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Monday, December 09, 2019

New Right-Wing Smear Campaign Against Parkland Survivor

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.


Stoneman Douglas high school student Emma Gonzalez’s words, “We call BS,” have already become iconic, adorning thousands of placards at this weekend’s March for Our Lives rally across the country. Now the right is attempting to weaponize the Parkland survivor’s newfound fame in the form of a photoshopped image of her tearing up a copy of the U.S. Constitution.The fake image, which first appeared on the website 4chan on a “politically incorrect’ board,” according to CNN, received a “signal boost” from actor Adam Baldwin on Saturday and has been making the rounds on social media ever since. Gab, the preferred network of the alt-right, tweeted out the gif with the caption, “Not gonna happen.” The account later sent out a followup tweet:

This is hardly the first attack on the Parkland shooting survivors, or even Gonzalez herself. Over the weekend, right-wing commenters disparaged the teen activist for sporting a Cuban flag patch on her jacket during her rally speech. Prior to that, pundits and even a handful of politicians accused Parkland student David Hogg of being a so-called crisis actor.

“The attacks being lobbied against Emma follow the all-too-familiar patterns: she’s an opinionated woman, she’s Latinx, she is queer,” notes Teen Vogue’s Phillip Picardi. “Some say those are strikes already against her when confronting the establishment.”

Emily C. Bell is a news writer at AlterNet.

After The Washington Amtrak Crash, Why On Earth Does Trump Want To Cut Transportation Spending?

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

train derailment in Washington that killed several people and has left dozens still in the hospital has reopened a conversation about train infrastructure and safety. Trump jumped into the conversation about the train derailment via Twitter. Before even mentioning those who died or were injured, he tweeted:

The irony of Trump’s tweet though, is that his budget proposal actually calls for cuts to transportation infrastructure, as journalist Phil Elliot pointed out:

Amtrak Cascades 501 (the train that crashed) likely wouldn’t be affected by these budget cuts, since, as Amtrak told ABC, the route is not “classified as long-distance.” This makes Trump’s tweet even more nonsensical, and casts it as a clearly opportunistic political move to push for his proposed cuts. As the Washington Post reported in May, subsidies for long-distance Amtrak paths would be hit hard, as would money for new construction.

With all eyes on questions over transit spending and safety, the Washington derailment opens a larger conversation about investment into infrastructure, particularly safety measures. As an investigation into Monday’s crash is ongoing, two contributing factors include the speed the train was traveling (an estimated 50 mph above the limit), as well as the absence of the safety measure Positive Train Control, or PTC.

According to CNN, PTC “can automatically slow down and stop a train if it senses the locomotive is going too fast or could get into an accident.” PTC was set-up on part of the tracks that the Amtrak train was traveling on, but was not functioning yet, according to the company that owns these tracks. As CNN reported, the start date for PTC operations on this segment was between April 1 and June 30 of 2018.

The Washington derailment isn’t the first time PTC has come up in connection to train crashes. The debate over installation and cost of PTC was ignited in 2008 following the death of 25 in California. Though the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 mandated the implementation of PTC by the end of 2015, this comply date has been moved to the end of 2018, and has the possibility of exceptions made to comply by 2020. If Trump really wanted to prevent more crashes like the one in Washington, he would support full, immediate implementation of the Rail Safety Improvement Act—not further cuts to Amtrak.

The cost of installing PTC has slowed the process, but train derailments and accidents have continued to occur since 2008. In addition, government cuts have been made to Amtrak’s budget even after train crashes. As Politico reported in 2015, almost 20 percent of Amtrak’s budget was cut the day after eight people died in a Philadelphia derailment. Though PTC was implemented in the train in question in Philadelphia, it had not been installed on the tracks. The technology must be present and operating in both.

The United States is struggling in how to actually return to an age of high-functioning trains that serve people’s needs while transporting them safely. As Jon Worth argued in Politico shortly after the Philadelphia crash, looking at a European train model shows that things like PTC and a stable and clear source of funding are imperative in achieving this goal.


Emily C. Bell is a news writer at AlterNet.

Fox News Shrugged Off Tuesday’s Historic Elections As If They Were No Big Deal

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.


Election night 2017 saw an exceptional number of wins for the Democratic Party, especially in gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia. Fox News hummed along in its news coverage Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, and managed to essentially skip over reporting this news.

As Chris Hooks tweeted, Fox News’ coverage Tuesday night covered topics including Trump’s speech in South Korea and Mark Fuhrman of the OJ Simpson trial speaking on gun control. When the results of the Virginia election were discussed, it was incredibly brief:

With a nine percentage point margin, Democrat Ralph Northam beat Republican Ed Gillespie to be Virginia’s governor. Many saw the race in Virginia as both a temperature check of the impact of Trump, and are gleaning lessons about voter turn-out for the 2018 midterms.

Sean Hannity commented briefly on the results, noting “those results in Virginia, New Jersey, and New York, by the way—not states that Donald Trump won.” Laura Ingraham’s contribution included referencing Hillary Clinton’s emails and saying “Gillespie never jumped on board the Trump train. He’s an old Bush hand. I think he gave it his best shot. He is who he is—not a populist conservative.”

The end of Chris Christie’s eight years in office in New Jersey will see Democrat Phil Murphy taking the spot instead of Republican Kim Guadagno. In addition to the gubernatorial races, history was made when two openly transgender candidates won seats — Danica Roem in the Virginia House of Delegates and Andrea Jenkins (who is also the first openly transgender candidate of color elected) in the Minneapolis City Council. Other results of election night 2017 include the election of Kathy Tran, making her the first Asian-American woman to serve in the Virginia House of Delegates, and attorney Larry Krasner being elected the district attorney of Philadelphia.

Even when comparing Fox News’ homepage to other news sites, the coverage emphasis was drastically different.

On Wednesday morning, Fox & Friends had its ear turned to other topics, focusing on the anniversary of Trump’s election, with a panel that resulted in arguments about the recent NFL protests.

During the week of October 30, Fox News was the most watched cable news network. But if viewers had been watching Tuesday night, or even Wednesday morning they would have missed the historic election results.

Emily C. Bell is a news writer at AlterNet.


Racist Trump-Inspired Campaign Flyers Viciously Target Indian-American And Chinese-American Candidates In NJ

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.


As the first elections post-Trump approach next week, his campaign slogans—and hatred—are seeping into election materials in Edison, New Jersey. Campaign flyers, received on Wednesday and sent out by an unknown group, target two school board candidates using racist and anti-immigrant language.

The flyers center the slogan “Make Edison Great Again,” a variation of Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.” It also stamps the word “deport” underneath the photos of the candidates and reads, “Stop Jerry Shi & Falguni Patel From taking over our School Board.”

Photo Credit: Submitted photo/ NJ 101.5

Falguni Patel is a Democratic committeewoman and an immigration lawyer. NJ 101.5 reported that Patel said she “was born and raised in New Jersey. To see the word ‘deport’ on my picture—where are you going to deport me to? Really, it’s just outrageous.”

The other side of the flyers feature a large stop sign with six statements including “Stop the overcrowding!” and “Stop the outsiders!” above the larger-print statement “Let’s take back our Edison & our Schools.”

Photo credit: NJ 101.5

This wording also mirrors that of Trump’s campaign, when he also used the phrase “Time to take back our country.”


The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog, which gathers reports of incidents of “bias-related harassment and intimidation around the country,” reported that in the month after the 2016 election, “the total number has surpassed the 1,000 mark.”

Edison Township, which is less than 40 miles away from New York City, is diverse— reports that according to the U.S. census, “nearly half of Edison’s approximately 102,000 residents are Asian… About 45 percent of the town’s residents are foreign born.”

The flyer also explicitly mentions “Chinese school,” “Indian school” and “Cricket fields” as examples of “Chinese and Indians are taking over our town.”NJ 101.5 reports that “a Chinese community group pays the school district rent to hold Chinese language classes in classrooms” during the weekend. In a 2014 feature published on about cricket and Indian immigrants in New Jersey, it reports that there are only “about 20 to 25 cricket fields in Central Jersey.”

NJ 101.5 reported that Patel said though she “wasn’t always being received so well” while campaigning, in regard to the flyers she “didn’t expect anything like that. We live in such a diverse town, it’s very shocking somebody would put that in writing.”

The mayoral candidates, incumbent Democrat Tom Lankey and Republican Keith Hahn, decried the campaign flyers, saying they are “despicable” and “shameful and disgraceful,” respectively. Both also called for those behind the materials to be discovered. The flyers violate New Jersey election law as they do not say who funded them.

In a statement to NJ 101.5, Lankey said:

“It has become a sad reality that in our polarized political atmosphere, some people suddenly feel empowered to publicly express these vile nativist ideas. Make no mistake, we will do everything we can to expose the shameful people behind this.”

With the rise in hate incidents following the 2016 election and the distribution of materials like the flyers in Edison, it is crucial to monitor next week’s elections for more incidents of racial hatred and report them if they occur.

Emily C. Bell is a news writer at AlterNet.