• Hate on the leftAt anti-Semitism debate, MP Mann says that “Zionist” is an “insult” in Corbyn’s party

    In a powerful speech during a debate about anti-Semitism in the British parliament on Tuesday, Labor MP John Mann said “Any Jewish person has the right to say…’I am a Zionist’ and I have no right to deny them that and those that do are racists.” Mann observed that the word “Zionist” has become “a pejorative insult by the Labor Party” under leader Jeremey Corbyn, effectively denying Jews the right to their own homeland.

  • Waco: 25 years onWaco: how the siege became a symbol of government oppression

    By Andrew Crome

    A 51-day confrontation between the FBI and the Branch Davidians – a small offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventists – came to a tragic end outside Waco, Texas on 19 April 1993. Controversy still rages over whether the Davidians started the fire in order to commit mass suicide, or if it was the FBI’s assault which was responsible for the inferno. Researchers have described the siege as a “critical incident” – an event that highlights and exacerbates existing fault lines in society. “Waco” has therefore become cultural shorthand for expressing tensions within American politics and culture.

  • Waco: 25 years onThe deaths of 76 Branch Davidians in April 1993 could have been avoided – so why didn’t anyone care?

    By Catherine Wessinger

    Throughout the 6-week ordeal near Waco, Texas, media coverage of the ATF raid and FBI siege depicted the Branch Davidians as a cult with David Koresh exercising total control over mesmerized followers. It was a narrative that federal law enforcement agencies were happy to encourage, and it resonated with the public’s understanding of so-called “cults.” The story that has emerged is much more complex – and makes one wonder if the tragedy could have been avoided altogether.

  • The Russia connectionActivists cry foul as Russian court orders Telegram app blocked

    A Moscow court has issued an order to block access to Telegram, ruling in favor of the state and against the defiant self-exiled Russian entrepreneur who created the popular messaging app. The 13 April ruling was expected, but is certain to deepen concerns that the government is seeking to close avenues for dissent as President Vladimir Putin heads into a new six-year term. Amnesty International warned that blocking Telegram would be “the latest in a series of attacks on online freedom of expression” in Russia.

  • Climate mitigationCarbon taxes could make significant dent in climate change, study finds

    By David L. Chandler

    Putting a price on carbon, in the form of a fee or tax on the use of fossil fuels, coupled with returning the generated revenue to the public in one form or another, can be an effective way to curb emissions of greenhouse gases. That’s one of the conclusions of an extensive analysis of several versions of such proposals, carried out by researchers at MIT and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

  • PrivacyNew approaches are needed to protect consumer data

    Facebook’s current privacy crisis and questions about how Google gathers, uses and stores our personal information demonstrate an urgent need to review and replace inadequate and outdated ways to regulate data and information, according to a business law expert.

  • Election securityPaper trails and random audits could secure all elections – don’t save them just for recounts in close races

    By Eugene Vorobeychik

    As states begin to receive millions of federal dollars to secure the 2018 primary and general elections, officials around the country will have to decide how to spend it to best protect the integrity of the democratic process. If voters don’t trust the results, it doesn’t matter whether an election was actually fair or not. Right now, the most visible election integrity effort in the U.S. involves conducting recounts in especially close races. A similar approach could be applied much more broadly.

  • CybersecurityGeorgia passes anti-cyber whistleblower bill

    Despite the vigorous objections of the cybersecurity community, the Georgia legislature has passed a bill which would open independent researchers who identify vulnerabilities in computer systems to prosecution and up to a year in jail. Critics of the bill say that Georgia has positioned itself as a hub for cybersecurity research, but the bill would make cybersecurity firms think twice about relocating to Georgia.

  • GunsFormer Justice Stevens’s call for repealing the2nd Amendment: Compelling, hazardous

    On 27 March, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote an op-ed article calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment. Gregory Magarian, a former clerk for Justice Stevens and now a law professor specializing in constitutional law, says that Justice Stevens makes a compelling historical and legal case for amending the Constitution to repeal the Second Amendment, but that the path he advocates would present distinctive challenges and hazards.

  • Climate threatsA court case could set precedent for climate change litigation

    A closely watched federal trial pitting two cities against major oil companies has taken surprising and unorthodox turns. Stanford researchers examine the case, which could reshape the landscape of legal claims for climate change-related damages.

  • Considered opinionRussians are hacking our public-commenting system, too

    By Jessica Rosenworcel

    Russia has found yet another way surreptitiously to influence U.S. public policy: Stealing the identities of real Americans and then using these identities to file fake comments during the comment submission period preceding the formulation of public policies. For example, in the course of its deliberations on the future of Internet openness, the FCC logged about half a million comments sent from Russian email addresses – but, even more unnerving, it received nearly eight million comments from email domains associated with FakeMailGenerator.com with almost identical wording. Researchers, journalists, and public servants have found a wide range of fake comments and stolen identities in the public proceedings of the Labor Department, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and Securities and Exchange Commission.

  • Hate groupsWomen’s March organizer again attends Farrakhan speech

    The ADL has called him “the leading anti-Semite in America,” and the SPLC has designated his Nation of Islam a hate group. True to form, Rev. Louis Farrakhan, in his annual Saviors’ Day address in Chicago on 25 February, claimed that “the powerful Jews are my enemy”; that “the Jews have control over agencies of those agencies of government”; and thatJews are “the mother and father of apartheid.” These anti-Semitic rants did not prevent Tamika D. Mallory, one of four presidents of the Women’s March, to participated in the 25 February rally. Mallory has on multiple occasions posted on her social media platforms about attending events with Farrakhan, and two other co-founders of the Women’s March, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez, have also praised and appeared at events with Farrakhan.

  • Predictive policingAI profiling: the social and moral hazards of “predictive” policing

    By Mike Rowe

    While the use of AI predictions in police and law enforcement is still in its early stages, it is vital to scrutinize any warning signs that may come from its use. One standout example is a 2016 ProPublica investigation which found that COMPAS software was biased against black offenders. Society needs to maintain a critical perspective on the use of AI on moral and ethical grounds. Not least because the details of the algorithms, data sources and the inherent assumptions on which they make calculations are often closely guarded secrets. Those secrets are in the hands of the specialist IT companies that develop them who want to maintain confidentiality for commercial reasons. The social, political and criminal justice inequalities likely to arise should make us question the potential of predictive policing.

  • Mass shootingsAnother mass shooting: An update on U.S. gun laws

    “The problem of mass shootings has been effectively addressed in other countries, with Australia being the most notable success story,” says Stanford Law Professor John Donohue III. “After a devastating mass shooting in 1996, Australia banned all semi-automatic rifles (a move far more stringent than the U.S. federal assault weapons ban), with no grandfathering of existing weapons––it was a real ban. The result is that Australia, which had been averaging close to one mass shooting a year over the prior fifteen years (a rate that was higher than the U.S. rate of mass murder at the time when adjusted for population), has now gone almost twenty-two years without a mass shooting––an astonishing achievement of public policy.” Donohue adds that Australia took many additional gun control steps, such as banning “personal protection” as a reason for obtaining a gun permit. “Importantly, their rates of homicide, suicide, and robbery have all trended down contrary to the assertions and predictions of the NRA,” Donohue says.

  • Border wallFederal judge rules White House can continue building border wall

    By Julián Aguilar

    U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who the president once asserted could not be fair to Trump because of Curiel’s Mexican heritage, has ruled in favor of the White House in a lawsuit over construction of a border wall.