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Days before a polarizing vote to start rewriting its constitution, Venezuela is convulsing to a rhythm of daytime strikes and nocturnal clashes.

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Tenants of one of America’s largest corporate landlords briefly occupied the San Francisco offices of the chairman of its board Thursday, delivering a petition signed by 1,400 people demanding a rent freeze in all of the company’s rental properties.

The protest took place in the lobby of the Starwood Capital Group, whose chairman and CEO, Barry Sternlicht, is also chairman of the Board of Trustees of Starwood Waypoint Homes.

“They have a right to make money, but there’s got to be some ethical moral limits, especially when it’s causing other people harm,” said Merika Reagan, 42, a professional dog walker who pays about $1,800 a month to rent a two-bedroom home in East Oakland.

Reagan, raised in San Francisco, said she might have to leave the state if the company raises her rent again. In its most recent corporate filing, the company bragged about its rent increases, including an average spike of 13.3% on new leases in Northern California.

Tenant Merika Reagan speaks outside the offices of Starwood Waypoint Homes on July 27, 2017.

The firm controls 35,000 single family homes and recently announced it was purchasing 3,000 more. It was founded in 2012 by Tom Barrack, one of President Donald Trump’s oldest and closest friends. Barrack quit the company last month, a day after a Reveal expose detailed poor maintenance and rising rents at the company’s properties. Tenants were struggling without heat and coping with leaky roofs. They faced peeling tile, a collapsing ceiling, even a snake infestation.

After Barrack’s departure, the company, which had been called Colony Starwood Homes, announced it would be rebranding itself Starwood Waypoint Homes and that Sternlicht, the chief executive of Starwood Capital, would become the sole chairman of of its board of trustees.

Justin Tombolesi, an organizer with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment said a delegation of tenants met briefly with Mark Deason, managing director for Starwood Capital, who committed to fax the petition to Sternlicht.

Deason declined to comment for this story, directing Reveal’s inquiry to an outside public relations firm, which did not respond to a phone call and emailed inquiry.

Tenant organizations across California are taking aim at corporate landlords this week as part of a campaign to repeal the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act, a 1995 law that bars rent control on single family homes.

The bill is bitterly opposed by real estate interests, but activist groups say the housing bust has dramatically changed the composition of single family rentals, from mom and pop landlords to large corporations.

Nationally, Starwood Waypoint is the third largest corporate landlord of single family homes. Invitation Homes, founded by the private equity firm Blackstone, and American Homes for Rent, founded by Public Storage magnate B. Wayne Hughes, both own approximately 50,000 homes.

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – British Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said on Thursday he had met with Trump administration officials and U.S. airlines to reassure them that air traffic would not be disrupted as Britain leaves the European Union in 2019.

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) – The Chinese air force will keep conducting drills at sea regardless of whatever interference it may encounter, China’s state broadcaster reported, following reports that Chinese warplanes flew near Japan and Taiwan in recent days.

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(This story contains language in paragraph 3 that may be offensive to some readers; updates with Scaramucci comments from New Yorker)

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The bodies of five women and four men were found piled up in front of a house in the Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo on the border with Texas, local authorities said on Thursday.

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The three Republicans are seeking a guarantee that the measure will be debated further.

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LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – The surge in far-flung and destructive cyber attacks is not good for national security, but for an increasing number of hackers and researchers, it is great for job security.

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BERLIN (Reuters) – More than 70 years after Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his Berlin bunker in the final days of World War Two, an exhibition in the capital examines how he became a Nazi and what turned ordinary Germans into murderers during the Third Reich.

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SAN SALVADOR/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and several of his Central American counterparts will explore strategies to combat criminal gangs during his visit to El Salvador, that country’s foreign minister said on Thursday.

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A team of volunteers is taking a different approach to managing Alberta’s wild horse population.

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Salvadoran authorities have announced the detentions of 442 members of the transnational Mara Salvatrucha street gang.

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a $68 billion increase in military spending next year with legislation that also provides money to start construction of President Donald Trump’s Mexican border wall.

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DUBAI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Iran successfully tested a rocket that can deliver satellites into orbit, state television reported on Thursday, an action the United States said breaches a U.N. Security Council resolution because of its potential use in ballistic missile development.

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to release him from a Florida jail while he fights Panama’s efforts to extradite him.

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Brazil’s defense minister is promising to have the military take an increasingly aggressive role in fighting drug trafficking in Rio de Janeiro.

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Qatar’s foreign minister on Thursday accused Arab states of violating international law in their boycott of the country and described the United Nations as the “right place” for Doha to seek options to overcome measures imposed against it.

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Qatar’s foreign minister on Thursday accused Arab states of violating international law in their boycott of the country and described the United Nations as the “right place” for Doha to seek options to overcome measures imposed against it.

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AP (via CBS): 45,000 ISIS fighters have been taken off the battlefield, U.S. says

AP story on CBS‘s site (8/10/16) on how many ISIS fighters have been “taken off the battlefield.”

One of the hoariest methods of modern war propaganda remains the official body count. Government or military officials decisively touting large numbers of enemies killed has long been a surefire way to get credulous or friendly press coverage, despite the fact that the figures cited are routinely presented with no evidence to back them up or context about how they are counting this “enemy.” This dubious practice of body count reporting reached its peak during the Vietnam War, when the US government relied upon this fabulism as a consistent tactic to prop up a failing war effort, as FAIR’s Jeff Cohen recounted (5/6/01):

Any alert journalist should have known the official count was grossly inflated, in large part by adding in dead civilians—yet Walter Cronkite and the other network anchors dutifully read it straight faced week after week.

As a result of widespread criticism in the post-Vietnam era, the Pentagon and other US officials curtailed this practice during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam veteran who was US Defense Secretary from 2013–15, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer back in December (12/16/16): “My policy has always been, don’t release that kind of thing.… I mean, come on, did we learn anything from Vietnam?” he asked. “Body counts make no sense.”

Nevertheless, in the past few years, official body count estimates have made a notable comeback, as US military and administration officials have tried to talk up the US coalition’s war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The transparent absurdity and contradictory nature of these claims hasn’t stopped corporate media from repeatedly citing these figures in headlines and news stories with little or no pushback.

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Fox News (12/8/16) reports mass killing is “breaking the back of ISIS.”

For example, last August, the US commander of the Syrian-Iraq war garnered a flurry of favorable coverage of the war when he announced that the coalition had killed 45,000 ISIS militants in the past two years (NBC News, 8/12/16; CBS News, 8/10/16; Fox News, 8/10/16). By December, the official ISIS body count number, according to an anonymous “senior US official,” had risen to 50,000 and led headlines on cable news (Fox News, 12/8/16; CNN, 12/9/16).

Reading through that media coverage, though, one finds little skepticism about the figures or historical context about how these killed in action numbers line up with the official estimates of ISIS’s overall size, which have stayed stubbornly consistent year after year (Fox News, 2/4/16). In fact, the official estimated size of ISIS in 2015 and 2016 averaged 25,000 fighters, which means the US coalition had supposedly wiped out the equivalent of its entire force over both years without making a dent in its overall size.

Foreign Policy (8/16/16) also took the time to comb through the body count and force-size numbers to highlight how the chronology of estimates made little sense as well:

If the Obama administration’s latest estimates are accurate, that would mean there was a zero percent increase in the number of Islamic State fighters killed in the first four months of [2016], followed by a remarkable 80 percent during the past four months.

Even more remarkably, only one week after the anonymous 50,000 body count number was reported in December, the UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, standing alongside US Defense Secretary Ash Carter, publicly halved it. At a joint press briefing (12/15/16), Fallon said 25,000 ISIS militants had been killed by coalition forces, yet almost no newspapers or TV news networks (save CNN, 12/16/16) covered this glaring discrepancy.

CNN: US Special Ops chief: More than 60,000 ISIS fighters killed

The fact the US and British body counts differ wildly “could complicate the current White House-directed effort to develop a plan to defeat ISIS,” CNN (2/15/17) reported.

Under the Trump administration, the public use of ISIS body counts has by no means diminished. In February, Gen. Tony Thomas, the commander of US Special Operations Command, told a public symposium that 60,000 ISIS fighters had been killed. Thomas added this disingenuous qualifier to his evidence-free number: “I’m not that into morbid body count, but that matters.” Unsurprisingly, Fox News (2/15/17) gobbled up his figure happily and with little skepticism. CNN (2/15/17) did at least point out the previously huge disconnect between US and UK body count numbers in its reporting, saying it “underscores the challenge of assessing enemy casualties,” but its headline was a clear public relations win for the war: “US Special Ops Chief: More Than 60,000 ISIS Fighters Killed.”

Last Friday, Thomas claimed yet another ISIS body count number at the Aspen Security Forum—this time citing up to 70,000 militants killed during the war, or, put another way, another full ISIS army’s size from last August. Again, Fox News (7/21/17) ran this number with no pushback, as part of a report that also uncritically repeated his accusation that the New York Times published a leak that let ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi slip away. (After the Times pointed out the factual problems with Thomas’s claim, the Fox News story has since added an “update.”)

This 70,000 estimate is not new. The Pentagon started to provide this new total of ISIS “militants” killed in Syria and Iraq to the press as far back as April (LA Times, 4/21/17), a mere nine weeks after Thomas’s 60,000 estimate. While it’s true the operational tempo of coalition air attacks has increased significantly since Trump became president, it’s notable that, up through this spring, US officials also estimated coalition warplanes had only killed between 230 to 350 civilians in Syria and Iraq since 2014.

Comparing estimates of civilian deaths most likely caused by American-led coalition airstrikes

Airwars (top) vs. Pentagon estimates of Syrian/Iraqi civilians killed in coalition airstrikes (graphic: New York Times, 5/25/17)

Research from the non-profit group Airwars, which uses both media and on-the-ground reports, suggests the US government’s civilian casualty total is as absurdly low as its ISIS KIA claims appear absurdly high. Airwars’ count of the US coalition civilian casualties as of March was roughly 3,100, or more than eight times higher than what the Pentagon claimed (New York Times, 5/25/17). (As of today, Airwars’ minimum estimate of Syrian/Iraq civilian casualties stands at 4,544 killed.) Is the coalition miscounting dead civilians as part of its ISIS KIA total? It seems highly likely, but it’s impossible to tell, of course, because these official body count estimates lack all transparency.

All these glaring disconnects between the official estimates of ISIS fighters killed, total contingent size and civilian casualties cries out for much greater skepticism and due diligence among the corporate media. As our not too distant past has clearly shown, enemy body counts are a handy, hard-to-resist tool that administrations of both parties often use for war propaganda to promote the idea we are “winning” and to stave off dissent about why we’re fighting in the first place. Any reputable news organization need only consider this history and the obvious, current contradictions from “US officials” to realize that body counts should never be reported uncritically without context and third-party, expert commentary. As our nation spirals toward the end of a second decade of uninterrupted war with US troops killing and dying in yet another Middle Eastern country, the press owes the American public nothing less.

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The US criticises the launch from a new space centre, describing it as a provocative action.

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BRASILIA (Reuters) – With a spreadsheet listing undecided lawmakers, Brazilian President Michel Temer is working the phones to nail down support to block a corruption charge in a crucial congressional vote next week that will decide his political future, close aides said.

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Demonstrations that could “disturb or affect” Sunday’s controversial vote are outlawed.

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The BBC witnesses the devastating reality hidden inside the war-torn country.

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Prominent American neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin has fled the United States for Lagos, Nigeria. Or has he?

In a post on his website entitled “Nigerians Love Neo-Nazi White Supremacist Andrew Anglin,” he says he is receiving a warm welcome from the locals. Nigeria, he wrote, is a place where he could avoid being harassed by law enforcement and “antifa ‘street enforcers.’ ”

The announcement comes as Anglin faces a lawsuit that could destroy his site, the Daily Stormer, one of the most influential in the online white supremacist ecosystem. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which sued Anglin three months ago for harassing a Jewish family, hasn’t been able to find him to serve him with the lawsuit.

When reached by email, Anglin said that he really is in Nigeria. However, some clues left on his own website suggest that may simply be another act of trolling.

Anglin first talked about living in Nigeria in an interview with CNN. He expanded on the experience in his own blog post:

While the Jews say that every racist is pure evil and just blindly hates skin colors for no reason, I in fact get along well with the Nigerians I live amongst here in Nigeria. In fact, they love me. The fact that the world’s number one racist hater feels safest in a totally black country where pansy antifa would pee their pants as soon as they got off the plane is something that should give even the densest liberal pause for thought.

In one image he uses to prove he’s in Nigeria, Anglin shares the Facebook post of a woman named Julian Natukunda wishing happy birthday to an Andrew Anglin.

Credit: Facebook screen shot

However, Natukunda’s Facebook profile lists her location as Kampala, Uganda, which is about 3,000 miles away from Lagos, Nigeria.

In a WhatsApp conversation, Natukunda told us “Andrew Anglin” is also her son’s name. She said she has no idea who the American Andrew Anglin is – or his current location.

Anglin shared a series of other photos in his post to prove he’s in Nigeria. None of them actually includes him. One is a generic photo of a residential street with cars parked on it. Another depicts meat kabobs at a food stand.

In further evidence that Anglin is trolling, at the bottom of the post, Anglin features a video that he claims to be audio from an interview with a Buzzfeed reporter named Willard Goldensteinbergen. When you click on the video, it plays a clip from the film Apocalypse Now. Willard Goldensteinbergen is not the name of a Buzzfeed employee and is an obvious parody of common Jewish surnames.

Regardless of where Anglin is, there are reasons he would go on the lam. If successful, the lawsuit against him, filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of the Jewish family Anglin targeted for what he called a “troll storm,” could set a new precedent in holding internet trolls accountable for the emotional distress they cause.

Court documents show the SPLC has been unable to locate Anglin to serve him with the lawsuit. Defendants in lawsuits must be given notice that they’ve been sued so they know about the case and have the ability to defend themselves.

The SPLC attempted to serve Anglin at a number of locations in Ohio, such as the address where the Daily Stormer is registered as a business and the address where the business’s name was registered with the Ohio Secretary of State.

A process server also visited the home of Anglin’s brother and his father’s psychiatric counseling service, according to the court documents. No one at the locations associated with Anglin’s family accepted the papers. When a process server went to Anglin’s brother’s home, a man who did not give his name told the server that he “can’t do that” to his brother.

Neither Anglin’s lawyer, Marc Randazza, nor representatives from his law firm responded to requests for comment. Randazza made a name for himself defending the alt-right online message board 8chan and conservative media personality Mike Cernovich, who drew widespread criticism for promoting the Pizzagate conspiracy theory.

“If it’s unpopular and people want to shut it up, then we have represented them,” Randazza told the Associated Press.

The SPLC says it has not been able to get Randazza to respond to their questions about the case in any way.

However, Anglin is clearly aware of the case.

In June, he wrote a story entitled “Andrew Anglin has Retained America’s #1 First Amendment Lawyer to Represent Him Against SPLC” and the banner running at the top of the Daily Stormer keeps a running tally of donations made to fund Anglin’s legal defense. To date, he says he’s raised more than $150,000.

If Anglin or his lawyer never show up to answer the charges, the plaintiffs have other options.

SPLC can ask the court clerk in Ohio to place a notification in a local media outlet for six weeks as a means of effective notification. After that, the judge could allow the case to proceed without Anglin’s direct participation or simply hand the SPLC the victory.

Anthony Colangelo, a law professor at Southern Methodist University, said the judge also can seize Anglin’s assets.

“The entire point of the procedure is to see that justice is done and make sure defendants receive a fair hearing,” he added. “When you have a defendant who is purposefully trying to avoid a lawsuit, and plaintiffs are doing everything they can to vindicate their rights, courts are going to be sympathetic.”

The lawsuit against Anglin was filed by Tanya Gersh, a real estate agent from Whitefish, Montana targeted by the Daily Stormer.

Whitefish is also the hometown of white nationalist Richard Spencer. When Spencer’s mother became the focus of local anger as her son gained prominence in the Trump era, Gersh said she tried to help Spencer’s mother sell her property. The deal went sour, and Spencer attacked Gersh on social media, claiming she was trying to extort money from his family. Anglin soon jumped into the fray, urging his readers to go after Gersh.

“Just make your opinions known,” Anglin wrote. “Tell them you are sickened by their Jew agenda. … This is very important. Calling these people up and/or sending them a quick message is very easy. It is very important that we make them feel the kind of pressure they are making us feel. … And hey – if you’re in the area, maybe you should stop by and tell her in person what you think of her actions.”

Daily Stormer readers directed a torrent of harassment at the Gersh family. One Twitter user sent a message to Gersh’s 12-year-old son that read: “psst kid, theres (sic) a free Xbox One inside this oven.”

The suit contends that Gersh “has experienced serious and severe emotional and physical distress as a result” of Anglin’s actions.

However, the SPLC’s goal runs deeper than simply making Anglin pay out. David Dinelli, the group’s lead attorney on the case, said the suit’s ultimate aim is to prevent Anglin from conducting harassment campaigns in the future.

As an institution, as well as on behalf of Tanya Gersh, we would love it if whatever judgement we got was significant enough to cause Andrew Anglin to stop publishing his vile and hateful publication and to stop targeting people,” Dinelli said. “He needs to be punished and he needs to be deterred in addition to making compensation to the really significant harm his conduct has wrought on Tanya Gersh and her family.”

Even after the lawsuit was filed in April, the Daily Stormer has repeatedly egged on harassment campaigns against other people who have drawn his ire.

  • He encouraged his followers to troll Taylor Dumpson, the first black woman elected student government president at American University.
  • In a post on the site, another writer urged readers to track down the families of CNN employees. The call came after CNN wrote about the Reddit user with a long history of white supremacist posts who created the meme of President Donald Trump wrestling CNN.
  • Anglin targeted a Polish YouTube personality named Magdalena Pegowska, who posted videos about her interracial child.

Dinelli said Anglin’s failure to respond to the lawsuit is deeply revealing of the white supremacist’s character.  

“There’s irony in him being a big scary bully who is willing to take on anyone so long as he’s hiding behind his keyboard,” he said. “Now he actually has the opportunity finally to come and defend himself and wrap himself in the First Amendment, and yet he doesn’t have the guts to do so.”

Aaron Sankin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @asankin.

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(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc reported a 77 percent slump in quarterly profit as the company invests heavily in areas such as video content and in fast-growing economies such as India.

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The BBC’s Orla Guerin sees the suffering of cholera and malnutrition victims in Yemen’s civil war.

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For two parents in the United Kingdom, a matter of life or death turned into a battle between the court systems and pleas from world leaders.

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Authorities in the Bahamas say a tourist has been bitten by a shark in the second such attack in less than two months.

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – The head of the Boy Scouts of America apologized to members of the youth organization on Thursday for the “political rhetoric that was inserted” into its national gathering this week by U.S. President Donald Trump.

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Britain pressed Syria and its ally Russia on Thursday to allow access to humanitarian aid in the war-torn country as a senior U.N. official told the Security Council that aid convoys had not been able to reach 540,000 people in besieged areas during July.

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