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October 15 2019

Homewreckers: How Wall Street, Banks & Trump's Inner Circle Used the 2008 Housing Crash to Get Rich

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We speak with investigative reporter Aaron Glantz about his new book “Homewreckers,” which looks at the devastating legacy of the foreclosure crisis and how much of the so-called recovery is a result of large private equity firms buying up hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes. “Homewreckers: How a Gang of Wall Street Kingpins, Hedge Fund Magnates, Crooked Banks, and Vulture Capitalists Suckered Millions Out of Their Homes and Demolished the American Dream” reveals how the 2008 housing crash decimated millions of Americans’ family wealth but enriched President Donald Trump’s inner circle, including Trump Cabinet members Steven Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross, Trump’s longtime friend and confidant Tom Barrack, and billionaire Republican donor Stephen Schwarzman. Glantz writes, “Now, ensconced in power following Trump’s election, these capitalists are creating new financial products that threaten to make the wealth transfers of the [housing] bust permanent.” Aaron Glantzis a senior reporter at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. He was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize this year for his reporting on modern-day redlining.

Botham Jean, Then Atatiana Jefferson: Outrage in Texas as Police Kill Another Black Resident at Home

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A white police officer in Fort Worth, Texas, has been arrested and charged with murder, after he shot and killed an African-American woman who was inside her own home. Officer Aaron Dean was responding to a non-emergency call for a wellness check after a neighbor had called the Fort Worth police to report that 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson’s front door was open at around 2:30 in the morning on Saturday. Soon after the officers arrived, Dean, who never identified himself to be a police officer, shouted through Jefferson’s bedroom window to put her hands up, and then immediately opened fire, killing her. Minutes before the shooting, Jefferson had been playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew, who witnessed the shooting but was not physically injured. Atatiana Jefferson is the seventh person since June who has been killed by one of the police department’s officers. From Dallas, we speak with Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney representing the family of Atatiana Jefferson.

October 14 2019

Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed, Awarded Nobel Prize, Celebrated for "Remarkable Change" in Horn of Africa

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Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was awarded the 100th Nobel Peace Prize in an announcement Friday morning. The prime minister last year helped broker a historic peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea, where leaders of the neighboring countries signed a “Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship” and declared an end to nearly two decades of a “state of war” that lasted from 1998 to 2000 and killed 70,000 people. Soon after the peace declaration was signed, the first direct flights between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 20 years took off from Addis Ababa, headed to Eritrea’s capital Asmara. Ahmed has also lifted the state of emergency, released thousands of political dissidents from prison and appointed women to a record 50% of cabinet positions. We speak with Awol Allo, an associate professor at the Keele University School of Law in the U.K. His recent article for Al Jazeera is titled “Why I nominated Abiy Ahmed for the Nobel Peace Prize.”

"We're Still Here": Indigenous Peoples' Day Celebration Reflects Ongoing Resistance to Colonization

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Christopher Columbus arrived in the Bahamas 527 years ago this week, unleashing a brutal genocide that killed tens of millions of Native people across the hemisphere. Cities and states across the country are acknowledging this devastating history by rejecting the federal holiday of Columbus Day and celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead to honor centuries of indigenous resistance. Alaska, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin have all officially recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day. So have more than 130 cities and counties, from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas to smaller places like Livingston, Kentucky, and Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Last week, Washington, D.C., became one of the latest to recognize the holiday. Washington, D.C., the District of Columbia, takes its name from Columbus. We speak with Iakowi:he’ne’ Oakes of the Snipe Clan. She is a Mohawk of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. She is the executive director of the American Indian Community House in New York.

Kurds Turn to Bashar al-Assad for Protection as U.S. Abandons Former Allies to Turkish Assault

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Syrian troops are massing near the Turkish border, one day after Bashar al-Assad’s government reached a deal to help protect the Kurds from Turkey’s deadly air and ground assault. On Sunday, the Kurds agreed, in a deal brokered by Russia, to hand over two border towns to the Syrian government in exchange for protection. The Kurds had been allied with the United States up until last week, when President Trump abruptly pulled U.S. troops from northern Syria, paving the way for Turkey’s assault. More than 130,000 people have already been displaced over the past five days since Turkey invaded northern Syria. The death toll is unknown. Turkey is facing increasing international condemnation for invading northern Syria. The European Union has called on all member states to stop selling arms to Ankara. We speak with Ozlem Goner, an assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at the City University of New York and a member of the Emergency Committee of Rojava.

October 13 2019

Darf man Ureinwohnern ihr Land zurückgeben?

Buzzard über Computerbeweise [Mathlog]

Und noch ein interessantes Video: Kevin Buzzard berichtet sehr lebendig über die neuen Entwicklungen bei der Formalisierbarkeit mathematischer Beweise.

Kondensierte Mathematik [Mathlog]

Auf YouTube gibt es ein neues Video (eines allerdings schon vor einem halben Jahr gehaltenen Vortrags) über ein neues mathematisches Forschungsgebiet, die „condensed mathematics“:

Es geht um das Problem, dass mit einer Topologie versehene algebraische Strukturen keine abelsche Kategorie bilden, man also keine sinnvolle Definition von Kern und Kokern hat. Was zum Beispiel sollte der Kokern der Identitätsabbildung von Zp mit der diskreten Topologie nach Zp mit der üblichen Topologie sein?
Der von Bhatt und Scholze vorgeschlagene Ansatz benutzt die Kategorie der profiniten Mengen (d.h. total unzusammenhängender, kompakter Hausdorff-Räume) und Funktoren auf dieser Kategorie. Im genannten Beispiel ist der Kokern dann der Funktor, welcher jeder profiniten Menge S den Quotienten der Menge der lokal-konstanten Abbildungen S—>Zp modulo der Menge der konstanten Abbildungen S—>Zp zuordnet.
Das ist natürlich nur das einfachste Beispiel und die gesamte, sehr technische Theorie wird wahrscheinlich hunderte Seiten benötigen (eine 75 Seiten lange Zusammenfassung findet man hier.) Aber jedenfalls dürfte es den meisten Mathematikern einleuchten, dass solche Kerne und Kokerne stetiger Abbildungen ein nützliches Hilfsmittel sein werden.
Das (didaktische) Gegenstück zu dieser zwar sehr technischen, aber trotzdem viele Mathematiker interessierenden Theorie ist vielleicht eine Theorie, die in einem am Donnerstag im Quanta Magazine erschienenen Artikel (WITH CATEGORY THEORY, MATHEMATICS ESCAPES FROM REALITY) beworben wird. Es geht um Unendlich-Kategorien, die tatsächlich in verschiedenen Zusammenhängen in der Mathematik eine Rolle spielen, und eine neue (ca. 15 Jahre alte) Theorie dazu. Diese wird zwar im Artikel mit den größten Superlativen beworben („Through his books, which span thousands of dense, technical pages, he has constructed a strikingly different way to understand some of the most essential concepts in math by moving beyond the equal sign.“), mir als Topologe ist aber auch nach Lektüre des Artikels wieder mal nicht klar geworden, was jetzt eigentlich das Neue in dieser Theorie ist und warum man sich für sie interessieren sollte. (Dass dort, wo der Artikel einmal konkret wird, er nur mathematischen Unsinn wie „two points on the surface are homotopy equivalent if there’s a path linking one with the other„ produziert, macht es zwar nicht einfacher, ist aber nicht das genuine Problem.) „I just don’t think you can expect any population of mathematicians to accept any tool from anywhere very quickly without giving them convincing reasons to think about it.“ wird ein Mathematiker zitiert und das, obwohl es vom Autor anders gemeint ist, beschreibt es wohl ganz gut.

Absolution für Knut Hamsun – der serbische Schriftsteller Bora Ćosić über den Literaturnobelpreis für Peter Handke

Die breite Empörung um Peter Handkes militante Parteinahme für das einen verbrecherischen Krieg gegen die Bosniaken führende Serbien scheint vergessen: Eben wurde ihm der Nobelpreis zuerkannt. Was sagt ein Kritiker von damals dazu?

Charlotte Perriand: happiness by design

Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris
The visionary French architect and designer is celebrated in a new exhibition – although, as in life, her generous, joy-filled work is partially obscured by that of her male contemporaries

In most of the photographs of Charlotte Perriand, whether as a precocious pioneer in the 1920s or as a contented old woman in the 1990s, she is smiling. In one of the most famous you can’t tell, as she turns her naked back to the camera in order to salute with upraised arms a snowy mountain landscape, but you can guess that she is. It is certainly an exultant image. The famous creators with whom she worked – Le Corbusier, Fernand Léger, Isamu Noguchi – are more often shown solemn and serious, in keeping with their image as men of destiny.

There are many things that can be said about Perriand (1903-99) – that she was the principal author of some of the 20th century’s most memorable pieces of furniture, that she could be as inventive with traditional materials such as bamboo as she was with tubular steel, that she could turn her unique hand and eye to furniture, to photographs, to impassioned political photomontages, to a 30,000-bed ski resort. Among the most important is that she believed in “the joy of creating and living”, as she put it, “in this century of ours.”

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This Tanzanian youth advocate has a vision for inclusive education

A recent study conducted by HakiElimu found that even in schools deemed “inclusive,” the learning environment was still not very friendly for students with visual impairment.

How an EU Directive on Access to a Lawyer Became a Weapon for Secret Arrests

Directive 2013/48/EU of 22 October 2013 ‘on the right of access to a lawyer in criminal proceedings’ had an unfortunate fate in Bulgaria. Not only has the country been persistently violating its provisions since its entry into force, but it also made efforts to transpose it only in 2018, two years after the deadline. The transposition, however, is troublesome because the government used the Directive as a pretext to revive a totalitarian practice ­­– secret arrests. Bulgaria’s Prosecutor’s Office can now detain adults in secret for 48 hours and children for 24 hours. Bulgaria has been systemically breaching the Directive for 6 years without any consequences: the European Commission’s bureaucracy has become a fig leaf for human rights abuses.

Goals of Directive 2013/48/EU

While the Directive 2013/48/EU has a broad scope, in this paper I focus on two procedural rights which it is supposed to enhance. Its Article 3 enumerates the circumstances in which a lawyer should be present in criminal proceedings. Article 5 enshrines the right to inform a third party of one’s arrest without undue delay. Article 12 requires Member States to provide effective remedies for breaches of rights granted by the Directive. These procedural rights are intimately linked to the right to a fair trial and the right to defense – Articles 47 and 48(2) of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Deliberate Breaches

Bulgaria’s deliberate breaches of the right to a lawyer and the right to inform a third party of one’s arrest are visible in reports by international organizations and media coverage.

According to the latest report on Bulgaria by the United Nations Committee against Torture from December 2017, ‘more than 70 percent of detained persons do not have access to a lawyer from the very outset of criminal  proceedings…some do not have legal representation throughout the criminal proceedings against them’. The Committee is concerned that meetings with a lawyer take place in the presence of a police officer and that public defenders on call selected from the national legal aid registry are not independent from the police.

The latest report by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture of the Council of Europe of May 2018 on Bulgaria, notes ‘the absence of any real progress’ in the application of the right to notify one’s detention to a third party, the right of access to a lawyer, and the right to be informed of one’s rights.

In Bulgaria, people could be detained without legal grounds, especially if they are government opponents. In 2018, investigative journalists Dimitar Stoyanov and Attila Biro learned that documents evidencing misuse of EU funds were being burned in the countryside. After informing the competent authorities, they went on site to cover the story. However, they were arrested by the police although they showed their press cards. They were kept in custody, without being able to contact a lawyer or inform close ones of their detention. The incident drew the attention of the Council of Europe and the Bulgarian court subsequently established that the arrest was illegal.

Bulgaria’s Prosecutor’s Office relies on detention to influence trials. Under Article 64(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Prosecutor’s Office can order 72-hour arrests which are not subject to judicial oversight ­­– a violation of the ECHR as established in Zvezdev v Bulgaria. The Prosecutor’s Office often uses this prerogative to attempt to force people to make statements which can be used against them or to make false testimonies. In the well-known Ivancheva and Petrova case, Petrova was told that she would become ‘a corpse’ if she did not testify against Ivancheva. It should be noted that there is no legislation which forbids the admissibility of evidence procured through torture/ill-treatment.

Finally, authorities may appoint public defenders to comply with the requirement for access to a lawyer only on the surface. It is not uncommon for public defenders to violate attorney-client privilege and/or synchronize the defense of accused people with the prosecution, which, essentially, deprives the notion of defense in criminal proceedings of its purpose. In the Ivancheva and Petrova case, the backup public defender of Petrova who was appointed by the Prosecutor’s Office complained to the same Prosecutor’s Office that she was not invited to observe investigation activities unlike the defenders authorized by Petrova herself. The backup defender said she ‘represent[ed] the Prosecutor’s Office’ in the proceedings and in light of the long process of proof of guilt, which was on the horizon, ‘weaknesses could not be tolerated’, thus implying she worked to protect the prosecution’s interests.

Another Frankenstein

Bulgaria took measures to transpose Directive 2013/48/EU only after the European Commission published a reasoned opinion pursuant to Article 258 TFEU in January 2018. Under the guise of transposing the Directive, the country increased the already excessive repressive arsenal of Bulgaria’s Prosecutor’s Office.

Bulgaria transposed Article 3 on the right to a lawyer only partially even though there are no provisions in national legislation which ensure the same effect as the entire article. For instance, Bulgarian law does not explicitly enshrine the right to a lawyer for suspects. Moreover, Bulgaria transformed Article 5(3)(a) and 5(3)(b) which allow temporary derogations from the right to inform a third party of detention into a rule on secret arrests which can be applied arbitrarily, considering Bulgaria’s longstanding problems.

Legislators patched this exception to the infamous Article 64(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure discussed above: the person could be detained for three days before taken to court to determine if a mandatory measure is necessary and for the first 48 hours their close ones will not know of the detention.

The initial proposal for the new Article 63(9) of Bulgaria’s Code of Criminal Procedure stipulated:

Where there is an urgent need to avert serious adverse consequences for the life, liberty or physical integrity of a person, or to prevent a situation in which criminal proceedings could be jeopardized,  jeopardy to criminal proceedings, [informing a third party of the deprivation of liberty] could be delayed by 48 hours.

The initial proposal for the new Article 386(5), which concerns the arrests of children, resonated the same idea, but delayed informing third parties by 24 hours. Regarding both adults and children, the decision is taken by Bulgaria’s Prosecutor’s Office pursuant to the new Article 63(10) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The initial proposal for law amendments completely ignored the strict requirements on derogations imposed by Article 8 of the Directive. After public uproar, the following sentence was added to the final versions of Article 63(9) and Article 386(5):

Suspension of [notification of a third party] shall be applied in the particular circumstances of each case and shall not go beyond what is necessary and is not based solely on the nature or gravity of the crime committed.

A Question of Context

Those familiar with the Bulgarian context immediately see how the above provisions are problematic despite the last-minute addition, which a priori does not cover all restrictions on derogations stipulated in Article 8 of Directive 2013/48/EU.

Bulgaria’s Prosecutor’s Office has a vertical structure, also known as a Soviet model, which does not have proper checks and balances. All decisions depend on the General Prosecutor who acts with impunity. The dysfunctionality of this institution may explain why Bulgaria has already been found to be in 291 violations of Article 6 (right to a fair trial) and 270 violations of Article 5 (right to liberty) by the ECtHR. Bulgaria stubbornly refuses to ensure checks and balances in the prosecution even though it is required to do so under Kolevi v Bulgaria, which was rendered in 2009, and it is reminded of these obligations twice per year by the Council of Europe. In light of bogus criminal proceedings which the prosecution has initiated in the past and its record of human rights abuses, these new powers can easily be misused. This secrecy entails opportunities for psychological pressure (at best) and prevents third parties from helping to find an appropriate lawyer.

Finally, it is important to note that Bulgaria has failed to transpose Article 12 of Directive 2013/48/EU, which requires Member States to provide effective remedies for breaches of rights granted by the Directive. Under Bulgarian law, which was amended in 2017 as part of a major crackdown on human rights (Article 248(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure), one can currently contest procedural violations before the court only when there is an indictment in court and only at the first pre-hearing following indictment. Moreover, Bulgarian law allows the prosecution to constitute someone as an accused party but postpone indictment indefinitely (Chapter 26 of the Code of Criminal Procedure). Hence, accused people have no effective remedies for breaches of rights granted by Directive 2013/48/EU or the fundamental rights enshrined in Articles 47 and 48 of the EU Charter.

The EU’s Inertia

Bulgaria has breached Directive 2013/48/EU in at least three ways – late transposition, violating its provisions, and incorrect/partial transposition. The Commission’s laid-back approach regarding these developments, which surely provide further evidence of the assault on the rule of law and human rights in the country, is worrisome.

The Commission published a reasoned opinion with which it invited Bulgaria to inform it about how it has transposed the Directive only in January 2018, 14 months after the deadline for transposition.

After Bulgaria’s government put forward the Bill on secret arrests, which allegedly purported to transpose the Directive, there was a wave of criticism by civil society. Bulgaria’s President attempted to veto the Bill to no avail. While one may understand why the Commission did not address the debate in Bulgaria in a public statement, its reaction to a formal infringement claim I submitted after the Bill passed the first reading in Parliament in 2018 truly puzzled me. In the complaint, I provided evidence of the breaches of the Directive since its entry into force as well as the incorrect transposition. The Commission informed me it intended to close the file because the arguments I had raised fell within the scope of compliance assessment it planned to carry out within the next 12 months. Almost a year later, the Commission does not seem to have taken further action to force Bulgaria to comply with its obligations.

The Commission’s relentless patience shows through in other cases of violations of Directives concerning fundamental rights. Bulgaria still has not transposed Directive 2016/343 on the presumption of innocence although it was required to do so by April 2018. In an infringement claim I submitted in May 2018, I highlighted how Bulgaria had deliberately violated the provisions of this Directive since its entry into force. I still have not received a response to my complaint. The Commission has not published a reasoned opinion on this matter either.

When the EU’s Patience is Not a Virtue

Bulgaria’s disrespect for EU Directives concerning fundamental rights adds one more shade to the grim picture of the state of its rule of law. Instead of reforming its Prosecutor’s Office, Bulgaria increased its already excessive powers through perverse creativity – limiting fundamental rights by pretending to comply with CVM recommendations, complying with ECtHR case law only on the surface, etc. Using an EU Directive supposed to enhance fundamental rights to revive a totalitarian practice takes the assault on human rights to a new orbit of legislative hooliganism.

The Commission’s inertia has contributed to many of these problems. In prior articles, I have raised concern about the Commission’s lenience vis-à-vis CVM recommendations. In this article, I hope to have illustrated why it is problematic when the Commission relies on its usual assessment delays when it comes to Directives concerning fundamental rights. One can reasonably predict that suspects and accused people will continue to be deprived of their right to a lawyer while the Prosecutor’s Office has added one more tool for harassment to its arsenal, which can be misused against inconvenient government opponents and their children – secret arrests.

The mystery of the missing Leonardo: where is Da Vinci’s $450m Jesus?

The Louvre has asked to loan Salvator Mundi for a major exhibition – but many doubt the much-disputed work will make an appearance

Will it or won’t it appear? This is the question being asked across the art world about the Salvator Mundi - the first Leonardo to be discovered for more than a century - as the Louvre prepares for its blockbuster da Vinci exhibition.

With just under two weeks to go before the show opens, there are now serious doubts as to whether the star of the exhibition will be included, as the Paris museum had hoped.

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Wie klimaschädlich ist das Internet?

The big picture: Tony Ray-Jones goes in search of Englishness

The precocious photographer died young but his work was a major influence on the likes of Martin Parr

Tony Ray-Jones took this picture at the Windsor horse show in 1967. He was 25, and engaged in an all-consuming personal project to capture the essence of “the English way of life … before it becomes more Americanised”. A precocious talent, Ray-Jones had won a scholarship from the London School of Printing to study at Yale School of Art when he was 19. He befriended the freewheeling young stars of American photography, Garry Winogrand and Joel Meyerowitz, was mentored by Richard Avedon and returned home in 1965 with notebooks full of strategy. “Get more involved (talk to people),” began one typical list of these notes to self. “Stay with the subject matter (be patient). See if everything in the background relates to the subject matter. NO MIDDLE DISTANCE.”

With these principles in mind, Ray-Jones took himself off in a camper van in search of Englishness. He found a good deal of it on beaches – windbreaks and frigid paddling and Thermoses balanced on shingle – and at all levels of pageantry, from Glyndebourne and the Chelsea flower show to local beauty parades and fun fairs. This photograph, in which the horse takes more interest in the cafe than the cafe takes in the horse, was typical of his eye.

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33 Jahre nach Tschernobyl: Wildpilze sind zum Teil immer noch radioaktiv

Der Bienenzüchter ist der Fluchthelfer – bis ihm selber nicht mehr zu helfen ist

Dieser Roman spielt auf einem Nebenschauplatz des Zweiten Weltkriegs. Aber im Kleinen zeigt Norbert Scheuer darin die ganze Tragödie.

Miles Davis: Wie man die Tradition aufbricht, ohne sie zu zerstören

Mit dem Album «Bitches Brew» führte Miles Davis den Jazz vor fünfzig Jahren in eine neue, funkige Epoche. Die postume Veröffentlichung von «Rubberband» demonstriert den Unterschied zwischen visionärer Kunst und epigonalem Handwerk.
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