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How to remain completely anonymous and hidden online

NOVANEWS

anonymous in mexico
Maintaining online anonymity is no easy task. Today’s ad-driven and heavily surveilled internet ecosystem endeavors to accomplish the exact opposite result. Be it for national security or to sell you a smartphone, governments and companies want to know everything they can about you. To make them lose your trail is not a simple matter.

It is possible to be remain anonymous online, but it’s getting more difficult as time progresses. No measure you take will ever be perfect, but unless you’re a high profile criminal, you can make it more difficult than it’s worth for anyone to expose you.

Being anonymous has its benefits. Certain freedoms come with being unrecognizable and untraceable. It also requires sacrifice. Many of the conveniences of the modern web were built around profiling, tracking, and analyzing user behavior.

Bearing that in mind, these are the steps you can take and the tools you’ll need to stay anonymous and hidden online.

Tor

No anonymity checklist would be complete without Tor. This network of volunteer nodes around the world is synonymous with anonymity. Tor, short for “the onion router”, allows you to encrypt your internet traffic and, each time you connect to a web server, route that traffic through a random array of nodes before heading to the final destination.

There are dozens of ways to use Tor from many different devices. The Tor Browser is the most popular. Simply installing this Firefox-based application on your Mac or PC will allow you to anonymously browse the web. For Android devices, try Orbot. iOS users don’t have any official support from the Tor project, but the Onion Browser seems like a decent option.

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Tor does have a few downsides. For one, it’s slow. Tor isn’t suitable for streaming video or torrenting files. You can browse the web and that’s pretty much it due to the lack of volunteer resources and competing traffic from other users.

Secondly, even though your internet traffic is encrypted and untraceable, an internet service provider can still detect whether or not you are using Tor. This alone might be enough to raise suspicions, as Tor is often used for criminal activity online. Your ISP could choke your bandwidth, send you a cease and desist letter, or report you to the authorities even if you haven’t done anything wrong.

For this reason, we advise Tor users to use an obfuscation tool like Obfsproxy, turn on a VPN when using Tor, or both. Obfsproxy is a Tor project that makes encrypted Tor traffic look like normal un-encrypted traffic so that it doesn’t draw undue attention. More on VPNs further down.

Finally, there’s considerable speculation that the US government successfully used traffic analysis on Tor on at least a few occasions that led to arrests, including that of the infamous Dread Pirate Roberts of the Silk Road illicit goods marketplace. Rumor has it that governments also operate and monitor activity on several Tor exit nodes. None of these allegations come with concrete evidence, so take it with a big grain of salt.

Live OS

A browser is suitable for escaping targeted advertisements and occasional visits to the DarkNet, but those who require complete anonymity will need a more nuclear option. While no one can track your browsing activity on Tor Browser, for instance, chances are you’ve still got multiple applications running in the background. These applications–word processors, video players, update managers–send data to the web. Rumor has it that authorities have used unencrypted error reports from the Windows operating system to find people. Windows 10 includes a litany of tracking software that’s enabled by default.

You could disable all of those settings and uninstall all of your applications, but that’s not very practical. Instead, we recommend a live operating system. Live operating systems can be installed on USB drives or DVDs. By tweaking a few settings in your computer’s bootloader, you can launch an entirely independent operating system from a thumb drive on your everyday laptop.

Tails is the official live OS from the Tor Project. All internet traffic–not just web browsing–goes through the Tor Network. The OS leaves no trace on your computer and all instant messages, emails, and files are encrypted. It’s simple to use and is designed to be idiot proof.

If Tails doesn’t seem suitable for whatever reason, another option is Whonix. Whonix isn’t an independent live OS. Instead, it runs in a virtual machine on your existing operating system. It has all the advantages of Tails (it also uses the Tor Network) plus it is designed so that IP address leaks–which can be used to track users–are impossible. The downsides are that it takes a reasonably powerful computer to run a virtual machine and it’s rather complicated to set up.

Other options are also on the table. Kali, Qubes, and ZeusGuard are all alternatives to Tails and Whonix worth considering. Do your research and figure out what’s best for you.

Logless VPN

A VPN, or virtual private network, encrypts all of a device’s internet traffic and then routes it through an intermediary server in a location of the user’s choosing. The end result is that the device’s IP address is masked and third parties–including ISPs–cannot monitor traffic.

Most VPN providers utilize shared IP addresses on their servers. Multiple users–dozens, hundreds, and even thousands–are assigned a single IP address. This makes it nearly impossible to trace the activity of a single person in the pool.

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VPNs are built for privacy and not anonymity, however, so we caution against using them alone if you want to truly remain hidden. Privacy and anonymity often go hand in hand, but remember this important distinction: anonymity means no one can identify you, but privacy implies no can see what you’re doing.

Using a VPN requires a certain degree of trust in your VPN provider and the entities that host their servers. Very few VPN providers own their own physical server infrastructure. Your traffic is encrypted on your local device and remains encrypted until it arrives at the VPN server. It is then decrypted before being sent onto its destination. For a brief moment, your activity is visible to the VPN provider.

This is why we highly recommend “logless” VPNs. Branded with a “logless”, “no-logs”, or “zero-logs” policy, this means that the VPN provider does not store any information about the content of users traffic. Assuming the VPN provider is telling the truth, that’s a good thing.

But it’s not so simple as that. Some VPN providers claim to be logless but in reality they still store metadata. Depending on how anonymous you want to be, this is a nuance to be wary of. Metadata doesn’t contain any information about the contents of your traffic, but it can include details such as when you used the VPN, for how long, how much data was transferred, and even your original IP address. Always skim through a VPN provider’s privacy policy for devilish details like these.

Even the few true zero-logs VPNs out there require customers to trust them. There’s no way of knowing whether they are being honest and how they will react when faced with a government subpoena. For the highest level of anonymity, then, try combining your VPN with Tor. Avoid VPNs based in the United States and Europe, where data retention laws and government intelligence agencies could put your data at risk.

Simply running Tor Browser while connected to the VPN makes tracing the user twice as difficult. VPNs can also be configured manually in live operating systems like Tails.

Logless DNS

When a URL is entered into a browser, a request is sent to a DNS server to lookup the IP address that matches the URL. Even when using a proxy like a VPN, these DNS requests can be sent outside the encrypted tunnel to the default server. By default, DNS requests usually go to and are recorded by a nearby server operated by the user’s ISP.

If this happens when using a VPN, it’s called a DNS leak. Many VPN providers offer DNS leak protection, which ensures that all internet traffic, including DNS requests, are directed through the VPN. These VPNs typically operate their own DNS servers, which won’t record which websites you visit if they meet the logless criteria outlined above.

Even if a VPN advertises DNS leak protection, that statement often only applies to IPv4 DNS leaks. IPV6 DNS requests can still travel on the default network and be picked up by both web servers and ISPs. It would be great if more VPNs would set up IPv6 DNS servers to handle this situation, but at the moment the best solution is simply to disable IPv6 in the device’s internet settings.

If the VPN you use lacks DNS leak protection, or you aren’t using a VPN at all, try opting for a public no-logs DNS server. You can change your device’s DNS settings so that requests aren’t sent through your ISP. We recommend DNS.WATCH or OpenNIC.

Burner emails

It goes without saying that remaining anonymous online means not logging into any of your existing accounts. But since many apps and websites require users to sign up, you’ll need an email address or two.

Several services offer free fake and burner email accounts. For one-off registrations and messages, we recommend Guerilla Mail. No registration is required and it includes a password manager to help remember the passwords associated with those accounts.

guerrilla mail ss

For a more long-term untraceable email account, the best option is probably ProtonMail. This end-to-end encrypted service is open-source and uses zero-knowledge apps for web and mobile. Unfortunately, new users must apply for an invite due to limited server capacity. ProtonMail is donation-based.

If you don’t want to wait around for an invite, Zmail is another alternative. It allows you to send emails from fake addresses.

Never use your own email account when trying to be anonymous. Don’t even read your email or log into the account. If you want to send encrypted email from a burner account, you’ll have to set up new PGP or S/MIME keys.

Cryptocurrencies

If you want to make an anonymous purchase or donation, cryptocurrencies are superior to PayPal and obviously credit cards. That doesn’t mean that you can just open up a Bitcoin wallet with a big exchange like Coinbase and start spending, though.

There’s a big misconception that bitcoin is always anonymous, when in fact the very nature of blockchain technology means every transaction is tracked and verified. This publicly available ledger can be analyzed so that the wallets you use and the transactions you make could be linked to your identity.

By analyzing the activity which is visible to anybody on the public blockchain an observer may well be able to link your personal identity with all of the wallets you use and therefore your entire transaction history. In a way, this makes Bitcoin even less private than a bank account.

To get around this, use wallets that change your bitcoin address after each transaction. This makes you harder to trace. Use a bitcoin mixing service, which pools your bitcoins with other people’s and mixes them up before making a payment to the receiver.

Perhaps the most difficult part is anonymously buying bitcoins in the first place, as doing so requires fiat currency. Private deals and peer-to-peer exchanges like LocalBitcoins are not for the careless, but they are the best means of anonymously getting your hands on coins.

Remember that Bitcoin isn’t the only player in town, although it is the biggest. Litecoin, DarkCoin, and Dogecoin are popular as well.

Search engines

Google keeps track of every search query and link you click on. If you’re using Tor, this doesn’t matter so much, but it’s still a good idea to opt for an alternative.

DuckDuckGo is perhaps the most popular search engine that doesn’t track or profile users. It can be set as the default search engine in your browser.

DuckDuckGo is a fully independent browser, so, let’s be honest, the results won’t be as good as Google’s. Luckily, there’s a way to get Google results without Google.

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StartPage removes all your identifying information and submits a search query to Google on your behalf. It doesn’t log or track user activity. All search results are displayed with a proxy link beneath them, allowing you to click through to any site while retaining your privacy through a proxy.

File transfers

The moment might arise when you need to anonymously send a file that’s too big for an email attachment. If you’re a whistleblower who wants to leak a large trove of damning documents to the public, uploading the files to Dropbox just won’t do.

FileDropper is a simple and convenient solution that allows uploads of up to 5GB with no registration required. WeTransfer is another option that allows files up to 2GB without signing up. For these types of services, just upload a file and then send the link to whoever you want to receive it.

Remember to access the site using Tor and share the links using a burner email or some other anonymous method, as the website might well be gathering information on site visitors despite the fact that registration isn’t required.

Choose your browser extensions carefully

The Tor Browser has very little support for extensions, and there’s a good reason for that. Advertising companies are getting smarter about how they track users. One of the most advanced methods is called fingerprinting. By gathering information about your web browser–what extensions are installed, what device you use, what language you read in, etc–ad tech companies can create a “fingerprint” that identifies a user. Fingerprints are superior to IP addresses because they don’t change if a user switches wifi networks or connects to a VPN.

Many extensions can help maintain your privacy–ABP, Disconnect, Privacy Badger, HTTPS Everywhere, etc–but they also contribute to a more well-formed fingerprint. This is one of several reasons it’s so difficult to be anonymous on a popular browser like FireFox or Chrome.

If you want to test how well your browser protects you from tracking, head over to the Panopticlick website. This tool made by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) can show you in excruciating detail how an ad agency can identify your browser using a unique fingerprint.

Besides fingerprinting, browser extensions can communicate with servers in the background without your knowledge, potentially logging metadata that could help identify you and your online activity.

Read more: 75+ free tools to protect your privacy online

Encrypted communications

Besides email, you’ll also want to cover your tracks when sending messages and making calls. Encryption is more focused on privacy than anonymity; even if a message is encrypted, a snoop still knows who the sender and receiver is. But if you’re going through the trouble of being anonymous, you might as well take every precaution.

Signal is the premier app for encrypted voice calls on smartphones. It also includes instant messaging. Users can verify the identities of their contacts by comparing key fingerprints.

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For encrypted text and media messaging, there’s a wealth of free and private options. TorChat uses peer-to-peer encrypted messaging on the Tor network. It requires no installation and can be run from a USB drive. Other alternatives include Pidgin, and CryptoCat.

Encrypted backup

Even anons need to back up and store large files, and sometimes allow other people to access them. Stay away from Google Drive and Dropbox, as these contain no real privacy protections such as encryption and aren’t anonymous at any rate.

Backups are best done locally to an encrypted external hard drive. Crashplan offers a free version of its software that makes this easy.

backblaze web app

If you want a cloud solution, it will require trusting a provider. Seek out a “zero knowledge” service that allows you to set your own encryption key. SpiderOak, iDrive, BackBlaze, and Crashplan all offer this option, which prevents the provider from decrypting your files.

If you insist on using Google Drive, Dropbox, or some other un-encrypted storage provider, you can always encrypt your files before uploading them to the cloud.

Secure your webcam

It’s been proven that webcams can be remotely activated and used to spy on users. The head of the FBI and Mark Zuckerberg both go so far as to put tape over their webcams for this very reason.

Webcams are usually remotely activated through malware, so a real-time virus scanner and regular system scans can prevent this from happening. If your laptop has an LED light that turns on whenever the webcam is active, make sure it’s enabled. If you don’t want to put tape on your webcam, make sure you close the laptop when not in use.

Learn more about securing your webcam here.

Secure your wifi router

Many of us never bother changing the settings that our wifi routers came with from the factory. Unsecured routers can make users extremely vulnerable to nearby snoops. Routers can be used to intercept, read, and modify internet traffic. If you’re on someone else’s wifi network, be sure to use a VPN.

If you want to remain anonymous, it’s important to change the router’s login credentials, update the firmware, set the strongest level of encryption (usually WPA2), restrict inbound and outbound traffic, turn off WPS, disable unused services, check port 32764, enable and read logs, and log out of your router when finished.

You can learn more about how to take all of these steps and more in our guide on securing wireless routers.

iOS and Android are not optimal for anonymity

If you’re choosing between iOS and Android based on which is more anonymous, go with Android. But don’t get comfortable and think you can be totally anonymous on either.

It is far more difficult to be anonymous on a smartphone than on a computer. Anonymity tools for Tor just haven’t matured to a point where they work well on mobile, yet. Apple and Google are too deeply embedded in these devices. You might be able to browse an onion site with Orbot on Android, but that’s about as far as you’ll get. There are no official Tor browsers for iOS.

There are no live operating systems that can be utilized by smartphones like TAILS for desktops.

Smartphones have IMEI numbers, MAC addresses, and possibly vulnerable firmware that cannot be altered and can be used to identify a specific device when connected to the internet. Because Android is usually modified by manufacturers, it’s difficult to audit and keep up with each device’s potential vulnerabilities. Apple and Google have the power to track almost every iOS and Android phone, respectively.

Apps constantly communicate with servers over the internet, passing data back and forth that could be used to track users. Even something as basic as a keyboard could be used to monitor activity. Cameras and microphones can be hacked into to spy on users. Any time a device receives a signal from a cell tower, their device’s location can be traced. Simply put, there’s just too much that could go wrong on Android and iOS that the user cannot see.

While making smartphones completely anonymous might be a futile effort, they can be made significantly more private. Android devices can be encrypted and iPhones are all encrypted by default. Use VPNs to encrypt internet traffic, and set up a self destruct sequence if the passcode is entered incorrectly too many times.

Finally, companies like Silent Circle make Android-based smartphones with security first in mind. The Blackphone, for instance, is fully encrypted and runs several “virtual phones” to compartmentalize data. Silent Circle also has a subscription service to make iPhones private. Again, the key difference is that this phone is focused on privacy, not anonymity. While the contents of the phone are protected, the same isn’t necessarily true for the identity of the user.

Be wary of the Internet-of-Things

The internet of things presents a whole new wave of opportunity for hackers and snoopers. Security has unfortunately been an afterthought for many IoT manufacturers. A simple log of when your smart air conditioner is activated, for example, can tell a lot about a person’s daily routine. Critics have warned against devices like the Amazon Echo, which are always listening for input even when deactivated.

Depending on your online activity, this can be a threat to a user’s anonymity. Use IoT devices with caution.

Make a checklist

No anonymity tool, even Tor, is perfect. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t effective. While a well-funded corporation or government agency could spend huge amounts of time and money running traffic analysis on the Tor network to eventually find the person they are looking for, it’s much more likely that person will make a mistake and drop a clue somewhere along the way.

So how do you avoid making mistakes? The same way surgeons and other high-risk occupations do: with lists. Every time you want to be anonymous online, start from the beginning of your checklist. Write it down on a piece of paper, but don’t include any login credentials or other identifying information. Here’s what one might look like based on everything discussed:

  • Connected to a logless VPN
  • Connected to the internet through Tor Browser/Tails
  • DNS settings are configured to use a logless DNS
  • Logged out of all online accounts
  • Closed all apps and background services connected to the web
  • All tracking in my browser and OS are turned off and blocked
  • Emails are sent using burner accounts
  • New accounts registered and logged in with burner emails
  • Search with DuckDuckGo or StartPage
  • Bitcoins are properly mixed and using a third-party wallet

With a standard protocol in place, you can drastically reduce the chances of making mistakes. Don’t be overconfident. Anonymity is something you can get right 100 times, but it only takes one misstep for it all to crumble.

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The Shocking Truth Why Pope Benedict Resigned

NOVANEWS

Image result for Pope Benedict CARTOON

This video (edited version) is intended to educate viewers of the circumstance surrounding the most controversial resignation of Pope Benedict the XVI. The Catholic church is beacon of light and source of hope to many of it’s followers, the failings of it’s hierarchy to uphold it’s theocratic responsibility should serve as a warning to other Christian institutions of the grave consequences of their actions.

Vatican City is the smallest country in the world.

Encircled by a 2-mile border with Italy, Vatican City is an independent city-state that covers just over 100 acres, making it one-eighth the size of New York’s Central Park. Vatican City is governed as an absolute monarchy with the pope at its head. The Vatican mints its own euros, prints its own stamps, issues passports and license plates, operates media outlets and has its own flag and anthem. One government function it lacks: taxation. Museum admission fees, stamp and souvenir sales, and contributions generate the Vatican’s revenue.

St. Peter’s Basilica sits atop a city of the dead, including its namesake’s tomb.
A Roman necropolis stood on Vatican Hill in pagan times. When a great fire leveled much of Rome in A.D. 64, Emperor Nero, seeking to shift blame from himself, accused the Christians of starting the blaze. He executed them by burning them at the stake, tearing them apart with wild beasts and crucifying them. Among those crucified was St. Peter—disciple of Jesus Christ, leader of the Apostles and the first bishop of Rome—who was supposedly buried in a shallow grave on Vatican Hill. By the fourth century and official recognition of the Christian religion in Rome, Emperor Constantine began construction of the original basilica atop the ancient burial ground with what was believed to be the tomb of St. Peter at its center. The present basilica, built starting in the 1500s, sits over a maze of catacombs and St. Peter’s suspected grave.

For nearly 60 years in the 1800s and 1900s, popes refused to leave the Vatican.
Popes ruled over a collection of sovereign Papal States throughout central Italy until the country was unified in 1870. The new secular government had seized all the land of the Papal States with the exception of the small patch of the Vatican, and a cold war of sorts then broke out between the church and the Italian government. Popes refused to recognize the authority of the Kingdom of Italy, and the Vatican remained beyond Italian national control. Pope Pius IX proclaimed himself a “prisoner of the Vatican,” and for almost 60 years popes refused to leave the Vatican and submit to the authority of the Italian government. When Italian troops were present in St. Peter’s Square, popes even refused to give blessings or appear from the balcony overlooking the public space.

At several times during the Vatican’s history, popes escaped through a secret passageway.
In 1277, a half-mile-long elevated covered passageway, the Passetto di Borgo, was constructed to link the Vatican with the fortified Castel Sant’Angelo on the banks of the Tiber River. It served as an escape route for popes, most notably in 1527 when it likely saved the life of Pope Clement VII during the sack of Rome. As the forces of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V rampaged through the city and murdered priests and nuns, the Swiss Guard held back the enemy long enough to allow Clement to safely reach the Castel Sant’Angelo, although 147 of the pope’s forces lost their lives in the battle.

http://www.history.com/news/10-things.

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With Jesus’ birth, why does the Bible list two different family trees?

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Image result for bible photos

 

THE QUESTION:

In the accounts of Jesus’ Nativity in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, why are the genealogies so different?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

Because there are no Christmas-y questions from readers awaiting answers, The Guy raises this Yuletide classic himself. When Matthew and Luke recount the birth of Jesus they present different genealogies with fascinating intricacies. The following can only sketch a few basics from the immense literature on this.

The Bible provides no roadmap, leaving us to ponder who was included, who was omitted, how the passages were structured, and what all this might mean. Reader comprehension is difficult due to multiple names given the same person, the lack of specific Hebrew and Greek words so that a “son-in-law” was called a “son,” legal adoption, and “levirate marriage” where a widow wed her late husband’s brother to maintain the family line.

Family trees were of keen importance for the Hebrews and carefully preserved. The central purpose in both Gospels was to establish Jesus within King David’s family line, a key qualification for recognition as the promised Messiah.

Matthew starts right off with the genealogy in the first 17 verses of chapter 1. Beginning from the patriarch Abraham, it extends through three sections of 14 generations each, down to the conclusion with “Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.” The passage then immediately specifies that Joseph was not the biological father because Jesus was conceived miraculously by the Holy Spirit (1:18-21).

In Luke, which also depicts this “virgin birth,” the genealogy appears later on (3:23-38) after Jesus in baptized by John and a heavenly voice proclaims him the Son of God. Here the chronology is reversed, starting from Jesus “the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, and son of Heli,” moving backward through 77 generations, beyond David and Abraham all the way to Adam.

Experts tell us Matthew built the scenario on Abraham, the founder of the Israelites, because the Jewish writer(s) compiled this Gospel largely for fellow Jews. Luke was framed especially for Gentile converts, so the genealogy traces to Adam to announce Jesus as the savior of all humanity, though also a Jewish descendant of Abraham and David.

Despite the Jewish audience, Matthew hinted at the same universality when the Gentile Magi appear to worship in chapter 2, and explicitly at the end of the final chapter when Jesus issues his commission to reach “all nations.” Exegetes see an echo of the Bible’s creation story because Matthew 1:1 can be translated “book of the genesis.” Also compare the first words of the Book of Genesis with Luke 1:2 (“from the beginning”), Mark 1:1 (“the beginning”) and John 1:1 (“in the beginning”).

The general consensus on the differences is that Matthew depicted Jesus’ legal descent from David, on the assumption Joseph adopted him. If Mary had no brothers, by common custom Joseph would have been his father-in-law’s legal “son” and heir through the marriage. Luke defined Jesus through Mary as a blood descendant of David. Some Luke texts insert a “Jacob” between Joseph and Heli, but these are late manuscripts judged unreliable.

Matthew’s listing is selective rather than naming each and every generation, since there are royal omissions a Jew would have noticed. Perhaps these unnamed personalities were scorned. Omissions were nothing usual in family trees since, for example, the succession in 1 Chronicles 3:10-14 omitted monarchs we know about from the Bible’s historical narratives.

Matthew’s first set of 14 covered patriarchs, the second listed only royalty, and the third named private citizens. The stylized structure of three 14’s was either because that’s double the sacred number of seven, or because in gematria (Jewish number symbolism) the name David adds up to 14 and his is the 14th name, doubly listed. Or all the above.

Since ancient family trees traced through males, it’s striking that Matthew made a point of including four women in addition to Mary. Moreover, three (Rahab, Ruth, Tamar) were Gentiles and possibly also the fourth (Bathsheba). Equally surprising is that alongside evil kings we find Rahab who was a prostitute, the incestuous seducer Tamar, and “the wife of Uriah” (the adulterous Bathsheba didn’t even deserve mention by name!).

Interpreters see here a forthright message: Jesus is the savior of both men and women, of Jews and of Gentiles, and even of notorious sinners.

Luke’s different structure consisted of eleven groups each naming the sacred number of seven, for a total of 77 generations. As in Matthew there are evident omissions (we’ll sidestep humanity’s chronology after Adam as seen by strict literalists and “creationists”).

The two listings are identical between Abraham and David, but from David to Jesus the lines diverge. Luke traced the family tree through David’s son Nathan, while Matthew followed the ruling line of David’s son Solomon. The traditional explanation is that Joseph and Mary descended from King David but by these two different paths.

Unlike Matthew, Luke omitted Jehoiachin, the three-month king of the Exile in Babylon, possibly to shun memory of that horror. Scholars say this king ended Judah’s royal line so a curse in Jeremiah 22:30 said he should be recorded “as if childless” (NIV) although the Bible says in fact he sired seven offspring.

Only two names between David and Jesus appear in both genealogies, Shealtiel and his son Zerubbabel (also transliterated as Salathiel and Zorababel), who helped restore the Jerusalem Temple after the Exile (see Ezra 3). If the Religion Guy presented even a summary of the discussion on that, this article would be twice as long.

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When Pastors Live In Multimillion Dollar Mansions

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When Pastors Live In Multimillion Dollar Mansions, It’s Not A Sign Of God’s Blessing– But Our Sinfulness

A year ago this week I took these images while working in slums of Mumbai, India. As I was walking along with the local pastor I was spending the day with, he cautioned me saying:

“Be careful where you step, Pastor Benjamin, this is where the children make their shit”.

It took me a moment to get past the fact that a pastor had just said “shit” before I realized that there were human feces almost everywhere.

Such is life in the slums where there are no bathrooms, running water, and where homes look like American storage lockers.

Even with a level of poverty that most Americans could hardly imagine, the people of Mumbai– the people of India in general– are some of the happiest and most generous people I’ve ever been blessed to spend time with. It is one of the many reasons I continue to go back and why part of my heart is always somewhere on a dusty road in India.

While I would desire that all Americans be able to spend some time in the slums of Mumbai or other international traveling geared towards experiencing poverty instead of Club Med, the truth is most Americans probably couldn’t handle it. The reality of global poverty to many, would simply be too disgusting. However, it isn’t to me. The poor and oppressed of this world are my people– because they’re Jesus’ people– and I love being with them.

However, if you take a 16 hour flight from Mumbai back here to the United States, you’ll find some things that I actually do find disgusting: the association between Christianity and wealth.

This unholy matrimony between Jesus and cash is becoming especially true with many Christian leaders. It’s not just televangelists who are about Jesus + bling– this is a poison that is sickening churches of all sizes in America.

We have Pastor Steven Furtick from Elevation Church who just built a multimillion dollar mansion.

Jan Crouch from TBN who has a 50 Million dollar jet, 13 mansions, and a $100,000 mobile home for her dogs.

We have fear-peddlers such as John Hagee who was reported to be making over $1 Million a year before making his salary secret, guys like Kenneth Copeland who have their own fleet of jets, and folks like Ed Young who receives a $240,ooo PER YEAR housing allowance in addition to a $1 Million dollar salary.

Even in small towns like mine, you have churches of African refugees without enough money to care for themselves or even purchase Bibles for the church while two miles down the road, one can find a mega church with multimillion dollar building campaigns.

In the past, this gross association between wealth and Jesus was largely a thing for slimey televangelists, but sadly it isn’t anymore– this illness has permeated into much of American Christian culture, and it’s making all of us sick. With new mega churches cropping up every few days, the Christian idolatry of buildings, bodies, and bucks combined with secular idolatry that promotes the God of “me”,  we have been polluted by money to the point that it is hindering the Kingdom and keeping us from following Jesus.

However, it’s easy for us to stand back and point our finger at these rich poster children for American Christianity as somehow we’re off the hook and innocent parties in all this. We’re not! These folks get their money from…. us.

Let me be prophetically clear: rich pastors and mega church budgets are not a sign of God’s blessing but of our own (corporate) sinfulness.

The body of Christ in America, is guilty. Sure, not all of us use our money to make pastors rich– but we do spend most of our money on ourselves which is even worse. As a result, we are among the richest people in the world while we’re often oblivious to the way the rest of the world lives.

Oblivious to slums. Oblivious to communities where girls are such a financial burden that they’re killed on the day they’re born. Oblivious to a world where a leading cause of death is lack of access to clean water. We– rich, American Christians, are often oblivious to the world around us.

This association with wealth is inappropriate for those who wish to follow Jesus. Jesus is not the one who said “let me show you how to live your best life now” or “Come, let me show you eight steps to having the life you want”.

Instead, Jesus was the man who said: “Want to be perfect? Sell all your possessions and give them to the poor.” (Mt 19:21)

Jesus is the one who said: “If you want to follow me, you should first remember that I am a homeless person.” (Mt 8:20)

Jesus is the one who said: “If you want to follow me, grab a shovel and start digging your grave now.” (Lk 9:23)

Jesus is the one who said: “If money is what motivates you, it’s impossible for you to follow God.” (Mt 6:24)

Admittedly, I tricked you with the title of this post– because it’s not so much about calling rich Christian pastors to repent, as it is about calling me and you to repent.

Instead of the rich, American version of Christianity we must reclaim the truth:

Having an over abundance of wealth kept for ourselves is not a sign of God’s blessing, but damning evidence of our own sinfulness.

So the question becomes: how are we supposed to show solidarity with our poor and hungry brothers and sisters in the world when we’re driving in cars that have televisions and surround sound?

How are we suppose to bring healing to the nations when as Christians we’re spending almost all of our money on ourselves?

Today, I’m remembering the time I had to dodge a field of human feces in the slums of Mumbai. I’m also thinking about the association between American Christianity and wealth.

And to be honest, only one of those two things disgusts me.

 

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Capitalism vs. Socialism: A Changed Debate

NOVANEWS

By Richard D. Wolff, Truthout

(Image: Lw / TO; Adapted: Matthew Henry, Damian Gladal)

(Image: LW / TO; Adapted: Matthew Henry, Damian Gladal)

Once again, private capitalism’s contradictions, flaws and weaknesses threaten its own existence. Two major global collapses — first in the 1930s and more recently, since 2008 — plus periodic downturns every few years have underscored the instability that haunts the system. At the same time, deepening inequality has turned ever-larger populations into capitalism’s critics. Talk of reform and revolution has crowded onto political agendas. The capitalism versus socialism debate has returned everywhere. However, it is a changed debate transformed by lessons drawn from the Soviet Union and other similar experiences and experiments. The debate now displays three key alternative systems, not two: private capitalism, state capitalism and socialism. And that changes everything.

During the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries, we mostly believed ourselves to be caught up in a struggle between capitalism and socialism — as the two alternative economic systems differentiated by how the individual related to the state. Private versus public enterprises, free markets versus central planning: these were the epochal individual versus state oppositions that, especially in economics, took the form of capitalism versus socialism. But we know now that we should not equate the private-versus-public debate with a real consideration of capitalism versus socialism. Capitalism, we have learned, displays both private and state forms, and socialism differs from both of them. Capitalism, as we discuss further below, is a production system structured by its relationship of employer to employee as different persons or groups, regardless of whether employers are public or private. In contrast, socialism’s very different structure has employer and employee being the same person.

Reexamining past economic systems that coexisted with state apparatuses shows that they included both private and public enterprises. In many examples of slave economic systems, there were private masters alongside public masters. That is, private individuals or groups of citizens owned slaves, but so did local, regional or national state bodies and agencies. Likewise, in many examples of feudalism, we find private individuals who were lords ruling over serfs alongside, for example, kings or other state bodies who were also lords presiding over serfs.

Societies where slavery prevailed sometimes displayed struggles between the private and the state slave enterprises. Where feudalism prevailed, there were comparable struggles between the private and the state feudal enterprises. Such struggles sometimes broadened into grand oppositions between private and public, individual and state, citizen versus government, etc. But those struggles and oppositions usually occurred within one, shared class system: slavery or feudalism.

Capitalism has a parallel history. Private enterprises (owned and operated by private individuals and groups holding no position within any state apparatus) have frequently coexisted with public or state enterprises. The latter were owned by the state and operated by state officials. In both the private and public capitalist enterprises, the common basic relationship was between employer and employee. This matched the common relationship (master-slave) shared by private and public slave enterprises and the common relationship (lord-serf) shared by private and public feudal enterprises.

In slavery, feudalism and capitalism, the proportions of private versus state enterprises could and did vary. Public enterprises were sometimes a small and marginal portion of a region’s or nation’s total economy. They might also be altogether absent, or, at the opposite extreme, be the chief or even the only kind of enterprise. Depending on which form prevailed, economies could be described as private or state slavery, private or state feudalism, or private or state capitalism.

What obscured these parallels over the last century and a half was confusion between private versus state capitalism, on the one hand, and capitalism versus socialism on the other. Most people described the dominant opposition as capitalism versus socialism, but their definition of socialism equated it with state capitalism. They viewed capitalism as an economy based on private capitalist enterprises (or “free” enterprises) and markets as organizations for the distribution of enterprises’ resources and products. They viewed socialism as an economy of public enterprises (or “state” enterprises) and central planning as the organization for distributing resources and products. In effect, they conflated socialism with state capitalism.

These confusions of terms and meanings likely arose because nineteenth and twentieth century socialists focused strategically on capturing the state (either by revolution or by parliamentary politics). They planned to use the state as the means to transform capitalism into socialism. State capitalism would serve as a kind of way station where state capitalist enterprises and central planning prevailed (occupied the “commanding heights”) over private capitalist enterprises and markets. Such an economy would then be further transformed into socialism, presumably by the socialists who had captured state power. Socialists were often quite vague about their ultimate goal of socialism, especially when compared to their clear focus on political strategies to win state power and establish state capitalism.

Most socialists gradually stopped viewing the state as merely the means for (and state capitalism as a way-station to) a further transformation. Instead, state capitalism — operated by a state apparatus controlled by people who identified as socialists — came to be viewed as, in itself, the transformation of capitalism into socialism. Converting private to state capitalist enterprises and subordinating markets to central planning came to define the achievement of “socialism.” Two sequential transitions — the first from private to state capitalism and the second from state capitalism to socialism — were conflated into the first one alone.

The last century’s so-called great contest between capitalism and socialism was thus actually a contest between private and state capitalism. The US mostly favored private capitalism. It displayed chiefly private enterprises with significant instances of state capitalist enterprises; it likewise displayed a largely market system of distribution with significant instances of planned distributions. Meanwhile, the USSR was mostly a state capitalism. It displayed chiefly state capitalist enterprises and centrally planned distribution with significant instances of private capitalist enterprises and market distributions. However, most of its advocates and its critics alike described the USSR as “socialist.”

Historically, then, the revolution of 1917 achieved a transition from private Russian capitalism to Soviet state capitalism, while the 1989 implosion achieved precisely the reverse transition. In good dialectical fashion, those oscillations between private and state capitalisms enable us to clarify that socialism lies beyond them both.

The socialist alternative to both private and state forms of capitalism is the end, the supersession, of capitalism as the specific employer-employee organization of production. The replacement of private enterprises by state enterprises and markets by planning are changes that mostly leave in place the employer-employee organization of production, capitalism’s distinguishing mark. The employer-employee relationship in production differentiates capitalism from slavery (where master-slave is the distinguishing relationship). It differentiates capitalism likewise from feudalism (where lord-serf is the distinguishing relationship). Finally, the employer-employee relationship differentiates capitalism — in both its private and state forms — from socialism, in which the dualistic oppositions of master-slave, lord-serf, and employer-employee are all dissolved. In socialism — if we return to its original conception as a basic alternative to capitalism — the workers/employees themselves function as their own collective employer.

Worker coops — what might more precisely be called worker self-directed enterprises — are the core or definition of a socialist organization of production that is a systemic alternative to capitalism. In worker self-directed enterprises, no dichotomy of enterprise participants pits them against one another. No minority (masters, lords or employers) dictates to a majority (slaves, serfs or employees). Enterprises comprise a community of individuals democratically organizing all of their own work activities. The production process itself is thereby socialized. The socialization no longer applies merely to the ownership of means of production and the distribution of resources and products as in classical “socialism.” Worker self-directed enterprises democratize the enterprise, thereby providing more of a basis for the democratization of the economy and society than capitalism (private or state) could ever achieve.

Karl Marx’s analytical focus on exploitation — how surpluses are extracted from producers (slaves, serfs and proletarians) by exploiters (masters, lords and capitalists) — points toward a socialism that negates all forms of exploitation. In contrast, state capitalist enterprises change who the exploiters are and the conditions of that exploitation. State and private capitalisms can be and have been very different in their social consequences, political complexions, etc. Struggles between them have had momentous historical significance. But they did not end worker exploitation; they did not establish a socialist economy that banished exploitation.

For struggles between private and state capitalisms to become means for or steps toward transitions to socialism, their limits must be appreciated. The emerging twenty-first century socialism, focused on a system beyond state capitalism, represents both a return to Marx’s basic insights and a learning from the successes and failures of what the twentieth century called socialism. This will be a stronger, more developed kind of socialism, confronting a capitalism whose internal contradictions, flaws and weaknesses are now more widely appreciated than ever.

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Nazi Wehrmacht ‘wreaks havoc’ in raid on Birzeit University

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More than 20 Nazi military vehicles raided the campus of Birzeit University in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah before dawn on Wednesday, with Nazi forces ”leaving a great deal of havoc” in their wake, an official university statement said.

After storming the campus through its western gate, Nazi soldiers forced campus security guards to stand against the walls, and proceeded to raid several buildings, including the university’s administration building, the student council’s headquarters, Kamal Nasir Hall, and the Faculty of Science.

Sources said Nazi army smashed the main door of the student council building before searching the area and seizing several objects that were inside storage units belonging to student blocs.

Students’ flags and banners were also confiscated, while property in the administrative building and around campus were “sabotaged,” according to the university.

Birzeit University harshly condemned Nazi forces for the “continuation of their barbaric aggression on our people and national institutions,” adding that “These blatant attacks and subsequent measures of harassment constitute outrageous interferences to our right to education.”

However, the statement vowed that the “attacks” would “not deter its commitment to higher education, and the pivotal role it has played since its establishment.”

“The academic freedom of Palestinian academics and students is severely hindered, due to the (Israeli) occupation, its policies, and continuous defiance of the fundamental rights of our people and the sanctity of our universities, and that must be defended,” the statement said…

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Education, West Bank0 Comments

Word of the Year 2016 is… “Post-Truth”

WOTY-1616x468

After much discussion, debate, and research, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 is post-truth – an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.

Why was this chosen?

The concept of post-truth has been in existence for the past decade, but Oxford Dictionaries has seen a spike in frequency this year in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States. It has also become associated with a particular noun, in the phrase post-truth politics.

Post-truth in 2016

Post-truth has gone from being a peripheral term to being a mainstay in political commentary, now often being used by major publications without the need for clarification or definition in their headlines.

A brief history of post-truth

The compound word post-truth exemplifies an expansion in the meaning of the prefix post- that has become increasingly prominent in recent years. Rather than simply referring to the time after a specified situation or event – as in post-war or post-match – the prefix  in post-truth has a meaning more like ‘belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant’. This nuance seems to have originated in the mid-20th century, in formations such as post-national (1945) and post-racial (1971).

Post-truth seems to have been first used in this meaning in a 1992 essay by the late Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich in The Nation magazine. Reflecting on the Iran-Contra scandal and the Persian Gulf War, Tesich lamented that ‘we, as a free people, have freely decided that we want to live in some post-truth world’. There is evidence of the phrase ‘post-truth’ being used before Tesich’s article, but apparently with the transparent meaning ‘after the truth was known’, and not with the new implication that truth itself has become irrelevant.

A book, The Post-truth Era, by Ralph Keyes appeared in 2004, and in 2005 American comedian Stephen Colbert popularized an informal word relating to the same concept: truthiness, defined by Oxford Dictionaries as ‘the quality of seeming or being felt to be true, even if not necessarily true’. Post-truth extends that notion from an isolated quality of particular assertions to a general characteristic of our age.

The shortlist

Here are the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year shortlist choices, and definitions:

adulting, n. [mass noun] informal the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.

alt-right, n. (in the US) an ideological grouping associated with extreme conservative or reactionary viewpoints, characterized by a rejection of mainstream politics and by the use of online media to disseminate deliberately controversial content. Find out more about the word’s rise.

Brexiteer, n. British informal a person who is in favour of the United Kingdom withdrawing from the European Union.

chatbot, n. a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.

coulrophobia, n. [mass noun] rare extreme or irrational fear of clowns.

glass cliff,  n. used with reference to a situation in which a woman or member of a minority group ascends to a leadership position in challenging circumstances where the risk of failure is high. Explore the word’s history from one of the inventors of the term, Alex Haslam.

hygge, n. [mass noun] a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture):

Latinx, n. (plural Latinxs or same) and adj. a person of Latin American origin or descent (used as a gender-neutral or non-binary alternative to Latino or Latina); relating to people of Latin American origin or descent (used as a gender-neutral or non-binary alternative to Latino or Latina).

woke, adj. (woker, wokest) US informal alert to injustice in society, especially racism. Read more about the evolution of woke throughout 2016.

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Chile students vote to end ties with Nazi universities

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Students at one of Latin America’s top-ranked universities have voted to back the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions by a large margin.

The student federation at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, elected from the institution’s 25,000-strong student body, passed the measure by 37-2 with 20 abstentions.

The motion, put forward by the Organization of Solidarity with Palestine, calls for the university to end two cooperation agreements with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Nazi Institute of Technology – Technion because of their complicity with Nazi violations of international law and Palestinian rights…

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Education, South America0 Comments

After Hundreds of School Closures, Black Families Are Still Waiting for Justice

NOVANEWS

By Mike Ludwig

Graffiti alters a sign outside a school in New Orleans, Louisiana that has sat vacant since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005. After the storm, schools across the city were closed or converted into charter schools; a process that civil rights advocates say disproportionately displaced Black students. The school pictured here is located in the historic Treme neighborhood and was recently sold to a private developer who is converting the buildings into studies for artists. (Photo: Mike Ludwig)

Graffiti alters a sign outside Andrew J. Bell Jr. High School in New Orleans, Louisiana, which has been sitting vacant since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005. After the storm, schools across the city were closed or converted into charter schools — a process that civil rights advocates say disproportionately displaced Black students. (Photo: Mike Ludwig)

As students across the country head back to school this week, some will be traveling longer distances than usual to reach the classroom. These students do not live in remote areas. In fact, they live in some of the most urban districts in the country, and they used to have schools right in their own neighborhoods — until school boards and state officials closed their doors in the name of “reform.”

In May of 2014, civil rights organizers in Newark, Chicago and New Orleans filed complaints with the Department of Education demanding federal intervention to stop widespread discrimination against people of color in their cities’ public school systems. The complaints couldn’t have been more urgent — neighborhoods were literally losing their schools to closures and consolidations, and the students whose schools were being shuttered were overwhelmingly Black and Brown.

It’s been more than two years, and of those three cities, only Newark, New Jersey’s school system has reached an agreement with federal officials. Even that agreement, which requires the district to identify and fix transportation and academic problems faced by students displaced by school closures, is only between the district and federal officials. To the frustration of civil rights advocates, the deal does not include an agreement for accountability between the schools and the taxpaying families who say their children were systemically discriminated against as the closures swept through their neighborhoods.

In New Orleans and Chicago, the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights is still investigating the complaints, offering no regular updates to the civil rights attorneys and the communities behind them. Speaking on background, a department spokesman said officials do not discuss the details of ongoing investigations as a matter of policy, and some take longer than others to complete due to complex legal issues.

Meanwhile, schoolchildren in New Orleans are crossing busy, four-lane roads to reach charter schools located neighborhoods away from the shuttered school buildings sitting vacant on their own streets.

After Hurricane Katrina devastated southern Louisiana in 2005, a state-run board took over the New Orleans school district, fired thousands of local teachers and initiated the most aggressive consolidation and privatization campaign in the nation. Black students and families watched their public schools close at much higher rates than those with predominantly white students, and the district often failed to provide them with adequate educational alternatives after the closures, according to the 2014 complaint.

In Chicago, schools are being “sabotaged” by budget cuts and attacks on the local teachers union. Schools struggling from a lack of resources will be labeled as “failing schools” in just a few years, but only by standards set by bureaucrats and lawmakers miles away, according to Jitu Brown, a community organizer in Chicago and the national director of the Journey for Justice Alliance. The organization is made up of grassroots civil rights groups in 23 cities fighting to replace policies that shut down schools with community-based solutions.

Chicago is not alone. In cities across the country, hundreds of schools have shut down under so-called “reform” policies handed down by the Bush and Obama administrations, according to Journey for Justice. State and local officials use enrollment numbers, high-stakes testing scores and other metrics attached to state and federal funding incentives to identify and shut down schools considered to be “failing,” robbing neighborhoods of essential public resources and disrupting students’ academic life.

“We don’t believe that we have failing schools,” Brown told Truthout. “We think that’s a political statement. We’ve been failed.”

An Unequal Education System

Brown says that taxpaying parents in Black neighborhoods deserve better-funded schools with more resources for learning, but the inequities in Chicago are sitting in plain sight. For example, schools in wealthier, whiter neighborhoods enjoy teacher’s aides in every classroom and librarians on staff at all times, while schools in lower-income neighborhoods of color do not.

Brown said that a “sense of possibility” must be raised within a child’s mind to “open the door for information they receive.” But it’s much more difficult to spark that sense of possibility in schools that lack the classroom tools for inspiring learning that are available in other parts of the city. And it’s those same under-resourced schools that are shut down when students’ test scores do not meet the standards set by politicians outside their community.

Civil rights advocates argue that the disruption caused by school closures makes it more likely that students will skip class and even drop out of school, further lowering enrollment numbers and graduation rates in districts already being punished for underperforming. Plus, when schools close, neighborhoods lose places to gather, learn and access public services. Children and alumni lose a place where they learned, played and made memories.

“You have the feeling that you don’t have any community roots anymore and its very disruptive to a community’s mentality and community psyche,” said Jessica Shiller, a “scholar-activist” who teaches education at Towson University and works with communities impacted by school closings in Baltimore, where the city is four years into an aggressive renovation plan that will close and consolidate 26 schools by 2022.

Shiller told Truthout that shutting down neighborhood schools is one of the worse things policy makers can do, especially in low-income neighborhoods.

“That school is where kids get meals and have a relationship with somebody outside the family, a person watching them during the day; it’s where they play basketball, it’s a place to gather and see friends,” Shiller told Truthout. “And I don’t think that school district leaders … are thinking about it that way.”

Shiller said that some residents in Baltimore’s Black neighborhoods are already cynical, viewing the “renovation” plan as a force for gentrification, designed to push unwanted families and students out, making room for more affluent residents.

Back in Chicago, more than 100 schools have been closed in the past 15 years, with shutdowns peaking at 49 in 2013. New research shows that Black and Latino children in Chicago were most likely to be displaced by school closures, depriving them of the opportunity to attend schools located conveniently in their own neighborhoods and, in some cases, forcing them to travel through areas with high incidences of street-based violence in order to attend class. In New Orleans, nearly every public school in the majority-Black city has been shut down or converted into a charter.

Meanwhile, both Illinois and Louisiana are among at least 25 states that are providing less state funding per K-12 student today than was provided back in 2008, before the recession took hold, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. This data was drawn from state “formula” or “general” funds, where the bulk of state school funding comes from, leaving local school districts hard-pressed to come up with sufficient funding.

Illinois is one of 14 states with “regressive” school funding formulas that spend less money on districts with more low-income students, according to Education Law Center. Year after year, Chicago and Philadelphia, which have both suffered large numbers of controversial school closings, rank as some of the most disadvantaged school districts in the nation.

The Education Law Center reports that disadvantaged school districts don’t just deserve the same funding as their wealthier neighbors. In fact, they require more funding to attract skilled teachers with competitive salaries, and to pay for programs and resources that may not be necessary in areas where families have better job opportunities. For example, most suburban parents may be able to buy sports equipment, pay for basic health care and sign their kids up for music lessons, while parents in lower-income, urban areas may lean more heavily on public schools for such resources.

However, Brown says that cities like Chicago refuse to fund and support schools equitably across race and class lines. Then, they turn around and blame the victim when officials shut the schools down.

“They say something is wrong with those teachers or those kids … and then open the door for hustlers to basically run in,” Brown said, referring to privately-run charters that have popped up across Chicago, even setting up shop in old storefronts.

Who Benefits From School Closures?

In many cases, charters and “contract” schools run by nonprofits or private businesses replace the schools that are shut down. Nationally, experts say charters have had a mixture of problems and successes, including higher marks for some students, but also patterns of “exclusion that force already-marginalized students out of school in order to improve the school’s performance and attractiveness. The exclusion of children with disabilities and behavioral challenges is not only discriminatory, it feeds the school-to-prison pipeline by pushing kids into the hands of police on duty at schools or out into the streets.

In New Orleans, a recent survey found that parents gave much higher “grades” to new charter schools than to the public schools that used to operate in most of the city and suffered for years from mismanagement and budget woes. Surveyors found similar trends among parents in more than a dozen other cities. However, there was a direct correlation between parents’ views of charter and public schools: The worse parents viewed their traditional, publicly run options to be, the higher the marks they gave to newer charters.

But for students of color displaced by school closures, the results have so far been disappointing. A recent Rice University study found that 27 school closures in Houston, Texas disproportionately displaced poor and Black students, and the closures were not associated with any academic gains among these students besides some small, short-term gains in math.

The Rice researchers agreed that closures would have had the potential to improve displaced students’ performance if they were moved to the city’s highest-performing schools, but this did not happen in most cases. Instead, low-performing students and students of color were moved to schools that were only slightly better performing than the schools they came from.

A 2009 study in Chicago yielded similar results, and a 2012 study on an anonymous, urban school district suggests that displacing students can actually harm their academic performance if they don’t land in significantly higher-performing schools.

Shiller points to two rival high schools in Baltimore, Forest Park and Northwestern, which are currently being consolidated into one building. Both schools are predominately Black and have similar levels academic performance, and it’s unclear how students will benefit from the merger. Parents are concerned about conflicts arising between students who, until now, have rooted and played for rival sports teams.

“It’s really going to be about whether kids feel like they can make a place there,” Shiller said. “It’s the school that’s like their enemy.”

Students, parents and alumni say the merger was pushed through with little public notice and community input as Baltimore pursues a sweeping renovation plan, leaving concerned parents pleading with school officials to slow the process down.

“They’re tearing this community up by the roots,” Michael Rose, a parent of a recent Northwestern graduate and a rising ninth grader, told the Baltimore Sun earlier this summer. “They’re going to rush it, have a little get-together and get away with it.”

In a way, Rose’s frustrations sum up the sentiment behind the Journey for Justice’s national mission and the civil rights complaints filed on behalf of parents and students in New Orleans and Chicago. Across the country, families and students of color feel pushed around when schools are closed, privatized and consolidated. Instead of receiving the support they need to succeed, Black and Brown students are punished with closures when they don’t, only to be shuffled around a public education system bearing all the marks of racial inequality.

It’s a problem that goes all the way to the top. Jadine Johnson, an attorney for the Advancement Project, a civil rights group that helped file the complaints with the Department of Education, said that the impacted communities in New Orleans and Chicago have been left out of the accountability process as the federal investigations continue with little transparency.

“The process, in terms of reaching a resolution, ends up being between the school and the Department of Education, and that’s something we need to change,” Johnson said.

The department said it may use a variety of techniques to gather and examine all the relevant facts of a case before deciding whether there is enough evidence to show that federal civil rights law has indeed been broken, but Brown argues the investigations should be more “victim centered.” Once the investigation is taking place, alleged harmful activities such as school closures should stop until a final decision is made, and there should be a very clear process for appeal.

Brown said he is grateful that the federal authorities agreed to investigate educational discrimination in New Orleans and Chicago, but now that two years have passed, he’s starting to doubt that federal civil rights officials are the “crusaders for justice” that he once hoped they would be.

“The wheels of justice, they are rusted,” Brown said. “And they don’t turn.”

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Ben Gurion’s Scandals ‘VIDEO’

NOVANEWS

Naeim Giladi (born 1929, Iraq, as Naeim Khalaschi) is an Anti-Zionist, and author of an autobiographical article and historical analysis entitled The Jews of Iraq. The article later formed the basis for his originally self-published book Ben Gurion’s Scandals: How the Haganah and the Mossad Eliminated Jews.

Giladi was born in 1929 to an Iraqi Jewish family and later lived in Israel and the United States. Giladi describes his family as, “a large and important” family named “Haroon” who had settled in Iraq after the Babylonian exile. According to Giladi his family had owned, 50,000 acres (200 km²) devoted to rice, dates and Arab horses. They were later involved in gold purchase and purification, and were therefore given the name, ‘Khalaschi’, meaning ‘Makers of Pure’ by the Turks who occupied Iraq at the time.

He states that he joined the underground Zionist movement at age 14 without his parent’s knowledge and was involved in underground activities. He was arrested and jailed by the Iraqi government at the age of 17 in 1947. During his two years in the prison of Abu Ghraib, he was expecting to be sentenced to death for smuggling Iraqi Jews out of the country to Iran, where they were then taken to Israel. He managed to escape from prison and travel to Israel, arriving in May 1950.

While living in Israel, his views of Zionism changed. He writes that, he “was disillusioned personally, disillusioned at the institutionalized racism, disillusioned at what I was beginning to learn about Zionism’s cruelties. The principal interest Israel had in Jews from Islamic countries was as a supply of cheap labor, especially for the farm work that was beneath the urbanized Eastern European Jews. Ben Gurion needed the “Oriental” Jews to farm the thousands of acres of land left by Palestinians who were driven out by Israeli forces in 1948″.

I organized a demonstration in Ashkelon against Ben Gurion’s racist policies and 10,000 people turned out.”

After serving in the Israeli Army between 1967-1970, Giladi was active in the Israeli Black Panthers movement.

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Shoah’s pages

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