While it should come as no surprise to anyone that follows the news or gets depressed by Twitter on a regular basis, freedom of the press – an important check against corruption and the misuse of power in a democracy – is on the decline.
We've been seeing it daily of late: political leaders spewing targeted hate at particular journalists or the outlets they work for. Pundits calling the facts uncovered during deep-dive investigative reporting lies, or alternate versions of the truth, instead of trying to defend their viewpoints or confessing to their bullshit once they've been caught. Hell, Trump went so far as to call journalists "enemies of the people." That's a term that Stalin was fond of.
The assault on the media doesn't stop there, either. With increasing frequency, journalists around the world are facing charges and incarceration for nothing more than doing their jobs. As insane as it is, those are the lucky ones. In some locales, being a journalist can get you killed. It's been common, in recent years, for reporters in Mexico to vanish or to wind up dead – their work to bring the truth to light displeasing to drug cartels and corrupt local officials. And then there's this, from Reporters Without Borders:
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The line separating verbal violence from physical violence is dissolving. In the Philippines (down six at 133rd), President Rodrigo Duterte not only constantly insults reporters but has also warned them that they “are not exempted from assassination.” In India (down two at 138th), hate speech targeting journalists is shared and amplified on social networks, often by troll armies in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pay.
Opioid overdoses now kill more Americans every year than guns, breast cancer, or car accidents. 20 million Americans suffer from addiction to alcohol, illicit, or prescription drugs. On the second anniversary of Prince’s death from fentanyl overdose last weekend, the President of the United States demonstrated a deep ignorance of this medical epidemic, calling someone he considers an alcoholic and addict a “drunk/drugged up loser.”
Days later we learn that Dr. Ronny Jackson, the physician Trump nominated to lead the country’s largest healthcare system, the Veterans Administration, is known to have a drinking problem and is nicknamed “The Candyman” because of his reputation for freely distributing controlled substances to White House staff. With 1 in 10 soldiers seen by the VA for problems with alcohol or drugs – the majority as an outgrowth of being treated for chronic pain – Jackson was a dangerously ignorant choice.
Both the president’s regressive drug policy and his impulsive social media outbursts are conflicting, misinformed, and poorly executed, so his recent post about addicts being “losers” must seem pedestrian to most. In the same tweet he also managed to insult a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and engage in thinly veiled witness tampering before taking off for a round of golf while his wife attended Barbara Bush’s funeral. Numbed and spotty outcries ensued, and we moved along to the next week’s insults. It became just more white noise.
Leadership and policy drive the public’s attitudes about addiction and these opinions have very real consequences in people’s lives, as it did for Prince. Read the rest
If you've had the sneaking suspicion over the past year that the world is going to hell, you're not alone. Amnesty International's 2017-2018 State of the World's Human Rights Annual Report says that in many countries, the politics of hate and fear are quickly becoming the norm.
The report, which covers the activities of 159 countries paints a troubling picture of the conditions that many people are forced to endure on an alarmingly more regular basis. For those who keep track of human rights issues, this is old hat--the world can be a shitty place, full of shitty people doing shitty things to folks that don't deserve it. What's new this year, although it's likely news to no one, is that America is one of a small group of countries at the forefront of Amnesty International's concerns. In a press release for the report, the Secretary General of Amnesty International, Salil Shetty, states:
"The specters of hatred and fear now loom large in world affairs, and we have few governments standing up for human rights in these disturbing times. Instead, leaders such as al-Sisi, Duterte, Maduro, Putin, Trump and Xi are callously undermining the rights of millions."
The report goes on call out the Trump administration's attempted rollback of women's rights and to block the entry of visitors and immigrants from Muslim countries, as particularly troubling and that Trump's "...backward steps on human rights are setting a dangerous precedent for other governments to follow."
The whole text of the annual report is available for download, here. Read the rest
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had a message for women who oppose him: “Tell the soldiers. ‘There’s a new order coming from the mayor. We won’t kill you. We will just shoot your vagina.' If there is no vagina, it would be useless.”
From The Washington Post:
Duterte regularly denigrates and threatens women, but when challenged, he insists it was all just a joke. Just last week, his spokesman accused women of “overreacting” to the president’s comments. “I mean, that’s funny. Come on. Just laugh,” Harry Roque said.
According to the official transcript from the Wednesday event, the crowd did, in fact, laugh at Duterte’s remarks.
Duterte, who was elected president in 2016, has made headlines for “joking” about the rape of a kidnapped Australian who was later killed and for telling troops to rape women in conflict. He often shares unsolicited opinions on the sexual attractiveness of women, particularly female politicians who question his policies, in an apparent effort to demean, shame and silence them.
Trump is noted for praising Duterte and boasting about his great relationship with the despotic leader. One reason might be that Trump's "name is on a 57-story, $150 million building in Manila. Duterte named the head of the corporation that developed it as an envoy to the United States."
Image by PCOO EDP - , Public Domain, Link Read the rest
Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, has been the source of many shocks since he took office last year: he admitted to murdering people as a teen gangbanger and then later as a public official; he zeroed out the budget for the National Commission on Human Rights, and announced that deposed mass-murdering dictator Ferdinand Marcos would be treated as a hero, even as he rolled out death squads that have murdered thousands in cold blood (he also hears voices from God).
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In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, London Business School organizational behavior scholars Niro Sivanathan and Hemant Kakkar used empirical methods to find the socioeconomic circumstances that predict when voters will elect "dominance-style" strongman leaders like "Donald Trump, Viktor Orban, Rodrigo Duterte, Nicolás Maduro and Recep Erdogan."
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The Philippines is ruled by an admitted murderer, President Rodrigo Duterte (previously), whose death squads have operated with impunity since he took office last year (Trump loves him). Read the rest
President Trump’s recent phone call with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte wasn't released in detail by the Trump White House, but someone else leaked it. Trump praises Duterte on the call for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem,” which consists of Duterte literally murdering people in extrajudicial street executions. Read the rest
Last week, I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly uninsurable. While tracking the Trumpcare vote (AHCA), I felt like Princess Leia, helplessly watching the Empire destroy her home planet. Yes, the Senate still has to vote on it, and no, I’m not saying that Republicans are evil. But for me and so many Americans, Obamacare (ACA) got rid of the terror and carnage of being denied or unable to afford healthcare coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Watching it dismantled was disturbing.
Obamacare also did away with the false separation of mental health from physical health. Trumpcare does the opposite, classifying mental health care as non-essential, meaning that states, employers, or insurers will decide if the 1 in 5 Americans who struggle with mental illness will be covered at all. May is
Mental Health Awareness Month
, so here’s one fact to be aware of:
“The World Health Organization determined that depression is presently the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.” -
World Health Organization
That’s just ONE KIND of mental illness. How will Trumpcare affect you, your friends or family with mental health issues? Like this:
The House bill allows states to let health plans:
Drop coverage of mental health and substance use (one of the essential health benefits).
Charge people higher premiums if they have a pre-existing condition, like depression or anxiety.
Create high-risk pools, which are another way of charging people with mental illness more money and providing less coverage. Read the rest
UK Prime Minister Theresa May says that post-Brexit Britain won't rely on the EU, but will become a "Global Britain," turning to the rest of the world to bring the the billions the UK will lose when it departs from the European Union. Read the rest
Before Rodrigo Duterte was elected president of the Philippines, he was the mayor of the southern city of Davao, where he boasted of authorizing death-squads that murdered suspected drug-users and drug-dealers with impunity. Read the rest
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an authoritarian war criminal who is part of the worldwide surge of trumpist leaders and hopefuls, including Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte; Hungary's Viktor Orbán; Russia's Vladimir Putin; South Korea's Park Geun-hye; France's Marine Le Pen; the UK's Nigel Farage, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and others -- bound together by xenophobia, a lack of transparency, violent suppression of opposition, and savvy use of the internet. Read the rest
Duterte has vowed to stop using "epithets" (for example, he called Pope Francis a "son of a bitch" and told Obama to "go to hell") because God threatened to crash the airplane he was flying home from Japan in if he didn't cut it out. Read the rest
Rodrigo Duterte is the new president of the Philippines: he ran on a promise to be a "dictator" and endorsed execution by vigilante death-squad as a way of combating crime; now he's announced that he will give a hero's burial to the embalmed corpse of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who committed mass-scale human rights abuses and embezzled $10B from the national treasury. Read the rest