Climate change or return to climate norm?

Vice President Kamala Harris used the white ring around Lake Mead as a visual for her claim that the federal government must spend trillions of dollars to combat climate change.

In reporting on the Monday event, the morning newspaper flatly stated, “Over the past 20 years, Lake Mead’s water level has declined by about 150 feet amid climate change-fueled drought conditions.”

Or might the current conditions be a return to normal after about of century of wetter than normal?

According to a 2006 University of Arizona study of 508 years of tree ring data, the past 100-year period was wetter than the average for the past five centuries.

Connie A. Woodhouse, who led the research team, said, “The updated reconstruction for Lee’s Ferry (on the Colorado River) indicates that as many as eight droughts similar in severity, in terms of average flow, to the 5-year 2000-2004 drought have occurred since 1500.” Woodhouse was at the time a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center Paleoclimatogy Branch in Boulder, Colo.

The newspaper quoted the vice president as saying, “And it is critical that we as a nation understand that we have within our hands, within our possession, the ability to actually change the course of where we’re headed. … Just look out at this lake. … This is where we’re headed.”

Or is it where we’ve been as well? Vice President Kamala Harris speaks as Congresswoman Dina Titus, left, and Representative Susie Lee look on while at Lake Mead on Monday. (R-J pix)
http://dlvr.it/S9yJ1Z

Happy Constitution Day

Today marks the anniversary of one of the most propitious days in the history of this country. On this day in 1787, the representatives at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the Constitution. It was ratified by the states and went into effect on March 4, 1789.

You remember the Constitution don’t you?

That’s the document that says the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed …” Not waive, delay or ignore parts of laws the president doesn’t like, such as immigration laws, which the Constitution says: “The Congress shall have Power To … establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization …”

The Constitution also says, “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives …”

But when it came to ObamaCare, which is replete with a panoply of revenue generating taxes to offset its expenses, the Senate grabbed an unrelated bill that had passed the House, cut the existing language and substituted the ObamaCare verbiage. The bill number was the only thing that originated in the House.

Yes, it’s those four-handwritten pages that give Congress the power “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States …” Not to force people to engage in commerce by buying health insurance or pay a fine or a tax for not doing so.

Arguably, Congress cannot abrogate that power by handing the president the power to impose tariffs and declare emergencies.

But when Congress passed the Trade Expansion Act it allowed the president to restrict imports in the name of national security. That was the excuse President Trump used when he imposed a 25 percent tariff on steel, even the military requirements for steel represent only 3 percent of the commodity’s domestic production.

That Commerce Clause also has been stretched to prohibit a farmer from growing grain to feed his own cattle because that affected demand for grain on the interstate market. The same rationale allows Congress to set minimum wages for jobs that have nothing to do with interstate commerce.

It also gave Congress the power to “declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.” Some wars get declared, while others are just military exercises.

But Trump bombed Syria without even informing Congress.

The instrument also says the “President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.” Not decide for himself when the Senate is in session. At least the judiciary slapped Obama’s wrist on that one.

During ratification the Founders added the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment that says Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” That probably means Congress can’t order a religion to pay for contraceptions, abortifacients and sterilization against its beliefs. Nor could President Biden unilaterally bar discrimination based on a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

We’re pretty sure the document did not envision a president’s administration creating by regulation laws the Congress refused to pass — think immigration enforcement and rules promulgated by the EPA, FEC, HHS, HUD or USDA without the consent of Congress.

The Constitution did not envision a president having the authority to require private business employees to be vaccinated against or tested for a virus or unilaterally extend an eviction moratorium without congressional authorization.

Another clause gives Congress the power “to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States …” though the foregoing powers and powers vested by the Constitution part is largely ignored.

The Constitution also gave Congress the power “To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever … to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings …” And just when did Congress purchase and the state Legislature consent to turning over 85 percent of Nevada’s land mass to the federal government?

As James Madison said, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations …”

Happy Constitution Day, while it lasts.

A version of this first appeared in 2014.
http://dlvr.it/S7qDcj

Happy Constitution Day

Today marks the anniversary of one of the most propitious days in the history of this country. On this day in 1787, the representatives at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the Constitution. It was ratified by the states and went into effect on March 4, 1789.

You remember the Constitution don’t you?

That’s the document that says the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed …” Not waive, delay or ignore parts of laws the president doesn’t like, such as immigration laws, which the Constitution says: “The Congress shall have Power To … establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization …”

The Constitution also says, “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives …”

But when it came to ObamaCare, which is replete with a panoply of revenue generating taxes to offset its expenses, the Senate grabbed an unrelated bill that had passed the House, cut the existing language and substituted the ObamaCare verbiage. The bill number was the only thing that originated in the House.

Yes, it’s those four-handwritten pages that give Congress the power “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States …” Not to force people to engage in commerce by buying health insurance or pay a fine or a tax for not doing so.

Arguably, Congress cannot abrogate that power by handing the president the power to impose tariffs and declare emergencies.

But when Congress passed the Trade Expansion Act it allowed the president to restrict imports in the name of national security. That was the excuse President Trump used when he imposed a 25 percent tariff on steel, even the military requirements for steel represent only 3 percent of the commodity’s domestic production.

That Commerce Clause also has been stretched to prohibit a farmer from growing grain to feed his own cattle because that affected demand for grain on the interstate market. The same rationale allows Congress to set minimum wages for jobs that have nothing to do with interstate commerce.

It also gave Congress the power to “declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.” Some wars get declared, while others are just military exercises.

But Trump bombed Syria without even informing Congress.

The instrument also says the “President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.” Not decide for himself when the Senate is in session. At least the judiciary slapped Obama’s wrist on that one.

During ratification the Founders added the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment that says Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” That probably means Congress can’t order a religion to pay for contraceptions, abortifacients and sterilization against its beliefs. Nor could President Biden unilaterally bar discrimination based on a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

We’re pretty sure the document did not envision a president’s administration creating by regulation laws the Congress refused to pass — think immigration enforcement and rules promulgated by the EPA, FEC, HHS, HUD or USDA without the consent of Congress.

The Constitution did not envision a president having the authority to require private business employees to be vaccinated against or tested for a virus or unilaterally extend an eviction moratorium without congressional authorization.

Another clause gives Congress the power “to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States …” though the foregoing powers and powers vested by the Constitution part is largely ignored.

The Constitution also gave Congress the power “To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever … to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings …” And just when did Congress purchase and the state Legislature consent to turning over 85 percent of Nevada’s land mass to the federal government?

As James Madison said, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations …”

Happy Constitution Day, while it lasts.

A version of this first appeared in 2014.
http://dlvr.it/S7mNsM

Book review: ‘Saints, Sinners and Sovereign Citizens’

The battle for dominion over vast swaths of public land in Nevada and the West was thrust into the headlines and public awareness by the armed standoff at the Bundy family’s Bunkerville ranch a couple of years ago when federal agents rounded up the ranch’s cattle for auction to cover unpaid grazing fees.

Longtime Nevada journalist John L. Smith uses that event to anchor his comprehensive insight into the century-and-a-half long wrangle over public land use in his recent book, “Saints, Sinners, and Sovereign Citizens: The Endless War over the West’s Public Lands.” More than 80 percent of Nevada land is controlled by various federal entities, which regulate grazing, mining, logging, oil and gas and other uses.

Smith opens with a detailed and often breath-taking recounting of that tense confrontation in April 2014 between Bureau of Land Management and other federal agents and heavily armed sympathizers of rancher Cliven Bundy and his sons, analyzing the issues and motivations of the cast of rather colorful and often charismatic characters. From there he explores the people and places that set the groundwork for this conflict.

“The region was long-coveted but little understood,” Smith explains in his prologue. “It had been home to the indigenous Goshute, Mohave, Paiute, Shoshone, and Washoe people, but that didn’t prevent conquistadors from claiming it in the name of the Spanish Empire until the early 1800s. When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, it staked the vast aridness as its own.”

The Treaty of Guadalupe at the end of the Mexican-American War ceded the modern West to the United States in 1848 and the discovery of gold brought throngs seeking fortune while the turmoils in the East sent members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a new home. They brought herds of sheep and cattle for food.

It was the difference of opinion over the right to graze those cattle that drew Smith to the Bundy Ranch in April 2014.

“Cliven and wife Carol were friendly. The constitutional lesson was the same one I’d heard from him and others before about state sovereignty, local jurisdiction, and the limited power the Founding Fathers had granted the federal government,” Smith recounts. “When I reminded him that his views had been shellacked in federal court, where judges had consistently ruled against him, he returned to his constitutional argument. By now, I expected, Bundy’s own cows could recite it.”

The book quotes Cliven Bundy extensively, including his somewhat paranoid assessment of what was at stake for him at the time: “When I see the forces they have against me. … You know all those vehicles, all the machinery, all those men, all those guns and all those badges, you know, they’re only after one person. They’re not after you. They’re only after me. They’re after Cliven Bundy. And they want to incarcerate me or put a bullet through me.”

Of course, the much feared bloodbath was averted when the feds stood down and allowed the Bundys to free his corralled cattle.

As Smith relates, many of the Bundy backers were well versed in the lore of federal oppression fomented by events such as the deaths of Randy Weaver’s family members by FBI snipers at Ruby Ridge and the deaths of Branch Davidians during a standoff with feds near Waco, Texas.

But the Nevada sources of federal land conflicts are well documented by Smith, from the Mary and Carrie Dann sisters of the Western Shoshone tribe in Eureka County to Elko County rancher and Sagebrush Rebel Wayne Hage to Nye County Commissioner Dick Carver, a leader of Sagebrush Rebellion II, to Battle Mountain ranchers Dan and Eddyann Filippini.

Smith devotes an entire chapter to “The Senator from Searchlight” Harry Reid and his role in the public land controversies. Reid himself concedes that his vote to update and strengthen the Wilderness Act cost him votes. “The day I voted for that bill was the day I lost the rural vote,” he is quoted as saying.

Smith points out that Reid, whose father was a hard-rock miner, was sympathetic to the industry’s land use for much of his term in Congress, but by 2005 conservationists thought Reid was becoming “a reliable environmental vote at a time when he was approaching the pinnacle of power in the Senate,” Smith wrote. “While others grew gray in Washington, Reid became greener with age, according to the National Environmental Scorecard kept by the League of Conservation Voters.”

Smith also tells how Bundy sons Ryan and Ammon led the takeover of the Malheur Refuge in Oregon to protest the imprisonment of father and son ranchers whose controlled burn spread onto federal public land.

After opening with the Bundy travails, Smith concludes with Cliven and sons and others — after about two years in jail awaiting trial — being cleared of federal charges when the judge ruled the prosecution violated due process by failing to turn over potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense.

This thoroughly researched book provides thoughtful insight into a controversial issue that doubtless will continue for years to come.

The book is available at several online bookstores, including University of Nevada Press.
http://dlvr.it/S7Ql7Q

Our day that will live in infamy

Where were you on September 11, 2001 — 20 years ago?

I wrote on the Sunday following that day of infamy:

“I sat down at my computer at about 6 a.m., unfolded the newspaper and switched on the television. There was smoke pouring from the top of one of the unmistakable landmarks of New York City, the World Trade Center. Well, I thought, there’s a story and photo for tomorrow’s front page, and started into the morning’s routine.

“Minutes later a fireball blossomed from the other tower, and it began to dawn on the commentators and me that this was no ordinary accident and Sept. 11 would be no ordinary day.”

I started making phone calls. Reporters and photographers were dispatched to Hoover Dam, McCarran International, City Hall, Nellis Air Force Base, the Strip and elsewhere. Editors huddled. The publisher called in and said we should add 24 pages to the Wednesday newspaper. All plans were scrapped and we started from scratch, hoping to help our readers make sense of a senseless act.

Every section of the paper kicked in its resources.

The press crew rolled the presses early and cranked out thousands of extra copies.

Then I wrote that Sunday:

“I was proud of what we all had accomplished, of the concerted effort and professionalism, as I drove home at 1 a.m. … until I heard the callers on the radio. People were saying they would gladly give up some freedoms for the sake of safety.”

I wanted to reach into the radio and slap some sense into the callers.

The column proceeded to tick off some of the rights spelled out in the Bill of Rights and I wondered aloud which people would willingly sacrifice. The First’s right of assembly, lest there be a bomb, and no freedom of speech and religion, especially that one? The Second’s right to bear arms? The Fourth’s prohibition against warrantless search and seizure? The Fifth’s right to due process? The Sixth’s right to a public trial?

I concluded:

“If this is the consensus of the nation, the bastards have already won, destroying our will and our principles as well as planes, buildings and lives.

“We will have surrendered without firing a shot in the first war of the 21st century.”

The column appeared sandwiched between a Jim Day cartoon and a Vin Suprynowicz column with the headline: “The passengers were all disarmed.”

In a comment to a local magazine on an anniversary of 9/11 I called it “our Pearl Harbor.”

Now, these two decades later, the Taliban, who harbored the terrorists who plotted and carried out the 9/11 attacks, are back in power in Afghanistan. Was it all for naught?

A version of this was posted on this day in 2016.
http://dlvr.it/S7Ql2F

Book review: Nevada brothers blazed a different trail in 1930

There is something a lot of Nevadans are full of. No, not that. Gumption.

It took gumption for the first settlers to come West and they passed that trait on to subsequent generations.

Take the example of two brothers from Winnemucca, who in the throes of the Great Depression in 1930 decided to load up and drive a 1929 Model A Ford Roadster from New York City to the banks of the Panama Canal.

This tale of unmitigated gumption is recounted in the recently published book: “1930: Manhattan to Managua, North America’s First Transnational Automobile Trip.” The book is basically the day-to-day dairy of one of the two brothers, Arthur Lyon. Lyon’s 308-page typewritten 1985 transcript “Central America through a Windshield” was edited for publication by his nephew Larry Lyon of Boulder City.

As Arthur Lyon recounts, it all began in March 1930 when his 21-year-old brother Joe, who had the reputation of being the fastest driver in Humboldt County, visited him in New York while on the way to visit M.I.T., where he planned to enroll in the fall.

This is how brother Arthur, then 25 years of age, somewhat laconically and surely with ample embellishment described the initiation of their audacious venture:

“‘Joe,’ I mused, ‘if you weren’t planning M.I.T. next fall, and if my big-hearted boss hadn’t given me a two-fifty raise last week and if (among a few other things) Bert here hadn’t the undeniable right to the companionship of her quite worthless husband (meaning myself, of course), I would venture to say that we might crank up the Ford and let it lead us out of this dismal life, which Mammon, money, and “thinking of my landlord’s last untimely and insistent visit” have forced into downright hard-hearted materialism. Let it carry us away for a while, at least, from this beastly weather and, as an afterthought, from the almost certain deleterious after-effects of the recent disastrous Wall Street crash.’ I could believe anything now. …

“‘And, Joe, we’ll go south, we’ll go further south than anybody ever went before in an automobile.’ A map of the North American continent flashed into my mind. ‘We’ll drive that car down through Mexico and Central America, and we won’t stop till we draw up head on against the Panama Canal — way down in the heart of the tropics — What say, Brother?’”

Subsequently, brother Joe allowed that he could use a year of experience more than college at that time and the trek was on — fueled by coffee and cigarettes and frequently too few funds and too little fuel.

They started on Sunday with $324 in cash in their jeans and the Ford’s rumble seat piled with suitcases, a bedroll and assorted supplies. From there the elder Lyon describes the landmarks as they head for the Mexican border, pausing long enough in Washington, D.C., to get Nevada Sen. Tasker Odie’s assistance in acquiring information about Central America and passports.

In addition to Arthur’s casual recounting, the book is filled with photographs taken with the brothers’ Kodak, showing often bleak landscapes and the ever-present Model A.

Realizing accommodations south of the border might be in short supply, while in Dallas the brothers purchased a tent, two cots and a grub box. Then Joe, in a perceptively savvy move, since fuel too might not be readily available, acquired a 55-gallon oil drum, mounted it in the fore part of the rumble seat and ran a copper tube to the carburetor. With 65 gallons of gasoline they could travel 1,000 miles.

They managed to talk the Mexican authorities into allowing them to “import” their rifle into the country so long as it would be “exported” in 60 days, but upon arriving at the Guatemalan border a Mexican customs official refused to allow it to be exported. The official did offer to buy it for 50 pesos. The brothers accepted so quickly he cut his offer to 45 pesos.

To export their car the customs agent demanded 20 pesos back.

“When the Mexican racketeers finished they turned us over to the Guatemalan gang next door,” Lyon writes, where more of their dwindling funds were extorted.

Without a weapon and speaking very little Spanish they then managed to travel without incident through miles and miles of bandito-filled territory.

Since the roads were oft times little more than rutted ox cart paths, they devised an ingenious way to bolt steel-flanged “tires” to the Ford’s wheels and use those to mount railroad tracks.

They did not quite make it to the Panama Canal. But in 54 days they traveled 4,562 miles to Managua, Nicaragua, where they managed to sell the car and use the proceeds to catch steamers home, Arthur to New York and Joe to McDermitt, Nevada.

Eventually, both brothers returned to Nevada to run car and bus “stage lines.”

This highly readable tale of gumption is available at several online bookstores, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Brothers bolted steel-flanged “tires” to wheels of Ford to drive on railroad tracks.
http://dlvr.it/S5lmGR

Hiroshima anniversary: Lives lost vs. lives saved

At AP is reporting from Tokyo about the 76th anniversary of the U.S. dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The Aug. 6, 1945, bombing killed 140,000 people. A second bomb three days later on Nagasaki killed another 70,000, but days later Japan surrendered and ended World War II.

But lest we forget, that bombing saved millions of American and Japanese lives.

Writing a year ago in The Wall Street Journal, John C. Hopkins, a nuclear physicist and former executive at Los Alamos National Laboratory, cited a July 1945 U.S. government report that estimated that invading the Japanese islands would have cost 5 million to 10 million Japanese lives. The U.S. also estimated that between 400,000 and 800,000 Americans would have lost their lives in the invasion. How many might have been our fathers and grandfathers? A child prays in front of the cenotaph dedicated to the victims of the atomic bombing at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, western Japan Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. Hiroshima on Friday marked the 76th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing of the city. (Kyodo News via AP)
http://dlvr.it/S5D54h

If it saves one life …

In January 2013, then-President Barack Obama said, “If there’s even one thing we can do to reduce this [gun] violence, if there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.”

A month later he tweeted, “If we save even one life from gun violence, it’s worth it.”

In a press conference Vice President, Joe Biden said, “As the president said, if your actions result in only saving one life, they’re worth taking.”

It’s a common plea for action.

Perhaps now-President Biden should keep this in mind as he touts various spending bills to curb global warming.

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Bjorn Lomborg, president of the Copenhagen Consensus and a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, reports that a study found that globablly climate change annually causes almost 120,000 additional heat deaths but avoids nearly 300,000 cold deaths.

Lomborg further noted the frequently mentioned deaths due to weather-related events such as floods, droughts, storms and fire — mostly blamed on climate change — actually have declined. “In the 1920s, these disasters killed almost half a million people on average each year. The current climate narrative would suggest that natural disasters are ever deadlier, but that isn’t true,” he writes. “Over the past century, climate-related deaths have dropped to fewer than 20,000 on average each year, even though the global population has quadrupled since 1920.”

Each year, more than 100,000 people die from cold in the United States, and 13,000 in Canada — more than 40 cold deaths for every heat death.Lomborg wrote in July in The New York Post

This piece was also published in The Financial Post.

He concluded his WSJ op-ed by saying, “Climate change is a real problem we should fix. But we can’t rely on apocalyptic stories when crafting policy. We must see all the data.”

If it saves one life?
http://dlvr.it/S5D53d

Apple Will Scan All IPhones for Illegal Child Abuse Images, Sparking Privacy Debate

Customers queue to get their reserved iPhone 12 mobile phones at an Apple store in Shanghai on Oct. 23, 2020. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Apple announced Thursday is it planning to scan all iPhones in the United States for child abuse imagery, raising alarm among security experts who said the plan could allow the firm to surveil tens of millions of personal devices for unrelated reasons.

In a blog post, the company confirmed reports saying that new scanning technology is part of a suite of child protection programs that would “evolve and expand.” It will be rolled out as part of iOS 15, which is scheduled for release sometime in August.

Apple, which has often touted itself as a company that promises to safeguard users’ right to privacy, appeared to try and preempt privacy concerns by saying that the software will enhance those protections by avoiding the need to carry out widespread image scanning on its cloud servers.

“This innovative new technology allows Apple to provide valuable and actionable information to [the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children] and law enforcement regarding the proliferation of known CSAM,” said the company, referring to an acronym for child sexual abuse material. “And it does so while providing significant privacy benefits over existing techniques since Apple only learns about users’ photos if they have a collection of known CSAM in their iCloud Photos account. Even in these cases, Apple only learns about images that match known CSAM.”

The Cupertino-based tech giant said the system will utilize breakthrough cryptography technology and artificial intelligence to find abuse material when it is stored in iCloud Photos, said the firm in its blog post. The images will be matched to a known database of illegal images, the firm said, adding that if a certain number of those images are uploaded to iCloud Photos, the company will review them.

Those images—if they’re deemed illegal—will be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The software won’t be applied to videos, Apple added.

“Apple’s expanded protection for children is a game-changer,” John Clark, the president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said in a statement on Thursday about the initiative. “The reality is that privacy and child protection can coexist.“

But some security experts and researchers, who stressed they support efforts to combat child abuse, said the program could present significant privacy concerns.

Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at the University of Cambridge, described Apple’s proposed system as “an absolutely appalling idea,” according to the Financial Times. “It is going to lead to distributed bulk surveillance of … our phones and laptops,” he remarked.

When news of the proposal broke on Wednesday evening, John Hopkins University professor and cryptographer Matthew Green echoed those concerns.

“This sort of tool can be a boon for finding child pornography in people’s phones,” Green wrote on Twitter. “But imagine what it could do in the hands of an authoritarian government?”

Green said that “if you believe Apple won’t allow these tools to be misused [crossed fingers emoji] there’s still a lot to be concerned about,” noting that such “systems rely on a database of ‘problematic media hashes’ that you, as a consumer, can’t review.”

The expert told The Associated Press that he’s concerned Apple could be pressured by other, more authoritarian governments to scan for other types of information.

Microsoft created photoDNA to assist companies in identifying child sexual abuse images on the internet, while Facebook and Google have implemented systems to flag and review possibly illegal content.

The Epoch Times has contacted Apple for comment.

Jack Phillips

Jack Phillips – Senior Reporter – The Epoch Times based in New York.

Source: Apple Will Scan All IPhones for Illegal Child Abuse Images, Sparking Privacy Debate

Opinion | Donald J. Trump: Why I’m Suing Big Tech

If Facebook, Twitter and YouTube can censor me, they can censor you—and believe me, they are.

 

Trump announces his lawsuits at a Bedminster, N.J. press conference on July 7. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
 

One of the gravest threats to our democracy today is a powerful group of Big Tech corporations that have teamed up with government to censor the free speech of the American people. This is not only wrong—it is unconstitutional. To restore free speech for myself and for every American, I am suing Big Tech to stop it.

Social media has become as central to free speech as town meeting halls, newspapers and television networks were in prior generations. The internet is the new public square. In recent years, however, Big Tech platforms have become increasingly brazen and shameless in censoring and discriminating against ideas, information and people on social media—banning users, deplatforming organizations, and aggressively blocking the free flow of information on which our democracy depends.

No longer are Big Tech giants simply removing specific threats of violence. They are manipulating and controlling the political debate itself. Consider content that was censored in the past year. Big Tech companies banned users from their platforms for publishing evidence that showed the coronavirus emerged from a Chinese lab, which even the corporate media now admits may be true. In the middle of a pandemic, Big Tech censored physicians from discussing potential treatments such as hydroxychloroquine, which studies have now shown does work to relieve symptoms of Covid-19. In the weeks before a presidential election, the platforms banned the New York Post—America’s oldest newspaper—for publishing a story critical of Joe Biden’s family, a story the Biden campaign did not even dispute.

Perhaps most egregious, in the weeks after the election, Big Tech blocked the social-media accounts of the sitting president. If they can do it to me, they can do it to you—and believe me, they are.

Jennifer Horton, a Michigan schoolteacher, was banned from Facebook for sharing an article questioning whether mandatory masks for young children are healthy. Later, when her brother went missing, she was unable to use Facebook to get the word out. Colorado physician Kelly Victory was deplatformed by YouTube after she made a video for her church explaining how to hold services safely. Kiyan Michael of Florida and her husband, Bobby, lost their 21-year-old son in a fatal collision caused by a twice-deported illegal alien. Facebook censored them after they posted on border security and immigration enforcement.

Meanwhile, Chinese propagandists and the Iranian dictator spew threats and hateful lies on these platforms with impunity.

This flagrant attack on free speech is doing terrible damage to our country. That is why in conjunction with the America First Policy Institute, I filed class-action lawsuits to force Big Tech to stop censoring the American people. The suits seek damages to deter such behavior in the future and injunctions restoring my accounts.

Our lawsuits argue that Big Tech companies are being used to impose illegal and unconstitutional government censorship. In 1996 Congress sought to promote the growth of the internet by extending liability protections to internet platforms, recognizing that they were exactly that—platforms, not publishers. Unlike publishers, companies such as Facebook and Twitter can’t be held legally liable for the content posted to their sites. Without this immunity, social media companies could not exist.

Democrats in Congress are exploiting this leverage to coerce platforms into censoring their political opponents. In recent years, we have all watched Congress haul Big Tech CEOs before their committees and demand that they censor “false” stories and “disinformation”—labels determined by an army of partisan fact-checkers loyal to the Democrat Party. As the cases of fellow plaintiffs Ms. Horton, Dr. Victory and the Michael family demonstrate, in practice this amounts to suppression of speech that those in power do not like.

Further, Big Tech and government agencies are actively coordinating to remove content from the platforms according to the guidance of agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Big Tech and traditional media entities formed the Trusted News Initiative, which essentially takes instructions from the CDC about what information they need to “combat.” The tech companies are doing the government’s bidding, colluding to censor unapproved ideas.

This coercion and coordination is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has held that Congress can’t use private actors to achieve what the Constitution prohibits it from doing itself. In effect, Big Tech has been illegally deputized as the censorship arm of the U.S. government. This should alarm you no matter your political persuasion. It is unacceptable, unlawful and un-American.

Through these lawsuits, I intend to restore free speech for all Americans—Democrats, Republicans and independents. I will never stop fighting to defend the constitutional rights and sacred liberties of the American people.

Mr. Trump was the 45th president of the United States.

Source: Opinion | Donald J. Trump: Why I’m Suing Big Tech