nazi pindostan hurtles forward into the black abyss of hell

Trump orders federal police to more cities
Barry Grey, WSWS, Jul 24 July 2020

imageA federal officer pushes back demonstrators at the Federal Courthouse in Portland,
Tuesday Jul 21 2020. Photo: Noah Berger/AP)

The Trump administration is stepping up its unconstitutional moves toward dictatorial rule, tear gassing anti-police violence protesters in Portland and announcing the deployment of federal police to three more cities: Detroit, Cleveland and Milwaukee, in addition to Chicago and Albuquerque. On Wednesday night, camouflage-clad members of the CBP “Rapid Deployment Force” once again used CS tear gas, flash-bang grenades and pepper balls against people demonstrating outside of the Federal Courthouse. This time, the victims of the federal police, who had been diverted from their normal job of carrying out Gestapo-style attacks on immigrants, included Portland’s Demagog Mayor Ted Wheeler, himself widely despised for his role in unleashing police against peaceful demonstrators, earning him the nickname “Tear Gas Ted.” He appeared in the crowd in an attempt to feign sympathy and tamp down the seething anger that has been intensified by days of police state crackdowns at the hands of Trump’s paramilitary forces. He was roundly booed when he attempted to speak.

Trump has deployed the CBP, along with other paramilitary units within the DHS, to make good on his threats to “dominate the streets” and put down protests that he denounces as “mob violence” by “radical left” and “anarchist” elements. He has selected Portland, run by a Demagog mayor in a Demagog-controlled state, as part of his attempt to create the conditions for the imposition of a presidential dictatorship based on the police, military and fascist forces within his political base. In recent days, CBP paramilitary police, wearing generic camouflage without unit insignia or name tags, have been illegally seizing peaceful protesters in Portland, throwing them into unmarked cars and taking them away for questioning. This has evoked only mealy-mouthed verbal protests from Biden and the Demagog Party. Encouraged by the feckless response of the Demagogs and the corporate media, Trump has over the past two days escalated his campaign of violence and intimidation. On Wednesday, he made a joint appearance with Attorney General Barr to announce the deployment of “hundreds” of federal police and other agents to Chicago and Albuquerque, both run by Demagog mayors. These officers, mostly from agencies such as the FBI, the BATF, the DEA and the Federal Marshals Service, are being deployed on the pretext of fighting violent crime. They are not from the DHS and are under the direction of the local Federal Attorney’s offices. According to the Trump administration, they will not be deployed on the streets against demonstrators.

While the Demagogs have formally opposed Trump’s effective takeover of downtown Portland, filing lawsuits to demand the withdrawal of the federal police, they have agreed to cooperate with the influx of federal police into Chicago and Detroit. Similar groups of federal police had earlier been sent to Kansas City. In his appearance with Trump on Wednesday, Attorney General Barr said:

The deployments to Chicago, Albuquerque and other cities will be different than the operations and tactical teams we use to defend against riots and mob violence, and we’re going to continue to confront mob violence.

This is effectively criminalizing protest activity protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Barr echoed Trump’s assertion that increasing crime in a number of cities, where malignant social crises and widespread poverty have been dramatically worsened by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, is the result of the protests that erupted after the police murder of George Floyd. Barr declared:

This rise is a direct result of the attack on the police forces.

The quasi-occupations of major cities by forces under Trump’s direct control follow his attempted coup on June 1. On that day, he appeared in the White House Rose Garden to announce his intention to invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act and deploy military forces to suppress the mass protests that had erupted across the country. As he spoke, National Guard troops and other federal forces were unleashed against peaceful protesters outside the White House. Trump’s plans for a coup d’etat were blocked at that time by the opposition of military brass and retired generals, who feared that such a move had not been politically prepared and would provoke an uncontrollable popular backlash. But as the WSWS warned on Jun 8:

The dangers are very real. The conspirators in the White House have not ceased their plotting. The military is biding its time and considering its options. The police remain armed to the teeth.

Late Wednesday evening, the White House released summary notes laying out some of its plans for further federal police incursions into major cities. The notes explained that over the next three weeks, large numbers of officers from the FBI, AFT, DEA and other federal police agencies would be deployed to Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee. The Detroit deployment will also include at least 100 DHS investigations officers. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, a Demagog, made clear that he was amenable to the influx of federal police, saying:

If you want to talk about extra gun prosecutors in the Federal Attorney’s office, or ATF taking illegal guns off the street, we would support that kind of help.

Trump, Congress condemn unemployed to starve
Patrick Martin, WSWS, Jul 24 2020

As talks continue between the Trump administration and party leaders in Congress, it is now clear that the $600/wk extended federal benefits for the unemployed, in effect for the past four months, will be allowed to expire this week. Tens of millions of workers will suffer an outright cut-off of these benefits, and any restoration will take place only after weeks, if not months, and at a much lower level, if it happens at all. This is all the more significant in light of Thursday’s report that the number of workers filing new claims for unemployment compensation rose last week to 1.4m, the first week-to-week rise in four months. Together with the 16.1m workers who have continuing claims to unemployment compensation, those whose state claims have been exhausted but are still eligible for federal benefits, and these covered by Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for contractors and self-employed workers, the total number of workers now receiving federal payments is about 30m, or one in every five workers.

The continued wrangling over the exact dimensions of the unemployment compensation extension already insures that millions will lose benefits beginning next week, simply because state unemployment offices will need a period of time to reprogram their systems, first to eliminate the $600/wk federal supplement, then to restore the supplement at some much lower level if it is eventually approved. Workers in some states have still not received their initial payments based on the CARES Act passed in late March, because antiquated computer systems collapsed under the impact of the largest and fastest surge in unemployment in Pindo history. Senate Majority Leader McConnell has told his caucus that no final deal will be approved by Congress until August, guaranteeing that tens of millions of workers will lose their federal supplement. Unemployment compensation payments will fall back to the grossly inadequate level paid by the states, averaging only $300/wk, and as low as $144/wk in Tennessee. This represents a cut of 64% in the weekly income of the typical unemployed worker, according to an analysis by the House Ways and Means Committee. McConnell and other top Senate Thugs were still discussing with the White House the proposed outlines of a Trump-backed plan to reinstate the federal supplement at a much lower level, as low as $200/wk, which Treasury Sec Mnuchin described as “based on approximately 70% wage replacement.” Even this plan, for an average 30% wage-cut for workers laid off because of the coronavirus pandemic, would depend on bankrupt state governments raising unemployment compensation to partially offset the cut in the federal supplement.

Demagogs have offered their own plans on unemployment compensation, which would also represent a significant cut. The most significant response to Mnuchin’s comments came from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who told CNBC the replacement of only 70% of wages was “not the policy we ought to pursue,” while adding, “if we’re going to ratchet that down, it ought to be over time.” Hoyer concluded, “it’s not a dealbreaker,” a statement that demonstrates the utter cynicism and callousness of the Demagog Party. The plan is a backbreaker for millions of working-class families whose incomes will be drastically slashed, but nothing that the Demagogs would find objectionable. Behind the various proposals by the White House and congressional leaders is a common class purpose. Pindo capitalists regard the $600/wk supplemental unemployment compensation as a major barrier to their campaign to force millions of workers to go back to their jobs, regardless of the dangers from coronavirus. Corporate executives have complained that for many workers, the average of nearly $1k/wk in state and federal unemployment payments combined represents a pay raise compared to the miserable wages they previously received for working 40 hours a week in warehouses, factories, fast-food restaurants and retail stores. The business magazine Forbes carries a headline on its web site today:

Potential Unemployment Plan Means Huge Income Cut For Tens Of Millions Who Can’t Afford It.

For the financial oligarchs, that is not an indictment, but rather the purpose of the plan. These workers, they calculate, will have no choice but to take any job on offer, no matter how dangerous in terms of COVID-19 and no matter how low the pay. In addition, big business wants to ensure that, as with the CARES Act, the lion’s share of any new federal outlays will go to corporate Pindostan, both in large-scale loans and grants, and the so-called “small business” funds in the Paycheck Protection Program, much of which has gone to large companies and those with political connections to members of Congress. Official Faschingstein is fully conscious of the tidal wave of mass suffering and deprivation that the ending of federal extended benefits will unleash. The Trump administration has quietly extended for 30 days a moratorium on evictions from federally-backed housing, first enacted in the CARES Act. The White House wants to make the necessary preparations, particularly in bolstering local police and sheriff’s departments, before it begins to move against the estimated 12.3m households who are now in arrears on rent and will face eviction after Sep 1. The scale of the impending social collapse is indicated by a WaPo report Thursday saying:

As many as 1m families in North Carolina have fallen behind on their electric, water and sewage bills, threatening residents and their cities with severe financial hardship unless Congress critturs act to approve more emergency aid.

Duke Energy alone has more than 130k customers who are 60 days behind on their electric bills. The Pindo ruling class and its two corporate-controlled parties are planning to stage an election campaign over the next three months that will unfold against the backdrop of an unprecedented social calamity. Neither the fascist Trump nor Demagog Biden, the favored candidate of Wall Street and the CIA, offer anything to tens of millions of working people. The SEP and its candidates, Joseph Kishore for president and Norissa Santa Cruz for vice president, say that the working class is not responsible for the crisis caused by the incompetent and homicidal policy of the Pindo financial elite. We demand an end to the premature and unsafe back-to-work and back-to-school campaigns, full wages and benefits for all workers sidelined by the pandemic, and a safe workplace and hazard pay for essential workers who remain on the job. The response of the Demagogs & Thugs to the crisis exposes the bankruptcy of the profit system as a whole. Working people must take up a direct struggle against capitalism, on the basis of a socialist and internationalist program.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos adds record $13b to net worth in a single day
Jacob Crosse, WSWS, Jul 24 2020

While hundreds of thousands of Amazon logistics workers around the world toil in COVID-19 infested fulfillment centers, breaking their bodies as they hustle to make rate, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, on a single day this past week “earned” $13b. This brought the world’s richest man net worth to $189.3b. Bezos’ wealth has increased $74b since the beginning of the year and nearly $40b in the last three months. The billions racked up by Bezos in 24 hours is only $3b less than the $16b the Pindo government set aside in the CARES Act to provide all Pindo hospitals with personal protective equipment and ventilators. In the last four months the death toll from COVID-19 in Pindostan has increased from roughly 45 deaths in mid-March to over 145k as of this writing. Over 30m are out of work and up to 28m can expect to be served eviction notices in the next three months. An April study from Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Studies, in which those queried responded in the affirmative if they did not have food to last until they would have enough money to buy more, found that the pandemic more than doubled food insecurity among Americans, from a predicted 10.1% to 22.8%.

Bezos has been richly rewarded by Wall Street speculators for keeping Amazon facilities operating uninterrupted throughout the duration of the pandemic. In May, Amazon announced the elimination of a meager $2/hr pay increase, double overtime pay and unlimited unpaid time off. At least nine Amazon workers in Pindostan have died from COVID-19 and thousands have become infected. Amazon has refused to cooperate with government health officials, including the toothless Occupational Safety and Health Administration, nor has Amazon publicly released information regarding infections and deaths within its facilities. Bezos owns 55.5m shares in Amazon’s stock, the price of which has increased dramatically in the last four months, driving his wealth to record heights. From a Mar 12 low of $1,676.61 a share, to a Monday high of $3,196.84 a share, an over 85% increase in value. Amazon is now valued at over $1.4t, while Bezos is now personally worth more than giant corporations which employ hundreds of thousands of workers such as McDonalds ($143b), Nike ($122b) and Costco ($145b). The reason for Amazons’ stock jump, up 7.9% on Monday, was due in part to a Goldman Sachs analysis which projected an updated price target for the company. A price target is what analysts expect the share of a stock to be in a year. According to Goldman, the projected value of an Amazon share should increase by 28%, or approximately $3.8k a share within 12 months. At the close of trading Wednesday, shares of Amazon stock were selling for $3,099.91. Bezos’ wealth, like that of the majority of Pindo billionaires, has increased fabulously in the last four months after the Pindo government intervened on behalf of Wall Street and CEO’s to save their stock portfolios through the near-unanimous passage of the $2.2t CARES Act. Never letting a good crisis go to waste, the ruling class used the public health crisis to carry out a massive transfer of wealth from the working class to the financial aristocracy, funneling trillions into the markets.

Joining Bezos in increasing his wealth by billions in a single day is fellow “pandemic profiteer” Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Musk broke the law in May of this year when he ordered the reopening of Tesla’s Fremont, California factory during the lockdown. Far from facing fines or jail time, Musk was richly rewarded for his actions and qualified for a $2.1b payout on Tuesday. As part of Musk’s compensation package, which is entirely predicated on Tesla’s stock price, Musk was awarded 20.3m stock options. Musk is allowed to exercise options on 1.69m of those shares due to the fact that Tesla’s market value rose to above $150b on Tuesday. Musk unlocked the first of 12 tranches earlier this year when the company’s market value exceeded $100b near the end of January. Since the beginning of the year Tesla’s stock price has increased nearly 280% and with this latest bonus Musk’s fortune is now estimated to be $74b. This phenomenon is not relegated to just a few billionaires. In fact, according to Forbes, from Mar 23 through May 23, not a single billionaire on their top 25 list saw a decline in their wealth. Indeed, every single one increased their wealth tremendously, with the lowest percentage wise, being Sam, Jim and Alice Walton, heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune. The three saw their wealth only increase by roughly 7%, which translates to a mere $3.6b. All told, the 25 richest billionaires saw a combined increase in wealth of $255b over just two months.

In a report for the Guardian last month the top five Pindo billionaires (Bezos, Gates, Zuckerberg, Buffett and Ellison) increased their wealth by $101.7b or 26% between Mar 18 and Jun 17. On the other end of the pole, in a study conducted by the UK Institute for Fiscal Studies found that the bottom fifth of society, roughly 13m people have seen their median household earnings decline by 15%. The continued plundering of social wealth cannot be forestalled through legislative or electoral measures. The pandemic has accelerated and exposed the rot at the core of the capitalist system, Musk, Bezos and the rest did not create billions of dollars through their individual labor, but have laid claim on billions in fictitious capital which must be made real through the further extraction of wealth and labor power from the working class. This is what is driving the ruling class’ homicidal back-to-work and back-to-school campaign which is guaranteed to fuel a pandemic which has already killed more than 147k people in Pindostan. No matter the deadly consequences, children must be herded back into schools so parents can likewise be forced back into virus-ridden workplaces to generate profits.

The resources and technology exist to stop the spread of COVID-19 and guarantee the health and well-being of every human on the planet. However, at every step of the way the capitalist system blocks a coordinated, global scientific response. While it is of little concern to the ruling class that so many have already unnecessarily died, workers and their families will not be blindly led to the slaughter so the financial oligarchs can continue to siphon billions in social wealth for themselves. Billionaires such as Musk and Bezos must have their ill-gotten wealth confiscated and companies such as Tesla and Amazon be brought under the democratic control of the working class. This can only be achieved through workers themselves organizing into rank and file committees, independent of the nationalist trade unions, in workplaces and schools, linking up with their class brothers and sisters around world in the fight for socialism.

Pindo coronavirus hospitalizations surge back to April highs
Bryan Dyne, WSWS, Jul 24 2020

Hospitalizations in Pindostan caused by the coronavirus pandemic have for the past three days remained above 59k, matching the previous highs seen during the surge in April, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project. The spike in hospitalizations is the result of infections surging nationally, including more than 69k new cases today, along with 1.15k deaths, bringing the total known case count and death toll to 4.17m and 147k, respectively. In April, the virus was largely concentrated in NYC, which was an epicenter of the disease outbreak in Pindostan and internationally. Now, the epicenter of the pandemic in Pindostan could be described as the entire South, with particularly large spikes in Florida, Texas and California. Those three states make up about 42% of the total new cases, and 45% of new deaths. Florida in particular set a new record for a number of new deaths in the state, at 173, largely focused in Pinellas, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Orange, Miami-Dade and Escambia counties. Florida, California and Texas also have the most current hospitalizations of any state. There are 9,422 in Florida, 8,820 in California (including 2284 in ICUs), and 10,893 in Texas (with 3,329 in ICUs). Florida does not report how many of its coronavirus patients are in ICUs. There are also 3,157 people in Georgia currently hospitalized, and 2,966 in Arizona. Ten other states have at least one thousand patients in hospitals, with hundreds in each state under intensive care.

The situation is equally grim internationally. There are 15.6m reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide, along with nearly 635.6k deaths. For the past two days, there has been more than a quarter of a million new cases and on average more than 5k new deaths. Both trends have been rising since late May as the national lockdowns that had to some extent suppressed the virus’ transmission were ended as workers were forced back on the job. India is for the second day in a row posting a record number of new cases, 48,446, as well as 755 new deaths. Brazil reported 58,080 new cases, second only to the day before, and 1,317 new deaths. And Spain is facing the threat of a second wave of the pandemic. After keeping its daily new case numbers below 500 for most of June and the first week of July, it has now reported at least 1k new cases for the past seven days and a related rise in deaths is expected to follow. As the virus has exploded out of control in Pindostan, Trump has resumed his daily coronavirus press briefings, the last of which he personally attended in April. The president focused a great deal during the past week on his “strategy to safely reopen schools,” which revolves around claims that because children are less prone to dying from the virus, they should be sent into packed and often poorly-ventilated buildings for hours at a time while a pandemic still rages. Dismissing the dangers posed, he asserted:

There is nothing in this country more important than keeping our people safe.

At the same time, he posed as the most fervent fighter against the “China virus” and the “radical left mob you see in Portland.” The real aim of getting students back to school was uttered moments later, when Trump again decried another “shutdown” as something that would lead to “irreversible harm.” Not harm to human life, but to the “economy” which “we have to get going.” Trump cited higher housing prices as an indicator of the strength of the economy, making no mention of the 1.4m new unemployed and the more than 30m continuing unemployed in the country. Trump’s “big numbers” solely refer to the soaring Dow Jones, which ended yesterday above 26.6k. The president then emphasized:

Reopening our schools is also critical to ensuring parents can go to work and provide for their families. The Council of Economic Advisors estimates that 5.6m parents will be unable to return to work if schools do not reopen this year.

More clearly, children need to go back to school so corporations can again extract profit from their parents’ labor. The risks are further underscored by the state of testing in Pindostan. Trump has repeatedly bragged that Pindostan has done more tests than any other country in the world. This is untrue; China has performed 90m tests to 51m done in Pindostan. Multiple reports and comments from top Pindo health boxtops indicate that testing sites in the country are being overwhelmed by the rising case count in the country. While Pindostan is currently reporting the results of more than 770k tests each day, there is a lag time of 3-10 days or more between when a person is tested and when they get the results. When asked about the state of testing by MSNBC, Asst Sec for Health Brett Giroir was forced to admit that, even after six months of the pandemic in Pindostan, “there still needs to be a reduced turnaround time.” Giroir claimed that, by September, Pindostan will be able to do 65m tests per month, 2 to 3 times the current rate. He did however note that the average turnaround time for commercial labs is 4.27 days. As a result, it is much harder to have efficient “contact-tracing and tracking” to actually contain the spread of the virus. These comments were echoed in an interview on Tuesday by Dr Anthony Fauci, who told CNN on Tuesday:

If you don’t know if that person gets their results back early, that kind of really mitigates getting a good tracing and good isolation.

The turnaround time is not merely due to the rise in the number of cases. As Fauci noted, anyone who meets the president must get tested, using one of the many faster “point-of-care” tests. These are not however widely available in Pindostan because of their cost. Instead, workers are forced to rely on labs run by companies such as Quest Diagnostics and Laboratory Corporation of Pindostan, who have seen their stock prices rise by billions even as they take days or sometimes weeks to return a test, making them all but useless.

Growing wave of educators’ protests forces Trump to throw a financial sop to schools
Nancy Hanover, WSWS, Jul 24 2020

Yesterday, Trump announced at a White House news conference that some schools “may delay” their reopening in “virus hot spots.” He also said he would ask Congress to allocate $105b to schools, under conditions in which the Learning Policy Institute projects that states face combined education funding deficits of between $295b and $370b. The apparent climbdown from his insistence that schools must “fully” open “ASAP” and that the modest funding of the HEROES bill was “dead on arrival” indicates the deep crisis of the administration. The ruling elite is increasingly fearful of the political mobilization of hundreds of thousands of educators, parents and students who refuse to put their or their children’s lives at risk. Trump, nonetheless, continued to exploit the crisis to undermine public education, noting that the $105b would include the stipulation that if a given local district does not reopen according to his dictates, then money could “follow the child.” These are code words for transferring funds to private, religious or privately-managed charter schools. Shortly after Trump’s press conference, the CDC released their updated guidelines for reopening schools, which represent the prostration of science before the social interests of the ruling class. The guidelines give full support for Trump’s demand that schools resume in-person instruction, while minimizing the immense dangers posed to students, educators and parents.

While seemingly large, the amount of money Trump claims to support providing for schools is a tiny fraction of the $2.2t that was handed over to corporations under the CARES bailout and the $4t made available for cheap loans to banks and corporations. Last year, a “State of Our Schools” report indicated that $145b would be required on an annual basis to modernize and maintain Pindo schools. This was, of course, long before the additional critically necessary upgrade to ventilation systems needed to inhibit virus transmission was even contemplated. Decades of cuts to public education have produced dilapidated, unsafe schools. During the eight years of the Obama administration, this worsened as districts were forced to compete in a race to the bottom. Meanwhile, corporations enriched themselves through a vast privatization of education. For Trump, the Democrats and Wall Street, the current proposal is just so much small change compared with the profits which can be made getting workers back on the job. Moreover, they hope this public relations stunt, together with their ongoing collaboration with the unions, could demobilize teachers.

Trump’s moves come in response to tens of thousands of teachers, parents and students across the country organizing rallies, protests at school board meetings and car caravans, in opposition to the bipartisan ultimatum for the reopening of schools. Many were particularly enraged after Trump pledged to pull federal aid from districts that failed to fully resume in-person instruction. Opposition to this homicidal demand threatens to break out of the control of the established political parties and pro-capitalist trade unions. The hashtags #refusetoreturn and #nationalteacherstrike have been trending, while new Facebook groups of educators opposed to the return to school are mushrooming, largely independent of the unions. Both the National Education Association (NEA) and the Pindo Federation of Teachers (AFT) have made clear that they support the return to the classroom so that in the words of AFT President Randi Weingarten:

Parents who work outside the home can go to work.

Just a day earlier, on Wednesday, Trump reiterated he was “100%” in favor of schools opening in the fall. He claimed young people “don’t bring it home with them,” despite the recently concluded and well-regarded large-scale study from South Korea, which showed that children between 10 and 19 spread the virus at least as well as adults. While claiming that he was “comfortable” with his children and grandchildren returning to in-person learning, it was later revealed that Barron Trump’s private school (annual tuition $40k+) would not open “fully” face to face. Under the impact of growing militancy by educators and parents from coast to coast, many districts had already begun revising their plans. As of yesterday, nine of the 15 largest districts in Pindostan, with roughly 2m students, opted to start the year with only remote learning. But with more than 13k public school systems and no national policy or any serious financial assistance for infection control, the situation everywhere is uncertain, chaotic and patchwork. Each local district has the ultimate authority on reopening, but none have the necessary preconditions: mass testing, contact-tracers or funding for infrastructure retooling. 25% of Pindo schools do not even have a school nurse. Meanwhile, the pandemic rages out of control everywhere. In some areas, such as Chicago, the unions have arranged protests in order to preempt educators’ widespread anger, while keeping them under the thumb of the Demagog Party. But in most areas, particularly in the South, the eruption of demonstrations has been driven by teachers themselves. Jacksonville educator Sasha Bass was part of a Tuesday caravan protest which traveled from the Duval County Public School headquarters to a nearby cemetery. She spoke for many when she said, according to FirstCoast News:

We’re no good in the grave. We just want to live!

Many of the teachers at the cemetery signed documents designating the city’s mayor as their “health-care surrogates.” Teacher and event organizer Alex Ingram said:

People are meeting virtually to decide whether we go back in the classroom. That tells you enough. If you have to meet virtually, you are not ready to go back in the classroom.

Yesterday, Florida registered 10,249 new cases, bringing the horrific total to 389,868, with 5,518 deaths. The overwhelming opposition by Florida educators has resulted in an attempt at face-saving by the Florida Education Association. It has filed a lawsuit against the “unsafe reopening of schools” as a violation of the state constitution. Like all of the various state-level union machinations, the measure is designed to both avoid the genuine threat of strike action and provide cover for the official support to the return to school by their national affiliate, the NEA. The latest protests follow those in Mississippi and Texas, and continued actions by Florida and Arizona teachers. On Wednesday, East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, teachers rallied to oppose plans to partially open schools Aug 6. They carried signs including:

Educators essential but not expendable! I can’t teach Algebra 2 from my grave.

This week, the New Orleans district announced they would delay their plans to reopen until after Labor Day. Yesterday, Alabama teachers organized through the Facebook group Alabama Teachers Against COVID, which is independent of the Alabama Education Association and the Alabama Federation of Teachers, marched on Montgomery. The group, founded by a speech-language pathologist in Montgomery, has mushroomed to more than 5,400 followers. Jacquelyn Edwards, a 16-year high school chemistry teacher in Jefferson County, told Advance Local:

I’m really scared. Teachers are the guinea pigs. We are the experiment. Schools are not physically able to accommodate CDC guidelines. Our hallways are so small, and our windows don’t even open.

After Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced last week that schools must hold at least 50% of classes in person, teachers prepared their obituaries and began sending them to her. Sioux City teacher Jeremy Dumkreiger initiated the idea and started a Facebook group, Iowa Educators for a Safe Return to School, which has quickly grown to 16k members. The group will host a caravan protest next Saturday. Arizona educators continue to step up their protests. The death of Kimberley Chavez Lopez from COVID-19 has galvanized the anger of teachers throughout the state. Hundreds participated in “motor marches” on Wednesday in Scottsdale, Tempe, Gilbert, Glendale, Tucson and Yuma. Messages scrawled on cars included:

I’d rather see your kids on a laptop than a ventilator. Teachers are not martyrs. AZ #1 in COVID.

Mitchella Stevens, a middle school teacher in the Cartwright School District, told local media that she and other teachers do not want to be “test subjects,” adding:

I want consecutive days of no new cases. I want it to be safe so that my students won’t take anything home and hurt their families, and I want to be able to also visit my elderly parents.

Smaller demonstrations have occurred in areas too numerous to detail, but include Plainfield, Atlanta, Memphis, Fort Mill, Colorado Springs, Salt Lake City and Louisville. On the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum, seeking to protect their children from the virus, the rich are creating a cottage industry of micro-schools. In these ad hoc operations, well-to-do parents hire teachers, create small student “pods” among themselves, and even sometimes rent apartments to facilitate this private education. The costs, according to those involved, run upwards from that of private daycare, especially as parents rent stand-alone facilities. An uptick has also been noted among private school applications. The SEP calls upon educators, parents and students to advance their struggle against the homicidal return to school by developing a network of independent rank-and-file safety committees. The struggle both against the virus itself and all issues of a safe return to public education requires a comprehensive society-wide mobilization of resources in the interest of the working class. Such an initiative is entirely incompatible with the profit-driven capitalist system, its two political parties and the pro-capitalist trade unions. We urge all those seeking to develop fighting organizations to ensure the safety and well-being of educators and all workers to contact us today.

Reports on Twitter hack confirm existence of admin tool used for social media censorship
Kevin Reed, WSWS, Jul 24 2020

Screenshot shared by hacker “Kirk” as proof that he had breached Twitter security
and accessed the back-end admin panel of the social media platform

News reports published in the week since hackers breached Twitter security and hijacked dozens of high-profile accounts have confirmed that administrators working for the social media company use a dashboard to blacklist and censor content down to the level of specific users and their individual tweets. A report in the NYT on Jul 17 confirmed that a screenshot originally shared by Motherboard on the day of the hack and reported previously here on the WSWS, is authentic and shows that Twitter’s backend administrative tool includes several buttons including “Search Blacklist,” “Trends Blacklist” and “Notifications Spike,” among others. Along with these features, showing clearly that Twitter employees have the ability to “throttle” or “shadowban” tweets or users on their platform, the tool also can be used to modify email addresses associated with accounts. This latter function enables the transfer of a Twitter account from one person to another and is one of the features of the dashboard that the hackers used to gain control of the high-profile accounts. On the afternoon and evening of Jul 15, anonymous hackers accessed Twitter’s internal employee dashboard and hijacked the accounts of major public figures, including Barack Obama, Kanye West, Bill Gates and Elon Musk, each of which have tens of millions of followers. In what Twitter described as a “coordinated social engineering attack,” the hackers repeatedly published tweets from the breached accounts as part of a scheme to dupe the public out of money in the form of Bitcoin cryptocurrency. Messages posted by the hackers said, in the case of Barack Obama’s account for example:

I am giving back to my community due to Covid-19! All Bitcoin sent to my address below will be sent back doubled. If you send $1k, I will send back $2k!

On that day, Twitter management responded in its own tweets that it was aware of the attack and was working to “fix it.” However, after hours of struggling to regain control of their own platform, Twitter was forced to block all verified accounts from posting any tweets. In subsequent reports from Twitter, the company admitted that the hackers gained control of 130 accounts and had downloaded data from at least eight of these using the “Your Twitter Data” user tool. In a corporate blog post on Saturday, Twitter reported:

The attackers manipulated a small number of employees and used their credentials to access Twitter’s internal systems. The attackers were able to initiate password reset, login to the account and send Tweets.

In an update to the blog post on Wednesday, the company reported:

We believe that for up to 36 of the 130 targeted accounts, the attackers accessed the DM inbox, including 1 elected official in the Netherlands. To date, we have no indication that any other former or current elected official had their DMs accessed.

DM stands for direct messaging, which is private communications between individual Twitter users. Finally, Twitter said:

We’re embarrassed, we’re disappointed, and more than anything, we’re sorry. We know that we must work to regain your trust, and we will support all efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The day after the event, Twitter’s shares fell 4%, wiping out $1.3b in value. The NYT story on Friday included interviews with four individuals who participated in the hacking operation. The report said:

The interviews indicate that the attack was not the work of a single country like Russia or a sophisticated group of hackers. Instead, it was done by a group of young people, one of whom says he lives at home with his mother, who got to know one another because of their obsession with owning early or unusual screen names, particularly one letter or number, like @y or @6.

Although the NYT published a screenshot of the Twitter admin dashboard, the journalists and editors focused entirely on the fact that someone named “Kirk” transmitted it to the youthful hackers as proof that he had breached Twitter security and gained access to the backend tool and did not raise a single question about the functionality that is clearly displayed in the image. By not raising any questions about the admin panel, the Times is essentially functioning as a PR operation for Twitter. Far from providing an explanation of the blacklisting and account manipulation features of their backend tool, according to The Verge, Twitter has been busy “removing images of the screenshot from its platform and in some cases suspending users who continue to share it.” Other tech news sites have also raised questions about the admin panel such as Reclaim the Net, which published an article on Jul 15 entitled:

Leaked screenshots appear to show internal Twitter tool that can blacklist users from search and trends.

Referring to such practices as “shadowbanning,” Reclaim the Net reporter Tom Parker wrote:

At the start of the year, Twitter officially made shadowbanning, a controversial practice that involves limiting the distribution or visibility of user posts in a way that’s difficult to detect, part of its terms of service. Now new leaked screenshots from Motherboard appear to show an internal Twitter user administration tool that can be used by Twitter staff to blacklist user accounts from search and trends. In June, the pop culture satirical news account Price of Reason documented how Twitter had shadowbanned one of its viral tweets that made fun of HBO Max’s controversial decision to stop Bugs Bunny’s hunter adversary Elmer Fudd using a gun in its Looney Tunes remake. The account owner noticed a drastic slowdown in engagement after his tweet had started to go viral and discovered that he was being blacklisted from Twitter search, causing both his account and the tweet to be scrubbed from search results. ‘It’s as if neither it or I ever existed,’ Price of Reason told Reclaim the Net.

Another story on by Scott Bicheno on July 15 said:

We don’t know exactly what being blacklisted entails, but the name of the tools strongly implies accounts can be prevented from appearing in searches and trending lists, even while they’re still otherwise active. We’re also not aware of any precedent for accounts being notified when they are placed on one of these blacklists, which adds weight to claims that Twitter seeks to manipulate conversation on its platform through the means of ‘shadow banning.’

These revelation about the details of Twitter’s methods for manipulating the account activity of users, either by shadowbanning or by deleting accounts entirely, shows that censorship is a top-level activity and priority of the social media company. On Tuesday, Twitter announced that it had removed 7k accounts allegedly active in spreading far-right QAnon conspiracy theories. The essential views of the QAnon “movement” are the belief that Trump is waging a secret war against an elite cabal of devil-worshipping pedophiles who rule the world. QAnon claims that the Demagog Party is behind international crime rings, and that “deep state” figures are waging a war against Donald Trump. The group’s content has spread widely on Facebook, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube. In a tweet from Twitter Safety, the company said:

We’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm. In line with this approach, this week we are taking further action on so-called ‘QAnon’ activity across the service.

According to a report in Reuters, Twitter will roll out the account suspensions this week and are expected to impact about 150k accounts globally. It said the initial 7k accounts were removed for “violating the company’s rules against spam, platform manipulation and ban evasion.” The mass shutdown of Twitter accounts is a blatant act of censorship by the social media platform. It is not the responsibility of the giant tech monopolies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, to determine what is authentic or truthful information and what can be seen or read by the public. The use of advanced software tools to throttle tweets or ban groups such as QAnon is part of a much larger effort by the corporate and financial elite and capitalist state to gain control of online and social media information and communications. Under conditions of growing working-class struggle, these measures are ultimately aimed at blocking and shutting down the dissemination of revolutionary socialist ideas among masses of people all over the world.

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