The largest private sector strike in years is over. Supermarket workers won. – Alexia Fernández Campbell Apr 22, 2019, 4:20pm EDT


Stop & Shop employees got a better contract from the 10-day strike, while the company lost millions of dollars.

Striking supermarket employees picket outside a Stop & Shop store in Boston on April 11, 2019.
Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

More than 30,000 Stop & Shop supermarket employees in the Northeast are returning to work after striking a deal, bringing an end to the largest private sector strike in years.

On Sunday evening, representatives from the United Food & Commercial Workers Union International said they had agreed on a tentative three-year contract with the company. The deal would keep employee health care and retirement benefits intact, provide wage increases instead of bonuses, and keep time-and-a-half pay for current employees who work on Sunday.

“Today is a powerful victory for the 31,000 hardworking men and women of Stop & Shop who courageously stood up to fight for what all New Englanders want — good jobs, affordable health care, a better wage, and to be treated right by the company they made a success,” the union said in a statementreleased Sunday.

Stop & Shop posted an update on its website, saying the company is glad to see employees return to work, and that its top priority is to restock empty supermarkets.

The new contract, which still requires approval from union members, ends a 10-day strike at hundreds of Stop & Shop stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Some stores had to close during the stoppage, while others were left with empty shelves and few customers. Cashiers and deli workers walked off the job on April 11 at 240 stores, protesting the company’s effort to slash their pay by hiking health insurance premiums and lowering pension benefits for new employees.

The strike had overwhelming local support, with many customers refusing to cross picket lines and bringing meals to workers protesting outside the stores.

In four days, more than 1,000 people donated to a hardship fund for striking workers, who weren’t getting paid during the stoppage. As of Monday, they had raised $54,000. The strike even captured attention from 2020 presidential contenders like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and former Vice President Joe Biden.

“The emotional ride through these last 11 days has been tremendous,” said one employee early Monday in a video recorded outside a Stop & Shop in Wallingford, Connecticut, which the union shared on Facebook. “The only thing that kept us going was the customers stopping, waiving, honking, beeping, bringing us food … thank you.”

The response echoes the support for public school teachers who launched major strikes across the country in 2018 to protest low pay. It also suggests the labor unrest, which swept across the US last year, is nowhere close to dying down.

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Immigration detention centers nearly empty as Trump claims border crisis – Amanda Holpuch Last modified on Tue 23 Apr 2019 01.41 EDT


Facilities for parents and children had nearly 2,000 empty beds last week while the administration says the border is at ‘breaking point

The South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, has been operating at only 26% capacity despite the Trump administration’s claims of a border crisis.
The South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, has been operating at only 26% capacity despite the Trump administration’s claims of a border crisis. Photograph: Eric Gay/AP

US detention centers that hold migrant parents and children have been nearly empty for months, despite Donald Trump’s administration repeatedly warning that the US-Mexico border is at a “breaking point” because of the surge in Central American families fleeing poverty and violence.

There were nearly 2,000 empty beds in two detention centers last week, with a facility in Dilley, Texas, at 26% capacity and a facility in Berks county, Pennsylvania, at 19% capacity. On 1 April, the third family shelter was temporarily changed into a facility for adult women only.

This, combined with reports of aid agencies at the border overwhelmed by the food, shelter and medicine needs of migrants, has advocates warning that the government could be manufacturing a crisis to justify its hardline immigration policies.

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“I think that the people making policy decisions don’t want [the system] to work … they want to create chaos,” said Michelle Brané, director of the migrant rights and justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission.

She said the crowds at the border were due to a collision of the crisis in Central America – which has been brewing for years – and the Trump administration’s own restrictive immigration policies.

“You could go through all of the policies since they’ve come in and they’ve all been about undermining or destroying the system we have in place for processing and screening people, so here we are,” said Brané.

These policies include metering how many people are allowed to request asylum at legal ports of entry each day – which has created backlogs of thousands of people in the largest border towns. These long waits have also driven people to cross the US border with Mexico outside of ports of entry, hoping to encounter an agent who must consider their asylum request.

Peter Schey, executive director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, told the AP that the empty shelters were also part of a government narrative that it must conduct “catch and release” because Congress won’t change laws to extend limits on family detention and to make it easier for the government to deport asylum seekers.

“Trump’s policies have swung from one extreme to the other,” Schey said. “There’s no consistency; there’s no strategic planning.”

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Spies, Lies, and Algorithms – By Amy Zegart and Michael Morell ESSAY May/June 2019 Issue


DREW ANGERER / THE NEW YORK TIMES / REDUX Cracking the code: at CIA headquarters, Langley, Virginia, June 2010

For U.S. intelligence agencies, the twenty-first century began with a shock, when 19 al Qaeda operatives hijacked four planes and perpetrated the deadliest attack ever on U.S. soil. In the wake of the attack, the intelligence community mobilized with one overriding goal: preventing another 9/11. The CIA, the National Security Agency, and the 15 other components of the U.S. intelligence community restructured, reformed, and retooled. Congress appropriated billions of dollars to support the transformation.

That effort paid off. In the nearly two decades that U.S. intelligence agencies have been focused on fighting terrorists, they have foiled numerous plots to attack the U.S. homeland, tracked down Osama bin Laden, helped eliminate the Islamic State’s caliphate, and found terrorists hiding everywhere from Afghan caves to Brussels apartment complexes. This has arguably been one of the most successful periods in the history of American intelligence.

But today, confronted with new threats that go well beyond terrorism, U.S. intelligence agencies face another moment of reckoning. From biotechnology and nanotechnology to quantum computing and artificial intelligence (AI), rapid technological change is giving U.S. adversaries new capabilities and eroding traditional U.S. intelligence advantages. The U.S. intelligence community must adapt to these shifts or risk failure as the nation’s first line of defense.

Although U.S. intelligence agencies have taken initial steps in the right direction, they are not moving fast enough. In fact, the first intelligence breakdown of this new era has already come: the failure to quickly identify and fully grasp the magnitude of Russia’s use of social media to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. That breakdown should serve as a wake-up call. The trends it reflects warrant a wholesale reimagining of how the intelligence community operates. Getting there will require capitalizing on the United States’ unique strengths, making tough organizational changes, and rebuilding trust with U.S. technology companies.

A WARNING SIGN

Russia’s multifaceted “active measures” campaign ahead of the 2016 election was designed to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, sow divisions in American society, and boost public support for one presidential candidate over another. Much of this effort did not go undetected for long. Almost immediately, U.S. intelligence agencies noticed Russian cyberattacks against the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the sharing of stolen information with platforms such as WikiLeaks, and attempts to penetrate state and local voting systems. Pointing to these events, intelligence officials warned President Barack Obama well before the election that the United States was under attack.

Yet the intelligence agencies missed Russia’s most important tool: the weaponization of social media. Studies commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of a Russian “troll farm” show that the social media operation designed to undermine the U.S. electoral process may have begun as early as 2012 and was well under way by 2014. But although U.S. intelligence officials knew that Russia had used social media as a propaganda tool against its own citizens and its neighbors, particularly Ukraine, it took them at least two years to realize that similar efforts were being made in the United States. This lapse deprived the president of valuable time to fully understand Moscow’s intentions and develop policy options before the election ever began.

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The Supreme Court Could Shift Power to Republicans for the Next Decade – ARI BERMAN Senior Reporter April 22, 2019


The Trump administration’s census citizenship question comes before the court on Tuesday.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross testifies during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing about the 2020 census on March 14.Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images

A nine-word question that the Trump administration added to the 2020 census heads to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, with the potential to derail the entire census and shift power to the Republican Party for the next decade.

The administration added the question—“Is this person a citizen of the United States?”—in March 2017, claiming it was needed to better enforce the Voting Rights Act. The decennial census hasn’t had a citizenship question since 1950, and civil rights groups say the question will depress responses from immigrants who worry it could be used to initiate deportation proceedings against them. If large numbers of immigrants don’t respond to the census, the areas where they live could lose representatives in Congress and federal funding, transferring economic and political power to whiter and more Republicans areas. The Census Bureau opposed the addition of the question, saying it could cause as many as 6.5 million people not to respond to the census and increase the cost of conducting the census by millions of dollars.

Three federal courts have ruled against the citizenship question, with one federal judge from California saying it “threatens the very foundation of our democratic system,” but the Supreme Court will have the final say. The court will hear oral arguments on Tuesday, in a case that both sides agree will be one of the most consequential for democracy in decades.

The case stems from a lawsuit filed by Democratic attorneys general from nearly 20 states, led by New York. The consequences are big: The census determines how $880 billion in federal funding is allocated, how much representation states receive, and how political districts are drawn. “Given the stakes, the interest in an accurate count is immense,” Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York wrote in January in the first ruling striking down the citizenship question. “Even small deviations from an accurate count can have major implications for states, localities, and the people who live in them—indeed, for the country as a whole.”

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When Christians Are Under Attack, Muslims and the Left Need to Defend Them – Mehdi Hasan April 22 2019, 12:21 p.m.


Security personnel inspect the inside of St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo on April 22, 2019, a day after the church was hit in series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka.Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Security personnel inspect the inside of St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo on April 22, 2019, a day after the church was hit in series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka.Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

From Christchurch, New Zealand, to Xinjiang, China, there is a war on Muslims. Many of us have spent years writing about it and condemning it. But let’s be clear: From the Middle East to parts of Asia and Africa, there is a war on Christians too.

On Sunday, as Sri Lanka’s minority Christian community celebrated Easter, six suicide bombings struck churches and hotels across the country, killing at least 290 people and injuring more than 500 others. While no one has yet taken responsibility for the blasts, Sri Lankan officials are pointing the finger at a little-known local jihadi group called National Thowheed Jamath.

To call these acts of violence heartless and barbaric would be an understatement. Nevertheless, they aren’t the first such Easter-related attackson Christians. In Egypt, on Palm Sunday 2017, Islamic State suicide bombers murdered 45 people in two Coptic churches. In Pakistan, in 2016, a suicide bomber affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban targeted Christians celebrating Easter at a public park, killing 75 people. In Nigeria, on Easter Sunday 2012, a suicide bomber believed to be a member of Boko Haram targeted Christians outside a church, killing 38 people.

I am a Muslim, and I consider myself to be on the left, but I’m embarrassed to admit that in both Muslim and left circles, the issue of Christian persecution has been downplayed and even ignored for far too long.

For Muslims, especially those of us living in the West, it simply isn’t an issue we’re comfortable discussing. Perhaps understandably, we don’t want to give the Islamophobes an extra stick with which to beat us. And the fact is that many of those who have raised this particular issue of Muslim-on-Christian persecution in the wake of these latest attacks — such as Republican Sen. Ted Cruz or former British Conservative Foreign Minister Boris Johnson — do have a well-documented history of anti-Muslim bigotry. On Monday, the Washington Post noted how the Sri Lanka attacks are stoking “far-right anger in the West.”

Meanwhile, progressives struggle to see Christianity, the world’s biggest religion, as weak or vulnerable, while prominent Christian leaders here in the West have been associated with great crimes — think George W. Bush, Tony Blair, and the invasion of Iraq. “I do wonder whether on some unconscious level the secular and broadly progressive west thinks that Christianity had it coming,” wrote Giles Fraser, the British priest and social commentator, in the wake of the Sri Lanka bombings on Sunday. “They associate Christianity with popes and their armies, with crusades and inquisitions, with antisemitism, British imperialism, Trump supporters and abortion protesters.”

Fraser, however, conceded that western Christians “haven’t helped” their cause by “describing as ‘persecution’ the minor run-ins that Christianity has had with the law – about cakes for gay couples or street preachers, for example.” Here in the United States, a 2016 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that white evangelicals “are more likely to say Christians face a lot of discrimination than they are to say Muslims face a lot of discrimination” — which is palpably absurd.

The situation abroad, however, is another matter. According to a recent study by Pew, Christians do indeed constitute the most persecuted faith community in the world; they are harassed and targeted in 144 countries, with Muslims harassed and targeted in 142 and Jews in 87.

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When Alaska’s Backcountry Is Ablaze, They Jump Into the Fire – Mark Jenkins April 2019


Magazine

A dangerous race to fight remote fires begins each summer when Alaska’s combustible backcountry is ablaze.

Matt Oakleaf, camera mounted on his gear bag, drops behind the rest of his team to a landing site near smoldering boreal forest. Jumpers can put on 100 pounds of gear and get on a plane in minutes. Their mission: extinguish fires before they rage out of control.

This story appears in the May 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine.

The sun is still high in the Alaskan summer sky when the call comes in at 9:47 p.m.

Sirens wail, and eight smokejumpers race to the suit-up racks. Already in logger’s boots, dark green pants, and bright yellow shirts, each man practically leaps into his Kevlar jumpsuit.

“First load to the box!” a voice blares over the intercom. Itchy, Bloemker, O’Brien, Dibert, Swisher, Koby, Swan, Karp, and Cramer are the men at the top of the jump list. All evening they’ve mostly been hanging around the operations desk at their base at Fort Wainwright, cracking jokes and razzing each other, anxiously and excitedly waiting for their turn to leap out of a plane to fight a backcountry forest fire.

A Fire Boss plane dumps water to aid a ground crew fighting Fire 320 in the Brooks Range in June 2016. The single-engine plane is fitted with pontoons that can slurp up and disgorge 800 gallons every few minutes—here from nearby Iniakuk Lake.

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Now they have exactly two minutes to suit up and be on the plane. It’s a much practiced routine: Their hands fly nimbly around their bodies, strapping on kneepads and shin guards, zipping into jumpsuits, and buckling into heavy nylon harnesses. The jumpsuits are prepacked with gear—a cargo pocket on one pant leg is stuffed with a solar panel and raincoat. The pocket on the other leg holds energy bars and a 150-foot rope, plus a rappel device in case of a treetop landing. An oversize butt pouch contains a tent and a stuff sack for the parachute.

Other smokejumpers quickly surround them, helping the men put on their main parachutes and reserve chutes. Then each man grabs his jump helmet—fitted with a cage-like mask to protect his face during a descent through branches—and his personal gear bag, which holds a liter of water, leather gloves, hard hat, flares for lighting backfires, knife, compass, radio, and special aluminum sack that serves as a last-resort fire shelter.

Two minutes after the siren, they are waddling onto the tarmac, each laden with nearly a hundred pounds of equipment and supplies. Fully dressed, they appear awkwardly overstuffed, but every man carries a carefully curated, time-tested kit of the essential items a smokejumper needs to fight and survive a fire in some of the world’s most remote and rugged forests.

The twin turbines of a Dornier 228 cargo plane roar to life as the bulging khaki figures totter single file up through the side door and into the plane’s belly, which is packed with pallets of firefighting equipment that will be dropped with them. The plane lifts off, and the dispatcher radios the coordinates of the fire. Time en route: one hour 28 minutes.

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Art that transforms cities into playgrounds of the imagination | Helen Marriage TED Published on Apr 5, 2019


Visual artist Helen Marriage stages astonishing, large-scale public art events that expand the boundaries of what’s possible. In this visual tour of her work, she tells the story of three cities she transformed into playgrounds of the imagination — picture London with a giant mechanical elephant marching through it — and shows what happens when people stop to marvel and experience a moment together. Get TED Talks recommended just for you! Learn more at https://www.ted.com/signup. The TED Talks channel features the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design — plus science, business, global issues, the arts and more.