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tv   Democracy Now  LINKTV  May 17, 2022 8:00am-9:00am PDT

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05/17/22 05/17/22 [captioning made possible by democracy now!] amy: from new york, this is democracy now! >> you think about this phrase replacement theory that he talked about in this manifesto. there are people who are pushing this hatred on these young people, indoctrinating their minds to go out and commit
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violence. amy:reside biden is visiting buffalo today, two days afr a white supremacist killed 10 people at a supermarket in a heart of the black community. we will speak to rashad robinson of color of change and talia levin, author ofculture warlords: my journey into the dark web of white supremac" >> when you have a political movement that specifically portrays the change that by people will become a democratic majority in america as a public tick -- apocalyptic, and existentl threat, those are the precoitions for violence. that is the rhetoric. amy: plus, we will look at monopolies and the baby formula shortage. as parents scramble to find formula to feed their babies, we
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will look at how the crisis is linked to the fact that just four companies sell almost all the baby formula in the country. a whistleblower had warned about problems at abbott's largest baby formula played last october, but the fda took months to interview the whistleblower who was fired by abbot. we will speak to david dayen of the american prospect. all that and more, coming up. welcome to democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. president biden is visiting buffalo today as families there mourn the victims of saturday's massacre when a white 18-year-old suspect killed 10 people at a supermarket he deliberately targeted in the city's black community. investigators say the shooter spent months carefully planning his assault and intended to
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continue his rampage with an attack on a second location. amid the mourning, calls for justice are growing. civil rights lawyer ben crump spoke in buffalo monday. >> what happened on saturday was an act of domestic terrorism. and we have to define it as such. we can't sugarcoat it. we can't try to explain it away talking about mental illness. no. this was an act of domestic terrorism. perpetrated by a young white supremacist. amy: we will have the latest on the buffalo massacre after headlines. in california, officials in orange county say sunday's mass shooting at a church in laguna woods was a politically motivated hate crime targeting the taiwanese community.
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>> it is believed the suspect involved was upset about political tensions between china and iwan. amy: police named the suspect, 68-year-old david chou of las vegas, a chinese immigrant and u.s. citizen. he reportedly placed molotov cocktails around the church and chained exit doors shut before opening fire on a congregation gathered for a luncheon. dr. john chang died in the assault, and four others were rushed to the hospital with gunshot wounds. on monday, orange county officials hailed dr. chang as a hero who rushed the gunman, giving others a chance to subdue their attacker. president joe biden has approved a pentagon plan to permanently redeploy up to 500 u.s. troops to somalia. the move largely reverses a withdrawal ordered by then-president trump during his final days in office. the pentagon says the troops are needed to train somalia's army to combat al-shabaab militants. the pentagon's announcement came just after hassan sheikh mohamud
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was sworn in as somalia's president, a post he had previously held from 2012 to 2017. in news fr ukraine, more than 260 ukrainian troops have been evacuatefrom the bieged azovstal sel plant in mariupol ending a week-long standoff. about 50 injured ukrainian fighters were taken to a hospital in the russian-controlled town of novoazovsk. the other fighters were taken to another town under russian control with plan to evacuate russia now controls all of mariupol which has been left in ruins after months of fighting. the standoff at the steel plant lasted for months. the u.s. senate has voted to advance a $40 billion military and economic aid package for ukraine by a vote of 81 to 11, the senate agreed to limit debate on the bill setting up its passage, which is expected on wednesday.
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the entire democratic caucus supported the measure. the 11 "no" votes came from republicans, including senator rand paul who temporarily stalled passage of the $40 billion package last week. paul accused senate leaders of trying to ram through the spending bill without any oversight on how the money is being spent. russian president vladimir putin has said russia can accept finland and sweden joining nato but not if new military bases are set up on at the two countries. >> as for the expansion of nato including two new members of the alliance, finland and sweden, russia wants to inform you that it has no problems th these states. there is no immediate threat to russia from an expansion of nato to include these countries, but the expansion of military infrastructure into this territory would certainly provoke our response. what that response will be, we
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will see what threats are created for us. y: omonday, turkish esident recep tayyip erdogan hinted he may block them from joining nato but many analysts expect turkey to back down in exchange for some concessions. turkey has accused both countries of supporting the pkk, the kurdistan workers party, which is banned in turkey. new zealand prime minister jacinda ardern has tested positive for covid-19 and is isolating at home with moderate symptoms. ardern's government oversaw one of the world's most successful campaigns to stamp out the coronavirus until a wave of omicron infections earlier this year forced new zealand to abandon its zero-covid strategy. more than 80% of new zealand's population is fully vaccinated and the nation's per-capita death rate from covid is nearly 16 times lower than the u.s. in china, authorities say shanghai has achieved zero-covid status after no new cases of community spread were detected for three consecutive days.
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this comes as a lockdown affecting some 25 million shanghai residents is now in its seventh week. public health restrictions across china this year have impacted hundreds of millions of people, driving the official unemployment rate to more than 6% in april. that's china's highest jobless rate since february 2020. here in new york city, public health officials strongly recommended monday that people wear medical-grade masks indoors but stopped short of ordering a mask mandate. the warning came as new york prepared to raise its covid alert level to "high" for the second time this month. meanwhile, "the new york times" reports the food and drug administration is poised to authorize third-dose booster shots of pfizer's covid-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11. across the u.s., coronavirus hospitalizations are continuing to rise, with public health officials warning the nearly 100,000 new cases reported each day represents a significant undercount.
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the supreme court's conservative majority has sided with texas republican senator ted cruz in a case challenging a federal anti-bribery law. writing for the majority in monday's 6-to-3 opinion, chief justice john roberts ruled that the first amendment's guarantee of free speech protects the right of a candidate to use unlimited post-election contributions to repay loans made to their campaign. the federal campaign finance law known as the mccain-feingold act previously capped such loans at $250,000. justice elena kagan dissented in an opinion, writing -- "the theory of the legislation is easy to grasp. political contributions that will line a candidate's own pockets, given after his election to office, pose a special danger of corruption." the biden administration is easing trump-era restrictions on travel between the united states and cuba. the state department said monday it will reinstate the cuba family reunification parole program, expanding visa processing and making it easier for families to visit relatives
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in cuba. the administration is also lifting a $1000 cap on remittances family members can send to relatives in cuba. the new measures fall short of u.s. restrictions against cuba put in place under former president obama. in occupied east jerusalem, dozens of palestinians were injured monday as israeli forces used rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas, and foul-smelling "skunk water" to attack a funeral procession of a palestinian man killed by israeli soldiers. on saturday, waleed al-sharif succumbed to wounds he suffered when israeli troops shot him in april 22 the head with a rubber-coated bullet as they fired so-called less lethal munitions at worshippers at the al-aqsa mosque. an eyewitness said israeli forces left al-sharif bleeding for nearly half an hour before he was finally taken to the hospital in a coma. he's among 54 palestinians killed by israeli forces since the beginning of the year. meanwhile, the catholic church's top official in jerusalem has
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condemned israeli police for their violent attack on last friday's funeral for shireen abu akleh. the veteran al jazeera journalist was killed last week covering an israeli raid in the west bank in an attack that palestinians and al jazeera blame on israeli military snipers. archbishop pierbattista pizzaballa said on monday that israel's attack on shireen abu akleh's funeral was a severe violation of international norms and regulations. >> the police stormed into a christian institute, disrespecting the church, disrespecting the institute, disrespecting the memory of the deceased and forcing the pallbearers almost to drop the coffin. israeli disproportionate use of force attacking mourners,
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striking them with batons, using smoke grenades from shooting rubber bullets, frightening the hospital patients are severe violations of international norms and regulations. amy: and 11 and, hezbollah has lost a majority and parliament. the inconclusive outcome leaves lebanon's parliament split amongst several camps can even as the nation grapples with soaring inflation, corruption, it was their first election since a devastating economic collapse in 2019 and a massive 2020 explosion at the port of a route killed at least 215 people destroying entire neighborhoods. sri lanka's newly-sworn prime minister has warned his nation is down to a one-day supply of gasoline as a devastating economic crisis is set to deepen. ranil wickremesinghe said monday sri lanka's government will have
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to print money to pay government wages even though it will lead to the devaluation of the currency. he said sri lanka will seek to privatize its state-owned airline and called on citizens to accept even deeper austerity measures. >> the next couple of months will be the most difficult ones of our lives. we must prepare ourselves to make some sacrifices and face the challenges of this period. i have no desire to hide the truth and to lie to the public, although these facts are complicit and terrifying, this is the true situation. amy: in recent weeks, sri lanka has been rocked by protests demanding the ouster of president mahinda rajapaksa amid rolling blackouts, soaring inflation, and shortages of fuel, medicine, and food. back in the united states, the biden administration has announced a number of steps to alleviate a critical nationwide
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shortage of baby formula. the food and drug administration and abbott laboratories have reached an agreement to allow abbott to reopen the nation's largest baby formula plant which was closed due to concerns over bacterial contamination. following the death of two babies. meanwhile, the fda has eased import rules on baby formula made overseas. and the american academy of pediatrics has said babies as young as six months old can now be fed cow's milk for a brief period of time due to the baby formula shortage. up until now, pediatricians had recommended babies not be fed cow's milk until they were a year old. we'll have more on this story later in the broadcast. in the long time lgbtq lawyer and activist urvashi vaid has died at the age of 63. she headed the national gay and lesbian task force and became an outspoken critic of the federal government's response to the
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aids crisis. in 1990, she interrupted a speech by president george h.w. bush while holding a sign that read "talk is cheap. aids funding is not." she appeared on democracy now! in 2009. >> i feel that as a woman of color, it is not really separable for me, gay, social justice. their intertwined. the context that we live in requires i think the gay movement to see how intertwined our struggle is with the defeat of right-wing values and right-wing ideology. amy: to see our interview with urvashi vaid, go to our website. and those are some of the headlines. this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. when we come back, we turn to the buffalo massacre as president biden visits the city today. stay with us. ♪♪ [music break]
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amy: this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman in new york, joined by democracy now! co-host juanonzález in new brunswick, new jersey. hi, juan. juan: hiamy. welcome to all of our listeners and viewers from around the country and around the world. president biden is visiting buffalo today to meet with families who are mourning the victims of saturday's massacre when a white 18-year-old suspect killed 10 people at a supermarket in the heart of buffalo's black community. his family -- as families plan funerals, calls for justice are growing. civil rights lawyer ben crump spoke monday alongside family members of the oldest victim, 86-year-old ruth whitfield. >> there is nothing we can do that is going to take away the hurt, take away these tears, take away the pain, take away the hole in our hearts because
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part of us is gone, taken from us by hate. >> he took away my mother and my best friend. how dare you. how dare you. this needs to be fixed asap. mom, love you. thank you. >> you think about this race replacement theory that he talked about in this manifesto. there are people who are pushing this hatred on these young people, and doctrine aiding their minds -- indoctrinating their minds to go out and commit violence. i mean, these politicians who are trying to use fear to
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inspire their base to help get cable news ratings. it is these people who are accomplices to this mass murder. even though they may not have pulled the trigger, they did yield the cash loaded the gun for this was supremacist. they loaded the gun. and we have to hold them accountable, too. amy: that is ben crump and before that, the family of ruth whitfield, the oldest at 86, of the victims in the massacre on saturday. he is also the former fire commissioner of buffalo. the whitfield family and others may sue bushmaster, the company that makes the assault-style weapon used in the buffalo
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attack. the alleged gunman told investigators he was filled with hate toward black people. his online record shows he had been studying previous hate attacks. he posted a 180-page manifesto citing racist replacement theories and had the number 14 stenciled on the barrel of his gun, which is reportedly a reference to a 14-word white supremacist phrase. he live-streamed th attack o twitch, which our next guest tweeted about. color of change president rashad robinson tweeted -- "twitch took down the livestream of white supremacist shooting in buffalo in under 2 minutes. meanwhile, the video is now on facebook with 1.8 million views -- and they're not removing it because it 'doesn't violate their terms of service'." color of change has called for social media platforms to
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institute changes to their terms of service in order to keep us safe, saying -- "there is a direct through line between the tech industry's lack of regulation and the anti-black violence we saw in buffalo." rashad robinson, welcome back to democracy now! if you could start off by responding to what happened and then or specifically because we are seeing massacre after massacre -- of course, this is a reminiscent of what happened at mother emanuel in south carolina a few years ago, the targeting of the black community. we understand the white supremacist teenager who did this had also considered schools and churches but was afraid of security. >> well, for all of us, this is both incredibly sad but it also makes us deeply angry. because of all the things that could be should have been done to deal with the climate that
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fuels this type of violence, at the end of the day, a profit incentive structure which has both incentivized the type of content and disinformation and hate filled rhetoric that we see online, we have watched social media platforms refuse to deal with this because self regulated companies are unregulated companies. i'm waiting for congress to try to push members of congress to actually deal with the iunity that these platforms have over this type of content. and it is not simply about freedom of speech, amy. this is about what they amplify, this is about the content they serve up to users as they sign on. this is about all the ways in which the product is designed in order to create people to have more time on these platforms, more engagement on these platforms, to be engaged in more hate filled rhetoric.
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at the end of the day, we are watching, we are seeing firsthand the impact of it. we should not have to go to billionaires to beg them to protect our civil rights. our government should be doing the work to hold corporations accountable. and right now they're not doing it. at the end of the day, we exist in a climate that is not just the social media platforms, does also fox news, also the ways in which the big carriers, cable carriers -- verizon, comcast, pay more money for fox news and they do other cable programs and so people should have a choice. they should be able to not actually have fox news. we should be able to drive down the profits of fox news, but we can't because 90% of their money comes from carrier services, carrier fees, not from advertisers. there is so much at stake here. but at the end of the day, what folks should recognize is there
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is an incentive structure, a team, players, coaches, owners. and this killer did not act alone. he is part of a larger network. until we deal with the incentive structure, we will see more of this. juan: could you talk about twitch, the platform that many people are unfamiliar with that enabled the shooter to livestream this attack? explain about the platform and how he used it. >> twitch is a platform that allows creators to post and engage platforms that allows people to monetize in different ways their creativity. we have been running a campaign with black twitch creators because of all of the sort of hate attacks in the right that have happened on their channels. what we have seen is the inability of twitch to do
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anything about it. we've had back-and-forth with twitch, we have demanded equity audits, have been engaged to try to push this platform to actually do better. for us, the engagement at color change with twitch did not start recently. we have been engaged, we have been warning twitch, we have recognized how the platform was used and how it has become a home, safe haven the type of hate for folks that actually know they can engage in this type of behavior and not be held accountable. but at the end of the day, these platforms get to do it because they believe they are protected. in essence, they have been protected by a set of laws that actually give them in some ways immunity over being held accountable lively --liably and in all sorts of ways. until we deal with the instinctive structure accrete more accountability over the algorithms -- i know folks are wondering, this technology is so
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complicated. well, we have complicated things over time. what folks should recognize, what it means to regulate and hold his companies accountable, our cars are not say. our seatbelts don't work because of the benevolence of the auto industry. they work because there is government infrastructure and regulation. there are consequences when those things do not work. when standards are not met. right now folks can go out to silin valley, call themselves engineers and build all sorts of things without rules or regulation or accountability for what they built. so right now the technology that should be bringing us into the future is dragging us into the past. it is doing that not as an accident, but because we have a set of rules or lack of rules that are manufacturing all the things. juan: i wanted to ask you, how
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do you draw the line between being able to regulate these companies and at the same time allow for legitimate dissent and distant not to be closed down by these companies? i'thinking, even now the situation with elon musk taking over twitter and he is going on at the opposite direction from insisting on more freedom on these platforms. >> people use the word "freedom" and it only means freedom for some. if the ability of certain people in our communities to be able to go to a grocery store or to go to a church is diminished because of a climate for profit that is created that does not make us more free. to the extent that we are not talking about here about whether or not someone should be able to post inks that we may not like or we find distasteful, what
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we're talking about is algorithmic amplification. how these platforms put energy behind making some type of content travel because that type of content creates more energy. an example, on facebook, if facebook tomorrow decided that they were going to just make it so you spend more time looking at your friends and family, even if your friends and family are sometimes sharing things that are distasteful, that would diminish greatly the type of content that is hate filled. but in fact, what their incentivizing is assaulting part of groups where people are arguing. or if we see a piece of content and maybe engage, even if we don't join the group, it gets served up to us. what we know is this is all part of the larger scheme of these platforms to keep us on the platform longer, to keep us engaged longer because it drives
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up their profits. they can do that because at the end of the day, they don't actually have accountability. now imagine a company that produces me to send, you know what? we want to give consumers more choice. we're going to put some meat on the supermarket that is safe and put some that is, you know, and a couple of months old and you pick and we just want to give people choice. those companies would be held accountable. what we are dealing with is not simply these ideas of what people are posting, whate're dealing with is the back in business model that are creating a structure were certain things are being able to be profited from, certain things travel differently, and hate filled content has more of a space to be engaged with. and that is what we are talking about. if these companies had a level of accountability, you better believe the innovators in
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silicon valley would figure out how to engage. i think there is this idea that regulation and accountability stifles innovation. but what we know is climate innovation has helped in so many ways give us new types of vehicles, new types of ways to actually move from place to place. innovation can both make and save and it can actually regulate -- or regulation, a safe and help us be more innovative. that is what we have to focus on. but i think at the end of the day, none of us should have to rely on mark zuckerberg or twitch, which is owned by amazon, or all of these companies to actually decide whether or not they're going to keep us safe and to balance that up against their growth and their profits. because they will always choose their growth and profit over our lives because they have proven it time and time again. amy: we're going to bring in a second guess to join you right now.
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rashad robinson's with color of change. saturday's massacre by the 18-year-old white supremacist which killed 10 has been called a made-for-the-internet massacre. the shooter streaming the massacre on twitch for about two minutes before the amazon-owned company took it down. users of hate-filled online message boards like 4chan soon share the video. it was being watched by 22 people and now it has been watched by millions. for more, we are joined by journalist and author talia lavin, who spent nearly a year impersonating right-wing white supremacists online, assuming false identities to infiltrate their groups as she worked on her book "culture warlords: my journey into the dark web of white supremacy." welcome to democracy now! in the process of writing or
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book, you also explore the relationship between the extreme right and conservatives in the united states in the mainstream, which you write about in your new piece for rolling stone headlined "the buffalo shooter isn't a 'lone wolf.' he's a mainstream republican." take us through your response to what happened and your journey through the dark web. as you said, it doesn't just exist in 4chan and 8chan and dylann roof groups, those who praise the killer and the mother manual church and others. ta us on that journey you took. >> i mean, i think it is important to note that the shooter was radicalized according to his manifesto online. he was steeped in this ecosystem , which i know pretty well,
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unfortunately. i would say it exists in parallel to ground ever closer to what i call the sort of white-hot specter of politics. the commonality is the fixation on white dominance, fixation on white fertility. the demographics -- it has been clear for some time now there will be a time that is drawing closer to the fluctuation -- deaths and some level of immigration that has been consistently restricted, where the u.s. will be a majority minority country no longer "white country."
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to me, it is important to note demographic change in and of itself is a moral neutral but it has been the subject of this intense moral panic, this existential threat both in the extremist white supremacist movement and now, increasingly, over the past half decade, throughout the republican party, really a consuming sentiment in the central institutions of the republican party and its media arm. so you have this logic of sort of existential struggle for survival of the white race that is utterly consumed -- the top line, no, of the republican party, and also is the central preoccupation of far right extremists who do not -- far
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from it. they consider themselves outside the two-party system, etc., etc. to me, it was striking how closely the shooter's rhetoric mirrored republicans and right-wing pundits. juan: i wanted to ask you about the usefulness of y -- youthfuln and some of these people. ess dylann roof was young. this shooter come 18. your experience in terms of the impact on young people on these neo-nazi and alter right replacement theory views?
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>> i also -- well, while i have a megaphone -- known as the white genocide period, this idea that, again, this idea of demographic change [indiscernible] neutral. or in the natural when populations change over time. a sinister plot being engineered . they believe engineered by jews. that was from the pittsburgh synagogue shooter. where mainstream republicans will talk about "delete" or "globalists" or "democrats." but the sort of conspiracy element is deliberately
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engineered a sinister -- i think it is important to understand what supremacist extremism as any other, it is driven by [indiscernible] what it appeals to emotionally -- often sort of perpetuated the views oriented online spaces. sort of pitches itself as edgy ideology. [indiscernible] jokes that are really jokes. crude because mo, sorted ability to engage in online [indiscernible]
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but the story it tells is very much a story in which you can be a hero. you can fight for the white race. you can belong to something bigger. your life can have purpose if you take up arms, if you still blood. you will be a hero. you will be a saint is the term they use. that was the term the buffalo shooter also employed and is on writings describing previous perpetrators of massacres. when you think about who does this sort of [indiscernible] it is good to die for your race, who does this rhetoric appeal to? i think it is natural it would appeal in the most actionable
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way. amy: i wanted to interrupt frank's section to ask you because -- to ask you for second, you were so well-known on twitter before this, you've been monitoring the extreme right, you are the target of so much vitriol, online -- you are threatened with rape endless times and yet your bravery in staying there, also adopting a new persona, but i think seven people don't even understand what 4chan and8chan are. this shooter said he was influenced by 4chan and even
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though the amazon company twitch , only 22 people were viewing, very soon at 4chan, they took it up even though it was removed by twitch and now millions are viewing this. those places he went to, not to say it all lives there now because the swamp has become mainstream, but take us to the dylann roof groups even today. >> these spaces, you have 4chan, at this point a lot of it has migrated to encrypted ressa ching at that enables public channels, private channels, video and audio, you know, mechanisms -- one way i described these online spaces is sort of perpetual motion radicalization machine. they are essentially megaphones for tear offering 24 hours a day where people who are already radicalized were in the process of becoming radicalized can
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imbibe propaganda, video, can imbibe violence, all kinds of racist screeds including those from decades and centuries past. their passing pdfs of radicalized texts. constantly spreading racist memes. once you sort of enter these spaces, or subject to this consistent vitriol that slowly, like any other form of propaganda, shapes your worldview. it shapes and apocalyptic worldview, a worldview that consistently causes the necessity for violence over again. 24 hours a day. it is remarkable how relentless it is when you enter these
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spaces. the function -- the reason why these videos from the same is true of the christchurch mosque shooter, his live streamed video of his massacre was taken down -- it could have propaganda value. the thrill of a video game-like way watching people die. this has significant propaganda value. every time an attack is successful and publicized, lowers the barrier for the next -- juan: i would to bring in rashad robinson agai you have had numerous conversations with some of these tech company executives. could you talk about your discussions with them about this issue of racism and white
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supremacy and hate speech online? what is their response? what do you think needs to be done concurrently in the coming months and years to address this problem? >> my conversation oftentimes with them starts with them being deeply concerned, feeling very bad about the situation, saying they're working hard. oftentimes, recognizing their people inside of these platforms who are working hard, who are trying at the edges and even within very challenging circumstances to fix these problems stop the challenge is the bottle itself. even while these folks will say they care and want to work, they're unwilling to actually deal with the business model because they are not forced to. some of the hardest conversations we had with the
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social media platforms were in december of 2020, for instance, when donaltrump posted that called arms against protesters, the looters and shooters post. and on facebook and twitter. it absolutely violated the four corners of the policies we had foot to put in place -- fought to put in place at facebook but instead of actually forcing that policy against donald trump, mark zuckerberg called donald trump to have a conversation with him. ended up leaving of the post. i ended up having a conversation with mark going back and forth about it and they could have sort of described why they gave donald trump his -- they could not describe why they gave donald trump an outlet except to talk about it as newsworthy. when trying to help them understand the history of vigilante violence, trying to help them understand the attack on black communities, focus on
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the called arms made us once again recognize all of the ways in which the attempt to get these companies themselves -- to self regulate sort of futile. we need very clear rules. the algorithm should be more transparent at these companies. governments should be able to review them. we should understand what type of things get amplified and what type of things don't. there should be some sort of transparency. researchers should have access to how these things work so we can evaluate and find out if they are safe. these companies should not have carte blanche. their whole set of things on the transparency front and then on the business model front, from the ways in which targeted ads work on these platforms to the ways in which everything from recommendations -- you go onto twitter now and maybe you come across a white supremacist on
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twitter, richard smith he was still able to monetize on twitter, you start getting served up more and more white supremacists and white nationalists to actually follow. this is a design function at twitter. these are the choices they have made. these are choices these platforms have made. and time and time again, they haven't pushed and challenged on them and have chosen to do something different because the accountability, the consequences are not strong enough for them to do something different. amy: i want to thank you for being with us. rashad robinson, president of color of change. talia lavin is author of "culture warlords." next up, the monopies and the baby formula shortage with david dayen of the american prospect. stay with us. ♪♪ [music break]
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amy: "where are we going?" by marvin gaye. this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman with juan gonzalez. with the nation facing a critical shortage of baby formula, we look at the role of monopolies. the biden administration announced plans to alleviate the crisis. the food and drug administration and abbott laboratories have reached an agreement to allow abbott to reopen the nation's largest baby formula plant which had been closed due to concerns over bacterial contamination. months after a whistleblower alerted the fda to alleged safety lapses and then was fired. multiple babies became sick after eating formula from that plant, two babies died. meanwhile, the fda has eased import rules on baby formula made overseas. and the american academy of pediatrics has said babies as young as six months old can now be fed cow's milk for a brief
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period of time due to the baby formula shortage. i've been to recently, pediatricians had recommended babies not be fed cow's milk until they are at least a year old. this is the white house press secretary karine jean-pierre responding monday to questions about the shortage. >> threat the weekend, we've been working closely with manufacturers and retailers to identify transportation and logistical needs to increase the amount and spread of fda-approved formula being shipped into the country and ensure that formula is quickly moving from factories to retail. the president gets this. he gets how stressful it is for parents trying to feed their children, which is why we are leaving no stone unturned. amy: for more, we're joined by david dayen, executive editor of the american prospect. he writes about the four companies that sell almost all baby formula in the united states in his new piece
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headlined "the age of rationing: from pandemic supply chain snarls to baby formula shortages, we forgot that physical production isn't magic, and we need to engineer it for stability." let's start with this real catastrophe right now for parents with babies across the country. the whole issue of monopolies starting with a whistleblower who alerted the company and the fda. the response? the whistleblower was fired. two babies died. we are talking about months ago before we got to the point where the elves arbare for everyone. >> the whistleblower first alerted the company internally and then alerted the fda -- this was way back last october most of this facility in sturgis, michigan, produces about 20% of the nation supply of formula. obviously, you take that offline, you're going to have a problem. magnified even more by the market structure in the way that formula is sold.
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just alone come if you take one out of every five boxes of formula off the shelves while this is investigated, you're going to have a problem of getting supply into places that you need. juan: how do we get to this point that four companies -- it seems almost every major industry in america today, there are three or four companies that monopolize or control supply. how do we get to this point in terms of baby formula? >> i would argue it is even worse and baby formula industry. the are really two large conglomerates, abbott labs which makes similac and also produces medicales, and the creator of enfamil, the other major brand, mostly known for making lysol. you could company that makes a whole bunch of consumer goods.
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they are really the giants. about two thirds of the market is in the hands of these two companies. nestlé to the gerber brand, they have a little sliver. the reason is that we have a program called women infant and children ,wic. about half of all formula passes through that program that goes to poor families. it is very well-intentioned. you get very large discounts, the government gets, for purchasing formula and then getting it on to poor families. but they do this in a way that says each state does the competitive bidding process with the formula company. and in exchange for those going discounts, they get market exclusivity. so if you go to the state of michigan and california and oregon, there's only one company that if you are a wic buy and
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get that formula for free. so other competitors of that dominant company, whether it is in the wic program or not, you're not going to put stuff on the shelves of half your customers cannot buy it. so what you end up having is these little anomalies in all 50 states. that is because of the structure of the wic program which gives the sole-source contract in exchange for a discount. juan: while everyone is focused on baby formula, can he talk about abbott labs and what other crucial products for children are also being disrupted right now? >> abbott labs makes a whole host of other medical devices and health care products. of course, we were reminded in the beginning of the of that abbott labs was one of the two companies that was allowed to make covid-19 tts in this
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country. as we all remember, when there was a surge in covid cases at the beginning of the year, there was a shortage of that equipment. last year, abbott labs shut down its facility for making covid tests because of low demand. so there wasn't a stockpile. as a result, when cases surged and people one of the at-home tests, they were not readily available. so this speaks to the desire to cut costs over creating some redundancies, resiliency is in inventory on the part of abbott and the government itself, and it has led to problems throughout the health care space. amy: so the answer for president biden is to allow in foreign baby formula companies. there was a discussion last week
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of invoking the defense production act. you wrote the book "monopolized: life in the age of corporate power." what do you think needs to further happen so we will not see something like this again? also, just the outrage of there being a whistleblower, how the fda plays in this because they went to the fda, went to abbott, and they were fired. >> if you read the complaints between the fda and abbott, you will find traces of this bacteria that ended up killing these two babies was found in abbott products in 2019 and in 2020. so obviously, there were a lot of problems at this lab in sturgis, michigan, in the fda needs to do a much better job of monitoring all of this. so that is number one. number two, i think you need to overhaul the wic program and not create the situation where you have 50 dominant little mini
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monopolies throughout the country for formula. it makes the whole system far less resilient. and if there is one shock, basically, you end up with this kind of crisis. 34 states abbott holds that wic contract, and the states in which supply is most in shortage right now corresponds to the states where abbott holds that contract. so that is clearly the problem. there are several ways to go about it. one, if you want to do this market with wic where poor families get discounts -- and it is very important they do -- you can make that a government program and let private companies on the non-wic side compete with one another. the other option is instead of tithing off for the poor each purchase is they have to make so they have to get a wic for
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program and food stamps for food and they need a housing voucher for housing, you could just sort of give a larr cash benefit and let the families figure out what they need on their own and not tie ends up and create this problem with the market. juan: i wanted to turn to another topic, their primary elections happening today in several states. what are you looking for in term of these coming elections? >> there are several major states in which you have seen these large outside groups, corporate money come into these races and move in on the side of a centrist candidate running against a progressive. the progressive candidate in the pittsburgh area in pennsylvania that is important house race. there of two house races in north carolina that experience
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this. largely, have these pacs like apipac, juan: protect our future, which is bankrolled by a crypto billionaire. they are all coming in and there's emendous aunt of money being pumped into these races and we will see a progressives can survive this onslaught in these particular races, pennsylvania and north carolina. there's also couple in oregon that are interesting to look at. amy: and the senate race in pennsylvania that has been getting a lot of attention, three candidates could have all been supported by trump that he supported one? >> yeah, so we will see what happens. kathy barnette, who apparently is a january 6 and espoused some really dangerous rhetoric, she is surging right now. ctor, the former tv star, endorsed by trump and then david
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mccormick, hedge fund billionaire who spent millions of dollars of his own money in this race. we will see what happens on the republican side. on the republicanñcñcñcñc
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