1013: Hypogonadism

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

3h 0m
March 4th, 2018
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Executive Producers: Sir BenOnymous of the 1.5x Playback

Associate Executive Producers: Roberto Romeo, Sir Allan Bose, Dominick DeVito, Sir Lucas of the Lost Bits, Sir Donald Silva

Cover Artist: Darren O'neill

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War on Men
Cramps or Cardiac from Producer Lisa
Hi Adam,
Here's some menstruation TMI:
I am a woman. I can tell you for sure that menstrual
cramps can be as bad as the worst pain a person can experience. I haven't had a
heart attack, but I've also heard from some people that they didn't even know
they were having a heart attack until later, so I'm guessing both of these
things really depend. When I was a teenager, my cramps would be so bad I could
barely get out of bed, and I was doubled over in pain for two days of every
month. I have many personal friends who have also had this level of pain
monthly at some point in their lives. I was not allowed to stay home (some of
my friends were), so I'd spend most of those days with my head on my desk (or
getting scolded by teachers for not being my normal self). In college, I could
hide and miss class if it was really bad enough (however, I smoked a lot of pot
in college, so I didn't feel pain in general very intensely during that time in
my life). As I got older, and my body changed, the days I was in extreme pain
tapered off. I was on hormonal birth control for several years, and that also
helped with the intensity and duration of my periods (I took myself off when I
realized how much the hormones were messing with my emotional state). After I
had my children, generally speaking, my cramps aren't as bad as they were when
I was younger. For some of my friends, having a child actually made their
periods much more painful than they were before.
In short, the uterus is made up of mostly muscle, same as
the heart. So if the muscle contracts particularly hard, I think it makes
logical sense that the pain would be comparable. It is definitely different for
every woman, and also can change over the course of a woman's life. I think a
large majority of women are trained from an early age to suck it up. My mother
told me there is nothing I can do to change it, so I just have to deal with it.
Take some ibuprofen! And because it is considered a pretty embarrassing thing,
no one talks about it. Well, except now on the Facebag, where women feel more
safe to tell random groups of strangers all about their personal bodily habits.
Also- when I was much younger, I had sex in a couple of
different workplaces. These were restaurants, and I can tell you there is an
awful lot of debauchery that goes on in those places. I also think the term
"forced" can depend greatly on the person reporting, especially way
after it took place.
TYFYC
Lisa Stelter
STORIES
Opinion | Trade War, What Is It Good For? Absolutely Nothing - The New York Times
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 12:51
Photo President Trump during a meeting with steel and aluminum executives at White House on Thursday. Credit Evan Vucci/Associated Press We've known all along that Donald Trump is belligerently ignorant about economics (and many other things). But up to this point that hasn't mattered much. He took office amid a sustained recovery that began under his predecessor, and that recovery had already lifted the U.S. economy to the point where ''normal'' policy rules apply: interest rates are above zero, monetary policy is effective again, so short-term economic management is in the fairly reliable hands of the Federal Reserve, not the chaotic Trump White House. What the president didn't know couldn't hurt us.
But there was always reason to be concerned about the possibility of crisis '-- either a crisis created by outside forces, like some kind of financial collapse, or one created by the administration itself. In that case the Fed's rationality wouldn't be enough. And it's starting to look like we have a trade policy crisis on our hands.
Trump has always had a thing about trade, which he sees the way he sees everything: as a test of power and masculinity. It's all about who sells more: if we run a trade surplus we win, if we run a trade deficit, we lose:
Photo This is, of course, nonsense. Trade isn't a zero-sum game: it raises the productivity and wealth of the world economy. To take a not at all random example, it makes a lot of sense to produce aluminum, a process that uses vast amounts of electricity, in countries like Canada, which have abundant hydropower. So the U.S. gains from importing Canadian aluminum, whether or not we run a trade deficit with Canada. (As it happens, we don't, but that's pretty much beside the point.)
It's true that trade deficits can be a problem when the economy is depressed, and unemployment is high. That's why I, like many other economists, wanted us to take a tougher stance on Chinese currency policy back in 2010, when we had around 9 percent unemployment. But the case for worrying about trade deficits, like the case for running budget deficits, has largely evaporated now that unemployment is back to 4 percent.
So we can't ''win'' a trade war. What we can do is start a cycle of tit-for-tat, and when it comes to trade, America '-- which accounts for 9 percent of world exports and 14 percent of world imports '-- is by no means a dominant superpower.
A cycle of retaliation would shrink overall world trade, making the world as a whole, America very much included, poorer. Perhaps even more important in the near term, it would be highly disruptive. We live in an era of global supply chains: just about everything produced in America (and everywhere else) uses inputs produced in other countries. Your new car may well have a chassis assembled in the U.S., an engine and wiring system made in Mexico, electronics from Korea and China, and, of course, steel and aluminum from Canada.
Continue reading the main story
Men's Sperm Counts Are Dropping, and Scientists Don't Know Why
Sat, 03 Mar 2018 18:19
The topic of overpopulation has been much discussed over the past few decades, but what if the real issue is a severe decline in population?
Read more: The Best and Worst Things to Say to Someone Who's Grieving
It sounds like something straight out of a dystopian nightmare, but new research shows sperm counts are drastically dropping across the Western world.
Researchers from Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine in Jerusalem announced this week that sperm count in men residing in developed countries has dropped by a whopping 50 percent over the past 40 years. They claim this alarming trend could potentially result in a decline in male health, fertility and possibly even extinction if the trend doesn't turn around.
''This study is an urgent wake-up call for researchers and health authorities around the world to investigate the causes of the sharp ongoing drop in sperm count,'' explained study co-author Hagai Levine.
After data was collected from 185 studies looking at sperm count and concentration in men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand from 1973 to 2011, researchers found that total sperm count declined by 59.3 percent and sperm concentration declined by 52.4 percent.
Data from men in South America, Asia and Africa were also examined, however, no serious decline was detected. Researchers did note that not as many studies have been conducted in these regions.
Researchers didn't look into reasons why the drop in sperm count occurred, but noted that the phenomenon has been previously linked to factors ranging from exposure to chemicals and pesticides to lifestyle choices, including smoking, obesity and stress. They are worried that if things keep heading in this direction, the human race could be doomed.
Daniel Brison, an embryology and stem cell biology specialist at Manchester University who was asked to comment on the findings, told Reuters the study had ''major implications not just for fertility, but for male health and wider public health.''
''An unanswered question is whether the impact of whatever is causing declining sperm counts will be seen in future generations of children via epigenetic (gene modifications) or other mechanisms operating in sperm,'' Brison said.
The next step is obviously to pinpoint what is causing the sperm count to decrease so dramatically. ''Given that we still do not know what lifestyle, dietary or chemical exposures might have caused this decrease, research efforts to identify (them) need to be redoubled and to be nonpresumptive as to cause,'' added Edinburgh University's Richard Sharpe.
In the meantime, if you are concerned about your own declining sperm count you should consider modifying your diet. Here are some foods that can help make your sperm more active, healthy and abundant.
Read more: The Top 9 Foods for Men's Sexual Health
Get more breaking health news:
Christian Bale's Unbelievable Weight Transformations '-- How Healthy Are They?
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Are you surprised by the findings of this new study? What do you attribute the sperm count decline to? After learning about this study, are you concerned about population decrease?
"Men's Sperm Counts Are Dropping, and Scientists Don't Know Why" originally appeared on LIVESTRONG.COM.
Ibuprofen alters human testicular physiology to produce a state of compensated hypogonadism | Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 14:34
Ibuprofen alters human testicular physiology to produce a state of compensated hypogonadism | Proceedings of the National Academy of SciencesPhysical Sciences Featured PortalsArticles by TopicSocial Sciences Featured PortalsArticles by TopicBiological Sciences Featured PortalsArticles by Topic
Trump's Chaos Theory for the Oval Office Is Taking Its Toll - The New York Times
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 13:53
Yet at the end of a photo session, when a reporter asked Mr. Trump about the measures, he confirmed that the United States would announce next week that it is imposing long-term tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum. The White House has not even completed a legal review of the measures.
Mr. Trump's off-the-cuff opening of a trade war rattled the stock market, enraged Republicans and left Mr. Cohn's future in doubt. Mr. Cohn, who almost left last year after Mr. Trump's response to a white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Va., indicated he was waiting to see whether Mr. Trump goes through with the tariffs, people familiar with his thinking said.
The chaotic rollout also reflected the departure of another White House official, Rob Porter, who as the staff secretary had a key role in keeping the paper flowing in the West Wing and who had backed Mr. Cohn in his free-trade views. Mr. Porter was forced out last month after facing accusations of spousal abuse.
It was the second day in a row that Mr. Trump blindsided Republicans and his own aides. On Wednesday, in another televised session at the White House, he embraced the stricter gun control measures backed by Democrats and urged lawmakers to revive gun-safety regulations that are opposed by the National Rifle Association and most of his party. But late Thursday, he appeared to have changed his mind again, this time after a meeting with N.R.A. leaders that he described as ''great.''
''I always said that it was going to take awhile for Donald Trump to adjust as president,'' said Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax Media and an old friend of the president's. In business, he said, Mr. Trump relied on a small circle of colleagues and a management style that amounted to ''trial and error '-- the strongest survived, the weak died.''
Mr. Ruddy insisted that Mr. Trump was finding his groove in the Oval Office. But his subordinates are faring less well. With an erratic boss and little in the way of a coherent legislative agenda, they are consumed by infighting, fears of their legal exposure and an ambient sense that the White House is spinning out of control.
Mr. Trump is isolated and angry, as well, according to other friends and aides, as he carries on a bitter feud with his attorney general and watches members of his family clash with a chief of staff he recruited to restore a semblance of order '-- all against the darkening shadow of an investigation of his ties to Russia.
The combined effect is taking a toll.
Mr. Trump's instinct during these moments is to return to the populist themes that carried him to the White House, which is why his trade announcement is hardly surprising. Mr. Trump has few fixed views on any issue, but he has been consistent on his antipathy for free trade since the 1980s, when he took out newspaper ads warning about American deficits with Japan '-- a concern that has shifted to China in recent years.
''The W.T.O. has been a disaster for this country,'' Mr. Trump said Thursday, asserting that China's economic rise coincided with its entry into the World Trade Organization. ''It has been great for China and terrible for the United States, and great for other countries.''
But a president who has long tried to impose his version of reality on the world is finding the limits of that strategy. Without Mr. Porter playing a stopgap role on trade, the debate has been marked by a lack of focus on policy and planning, according to several aides.
Morale in the West Wing has sunk to a new low, these people said. In private conversations, Mr. Trump lashes out regularly at Attorney General Jeff Sessions with a vitriol that stuns members of his staff. Some longtime advisers said that Mr. Trump regards Mr. Sessions's decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation as the ''original sin,'' which the president thinks has left him exposed.
Mr. Trump's children, meanwhile, have grown exasperated with Mr. Kelly, seeing him as a hurdle to their father's success and as antagonistic to their continued presence, according to several people familiar with their thinking. Anthony Scaramucci, an ally of some in the Trump family, whom Mr. Kelly fired as communications director after only 11days, intensified his criticism of the chief of staff in a series of news interviews on Wednesday and Thursday.
Yet Mr. Trump is also frustrated with Mr. Kushner, whom he now views as a liability because of his legal entanglements, the investigations of the Kushner family's real estate company and the publicity over having his security clearance downgraded, according to two people familiar with his views. In private conversations, the president vacillates between sounding regretful that Mr. Kushner is taking arrows and annoyed that he is another problem to deal with.
Privately, some aides have expressed frustration that Mr. Kushner and his wife, the president's daughter Ivanka Trump, have remained at the White House, despite Mr. Trump at times saying they never should have come to the White House and should leave. Yet aides also noted that Mr. Trump has told the couple that they should keep serving in their roles, even as he has privately asked Mr. Kelly for his help in moving them out.
To some staff members, the chaos feels reminiscent of the earliest days of the Trump administration. Some argue Mr. Kelly should have carried out a larger staff shake-up when he came in. That has allowed several people to stagnate, particularly in policy roles, one adviser said.
Mark Landler reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York.
A version of this article appears in print on March 2, 2018, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Chaos Theory In Oval Office Is Taking a Toll.
Continue reading the main story
The Public (film) - Wikipedia
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 16:03
The Public is an upcoming 2018 American drama film directed and written by Emilio Estevez, who also stars in the film alongside an ensemble cast including Alec Baldwin, Jena Malone, Christian Slater, Gabrielle Union, Taylor Schilling, Jacob Vargas, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Jeffrey Wright.
After learning that emergency shelters are at full capacity when a brutal Midwestern cold front makes its way to Cincinnati, Ohio, a large group of homeless library patrons led by Jackson (Michael Kenneth Williams) refuse to leave the downtown public library at closing time. What begins as a nonviolent Occupy sit-in and ragtag act of civil disobedience quickly escalates into a standoff with local riot police, led by a no-nonsense crisis negotiator (Alec Baldwin) and a savvy district attorney (Christian Slater) with lofty political ambitions, all as two librarians (Emilio Estevez and Jena Malone) are caught up in the middle of it.
Production [ edit] Filming began in January 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio.[1]
Casting [ edit] In December 2016, it was announced that Alec Baldwin, Jena Malone, Taylor Schilling and Rhymefest would be joining Emilio Estevez in the film.[2] A few days later, it was announced that Gabrielle Union had been cast in the film.[3] In January 2017, it was announced that Christian Slater, Jeffrey Wright and Michael Kenneth Williams had also joined the cast of the film.[4]
Music [ edit] Composer Tyler Bates will be writing the score for the film.[5]
Release [ edit] The Public held its world premiere as the opening night selection at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on January 31, 2018.[6]
Marketing [ edit] The first trailer for The Public debuted on YouTube on December 7, 2017.[7]
References [ edit] ^ Lincoln, Ross (December 8, 2016). "Alec Baldwin, Taylor Schilling, Jena Malone and Che 'Rhymefest' Smith Join Emilio Estevez-Directed 'The Public' ". Deadline. Retrieved December 18, 2017 . ^ Lincoln, Ross (December 8, 2016). "Alec Baldwin, Taylor Schilling, Jena Malone and Che 'Rhymefest' Smith Join Emilio Estevez-Directed 'The Public' ". Deadline. Retrieved December 18, 2017 . ^ McNary, Dave (December 16, 2016). "Gabrielle Union Joins Emilio Estevez Movie 'The Public' ". Variety. Retrieved December 18, 2017 . ^ Busch, Anita (January 26, 2017). "Christian Slater, Jeffrey Wright & Michael Kenneth Williams Join Emilio Estevez's 'The Public' ". Deadline. Retrieved December 18, 2017 . ^ Burlingame, Jon (21 July 2017). "Tyler Bates Balances Careers as Guitarist and In-Demand Film Composer". Variety. Retrieved 18 December 2017 . ^ Haring, Bruce (6 December 2017). "Santa Barbara Film Festival to open with Emilio Estevez's 'The Public' ". Deadline. Retrieved 18 December 2017 . ^ Sullivan, Mallorie (8 December 2017). "Here's your first look at the trailer for Cincinnati-shot 'The Public' ". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved 18 December 2017 . External links [ edit]
A Hope Hicks diary could lead to a major book deal - Business Insider
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 14:02
White House Communications Director and presidential advisor Hope Hicks waves to reporters as she arrives at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center February 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. Hicks is scheduled to testify behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee in its ongoing investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Rumors of a Hope Hicks diary apparently has book publishers scrambling to get the soon-to-be former White House communications director's attention.A report from the Daily Mail says Hicks kept a diary of her experiences in the White House and interactions with President Donald Trump.A potential book deal could land Hicks a $10 million advance, according to a publisher cited by the Daily Mail.Hicks is resigning in the coming weeks. Hers is set to be one of the highest-profile departures in a Trump administration that has already seen record turnover.Rumors of a Hope Hicks diary documenting her experiences during her time in the Trump administration have book publishers scrambling to get her attention, according to a report from the Daily Mail.
The publication cited what it described as a White House insider who said Hicks kept a "detailed diary of her White House work, and her interactions with the president."
That potential diary is said to have some major publishers '-- and even Hollywood producers '-- preparing a full-court press on Hicks as she prepares to leave the administration. The Daily Mail cited an editor for a New York publishing house who told the publication that Hicks could pull down a $10 million advance for a "candid, truthful, sensitive tell-all about her life in Trump Land '--the good, the bad, and the ugly."
Hicks is resigning as White House communications director and plans to leave in a few weeks. Hers is one of the highest-profile departures to date, in a Trump administration unsettled by record turnover.
Hicks will leave a West Wing that has been mired in near-constant chaos since Trump took office. As one of the president's closest confidants and most trusted aides, Hicks has no doubt been privy to some of the most sensitive moments in Trump's inner circle.
It is unclear what legal liabilities have yet to be ironed out before Hicks can speak openly about her time in the White House. She remains a subject of the Russia investigation, in which the special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into whether the Trump campaign cooperated with Russia to interfere in the 2016 US election. Hicks is also said to be racking up some hefty legal bills as a result.
It's also unclear whether any of her personal records related to her work in the White House will be subject to Mueller's investigation. Norm Eisen, the chair of the ethics watchdog group CREW, said if the Daily Mail report is true, such a diary would likely be subpoenaed and subject to preservation under the Presidential Records Act.
AN ACT CONCERNING THE PROPHYLACTIC TREATMENT OF MINORS FOR SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES.
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 11:55
AN ACT CONCERNING THE PROPHYLACTIC TREATMENT OF MINORS FOR SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES.
General Assembly
Raised Bill No. 216
February Session, 2018
LCO No. 1042
*01042_______PH_*
Referred to Committee on PUBLIC HEALTH
Introduced by:
(PH)
AN ACT CONCERNING THE PROPHYLACTIC TREATMENT OF MINORS FOR SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:
Section 1. Subsection (a) of section 19a-216 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2018):
(a) Any municipal health department, state institution or facility, licensed physician, or public or private hospital or clinic, may examine or provide treatment, including prophylactic treatment, for [venereal ]sexually transmitted disease for a minor, if the physician or facility is qualified to provide such examination or treatment. The consent of the parents or guardian of the minor shall not be a prerequisite to the examination or treatment. The physician in charge or other appropriate authority of the facility or the licensed physician concerned shall prescribe an appropriate course of treatment for the minor. The fact of consultation, examination or treatment of a minor under the provisions of this section shall be confidential and shall not be divulged by the facility or physician, including the sending of a bill for the services to any person other than the minor, except for purposes of reports under section 19a-215, and except that, if the minor is not more than twelve years of age, the facility or physician shall report the name, age and address of that minor to the Commissioner of Children and Families, or the commissioner's designee, who shall proceed thereon as in reports under section 17a-101g. As used in this subsection, "prophylactic" means a medicine or course of action used to prevent disease.
This act shall take effect as follows and shall amend the following sections:
Section 1
July 1, 2018
19a-216(a)
Statement of Purpose:
To permit prophylactic treatment of minors for sexually transmitted diseases without the consent of a parent or guardian.
[Proposed deletions are enclosed in brackets. Proposed additions are indicated by underline, except that when the entire text of a bill or resolution or a section of a bill or resolution is new, it is not underlined. ]
AN ACT CONCERNING THE PROPHYLACTIC TREATMENT OF MINORS FOR SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES.
General Assembly
Raised Bill No. 216
February Session, 2018
LCO No. 1042
*01042_______PH_*
Referred to Committee on PUBLIC HEALTH
Introduced by:
(PH)
AN ACT CONCERNING THE PROPHYLACTIC TREATMENT OF MINORS FOR SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:
Section 1. Subsection (a) of section 19a-216 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2018):
(a) Any municipal health department, state institution or facility, licensed physician, or public or private hospital or clinic, may examine or provide treatment, including prophylactic treatment, for [venereal ]sexually transmitted disease for a minor, if the physician or facility is qualified to provide such examination or treatment. The consent of the parents or guardian of the minor shall not be a prerequisite to the examination or treatment. The physician in charge or other appropriate authority of the facility or the licensed physician concerned shall prescribe an appropriate course of treatment for the minor. The fact of consultation, examination or treatment of a minor under the provisions of this section shall be confidential and shall not be divulged by the facility or physician, including the sending of a bill for the services to any person other than the minor, except for purposes of reports under section 19a-215, and except that, if the minor is not more than twelve years of age, the facility or physician shall report the name, age and address of that minor to the Commissioner of Children and Families, or the commissioner's designee, who shall proceed thereon as in reports under section 17a-101g. As used in this subsection, "prophylactic" means a medicine or course of action used to prevent disease.
This act shall take effect as follows and shall amend the following sections:
Section 1
July 1, 2018
19a-216(a)
Statement of Purpose:
To permit prophylactic treatment of minors for sexually transmitted diseases without the consent of a parent or guardian.
[Proposed deletions are enclosed in brackets. Proposed additions are indicated by underline, except that when the entire text of a bill or resolution or a section of a bill or resolution is new, it is not underlined. ]
CLOUD Act - Wikipedia
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 16:05
The CLOUD Act is a set of internet regulations proposed on February 6, 2018.[1][2] CLOUD is an acronym standing for "Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data".[3] Its passage is being considered by the 115th United States Congress.
See also [ edit] References [ edit] ^ Fischer, Camille (February 8, 2018). "The CLOUD Act: A Dangerous Expansion of Police Snooping on Cross-Border Data". eff.org. ^ Thompson, Iain (February 22, 2018). "US state legal supremos show lots of love for proposed CLOUD Act (a law to snoop on citizens' info stored abroad)". theregister.co.uk. ^ "U.S. Supreme Court wrestles with Microsoft data privacy fight". theglobeandmail.com. February 27, 2018. Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican who has led the efforts to rework the law, was in the courtroom to hear Tuesday's argument, and afterward noted that various justices had referred to the importance of Congress acting. "Our bill, the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act, would resolve the question currently before the Court in a way that balances consumer, law enforcement, and privacy interests. This commonsense legislation has the full-throated support of both law enforcement and the tech community and deserves swift enactment," Hatch said in a statement afterward.
Some NBA teams have played 'Negro National Anthem' at games - Story | WNYW
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 15:56
In this Feb. 2018, photo, Miami Heat players stand together during the singing of the national anthem before an NBA game. Several teams have played the so-called "negro national anthem'' at games during Black History Month. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
WASHINGTON (AP) - Several NBA teams have played what is known as the "negro national anthem" at games during Black History Month thanks in part to the urging of a retired Howard University professor.
Eugene Williams, a 76-year-old retiree in Clinton, Maryland, has made it his goal to get professional and collegiate teams to play "Lift Every Voice and Sing" during February. He has been calling and writing teams for the past six months.
The Washington Wizards became the fourth NBA team to play the song at a game, doing so during a timeout midway through the first quarter against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night. As the song played, a video was shown with on-court highlights and Wizards players engaging in community activities.
The Oklahoma City Thunder played it in January, Williams said. The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Warriors played "Lift Every Voice and Sing" in February.
Williams attended the Warriors-Wizards game on the last day of Black History Month to hear the song played.
"I had no idea it would amount to all of this," Williams said.
He plans to keep advocating for more NBA teams to play the song during Black History Month. He is also reaching out to universities to include the song during games, having already heard it at Georgetown University games.
"My mission will be completed if it's done in stadiums all over the United States of America," Williams said. "That is my hope. That is my prayer. It will make our players feel more positive about themselves and about the game ... it will uplift their spirits as it does mine."
James Weldon Johnson, an author, civil rights activist and educator, wrote the lyrics to "Lift Every Voice and Sing." His brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, an accomplished musician, wrote the music for the Stanton School celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birthday in 1900. A chorus of 500 black children sang the tune.
Within 20 years, it was known around the world. The song became an anthem for black Americans during the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
Williams said he grew up hearing that song, and he wants current athletes to get the same feeling.
"For me it was the fight song. When I was a kid we had to learn it, we had to sing it, we performed it at athletic events, at church events," said Williams, a Virginia native. "It has always stuck with me as something that gave me strength, gave me power, and I feel personally for those people who know it, that anthem does the same thing for them."
___
More AP NBA: apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
L.A. Times Disowns Reporter Outed as a CIA Collaborator | HuffPost
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 15:30
Recently released emails indicate that prominent national security reporter Ken Dilanian -- formerly with the Los Angeles Times, currently with the Associated Press (and from 1997-2007 the Philadelphia Inquirer) -- shared stories prior to publication with CIA press office seeking their approval, according to a story up on The Intercept. Now, it is not uncommon for national security reporters to vet facts with government functionaries, but the emails indicate Dilanian went much further than that, not only sharing stories prior to publication (a big no-no in almost every newsroom) but he also entered into discussions about how the CIA could bend public opinion of drone strikes their way.
On at least one occasion he re-wrote a lede as per their dictates. He also reported as fact, in the pages of the Los Angeles Times, a CIA claim that there was no collateral murder in a 2012 drone strike on Al Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi. An Amnesty International report disputes that sanitized version of events, citing eyewitnesses that claim upwards of 15 people, including Afghan tribesmen unaffiliated with Al Qaeda, were killed in the drone strike. Obviously, a drone strike that only kills the bad guys is much more palatable to the American people than a drone strike that kills 15. But that's not journalism, that's propaganda.
There's no telling how much of his national security reporting was compromised by the CIA press office, or for how long, because the emails only cover a few months in 2012. The emails were released by the CIA as per a FOIA request by The Intercept for Agency email exchanges with journalists. Dilanian acknowledges sending stories to the CIA prior to publication and now says it was wrong. It was also in violation of the L.A. Times' ethical guidelines. Perhaps that explains why the L.A. Times misleadingly refers to Dilanian as a "Tribune reporter" in its reporting on the scandal (SEE ABOVE). Tribune Publishing is the L.A. Times' parent company. However, Dilanian's Linkedin page clearly says he was a Los Angeles Times reporter (SEE BELOW). Shameful all around. This is not a good day for journalism.
Death of the Nile: Egypt fears Ethiopian dam will cut into its water supply
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 15:17
T he only reason Egypt has even existed from ancient times until today is because of the Nile River, which provides a thin, richly fertile stretch of green through the desert.
Now, for the first time, the country fears a potential threat to that lifeline, and it seems to have no idea what to do about it.
Ethiopia is finalizing construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, its first major dam on the Blue Nile, and then will eventually start filling the giant reservoir behind it to power the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa.
Egypt fears that will cut into its water supply, destroying parts of its precious farmland and squeezing its population of 93 million people, who already face water shortages.
Dam construction on international rivers often causes disputes over the downstream impact.
But the Nile is different: few nations rely so completely on a single river as much as Egypt does. The Nile provides over 90 per cent of Egypt's water supply.
Almost the entire population lives cramped in the sliver of the Nile Valley. Around 60 per cent of Egypt's Nile water originates in Ethiopia from the Blue Nile, one of two main tributaries.
E gypt hardly gets by with the water it does have. It has one of the lowest per capita shares of water in the world, some 660 cubic meters a person. The strain is worsened by inefficiency and waste. With the population expected to double in 50 years, shortages are predicted to become severe even sooner, by 2025.
Egypt already receives the lion's share of Nile waters: more than 55 billion of the around 88 billion cubic meters of water that flow down the river each year. It is promised that amount under agreements from 1929 and 1959 that other Nile nations say are unfair and ignore the needs of their own large populations.
Complicating the situation, no one has a clear idea what impact Ethiopia's dam will actually have. Addis Ababa insists it will not cause significant harm to Egypt or Sudan downstream.
M uch depends on the management of the flow and how fast Ethiopia fills its reservoir, which can hold 74 billion cubic meters of water. A faster fill means blocking more water, while doing it slowly would mean less reduction downstream.
Once the fill is completed, the flow would in theory return to normal. Egypt, where agriculture employs a quarter of the work force, is worried that the damage could be long-lasting.
One study by a Cairo University agriculture professor estimated Egypt would lose a staggering 51 percent of its farmland if the fill is done in three years. A slower, six-year fill would cost Egypt 17 percent of its cultivated land, the study claimed.
I nternal government studies estimate that for every reduction of 1 billion cubic meters of water, 200,000 acres of farmland would be lost and livelihoods of 1 million people affected, since an average of five people live off each acre, a senior Irrigation Ministry official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the figures.
Other experts say the impact will be far smaller, even minimal. They say Egypt could suffer no damage at all if it and Ethiopia work together and exchange information, adjusting the rate of filling the reservoir to ensure that Egypt's own massive reservoir on the Nile, Lake Nasser, stays full enough to meet its needs during the fill.
Unfortunately, that isn't happening so far.
"To my knowledge, this situation is unique, particularly at this scale," said Kevin Wheeler at the Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute. "I just can't think of another case that has two large reservoirs in series without a plan on how to operate them together."
Originating in Ethiopia, the Blue Nile flows into Sudan, where it joins with the White Nile, whose source is Lake Victoria in east Africa. From there it flows through Egypt to the Mediterranean.
For Ethiopia, the $5 billion dam is the realization of a long-delayed dream. Ethiopia's infrastructure is among the least developed in the world, leaving most of its 95 million people without access to electricity. The hydroelectric dam is to have a capacity to generate over 6,400 Megawatts, a massive boost to the current production of 4,000 Megawatts.
The dam, around 60 percent complete, is likely to be finished this year or early next. Ethiopia has given little information on when it will start the fill or at what rate.
"We have taken into account (the dam's) probable effects on countries like Egypt and Sudan," Ethiopia's water, irrigation and electricity minister, Sileshi Bekele, told journalists. He added that plans for the fills could be adjusted.
In a 2015 Declaration of Principles agreement, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan agreed to contract an independent study of the dam's impact and abide by it as they agree on a plan for filling the reservoir and operating the dam. But the deadline to complete the study has passed, and it has hardly begun, held up by differences over information sharing and transparency despite multiple rounds of negotiations among the three.
Frustration among Egyptian officials is starting to show.
In June, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri spoke of "difficult talks" and complained of delays in the impact study.
A high-ranking government official acknowledged there's little Egypt can do. "We can't stop it and in all cases, it will be harmful to Egypt," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.
Egyptian leaders in the past have rumbled about military action to stop any dam, but that option seems less likely after Egypt signed the Declaration of Principles.
Salman Salman, a Sudanese water expert, said Egypt has long had an attitude of "this is our river and no one can touch it."
Now, he said, "Egypt is no longer the dominant force along the Nile. Ethiopia is replacing it."
China's African Water Scramble | HuffPost
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 15:17
Co-authored by Jay Radzinski and Nimrod Asulin.
"He who rides the sea of the Nile must have sails woven of patience." So noted British novelist William Golding a century ago; and his saying has clearly taken root in Beijing today. Under the radar of the Western world, China has patiently established its influence among Africa's emerging powerhouses, setting its sights on the continent's most contested resource: The Nile River. Amidst the decline of Egypt and the rise of Ethiopia, China has managed to manipulate a long-brewing conflict between Africa's two major powers to its benefit, slowly replacing the West as the continent's new kingmaker.
In recent months, China has ruffled feathers from Lake Victoria to Alexandria with its aggressive funding and building of dams in Ethiopia, a likewise aggressive contender for regional hegemony. In August 2012, Kenyan environmental activists urged China to withdraw a 500 million USD investment on Ethiopia's Omo river dam, charging that energy delivered by the dam would come at the cost of draining Kenya's Lake Turkana. While it's no surprise that the activists' calls failed to ring alarm bells on the banks of the Potomac or Thames, China's dam building has undoubtedly caught the attention of of their allies along the Nile.
In September 2012, the whistleblower website Wikileaks exposed a 2010 message by Egypt's ambassador to Lebanon stating his country's intention to attack the Chinese-funded Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), on the Blue Nile River, the Nile River's primary artery. That same year, Ethiopia sparked an uproar amongst its Arab neighbors to the North by disregarding a 1929 agreement originally imposed by British colonial rulers that gave Egypt control of 90 percent of the Nile's water and veto power over any dam projects which could hamper water supplies.
While GERD is expected to revitalize the impoverished region with 6,000 GWh annually, political ideology is as much a foundation of the project as its cement girders. Under the rule of now deceased President Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia began to exploit its invaluable water sources, which provide 85 percent of the Nile's water, to climb Africa's political food chain.
In order to achieve its long term goal of regional energy supplier to countries like Djibouti, Kenya, Sudan, and Yemen, Ethiopia initiated its 25-year Master Plan, building hydroelectric dams along the nation's vast waterways in 12 river basins. Five of the six proposed dam projects are with Chinese firms, while the sixth is a lone Ethiopian government project. It is clear that China has recognized the imminent rise of Ethiopia and has set its sights on bolstering a country historically known for its resistance to Western colonization (Save for a brief six-year Italian occupation). As Ethiopia has no allegiance to colonial-era treaties, it will take no issue with disregarding previously forged pacts between Egypt or its former colonizer Britain, and allow for a patron in that of China to secure its future role as regional hegemon.
Controlling the Nile's resources is a zero-sum game, and this reality is startlingly clear to the Egyptians, who could be faced with a crippling water shortage just two years after Ethiopia's completion of the GERD project in 2015. Symbolically and practically, the Nile is Egypt's beating heart, giving meaning to Cairo's legacy as "Um al-Dunya" (Mother of the World), while providing the life source for the nearly 80-million people who live along its banks. But those Tom Clancy fans searching for an African water war shouldn't expect one between Egypt and Ethiopia any time soon, despite the war-mongering missives revealed by Wikileaks in 2012.
During the Mubarak era, Egypt was no doubt in a position to take bold actions like that of sabotaging Ethiopian dam construction, and likely with acquiescence of the West and neighboring Sudan. But in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, Egypt has found itself scrambling for some semblance of stability, with its economy in dire need of IMF life support and its security forces struggling to cope with a mounting Sinai Peninsula insurgency and an influx of smuggling from all directions. The rise of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood placed U.S. aid under increasing scrutiny, while recent anti-American riots have put relations between the two countries at their lowest point since the Camp David accords.
With the floodwaters of conflict over the GERD project poised to come to a head before 2015, China's stealthy ascendancy to the position of African kingmaker has already become strikingly clear. President Morsi made Beijing the destination of his first trip outside of the Middle East in August 2012, despite the dangerous implications of China's meddling in the Nile River Basin. As relations with the West recede along with Egypt's economic stability, Mr. Morsi has little choice but to engage China before a confrontation with an increasingly powerful and unrepentant Ethiopia becomes inevitable. As Anwar Sadat famously noted after signing a peace agreement with Israel in 1979: "The only matter that could take Egypt to war again is water."
With the clock ticking down to the GERD's completion, the West's once dominant role in Africa continues to give way to that of China. Recognizing the potential of the world's most truly valuable resource, China has assumed a dominant role in African affairs for years to come. As Bejing's new leadership has keenly understood, the ability to foment and mediate conflicts in Africa's vital Nile River Basin will put China on the fast-track to global leadership. With Egypt in decline and Ethiopia on the rise, the West's options for tipping the scales back in their favor are drying up.
Messrs. Radzinski, Nisman, and Asulin are senior analysts and intelligence managers at Max Security Solutions, a geopolitical risk consulting firm based in the Middle East. They specialize in North and East African Affairs, respectively.
Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project - Salini Impregilo
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 15:17
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Syrian Observatory: U.S.-led coalition strike kills 25
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 14:48
BEIRUT (Reuters) - An air strike by the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State has killed 25 people including children in the militant group's last enclave on the Euphrates in Syria, a war monitor said on Monday.
The air strike took place in the settlement of Dahra Alouni close to al-Shaafa region, and more than half of those killed were women and children, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Asked about the report, the coalition spokesman, Colonel Ryan Dillon said:''We take all allegations seriously and as we always do we will put it into our civilian casualty assessment and we will publish the results of those on a monthly basis.''
Islamic State has lost most of the territory it had captured in Syria in the face of military campaigns by both the U.S.-led coalition that supports an alliance of Syrian militias and by Syrian government forces, which are backed by Russia and Iran.
But the jihadist group still holds small pockets of land in eastern Syria on both sides of the Euphrates, and also in a southern suburb of Damascus and in the country's southwest.
War monitors say coalition air strikes during the campaigns against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq have killed large numbers of civilians. The coalition says it takes great care to avoid civilian casualties.
Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Gareth Jones
Skunk strength has doubled, studies suggest | UK news | The Guardian
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 13:59
· Claims that super-strength variety dominant rejected· Cannabis researchers analysed seized samples
The unpublished results of authoritative research into cannabis confirm the "skunk" now on sale in England is stronger than it was a decade ago, but demolish claims that a new "super-strength skunk" - which is 20 times more powerful - is dominating the market.Two studies due to be published later this year, which together analysed nearly 550 samples of skunk seized by the police, both conclude that the average content of the main psychoactive agent in skunk strains of cannabis, THC, has doubled from 7% in 1995 to 14% in 2005.
But the findings of the two studies to be reported in Druglink, the drugs charity magazine, contradict recent claims that most of the skunk on sale in Britain now routinely has a THC-content of more than 30%. One of the studies showed that only 4% of the skunk that had been seized by the police had a strength level higher than 20%.
The claims earlier this year that a new strain of "super-strength skunk" cannabis that was up to 20 times more potent was dominating the British drug market and triggering mental health fears led Gordon Brown to order a new review of the legal status of the drug in July.
The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, asked the government's advisory council on the misuse of drugs (ACMD) to look at the current evidence on the use of stronger forms of the drug in the light of concerns about the potential mental health effects.
The ACMD last looked at whether to regrade cannabis as a class B rather than a class C illegal drug 18 months ago. It concluded that the strength of cannabis resin and "traditional" imported herbal cannabis had remained unchanged over the past 10 years but that the average potency of skunk or sinsemilla seizures had increased more than twofold.
However, the ACMD chairman, Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, came down against tightening up the penalties for using cannabis, saying there was too little information about the pattern of use of different strength cannabis products by consumers to change the law.
Recent evidence has shown that although there has been an explosion in cannabis farms and "home-grown" plants in Britain, little of what is produced is "super-strength skunk".
The majority is less potent but has higher yielding varieties.
The ACMD is due to give its new verdict in April next year.
The first of the two unpublished studies which appear to confirm those findings was by Leslie King, the former head of the Forensic Science Service's drugs intelligence unit. He tested 299 samples collected by forensic scientists and his findings are to be published later this year by the EU's drug agency, the European Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
The parallel study by researchers at Kings College, London, analysed skunk samples seized by police in Derbyshire, Kent, London, Sussex and Merseyside. This study found that far from a new strain of 30% plus "superskunk" dominating the market only 4% of the cannabis seized had a higher potency level than 20%, with the strongest sample containing 24% THC.
The Kings College researchers found that the more traditional non-skunk strains of herbal cannabis on sale in England seized by the police contained only 3% to 4% THC - unchanged from a decade ago.
A move to have higher separate penalties for possession of the stronger "skunk" strains of cannabis was ruled out two years ago in the face of the problem posed for the police of identifying different types of cannabis during street searches.
In numbers
20 Claims that a new 'super' skunk is 20 times stronger are demolished
30% Most skunk on sale had been said to contain more than 30% THC
550 The number of seized samples of skunk analysed in the two studies
14% Average THC content in samples
4% Only 4% of skunk seized had THC of over 20%, one study showed
How hash and weed all but disappeared from Britain's streets, as high-strength 'skunk' took over | The Independent
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 13:59
A new report has found the UK cannabis market is dominated by high-potency ''skunk'' and weaker varieties of the drug have been pushed out.
The study, conducted by King's College London researchers, found high-potency varieties constituted 94 per cent of police seizures in 2016.
The piece of research is the first comprehensive, wide-ranging survey of cannabis strength published in Britain for almost 10 years.
Life as a teenage drug dealer in Britain
Researchers examined almost 1,000 police seizures of cannabis from London, Kent, Derbyshire, Merseyside and Sussex '' areas which were last investigated in 2005 and 2008.
In 2016, 94 per cent of police seizures were high-potency sinsemilla '' colloquially referred to as ''skunk'' '' compared to 85 per cent in 2008 and just 51 per cent in 2005.
The research focused on the potential risk posed to users' mental health in a market saturated by strong forms of cannabis.
Dr Marta Di Forti, MRC Clinician Scientist at King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, and senior author of the report, said: ''In previous research we have shown that regular users of high-potency cannabis carry the highest risk for psychotic disorders, compared to those who have never used cannabis.''
She added: ''The increase of high-potency cannabis on the streets poses a significant hazard to users' mental health, and reduces their ability to choose more benign types.''
Max Daly, a drug expert, said he was not remotely surprised the research found high-strength ''skunk'' dominates the UK market.
''Cannabis users, growers, dealers, drug workers, police I've talked to have been saying the market has been dominated by strong weed for the last decade. This is backed up by research, forensics, experts, academics'', Mr Daly told The Independent.
Mr Daly, who wrote Narcomania: How Britain got hooked on drugs with Steve Sampson, said there were a number of reasons less potent varieties of marijuana had dwindled and been superseded by skunk.
''It's a mixture of clampdown by Moroccan government on resin trade so the UK resin supply sharply reduced'', he said. ''Then into this gap in the market we have Vietnamese cannabis factory gangs coming to the UK, teaming up with UK domestic gangs, to grow and sell the skunk type weed.
''Also there has been a rise in online growing kits and advice. Now the Vietnamese have largely disappeared and cannabis farming is now big business for anyone from kids to organised crime groups. Also weed is still imported into this country mainly from Holland. There is now a lack of choice for consumers, and seems to be all about growing and smoking stronger weed, rather than the mellow hash of the 90s.''
Mr Daly, a journalist who specialises in the drug trade and writes a regular column for Vice UK, also drew attention to the fact growing cannabis in Britain is more cost-effective than importing hash from another country.
The study, published in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis on Monday, found the dominance of sinsemilla was chiefly related to a sharp reduction in the availability of weaker cannabis resin. This has gone from 43 per cent in 2005 and 14 per cent in 2008, to just six per cent in 2016, but as low as one per cent in the vicinity of London.
The average concentration of THC - the predominant psychoactive component of marijuana '' in resin also increased from 4 per cent to 6 per cent. The average concentration of THC in sinsemilla has remained at 14 per cent between 2005 and 2016.
Explaining the difference between CBD and THC in ''skunk'' to hash in layman's terms, Mr Daly said: ''High strength weed/skunk type cannabis has way more THC which gets you high and less CBD which counters THC than hash. So you get way more stoned.''
In other words, CBD's antipsychotic effects mean it might moderate and curb some of the effects of THC.
Alterations in the source of cannabis plants used for resin has led to a drop in CBD content. To put this into context, in 2005 and 2008, the ratio of THC to CBD was 1:1, whereas in 2016 the ratio was 3:1.
A recent King's College London study found the first evidence for a link between rises in cannabis potency and first-time admissions to drug treatment by looking at data from the Netherlands.
''More attention, effort and funding should be given to public education on the different types of street cannabis and their potential hazards. Public education is the most powerful tool to succeed in primary prevention, as the work done on tobacco use has proven'', Dr Di Forti said.
Mr Daly said he imagined there were some teenagers in the UK who would never have heard of hash and weed and have only been exposed to high-potency ''skunk''.
''Yes many teenagers have grown up on diet of very strong skunk type cannabis, and it's caused rising problems with mental health among young cannabis users in the UK'', he said.
''However I've heard that there is a return in some circles '' mainly buying over the web - of hash by adults and that this is filtering down to young people.''
He added: ''All the evidence I've seen is that very strong cannabis is, of course, impacting some young people more in terms of their mental health than less strong hash. But also there has been gradual fall in cannabis use in the UK '' some say this is due to lack of choice eg skunk or skunk so puts many off smoking it.''
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Contradictions In Seth Rich Murder Continue To Challenge Hacking Narrative | Zero Hedge
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 13:11
As rumors swirl that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is preparing a case against Russians who are alleged to have hacked Democrats during the 2016 election - a conclusion based solely on the analysis of cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike, a Friday op-ed in the Washington Times by retired U.S. Navy admiral James A. Lyons, Jr. asks a simple, yet monumentally significant question: Why haven't Congressional Investigators or Special Counsel Robert Mueller addressed the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich - who multiple people have claimed was Wikileaks' source of emails leaked during the 2016 U.S. presidential election?
Mueller has been incredibly thorough in his ongoing investigations - however he won't even respond to Kim Dotcom, the New Zealand entrepreneur who clearly knew about the hacked emails long before they were released, claims that Seth Rich obtained them with a memory stick, and has offered to provide proof to the Special Counsel investigation.
Let me assure you, the DNC hack wasn't even a hack. It was an insider with a memory stick. I know this because I know who did it and why. Special Counsel Mueller is not interested in my evidence. My lawyers wrote to him twice. He never replied. 360 pounds!https://t.co/AGRO0sFx7shttps://t.co/epXtv0t1uN
'-- Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) February 18, 2018#SethRichpic.twitter.com/JjAp0n56JO
'-- Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) March 2, 2018Reminder: Here's the first letter my lawyers wrote to Special Counsel Mueller regarding Seth Rich. We never received any reply. It's astonishing considering my first hand knowledge of the DNC leak. https://t.co/TvpVaLsmzW
'-- Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) March 2, 2018I knew Seth Rich. I know he was the @Wikileaks source. I was involved. https://t.co/MbGQteHhZM
'-- Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) May 20, 2017On May 18, 2017, Dotcom proposed that if Congress includes the Seth Rich investigation in their Russia probe, he would provide written testimony with evidence that Seth Rich was WikiLeaks' source.
In addition to several odd facts surrounding Rich's still unsolved murder - which officials have deemed a "botched robbery," forensic technical evidence has emerged which contradicts the Crowdstrike report. The Irvine, CA company partially funded by Google, was the only entity allowed to analyze the DNC servers in relation to claims of election hacking:
Is it true the DNC would not allow the FBI access to check server or other equipment after learning it was hacked? Can that be possible?
'-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 5, 2017Notably, Crowdstrike has been considered by many to be discredited over their revision and retraction of a report over Russian hacking of Ukrainian military equipment - a report which the government of Ukraine said was fake news.
In connection with the emergence in some media reports which stated that the alleged ''80% howitzer D-30 Armed Forces of Ukraine removed through scrapping Russian Ukrainian hackers software gunners,'' Land Forces Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine informs that the said information is incorrect.
Ministry of Defence of Ukraine asks journalists to publish only verified information received from the competent official sources. Spreading false information leads to increased social tension in society and undermines public confidence in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. ''mil.gov.ua (translated) (1.6.2017)
CrowdStrike has retracted statements it used to buttress claims of Russian hacking https://t.co/8AZOvoQl0K
'-- Michael Tracey (@mtracey) March 28, 2017In fact, several respected journalists have cast serious doubt on CrowdStrike's report on the DNC servers:
Pay attention, because Mueller is likely to use the Crowdstrike report to support the rumored upcoming charges against Russian hackers.
Also notable is that Crowdstrike founder and anti-Putin Russian expat Dimitri Alperovitch sits on the Atlantic Council - which is funded by the US State Department, NATO, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukranian Oligarch Victor Pinchuk. Who else is on the Atlantic Council? Evelyn Farkas - who slipped up during an MSNBC interview with Mika Brzezinski and disclosed that the Obama administration had been spying on the Trump campaign:
The Trump folks, if they found out how we knew what we knew about the Trump staff dealing with Russians, that they would try to compromise those sources and methods, meaning we would not longer have access to that intelligence. -Evelyn Farkas
Odd facts surrounding the murder of Seth Rich
"The facts that we know of in the murder of the DNC staffer, Seth Rich, was that he was gunned down blocks from his home on July 10, 2016. Washington Metro police detectives claim that Mr. Rich was a robbery victim, which is strange since after being shot twice in the back, he was still wearing a $2,000 gold necklace and watch. He still had his wallet, key and phone. Clearly, he was not a victim of robbery," writes Lyons.
Another unexplained fact muddying the Rich case is that of a stolen 40 caliber Glock 22 handguns stoken from an FBI agent's car the same day Rich was murdered. D.C. Metro police said that the theft occurred between 5 and 7 a.m., while the FBI said two weeks later that the theft had occurred between Midnight and 2 a.m. - fueling speculation that the FBI gun was used in Rich's murder.
Furthermore, two men working with the Rich family - private investigator and former D.C. Police detective Rod Wheeler and family acquaintance Ed Butowsky, have previously stated that Rich had contacts with WikiLeaks before his death.
"According to Ed Butowsky, an acquaintance of the family, in his discussions with Joel and Mary Rich, they confirmed that their son transmitted the DNC emails to Wikileaks," writes Lyons.
While Wheeler initially told TV station Fox5 that proof of Rich's contact with WikiLeaks lies on the murdered IT staffer's laptop, he later walked the claim back - though he maintained that there was "some communication between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks."
Rod Wheeler telling Fox5 his FBI sources linked Seth Rich to Wikileaks. "Absolutely, and that's confirmed" #RodWheeler#SethRichpic.twitter.com/IGWERgRBkE
'-- ZeroPointNow (@ZeroPointNow) August 2, 2017Wheeler also claimed in recently leaked audio that Seth Rich's brother, Aaron '' a Northrup Grumman employee, blocked him from looking at Seth's computer and stonewalled his investigation.
Wheeler said that brother Aaron Rich tried to block Wheeler from looking at Seth's computer, even though there could be evidence on it. ''He said no, he said I have his computer, meaning him,'' Wheeler said. ''I said, well can I look at it?'...He said, what are you looking for? I said anything that could indicate if Seth was having problems with someone. He said no, I already checked it. Don't worry about it.''
Aaron also blocked Wheeler from finding out about who was at a party Seth attended the night of the murder.
''All I want you to do is work on the botched robbery theory and that's it,'' Aaron told Wheeler -Big League Politics
Perhaps the most stunning audio evidence, however, comes from leaked audio of a recorded conversation between Ed Butowsky and Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who told him of a "purported FBI report establishing that Seth Rich sent emails to WikiLeaks.''
As transcribed and exclusively reported on by journalist Cassandra Fairbanks last year:
What the report says is that some time in late Spring'... he makes contact with WikiLeaks, that's in his computer,'' he says. ''Anyway, they found what he had done is that he had submitted a series of documents '-- of emails, of juicy emails, from the DNC.''
Hersh explains that it was unclear how the negotiations went, but that WikiLeaks did obtain access to a password protected DropBox where Rich had put the files.
''All I know is that he offered a sample, an extensive sample, I'm sure dozens of emails, and said 'I want money.' Later, WikiLeaks did get the password, he had a DropBox, a protected DropBox,'' he said. They got access to the DropBox.''
Hersh also states that Rich had concerns about something happening to him, and had
''The word was passed, according to the NSA report, he also shared this DropBox with a couple of friends, so that 'if anything happens to me it's not going to solve your problems,''' he added. ''WikiLeaks got access before he was killed.''
Brennan and Russian disinformation
Hersh also told Butowsky that the DNC made up the Russian hacking story as a disinformation campaign '' directly pointing a finger at former CIA director (and now MSNBC/NBC contributor) John Brennan as the architect.
I have a narrative of how that whole f*cking thing began. It's a Brennan operation, it was an American disinformation, and the fu*kin' President, at one point, they even started telling the press '' they were backfeeding the Press, the head of the NSA was going and telling the press, fu*king c*cksucker Rogers, was telling the press that we even know who in the Russian military intelligence service leaked it.
Listen to Seymour Hersh leaked audio:
(full transcription here and extended audio of the Hersh conversation here)
Hersh denied that he told Butowsky anything before the leaked audio emerged, telling NPR ''I hear gossip'... [Butowsky] took two and two and made 45 out of it.''
Techincal Evidence
As we mentioned last week, Dotcom's assertion is backed up by an analysis done last year by a researcher who goes by the name Forensicator, who determined that the DNC files were copied at 22.6 MB/s - a speed virtually impossible to achieve from halfway around the world, much less over a local network - yet a speed typical of file transfers to a memory stick.
The big hint
Last but not least, let's not forget that Julian Assange heavily implied Seth Rich was a source:
FLASHBACK:@Wikileaks' J Assange brought up#SethRich & said "no" whn asked if it was a robbery|Hey media'--TAKE A HINT. pic.twitter.com/sxzi8gB55g
'-- Kyle M Johnson (@McWhorterJ) May 21, 2017Given that a) the Russian hacking narrative hinges on Crowdstrikes's questionable reporting, and b) a mountain of evidence pointing to Seth Rich as the source of the leaked emails - it stands to reason that Congressional investigators and Special Counsel Robert Mueller should at minimum explore these leads.
As retired U.S. Navy admiral James A. Lyons, Jr. asks: why aren't they?
Did Fusion GPS's Researcher Avoid Surveillance With A Ham Radio?
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 13:42
In the late 1950s, when I was entering early adolescence, I became an amateur radio operator. It was like joining a very large audio-visual club whose geekiness was on steroids. Along with knowledge of electronics and Morse code, being a total techno-weirdo was an absolute pre-requisite.
The world back then seemed to be a much larger place, and communicating with foreign countries via the short-wave spectrum was a challenging and random proposition. So it was fun and exciting to communicate by code or voice with hams in remote parts of the planet. At least at first.
Unfortunately, the conversations were confined to exchanging names and locations, describing the strength and clarity of the other operator's signal, and discussing the type of equipment and antenna being used. This never varied.
For example, I once had a chance contact with a Christian missionary in the far-away Belgian Congo. At the time, the Belgians were relinquishing colonial control, Katanga Province had declared independence, and a bloody civil war had broken out. The missionary briefly mentioned in passing that the communist-backed Simba rebels were lurking about, but so far so good. With that small detail out of the way, he then quickly moved on to truly important matters such as the fact that he was using a homemade transmitter, a Hammarlund HQ-110 receiver, and a dipole antenna. And that was that.
It made no difference whether I was communicating with Great Britain, Alaska, Kwajalein, or across the street. The conversation was always the same, and it became mind-numbingly boring. After high school, I let my ham license lapse and had no further contact with amateur radio until a few years ago, when I met an active operator at a social event.
Upon learning that I had once been a ham, he urged me to return to the fold. I responded by holding up my cell phone and pointing out the obvious. With this little device, I could use voice, email, or text messages to easily and reliably contact anyone else similarly equipped anywhere on the face of the earth. Equally important, I could speak to people who might have something more to talk about than signal strength and equipment. So why in today's world would I or anyone else become a ham operator?
A Curious Question IndeedThat brings us to Nellie Ohr, holder of amateur radio call sign KM4UDZ. Ohr graduated from Harvard University in 1983 with a degree in history and Russian literature. She studied in the Soviet Union in 1989 and obtained a PhD in Russian history in 1990.
For those of you who may be tempted to read her 400-plus page PhD thesis, here's a spoiler alert: in murdering untold millions, Joseph Stalin may have engaged in some ''excesses'' which, in her words, ''sometimes represented desperate measures taken by a government that had little real control over the country.'' Translated into simple English, she meant, ''Hey, cut the guy some slack. Creating a proletarian paradise can be tough and anybody can get carried away.''
She is said to be fluent in the Russian language and an expert on cybersecurity. Her husband is Bruce Ohr, the former number four official in President Obama's Justice Department.
According to a sworn court filing by Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, she was hired by that firm to conduct opposition research on behalf of the Clinton campaign against candidate Donald Trump. In his statement, Simpson acknowledged bank records reflect that Fusion GPS contracted with her ''to help our company with its research and analysis of Mr. Trump.''
At the same time, Fusion GPS retained the services of former British spy and FBI informant Christopher Steele to obtain derogatory information from his Russian sources about Trump. The final Fusion GPS product became the now-discredited eponymous Steele dossier, which James Comey's FBI and Obama's DOJ used to obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants to spy on a Trump campaign member.
Who Are Nellie and Bruce Ohr?The so-called Nunes memorandum by the Republican majority on the House Intelligence Committee states Nellie Ohr was ''employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump'' and added that her husband ''later provided the FBI with all of his wife's opposition research.'' Sen. Lindsey Graham has stated publicly that she ''did the research for Mr. Steele.''
We now know that, before the House Intelligence Committee, Simpson disclosed that he met personally with Bruce Ohr ''at his request, after the November 2016 election to discuss our findings regarding Russia and the election.'' That committee also learned that during the election campaign, Bruce Ohr met with Steele, the dossier's author.
It has also come out that Bruce Ohr failed to report the source of his wife's income from Fusion GPS on his DOJ ethics disclosure forms. Such disclosure is mandatory, and Ohr's omission raises many questions.
For example, under the law, such an omission could be considered evidence tending to prove his consciousness of guilt. Why would he, in effect, conceal by omission his wife's employment by the firm that produced the meretricious Steele dossier that his own employer, the Obama DOJ, submitted under oath to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) for authorization to spy on the Trump campaign and presidency? Was he trying to hide his connections with Fusion GPS? If so, why? And what inference should a jury draw from such concealment?
He is not alone in this regard. What about Nellie Ohr's ham radio license?
Why Did Nellie Ohr Suddenly Become a Ham in 2016?Ohr is a member of Women in International Security, which describes itself as supporting ''research projects and policy engagement initiatives on critical international security issues, including the nexus between gender and security.'' She has done cybersecurity consulting for Accenture, a politically connected firm, for which she gave a presentation on ''Ties Between Government Intelligence Services and Cyber Criminals '' Closer Than You Think?''
Did she develop an overwhelming middle-aged desire to talk to geeks over the radio?
It is apparent that, between her own professional experience and her marriage to a top DOJ official, she was well aware of the ability of the National Security Agency to intercept and store every communication on the Internet. Did this knowledge have anything to do with her mid-life decision to become a ham radio operator and communicate outside cyberspace?
I got into amateur radio because I was a horny, zit-infested teenager with no hope of ever successfully interacting with members of the opposite sex. Faced with that reality, I sublimated my priapic energies into learning electronics and building radios. My sublimated adolescent urges were so strong that, on several occasions, I almost invented the Internet 20 years before the Pentagon and Al Gore got around to it.
That's why I became a ham. So what's Nellie's excuse? Did she develop an overwhelming middle-aged desire to talk to geeks over the radio? Was this a case of Sudden Onset Geek Syndrome? Or is there some other less benign explanation?
What Was Happening When Nellie Ohr Got Her LicenseOn May 23, 2016, she received a technician-level amateur radio license. The timing is significant. The presidential campaign was underway and she and her employer, Fusion GPS, were digging for dirt in Russia to use against Trump. Given her cybersecurity knowledge, was Nellie Ohr hoping to use non-cyber short wave communications to hide her participation in that nefarious effort from the NSA?
Recall that, in early 2016, NSA head Admiral Mike Rogers became aware of ''ongoing'' and ''intentional'' violations and abuse of FISA surveillance, which he subsequently exposed in testimony before Congress. Thereafter, pressure mounted within the Obama administration to fire him.
Rogers and his NSA posed a potential threat to Fusion GPS's operation as well as the anti-Trump elements at the FBI and DOJ.
The week after the presidential election, when he was facing removal from his post, Rogers visited the president-elect at Trump Tower. On November 19, 2016, Reuters reported that Rogers' decision ''to travel to New York to meet with Trump on Thursday without notifying superiors caused consternation at senior levels of the [Obama] administration.''
The day following Rogers' visit, the president-elect's transition team vacated Trump Tower and moved its operations to New Jersey. Was this because Rogers had warned Trump that he and his transition team were being subjected to illegal government surveillance? While that is unknown, it is clear that Rogers was not and had never been an Obama team player, such that he and his agency posed a potential threat to Fusion GPS's operation as well as the anti-Trump elements at the FBI and DOJ.
So, was Nellie Ohr's late-in-life foray into ham radio an effort to evade the Rogers-led NSA detecting her participation in compiling the Russian-sourced Steele dossier? Just as her husband's omissions on his DOJ ethics forms raise an inference of improper motive, any competent prosecutor could use the circumstantial evidence of her taking up ham radio while digging for dirt on Trump to prove her consciousness of guilt and intention to conceal illegal activities.
This type of circumstantial evidence can be quite powerful. For example, a video of a nun buying a bustier at Victoria's Secret would not be direct evidence that she was having an affair. But it most assuredly would prompt a jury to seriously wonder about her motives and commitment to celibacy. The same can be said for Nelly's ham license. Just what was she up to?
Undoubtedly further information on this topic will be forthcoming. But, in the meantime, it is fair to ask in the ham vernacular of yesteryear, ''Dit-dah-dah; dah; dit-dit-dah-dit?'' That's Morse code for ''WTF?''
You don't hate snow, you hate capitalism - Counterfire
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 12:50
And now, the weather:
The reason it is so cold in the UK right now is because temperatures in the arctic are completely off the chart hot, and that is drawing in cold air from Siberia.
The chart below shows just how anomalous this weather event is. Thick white line is 50 years average temperatures. Thin white lines are all observed measurements in that period. Red line is temperature readings from this year.
To be ultra clear, it is currently 20 degrees hotter in the arctic than you'd expect in February, and about 10 degrees hotter than any other February observation in the last 50 years.
It is unbelievably urgent that we turn our economies around to make huge reductions in our carbon emissions, right now. That imperative needs to be at the forefront of every single political platform with specific actions at an appropriate scale. Think of the transformation of the British economy to war footing in 1939. If that doesn't happen then the planet's ability to support human civilisation is going to degrade catastrophically over the lifetimes of people who are alive now.
Capitalism has been very effective in expanding amount of gross product, to an estimated $100tn worldwide. To some extent this has delivered material improvements to many peoples lives. But as we bump up against global ecological limits, we can see clearly that this growth never just came from doing more with what we've got. To keep growing capitalism constantly has to expand into new markets, and bring more resources under its logic. It was never just more efficient firms and higher technology, the story of growth also always needed more land, more coal, more time, new people, and ever more waste thrown into the air or the oceans.
In this moment the fight against climate breakdown demands the same tactics as the struggles for housing, schools, the NHS and our buses and trains. It means going up against vested interests, mobilising democratic power to redistribute scarce resources and most of all recognising that from the love powered work of the family, to the creation of the most efficient and comprehensive healthcare system in the world, non capitalist production is crucial to human flourishing and it needs to be nurtured.
Now back to Jim with the sport.
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Trump directs EPA to begin dismantling clean water rule
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 12:19
President Trump stepped up his attack on federal environmental protections Tuesday, issuing an order directing his administration to begin the long process of rolling back sweeping clean water rules that were enacted by his predecessor.
The order directing the Environmental Protection Agency to set about dismantling the Waters of the United States rule takes aim at one of President Obama's signature environmental legacies, a far-reaching anti-pollution effort that expanded the authority of regulators over the nation's waterways and wetlands.
The contentious rule had been fought for years by farmers, ranchers, real estate developers and others, who complained it invited heavy-handed bureaucrats to burden their businesses with onerous restrictions and fines for minor violations.
Obama's EPA argued that such claims were exaggerated and misrepresented the realities of the enforcement process of a rule that promised to create substantially cleaner waterways, and with them healthier habitats for threatened species of wildlife.
The directive to undo the clean water initiative is expected to be closely followed by another aimed at unraveling the Obama administration's ambitious plan to fight climate change by curbing power plant emissions.
"It is such a horrible, horrible rule," Trump said as he signed the directive Tuesday aimed at the water rules. "It has such a nice name, but everything about it is bad." He declared the rule, championed by environmental groups to give the EPA broad authority over nearly two-thirds of the waterways in the nation, "one of the worst examples of federal regulation" and "a massive power grab."
While the executive orders are a clear sign of the new administration's distaste for some of the highest profile federal environmental rules, they also reflect the challenge it faces in erasing them. Both the climate and the clean water rules were enacted only after a long and tedious process of public hearings, scientific analysis and bureaucratic review. That entire process must be revisited before they can be weakened. It could take years.
And environmental groups will be mobilized to fight every step of the way. "These wetland protections help ensure that over 100 million Americans have access to clean and safe drinking water," California billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer said in a statement. "Access to safe drinking water is a human right, and Trump's order is a direct violation of this right."
The executive orders are compounded by the administration's release of a budget blueprint that includes deep cuts at the EPA. Even if the process of changing the environmental rules is slow, the Trump administration will aim to hasten their demise by hollowing out the agencies charged with enforcing them.
At the same time, it is working with Congress to immediately kill some environmental protections under an obscure authority that applies to regulations enacted within the final months of the previous administration. A rule intended to limit water pollution from coal mining has already been killed by Congress, which is now weighing whether to jettison rules that force gas drilling operations on federal land to capture more of the toxic methane they emit.
Trump vowed Tuesday that he would continue to undermine the Obama-era environmental protections wherever he sees the opportunity, arguing they have cost jobs. "So many jobs we have delayed for so many years," Trump said. "It is unfair to everybody."
Many industries take issue with that interpretation. Tuesday's order, for example, was met with a swift rebuke from sport fishing and hunting groups. They said the clean water rule has been a boon to the economy, sustaining hundreds of thousands of jobs in their industry.
"Sports men and women will do everything within their power to compel the administration to change course and to use the Clean Water Act to improve, not worsen, the nation's waterways," a statement from a half-dozen of the organizations said.
Segregation at Comic Con: No Straight, White Males Allowed at Parties | Trending
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 12:14
The comics industry seems to be doubling down on their policy of completely excluding anyone who is straight, white, male, or conservative. This year's Emerald City Comic Con released its schedule of events on its app recently. Anyone who is male, white and identifies as heterosexual found himself excluded from industry mixers and professional mixers.
A source attending the event who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons spoke to PJM about the blatant discrimination.
"I'm disappointed that they choose to be divisive in an industry that has seen enough divisiveness as it is," the source said. "We are not our race or gender or sexuality. Aren't we a sum of our parts, or as MLK noted so famously, isn't it the content of our character that should be what counts?''
But this is not the philosophy that drives the race- and sexuality-obsessed left. If you had the misfortune to watch the Olympics this year, you'd know that the most important people in the games were two guys who like having sex with other guys. The fact that they didn't medal in their individual sports because of their subpar performances had no bearing on the media's desire to elevate them to god-like status for everyone to adore and beatify. They're queer, so they win!
The source contacted Emerald City Comic Con on Facebook to inquire about the lack of diversity in the mixers.
The response is laughable.
It seems the left is determined to create an alternate universe where discrimination still exists but is only directed at white people. This runs contrary to all the great civil rights leaders who fought for equality. Martin Luther King Jr. didn't march in order to refuse service to white people and yet that's where we are in 2018. And they don't even see how wrong it is! Look at how comfortable Comic Con is admitting they did this!
PJM reached out to Emerald City Comic Con for comment and received no answer.
Lately, there have been way too many of these stories surfacing. Pamela Geller's children are being run out of their jobs because of views their mother holds that the left finds unacceptable. Simply being linked by DNA makes her daughters culpable in the left's eyes and so they must be destroyed and put out of work, unable to support themselves or make a life for themselves because they are assumed to hold doubleplusungood views. Their current apology tour will not save them. They are untouchables because their mother refuses to bow to the politically correct dogma that insists Islam means us no harm (even though its ideological adherents refuse to stop blowing people up or running them over with trucks while screeching "Allahu Akbar!").
Di Razzies: Emoji Movie don chop worst film of 2017 - BBC News Pidgin
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 12:11
Image copyright Sony Di Emoji Movie, di cartoon film wey comedian James Corden and Patrick Stewart put dia voice, don win plenty award for Hollywood's Razzie awards.
Di Golden Raspberry, a.ka. Razzies award na for films and actors wey worse pass.
Di Emoji Movie chop four awards and worst picture, director and screenplay join.
Di organizers write statement say di film be like poo-poo wey dey talk.
Image copyright Getty Images Image example Dem yab Tom Cruise well-well on top di way im act for di film Di Mummy Hollywood star, Tom Cruise, collect award as worst actor for inside di film 'Di Mummy.'
Film critics bin yab di film say e no make sense and e follow one way.
Peter Travers bin write for Rolling Stone say "Cruise suppose act as di Mummy - dat way dem go cover im face with bandage so im fans no go see as e dey sweat anyhow."
Dem give Mel Gibson di worst supporting actor for di comedy Daddy's Home 2. US President Donald Trump bin collect di same award in 1990 when im show for Ghosts Can't Do It.
Tyler Perry win di worst actress award, wey im dress like woman for di film Boo 2: A Medea Halloween.
Canada lent a family $41 million to buy a luxury jet. Now the jet is missing. - The Washington Post
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 12:03
By Alan Freeman By Alan Freeman March 2 at 1:49 PM
A photo of a Bombardier Canadian Global Express corporate jet. (MyLoupe/UIG/Getty Images)
OTTAWA '-- If you spot a sleek Bombardier Global 6000 business jet sporting tail number ZS-OAK, Canada would love to hear from you.
The jet belonged to South Africa's notorious Gupta family, whose alleged corruption helped trigger the scandals that recently forced President Jacob Zuma out of office. But the Guptas bought the plane with help from a $41 million loan from Export Development Canada, or EDC, Canada's state-owned export-import bank.
EDC was helping Bombardier Inc., the Canadian aerospace firm, land the jet sale. But that turns out to have been a poor bet: EDC now says the family defaulted on the loan in October and still owes the bank $27 million.
And with an arrest warrant outstanding for Ajay Gupta, one of three brothers in the family, there are other worries, too. ''There is a very real concern that the aircraft may be used to escape justice or for some unlawful means,'' wrote EDC in a recent application to a South African court seeking permission to ground the jet.
But EDC first has to find the plane; the Guptas made the plane's location data private after EDC sought the jet's exact whereabouts in a court filing. The disappearance of the plane is noted on FlightAware, a website that allows the public to track the location of planes around the world. ''This aircraft (ZS-OAK) is not available for public tracking per request from the owner/operator,'' the site says. The plane has been spotted in recent weeks at airports in India, Russia and Dubai.
Ehsan Monfared, a Toronto aviation lawyer, says that the case is unusual. Most people or entities who buy business jets of that size and value don't have credit issues, and banks like EDC make sure they're well protected. EDC, for its part, insists it performed due diligence on the Guptas.
Phil Taylor, a spokesman for EDC, said that the bank's motion seeking to ground the aircraft is due to be heard in Johannesburg on March 6, but he declined to comment further. A separate court case is also underway in Britain. An effort to contact the Guptas through their London law firm was not successful.
It's certainly an embarrassing incident for the bank. But Karyn Keenan, the director of Above Ground, a Canadian human-rights and development nonprofit, finds it ironic that EDC is now worried about risking its reputation when it should have known of the corruption allegations against the Guptas that were circulating in South Africa at the time of the loan deal.
''This loan should never have been made,'' she told The Washington Post. ''Everybody in South Africa knew who the Guptas were. They had been investigated by South African authorities.''
The good news for EDC is that it's likely to get the plane back eventually. Under an international agreement called the Cape Town Treaty, Monfared said, lenders have the right to seize a plane in any country that's part of the pact. ''I don't think the Canadian taxpayer is going to get bilked, unless the aircraft has been otherwise disposed of,'' he said.
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Chilling: Play titled 'Kill Climate Deniers' launches theatrical run - Washington Times
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 12:00
Global warming skeptics, beware: A play with the alarming title ''Kill Climate Deniers'' may be coming to a theater near you.
Written by Australian playwright David Finnigan, ''Kill Climate Deniers'' kicked off Thursday the 2018 season of the Griffin Theatre in Sydney after a week of previews, with the final show scheduled for April 7.
The plot? ''As a classic rock band take the stage in Parliament House's main hall, 96 armed eco-terrorists storm the building and take the entire government hostage, threatening to execute everyone unless Australia ends global warming. Tonight,'' said the play's website.
The play was commissioned in 2014 with a $19,000 grant from the Australian government, but its first staging was shut down following a backlash led by conservative Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt.
''How does the ACT Government justify spending taxpayers' money on a theatre work entitled 'Kill Climate Deniers'?'' asked Mr. Bolt in a column dated Sept. 30, 2014. ''What sane Government donates to a project urging others to kill fellow citizens, even as a 'joke'? Are these people mad?''
Mr. Finnigan, who described the play as a ''pretty joyful comedy,'' said he consulted with scientists while writing the play, and later with ''climate deniers'' after the brouhaha over the title.
''I genuinely think they understand perhaps better than myself and a lot of left-leaning liberals the consequences of climate science,'' he told the Australian Broadcasting Company. ''And because they understand the consequences, they can't accept the science.''
Griffin Theatre artistic director Lee Lewis called it ''an action film wrapped in a dance party wrapped in a documentary feature.''
The play had a brief run last fall at the Garage Theater in Long Beach, California, but the latest staging represents the show's first full-scale production.
Copyright (C) 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.
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Scientists have documented a "secret" supercolony of 1.5 million penguins with the help of NASA images, drones and artificial intelligence '-- Quartz
Sat, 03 Mar 2018 19:34
The story of how scientists discovered a massive ''supercolony'' of Ad(C)lie penguins in Antarctica'--which they detailed in a study published Friday (March 2)'--begins in 2014, with NASA satellite imagery.
Heather Lynch, a professor of ecology and evolution at Stony Brook University, in New York, and Mathew Schwaller from NASA, spotted guano stains in images of the Danger Islands, off the northern tip of the continent. Where there are penguin droppings, there are most certainly penguins, and the stains, visible from space, suggested there were a large number of them. But only a trip to the rocky, remote chain of islands could confirm the suspicion.
The duo teamed with ecologists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and other universities in the US and UK for an expedition in 2015. They found penguins nesting at the landing site, and beyond that a colony of an estimated 1.5 million Ad(C)lie penguins, a ''hidden metropolis,'' writes Science Alert. This meant there were more Ad(C)lie penguins in the Danger Islands than in the rest of the Antartica Peninsula combined, as the researchers report in the study, which was published in Scientific Reports. They called the area ''a major hotspot of Ad(C)lie penguin abundance.''
''When we first got these pixels of guano, I thought it might be a false alarm,'' Lynch told The Wall Street Journal (paywall), adding, ''It wasn't. We had massive penguin colonies that had not been known to exist.''
Civilized (Rachael Herman, Louisiana State University, (C) Stony Brook University) In fact, scientists had believed the penguin population on the continent was in severe decline, thanks to changing weather and sea ice patterns, which had led to the loss of at least eight Ad(C)lie penguin colonies.
The geography of the islands explains how these penguins, whose distinguishing features are the white rims around their eyes, have survived without detection: even in summer, the area is so ''socked in with sea ice that it is very difficult to get a ship through,'' Lynch also told the WSJ. Fishing boats have not endangered the penguins' access to the krill they feed on.
Alien landing. (Rachael Herman, Louisiana State University, (C) Stony Brook University) To count the newly discovered penguins, the scientists used human and artificial intelligence. They reconfigured a commercial quadcopter drone to fly over the islands taking one photo per second, and those images were were analyzed by neural network software.
Judging from evidence in photographs from the 1950s, the scientists now believe the colony has existed since that era. And now that the colony's secret is out (admittedly a human-centric point of view), the scientists would like to see the mega-colony's habitat designated as a protected marine area.
A breakthrough discovery of this scale offers ecologists hope: Even in the age of Google Earth, maybe we don't know our planet as well as we think we do.
LGBT Activists: It's Time to Turn In Your Victim Card
Sat, 03 Mar 2018 18:34
The LGBT lobby have successfully worked to ensure that the public perceives them as a marginalized group, perpetually on the verge of having basic civil rights withheld from them by bigoted oppressors. And while it may be true that some individuals who identify as LGBT have experienced unfair or violent treatment from others, the LGBT movement as a whole enjoys status and power unparalleled by any other group.
As I've written in the past, LGBT groups receive gobs of money and support from powerful people in the media, Hollywood, academia, and even the Church. They have many friends in high places, and yet they continue to play the victim card whenever it suits them.
Take for example a recent case in Mississippi, where an LGBT group's request to hold a ''pride'' parade in the main streets of Starkville was voted down by city council members.
LifeSite News reported that Starkville Pride organizer Bailey McDaniel ''burst into tears'' when the 4-3 vote was announced. Later, a photo of a teary McDaniel standing beside her lesbian partner was ''sympathetically published far and wide along with the story of the town denying the homosexual parade.''
Following the decision, Starkville Pride promptly contacted the Human Rights Campaign, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the American Civil Liberties Union, who threatened legal action if the decision is not reversed.
The last time I checked, there aren't any comparably responsive multi-million dollar lobbies devoted to celibate nuns, Christian business owners, small town city council members, or stay-at-home moms'--all of whom are exponentially more marginalized than the LGBT camp.
These groups don't have easy access to pricey law firms. They're not popularly depicted in movies or on TV. They don't have their own universally recognized flag. And yet their rights are increasingly jeopardized by the growing number of bogus cases of anti-LGBT discrimination.
Writing for LifeSite, Fr. Mark Hodges notes that ''Gay Pride'' events ''have a history of being obscene and offensive,'' often including ''hypersexual dancing, people who engage in mock-sex acts, as well as naked and partially naked men and women.''
The people of Starkville aren't trying to deprive Bailey McDaniel and her fellow activists of any basic rights. They're not trying to prevent gays and lesbians from shopping at their stores, eating at their restaurants, or participating in other community events. They simply don't want to be forced to affirm or be subject to behavior that they find immoral or profane.
''This is something that will bind this community together,'' Starkville Pride organizer Alexandra Hendon said of the parade.
''We want you to join us,'' McDaniel assured Starkville residents prior to the vote.
That would be a nice sentiment, if the implicit message weren't, ''And if you don't join us we'll sue you and shove our agenda in your face so aggressively you won't be able to ignore it.''
The LGBT movement is not about defending civil rights. It's more like that imperious mom who curses out the school principal after her child receives a bad report card, or the hot-head dad who warns the football coach that his son had better start in Friday's game, or else, even though the kid is lazy and has a bad attitude.
In other words, the LGBT camp operates on a false sense of (in)justice, using damning language, media-driven shaming, and legal strong-arming to browbeat their opponents into submission.
They're not victims, they're bullies, and it's time we identify them as such.
The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org
REI drops Camelbak, Giro, Bell, Camp Chef and other Vista brands (at least temporarily) - SNEWS We know outdoors
Sat, 03 Mar 2018 18:23
Gun control debate prompts REI to hold orders, MEC to sever ties with Vista Outdoor.
REI has placed a hold on future orders with Vista Outdoor brands, such as CamelBak and Giro, as a global gun control debate mounts.
The U.S. cooperative's decision comes the same day as its counterpart in Canada, Mountain Equipment Co-op, severed ties with several outdoor brands owned by the parent company of a semi-automatic gun and ammunition manufacturer.
Thousands of members have been pressuring both major outdoor retailers to do so in the wake of a Parkland, Florida, school shooting last month, in which the shooter used an AR-15 to kill 17 people.
Vista Outdoor, a company with many gun and ammo brands in its portfolio, also owns outdoor brands CamelBak, Bell, Boll(C), Camp Chef, Jimmy Styks SUPs and Blackburn.
Vista, based in Utah, has not responded to our request for comment.
REI in a statement on the company's website Thursday evening said it has been in active discussions with Vista. The statement, in part, reads:
"REI does not sell guns. We believe that it is the job of companies that manufacture and sell guns and ammunition to work towards common sense solutions that prevent the type of violence that happened in Florida last month. In the last few days, we've seen such action from companies like Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart and we applaud their leadership...This morning we learned that Vista does not plan to make a public statement that outlines a clear plan of action. As a result, we have decided to place a hold on future orders of products that Vista sells through REI while we assess how Vista proceeds.Companies are showing they can contribute if they are willing to lead. We encourage Vista to do just that."
David Labistour, MEC's CEO, in a statement on the company's website said that demonstrating leadership and leveraging the power of community are core values of the outdoor retail giant.
''With this in mind, we have taken time to listen to our members' views, consult internally and reach out to others in our industry,'' Labistour said. ''From what we've heard, we know that no decision we make will satisfy everyone. We are in the midst of a complex and highly charged debate with as many opinions as there are people expressing them.''
Effective immediately, MEC is suspending further orders with Boll(C), Bushnell, CamelBak, Camp Chef and Jimmy Styks. Existing inventory will be sold.
Members have reached out on all sides of the gun control debate, and Labistour in his statement mentioned the outdoor industry's and his own ties with guns.
''I have proudly served in the military and grew up in a rural area where hunting was commonplace,'' he said. ''I can readily identify with our members who are on all sides of this debate. At the same time, my personal experience has taught me about the power of engagement. I believe that engagement is the path to change, as tough as it might be.''
CamelBak on Thursday finally addressed the debate in its own statement. The company, bought by Vista for $412.5 million in July 2015, said the boycott centers on an incorrect assumption that the purchase of products supports the shooting sports.
''That is not the case,'' the company wrote. ''Our brand falls within the Outdoor Products segment of our company, which operates separately from Vista Outdoor's Shooting Sports segment. Since 1989, CamelBak has been committed to forever changing the way people hydrate and perform. Our passion and love for the outdoors is unchanged. We are deeply committed to the individuals and communities we serve and we proudly partner with organizations to promote the enjoyment of the outdoors.''
The company asked that consumers stand by its 30-year reputation.
This is a developing story.
Food Stall Serves Up A Social Experiment: Charge White Customers More Than Minorities : The Salt : NPR
Sat, 03 Mar 2018 17:59
A customer approaches the window at Saartj, a pop-up food stall in New Orleans running a social experiment. Customers of color are charged the listed $12 price for a meal. White customers are told about the income gap in New Orleans between whites and African-Americans and asked if they want to pay $30 instead, a price that reflects the gap. Deji Osinuluhide caption
toggle captionDeji Osinulu A customer approaches the window at Saartj, a pop-up food stall in New Orleans running a social experiment. Customers of color are charged the listed $12 price for a meal. White customers are told about the income gap in New Orleans between whites and African-Americans and asked if they want to pay $30 instead, a price that reflects the gap.
Deji Osinulu Can a $12 lunch change the way people think about racial wealth disparity in America? How about a $30 lunch? That's the premise behind a social experiment playing out in a New Orleans food stall.
Chef Tunde Way opened his pop-up stall in the city's Roux Carre venue in early February. The listed price for the Nigerian food is $12. But when white people walk up to order, they are asked if they want to pay $30. Why? "It's two-and-a half times more than the $12 meal, which reflects the income disparity" between whites and African-Americans in New Orleans, says Wey.
The median income for African-American households in New Orleans fell from $32,332 in 2000 to $27,812 in 2013 in inflation-adjusted dollars, according to The Data Center's New Orleans Index at Ten. Over the same time, median income for white households in the city remained roughly the same, $61,117 to $60,070. In 2013, the median household income for African-Americans in metro New Orleans was 54 percent lower than for whites.
The menu outside of Saartj. Deji Osinuluhide caption
toggle captionDeji Osinulu The menu outside of Saartj.
Deji Osinulu Wey says when customers come up to his window to place an order, he tells them that his food stall aims to engage people on the topic of racial income and wealth disparities and shares statistics on these disparities. He then informs them that customers who identify as white are being asked to pay the higher $30 price to reflect these disparities. These customers also have the option to pay the listed $12 price. The difference between the $12 and $30 meals, customers are informed, will be redistributed to minorities who buy food at the stall. How do white customers react to the proposition?
"Some of them are enthusiastic, some of them are bamboozled a bit by it," Wey says. "But the majority of white folks, nearly 80 percent, decided to pay."
"That was definitely higher than we expected," says Anjali Prasertong, a graduate student in public health at Tulane University who helped Wey design the experiment and collect data.
Customers who agree to buy lunch were asked to fill out a brief survey online. A subset of these diners were also pulled aside and interviewed about how income and wealth disparities have played out in their own lives.
Prasertong points to one anecdote from an African-American customer whom she interviewed. "I asked her, 'If you had been given access to more resources while you were growing up, would that have changed your life in any way?'" Prasertong recalls. "She immediately had an example."
The woman told Prasertong that when she was a college student, she was offered an unpaid summer White House internship in Washington, D.C. But that meant she would have had to find a way to support herself in another city instead of spending the summer earning money that she could use to help pay for school in the fall. The woman passed on the internship, Prasertong says, because "she realized, 'Oh, it's just for rich people'" '' meaning students whose parents could afford to subsidize them while they worked for free. "She still went on to be successful but if she'd done that internship, who knows what she'd be doing?"
Nigerian chef and writer Tunde Wey conceived his food stall experiment as a way to get people thinking about the racial income and wealth gaps in America and how it affects their own lives. Deji Osinuluhide caption
toggle captionDeji Osinulu Nigerian chef and writer Tunde Wey conceived his food stall experiment as a way to get people thinking about the racial income and wealth gaps in America and how it affects their own lives.
Deji Osinulu "One of the things I took away from interviewing people was a greater awareness that people of color have thought about wealth disparity and how it has touched their lives and the kinds of things they've lost out on because they didn't have access to the resources their white friends did," says Prasertong. "Not that [white people] weren't aware, but they never really thought about how ... that might have affected where they are in the world in relation to people of color. They never stopped to think, 'Oh, that car my parents gave me in college allowed me to drive across town to get a good job.'"
As Prasertong points out, "It's not a strict scientific study." One limitation of this experiment is that the customers who came to the stall were all in a higher-than-average income bracket. Prasertong says that may be one reason why the vast majority of customers of color '' African-Americans, Latinos and Asians '' declined to sign up to receive the redistributed money made from charging whites the higher price.
As of Feb. 28, the day the premise of the experiment was revealed in a Times-Picayunearticle, 64 people had completed the survey, which included 32 whites, Prasertong says. Twenty-five white customers paid the extra $18, adding up to a pool of $450. Only six people of color had signed up for distributions, which they would split evenly among them, $75 each.
The food stall '' called Saartj, a reference to a 19th-century black South African woman infamously paraded as a "freak show" in Europe '' will be open through Sunday, though the data collection part of the experiment is now over.
While this experiment focused on racial income disparity in New Orleans, the numbers when it comes to the racial wealth gap in America are even starker. White families accumulate more wealth more quickly than do families comprised of people of color. As NPR's Code Switch team has reported:
"In 2013, the median white family held 13 times as much net wealth as the median black family and 10 times as much wealth as the median Latino family, according to the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances."
There are many reasons cited behind this gap, including slavery and institutional and governmental discrimination that excluded people of color from programs that helped Americans build wealth and pass it down through the generations. As Code Switch writes: "Segregation and redlining by banks made it impossible for many black and Latino families to secure mortgages, for example. The GI Bill, which helped establish an American middle class by helping veterans pay for college and buy homes after World War II, mostly excluded people of color."
One goal of his experiment, says Wey, is to get people to think about how the racial wealth and income gaps affect their own lives, and also how they can as individuals be a force for change.
"We think of this as a systemic issue, like something that happens outside of ourselves, when in fact the aggregate sum of all of our actions and choices exacerbates or ameliorates the wealth gap," says Wey. That includes actions like "where we choose to send our children to school, where we choose to buy a home and critically, how we choose to spend our money and where we choose to spend our money. "
NSA Shooting Victims Were Trying To Escape? |
Sat, 03 Mar 2018 17:39
The things you only see on /pol.
Remember the NSA shooting incident? We were told by Fake News like CNN that:
Three men were taken into custody Wednesday after a vehicle attempted to enter the National Security Agency's headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, the FBI said.
The driver of the car, as well as a NSA police officer and a civilian onlooker, were injured in the incident, FBI Special Agent in Charge Gordon Johnson said at an afternoon news conference. Gunshots were fired but the FBI doesn't believe anyone was shot.
Two of the individuals are in NSA custody and being interviewed by FBI agents as part of the bureau's investigation, Johnson said. The third '-- the driver of the vehicle '-- is being treated in the hospital for his injuries. The NSA police officer and civilian were also taken to the hospital for non-life threatening injuries.
Then /pol noticed this in the scenes of the incident (click the image for the full size):
Those dudes were already on the NSA campus, and they were trying to get out. Notice how NSA organized that barricade system to look like a nice exit, to lure potential escapees into taking that path, only to close it just after the gates. Sneaky sneaky.
One report said it was a rental car, which might have been conducive to concealing an identity, had they escaped, and all NSA had to go on was a license plate of a rental car that was rented with false ID.
Nothing you are told by the media is real. It is all Deep State approved propaganda, designed to control your entire view of the world.
That, and there must be one hell of a secret war going on in DC behind the scenes.
Tell everyone about r/K Theory, because when you are trying to escape from Deep State, you never take the obvious escape route
The Drugging of the American Boy
Sat, 03 Mar 2018 17:32
Mar 27, 2014If you have a son, you have a one-in-seven chance that he has been diagnosed with ADHD. If you have a son who has been diagnosed, it's more than likely that he has been prescribed a stimulant'--the most famous brand names are Ritalin and Adderall; newer ones include Vyvanse and Concerta'--to deal with the symptoms of that psychiatric condition.
The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies stimulants as Schedule II drugs, defined as having a "high potential for abuse" and "with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence." (According to a University of Michigan study, Adderall is the most abused brand-name drug among high school seniors.) In addition to stimulants like Ritalin, Adderall, Vyvanse, and Concerta, Schedule II drugs include cocaine, methamphetamine, Demerol, and OxyContin.
According to manufacturers of ADHD stimulants, they are associated with sudden death in children who have heart problems, whether those heart problems have been previously detected or not. They can bring on a bipolar condition in a child who didn't exhibit any symptoms of such a disorder before taking stimulants. They are associated with "new or worse aggressive behavior or hostility." They can cause "new psychotic symptoms (such as hearing voices and believing things that are not true) or new manic symptoms." They commonly cause noticeable weight loss and trouble sleeping. In some children, some stimulants can cause the paranoid feeling that bugs are crawling on them. Facial tics. They can cause children's eyes to glaze over, their spirits to dampen. One study reported fears of being harmed by other children and thoughts of suicide.
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Imagine you have a six-year-old son. A little boy for whom you are responsible. A little boy you would take a bullet for, a little boy in whom you search for glimpses of yourself, and hope every day that he will turn out just like you, only better. A little boy who would do anything to make you happy. Now imagine that little boy'--your little boy'--alone in his bed in the night, eyes wide with fear, afraid to move, a frightening and unfamiliar voice echoing in his head, afraid to call for you. Imagine him shivering because he hasn't eaten all day because he isn't hungry. His head is pounding. He doesn't know why any of this is happening.
Now imagine that he is suffering like this because of a mistake. Because a doctor examined him for twelve minutes, looked at a questionnaire on which you had checked some boxes, listened to your brief and vague report that he seemed to have trouble sitting still in kindergarten, made a diagnosis for a disorder the boy doesn't have, and wrote a prescription for a powerful drug he doesn't need.
If you have a son in America, there is an alarming probability that this has happened or will happen to you.
The Diagnosis6.4 MILLION CHILDREN BETWEEN THE AGES OF FOUR AND SEVENTEEN HAVE BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH ADHD. BY HIGH SCHOOL, NEARLY 20% OF ALL BOYS WILL HAVE BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH ADHD'--A 37% INCREASE SINCE 2003.
On this everyone agrees: The numbers are big. The number of children who have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder'--overwhelmingly boys'--in the United States has climbed at an astonishing rate over a relatively short period of time. The Centers for Disease Control first attempted to tally ADHD cases in 1997 and found that about 3 percent of American schoolchildren had received the diagnosis, a number that seemed roughly in line with past estimates. But after that year, the number of diagnosed cases began to increase by at least 3 percent every year. Then, between 2003 and 2007, cases increased at a rate of 5.5 percent each year. In 2013, the CDC released data revealing that 11 percent of American schoolchildren had been diagnosed with ADHD, which amounts to 6.4 million children between the ages of four and seventeen'--a 16 percent increase since 2007 and a 42 percent increase since 2003. Boys are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed as girls'--15.1 percent to 6.7 percent. By high school, even more boys are diagnosed'--nearly one in five.
Almost 20 percent.
And overall, of the children in this country who are told they suffer from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, two thirds are on prescription drugs.
And on this, too, everyone agrees: That among those millions of diagnoses, there are false ones. That there are high-energy kids'--normal boys, most likely'--who had the misfortune of seeing a doctor who had scant (if any) training in psychiatric disorders during his long-ago residency but had heard about all these new cases and determined that a hyper kid whose teacher said he has trouble sitting still in class must have ADHD. That among the 6.4 million are a significant percentage of boys who are swallowing pills every day for a disorder they don't have.
On this, too, everyone with standing in this fight seems to agree.
Photos by Sarah Wilmer
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But on the subject of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, that is where the agreement ends.
For example: Doctors, parents, and therapists give a lot of different explanations for the sharp rise. Increased awareness'--that's a big one. We know more now. Other possibilities put forth: Too many video games. Too much refined sugar. Pharmaceutical companies pushing ADHD drugs. Lack of gym classes at schools. All of these factors are cited. And people have a lot of different ideas about what to do for the children who receive these diagnoses. Many believe that medicine should be the first treatment, either combined with behavioral therapy or not. Others feel that drugs should be a last resort after making every other alleviative effort you can find or think of, from hypnosis to herbal treatments to neurofeedback.
Given today's prevailing pharmaceutical culture, clinicians who believe that drugs should never be used to treat ADHD in children are very much in the minority. Marketing is powerful, and blockbuster drugs like Ritalin are big business. Business booms, market share grows when scripts are written, and countercultural doctors and therapists who advocate caution and who believe that diagnoses are made too easily'--doctors and therapists who preach alternatives to drugs'--are finding themselves the butt of jokes.
But more about them shortly.
Sarah Wilmer
The United States government first collected information on mental disorders in 1840, when the national census listed two generally accepted conditions: idiocy and insanity. A century later, psychiatrists knew more. They had options when making diagnoses, and by the 1940s difficult kids were classified as "hyperkinetic." Other terms would follow, like minimal brain dysfunction. In 1955, there came a pill doctors could prescribe for these children to temper their hyperactivity and make them behave more like "normal" children. It was a stimulant, so called because it heightened the brain's utilization of dopamine, which can improve attention and concentration. The active ingredient was a highly addictive compound called methylphenidate. The drug was called Ritalin.
By 1987, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) had settled on a more refined name for a disorder among children who exhibited the same set of symptoms, including trouble concentrating and impulsive behavior: attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. ADHD. At the time, in American schools, it was still considered unusual for a child to take Ritalin. It was, frankly, considered weird.
Today, it has simply become a default method for dealing with a "difficult" child.
"We are pathologizing boyhood," says Ned Hallo-well, a psychiatrist who has been diagnosed with ADHD himself and has cowritten two books about it, Driven to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction. "God bless the women's movement'--we needed it'--but what's happened is, particularly in schools where most of the teachers are women, there's been a general girlification of elementary school, where any kind of disruptive behavior is sinful. What I call the 'moral diagnosis' gets made: You're bad. Now go get a doctor and get on medication so you'll be good. And that's a real perversion of what ought to happen. Most boys are naturally more restless than most girls, and I would say that's good. But schools want these little goody-goodies who sit still and do what they're told'--these robots'--and that's just not who boys are."
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Especially when they're young. One of the most shocking studies of the rise in ADHD diagnoses was published in 2012 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. It was called "Influence of Relative Age on Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Children." Nearly one million children between the ages of six and twelve took part, making it the largest study of its kind ever. The researchers found that "boys who were born in December"'--typically the youngest students in their class'--"were 30 percent more likely to receive a diagnosis of ADHD than boys born in January," who were a full year older. And "boys were 41 percent more likely to be given a prescription for a medication to treat ADHD if they were born in December than if they were born in January." These findings suggest, of course, that an errant diagnosis can sometimes result from a developmental period that a boy can grow out of.
And there are other underlying reasons for the recent explosion in diagnoses. Stephen Hinshaw, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and the editor of Psychological Bulletin, the research publication of the American Psychological Association, presents evidence in a new book that ADHD diagnoses can vary widely according to demographics and even education policy, which could account for why some states see a rate of 4 percent of schoolchildren with ADHD while others see a rate of almost 15 percent. Most shocking is Hinshaw's examination of the implications of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which gave incentives to states whose students scored well on standardized tests. The result: "Such laws provide real incentive to have children diagnosed and treated." Children with ADHD often get more time to take tests, and in some school districts, tests taken by ADHD kids do not even have to be included in the overall average. "That is, an ADHD diagnosis might exempt a low-achieving youth from lowering the district's overall achievement ranking"'--thus ensuring that the district not incur federal sanctions for low scores.
In a study of the years between 2003 and 2007, the years in which the policy was rolled out, the authors looked at children between ages eight and thirteen. They found that among children in many low-income areas (the districts most "targeted" by the bill), ADHD diagnoses increased from 10 percent to 15.3 percent'--"a huge rise of 53 percent" in just four years.
The Consequences48% OF SUBJECTS OF ONE STUDY WHO TOOK ADHD MEDICATIONS EXPERIENCED SIDE EFFECTS LIKE SLEEP PROBLEMS AND "MOOD DISTURBANCES." IN ANOTHER, 6% OF CHILDREN SUFFERED PSYCHOTIC SYMPTOMS, INCLUDING THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE.
Source: Psychiatry, April 2010; The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, October 1999.
And yet among many of the people interviewed for this story, the most common explanation for the staggering increase in diagnoses is that doctors know more now. Great strides have been made. "I don't think there's an epidemic of new cases," says Mario Saltarelli, a neurologist and the senior vice-president of clinical development at Shire, which manufactures Adderall and Vyvanse. (Since our interview, he has left the company.) "It's always been there. It's now more appropriately understood and recognized." Instead of lumping together all the kids with high energy and bad behavior and calling them hyper, many experts say, doctors can identify the children who exhibit the symptoms specific to ADHD and treat them accordingly. "We were paying attention," says Jeffrey Lieberman, the president of the American Psychiatric Association and chairman of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. "We [now] have reliable descriptions and the means of diagnosing."
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Every fifteen years or so, the APA publishes a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which doctors around the world use as a guide for diagnosing mental disorders in their patients. Known as the DSM, it has been published seven times, first in 1952 and most recently in 2013. For each revision, a new task force of psychiatrists tweaks, refines, and often expands the descriptions, definitions, and symptoms of hundreds of psychiatric disorders. It's not uncommon for definitions to be written more broadly, thus broadening the universe of people who might be diagnosed with a given disorder.
In the DSM-5, the 916-page version that came out last year, there was one important change made to the section on ADHD. The age at which a child can be diagnosed with ADHD was raised from seven to twelve. In the previous edition of the DSM, in order to meet the criteria for diagnosis, several symptoms of ADHD had to be present by age seven. Citing "substantial research published since 1994," the authors increased the window for diagnosis by five years, meaning that twenty million more children are now eligible to be told they have ADHD.
Photos by Sarah Wilmer
And so if a child is deemed to meet the criteria for ADHD as defined in the DSM, even by a rushed pediatrician after a cursory twelve-minute examination, the clinical-practice guidelines strongly recommend medication as part of the first step in treating kids starting at age six. (Behavior therapy is recommended as a first step for four- and five-year-olds, followed by methylphenidate, or stimulants, if the behavior therapies "do not provide significant improvement and there is moderate-to-severe continuing disturbance in the child's function.")
A cynical person might wonder whether the task forces who write the DSM are influenced by pharmaceutical companies, seeing that with each new disorder they add and each new symptom they deem valid, more people can get expensive prescriptions. ADHD drugs alone were a $10.4 billion business in 2012, a 13 percent increase over the year before.
"I think it happens in an indirect but nonetheless powerful way," says Lisa Cosgrove, a clinical psychologist who is an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and a fellow at the Center for Ethics at Harvard. In a study of the DSM-5, she found that 69 percent of the task force acknowledged ties to the pharmaceutical industry. Many of these were likely indirect affiliations, but Cosgrove says that doesn't matter. "It's not that I think there's this quid pro quo kind of corruption going on. But when the individuals who are charged with the responsibility of developing criteria or with changing the symptom criteria'--I don't think they are consciously aware of the way in which industry affiliations create pro-industry habits of thought." Cosgrove points to what she calls a "major gap" in the APA's disclosure policy for doctors who worked on the DSM-5: It allows unrestricted research grants from drug companies. "Now, 'unrestricted' means that the pharmaceutical company cannot in-house analyze the data...but there's a wealth of social-psych research that shows that when you are paid even small amounts'--and there's the potential for future payment'--it affects your behavior. If I get an unrestricted research grant from Pfizer for $500,000, and I'm hoping to get a $2 million grant, at some level I'm going to be aware of how I talk about the results."
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The journal Accountability in Research chose Cosgrove's paper "Commentary: The Public Health Consequences of an Industry-Influenced Psychiatric Taxonomy" for publication in 2010, when a first draft of the DSM-5 was made public. In the paper, Cosgrove and her coauthors lambasted the psychiatric community for supporting a manual that largely ignores side effects and promotes diagnosis by constantly adding symptoms and disorders. "A psychiatric taxonomy [i.e., the DSM] which touts indication for medications, but is effectively silent about their associated risks, is evidently unbalanced and raises questions about undue influence," they wrote. "The time has come to seriously reconsider whether the heavily pharmaceutically funded APA should continue to be entrusted with the revision of the DSM."
Dr. Allen Frances, professor emeritus at Duke University School of Medicine, the former chairman of its psychiatry department, and the chairman of the DSM-IV (1994) task force, feels the problem is not corruption but the slow creep of misinformation. "I know the people. They're not doing it for the drug companies'--they really believe what they're doing is right. They really believe ADHD is underdiagnosed, and they want to help people who should be getting medication. I just think they're dead wrong."
"It's a disease called childhood."
Frances points to the fact that in August 1997'--the same year the CDC first started tallying ADHD cases in the United States'--the Food and Drug Administration made it easier for pharmaceutical companies to advertise their drugs to consumers. Spending on direct-to-consumer drug advertising increased from $220 million in 1997 to more than $2.8 billion by 2002.
It's not that Frances believes ADHD is not a real and valid diagnosis; he just believes that these days it's made so frequently it has been rendered meaningless. "It's been watered down so much in the way it's applied that it now includes many kids who are just developmentally different or are immature," he says. "It's a disease called childhood."
Falsely diagnosing a psychiatric disorder in a boy's developing brain is a terrifying prospect. You don't have to be a parent to understand that. And yet it apparently happens all the time. "Kids who don't meet our criteria for our ADHD research studies have the diagnosis'--and are being treated for it," says Dr. Steven Cuffe, chairman of the psychiatry department at the University of Florida College of Medicine, Jacksonville and vice-chair of the child and adolescent psychiatry steering committee for the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.
The ADHD clinical-practice guidelines published by the American Academy of Pediatrics'--the document doctors are supposed to follow when diagnosing a disorder'--state only that doctors should determine whether a patient's symptoms are in line with the definition of ADHD in the DSM. To do this accurately requires days or even weeks of work, including multiple interviews with the child and his parents and reports from teachers, plus significant observation. And yet a 2011 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that one third of pediatrician visits last less than ten minutes. (Visits for the specific purpose of a psychosocial evaluation are around twenty minutes.) "A proper, well-done assessment cannot be done in ten or fifteen minutes," says Ruth Hughes, a psychologist who is the CEO of Children and Adults with ADHD (CHADD), an advocacy group.
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Only one significant study has ever been done to try to determine how many kids have been misdiagnosed with ADHD, and it was done more than twenty years ago. It was led by Peter Jensen, now the vice-chair for psychiatry and psychology research at the Mayo Clinic, but at the time a researcher for the National Institute of Mental Health. After a study of 1,285 children, Jensen estimated that even way back then'--before ADHD became a knee-jerk diagnosis in America, before one in seven boys had been given the diagnosis'--between 20 and 25 percent were misdiagnosed. They had been told they had the disorder when in fact they did not.
Part of the problem is subjectivity, and the power of a culture that has settled on a drug-based solution. Decades of research have gone into trying to define the disorder in a clinical way, and yet the ultimate diagnosis'--Your son has ADHD'--is inherently subjective. And insurance companies don't reimburse or reward doctors for time spent doing the diligent work involved in giving a proper opinion. "You have to observe the behavior of the child over different environments. You have to talk to the parents. You have to talk to the teachers. I don't know an insurance company out there that pays for a pediatrician to call and talk to the teachers. They just don't," says Hughes.
Ned Hallowell does not accept insurance in his private psychiatry practice, which he says allows him to spend more time with patients. "But for the average person, it's the luck of the draw," he says. "Do they have a good, savvy pediatrician who can be careful about the diagnosis, or do they have somebody who just hears 'ADD' and writes a prescription?"
Lieberman, the APA president, says most doctors try to get it right. "Are there pressures that are packed on clinicians that make them less than optimally rigorous [in making a diagnosis]? Unfortunately, there are," he says. "But I mean, you have our health-care financing system that's quite dysfunctional, and it's created a situation where doctors have to spend a certain amount of time with bureaucratic, administrative paperwork and regulatory-compliance stuff.... We also have a culture where there's pressure, both from schools as well as from parents, to do something'--to alleviate the problem and enhance the performance of the child. That's no excuse, and doctors shouldn't succumb to that. But, you know, doctors are human.... We'd like everybody to be these heroic figures who fulfill the virtues of the Hippocratic oath. I think most doctors aspire to try to do that. But human limitations being what they are...caveat emptor."
Photos by Sarah Wilmer
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One man believes that drugging children's brains is too risky. That until we get a lot closer to achieving a foolproof diagnosis for ADHD, we need to think twice about giving a single pill to a single child. He believes that what is called attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder might in fact be a boy's greatest gift, the gift of energy. And that the best way to treat it is to first teach the boy to control the energy all by himself, because by learning to control it all by himself, a boy can channel that energy to help him succeed. That the responsible thing to do is first to see if there is some problem with the boy's heart'--not with the way it pumps blood, but with its ability to show and accept love. The man's name is Howard Glasser, and he is one of those countercultural clinicians who, as American society has become inured to giving psychotropic drugs to kids, has built a practice predicated on opposing the very idea.
If he were a child today, Glasser would be given a prescription for a stimulant in about five minutes. Little Howie was a wired kid. Obstreperous. But good. A good kid. And when he grew up and became a family therapist'--he has applied to earn his doctorate in education from Harvard starting this fall'--he created a way of dealing with wired, obstreperous, uncontrollable kids who are, beneath all that, good. And he believes all of them are good.
He calls the method the Nurtured Heart Approach, and it seems simple on the surface: You nurture the child's heart. If a child is hyperactive and defiant and has trouble listening and concentrating, Glasser feels it is our responsibility as a society'--as grown-ups'--to do everything we can for a child's heart before we start adding chemicals to his brain, because what if his brain is fine? What if the diagnosis isn't right? And even if it is, what if something else works?
Sarah Wilmer
Hyperactive, defiant'--he was all those things. At home'--the apartment his parents rented in Kew Gardens, a leafy, almost suburban corner of Queens'--he was sometimes so defiant that his mother would shout into the air, asking what she had done to deserve this, her face brightening with incarnadine helplessness. His father was a salesman of electrical supplies, and he and Howie used to go at it pretty good. Sometimes, when it was his turn to teach Howie a lesson, his father would reach for the rubber machine belt. Howie took that punishment laughing. Heartbreaking laughter.
At school he would sit in the back of the class, cracking jokes until his teachers were overcome with that unique kind of exasperation that results from feeling outrage and disappointment at the same time. Outrage because you wouldn't believe the mouth on this kid. Disappointment because he was so smart. Because he had so much potential.
Man, was Howie Glasser smart. That was the problem nobody saw: He was a funny, clever kid who scored high in both English and math without much studying. School bored him. The teachers, though, had to teach to every student in the class, and Howie felt forgotten. He didn't need to listen, so he sat in the back of the room and goofed off, his gangly frame folded awkwardly into a too-small wooden chair. Kids would laugh, and he'd do it more. And every time the teachers got angry and pointed their fingers toward the principal's office, struggling to keep from screaming at Howie'--to keep from smacking him, probably'--they were only feeding his recalcitrance. Finally, someone was paying attention to him! Deep down Howie didn't like the negative attention, but it was better than no attention at all.
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In junior high school, they wanted to hold him back. He couldn't handle the next grade, they said'--he couldn't concentrate, he was hanging around with the wrong kids, he just wasn't ready. But then Howie took a test, and his score surprised even the teachers who knew he was smarter than he let on. He scored high enough to skip ahead and graduated high school at sixteen.
Glasser graduated from City College with a degree in psychology, then got a master's in counseling at New York University. He had started work on a Ph.D., also at NYU, but after a year or so he dropped out to do the thing he loved most, the thing that made all the noise go away, all the trouble, all the teachers who couldn't figure out how to harness and channel his energy, his hollering parents who didn't understand why he couldn't be more like his older brother: He worked with wood.
Howie's Woodworking opened on Third Avenue and East Twelfth Street in New York in 1980. He collected wood around the city'--old floorboards from gutted townhouses, planks, pallets, scraps. He made planters and mosaics and odd pieces of furniture. People would see the sign and come in and ask if he could do bigger jobs'--cabinetry, fine furniture, storefronts. Glasser would always tell them he could do it, even though he had no idea how. Then he'd hire people who could show him.
After a few years, Glasser moved out west, far from the overdrive of New York, to the Arizona desert. On his way out, in Boulder, Colorado, he got to know a man named Michael Davis, who, with his wife, Anita, was raising four sons, two of whom were adolescents at the time. The first time Glasser visited Davis's house, there was some kind of minor drama unfolding that day, the kind of argument that periodically bubbles up in a house where teenagers live.
And the way the Davises handled it made Glasser weep.
Sarah Wilmer
"Michael and Anita were talking to their kids in the most loving way. I had never until that day'--ever'--encountered anybody who talked to their kids that way. I had tears streaming down my face," he says. "In my world, in my circumscribed world, it was not the culture. It's kind of breathtaking to me now." Even as he tells this story almost thirty years later, Glasser has to pause, swallow hard, and clear his throat.
He eventually moved to Tucson with the woman who would be the mother of his only child, a daughter. Almost as soon as he arrived, he found a job at a family-therapy institute where he could use his psychology training. "It was like the sea parted," he says. He felt as if he was doing what he needed to be doing. He got a second job at a clinic that was known for helping kids with behavior problems. Many of them had been diagnosed with ADHD.
"I had been one of these kids," he says. "And here I am with twelve preadolescent kids who aren't on their meds on the weekends'--I would meet with them on Saturday mornings. So you get to see: These are very interesting human beings. I got to experience the truth of these kids off medication."
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Glasser would open up group discussions by asking what the rules should be. The children half-raised their hands and called out predictable answers: no hitting, no yelling, no bad words, no this, no that. The first time it happened, Glasser was seized with memories, a darkness moving over his brain like a shadow. "It was PTSD for me. I grew up with rules that start with no, and I hated rules that start with no. They always led to me getting in trouble, and ultimately getting hit," he says. "It got my attention that kids saw rules that way."
The clinic and the therapy institute both employed other bright young therapists, and they all called on their state-of-the-art psychology training to try to help the troubled families in their care. They used positive reinforcement. Instead of rules that started with no, they set rules like "Be respectful" and "Use nice words." This was all fine and hewed closely to the education and therapy trends of the day. Kids behaved better. Families improved. But they didn't change. Positive reinforcement is great, but there was only so far it could go with a difficult child. Glasser knew he hadn't truly scraped away the artifice of defiant behavior to get at whatever pain was festering inside these kids. He wasn't finding whatever it was that stirred them to yell and swear and make the grown-ups think they needed medication.
The problem with the positive rules was that there didn't seem to be a very good way to teach them. The old rules were mostly taught when children broke them. If the rule is "No hitting" and one kid hits another, you'd teach the child the rule in that moment. "What you just did was wrong." You'd tell him to go sit in the corner, or go to his room, or apologize. But in those moments, everyone's upset. The kid who got hit is crying, the hitter is angry and scared, and the grown-up is amping up the authority. The offending child gets all the attention. The rule doesn't stick.
"They don't need us to figure out a video game for them. They figure it out in three minutes, and then they become stars."
Still, Glasser saw that kids seemed to like "no" rules because they're clear. The line of transgression was definite. He had an idea: What if he told the children how great they were when they didn't break a rule? It would be like a video game. When you do something great while playing a video game'--when you simply do what the game expects'--you get points and you get to keep going. When you go out of bounds or break one of the game's rules, no one yells at you or reminds you what rule you've broken. You simply miss a turn or lose points. And there is no grudge once you pay the fine. As Glasser wrote in his first book in 1999, Transforming the Difficult Child, "When the consequence is over, it's right back to scoring."
Kids love video games. "They don't need us to figure out a video game for them," he says. "They figure it out in three minutes, and then they become stars. The beauty of those games is the energy of success is so strong, consistent, reliable, available. If they break a rule in the next two seconds, the game unplugs momentarily. Grown-ups look at the consequences in these games and we don't always see the truth of what's going on. It looks to us like, Oh my God, huge consequence'--blood spurting, heads rolling. But actually, the kid's out of the game for two seconds but it feels like an eternity to them because they've become such a devotee of being plugged in to success, and they vividly feel the energy of missing out. When the consequence is over, they don't just come back into the game, they come back ever more determined: I'm not gonna break another rule."
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And so he thought, What if a child was sitting quietly, not bothering anyone, and you went out of your way to congratulate him on that, very specifically, by telling him how proud you are that he's not hitting anyone, not screaming, not throwing toys, but just sitting quietly? What if you gave a child the equivalent of points'--what if you thanked him or hugged him'--for not putting his feet on the couch? How would he respond to that?
He'll like it, it turns out.
"I started accusing kids of being successful for not breaking rules. Nobody ever in my professional career had done that," he says. "All of a sudden'--and it was as weird as it could be'--I knew I was speaking to some level of a kid's soul. I knew it was nourishing them in some way. It was like me weeping at Michael Davis's house. In my professional career, no kid had ever been told they were successful when it came to rules."
Many of the people I interviewed who have had direct experience with ADHD'--parents of children who'd been diagnosed, psychiatrists, adult ADHD patients'--assured me, within the first minute of our conversation, that ADHD is a real disorder, not some made-up condition.
"It's important to understand that ADHD is a very real, serious, neurobiological disorder," said Saltarelli, the neurologist who was formerly senior vice-president of clinical development at Shire, maker of Adderall and Vyvanse, which is now the most common brand of stimulant prescribed for ADHD. He repeated this point several times during our hour-long conversation.
"I don't think in the medical community or in the research community there is any question that this is a brain disorder. I really don't think that is in question," Ruth Hughes, the CHADD CEO, told me after I asked her about the validity of brain scans that purport to show ADHD, which have been disputed by other scientists.
"There is no doubt in my mind that I really believe this is a disorder, disease, condition, whatever you do'--like, it is for real," said Tracie Giles, a parent of four children, two of whom have been diagnosed. She is the coordinator of the local CHADD chapter in Wayne County, Michigan.
The Epidemic2003: THE NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT REWARDS SCHOOLS FOR HIGHER TEST SCORES. KIDS WITH ADHD GET MORE TIME TO TAKE TESTS, AND SOMETIMES THEIR SCORES AREN'T COUNTED IN THE OVERALL AVERAGE. AS THE LAW ROLLS OUT, ADHD DIAGNOSES INCREASE 53% IN POOR AREAS.
The interesting thing is I never asked any of these people whether ADHD is real. But their defensiveness is understandable. ADHD isn't strep throat'--there's no culture, no test. To find out if you have it, or if your son has it, or if your daughter has it, you just need a human being to say so'--a physician or a psychiatrist'--and that makes some people skeptical. Google "Does ADHD exist?" Up pop the detractors who call the very disorder into question.
ADHD has become the most controversial medical topic in America when it comes to children. In 2000, Bob Schaffer, then a Colorado congressman, called a hearing about ADHD medication before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. "I had been in politics a long time even before I had this hearing," he says. "And you would think that with issues of national missile defense, the space program, the billions we spend on public education, the China trade bill I voted on'--that something else would have resulted in more blowback, but I can't think of anything else that did. It inspired more personal hostility and defensiveness than anything else I'd ever been involved in."
The biggest reason: Managing ADHD, for most people who receive the diagnosis, includes taking medication. If the diagnosis is real, a prescription can turn around a child's life in an instant, improving his ability to concentrate and jacking up his self-esteem. Denying a child who needs the medicine is as cruel as forcing it on a kid who doesn't. Even Howard Glasser is not anti-medication'--not entirely. He believes that in rare cases it can be effective as a temporary measure. But it's a terrifying choice to make for many parents.
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Ned Hallowell once famously said that stimulants were "safer than aspirin," a statement he has since backed off of. ("That's almost a preposterous statement for anyone to say," says Saltarelli.) "I think that was misleading," Hallowell says now. "I was dealing with people who thought these medications were extremely dangerous, and if they're used properly, they are not. But now I don't say that anymore because I'm worried about high school students taking them without any medical evaluation." But Hallowell stands by his assertion'--widely corroborated'--that it's silly to try to treat ADHD without medicine. "I certainly am not gonna try to persuade you to use medication, but once you learn the facts, chances are you will want to. Because doing a year, say, of non-medication is sort of like saying, Why don't we do a year of squinting before we try eyeglasses."
In 1999 the National Institute of Mental Health published its landmark study "Multimodal Treatment of ADHD," which was led by Peter Jensen; 579 children ages seven to nine took part. The study declared that the best treatment, across the board, is medication combined with behavioral therapy'--but that the combination works only marginally better than medication on its own, with no behavioral component. This made a lot of parents feel better about accepting a prescription for their children, and the study is frequently cited by pharmaceutical companies, psychiatrists, and organizations like CHADD.
"Medication alone is not the solution to the long term."
Research published since the multimodal study, however, suggests that treating kids who have ADHD with cognitive behavioral therapy can have the same positive effect as stimulants. A new study in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology shows that behavioral therapy, alone or in combination with stimulants, is far more effective than medication alone. The children in the study'--forty-four boys, four girls, all diagnosed with ADHD'--were given varying doses of medication and behavioral therapy, and researchers monitored their episodes of "noncompliance" each day. The worst-behaved children were the ones receiving only drugs and no behavioral therapy. Even kids given a placebo while also receiving some behavioral therapy behaved far better than kids being treated with drugs alone. The sweet spot was a low dose of medication plus behavioral therapy.
William Pelham of Florida International University, the lead author of the study and one of the original investigators on the multimodal study, says that these findings show that psychosocial treatments "are the key to long-term success. Medication alone is not the solution to the long term."
I wanted to talk to an actual person at a drug company about the difficult choice. I called Novartis, which manufactures Ritalin and Focalin XR. A media-relations specialist, Julie Masow, declined to make anyone from the company available to me for an interview, citing the fact that it was summer and people were traveling, and instead provided me with a vague written statement. But eventually Masow agreed to provide written answers to any questions I wished to send her via e-mail. It was a fairly fruitless exercise'--a lot of anodyne corporatespeak about how "ultimately, the decision to prescribe an ADHD treatment for a child with ADHD is between the physician and the patient's parent/guardian" and "Patients and parents/guardians also receive a copy of the medication guide included in the drug package insert."
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Novartis is right, to a point'--pharmaceutical companies do not prescribe the drugs they manufacture. So do they care what happens once the drugs leave the factory? When I asked Saltarelli of Shire whether drug companies should do anything to make sure their products are used correctly, he said, "It is our responsibility to make sure that the drugs are being appropriately utilized. It's obviously impossible for us to be in any way involved in diagnosis, let alone in every doctor's office where diagnoses are being made. But we do feel an ethical obligation'--and we've actually invested quite a bit to do whatever we possibly can through educational efforts to make sure that these drugs are being used appropriately." When I asked the same question of Novartis, the answer (via e-mail) was "Novartis supports only the appropriate use of ADHD medicines as indicated and prescribed by qualified, licensed health-care providers. Novartis does not participate in the diagnosis of patients with ADHD, as the diagnostic criteria..."
Karen Lowry, a nurse in Medford, New Jersey, helps run a local CHADD chapter. She has four children, the youngest of whom has ADHD. "When he was first diagnosed, we were adamantly against medication. No, it might prevent his brain growth. We'll deal with behavioral programs. It's not happening," she says. "But as first grade progressed and we saw our child with an ADHD diagnosis experiencing hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattentiveness in a classroom setting with a teacher who was really not very understanding, we saw a kid who was falling through the cracks. We saw a kid who was not developing friendships, peers who were always blaming him for everything that was going on around him. So my husband and I looked at each other again and said, Oh my gosh, we need to rethink this. Are we not being fair to him? What's worse? Not fully understanding the medication and what can happen in a positive way, or just standing our ground saying, We're unsure about this?"
Lowry and her husband ended up putting their youngest son on a stimulant. His behavior improved vastly, and the ADHD seemed to be under control. But toward the end of the school year, he developed severe facial tics, a side effect of some ADHD medications. They took him off the medication for the summer, a decision many parents make at some point. "He's adjusted pretty much," she says. "He's on a very low dose because he does get the headaches. It's sometimes hard to balance, you know, the side effect with the effects of the drug." Overall, Lowry thinks they made the right call. It's a question she gets a lot from other parents of children with ADHD. "I would never tell anyone to put their kid on medication. All I will say is look at the results. And I always commend the parents who come to our classes, even if they're frantic: Your kid will be okay because you're here."
Ruth Hughes, CHADD's CEO, finds herself defending'--or justifying'--ADHD as a diagnosis regularly. More than twelve thousand people are members of the organization. Its annual budget is about $3.5 million, of which up to 30 percent can come from the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture ADHD drugs, according to Hughes.
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During our phone interview, I asked Hughes whether CHADD could be classified as pro-medication. "Well, I'm going to reframe this a little bit," she said. "We are pro-science, pro-research. Our issue is to make parents or adults who potentially have ADHD to be very well informed consumers of medical services."
I told her I was asking because while there are lots of books and articles out there about how to treat ADHD without medication, you hardly ever see anything about that on CHADD's Web site or in its bimonthly magazine, Attention.
"You don't," she said.
If we don't know what we're doing, maybe we shouldn't be doing it. Putting a child on highly addictive psychotropic drugs ought to be very difficult, not shockingly easy. And yet even if Peter Jensen's twenty-year-old estimates about misdiagnosis are still correct, an astonishing 25 percent of today's 6.4 million kids, overwhelmingly boys with developing brains, might be experiencing side effects for no reason. Because he made that assumption long before ADHD became such a popular diagnosis, the number could be far higher now.
Dr. Jim Forganjimforgan.com
Yes, the drugs these children consume may work. They help them focus for longer periods of time. They help them do better in school. But consider this: Stimulants work on just about anyone. "These are powerful drugs," says Bob Schaffer, the former Colorado congressman. "They would work on me. They would make anyone more focused. And everyone's happy because the kid is now under control." The fact that the drugs would help you perform better at work doesn't mean you should take them. And it certainly doesn't mean a seven-year-old boy who doesn't suffer from a psychiatric disorder should be taking them.
Why not, if they help him do better? Because, for one thing, an important study of four thousand children published last year concluded that children who took stimulants didn't do any better in school than kids who didn't. But also, and perhaps more important, because he might not be the same seven-year-old boy once he starts, and he may never be the same boy again.
Another little-examined feature of these drugs is the global changes in personality that they can cause. Jim Forgan is a psychologist in Jupiter, Florida. The first thing you see on his Web site is an ad:
"Dr. Jim Forgan's Parent Support System. 10 Easy to Use Modules. Over 80 Educational Videos. Downloadable Resources. Online Access 24/7.And Much More!"
The video support system is available for a one-time fee of $49.97. Forgan is the coauthor of a book called Raising Boys with ADHD, also available for purchase. He speaks from experience. His son has been diagnosed with ADHD. Forgan knows all the warning signs, and he tells parents about them. He's in favor of drugs when they're administered correctly'--starting with low doses, watching vigilantly for side effects, stopping use if the side effects outweigh the benefits.
How do you know if the side effects outweigh the benefits?
"Careful monitoring," says Forgan. "And for me personally, with my son being on the stimulant medications, those are medications you don't have to take every day, so we would give him the holiday breaks on the weekends and spring break and summertime, just so that he didn't have the medication all the time. And yeah, there's a difference, he has more energy. My son doesn't like to take the medications because he feels like it makes him feel flat, and he doesn't like what it does to his personality. And he says he's not the same fun person that he is when he's not on the medication. And some of that fun gets him in trouble at school, because he's funny and knows how to entertain people. But at the same time, he likes that characteristic about himself'--that he is fun and knows how to get people laughing and working together and bring energy into a room. Kinda like the life of the party."
I tell Forgan that there is something heartbreaking about the fact that such a lively part of his son's personality disappears when he's on medication, and that his son knows it disappears. "Is it just that he was getting into too much trouble?" I ask.
Forgan pauses and says, "Right. Yup, it gets him in trouble and he hasn't'--when he was in elementary school, he didn't have his own ability to have the self-control not to say impulsive things and do impulsive things that other people find funny but the teacher finds very annoying."
"And you see the fun part of him reemerge during breaks from the medicine?"
"Right."
Howard Glasser's biggest fear in life is that a child might grow up not knowing how great a person he is. It keeps Glasser awake at night sometimes, this image of a kid thinking he's no good. It lodges a pit in his throat.
Ned Hallowell, the ADHD expert who has the disorder, writes books about it, has talked about it on Dr. Oz, and thinks medication usually gets good results, feels the same. "The medical model is so slanted toward deficits that it excludes strengths'--and it also reinforces stigma, that this is shameful, this is bad, this means you're a loser. And that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's the old line of whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right. And what breaks my heart is how these kids, and the parents along with them, get broken in school, and they come out of twelfth grade believing that they're stupid. Believing that they're defective. But this trait, these are the people who colonized this country! Just think of it: Who in the world would get on a boat in 1600 and come over here? You had to be some kind of a nut. You had to be a visionary, a dreamer, an entrepreneur'--you know, a risk-taker. That's our gene pool. So this country is absolutely full of ADD."
So there is something great about having ADHD. The question is how to treat the difficult parts in a way that pushes the greatness forward.
"I confront kids with their own greatness," Glasser says. "Because that's what I think allows a kid to go from an ordinary life to a purposeful life. To see who they really are. The worst-case scenario in life is that a boy grows up thinking: Who I really am is a kid who annoys everybody."
In 1994 Glasser opened the Center for the Difficult Child in Tucson, his first effort to teach therapists his Nurtured Heart Approach. In 1999 he published Transforming the Difficult Child, which has quietly sold nearly 250,000 copies. Today he runs an organization he named the Children's Success Foundation, which is an expanded effort to teach educators and therapists around the United States how to use what he has found from twenty years of practicing the Nurtured Heart Approach.
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"It's much more about reaction than attention." That sentence appears on page 10 of Transforming the Difficult Child. It's a profound distinction, and there is no deeper nor more simple understanding of a child's needs. Parents of intense boys can shower their children with love and attention, and still the boys might be difficult boys. What's important is how you react to what a child does, good or bad, Glasser says. Mostly, we get animated when our kids do something bad. We get worked up, and we give them energy'--negative energy, but energy nonetheless. But when a difficult child is sitting quietly, playing or writing or drawing, not disturbing anyone, not throwing food, not picking on a sibling'--we do nothing. We don't acknowledge it at all. The way a difficult child gets a parent's energy, then, is to do something bad.
"Most parenting approaches have you giving a strong punitive consequence that's all energy and that confirms that, as a parent, you're highly available through negativity'--you're a toy that works when they push buttons," he says. "And you work if and only if they act out bigger."
Watching Glasser work with a child is a marvel.
"Maybe you don't quite know what calm means. Let me tell you how great calm is."
He is sitting on the carpeted floor of a family's basement playroom, his lanky frame contorted into what passes for comfort for a sixty-three-year-old man sitting on the floor. He is watching a sandy-haired boy of seven play with his toys. A few minutes before, the boy had been hitting his younger brother, and he had been scolded, hit his brother again, and been banished from the kitchen. Now he plays peacefully.
"I see that you are very calmly building with your Legos," Glasser says to the boy, in a smooth and even voice, as if he were commenting on clouds moving across the sky. "That's really great to see. It shows that you respect your mom and dad, because they love it when you play nicely."
The boy just nods without looking up, like, Sure, thanks mister. So Glasser keeps at it.
"So I assume you heard what I said. And I just want to elaborate a little more. Because here's what's great: You have this wonderful quiet way of thinking things through. I can tell that you're thinking about what it means to be calm. And maybe you don't quite know what calm means. Let me tell you how great calm is. What does it take to be calm?"
The boy looks up now. Words are starting to register with him. His face is blank, but he's thinking. This is unusual for him'--getting attention, getting a reaction, for being so good.
"Well, while you're thinking about it, let me tell you. It takes wisdom, for one thing, because you could be yelling. You could be annoying people. Have you ever been annoying? Well, you're not being annoying. You're not running around the lunch table. You're not throwing your food or hitting your brother. All these things that kids your age could do, you're not doing. That's being calm. That shows me you're being thoughtful. That you care about other people, and that you're in control of your body. Being in control takes a lot of concentration and effort. Doesn't it?"
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The boy nods, just barely. He is looking right into Glasser's eyes. For years, since he was two, the boy has had trouble controlling his body sometimes. Sometimes the energy inside him is just too much, and it builds like gas trapped in rock until it bursts forth in a violent, painful mess. At times he has driven his parents to a crisis of helplessness. The heartbreaking part is the boy has tried so hard to control his energy, and he's gotten better at it. But sometimes he still just can't. Once, in the middle of the night, when he was four, he wouldn't go to sleep and kept throwing toys at the door until his mother cried and his father yelled, and then through the tears streaming down his tiny cheeks he looked up at his father over the plastic gate that was jammed in his bedroom door and, in a moment of astonishing self-awareness, pleaded, "I need to calm my body down!" When he started school, his parents mentioned to the school psychologist that their son sometimes had an issue with impulsive behavior. The psychologist, who had never met him'--who had never met the boy'--told the parents that it sounded like he probably had ADHD. The parents had had their son evaluated by child psychologists, pediatricians, teachers, and independent therapists, and not one person had ever suggested ADHD, and in fact, the boy's pediatrician and the rest of the school's counseling, teaching, and professional staff said resolutely the boy showed no signs of it. (When he heard that a school psychologist had said this, Glasser wasn't surprised. "Sure. Your son is intense. If you wanted to go out and get him a prescription for ADHD medication, you could do it tomorrow," he told the parents.)
"That's right," Glasser says to the boy. "It does take a lot of effort. And I want to tell you something: A few minutes ago, you hit your brother. And he started crying, and then you got really upset when your parents told you to stop. You were really mad at him and at them. But look at you now. Look at yourself! You calmed yourself down so beautifully. And that was an amazing, amazing thing to do, because it's hard to calm yourself down when you're so upset. But you figured out how to control your body in a really bad moment. You did that yourself. No one did it for you. And that shows greatness. That shows me and everybody else that you have greatness inside you."
The boy is looking at him still, locked in.
And, slowly at first, the boy begins to smile. And then the smile spreads across his whole, beautiful seven-year-old face. His teeth, missing here and there and sticking out in gaps where he used to suck his thumb, shine across the room, and he lets out a giggle, and the giggle turns into the kind of proud, embarrassed laugh kids do when they haven't learned how to take a compliment. His face is lit up'--he is shocked by what he has just heard, and shocked by his own joyful reaction. He's laughing, looking at this man who has just told him that he has greatness within his soul, and the kid slaps the floor, then crosses his skinny arms on top of his head, and smiles with pride. He is euphoric.
It is almost as if he has been drugged.
Report: Parkland Shooter Did Not Use High Capacity Magazines | National Review
Sat, 03 Mar 2018 17:19
Nikolas Cruz appears via video monitor with his public defender at a bond hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., February 15, 2018. (Susan Stocker/Pool/Reuters)The gunman used only 10-round magazines. The Parkland shooter did not use magazines larger than 10 rounds, but gun-reform lobbyists are calling on lawmakers to ban higher-capacity magazines after the Valentine's Day tragedy.
The 19-year-old school shooter who killed 17 in Florida on Valentine's Day had 150 rounds of ammunition in 10-round magazines. Larger ones would not fit in his bag, Florida state senator Lauren Book revealed.
His AR-15 reportedly jammed as he attempted to continue his killing spree inside his former school last month.
After his gun jammed, the shooter threw it away and successfully blended into a crowd of students trying to escape the building, according to three sources close to the investigation.
Critics of high-capacity magazines have pointed to the shooting as an example of how they enable killing and ought to be banned, but the Parkland shooter used only smaller magazines.
Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) hinted at a CNN town hall last week that the weapon may have malfunctioned, saying ''three or four people may be alive today'' because of something that happened during the shooting. Rubio has reconsidered his stance on whether high-capacity magazines should remain legal after the shooting, even though they are not what the young gunman used.
{{/each}}]]> Most Popular The Supreme Court Should Restore the First Amendment in MinnesotaWhen you vote in Minnesota, if you wear a T-shirt with the historic and famous Gadsden flag on it '-- the first flag of the Continental Marines '-- then you will get thrown out of your polling place. Apparently, wearing a picture of a coiled rattlesnake and the phrase ''Don't Tread on Me'' is a ... Read More
Gummy bears are now a problem at German school because they're not Halal
Sat, 03 Mar 2018 16:57
The Peter Petersen elementary school in Berlin, has a hard time keeping its educational environment neutral. The school, in the city's migrant suburb of Neuk¶lln, is increasingly being Islamised by students, parents and personnel.
''There are already many examples of religious bullying in the school today,'' says Hildegard Greif-GroŸ, the headmistress of the school to the Berliner Zeitung. For example students are questioned about having a sandwich of pork ham, because according to the Koran it is forbidden, she mentions.
''Even gummy bears are not considered clean, because there is animal gelatin of cattle in it, which were not slaughtered halal'', she adds.
The elementary school students are also put under pressure by family and classmates to put on a headscarf, the headmistress says. ''Hardly anyone used to wear a headscarf there. In the past, mothers worked in factories, but today girls are much less allowed''. In mid-March, the lawsuit of a teacher who wants to wear her headscarf at school will start and three more are pending.
The push for Islamic rules at the school is oppositional to the Berlin Neutrality Act, which prohibits teachers, police and judicial staff from wearing religious symbols such as headscarfs, crucifixes or kippahs.
But the question is if the law will remain the same, as in the past Germany's labour courts ruled in favor of teachers who had been turned down because of their headscarf at elementary schools. They even received a compensation for ''discrimination''.
Also teachers at Berlin's vocational schools are allowed to wear a headscarf. Representatives of the left as well as the regional delegation conference of the Greens had expressed a desire for a revision of Berlin's neutrality act.
TigerSwan: Former Delta Operator sought to incite violence at the Dakota Access Pipeline | SOFREP
Sat, 03 Mar 2018 15:27
It was early afternoon on October 11 th, 2016 when TigerSwan's program manager, retired Delta Force Sergeant Major John Porter, met with Silverton's owner, Carl Clifton, inside a hangar at the Mandan Municipal Airport. The hangar was initially used by Silverton security as a clandestine office for their intelligence cell that collected information on the protesters, self-described water protectors, at Standing Rock. The managers from the two rival private security companies had both been hired by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) to manage the protesters at the Dakota Access Pipe Line (DAPL). They had much to discuss.
Clifton and Porter talked about the profitability of running intelligence operations against the protesters versus running site security before Clifton mentioned the fact that another security company named Russel Group of Texas (RGT) is running harassing surveillance against his wife and taking pictures of her. This is the type of surveillance that CIA officers expect to have put on them in a place like Moscow to prevent them from meeting with their intelligence assets. They want you to know that you are being followed. In this case, the message to Clifton and Silverton security was clear, back off and let rival companies milk the profits from ETP.
When this subject came up, John Porter began to stutter saying, ''Look dude'...that's none of my business'...I'...I'...I'm so'...I don't even see that shit happening and it's none of my concern either.''
Clifton then asked why Russel Group was running around the DAPL site carrying firearms. TigerSwan had been brought in to coordinate and supervise the half dozen security companies that the oil company, ETP, had initially hired. Clifton pointed out that there is no way that they could have gotten their licenses so fast. Indeed, many RGT contractors had to be sent home since the licensing board had denied them the gun permits, as the board itself was staffed by the owners of local security companies who didn't like seeing outsiders making money on their home turf. ''You know what bro, I don't care about the licenses,'' Porter said, blowing off the legalities involved.
Once TigerSwan showed up on the scene they began trying to choke out the smaller security companies in order to maximize their own profits. ''Consistent with the logic of both markets and war, competition in the market for force escalates until one market actor emerges victorious with the monopoly of force, eliminating all rivals,'' writes Sean McFate in his book, ''The Modern Day Mercenary,'' about private security companies.
Taking swipes at a rival security company or putting the wife of an employee under surveillance was really the least of the many problematic activities perpetrated by John Porter and TigerSwan in North Dakota. The next month in November, Porter acted as an agent provocateur, stoking the protesters and encouraging them to be more violent. This is why, ''many cringe at linking armed conflict to profit motive,'' writes McFate, ''because it incentivizes private armies to prolong and expand war for financial gain.''
The prairie of North Dakota would not normally be a place that would draw international media coverage but in 2016, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) began construction of a oil pipeline that would run from North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa, and into Illinois. In North Dakota, the pipeline would pass the northern tip of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The Sioux Tribe opposed the construction of the pipeline for two main reasons. The first was that the pipeline was going to be built on an ancient sacred burial ground, a claim that archeologists were never able to establish. Several individuals were also discovered attempting to bury bison bones in the area where the pipeline would be built as well. The second major concern that the Sioux Tribal Nations had was the environmental impact that the pipeline would have on their water supply.
The protest movement against the pipeline began around April when the native Americans at standing rock established the first protest camp. The camp became a lighting rod for native American land rights and by some accounts was the first time that all of the native American tribes across America were united in a single issue since the 1800's. The protest movement, self-described as water protectors grew, and attracted many activists from outside the native American community to include a large number of US military veterans.
Security contractors on the scene at DAPL knew that a native American festival was coming up in mid-september, one which had all of the local hotels booked as a lot of people would be attending from out of town. It didn't make any sense to begin construction of the oil pipeline while thousands of additional native Americans were in town so the contractors held informal talks with the FBI, who agreed with their assessment that building should not begin until after the event and people began heading home. By that time, the protest in general would probably be winding down as well according to some analysts in North Dakota.
The FBI agreed and communicated this point of view to ETP, attempting to nudge them in what they felt was the most sensible and prudent direction. The FBI also made it clear to the oil company that they currently did not have enough assets to protect the pipeline construction, nor would they until after the native American festival. The security contractors also did not have nearly enough personnel to handle such an undertaking. ETP agreed to wait until after the festivities before initiating construction on September 22 nd .
Back at the hangar, Silverton had brought in K9s and dog handlers with the idea that they would be deployed as a quick reaction force once construction began as needed. Silverton did not yet have the proper licenses for the dog handlers, but with ETP agreeing to delay construction, they now had some breathing room, giving them time to acquire the proper paperwork before the dogs would ever be used. All this changed abruptly.
At 7PM on September 2 nd , ETP decided that they would begin construction the next morning and that the security contractors, who were made aware of this decision around 9PM that night, would mobilize all assets available early the following morning. Over a dozen dogs and their handlers were sent out around noon the on September 3rd. The contractors were so short handed at that time that their personnel assigned to intelligence collection and the overall program manager all had to be out on the ground for them to have a chance at defending the construction site. The only exception was a former Delta Force operator working with another security company called SRC and his men whose only task was to record protesters with video cameras. Everyone else was to be used for security.
'' Four hundred people showed up in force, they lined up along the fence at first,'' said Silverton contractor Landon Steele. ''We stayed inside our vehicles with the canines and let the construction guys do what they wanted to do. Then the protesters started rocking the fence, knocked that down and picked up metal posts and started charging at the construction workers. Then we got out of our vehicles to give the construction workers a buffer.''
Protesters taunted the dogs, who then began barking, and one security contractor got into a wrestling match with a protester. Several protesters were bit by the canines and a few dogs had to be brought to the hospital after being injured in the fighting. Pictures from that day quickly emerged in the news media, showing para-military looking security contractors with their K9s. Steele, an Army veteran, was quickly identified when pictures of him appeared on social media websites. Steele's dog was a personally owned bomb detection dog, not an attack dog. Silverton was still unlicensed for dog handling.
The conflict escalated between the contractors and the protesters as a result. ETP had made a critical strategic blunder. The incident with the dogs happened on a Saturday, and the next Monday TigerSwan was showing up in North Dakota ostensibly to harmonize the half dozen or more security companies on the ground as a command and control node. The rate at which TigerSwan was brought onto the contract, in just five working days, was impressive.
Some at TigerSwan's headquarters in Apex, North Carolina expressed concern about the company getting involved in the DAPL project. '' It was good money for the company but the controversial nature of the pipeline itself would lead to some negative publicity,'' a senior member of TigerSwan told SOFREP. ''There was so much money thrown at the company it was just like let's just execute and figure it out later and some people were brought in who should not have been brought in,'' he said. These concerns were brushed off by TigerSwan's CEO, James Reese who saw huge profit margins and the opportunity to expand his business into the field of domestic oil security.
Answers are not forthcoming as to why the oil company made such an abrupt decision to begin construction that day. Landon Steele told SOFREP that, '' Now they will never say that we used you guys [contractors] as bait, but you know it certainly changed the tempo of everything that happened out there'....They really really wanted to see a confrontation.''
Intelligence analysts hired on as security contracts kept track of SIGACTS, Significant Actions, and charted them out on a day to day basis the same way they did when deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. SIGACTs include violent incidents and attacks. When TigerSwan arrived at Standing Rock, there was a clear and noticeable uptick in SIGACTs. Analysts know that correlation is not necessarily causation, but when anecdotal accounts from numerous security contracts are taken into account and the qualitative data is cross referenced with quantitative data, it becomes clear that TigerSwan was actively heating up the conflict.
TigerSwan acted as both the arsonist and the firefighter in North Dakota.
As TigerSwan personnel began to arrive in North Dakota, protesters began showing up in the camps at Standing Rock calling for violence and engaging in increasingly menacing rhetoric. The FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and Bureau of Land Management all had infiltrators placed inside the protest camps from the beginning. They watched and observed, in case things began to get out of hand as there were fears that the protests could spawn eco-terrorism. Suddenly, new protesters were showing up in the camps calling for violence.
These faux protesters would say, ''w e should get some guns and shoot those lights out, I can have my friends bring guns in, stuff like that,'' a native American from Standing Rock named Eddie Stormcloud told SOFREP. ''When they would say something like that I knew who they were and I would say no,'' he continued. '' I know for a fact that there was TigerSwan there with me inside my camp. I let them stay because I could keep my eye on them.''
The FBI and other agencies began running the names of these new protesters through their national databases and came back with nothing. The newcomers had absolutely no digital fingerprint and the names they used were not real. A deconfliction process exists between federal agencies to ensure that accidents don't happen, so that the DEA and ATF don't attempt to infiltrate the same white supremacist group at the same time for instance. The newcomers were not protesters nor were they government agents trying to run entrapment operations, so who were they?
Two members of the so-called ''Special Mission Unit'' that showed up in TigerSwan's Iowa office claiming that Reese sent them there and that they were going to infiltrate the protest camps, but refused to give their names. The next day they left for North Dakota and a portion of the above ground oil pipeline was sabotaged, several protestors taking the blame. A TigerSwan employee was able to photograph the nameless two men, but they remain unidentified to this day.The FBI's Bismarck office initiated an investigation into the activities of TigerSwan starting around this time, their main fear being that TigerSwan would intentionally provoke the protesters in order to artificially extend the length of their contract. SOFREP reached out to the FBI for comment but they did not respond.
When TigerSwan contractors realized that there was some other outside presence inside the protester camps that wasn't their own intelligence collectors or federal agents, the matter was brought up to John Porter. His response was that these protesters were part of a ''Special Mission Unit'' hired by James Reese and that this subject would never be brought up again or they would be fired from TigerSwan. Porter did not trust them when they arrived because they were hired by Reese and run in a unilateral and compartmentalized fashion, so he tried to have other contractors drop dime on the new infiltrators to the protestors in order to have them removed from the camps. The FBI was never able to identify who they really were.
John Porter previously served as the 1 st Troop Sergeant Major in A-Squadron, one of the maneuver elements of 1 st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, commonly known as Delta Force or one of any number of code names and acronyms such as CAG or Task Force Green. Delta Force is the US Army's premier counter-terrorism strike force, on constant alert to respond to military emergencies world wide.
Early in his career with Delta, Porter was deployed to Bosnia to work undercover within a conventional military unit, most likely as a ruse for him to go where he needed to go to gather intelligence information for JSOC without tipping off anyone that counter-terrorism operators were in the area. The Delta Force assaulters deployed to Bosnia were holed up inside a hangar waiting for the go ahead to round up Bosnian war criminals. SOFREP reached out to John Porter for comment on this article but he did not reply by the time of publication.
While with Delta Force, Porter was the right hand man of James Reese who was the 1st Troop, A-Squadron (1/A) Commander. Fast forward to 2016 and Porter's old boss at Delta had hired him to work security at DAPL with Reese now the CEO of TigerSwan. While still in the Army, Reese at one point was the liaison officer to the CIA, working with the agency in Afghanistan. Reese was known as a talented officer in Delta, and was supposed to take command of A-Squadron until indiscretions of a personal nature were uncovered by the unit's command. SOFREP spoke to Jim Reese who directed any questions to their media affairs office.
Reese was asked to leave Delta and told he would not be taking command of A-Squadron. He went on to create TigerSwan and began bidding on government contracts as a private security contractor. A number of the original TigerSwan employees have parted ways with James Reese over ethical concerns, false performance claims, and screwing honest brokers out of business. Former associates describe Reese as someone who was a good officer who had a value system and chain of command keeping him in check while he was in the Army, but came off the rails once we left the military for the private sector.
TigerSwan's first defense contract was providing linguists to the US military in Iraq. TigerSwan employees have served as tactical instructors at the Special Forces Qualification Course at Fort Bragg, provided bodyguards to a presidential candidate in the state of Georgia, aided in relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricanes in Houston and Puerto Rico, and developed security plans for celebrities.
As TigerSwan squeezed out the other companies on the DAPL contract, they mostly retrained the former Army Rangers and military intelligence people in their ranks and absorbed them into their company. The Rangers, Special Forces, and Delta Force veterans were mostly under-qualified for the jobs they had, and lacked an understanding of their operational environment. Porter was mainly interested in perpetuating the protest, keeping it going, and provoking the protesters into becoming more violent. When told that doing things like buzzing over the heads of protesters with a small drone was illegal, he would reply, ''We are not concerned if it is legal or not.''
One of the more notable incidents during the DAPL protests unfolded when Army war veteran Kyle Thompson wrecked his pickup truck after being chased by two water protectors named Israel Hernandez and Mike Fasig . Thompson was chased into the river and brandished his M4 rifle to stop the protesters from disarming him. He was eventually arrested and taken into custody by tribal authorities who than handed him over the state law enforcement who released him.
Kyle Thompson (left) while deployed in support of the Global War on Terror. Thompson's co-workers allege that he was addicted to heroin while out on the DAPL contract, as was his girlfriend. This February, Thompson was alleged to have knocked out two of her front teeth. (Pictures: Facebook)Security contractors who knew Kyle state that he was brought onto the DAPL contract by a Army friend of his who was still active duty and was taking leave from Fort Benning to make some extra money working as a DAPL contractor, a possible violation of Executive Order 12333 which bars soldiers from such activities on American soil. Silverton had also hired a Marine on terminal leave from his duty station in Japan collect intelligence on US citizens in the protest camps which was a clear violation of EO 12333. The company also hired a member of the National Guard to go undercover and collect intelligence on US citizens in Iowa. TigerSwan offered jobs to the Marine and the National Guard member, both of whom declined their offer.
Thompson was known by his supervisors to have been having clandestine meetings with John Porter, and being assigned additional unofficial tasks. ''Porter had promised him a bunch of money,'' for these clandestine missions according to Kyle's supervisor. These tasks including infiltrating the protest camps at night, but for what purpose is unknown. Water protectors at Standing Rock confirmed to SOFREP what security contractors initially reported, that Kyle Thompson had been trying to infiltrate the camps.
The day of the incident, Thompson's supervisors were observing several pieces of equipment that had been set on fire with Thompson in the car when they decided to back off the scene. Thompson than headed back to the hangar at the Mandan Municipal Airport that they worked out of. The next thing his supervisors know, they are hearing on the radio about how Thompson went back out to the site on his own and wrecked his truck. Why he went back out there, and under whose direction remains unknown.
Thompson is alleged to have been addicted to heroin going back to his time at DAPL which would have made him desperate for the money that Porter had offered him. In February of this year, a picture of his girlfriend was posted on social media of her missing two front teeth, claiming Thompson had knocked them out.
A TigerSwan employee commented on what was being discussed at the company's headquarters in North Carolina at this time saying, ''that JP [John Porter] was throwing people undercover in with the protesters and it wasn't just for intelligence gathering. It was more or less to incite them to do other things that would make TigerSwan a relevant necessity to continue to be paid money for security.''
One of the big selling points that TigerSwan used to sell their services to ETP for the DAPL contract was that the company uses what they bill as a proprietary app for smartphones called GuardianAngel which can be used to track their employees. Using GuardianAngel, ETP could be given a sense of security because they could see in real time that TigerSwan had security contractors physically present at the pipeline construction site watching over the company's assets.
GuardianAngel is sold to celebrities as a sort of digital panic button that not only tracks them, but that can be used to summon a global response and recovery system. The truth of the matter is that the app does not really work much of the time and that TigerSwan simply hires ''vetted'' local third party venders to run any potential assist and recovery operation, up-charging the client an extra 25% for the TigerSwan image which positions the company as little more than a security broker or high-tech travel agent.
GuardianAngel sits on Amazon.com web servers, but then provides information to severs housed at TigerSwan's headquarters in North Carolina which makes use of a digital platform which is provided by a British company. This makes it even more strange that TigerSwan sells proprietary licenses to celebrities and other clients when the actual software that makes the app work is owned by a British company.
''It is smoke and mirrors when it comes to being married with the platform, there is no GuardianAngel platform,'' a TigerSwan employee said. ''It is run through a British company. They claim to know exactly where you are but half of the time the position locations are nowhere near accurate, sometimes they are a mile off.''
Thus far, there has not been a real life emergency in which the app has been put to the test. ''That keeps me up at night, when is someone going to be be laying there and need that panic alarm and it's not going to work for him,'' the TigerSwan employee told SOFREP. In one case it was discovered that GuardianAngel simply wasn't functioning at all for several days without anyone noticing.
GuardianAngel is currently being used by some of the most recognizable singers and celebrities in the world.
Some TigerSwan contractors at Standing Rock loaded the app onto burner cell phones and simply left them in their hotel rooms because they distrusted it. Due to the vale of secrecy within the company, no one knows for sure about the specifics of the app. There is, ''lot of behind the door sessions where a lot of information is very compartmentalized so no one knows exactly what is going on except for Jim [Reese],'' the TigerSwan member told SOFREP. ''If Jim is the only one that has the whole story then he is the one that can craft the entire image.''
Porter was known to drive his pickup truck to a position over watching the North Bridge that crossed Cannon Ball River, the body of water that separated the protesters from the ETP oil pipeline construction site. From here, he would get on the radio and mimic the calls made by the protesters themselves in the early days of the protest before they got wise to the fact that the contractors were monitoring them. ''All warriors to the bridge!'' Porter would order over the radio, pretending to be a protester. ''Everyone to the bridge, all warriors to the bridge!''
Eventually, John Porter got exactly what he wanted.
On November 20 th protesters began showing up at the North Bridge. Barricades were present on the bridge and each day a TigerSwan employee who was a retired Special Forces soldier would go down to make sure the concertina wire was in order.
An internal document drafted by TigerSwan personnel which was provided to SOFREP gives their timeline of events and states that at 5:37PM, '' Rioter radio chatter is calling for shields to be brought to the bridge 'they are shooting at us, they are shooting at us, here they come, get us the shields!''' Then at 6:09PM the TigerSwan timeline says, ''Radio chatter: Male says 'where are the RED WARRIORS that have been talking shit'... and they are not up front with us.''' But how much of this chatter reported in the TigerSwan timeline was really from protesters, and how much of it was from their own employee? That night, the police turned water cannons on the protesters. One young woman was blinded by a rubber bullet.
A timeline of events at the North Bridge made by TigerSwan employees as part of a internal intelligence brief.This kind of activity was normal for Porter, who would hand his contractors baseball bats and tell them to break the legs of any protester found behind police lines, an illegal order that his subordinates blew off and in fact reported to higher ranking individuals at TigerSwan's headquarters, but no actions were taken to correct Porter or remove him from his position. As time went on, TigerSwan's CEO, James Reese was made aware of the indiscretions and illegal activities going on in his company as well but nothing changed.
''Everyone just saw oil and saw dollar signs,'' a security contractor who worked on the DAPL project told SOFREP before commenting that Reese, ''wants to be the next Erik Prince.'' At one point, TigerSwan was making a million dollars in profit per month while working on DAPL. No one at the company wanted to see that spigot turn off so some employees provoked the protesters in order to prolong the conflict. ETP was unaware of this as their director of security, Eric Lyons, was inexperienced and took whatever TigerSwan said at face value.
Another incident took place when Porter ordered several ex-Rangers to do penetration tests of the protester camps by driving a pickup truck right through their perimeter lines. The former Rangers blasted into Camp 3 where many of the more radical native Americans were known to be and made a loop through the camp. As protesters moved their vehicles to close off the entrance and trap them, the Rangers drove over a snow bank and escaped. Next, they drove down to Camp 1 and repeated the same tactic. This time the native Americans drove after them and they got into a high-speed pursuit down the road.
This action resulted in the women and children vacating the camps, while those remaining went up to 100% security and prepared for law enforcement and security contractors to come clear the camps, which was never going to happen. The protesters simply burned through resources and the native American tribe was not in a position to help them since they had spent the water protector donations to the tune of 3.2 million dollars in order to settle their casino debts.
''I know for a fact that the money went into a lot of people's pockets,'' said Eddie Stormcloud who was a leader in one of the water protector camps and attended many closed-door sessions with the tribal council. Stormcloud also told SOFREP that the true amount of money was closer to nine million dollars rather than the 3.2 reported. At the end of the day, it seemed that everyone was cashing in on the situation at Standing Rock.
James Reese (left) served as the commander of 1st Troop of Delta Force's A-Squadron prior to becoming the CEO of TigerSwan. His program manager at DAPL had to be someone that Reese could trust so he turned to his former 1 Troop Sergeant Major, John Porter (right).''Porter's real goal was to keep this thing going as long as possible,'' a former TigerSwan employee told SOFREP. ''Some of the protesters wanted to do big actions because they would get more media coverage and more funding. TigerSwan wanted it to happened because their contract would be prolonged. Meanwhile, ETP had no idea.''
One of the first contractors on the ground at DAPL told SOFREP that, ''when TigerSwan came on that was when the shit show started. They came in with this military ideology when it was a police operation. They were almost willing to go in and do things that RGT [Russel Group] would never do because you can't by law. So the oil company looked to TigerSwan as the authority and a lot of guys went over to them.''
The security contractor continued, saying that TigerSwan had an attitude of, ''we are going to walk into a room with a bunch of thugs and will be the biggest thug in the room.''
''T hey are trying to prolong this as a cash cow,'' another contractor lamented.
TigerSwan sent an unsigned and undated document from a nameless e-mail address to SOFREP denying the contents of this article. It reads in part, ''The claims you make have no basis in reality and are completely made up.'' The document goes on to state, ''At no time were there any approved operations outside of the scope of the contract. Just like any dynamic organization, the client's enterprise team for DAPL would come up with creative ideas to do their jobs differently, but nothing outside the scope of the contract was ever approved.''
The conflict at Standing Rock created a number of precedents for the future of protests and counter-protest actions. While companies like Blackwater were private military companies operating abroad, TigerSwan brought the tactics that contractors and soldiers use in Baghdad to American soil for the first time.
A retired Delta Force operator who spoke to SOFREP about the cultural issues involved was even more blunt about what the modern Special Operations soldier has become. ''You are assigning this awe to people who kill other people for a living,'' the retired operator stated. ''They only do good at this because they have strong supervision telling them what to do and they come off the rails without supervision.''
There is currently a narrative in popular culture about Special Operations supermen who are the masters at everything, but those who come from inside the community realize that a Ranger who specialized in Direct Action raids is probably not the best choice for a person to run human intelligence operations and attempt to infiltrate a protester camp or participate in police actions without specific training. However, Reese and his staff were able to capitalize on the reputation of Special Operations Forces, especially when interfacing with ETP security managers who literally had no idea what they were doing.
A former TigerSwan employee described to SOFREP how corporations hire former Special Operations soldiers with an expectation that they are willing to do anything to get the job done, just like they did when they were in uniform. However, many of those activities are illegal for private citizens to engage in.
Amongst TigerSwan employees, amateurish and incorrect intelligence analysis mixed with rumor to indicate that Arab terrorists and Russian gangsters were present inside the protest camps, which were in turn funded by evil shadowy billionaires who were ideologically motivated to destroy America. These were the masturbatory fantasies of former Special Operations soldiers eager to re-live their glory days and maintain relevancy in their lives after service.
A internal TigerSwan e-mail written by one of their HUMINT contractors at Standing Rock describes an initiative to begin blackmailing protesters who are assessed as being vulnerable to exploitation. In this case, Angelo Sisson, was never recruited, only targeted. (Picture: Facebook)One of the perennial problems associated with Special Operations Forces is that they largely conduct High Value Target raids, flying into an area under the cover of darkness in helicopters, hitting a target, killing a bunch of people, and then flying out. When the local population, and terrorists in the area, find out they don't retaliate against the SOF unit because they are nowhere to be found so they strike out at whatever Americans are in the area. Conventional military units end up on the receiving end of their ambushes and IEDs. Many of the security contractors at TigerSwan such as John Porter brought this slash and burn SOF mentality back home with them to use against American citizens on US soil. John Porter and others antagonized the protesters and made them more violent without any consideration for the law enforcement officers who would have to deal with the fallout.
Another criticism of Special Operations Forces is how often they make mistakes, out of carelessness or malice. JSOC Task Force operators have killed CIA sources in Afghanistan time and time again, without consideration for the larger intelligence and counter-insurgency strategy at hand. While federal agencies have a deconfliction process to ensure that their undercover personnel do not end up infiltrating the same group at the same time, private security companies like TigerSwan do not engage in any such practice. When SOFREP spoke with a TigerSwan contractor who was at DAPL, he was adamant that when he ran undercover in the protest camps no one was to know about them because that is how they did things in Iraq.
On numerous occasions, TigerSwan dodged the bullet, literally and figuratively, because of how close the company came to having a group of former SOF soldiers gunning down unarmed protesters. Such a battle would have been brother against brother in more ways than one, as there were US military veterans working as contractors as well as in the protestor camps as activists. On multiple occasions, the situation at DAPL threatened to spill completely out of control and TigerSwan was one of the main instigators. It is hard to fathom how profoundly a shootout between former SOF contractors and protesters could have changed American discourse.
''You have to reign these guys in, because if you go and kill a bunch of people, they want to get that dragon,'' the retired Delta operator told SOFREP about the war time mentality of the today's Special operators. ''You get this larger than life attitude because you are a ex-Ranger or ex-Delta guy. When it was every single night they were killing people and then you throw that guy into the mix with regular civilians it is insane. These are ungoverned soldiers. Everybody is a operator now, everybody is strapped up. I can't imagine a professional law enforcement officer thinking this is a good idea. Out there on the line it is all about discretion; it is all about restraint.''
''Someone is going to get shot, and then a bunch of people are going to get shot, and then we are going to have a Wounded Knee III. That's going to reflect badly on the national guard, on law enforcement, and certainly on private security contractors,'' Landon Steele said. ''Guys need to be really leery and really careful and ask the really hard questions when a contract holder calls them and says we have a contract here in the US.''
Today, TigerSwan employs contractors running static and roving security patrols for the Mariner East 2 (ME2) pipeline being built in Pennsylvania by ETP. The company also has eyes on the Atlantic pipeline and would like to bid on upcoming security contracts that will need to be fulfilled for the project.
TigerSwan's internal security assessments anticipate protests when the Atlantic pipeline is run through North Carolina and West Virginia.
SOFREP will continue to follow the story as it develops. Read more on the subject in TigerSwan: Propaganda Masquerading as Analysis.
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NYC requires schools to use transgender students' chosen pronouns - NY Daily News
Sat, 03 Mar 2018 02:47
School staff are required to address city transgender students using the pronouns the kids prefer, according to updated guidelines educators issued this week.
The pronoun directive is one of many contained in a 10-page Education Department memo on transgender kids for use by school staff, students and families. The new rules expand on a single page of protections the department first published in 2014.
The guidelines come after President Trump revoked federal protections for transgender students and underscored a previous mandate that the kids must be permitted to use public school bathrooms that align with their gender identities.
The rules describe the conditions for using ''non-binary'' '-- masculine or feminine '-- pronouns.
NYC students will have to go to school on St. Patrick's Day
The directive comes as President Trump reversed a directive by the Obama administration to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that align with their gender identities.(Richard Harbus/for New York Daily News) ''It is important to note that for students who are gender-nonconforming or who do not prescribe to the gender binary, they may prefer gender-neutral pronouns such as 'they,' 'ze,' or other pronouns,'' the memo states. It also includes information about how to protect transgender and gender-nonconforming kids from bullying.
''It is important for school staff, students and parents to be aware that transgender and gender-nonconforming students may be at a higher risk for peer ostracism, victimization, and bullying because of bias and/or the possibility of misunderstanding and lack of knowledge about their lives,'' the rules say.
The memo is the latest support for transgender and LGBT students in city schools, in a process begun under the de Blasio administration. Schools Chancellor Carmen Fari±a hired the public schools' first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community liaison, Jared Fox, in 2016 and the city schools' first gender-equity coordinator, Kimberly Shannon, in 2017.
Fox said the updated rules resulted from meetings with more than 3,000 city educators, parents and students in his first year on the job.
Carmen Farina urges Albany to OK mayoral control of schools
''It's about a safe, supportive and inclusive learning environment,'' Fox said. ''It's really hard to concentrate on English or math or social studies when you don't feel like you belong.''
The guidelines also include a glossary of appropriate terms for use in schools such as cisgender, which is defined as ''an adjective describing a person whose gender identity corresponds to their assigned sex at birth.''
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Under-side of the Ross ice shelf in Antarctica is freezing | Daily Mail Online
Sat, 03 Mar 2018 02:23
As long ago as 1973, a study suggested that an ice-free Arctic Ocean could make regions further south colder.
That 'warm Arctic, cold continent' (WACC) pattern is sometimes dubbed 'wacc-y' or 'wacky' among climate scientists.
When unusually warm air enters the region, it melts ice covering the waters of the Arctic Ocean.
This ice normally serves as an insulator, stopping the flow of thermal energy from the water's surface into the atmosphere.
Without the ice in place, the oceans can transfer a huge amount of this energy into the air above.
This in turn increases air temperatures and this warm air rises up into the upper atmosphere, where it reaches the jet stream.
Jet streams are fast flowing, narrow currents of air that carry warm and cold air across the planet, much like the currents of a river.
They cover thousands of miles as they meander near the tropopause layer of our atmosphere.
The strongest jet streams are the polar jets, found 30,000 to 39,000 ft (5.7 to 7.4 miles/ 9 to 12 km) above sea level at the north and south pole.
In the case of the Arctic polar jet this fast moving band of air sits between the cold Arctic air to the north and the warm, tropical air to the south.
When uneven masses of hot and cold meet, the resulting pressure difference causes winds to form.
During winter, the jet stream tends to be at its strongest because of the marked temperature contrast between the warm and cold air.
The bigger the temperature difference between the Arctic and tropical air mass, the stronger the winds of the jet stream become.
The Arctic polar jet, which can reach speeds of up 200mph (320kph), flows over the middle to northern latitudes of North America, Europe, and Asia and their intervening oceans.
It moves from East to West, although its exact route varies and can be affected by various factors.
With the ice melt in the Arctic and the introduction of warmer air, the route of the jet stream becomes wavier and more erratic.
That means that the colder air it carries from the Arctic can penetrate further south and warmer airs from the tropics is carried further north.
If the jet stream's meander buckles south of the UK, it attracts cold air from the Arctic.
Conversely when it swings north, it sucks warm air from the tropics.
Bernanke, Greenspan and other top economists warn Trump against steel tariffs - The Washington Post
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 22:15
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks before signing a directive ordering an investigation into the impact of foreign steel on the American economy in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
A group of influential economic advisers to past presidents on Wednesday cautioned President Trump against a potential plan to impose restrictions on imported steel.
Fifteen economists who had served as former chairs of the President's Council of Economic Advisers under both Republican and Democratic administrations -- including former Fed chairs Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke -- penned a joint letter in opposition to tariffs or other limits on steel imports. The protections, they wrote, would harm relations with close allies and damage the economy, including by raising costs for manufacturers, reducing factory employment and raising prices for consumers.
''Among us are Republicans and Democrats alike, and we have disagreements on a number of policy issues. But on some policies there is near universal agreement. One such issue is the harm of imposing tariffs on steel imports,'' the letter read.
The Trump administration is currently considering restrictions on imports of steel and aluminum, asserting they may be a threat to national security. The Commerce Department is conducting a review of how much of these materials the nation needs to defend itself and whether low-priced imports are putting American production of the metals at risk.
The steel industry has argued in favor of a tariff or quota on imports, which would limit the amount or raise the price of imported steel and boost business for U.S. steel makers.
But many industries that use steel to make their products, including auto manufacturers, have come out against the potential measure, arguing that higher prices for steel would make them less competitive. Allies that sell steel to the United States, including Canada, South Korea, Japan and the European Union, have also argued for exemptions from any restrictions.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had said that the Commerce Department would complete its study of the national security issue by the end of June. But government officials and industry executives say the White House appears to be divided over how to proceed. Ross and other White House advisers, including National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro, have pushed for protections for the steel industry, while others, including National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, have reportedly cautioned the president about potential retaliation.
The letter Wednesday cautioning against the steel restrictions was authored by nearly every former chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, including prominent economists such as Harvard University professor Greg Mankiw and Columbia University professor Joseph Stiglitz.
The list includes economists who have served Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. The only living CEA chair not to sign the letter was Janet Yellen, who is currently serving as chair of the Federal Reserve.
Other groups have raised their voices in protest of a tariff or quota. On Tuesday, 18 agricultural groups including the National Pork Producers Council sent a letter to Ross arguing that restrictions on steel and aluminum could result in other countries retaliating by restricting their products, an outcome that they said would be ''disastrous for the global trading system and for U.S. agriculture in particular.''
Do Investors Need to Steel Themselves for Potential Trade Tariffs? - TheStreet
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 22:14
Is protectionist U.S.trade policy right around the corner? Some folks think so, as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is investigating whether steel tariffs are warranted, allegedly based on concerns for national security. For those who thought a Trump presidency would usher in protectionism and be disastrous for U.S. trade, their worst fears seem to be coming true -- perhaps global trade wars are right around the corner!
But while the rhetoric is hot, a look at history shows that steel tariffs aren't new. In our view, any potential actions are unlikely to live up to pundits' fears.
President Trump's positions on trade have stoked these fears. On the campaign trail, Trump sharply criticized existing trade arrangements, in particular the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and ties with China. He frequently said on the stump he would use executive branch powers to "protect" American jobs and specifically that he believes steel imports are "killing our steelworkers and our steel companies." (Hence, why we say Commerce's investigation is allegedly based on national security concerns.) Trump's protectionist rhetoric is a major reason why Wall Street feared him winning, and why some economists and pundits argue his policies are bad for the economy.
But regardless of those fears, what the Trump administration is proposing is nothing new. Basically every administration since President Lyndon Johnson has enacted some variety of steel tariff, even if the justification differs slightly now.
Exhibit 1: Presidents Like Protecting Steel
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, as of 6/29/2017. For the record, Obama implemented steel tariffs twice (2014 and 2016). Our table cites the recent move.
So media, in hyping what Trump might do, is overlooking the fact that virtually all recent presidents have done the same. Heck, we just saw this 16 months ago, when the Obama administration imposed similar tariffs on China, South Korea and five other nations.
While protectionist measures are a risk for markets, industry-specific (and usually small in scope) policies like this generally lack the scale to be bearish for broader markets. The Commerce Department reported the value of all U.S. steel imports amounted to only 1.0% of total U.S. imports last year.
On its own, this shouldn't prove problematic for stocks. For those who want to blame China for U.S. steel's woes, consider: China, in part due to existing tariffs, only accounts for 4% of U.S. steel imports. Producers in Canada, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico and Japan account for a far bigger share.
Industry-specific tariff actions are fairly common and don't usually impact markets much. Why? Scale. To wallop the economy would likely take a negative worth trillions in economic activity. Getting to that scale would seemingly necessitate a broad-based trade war, the likes of which we have not seen since the 1930s, when the sweeping Tariff Act of 1930 (aka Smoot Hawley) passed.
Intended to bolster agriculture, the bill wound up slapping large tariffs on hundreds of manufactured goods. Nearly 900 U.S. imports were hit with new tariffs, and within a couple years, U.S. imports were down roughly 40%. Now, part of that was due to generally weak global economic conditions brought by the Depression.
But folks respond to incentives too, so it would be a mistake to think a tariff jacking up import prices had nothing to do with it. After Smoot Hawley, many of our major trading partners -- the U.K., France, Italy and Canada (our largest partner then and now) -- responded with tariffs of their own. While its government stayed neutral, Swiss consumers boycotted U.S. products.
Although it is possible steel tariffs could spur retaliation that spreads like wildfire, it is beyond a stretch to say that is probable or certain to follow whatever Commerce does. Even if the rumors of retaliation play out, the more likely outcome is a minor tit-for-tat -- not an outright trade war. There just doesn't seem to be enough economic heft involved here for steel tariffs to trigger a broader downturn.
This policy shift probably would create winners and losers in a small segment of the global economy -- as with any government meddling in free markets. U.S. steel producers might notch a small, near-term win. The benefits are questionable -- remember, we've seen this over and over, yet politicians still argue steel needs their "help." Consumers of steel could in theory face higher prices, which they may pass on to their customers; to the extent they have the ability to pass costs on. Producers in affected countries would suffer a bit.
But for markets, all the media hype bakes fear into stock prices, setting up a potential positive surprise. Take April's Canadian lumber saga, for example. Fears ran high when Secretary Ross unveiled a tariff on softwood imports from our northern neighbor, the culmination of a decades-old dispute.
Many news articles presumed this was bad, but markets had oodles of time to price in opinions and fears over how bad the tariff could be. In the end, the tariff didn't live up to the fear baked into stock prices -- and the stocks impacted jumped. Now, this isn't an argument to buy non-U.S. steelmakers -- the impact here was very short-lived. Our point, however, is a microcosm of how trade war fears play out.
The same thing has been happening at a macro level for much of 2017, and in our view, is one reason why global and U.S. stocks are having a nice year. For example, Mexican stocks and the peso were pounded after Trump won, due to that anti-NAFTA talk.
Yet six months in, talk is much friendlier -- and Mexican stocks and the peso have bounced back sharply. Moreover, according to campaign rhetoric, China should have been dubbed a currency manipulator roughly 160 days ago (on "day one") of a Trump administration. Yet here we are, and no such declaration.
All these positive surprises on trade suggest fearing big fallout now is a very speculative bet. With all the media chatter about steel tariffs triggering a trade war, it seems unlikely reality matches those fears. That should be another positive surprise on trade, further bolstering global equities.
Until we get clarity from Secretary Ross, there is nothing to stop media from painting all sorts of scary what-if scenarios recalling the 1930s. But buying the hype seems unwise.
Fisher Investments is an independent, fee-only investment adviser serving investors globally. To learn more about Fisher Investments, please visitwww.fisherinvestments.com.
The content contained in this article represents only the opinions and viewpoints of the author. It should not be regarded as personalized financial advice and no assurances are made the firm will continue to hold these views, which may change at any time based on new information, analysis or reconsideration. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Read TheStreet's latest coverage on steel names such as US Steel (X) , AK Steel (AKS) and ArcelorMittal (MT) here.
Drake's 'God's Plan' Is Now One of the Most Dominant Hot 100 No. 1s of Last 25 Years | Billboard
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 22:11
As Drake's "God's Plan" spends a fifth week atop the Billboard Hot 100 (dated March 3), the colossal hit joins rarefied air, becoming a smash so big that it flaunts more than twice as many Hot 100 chart points as its nearest competitor, the current No. 2, "Perfect" by Ed Sheeran. In essence, "Plan" is twice as popular as the No. 2 song of the week.
Yup, we're getting deep into the numbers in this one.
First, though, there's some fine print to explain: The Hot 100 ranks the most popular songs of the week in the U.S. based on a blend of streaming, airplay and sales data. The chart, which launched on Aug. 4, 1958, began using Nielsen Music's electronically-measured point-of-sale and radio airplay information on the list dated Nov. 30, 1991, which is when our research for this post begins. Since that date, only 20 songs have run away with enough sales, airplay and, since 2012, streaming activity to rule with at least a two-to-one points lead. With 311 No. 1s in that span (beginning with P.M. Dawn's "Set Adrift on Memory Bliss"), a mere 6 percent of all leaders have ballooned to such heights.
Unsurprisingly, the list contains enduring megahits such as Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You," which recorded the first two-to-one points lead. The ballad blasted the competition with a lead of that ratio (or more) for nine of its 14 weeks at No. 1, the most for song in the past 25-plus years.
Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997"/"Something About the Way You Look Tonight," meanwhile, claims the biggest ratio lead over a No. 2 song: It debuted at No. 1 on Oct. 11, 1997, with a massive points lead of 17 times the amount of the No. 2 challenger (Boyz II Men's "4 Seasons of Loneliness").
How did John score the most lopsided lead? "Candle," his tribute to the then-recently deceased Diana, Princess of Wales, sold a Nielsen-record 3.4 million physical singles in its first week of tracking. (And remember! This occurred in 1997, before the dawn of more consumer-friendly options such as YouTube and digital downloads. At the time, the only way to access a Hot 100 hit on-demand was to go to a physical retail venue and buy a commercially-released single on CD, cassette tape or even 7-inch vinyl.)
With "God's Plan" achieving such double-dominance on the Hot 100, Drake secures his place as the latest all-star to have outscored his competition by at least a two-to-one points margin. Here's the full roster:
"I Will Always Love You," Whitney Houston
Nine weeks with 2x points as No. 2: Dec. 12, 1992-Feb. 6, 1993
Six weeks above No. 2 "If I Ever Fall in Love" by Shai; three weeks above No. 2 "Rump Shaker" by Wreckx-n-Effect
"I'll Make Love to You," Boyz II Men
Three weeks with 2x points as No. 2: Sept. 10-24, 1994
All above No. 2 "Stay (I Missed You)" by Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories
"Tha Crossroads," Bone Thugs-n-Harmony
Three weeks with 2x points as No. 2: June 8-22, 1996
Two weeks above No. 2 "Always Be My Baby" by Mariah Carey; one week above No. 2 "You're Makin' Me High"/"Let It Flow" by Toni Braxton
"I'll Be Missing You," Puff Daddy & Faith Evans featuring 112
Two weeks with 2x points as No. 2: July 5-12, 1997
One week above No. 2 "Mmmbop" by Hanson; one week above No. 2 "Bitch" by Meredith Brooks
"Candle in the Wind 1997"/"Something About the Way You Look Tonight," Elton John
Five weeks with 2x points as No. 2: Oct. 11-Nov. 8, 1997
Two weeks above No. 2 "4 Seasons of Loneliness" by Boyz II Men; three weeks above No. 2 "You Make Me Wanna'..." by Usher
"My Heart Will Go On," Celine Dion
One week with 2x points as No. 2: Feb. 28, 1998
Above No. 2 "Nice and Slow" by Usher
"All My Life," K-Ci & JoJo
One week with 2x points as No. 2: April 4, 1998
Above No. 2 "Frozen" by Madonna
"The Boy Is Mine," Brandy & Monica
Two weeks with 2x points as No. 2: June 20-27, 1998
Both above No. 2 "You're Still the One" by Shania Twain
"I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," Aerosmith
One week with 2x points as No. 2: Sept. 5, 1998
Above No. 2 "The First Night" by Monica
"Heartbreaker," Mariah Carey featuring Jay-Z
One week with 2x points as No. 2: Oct. 9, 1999
Above No. 2 "Smooth" by Santana featuring Rob Thomas
"All for You," Janet Jackson
One week with 2x points as No. 2: April 14, 2001
Above No. 2 "Survivor" by Destiny's Child
"Hips Don't Lie," Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean
One week with 2x points as No. 2: June 17, 2006
Above No. 2 "Ridin" by Chamillionaire featuring Krayzie Bone
"SexyBack," Justin Timberlake
Two weeks with 2x points as No. 2: Sept. 9-16, 2006
Both above No. 2 "London Bridge" by Fergie
"Right Round," Flo Rida
One week with 2x points as No. 2: Feb. 28, 2009
Above No. 2 "Dead and Gone" by T.I. featuring Justin Timberlake
"Harlem Shake," Baauer
Four weeks with 2x points as No. 2: March 2-March 23, 2013
All above No. 2 "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz
"Blurred Lines," Robin Thicke featuring T.I. + Pharrell
Two weeks with 2x points as No. 2: Aug. 17-Aug. 24, 2013
Both above No. 2 "We Can't Stop" by Miley Cyrus
"Hello," Adele
Three weeks with 2x points as No. 2: Nov. 14-Nov. 28, 2015
All above No. 2 "Sorry" by Justin Bieber
"Shape of You," Ed Sheeran
One week with 2x points as No. 2: March 25, 2017
Above No. 2 "Bad and Boujee" by Migos featuring Lil Uzi Vert
"Look What You Made Me Do," Taylor Swift
One week with 2x points as No. 2: Sept. 16, 2017
Above No. 2 "Despacito," by Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber
"God's Plan," Drake
One week with 2x points as No. 2: March 3, 2018
Above No. 2 "Perfect," by Ed Sheeran
Trump was angry and 'unglued' when he started a trade war, officials say - NBC News
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 20:03
WASHINGTON '-- With global markets shaken by President Donald Trump's surprise decision to impose strict tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, the president went into battle mode on Friday: "Trade wars are good, and easy to win," he wrote on Twitter.
But the public show of confidence belies the fact that Trump's policy maneuver, which may ultimately harm U.S. companies and American consumers, was announced without any internal review by government lawyers or his own staff, according to a review of an internal White House document.
According to two officials, Trump's decision to launch a potential trade war was born out of anger at other simmering issues and the result of a broken internal process that has failed to deliver him consensus views that represent the best advice of his team.
On Wednesday evening, the president became "unglued," in the words of one official familiar with the president's state of mind.
A trifecta of events had set him off in a way that two officials said they had not seen before: Hope Hicks' testimony to lawmakers investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election, conduct by his embattled attorney general and the treatment of his son-in-law by his chief of staff.
Trump, the two officials said, was angry and gunning for a fight, and he chose a trade war, spurred on by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, the White House director for trade.
Ross had already invited steel and aluminum executives to the White House for an 11 a.m. meeting on Thursday. But Ross, according to a person with direct knowledge, hadn't told the White House who the executives were. As a result, White House officials were unable to conduct a background check on the executives to make sure they were appropriate for the president to meet with and they were not able to be cleared for entry by secret service. According to a person with direct knowledge, even White House chief of staff John Kelly was unaware of their names.
By midnight Wednesday, less than 12 hours before the executives were expected to arrive, no one on the president's team had prepared any position paper for an announcement on tariff policy, the official said. In fact, according to the official, the White House counsel's office had advised that they were as much as two weeks away from being able to complete a legal review on steel tariffs.
In response to NBC News, another White House official said that the communications team "was well-prepared to support the president's announcement" and that "many of the attendees had been in the White House before and had already been vetted for attendance at a presidential event." A different official said of the decision, "everyone in the world has known where the president's head was on this issue since the beginning of his administration."
There were no prepared, approved remarks for the president to give at the planned meeting, there was no diplomatic strategy for how to alert foreign trade partners, there was no legislative strategy in place for informing Congress and no agreed upon communications plan beyond an email cobbled together by Ross's team at the Commerce Department late Wednesday that had not been approved by the White House.
No one at the State Department, the Treasury Department or the Defense Department had been told that a new policy was about to be announced or given an opportunity to weigh in in advance.
The Thursday morning meeting did not originally appear on the president's public schedule. Shortly after it began, reporters were told that Ross had convened a "listening" session at the White House with 15 executives from the steel and aluminum industry.
Then, an hour later, in an another unexpected move, reporters were invited to the Cabinet room. Without warning, Trump announced on the spot that he was imposing new strict tariffs on imports.
By Thursday afternoon, the U.S. stock market had fallen and Trump, surrounded by his senior advisers in the Oval Office, was said to be furious.
IHeart Prepares for Bankruptcy as Soon as This Weekend - Bloomberg
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 18:26
Embattled IHeartMedia Inc. is circulating documents for a bankruptcy filing that could come as soon as this weekend for the biggest U.S. radio broadcaster.
Advisers to some of iHeart's senior creditors have been shown bankruptcy papers that would be used on the first day of court proceedings, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Despite a year of negotiations on a restructuring plan, a formal support agreement still isn't in place with the most-senior lenders, and the creditors aren't in restricted talks with the company, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private negotiations. Creditors typically agree to restrict some of their activities in exchange for non-public information when talks heat up.
A bankruptcy filing is all but certain, with iHeart and creditors each swapping proposals in recent weeks for a consensual restructuring. But pressure is mounting on iHeart after it missed a Feb. 1 interest payment, with a 30-day grace period about to run out. On top of that, the broadcaster on Thursday skipped payments on two more sets of bonds. If the company files without a pre-negotiated restructuring plan in place, the bankruptcy could turn into a free-fall, with some of the biggest and most contentious specialists in distressed companies potentially tussling for years over about $20 billion of debt.
Billionaire John Malone's Liberty Media stepped in with a last-minute offer to senior creditors that would help salvage iHeart by injecting cash and financing a trip through bankruptcy, but analysts have said the bid isn't high enough to win over creditors. Still, talks remain fluid and ongoing between the secured creditor group and Liberty Media, according to the people.
Related story: John Malone Is Assembling a Radio Empire
Liberty has already bought a substantial position in iHeart debt and sees potential synergies between iHeart and SiriusXM radio, Chief Executive Officer Greg Maffei said Thursday on a call with investors. IHeart runs the biggest land-based radio network with about 850 stations and Sirius has the largest satellite radio network.
Wendy Goldberg, a spokeswoman for San Antonio, Texas-based iHeart, declined to comment. IHeart is controlled by Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners, which staged a leveraged buyout in 2008. The senior creditor group is advised by investment bank PJT Partners and law firm Jones Day. Representatives for those firms declined to comment or didn't provide an immediate response. Liberty spokeswoman Courtnee Chun didn't immediately provide comment; the company is advised by investment bank Millstein & Co. and law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges.
Talks ContinueActive talks still continue with lenders, noteholders and financial sponsors, iHeart said in a regulatory filing that disclosed the latest skipped payments. Negotiators have narrowed many of their differences, with the two sides swapping increasingly similar plans for a bankruptcy. But a deal has been held up by the insistence of iHeart's private equity sponsors on retaining a stake in the reorganized company.
Meanwhile, iHeart and creditors are positioning themselves for what could come after a the bankruptcy filing, with the company disclosing a bonus plan for Chief Executive Officer Bob Pittman and junior bondholders controlling more than $200 million of unsecured debt suing in a New York state court. They're accusing iHeart of secretly using assets for years to secure other borrowing. The suing bondholders include funds run by Angelo Gordon & Co., a distressed-debt investor that had been accumulating shares of iHeart's billboard advertising company, Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings Inc.
Related Story: IHeart Offers $15.5 Million of Bonuses for Bosses
IHeart's 14 percent bonds due 2021 fell 0.75 cents to trade at 12.25 cents on the dollar Thursday, according to Trace bond-price reporting. The shares fell 12 cents to trade at 43 cents a share at 12:44 p.m. in New York.
Bitcoin's Plunge in Volume Stirs Questions About Its Usage
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 18:03
Earlier this year, when Bitcoin's price fell by more than 60 percent from its record close, a less-noticed Bitcoin figure also plunged: the number of daily transactions.
There are many explanations for the fall-off in trading, from software- to news-related. What's less understood is why the level hasn't recovered as Bitcoin's price made a 50 percent comeback since Feb. 5. That's left some investors wondering whether the cryptocurrency is waning in popularity.
The average number of trades recorded daily has roughly dropped in half from the December highs and touched its lowest in two years last month, even as Bitcoin became a household name and roared back to near $11,000.
The transaction data may be bad news for Bitcoin bulls, according to Charles Morris, chief investment officer of Newscape Capital Group in London, who invests in cryptocurrencies. Trading and purchases on the Bitcoin network, which can be measured by metrics like transaction volume, is indicative of price direction, he said.
''We had a hype-cycle and now it's cooling down,'' Morris, who's working on a project that will facilitate price discovery in various cryptocurrencies, said by phone from London. ''We just may be entering a bear market'' for Bitcoin.
Transactions plunged from a seven-day average of almost 400,000 in mid-December to about 200,000 this week, according to research firm Blockchain.info. The last time it was this low, the currency traded below $500.
Transactions waiting to be officially recognized by the Bitcoin network dropped from a seven-day average of 130 million bytes in early January to about 35 million now.
Average transaction confirmation times have tumbled -- though that may be in part because the technology that underlies Bitcoin has already been adapted to address some of these delays. For example, a software enhancement known as the SegWit protocol, changing the way data is stored on the blockchain, was activated last week by Coinbase Inc., the largest U.S. cryptocurrency exchange.
Not everyone agrees that lower volumes signal trouble for Bitcoin. It may be a healthy return to normality and signs that the market is maturing.
Should prices start rallying again, traders may well be coaxed back, according to David Drake, whose New York-based family office has more than $10 million in cryptocurrency and blockchain investments. He sees the currency soaring to $35,000 by the end of the year.
''We have a legacy of transactions being too slow and expensive, and it will take some time for people to forget,'' Drake said by phone. ''But they'll come back.''
The decline in prices may itself be to blame for lower trading volumes in Bitcoin. And websites that once only allowed payment in Bitcoin now accept a much wider range of digital currencies, according to Kyle Samani, managing partner at crypto hedge fund Multicoin Capital. That makes alternative currencies more appealing than the first-mover in the space. A year ago, bitcoin's market capitalization was about 85 percent of the total sector. It's now around 40 percent, according to website Coinmarketcap.com.
''Merchants, payment processors and online gambling are moving off of Bitcoin,'' Samani, who has $50 million allocated to the space, said in an email. ''Our Bitcoin position as a fund is small -- I believe Bitcoin is in the process of failing.''
Jared Kushner's Real-Estate Firm Sought Money Directly From Qatar Government Weeks Before Blockade
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 16:46
The real estate firm tied to the family of presidential son-in-law and top White House adviser Jared Kushner made a direct pitch to Qatar's minister of finance in April 2017 in an attempt to secure investment in a critically distressed asset in the company's portfolio, according to two sources. At the previously unreported meeting, Jared Kushner's father Charles, who runs Kushner Companies, and Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sharif Al Emadi discussed financing for the Kushners' signature 666 Fifth Avenue property in New York City.
The 30-minute meeting, according to two sources in the financial industry who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the potential transaction, included aides to both parties, and was held at a suite at the St. Regis Hotel in New York.
A real estate firm tied to Jared Kushner made a direct pitch to Qatar's minister of finance in April 2017 in an attempt to secure investment for 666 Fifth Avenue.
A follow-up meeting was held the next day in a glass-walled conference room at the Kushner property itself, though Al Emadi did not attend the second gathering in person.
The failure to broker the deal would be followed only a month later by a Middle Eastern diplomatic row in which Jared Kushner provided critical support to Qatar's neighbors. Led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a group of Middle Eastern countries, with Kushner's backing, led a diplomatic assault that culminated in a blockade of Qatar. Kushner, according to reports at the time, subsequently undermined efforts by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to bring an end to the standoff.
The Gulf crisis involving Qatar and its neighbors will likely be Kushner's defining foreign policy legacy. The crisis followed a May visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, by Kushner and President Donald Trump, who subsequently took credit for Saudi Arabia and its allies' efforts against Qatar. The fallout has reshaped geopolitical alliances in the region, splitting the Gulf Cooperation Council and pushing Qatar, home to the Middle East's largest U.S. military base, closer to Turkey and Iran.
Mohammed Hitme, chief of staff to the Qatari finance minister, did not respond to emails or phone calls seeking comment. White House Spokesperson Hope Hicks referred questions to Kushner Companies, whose spokesperson Christine Taylor said, ''We don't comment on who Charlie meets with.'' She added, ''We don't do business with any sovereign funds.''
The Kushner Companies meetings with the Qataris were held the week of April 24. While Al Emadi was in New York, he appeared on Bloomberg TV to talk about the strategy of the Qatar Investment Authority, or QIA, the nation's sovereign wealth fund. A host asked Al Emadi about whether the investment fund did business on the basis of geopolitics. Al Emadi answered the only way he could. ''I think if you look at what we do in QIA, or in our sovereign wealth fund, it's purely commercially driven. So we go where we think we're going to have value,'' he said. ''We like what we see here. We performed very well in the last two years. The market has been very good to us. And hopefully we can continue the same strategy in the U.S.''
This was not the first time Charles Kushner solicited funds from the Qataris.
This was not the first time Charles Kushner solicited funds from the Qataris, but it is the first direct pitch known to be made to the minister of finance himself. Notably, the play came after Trump's election. The Intercept first reported last summer that Charles Kushner had also propositioned Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al Thani, a prominent businessman who previously served as the country's foreign minister and prime minister. The deal proffered by HBJ, as he is known, was worth $500 million but ultimately fell through when Kushner Companies failed to secure other outside capital. That 2017 effort followed previous entreaties made in the region by Jared Kushner himself.
The news of Kushner Companies' direct pitch to the Qatari government puts a Wednesday report from the Washington Post into broader context . U.S. intelligence services, the paper reported, had determined that officials in four countries '-- the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel, and Mexico '-- had been privately discussing how to use Jared Kushner's real-estate investments as a way to gain leverage over him in order to influence official U.S. policy.
Kushner has divested from a small portion of Kushner Companies, but has retained substantial ownership. A balloon payment due in 2018 on the badly underwater property at 666 Fifth Avenue has been a ticking clock on the fortunes of the Kushner family, precipitating the global hunt for capital. The Washington Post reported earlier this year that the father-son pair, Jared and Charles Kushner, speak on a daily basis.
The New York Times reported last month that just prior to Jared Kushner's visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia in May 2017, his family real estate company ''received a roughly $30 million investment from Menora Mivtachim,'' described as one of Israel's largest financial institutions.
Top photo: White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner attends a Hanukkah Reception in the East Room of the White House, on Dec. 7, 2017 in Washington, D.C.
Trump's presidency has been defined by chaos. This week was even worse. - NBC News
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 16:42
First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter
WASHINGTON '-- For a White House already defined by chaos, disorganization and policy reversals, this has been a particularly turbulent week in Donald Trump's presidency. To recap:
Communications Director Hope Hicks is leaving the White House, while National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is expected to be replaced by early next month, per MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace.Trump '-- again '-- attacked his attorney general, tweeting: ''Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever'... DISGRACEFUL!"The president announced new tariffs on steel and aluminum, later saying that ''trade wars are good and easy to win.''Son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner lost his top-secret security clearance, raising the question about how seriously the Trump White House had been handling classified information (given that Kushner was viewing the Presidential Daily Brief)Trump held a listening session with Democratic and Republican lawmakers on guns, but the NRA later said he reversed the positions he had taken in that meeting (more on that below).And it's just Friday morning, so we have hours to go until the weekend begins.
NBC's Vivian Salama, Hallie Jackson and Kristen Welker report that Trump has been depressed about Hicks' departure. ''Behind the scenes, sources suggest that morale is waning at the White House. Two people close to the administration tell NBC News that the president is angry and depressed after losing Hicks, whom he had looked upon as one of his own children.''
The New York Times adds that the president ''is isolated and angry, as well, according to other friends and aides, as he carries on a bitter feud with his attorney general and watches members of his family clash with a chief of staff he recruited to restore a semblance of order '-- all against the darkening shadow of an investigation of his ties to Russia. The combined effect is taking a toll.''
And the Washington Post writes that the ''shortest month of the year delivered 28 days of tumult that many inside and outside the White House say could mark the fall of the House of Kushner.''
Over the last year, we've chronicled the chaos, disunity and turbulence inside the Trump White House (see here, here, here and here), and so it's easy to become numb to what's happened over the last few days. But you can't ignore how this week has felt more chaotic, more divided and more turbulent than the others. And we're just 13 months into this presidency.
The NRA says Trump has retreated on his gun control rhetoricOn Wednesday, Trump criticized lawmakers '-- Democratic and Republican '-- for being ''afraid of the NRA.''
TRUMP: I'm a fan of the NRA. There's no bigger fan. I'm a big fan of the NRA. They wanna do it '-- these are great people, these are great patriots, they love our country. But that doesn't mean we have to agree on everything. It doesn't make sense that I have to wait till I'm 21 to get a handgun but I can get this weapon at 18, I don't know. So I was just curious as to what you did in your bill.
TOOMEY: We didn't address it, Mr. President, but I think we'--
TRUMP: You know why? Because you're afraid of the NRA, right?
But guess who met with the NRA last night? ''Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!'' Trump tweeted.
And what did they discuss? ''I had a great meeting tonight with @realDonaldTrump & @VP,'' the NRA's Chris Cox tweeted. ''We all want safe schools, mental health reform and to keep guns away from dangerous people. POTUS & VPOTUS support the Second Amendment, support strong due process and don't want gun control.''
That ''due process'' line appeared to be in response to Trump's ''Take the guns first, go through due process second'' remark on Wednesday.
Per NBC's Peter Alexander, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders held a brief gaggle with reporters, saying that the president still stands by everything he said on guns during Wednesday's meeting with lawmakers. She said in last night's meeting with the NRA, Trump reiterated that he'll continue to support the Second Amendment.
Trump's great economic experimentAs for Trump's tariffs and his talk of a ''trade war,'' we're about to embark on a fascinating economic/political experiment: What happens to a growing, full-employment economy when you add big tax cuts, more spending and tariffs?
Well, we'll find out in a year or two.
NBC's Jonathan Allen writes that Republicans aren't happy with Trump's tariff move. '''I would have preferred a more targeted approach as to the product and as to the country where it's coming from,' [Sen. Rob] Portman said. 'I come from Ohio. We're a big steel state, we want to protect our steel workers '-- we've lost 1,500 steelworkers in the last couple years '-- but want to be sure that it's not going to also hurt the automakers and the other users of steel, manufacturers.'''
''His rebuke was mild compared to much of the instant cavalcade of Republican criticism of Trump's plan, which included a warning from South Dakota Sen. John Thune, a member of GOP leadership, that the president's trade policies could be 'very harmful to the economy.' Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., warned that the tariffs would amount to "a massive tax increase on American families.'''
Did These Computer Scientists Solve the Cuban 'Sonic Attack'?
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 16:41
A technical report from the University of Michigan offers a stunningly simple theory for the source of the Cuban ''sonic attack'': a pair of eavesdropping devices too close to each other and tripping the ultrasound that ironically was supposed to make their presence quiet.
More importantly, it might not have been done with malicious intent.
''It doesn't prove it's the cause,'' Kevin Fu, an associate professor at the University of Michigan and one of the co-authors of the study, cautioned. ''It's a correlation. But to us, it seems like a strong correlation.''
A recap: Last September, the State Department recalled 21 American employees from the U.S. embassy in Havana. These employees, along with three Canadians, reported dizziness, cognitive difficulties, headaches, and hearing loss, among other medical issues, according to an official statement made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The victims of what was being termed a ''sonic attack'' reported hearing a high-pitched sound that made them physically ill.
In December, the AP reported that patients showed ''unprecedented'' neurological damage, with hearing loss, memory problems, and cognitive issues. This prompted further speculation as to what the ''sonic terror'' device was: Some thought it was an advanced Russian tool that was sneaked into the embassy; others thought it was poisoning. A Cuban panel of scientists thought the ''psychogenesis'' was brought about by stress.
To add to the confusion, doctors weren't sure either what was going on. In a preliminary report published in JAMA, physicians treating the patients could only say a ''novel mechanism'' caused the neurological damage. A companion report in JAMA published last month came to no conclusion as to what could possibly be causing the neurological damage patients had suffered.
But in the technical report published from the University of Michigan on Thursday, Fu and his colleagues came up with a totally different, less spy-novella-ish technical mishap, not a ''sonic attack'' at all.
In fact, Fu and his co-authors were accidental investigators of the Cuban sonic attacks. Fu's daytime job is researching computer security and privacy at the University of Michigan; he's also chief scientist at the health-care security company Virta Labs.
''I look at how security can fail,'' he told The Daily Beast. ''My laboratory studies how sound waves can cause bizarre malfunctions in computer systems.''
About six months ago, the AP released a video of the sound, recorded by a victim at the embassy. (Warning: This sound might be painful to some people.)
Fu and his team were working on a project testing the audibility of ultrasound in another project, but the AP video caught their eye.
''At the time, people were talking about ultrasound [being a theory as to what the sound was],'' Fu said. ''But it didn't make sense. Ultrasound is inaudible [to humans], and you wouldn't hear it.''
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So Fu and his co-authors set to work analyzing the five-second blip of sound captured by the AP's source. Fu and his co-authors decided to ''reverse-engineer'' the ultrasonic signals necessary to generate the high-pitched tone, attempting to ''craft ultrasound with mathematical properties such that you can choose the audible byproduct.''
That's difficult to parse, but what Fu and his colleagues were trying to figure out were the combination of ultrasonic tones that would not only be able to create something that was discernible to the human ear but would replicate the tinny, high-pitched sound captured by the AP's source. They knew it wasn't a single tone, but that there had to be multiple tones that rang together as one. Fu's team was positive this was the case, because they looked at the spectral signature, or the variance in the wavelengths the tone was emitting.
What they measured came out to be a 7 kHz tone that can be listened to here: (Warning: This sound might be painful to some listeners.)
''That's 7,000 vibrations a second,'' Fu said. ''It's high-pitched, and it's a sound that any adult or child can hear.''
Fu and his team had figured out how an ultrasound tone could be audible to the human ear. But what could possibly have created that sound?
While ultrasound might make you think of pregnant women, it's in our everyday lives. ''The common use of ultrasound is for motion detection,'' Fu said, particularly in industrial settings. Those lights that stay on in office rooms? They're usually able to detect movement (much like the detection of a fetus and its minute movements) in energy-efficient structures to keep the lights on only when there is a moving, living, breathing human in it. Sit still long enough and the lights might shut off, mistakenly thinking that no one is in the room. These sensors are also emitting sound, but it's at the ultrasound level, in the 32 kHz range, which is normally outside of human earshot.
In an article Fu and one of his co-authors wrote for The Conversation, the authors point to other ways ultrasound can turn up in an industrial setting: museum recordings and security settings that are intended to not bother those outside a setting but respond to those within one; electronic pest repellants that don't affect humans but annoy rodents and/or bugs; noisemakers designed to affect teens with better hearing than adults in the event of a riot.
But what if the ultrasound here got tripped up by an interruption'--perhaps a pair of eavesdropping devices whose transmission got tangled over what was supposed to be an inaudible ultrasonic link but instead became audible?
Fu and his colleagues tested this theory by having an eavesdropping device record conversations that were then sent over to a surveillance team via ultrasonic link, which was supposed to be inaudible to the human ear. But Fu's group also dropped another otherwise-inaudible ultrasonic device in the vicinity of the first device, creating interference'--what's known as ''intermodulation distortion'''--that could lead to the 7 kHz tinny sound the team replicated and identified in the AP's sound recording.
''It doesn't prove that this is what happened in Cuba,'' Fu cautioned. ''But it does show that there's a reasonable probability that it's an accident rather than someone causing harm [intentionally].''
The technical paper Fu and his co-authors published is groundbreaking in that it offers a viable explanation for what happened to the 24 embassy workers. ''It's an alternative hypothesis to the sonic-weapon theory, of someone trying to cause harm,'' Fu said. ''It's a theory that seems a little more practical in that it could be bad engineering.
''It seems like a reasonable hypothesis.''
So many parts of the story seemed primed for a Hollywood thriller: that the embassy workers got sick by virtue of a sound, that the sound seemed targeted at certain times, that only some of them were able to hear it while others weren't.
Fu said the dual-eavesdropping-device theory could readily explain these oddities. For one, ''There's very little consensus on whether airborne ultrasound can cause harm,'' Fu pointed out, saying some research indicates that the answer is yes, others say no. He also said that because ultrasound isn't usually audible, standards for how loud it can be before it causes harm vary by country. In Canada, for example, the accepted level is 110 dB, the equivalent of ''putting your head next to a chainsaw,'' Fu said.
But to Fu, ''the most interesting part and nuance is that ultrasound can create the audible byproducts and even lower frequencies than can be heard.'' That can in turn lead to unusual neurological symptoms'--''headaches, dizziness, disorientation.'' Sound familiar?
The JAMA study from last month theorized ultrasound was potentially a culprit, noting:
Ultrasound (>20'¯000 Hz)'--specifically high-intensity focused ultrasound'--is known to induce heating and coagulative necrosis of brain tissue. This characteristic has recently been exploited to stereotactically and noninvasively produce focal lesions in the treatment of movement disorders. However, the technical challenges in using ultrasound waves for nonlethal attacks include the rapid absorption of ultrasound by surrounding air and a requirement for close proximity to the source to induce injury.
'-- Christopher Muth and Steven Lewis, JAMA
(The Daily Beast reached out to the authors of the companion JAMA report that described the symptoms the patients faced and the fact that they seemed to suffer neurological damage. The authors declined to comment.)
As for the argument that some people were able to hear the sound but others were not, Fu also provides an explanation of varying auditory capabilities, most likely traceable to the simple demographic factor of age. As we get older, our hearing deteriorates. Fu offered a story of doing an experiment one day while playing a couple ultrasonic tones. ''A couple students down the way said, 'Please turn the annoying sound off,''' he recalled. Fu had no idea what they were saying, until he looked at a device he had on that indicated that soundwaves were being generated at the 15 kHz level. ''Everyone said they could hear it and it was really annoying,'' Fu, who is 42 and reported normal age-related hearing loss, said. ''But I couldn't hear a thing.''
Fu and his colleagues submitted the technical report to the Department of State ''some days ago,'' but hasn't heard back. He said that while it's not probably going to be submitted to a journal because it would be difficult to peer review (the field is tiny and Fu said the experts capable of peer reviewing the report are limited to him and his co-authors, thereby making a peer review moot), the hypothesis makes sense to him.
''It just seems like the simplest solution,'' he said.
Het Amsterdamse Seal stelt zijn ICO van '‚¬ 33 miljoen uit '' dit is de reden
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 15:07
Seal heeft zijn initial coin offering op het laatste moment uitgesteld met een paar weken. De reden daarvoor is dat er op dit moment een kleine groep kopers benadeeld zou worden.
Seal is de onderneming van de broers Bart en Joris Verschoor. Zij willen een platform gebaseerd op blockchaintechnologie bouwen, waarbij de echtheid van bepaalde producten zoals luxegoederen wordt gewaarborgd.
Business Insider sprak vorige week uitgebreid met CEO Bart Verschoor over de plannen.
De startup had afgelopen zondag 33 miljoen euro op willen halen door hun Seal-token in de voorverkoop beschikbaar te maken, maar dat werd op het laatste moment uitgesteld.
''The Seal presale launch is postponed. THERE IS NO EVENT TODAY. I'm sorry to inform you on such short notice'', mailde Jol Happ(C), een van de initiatiefnemers, om 9:54 uur naar belangstellenden. Verdere toelichting ontbrak.
CEO Bart Verschoor zegt nu dat het uitstel heeft te maken met de manier waarop het identificatieproces was ingericht. Ge¯nteresseerden konden eerst de cryptomunt aanschaffen, daarna vond de check van persoonsgegevens pas plaats.
''Dat gebeurde om marketingtechnische redenen'', aldus Verschoor. ''Er is een kans dat er een groepje mensen niet door het identificatieproces heen komt. Die zouden onterecht worden geblokkeerd en hun tokens kwijt zijn.''
Volgens Verschoor kun je een ICO vergelijken met het lanceren van een raket. ''Het moet in (C)(C)n keer goed zijn. Je kunt namelijk daarna geen grote aanpassingen meer doen. Vandaar dat wij uiteindelijk hebben besloten om dit technische mankement eerst aan te pakken.''
Verschoor blijft positief en kijkt uit naar de volgende lancering: ''Onze community blijft groeien, ondanks dit besluit. Wij laten zien dat we om ons publiek geven.''
LEES OOK: Hoe je belasting betaalt over bitcoin en andere cryptomunten in 7 vragen
Twitter Celebrated Decision to Cancel Joy Reid -- but It Was Fake News
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 15:06
MSNBC haters celebrated news yesterday that the network would be canceling ''AMJoy.'' The show and its host Joy Reid has racked up no shortage of detractors over the years.
The only problem '-- it wasn't true.
The fake news spread as a result of this tweet from ''Wired Sources,'' which cited TVNewser.
Also Read:Fox News Goes to War With Joy Reid After MSNBC Host Downplays MS-13 Gang Threat (Video)
The Twitter account, which was launched in August 2017 and promotes itself as ''your trusted source for news and politics,'' turned out to be not all that trustworthy.
Wired Sources issued a correction a short time later revealing that they had mistaken a TVNewser report about Reid's former MSNBC show ''The Reid Report'' which was indeed canceled in 2015.
A spokesperson for MSNBC did not immediately respond to request for comment from TheWrap about the matter.
Fake news? Yes. But for a brief moment, Anti-Reid Twitter rejoiced.
The charge was led by Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick, who are both known for their accusations of sexual assault against President Bill Clinton.
CNN, MSNBC and Fox News thrive in Trump era
CNN, MSNBC and Fox News have all flourished in the Trump administration, but only one show can wear the crown as most-watched during the first quarter of 2017.
More cover-up questions - Washington Times
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 13:55
ANALYSIS/OPINION:
With the clearly unethical and most likely criminal behavior of the upper management levels of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) exposed by Chairman Devin Nunes of the House Intelligence Committee, there are two complementary areas that have been conveniently swept under the rug.
The first deals with the murder of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer Seth Rich, and the second deals with the alleged hacking of the DNC server by Russia. Both should be of prime interest to special counsel Robert Mueller, but do not hold your breath.
The facts that we know of in the murder of the DNC staffer, Seth Rich, was that he was gunned down blocks from his home on July 10, 2016. Washington Metro police detectives claim that Mr. Rich was a robbery victim, which is strange since after being shot twice in the back, he was still wearing a $2,000 gold necklace and watch. He still had his wallet, key and phone. Clearly, he was not a victim of robbery.
This has all the earmarks of a targeted hit job. However, strangely no one has been charged with this horrific crime, and what is more intriguing is that no law enforcement agency is even investigating this murder. According to other open sources, Metro police were told by their ''higher ups'' that if they spoke about the case, they will be immediately terminated. It has been claimed that this order came down from very high up the ''food chain,'' well beyond the D.C. mayor's office. Interesting.
One more unexplained twist is that on July 10, 2016, the same day Seth Rich was murdered, an FBI agent's car was burglarized in the same vicinity. Included in the FBI equipment stolen was a 40 caliber Glock 22. D.C. Metro police issued a press release, declaring that the theft of the FBI agent's car occurred between 5 and 7 a.m. Two weeks later, the FBI changed the time of the theft to between 12 a.m. and 2 a.m. Was the FBI gun used to shoot Seth Rich? Neither the FBI nor the Metro police will discuss.
Another aspect that needs to be uncovered is the FBI's ''denial'' that its cyber experts who share space with the D.C. Metro police department at Cleveland Avenue in the District, assisted in accessing data on Mr. Rich's laptop. Not likely. Data on the laptop revealed that Mr. Rich downloaded thousands of DNC emails and was in touch with Wikileaks. The file with evidence of what was on Mr. Rich's laptop sits with the FBI in a co-shared space with the D.C. police department. According to Ed Butowsky, an acquaintance of the family, in his discussions with Joel and Mary Rich, they confirmed that their son transmitted the DNC emails to Wikileaks.
Since then, the DNC hired a ''spokesperson,'' Brad Burman, a known hatchet man to basically cut off any further communications with Mr. Rich's parents. Interestingly, it is well known in the intelligence circles that Seth Rich and his brother, Aaron Rich, downloaded the DNC emails and was paid by Wikileaks for that information.
While Wikileaks doesn't expose sources, Julian Assange gave a clear clue during an Aug. 9, 2016 interview on Dutch television when he implied that Mr. Rich was killed because he was the Wikileaks source of the DNC emails. Mr. Assange offered a $20,000 reward leading to the arrest of Mr. Rich's killers. Also, why hasn't Aaron Rich been interviewed, and where is he?
With regard to the alleged Russian hacking of the DNC server, Mr. Assange also offered information to the Trump administration to prove Russia didn't hack the DNC server, as the DNC claimed. Mr. Assange also met with Orange Country Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, and gave him information to present to the Trump administration to prove no one hacked the DNC server.
However, with the Obama holdovers in key positions, it is not surprising that no one from the Trump administration would meet with the congressman or Mr. Assange. New Zealand tech expert Kim DotCom said he has proof that both he and Seth Rich were involved in passing the emails to Wikileaks, but he has been ignored as well.
The FBI opened an investigation into the theft of the DNC emails in July 2016. However, the FBI has not inspected the DNC server because the DNC won't give permission. Is the FBI an extension of the DNC? That's why we have subpoenas. Instead, the FBI relied on an assessment by a cyber security firm, Crowd Strike, hired by the Hillary Clinton campaign and DNC's law firm Perkins Coie as proof that Russia was the hacker. Incompetence is an understatement. Corruption at the highest levels of the DOJ/FBI is clear.
The Trump administration must take charge and get a competent attorney general to pursue these crimes.
' James A. Lyons, Jr., a retired U.S. Navy admiral, was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.
The Washington Times Comment PolicyThe Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.
Supreme Court Rejects Argument that Foreigners Must Be Released into U.S.A. if Detained for Extended Time | Breitbart
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 13:22
''Every day, immigration officials must determine whether to admit or remove the many aliens who have arrived at an official port of entry,'' Justice Samuel Alito began for the Court. Although the ''vast majority'' of situations are decided quickly, in hard cases federal law authorizes detaining aliens during immigration proceedings.
Alejandro Rodriguez is a Mexican who was in the U.S. legally until he was convicted for drugs and theft in 2004. His lawyers argued that he should not be deported. Although he could leave the United States at any time if he agreed to deportation, he has been in custody since 2004 because he is contesting the deportation process.
He brought this case not only for himself, but for all other aliens in a similar situation. The lower court certified the case as a class action.
Rodriguez's lawyers made two arguments. First, a complicated statutory argument that several provisions of immigration law together require that he be entitled to occasional bond hearings '' they say every six months '' without which he must be released back into the general population. Second, if federal law does not entitle him to this, then those provisions of immigration law violate due process rights under the U.S. Constitution.
A federal district judge in California agreed with the statutory argument, and would have ordered Rodriguez released. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, siding with the him.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court reversed, in what was mostly a 5-3 decision.
''When a serious doubt is raised about the constitutionality of an act of Congress, it is a cardinal principle that this Court will first ascertain whether a construction of the statute is fairly possible by which the question may be avoided,'' explained the Court.
''Despite the clear language'' of the relevant provisions of immigration law, Rodriguez's lawyers argued ''that those provisions nevertheless can be construed to contain implicit limitations on the length of detention,'' Alito wrote. ''But neither of the two limiting interpretations offered by [his lawyers] is plausible.''
''Nothing in the text of [relevant federal law] even hints that those provisions restrict detention after six months,'' the Court reasoned. To the contrary, they make clear these statutory provisions ''mandate detention of aliens throughout the completion of applicable proceedings'' '' that is, until there is a final ''decision on whether the alien is to be removed from the United States.''
In response to the liberal justices' dissent arguing that the U.S. Code can be read to entitle aliens to bond hearings every six months, Alito writes that ''the dissent evidently has a strong stomach when it comes to inflicting linguistic trauma.''
He goes through several instances of the liberal justices flipping the clear meaning of the statutory provisions and remarks, ''The contortions needed to reach these remarkable conclusions are a sight to behold.''
Justice Clarence Thomas concurred in much of Alito's opinion. But Thomas, joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch, would have dismissed the entire case for lack of jurisdiction. ''Congress has prohibited courts from reviewing aliens' claims related to their removal, except [for] a final removal order or in other circumstances not present here.'' Thus, without a final order on whether to deport, Thomas and Gorsuch would hold that courts cannot hear these claims, including to order the alien released.
The case was sent back to the lower courts to consider the constitutional due process argument.
The case is Jennings v. Rodriguez, No. 15-1204 at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal editor for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter@kenklukowski.
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New arms race started by US pulling out of missile treaty '' Putin
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 13:18
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied accusations he revived an arms race by unveiling Russia's new nuclear deterrent. That was done by US President George W. Bush killing a 30-year-old missile treaty in 2002, he told NBC.
In an interview with NBC's ''Megyn Kelly Today'' on Thursday, the Russian leader brushed off claims in the Western media that by introducing new nuclear-powered missiles, including the hypersonic Sarmat, he has signaled a new arms race. The alarmist rhetoric that fills Western news outlets is just another form of propaganda, Putin said.
''My point of view is that the individuals saying that a new Cold War has started are not really analysts; they do propaganda,'' he said, as translated by NBC. Putin blamed Washington's 2002 withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty) for escalating the confrontation. ''If we are to speak of an arms race, then an arms race started precisely at that point''.
It was US President George W. Bush who withdrew from the ABM Treaty, which had been one of the main pillars of the d(C)tente and held for nearly 30 years. Bush argued that the treaty hindered the US' ability to protect itself from ''future terrorist or rogue state attacks.''
In the years following, the US has encircled Russia with its missile defense installations, extending its anti-missile shield to Romania and Poland, deploying for the first time a battery of Patriot long-range anti-aircraft system to Lithuania for war games.
The US nuclear build-up on Russia's doorstep triggered a response from Moscow, which deployed its newest Iskander systems to its Kaliningrad exclave, citing the threat posed by US missile launchers deployed in Poland and Romania.
The path that led towards confrontation could have been avoided had the US agreed to cooperate on the development of anti-missile defenses with Russia '' an offer repeatedly extended by Moscow. After Washington refused, Putin said he could not sit idle.
The Russian president went on that he still believes the two countries should focus on what they can do together. He mentioned the fight against common challenges to security such as terrorism.
''Instead of creating threats to one another, great powers should pool their efforts in protecting against terrorists,'' he told Kelly.
Kelly raised the topic of speculation that the new weapon systems have not yet undergone any successful tests. Putin, who had used Thursday's state of the nation address to unveil the weapons, dismissed the rumors.
''Every single weapon system that I have discussed today easily surpasses and avoids anti-missile defense systems,'' Putin said, adding that while ''some of them still have to be fine-tuned and worked on,'' others are combat-ready. ''One of them is already on combat duty. It's available to the troops,'' the Russian leader said.
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Bosses at world's most ambitious clean coal plant kept problems secret for years | US news | The Guardian
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 13:16
The Kemper plant was presented as a global model for 'clean coal' operations. Photograph: Rogelio V.Solis/AP
Executives at the world's most ambitious ''clean coal'' plant knew for years about serious design flaws and budget problems but sought to withhold key information from regulators before their plans collapsed, according to documents obtained by the Guardian.
The Kemper plant in Mississippi '' held up as the global model for a new generation of ''clean coal'' power plants '' was the most expensive fossil fuel power plant in US history, with a $7.5bn price tag. Its owners, Southern Company, boasted it was ''going to be the cleanest coal plant in the world'', in the words of the CEO, Tom Fanning.
But thousands of internal documents reviewed by the Guardian and a series of interviews with Kemper staff uncovered evidence that the company had information showing that the project would blow through state-imposed budget limits five years before the company decided to reverse course and become an exclusively gas-fired energy plant.
Related: How America's clean coal dream unravelled
Kemper's failure could be a serious setback for global climate policy and plans to reach the Paris climate targets. International climate agreements rely heavily on developing practical carbon capture technologies that have so far largely proved elusive. Kemper was slated to be the largest coal carbon capture plant ever built, touted as potentially the first of many similar projects worldwide.
The documents show that Kemper's design faced what proved to be an insurmountable issue: it required vastly more maintenance downtime than originally predicted, and according to one 2014 report would be offline 45% of its first five years rather than the 25% the company had publicly projected.
Those figures doomed Kemper's ''clean coal'' plans by raising its lifetime costs dramatically. The company had this information three years before it told regulators it was reversing course and planned to run the plant on natural gas.
Southern nonetheless pushed forward, sinking nearly $3bn more into construction.
Experts have long warned that the biggest challenge for clean coal power is affordability '' adding so-called carbon capture technology, which captures carbon dioxide emissions produced from the use of fossil fuels, requires expensive equipment and saps energy that could otherwise be sold to power customers.
Rick Perry, Trump's energy secretary, has been described as a 'close friend' of the Southern CEO, Tom Fanning. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPAFor years, Kemper, built in America's lowest-income state, was marketed as proof that American innovation could show the world that clean coal technology made economic sense.
Inside Southern, however, Kemper's prospects looked very different.
Documents obtained by the Guardian show:
In 2010, before a shovel was turned, a top executive expressed doubts to his inner circle that Kemper could be built within limits demanded by Mississippi regulators.The company knew in early 2012 that Kemper was headed far over budget limits. A top Kemper official sought to hide damaging projections from independent monitors, around the time that state officials had the opportunity to cancel the project.Fanning, Southern's CEO, reassured investors that he could come in under budget despite overwhelming evidence that the company would never make it.In a 2013 earnings call, Fanning touted a huge coal storage dome as ''in place'' and a sign of ''tremendous'' construction progress. Company files show the dome had in fact started crumbling inside months earlier, ultimately opening up a hole in the ceiling the size of a small house '' a problem so bad the dome had to be razed and rebuilt later that year.Multiple forecasts showed that Kemper's clean coal equipment could only be up and running a fraction of the time the company initially predicted. Repairs listed as taking four hours would actually shut coal power generation down for four weeks, a 2016 report warned.Kemper, which received roughly $400m from taxpayers, managed to produce electricity from some of its clean coal equipment for ''over 100 hours'', or roughly five days last June, before construction was shuttered for good amid further budget blowouts.
Coal is the dirtiest fuel on the planet and emissions from its use as a source of heat and energy make it historically the single largest threat to our climate.
But it is also the largest source of electricity in the world, providing 41% of our electricity needs.
Clean coal relies on a series of technologies known as carbon capture and storage (CCS). In 2015, the International Energy Agency calculated that CCS could help reduce global carbon emissions by 13%, delivering a huge chunk of reductions needed by 2050 to keep below a 2C rise.
CCS technology aims to capture carbon dioxide generated at coal plants and store it underground in rock formations and aquifers.
But so far no major coal power plant has managed to make CCS work on a grand scale. Costs have proved prohibitive - especially as low natural gas prices have made coal uncompetitive.
Before it ran aground, Kemper drew support from Obama and Trump administration figures alike. Trump has been particularly outspoken about his support of ''clean coal'', which he praised as ''beautiful'' in this year's State of the Union address.
Last August, the Department of Energy announced $50m in possible funding for projects to develop ''transformational coal technologies''.
Southern, the country's second-largest electrical utility, received over $380m from the Department of Energy on the condition that the project could generate affordable electricity, on schedule. But it does not appear to be under any immediate pressure to repay the money.
It maintains close ties to top Trump administration officials. Rick Perry, described by Bloomberg as an ''old friend'' of Fanning, now helms the energy department as it navigates calls to ''claw back'' federal funds spent on Kemper.
The US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, counts Southern and its law firm Balch and Bingham as his top two career donors, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Sessions, the country's top law enforcement officer, has previously rebuffed calls to recuse himself from other matters involving that law firm.
Southern's other mega-project, the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia, was offered $3.7bn in federal loan guarantees in September, despite being five years behind schedule and $10bn over budget, according to watchdog groups.
Late last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) mothballed an investigation into allegations the company concealed schedule delays, uncovered by a New York Times investigation in 2016, without sanctioning the company or clearing it of wrongdoing, leaving the door open to further investigation.
The new materials offer evidence of a much broader range of potential misconduct than previously revealed. The SEC declined to comment.
Southern faces a continuing class action alleging the company failed to disclose ''adverse information'' in 2012 and 2013 and other lawsuits brought by shareholders and power customers over Kemper.
A Southern spokesman declined to comment on specific questions about Kemper, instead pointing to a settlement last month with state regulators and tax legislation, which he said would lower customers' power bills. He also cited the ''continued operation of Kemper's efficient natural gas facility''.
Why Did It Take Two Weeks To Reveal Parkland Students' Astroturfing?
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 04:19
''Can you believe these kids?'' It's been a recurring theme of the coverage of the Parkland school shooting: the remarkable effectiveness of the high school students who created a gun control organization in the wake of the massacre. In seemingly no time, the magical kids had organized events ranging from a national march to a mass school walkout, and they'd brought in a million dollars in donations from Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney.
The Miami Heraldcredited their success to the school's stellar debate program. The Wall Street Journal said it was because they were born online, and organizing was instinctive.
On February 28, BuzzFeed came out with the actual story: Rep. Debbie Wassermann Schultz aiding in the lobbying in Tallahassee, a teacher's union organizing the buses that got the kids there, Michael Bloomberg's groups and the Women's March working on the upcoming March For Our Lives, MoveOn.org doing social media promotion and (potentially) march logistics, and training for student activists provided by federally funded Planned Parenthood.
The president of the American Federation of Teachers told BuzzFeed they're also behind the national school walkout, which journalists had previously assured the public was the sole work of a teenager. (I'd thought teachers were supposed to get kids into school, but maybe that's just me.)
In other words, the response was professionalized. That's not surprising, because this is what organization that gets results actually looks like. It's not a bunch of magical kids in somebody's living room. Nor is it surprising that the professionalization happened right off the bat. Broward County's teacher's union is militant, and Rep. Ted Lieu stated on Twitter that his family knows Parkland student activist David Hogg's family, so there were plenty of opportunities for grown-ups with resources and skills to connect the kids.
That's before you get to whether any of them had been involved in the Women's March. According to BuzzFeed, Wassermann Schultz was running on day two.
What's striking about all this isn't the organization. If you start reading books about organizing, it's clear how it all works. But no journalist covering the story wrote about this stuff for two weeks. Instead, every story was about the Parkland kids being magically effective.
On Twitter, I lost track of the number of bluechecks rhapsodizing over how effective the kids' organizational instincts were. But organizing isn't instinctive. It's skilled work; you have to learn how to do it, and it takes really a lot of people. You don't just get a few magical kids who're amazing and naturally good at it.
The real tip-off should have been the $500,000 donations from Winfrey and Clooney. Big celebrities don't give huge money to strangers on a whim. Somebody who knows Winfrey and Clooney called them and asked. But the press's response was to be ever more impressed with the kids.
For two weeks, journalists abjectly failed in their jobs, which is to tell the public what's going on. And any of them who had any familiarity with organizing campaigns absolutely knew. Matt Pearce, of the Los Angeles Times, would have been ideally placed to write an excellent article: not only is he an organizer for the Times's union, he moderated a panel on leftist activism for the LA Times Book Festival and has the appropriate connections in organizing. Instead, he wrote about a school walkout, not what was behind it. (In another article, Pearce defined Delta caving to a pressure campaign's demands as ''finding middle ground.'')
But it's not just a mainstream media problem. None of the righty outlets writing about Parkland picked up on the clear evidence that professional organizers were backing the Parkland kids, either. Instead, they objected to the front-and-centering of minor kids as unseemly, which does no good: Lefties aren't going to listen, and it doesn't educate the Right to counter.
The closest anyone got was Elizabeth Harrington at the Washington Free Beacon, who noted that Clooney's publicist was booking the kids' media interviews pro bono, and said that a friend (not Clooney) had asked him to do it. The result of all this is that the average righty does not understand what's going on in activism, because all they see is what the press covers. The stuff that's visible. It's like expecting people in the Stone Age to grok the Roman army by looking at it. Conspiracy theorists happily fill this ignorance vacuum.
On one hand, sure, the issue with people who believe in crisis actors and various other kinds of conspiracy theories is that they're susceptible. If they didn't believe in crisis actors, they'd believe in something else (and they probably do). But on the other hand, I think one reason there's an opportunity for righty conspiracy types to get all hopped up on goofballs with respect to protests and such is the abject failure of the Righty establishment to explain to its people how protests actually work.
This results in occasional hilarity when the Right tries to organize its own protests. For example, then-Internet celebrity Baked Alaska tried to create pro-Trump flashmobs in Los Angeles during the election. His efforts consisted of posting times and locations online. And that's it. You see this attitude often among Righties: ''We have the Internet! We'll post a notice and people will show up!'' Well, no; they won't.
It's not that Baked Alaska needed a magical kid, because there are no magical kids. There's just hard work, and our press and politicos do everyone a disservice when they pretend otherwise. Here's an example of how to turn out people, cribbed from ''Organizing for Social Change,'' the activist manual published by the Midwest Academy, which has been around since 1973 and has trained over 30,000 activists, some of whom went on to found their own training schools.
Say you run an organization that wants to impress a city councilman, and you've landed a meeting. You want your group to look bigger than it is. You've got 15 dedicated people you know will go, but you want to show the councilman 60 people.
The first thing you do is get 10 people from other groups (you do know other ideologically aligned groups in the area, right?). That leaves 35 people. To get them, you don't post an ad on Craigslist. You look in your database of people who've signed your petitions or whatever. Call and ask them to come.
If they say yes, call them again a day or two in advance to confirm. Of the people who say yes twice, only half will actually show up. So you need 70 people to say yes twice. Expect to make seven times that number of phone calls to get them. That's 490 five-minute phone calls, which breaks down to five people a night making phone calls for five straight nights.
It's not magical kids, and it's not George Soros sprinkling money around. It's hard work by people who've trained to do it.
That's a little more work than posting an announcement on Facebook. And that's organizing. It's not magical kids, and it's not George Soros sprinkling money around. It's hard work by people who've trained to do it.
Now that the organizations are more open about their involvement, at some point the Parkland kids will go into the background a bit in media exposure, the same way Deray and Linda Sarsour did. That's part of how organizing fame works these days: Two Minutes' Heroes, in frequent rotation. But the problem remains: until the press covers organizing campaigns accurately, organizers will be able to punch above their weight politically even if they don't win every election.
In his excellent book ''Hegemony How-To,'' leftist organizer Jonathan Smucker wrote, ''Power tends to appear magical to those who have less of it, and mechanical to those who are accustomed to wielding it instrumentally.'' Or, for that matter, to even seeing it instrumentally.
For two weeks, journalists treated power as if it were magical. It's not. It's mechanical. The people organizing the response to Parkland, and a host of other causes, know that. So should you.
David Hines is a specialist in forensic science and international human rights, with an extensive background working in conflict zones. He tweets at @hradzka.
I Bought My First Gun Because Of The CNN Town Hall
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 03:01
After ten minutes of CNN's town hall ''debate'' I had already searched for gun safes, the closest firearms dealer near me, classes on gun safety, and an NRA membership. Whether that's a sign the event was a rousing success or terrible failure depends on who you ask. But whenever the left talks about gun control, significant numbers of people who see value in the Second Amendment run out and purchase a gun.
Normally, that wouldn't include me. But this time was different. Here's why.
Everyone watched the same event. Yet, depending on the political perspective it was with horror or glee. The town hall was one long string of thinly veiled accusations against people who had nothing to do with a heinous crime that was committed a week earlier. It was not really a debate or discussion, but a kangaroo court, where the audience held Americans responsible for the actions of an evil individual they had nothing to do with. The behavior of the children and parents at the event, while understandable, was reprehensible. Trauma, no matter how real, is never an excuse for treating other people with contempt.
Emotions aren't what led me to buy a firearm. That decision was driven by the idea driving the ''discussion'' at the town hall, that security is more important than liberty.
Liberty is a state of being free from oppression imposed by an authority, but it requires individuals to take responsibility over their own lives. Responsibility is something of a burden, a difficult aspect of liberty conservatives sometimes avoid talking about. Liberty grants people the power to choose and chart a path, but that means that each individual is responsible for their actions, thoughts, and even their own security. Certainly, individuals grant some select members authority to protect in an effort to enhance safety for the whole community, but the responsibility for each person's safety still rests with that individual.
The left would argue we can have security without consequences of oppression or loss of liberty, that we can live in a state free from danger. But that's a false hope '-- we are never truly free from danger. The real security they promise is freedom from responsibility, or the ability to transfer responsibility to a select group of people who can be held accountable when things go wrong. They promise security for all in exchange for a little more, and eventually a lot more, power.
America is seeing this happen everywhere. Give up speech and no longer feel bad for offending others. Give up weapons and the government will protect you. Give up the ability to choose health care and the government will provide it for you. The tradeoff in each of these cases is the promise of some benefit in exchange for a loss of freedom in governing your own life.
The left wants the government to do more than secure our inalienable rights. Liberals want the government to secure things like economic security and free health care and a ''proper'' minimum wage. They want the government to guarantee emotional security, so girls are told they cannot tell a boy no to a dance. They want enforced psychological security, so people are forced to conform their speech so that liberals don't have to suffer the hardship of words and labels they disagree with. And most fundamentally, they want the government to shield them from the burden of personal responsibility.
Opposition between liberals and conservatives, in the gun control debate and otherwise, is about placement of power. Liberty places power with individual, which means it places responsibility with the individual. Security places power within a limited amount of people's hands and thus responsibility away from the individual. They are diametrically opposed, because they are inherently contradictory.
Certainly responsibility is a heavy burden, but it elevates humanity. To choose is to express free will. Yes, failure may be a result, but simply look at the flow of humanity toward freedom. How many people have attempted to ''escape'' America to Communism? How many people fled away Communism? Seeing a mob of people celebrating baseless and morally reprehensible claims at CNN's town hall was frightening. More than that, as the evidencecontinues to mountover the failure of law enforcement in handling the Parkland shooter, it will only heighten the truth that a promise of security from the government doesn't actually guarantee safety.
The town hall was a display of tyranny. For tyranny has never come from a single person, but rather from a mob cheering for the destruction of liberty and rights from those with whom they disagree.
So I bought a gun.
Bernie Sanders Fined for Colluding with Australian Labor Party | Breitbart
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 00:04
The FEC ruled earlier this month that the Australian Labor Party paid for volunteers to fly to America to volunteer for Sanders' campaign.
The volunteers were participating in a government-funded education program; they received $8,000 in stipends to participate in the Sanders' campaign.
The agency found that the Sanders campaign accepted roughly $25,000 of in-kind donations from the Australian volunteers. The FEC ordered the campaign to hand over roughly $14,500 in civil penalties for violating federal election law.
A Sanders campaign spokesman told Vice News the campaign accepted the FEC's ruling to avoid an expensive legal battle; the Sanders campaign did not admit violating the law.
The Sanders spokesman said:
During the course of the campaign, thousands and thousands of young people from every state and many other countries volunteered. Among them were seven Australian young people who were receiving a modest stipend and airfare from the Australian Labor Party so they could learn about American politics,'' the spokesperson said. ''The folks on the campaign managing volunteers did not believe the stipend disqualified them from being volunteers.
An ALP source also contended that they did not violate American election law.
''All parties send observers to overseas elections. It has happened for decades. This is a new and very strict interpretation,'' an ALP source told an Australian news outlet. ''We don't believe any rules were broken.''
Former New Hampshire Speaker of the House William O'Brien filed the complaint with the FEC. O'Brien filed the complaint based upon an investigation conducted by Project Veritas which found that Australians were violating federal election law.
O'Brien told WMUR Manchester in an interview on Tuesday that he intends to ask the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) as well as the New Hampshire Attorney General to conduct a criminal investigation.
The former New Hampshire Speaker said, ''I'm disappointed that it's not comprehensive. It doesn't go into the Australian government funding. And I'm disappointed that it doesn't go with greater specificity into the actual things that they were doing. I'm disappointed that they didn't go to what was the effect on the campaign.''
O'Brien added, ''It's basically the Australian government using the conduit of a socialist party to assist the socialist candidate in the United States.''
O'Brien concluded that it appears that there are ''two sets of rules'' for Republicans and Democrats.
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Compliance Date for City of Austin Paid Sick Leave Ordinance | What you Need to Know | Richards Rodriguez & Skeith
Thu, 01 Mar 2018 23:59
On February 16, 2018, the Austin City Council passed an ordinance that will require private companies with employees working in the City of Austin to provide between 48 and 64 hours per year of paid sick leave to employees. In addition to providing leave, employees must have written notice of their paid sick leave rights and receive monthly statements informing them of the time they have remaining.
Employers must grant an employee one hour of earned sick time for every 30 hours worked in the City of Austin up to an annual cap. The annual cap depends on the size of the employer. Broadly stated, employers with 16 or more employees in Austin are required to provide at least 64 hours of earned sick time. Employers with 15 or fewer employees are required to provide 48 hours of earned sick time.
Please keep in mind that the statute contains its own definition of who is considered an employee and how sick time is accrued and used. There are exceptions from the definition of who would be counted as an employee, such as family members employed in the business. Additionally, there are very specific rules on how sick time is earned and a more expansive definition for what it can be used.
The new ordinance calls for rules that allow employers to maintain a reasonable administration of their time off policy. However, an employer may not require an employee to find a replacement to cover the hours as a condition for using paid sick time.
Compliance Date for City of Austin Paid Sick Leave OrdinanceThe new ordinance goes into effect October 1, 2018. An employer will not be fined for failure to comply until May 2019. Employers with five or fewer employees in the City of Austin at any time in the last 12 months have until October 1, 2020, to comply.
What You Should Do Now to Prepare for the City of Austin Paid Sick Leave OrdinanceWe are encouraging all employers with Austin based employees to check your employee handbook and policies. Make sure you have a paid time off or sick leave policy and that it complies with the new ordinance. Changes may not be required if your current paid time off benefits exceed the requirements of the new ordinance. If you do not currently have a paid time off or sick leave policy and you have six or more employees who work part time or full time in the City of Austin, you should adopt a written policy. Pay close attention to the definition of employee in the new ordinance, as some individuals may be excluded.
In any event, you still need to update your handbook, policy, employee notices, and payroll reporting to include specific mention of the new ordinance. Employers will also be required to post signs in English and Spanish describing the requirements of the new ordinance. Our expectation is that the city will provide a model form for the sign. In addition to the handbook and sign, employers are required to provide electronically or in writing to each employee a statement showing the amount of the employee's available earned sick time on no less than a monthly basis.
This is only a summary of the ordinance. We encourage you to click here to review the ordinance.
LittleThings online publisher shuts down, blames Facebook's algorithm - Business Insider
Thu, 01 Mar 2018 23:01
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. AP Photo/Noah Berger
The digital publisher LittleThings is shutting down.The company, like some other media companies, had quickly amassed a big following on Facebook.But Facebook's recent algorithm tweak throttled its traffic severely, causing its profit to plummet, the company says.The media industry's worst fears about Facebook's huge algorithm tweak are coming true.
The women-focused publisher LittleThings is shutting its doors, in large part because of Facebook's recent move, the company's CEO, Joe Speiser, told Business Insider.
LittleThings' demise was first reported by Digiday's Lucia Moses.
LittleThings focused on a mix of feel-good news and service content along the lines of Valentine's Day dinner recipes. The company also produced a regular slate of live video content on Facebook, even featuring celebrity guests.
Since launching in 2014, LittleThings had amassed over 12 million Facebook followers, and its videos regularly generated thousands, if not millions, of views.
But Speiser said the recent algorithm shift, which Facebook has said was designed to tamp down content that is consumed passively '-- and would instead emphasize posts from people's friends and family '-- took out roughly 75% of LittleThings' organic traffic while hammering its profit margins.
Back in 2016, Speiser told The Wall Street Journal that he was highly optimistic about Facebook and its desire to help web publishers.
Now, as one source close to the company put it: "Facebook is the destroyer of worlds."
LittleThings was actually born out of a pet e-commerce venture. In 2015 the company raised an undisclosed amount of cash through debt financing as it shifted toward becoming a full-fledged media company, according to TechCrunch.
This past November, LittleThings had hired a bank to explore strategic options.
Here's the memo the company issued Tuesday:
"Urgent: LittleThings Closure"...
Today, February 27th, LittleThings will be permanently closing its doors. It comes after 8 years of starting as an e-commerce company, and then 4 years ago as LittleThings. I've watched a rag tag group of talented hardworking individuals create one of the largest and most emotional brands on Facebook. So many of you have become super stars in the social media space it's incredible. I've never felt so proud and blessed to be part of such an amazing group of people. It pains me to have to write this and hang up our hat, but there are only so many hits a digital media company can afford to absorb in this day and age, and we just exceeded ours.
As most of you remember, we took some especially large setbacks in August 2017, but were able to quickly right the ship, and rebuild the company with new business lines and revenue streams. Instead of waiting for the next Facebook newsfeed update, we entered into a sale-process in November that would allow us to merge with a large media entity that could bring our business diversification of both traffic and revenue. By early February we had numerous acquisition offers for LittleThings that would have generated a substantial return for everyones' options, as well as guarantee their careers well into the future.
Unfortunately, as we were receiving those offers a full on catastrophic update to Facebook's algorithm took effect. The prioritization of friends/family content over publishers was the last straw. Our organic traffic (the highest margin business), and influencer traffic were cut by over 75%. No previous algorithm update ever came close to this level of decimation. The position it put us in was beyond dire. The businesses looking to acquire LittleThings got spooked and promptly exited the sale process, leaving us in jeopardy of our bank debt convenants and ultimately bringing an expedited end to our incredible story.
What happens to the LittleThings brand, we all know and love, is uncertain at this point. It's my deep hope that we can find a way to resurrect it and reemerge from the ashes with a new will, but that may take many months.
What this means for you:
All wages earned will be paid with no exceptions, payroll has already been submitted for tomorrow. Marcella is preparing information on healthcare (Cobra), and other important transition documents. While severance will not be up to us, as the bank now has control over the outgoing payments, we feel confident that everyone should be seeing additional money soon. We will get the specific amounts after the bank transition is complete. (This may take a few weeks)
What this means for the office:
You can take as long as you need, and come back tomorrow as well, the doors will not be locked. The only restriction, and it's an important one, is that all electronics, cameras, computers, etc stay behind. Anything non-personal removed from the office will be against the bank's policy and could jeopardize severance.
Marcella, Gretchen and myself are available tonight and all day tomorrow to talk through this with any and all of you. I'm also more than willing to be a reference for any of you when necessary. In addition I'm close with a media recruiter with which I can help you connect if you are interested. Please make sure you lean on the resources we make available. What happened here is not any of your faults, and I don't want this to slow down your career growth and success.
For LittleThings.com and social accounts:
We won't be shutting down the site yet. I want to make sure we have enough time to inform our readers, fans and viewers that LittleThings is closing. If you want to do one final farewell video, editorial post, FB/IG post, etc now is the time. I've also paid to keep all of your emails open for another 30 days so you have that additional access.
If any press reaches out please forward them over to press@littlethings.com and one of us will answer it.
Again, if you want to talk, please don't hesitate. It's going to be an emotional time for all of us, please reach out to anyone struggling and be their shoulder.
While LittleThings may be winding down, the friendships, and connections we have made here will continue to endure.
Sincerely,
Joe + Gretchen
Amazon buys Ring, a former 'Shark Tank' reject
Thu, 01 Mar 2018 22:46
Tuesday, Amazon agreed to buy Ring, a company that makes smart doorbells, according to representatives of both companies.
"Ring's home security products and services have delighted customers since day one. We're excited to work with this talented team," an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC Tuesday. While the official deal hasn't yet been announced, it could cost Amazon over $1 billion, according to Reuters.
For Ring's CEO and founder Jamie Siminoff, achieving such success wasn't easy. In fact, there was a time when he couldn't even get an investment on ABC's "Shark Tank," and thought his company might go broke.
Siminoff went on the reality show in 2013, pitching his business that was then called Doorbot. It sold a WiFi-enabled doorbell that allowed users to see video of and talk to people as they arrived at the front door. All of the investors but Kevin O'Leary passed, and he made what Siminoff considered an unacceptable offer. Doorbot didn't make a deal.
"I remember after that 'Shark Tank' episode literally being in tears," Siminoff told CNBC Make It in November. "I needed the money, we were out of money at the time."
He'd sunk $10,000 into building props for the pitch, and the company's staff of eight had spent a month preparing for the show, according to his blog. After leaving without an investor, it seemed the efforts all may have been a waste they couldn't afford.
But Siminoff wasn't just upset about the money. The critiques from investors like Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner about the product's ability to sell were fresh objections mirroring others' doubts about his idea.
"I can't count the number of people who didn't invest in this, who said 'no,' the number of people who said it was going to fail," Siminoff said. "I don't think [Microsoft] Excel could hold the number of records for it."
Adam Taylor | ABC | Shark Tank
Ring CEO Jamie Siminoff on ABC's "Shark Tank" in season 5.
After Siminoff appeared on Season 5 of "Shark Tank," the business saw immense growth.
"It has now been four years since 'Shark Tank,' and the business is now valued at $1 billion," Siminoff said on an update for "Shark Tank" that aired Nov. 12, 2017. "Today we're over 1,300 people, 10 core products, [sold in] 16,000 stores." Ring even landed Virgin Group billionaire Richard Branson as an investor after he saw one of the company's products.
Richard Branson declined to comment on the Amazon deal to CNBC Make It through a spokesperson Tuesday.
Before his doorbell idea, Siminoff built and sold a handful of other companies, one for a price tag as high as $17 million in 2009, according to the Los Angeles Times. (The profits were split between Siminoff and his partners, and Siminoff invested his share in new businesses.)
He's a constant inventor who has been tinkering since he was 7 years old. Siminoff remembers projects like a blanket through which he could pump icy water from an aquarium to cool down on hot summer days as a kid. And despite early success with other businesses, like SimulScribe, offering voicemail transcription services, or Unsubscribe, which promised to declutter email inboxes, he wasn't fulfilled. None of his ventures had captured his whole imagination.
So in late 2010, Siminoff set up shop in his garage and put all his focus into dreaming up new products. There was just one problem: He couldn't hear the doorbell ring from his work space. He looked for a product that could buzz his phone with a notification when someone rang and couldn't find one.
"I literally built myself a WiFi doorbell," he said, not seeing it as a future business but a solution to an annoying problem. He remembered thinking, "I need this damn thing so I can be in my garage inventing."
Then his wife remarked how much safer she felt with a device that could tell you who was knocking before you let them inside. When he began to envision a bigger mission around home security, he realized he'd found his idea.
Doorbot launched in 2012, and by the time the "Shark Tank" episode aired in 2013, costs had begun to mount for the upstart.
"At that time our team was 8 people, working in my garage and going out of business," Siminoff wrote on his blog. "While we had some sales, we did not have enough to cover the massive costs that we were going to face in creating the product and company we have today."
Although the "Shark Tank" judges didn't invest, publicity from the episode helped to catapult the company out of its financial woes.
"After 'Shark Tank,' we started selling Doorbots like crazy and that drove sales to $3 million within the year," Siminoff said on ABC's update. "As the business grew, we didn't want to be just one product, so we built a whole line of home security solutions and re-branded it as Ring."
As for the concerns the "Shark Tank" investors voiced after his pitch, Siminoff stopped worrying.
"Now it is kind of all funny," he joked. "Lori said, 'You'll never be able to sell this on QVC.'"
In a QVC appearance, Siminoff said he sold "140,000 units, $22.5 million dollars worth of sales in 24 hours, one of the most successful sales they've had of the year." The Ring Video Doorbell 2 was featured as "Today's Special Value" for QVC on Nov. 25, 2017 for a featured price of $179.95, but QVC declined to confirm the sales.
Courtesy of Ring | Brandon Friend-Solis
Ring CEO Jamie Siminoff
Still, Siminoff admitted that each rejection on his way to success was a blow.
"I hear 'no', it hits me. It hits me square in the chest," he said. "I just have this thing where I get back up, and when I get back up I'm stronger and I fight harder '-- but each one of them does hurt."
One example he gave was a recent legal dispute between Ring and another home security company, ADT. In November, a Delaware judge ordered Ring to halt sales of its Protect Security Kit, "pending the outcome of a lawsuit," according to Consumer Reports. The suit has since been settled.
"That hurt really bad, but I can tell you I will stand up and be better and bigger, and fight harder from being pushed around like that. But, it does hurt each time," Siminoff said.
But for Siminoff, challenges aren't a reason to quit. He said he goes for a long run, picks himself up and refocuses.
"It might be the competitive side of me or something, I'm just not willing to fail," he explained. "I think the only way to fail is to stop, and so because of that I'm just not willing to stop."
Don't miss: These parents created a healthy chip their sick son could eat'--and the business just got a $1.25 million 'Shark Tank' deal
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Behind Cruz's Rampage: Obama's School-Leniency Policy | RealClearInvestigations
Thu, 01 Mar 2018 22:13
Despite committing a string of arrestable offenses on campus before the Florida school shooting, Nikolas Cruz was able to escape the attention of law enforcement, pass a background check and purchase the weapon he used to slaughter three staff members and 14 fellow students because of Obama administration efforts to make school discipline more lenient.
Documents reviewed by RealClearInvestigations and interviews show that his school district in Florida's Broward County was in the vanguard of a strategy, adopted by more than 50 other major school districts nationwide, allowing thousands of troubled, often violent, students to commit crimes without legal consequence. The aim was to slow the "school-to-prison pipeline."
''He had a clean record, so alarm bells didn't go off when they looked him up in the system,'' veteran FBI agent Michael Biasello told RCI. ''He probably wouldn't have been able to buy the murder weapon if the school had referred him to law enforcement."
Disclosures about the strategy add a central new element to the Parkland shooting story: It's not just one of official failings at many levels and of America's deep divide over guns, but also one of deliberate federal policy gone awry.
Superintendent Robert W. Runcie.
Amy Beth Bennett /South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP
In 2013, the year before Cruz entered high school, the Broward County school system scrapped and rewrote its discipline policy to make it much more difficult for administrators to suspend or expel problem students, or for campus police to arrest them for misdemeanors'' including some of the crimes Cruz allegedly committed in the years and months leading up to the deadly Feb. 14 shooting at his Fort Lauderdale-area school.
To keep students in school and improve racial outcomes, Broward school Superintendent Robert W. Runcie '' a Chicagoan and Harvard graduate with close ties to President Obama and his Education Department '' signed an agreement with the county sheriff and other local jurisdictions to trade cops for counseling. Instead of the criminal justice system, students charged with various misdemeanors, including assault, were referred to counseling, which included participation in ''healing circles,'' obstacle courses and other ''self-esteem building'' exercises.
Asserting that minority students, in particular, were treated unfairly by traditional approaches to school discipline, Runcie's goal was to slash arrests and ensure that students, no matter how delinquent, graduated without criminal records.
''The [achievement] gap becomes intensified in the school-to-prison pipeline, where black males are disproportionately represented,'' he said at the time. ''We're not going to continue to arrest our kids,'' he added. ''Once you have an arrest record, it becomes difficult to get scholarships, get a job, or go into the military."
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel backed Runcie's plan to diminish the authority of police in responding to campus crime. A November 2013 video shows him readily signing the district's 16-page "collaborative agreement on school discipline,'' which lists more than a dozen misdemeanors that can no longer be reported to police, along with five steps police must ''exhaust'' before even considering placing a student under arrest.
In just a few years, ethnically diverse Broward went from leading the state of Florida in student arrests to boasting one of its lowest school-related incarceration rates. Out-of-school suspensions and expulsions also plummeted.
Runcie had been working closely with Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan to radically reform school discipline policies, ever since landing the Broward job in 2011, using as a reference the name of the Cabinet secretary, his former boss in the Chicago school system.
Applications for federal grants reveal that Runcie's plan factored into approval of tens of millions of dollars in federal funding from Duncan's department.
In January 2014, his department issued new discipline guidelines strongly recommending that schools use law enforcement measures and out-of-school suspensions as a last resort. Announced jointly by Duncan and then-Attorney General Eric Holder, the new procedures came as more than friendly guidance from Uncle Sam '' they also came with threats of federal investigations and defunding for districts that refused to fully comply.
In 2015, the White House spotlighted Runcie's leading role in the effort during a summit called ''Rethink School Discipline." Broward, the nation's sixth largest school district, is one of 53 major districts across the country to adopt the federal guidelines, which remain in effect today due to administrative rules delaying a plan by the Trump administration to withdraw them.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' office did not return phone calls and emails seeking comment. DeVos has called for congressional hearings on school shootings. ''We have got to have an honest conversation,'' she said.
President Obama with his first Education Secretary, Arne Duncan.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
"Broward County adopted a lenient disciplinary policy similar to those adopted by many other districts under pressure from the Obama administration to reduce racial 'disparities' in suspensions and expulsions,'' said Peter Kirsanow, a black conservative on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in Washington. "In many of these districts, the drive to 'get our numbers right' has produced disastrous results, with startling increases in both the number and severity of disciplinary offenses, including assaults and beatings of teachers and students.''
Yet this approach has produced problematic results. In St. Paul, Minn., a high school science teacher was ''beaten and choked out'' by a 16-year-old student, who allegedly came up behind him, called him a ''f--king white cracker,'' and put him in a stranglehold, before bashing his head into a concrete wall and pavement. The student, Fon'Tae O'Bannon, got 90 days of electronic home monitoring and anger management counseling for the December 2015 attack.
The instructor, John Ekblad, who has experienced short-term memory loss and hearing problems, blames the Obama-era discipline policies for emboldening criminal behavior, adding that school violence ''is still rising out of control.''
In Oklahoma City, which softened student punishments in response to a federal race-bias complaint, ''students are yelling, cursing, hitting and screaming at teachers, and nothing is being done,'' an Oklahoma City public school teacher said. ''These students know there is nothing a teacher can do.''
In Buffalo, New York, a teacher who got kicked in the head by a student said: ''We have fights here almost every day. The kids walk around and say, 'We can't get suspended '' we don't care what you say.''‰''
Kirsanow said that in just the first year after the Obama administration issued its anti-discipline edict, public schools failed to expel more than 30,000 students who physically attacked teachers or staff across the country. Previously, ''if you hit a teach, you're gone,'' he said, but that is no longer the case.
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel faces off with Dana Loesch of the NRA during a CNN town hall meeting Feb. 21.
Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP
No district has taken this new approach further than Broward County. The core of the approach is a program c alled PROMISE (Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Support & Education), which substitutes counseling for criminal detention for students who break the law. According to the district website, the program is ''designed to address the unique needs of students who have committed a behavioral infraction that would normally lead to a juvenile delinquency arrest and, therefore, entry into the juvenile justice system.''
The expressed goal of PROMISE is to bring about ''reductions in external suspension, expulsions and arrests.'' Delinquents who are diverted to the program are essentially absolved of responsibility for their actions. ''This approach focuses on the situation as being the problem rather than the individual being the problem,'' the website states.
Additional literature reveals that students referred to PROMISE for in-school misdemeanors '' including assault, theft, vandalism, underage drinking and drug use '' receive a controversial alternative punishment known as restorative justice.
''Rather than focusing on punishment, restorative justice seeks to repair the harm done,'' the district explains. Indeed, it isn't really punishment at all. It's more like therapy. Delinquents gather in ''healing circles'' with counselors, and sometimes even the victims of their crime, and talk about their feelings and "root causes" of their anger.
Students who participate in the sessions and respond appropriately to difficult situations are rewarded by counselors with prizes called ''choice rewards,'' which they select in advance. Parents are asked to chip in money to help pay for the rewards.
Listed among the district's ''restorative justice partners'' is the Broward Sheriff's Office. Deputies and local police officers, as well as court officials, routinely attend meetings with PROMISE leaders, where they receive training in such emotional support programs.
The program also includes a separate juvenile ''system of care,'' rather than the regular court system, where delinquents and parents are counseled about the consequences of getting caught up in the criminal system.
Broward's launch of the new initiative synced up with a discipline policy shift advocated by the Justice Department. ''A routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal's office, not in a police precinct,'' asserted Holder in January 2014.
At a press conference in 2015, Duncan described his ''good friend'' Runcie as courageous for implementing a ''new system'' to "keep kids in classrooms and out of courtrooms." ''It's difficult work,'' the then-education secretary said, ''challenging centuries of institutionalized racism and class inequality.''
Duncan noted that Runcie had partnered with a psychology professor named Phillip Goff, who has been working with both Broward educators and police officers to become more aware of their ''implicit biases'' toward minority children.
''Implicit bias exists in all of us,'' Runcie said in late 2016, "and we have to be courageous enough to confront it if we are going to meet our goals.'' District records reveal Runcie has been putting school leaders and school support personnel through intensive training in ''implicit bias, black male success strategies [and] Courageous Conservations about Race."
In calling for weaker discipline standards, the Obama administration blamed previous decades' zero-tolerance policies against gangs and drugs in schools for disproportionately increasing the number of arrests, suspensions and expulsions of black and Hispanic students. It charged that racially biased teachers and administrators were meting out harsher punishments for minorities.
Nikolas Cruz.
Broward County Jail via AP
Nikolas Cruz's rampage suggests the limits of this approach.
A repeat offender, Cruz benefited from the lax discipline policy, if not the counseling. Although he was disciplined for a string of offenses -- including assault, threatening teachers and carrying bullets in his backpack -- he was never taken into custody or even expelled. Instead, school authorities referred him to mandatory counseling or transferred him to alternative schools.
By avoiding a criminal record, Cruz passed a federal background check in February 2017 before purchasing the AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle investigators say was used in the mass shooting. Just one month earlier, he was disciplined with a one-day internal suspension for an ''assault'' at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and evaluated as a potential ''threat." It was his second offense for fighting in less than four months, but campus police did not make an arrest in either case -- as they typically did for repeat offenders under the district's prior zero-tolerance policies, a review of the official ''discipline matrix'' used last decade reveals.
The upshot was that the lack of an arrest record made it difficult for police to confirm that Cruz was a proven threat and to intervene when they received call-in tips and complaints from neighbors, classmates and relatives about his stockpiling of weapons and desire to kill people, law enforcement officials say.
A little more than a month before the Feb. 14 shooting, the FBI hotline received a tip about Cruz being a potential school gunman, but it failed to take action. If he had been previously arrested and booked for the on-campus misdemeanors, the FBI intake specialist handling the call would have seen his violent history in the federal NCIC database, which includes all state arrests, convictions, warrants and alerts.
''Once the agent, or any officer, entered his name in the NCIC system, his history would have been viewed,'' Biasello said.
Though he said the call was ''specific and urgent'' enough to pass the information on to the bureau's Miami field office, ''the message might have been taken more seriously and escalated up the chain of command if the search turned up a police record."
Another tip from last September, warning the FBI that a "Nikolas Cruz" had boasted on YouTube he was ''going to be a professional school shooter,'' also fell through the cracks due to a paucity of information in the system. A spokesman for the Miami division explained that ''the FBI conducted database reviews [and] checks but was unable to further identify the person who actually made the comment.''
The Broward County Sheriff's Office received at least 45 calls related to Cruz and his brother dating back to 2008 '' including a February 2016 call from a neighbor warning he made a threat on Instagram to "shoot up" the high school, and another last November advising he was collecting guns and knives and appeared to be "a school shooter in the making." Though deputies visited Cruz at his home, they did not try to recover his weapons, despite requests from relatives who feared he planned to use them on his classmates.
Mourning Parkland.
AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
Their inaction reflects the Broward department's embrace of the school district's approach to student crime. Even in response to a major crime scene, Sheriff Israel agreed to defer to school officials when ''feasible'' and employ ''the least punitive means of discipline'' against the perpetrators.
The Broward school board also revised agreements between the district and the school resource officers assigned by the sheriff to ensure that they no longer intervene in misdemeanor incidents to cut down on the number of ''arrests for school-based behavior.'' (The board also signed an agreement with Fort Lauderdale police to reduce officer involvement in such campus offenses.)
At the 2013 signing ceremony on school discipline, Sheriff Israel lauded the new goals. He vowed to ''demolish'' the pipeline allegedly funneling students to jail by changing the ''culture" of school-related law enforcement.
''We've got to demolish this cycle from the schoolhouse to the jailhouse,'' he said, echoing Runcie, who stood behind him. ''Our kids need to be in schools, not jails.''
Added Israel: ''At the Broward Sheriff's Office, we're changing. We're changing the culture, and what we're doing is we are gonna make obsolete the term 'zero tolerance.'"
Yet even though Broward's crusade has resulted in a more than 63 percent reduction in the annual rate of overall student arrests, Runcie has said he is not satisfied because the percentage of arrests of black students continues to be disproportionately high compared with whites.
So the superintendent has hired Goff, the racial bias expert, to conduct a study to get to the ''root cause'' of why arrests of blacks are still so stubbornly high.
Funded with an $800,000 grant, Goff's researchers from the Center for Policing Equity in New York have been actively surveying district administrators and teachers, as well as student resource officers, to gauge their ''implicit biases'' in dealing with minority students who behave badly. That effort continues, a spokesman for Goff told RealClearInvestigations this week.
Asked to comment about the Broward school policies, Tracy Clark, the district's chief public information officer, issued this statement: "There are specific guidelines and School Board policies regarding the non-violent, misdemeanor types of infractions that are eligible for the PROMISE program. Please note that weapons infractions are not eligible for the PROMISE program. Through the PROMISE program, students receive behavioral supports, counseling and mentoring in an environment focused on helping them make better choices.''
However, a 210-page district report on ''Eliminating the School to Prison Pipeline,'' lists ''assault/threat'' and ''fighting,'' as well as ''vandalism,'' among ''infractions aligned with participation in the PROMISE program," and it states that the recommended consequences for such misdemeanors are a ''student essay," ''counseling'' and ''restorative justice."
And the district's legally written discipline policy also lists ''assault without the use of a weapon'' and ''battery without serious bodily injury,'' as well as ''disorderly conduct,'' as misdemeanors that "should not be reported to Law Enforcement Agencies or Broward District Schools Police.'' This document also recommends ''counseling'' and ''restorative justice."
Almost all cannabis on Britain's streets 'super strength' and could be driving mental health problems
Thu, 01 Mar 2018 22:09
N early all cannabis on Britain's streets is now super-strength skunk that could be fuelling the rise in mental health problems, scientists have warned.
Researchers at King's College London tested almost 1,000 police seizures from Kent, Derbyshire, Merseyside, Sussex and the capital in 2016 and found 94 per cent were of a dangerously high potency.
In 2005 just 51 per cent of cannabis sold on the street was sinsemilla, also known as skunk.
Dr Marta Di Forti, Medical Research Council Clinician Scientist at King's College warned that the powerful drug placed Britain's 2.1 million cannabis users at risk of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, psychosis, delusions and hallucinations.
'The increase of high-potency cannabis on the streets poses a significant hazard to users' mental health, and reduces their ability to choose more benign types,' she said.
''It is of concern that 94 per cent of seized cannabis is now of skunk type as this potentially could increase the number of people using it and consequently the number of people experiencing harm.
''Regular users of high-potency cannabis carry the highest risk for psychotic disorders, compared to those who have never used cannabis.''
T he researchers also found that in normal cannabis resin, the average concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - the main psychoactive component - had risen by 50 per cent since 2005, from four per cent to six per cent.
I n contrast, the ratio of antipsychotic cannabidiol (CBD), which helps mitigate the drug's psychoactive effects, had fallen dramatically.
Skunk has around 14 per cent THC and is more dangerous because it contains very small amount of CBD.
In 2015 Kings College showed that in South London, 24 per cent of new cases of psychosis could be attributed to skunk use. Researchers now fear that the countrywide problem could be partly responsible for the growing number of mental health issues in Britain.
Latest figures shows there were 7,545 hospital admissions in 2016/2017 for drug-related mental health and behavioural disorders, 12 per cent higher than in 2006/2007.
There were also 14,053 admissions for poisoning by illegal drugs last year, a 40 per cent increase compared to a decade earlier.
I an Hamilton, Lecturer in Mental Health, University of York, said: ''If these seized samples are representative then it suggests that apart from the dominance of skunk in the UK market, it also seems that resin has increased in strength, as this analysis shows that some resin samples were nearly three times stronger than those seized back in 2005.
''So even if people are trying to source lower potency cannabis they are unable to.
''If the cannabis market is saturated with higher potency cannabis this increases the risk of younger and more naive users developing problems as they are less likely to adjust the amount of cannabis they ingest than more experienced users.''
P rof Valerie Curran, Professor of Psychopharmacology, UCL, said: ''These findings have implications for the rising numbers of young people who are becoming addicted to cannabis.
''Evidence from our own previous research at UCL suggests that high potency varieties are more likely to lead to addiction, so if the market is dominated by these varieties then this inevitably puts more people at risk of addiction.''
The research was published in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis.
CLIPS
VIDEO - A problem Congress should solve - Microsoft on the Issues
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 16:09
Today we'll make our arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in what everyone agrees is an important case for privacy rights around the world, for international relations, and for building trust in the technology we all rely on every day.
We believe we have compelling arguments and we look forward to the opportunity to make them before the nine Justices of the Supreme Court. But while attention today will focus on the Supreme Court, we believe the most important work should take place in the Capitol building across the street, by the U.S. Congress.
In 2013 U.S. law enforcement served on Microsoft a search warrant for customer data stored in our datacenter in Ireland. While we don't believe that U.S. law grants the Government the right to reach across borders to obtain private information, we do believe that the U.S. should work with the Irish government to obtain the data they want. Unilateral actions like this will undermine privacy protections of customers everywhere, and are a recipe for international tensions, conflict and chaos.
Everyone agrees that new technology poses new problems that need to be solved. We've argued since the day we filed this case in 2013 that we need modern laws to govern today's technology. We can't rely on laws written three decades ago, before the internet as we know it was invented. Ultimately the courts '' including the Supreme Court '' can decide only whether the Department of Justice's approach passes muster under current law. The courts are not able to write a new law. Under the U.S. Constitution, only Congress can do that, using its tools to craft a nuanced solution that balances all the competing concerns by enacting a statute for the 21st century.
Strong momentum for new laws
The good news is that there is strong momentum for a legislative solution. Earlier this month the CLOUD Act was introduced in Congress. It has bi-partisan support in both houses of Congress, as well as support from the Department of Justice, the White House, the National Association of Attorneys General and a broad cross section of technology companies. The CLOUD Act creates both the incentive and the framework for governments to sit down and negotiate modern bi-lateral agreements that will define how law enforcement agencies can access data across borders to investigate crimes. It ensures these agreements have appropriate protections for privacy and human rights and gives the technology companies that host customer data new statutory rights to stand up for the privacy rights of their customers around the world.
Standing up for national sovereignty
While we are encouraged by the momentum for legislative solutions, we also look forward to today's oral argument before the Supreme Court. We believe we have compelling arguments and we're grateful for the breadth and depth of the support we've received in the case. In January, 289 different groups and individuals from 37 countries signed 23 different legal briefs supporting Microsoft's position that Congress never gave U.S. law enforcement the power to ignore treaties and breach Ireland's sovereignty by reaching into Ireland to obtain the data they are seeking. The U.S. Government argues that it can reach across borders based on a law enacted in 1986, before anyone conceived of cloud computing. We don't believe there is any indication that Congress intended such a result.
This is not to say that law enforcement should never access emails in other countries. We've said repeatedly that there are times when this is necessary to protect public safety, but that it should be governed by modern laws that respect people's privacy rights and the sovereignty of other countries.
As we stand before the Justices today we'll make four key points:
Data has a real, physical location: We are not alone in arguing that it does. Fifty-one prominent computer scientists explained in their legal brief that emails are stored in known physical locations, on hard drives, in datacenter facilities. When the U.S. Government requires a tech company to execute a warrant for emails stored overseas, the provider must search a foreign datacenter and make a copy abroad, and then import that copy to the United States. This creates a complex issue with international consequences. It shouldn't be resolved by having the courts take the law to a place it was never intended to go.The Government's approach infringes on the sovereignty of other countries and risks a significant conflict of law between friendly nations: The international ramifications are clearly illustrated by the list of governments who joined amicus briefs or made public statements in the case, supporting key parts of Microsoft's position. The list includes Ireland, France, the European Commission, European privacy regulators and members of the European Parliament, to name just some. Other countries want to be in control of when and how law enforcement agencies access data belonging to their citizens. When one country seeks private emails stored in another country, international treaties and norms require bilateral cooperation, not unilateral actions. The risk of foreign relations clashes is all the more acute because state and local U.S. law enforcement'--not just federal officials'--can invoke the Stored Communications Act, the law the DOJ is using in this case.The Government's approach puts at risk the privacy rights of people around the world including in the United States: People deserve to have their privacy protected by their own country's laws. If the U.S. Government obtains the power to unilaterally search and seize the private communications of foreign citizens that are stored exclusively in foreign countries, then other governments will be emboldened to do the same to us. Foreign countries will demand that tech companies copy and transmit to them the private emails of U.S. persons without regard for local law and without the knowledge or consent of the local government or the account owner.The Government's approach is bad for the U.S. economy and American jobs: U.S. companies are leaders in cloud computing. This leadership is based on trust. If customers around the world believe that the U.S. Government has the power to unilaterally reach in to datacenters operated by American companies, without reference or notification to their own government, they won't trust this technology.Today is an important day. We are looking forward to the opportunity to make our case. And at the same time, we hope that members of Congress will keep moving quickly to create the modern laws that everyone agrees are needed.
Tags: Cloud Computing, Congress, U.S. Supreme Court, warrant litigation
VIDEO - LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING by Ray Charles - YouTube
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 15:58
VIDEO - Depth Of Russian Politician's Cultivation Of NRA Ties Revealed : NPR
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 15:49
Depth Of Russian Politician's Cultivation Of NRA Ties Revealed : NPRDepth Of Russian Politician's Cultivation Of NRA Ties RevealedAlexander Torshin's links to NRA leaders are deeper than previously known, NPR has learned. He claims to have met Donald Trump in 2015 and served as a U.S. election observer in 2012 through the NRA.
VIDEO - "The Least Reliable Most War Mongering People In Washington!" Glenn Greenwald Explains "HAMILTON 68" - YouTube
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 15:44
VIDEO - NBC News on Twitter: "BREAKING: President Putin one-on-one in an exclusive interview with @megynkelly in Moscow following his announcement Thursday on Russian nuclear weapons. Now on @NBCNightlyNews.'... https://t.co/yPK2OT7koe"
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 15:37
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VIDEO - MSNBC on Twitter: "NBC News' @KenDilanianNBC reports Mueller is assembling case for charges related to hacking, leaking during '16 campaign. #MTPDaily "It's clear that the Mueller investigation is picking up steam and this would be another big sho
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 15:33
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VIDEO - What Would It Take To Repeal The 2nd Amendment? : NPR
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 15:10
What Would It Take To Repeal The 2nd Amendment? : NPRWhat Would It Take To Repeal The 2nd Amendment?Following the mass shooting in Florida, we've heard a lot of talk about guns. In this country, it's hard to restrict guns because of the Second Amendment. Is it time for that amendment to be repealed?
VIDEO - Facebook "embeds," Russia and the Trump campaign's secret weapon - CBS News
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 15:04
Brad Parscale, digital director for Trump's campaign, was a critical factor in the president's election. Now questions surround how he did it
Tonight, you're going to hear from a 41-year-old man who has remained largely unnoticed even though he was one of the top decision-makers of the Trump campaign.
His name is Brad Parscale. While Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort, and Kellyanne Conway are marquee names you're familiar with, Parscale was in the back room -- operating as the campaign's secret weapon.
CBS News
He was hired to run the digital team, but over time came to oversee advertising, data collection and much of the fund-raising. As digital director, he's being drawn into the investigation of whether the campaign colluded with the Russians in the election. It's a charge he denies. He says he was focused on competing with the Clinton campaign's huge advantage in money and TV ads. What he decided to do was turn to social media, most importantly to Facebook.
"I understood early that Facebook was how Donald Trump was going to win. Twitter is how he talked to the people. Facebook was going to be how he won."Brad Parscale: I understood early that Facebook was how Donald Trump was going to win. Twitter is how he talked to the people. Facebook was going to be how he won.
Lesley Stahl: And Facebook IS how he won.
Brad Parscale: I think so. I think Donald Trump won, but I think Facebook was the method -- it was the highway in which his car drove on.
Donald J. Trump campaign
And Brad Parscale was in the driver's seat. In the beginning of the campaign he worked alone at home in San Antonio, but by the end he had 100 people reporting to him. One of his main jobs was to send out carefully-tailored, low-cost digital ads to millions of people.
Lesley Stahl: And these were ads on Facebook?
Brad Parscale: Facebook, we did 'em on Twitter, Google search, other platforms. Facebook was the 500-pound gorilla, 80 percent of the budget kind of thing.
Facebook's advertising technology helped President Obama in 2012, but today Facebook offers something far more precise and sophisticated. While the president recently tweeted that "Facebook was always anti-Trump," Parscale relied heavily on the company, particularly on its cutting-edge targeting tools.
Lesley Stahl: One of the best things Facebook did for you, I heard, was penetrate the rural vote. Is that correct?
Donald J. Trump campaign
Brad Parscale: Yeah. So Facebook now lets you get to places and places possibly that you would never go with TV ads. Now, I can find, you know, 15 people in the Florida Panhandle that I would never buy a TV commercial for. And, we took opportunities that I think the other side didn't.
Lesley Stahl: Like what?
Brad Parscale: Well, we had our-- their staff embedded inside our offices.
Lesley Stahl: What?
Brad Parscale: Yeah, Facebook employees would show up for work every day in our offices.
Lesley Stahl: Whoa, wait a minute. Facebook employees showed up at the Trump headquarters --
Brad Parscale: Google employees, and Twitter employees.
Lesley Stahl: They were embedded in your campaign?
Brad Parscale: I mean, like, they were there multiple days a week, three, four days a week, two days week, five days a week --
Lesley Stahl: What were they doing inside? I mean --
Brad Parscale: Helping teach us how to use their platform. I wanna get --
Lesley Stahl: Helping him get elected?
Brad Parscale: I asked each one of them by email, I wanna know every, single secret button, click, technology you have. "I wanna know everything you would tell Hillary's campaign plus some. And I want your people here to teach me how to use it."
Lesley Stahl: Inside?
Brad Parscale: Yeah, I want 'em sittin' right next to us --
Lesley Stahl: How do you know they weren't Trojan Horses?
Brad Parscale: 'Cause I'd ask 'em to be Republicans, and I'd -- we'd talk to 'em.
Lesley Stahl: Oh, you only wanted Republicans?
Brad Parscale: I wanted people who support Donald Trump from their companies.
Lesley Stahl: And that's what you got?
Brad Parscale: Yeah. They already have divisions set up that way.
Lesley Stahl: What do you mean?
Brad Parscale: They already have groups of people in their political divisions that are Republican and Democrat.
Lesley Stahl: You're kidding?
Brad Parscale: Yeah, they're businesses, they are publicly traded companies with stock price.
Lesley Stahl: Did Hillary's campaign have someone embedded --
Brad Parscale: I had heard that they didn't accept any of their offers.
Lesley Stahl: So you're saying Facebook and the others offered an embed, and they said no.
Brad Parscale: That's what I've heard.
People in the Clinton campaign confirmed that the offer was made and turned down. Facebook told us in a statement:
Facebook's statement to 60 Minutes
CBS News
"...for candidates across the political spectrum, Facebook offers the same level of support in key moments to help campaigns understand how best to use the platform."
And indeed, both campaigns used Facebook's technology extensively to reach out to potential voters. Parscale said the Trump campaign used the technology to microtarget on a scale never seen before -- and to customize their ads for individual voters.
Brad Parscale: We were making hundreds of thousands of 'em.
Lesley Stahl: You make 100,000 ads.
Brad Parscale: Programmatically. In one day. In one day.
Lesley Stahl: So 100,000 different ads every day?
Brad Parscale: Average day 50-60 thousands ads.
Donald J. Trump campaign ads
CBS News
This was all automated.
Brad Parscale: Changing language, words, colors, changing things because certain people like a green button better than a blue button. Some people like the word "donate" or "contribute."
Lesley Stahl: So how would you know ... let's say I like a green button. How do you know I'd only like a green button?
Brad Parscale: Because I'd give you the red, blue buttons, you never click on 'em.
Parscale showed us how they tested: by sending out multiple versions of the same ad with only subtle differences.
Brad Parscale: Here we have an American flag, here we have a face of Hillary. Different colors, the blues, different messages above.
Lesley Stahl: So you'd send two identical ads with different colors?
Brad Parscale: Maybe thousands.
Lesley Stahl: You'd send THOUSAND of ads with different colors?
Brad Parscale: Different colors. What it is is: what can make people react? What catches their attention? Remember, there's so much noise on your phone. You know, or on your desktop. What is it that makes it go: Poof! "I'm gonna stop and look."
Three campaign ads with similar appearances but different messages.
CBS News
To get people to stop and look, he crafted different messages for different people -- so that you only got ads about the issues you cared about most. He showed us three ads that looked alike.
Brad Parscale: It's pretty much the identical design. Positive coloring. Different message.
Lesley Stahl: This is one is tax, this one is childcare, this one is energy.
Brad Parscale: They were all targeted to different users of whatever platform, in this case it was Facebook.
Sent out to different people. And it could be each other's next-door neighbors'...all in Ohio.
Lesley Stahl: This one person at 11 Elm Street gets this one and 13 Elm Street gets that one.
Brad Parscale: Yup, yup.
Parscale took some heat for taking microtargeting too far because he hired Cambridge Analytica. It's a company that uses so-called psychographics that microtarget ads based on personality. For instance, an extrovert would get one kind of message, a neurotic person another. It's controversial because of its Orwellian overtones.
Donald J. Trump Campaign
After Trump won, Cambridge Analytica said it was key to the victory. But Parscale insists he never used psychographics. He said it doesn't work.
Lesley Stahl: So you didn't use it because you didn't think it really worked, as opposed to you didn't use it because you thought it was wrong that it was manipulative or sinister, or something like that.
Brad Parscale: No, I don't believe it's sinister.
Lesley Stahl: No. OK, you just don't think it works.
Brad Parscale: No, I just don't think it works.
Parscale's title was digital director, but by the end of the campaign his portfolio grew. He oversaw data collection, polling, advertising both online and on TV, and significantly digital fund raising. By adding donation buttons for people to click on in the online ads, he was able to bring in a record $240 million in small donations.
Lesley Stahl: How many presidential campaigns had you worked on before this one?
Brad Parscale: Zero.
Lesley Stahl: Your wife has a wonderful expression about you being thrown into this.
Brad Parscale: Yeah. She said that I was thrown into the Super Bowl, never played a game and won.
Lesley Stahl: That's what it sounds like.
It's made him a local hero back home in Kansas. He grew up in Topeka, playing basketball -- he's 6 foot 8. After briefly working at a tech company in California, he moved to San Antonio, Texas, and became a marketer. He taught himself to code, opened a small web-design business and went looking for customers.
Brad Parscale: I started tapping shoulders at a bookstore asking people if they needed a website, when they were buying books on web design.
Lesley Stahl: Yeah, but what-- you're hanging around at a bookstore?
Brad Parscale: Yeah, a Border's.
Lesley Stahl: You're hanging around at Border's and say, "Can you hire me?"
Brad Parscale: Yeah.
Lesley Stahl: Come-on.
Brad Parscale: Yeah.
Lesley Stahl: So how did you get involved with the Trump people?
Brad Parscale: I was sitting at IHOP and I got an email. I was eating a ham and cheese omelet. I was. I get an email and I open it up and it says -- "This is Kathy K. from the Trump Org -- can you please call me?" That's it --
Lesley Stahl: Outta nowhere?
Brad Parscale: Outta nowhere.
Six years ago she was looking for someone to design a website for a Trump real estate project. Parscale bid lowest, got the job, and soon many more followed: websites for Eric's foundation, Melania's skincare line, the family's wineries. Then, in early 2015, came another life-changing email:
Brad Parscale: It said "Donald Trump is thinking about running for president. We need a website in two days." So I wrote back, I said, "Yeah, I'll do it for $1,500."
Lesley Stahl: $1,500?
Brad Parscale: Yeah. And by the end, it was $94 million.
$94 million is what his company was paid. Much of it was spent on things like buying ads. Parscale learned very fast on the job, with the help of the Republican National Committee. They had amassed a giant database to identify the issues people cared about, and predict how nearly 200 million Americans would vote.
One reason Parscale thinks President Trump won is because of an issue the RNC database honed in on that he says the Clinton campaign missed:
Lesley Stahl: Infrastructure.
Brad Parscale: Infrastructure. It was voters in the rust belt that cared about their roads being rebuilt, their highways, their bridges. They felt like the world was crumbling. So I started making ads that would show the bridge crumbling. You know, that's microtargeting them. Because I can find the 1,500 people in one town that care about infrastructure. Now, that might be a voter that normally votes Democrat.
While he tried to persuade Democrats to vote for Mr. Trump -- the campaign was accused, in a Businessweek article, of trying to suppress the vote of "idealistic white liberals, young women and African Americans," a charge he denies.
Lesley Stahl: Did you micro target by race?
Brad Parscale: No we did not. Not at all.
Lesley Stahl: Never?
Brad Parscale: Nope.
Lesley Stahl: Did you post hateful images?
Brad Parscale: I don't believe so.
Lesley Stahl: The candidate Trump was never shy about pushing buttons, about pushing prejudices. He used what most people would consider offensive language sometimes.
Brad Parscale: I don't think the math said that most people saw it as offensive. I think a small group of people saw it as offensive, who have a lot of power.
Lesley Stahl: But you did mirror him?
Brad Parscale: We mirrored certain things that he would say, mainly things he said in rallies.
Many of the messages he sent out were what's known as dark ads. They're called dark because they're microtargeted to individual users who are the only ones who see them. Unless they choose to share them '' they disappear.
Lesley Stahl: Can you say anything you want in those dark ads? They're really not transparent?
Brad Parscale: No, because if I said something crazy in those, they would share a million times, it would be all over.
Lesley Stahl: So if you said something that appealed to racists?
Brad Parscale: Oh, it would be everywhere.
But some dark ads flew under the radar, like ones sent out, we now know, by the Russians in their attempt to influence our election. These were separate from the posts the Russians reportedly sent of fake news stories that made Clinton look bad. The ads -- on divisive issues -- were spread using Facebook tools similar to the ones Parscale and the Clinton campaign used.
Lesley Stahl: Facebook has admitted that the Russians spent $100,000 -- at least $100,000 -- on ads to influence the U.S. campaign. Does that bother you?
Brad Parscale: Yeah, I would not want a foreign entity to meddle in our election; you know, a government. Yeah, I mean, I wouldn't want that; I'm American.
But the question is: did the Trump campaign collude with the Russians -- and as the digital director, was Parscale involved?
Brad Parscale: I think it's a joke. Like, at least for my part in it.
Lesley Stahl: Very few people think it's a joke.
Brad Parscale: I think it's a joke when they involve myself. 'Cause I know my own activities, and I know the activities of this campaign. I was there. It's just a farce.
Lesley Stahl: It's a farce that you colluded with the Russians?
Brad Parscale: Yeah. It's just a joke.
What about what happened on Twitter? Which was flooded with pro-Trump tweets generated by robots, or bots.
Lesley Stahl: Did you have a hand in generating these bots --
Brad Parscale: I had nothing to do with bots. I don't think bots work.
Lesley Stahl: You were called the king of the bots.
Brad Parscale: I know. It's ridiculous. It's just the craziest thing ever. No one on our team ever sat down with me and said, "Brad, we should make bots."
Lesley Stahl: But if-- if you see that there are hundreds of thousands of bots floating around with pro-Trump messages, somebody generated it. Where would it come from?
Brad Parscale: I would imagine there were people, everyday people in America, who thought they were trying to help. I don't know.
Lesley Stahl: If the bots came from the Russians, would you know?
Brad Parscale: Nah.
Lesley Stahl: Do you think it might have?
Brad Parscale: No idea.
Lesley Stahl: Could it have?
Brad Parscale: Could be from anybody in the world.
The House Intelligence Committee looking into the Russian meddling has contacted Parscale and he's agreed to talk to them.
Lesley Stahl: I understand that part of these investigations that are going on is to understand how the Russians knew where to target their campaigns, their messages. They seemed to know specifically where to go-- that were places that helped Trump.
Brad Parscale: Yeah. First of all, I -- it's not very hard to figure out. Pennsylvania, Ohio, you know. I mean, the same -- I think we've had the same swing states for decades.
Parscale told us the Russian plotline is pushed by liberals who think they lost because he cheated. The irony, he says, is that it wasn't a foreign entity helping the campaign, but left-leaning American companies like Twitter, Google, and above all Facebook.
Brad Parscale: These social platforms are all invented by very liberal people on the West and East Coast, and we figure out how to use it to push conservative values. I don't think they ever thought that would happen. I would say the number one thing that people come up to me is, like, "I just never thought Republicans would be the ones to figure out how to use all this."
Lesley Stahl: So a liberal invents all this stuff and a conservative in the Middle-West figures out how to use it?
Brad Parscale: And I think we used it better than anyone ever had in history.
Last month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced plans to make political ads on the site more transparent. As for Brad Parscale, he's already working on President Trump's 2020 reelection campaign.
Produced by Shachar Bar-On. Natalie Jimenez Peel, associate producer.
(C) 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
VIDEO - House Passes Bill To Crack Down On Online Sex Trafficking : NPR
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 15:04
House Passes Bill To Crack Down On Online Sex Trafficking : NPRHouse Passes Bill To Crack Down On Online Sex TraffickingThe bill would give prosecutors and victims more power to hold websites accountable for sex trafficking on their platforms. Parts of the bill have riled some tech companies and digital rights groups.
VIDEO - Central Michigan student used father's gun to kill his parents, police say - CNN
Sun, 04 Mar 2018 14:41
Davis, 19, fled but was arrested early Saturday near train tracks on the fringes of the Mount Pleasant campus, police said, ending a nearly 16-hour manhunt that set the school on edge on the eve of its spring recess.
Police said the student shot and killed parents James Eric Davis Sr., 48, a police officer, and Diva Jeenen Davis, 47, around 8:30 a.m. Friday in his fourth-floor dorm room as they were packing his belongings for a trip back to their Chicago-area home.
The shooting capped a series of events that stretched back to the previous night when campus police twice encountered Davis Jr. behaving strangely -- and sent him to a hospital suspecting an adverse reaction to drugs, school police Chief Bill Yeagley said Saturday.
It wasn't immediately clear how Davis Jr. obtained the gun that was registered to his father, Yeagley said.
But investigators believe, citing a witness and video, that the teen brought the gun from a parking lot into Campbell Hall, the dormitory where his parents were, shortly before the shooting, Yeagley said.
"What we know for sure is that the gun was registered to his father, and that we saw ... (Davis Jr.) came from the parking lot into our residence hall with the gun, and the father was upstairs at that time," Yeagley said at a news conference Saturday morning.
Davis Jr., who is in police custody on suspicion of killing his parents, returned to the hospital Saturday morning because he appeared hypothermic and nonsensical when he was arrested, Yeagley said.
James Eric Davis Jr. was arrested early Saturday after an hours-long manhunt.
Student was 'not making a lot of sense'
Whether Davis' parents had always planned to pick him up for spring break Friday wasn't immediately clear. But campus police said the parents arrived Friday morning after officers called them to say their son was behaving strangely.
Police said they first encountered the student Thursday night when he ran into the office of a dormitory-based police officer and said he believed someone wanted to kill him.
"Mr. Davis was very vague, and he kept talking about somebody had a gun," Yeagley said.
Police learned Davis had just been on an elevator with someone -- and a review of surveillance video of the elevator ride showed the two of them laughing and getting along. After interviewing the other person, police determined there was no threat, Yeagley said.
The officers asked Davis what they could do to help him feel safe.
"He said, 'I'm fine. I'm going home in the morning. So I'll be good,' " the chief said.
About 1:15 a.m. Friday, officers again saw Davis, this time in a dorm hallway with suitcases and bags. The officers found him to be nonsensical, and they suspected drugs were involved, Yeagley said.
"The officers tell Mr. Davis, 'We need to take you to the hospital' to get him checked out, because just clearly, mentally, he's not making a lot of sense," he said.
The officers called his parents and then took him to a local hospital, Yeagley said.
Yeagley said he didn't know what the hospital staff determined about Davis' health, or whether drugs indeed were connected to his behavior.
But sometime that morning, his parents picked Davis up from the hospital and took him back to campus, where they prepared to pack him up for the trip home, the chief said.
Campus locked down; Davis arrested near train tracks
The shooting disrupted a university that otherwise was winding down for a nine-day spring recess beginning Saturday.
Davis left the residence hall after the killings, walking or running north along some train tracks on the western edge of campus, police said.
Police said they found Davis after a train operator reported seeing someone standing near the tracks around 12:15 a.m. Saturday.
It wasn't immediately clear where Davis was from the time he was seen near the tracks Friday morning until the moment he was sighted near the same tracks Saturday.
Students were told to stay in campus buildings until police cleared them to leave Friday morning and afternoon. People trying to enter the campus to pick up students for spring break were initially directed to a campus-area hotel, where the university asked them to wait for instructions.
The university's men's basketball home game Friday against Western Michigan University was rescheduled for Saturday morning at a neutral site, Northwood University, where it was to be closed to the public except for family members, the Mid-American Conference said.The university, with roughly 23,000 students, is about a two-hour drive northwest of Detroit.
The victims
The Davis family was from the Chicago area. Davis Jr. graduated from a high school in Plainfield, Illinois, about 30 miles southwest of Chicago, in 2016, said Tony Hernandez, Plainfield school district spokesman.
His father was a part-time police officer in the Chicago suburb of Bellwood for 20 years and assisted the department on special occasions.
"He was always there when you asked for him to be there," Bellwood police Chief Jiminez Allen said.
Davis Sr. was a pillar of the community, which has 20,000 residents, and was beloved by friends and neighbors, said Andre Harvey, Bellwood's mayor.
An Army veteran, the elder Davis was also a police officer employed at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago, said center director Marc Magill.
"The staff at Jesse Brown VAMC take enormous pride in the care we provide our Veterans, and this situation hits us especially hard. We are currently providing grief counseling for staff," Magill said.
Friday's violence came more than two weeks after a shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, left 17 people dead and spurred a national debate over gun control.CNN's calculation of the number of school shootings include shootings on school property that involve one or more victims and other factors. These can also be domestic violence incidents.
CNN's Amanda Watts, Sheena Jones, Chuck Johnston, Marlena Baldacci and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.
VIDEO - This mash-up of RATT and Marvin Gaye has no business being this good
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 20:04
Sometimes we like to go long on word counts and over-explain things, and sometimes'... well, sometimes we just don't need to. The latter is in full effect this afternoon as Jen Sullivan tips us off to a mash-up of RATT's '80s rock staple ''Round And Round'' and Marvin Gaye's classic 1968 rendition of ''I Heard It Through The Grapevine.''
This kind of musical sorcery has no business being enjoyable, let alone incredible. And yet, here we are.
The track is dubbed ''I Heard it Round and Round the Grapevine,'' and was uploaded to YouTube by Bill McClintock on February 20. It only has about 460 plays as of press time, but by year's end it should be in the millions.
And of course we could make a joke about how Gaye here is making us not really miss Stephen Pearcy, but hey, the man had '-- and still has '-- that kind of effect on people. What comes around goes around, and we don't have to tell you why.
VIDEO - BOE's Carney Calls for Rules to End Cryptocurrency Anarchy - Bloomberg
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 16:48
Mark Carney is calling for greater regulation to bring the era of cryptocurrency ''anarchy'' to an end.
''The time has come to hold the crypto-asset ecosystem to the same standards as the rest of the financial system,'' the Bank of England governor said Friday in a speech at Bloomberg's European headquarters in London.
Carney, who is also head of the Financial Stability Board, joins a growing chorus calling for greater oversight of the technology after the explosion of new cryptocurrencies created more than $438 billion in paper wealth since March 2, 2017, according to research site CryptoMarketCap.com. His comments also follow a rollercoaster ride for Bitcoin, which lost half its value at the start of the year after surging to a record near $20,000 in December.
Carney noted that ''extreme volatility,'' and said it reflected a a lack of any intrinsic value or external backing. He calculated that the average volatility of the top 10 virtual coins by market capitalization was more than 25 times that of the U.S. equities market in 2017.
In his speech, he lauded the potential value of the underlying technology of Bitcoin, but said the digital currencies themselves have failed as a form of money and rejected the prospect of a central bank digital currency in the near future.
''It does point the way in many respects to the future of money,'' said Carney in an interview with Bloomberg Television, adding that ''this generation of cryptocurrency is not the answer.''
Still, the answer isn't to isolate or outlaw digital currencies, he said.
''A better path would be to regulate elements of the crypto-asset ecosystem to combat illicit activities, promote market integrity, and protect the safety and soundness of the financial system,'' he said. ''Being part of the financial system brings enormous privileges, but with them great responsibilities.''
Carney endorsed the push by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to classify cryptocurrencies as securities subject to laws governing how they are issued and traded. The SEC, concerned that so-called initial coin offerings are fraught with fraud, has taken a hard line on cryptocurrency providers. In recent weeks, the agency sent subpoenas to dozens of ICOs for information related to their businesses.
Holding crypto-asset exchanges to the same standards as those that trade securities would, Carney said, address a ''major underlap'' in the regulatory approach.
Read more: A QuickTake on all the ways regulators plan to tame Bitcoin
If central banks issued their own digital currencies, Carney said they risked creating a much greater role for themselves, ''disintermediating commercial banks in normal times and running the risk of destabilizing flights to quality in times of stress.'' Even so, he reiterated that the BOE remains open-minded about the possibility in future.
''For many reasons the crypto-assets in your digital wallets are unlikely to be the future of money,'' Carney said. ''But that is not meant to dismiss them. Their core technology is already having an impact. Bringing crypto-assets into the regulatory tent could potentially catalyze innovations to serve the public better.''
The BOE's Financial Policy Committee is currently considering the impact of cryptocurrencies on U.K. financial stability, although Carney said he personally does not see any material risks. He also said the Financial Stability Board will report to the G-20 in Argentina this month.
'-- With assistance by David Goodman, and Stephanie Flanders
VIDEO - The Public - Official Trailer (2018) HD - YouTube
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 16:01
VIDEO - Cryptocurrency candidates: Politicians embrace bitcoin
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 14:05
Bitcoin is making waves in campaign finance. More and more candidates are turning to the cryptocurrency to help fund their campaigns '-- and with good reason.
Despite its dramatic rise and fall, bitcoin has surged in popularity this year, and many politicians are now looking to get a piece of the digital currency.
Republican Andrew Hemingway started the trend in 2014. Hemingway was introduced to bitcoin as a tech entrepreneur. At 32, he became the youngest gubernatorial candidate in New Hampshire history '-- and the first to accept bitcoin contributions.
Hemingway, who also ran Newt Gingrich's New Hampshire presidential campaign in 2012, says he started accepting bitcoin because there was a demand. Many of his own supporters were requesting to make contributions in bitcoin. About 20 percent of Hemingway's total political contributions came from bitcoins.
"I believe at the time that I ran, [New Hampshire] had more of what they call 'bitcoin billionaires' than any other state in the country," Hemingway said.
New Hampshire has long embraced bitcoin '-- even before it became mainstream. The state is home to the oldest bitcoin meetup and a number of cryptofriendly businesses. This is largely due to the active and growing libertarian migration to New Hampshire. The "Free State Project," founded in 2001, aims to draw 20,000 libertarians to the state. Many of these members tend to favor nongovernmental forms of currency like digital currencies and tend to be early bitcoin adopters.
Though Hemingway ended up losing his bid for governor, a long line of politicians have followed in his footsteps. Take for instance, Austin Petersen from Missouri. His Senate campaign has received 24 bitcoin contributions this year. This included a bitcoin contribution worth $4,500. According to the Federal Election Commission's records, this marks the largest cryptocontribution in federal election history.
New York Democrat Patrick Nelson, who is running for Congress, is also accepting contributions through bitcoin payment service provider Bitpay.
Other candidates accepting bitcoin include Democratic congressional hopeful Brian Forde of California and Republican Kelli Ward, who is vying for one of Arizona's Senate seats.
The first presidential candidate to accept bitcoin contributions was Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul. The libertarian previously expressed excitement about the future of digital currency as a potential replacement for credit cards. But Paul has also voiced some skepticism, arguing bitcoin needs to have real value, and calculating this value is extremely difficult because cryptocurrencies are in an "exponential bubble."
The FEC approved bitcoin contributions in 2014, ruling they should be treated as "in-kind donations." These noncash items fall under the same category as goods and services like office equipment and special event auctions. But unlike individual contributions, which max out at $2,700, bitcoin contributions are capped at $100.
Even with these laws, many question its transparency. There's still a perception among lawmakers that unregulated currencies like bitcoin are exploited for illegal activities '-- the most common one being money laundering. While there has certainly been reported cases of this type of criminal activity, just because bitcoin bypasses the traditional banking system doesn't mean it isn't legitimate and safe means of online payment.
It all comes to how bitcoin anonymizes transactions. While bitcoin transaction addresses can be traced, the transactors themselves are not identified.
"If the interest is in transparency, we really want to make sure we know exactly who is donating these funds," said Joe Birkenstock, former chief counsel of the Democratic National Committee. But he says the "distinction around anonymity and pseudonymity" can make that difficult.
That's why Kansas decided to ban bitcoin contributions in October. The Kansas ethics panel claimed the cryptocurrency was "too secretive" and worse than "the Russians." So far, no other state ethics commissions has issued a ruling against the use of bitcoin contributions in state and local elections.
Bitcoin's inherent volatility and limited cap doesn't always make it ideal for political fundraising. Still, candidates are always looking for ways to raise more money '-- and its limited cap could ultimately works in its favor.
An increasing number of candidates, such as Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, are rejecting political action committee money, corporate cash and special-interest donations in favor of smaller contributions from grassroots supporters.
For other candidates, it's about what cryptocurrency stands for. It's particularly enticing to libertarians who aren't fans of central banking. They believe money belongs in the hands of individuals '-- not the the Federal Reserve.
"I am a big fan of the digital currency community because of what it represents, which is ultimately decentralization," Petersen told St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
VIDEO - Exclusive: FBI counterintel looks at Ivanka Trump business deal
Fri, 02 Mar 2018 00:05
(CNN) US counterintelligence officials are scrutinizing one of Ivanka Trump's international business deals, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
The FBI has been looking into the negotiations and financing surrounding Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, according to a US official and a former US official. The scrutiny could be a hurdle for the first daughter as she tries to obtain a full security clearance in her role as adviser to President Donald Trump.
It's standard procedure to probe foreign contacts and international business deals as part of a background check investigation. But the complexity of the Trump Organization's business deals, which often rely on international financing and buyers, presents a challenge.
The FBI has been looking closely at the international business entanglements of both Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, to determine whether any of those deals could leave them vulnerable to pressure from foreign agents, including China, according to a US official.
The development -- a 616-foot beacon dotting the Vancouver skyline and featuring a trademarked Ivanka Trump spa -- opened in February 2017, just after Trump took office.
The Trump Organization does not own the building. Instead, like other Trump projects, it receives licensing and marketing fees from the developer, Joo Kim Tiah. A scion of one of Malaysia's wealthiest families, Tiah runs his family's Canada-based development company Holborn Group. President Trump's June financial disclosure form said the Trump Organization made more than $5 million in royalties and $21,500 in management fees from the Vancouver property.
The $360 million project, which features 147 guest rooms and 217 luxury residences, quickly became a magnet for foreign buyers.
In the case of Vancouver, it's not clear why investigators are examining this particular deal. The timing of the deal -- as one of the few Trump-branded properties to open since Trump took office -- could be of interest. The flow of foreign money, either from the developer or international condo buyers, could also be sparking scrutiny.
Since Kushner took on his role as senior adviser to President Trump, officials in countries including China have discussed ways to use Kushner's web of business deals to manipulate him, according to The Washington Post.
"CNN is wrong that any hurdle, obstacle, concern, red flag or problem has been raised with respect to Ms. Trump or her clearance application," said Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Ivanka Trump's ethics counsel. "Nothing in the new White House policy has changed Ms. Trump's ability to do the same work she has been doing since she joined the Administration."
Alan Garten, executive vice president and chief legal officer for the Trump Organization, said, "the company's role was and is limited to licensing its brand and managing the hotel. Accordingly, the company would have had no involvement in the financing of the project or the sale of units."
White House spokesman Raj Shah declined to comment on Ivanka Trump's security clearance. The FBI declined to comment. The Holborn Group did not respond to requests for comment.
Ivanka Trump, the Vancouver dealmakerFor the Trumps, deal-making is a family affair. The developer in Vancouver, Tiah, bonded with Donald Trump Jr. But Ivanka Trump played a key role in getting the deal off the ground in 2013, two years before Trump officially launched his presidential bid.
Tiah flew to New York for a meeting at Trump Tower. In the board room featured on The Apprentice, they hammered out the contours of the deal.
"One of the senior vice-presidents pulled me aside and said: 'Joo Kim, it's really important in your presentation that you connect with Ivanka. In other words: no one else is in the room, you have to understand that," Tiah recalled at the October 2015 launch of a "Trump Luxe" VIP service for condo residents. "In that meeting, it was clearly just me and Ivanka talking about the project," he recalled.
After an agreement was reached, Ivanka Trump recalled at the same event that she worked closely with Tiah: "We were working on a lot on the design elements and really forming the vision."
"Ivanka and myself approved everything, everything in this project," Tiah added.
Holborn is backed financially by Tony Tiah Thee Kian, chairman of TA Enterprise, which controls several other businesses. The elder Tiah has a checkered business history, including securities laws violations and false statements to the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange, according to the Malaysia's Securities Commission. Joo Kim is the face of Holborn.
As with other Trump properties, the Vancouver tower easily attracted foreign buyers. The Vancouver Sun reported last year that one of the buyers in the project has links to the Chinese government.
What does this mean for Mueller?While it is not known whether Ivanka Trump's business deals are of interest to the special counsel's investigation, Mueller has been examining her husband's interactions with foreign investors.
Kushner has been unable to obtain a full security clearance amid Mueller's investigation into his contacts with Russians and financial dealings with foreigners. His interim security clearance was downgraded this week from top secret to secret.
Because Ivanka Trump and Kushner are married, concerns that arise during one partner's security clearance investigation could stall or block both of them from receiving a full clearance, according to a US official.
Any information that arises during the FBI's security clearance checks that could be relevant to the special counsel's investigation would be automatically shared, according to a US official.
So far, the first daughter -- one of the President's closest confidants -- has largely managed to escape the glare of the Russia investigation. She has not been called to testify on Capitol Hill. She told NBC she has not met with Mueller for an interview.
"Consistently we have said there was no collusion. There was no collusion," Ivanka Trump said in an interview this week with NBC News. "And we believe that Mueller will do his work and reach that same conclusion."
But her low profile, particularly when it comes to Mueller's investigation, is baffling to some legal experts.
"Why is he not interviewing Ivanka? The answer is, beats me," said Michael Zeldin, a CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor who previously worked for Mueller at the Justice Department.
"Either he's just biding his time," Zeldin said, "or he has obtained this evidence elsewhere and he doesn't need her, or he appreciates the possibility of a major eruption were he to do that."
Ivanka Trump accompanied the President as two key events unfolded that Mueller is looking into as part of an obstruction of justice investigation: the firing of then-FBI Director James Comey and the misleading statement about the Trump team's meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer in Trump Tower in June 2016.
While it's unclear what role she played in either of those instances, she may have been privy the President's thinking at the time.
Trump's first-born daughter has long served as a trusted adviser, and she and her father often speak several times a day. She worked closely with her father and siblings in the family real estate business and counseled Trump throughout the presidential campaign and transition. She resigned from the Trump Organization in January 2017 and officially joined the White House staff in March.
For the most part, congressional investigators have also shown little interest in speaking with Ivanka, although some have pressed for her testimony.
Last month, Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said he'd like to speak with Ivanka Trump. But GOP members of the committee haven't backed his request to interview her.
"I think it would be valuable for her to testify and come before the committee," Schiff said.
VIDEO - I'm a Professional Cowboy & I Use Catheters - YouTube
Thu, 01 Mar 2018 22:57
VIDEO - Putin boasts Russia has developed an intercontinental nuclear missile that can't be stopped or shot down by any country's defence system
Thu, 01 Mar 2018 22:50
VLADIMIR Putin says Russia is developing an ''unstoppable'' nuclear cruise missile which cannot be intercepted by any anti-missile system on earth.
The newly developed intercontinental ballistic rocket with ''unlimited range'' was one of several unveiled by the Russian leader in his state of the nation address in Moscow.
They include a nuclear-powered cruise missile, a nuclear-powered underwater drone and new hypersonic missile which apparently have no equivalent.
Footage shown during his speech apparently showed the new ''unstoppable'' missile heading toward the United States as he promises to ''neutralise'' America's missile defence.
''Russia remained a nuclear power but no one wanted to listen to us,'' Putin, 65, told lawmakers. ''Listen to us now.''
He said the hypersonic intercontinental rocket, known as the Avangard, is capable of travelling 20 times the speed of sound and strike ''like a meteorite, like a fireball''.
Footage showed during Putin's speech appeared to show one of the new missiles heading towards the USShocking CGI footage from one of the videos appeared to show Russian rockets targeting Florida, with Tampa Bay clearly visibleVladimir Putin reveals new Russian intercontinental 'Avangard' winged missile in state of the union address in Moscow
Here are Putin's most explosive claims from today's speech
Vladimir Putin has raised fears of a nuclear arms race in the 21st centuryHe unveiled new, hypersonic nuclear weapons which have no equalThe most frightening weapon he alluded to was a nuclear-powered cruise missilePutin said it can travel 20 times the speed of sound and strike ''like a meteorite''He said the Avangard also has ''unlimited range'' and ''cannot be intercepted''Putin also announced a nuclear-powered underwater drone and cruise missileThe Russian leader emphasised the weapons have no equivalent in the WestPutin vowed to wage nuclear war on the United States if Trump attacked first''We aren't threatening anyone'... we aren't going to take anything from anyone,'' he saidThe new missiles have an 'unlimited range', Putin said in his state of the nation address in Moscow''It's like a fireball guided to its target,'' said Putin, who also announced Russia was working on laser weapons systems.
The Russian leader, who has been in power since May 2012, said the missile's appearance is being kept under wraps.
Putin also announced a web contest to name a new, high-speed underwater drone which carries nuclear warheads and can destroy aircraft carriers and coastal facilities.
The Russian military has dubbed the shadowy vessels autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), allegedly capable of deploying missiles with a power of 100-megatons.
Vladimir Putin unveils a high-speed underwater drone which carries nuclear warheads and can destroy aircraft carriers and coastal facilities
Putin claimed the rocket was capable of neutralising American missile defence. This is the computer generated image shown at his speechPutin said the new weapons make NATO's US-led missile defence ''useless'', effectively ending Western efforts to ''contain'' Russia.
He said: ''I want to tell all those who have fuelled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions.
''All you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened'... You have failed to contain Russia.''
Putin sensationally vowed to wage nuclear war on the United States if they attacked Russia, branding Donald Trump's new nuclear doctrine ''worrying''.
Putin said the rocket was capable of travelling 20 times the speed of soundA video played at the state of the nation address appeared to show it heading towards the USThe Kremlin strongman said that if Russia was attacked with nukes then he would not hesitate to launch his nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, RT reported.
The country successfully launched its massive Satan Two nuclear missile, a 100-tonne rocket capable of wiping out the UK, in October.
The colossal weapon which can carry 12 warheads at once travelled 3,600 miles towards a ballistic missile test landing site in far-east Russia.
The missile, also known as RS-28 Sarmat, has a range of 6,000 miles and was fired on Thursday night from Plestek Cosmodrome in Oblast, 880km north of Moscow.
He said Russia also tested a new heavy intercontinental ballistic missile, called SarmatPutin also announced a web contest to name a new underwater drone which can destroy aircraft carriersRussias RS-28 Sarmat ICBM Satan 2 missile could wipe out Texas or France'
The Satan 2, pictured, could wipe out an area the size of France or Texas, according to Russian news agency SputnikThe Russian news outlet Sputnik reported in May that an RS-28 rocket is ''capable of wiping out parts of the Earth the size of France or Texas''.
On that basis it has been reported that the weapon could ''wipe out an area the size of England and Wales twice over''.
It is unconfirmed where exactly the Satan 2s will be kept but they could easily reach the UK if fired from the east coast of Russia.
The Russian ministry said they had ''carried out an exercise to manage its strategic nuclear forces.''
A single Satan 2 missile, pictured, could allegedly decimate most of New York state in the USPutin today claimed Moscow's operation in Syria showed Russia's increased capabilities in the defence sector.
Putin told lawmakers the nation had restored its domestic air defence systems.
The strongman also vowed to cut the ''unacceptable'' poverty rate in half over the next six years, in a state of the nation address on Thursday.
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''[We should] at least halve the poverty rate in the next six years,'' Putin said, adding that 20 million Russians currently live below the poverty line compared to 42 million in 2000.
The Russian leader used the address to outline policy for a widely anticipated new six-year term in the Kremlin following March 18 presidential elections.
Putin, who has led the country for the last 18 years, focused on domestic issues in the speech, saying that the coming years will be ''decisive'' for Russia.
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