McCoy Tyner, revered jazz pianist, dies aged 81

American musician, who played with John Coltrane, was seen as one of the most influential jazz pianists of all time

Jazz pianist McCoy Tyner has died at the age of 81.

The death of Tyner, known as one of the most influential figures in jazz, was announced on his Facebook page.

McCoy was an inspired musician who devoted his life to his art, his family and his spirituality, the statement read. McCoy Tyners music and legacy will continue to inspire fans and future talent for generations to come.

Tyner was born in 1938 and began studying the piano at the age of 13. He joined the John Coltrane quartet in 1960. We got along very well, Tyner later said of his relationship with Coltrane. We had a good feeling for each other, similar conceptually as far as music was concerned. I knew that is where I needed to be. I was really anxious and excited about it.

He was 21 at the time. He proceeded to play on Coltranes hit album My Favorite Things the following year. The band toured for the next few years, recording more albums, while Tyner also appeared on a number of other records from Blue Note.

He left the group in 1965 and produced a number of other albums before recording with other jazz trios for the next few decades, working with artists like Sonny Rollins and Stanley Clarke. He also made solo records, including Revelations in 1988.

The official account for Blue Note Records tweeted a titan has now been lost and that the amount of beauty Tyner gave to the world is simply staggering. Tributes have also arrives from Red Hot Chili Peppers founding member Flea who referred to Tyner as a stunner of a pianist and guitarist Charles Johnson, who played with him once, calling him an amazing force of nature and also a great person.

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At least 170,000 lose jobs as film industry grinds to a halt due to coronavirus

Around 120,000 people are out of work in Hollywood, while in the UK it is estimated that 50,000 freelancers will lose their jobs

About 120,000 film industry workers have already lost their jobs in Hollywood as a result of the coronavirus shutdown, according to the US entertainment industry union IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees).

The estimate emerged in a newsletter sent out by the ICG (International Cinematographers Guild) to its members, which said: The IATSE reports that the pandemic shutdown has resulted in the loss of 120,000 jobs held by its 150,000 members. It is critical that our industry be included in pending federal relief package.

The film and TV industry worldwide has experienced a near-total cessation of activity, with thousands of largely freelance crew laid off at short notice with little or no financial compensation. Scores of productions, ranging from studio shoots such as the Avatar sequels and Fantastic Beasts 3 to independent films such as Paul Schraders The Card Counter, have been halted.

The ICG, which has nearly 9,000 members, added: Although some of our members are being paid for up to two weeks after their shows shut down, based upon the reality of the healthcare crisis we now face, it is highly unlikely that productions will resume after so short a period of time This problem is likely to continue for months, not weeks.

In the UK, the situation for below the line crew appears equally catastrophic. Bectu (Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union) estimates around 50,000 industry freelancers will have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. The unions head, Philippa Childs, said: Nearly all film and TV production has ground to a halt in the UK The [countrys] world-class film and TV sector is at risk of a whole generation of talent being financially ruined by this crisis. A survey conducted by the union suggested that 71% of freelancers about 35,000 people in the industry will struggle to survive financially as a result of the shutdown.

Directors UK, the trade guild representing British screen directors, sent a letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for further measures to support freelance and self-employed film industry personnel. Directors UK CEO Andrew Chowns wrote: There is now a critical need for similar emergency support measures to be introduced for self-employed workers who are worried, not just about losing their current work, but at the prospect of facing months without income as productions are suspended longer term and, for some smaller productions, indefinitely. Chowns called for the introduction of proportional income support and sick pay to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

The Guardians callout for insight into how the shutdown has affected film industry workers has revealed scores of anecdotes about the impact of coronavirus. A selection will be published in the near future.

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James Franco accusers are ‘jumping on the #MeToo bandwagon’, say actor’s lawyers

Franco denies allegations and asks Los Angeles county superior court to dismiss lawsuit against him

James Franco has responded to allegations of sexual harassment by two former students by claiming they were an attempt to jump on the [#MeToo] bandwagon and played into the medias insatiable appetite to ruin the next celebrity.

In a demurrer filed on 28 February to the Los Angeles county superior court, Francos lawyers asked that the lawsuit filed in October by Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal be dismissed, saying none of the alleged events detailed had happened, and the statute of limitations had passed for the accusations.

Tither-Kaplan and Gaal have alleged that a now-defunct programme run by Francos Studio 4 acting school had enabled Franco and his male collaborators to engage in widespread inappropriate and sexually charged behavior towards female students by sexualizing their power as a teacher and an employer by dangling the opportunity for roles in their projects. Among other claims, Tither-Kaplan say Franco allegedly removed plastic guards that had been placed over actors genitals while he simulated oral sex.

In the demurrer, Francos lawyers state: The salacious allegations in the complaint have made great tabloid fodder, but like most tabloid stories, they are false and inflammatory, legally baseless and brought as a class action with the obvious goal of grabbing as much publicity as possible for attention-hungry plaintiffs.

The filing by Franco denies that actors were pressured to participate in nude scenes, saying that all performers had signed nudity waivers and no complaints were made at the time. It also denies that vaginal guards were removed as Tither-Kaplan alleged, saying that all of the performers using them confirmed this was the case.

In a statement the plaintiffs lawyer James Vagnini rebutted the filing. Mr. Francos aggressive effort to position himself as the victim and smear the reputation of the survivors who have come forward is, unfortunately, a tactic commonly used by perpetrators of wrongdoing We firmly believe Mr Francos claims to be without merit and we are confident that, as we work through the legal process and hear from numerous other witnesses and survivors, we will achieve full justice.

In 2018, he was accused of sexual misconduct by five women (including Tither-Kaplan), which he denied, and was sharply criticised only, including by Breakfast Club actor Ally Sheedy, after wearing a Times Up badge to the 2018 Golden Globes.

Franco is described in the statement as an ardent believer in the righteousness of the #MeToo and Times Up movements.

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Michael Bloomberg’s education ‘reforms’ would be a disaster for public schools | Dr Heather Gautney and Eric Blanc

Like Trump, Bloomberg is a fervent backer of privatizing and dismantling public schools across the country

Nominating Michael Bloomberg would be a disaster for public schools and for the Democrats chances at beating Donald Trump in 2020. Because when it comes to education policy, it is virtually impossible to tell the two billionaire politicians apart.

Like Trump and his inept Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, Bloomberg is a fervent backer of privatizing and dismantling public schools across the country. Education, in their view, should be run like a business.

While other establishment Democrats have begun changing their tune in response to the Red for Ed movement, Bloombergs campaign spokesman has made it clear that privatization will be a core message of his 2020 presidential run: Mike has always supported charter schools, he opened a record number of charter schools as mayor of New York City, and he will champion the issue as president.

Indeed, Bloomberg succeeded in massively expanding privately run but publicly funded charter schools during his term as mayor, increasing their number from 18 to 183. His controversial push to increase school choice closed over 100 schools in low-income communities and entrenched New York Citys education system as the most racially segregated in the country.

In contrast with Bloombergs too-little-too-late apology for imposing racist stop-and-frisk policies upon New York City and its overwhelmingly non-white student body the former mayor has doubled down on his rightwing education approach in recent years.

If anything, the main difference between Bloomberg and Trump is that the former has spent far more of his immense personal fortune to boost corporate education reform and local candidates driving this agenda. The New York Times reported last week that Bloomberg has spent millions to promote charters in the state of Louisiana alone. And this is just the tip of the iceberg: Bloombergs foundation in 2018 announced its plan to spend $375m to promote charters, merit pay, and the sacking of failing teachers, among other reforms.

Bloomberg is also an active promoter of high stakes testing. Despite abundant evidence that an excessive testing regime does little to improve real educational achievement, Bloomberg has vociferously sung the praises of this system in op-eds such as Demand Better Schools, Not Fewer Tests. Accordingly, as mayor he fought for a merit pay system through which teachers salaries would be pegged to student test scores.

Like Trump and DeVos, Bloomberg has also viciously attacked teacher unions and scapegoated educators. He spent much of his mayoral tenure fighting with the powerful United Federation of Teachers (UFT), which he compared to the National Rifle Association. As he put it, if the UFT wants it, it aint good.

According to corporate education reformers, our countrys education crisis is produced not by systematic underfunding and social inequality, but rather by the inherent inefficiencies of the public sector, intransigent unions, and bad teachers. Bloomberg has often been shockingly direct in expressing his contempt for teachers. In 2011, during a speech at MIT, he suggested that if he could have it his way, hed weed out all the bad New York City educators by cutting the number of teachers in half. He insisted that coupling these cuts with doubling class sizes would be a good deal for the students.

In light of such ill-informed comments, it should come as no surprise that Bloomberg appointed Cathie Black as one of his NYC school chancellors despite the fact that the former publishing executive had zero prior experience in education. Unlike Trumps similarly unqualified Betsy DeVos, Black was capable of holding on to her job only for 95 days.

What unites all corporate reform zealots irrespective of their party affiliation is a fundamental disregard not only for educators and students, but for democracy itself. In New York City, this led Bloomberg to consolidate mayoral control and strip the citys democratically elected school boards of almost all their power. But the problem goes deeper.

Accountable no one, Bloomberg, like DeVos, has for decades used his wealth to push pet education reforms under the guise of philanthropy. In true oligarchic fashion, both have leveraged their fortunes to rise to the heights of political power. And following in Trumps footsteps, Bloomberg now wants to buy the 2020 Democratic race. For educators, parents, students, and teachers unions, the stakes could hardly be higher.

Nominating Bloomberg would ensure us another four years of corporate education policy. He may begin to tone down his rhetoric on the campaign trail, but there is no reason to believe that a Bloomberg White House would be anything other than Trump Part Two when it comes to education.

Though his Republican roots are less evident on some other issues, Bloombergs personal and political similarity to Trump will make it very hard for him to win in a general election. Trumps base remains solid we need a candidate who can increase turnout by energizing the Democratic base and involving new voters in the political process.

Thats why having Bloomberg as the Democratic partys standard bearer would make defeating Trump exceedingly difficult. At a moment when a wave of successful teachers strikes has captured the imagination of millions and changed the national discussion on education, a Bloomberg nomination would be a sure-fire recipe for demoralizing educators and teachers unions, an indispensable bastion of organized labor and the Democratic base.

You cant win in November without teachers. And nobody should expect educators to be won over to a billionaire who has spent much of his career and fortune demonizing them. If you want to save public schools and defeat Trump, Bloomberg is no choice at all.

Dr Heather Gautney is a professor of sociology at Fordham University and the senior education advisor to presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders. She is the author of Crashing the Party: From the Bernie Sanders Campaign to a Progressive Movement.

Eric Blanc is a national surrogate for the Bernie Sanders campaign and the author of Red State Revolt: The Teachers Strike Wave and Working-Class Politics.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Rough ride-share: why drivers are also at risk of violence

Uber and Lyft drivers are carrying weapons and adding safety features to their cars to protect themselves from violence

Heres a tip for ride-share drivers: dont skimp on the weapons. So says Orlando Starr, a gig-economy road warrior who clocks 850 billable miles a week in south Florida. In a YouTube monologue, the self-proclaimed Angry Uber Driver takes stock of the arsenal concealed in his 2016 Honda Civic: knives, ice picks, baseball bat, stun gun, mace, brass knuckles, billy club, laser, a high velocity pellet gun and just in case nunchucks.

Why all the firepower? Because if you pick up enough strangers, sooner or later, an unfortunate incident will unfold. Or, as Starr warns in the video: Some crazy motherfuckers are going to act up in your Uber.

Ubers first-ever US safety report does nothing to dispel this notion. Released last December, the 84-page document examines data collected from the popular ride-share platform in 2017 and 2018. Although Uber drivers are often assumed to be predators, the statistics seeded throughout this report suggests the opposite scenario occurs almost as often.

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Sexual assault was the most common transgression in the Uber report, with 5,981 cases documented over the two-year period. Of the 3,045 assaults logged in 2018 (up from 2,936 in 2017), 235 were rapes. The rest were classified as various levels of physical aggression, ranging from groping to unwanted kissing. Heres the kicker: 42% of those who reported sexual assault were Uber drivers, not passengers.

Bryant Greening is the co-founder of LegalRideshare, a law firm that specializes in Uber and Lyft accidents and injuries. Crimes against ride-share drivers are grossly underreported. We get calls every day from drivers who have been victimized by passengers. Its much more common than anybody really understands.

He rattles off a caseload that sounds like a career criminal rap sheet: sexual harassment, sexual battery, stabbings, armed robbery, express kidnapping (emptying a drivers bank account, via ATM, at gunpoint), grand theft auto (also at gunpoint). Im dealing with a murder case right now: the driver arrives as a gang altercation erupts on the street shots fired, driver killed, he says before adding, You wouldnt believe the stories I hear.

Benjamin Golden, a Taco Bell executive in Orange county, California, lost his job after the video showing him repeatedly punching an Uber driver went viral. Last May, Lyft driver Eduardo Madiedo was pummeled by a deranged man during a trip to a New York hospital. The video of that attack made national news.

Angela, an Uber driver in Sacramento who prefers to remain anonymous, says war stories like this are routine stuff. She describes being assaulted by an extremely intoxicated client on a deserted mountain road at 1am: I stopped so he could vomit. Next thing I know, hes cursing and grabbing my wrist. I punched him, drove away, and started to cry. To make matters worse, she also found a box-cutter (with the blade out) on the back seat later that night. Angela claims that Uber mishandled her case. Their response was Just rate him a 1, and we wont pair that passenger with you any more. I said: You shouldnt pair that passenger with anybody he should be banned from the platform!

To their credit, both Uber and Lyft have recently developed new software to protect their drivers. Press the emergency button on Ubers driver app and key details, like location, license plate and car model are automatically sent to a 911 dispatcher. Theres also a new selfie check feature, which enables a driver to match a photo with a face before the passenger gets in their car. We are deeply committed to safety, and constantly working to improve, said an Uber spokesperson. Helping drivers and riders get from A to B safely is a huge responsibility we dont take lightly. Lyft has launched a similar suite of security app layers.

Despite these digital precautions, Angelas anxiety still lingers. Maybe thats because not all Uber trips start off with a selfie check-in. The guy that attacked me wasnt even the account holder his friend ordered the ride. That happens about 25% of the time. The idea that I dont even know whos sitting in my car is crazy.

Some drivers have adopted the taxicab mainstay of plexiglass partitions. Others settle for a dash-cam video camera. Security experts rate these inexpensive units high on their list of crime stoppers when passengers notice that tiny LED light flashing up front, they usually think twice before doing something stupid or illegal. Then again, that beating dished out by the Taco Bell executive was shot by a dash-cam.

Uber drivers in the US can take solace knowing things could be far worse. In India, Brazil and Mexico, for example, Uber customers have the option of paying withcash. The same is true for some countries in Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. This means in over 400 cities across 51 countries, lots of Uber drivers are carrying large wads of bills. Analysis by Reuters indicates that Uber robberies in So Paulo increased tenfold when it began accepting cash in 2016. Police reports show that taxi robberies in the city increased by only a third during that same period.

According to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, 13% of Ubers 2018 global gross bookings were paid with cash. Thats $6.5bn, making Uber drivers soft targets for hardened criminals. In 2019, a couple in New Delhi were arrested for robbing and killing an Uber driver. The victim was strangled, his body dismembered. The bloody parcels were found in a sewer. In Johannesburg, Uber gangs use the company app to kidnap women. Many are robbed and raped, some are killed.

Uber crime in Brazil and Mexico is now so rampant that a new safety feature has been baked into the companys app that allows drivers and passengers to make an audio recording during trips.

An Uber crime in Brazil last December thats received extensive media coverage involved a gangster ordering the execution of five Uber drivers. His motive? Revenge: the gangsters sick mother ordered an Uber, but the ride was canceled. In retaliation, four drivers were tortured and killed (one escaped).

Harry Campbell, better known to Uber and Lyft drivers The Rideshare Guy, has good news and bad news. First, remember this: driving for Uber is still safer than driving a taxi, a profession that made the Bureau of Labor Statistics 10 most dangerous jobs list. This doesnt mean ride-share drivers shouldnt brush up on their eye-gouging technique. You hope for the best, but expect the worst, says Campbell. To validate that warning, he quotes figures from his annual Rideshare Guy survey, a questionnaire blasted out to over 60,000 Uber and Lyft drivers: 53% of Uber drivers said the company needs to do more for driver safety, and 54% of Lyft drivers felt the same way. Heres a statistic that should make Uber and Lyft nervous: 22% of drivers also reported carrying a weapon while on the job. Some of the respondents admitted to carrying a gun for protection. (Uber bans firearms; Lyft has a stricter no weapons policy.)

Dont judge. Not unless youve ever picked up a passenger named Ghost in a dark alley at 2am on a Saturday night. Those nunchucks under the seat will come in handy.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Iowa and the grand tradition of election tech mishaps

From Iowa to Florida, election day meltdowns of inadequately tested or monitored machinery are as American as apple pie

The great Iowa caucus meltdown of 2020 may be triggering anguish, anger and, on the Republican side of the political fence, expressions of unalloyed glee; but for one Miami lawyer and voting rights activist it is also bringing back vivid memories of another high-profile primary contest that fell victim to untested new technology and administrative incompetence.

The year was 2002, and the race was a hotly contested Florida gubernatorial election in which Janet Reno, the former US attorney general, was vying for the Democratic party nomination against a prominent lawyer from Tampa. A politically connected company called Electronic Systems & Software (ES&S) was rolling out new touchscreen technology to replace the punch card machines that were widely blamed for the meltdown in the presidential election two years earlier between George W Bush and Al Gore.

ES&S, though, was very far from ready for prime time.

Many of the machines in Miami-Dade county took so long to boot up that polling stations could not open before lunchtime. When a freak storm caused power blackouts, the battery backup on many machines failed. One Miami precinct reported 900% turnout; another showed just one ballot cast. The governor declared a state of emergency, and Reno who was trailing narrowly demanded a re-examination of the ballots, only to realize that the new technology made recounts impossible.

Not even prepared with basic technology

At the time, Lida Rodriguez-Taseff of the Miami-Dade Electoral Reform Coalition raged that the voters were being treated as guinea pigs for a system that was no better than a prototype. Eighteen years later, she can only look back and marvel at how little has changed.

It is striking that these technology issues are back, and back with a vengeance, she told the Guardian. The technology we use on a daily basis may be incredibly advanced and sophisticated but voting has been left to bottom-feeding companies that have not adhered to the highest standards and have often gotten to where they are because of political connections, not the quality of their product.

Iowa
Iowa caucus precinct workers count paper ballots after a Democratic presidential caucus at West Des Moines Christian church in West Des Moines, Iowa. Photograph: Jim Bourg/Reuters

Rodriguez-Taseff, a commercial lawyer still deeply involved in elections work, was particularly stunned to learn that even after the new app introduced to report results in Iowa failed,the backup phone lines went down.

The fact that these counties are not even prepared with basic technology from the 1960s to report results in a timely basis using a backup hard line is shocking, she said. I cant believe its even an issue. Every election I work, the first thing we do is test our land lines.

While it is far from clear what exactly caused the breakdown in Iowa, early reporting suggests that the new app, developed by a technology firm with close ties to the Democratic party named Shadow, was not tested adequately ahead of time.

A history of technical difficulties

Its a story that sounds maddeningly familiar to veterans of Americas never-ending wars over voting rules, ballot access and voting technology. Its hard to look back, in fact, without concluding that election day meltdowns of inadequately tested or inadequately monitored machinery are as American as apple pie.

When punch cards were the hot new thing, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, they failed repeatedly. In one primary election in Los Angeles in 1970, ballot cards jammed, candidates names were found to be misaligned or missing and computer malfunctions prevented any vote count at all in more than 500 precincts.

When a competitor to ES&S introduced touchscreens in Riverside county, California, in the early 2000s, it led to at least two instances one a school board race and the other a county supervisor contest where the count had to be halted on election night and the result mysteriously changed once the machines were fired up again.

Yet another competitor whose name became briefly synonymous with election machine dysfunction Diebold Election Systems mangled its rollout in Georgia in 2002 so badly that questions still linger about the reliability of the results in closely fought general election races for the Senate and for the governorship. The company then wreaked havoc in California presidential primary season two years later, in part because of battery drainage problems that knocked machines out of service even before the polls opened. We did not realize, the companys chief executive later told a state oversight panel, that when we have an off button on this machine, that it does not turn the system off.

More recently, the problems inherent in poorly designed voting machines have been compounded by their age. Election officials in Georgia have been entirely unable to explain why, in 2018, tens of thousands of voters who cast a ballot for governor and for every other statewide race mysteriously omitted to mark a choice for lieutenant governor. In one precinct, the votes collected on some machines showed the Democrats winning every statewide race, while a different machine showed Republicans winning every statewide race.

Where elections generally can be vulnerable to either incompetence, corruption or both, the problem can sometimes be magnified when it comes to party primaries because they are subject to lower scrutiny from state officials and sometimes no scrutiny at all. The Utah Republican caucus in 2016 raised few eyebrows because it produced a clear winner in Ted Cruz, but an online registration system intended to make it easier for eligible voters to participate failed dramatically, and it is unclear whether the party was ever able to issue a complete results tally.

Technology does not eliminate incompetence

Again and again, going back to the 1890s, Americas loosely regulated election officials have been dazzled by the promise of new technology without understanding that the key to clean, accurate and transparent elections lies with competent, honest managers much more than the machines they use.

Technology alone does not eliminate the possibility of corruption and incompetence in elections, the elections expert and computer scientist Rebecca Mercuri wrote in 1993. It merely changes the platform on which they may occur.

While many jurisdictions across the country are competently run, the countrys history is littered with colorful and alarming examples of the opposite: the corrupt elections supervisor in Tampa, Florida, who in the early 1970s used a giant lever voting machine to smoke fish in his backyard, the uncounted paper ballots in San Francisco that had to be dried off in microwave ovens in 1997 after they were left unsecured in the rain, or the other uncounted paper ballots in San Francisco that, a few years later, were found dumped in a garbage can.

For years, the Brennan Center for Justice and others have warned that ageing, poorly programmed machines constitute a serious security risk, particularly in an age where the fear of foreign hackers and other forms of outside interference has changed from a theoretical possibility into a documented reality.

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Bernie Sanders precinct captain Steven Meier tabulates results during the Democratic caucus at the UAW Hall in Dubuque, Iowa, on 3 February 2020. Photograph: Eileen Meslar/AP

While there is no indication that the integrity of the Iowa caucus results has been compromised or otherwise corrupted, the episode nevertheless illustrates the shoddiness with which many election officials across many jurisdictions go about their business. More rigid oversight could potentially solve the problem overnight, but the United States is notorious for its failure to establish any central electoral authority with real teeth and its preference to leave election management in the hands of thousands of state and county offices, each subject to its own political pressures and competence problems.

Election supervisors generally rely on their vendors, Rodriguez-Taseff said. They do not have the knowledge they need and in many cases are not even given access to the software so they can learn the technology, know how to operate it and develop their own fixes.

Since the disastrous rollout of electronic touch screen machines in the early 2000s largely financed by a federal law that was cobbled together at high speed in response to the Florida primary debacle of 2002 many election supervisors have understood that low-tech voting systems are the easiest, cheapest and most reliable to operate.

That, however, has not stopped some states including Georgia from ordering expensive new systems that raise more questions than they answer or to yield to the temptations of online voting, despite repeated warnings from computer scientists of major, insurmountable security concerns.

Even before Mondays caucuses, Politico described Iowa as the first election security test of an anxiety-ridden 2020 election season. And it is now apparent it has failed the test.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Revealed: the true identity of the leader of an American neo-Nazi terror group

The white supremacist group the Base uses terror to spread its ideology and recruit young men. The FBI is closely watching them and the Guardian is now able to reveal the identity of its secretive leader

The Guardian has learned the true identity of the leader and founder of the US-based neo-Nazi terror network the Base, which was recently the target of raids by the FBI after an investigation into domestic terrorism uncovered their plans to start a race war.

Members of the group stand accused of federal hate crimes, murder plots and firearms offenses, and have harbored international fugitives in recent months.

The Bases leader previously operated under the aliases Norman Spear and Roman Wolf. Members of the network do not know his true identity due to the groups culture of internal secrecy.

But the Guardian can reveal that Norman Spear is in fact US-born Rinaldo Nazzaro, 46, who has a long history of advertising his services as an intelligence, military and security contractor. He has claimed, under his alias, to have served in Russia and Afghanistan.

The revelation of his identity comes after a months-long investigation by the Guardian into Nazzaro and the activities of the Base.

The
The Bases members stand accused of federal hate crimes. Photograph: Obtained by the Guardian

While Nazzaros most recently used address is in New Jersey, there is evidence supporting his claims of being based in Russia, where he lives with his Russian wife.

The Base which is an approximate English translation of al-Qaida began recruiting in late 2018. The white supremacy group, which has regional and international cells, extols the virtues of an all-out race war while specifically targeting African Americans and Jewish people.

Using encrypted apps, members of the highly organized group planned terror campaigns; vandalized synagogues; established armed training camps and recruited new members.

The US attorney for Maryland, Robert K Hur, speaking after the recent arrest of three members of the Base, said that they did more than talk they took steps to act and act violently on their racist views.

Few traces of him exist anywhere

Rinaldo Nazzaro has maintained a decidedly low profile: he has no visible presence on any major social media platforms, no published writings under his own name, and no profile in local or national media.

Few traces of him exist anywhere, except where a name is required in official business such as real estate purchases and the registration of companies.

Multiple emails and phone calls to Nazzaro went unanswered.

But through a painstaking investigation involving freedom of information requests, the analysis of material provided to the Guardian by a whistleblower inside the group, and cross-examination of information found online and in databases, the Guardian was able to piece together his identity and some of his whereabouts.

The Guardian was able to unravel Nazzaros identity due to his 2018 activities in a remote corner of the Pacific north-west.

In chat rooms hosted by the Base, Nazzaro stressed the importance of in-person meet-ups and required members to attend training camps. The Bases propaganda videos show young men undergoing combat training together in rural areas.

Last August, an Oregon-based antifascist group, Eugene Antifa, warned that the Base was planning a hate camp in the neighboring state of Washington, and claimed Nazzaro (operating under the alias of Spear) had purchased land in Stevens county for training purposes.This warning came after a leak of the Bases internal chats.

EUG161 (@161EUG)

The neo-Nazi group called “The Base” is planning a ‘hate camp’ this month in Washington. Members are flying in from around the country to Spokane, WA this August to participate in the gathering.#DeBasedDoxx

[THREAD] pic.twitter.com/L7M59zoaYn

August 5, 2019

Local media outlets picked up the story, which led local law enforcement to urgently seek information on the group.

In emails obtained by the Guardian via public records request, the Stevens county Sheriff, Brad Manke, is seen contacting the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for advice on the group.

On 20 August 2019, Manke writes to an FBI agent, asking: Do you have a name for the actual head of the group The Base or the address where the property actually is?

In a 20 September email responding to an SPLC researcher, Manke writes: I have since learned that The Base has purchased property in Ferry County, WA which is a neighboring county.

Property record searches revealed that three 10-acre blocks of undeveloped land were purchased in December 2018 for $33,000 in the name of a Delaware LLC called Base Global. In a telephone conversation in late November, Manke confirmed that this was the block of land he had been referring to.

In recordings of two internal Base voice calls provided to the Guardian by the source, Norman Spear discusses his recent land purchase.

When asked why the land had been inexpensive, he replied: Because theres no possibility of getting utilities in there. Ever. He continued: But to me, that was a good thing for my purposes. I looked at it like it was just naturally secluded.

In deeds of sale, the address provided for the company was a New Jersey post office enough to conceal the purchasers identity. But separate tax affidavits associated with the purchase give a different address for Base Global.

That address is for a New Jersey apartment that has belonged to an older family member of Nazzaro since 1998. Nazzaro and his wife have also intermittently resided at that address, according to database searches.

The affidavits are also signed by Nazzaro, and dated 12/21/2018 Republic. Republic is the seat and the only city in Ferry county, Washington.

According to a source inside the Base, this date coincided with a trip by Russia-based Norman Spear to the United States, during which time he had in-person meetings with members of the group.

Speculation that Nazzaro was a federal agent

The location of the land is consistent with Norman Spears advocacy of a white supremaciststrategy called the Northwest Territorial Imperative (NTI), which was promoted by the deceased white supremacist Harold Covington.

The strategy argues for the creation of a separatist ethnostate in the Pacific north-west and encourages white supremacists to move to the region.

In one of Norman Spears first public appearances, on a far-right podcast recorded in December 2017, he was introduced as a Northwest Front (another white supremacist separatist group) organizer and went on to spell out a four-state plan culminating in achieving independence, realizing the ultimate goal which is an independent nation state in the Pacific north-west, an ethnostate.

The plan, he said, would trigger the relocation to the Pacific north-west of the white population in the United States.

Around the same time, Spear filmed a series of short instructional presentations on the tactics and strategy of guerrilla warfare.In an archive of those videos on the far-right site Bitchute, he is identified as Defense Studies expert and former CIA field intelligence officer Norman Spear.

This detail, coupled with other leads, compelled many to speculate whether Norman Spear was, in fact, a federal agent operating inside the Base.

The Base has emerged at a time when far-right organizing is on the rise in the US. Last year saw a spate of terror attacks by white supremacists. In August, the gunman who killed 22 people at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, is believed to have posted a white nationalist manifesto online prior to the attack.

In April, an attacker who killed one person after opening fire inside a San Diego synagogue killing posted a note online citing white supremacy influences and naming the gunman who killed 51 in an attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, as an inspiration.

We have a significant increase in racially motivated violent extremism in the United States and, I think, a growing increase in white nationalism and white supremacy extremist movements, Jay Tabb, the head of national security for the FBI, said at an event in Washington recently.

Under the motto there is no political solution, the Base embraces an accelerationist ideology, which holds that acts of violence and terror are required in order to push liberal democracy towards collapse, preparing the way for white supremacists to seize power and institute an ethnostate.

Members remained defiant following the arrest of seven alleged members of the group in mid-January, calling it an unjust political witch hunt from the Liberal Globalist System.

Was the Base a honeypot designed to entrap people?

Beginning in 2009 and until as late as 2019, Nazzaro billed himself as an intelligence expert working with various government and military agencies.

Nazzaro is the principal of an LLC called Omega Solutions International (OSI), a company offering a range of intelligence and security contracting.

Its website, which was removed from the Internet some time after August 2019, boasted of the firms experience conducting intelligence analysis for government agencies, military organizations, and private businesses, as well as access to a network of seasoned security professionals with expertise in counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, homeland security, hostage rescue/negotiations, psychological operations, and more.

The firm also has a Cage Code, which is an administrative requirement for military and government contractors.

Materials inspected and sources consulted by the Guardian indicate that Nazzaro, as Spear, has faced persistent suspicions from current and former members of the group that he is a fed, or the agent of a foreign government, or that the Base is a honeypot intended to lure neo-Nazis out into the open for the benefit of law enforcement agencies.

Former members have cited this as a reason for leaving.

A connection with Russia

New York marriage records show that Nazzaro and his wife were married in New York City in 2012, during the period when Nazzaro is recorded as maintaining a midtown Manhattan address. At that time, he was recorded as having one child.

A Russian site that scrapes and archives social media accounts had captured a profile, and photos, posted by Nazzaros Russian-born wife to VK, the Russian social media site.

An
An early photograph of Nazzaro, dated 1994. Photograph: The Villanovan

She has since hidden that profile, but other social media archives confirm the prior existence of an account in Nazzaros wifes name (using her married name).

The photographs show the same person who has been presenting himself as Norman Spear.

Meanwhile, a reverse image search yielded a photograph matching public photos of Norman Spear atop advertisements for English lessons in St Petersburg, Russia.

The Guardian was only able to find one earlier photograph attached to his real name. It appeared above a vox pop in the Villanovan, the student paper of Catholic, Pennsylvania-based Villanova University, in 1994.

At the time of the photograph, Ron Nazzaro was described as a junior in philosophy, which is consistent with a 1973 birthdate. A source who has met Spear in person believes that the 1994 photo of Nazzaro is the same person he met.

A Rinaldo Nazzaro is also identified as a class of 1991 alumnus and donor of the prestigious New Jersey Catholic prep school the Delbarton School.

Nazzaros approximate age, his Italian heritage, his familys New Jersey location, his background in counter-intelligence, the nationality of his spouse, and the number of his children were relayed to the Guardian as characteristics of Norman Spear by an internally placed source.

I am on the terrorism watchlist

Richard Tobin, a Base member, is awaiting trial in New Jersey over allegations that he coordinated the September vandalism of synagogues in Michigan and Wisconsin. In a December custody hearing, the prosecuting assistant US attorney cited Tobins self-professed belief that Norman Spear was a Russian spy.

The Guardian has discovered that all of the business addresses associated with Nazzaros OSI LLCs are virtual offices. This describes a situation where a second company provides a business address, and sometimes meeting rooms and greeting services, for businesses who do not wish to maintain their own premises.

The addresses are often prestigious: OSIs virtual address locations include Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and K Street in Washington DC, an address associated with federal government contracting and lobbying.

Meanwhile, Norman Spear appears to have had no extended history in the neo-Nazi movement before emerging as leader of the Base.

According to an internally placed source, the only people within the movement who vouched for Spear were connected to the Northwest Front (NWF). The NWF founder, Harold Covington, was himself the subject of persistent rumors within the white nationalist movement that he was a federal informant, and that NWF was itself a honeypot a front organization routinely used by US law enforcement in order to entrap people.

Norman Spear has told Base members that he remains in Russia. Law enforcement sources have indicated on background that Nazzaro is believed by some agencies to be working for the Russian government.

The US government may have been monitoring Norman Spears activities for some time. In the April conversation planning a meetup in July, Spear was concerned that he would not be able to attend.

I have confirmed that I am on the FBI terrorism watch list. I mean, that doesnt really matter in the context of the training. What matters is that Im on it.

The Guardians investigation of the group continues.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

The Guardian view on the US and Iran: relief may be short-lived | Editorial

Editorial: Tehrans immediate response to the killing of Qassem Suleimani was carefully controlled. It is also unlikely to spell an end to the crisis

Relief at Irans significant but calibrated retaliation against the US for the killing of Qassem Suleimani is an understandable and merited instinct. Matters could be much worse today. But there can be no complacency: the dangers have been briefly stayed, not averted. While Donald Trump said on Wednesday that Iran appears to be standing down, we will not know the true impact of the killing for months and probably years.

The strikes on Iraqi bases hosting US and coalition troops constituted Irans most direct attack on Americans since the seizing of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, and the first direct assault on a US base. This was a bold and symbolic display: an operation timed to match the moment of the generals death. But it was also limited. Despite Iranian claims of 80 casualties, the US says no Americans were hurt. The Iraqi prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, has said the Iranians warned him of their actions just ahead of the attack. The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, stated on Twitter that his country had concluded its response and that we do not seek escalation or war.

Given that Iran cannot afford a hot war, Wednesday mornings strikes look like a sensible response, but hardly the severe revenge it had vowed. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has described them as a slap in Americas face, which cannot compensate for the assassination: What is important is the ending of American presence. Whether or not a US withdrawal from Iraq is imminent, the events of the last week have surely made it almost inevitable. That might be enough to assuage Irans damaged pride, allowing it to say it has as Suleimani long wanted chased out the US, which will be left without even a fig leaf of any achievement to show for its disastrous 2003 invasion.

But the missile attacks also allow Iran to return to its favoured mode of plausible deniability, relying on proxies, cyber-attacks and terrorism. We could see attacks on US military personnel and civilians in the region; on the oil infrastructure of regional partners; attacks against Israel from Syria. The reverberations could be felt in Afghanistan. Americans might be targeted much further afield.

Suleimanis killing impels Iran to hit back hard even as it is more aware than ever of the volatility and ignorance of the US commander-in-chief, and the influence of the administrations Iran hawks. The events of the last week have made it even clearer that Mr Trump has no Iran strategy; just a bundle of impulses and prejudices. His suggestion that Nato should be more involved in the Middle East merely added to the confusion. He is also desperate to distract from his impeachment trial and to win another term this November. In his pre-White House days, Mr Trump repeatedly warned that Barack Obama might start a war with Iran to get re-elected.

Instead, of course, Mr Obama achieved the nuclear deal which Mr Trump has done his best to destroy. The JCPOA blocked Tehrans progress towards nuclear weapons. On Wednesday the president suggested that the UK and others should help him to win a better deal. This would be ludicrous even if his administration had a genuine interest in such an agreement or the capacity to negotiate it. By withdrawing the US and turning up the pressure on Iran, he has told Tehran and others that the US is utterly unreliable and (as George W Bushs did by invading Iraq) that getting and keeping weapons of mass destruction is the key to survival. Whatever the short-term outcome of this crisis, the long-term implications for peace are obvious, and frightening.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Trump impeachment: Democrats push for Bolton to testify in Senate trial

Schumer writes to McConnell seeking terms of trial but Republican has indicated close coordination with White House

Days before a final vote to impeach Donald Trump is expected in the House over accusations that the president betrayed the nation by abusing his high office, Chuck Schumer, the Senates top Democrat, is warning that a Senate trial without witnesses would amount to a cover-up by the White House.

The demand that John Bolton, the former national security adviser fired by Trump in September, and the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, should testify was the opening salvo in an effort to force the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, to negotiate over the proceedings. The two are key eyewitnesses to many of the most contentious elements of the Ukraine scandal.

Trials have witnesses. Thats what trials are all about, Schumer told reporters at a press conference on Monday. To engage a trial without the facts coming out is to engage in a cover-up.

The request sets up a bruising clash over the shape and scope of only the third impeachment trial in US history.

The trial, which Schumer proposes should start on 7 January, is now all but certain. The House of Representatives, controlled by the Democrats, is set to vote in favor of two articles of impeachment on Wednesday.

The Democrat-controlled judiciary committee laid out its case for impeachment early on Monday with the release of a 658-page report, charging Trump with placing his personal, political interests above our national security, our free and fair elections, and our system of checks and balances.

The committee accused Trump of committing constitutional and criminal bribery by trying to press Ukraine to investigate the former vice-president Joe Biden and the 2016 election as the countrys military aid was held up.

Applying the constitutional definition of bribery here, there can be little doubt that it is satisfied, the report reads.

Still, the impeachment vote will be difficult for moderate freshman Democrats, especially those who flipped Republican seats that Trump won in 2016. One of those Democrats, the New Jersey congressman Jeff Van Drew, told aides over the weekend that he intends to switch parties. A wave of other frontline Democrats began announcing their plans.

At a raucous town hall on Monday that highlighted the deep partisan divide over impeachment, the Michigan congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat from a conservative district, explained over shouts and cheers her decision to support articles of impeachment against Trump.

Meanwhile in Washington, Schumer laid out a possible structure based on Bill Clintons impeachment in 1999. He pointedly notes that the ground rules on that occasion were approved by a vote of 100-0.

In his letter to McConnell, Schumer writes: Senate Democrats believe strongly, and I trust Senate Republicans agree, that this trial must be one that is fair, that considers all of the relevant facts The trial must pass the fairness test with the American people. That is the great challenge for the Senate in the coming weeks.

But hopes of a similar bipartisan agreement over the likely trial were all but dead in the water before Schumer sent his letter. Republicans have made clear they have no intention of abiding by constitutionally prescribed parameters for the trial, which effectively place senators in the role of jurors.

McConnell, who as the majority leader will have ultimate say over how the trial is conducted, has stated brazenly that Trump will not be convicted and that he will design the trial in consultation with the president the lead juror in league with the defendant.

Everything I do during this, Im coordinating with the White House counsel, McConnell said last week.

Other senators have indicated they have reached a verdict of acquittal even before the first witness is called.

I have made up my mind, Im not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here, Senator Lindsey Graham, the Trump apologist from South Carolina, has said.

This weekend, footage of Graham speaking in 1999, when he was a House manager in the impeachment of Bill Clinton, made the rounds on social media.

I have a duty far greater than just getting to the next election, Graham said in the footage. Members of the Senate have said, I understand everything there is about this case, and I wont vote to impeach the president. Please allow the facts to do the talking Dont decide the case before the cases end.

Though the Republicans are in the driving seat, their control is not beyond challenge. Were the Democrats to persuade just four Republicans to vote against party lines they could reach the 51 votes needed to determine some features of the trial.

In an interview with CNN on Monday, Schumer implied that getting those four votes was not out of the question, though he would give no names of potential targets.

There are a good number of Republicans who are troubled by what the president did, he said, who want to see all the facts.

Speculation has focused on senators including Mitt Romney of Utah, who has criticised Trump relatively strongly, and moderates Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Trump faces two articles of impeachment. The first accuses him of misusing his office to bully Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden in a way that would benefit Trumps re-election campaign; the second charges the president with obstructing Congress by blocking witnesses to impeachment hearings.

Despite the hyper-partisan battle ahead, Schumers demand for Bolton and Mulvaney to be called as witnesses could be significant as it goes to the heart of the evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors that impeachment is devised to penalise.

Two other key officials have also been requested by the Democrats: Mulvaneys senior adviser, Robert Blair, and Michael Duffey, associate director for national security at the Office of Management and Budget.

Evidence already gathered has revealed Boltons deep misgivings about the way Trump was pressurising Ukraine for personal political gain, reportedly complaining: I am not part of whatever drug deal [Trump aides] are cooking up.

Mulvaneys testimony would also be potentially critical given his statement in October that there had indeed been quid pro quo with Ukraine. The Trump administration withheld almost $400m in military aid to the country at the same time as demanding an investigation into Biden.

Joan E Greve contributed reporting

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Nobody is above the law: Americans take to streets in support of Trump impeachment

Protests ranged from tiny to thousands strong on eve of the impeachment vote in effort to hold Trump accountable

Hours before Congress began to convene for Wednesdays vote to make Donald Trump only the third US president in history to be impeached, thousands of Americans from across the country gathered to make their views plain under the banner: Nobody is above the law.

From snowy Portland in Maine to an even chillier Anchorage in Alaska, 4,500 miles away, protesters turned out on the eve of the impeachment vote to lend their voices to the effort to hold Trump accountable for the abuse of power and obstruction of Congress of which he is accused. Organisers of the nationwide demonstrations, drawn from a coalition of groups including Indivisible, MoveOn and Greenpeace, recorded 617 events nationwide.

The protests ranged from tiny to thousands strong. In Concord, Massachusetts, a small crowd gathered at the historically poignant spot of the Battle of Lexington and Concord that sparked the revolutionary war.

They waved placards that quoted one of the founding fathers, John Adams, who said: Facts Are Stubborn Things. That paean to truth was poignant too. At the very moment the Concord protesters were braving the sleet, Trump was delivering a six-page letter full of insults and ranting to Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, denouncing the impeachment process.

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Trumpimpeachment: protesters gather in Times Square on eve of vote video

According to the chief fact-checker of the Washington Post, the letter contained at least a couple dozen factual errors or misleading statements.

In New York City, the historical theme was echoed in Times Square where a crowd of more than a thousand unfurled a giant banner bearing the words of Article II, section four of the US constitution which lays out the terms of impeachment. Shannon Stagman of Empire State Indivisible, an organizer of the New York rally, told Reuters that the event marked a crucial moment for American citizens.

Its important to come out and say we recognize that crimes were committed here, that this president has abused his power and were not OK with letting that slide, she said.

Big cities and small towns brought local flavors to bear on the demonstrations. In Houston, Texas, they chanted: Trump needs fixin, just like Nixon, while in Raleigh, North Carolina, they sang to the tune of the Christmas carol: We wish you a good impeachment / And removal right now.

Protesters
Protesters gathered on Boston Common near the Massachusetts state house during a rally calling for the impeachment of Trump in Boston, Massachusetts. Photograph: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

Wednesdays vote is expected to go almost entirely along party lines, with Democrats appearing united enough to push impeachment through. Trump faces two articles effective charges from Congress that he abused his power by trying to force Ukraine to investigate his potential political rival Joe Biden, and that he then obstructed Congress by blocking the testimony of key witnesses before the impeachment hearings.

Should the articles be approved by the House, as expected, on Wednesday evening, they then pass to the Senate for a trial likely to be held in the New Year. The Republicans control that upper house, ensuring that Trump is all but certain to be acquitted and therefore not removed from office.

Q&A

How do you impeach the US president?

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Article 1 of the United States constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power to initiate impeachment and the Senate the sole power to try impeachments of the president. A president can be impeached if they are judged to have committed “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” although the US Constitution does not specify what high crimes and misdemeanors are.

The formal process starts with the House of Representatives passing articles of impeachment, the equivalent of congressional charges. A simple majority of members need to vote in favour of impeachment for it to pass to the next stage. Democrats currently control the House.

The chief justice of the US Supreme Court then presides over proceedings in the Senate. The president is tried, with senators acting as the jury. For the president to be found guilty two-thirds of senators must vote to convict. Republicans currently control the Senate.

Two presidents have previously been impeached, Bill Clinton in 1998, and Andrew Johnson in 1868, though neither was removed from office as a result. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before there was a formal vote to impeach him.

Martin Belam

Thank you for your feedback.

Given the highly partisan nature of Trumps impeachment especially the response of the Republican party that has shown no willingness to engage in a process laid down unambiguously in the US constitution its political ramifications are all important. That gave Tuesday nights nationwide protests an extra urgency.

Opinion polls show the American people sharply divided on the subject, closely mimicking the rift in Congress. The impeachment tracker on the political site fivethirtyeight.com has support for impeachment at 47.3% and opposition at 46.5%.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us