second-most popular, and so on down to least popular.

How does this relate to political elections? The 2016 Republican U.S. presidential primary election demonstrated the unfairness of using single-mark ballots and simplistic counting. In that election there were seventeen (17) candidates! Officially the winner only had to get more single-mark votes than any one of the other candidates.

To appreciate why that’s unfair, imagine what might have happened if we knew the pairwise count between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and the pairwise count between Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, and the pairwise count between Donald Trump and John Kasich, and the pairwise count between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush. There is a reasonable chance that Trump might have lost all four of these pairwise contests, and instead a different candidate might have won all his pairwise contests.

To better appreciate this possibility, keep in mind that Trump received just 45 percent of the votes from Republican voters, which means 55 percent of Republican voters voted for someone else. And Trump would have received even fewer single-mark votes if the other candidates had not dropped out of the race before voting ended.

In other words, because there were so many candidates, the single-mark ballots in that primary election did not give us enough information to correctly identify which candidate really was most popular among Republican voters.

This insight reveals an extremely important point. It’s in the primary elections where the biggest unfairnesses occur! Why? Because that’s when there can be (and should be) more than two main candidates. And that’s where money has the most significant influence in U.S. elections. Later, in the general election, we only get to choose between the money-backed Republican candidate and the money-backed Democratic candidate.

So, if you are a U.S. citizen who usually doesn’t bother to vote in primary elections, wake up! That’s where we, the voters, actually have lots of influence. Especially in the 2018 primary elections, when lots of reform-minded candidates will be listed on ballots. It’s an opportunity to make a difference in the conflict between the political up — which is where most of us voters are — and the political down — which is where the biggest campaign contributions come from. This up-versus-down conflict is much more important than the smaller distraction between the “political left” and the “political right.” (To learn more about this concept, see the wild election results article.)

Now you’re ready to understand the hidden strategy that the biggest campaign contributors use to control who wins each primary election. The strategy doesn’t have a name, but it should, so let’s call it the money-backed-vote-splitting tactic.

How does this tactic work? In backroom meetings, people who represent the biggest campaign contributors decide which candidate in each primary race will be their money-backed candidate. If a popular reform-minded candidate enters the primary race, then some money is indirectly and quietly given to a second reform-minded candidate who unwittingly becomes a “spoiler” candidate. The spoiler candidate “splits votes” away from the first reform-minded candidate. And some extra money is spent on advertising to further support the money-backed candidate. The result is that the money-backed candidate usually wins because he (or rarely she) gets more single-mark votes than either one (but not both) of the reform-minded candidates.

In other words, when needed, money is used to increase the number of candidates, and the tactic becomes the well-known divide and conquer strategy. This very legal tactic works even when a majority of that party’s voters oppose the money-backed candidate. As an example, this tactic contributed to why money-backed John Kerry won the 2004 Democratic presidential primary election against reform-minded candidates John Edwards and Howard Dean, with Dean initially getting some money to split votes away from then-popular candidate Edwards.

Now you can better appreciate why we have primary elections. Back before U.S. primary elections existed, there were just “elections,” the ones we now call general elections. Whichever political party had two candidates almost always lost to the political party that had just one candidate. So primary elections were established to eliminate vote splitting.

To the delight of the wealthy people in the political down category, primary elections hide the unfair use of single-mark ballots. The unfairness is hidden because the winner of a primary election is always from the correct political party. Consider that most voters and most news reporters only focus on which political party wins a race. And consider that most research polls don’t ask respondents to rank all the choices, leaving us without enough information to do even unofficial pairwise counting.

Alas, U.S. primary elections are flawed. Yet they are better than what happens in most other nations, where only political-party insiders participate in choosing their party’s nominee.

Fortunately when more U.S. citizens understand the money-backed-vote-splitting tactic, the tactic can be defeated. So, please help your friends and relatives — on both the “political left” and the “political right” — understand this tactic.

The NewsHereNow Oscars poll allows us to put aside our strong political opinions, and instead focus on entertainment. So, if you’re familiar with the main Oscar-nominated movies, you can have fun ranking the nine movies, ranking the 10 actors and actresses, and ranking the 10 screenplays. While marking the ballot you will be learning how voting really should be done.

Here is the link to vote now:

It’s free, there are no ads, and no signup is needed.

Have fun!

West Virginia Capitol Ejects Woman for Lobbying Speech

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 16:24

What happens when you read aloud your state representative’s political donations from oil and gas corporations during a public hearing on a bill that will likely benefit those same oil and gas corporations? In West Virginia, you might get dragged out of the building. On Friday, members of the West Virginia House of Delegates cut off…


VIDEO: How Philanthropy Can Save Local Journalism

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 15:28

Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy held an event on January 31st with a discussion on the future of local journalism. Professor Joel Fleishman joined President of the Revson Foundation Julie Sandorf for a “discussion of the role of philanthropy in reviving local journalism initiatives”. The New York City-based Charles H. Revson Foundation supports “programs focused on urban affairs, medical research, education, and Jewish culture”. The event was held at Duke’s Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society as one of five ‘Foundation Impact Research Group seminars’ held each semester.

According to his university bio, Joel L. Fleishman is the Professor of Law and Public Policy Sciences at Duke University. He also “serves as the director of the Samuel and Ronnie Heyman Center for Ethics, Public Policy and the Professions as well as the director of the Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society”. Julie Sandorf’s has been president of the Revson Foundation since January 2008. According to the Revson Foundation:

Before joining Revson, she was a co-founder and executive director of Nextbook, a national organization dedicated to the creation and promotion of Jewish literature, culture, and the arts… She currently serves as an adviser to the Oak Foundation, is chairperson of the board of directors of the Center for Urban Community Services, and is a member of the boards of directors of the West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing, Leading Edge: Alliance for Excellence in Jewish Leadership, and the A.M. and Ruth Z. Fleishman Foundation.

The path to save local journalism is not simple but the discussion is an important addition to thinking on the subject. The video is about 45 minutes. Take a look:

My Photos From the NYC March Against Deportation of Immigrants

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 14:49
Janice Ginger

I recently took part in the ‘You Can’t Deport a Movement’ action against deportation of immigrants at Foley Square where I captured some photos and recorded video. The event was organized to support the cause of New York City immigrant rights leader Ravi Ragbir who the federal government is looking to deport.

Janice Ginger who’s husband Ramesh was almost deported when taken by ICE in March of 2015. “In June 2016 he was taken to JFK to be put on a flight but, he didn’t get on that flight because he knew his rights. And this is why we’re here, to express what this movement is about and the rights that we have as immigrants in this country”.

Here is the livestream of the event I published on my Facebook:

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Posted by Cat Watters on Saturday, February 10, 2018

From the event’s Facebook event page:

This moment is urgent. This is bigger than any one case. ICE is escalating its attack on immigrants, and only our movement can stop them. There is a new stay for Ravi’s deportation, but this moment matters now MORE THAN EVER! We must stand up for the countless thousands of Ravis and Jeans and show that we are powerful together! We leave no one behind! ICE cannot target our leaders OR our communities! Bring your friends, your colleagues, your love and solidarity to demand a #NEWSANCTUARYCITY

This rally concerns all of us — immigrants, U.S. citizens, New Yorkers. This is a fight against this racist administration’s attempt to overstep the constitution and cherry pick who has the right to freedom and who will be terrorized into silence. We’re going to let them know that this movement has deep roots and cannot be eradicated. We’re going to show them that you can’t deport a movement.

Here is some background on Ravi Ragbir from the website setup for his defence from deportation:

Long-time permanent resident, community activist, father, and husband, Ravi Ragbir, faces permanent exile from his life in the U.S. Ravi’s immigration story began when he came to the U.S. from Trinidad in February 1991 on a visitor’s visa. In 1994, he became a lawful permanent resident (green card holder).

A 15-year green card holder, Ravi was detained and ordered deported in 2006 by an immigration judge—without a hearing—based on a conviction for fraud, which he is currently seeking to vacate, based on factual and legal errors in his trial.

Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez

Nydia Velázquez of the US House of Representatives for the 12th District of New York took the stage and said, “Mr. President, look at us, we are still standing here. We are strong and we are not going away. Yesterday we got some good news. That Ravi has been given an additional stay until mid March and that is progress but, not enough. Like any family Ravi and Amy deserve the peace of mind to know that their Government, Our Government is not going to needlessly and inhumanely tear them apart”.

Velázquez continued:

“The Congress of the US has been totally, Totally ignorant of the ability to make this DACA a reality in the lives of our children. We must Press on, we must Raise our Voices. I sat on the floor at 5 o’clock in the morning looking at how the divide and conquer strategy works. So we pass a budge bill and it does a lot of wonderful things but, it also does some disastrous things. It Heaps a Pile of Debt on our Children and grandchildren and great grandchildren at this stage.”


See this livestream for coverage of the Velázquez speech.

Letitia James

Public Advocate for the City of New York Letitia James took the stage later on. The city’s Public Advocate is a citywide elected position. She said:

“You can’t kill an idea, you can’t kill a thought, you can’t kill a belief and cannot deport a movement. We’re happy that Ravi got a reprieve but, the reality is, is that, there are thousands, if not millions, of immigrants from, ‘Shithole countries’ who are facing deportation each and every day. ICE is standing INSIDE our courtroom and I’m so glad that the Legal Aid attorneys in the Bronx Stood Up and walked out!”

Linda Sarsour is an American political activist and former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York. She gained national attention for her advocacy on behalf of American Muslims and as a co-chair of the 2017 Women’s March.

Steven T. Sacco

Activist Steven T. Sacco, part of Ravi’s legal team from the Legal Aid Society, gave a great speech saying:

“The imprisoned are not detained, they are inturned. The inturned are not in custody they are disappeared. And they are not asked to pay a bond the are coerced to pay ransoms. ICE does not implement policy it dispenses terror, it’s Thuggery masquerading as bureaucracy. Just because it’s agenda is sanctioned by law does not mean that it is not also morally depraved. We will not pay respect to institutions that do not respect human life. And we will not see legitimacy in the enforcement of unjust law.


I also published a live stream of Steven Sacco speaking:

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Posted by Cat Watters on Saturday, February 10, 2018

Ravi spoke briefly about the number of women who were standing behind him and that it was his wife who stood up for him to the Deputy Director. So he gave the mic to his wife, Amy.

Ravi spoke about being seen by the US as a “national security” threat as the reason he is being deported. “Who is the National Security problem, the doctor treating the sick, the restaurant worker who’s feeding the hungry, the father who’s taking his children to school? Are they a National Security problem? AM I A NATIONAL SECURITY PROBLEM? AM I COLLUDING WITH RUSSIA? WE ARE BECAUSE WE ARE CHANGING WHAT IS HAPPENING.”

To hear Ravi and Amy speak see my livestream here:

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = ''; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

Posted by Cat Watters on Saturday, February 10, 2018

Supporters of Ravi circles 26 Federal Plaza 2 times before kneeling and praying on the Foley Square side of the building. Ravi and supporters kneeling in prayer in the back of 26 Federal Plaza Reverend Billy of the Stop Shopping Choir yelling with Ravi and supporters outside 26 Federal Plaza yesterday to end the mass deportation of immigrants under the guise of the illegit war on “terror” and “National Security”. Walking north on Thompson Street to Judson Memorial Church where there will be a gathering and discussion on the issue of mass deportations.

Co-Sponsoring Organizations of the event included:

New Sanctuary Coalition, New York Immigration Coalition, 32BJ SEIU, Bronx Immigration Partnership, Copwatch Patrol Unit, Critical Resistance, Detention Watch Network, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), Democratic Socialists of America, Domestic Workers Alliance, Equality Labs, Immigrant Defense Project, Interfaith Center of New York, mPower Change, Queer Detainee Empowerment Project (QDEP), the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, Northern Manhattan Immigration Coalition, Red Bloom / Solidarity Network, Restaurant Opportunities Center NYC, Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir, Rise and Resist, South Asian Solidarity Initiative, Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ) NYC, UnLocal, We Belong Together, WhyHunger, Workers Center of Central NY, Worker Justice Center of New York, and a growing list of others!

The World Must Act On Cambodia’s Crackdown on Dissent

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 14:00

In July last year, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen gave a speech to his supporters shortly after his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) suffered unexpected losses in local elections. Dressed in a military uniform, the long-time ruler did not mince his words. He warned his opponents to “prepare their coffins” and said that he would eliminate “100…


VIDEO: Event Celebrates 100 Years of Women Voting

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 12:58
Award to Mabel Capper records the first instance of forcible feeding of hunger striking Suffragette prisoners in England at Winson Green Prison in Birmingham – link

Earlier today, the London School of Economics and Political Science held an event to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of women’s suffrage in England. Distinguished speakers at the event included Brenda Hale, Shami Chakrabarti, and Nicola Lacey who collectively covered how the introduction of women voting changed democracy for the better. Those who actually attended today’s event in London also had a chance to view some key historical documents from LSE’s women’s library. The summary of the event from LSE:

On February 6th 1918, with the coming into force of the Representation of the People Act, women were by law first given the vote in this country. Even though this foundational right only applied to a restricted category of women initially, the dam had been breached and the universal franchise would soon follow. 100 years on, to the very day, LSE Law will be marking this constitutional watershed.

Some of the participants in the video:

  • Shami Chakrabarti was formerly director of the human rights group Liberty, and is now the Shadow Attorney General for England and Wales. She is a Visiting Professor at LSE Law.
  • Brenda Hale is an English judge and is the current President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. She is the first woman to serve in the role, and she is one of only two women to have ever been appointed to the Supreme Court (alongside Lady Black).
  • Nicola Lacey is School Professor of Law, Gender and Social Policy at LSE.
  • Jeremy Horder is Head of the Law Department and Professor of Criminal Law at LSE.

You can listen to a podcast of this event available for download at this link: 100 Years of Votes for Women: an LSE Law celebration. The event video is about 90 minutes. Take a look:

Azerbaijan opposition vow to boycott snap presidential vote

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 12:30

Leaders of Azerbaijan’s main opposition parties pledged Monday to boycott a snap presidential election which is expected to extend the autocratic rule of President Ilham Aliyev. “The Popular Front party and the National Council of the Opposition took a decision to boycott the snap presidential election,” the Popular Front chairman, Ali Kerimli, told AFP. “The conditions…


Dictator since 1982, Cameroon’s Biya turns 85 as crisis rages

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 12:27

President Paul Biya of Cameroon celebrates his 85th birthday on Tuesday after 35 years at the helm of a country that today faces daunting problems, including a separatist revolt. “The Cameroon of tomorrow, which is developing before our eyes, will have little connection with the Cameroon of yesterday… Let us seize the chance and take up…


Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf wins African Ibrahim Prize

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 12:25

Former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Monday won the rarely-awarded Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership — the world’s biggest individual prize. The prize only goes to a democratically-elected African leader who has demonstrated exceptional leadership, served their mandated term and left office within the last three years. The award comes with $5 million…


Cambodian dissident jailed after deportation from Thailand

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 18:46

Human rights groups have condemned Thailand for deporting a Cambodian woman who fled her country to avoid prosecution after a video shared on social media showed her throwing a shoe at an image of Prime Minister Hun Sen. Sam Sokha was forcibly returned to Cambodia on Thursday after a Thai court found her guilty of overstaying…


The hard road ahead for Korean Olympics detente

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 18:43

On September 3 2017 North Korea detonated its most powerful nuclear blast to date, sending tensions on the peninsula higher than a mushroom cloud. Less than six months later the two sides’ heads of state cheered a joint ice hockey team. The speed of the Olympics-driven rapprochement across the Demilitarized Zone that has divided North and…


Pashtuns End Islamabad Protest Over State Neglect

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 14:17

Pashtuns have felt neglected and wrongly targeted in Pakistan for some time. But the death of a shopkeeper, who died in an alleged extrajudicial killing, led to a protest by some Pashtuns. Naqeebullah Mehsud, 27, was killed January 13 in Karachi, the capital of Sindh province. Law enforcement authorities initially accused him of having ties with…


Pakistani human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir passes away

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 14:02

Leading Pakistani lawyer and human rights activist, Asma Jahangir, has passed away in the eastern city of Lahore at the age of 66. Local media reported Jahangir suffered from cardiac arrest and was shifted to a hospital where she passed away on Sunday morning. “She was always on the frontline, for progressive voices and even when…


Bitcoin’s Geopolitical and Financial Significance

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 13:46

Illustration: Bigstock Bitcoin and the other cryptocurrencies, namely Ethereum and Litecoin – although 33 additional currencies are arriving on the Internet – are a brand new phenomenon on the currency market. Currently, we are all in the so-called “fiat money” regime, namely any money declared by a government to be legal tender, which is a currency…


Political Artists Tackling Trump on Stage, Page and Workout Videos

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 12:10
Image art by DonkeyHotey – link

Nicole Pellegrino, Scott Palmason, Jessie Sherman. With the persona of a maniacal Bond villain hell-bent on world domination who’s so unbelievable he’d be more at home in Austin Powers spy spoofs than in the 007 film franchise, Trump is a big, tempting, easy target. He’s a blowhard with perpetual bad hair days who can dish it…


Church accuses government of harming Tanzanian democracy

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 12:05
Tanzanian President John Magufuli

Tanzania’s Catholic church on Sunday accused the government of President John Magufuli of violating democratic norms by limiting freedom of expression. “Party political activities, such as public meetings, demonstrations, rallies, debates inside premises, which are after all every citizen’s right, have been suspended until the next elections,” said a letter penned by the country’s Catholic bishops.…


Sri Lanka ruling party suffers unusual humiliation at local vote

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 12:01

Sri Lanka’s ruling alliance was humiliated Sunday in local elections seen as a test of its leadership and the party of ex-president Mahinda Rajapakse was on track for a shock landslide victory, results showed Sunday. The mid-term polls further strained the uneasy coalition between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as they faced a…


Cambodian Election Without Opposition Goes Forward Today

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 11:59

On Feb. 25, seven commune councilors are going to vote in Cambodia’s Senate election, a nationwide political contest few citizens know or care much about. The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) won a majority of commune seats here in June’s local elections. But that was then, and this is now: The CNRP, the major opposition party,…


VIDEO: Kenyan media is increasingly under pressure and in crisis

Sat, 02/10/2018 - 20:00

On The Listening Post this week: The screws are being tightened on Kenya’s media, but the fourth estate also has credibility issues. Plus, president Macron tries a new tack with French media. Kenyan media: Under pressure and in crisis Kenya is in the midst of a political power struggle and the country’s media outlets are at…