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The Case for Voter Fraud Tested — and Utterly Fails

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 18:34
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by Jessica Huseman, posted originally at ProPublica

In the end, the decision seemed inevitable. After a seven-day trial in Kansas City federal court in March, in which Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach needed to be tutored on basic trial procedure by the judge and was found in contempt for his “willful failure” to obey a ruling, even he knew his chances were slim. Kobach told The Kansas City Star at the time that he expected the judge would rule against him (though he expressed optimism in his chances on appeal).

Sure enough, yesterday federal Judge Julie Robinson overturned the law that Kobach was defending as lead counsel for the state, dealing him an unalloyed defeat. The statute, championed by Kobach and signed into law in 2013, required Kansans to present proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. The American Civil Liberties Union sued, contending that the law violated the National Voter Registration Act (AKA the “motor voter” law), which was designed to make it easy to register.

The trial had a significance that extends far beyond the Jayhawk state. One of the fundamental questions in the debate over alleged voter fraud — whether a substantial number of non-citizens are in fact registering to vote — was one of two issues to be determined in the Kansas proceedings. (The second was whether there was a less burdensome solution than what Kansas had adopted.) That made the trial a telling opportunity to remove the voter fraud claims from the charged, and largely proof-free, realms of political campaigns and cable news shoutfests and examine them under the exacting strictures of the rules of evidence.

That’s precisely what occurred and according to Robinson, an appointee of George W. Bush, the proof that voter fraud is widespread was utterly lacking. As the judge put it, “the court finds no credible evidence that a substantial number of noncitizens registered to vote” even under the previous law, which Kobach had claimed was weak.

For Kobach, the trial should’ve been a moment of glory. He’s been arguing for a decade that voter fraud is a national calamity. Much of his career has been built on this issue, along with his fervent opposition to illegal immigration. (His claim is that unlawful immigrants are precisely the ones voting illegally.) Kobach, who also co-chaired the Trump administration’s short-lived commission on voter fraud, is perhaps the individual most identified with the cause of sniffing out and eradicating phony voter registration. He’s got a gilded resume, with degrees from Harvard University, Yale Law School and the University of Oxford, and is seen as both the intellect behind the cause and its prime advocate. Kobach has written voter laws in other jurisdictions and defended them in court. If anybody ever had time to marshal facts and arguments before a trial, it was Kobach.

But things didn’t go well for him in the Kansas City courtroom, as Robinson’s opinion made clear. Kobach’s strongest evidence of non-citizen registration was anemic at best: Over a 20-year period, fewer than 40 non-citizens had attempted to register in one Kansas county that had 130,000 voters. Most of those 40 improper registrations were the result of mistakes or confusion rather than intentional attempts to mislead, and only five of the 40 managed to cast a vote.

One of Kobach’s own experts even rebutted arguments made by both Kobach and President Donald Trump. The expert testified that a handful of improper registrations could not be extrapolated to conclude that 2.8 million fraudulent votes — roughly, the gap between Hillary Clinton and Trump in the popular vote tally — had been cast in the 2016 presidential election. Testimony from a second key expert for Kobach also fizzled.

As the judge’s opinion noted, Kobach insisted the meager instances of cheating revealed at trial are just “the tip of the iceberg.” As she explained, “This trial was his opportunity to produce credible evidence of that iceberg, but he failed to do so.” Dismissing the testimony by Kobach’s witnesses as unpersuasive, Robinson drew what she called “the more obvious conclusion that there is no iceberg; only an icicle largely created by confusion and administrative error.”

By the time the trial was over, Kobach, a charismatic 52-year-old whose broad shoulders and imposing height make him resemble an aging quarterback, seemed to have shrunk inside his chair at the defense table.

But despite his defeat, Kobach’s causes — restricting immigration and tightening voting requirements — seem to be enjoying favorable tides elsewhere. Recent press accounts noted Kobach’s role in restoring a question about citizenship, abandoned since 1950, to U.S. Census forms for 2020. And the Supreme Court ruled on June 11 that the state of Ohio can purge voters from its rolls when they fail to vote even a single time and don’t return a mailing verifying their address, a provision that means more voters will need to re-register and prove their eligibility again.

For his own part, Kobach is now a candidate for governor of Kansas, running neck and neck with the incumbent in polls for the Republican primary on Aug. 7. It’s not clear whether the verdict will affect his chances — or whether it will lead him and others to quietly retreat from claims of voter fraud. But the judge’s opinion and expert interviews reveal that Kobach effectively put the concept of mass voter fraud to the test — and the evidence crumbled.

Perhaps it was an omen. Before Kobach could enter the courtroom inside the Charles Evans Whittaker U.S. Courthouse each day, he had to pass through a hallway whose walls featured a celebratory display entitled “Americans by Choice: The Story of Immigration and Citizenship in Kansas.” Photographs of people who’d been sworn in as citizens in that very courthouse were superimposed on the translucent window shades.

Public interest in the trial was high. The seating area quickly filled to capacity on the first day of trial on the frigid morning of March 6. The jury box was opened to spectators; it wouldn’t be needed, as this was a bench trial. Those who couldn’t squeeze in were sent to a lower floor, where a live feed had been prepared in a spillover room.

From the moment the trial opened, Kobach and his co-counsels in the Kansas secretary of state’s office, Sue Becker and Garrett Roe, stumbled over the most basic trial procedures. Their mistakes antagonized the judge. “Evidence 101,” Robinson snapped, only minutes into the day, after Kobach’s team attempted to improperly introduce evidence. “I’m not going to do it.”

Matters didn’t improve for Kobach from there.

Throughout the trial, his team’s repeated mishaps and botched cross examinations cost hours of the court’s time. Robinson was repeatedly forced to step into the role of law professor, guiding Kobach, Becker and Roe through courtroom procedure. “Do you know how to do the next step, if that’s what you’re going to do?” the judge asked Becker at one point, as she helped her through the steps of impeaching a witness. “We’re going to follow the rules of evidence here.”

Becker often seemed nervous. She took her bright red glasses off and on. At times she burst into nervous chuckles after a misstep. She laughed at witnesses, skirmished with the judge and even taunted the lawyers for the ACLU. “I can’t wait to ask my questions on Monday!” she shouted at the end of the first week, jabbing a finger in the direction of Dale Ho, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs. Ho rolled his eyes.

Roe was gentler — deferential, even. He often admitted he didn’t know what step came next, asking the judge for help. “I don’t — I don’t know if this one is objectionable. I hope it’s not,” he offered at one point, as he prepared to ask a question following a torrent of sustained objections. “I’ll let you know,” an attorney for the plaintiffs responded, to a wave of giggles in the courtroom. On the final day of trial, as Becker engaged in yet another dispute with the judge, Roe slapped a binder to his forehead and audibly whispered, “Stop talking. Stop talking.”

Kobach’s cross examinations were smoother and better organized, but he regularly attempted to introduce exhibits — for example, updated state statistics that he had failed to provide the ACLU in advance to vet — that Robinson ruled were inadmissible. As the trial wore on, she became increasingly irritated. She implored Kobach to “please read” the rules on which she based her rulings, saying his team had repeated these errors “ad nauseum.”

Kobach seemed unruffled. Instead of heeding her advice, he’d proffer the evidence for the record, a practice that allows the evidence to be preserved for appeal even if the trial judge refuses to admit it. Over the course of the trial, Kobach and his team would do this nearly a dozen times.

Eventually, Robinson got fed up. She asked Kobach to justify his use of proffers. Kobach, seemingly alarmed, grabbed a copy of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure — to which he had attached a growing number of Post-it notes — and quickly flipped through it, trying to find the relevant rule.

The judge tried to help. “It’s Rule 26, of course, that’s been the basis for my rulings,” she told Kobach. “I think it would be helpful if you would just articulate under what provision of Rule 26 you think this is permissible.” Kobach seemed to play for time, asking clarifying questions rather than articulating a rationale. Finally, the judge offered mercy: a 15-minute break. Kobach’s team rushed from the courtroom.

It wasn’t enough to save him. In her opinion, Robinson described “a pattern and practice by Defendant [Kobach] of flaunting disclosure and discovery rules.” As she put it, “it is not clear to the Court whether Defendant repeatedly failed to meet his disclosure obligations intentionally or due to his unfamiliarity with the federal rules.” She ordered Kobach to attend the equivalent of after-school tutoring: six hours of extra legal education on the rules of civil procedure or the rules of evidence (and to present the court with a certificate of completion).

It’s always a bad idea for a lawyer to try the patience of a judge — and that’s doubly true during a bench trial, when the judge will decide not only the law, but also the facts. Kobach repeatedly annoyed Robinson with his procedural mistakes. But that was nothing next to what the judge viewed as Kobach’s intentional bad faith.

This view emerged in writing right after the trial — that’s when Robinson issued her ruling finding Kobach in contempt — but before the verdict. And the conduct that inspired the contempt finding had persisted over several years. Robinson concluded that Kobach had intentionally failed to follow a ruling she issued in 2016 that ordered him to restore the privileges of 17,000 suspended Kansas voters.

In her contempt ruling, the judge cited Kobach’s “history of noncompliance” with the order and characterized his explanations for not abiding by it as “nonsensical” and “disingenuous.” She wrote that she was “troubled” by Kobach’s “failure to take responsibility for violating this Court’s orders, and for failing to ensure compliance over an issue that he explicitly represented to the Court had been accomplished.” Robinson ordered Kobach to pay the ACLU’s legal fees for the contempt proceeding.

That contempt ruling was actually the second time Kobach was singled out for punishment in the case. Before the trial, a federal magistrate judge deputized to oversee the discovery portion of the suit fined him $1,000 for making “patently misleading representations” about a voting fraud document Kobach had prepared for Trump. Kobach paid the fine with a state credit card.

More than any procedural bumbling, the collapse of Kobach’s case traced back to the disintegration of a single witness.

The witness was Jesse Richman, a political scientist from Old Dominion University, who has written studies on voter fraud. For this trial, Richman was paid $5,000 by the taxpayers of Kansas to measure non-citizen registration in the state. Richman was the man who had to deliver the goods for Kobach.

With his gray-flecked beard and mustache, Richman looked the part of an academic, albeit one who seemed a bit too tall for his suit and who showed his discomfort in a series of awkward, sudden movements on the witness stand. At moments, Richman’s testimony turned combative, devolving into something resembling an episode of The Jerry Springer Show. By the time he left the stand, Richman had testified for more than five punishing hours. He’d bickered with the ACLU’s lawyer, raised his voice as he defended his studies and repeatedly sparred with the judge.

“Wait, wait, wait!” shouted Robinson at one point, silencing a verbal free-for-all that had erupted among Richman, the ACLU’s Ho, and Kobach, who were all speaking at the same time. “Especially you,” she said, turning her stare to Richman. “You are not here to be an advocate. You are not here to trash the plaintiff. And you are not here to argue with me.”

Richman had played a small but significant part in the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump and others had cited his work to claim that illegal votes had robbed Trump of the popular vote. At an October 2016 rally in Wisconsin, the candidate cited Richman’s work to bolster his predictions that the election would be rigged. “You don’t read about this, right?” Trump told the crowd, before reading from an op-ed Richman had written for The Washington Post: “‘We find that this participation was large enough to plausibly account for Democratic victories in various close elections.’ Okay? All right?”

Richman’s 2014 study of non-citizen registration used data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study — an online survey of more than 32,000 people. Of those, fewer than 40 individuals indicated they were non-citizens registered to vote. Based on that sample, Richman concluded that up to 2.8 million illegal votes had been cast in 2008 by non-citizens. In fact, he put the illegal votes at somewhere between 38,000 and 2.8 million — a preposterously large range — and then Trump and others simply used the highest figure.

Academics pilloried Richman’s conclusions. Two hundred political scientists signed an open letter criticizing the study, saying it should “not be cited or used in any debate over fraudulent voting.” Harvard’s Stephen Ansolabehere, who administered the CCES, published his own peer-reviewed paper lambasting Richman’s work. Indeed, by the time Trump read Richman’s article onstage in 2016, The Washington Post had already appended a note to the op-ed linking to three rebuttals and a peer-reviewed study debunking the research.

None of that discouraged Kobach or Trump from repeating Richman’s conclusions. They then went a few steps further. They took the top end of the range for the 2008 election, assumed that it applied to the 2016 election, too, and further assumed that all of the fraudulent ballots had been cast for Clinton.

Some of those statements found their way into the courtroom, when Ho pressed play on a video shot by The Kansas City Star on Nov. 30, 2016. Kobach had met with Trump 10 days earlier and had brought with him a paper decrying non-citizen registration and voter fraud. Two days later, Trump tweeted that he would have won the popular vote if not for “millions of people who voted illegally.”

On the courtroom’s televisions, Kobach appeared, saying Trump’s tweet was “absolutely correct.” Without naming Richman, Kobach referred to his study: The number of non-citizens who said they’d voted in 2008 was far larger than the popular vote margin, Kobach said on the video. The same number likely voted again in 2016.

In the courtroom, Ho asked Richman if he believed his research supported such a claim. Richman stammered. He repeatedly looked at Kobach, seemingly searching for a way out. Ho persisted and finally, Richman gave his answer: “I do not believe my study provides strong support for that notion.”

To estimate the number of non-citizens voting in Kansas, Richman had used the same methodology he employed in his much-criticized 2014 study. Using samples as small as a single voter, he’d produced surveys with wildly different estimates of non-citizen registration in the state. The multiple iterations confused everyone in the courtroom.

“For the record, how many different data sources have you provided?” Robinson interjected in the middle of one Richman answer. “You provide a range of, like, zero to 18,000 or more.”

“I sense the frustration,” Richman responded, before offering a winding explanation of the multiple data sources and surveys he’d used to arrive at a half-dozen different estimates. Robinson cut him off. “Maybe we need to stop here,” she said.

“Your honor, let me finish answering your question,” he said.

“No, no. I’m done,” she responded, as he continued to protest. “No. Dr. Richman, I’m done.”

To refute Richman’s numbers, the ACLU called on Harvard’s Ansolabehere, whose data Richman had relied on in the past. Ansolabehere testified that Richman’s sample sizes were so small that it was just as possible that there were no non-citizens registered to vote in Kansas as 18,000. “There’s just a great deal of uncertainty with these estimates,” he said.

Ho asked if it would be accurate to say that Richman’s data “shows a rate of non-citizen registration in Kansas that is not statistically distinct from zero?”

“Correct.”

The judge was harsher than Ansolabehere in her description of Richman’s testimony. In her opinion, Robinson unloaded a fusillade of dismissive adjectives, calling Richman’s conclusions “confusing, inconsistent and methodologically flawed,” and adding that they were “credibly dismantled” by Ansolabehere. She labeled elements of Richman’s testimony “disingenuous” and “misleading,” and stated that she gave his research “no weight” in her decision.

One of the paradoxes of Kobach is that he has become a star in circles that focus on illegal immigration and voting fraud despite poor results in the courtroom. By ProPublica’s count, Kobach chalked up a 2–6 won-lost record in federal cases in which he was played a major role, and which reached a final disposition before the Kansas case.

Those results occurred when Kobach was an attorney for the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform from 2004 to 2011, when he became secretary of state in Kansas. In his FAIR role (in which he continued to moonlight till about 2014), Kobach traveled to places like Fremont, Nebraska, Hazleton, Pennsylvania, Farmers Branch, Texas, and Valley Park, Missouri, to help local governments write laws that attempted to hamper illegal immigration, and then defend them in court. Kobach won in Nebraska, but lost in Texas and Pennsylvania, and only a watered down version of the law remains in Missouri.

The best-known law that Kobach helped shape before joining the Kansas government in 2011 was Arizona’s “show me your papers” law. That statute allowed police to demand citizenship documents for any reason from anyone they thought might be in the country illegally. After it passed, the state paid Kobach $300 an hour to train law enforcement on how to legally arrest suspected illegal immigrants. The Supreme Court gutted key provisions of the law in 2012.

Kobach also struggled in two forays into political campaigning. In 2004, he lost a race for Congress. He also drew criticism for his stint as an informal adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Kobach was the man responsible for Romney’s much-maligned proposal that illegal immigrants “self-deport,” one reason Romney attracted little support among Latinos. Romney disavowed Kobach even before the campaign was over, telling media outlets that he was a “supporter,” not an adviser.

Trump’s election meant Kobach’s positions on immigration would be welcome in the White House. Kobach lobbied for, but didn’t receive, an appointment as Secretary of Homeland Security. He was, however, placed in charge of the voter fraud commission, a pet project of Trump’s. Facing a raft of lawsuits and bad publicity, the commission was disbanded little more than six months after it formally launched.

Back at home, Kobach expanded his power as secretary of state. Boasting of his experience as a law professor and scholar, Kobach convinced the state legislature to give him the authority to prosecute election crimes himself, a power wielded by no other secretary of state. In that role, he has obtained nine guilty pleas against individuals for election-related misdemeanors. Only one of those who pleaded guilty, as it happens, was a non-citizen.

He also persuaded Kansas’ attorney general to allow Kobach to represent the state in the trial of Kansas’ voting law. Kobach argued it was a bargain. As he told The Wichita Eagle at the time, “The advantage is the state gets an experienced appellate litigator who is a specialist in this field and in constitutional law for the cost the state is already paying, which is my salary.”

Kobach fared no better in the second main area of the Kansas City trial than he had in the first. This part explored whether there is a less burdensome way of identifying non-citizens than forcing everyone to show proof of citizenship upon registration. Judge Robinson would conclude that there were many alternatives that were less intrusive.

In his opening, Ho of the ACLU spotlighted a potentially less intrusive approach. Why not use the Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements System list, and compare the names on it to the Kansas voter rolls? That, Ho argued, could efficiently suss out illegal registrations.

Kobach told the judge that simply wasn’t feasible. The list, he explained, doesn’t contain all non-citizens in the country illegally — it contains only non-citizens legally present and those here illegally who register in some way with the federal government. Plus, he told Robinson, in order to really match the SAVE list against a voter roll, both datasets would have to contain alien registration numbers, the identifier given to non-citizens living in the U.S. “Those are things that a voter registration system doesn’t have,” he said. “So, the SAVE system does not work.”

But Kobach had made the opposite argument when he headed the voter fraud commission. There, he’d repeatedly advocated the use of the SAVE database. Appearing on Fox News in May 2017, shortly after the commission was established, Kobach said, “The Department of Homeland Security knows of the millions of aliens who are in the United States legally and that data that’s never been bounced against the state’s voter rolls to see whether these people are registered.” He said the federal databases “can be very valuable.”

A month later, as chief of the voting fraud commission, Kobach took steps to compare state information to the SAVE database. He sent a letter to all 50 secretaries of state requesting their voter rolls. Bipartisan outrage ensued. Democrats feared he would use the rolls to encourage states to purge legitimately registered voters. Republicans labelled the request federal overreach.

At trial, Kobach’s main expert on this point was Hans von Spakovsky, another member of the voter fraud commission. He, too, had been eager in commission meetings to match state voter rolls to the SAVE database.

But like Kobach, von Spakovsky took a different tack at trial. He testified that this database was unusable by elections offices. “In your experience and expertise as an election administrator and one who studies elections,” Kobach asked, “is [the alien registration number] a practical or even possible thing for a state to do in its voter registration database?” Von Spakovsky answered, “No, it is not.”

Von Spakovsky and Kobach have been friends for more than a decade. They worked together at the Department of Justice under George W. Bush. Kobach focused on immigration issues — helping create a database to register visitors to the U.S. from countries associated with terrorism — while von Spakovsky specialized in voting issues; he had opposed the renewal of the Voting Rights Act.

Von Spakovsky’s history as a local elections administrator in Fairfax County, Va., qualified him as an expert on voting fraud. Between 2010 and 2012, while serving as vice chairman of the county’s three-member electoral board, he’d examined the voter rolls and found what he said were 300 registered non-citizens. He’d pressed for action against them, but none came. Von Spakovsky later joined the Heritage Foundation, where he remains today, generating research that underpins the arguments of those who claim mass voter fraud.

Like Richman, von Spakovsky seemed nervous on the stand, albeit not combative. He wore wire-rimmed glasses and a severe, immovable expression. Immigration is a not-so-distant feature of his family history: His parents — Russian and German immigrants — met in a refugee camp in American-occupied Germany after World War II before moving to the U.S.

Von Spakovsky had the task of testifying about what was intended to be a key piece of evidence for Kobach’s case: a spreadsheet of 38 non-citizens who had registered to vote, or attempted to register, in a 20-year period in Sedgwick County, Kansas.

But the 38 non-citizens turned out to be something less than an electoral crime wave. For starters, some of the 38 had informed Sedgwick County that they were non-citizens. One woman had sent her registration postcard back to the county with an explanation that it was a “mistake” and that she was not a citizen. Another listed an alien registration number — which tellingly begins with an “A” — instead of a Social Security number on the voter registration form. The county registered her anyway.

When von Spakovsky took the stand, he had to contend with questions that suggested he had cherry-picked his data. (The judge would find he had.) In his expert report, von Spakovsky had referenced a 2005 report by the Government Accountability Office that polled federal courts to see how many non-citizens had been excused from jury duty for being non-citizens — a sign of fraud, because jurors are selected from voter rolls. The GAO report mentioned eight courts. Only one said it had a meaningful number of jury candidates who claimed to be non-citizens: “between 1 and 3 percent” had been dismissed on these grounds. This was the only court von Spakovsky mentioned in his expert report.

His report also cited a 2012 TV news segment from an NBC station in Fort Myers, Fla. Reporters claimed to have discovered more than 100 non-citizens on the local voter roll.

“Now, you know, Mr. von Spakovsky, don’t you, that after this NBC report there was a follow-up by the same NBC station that determined that at least 35 of those 100 individuals had documentation to prove they were, in fact, United States citizens. Correct?” Ho asked. “I am aware of that now, yes,” von Spakovsky replied.

That correction had been online since 2012 and Ho had asked von Spakovsky the same question almost two years before in a deposition before the trial. But von Spakovsky never corrected his expert report.

Under Ho’s questioning, von Spakovsky also acknowledged a false assertion he made in 2011. In a nationally syndicated column for McClatchy, von Spakovsky claimed a tight race in Missouri had been decided by the illegal votes of 50 Somali nationals. A month before the column was published, a Missouri state judge ruled that no such thing had happened.

On the stand, von Spakovsky claimed he had no knowledge of the ruling when he published the piece. He conceded that he never retracted the assertion.

Kobach, who watched the exchange without objection, had repeatedly made the same claim — even after the judge ruled it was false. In 2011, Kobach wrote a series of columns using the example as proof of the need for voter ID, publishing them in outlets ranging from the Topeka Capital-Journal to the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. In 2012, he made the claim in an article published in the Syracuse Law Review. In 2013, he wrote an op-ed for the Kansas City Star with the same example: “The election was stolen when Rizzo received about 50 votes illegally cast by citizens of Somalia.” None of those articles have ever been corrected.

Ultimately, Robinson would lacerate von Spakovsky’s testimony, much as she had Richman’s. Von Spakovsky’s statements, the judge wrote, were “premised on several misleading and unsupported examples” and included “false assertions.” As she put it, “His generalized opinions about the rates of noncitizen registration were likewise based on misleading evidence, and largely based on his preconceived beliefs about this issue, which has led to his aggressive public advocacy of stricter proof of citizenship laws.”

There was one other wobbly leg holding up the argument that voter fraud is rampant: the very meaning of the word “fraud.”

Kobach’s case, and the broader claim, rely on an extremely generous definition. Legal definitions of fraud require a person to knowingly be deceptive. But both Kobach and von Spakovsky characterized illegal ballots as “fraud” regardless of the intention of the voter.

Indeed, the nine convictions Kobach has obtained in Kansas are almost entirely made up of individuals who didn’t realize they were doing something wrong. For example, there were older voters who didn’t understand the restrictions and voted in multiple places they owned property. There was also a college studentwho’d forgotten she’d filled out an absentee ballot in her home state before voting months later in Kansas. (She voted for Trump both times.)

Late in the trial, the ACLU presented Lorraine Minnite, a professor at Rutgers who has written extensively about voter fraud, as a rebuttal witness. Her book, “The Myth of Voter Fraud,” concluded that almost all instances of illegal votes can be chalked up to misunderstandings and administrative error.

Kobach sent his co-counsel, Garrett Roe, to cross-examine her. “It’s your view that what matters is the voter’s knowledge that his or her action is unlawful?” Roe asked. “In a definition of fraud, yes,” said Minnite. Roe pressed her about this for several questions, seemingly surprised that she wouldn’t refer to all illegal voting as fraud.

Minnite stopped him. “The word ‘fraud’ has meaning, and that meaning is that there’s intent behind it. And that’s actually what Kansas laws are with respect to illegal voting,” she said. “You keep saying my definition” she said, putting finger quotes around “my.” “But, you know, it’s not like it’s a freak definition.”

Kobach had explored a similar line of inquiry with von Spakovsky, asking him if the list of 38 non-citizens he’d reviewed could be absolved of “fraud” because they may have lacked intent.

“No,” von Spakovsky replied, “I think any time a non-citizen registers, any time a non-citizen votes, they are — whether intentionally or by accident, I mean — they are defrauding legitimate citizens from a fair election.”

After Kobach concluded his questions, the judge began her own examination of von Spakovsky.

“I think it’s fair to say there’s a pretty good distinction in terms of how the two of you define fraud,” the judge said, explaining that Minnite focused on intent, while she understood von Spakovsky’s definition to include any time someone who wasn’t supposed to vote did so, regardless of reason. “Would that be a fair characterization?” she asked.

“Yes ma’am,” von Spakovsky replied.

The judge asked whether a greater number of legitimate voters would be barred from casting ballots under the law than fraudulent votes prevented. In that scenario, she asked, “Would that not also be defrauding the electoral process?” Von Spakovsky danced around the answer, asserting that one would need to answer that question in the context of the registration requirements, which he deemed reasonable.

The judge cut him off. “Well that doesn’t really answer my question,” she said, saying that she found it contradictory that he wanted to consider context when examining the burden of registration requirements, but not when examining the circumstances in which fraud was committed.

“When you’re talking about … non-citizen voting, you don’t want to consider that in context of whether that person made a mistake, whether a DMV person convinced them they should vote,” she said. Von Spakovsky allowed that not every improper voter should be prosecuted, but insisted that “each ballot they cast takes away the vote of and dilutes the vote of actual citizens who are voting. And that’s —”

The judge interrupted again. “So, the thousands of actual citizens that should be able to vote but who are not because of the system, because of this law, that’s not diluting the vote and that’s not impairing the integrity of the electoral process, I take it?” she said.

Von Spakovsky didn’t engage with the hypothetical. He simply didn’t believe it was happening. “I don’t believe that this requirement prevents individuals who are eligible to register and vote from doing so.” Later, on the stand, he’d tell Ho he couldn’t think of a single law in the country that he felt negatively impacted anyone’s ability to register or vote.

Robinson, in the end, strongly disagreed. As she wrote in her opinion, “the Court finds that the burden imposed on Kansans by this law outweighs the state’s interest in preventing noncitizen voter fraud, keeping accurate voter rolls, and maintaining confidence in elections. The burden is not just on a ‘few voters,’ but on tens of thousands of voters, many of whom were disenfranchised” by Kobach’s law. The law, she concluded, was a bigger problem than the one it set out to solve, acting as a “deterrent to registration and voting for substantially more eligible Kansans than it has prevented ineligible voters from registering to vote.”

Record Number of Countries Involved in Violent Conflicts

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 18:25

VOA – ENGLISH

The number of countries involved in “violent conflicts” is the highest in 30 years, while the number of people killed in conflicts has risen tenfold since 2005, the U.N. secretary-general said Tuesday.

Antonio Guterres added that the number of “violent situations” classifiable as wars, based on the number of casualties, has tripled since 2007.

He also told reporters in Oslo, Norway, that “low-intensity conflicts” rose by 60 percent since 2007. Guterres gave no specific figures.

“Prevention is more necessary than ever,” Guterres said, adding “mediation becomes an absolutely fundamental instrument in our action.”

Guterres, who was attending a meeting on peacemaking, said that on top of regional conflicts, global terrorism was a new type of struggle that “can strike anywhere at any time.”

The annual Oslo Forum panel discussion on peacemaking also was attended by leaders from Somalia, Algeria, Jordan, Oman and Tanzania. The White House envoy for the war against the Islamic State also attended.

The U.N. refugee agency said nearly 69 million people fleeing war, violence and persecution were forcibly displaced last year, a record number.

In its annual Global Trends Report published Tuesday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said the continued crises in places like South Sudan and Congo, as well as the exodus of Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar that started last year, raised the overall figure of forced displacements in 2017 to 68.5 million.

Later Tuesday, Guterres met with Erna Solberg, prime minister of Norway. The country is lobbying for a seat on the U.N. Security Council for the period 2021-2022.

Among the topics they discussed was the state of the oceans, which Guterres described as “a mess.”

At a news conference with Solberg, Guterres said 80 million tons of plastic were being dumped into the oceans every year.

He said the U.N. would come up with a “battle plan” in September for the oceans, saying there is a “collective responsibility” to do something.

The oceans face threats from plastic garbage, illegal and excessive fishing, rising sea levels that could wipe out small islands, and increasing acidity of ocean water, which is killing marine life.

The Problem With Capitalism Without Conscious

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 17:33

I have a friend who was in seminary and he told me one of his professors had said, ”democracies rise and fall by the morals of its people”. I believe this to be true, but why have so many Christian and Republicans sided with the cause of evil?

I don’t think the average Christian is bad, just slightly brain washed and misguided. We think God wants all the bad to come to us, because of the ruthless beatings of the preacher man and politicians on the poor and working class. While the filthy rich, because of who they are, get all the passes. But I don’t read the Bible that way. What about, “you can gain the whole world and lose your own soul’. I wish these modern day ministers or charlatans had the courage to just whisper this truth if only to one oligarch.

Well that’s not what’s important. What’s important is not only do the filthy rich feel they have a divine right to all the money, privilege and power, but they feel they don’t need to share with anybody. They get to pay less taxes or have the majority of their taxes just support their own community, without providing for the orphan, the foreigner or the widow. But isn’t that the point of Christianity?

In Illinois where I live, there is a town Wilmette, of ‘Home Alone‘ fame, that has a public beach. They hire security personal to walk up and down the beach to keep the riff raff out of the water for the reasons of not having lifeguards, of which they could have hired instead, or just let the visitors, “swim at your own risk”. Even California is considering breaking up into three distinct states, for the reason of greed and avarice.

What’s troubling is it doesn’t stop there. Corporate welfare to corporate America, including Walmart, because of their low wages and unwillingness to pay municipal taxes, has brought many a town to its knees and has been a burden on our welfare system because the workers can’t make ends meet working a full time job. Illinois is in the running for the new Amazon headquarters and is willing to bribe them with numbers north of two billion dollars, at a time when the state has been in its worst financial crisis since God knows when. Other recipients of tax abatements have followed that, even our current President has received them in abundance including his prized crowning achievement, Trump Tower.

Yet Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said that corporate income tax is an antiquated system. But without them we won’t have the resources to run the country, or protect our citizens from the current fascist minded capitalist system. And that is why big business is against government.

So why should these big businesses keep getting these egregious tax breaks? They shouldn’t, they have continually been making record breaking profits, to the peril of the country. Many states, because of the robbing of the poor and giving to the rich, have had to lay off massive numbers of public workers, leading to the destruction of our society and infrastructure. Teachers are now having to go on strike to collect wages owed them, but are budgeted out due to scams and greed of corporate America. So what should we call this neoliberal cult? The devil’s children, the goats, the pretend good people, or just the beautiful people even if they are not on the inside.

VIDEO: Towards a Democracy-Based Digital Geneva Convention

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 13:26
The Geneva Convention in 1929 – link

Leader of Microsoft’s Cybersecurity and Democracy Team talked about the need for a Digital Geneva Convention in a conference put together by the Personal Democracy Forum, an organization dedicated to building new policy around “technology’s impact on government, politics, media, and democratic societies”. Jan Neutze leads the Microsoft Cybersecurity & Democracy Team at Microsoft Corp in Redmond, WA. From his bio:

Jan leads Microsoft’s efforts on protecting societies from cyber conflict, including by advancing a Digital Geneva Convention, working with governments and non-government stakeholders around the world. From 2013 to 2017, Jan built up and managed Microsoft’s cybersecurity program in Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). In that role Jan lead a team of policy and technical experts based in Brussels, Belgium with a focus on cybersecurity policy and regulatory issues as well as a range of strategic projects aimed at managing geopolitical risk. Jan has served in a range of advisory roles on cybersecurity policy issues, including the Permanent Stakeholder Group of the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) from 2015-2017, advising the EU agency’s leadership; as well as the Global Commission on Cyber Stability (GCSC) for which Jan serves on the management board. Prior to taking on Microsoft’s EMEA cybersecurity portfolio, Jan worked in Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing (TwC) group at Microsoft headquarters focusing on cybersecurity public policy and cybersecurity norms, as well as engaging with partners from government, international organizations, and academia.

Jan joined Microsoft from the United Nations Headquarters where he served for three years in the UN Secretary-General’s Executive Office and in the Department of Political Affairs, leading a range of cybercrime and counterterrorism projects. Prior to his work at the UN, Jan managed transatlantic policy projects at the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Atlantic Council of the United States. Jan is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP) and holds a J.D. from the University of Muenster, Germany as well as an M.A. from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

Jan Neutze will also took part in a workshop titled, “Cybersecurity and election 2018” at during the Personal Democracy Forum along with Jessica Huseman, Amy Cohen and Shauna Daly in a discussion facilitated by Dave Leichtman, Democratic Advisor for the Campaign Tech Services group at Microsoft. The workshop spoke about “what is hype and what is truly worrisome about the state of election security today, what state election directors are doing to better guard their systems from abuse, and how campaigns and advocacy organizations need to upgrade their own security systems and processes”.

The video of Neutze’s speech titled, “Cybersecurity, Democracy and a Digital Geneva Convention“, is about 30 minutes. Take a look:

Spain’s to Remove ex-Dictator Franco’s Remains from Mausoleum

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 11:54
Franco a speech in Eibar in 1949 – link

VOA – ENGLISH

The remains of fascist dictator Francisco Franco could soon be removed from a state-funded mausoleum under a plan by Spain’s new socialist government to transform the monument into a place to remember the civil war rather than glorify the dictatorship.

This would be the latest of a raft of high-profile measures launched by Spain’s new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to cement his power and lure left-wing voters ahead of a general election due by mid-2020.

Sanchez, who toppled his conservative predecessor Mariano Rajoy in a confidence vote last month, controls less than a quarter of the seats in parliament.

“The decision about exhuming Franco’s remains is quite clear,” Oscar Puente, a senior member of the socialist party who is close to Sanchez, told a news conference.

The civil war still casts a shadow over the country nearly eight decades after its end. Lack of accountability for the war has left wounds unhealed, and pressure has grown to turn the site into a memorial honoring those who died on both sides.

Puente said the government’s plans were to transform the state-funded Valley of the Fallen mausoleum into “a place of recognition and memory of all Spaniards.”

The 150-meter cross of the monument, built by prisoners of war, towers over the Guadarrama Sierra, a mountain range just outside Madrid.

Opened by Franco himself in 1959, the Valley houses a Catholic basilica set into a hillside, where the founder of Spain’s fascist Falange party, Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, is also interred. It has long been a site of pilgrimage for far-right groups in Spain.

The conservative People’s Party has opposed attempts to exhume Franco’s body when they were in power, saying it would only stir up painful memories more than four decades after his death and nearly 80 years after the end of the war.

The Spanish parliament, however, passed a motion last year to remove Franco’s remains as well as those of tens of thousands of other people buried at the mausoleum.

Many of those interred there fought for the losing Republican side and were moved to the monument under Franco’s dictatorship without their families’ permission.

Kansas Law Requiring Voters to Prove Citizenship Blocked

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 11:32

Yesterday, a U.S. District Court located struck down a Kansas law that the state passed in 2011. The law had required everyone who registered to vote to produce documentation on their U.S. citizenship. Another court had also ruled the law enjoined before, stalling its implementation. The latest ruling means the law will not be in effect for the 2018 midterm elections or other state and local votes.

Ballot Access News, an outlet run by election expert Richard Winger, had more information saying the law “was not in effect for individuals who use the federal voter registration postcard form. The decision in Fish v Kobach, 1:16cv-2105, is here and is 118 pages long. Much of it discusses the various witnesses on each side. The judge in this case, Julie A. Robinson, is a Bush Jr. appointee.”

According to a New York Times article by Julie Bosman, “The ruling was a blow to Mr. [Kris W.] Kobach, a Republican who has emerged as a national figure on voting limits, a candidate for governor of Kansas and an ally of President Trump in part by claiming that large numbers of noncitizens have cast ballots in American elections.”

Kobach has been a leading figure in Republican efforts to block a certain kind of voter fraud that rarely happens. In fact, an in-depth report by the well-respected Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law “reviewed elections that had been meticulously studied for voter fraud, and found incident rates between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent”. The court ruling today was damning for Kobach and it went so far as to slam Kobach for a constantly questionable pattern of behavior at trial:

The disclosure violations set forth above document a pattern and practice by Defendant of flaunting disclosure and discovery rules that are designed to prevent prejudice and surprise at trial. The Court ruled on each disclosure issue as it arose, but given the repeated instances involved, and the fact that Defendant resisted the Court’s rulings by continuing to try to introduce such evidence after exclusion, the Court finds that further sanctions are appropriate under Rule 37(c)(1), which permits, in addition to exclusion of the evidence, “other appropriate sanctions.”

It is not clear to the Court whether Defendant repeatedly failed to meet his disclosure obligations intentionally or due to his unfamiliarity with the federal rules. Therefore, the Court finds that an additional sanction is appropriate in the form of Continuing Legal Education. Defendant chose to represent his own office in this matter, and as such, had a duty to familiarize himself with the governing rules of procedure, and to ensure as the lead attorney on this case that his discovery obligations were satisfied despite his many duties as a busy public servant.

As a result the court ordered Kobach to go back to school:

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant shall attend 6 hours in addition to any other CLE education required by his law license for the 2018-2019 reporting year. The additional CLE must pertain to federal or Kansas civil rules of procedure or evidence. Defendant shall file a certification with this Court before the end of the reporting period on June 30, 2019, certifying that this CLE requirement has been met. This sanction is imposed under Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(c)(1) for the disclosure violations identified in this Order under Rule 26(a) and (e). IT IS SO ORDERED.

New Project Seeks to Boost Democracy-Related Journalism

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 10:23

The Engaged Journalism Lab will be focused on organizations supported by the nonprofit Democracy Fund. The project was recently announced by the Democracy Fund, a grant giving foundation established by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar:

The ability of journalism to serve as our Fourth Estate—to be a check and balance on government and powerful interests—is under increasing threat. Journalism today faces multiple challenges: a faltering business model with shrinking resources; a political environment in which they find themselves under attack; and a climate of deep distrust by the American people.

In a 2017 survey, the Poynter Institute, a Democracy Fund grantee, found that only 49% of Americans have a great deal or a fair amount of trust in the media. We believe this distrust is connected to another problem: journalism’s lack of deep engagement with its audience, exacerbated by news organizations whose staff and coverage do not represent the communities they serve.

At Democracy Fund, one of our goals is to ensure that every American citizen has access to audience-centered, trusted, resilient journalism. To meet this goal, we are working to build a media landscape that truly serves the public interest. Through our Public Square Program, we support projects and organizations that enable newsrooms to build meaningful, trusted relationships with their communities through audience-driven storytelling, inclusion, and transparency. We call this work “Engaged Journalism” and have seen firsthand how practical investments in these organizations and ideas can have a transformative effect on newsrooms.

As a part of this effort, we’re re-launching the Democracy Fund Engaged Journalism Lab on Medium. The Engaged Journalism Lab will focus, not on how to get a grant from Democracy Fund, but rather on what our grantees and partners are doing and learning. We’ll also discuss the big ideas shaping the field and shine a spotlight on the people helping to make journalism more collaborative and engaged with its community. We hope it will serve as a resource for those working at the intersection of media and democracy.

Ukraine ‘Corruption Park’ Shows Ill-Gotten Gains

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 10:16

VOA – ENGLISH

A pop-up “Corruption Park” has opened in Ukraine to highlight the scale of the problem with interactive exhibits and displays of ill-gotten gains including a $46,000 crystal falcon.

One of the first things visitors see in the EU-funded show is a tent shaped like the gold loaf of bread found in the house of ex-president Viktor Yanukovych after he fled Ukraine in 2014.

Elsewhere, they can inspect a $300,000, limited-edition BMW seized from a corrupt official, and a copy of a 8-million-euro chandelier that, the display says, could have paid for a family’s electricity bill for 64,000 years.

In another tent, visitors lie back in a four-poster bed and watch a multimedia film of the imagined nightmares of a guilty government functionary.

The EU Anti-Corruption Initiative, which staged the show in Kiev’s botanical gardens, said it was meant to show the scale of corruption in Ukraine, and what it costs governments and citizens.

Ukraine’s Western-backed government has accused Yanukovych and his pro-Russian administration of widespread abuses and excesses.

But activists have also accused the current authorities of failing to crack down on graft, which is estimated to cost the country about 2 percent of its economic growth, according to the International Monetary Fund.

“For the kids, it’s a good example and revealing about the scale it all happens at,” Kyiv resident Lyuba said, as she queued with her children to don goggles and join a virtual reality anti-corruption investigation.

‘Corruption has taken so much’

The chandelier appears in a mock-up of an official’s room, decked out with the fruits of his corruption.

Other exhibits explain different schemes used for illegal enrichment.

“Corruption concerns everyone. This is one of the main ideas and goals of the project – to explain the direct relation between top level corruption and ordinary Ukrainians,” said Volodymyr Solohub, spokesman for the EU Anti-Corruption Initiative, which paid for the 140,000 euro ($162,000) park.

“A lot of people just come out disappointed that corruption has taken so much from the country,” he said.

One tent called ‘The Fight’ explains what the current authorities have done to combat graft, including the establishment of anti-corruption agencies.

Depicting the various government bodies as pieces in a puzzle, the exhibit illustrates that there is one missing piece: an independent court dedicated to prosecuting corruption cases, whose creation has been repeatedly pushed back.

Earlier in June, parliament voted to establish the court, but activists have said the law contains an amendment that would undermine the court’s effectiveness and Ukraine’s commitments to external backers such as the International Monetary Fund.

What Would Julius Caesar Do?

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 19:40
“The Assassination of Julius Caesar” by Vincenzo Camuccini – link

The current condition of our country leads me to believe that we are at the end of this empire; not too far removed from the example the Roman Empire left behind. All the senators are gathering their last minute bribes, while sending reluctant soldiers to war to massacre innocent victims in an animal-like ritual that has similarities to pagan blood sacrifices, when they themselves are supposed to represent the light, the Holy Roman Empire.

With all the philosophers on hand, we have ours as well: Thom Hartmann, Chris Hedges and Bernie Sanders. Thank God for the sage and for our wisemen. But these fools won’t listen to reason or gasps for mercy. Their pride calls them ever downward to the abyss that will complete balance in the universe and peace in the next life.

So don’t lose faith when you feel like you’re living in hell, you are, “Let Justice be done though the heavens fall”. Your governors and politicians have aligned themselves with the business community instead of your decrees, your commands, and your clarion call of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

In the panic of this Gladiator battle of life and death, we stab, we stab, we stab each other in the back until we don’t have any neighbors left to prick our conscience unto good deeds. Only the memory of what has been lost in the Arena of broken promises, The American dream.

Supreme Court Refuses to Block Partisan Gerrymandering

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 19:33

The Supreme Court today after a long wait issued rulings in two important gerrymandering cases where activists had been hoping for a major win. The rulings came today in both cases: Gill v. Whitford and Benisek v. Lamone. The Campaign Legal Center litigated Gill and Mayer Brown litigated Benisek. The American Civil Liberties Union was among those who filed briefs in both cases challenging the currently broken system for partisan gerrymandering.

According to Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, “The Supreme Court missed an opportunity today to lay down a firm marker as to when partisan gerrymandering is so extreme that it violates the constitutional rights of voters. But the court permitted lawsuits against unfair maps to continue. Cases around the country — including our challenge to Ohio’s gerrymandered congressional map — will remain ongoing to ensure that voters’ voices are heard.”

The grassroots nonprofit Common Cause, a nationwide network of more than 1 million members, made its own analysis of the decision equally as clear:

The Supreme Court is now set up to review North Carolina’s partisan gerrymandering case, Rucho v. Common Cause and Rucho v. League of Women Voters of North Carolina, consolidated challenges to North Carolina’s congressional map that plaintiffs won in January.

“This is by no means the end of the road. The Supreme Court is still actively looking for the right case to establish a standard for what constitutes an unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. With Wisconsin and Maryland’s cases still alive, and Common Cause’s North Carolina case awaiting review by the Supreme Court, the fight to establish constitutional limits on partisan gerrymandering is very much alive,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause.

“After years of inaction in Annapolis, Common Cause Maryland is ready to fight for justice in the courts and overturn Maryland’s egregious partisan gerrymander,” said Damon Effingham, acting executive director of Common Cause Maryland. “Today’s decision proves that the Supreme Court is open to striking political gerrymanders. Along with our allies in the Tame the Gerrymander coalition, we will continue to work to create a fair districting process in Maryland so that everyone, regardless of their political affiliation, has a voice in our democracy.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court today did not address the unconstitutionality of one of the most partisan gerrymanders of state legislative districts (2011) in American history, but we remain hopeful that standing can be addressed and we can win justice in the courts” said Jay Heck, the long-time executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin.  “We even more urgently renew our call on the Wisconsin Legislature replace this broken system with a transparent, non-partisan process modeled after our neighbor, Iowa, in time for the 2021 redistricting cycle,” Heck added.

From the Supreme Court decision in Gill v. Whitford: “We leave for another day consideration of other possible theories of harm not presented here and whether those theories might present justiciable claims giving rise to statewide remedies.” Page 16, 585 U.S. ____ (2018).

Rucho v. Common Cause began as a challenge to congressional districts the North Carolina General Assembly drew in 2016 after the previous map was struck down as an illegal racial gerrymander. A three-judge federal district court panel ruled in favor of the Common Cause plaintiffs on all counts in the consolidated case. The court found that the legislature engaged in viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment, violated the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause, and overstepped its authority under Article I, sections 2 and 4 of the Constitution.

“Hundreds of thousands of voters in North Carolina were stripped of their political voice in the nation’s capital by the brazen and undemocratic partisan political gerrymander perpetrated by the state legislature. We are hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will agree with the federal district court’s landmark ruling that the extreme gerrymandering of our state’s congressional districts clearly violates the constitutional rights of North Carolina citizens,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina. “We must end gerrymandering to ensure all voters have a voice in our democracy.”

VIDEO: The Rebel Puppeteers of Sudan

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 10:25

The video below is from the New York Times. Here is their description:

This week’s Op-Doc is Roopa Gogineni’s “The Rebel Puppeteers of Sudan.” Filmed in that country’s remote Nuba Mountains, the film tells the story of a resourceful group of journalists and a drama collective who banded together to create “Bisha TV,” a satirical web series that mocks the cruelty of Sudan’s repressive leadership. Not only a comedy show born amid conflict and oppression, the series is a rare outlet for commentary from the Nuba Mountains. As one of the puppeteers says, “We’re showing what actually happens.”

Bounty Offered for Money Politics Anomaly Discoveries

Sun, 06/17/2018 - 20:40

From OpenSecrets:

by Brendan Quinn

We track a lot of data here at OpenSecrets. We look at campaign finance, lobbying spending, personal finances and a whole lot more. Sometimes, that data reveals something unusual – an anomaly, if you will. That is why we have a handy tool called the Anomaly Tracker to highlight these unusual findings.

An anomaly, as we define it, is an occurrence that is out of the ordinary. It is not necessarily an indication that there is something amiss or nefarious.

Currently, we are tracking 6 distinct kinds of anomalies:

  1. Lawmakers sponsoring legislation that was lobbied by only one company or other organization whose employees or PAC also donated to the sponsoring lawmakers.
  2. Lawmakers receiving twice as much in contributions from their top donors as their next highest donors.
  3. Lawmakers receiving twice as much in contributions from their top donor industries as their next highest donor industries.
  4. Lawmakers receiving more than 50 percent of their itemized contributions from out of state.
  5. More than 50 percent of a committee or candidate’s spending is paid to a single vendor.
  6. PACs giving at least $7,500 to a candidate’s Leadership PAC but nothing to the candidate’s committee.

But we can only discover so much on our own. That is where you come in. We are offering a bounty for money-in-politics anomalies found in federal data by anyone who is interested in looking. As a reward, savvy hunters can receive OpenSecrets swag and/or can have their relevant work featured in our weekly money-in-politics newsletter.

You can submit findings to info@crp.org. Contest runs as long as there is money involved in American elections. Happy hunting.

UN releases first-ever Kashmir human rights report

Sun, 06/17/2018 - 20:33
link

From Wikinews:

On Thursday, the United Nations (UN) released its first-ever report for Kashmir, highlighting several incidents of alleged human rights violations in the last two years in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Pakistani-administered areas of Kashmir, namely Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) denounced the 49-page report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, calling it “selective”, “malicious” and “fallacious”. The report mentions human rights violations including torture, enforced disappearances, sexual violations, administrative detention, violations on the right to health and education, lack of access to justice and arbitrary arrests and detention among others.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said he would urge the UN Human Rights Council “to consider establishing a Commission of Inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violation in Kashmir”. Hussein was not granted permission, by either India or Pakistan, to visit Kashmir for the report.

Per the report, Pakistan was asked to stop “misuse of anti-terror legislation to persecute those engaging in peaceful political and civil activities and those who express dissent.” In July 2016, Indian security forces killed the Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Muzaffar Wani, which led to protests in the Kashmir Valley. In response to the protests, Indian security forces fired metallic pellets, and their activities led to human rights violation, the UN report read. It also accused India of the unlawful killing of about 145 civilians since 2016. The report asked India to “fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law.”

The MEA issued a statement which read: “India rejects the report. It is fallacious, tendentious and motivated. We question the intent in bringing out such a report. It is a selective compilation of largely unverified information. It is overtly prejudiced and seeks to build a false narrative.” Per the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir it “is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India” while Pakistan’s constitution does not mention Azad Kashmir or Gilgit-Baltistan in its territories, but has a provision for relations with Pakistan subject to Jammu and Kashmir people’s decision to acceede to Pakistan. The MEA added in their statement, “Cross-border terror and incitement are aimed at suppressing the will of the people of Jammu & Kashmir, disrupting its political and social fabric and undermining India’s integrity”.

Unlike India, the report was welcomed by Pakistan. In a press release, the Foreign Office said Pakistan “welcomes the proposal by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish a Commission of Inquiry for [an] international investigation into human rights violations” in Indian-held Kashmir.

Directing towards Indian authorities, the report asked to “urgently repeal the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990; and, in the meantime, immediately remove the requirement for prior central government permission to prosecute security forces personnel accused of human rights violations in civilian courts”.

“The report violates India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Pakistan is in illegal and forcible occupation of a part of the Indian state through aggression. We have repeatedly called upon Pakistan to vacate the occupied territories. The incorrect description of Indian territory in the report is mischievous, misleading and unacceptable. There are no entities such as ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’ and ‘Gilgit-Baltistan'”, India’s External Affairs ministry said in their statement.

The report was welcomed by some activists and leaders in Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir human rights activist Khurram Parvez welcomed the UN report. Kashmiri leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq wrote on Twitter, “People of Kashmir thank the U.N., especially the bold efforts of its HR commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, for its support to the right of self-determination.”

The Kashmir-conflict between India and Pakistan has led to two wars since their independence in 1947. Between 1990 and 2017, there have been about 69,820 militancy-related incidents in Jammu and Kashmir, and more than 41 thousand people were killed. In 2017, there were over 800 ceasefire violations along the heavily-militarised Line of Control in Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

New Poetry: Elegy to a Refugee Girl

Sun, 06/17/2018 - 17:56

It’s been too long since I’ve written. My life has taken on too many changes, too many problems have come my way, and the little time I have left outside of work I use to help the asylum seekers I have grown to love passionately, and who are under attack, so fiercely, so wrongly.

What have we become as a nation?

Christ Bleeds in the USA Too
El Santuario de Chimayo, New Mexico
© Ana M. Fores Tamayo

My poems “Elegy to a Refugee Girl / Oda a una niña refugiada” will be published in a book entitled Detained Voices / Voces detenidasedited by M. Montserrat Feu Lopez & Amanda Venta, from Sam Houston State University.

For Father’s Day, for World Refugee Day, which this year falls on Wednesday, June 20th, all fathers should be with their children; all children should enjoy, with their families, the freedoms afforded to those of us in the free world.

These are freedoms they seek, freedoms we are denying with impunity. Let us reflect, then, and act. I leave you with these thoughts while you read, in either English, or Spanish below…

Elegy to a Refugee Girl

The teacher collected the young child’s drawing.
Looking it over, she stared intently
at the little girl’s work:
she saw
a young child, separated by bars.
a large splash of crimson covering the trees she had drawn.
A larger lady in the background faraway,
brown on brown her hair falling wildly
on the page,
so that all she could see
were splashes of sepia with a little green
but much more blood red.
the wild woman seen in the image
had something shackling her ankle,
her face blotched with droplets upon her cheeks.

What did you paint, sweetheart?
the teacher slowly questioned
the young child with the immense, sorrowful eyes.
And the girl looked up, giant eyes tearing,
voice quivering,
repeating softly–
my mami, she whispered.
my mami was taken away.
She flew to the trees there, to the blue in the sky.
She was put in that carcel, you see?
but her spirit flew
like the birds when they soar through the sky, stormy yet safe.

And the teacher stared at the sanguine red, what seemed
to be the color of gore,
and again she gazed inquisitively at the child…

My mami is a rose,
and the wilderness in her spirit breaks free
as she wails for my papi, red blood screaming pain.

Me escondi, a stifled sigh to the teacher.
Tenía miedo…

I hid myself under the cama, the bed skirt muting
my silent shrieks
as I saw my papi’s red sangre spilling from him.
I stayed still and quiet under that bed
afraid they would see me,
those ugly green suits
taking my papi and hitting him, again and again,
so that he
became a scarlet jumble of pain.

my mami had no time to react as those ugly men
took her and threw her on top of me…
they did not know I was hiding under the bed.
But my mami knew, and she tried to be still
as the beasts tore into her, they ripped off her clothes, I think,
they strangled her cries, they heaved themselves
on top of her.
First one, then the other. Then a third.

My mami did not move.
I sang blue songs in my head and listened to the fairy birds
ringing out their tune of love, of my mami and papi
and their love for me…

It was a long time the men were there and my mami not moving.
But finally what seemed to hump and hump and hump again
stopped moving,
and the bad ugly men in their green army suits all splattered with red were gone.

I stayed under the cama, afraid to come out
afraid to have the red stain my hands, sink through my fingers.
so I crawled into myself, staying below.

But finally I felt some movement.
My mami came back from the skies
from the blue heavens with the loros singing…
she did not leave me, she stayed that rosa in the ground
for her baby girl.
my mami stumbled almost falling.
She lowered her body
crawling beneath that cama,
holding me, closely, loving me, touching me to make sure I was real
flesh and bone and not the red of my father,
the body limp without movement.
His eyes — I finally saw — were open wide staring blankly
at nothing. No heaven was open to his
rust stained drip
spilling all over the floor.

I knew my mami was hurt.
I knew it was hard to walk
but we took off, my mami and me,
and we traveled the death roads for heaven
thinking if we made it to el norte, good people would see us and
gather us into their embrace.

How strange it is that I am here in a school while my mami
is jailed for a crime she never committed?
For being forced by some bad bad men and she only trying to save me?
Why is it that others do not see mi dolor, my mami’s ache,
because I weep inside
like a salamander who hides in bright colors?

The teacher looked at my drawing again, then she looked at me.
I saw her face, too, blotched with droplets upon her cheeks…

Why does she cry like my mami? And will I see my mami again?
Why do these ugly men — now wearing blue suits instead of the green I despise —
take my mami away?
Why have they placed me in this escuela,
in this place with other sad children who
say nothing look at nothing feel nothing
because ellos también tienen miedo?

Please teacher, maestra, take me to my mami.
Don’t let her cry alone, por favor…
Don’t let her fly in that cell room forsaken,
let me be with my mami, please.
I don’t want to learn English,
I don’t want fine things if my mami is destroyed in your cell.

the young girl with the immense, sorrowful eyes
voiced long silent stabbings with her muted gaze.

You are killing me, not softly, not kindly, she uttered.

killing

killing

killing

killing

killing

Madonna & Child at the Border
© Ana M. Fores Tamayo, 2014 Oda a una niña refugiada

La maestra recogía lo que había dibujado la niñita.

Al verlo, miró fijamente

el trabajo de su pupila:

observó en la página

una pequeña mocosa, separada del mundo por barras.
Una gran capa de carmesí cubriendo los árboles.
Una señora en el fondo lejano,
marrón contra marrón, su cabello salvajemente golpeando
la página.
Solo percibía
retazos de sepia con un poco de verde
y mucho más rojo de sangre.
La indómita mujer que contemplaba en la imagen
tenía un grillete encadenando su tobillo,
la cara manchada de lágrimas.

¿Qué pintaste, corazón?

La maestra preguntaba lentamente

a la pequeña pupila con unos ojos inmensos, tristes.

Y la chiquita levantaba su vista, ojos gigantes, sollozando,

su voz temblorosa
repitiendo suavemente–
mi mami… susurró.
Mi mami fue secuestrada.
Ella voló hacia los árboles allá, hacia el azul celeste del cielo.
A ella la metieron en esa carcel, ¿entiende?
Pero su espíritu se escapó
como los pájaros cuando se elevan hacia el cielo, tempestuosos pero seguros.

Y la maestra contemplaba el rojo sangre, lo que parecía

ser un monstruoso derrame,

y una vez más miraba a la niña curiosamente…

Mi mami es una rosa, decía,

y el desierto en su espíritu se libera

mientras ella llora por mi papi, dolor de sangre y llantos.

Me escondi… susurró un sofocado suspiro a la maestra.

Tenía miedo…

Me escondí bajo la cama, las sábanas cubriendo

mis silenciosos gritos

al ver la sangre escarlata de mi papi.

Me quedé quieta quieta bajo esa cama enorme,

con miedo que me sospecharan,
esos feos trajes verdes
atrapando a mi papi y golpeándolo, una y otra vez,
mientras él
se convertía en un caos de sangre y pena.

Mi mami no tuvo tiempo de reaccionar cuando esos feos hombres

la tiraron encima de mí, la raptaron …

no sabían que yo estaba escondida bajo la cama.

Pero mi mami sí lo sabía, y ella se quedaba quieta quieta

cuando esas bestias le arrancaban la ropa, cuando se la clavaban,
le estrangulaban sus gritos, se lanzaban
encima de ella
Primero uno, luego el otro. Después, un tercero otra vez más.

Y mi mami no se movía.

En silencio, yo cantaba canciones azules y escuchaba a los pájaros,

entonando su melodía de amor, de mi mami y mi papi

y su amor por mí …

Pasó mucho tiempo con esos hombres allí mientras mi mami no se movía.

Finalmente, lo que parecía cascar y cascar y cascar otra vez

dejó de moverse,

y esos grotescos, sus trajes de ejército salpicados de rojo, desaparecieron.

Me quedé bajo la cama, con terror de salir,

con terror de mancharme las manos de sangre, ese rojizo de muerte hundiéndose entre mis dedos.

Huí dentro de mí, enterrándome en las tinieblas de la noche.

Pero finalmente sentí algo de movimiento.

Mi mami regresaba de los cielos,

desde ese horizonte azul con los loros cantando …

ella no me dejó, mi mami; se quedó como esa rosa en la tierra

con su hija adorada.
Sin embargo, se tropezaba, casi caía.
Agachaba su cuerpo,
arrastrándose debajo la cama,
y me sostenía cerquita, amándome, acariciándome, asegurándose que era real,
carne y hueso y no el rojo de mi papi,
su cuerpo sin movimiento.
Sus ojos – finalmente los vi – estaban abiertos, mirando fijamente
a la nada. Ningún cielo quedaba abierto a su
goteo infinito, manchado de óxido,
derramándose por el suelo de piedra.

Sabía que mi mami estaba herida.

Sabía que era difícil caminar

pero igual nos escapamos, mi mami y yo,

y viajamos por los caminos de la muerte hacia el cielo,

pensando que si lográbamos llegar al norte, gente buena
siempre nos acogiera en su abrazo.

¡Qué extraño estando aquí en una escuela mientras mi mami

se encuentra en la cárcel por un crimen que no cometió!

Por haber sido violada y ella ¿solo tratando de salvarme?

¿Por qué es que los demás no ven mi dolor, el dolor de mi madre?

¿Por qué lloro dentro
como una salamandra escondida en colores brillantes?

La maestra contemplaba mi dibujo, y luego me miraba.

Yo notaba su cara también, sus mejillas manchadas de lágrimas …

¿Por qué llora la maestra igual que mi mami? ¿Y volveré a ver a mi mami?

¿Por qué esos feos — ahora de azul en lugar del verde que odio —

atrapan a mi mami y se la llevan lejos de mi?

¿Por qué me han puesto en este frío colegio,

en este lugar con otros tristes niños que
no dicen nada, no miran nada, no sienten nada
porque ellos también tienen miedo?

Por favor maestra, teacher, lléveme a mi mami.

No la deje llorar sola, oh please …

No la deje volar abandonada en la celda,

déjeme estar con mi mami, le ruego.

No quiero aprender inglés,
No quiero cosas buenas si mi mami cae destruida en su celda.

la niña con los ojos tristes e inmensos

anunciaba agotados silencios

apuñalando esa mirada apagada.

Me están matando, decía. No suavemente, no cariñosamente.

Me están…

asesinando

asesinando

asesinando

asesinando

asesinando

Corruption Leads to Halt of $100M US Alcohol Study

Sat, 06/16/2018 - 17:25

VOA – ENGLISH

The U.S. government is shutting down a planned study testing whether moderate drinking has health benefits over concerns that its funding by the alcohol industry would compromise its credibility.

The National Institutes of Health said Friday that the results of the planned $100 million study could not be trusted because of the secretive way that employees negotiated with beer and liquor companies to underwrite the effort.

Government officials say it is legal to use industry money to pay for government research as long as all rules are followed. However, in this case, NIH officials say employees did not follow proper procedures, including keeping their interactions with industry officials secret.

NIH Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak said the interactions between the employees and industry representatives appeared to “intentionally bias” the study so that it would have a better chance to conclude that moderate drinking is beneficial.

An NIH review panel was also concerned that the study’s proposed span of 10 years was too short a time period to adequately test the potential problems of a daily drink, such as an increased risk of cancer or heart failure.

NIH Director Francis Collins temporarily suspended the study last month after reporting by The New York Times first raised questions about the funding policy violations. Collins said Friday that he was completely shutting down the research.

“This is a matter of the greatest seriousness,’’ he said.

The study had planned to track two groups of people, one group drinking a glass of alcohol a day and another abstaining from alcohol. The study had planned to compare new cases of cardiovascular disease and the rate of new cases of diabetes among participants.

Some of the world’s largest alcoholic beverage makers, including Anheuser-Busch InBev and Heineken, had contributed to the study, although Anheuser-Busch InBev had recently withdrawn its contribution.

The NIH said of the $67.7 million raised from private donations, nearly all from the alcohol industry, $11.8 million, had been spent for the study.

The NIH’s National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) had planned to spend $20 million of its own money for the study. It said $4 million had been spent.

Kenya Fights Public Sector Corruption With Unusual Lifestyle Audit

Sat, 06/16/2018 - 17:11

VOA – ENGLISH

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has intensified his war on graft by announcing that all public servants will undergo a compulsory lifestyle audit to account for their sources of wealth.

This latest announcement follows financial scandals that have rocked the country with revelations that millions of dollars were lost in various government agencies through corrupt deals that involved government officials.

Kenyatta offered himself to be the first leader to undergo the audit that seeks to identify corrupt public officials, saying the lifestyle audits would control the misuse of public funds. He said public servants would be required to explain their sources of wealth with an aim of weeding out those found to have plundered government funds.

“You have to tell us, this is the house you have, this is your salary, how were you able to afford it? This car that you bought, (don’t try to put it under your wife’s name or son’s name, we will still know it is yours), where did you get it? You must explain and I will be the first person to undergo the lifestyle audit,” he said.

Scandals uncovered

In the past month, various corruption scandals involving tenders and suppliers in government agencies have been unearthed. The corruption scandals as revealed have exposed the theft of hundreds of millions of shillings by state officials from several government bodies.

So far, more than 40 government officials, including businesspeople, have been arrestedover the recent scandals.

Kenyatta has continued to express his frustration about the graft, which seems to have spiraled out of control since he came into office in 2013.

“This issue of people stealing what belongs to Kenyans, I swear to God it has to come to an end in Kenya,” Kenyatta said.

Establishing accountability

The president said the lifestyle audit will be key among other measures also put in place by the government to curb the vice.

Earlier in the week, Kenyatta issued an executive order requiring all government entities and publicly owned institutions to publish full details of tenders and awards beginning July 1, 2018.

“For example, if this road is being built, we want to know: Who won the tender for the construction? How much was the tender? Who came in second and third? Why was the first person awarded instead of these two? All these reasons, we need to know. Kenyans need to knowso that it is out there, that this company was awarded this tender, belongs to a certain person, these are the directors, these are the shareholders. There will be no more hiding,” he said.

On June 1, Kenyatta ordered that all heads of procurement and accounting units be vetted again. He said the vetting would include subjecting the officers to polygraph tests to determine integrity.

Kenya scored 28 points out of 100 on the 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International. The Corruption Index in Kenya averaged 22.62 points from 1996 until 2017.

Ortega Agrees to Reduce Tensions With Nicaragua Civic Groups

Sat, 06/16/2018 - 14:11

VOA – ENGLISH

The Nicaraguan government and civic groups Friday agreed to halt all violence, in a major step to end two months of political unrest that has left 170 dead and rocked the government of President Daniel Ortega.

Ortega, however, did not address a call by Catholic Church mediators to allow for early elections next year to defuse the gravest political crisis since the country ended a U.S.-fueled civil war in 1990. His third consecutive presidential term is scheduled to end in 2021.

“The end of all violence is a basic necessity. Nicaraguans don’t need any more violence,” Foreign Minister Denis Moncada, who is the head government negotiator, told reporters.

Both sides will resume talks Saturday to address the Church’s proposal to anticipate general elections and implement political reforms.

The protests that began April 18 have also left hundreds injured and ground the economy of the impoverished Central American nation to a halt.

Most of the dead were anti-government protesters who demanded the resignation of Ortega, a former socialist guerrilla and Cold War-era U.S. foe, blaming his administration for the violent crackdown on demonstrations.

Civic leaders said they were satisfied with the agreement that included setting up an international task force to investigate the killings during the protests.

They also agreed for the gradual removal, under the supervision of international organizations, of makeshift roadblocks that have snarled traffic and curbed trade.

“This is a positive agreement that makes us think that violence will not escalate,” said Juan Sebastian Chamorro, a leader with the Civil Alliance for Justice, the umbrella organization of civic groups. “If conditions are not met, then peaceful civic protests will resume.”

The talks, which resumed earlier Friday after being suspended, were marred by fresh violence in the capital, Managua, and disagreements between negotiators over the international inquiry.

A Reuters witness heard gunfire and saw police advancing with assault rifles in a neighborhood near a university campus. University students have led demonstrations against what they say is Ortega’s growing authoritarian rule.

The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, which has monitored the violence, said 170 people were killed in the eight weeks of clashes between pro-Ortega forces armed with assault rifles and pistols and protesters armed with rocks, slings and homemade mortars.

Ortega’s surprise decision in April to slash pension benefits to cover a widening social security gap triggered the deadly confrontations, the bloodiest since the end of the civil war.

Ortega quickly abandoned the planned spending cuts. But the subsequent violent crackdown on protesters fueled nationwide demonstrations against Ortega, who has been in power for more than a decade.

VIDEO: Government Holds Decisive Bhutan Democracy Forum

Sat, 06/16/2018 - 08:00
Bhutan King during a royal visit to Japan in 2011 – link

The government-run Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy recently held a fascinating discussion by Bhutanese officials about the planned transition to democracy. With financial support from the United Nations Development Programme’s Good Governance project the Bhutan Centre for Media is to “nurture democracy in Bhutan through civic engagement, public discourse and media literate citizens”. All levels of the Bhutanese government have been democratically elected since 2011 after the rolling out of reforms by Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and his father.

The video is about 50 minutes. Take a look:

Leaked Erdogan Video Stokes Turkish Vote-Rigging Fears

Sat, 06/16/2018 - 07:55

VOA – ENGLISH

A leaked video of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vote sparked fears of possible vote rigging ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for June 24.

The video shows Erdogan telling party officials to secure majorities on ballot box monitoring committees to “finish the job in Istanbul before it has even started.”

In the video, Erdogan also comments on the pro-Kurdish HDP: “I can’t speak these words outside [publicly]. I am speaking them with you here. Why? Because if the HDP falls below the election threshold, it would mean that we would be in a much better place.”

The HDP is hovering around the 10 percent electoral threshold needed to enter parliament. Failure to pass the threshold would result in HDP votes being transferred to the party’s chief rival in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, the ruling AKP. That would give the AKP around 60 parliamentary seats, which, analysts say, could prove decisive in the closely fought campaign.

The video of the closed-door Istanbul meeting held earlier this month was published on social media by an attending official. The official quickly removed the recording, but not before it went viral.

“AKP chairman Erdogan openly incites people to commit a crime. He plans to steal our votes by cheating and pressure to bring us below the election threshold,” tweeted the HDP.

Pledge on election security

“I watched the video of Erdogan. I felt very sad for Turkey,” Muharrem Ince, the presidential candidate of the opposition CHP, said Friday. “He [Erdogan] hopes for a solution with these tricks because he has not internalized democracy; he does not believe in it. Because he does not believe in it, he thinks he can succeed by leaving certain parties below the threshold with tricks, but this time it will not work.”

Ince also pledged to ensure the security of voting. “We will protect the ballot boxes. …I don’t want my nation or people to feel any doubt about this,” he added.

Erdogan has so far refused to comment on the video, but analysts warn the controversy will only fuel existing concerns. “Already there are extreme doubts about the security of the polling stations,” political scientist Cengiz Aktar said. “The entire system has been redesigned to ensure Mr. Erdogan and his party will win the upcoming elections.”

Last year’s ballot proposal to extend presidential powers won narrow approvalamid allegations of fraud. International monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe strongly criticized the vote, highlighting the use of ballots without an official stamp. Stamping is seen as an essential measure to prevent tampering.

Shortly before calling the June elections, the government pushed through electoral changes, including allowing the use of unstamped votes, relocating some polling stations and allowing security personnel at those venues.

The government said the measures ensured the security of the vote, in particular in southeast Turkey, which has been a center of fighting against Kurdish insurgents.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch strongly criticized the move. “There are concerns that the decision is designed to — and will — prevent effective monitoring of fairness at the polls and that the presence of police and gendarmes could intimidate voters from voting for their chosen party if it is not part of the AKP alliance,” the rights group said.

Voter suppression assertions

More than 140,000 voters will have to travel as far as 30 kilometers to reach polling stations that were moved in the predominantly Kurdish southeast. Critics say the areas affected are strongholds of the HDP and that the move is aimed at voter suppression, which authorities deny.

The monitoring of voter stations, particularly in the predominantly Kurdish region, is seen as key by the opposition to ensuring a fair vote. Sinan Ulgen of the Istanbul-based Edam research institution said voter security concerns are bringing together a traditionally factious opposition.

“The opposition now is better organized, compared to the past, even to [last year’s] referendum, especially the emergence of the Iyi and Saddet parties, which are part of the opposition. Because in the past, election monitoring by the opposition rested on the shoulders of the CHP in most of the country and the pro-Kurdish HDP in the southeast of the country,” Ulgen said.

Opposition cooperation over voter security has led to ideological barriers being broken down. The Iyi, a hardline Turkish nationalist party, and the pro-Kurdish HDPare now collaborating as part of a broader alliance to ensure a fair vote.

“They are in talks to coordinate their approach to prevent any election fraud. Whether it is sufficient, we shall see,” Ulgen said.

VIDEO: The Internet Challenges Democracy in India and Indonesia

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 19:10
link

Two democratic giants, India and Indonesia, are finding that the growth of the internet has produced unexpected challenges. A recent discussion held in Hong Kong at the Asia Society was just posted on YouTube. Two separate descriptions of the event were provided by the Asia Society:

In a conversation moderated by Duncan Macintosh, CEO and executive director of the APNIC Foundation; Managing Director and CEO of Netmagic Sharad Sanghi; Sylvia Sumarlin, chair of the Indonesian Information Technology Federation; and Director General of APNIC Paul Wilson provided insights on how the internet is revolutionizing the economy. The panelists discuss the rise of the internet, its challenges, and how internet development has led to an increase in smartphone and app users as well as a rise in e-commerce.

And also:

The Internet in Asia is increasingly vital to the region’s development and efficiency. India and Indonesia are two of the region’s largest Internet economies with a combined population of almost two billion people. While they are being transformed by Internet-driven innovation, each has its own special characteristics in terms of challenges and opportunities. Leading proponents of the Internet in the Asia Pacific and the Internet communities in India and Indonesia will provide insights on how the Internet is revolutionizing these economies.

Some information was provided about the participants:

  • Sharad Sanghi is Managing Director and CEO of Netmagic which he founded in 1998, and is now an NTT Communications Company. Netmagic is India’s leading managed hosting and cloud service provider, with over 1,100 employees and nine data centers delivering services to over 2,000 customers across the globe. With over 20 years’ experience, he is experienced in developing Internet backbone infrastructure and providing Internet services. Mr Sanghi graduated from IIT Bombay and received his Master’s degree from Columbia University.
  • Sylvia Sumarlin is Chair of the Indonesian Information Technology Federation which represents 14 professional IT associations. Ms. Sumarlin leads efforts to advise the government on a national ICT roadmap and regulations that encourage the use of ICT and promote local IT industries. In 1995 she established and led Dyviacom Intrabumi (DNET), one of Indonesia’s first ISPs. She also founded two other companies specializing in chipset development and defence activity. Ms. Sumarlin received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Syracuse University.
  • Paul Wilson has nearly 30 years’ involvement with the Internet in Asia, and almost 20 years as the Director General of APNIC, the Regional Internet address Registry for the Asia Pacific. He has led APNIC’s development as a provider of critical Internet services and as a key contributor to Internet growth and development in the region. Mr. Wilson has worked as an expert and leader across many communities and organisations involved in Internet development, including network operators, non-profit organisations, and governments.
  • Duncan Macintosh is CEO and Executive Director of the APNIC Foundation. The Foundation supports internet development in the Asia Pacific, particularly capacity building, infrastructure and technical communities. Mr. Macintosh has spent more than 20 years working in development, technology, and media in Asia. He has established foundations in Hong Kong and has extensive experience in innovation, global development and capacity building.

The video is about an hour. Take a look: