Google’s Datally can help limit your data usage

Google has released a new Android app that can help you monitor and control the amount of data you use. Datally shows your real-time data usage for each application inside a bubble icon and gives you an easy way to block it from using more in the mea…

Republicans Did the Same Thing in Oklahoma They Want to do Nationally, and Democrats Swept Special Elections as a Result

If you’re a Republican lawmaker in Oklahoma, you’re used to having pretty good job security.

More than 70 out of 101 seats in the House of Representatives are controlled by the GOP; of the Senate’s 48 members, all but nine are Republicans.

Yet Democrats have won the majority of legislative special elections this year — flipping four seats that were once comfortably in GOP hands.

In the most recent election, 26-year-old Allison Ikley-Freeman, the Democratic candidate, challenged Republican Brian O’Hara to win a seat in Senate District 37.

The seat opened up after incumbent Republican Dan Newberry announced his resignation over the summer. In the 2016 general election, Newberry handily defeated his Democratic opponent by 16 points. In 2012, Newberry had run unopposed.

The Republican not only had the power of a fairly safe GOP seat but had considerably more fundraising prowess. According to the state’s latest campaign disclosures, O’Hara spent $43,330.84. During the same period, Ikley-Freeman spent $15,508.54.

But then she won by 29 votes.

So what happened?

In a phone interview with The Intercept, Ikley-Freeman said that the voters she talked to were outraged primarily by one issue: the budget.

The experience of conservatives in deep-red Oklahoma districts, ousted on the back of anger at tattered budgets, doesn’t bode well for Republicans looking to pass a similar tax plan at the federal level. “The budget issue was the main motivator,” she said. “That’s when I’m knocking on doors, that was the main issue that I heard from people, was that the budget issue had them worried. It had them scared. And frustrated.”

After years of tax cuts, Oklahoma found itself in a similar situation to neighboring Kansas. Gov. Mary Fallin, who was elected as part of a tea party wave in 2010, made cutting taxes a priority. But when oil prices collapsed in 2014, so did much of the state’s remaining revenues.

Now Republicans at the national level are looking to replicated the disaster that was Oklahoma and Kansas. Sam Brownback, the former Republican senator from Kansas who left to become governor, even dropped by his old haunt on Wednesday to help rally his former colleagues on Capitol Hill.

Brownback, though, remembered it much differently. “What we did actually worked,” Brownback professed. 

That couldn’t be more wrong. In Oklahoma, residents saw the consequences unfold before them. Spending on essential services like education and mental health care plummeted. Earlier this year, the Washington Post reported that out of 513 school districts, 96 have eliminated either Monday or Friday classes because they can only afford to send kids to school for four days a week.

Even some unlikely voices started calling for tax increases. Dewey Bartlett Jr, former president of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association lobbying group, said that the state needs to increase taxes on oil producers to fund services. “I came out of the closet,” Bartlett joked to the Christian Science Monitor. “We can’t cut our state government to the bone and expect our state to do well.”

Lawmakers failed to pass a budget fix  that would raise some taxes in order to fund services earlier this month, because it takes a 75 percent vote to enact a revenue-raising measure.

Ikley-Freeman is a therapist by training and acutely aware of the underfunding of mental health services.

“A consequence of this [budget] hole is our Department of Mental Health, that covers mental health for low-income Oklahomans in the state, have announced they are discontinuing coverage for outpatient services because they simply don’t have the funds to continue without this budget hole being closed,” she said.

She was skeptical of some of the budget fixes proposed by the Republican-led chamber, such as increasing regressive taxation on things like cigarettes. “It’s taxing low-income Oklahomans to pay for services like mental health that they couldn’t afford to begin with,” she said.

Another thing that benefited Ikley-Freeman was low turnout. Special elections typically have low turnout, and this one was no different. In her election, 4,437 people voted, compared to nearly 32,000 who voted in that same district in 2016. Democratic pollster Michael Whelan, who worked with Ikley-Freeman’s campaign, told the Washington Post that low turnout among Republicans was a factor in the election.

“The formula has been very similar for each of these races,” Whelan said of the Democrats’ special election victories in Oklahoma this year. “There are a lot of Republicans out there with buyer’s remorse with President Trump, which naturally suppresses turnout.”

Going forward, Ikley-Freeman plans to look at corporate tax breaks and incentives as a potential area to cut back to help fill the budget hole.

“We have a lot of corporations in Oklahoma who were given incentives to move here many many years ago that have continued and at this point are draining Oklahoma dry and really need to be discontinued,” she said.

Ikley-Freeman is one of the four Democrats who won special elections this year.

In House District 46, the Republican candidate won by almost 20 percentage points in the 2016 election. In this year’s special election, the Republican lost by around 20 points. In House District 75, the Republican candidate won by 19 points in the 2016 election. In the special election, the Democrat defeated the Republican by five points. In Senate District 44, the Republican won by 10 points during the last election in 2014. This year, the Democrats picked up the seat by nine points.

The collapse in Republican turnout may also foretell a similar situation in Alabama’s upcoming special election to replace Jeff Sessions, where GOP candidate Roy Moore faces off with Democrat Doug Jones. GOP turnout in the August Senate primary was low — at 17.62 percent.

Fallin is term-limited, and six Republicans, three Democrats, and three Libertarians will be competing in a June 2018 primary to succeed her. Earlier this year, a range of political watchers — from Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball to Decision Desk HQ — deemed the state to be either “Likely Republican” or “Safe Republican.” After the series of unlikely Democratic wins this year, they — along with many of their allies in Congress — may find themselves surprised in 2018.

Top photo: Hundreds of supporters and workers of the oil and gas field are bused into the Capitol to lobby against HB 1054 before the House of Representatives special session at the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City on Wednesday Nov. 8, 2017. A plan to hike taxes on tobacco, alcohol, fuel, and energy production in order to plug a hole in Oklahoma’s budget and to stabilize state spending has fallen five votes short in the House amid bipartisan opposition. The full House voted 71-27 on Wednesday.

The post Republicans Did the Same Thing in Oklahoma They Want to do Nationally, and Democrats Swept Special Elections as a Result appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump is promoting hatred, says husband of murdered MP Jo Cox

Brendan Cox hits back at president after he attacked PM for criticising far-right tweets saying he should focus on US shootings

Brendan Cox, the widower of the murdered MP Jo Cox, has continued to rebuke Donald Trump after the president stood by his promotion of unverified Islamophobic hate videos in the face of international condemnation.

In a defiant tweet, Trump publicly rebuked Theresa May over her criticism of his decision to retweet anti-Muslim propaganda videos from the far-right group Britain First, by urging her to focus on Islamic terrorism.

Continue reading…

Rudd tells Trump critics: focus on ‘bigger picture’ of UK-US relations

Home secretary responds to urgent Commons question after US president tweets videos posted by Britain First

Amber Rudd has told MPs Donald Trump was wrong to retweet propaganda from the far-right group Britain First, but told his critics to remember the “bigger picture” of the UK’s close relationship with the US.

The home secretary was giving a statement in response to an urgent question in the House of Commons tabled by Labour backbencher Stephen Doughty, about “the activities of Britain First, online hate speech and the sharing of inflammatory content online by the president of the United States, Donald Trump”.

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U.K. Government Pressured Over Secret Base’s Role in Trump’s Drone Strikes

The U.K. government is facing fresh calls to clarify its role in U.S. drone strikes after acknowledging that there are potentially hundreds of British spy agency personnel working inside a U.S.-controlled surveillance base that has played a key role in so-called targeted killings.

Earlier this month, British Minster of State for the Armed Forces Mark Lancaster disclosed to the U.K. parliament that employees of eavesdropping agency Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, are stationed at a remote base in the north of England called Menwith Hill. An unknown number of GCHQ employees are among 578 British civilians, military, and contractors at the site, Lancaster confirmed in a previously unreported written statement, alongside 627 Americans.

Questioned in 2013 about GCHQ’s presence at the base, the British government had insisted that it “would not comment on whether there are personnel working in intelligence” there – a position that appears to have changed with Lancaster’s admission, possibly unintentionally. His statement came in response to a parliament member’s question about how many people are working at Menwith Hill. A spokesperson for the U.K. government’s Ministry of Defence declined to answer questions about whether the statement represented a policy shift.

Menwith Hill is the National Security Agency’s largest overseas surveillance facility, located near the small town of Harrogate in North Yorkshire. As The Intercept revealed in 2015, the base has been used to aid “a significant number of capture-kill operations” across the Middle East and North Africa, according to top-secret documents. The facility operates spy satellites used to pinpoint the locations of people on the ground below, and it is equipped with eavesdropping technology that can harvest data from more than 300 million emails and phone calls a day.

During the presidency of Barack Obama, covert drone strikes and special operations were the favored method to kill suspected terrorists, particularly in places such as Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. The attacks attracted fierce criticism because they may have violated international law, often resulted in civilian casualties, and relied on imprecise methods to identify targets. Under the Trump administration, the same tactics have been pursued even more aggressively. Trump has increased drone strikes and special operations raids, while granting the CIA and the military more autonomy to launch attacks and scrapping constraints intended to prevent civilian deaths.

“There are now serious questions over the involvement of U.K. personnel and territory in these attacks.”

Jennifer Gibson, a staff attorney with London-based human rights group Reprieve, said lethal U.S. operations have “skyrocketed” since Trump’s inauguration, “killing scores of civilians in countries like Yemen.” She questioned the role of British personnel in the attacks, which have never been approved by or debated in the U.K parliament.

“There are now serious questions over the involvement of U.K. personnel and territory in these [attacks],” Gibson said. “Why, for example, are there hundreds of GCHQ and ‘civilian’ staff at Menwith Hill, a base that plays a key role in the U.S.’s covert assassination program? Ministers need to come clean to parliament and the public over Britain’s true role in secret U.S. wars.”

One former drone operator previously told The Intercept that the NSA helped locate drone targets by analyzing the activity of a cellphone’s SIM card. “It’s really like we’re targeting a cellphone,” said the former drone operator. “We’re not going after people — we’re going after their phones, in the hopes that the person on the other end of that missile is the bad guy.” The use of such methods was effectively confirmed in 2014 by former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden, who declared during a debate at Johns Hopkins University: “We kill people based on metadata.”

According to top-secret documents obtained by The Intercept from the whistleblower Edward Snowden, the NSA developed new surveillance programs at Menwith Hill to pinpoint people accessing the internet in remote parts of the world. With code-names such as GHOSTHUNTER and GHOSTWOLF, the programs provided support for conventional British and American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But they also aided covert missions outside of declared warzones, in countries such as Yemen, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Somalia. In 2010, the NSA launched a new technique at Menwith Hill to identify targets at internet cafes in Yemen’s Shabwah province and in the country’s capital, Sanaa. The technique was linked to an effort to “capture or eliminate” suspected terrorists in the country, the documents revealed, suggesting it had likely aided the U.S. drone program there.

In the context of English and international law, people who are killed outside of declared warzones are not considered “combatants,” and therefore those responsible for their deaths are not entitled to “combatant immunity” and can potentially be prosecuted. In 2015, a British parliamentary committee said that the lack of clarity about the U.K. government’s policy on U.S. targeted killings “makes accountability difficult,” and “potentially exposes front line personnel to criminal liability for the unlawful use of lethal force.”

A spokesperson for the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence told The Intercept that it would not address specific questions about Menwith Hill’s role in U.S. operations. The base “is part of a worldwide U.S. Defence communications network” and supports “a variety of communications activity,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “For operational security reasons and as a matter of policy, neither the MOD nor the DoD publicly discuss specifics concerning military operations or classified communications regardless of unit, platform or asset.”

Top photo: RAF Menwith Hill near Harrogate in August 2015.

The post U.K. Government Pressured Over Secret Base’s Role in Trump’s Drone Strikes appeared first on The Intercept.