Thursday, October 5, 2017

The White Privilege of the “Lone Wolf” Shooter

Last night, the United States experienced the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. At least 58 people are dead and over 500 more wounded. No, that's not a typo: More than 500 people were injured in one single incident.

As tens of thousands enjoyed a music festival on the streets of Las Vegas, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada, was perched 32 floors above them in his Mandalay Bay hotel room. Paddock had 19 rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammo — supplies that are plentiful in a nation that has more guns than people. A few minutes after 10 p.m., Paddock opened fire on the unsuspecting crowd. They were sitting ducks.

No expensive wall along the Mexican border would've prevented this. No Muslim ban stopping immigrants and refugees from a few randomly selected countries from reaching our shores would've slowed this down.

Paddock, like the majority of mass shooters in this country, was a white American. And that simple fact changes absolutely everything about the way this horrible moment gets discussed in the media and the national discourse: Whiteness, somehow, protects men from being labeled terrorists.
The privilege here is that the ultimate conclusion about shootings committed by people from commonly nonwhite groups often leads to determinations about the corrosive or destructive nature of the group itself. When an individual claiming to be Muslim commits a horrible act, many on the right will tell us Islam is the problem. For centuries, when an act of violence has been committed by an African-American, racist tropes follow — and eventually, the criminalization and dehumanization of an entire ethnic group.

A bloodied victim lies on the ground during a mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest country music
festival on Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas.
Photo: David Becker/Getty Images

Privilege always stands in contrast to how others are treated, and it's true in this case, too: White men who resort to mass violence are consistently characterized primarily as isolated "lone wolves" — in no way connected to one another — while the most problematic aspects of being white in America are given a pass that nobody else receives.

Stephen Paddock's whiteness has already afforded him many outrageous protections in the media.
While the blood was still congealing on the streets of Las Vegas, USA Today declared in a headline that Paddock was a "lone wolf." And yet an investigation into his motivations and background had only just started. Police were only beginning to move to search his home and computers. His travel history had not yet been evaluated. No one had yet thoroughly scrutinized his family, friends, and social networks.

Paddock was declared a "lone wolf" before analysts even started their day, not because an exhaustive investigation produced such a conclusion, but because it is the only available conclusion for a white man in America who commits a mass shooting.

"Lone wolf" is how Americans designate many white suspects in mass shootings. James Holmes was called a "lone wolf" when he shot and killed 12 people at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. And Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who walked into a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and shot and killed the pastor and eight other parishioners, was quickly declared a "lone wolf."
For people of color, and especially for Muslims, the treatment is often different. Muslims often get labeled as "terrorists" before all the facts have come out.

Just consider President Donald Trump. This morning, Trump tweeted, "My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!" That's fine, but Trump doesn't even seem angry. It's peculiar that he didn't call the shooter a "son of a bitch," like he did the NFL players who took a knee during the national anthem. He didn't create an insulting nickname for Paddock or make an immediate push for a policy proposal.

Compare that to how Trump treats incidents where he believes the assailants are Muslims. After a bomb exploded in the London subway, Trump tweeted that the attackers were "loser terrorists" — before British authorities had even named a suspect. He went on to immediately use the attack to push his Muslim ban.

We must ask ourselves: Why do certain acts of violence absolutely incense Trump and his base while others only elicit warm thoughts and prayers? This is the deadliest mass shooting in American history! Where is the outrage? Where are the policy proposals?

What we are witnessing is the blatant fact that white privilege protects even Stephen Paddock, an alleged mass murderer, not just from being called a terrorist, but from the anger, rage, hellfire, and fury that would surely rain down if he were almost anyone other than a white man. His skin protects him. It also prevents our nation from having an honest conversation about why so many white men do what he did, and why this nation seems absolutely determined to do next to nothing about it.
I spoke to two people this morning, one black and the other Muslim. Both of them said that, when they heard about this awful shooting in Las Vegas, they immediately began hoping that the shooter was not black or Muslim. Why? Because they knew that the blowback on all African-Americans or Muslims would be fierce if the shooter hailed from one of those communities.

Something is deeply wrong when people feel a sense of relief that the shooter is white because they know that means they won't suffer as a result. White people, on the other hand, had no such feeling this morning, because 400 years of American history tells them that no such consequences will exist for them today as a result of Paddock's actions.

It is an exemplar of white privilege: not just being given a headstart in society, but also the freedom from certain consequences of individual and group actions.

Top photo: People run from the scene of a mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival on Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas.

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Government Erecting Weird Metal Towers In NY and Will Not Say Why

By Josie Wales

As bizarre metal towers mysteriously appear at entrances to bridges and tunnels all over New York, the project remains shrouded in secrecy. When pressed for details on the mystery structures by local news affiliate CBS2's Dave Carlin, the MTA spokesman in charge of bridges and tunnels, Cedrick Fulton, simply replied, "I said no comment."

The $100 million project includes 18 of these towers, which began to appear shortly after the Brooklyn Battery toll booths were taken down.
The structures are being described as "decorative," but a comment made by MTA chairman Joe Lhota suggests they are anything but.
From CBS2:
Carlin: "Some of your own board members say they don't know the specifics."
Lhota: "The base of these new pieces that are going up include whatever fiber optics are necessary for those Homeland Security items."
In other words, it's anti-terror technology. Could that one day include facial recognition? We don't know, and Lhota won't say.
"I'm not at liberty to discuss that," he told Carlin.

Even some MTA board members are concerned about how little information is available. "A lot of the board members felt they didn't have all the details they would have wanted, myself included," said New York City Transportation Manager Polly Trottenberg.

But an organization called Reinvent Albany has been working hard to shed some light on the details surrounding the structures. "It's a bit mind-boggling that the MTA is approving $100 million for what appears to us to be big, decorative pylons," says John Kaehny, Executive Director and founding board member of the watchdog organization. "What we're asking for is transparency from the MTA."
Kaehny told Anti-Media that they discovered plans for Governor Cuomo's "Gateway Towers" while researching budget documents for another one of Cuomo's pet projects, Harbor Lights, a $200 million plan to "transform New York's magnificent structures into world-renowned tourist attractions."

According to a press release from Governor Cuomo's office, these "art deco" towers will "bring back public art aboveground." Each structure will be covered in decorative artwork constructed with chainmail fabric, displaying a "wave effect." All MTA bridges and tunnels will be equipped with LED lights that change color according to a "dawn to dusk" schedule, with "spectacular, multi-color light shows that will be visible for miles."

But it's not what's on the outside of the buildings that's important. The bright and colorful new "decorative" towers could actually be state-of-the-art surveillance centers, designed to identify every citizen that goes in and out of the city.  According to a  press release announcing Cuomo's New York Crossings Project, which is part of Harbor Lights:
"At each crossing, and at structurally sensitive points on bridges and tunnels, advanced cameras and sensors will be installed to read license plates and test emerging facial recognition software and equipment. These technologies will be applied across airports and transit hubs – including the Penn-Farley Complex – to ultimately develop one system-wide plan."

And there's no evidence that any of it has been approved. According to Reinvent Albany's research:
"The MTA board has never seen a full project budget for Harbor Lights and has not voted on the project. According to Politico, the governor's office says the New York Power Authority (NYPA) will pay for the project — not the MTA. Yet, according to board minutes from March and January of this year, the NYPA board was told that the MTA would repay NYPA for the costs of the project." So no one actually knows where the money for Cuomo's project is coming from.

The watchdog organization has testified twice to the MTA this month alone and has also filed a formal complaint with the Authorities Budget Office to investigate whether or not the MTA fulfilled their duty to fully examine and follow the proper steps to approve any and all contracts related to Governor Cuomo's New York Crossings Initiative.

One particularly alarming section of the organization's complaint to the ABO reads as follows:
"Based on MTA documents, we estimate the total combined cost of the components of NY Crossing will exceed over a billion dollars in public funds.

According to press accounts, public records, and public statements by MTA board members, Governor Cuomo proposed the New York Crossings Initiative with little or no review or comment by the MTA board. Based on our review of the minutes of the MTA full board and committee meetings since the governor's October 5, 2016 announcement, we see no evidence that the MTA board reviewed or approved an overall budget for the New York Crossings initiative, or reviewed or approved budgets, or expenditure caps, for any of its component elements." [emphasis added]
The only thing that is clear about Governor Cuomo's Harbor Lights/NY Crossings project is that no clear information is being provided.

Out of the 18 towers slated to go up, a total of four have been completed. "That we know of," said Kaehny, who added that a tower was scheduled to be erected today on the Queens side of the midtown tunnel. "There might be a tower going up as we speak," he said.

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The US Is Bombing Raqqa Into Complete Devastation — at Least 433 Civilians Killed

October 3, 2017 at 12:58 pm

Written by Darius Shahtahmasebi

(ANTIMEDIA)  The United States has been bombing the Syrian city of Raqqa into complete devastation at the rate of at least one air-delivered munition every 8 minutes, according to monitoring group Airwars. The organization found that in August, there was a sharp increase in the number of bombs dropped by the U.S.-led coalition. This resulted in at least 433 civilian deaths in that month alone.

From Airwars' monthly report:
"Raqqa bore the brunt of this dramatic hike in munitions released. The Coalition reported that a record 5,775 bombs and missiles were fired in support of operations to capture the city – a 92% increase [from] July.  This figure is 5% higher than the peak munitions fired on West Mosul back in March, to date the deadliest month for civilian harm tracked by Airwars across the entire war. Those 5,775 munitions fired at Raqqa were also more than ten times the declared number of munitions released by US aircraft in all of Afghanistan during August – which was itself at a five-year high."
This is also the rate at which the U.S. was bombing Mosul in Iraq before Donald Trump took office, and yet the media continues to remain mostly silent on the topic. It is especially quiet now, even though Raqqa is less than half the size of West Mosul. As Airwars explains:
"Moreover, those record Coalition munitions were fired into a small geographic area. Raqqa covers approximately 40 square kilometers – less than half the size of West Mosul. It was reported that some 2,000 ISIS fighters still remained in Raqqa city by August 6th, who were using as many as 20,0000 civilians as involuntary human shields."
Airwars also explained that even though the coalition continues to use the term "coalition," so as to promote the idea of a team-effort being involved, it is the United States that continues to conduct nearly 100 hundred percent of the bombing. For example, the United Kingdom delivered only eight strikes in Iraq during the month of August and 31 strikes in Syria (mostly aimed at Raqqa). France delivered 16 strikes in Raqqa for the same period.
More than 75 percent of Raqqa has now allegedly been destroyed by the bombing. This is a territory the United States does not even have the legal justification to bomb in the first place, yet it continues to do so unabated.
Russia's contribution to the Syrian conflict as of late barely received a passing mention in Airwars' report. While no one would deny that Russian-delivered bombs are just as deadly as American-delivered bombs, the point is that the media refuses to cover America's illegal aggression in Syria in the same way it has relentlessly covered Russia's bombardment of Aleppo last year – even though Russia's air campaign appears to have more legitimacy than the coalition does.
"The coalition has made much of its precision munitions and that has played a role in reducing harm on civilian populations," Chris Woods, director of Airwars, told Al Jazeera"I think, though, that with these major assaults on urban areas, we are seeing the limits of precision warfare."
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Woods added:
"The coalition likes to claim that this is the most precise warfare in history. Precision tells you where the bomb goes, not what happens there after it's landed. So when the coalition is dropping these bombs on heavily populated areas, it often has a devastating effect."
Meanwhile, having successfully destroyed much of Raqqa, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reportedly essentially abandoned their campaign in Raqqa and turned their eye to Deir ez-Zor, an oil-rich region in Syria. This particular arena pits the U.S.-backed forces directly against the Iranian and Russian backed forces, which is nothing short of a recipe for a complete disaster.
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A Zen master explains why "positive thinking" is terrible advice

Have you ever been told to just "think positive" and your problems will go away?
Or that to achieve your goals in life, all you have to do is visualize it with positive intent?
It's a philosophy that's been popular for decades thanks to books like How to win Friends and Influence People and Think and Grow Rich. 
But is it really helping us live more meaningful and fulfilling lives? Not exactly.
In fact, according to spiritual guru, Osho, it might just be one of the biggest "bullshit philosophies" there is.

Why "positive thinking" won't help you out

When asked what he thinks of the "positive thinking" movement, Osho believes that it's doing more harm than good. Why? Because it means we're denying reality and being dishonest to ourselves:
"The philosophy of positive thinking means being untruthful; it means being dishonest. It means seeing a certain thing and yet denying what you have seen; it means deceiving yourself and others."
"Positive thinking is the only bullshit philosophy that America has contributed to human thought – nothing else. Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, and the Christian priest, Vincent Peale – all these people have filled the whole American mind with this absolutely absurd idea of a positive philosophy.
And it appeals particularly to mediocre minds…
Dale Carnegie's book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, has been sold in numbers just next to the Christian Bible. No other book has been able to reach that popularity.
The Christian Bible should not be a competitor in fact, because it is more or less given free, forced on people. But Dale Carnegie's book people have been purchasing; it has not been given to you free. And it has created a certain kind of ideology which has given birth to many books of a similar kind. But to me it is nauseating.
… Dale Carnegie started this whole school of positive philosophy, positive thinking: Don't see the negative part, don't see the darker side. But by your not seeing it, do you think it disappears? You are just befooling yourself. You cannot change reality. The night will still be there; you can think that it is daytime for twenty-four hours, but by your thinking it, it is not going to be light twenty-four hours a day.
The negative is as much part of life as the positive. They balance each other."
He also used this opportunity to throw shade at the enormously popular book Think and Grow Rich:
"About Napoleon Hill I remember… he himself was a poor man. That would have been enough proof to disprove his whole philosophy. He became rich by selling the book, Think and Grow Rich.
But it was not positive thinking that was making him rich – it was fools around the world who were purchasing the book, it was his work, his labor, his effort. But in the very beginning days, when his book came out, he used to stand in bookstores to persuade people to purchase the book.
And it happened that Henry Ford came in his latest model car and went into the bookshop to find something light to read. And Napoleon Hill did not want to miss this chance. He went forwards with his book and he said, "A great book has just been published – you will be happy with it. And it is not only a book, it is a sure method of success."
Henry Ford looked at the man and said, "Are you the writer of the book?"
Napoleon Hill said proudly, "Yes, I am the writer of the book." And he can be proud: that book he has written is a piece of art. And to create a piece of art out of crap is real mastery.
Henry Ford, without touching the book, just asked one question, "Have you come in your own car or on the bus?"
Napoleon Hill could not understand what he meant. He said, "Of course, I came on the bus."
Henry Ford said, "Look outside. That is my private car, and I am Henry Ford. You are befooling others; you don't have even a private car and you write a book called Think and Grow Rich! And I have grown rich without thinking, so I don't want to bother with it. You think and grow rich! – and when you grow rich then you come to me. That will be the proof. The book is not the proof."
And it is said that Napoleon Hill never could gather up the courage to meet this old man, Henry Ford, again, even though he became a little richer. But compared to Henry Ford he was always a poor man and was bound to remain a poor man, always. But Henry Ford's logic was clear.
No. I do not believe in any philosophy of positive thinking."

The half-truth is dangerous

Osho says that forcing yourself to think positive all the time is simply denying the reality of our lives, and it will eventually come around and bite us:
"You ask me: Am I against positive philosophy? Yes, because I am also against negative philosophy.
I have to be against both because both choose only half the fact, and both try to ignore the other half.
And remember: a half-truth is far more dangerous than a whole lie, because the whole lie will be discovered by you sooner or later. How long can it remain undiscovered by you? A lie, of course, is a lie; it is just a palace made of playing cards – a little breeze and the whole palace disappears.
But the half-truth is dangerous. You may never discover it, you may continue to think it is the whole truth. So the real problem is not the whole lie, the real problem is the half-truth pretending to be the whole truth; and that is what these people are doing."

The negative ideas of your mind have to be released, not repressed

Osho goes onto say that it's harmful to repress negative emotions:
"The negative ideas of your mind have to be released, not repressed by positive ideas. You have to create a consciousness which is neither positive nor negative. That will be the pure consciousness.
In that pure consciousness you will live the most natural and blissful life…
You don't like a person, you don't like many things; you don't like yourself, you don't like the situation you are in. All this garbage goes on collecting in the unconscious, and on the surface a hypocrite is born, who says, "I love everybody, love is the key to blissfulness." But you don't see any bliss in that person's life. He is holding the whole of hell within himself.
He can deceive others, and if he goes on deceiving long enough, he can deceive himself too. But it won't be a change. It is simply wasting life – which is immensely valuable because you cannot get it back.
Positive thinking is simply the philosophy of hypocrisy – to give it the right name. When you are feeling like crying, it teaches you to sing. You can manage if you try, but those repressed tears will come out at some point, in some situation. There is a limitation to repression. And the song that you were singing was absolutely meaningless; you were not feeling it, it was not born out of your heart."
If you found this article resonates with you, then you may enjoy participating in an online salon titled Brazilian shaman explains why positive thinking is terrible advice on 23rd August, 2017. Salons are deeper explorations of issues raised on The Power of Ideas, Ideapod's blog. This salon will be a conversation between Brazilian shaman Rudá Iandé and Ideapod CEO Justin Brown. Register now to confirm your place!

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Jane Eyre Moves to Brooklyn in Boom’s Graphic Novel Adaptation

By Brigid Alverson |
Sep 27, 2017
Mr. Rochester and Jane.
Aline Brosh McKenna may be best known as the writer of the movies The Devil Wears Prada and 27 Dresses, and the writer and executive producer of the CW show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Now she's added comics to her resume after turning Charlotte Brontë's classic novel Jane Eyre into a graphic novel.
Jane, an updated version of the story written by McKenna and illustrated by Ramon Perez (A Tale of Sand), will be published by Archaia, an imprint of BOOM! Studios, on September 19. In this version, Jane is a small town girl who moves to New York to go art school. She lives in Brooklyn—her roommate is a fashion designer and drag queen—and she works as a nanny for the mysterious and powerful Mr. Rochester.
PW talked with McKenna about what a 170-year-old novel has to offer modern readers and how she brought the story into the 21st century.
What drew you to Jane Eyre?
I have always loved that book. I remember reading it when I was about 11 or 12 and walking through my house with my nose in the book and not wanting to go downstairs for dinner and holding the book in my hand and weeping [because I had to stop reading].
The thing that spoke to me more and more as I matured was the romance with Rochester. I realized, as someone who had written a lot about male-female relationships, how much that relationship had imprinted itself on me: The remote and damaged man who looks past the superficial charms but is hampered by another woman. It's a very strong love template.
What did you want to keep from the original?
To me, the essence of it is Jane's goodness and her loving-ness and her longing for family and longing to belong somewhere and her steadfast honesty and purity that pierces the heart of this lonely man.
How did you create the supporting characters, such as Jane's roommate?
I was trying to find companions for her story that I thought would suit her and teach her and interest her. There's a gravity and sadness to the Jane Eyre character, which is why I always loved her. She was a little brown wren, so the beginning is a little brown wren in a big colorful city with a colorful roommate, and the first thing he does is show her around this place that has a little tiny hole for her, almost like he found a tiny bird in a box. A lot of it was contrasting the tiny little sparrow of Jane with the bigger world.
How is your Rochester different from Charlotte Brontë's?
The thing about the Brontë sisters, and the Austen novels and Edith Wharton, is that the financial concerns are paramount. Everyone is scrambling to hold on to their fortunes. [My] Rochester is very wealthy in a self-made way, and his predicament with respect to his wife does not have to do with his financial circumstances. He has a different kind of trauma in his past, but there's still that idea of being haunted—in this case he is haunted by someone he truly loved, so that was slightly different. It was sort of about trying to change some of the external things but be true to his soul.
What I always loved about him is that he's serious, almost mean, but he gives Jane compliments and the compliments are very profound. He sees her depths, and that makes her fall in love with him. It's a bit like Shakespeare: You can take it and transpose it and embellish it, but it retains its soul, and that's what we were always conscious of—to have it maintain its Brontë-ness.
How was making Jane different from your usual creative process?
We got to do whatever we wanted. Hollywood is compromises, you're always compromising, there's always a committee—not to say that's a bad thing, but that's what it is. This was in some sense the most pure artistic enterprise that I've done as a professional writer, because we could just dream it and make it so, and that was a wonderful feeling.
Did you have younger readers in mind?
Yes. It's not very racy—a little bit of raciness, but less than you would see on TV. We didn't put anything in there that would put off young readers.
I want to tap the shoulder of the 11-year-old girl I was and show her this book, and for me that's very much who it's for, for young people who love romance and fish-out-of-water books, but really romantic things that have a bit of a moral conversation in them about how to be a good person and how to live your life. I'm just so tickled that after five years I have something to imagine my 12-year-old self to buy at the bookstore.

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Death of gas and diesel begins as GM announces plans for ‘all-electric future’

A Chevrolet Bolt is ringed by electric and fuel cell vehicles covered by tarps. On Oct. 2, General Motors announced that it will produce two new electric models on the Bolt underpinnings in the next 18 months and 20 electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by 2023. (General Motors/AP)
After nearly a century of building vehicles powered by fossil fuels, General Motors — one of the world's largest automakers — announced Monday that the end of GM producing internal combustion engines is fast approaching.

The acceleration to an all-electric future will begin almost immediately, with GM releasing two new electric models next year and an additional 18 by 2023.

At a media event at GM's technical campus in Warren, Mich., on Monday, Mark Reuss, the company's chief of global product development, said the transition will take time, but the course has been set.

"General Motors believes in an all-electric future," Reuss said. "Although that future won't happen overnight, GM is committed to driving increased usage and acceptance of electric vehicles."

The Chevrolet Bolt EV is an electric vehicle that boasts a range of up to 238 per full charge. It releases early 2017. The Chevrolet Bolt EV is an electric vehicle that boasts a range of up to 238 per full charge. It releases early 2017. (Jhaan Elker, Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

Reuss avoided naming the year when the auto giant will cease producing gas and diesel vehicles, noting that the company is too large to make such an estimate, according to USA Today.
GM finished 2016 as the world's third-largest auto-seller, breaking previous company records with 10 million vehicles sold, the company said in a news release.

The automaker said that arriving at a "zero emissions future" will require a two-pronged approach: battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles.

At Monday's event, Fast Company reported, officials unveiled three concepts for reporters: "a sporty crossover, a larger wagon or SUV and a tall, boxy pod car that looked like a people-mover for cities."
[Tesla's Model 3 has 'mass appeal.' That doesn't mean you can afford it.]

GM also introduced a fuel-cell-powered heavy-duty truck with two electric motors known as Surus, or "silent utility rover universal superstructure."

GM's foray into the electric marketplace has already resulted in resounding success, with the Chevrolet Bolt being named Motor Trend's 2017 Car of the Year and the 2017 North American Car of the Year. The Bolt boasts a 240-mile battery range on a single charge and costs $37,500 before tax incentives. That range places the vehicle well above the Nissan Leaf (up to 107 miles on a single charge) and slightly above Tesla's Model 3 (up to 220 miles on a single charge for a standard battery).

Buying a car can be a daunting task if you don't know where to start. We'll help guide you through the process. Buying a car can be a daunting task if you don't know where to start. We'll help guide you through the process. (The Washington Post)

As GM commits to electric innovation, the company will compete in an increasingly crowded marketplace. In recent months, Tesla unveiled the company's first mass market electric vehicle, joining companies such as Ford, Volvo, Nissan, Aston Martin and Jaguar Land Rover, all of whom are vying for market space.

[Volvo says it will abandon traditional engines by 2019]

On Monday, Ford announced plans to create a group known as "Team Edison" that is to be tasked with developing fully electric cars. Sherif Marakby, Ford's head of electrification and autonomous vehicles, told Automotive News that the company is on pace to produce 13 electrified vehicles over the next five years.
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Cutting-edge developments in tech and elsewhere.
"We see an inflection point in the major markets toward battery electric vehicles," Marakby said. "We feel it's important to have a cross-functional team all the way from defining the strategy plans and implementation to advanced marketing."

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