An “alt-right” children’s book featuring a popular cartoon character recently found itself at the center of a heated legal debate.
Earlier this year, a Texas assistant principal named Eric Hauser wrote and published a right-wing children’s book called “The Adventures of Pepe and Pede.” The story follows the two characters, a frog named Pepe and a centipede named Pede as they celebrate the end an oppressive farmer’s eight years of rule and work to make their farm great again in his absence.
There’s more to the plot, which has been criticized as being Islamophobic, but it’s essentially a send-up of our current political climate told from the point of view of some of Trump’s most dedicated supporters. If Pepe the Frog sounds familiar, that’s because he’s become a meme popular on right-wing blogs.
An illustration of Pepe in his pure, chilled out, positive form by Furie. Image via Superdeluxe/YouTube.
Pepe’s creator, artist Matt Furie, never intended for his drawing to end up there.
And he wasn’t about to let someone profit from his work while spreading a hateful message to children.
While there’s nothing illegal about publishing a book with a racist and xenophobic plot, Hauser made one huge mistake in his process: He stole someone else’s character, running afoul of a number of copyright laws. Pepe, as it so happens, is the intellectual property of Furie, who first published the character in his 2005 comic “Boy’s Club.” Not exactly pleased to learn that someone was using Pepe for personal gain and to teach a hurtful message, Furie sued Hauser.
Furie never meant for Pepe to be associated with hate.
The frog was supposed to just be a “blissfully stoned frog” who liked snacks and soda, not some unofficial “alt-right” mascot.
Around 2010, Pepe began to take on a life of his own as fans began drawing the character into their own stories and internet memes. In the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, the frog became increasingly associated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and internet trolls. Images of Furie’s super-chill creation began popping up in Nazi regalia and KKK robes, earning a spot on the Anti-Defamation League’s list of hate symbols.
It’s all fun and games until someone turns your creation into a Nazi. Image via CBC/YouTube.
As the campaign raged on and Furie saw his creation slip further out of his control, he published a few fresh Pepe cartoons over at The Nib, including one that illustrates his “alt-right election nightmare.”
The legal battle against Hauser and his children’s book was settled in the best way possible — and it’s a reminder not to give up hope.
As reported by Motherboard in August 2017, Furie and Hauser reached a settlement in which the book would no longer be available for sale and all past proceeds would be donated to the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Given the book’s Islamophobic themes and Pepe’s popularity with white nationalists, the decision to donate the money to CAIR was a pretty fantastic bit of trolling on Furie’s part.
Furie also tried preserving Pepe’s more peaceful legacy in an October 2016 #SavePepe campaign with seemingly little success, which led him to draw the character one last time at his own funeral. It appeared that Furie had given up on rehabilitating Pepe’s image when, in June, he launched a Kickstarter campaign geared towards resurrecting the little green frog in hopes of “reclaiming his status as a universal symbol for peace, love, and acceptance.”
Pepe has become wildly popular with some Trump supporters. Photo by Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images.
He wasn’t alone in wanting a return to the comic’s roots either. By the time the campaign wrapped up, Furie had raised nearly $35,000.
Between his decision to donate the money made in the copyright infringement suit to a great cause and refusing to give up on his own creation, Furie is himself a testament to the bizarre and sometimes wonderful possibilities of the internet.
For the first time in nearly 100 years, the shadow of a total solar eclipse is going to sweep across the United States.
The umbra — the darkest shadow cast by the moon blocking the sun — will appear in the Pacific Ocean and slice through 14 US states on Monday, August 21.
Starting around 10 a.m. PDT, parts of western Oregon will go dark in a condition called totality as the umbra travels east. The elliptical shadow will make its way to Idaho Falls by 11:33 MDT, hit Kansas City at 1 p.m. CDT, and begin to pass over Charleston, South Carolina, by about 2:45 p.m. EDT.
Although some eclipse fans spend years preparing for the event, totality lasts less than three minutes — so all it takes is one stray cloud to obscure the magic moment.
That’s why some people pay thousands of dollars to fly in chartered jets and pursue the moon’s shadow. In addition to beating the odds of bad weather, such hardcore “eclipse chasers” can extend their length of time in the umbra, sometimes by several minutes.
I was lucky enough to ride an eclipse-chasing flight on August 1, 2008. Here’s what the experience was like.
Total solar eclipses aren’t rare — they happen about once every 18 months — but most locations on Earth fall in one’s path roughly once every 375 years.
However, some hardcore eclipse chasers spend thousands of dollars to chase the moon’s shadow from the skies.
An airplane flies in front of the crescent of a solar eclipse.Shutterstock
Totality ended after three minutes with the appearance of a second “diamond ring” on the opposite side of the moon. The eclipse phases then moved in reverse as the umbra sped eastward ahead of our jet.
After totality, two passengers — Joel Moskowitz and Craig Small — paraded a custom eclipse flag around the cabin. The two were the most devout eclipse chasers I’d ever met. “I have no intention of ever missing an eclipse for the rest of my life. I don’t care where it is, even in the remotest area of the Earth,” Small told me. “I have to be there, I will be there.”
Joel Moskowitz (left) and Craig Small (right).Dave Mosher
“When you see one, you want to see more. You get hooked,” Moskowitz added. “Seeing the corona during totality is better than sex.”
The trip wasn’t over, though: The airplane banked hard and turned toward the North Pole. At the time, it looked like this — a bunch of fractured sea ice.
The only indication that we’d arrived at the Pole was an announcement over the intercom.
Back on the tarmac in Düsseldorf, the group snapped a celebratory photo, and then everyone began making their way home.
The prosecution abandoned the case, apparently to avoid embarrassing the intelligence services. The defence argued that going ahead with the trial would have been an affront to justice when there was plenty of evidence the British state was itself providing extensive support to the armed Syrian opposition.
That didnt only include the non-lethal assistance boasted of by the government (including body armour and military vehicles), but training, logistical support and the secret supply of arms on a massive scale. Reports were cited that MI6 had cooperated with the CIA on a rat line of arms transfers from Libyan stockpiles to the Syrian rebels in 2012 after the fall of the Gaddafi regime.
Clearly, the absurdity of sending someone to prison for doing what ministers and their security officials were up to themselves became too much. But its only the latest of a string of such cases. Less fortunate was a London cab driver Anis Sardar, who was given a life sentence a fortnight earlier for taking part in 2007 in resistance to the occupation of Iraq by US and British forces. Armed opposition to illegal invasion and occupation clearly doesnt constitute terrorism or murder on most definitions, including the Geneva convention.
But terrorism is now squarely in the eye of the beholder. And nowhere is that more so than in the Middle East, where todays terrorists are tomorrows fighters against tyranny and allies are enemies often at the bewildering whim of a western policymakers conference call.
For the past year, US, British and other western forces have been back in Iraq, supposedly in the cause of destroying the hyper-sectarian terror group Islamic State (formerly known as al-Qaida in Iraq). This was after Isis overran huge chunks of Iraqi and Syrian territory and proclaimed a self-styled Islamic caliphate.
The campaign isnt going well. Last month, Isis rolled into the Iraqi city of Ramadi, while on the other side of the now nonexistent border its forces conquered the Syrian town of Palmyra. Al-Qaidas official franchise, the Nusra Front, has also been making gains in Syria.
Some Iraqis complain that the US sat on its hands while all this was going on. The Americans insist they are trying to avoid civilian casualties, and claim significant successes. Privately, officials say they dont want to be seen hammering Sunni strongholds in a sectarian war and risk upsetting their Sunni allies in the Gulf.
A revealing light on how we got here has now been shone by a recently declassified secret US intelligence report, written in August 2012, which uncannily predicts and effectively welcomes the prospect of a Salafist principality in eastern Syria and an al-Qaida-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq. In stark contrast to western claims at the time, the Defense Intelligence Agency document identifies al-Qaida in Iraq (which became Isis) and fellow Salafists as the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria and states that western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey were supporting the oppositions efforts to take control of eastern Syria.
Raising the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality, the Pentagon report goes on, this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).
Which is pretty well exactly what happened two years later. The report isnt a policy document. Its heavily redacted and there are ambiguities in the language. But the implications are clear enough. A year into the Syrian rebellion, the US and its allies werent only supporting and arming an opposition they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups; they were prepared to countenance the creation of some sort of Islamic state despite the grave danger to Iraqs unity as a Sunni buffer to weaken Syria.
That doesnt mean the US created Isis, of course, though some of its Gulf allies certainly played a role in it as the US vice-president, Joe Biden, acknowledged last year. But there was no al-Qaida in Iraq until the US and Britain invaded. And the US has certainly exploited the existence of Isis against other forces in the region as part of a wider drive to maintain western control.
The calculus changed when Isis started beheading westerners and posting atrocities online, and the Gulf states are now backing other groups in the Syrian war, such as the Nusra Front. But this US and western habit of playing with jihadi groups, which then come back to bite them, goes back at least to the 1980s war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, which fostered the original al-Qaida under CIA tutelage.
In reality, US and western policy in the conflagration that is now the Middle East is in the classic mould of imperial divide-and-rule. American forces bomb one set of rebels while backing another in Syria, and mount what are effectively joint military operations with Iran against Isis in Iraq while supporting Saudi Arabias military campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi forces in Yemen. However confused US policy may often be, a weak, partitioned Iraq and Syria fit such an approach perfectly.
Whats clear is that Isis and its monstrosities wont be defeated by the same powers that brought it to Iraq and Syria in the first place, or whose open and covert war-making has fostered it in the years since. Endless western military interventions in the Middle East have brought only destruction and division. Its the people of the region who can cure this disease not those who incubated the virus.
A lecture explaining why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens
Its important for people to tell you what side they are on and why, and whether they might be biased. A declaration of members interests, of a sort. So, I am going to be talking to you about reading. Im going to tell you that libraries are important. Im going to suggest that reading fiction, that reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do. Im going to make an impassioned plea for people to understand what libraries and librarians are, and to preserve both of these things.
And I am biased, obviously and enormously: Im an author, often an author of fiction. I write for children and for adults. For about 30 years I have been earning my living through my words, mostly by making things up and writing them down. It is obviously in my interest for people to read, for them to read fiction, for libraries and librarians to exist and help foster a love of reading and places in which reading can occur.
So Im biased as a writer. But I am much, much more biased as a reader. And I am even more biased as a British citizen.
And Im here giving this talk tonight, under the auspices of the Reading Agency: a charity whose mission is to give everyone an equal chance in life by helping people become confident and enthusiastic readers. Which supports literacy programs, and libraries and individuals and nakedly and wantonly encourages the act of reading. Because, they tell us, everything changes when we read.
And its that change, and that act of reading that Im here to talk about tonight. I want to talk about what reading does. What its good for.
I was once in New York, and I listened to a talk about the building of private prisons a huge growth industry in America. The prison industry needs to plan its future growth how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners are there going to be, 15 years from now? And they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldnt read. And certainly couldnt read for pleasure.
Its not one to one: you cant say that a literate society has no criminality. But there are very real correlations.
And I think some of those correlations, the simplest, come from something very simple. Literate people read fiction.
Fiction has two uses. Firstly, its a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if its hard, because someones in trouble and you have to know how its all going to end thats a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, youre on the road to reading everything. And reading is key. There were noises made briefly, a few years ago, about the idea that we were living in a post-literate world, in which the ability to make sense out of written words was somehow redundant, but those days are gone: words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading. People who cannot understand each other cannot exchange ideas, cannot communicate, and translation programs only go so far.
The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.
I dont think there is such a thing as a bad book for children. Every now and again it becomes fashionable among some adults to point at a subset of childrens books, a genre, perhaps, or an author, and to declare them bad books, books that children should be stopped from reading. Ive seen it happen over and over; Enid Blyton was declared a bad author, so was RL Stine, so were dozens of others. Comics have been decried as fostering illiteracy.
Daenerys will help the North if Jon bends the knee.
Image: Macall B. Polay/HBO
Warning: This article contains major spoilers. If you don’t want to know what happened in last night’s episode, then white walk away!
Since his arrival at Dragonstone, Jon Snow has been petitioning Daenerys for her help in the impending battle against the White Walkers. The queen has everything the North needs to have a fighting chance the army, the dragonglass, three fire-breathing dragons. The problem is that Dany and her council aren’t convinced that the legend of the White Walkers is real.
During last night’s episode, Jon showed Dany something that shook the queen and changed her mind about the army of the dead. Deep inside the dark caverns beneath Dragonstone were walls covered in pre-historic drawings of the First Men and the Children of the Forest fighting as one against their common enemy the White Walkers.
While Dany seemed convinced of the legitimacy of the ancient drawings pledging her support to the North if Jon bended the knee some fans weren’t buying it.
*Jon Snow, hiding paint brushes* hey guys I found these cave paintings
It’s obviously a joke, but perhaps there’s something to this comical fan theory. After all, Jon and Ser Davos werethe only two people at the caves when Daenerys arrived on scene. And it’s pretty convenient that Jon happened to stumble upon these cave paintings that proved that the White Walkers were a threat.
Hong Kong (CNN)Chinese President Xi Jinping has emphasized the Communist Party’s control over the military as he prepares for a key leadership reshuffle later this year.
Speaking Tuesday at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Xi said the military should “carry forward and implement the Party’s absolute leadership.”
“As comrade Mao Zedong once pointed out, our principle is to have the Party command the military, not the military command the Party,” Xi said.
Analysts say Xi has taken advantage of the PLA anniversary to firmly establish his personal authority ahead of a Party Congress around November, during which the next Politburo Standing Committee — the most powerful governing body in China, headed by Xi — will be revealed. An exact date for the congress has not been announced.
Speaking after the parade Sunday, Yvonne Chiu, an assistant politics professor at the University of Hong Kong, said Xi wanted to “remind the military that they pledge loyalty to the Party, not the country” and to send a message to the country “that the military is firmly onside with him, especially as they’re still pursuing the anti-corruption campaign, which continues to shake things up and cause uneasiness among the elite.”
While the congress will almost certainly give the 64-year-old Xi another five years as China’s top leader, it has been rumored he will seek to buck an established norm that leaders retire after two terms.
“The importance of the Party’s control over the military is an oft-repeated phrase, but Xi has emphasized it heavily during his tenure,” said Tom Rafferty, China manager at the Economist Intelligence Unit.
He added Xi has sought the backing of “a younger generation of military officers” for his reforms, even as former top generals have fallen foul of corruption investigations.
At the same time, a wide-reaching and highly popular anti-corruption campaign has brought down many of Xi’s rivals or potential successors. Typically the next Chinese leader would be obvious by the time of the Party Congress, as Xi was in 2007.
Last month however, Sun Zhengcai, widely seen as a rising star in the Party, was abruptly sacked as boss of Chongqing and placed under investigation for corruption. At 53, Sun was one of only a handful of senior Chinese officials capable of succeeding Xi under the current informal retirement age of 68.
While some have predicted Xi will break with the age cap norm — upheld during the last three leadership turnovers — as to allow himself and his allies to stay on, Chinese leadership analyst Bo Zhiyue told CNN in April that attempting to serve a third term might be more difficult.
“(Even if) he wants to be like Putin in Russia, to stay beyond his second term, we don’t know if this can be realized,” Bo said.
US-China tensions rising
While Tuesday’s speech was primarily focused on political matters — encouraging the PLA to root out corruption and follow Marxist military principles — Xi also referenced the army’s increasing role overseas.
China shows off new J-20 stealth fighter
“The People’s Army is an army with strong war capabilities,” he said, one that will “never allow any parties to separate any piece of land from China.”
(CNN)Democrats would like voters to believe the party’s slogan for its new economic agenda rolled out Monday, “A Better Deal,” describes a program aimed at fighting for regular people — even though it mostly rings like a sales pitch for a discounted item at a shopping mall. Worse, the specifics of the strategy are a path to more electoral failure, because “A Better Deal” embraces falsehoods about economic power while leaving a bankrupt system unchallenged.
Right after the presidential election, I argued that the crisis facing Democrats, which was at least a decade of electoral losses in the making, boiled down to a failure to show voters any clear differences between the parties when it comes to propping up a failed economic system. As it now stands, it’s a system in which lobbyists shower both parties with money, tax cuts for business and keeping taxes too low on the wealthy are a bipartisan goal, health care is still something to leave in the hands of insurance companies and, above all, the glory of the “free market” is extolled by Democrats and Republicans.
Until Democrats display the strength to reject the system, they’ll continue to lose, and “A Better Deal” is just more of the same.
The stupefying foolishness of the plan is evident in three main points from Monday’s s outline offered in op-eds by Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and three Democratic House members in which they purport to give the broad strokes of the party’s economic strategy.
Schumer specifically says the party will fight to increase “workers’ incomes by lifting the minimum wage to $15.” He and the House Democrats also talk a lot about retraining workers to give them skills to get higher-paying jobs. Most of the rest of the mumbo-jumbo is the typical warmed-over “innovation” and “don’t we all love small business” standard fare that excites elite policy wonks but is largely irrelevant to voters.
Perhaps the most glaring omission here is that none of these party leaders use the word “union” even once. That isn’t entirely surprising: The typical party ethos going back to Bill Clinton has been to minimize the embrace of labor unions, beyond the occasional rhetorical gesture, except when it’s election season (read: when the party needs donations and campaign troops).
But the “Fight for 15” has been primarily funded by unions, some of whom frankly were dragged into the battle by other affiliated organizations who were less than inspired by the Obama administration’s and congressional Democrats’ support for a paltry minimum wage hike to $10.10. To the consternation of the Wall Street wing of the party, the Bernie Sanders movement made $15-an-hour a central part of its economic message, and forced $15-an-hour as a goal, into the party’s 2016 platform.
And if raising wages and preserving pensions is what Democrats want, they’re not going to get it without growing the power of unions. Unions built the middle class. Wages are low because, over the past several decades, employers have effectively stolen the productivity gains made by workers and only by revitalizing unions, publicly, aggressively and explicitly, will that change.
Schumer and the House Democrats compounded this problem Monday by perpetuating the myth that workers need more skills to get “high-paying” jobs and that politicians can ensure they get those skills by, you guessed it, that sure-fire election winner: giving a tax credit to companies. This has been an untenable proposition going back to the 1990s, when then-Labor Secretary Robert Reich flogged his elitist “symbolic analysts” solution, in which workers can all find a place in the creative and knowledge economies, which supposedly fix everything.
Reality is more difficult. Skills have nothing to do with the class warfare underway in the country. Workers are not dumb. It’s simple: There is no reason a retail worker, janitor or any worker who isn’t “highly skilled” can’t be paid a high wage, other than the lack of power to demand it through collective bargaining.
Even so, today’s Democrats, with the “A Better Deal” slogan, have the temerity to channel Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal” by explicitly stating, as Schumer does in his op-ed, “Our better deal is not about expanding the government.” Shame on them. That position betrays a continued acceptance by Democrats of a decadeslong Republican talking point that demonizes government, adopts the idea that taxes are too high and puts blind faith in the “free market.”
Our problem has not been a growing government or a spending problem. It’s the priorities political leaders have set and how we raise money. And it’s a continued belief in “free market” neo-liberalism: a system that relies on market mechanisms, argues against expanding the role of the state and social services, and empowers corporations and wealthy individuals at the expense of citizens.
To take the current policy debate around health care as the perfect example, a large majority of people support universal, single-payer health care, which would entail expanding government’s role. Yet, Schumer is trying to short-circuit universal health care as a party priority, even though it would end up saving businesses and average people hundreds of billions of dollars.
The ideological straitjacket “A Better Deal” creates goes deeper than a neglect of history or a refusal to empower citizens. It’s a failure of political philosophy and imagination. Its advocates say they want to protect the promise of Social Security and Medicare. But embracing a growing government would expand Social Security and Medicare, and, then, also fund free college education, and guaranteed annual incomes and a livable pension. We could fund some of that if, for example, we just cast off (a quarter-century after the Cold War ended) the government’s bipartisan priority to underwrite a bloated military and maintain the country’s prominence as the largest weapons merchant in the world, arming repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia.
Of course, to do any of these things requires a political spine, and leaders who finally admit that the “free market” system cannot be fixed. Until the Democrats get this message, they might as well have a slogan closer to “Better Hygiene, Better Grammar, Better Front Lawns.” At least it won’t mislead.
(CNN)US President Donald Trump will make back-to-back phone calls to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday, the White House announced Saturday night.
Trump and Abe will speak at 8 p.m. ET. Trump’s call with Xi will come 45 minutes later, according to a White House statement.
No information was provided as to what subjects the calls would cover, but they come after an eventful week in East Asia politics.
On Friday, Trump met in Washington with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and speaking alongside Moon at the White House declared that US patience with the North Korean regime “is over.”
Trump warns North Korea: US patience is over
The remarks were the latest sign that Trumpis growing increasingly frustratedwith the lack of progress in curbing North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The programs are considered a grave threat to South Korea, Japan and the United States, which has thousands of troops stationed at bases in its two Asian allies. US officials are also worried that the US Pacific territory of Guam may also face a North Korean missile threat.
Trump has been seeking more pressure from China to curb the threats from North Korea, which has its biggest trading relationship with Beijing.
But the Trump administration last week sent signals that the US patience on Beijing’s efforts was shrinking.
The Treasury Department onThursday imposed new sanctions on a Chinese bank and several Chinese nationalswhile theState Department approved a $1 billion arms deal with Taiwan. Both moves appeared aimed at unsettling China.
The Taiwan arms sale, in particular, drew a strong response from Beijing.
China’s ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, furiously denounced the sale in Chinese state media People’s Daily, saying it violated the agreed upon “one China” policy.
“China has made strong protests to the US and will reserve the right to take further measures,” state media quoted him as saying.
The announcement of the Taiwan arms deal came while Xi was in Hong Kong commemorating the 20th anniversary of the city’s return to Chinafrom the United Kingdom.
China’s President issues ‘red line’ warning
In a statement marking that anniversary, the US State Department issued a statement saying the US was “concerned about any infringements on civil liberties” in Hong Kong.
In a speech in Hong Kong on Saturday, Xi warned against any challenges to Beijing’s authority in the territory, a special administrative region of China.
“Any attempt to endanger China’s sovereignty and security … or use Hong Kong to carry out infiltration and sabotage activities against the mainland is an act that crosses a red line,” Xi said.
On Sunday, in a move that could further strain US-China relations, a US Navy guided-missile destroyer sailed within 12 miles of a Chinese-claimed island in the South China Sea in a “freedom of navigation” exercise, US defense officials said.
It was the second such operation reported under the Trump administration. China strongly denounced a previous one in May, saying it boosted “regional militarization.”
And although there have been a huge number of fan tributes shared on social media, the following illustration posted by Instagram’s official account and drawn by illustrator Taryn Knight is particularly spell-binding.