Steven Seagal accused of harassment by Arrested Development actor Portia De Rossi

2875.jpg?w=300&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&f

Incident, which saw the actor allegedly ‘unzip his trousers’ during an audition in his office, follows similar claims of misconduct made by three other women

Portia De Rossi has accused actor and producer Steven Seagal of sexually harassing her during an audition for one of his films.

The allegations, which were shared by the Arrested Development actor on Twitter, follows similar claims of misconduct made against Seagal by three other women.

Continue reading…

Feminist Fuck Yeah: Philly Just Elected Top Prosecutor Who Believes #BlackLivesMatter

On Tuesday, among resounding electoral victories for the left  — including a trans candidate, Danica Roem and a socialist candidate, Lee Carter in Virginia — there was one that stood out especially to those interested in criminal justice, mass incarceration and police brutality: progressive civil rights and defense attorney Larry Krasner’s election as District Attorney in Philadelphia.

Krasner’s career so far has involved suing the Philadelphia Police Department 75 times, having recognized there is systemic racism in law enforcement. He has campaigned against mass incarceration and represented protesters, including those from Black Lives Matter, ACT UP, and DACA Dreamers pro bono. His priorities include ending the criminalization of poverty by keeping low-income community members out of prison and improving access to services for those with drug addiction and mental illness. He has promised to abolish money bail — a hot-button issue for those on the left — and not to seek the death penalty.

Krasner has a long way ahead and has noted this himself. Prosecutorial impunity, and the lack of accountability for prosecutors who misuse the already broken system, is well documented. Within such a broken system, many progressives argue that there is no way to be a “good” prosecutor and fix the system from within. As Professor and Criminal Justice Advocate Abbe Smith argues: “Prosecution is inherently political. It is impossible for prosecutors to avoid political and public pressure, and even the best sometimes cave in to it. It doesn’t matter how experienced or popular the chief prosecutor.”

Similarly, law professor and former prosecutor Paul Buttler has written, of his disillusionment with changing the criminal system from within: “You’re not really allowed to use the power that you have in a way that makes a big difference. Your main work, as a line prosecutor, is to put people in prison, and if you seem too uncool with that fact, you start to arouse suspicion.” Indeed, while so-called “progressive” prosecutors have been elected before, they have often been met with backlash from the criminal justice community, who point out that even the most reform-minded prosecutors continue to uphold the same patterns of racist mass incarceration, disproportionate sentencing and punishing marginalized communities.

Krasner, however, has the potential to stand out from this crowd: he is decidedly farther left of any of the other popular liberal prosecutors. And perhaps more importantly, he isn’t a career prosecutor but is rather a total outsider to the system: free of the burdens of career prosecution and the ways in which the system can subsume even its most diverse and progressive hopefuls into working for it. Krasner has been endorsed by progressives in a way that prosecutors don’t usually get endorsed, no matter how reform-oriented they are: he’s backed by the Democratic Socialists of America and unions and activist groups and campaigned for by Black Lives Matter Activists. There is a real belief and energy that Krasner could “structurally [destabilize] our carceral nightmares of white supremacy from within.”

The biggest takeaway from Krasner’s election, though — and Roem’s, and Carter’s — is that the country is desperate for progressive, left-leaning, and drastic change. Krasner was described as unelectable. Carter challenged Virginia’s House Whip, and Roem went up against the author of Virginia’s bathroom bill, despite centrists and conservatives decrying left commitment to trans rights as a losing cause politically. These victories are local, but they are also “proxy election of sorts for how we think about national politics.” Every single time Democrats have chosen to go left, rather than the center, they have triumphed against fascist, toxic right-wing and Trumpian politics. Every time they’ve pulled back to the center, they’ve failed energize and lost. The country is ready for fewer people in jail, the end of racist policies that lead to mass incarceration, the death of police brutality, the beginning of more progressive and even radical change in how we think about law and order, justice, welfare and social security. The country wants Democrats to ally less with the white upper middle class, and the interests of finance and Wall Street and moderate centrists, and more with Black Lives Matter activists, environmental and climate change campaigners, socialists, and trans and LGBT radical activists.  Anyone who wants to defeat Trump should take this hunger seriously and begin to embrace a progressive agenda for 2018 and 2020 as the only viable, pragmatic and just way forward.

Header image via

Richard Dawkins on Twitter: ““This is what happens when the people vote.” Yes. And if you were too lazy, apathetic or complacent to vote in 2016, you are to blame for Br… https://t.co/h1jE53TkNj”

amen

“This is what happens when the people vote.” Yes. And if you were too lazy, apathetic or complacent to vote in 2016, you are to blame for Brexit (if British) Trump (if American).http://cnn.it/2yHoWqt 

A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories

By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
August 28, 2016

STOCKHOLM — With a vigorous national debate underway on whether Sweden should enter a military partnership with NATO, officials in Stockholm suddenly encountered an unsettling problem: a flood of distorted and outright false information on social media, confusing public perceptions of the issue.

The claims were alarming: If Sweden, a non-NATO member, signed the deal, the alliance would stockpile secret nuclear weapons on Swedish soil; NATO could attack Russia from Sweden without government approval; NATO soldiers, immune from prosecution, could rape Swedish women without fear of criminal charges.

They were all false, but the disinformation had begun spilling into the traditional news media, and as the defense minister, Peter Hultqvist, traveled the country to promote the pact in speeches and town hall meetings, he was repeatedly grilled about the bogus stories.

“People were not used to it, and they got scared, asking what can be believed, what should be believed?” said Marinette Nyh Radebo, Mr. Hultqvist’s spokeswoman.

As often happens in such cases, Swedish officials were never able to pin down the source of the false reports. But they, numerous analysts and experts in American and European intelligence point to Russia as the prime suspect, noting that preventing NATO expansion is a centerpiece of the foreign policy of President Vladimir V. Putin, who invaded Georgia in 2008 largely to forestall that possibility.

In Crimea, eastern Ukraine and now Syria, Mr. Putin has flaunted a modernized and more muscular military. But he lacks the economic strength and overall might to openly confront NATO, the European Union or the United States. Instead, he has invested heavily in a program of “weaponized” information, using a variety of means to sow doubt and division. The goal is to weaken cohesion among member states, stir discord in their domestic politics and blunt opposition to Russia.

“Moscow views world affairs as a system of special operations, and very sincerely believes that it itself is an object of Western special operations,” said Gleb Pavlovsky, who helped establish the Kremlin’s information machine before 2008. “I am sure that there are a lot of centers, some linked to the state, that are involved in inventing these kinds of fake stories.”

Interactive Feature | Dark Arts: Russia’s Stealth Conflict

The planting of false stories is nothing new; the Soviet Union devoted considerable resources to that during the ideological battles of the Cold War. Now, though, disinformation is regarded as an important aspect of Russian military doctrine, and it is being directed at political debates in target countries with far greater sophistication and volume than in the past.

The flow of misleading and inaccurate stories is so strong that both NATO and the European Union have established special offices to identify and refute disinformation, particularly claims emanating from Russia.

The Kremlin’s clandestine methods have surfaced in the United States, too, American officials say, identifying Russian intelligence as the likely source of leaked Democratic National Committee emails that embarrassed Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

The Kremlin uses both conventional media — Sputnik, a news agency, and RT, a television outlet — and covert channels, as in Sweden, that are almost always untraceable.

Russia exploits both approaches in a comprehensive assault, Wilhelm Unge, a spokesman for the Swedish Security Service, said this year when presenting the agency’s annual report. “We mean everything from internet trolls to propaganda and misinformation spread by media companies like RT and Sputnik,” he said.

The fundamental purpose of dezinformatsiya, or Russian disinformation, experts said, is to undermine the official version of events — even the very idea that there is a true version of events — and foster a kind of policy paralysis.

Disinformation most famously succeeded in early 2014 with the initial obfuscation about deploying Russian forces to seize Crimea. That summer, Russia pumped out a dizzying array of theories about the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine, blaming the C.I.A. and, most outlandishly, Ukrainian fighter pilots who had mistaken the airliner for the Russian presidential aircraft.

The cloud of stories helped veil the simple truth that poorly trained insurgents had accidentally downed the plane with a missile supplied by Russia.

Moscow adamantly denies using disinformation to influence Western public opinion and tends to label accusations of either overt or covert threats as “Russophobia.”

“There is an impression that, like in a good orchestra, many Western countries every day accuse Russia of threatening someone,” Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said at a recent ministry briefing.

Tracing individual strands of disinformation is difficult, but in Sweden and elsewhere, experts have detected a characteristic pattern that they tie to Kremlin-generated disinformation campaigns.

“The dynamic is always the same: It originates somewhere in Russia, on Russia state media sites, or different websites or somewhere in that kind of context,” said Anders Lindberg, a Swedish journalist and lawyer.

“Then the fake document becomes the source of a news story distributed on far-left or far-right-wing websites,” he said. “Those who rely on those sites for news link to the story, and it spreads. Nobody can say where they come from, but they end up as key issues in a security policy decision.”

Although the topics may vary, the goal is the same, Mr. Lindberg and others suggested. “What the Russians are doing is building narratives; they are not building facts,” he said. “The underlying narrative is, ‘Don’t trust anyone.’”

The weaponization of information is not some project devised by a Kremlin policy expert but is an integral part of Russian military doctrine — what some senior military figures call a “decisive” battlefront.

“The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness,” Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff of the Russian Armed Forces, wrote in 2013.

A prime Kremlin target is Europe, where the rise of the populist right and declining support for the European Union create an ever more receptive audience for Russia’s conservative, nationalistic and authoritarian approach under Mr. Putin. Last year, the European Parliament accused Russia of “financing radical and extremist parties” in its member states, and in 2014 the Kremlin extended an $11.7 million loan to the National Front, the extreme-right party in France.

“The Russians are very good at courting everyone who has a grudge with liberal democracy, and that goes from extreme right to extreme left,” said Patrik Oksanen, an editorial writer for the Swedish newspaper group MittMedia. The central idea, he said, is that “liberal democracy is corrupt, inefficient, chaotic and, ultimately, not democratic.”

Another message, largely unstated, is that European governments lack the competence to deal with the crises they face, particularly immigration and terrorism, and that their officials are all American puppets.

In Germany, concerns over immigrant violence grew after a 13-year-old Russian-German girl said she had been raped by migrants. A report on Russian state television furthered the story. Even after the police debunked the claim, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, continued to chastise Germany.

In Britain, analysts said, the Kremlin’s English-language news outlets heavily favored the campaign for the country to leave the European Union, despite their claims of objectivity.

In the Czech Republic, alarming, sensational stories portraying the United States, the European Union and immigrants as villains appear daily across a cluster of about 40 pro-Russia websites.

During NATO military exercises in early June, articles on the websites suggested that Washington controlled Europe through the alliance, with Germany as its local sheriff. Echoing the disinformation that appeared in Sweden, the reports said NATO planned to store nuclear weapons in Eastern Europe and would attack Russia from there without seeking approval from local capitals.

A poll this summer by European Values, a think tank in Prague, found that 51 percent of Czechs viewed the United States’ role in Europe negatively, that only 32 percent viewed the European Union positively and that at least a quarter believed some elements of the disinformation.

“The data show how public opinion is changing thanks to the disinformation on those outlets,” said Jakub Janda, the think tank’s deputy director for public and political affairs. “They try to look like a regular media outlet even if they have a hidden agenda.”

Not all Russian disinformation efforts succeed. Sputnik news websites in various Scandinavian languages failed to attract enough readers and were closed after less than a year.

Both RT and Sputnik portray themselves as independent, alternative voices. Sputnik claims that it “tells the untold,” even if its daily report relies heavily on articles abridged from other sources. RT trumpets the slogan “Question More.”

Both depict the West as grim, divided, brutal, decadent, overrun with violent immigrants and unstable. “They want to give a picture of Europe as some sort of continent that is collapsing,” Mr. Hultqvist, the Swedish defense minister, said in an interview.

RT often seems obsessed with the United States, portraying life there as hellish. On the day President Obama spoke at the Democratic National Convention, for example, it emphasized scattered demonstrations rather than the speeches. It defends the Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, as an underdog maligned by the established news media.

Margarita Simonyan, RT’s editor in chief, said the channel was being singled out as a threat because it offered a different narrative from “the Anglo-American media-political establishment.” RT, she said, wants to provide “a perspective otherwise missing from the mainstream media echo chamber.”

Moscow’s targeting of the West with disinformation dates to a Cold War program the Soviets called “active measures.” The effort involved leaking or even writing stories for sympathetic newspapers in India and hoping that they would be picked up in the West, said Professor Mark N. Kramer, a Cold War expert at Harvard.

The story that AIDS was a C.I.A. project run amok spread that way, and it poisons the discussion of the disease decades later. At the time, before the Soviet Union’s 1991 collapse, the Kremlin was selling communism as an ideological alternative. Now, experts said, the ideological component has evaporated, but the goal of weakening adversaries remains.

In Sweden recently, that has meant a series of bizarre forged letters and news articles about NATO and linked to Russia.

One forgery, on Defense Ministry letterhead over Mr. Hultqvist’s signature, encouraged a major Swedish firm to sell artillery to Ukraine, a move that would be illegal in Sweden. Ms. Nyh Radebo, his spokeswoman, put an end to that story in Sweden, but at international conferences, Mr. Hultqvist still faced questions about the nonexistent sales.

Russia also made at least one overt attempt to influence the debate. During a seminar in the spring, Vladimir Kozin, a senior adviser to the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, a think tank linked to the Kremlin and Russian foreign intelligence, argued against any change in Sweden’s neutral status.

“Do they really need to lose their neutral status?” he said of the Swedes. “To permit fielding new U.S. military bases on their territory and to send their national troops to take part in dubious regional conflicts?”

Whatever the method or message, Russia clearly wants to win any information war, as Dmitry Kiselyev, Russia’s most famous television anchor and the director of the organization that runs Sputnik, made clear recently.

Speaking this summer on the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Information Bureau, Mr. Kiselyev said the age of neutral journalism was over. “If we do propaganda, then you do propaganda, too,” he said, directing his message to Western journalists.

“Today, it is much more costly to kill one enemy soldier than during World War II, World War I or in the Middle Ages,” he said in an interview on the state-run Rossiya 24 network. While the business of “persuasion” is more expensive now, too, he said, “if you can persuade a person, you don’t need to kill him.”

Correction: August 28, 2016

An earlier version of this article misstated the surname of a spokesman for the Swedish Security Service. He is Wilhelm Unge, not Urme.

Correction: September 29, 2016

Because of an editing error, an article on Aug. 29 about the Kremlin’s reliance on disinformation to sow doubt, fear and discord in Europe and the United States referred incorrectly to coverage of the Democratic National Convention by a Russian television outfit, RT. It devoted little time to the speeches, focusing instead on scattered demonstrations, on the day President Obama spoke — not throughout the entire convention.

Follow Neil MacFarquhar on Twitter @NeilMacFarquhar.

Eva Sohlman contributed reporting from Stockholm, and Lincoln Pigman from Moscow.

Trump Is Ceding Global Leadership to China

Contributing Op-Ed Writer
November 8, 2017
Antony J. Blinken
Antony J. Blinken

BEIJING — Amid the pomp that President Xi Jinping of China is bestowing upon his visiting American counterpart, President Trump, it’s hard not to see two leaders — and two countries — heading in very different directions.

Mr. Xi emerged from last month’s Communist Party Congress the undisputed master of the Middle Kingdom. “Xi Jinping Thought” was enshrined in the Constitution — an honor previously granted only to Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. Breaking with precedent, Mr. Xi neglected to anoint a successor — a big hint that he feels emboldened to extend his rule beyond the second five-year term he has just begun. The Economist heralded Mr. Xi with an honorific usually reserved for America’s president: the world’s most powerful man.

Mr. Trump stepped off Air Force One in Beijing on Wednesday with historically low job-approval ratings, just hours after suffering a shellacking in off-year elections. His credibility is cratering abroad — polls have shown a drop in confidence in American leadership.

As the personal trajectories of Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi diverge, so too does the focus of their leadership. While Mr. Trump is obsessed with building walls, Mr. Xi is busy building bridges.

At the World Economic Forum in January, Mr. Xi proclaimed China the new champion of free trade and globalization. His “One Belt, One Road” initiative — with funding from the made-in-Beijing Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank — will invest $1 trillion in linking Asia with Europe through a network of sea routes, roads, railways and, yes, bridges. China will gain access to resources, export its excess industrial capacity and peacefully secure strategic footholds from which to project power.

While Mr. Trump shuns multilateralism and global governance, Mr. Xi increasingly embraces them.

The Trump administration has belittled the United Nations, withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, jettisoned America’s commitment to the Paris climate accord, tried to renege on the nuclear deal with Iran, questioned America’s core alliances in Europe and Asia, disparaged the World Trade Organization and multicountry trade deals, and sought to shut the door on immigrants.

Mr. Xi? He has grabbed leadership of the climate-change agenda, embraced the World Trade Organization’s dispute-resolution system and increased China’s voting shares at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Beijing is forging ahead with a trade pact that would include the major Asian economies plus Australia and New Zealand, but not the United States. China is now one of the leading contributors to the United Nations budget and peacekeeping operations. And Mr. Xi is making a determined play to attract the world’s cutting-edge scientists and innovators to China.

Interactive Feature | Sign Up for the Opinion Today Newsletter Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, the Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.

At home, Mr. Xi is making strategic investments that could allow China to dominate the 21st-century global economy, including in information technology and artificial intelligence — where, Eric Schmidt of Google has warned, China is poised to overtake the United States in the next decade. Mr. Xi is all-in on robotics, aerospace, high-speed rail, new-energy vehicles and advanced medical products.

Mr. Trump’s “strategic” investments — in coal and a quixotic effort to bring back manufacturing lost to automation — would make the United States the champion of the 20th-century economy.

All of this positions China to become, in Mr. Xi’s words, “a new choice for other countries” and the principal arbiter of something long associated with the United States: the international order. China has a profound stake in that order and a globalized world: It needs access to advanced technology and the export markets upon which its growth depends.

The contradictions at the heart of China’s enterprise could still prove to be its undoing. Beijing continues to fence off key sectors of its economy to foreign investment. It imposes draconian requirements on foreign companies — like requiring them to take on a Chinese partner and hand over their technology and intellectual property — that other countries do not impose on Chinese companies.

Beijing’s foreign investments can be coercive and exploitative — using Chinese laborers and contractors instead of local ones, saddling poorer countries with enormous debts, leaving behind shoddy workmanship and fueling corruption.

Mr. Xi’s ability to sustain the outward projection of Chinese influence is also challenged by his country’s systemic weaknesses. A mountain of debt. Rising inequality. Slowing growth, dragged down by an aging population, lower productivity and inefficient state-owned enterprises. Poisonous air and scarce water. And an increasingly repressive system that may appeal to fellow authoritarians but not to Chinese citizens.

But China’s shortcomings may not matter in the absence of a compelling alternative. I’d never bet against the United States, but if the Trump-led retreat into nationalism, protectionism, unilateralism and xenophobia continues, China’s model could carry the day.

The world is not self-organizing. And American stewardship of the international order advanced liberal values and progressive norms — democracy, human rights, freedom of speech and assembly, protections for workers, the environment and intellectual property. By abdicating the leadership role it has played since World War II, the United States is giving the terrain to others who will do the organizing on the basis of their values, not America’s.

Mr. Xi is not shy about who that someone else will be. With Mr. Trump ceding ground to China, the liberal international order that defined the second half of the 20th century could give way to an illiberal one.

Antony J. Blinken, a deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration, a managing director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and a co-founder of WestExec Advisors, is a contributing opinion writer.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.