Ari Berman | The Nation | October 21, 2014
In 1963, only 156 of 15,000 eligible black voters in Selma, Alabama, were registered to vote. The federal government filed four lawsuits against the county registrars between 1963 and 1965, but the number of black registered voters only increased from 156 to 383 during that time. The law couldn’t keep up with the pace and intensity of voter suppression.
The Voting Rights Act ended the blight of voting discrimination in places like Selma by eliminating the literacy tests and poll taxes that prevented so many people from voting. The Selma of yesteryear is reminiscent of the current situation in Texas, where a voter ID law blocked by the federal courts as a discriminatory poll tax on two different occasions—under two different sections of the VRA—remains on the books.
The law was first blocked in 2012 under Section 5 of the VRA. “A law that forces poorer citizens to choose between their wages and their franchise unquestionably denies or abridges their right to vote,” wrote Judge David Tatel. “The same is true when a law imposes an implicit fee for the privilege of casting a ballot.”
Robert Reich | Robert Reich’s Blog | Reader Supported News | October 21, 2o14
e have to get a grip. Ebola is not a crisis in the United States. One person has died and two people are infected with his body fluids.
The real crisis is the hysteria over Ebola that’s being fed by media outlets seeking sensationalism and politicians posturing for the midterm elections.
That hysteria is causing us to lose our heads. Parents have pulled their children out of a middle school after learning the school’s principal had traveled to Zambia. Zambia happens to be in Africa but it has not even had a single case of Ebola.
A teacher at an elementary school has been placed on paid leave because parents were concerned he might have contracted the Ebola virus. When and how? During a recent trip to Dallas for an educational conference.
Jeff Larson and Julia Angwin | ProPublica | Reader Supported News | October 21, 2014
ewly disclosed National Security Agency documents suggest a closer relationship between American companies and the spy agency than has been previously disclosed.
The documents, published last week by The Intercept, describe “contractual relationships” between the NSA and U.S. companies, as well as the fact that the NSA has “under cover” spies working at or with some U.S. companies.
While not conclusive, the material includes some clear suggestions that at least some American companies are quite willing to help the agency conduct its massive surveillance programs.
The precise role of U.S. companies in the NSA’s global surveillance operations remains unclear. Documents obtained by Edward Snowden and published by various news organizations show that companies have turned over their customers’ email, phone calling records and other data under court orders. But the level of cooperation beyond those court orders has been an open question, with several leading companies, such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook, asserting that they only turn over customer information that is “targeted and specific” in response to legal demands.
Steve Coll | The New Yorker | Reader Supported News | October 21, 2014
itizenfour,” the new documentary about Edward Snowden, by Laura Poitras, is, among other things, a work of journalism about journalism. It opens with quotations from correspondence between Poitras and a new source who identifies himself only as Citizenfour. This source turns out to be Snowden. Soon, Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, at the time a columnist for the Guardian, travel to Hong Kong to meet Snowden in a hotel room.
They don’t know, at this point, if Snowden is who he says he is. They don’t know if his materials are authentic. Yet Poitras turns on her camera right away. Greenwald, who attended law school, questions Snowden, quite effectively. Gradually, Snowden’s significance becomes clear. The sequence is enclosing and tense and has many remarkable facets. One is that we witness a historically significant exercise in reporting and source validation as it happens. It is as if Bob Woodward had filmed his initial meeting, in a garage, with Deep Throat.
Snowden comes across in the film as shrewd, tough, and hard to read. (My colleague George Packer, in his recent Profile of Poitras, captures the film’s range brilliantly. Snowden also spoke to Jane Mayer remotely at this year’s New Yorker Festival.) Snowden has said that he had never spoken to a journalist before he contacted Poitras. “I knew nothing of the press,” he told the Guardian last summer. “I was a virgin source, basically.” This is not entirely persuasive: he may never have talked to a journalist, but he behaved with exceptional sophistication, both then and later— he is very far from the proverbial “naïve source.”