London Police Officer Convicted of Membership in Neo-Nazi Group

LONDON — An officer in London’s main police force was convicted on Thursday of being a member of a banned neo-Nazi group, his force said, becoming the first British police officer to be convicted of a terrorism offense, according to the BBC and other British news sources.

Benjamin Hannam, 22, a probationary police officer who applied to the London force, the Metropolitan Police, in 2017 and joined it in early 2018, was found guilty of membership of a banned organization — the neo-Nazi group National Action — as well as two counts of fraud by false representation and two counts of possession of document likely to be of use to a terrorist, the police said in a briefing.

The fraud charges related to lying on application forms for his police position, local media at a court in London reported.

Mr. Hannam demonstrated an “adherence to fascist ideology and a potentially veiled but nonetheless evident neo-Nazi mind-set,” the prosecutor, Dan Pawson-Pounds, said according to The Independent, adding that he had met with people at National Action events even after the group had been banned. The group, which praised the murder of a British lawmaker, Jo Cox, was outlawed in December 2016.

according to the BBC.

would recruit more minority officers in order to be more representative.

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Israel Election: Do-Over Vote Looks Likely to Leave Another Stalemate

JERUSALEM — When Israelis woke on Wednesday, the day after their fourth election in two years, it felt nothing like a new dawn.

With 90 percent of the votes counted, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing alliance had 52 seats, while his opponents had 56 — both sides several seats short of the 61 needed to form a coalition government with a majority in Parliament. If those counts stand, they could prolong by months the political deadlock that has paralyzed the country for two years.

That prospect was already forcing Israelis to confront questions about the viability of their electoral system, the functionality of their government and whether the divisions between the country’s various polities — secular and devout, right-wing and leftist, Jewish and Arab — have made the country unmanageable.

“It’s not getting any better. It’s even getting worse — and everyone is so tired,” said Rachel Azaria, a centrist former lawmaker who chairs an alliance of environment-focused civil society groups. “The entire country is going crazy.”

a small, Islamist Arab party, Raam, to form a majority coalition.

Either of those outcomes would defy conventional logic. The first option would force Islamists into a Netanyahu-led bloc that includes politicians who want to expel Arab citizens of Israel whom they deem “disloyal.” The second would unite Raam with a lawmaker who has baited Arabs and told them to leave the country.

Beyond the election itself, the gridlock extends to the administrative stagnation that has left Israel without a national budget for two consecutive years in the middle of a pandemic, and with several key Civil Service posts unstaffed.

the trial of Mr. Netanyahu himself, who is being prosecuted on corruption charges that he denies. Mr. Netanyahu has also dismissed the claim that he will use any new majority to grant himself immunity, but others likely to be in his potential coalition have said that would be up for debate.

Shira Efron, a Tel Aviv-based analyst for the Israel Policy Forum, a New York-based research group, said, “It’s not a failed state. It’s not Lebanon. You still have institutions.”

“But there is definitely an erosion,” she noted. “Not having a budget for two years — this is really dangerous.”

Mr. Netanyahu has presided over a world-leading vaccine program, in an illustration of how some parts of the state still operate very smoothly. But more generally, the lack of a state budget forces ministries to work on only a short-term basis, freezing long-term infrastructure projects like road construction.

For Ms. Azaria, the former lawmaker, the stasis has delayed the discussion of a multibillion-dollar program to improve the provision of renewable energy, which her green alliance proposed to the government last year.

“We’re talking about taking Israel to the next stage in so many ways, and none of it can happen,” Ms. Azaria said. “There is no decision making.”

Ofer Zalzberg, director of the Middle East program at the at the Herbert C. Kelman Institute, a Jerusalem-based research group.

“He has reconciled better than his adversaries the liberal idea of personal and individual autonomy with conservative values like preserving Jewish identity, as defined by Orthodox interpretations of Jewish law,” Dr. Zalzberg said.

While other politicians historically tried to solve this tension by “turning all Israelis into secular Zionists,” he added, “Mr. Netanyahu advanced the idea of Israel as a mosaic of different tribes.”

Mr. Netanyahu has failed to win over the more liberal of those tribes — and that failure is at the heart of the current stalemate. But he and his party have been more successful than the secular left at winning over key groups like Mizrahi Jews, who were historically marginalized by the Ashkenazi elite, Ms. Azaria said.

“That’s the blind spot of the of the left wing in Israel — they’re not really talking to Mizrahim,” she said. “This could be the game changer of Israeli politics. If the left could open the gates and say, ‘You’re welcome. We want you here.’”

The political stalemate has also been exacerbated by a reluctance by Jewish-led parties to include Arab parties within their governments, ruling the latter out of coalition negotiations and making it even harder to form a majority.

Arab parties have also been traditionally opposed to joining Israeli governments that are in conflict with Arab neighbors and occupy territories claimed by the Palestinians.

But for Dr. Efron, the Tel Aviv-based analyst, there were hopeful signs of a paradigm shift on Wednesday morning. With the election results on a knife edge, some politicians were forced to at least consider the possibility of a pivotal political role for an Arab party such as Raam.

And such a discussion might accelerate the acceptance of Arabs within the Israeli political sphere, she said.

“It brings more integration,” Dr. Efron added. “In the long run, that could be a silver lining.”

Adam Rasgon and Gabby Sobelman contributed reporting.

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How Anti-Asian Activity Online Set the Stage for Real-World Violence

Negative Asian-American tropes have long existed online but began increasing last March as parts of the United States went into lockdown over the coronavirus. That month, politicians including Representative Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona, and Representative Kevin McCarthy, a Republican of California, used the terms “Wuhan virus” and “Chinese coronavirus” to refer to Covid-19 in their tweets.

Those terms then began trending online, according to a study from the University of California, Berkeley. On the day Mr. Gosar posted his tweet, usage of the term “Chinese virus” jumped 650 percent on Twitter; a day later there was an 800 percent increase in their usage in conservative news articles, the study found.

Mr. Trump also posted eight times on Twitter last March about the “Chinese virus,” causing vitriolic reactions. In the replies section of one of his posts, a Trump supporter responded, “U caused the virus,” directing the comment to an Asian Twitter user who had cited U.S. death statistics for Covid-19. The Trump fan added a slur about Asian people.

In a study this week from the University of California, San Francisco, researchers who examined 700,000 tweets before and after Mr. Trump’s March 2020 posts found that people who posted the hashtag #chinesevirus were more likely to use racist hashtags, including #bateatingchinese.

“There’s been a lot of discussion that ‘Chinese virus’ isn’t racist and that it can be used,” said Yulin Hswen, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco, who conducted the research. But the term, she said, has turned into “a rallying cry to be able to gather and galvanize people who have these feelings, as well as normalize racist beliefs.”

Representatives for Mr. Trump, Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Gosar did not respond to requests for comment.

Misinformation linking the coronavirus to anti-Asian beliefs also rose last year. Since last March, there have been nearly eight million mentions of anti-Asian speech online, much of it falsehoods, according to Zignal Labs, a media insights firm.

In one example, a Fox News article from April that went viral baselessly said that the coronavirus was created in a lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan and intentionally released. The article was liked and shared more than one million times on Facebook and retweeted 78,800 times on Twitter, according to data from Zignal and CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned tool for analyzing social media.

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Can France’s Far Right Win Over the ‘Beavers’? One Mayor Shows How

Mas Llaro had always voted for the mainstream right.

But disillusioned and weary of the status quo, the Talaus, like many others, voted for the first time for the far right last year, drawn by Mr. Aliot’s emphasis on cleanliness and crime, saying their home had been broken into twice.

Though satisfied with the mayor’s performance, Mr. Talau said he would still join the dam against the far right in next year’s presidential contest and hold his nose to vote for Mr. Macron. But Ms. Talau was now considering casting a ballot for Ms. Le Pen.

“She’s put water in her wine,” Ms. Talau said, adding that Mr. Macron was not “tough enough.”

Mr. Aliot’s opponent in 2014 and 2020, a center-right politician named Jean-Marc Pujol, had pressed further to the right in an unsuccessful move to fend off the far right. He increased the number of police officers, giving Perpignan the highest number per capita of any large city in France, according to government data.

Even so, many of his core supporters appeared to trust the far right more on crime and still defected, while many left-leaning beavers complained that they had been ignored and refused to take part in dam-building again, said Agnès Langevine, who represented the Greens and the Socialists in the 2020 mayoral election.

“And they told us, ‘In 2022, if it’s between Macron and Le Pen, I won’t do it again,’ ” she added.

Mr. Lebourg, the political scientist, said that Mr. Aliot had also won over conservative, upper-income voters by adopting a mainstream economic message — the same strategy adopted by Ms. Le Pen.

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Epoch Media Casts Wider Net to Spread Its Message Online

Right on Times does not disclose any partnership with Epoch, nor do the two websites share a unique digital identifier. But when it launched in October, its articles were posted on social media by Epoch employees. Right on Times also had a prominent ad campaign on Epoch properties, and it included many articles from Epoch properties on its service. Those actions led disinformation researchers, including those at the Global Disinformation Index, to conclude there was coordination.

Epoch Times said that Right on Times was one of its advertisers, and that Youmaker was an “independent business partner.” Sagebook, the company said, was being phased out. (The Sagebook site was no longer accessible as of last week.)

“The premise of your article is incorrect,” the company said in an email. “The Epoch Times does not deal in conspiracy theories. We pride ourselves on rigorous, fact-based reporting, which has attracted a large and rapidly growing audience.”

The largest media brand run by the Epoch Media Group remains The Epoch Times, which regularly publishes pro-Trump misinformation. In the past year, articles from The Epoch Times garnered 123.7 million likes and shares on social media, according to the social media analysis tool Buzzsumo. It has tens of millions of social media followers and has become a true rival of successful conservative outlets like The Daily Caller and Breitbart News. It now has dozens of international versions.

In 2019 and 2020, Facebook alleged links between The Epoch Times and brands including “The BL” and “Truth Media,” saying they were all part of the Falun Gong orbit. The brands operated hundreds of accounts that automatically published posts on Facebook at a rapid clip about conservative ideology and the 2020 election, as well as misinformation about the coronavirus. Eventually, Facebook ruled that many of those accounts violated its “coordinated inauthentic behavior” policies. The company removed them in two separate takedowns.

“We have clarified repeatedly that The Epoch Times has no relationship with The BL and Truth Media,” Epoch Media said.

Epoch began to make use of the alternative social media platforms, like Sagebook and Youmaker, in late 2020. Youmaker draws about 1.5 million unique visitors per month, according to data from the website analytics company SimilarWeb. Sagebook attracted 38,000 monthly visitors and Right on Times sees 15,000, according to SimilarWeb data.

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