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Fox News Fabricates Photo Of Gunman In Seattle ‘Autonomous Zone’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Legal journalist Mark Joseph Stern noticed on Friday that Fox News added a man carrying a military-assault rifle into images of Seattle's Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) -- a police-free area currently occupied by protesters against police violence.

Fox News featured the images on its website without any mention that they had been altered. Moreover, the images placed the exact same gunman in two different photos. In one, the gunman's left arm had been weirdly cut off in a straight line from the shoulder to the elbow.

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Are You Worried About The Right Epidemic?

The deadly plague mushrooms. The list of its victims grows longer. Yet, the mercurial president and his lap-dog lieutenants send out mixed messages, promising measures to keep us safer, then backing away from any corrective that might save lives.

I'm not talking about COVID-19 (the disease caused by the infamous coronavirus). I'm talking about gun violence, which has long been a pandemic in the United States. On Wednesday, a troubled employee of Milwaukee's Molson Coors brewery killed five of his colleagues on the sprawling campus before fatally shooting himself. According to The Washington Post, it was the first mass killing of 2020 — defined as an attack in which four or more people are killed. Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said it was Wisconsin's 11th mass shooting (wherein four or more people are injured) since 2004.

Let that sink in for a moment. In the last decade and a half, one state — and far from the most populous — has had 11 mass shootings. Yet, the Milwaukee atrocity barely broke through news coverage of President Donald J. Trump's disastrous press conference on his administration's response to the recent coronavirus outbreak.

Even so, mass shootings draw more news media attention than the routine gun carnage that wreaks havoc on communities across the country. We have grown inured to the child shot dead by a stray bullet on a playground, to the crazed motorist firing at the driver who cut him off in traffic, to the estranged husband gunning down his wife.

In 2017, the last year for which authoritative federal data were available, about three-quarters of all homicides in the U.S. were committed with firearms, according to the Pew Research Center. And here's something we don't discuss: About 60 percent of firearms deaths are suicides.

For some perspective, consider these statistics: So far, there have been 60 reported cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. — with, luckily, no deaths so far (though that could quickly change). By contrast, nearly 40,000 Americans were killed by firearms last year, and there's no reason to expect this year to alter the statistics significantly.

We have panicked over COVID-19: Certainly, Trump's casual attitude in minimizing a possible pandemic — even as his medical experts had just told the public to expect more cases — did little to reassure us. We buy masks, hand sanitizer and household antimicrobial cleaners. We avoid shaking hands with business acquaintances, we cancel travel, we swear off ocean cruises.

But we don't vote out the politicians who cower before the gun lobby. When 20 little children and six adults were gunned down in Sandy Hook in 2012, I was certain that Congress would finally find the guts to stand up to the National Rifle Association and its power-mad allies. It didn't.

Now, we just shrug when Congress fails to pass the sensible measures that the overwhelming majority of Americans support, such as background checks for private gun sales. Instead, we hire security guards to patrol our sanctuaries during worship and teach our children to cower under their desks during active-shooter drills. We lay wreaths at the scenes of mass shootings.

While we have not conquered the opioid epidemic, we have found the will to bring massive lawsuits against the pharmaceutical manufacturers who blanketed the landscape with their addictive drugs. But gun manufacturers are protected against lawsuits, even though their deadly products do so much harm. Worse yet, the gun lobby — strangely enough — has even fought new technology for "smart guns," which could only be fired by authorized users. Why? What sort of madness would inspire that stance?

Recently, I listened to my fifth grader's school principal explain that the district is considering adopting a new approach for active-shooter drills. Instead of teaching the children to hide in a closet — the shelter-in-place technique is outdated, it seems — schools may be telling kids to run, to scatter or even to tackle the shooter. This is the instruction that could be given to 11-year-olds. As many psychologists have pointed out, that sort of training is likely to scare kids into nightmares while doing little to protect them from harm.

Trump, who is wrong about so many things, was misinformed when he suggested at his press conference that scientists are close to finding a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus. They are not. But they will find a cure for that coronavirus much faster than for the firearms madness that is killing so many of us.

Struggling NRA Gave Big Raises To Executives

The National Rifle Association has had a bad couple of years, hemorrhaging membership, money, and public support. But that did not stop the group from giving its top officials huge pay raises last year, including a 57 percent increase to chief executive Wayne LaPierre.

The numbers, disclosed in the gun lobby giant’s latest tax filings, were reported by the Washington Post on Tuesday night. Between 2017 and 2018, compensation for the NRA’s top officials increased by 41 percent as the group’s spending on its core programs dropped significantly.

Perks for top officials, the disclosures revealed, include charter and first-class jet travel for the leadership and their guests, as well as memberships at health and social clubs, plus housing expenses.

LaPierre received overall compensation in 2018 of nearly $2.2 million, even as the NRA reported a $55 million decline in income, and its 2018 campaign spending was less than half of its totals for 2014 and 2016 congressional races. It was reportedly so cash-strapped that it even slashed spending on free coffee for its employees.

Meanwhile, its revenue from membership dues have been dropping for years, declining by $35 million in 2017 alone. Dozens of its corporate partners have fled in response to online pressure, and it was forced to shut down its failed NRATV streaming service earlier this year.

Despite its major financial struggles, the NRA reportedly considered buying LaPierre a $6 million mansion in a gated Dallas-area golf club to protect him from potential attacks after a 2018 mass shooting left 17 people dead at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

That shooting — and the NRA’s fierce opposition to any meaningful action to prevent similar future attacks — began a sea-change in public opinion. For the first time since 1999, polling has found more Americans view the NRA unfavorably than favorably. A Fox News poll in August, taken after two more horrific mass shootings, found just 42 percent support for the group, versus 49 percent disapproval. Even among gun-owning households, the group’s support dropped to 56 percent from 67 percent a year earlier.

Still, the group continues to maintain a stranglehold over Donald Trump and congressional Republicans. After initially expressing support for universal background checks and red flag laws in the wake of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio over the summer, Trump quickly caved to LaPierre’s demand that he “stop the games” and get back to blocking gun legislation.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Senate Probe Finds NRA Knowingly Served Russian Agent’s Scheme

Earlier this year, Maria Butina was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy charges. The Kremlin-linked founder of Russia’s equivalent to the National Rifle Association’s had, without registering as a foreign agent, been working to infiltrate America’s NRA and other conservative organizations.

A new report by the Senate Finance Committee’s Democratic staff reveals that the NRA knew about Butina’s links to Vladimir Putin’s regime and welcomed her anyway, offering her access to the conservative movement.

The same, they found, was true of Butina’s then-boss, former Russian government official Alexander Torshin — a “lifetime member” of the NRA who was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury in April 2018.

According to their investigation, “the NRA, its officers, board members, and donors engaged in a years-long effort to facilitate the U.S.-based activities of Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin.” They also found that some NRA officials who traveled to Moscow for a December 2015 meeting with Butina’s group used the trip for their own business interests, a possible breach of the NRA’s tax-exempt purpose.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the Finance Committee’s ranking member, observed that the officer’s “apparent use of the NRA for personal gain fits a larger pattern of reported self-dealing” and suggests the organization may be violating tax laws.

The report notes an email sent to two senior NRA staffers in which Butina wrote that the aim of that 2015 trip was “many powerful figures in the Kremlin are counting on Torshin to prove his American connections.” She also offered to attendees that she might be able to introduce them to “Russia’s highest leader,” Putin himself.

Despite knowing this, the NRA apparently used its own resources to pay for both Torshin and Butina to attend conservative political various events.

Butina repeatedly showed up at 2016 campaign events and even got to ask Donald Trump a question at a 2015 FreedomFest event in Las Vegas.

In a 2016 email, Butina amusingly told ThinkProgress, “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but there is no international conspiracy at work surrounding the organization I founded, ‘The Right to Bear Arms.'”

“The Right to Bear Arms and your American NRA are completely separate organizations,” she continued. “We have no political or financial ties of any kind. Though we are literally ‘comrades in arms’ in a shared belief that a right to own a firearm makes people safe.”

Published with permission of The American Independent.