1048: Crush ICE

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

3h 3m
July 5th, 2018
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Executive Producers: Paul Arseneault

Associate Executive Producers: Sebastian Paul Avarvarei, Sir Bruce Willke, A Dude Named Dave

Cover Artist: Nick the Rat

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D66 blij met uitkomst stemming auteursrecht '-- Marietje Schaake
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 10:24
Persbericht 05 jul 2018 Vandaag stemde een meerderheid van het Europese Parlement om de onderhandelingen met de Europese Raad nog niet op te starten over een controversile hervorming van het auteursrecht. D66-Europarlementarir Marietje Schaake is blij dat er ruimte is om tot breder gedragen compromissen te komen.
Schaake: "Duizenden Nederlanders waren bezorgd over de voorstellen die op tafel lagen. Nu hebben we een kans om hun zorgen weg te nemen. Er staat veel op het spel. Dat bleek uit de stevige lobby van beide kanten. Een modern auteursrecht moet geschikt zijn voor de 21e eeuw, waarin digitalisering voor nieuwe manieren van informatiedelen zorgt. We streven naar een oplossing waarbij journalisten en andere makers eerlijk beloond kunnen worden, en een nieuwe publiek kunnen bereiken, zonder dat er negatieve gevolgen zijn voor de vrijheid van meningsuiting online. In Europa is er geen plaats voor een censuurfilter.''
Schaake was een van de Europarlementarirs die ervoor zorgden dat het hele Parlement over het voorstel konden stemmen.
Op basis van de vandaag aangenomen positie zullen onderhandelingen tussen het Europees Parlement, de Europese Commissie en de Europese Raad tot een uiteindelijke wet moeten leiden.
Voor meer achtergrond over Schaake´s werk op de hervorming van het auteursrecht, in het bijzonder artikel 11 en 13, zie: https://www.marietjeschaake.eu/en/de-hervorming-van-het-europese-auteursrecht
Article 13 and Article 11: EU's Terrible Copyright Bills Pass Vote
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 10:20
We regret to inform you that the internet is on red alert once again. On Wednesday, the EU's Legislative Committee voted to adopt sweeping measures that will upend the web in every way that we know it. Memes, news, Wikipedia, art, privacy, and the creative side of fandom are all at risk of being destroyed or kneecapped.
By the time Americans woke up on Wednesday, the Legislative Committee had voted on the final form of the EU Copyright Directive'--the first major update to European copyright law since 2001. Much of what's in the legislation has been met with approval, but Article 11 and Article 13 are considered disastrous by some of the foremost tech experts in the world.
Explaining what's wrong with these two points of the legislation in detail is difficult because the articles themselves are so vague. That's the primary issue for critics. Both articles make unprecedented demands on anyone operating a popular website to monitor copyrighted material and to pay fees to news organizations when linking out to their articles. Defenders of the plan say that critics are exaggerating because of assumptions they're making about how the legislation will be implemented. Critics, like one of the ''fathers of the internet,'' Vint Cerf, and the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, say the risks outweigh the benefits. Who are you going to believe?
Let's take a look at what's at stake with these new forthcoming regulations:
Article 13This section of the directive will completely reconfigure websites' responsibilities when it comes to enforcing copyrights. Until now, the so-called Ecommerce Directive has given online platforms broad protection from being subject to copyright penalties when they simply acted as a conduit for user uploads. It's very similar to the laws in the U.S. that exempt YouTube from penalties as long as its making its best effort to take down infringing material when it's reported. YouTube uses an automated content recognition system combined with an army of human beings to review the material users' upload. It costs the company millions of dollars to do this. Critics of Article 13 say that every popular platform'--estimated to mean the top 20 percent'--that allows users to post text, sounds, code, still or moving images will need one of these systems.
Last week, 70 of the most influential people in the field of technology signed a letter opposing Article 13. Pioneers like Cerf and Berners-Lee were joined by experts in virtually every facet of the online world to say that the legislation would harm freedom of speech, education, expression, and small businesses while giving major platforms that already heavily monitor their service a distinct advantage.
Activist, author, and special advisor for the Electronic Freedom Foundation, Cory Doctorow has written extensively about the potential implications of Article 13 since it became a crisis in the last few months. He told Gizmodo over the phone that as it's written, the legislation will cost ''hundreds of millions'' of dollars in penalties for platforms that can't handle monitoring, and he's confident that companies like Google and Facebook will be the only ones that can survive.
The big question around Article 13 is its vague requirement that websites use ''appropriate'' measures to prevent copyrighted material from ever appearing on their service. It suggests ''effective content recognition technologies'' be used several times without explaining what that means, how it would work, how claims would be filed, or anything practical. For critics like Doctorow, the natural conclusion is that big platforms will use their own system and some sort of centralized system will be required for the rest. Because there's no outline of how such a system would work, there are no penalties for people who falsely claim ownership over the content. In the event that someone uploads a claim over the complete works of Shakespeare'--which is in the public domain'--a platform would have to individually decide if that claim is worth taking a risk and allowing someone else to quote a sonnet by the bard. If the platform doesn't want to take the risk, someone fighting a copyright claim would have to go to court.
As we see all the time, algorithms by the richest companies in the world are terrible at doing their jobs. This week, we saw YouTube blocking educational videos from MIT and the Blender Foundation because they were erroneously flagged by its piracy filters. In the past, we've seen bullshit piracy claims over white noise and birds chirping.
Also, what's possibly the most important problem with Article 13 is that it makes no exceptions for fair use, a foundation of the internet an essential caveat in the law that allows people to remix copyrighted works.
Article 11Article 11 has been variously called the link tax or the snippet tax. Designed to mitigate the power over publishers that Google and Facebook have amassed in the last decade, it codifies a new copyright rule for linking to news organizations and quoting text from their stories. Online platforms will have to pay for a license to link out to news publishers, and this will theoretically help support organizations that are vital for public information and drive users to their homepages.
That all sounds decent in principle, but Article 11 doesn't bother to even define what constitutes a link. Details will be left to the 28 individual countries in the EU to figure that out. That opens the door for political abuse of how news is spread in each country, and it will likely have the opposite of its intended effect.
Google can afford a license, there's no guarantee smaller organizations can. Member of European Parliament Julia Reda is firmly opposed to Article 11 and 13. She recently wrote on her website: ''Instead of one Europe-wide law, we'd have 28, with the most extreme becoming the de-facto standard: To avoid being sued, international internet platforms would be motivated to comply with the strictest version implemented by any member state.'' In response to her MEP counterpart Alex Voss's defense of Article 11, Reda gave The Next Web an illustration of how the differences between countries could play out:
The sentence 'Angela Merkel meets Theresa May,' which could be a headline of a news article, cannot be protected by copyright, because it is a mere statement of fact and not an original creation. Mr. Voss said repeatedly that he wants these purely factual statements to be covered by Article 11, that the protection granted to press publishers will therefore be much broader than even what the journalists themselves get.
Reda also pointed out that egregious sampling or wholesale theft of news content is already illegal under current copyright law. There's no reason to believe that Facebook with its fancy link license will ever face penalties for users posting an entire article on their wall. But when Facebook decides it doesn't like your particular political point of view, it'll be a lot harder for you to start a small platform and express it.
The consequences of Article 11 and Article 13 remain a matter of speculation, but the nature of the legislation'--both its design and its vagueness that makes it ripe for abuse'--make it all but inevitable that they will leave the internet torn and tattered in its wake. Here are some likely victims.
MemesEven if you think that people who pirate music should be executed and all news organizations are the devil, you probably like memes. Well, whoever took a picture of that one guy looking at that one girl instead of the other girl, will be having a field day running around filing complaints against any platform that uses it without permission. Just kidding, that guy sold the photo to iStock, a subsidiary of photo-licensing giant Getty Images. No fair use means you'll have to go shoot your own photo to caption and make it clear that anyone is allowed to further caption it in the pursuit of creating a meme.
ArtistsRemixes and mashups are fucked. Any artist that relies on fair use to make transformative works is fucked. And the Metallica's of the world who love running around policing where their work will have platforms, and their grunts making sure to pull down that birthday party video of you and your friends just trying to have a good time while some song was on the radio. Are you wearing a Rick and Morty shirt in that perfect profile pic? Sorry, the stupid algorithm flagged it, and now it's gone.
PoliticsAside from the potential of individual countries in the EU to decide what is and isn't news, copyright claims could be used to suppress material for political purposes. Doctorow gave us the example of a politically sensitive video uploaded to a platform just days before an election. Let's call it the pee tape. If the target of the pee tape were to know it was about to be released, it could be uploaded to a content monitoring platform with a copyright claim lying in wait. The censorship filters would catch it before it was seen by the public, and the election could come and go while a legal fight plays out behind the scenes.
There's also the issue of surveillance. We already accept that companies like Facebook hire people to comb through our shit while trying to identify infringing content. The EU is trying to force many more companies to deputize a bunch of sleuths, human and algorithmic, expand this shadow surveillance state that monitors everything we post on these platforms. As Doctorow put it to us, ''Any kind of censorship in the modern age is surveillance.''
Etc.There are numerous other bad implications that have been flagged by activists, academics, human rights groups, and online businesses. We didn't even discuss Article 3, which has artificial intelligence startups sweating bullets. I'd urge you to call your representatives, but we mostly serve an audience in the U.S, where we largely lack the power to force lawmakers' hands. We don't know if this will have the ripple effects we've seen with the GDPR privacy rules that are slowly being picked up as the global standard. But Doctorow told us that implementation of the copyright directive adopted on Wednesday will be just like GDPR's chaotic rollout last month. ''Everyone is going to forget about it'' during the waiting period before the law is implemented, ''and in two years they're going to wake up and say holy shit!''
Update 8:50am, June 20: On Wednesday, the European Parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs voted to move forward with its new Copyright Directive. Article 11 narrowly passed with a vote of 13 to 12 and Article 13 passed with a wider margin of 15 to 10. The legislation will now have to undergo a plenary vote by the full Parliament. There's no set timeline on when that will occur but its expected sometime between December of this year and the beginning of 2019. While it was considered unlikely to be a subject of much debate after reaching a plenary vote, Joe McNamee, executive director of digital rights association EDRi, told The Verge that public outcry may have changed that. ''I was told that the volume of calls, emails, and texts everyone in the Parliament has been getting has led people not in the [JURI] committee to start getting worried,'' he said.
Ticket to copyright: Paul McCartney joins crowded fight over online rules '' POLITICO
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 10:19
Paul McCartney MEPs backing proposed changes to Europe's online copyright rules | Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for DuJour
Celebrities including Paul McCartney and comedian Stephen Fry are weighing in on both sides of a fight over Europe's proposed copyright rules, which could change internet publishing around the world if enforced.
The former Beatles star penned an impassioned open letter to MEPs backing proposed changes to Europe's online copyright rules, which will be subject to a vote during a special plenary session of Parliament on Thursday.
He's one of many celebrities to speak out about a reform that '-- if it passes '-- could end an era of light-touch copyright enforcement online, saddling firms like Google and Facebook with costly new duties to detect infringements and compensate license holders more systematically.
''Music and culture matter. They are our heart and soul,'' McCartney wrote in his letter. ''The proposed copyright directive '... [will] help assure a sustainable future for the music ecosystem and its creators, fans and digital music services alike.''
The pro-copyright camp also includes French electronic musician Jean-Michel Jarre, who argued last week that tougher enforcement of copyright rules online would ensure that artists are more fairly compensated for their work.
''Don't believe the creepy pretence that it's there to protect (C) holders. It's about putting power in the hands of media corporations. We can stop it!'' '-- Stephen Fry
But the opposite camp '-- which argues that copyright changes could kill ''memes'' and stifle the internet '-- also has well-known backers, including comedian Stephen Fry and author Neil Gaiman. They argue that the new rules, and new technologies to help platforms monitor for copyright infringements, could lead to ''censorship'' of the internet, and of its users.
''Don't believe the creepy pretence that it's there to protect (C) holders. It's about putting power in the hands of media corporations. We can stop it!'' Fry tweeted in late June.
The vote will determine whether or not Parliament reopens talks on the revamp, which aims to update copyright rules for the internet age, and has set off a lobbying war between internet giants such as Google and Facebook and license holders including book publishers, media groups and recording artists.
(Axel Springer, the co-owner of POLITICO Europe, is an active participant in Europe's debate about copyright rules.)
Down to the wireAfter nearly two years of discussions, the debate over copyright will come to a head Thursday during a European Parliament plenary session at which all MEPs are invited to vote on the current text. Who will or won't show up remains to be seen.
The vote in itself is a rare occasion.
Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee has already approved the text, which normally would be enough to send it on for the next stage of negotiations between Parliament, EU member countries and the European Commission, known as trilogues.
But opponents to the bill, seeking to revoke the Legal Affairs Committee's mandate, invoked Parliament's Rule 69c to trigger a plenary vote. In order for the text to proceed to the trilogue stage, a majority of MEPs will have to vote in favor of the current text.
Never before has Rule 69c succeeded in reopening a digital file (and so blocked its passage to trilogue discussions).
Yet this time may be different.
All the major political groups in Parliament, including the conservative European People's Party and left-leaning Socialists & Democrats, are divided over the reform.
The debate over copyright will come to a head Thursday during a European Parliament plenary session | Torsten Silz/AFP via Getty Images
Most fringe groups, including the majority of the Greens, the European United Left and Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy, want to revoke the Legal Affairs Committee's mandate.
In the event that the current text is rejected, all 751 MEPs should spend the month of August filing new amendments to the proposal.
A new vote would be scheduled for September. If the text passes, it goes straight to trilogues, and the controversial proposals boosting artists' and publishers' negotiating power are likely to remain intact.
Lobbying showdownThis was not the outcome the Commission had envisioned when it first proposed legislation increasing rights holders' and media publishers' negotiating power with internet giants.
''Our proposal is not targeting users, it is not 'censorship,' and does not constitute a general monitoring obligation,'' said European Commission spokesperson Nathalie Vandystadt.
A parliamentary committee in late June backed the Commission's proposal, with some technical tweaks.
But then, a sophisticated lobbying campaign kicked in, managing to shift the narrative for many parties involved. Citizens have been writing to their representatives en masse to push them to reject the proposal.
The man in charge of shepherding the reform through Parliament, German rapporteur Axel Voss, has branded much of the lobbying ''fake news.''
Read this next: German defense minister strikes back on NATO spending target Tags: Copyright,
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How the EU copyright proposal will hurt the web and Wikipedia '' Wikimedia Blog
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 10:15
Communications, Foundation
By Eileen Hershenov, Wikimedia Foundation June 29th, 2018
A proposed new copyright package in the European Union is a threat to our fundamental right to freely share information. The time to speak out is now.
Wikimedia is an integral part of a large movement of civil society stakeholders, technologists, creators, and human rights defenders, who all recognize the importance of a free and open web for culture, progress, and democracy. Our movement is working to promote freedom online for the benefit of all. Our efforts in this public policy realm are all the more important in an era of increasing restrictions on free speech and free access to knowledge across the globe, which directly threaten the mission and vision of Wikimedia and its projects, such as Wikipedia.
This is why we strongly oppose the proposed EU Copyright Directives and urge the Members of the European Parliament to reconsider proceeding with the version recently adopted by the Legal Affairs Committee. We are concerned because these flawed proposals hurt everyone's rights to freedom of expression and Europe's ability to improve the welfare of its citizens online.
Next week, we expect the European Parliament to vote in plenary on whether to proceed with the version adopted by the Committee. If the Members of the European Parliament reject it, there will be another opportunity to fix much of the current proposal's broken requirements. Now may be the last opportunity to improve the directive.
We oppose this EU copyright package because of its detrimental effects on internet freedom, access to knowledge, and collaboration online. We believe that:
The requirement for platforms to implement upload filters is a serious threat for freedom of expression and privacy. Our foundational vision depends on the free exchange of knowledge across the entirety of the web, and beyond the boundaries of the Wikimedia projects.A new exclusive right allowing press publishers to restrict the use of news snippets will make it more difficult to access and share information about current events in the world, making it harder for Wikipedia contributors to find citations for articles online.The proposal does not support user rights, is missing strong safeguards for the public domain, and does not create exceptions that would truly empower people to participate in research and culture.We believe that enactment of this copyright package will significantly decrease the amount of content that will be freely accessible to all across the globe. The costs involved in preemptively filtering content that may violate broad conceptions of copyright are likely also to lead to concentration of content determinations in a small number of large platforms.
The Wikimedia movement has opposed the flawed proposal for copyright reform since the first disappointing draft was first presented almost two years ago, after initially encouraging preparatory steps. Early on, we warned about the implications of imposing upload filters and called for urgently needed safeguards for the public domain. More recently, we wrote about the negative effects of mandatory automatic content detection on collaboration and freedom of expression.
Wikimedia communities around the world have been actively opposing the EU copyright package. In May, German and Bulgarian Wikipedia communities ran banners opposing Article 13 of the copyright proposal. Several European Wikimedia user organizations, including Wikimedia chapters in France, Estonia, Germany, Denmark, and Spain, took part in a Day of Action against the the copyright package on June 12, writing blog posts and tweeting under the hashtag #SaveYourInternet. The German chapter has even organized an event in the streets of Berlin and more language communities are currently debating how to engage.
The proposal is a serious threat to our mission as it fails to truly modernize copyright and ensure the law keeps up with reality. Wikimedia can only achieve its mission when everyone is able to share information freely and contribute to the collection of knowledge on Wikipedia and its sister projects, and when we support such freedom and openness. The copyright proposal conflicts with that mission.
Although Wikimedia operates non-commercial websites, which may benefit from exemptions in certain parts of the EU copyright package, our overarching mission is heavily dependent on a free and open internet ecosystem.
We strongly urge the European Parliament to reject this bad copyright package in the vote next week and reconsider the opportunity to create a balanced and forward-looking law. It's not too late: you can help stop this bad proposal. Take action by contacting your Member of European Parliament at changecopyright.org, and spread the word in your circles and on social media!
Eileen B. Hershenov, General CounselWikimedia Foundation
MEPs to vote on controversial copyright law - BBC News
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 10:14
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption MEPs have been subject to fierce lobbying by both those who favour and those who oppose the legislation MEPs are due to vote on major changes to copyright law, which has divided experts and proved controversial.
Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney has written to politicians urging them to support the changes.
The new law would put a greater responsibility on individual websites to check for copyright infringements.
But the web's inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee and others have expressed concerns about the proposed rules, which they say threaten internet freedom.
What are they voting for?The Copyright Directive is intended to bring rules around content in line with the digital age.
The two most controversial parts of it are Article 11 and Article 13.
The first of these is intended to provide fair remuneration for publishers and prevent online content-sharing platforms and news aggregators sharing links without paying for them. But it has been called the "link tax" by opponents and raised questions about who will have to pay and how much.
Article 13 puts more onus on websites to enforce copyright laws and could mean that any online platform that allows users to post text, images, sounds or code will need a way to assess and filter content.
Who supports it? Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sir Paul McCartney is among artists in favour of the legislation Supporters of the rule changes say they would improve copyright rules, giving intellectual-property protection to news and video content.
"Today, some user-upload content platforms refuse to compensate artists and all music creators fairly for their work while they exploit it for their own profit," reads the letter from Sir Paul McCartney.
"The proposed Copyright Directive and its Article 13 would address the value gap and help assure a sustainable future for the music ecosystem and its creators, fans and digital music services alike."
Centre-right German MEP Axel Voss is in charge of pushing through the legislation and recently published a video intended to counter what he called "fake news" about the legislation.
He said the reaction to the law was "going beyond what is acceptable".
"We will not end the internet," he added.
Who opposes it? Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jimmy Wales has called the legislation "disastrous" Critics claim that Article 13 could have a massive impact on how people use the internet, putting paid to memes and remixes.
In particular there are concerns that it will require websites to scan all content being uploaded, automatically blocking anything that might infringe copyright.
The use of artificial intelligence in filters could mean they will not be able to distinguish between content that infringes copyright and fair use, such as satire and memes, they say.
A petition against the change - known as Save Your Internet - has gained 750,000 signatures.
And a letter signed by 70 influential technology leaders, including Vint Cerf and Tim Berners-Lee, described it as an "imminent threat to the future" of the internet.
Italy Wikipedia shut down for a day earlier this week in protest at the plans, which co-founder Jimmy Wales has described as "disastrous".
The editors wrote that "Wikipedia itself would be at risk of closing".
"If the proposal is approved, it may be impossible to share a newspaper article on social networks or find it on a search engine," it said.
What happens next?After the vote, the legislation is set to be debated in closed-door discussions between EU legislators and member states - but MEPs will have the chance to object to this.
The so-called trilogue negotiations are intended to speed up the process of laws being adopted - but some say this is undemocratic.
In Denmark, Harsh New Laws for Immigrant 'Ghettos' - The New York Times
Mon, 02 Jul 2018 18:19
An intersection near Mjolnerparken, a housing project in Copenhagen that is classified as a ghetto by the Danish government. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times COPENHAGEN '-- When Rokhaia Naassan gives birth in the coming days, she and her baby boy will enter a new category in the eyes of Danish law. Because she lives in a low-income immigrant neighborhood described by the government as a ''ghetto,'' Rokhaia will be what the Danish newspapers call a ''ghetto parent'' and he will be a ''ghetto child.''
Starting at the age of 1, ''ghetto children'' must be separated from their families for at least 25 hours a week, not including nap time, for mandatory instruction in ''Danish values,'' including the traditions of Christmas and Easter, and Danish language. Noncompliance could result in a stoppage of welfare payments. Other Danish citizens are free to choose whether to enroll children in preschool up to the age of six.
Denmark's government is introducing a new set of laws to regulate life in 25 low-income and heavily Muslim enclaves, saying that if families there do not willingly merge into the country's mainstream, they should be compelled.
For decades, integrating immigrants has posed a thorny challenge to the Danish model, intended to serve a small, homogeneous population. Leaders are focusing their ire on urban neighborhoods where immigrants, some of them placed there by the government, live in dense concentrations with high rates of unemployment and gang violence.
Politicians' description of the ghettos has become increasingly sinister. In his annual New Year's speech, Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen warned that ghettos could ''reach out their tentacles onto the streets'' by spreading violence, and that because of ghettos, ''cracks have appeared on the map of Denmark.'' Politicians who once used the word ''integration'' now call frankly for ''assimilation.''
That tough approach is embodied in the ''ghetto package.'' Of 22 proposals presented by the government in early March, most have been agreed upon by a parliamentary majority, and more will be subject to a vote in the fall.
Image Rokhaia Naassan, center, with her back to the camera, resents the new mandatory preschool program for ''ghetto children.'' Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times Some are punitive: One measure under consideration would allow courts to double the punishment for certain crimes if they are committed in one of the 25 neighborhoods classified as ghettos, based on residents' income, employment status, education levels, number of criminal convictions and ''non-Western background.'' Another would impose a four-year prison sentence on immigrant parents who force their children to make extended visits to their country of origin '-- described here as ''re-education trips'' '--in that way damaging their ''schooling, language and well-being.'' Another would allow local authorities to increase their monitoring and surveillance of ''ghetto'' families.
Some proposals have been rejected as too radical, like one from the far-right Danish People's Party that would confine ''ghetto children'' to their homes after 8 p.m. (Challenged on how this would be enforced, Martin Henriksen, the chairman of Parliament's integration committee, suggested in earnest that young people in these areas could be fitted with electronic ankle bracelets.)
At this summer's Folkemodet, an annual political gathering on the island of Bornholm, the justice minister, Soren Pape Poulsen, shrugged off the rights-based objection.
''Some will wail and say, 'We're not equal before the law in this country,' and 'Certain groups are punished harder,' but that's nonsense,'' he said, adding that the increased penalties would affect only people who break the law.
To those claiming the measures single out Muslims, he said: ''That's nonsense and rubbish. To me this is about, no matter who lives in these areas and who they believe in, they have to profess to the values required to have a good life in Denmark.''
Yildiz Akdogan, a Social Democrat whose parliamentary constituency includes Tingbjerg, which is classified as a ghetto, said Danes had become so desensitized to harsh rhetoric about immigrants that they no longer register the negative connotation of the word ''ghetto'' and its echoes of Nazi Germany's separation of Jews.
Image Mjolnerparken is, by the numbers, one of Denmark's worst ghettos: 43 percent of its residents are unemployed, 82 percent come from ''non-Western backgrounds,'' 53 percent have scant education and 51 percent have relatively low earnings. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times ''We call them 'ghetto children, ghetto parents,' it's so crazy,'' Ms. Akdogan said. ''It is becoming a mainstream word, which is so dangerous. People who know a little about history, our European not-so-nice period, we know what the word 'ghetto' is associated with.''
She pulled out her phone to display a Facebook post from a right-wing politician, railing furiously at a Danish supermarket for selling a cake reading ''Eid Mubarak,'' for the Muslim holiday of Eid. ''Right now, facts don't matter so much, it's only feelings,'' she said. ''This is the dangerous part of it.''
For their part, many residents of Danish ''ghettos'' say they would move if they could afford to live elsewhere. On a recent afternoon, Ms. Naassan was sitting with her four sisters in Mjolnerparken, a four-story, red brick housing complex that is, by the numbers, one of Denmark's worst ghettos: forty-three percent of its residents are unemployed, 82 percent come from ''non-Western backgrounds,'' 53 percent have scant education and 51 percent have relatively low earnings.
The Naassan sisters wondered aloud why they were subject to these new measures. The children of Lebanese refugees, they speak Danish without an accent and converse with their children in Danish; their children, they complain, speak so little Arabic that they can barely communicate with their grandparents. Years ago, growing up in Jutland, in Denmark's west, they rarely encountered any anti-Muslim feeling, said Sara, 32.
''Maybe this is what they always thought, and now it's out in the open,'' she said. ''Danish politics is just about Muslims now. They want us to get more assimilated or get out. I don't know when they will be satisfied with us.''
Rokhaia, her due date fast approaching, flared with anger at the mandatory preschool program approved by the government last month: Already, she said, her daughter was being taught so much about Christmas in kindergarten that she came home begging for presents from Santa Claus.
Image Barwaqo Jama Hussein noted that the government had settled many immigrant families, including her own, in ''ghetto neighborhoods.'' Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times ''Nobody should tell me whether or how my daughter should go to preschool. Or when,'' she said. ''I'd rather lose my benefits than submit to force.''
Barwaqo Jama Hussein, 18, a Somali refugee, noted that many immigrant families, including her own, had been settled in ''ghetto'' neighborhoods by the government. She moved to Denmark when she was 5 and has lived in the Tingbjerg ghetto area since she was 13. She said the politicians' description of ''parallel societies'' simply did not fit her, or Tingbjerg.
''It hurts that they don't see us as equal people,'' she said. ''We actually live in Danish society. We follow the rules, we go to school. The only thing we don't do is eat pork.''
About 12 miles south of the city, in the middle-class suburb of Greve, though, voters gushed with approval over the new laws.
''They spend too much Danish money,'' said Dorthe Pedersen, a hairdresser, daubing chestnut dye on a client's hairline. ''We pay their rent, their clothing, their food, and then they come in broken Danish and say, 'We can't work because we've got a pain.'''
Her client, Anni Larsen, told a story about being invited by a Turkish immigrant to their child's wedding and being scandalized to discover that the guests were separated by gender and seated in different rooms. ''I think there were only 10 people from Denmark,'' she said, appalled. ''If you ask me, I think they shouldn't have invited us.''
Image Dorthe Pedersen, center, a hairdresser, and her client Anni Larsen, left, live in the middle-class suburb of Greve and approve of the new laws for ''ghetto'' residents. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times Anette Jacobsen, 64, a retired pharmacist's assistant, said she so treasured Denmark's welfare system, which had provided her four children with free education and health care, that she felt a surge of gratitude every time she paid her taxes, more than 50 percent of her yearly income. As for immigrants using the system, she said, ''There is always a cat door for someone to sneak in.''
''Morally, they should be grateful to be allowed into our system, which was built over generations,'' she said.
Her husband, Jesper, a former merchant sailor whose ship once docked in Lebanon, said he had watched laborers there being shot for laziness and replaced by truckloads of new workers gathered in the countryside.
''I think they are 300 to 400 years behind us,'' Jesper said.
''Their culture doesn't fit here,'' Anette said.
The new hard-edge push to force Muslims to integrate struck both of them as positive. ''The young people will see what it is to be Danish and they will not be like their parents,'' Jesper said.
''The grandmothers will die sometime,'' Anette said. ''They are the ones resisting change.''
By focusing heavily on the collective cost of supporting refugee and immigrant families, the Danish People's Party has won many voters away from the center-left Social Democrats, who had long been seen as the defenders of the welfare state. With a general election approaching next year, the Social Democrat party has shifted to the right on immigration, saying tougher measures are necessary to protect the welfare state.
Nearly 87 percent of Denmark's 5.7 million people are of Danish descent, with immigrants and their descendants accounting for the rest. Two-thirds of the immigrants, around half a million, are from Muslim backgrounds, a group that swelled with the waves of Afghan, Iraqi and Syrian refugees crossing Europe.
Critics would say ''the state cannot force children away from their parents in the daytime, that's disproportionate use of force,'' said Rune Lykkeberg, the editor in chief of Dagbladet Information, a left-liberal daily newspaper. ''But the Social Democrats say, 'We give people money, and we want something for this money.' This is a system of rights and obligations.''
Danes have a high level of trust in the state, including as a central shaper of children's ideology and beliefs, he said. ''The Anglo-Saxon conception is that man is free in nature, and then comes the state'' constraining that freedom, he said. ''Our conception of freedom is the opposite, that man is only free in society.''
''You could say, of course, parents have the right to bring up their own kids,'' he added. ''We would say they do not have the right to destroy the future freedom of their children.''
Of course, he added, ''There is always a strong sense of authoritarian risk.''
Ms. Hussain, the high school student from Tingbjerg, is accustomed to anti-immigrant talk surging ahead of elections, but says this year it is harsher than she can ever remember.
''If you create new kinds of laws that apply to only one part of society, then you can keep adding to them,'' she said. ''It will turn into the parallel society they're so afraid of. They will create it themselves.''
Anna Schaverien contributed reporting from London.
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Merkel, to Survive, Agrees to Border Camps for Migrants - The New York Times
Tue, 03 Jul 2018 21:43
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany leaving a meeting of the Christian Democratic Union in Berlin early Monday. ''We share a common goal in migration policy,'' the party said in a statement. ''We want to order, control and limit migration to Germany.'' Credit Omer Messinger/Agence France-Presse '-- Getty Images BERLIN '-- Chancellor Angela Merkel, who staked her legacy on welcoming hundreds of thousands of migrants into Germany, agreed on Monday to build border camps for asylum seekers and to tighten the border with Austria in a political deal to save her government.
It was a spectacular turnabout for a leader who has been seen as the standard-bearer of the liberal European order but who has come under intense pressure at home from the far right and from conservatives in her governing coalition over her migration policy.
Although the move to appease the conservatives exposed her growing political weakness, Ms. Merkel will limp on as chancellor. For how long is unclear. The nationalism and anti-migrant sentiment that has challenged multilateralism elsewhere in Europe is taking root '-- fast '-- in mainstream German politics.
Ms. Merkel agreed to the latest policy after an insurrection over migration policy led by her interior minister, Horst Seehofer, threatened to bring down her coalition.
Mr. Seehofer demanded that Germany block migrants at the border if they have no papers, or have already registered in another European country.
Ms. Merkel, who supports free movement across Europe's borders, has been opposed to any moves effectively resurrecting border controls until Monday night, when she made the deal to stay in power.
The new policy is subject to the approval of the Social Democrats, the third party in Ms. Merkel's coalition.
It would establish camps, called ''transit centers,'' at points along the border. Newly arriving migrants would be screened in the centers, and any determined to have already applied for asylum elsewhere in the European Union would be turned back.
Under Ms. Merkel, Germany has been a bulwark against the rise of the far right in Europe and the increasing turn against migrants. Even as neighboring countries turned away those fleeing war and strife in the Middle East, she has welcomed more than a million since 2015, and lobbied for a collective European solution.
Comparing the migrant crisis to a challenge on the same scale as Germany's postwar reconstruction and reunification, she appealed to fellow Germans that they were up to the challenge.
''We can manage,'' she said famously in 2015, inspiring many to donate food, clothes and their time to help.
Since then the number of new migrants has dropped to a fraction of what it was three years ago. But the good will has been eroding as Germany has struggled to absorb those already in the country.
Image Horst Seehofer, the German interior minister and the leader of the Bavarian party Christian Social Union, was to meet the chancellor in Berlin on Monday in a last-ditch effort to reach an agreement. Credit Christof Stache/Agence France-Presse '-- Getty Images An ascendant far right has relentlessly pushed the narrative that the migrant crisis is continuing and that crime is up.
It is actually at a 25-year low but a series of high-profile assaults in Germany involving migrants, including the rape and killing of a 19-year-old German student and the terrorist attack on a Christmas market that killed 12 people, has helped to turn public sentiment.
Anti-migrant feelings helped lead to the rise of a far-right political party, the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, which has put Germany's more mainstream parties under pressure to change.
Ms. Merkel has been unable to stem the changing tide, with cascading implications for politics in Germany and Europe.
''Her political capital is depleted,'' said Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, director of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund. ''We are well into the final chapter of the Merkel era.''
''Under her continued leadership, Germany will be largely immobilized at home and in Europe,'' Mr. Kleine-Brockhoff added, a dramatic change for a country that has been Europe's political and economic anchor. ''But the promise of Merkel was stability, not immobility.''
As the chancellor faces domestic challenges, she is also confronted by pressures from the Trump administration.
Over the past month, President Trump wrote sharply worded letters to Ms. Merkel and the leaders of several other NATO allies, criticizing them for spending too little on their own defense.
In his letter to Ms. Merkel, Mr. Trump said that Germany was to blame for other countries' failure to spend enough, ''because others see you as a role model.''
German postwar politics has been built around stability and consensus. Ms. Merkel governed in that tradition and became closely associated with it. She is one of only three chancellors who have run the country since 1982. And she has fended off many political opponents during her 13 years as chancellor.
When Ms. Merkel first took office in 2005, it was a different world. A year after 10 formerly Communist eastern European countries joined the European Union, the Continent was still rife with idealism. Ms. Merkel, a pastor's daughter and trained scientist who had grown up in Communist East Germany, was not only the first woman but the first easterner to lead her reunified country.
She steered Germany through a period of power and prosperity even as economic and political fires broke out abroad. Once in a while she veered from her calm-bordering-on-boring protocol; there were even times when she made radical decisions.
Image Journalists waited outside the headquarters of the Christian Democratic Union in Berlin on Sunday as its leaders held marathon talks. Credit Omer Messinger/Agence France-Presse '-- Getty Images She announced the end of nuclear power production after the Fukushima reactor disaster in Japan. She was determined to keep Greece inside the eurozone, even at the cost of painful austerity policies.
In last September's election, Ms. Merkel's conservatives recorded their worst postwar result. It took two tries, negotiations with four other parties, nearly six months and a lot of concessions to political rivals to form a government.
In the vote, the AfD emerged as the third-strongest force in the German Parliament and the main opposition party.
Its rise has helped shrink the support base of the once mighty Social Democrats, and opened a rift in Ms. Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, or C.D.U., between those who stand by the chancellor's liberal worldview and those who want her gone and yearn for a more traditional conservatism.
Above all, the AfD's rise has sharply shifted the powerful and already very conservative state of Bavaria to the right. Mr. Seehofer's tough stand on migrants is seen in part as a bid to protect his party's right flank.
Even now, diminished and fighting political rebellions, Ms. Merkel made it clear on Monday that she is determined to battle on for those values that for many years made her one of the most popular politicians at home and abroad. But she also tried to put the best face on her concession.
''The security of our country begins on our borders,'' the chancellor told reporters after meeting for several hours with the leaders of her party and those of Mr. Seehofer's Bavarian conservatives.
She described the measure as simultaneously a national action to secure Germany's borders, but in cooperation with the European Union partner countries that the refugees are coming from.
But Mr. Kleine-Brockhoff saw it differently.
''What looks like a power struggle surrounding Ms. Merkel, behind this is actually a conflict about the integrity of the European project,'' he said. ''The four freedoms of the E.U. can no longer be enforced. We can't agree on freedom of movement of refugees and immigrants; the whole system has ceased to function.''
Correction:An earlier version of this article incorrectly described the negotiations by Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives to form a government. The talks involved four other parties, not six.
Follow Katrin Bennhold and Melissa Eddy on Twitter: @kbennhold and @meddynyt.
Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting from Berlin, and Julie Hirschfeld Davis from Washington.
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Rechter: geen referendum over afschaffing referendum | Politiek | AD.nl
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 11:28
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Ministry of Truthiness
United States | RSF newspeak-Press Freedom
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 11:14
Trump exacerbates press freedom's steady decline
Visit the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker
US press freedom, enshrined in the First Amendment to the 1787 constitution, has been under increasing attack over the past few years, and the first year of President Donald J. Trump's presidency has fostered further decline in journalists' right to report. He has declared the press an ''enemy of the American people'' in a series of verbal attacks toward journalists, attempted to block White House access to multiple media outlets, and routinely uses the term ''fake news'' in retaliation for critical reporting. He has even called for revoking certain media outlets' broadcasting licenses. The violent anti-press rhetoric from the highest level of the US government has been coupled with an increase in the number of press freedom violations at the local level as journalists run the risk of arrest for covering protests or simply attempting to ask public officials questions. Reporters have even been subject to physical assault while on the job. It appears the Trump effect has only amplified the disappointing press freedom climate that predated his presidency. Whistleblowers face prosecution under the Espionage Act if they leak information of public interest to the press, while there is still no federal ''shield law'' guaranteeing reporters' right to protect their sources. Journalists and their devices continue to be searched at the US border, while some foreign journalists are still denied entry into the US after covering sensitive topics like Colombia's FARC or Kurdistan.
Follow the news on United States Follow 45
in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index
Global score
-0.15
23.88 in 2017
YearRanking 201743 / 180 201641 / 180 201549 / 180 YearRanking 201446 / 180 201332 / 180 journalists killed in 2018 citizens journalists killed in 2018 media assistants killed in 2018 Go to the barometre
The big picture: Press freedom in the U.S. - Axios
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 11:12
The U.S. ranks 45th out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index, according to a Reporters without Borders study.
Why it matters: Press freedom experts cite President Trump's actions and threats '-- such as calling them "fake news" or an "enemy of the people, and witholding information like his tax returns '-- as contributing factors in the decline of press freedoms in the U.S. over the past two years.
It's also helped to fuel a growing distrust of media. An Axios/SurveyMonkey poll recently found that 72% of American adults think that traditional news outlets knowingly report false or misleading stories at least sometimes.
Brian Ross is leaving ABC after botched Michael Flynn report | Page Six
Mon, 02 Jul 2018 19:12
ABC News' Brian Ross '-- who was suspended last year as chief investigative correspondent for a faulty report on Michael Flynn '-- is leaving the network, Page Six has exclusively learned.
ABC suspended Ross last December for a month without pay for a botched report on ousted White House national security adviser Flynn that reported President Trump directed Flynn to make contact with Russian officials. The mistake even sent stocks tumbling, and ABC issued an apology saying: ''We deeply regret and apologize for the serious error.''
We hear that Ross on Monday announced he's leaving the network. His longtime executive producer Rhonda Schwartz is also exiting. ''The time has come to say good-bye,'' said the duo in a letter to staff with an announcement by ABC News president James Goldston.
''After a great run of 24 years, we have decided to pack up and move on from ABC News, an organization that has meant so much to us. We leave with enormous gratitude for all those who supported us and helped build the industry's most robust and honored investigative unit.'' They added: ''While we are signing off from ABC News, we are hardly leaving investigative journalism. There is much more to do.''
When Ross returned from his suspension, he kept the same title, but moved to another unit of ABC, Lincoln Square Productions, with offices blocks from the news division, to work on ''long-term projects,'' plus ''20/20'' and ''Nightline.''
Goldston's memo praised the pair, we hear. ''They've exposed government corruption at every level, international human rights abuses and fraud, uncovered dangerous working conditions, sexual abuse cover-ups and dishonest business practices,'' it said. ''Their work has led repeatedly to real changes in policy in the U.S. and around the world.''
He added: ''Over the years they have built a team of the best investigative journalists in our industry, and they leave behind an outstanding group that will continue to break stories for many years to come '... We wish them well in their next chapter.''
Net Neutrality
Facebook's program thinks Declaration of Independence is hate speech - The Vindicator: News
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 12:47
Posted: Monday, July 2, 2018 4:46 pm | Updated: 8:06 pm, Tue Jul 3, 2018.
UPDATE: Earlier this evening, July 3, the good folks at Facebook restored the post that is the subject of this article. An email from Facebook came in a little after The Vindicator's office closed today and says the following:
''It looks like we made a mistake and removed something you posted on Facebook that didn't go against our Community Standards. We want to apologize and let you know that we've restored your content and removed any blocks on your account related to this incorrect action.''
The Vindicator extends its thanks to Facebook. We never doubted Facebook would fix it, but neither did we doubt the usefulness of our fussing about it a little.
Somewhere in paragraphs 27-31 of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson wrote something that Facebook finds offensive.
Leading up to Independence Day, The Vindicator challenged its Facebook followers to read the Declaration of Independence. To make it a little easier to digest that short but formidable historic document, the newspaper broke the Declaration down into 12 small bites and one to post each morning from June 24 to July 4.
The first nine parts posted as scheduled, but part 10, consisting of paragraphs 27-31 of the Declaration, did not appear. Instead, The Vindicator received a notice from Facebook saying that the post ''goes against our standards on hate speech.''
Facebook's notice then asked The Vindicator to review the contents of its page and remove anything that does not comply with Facebook's policies.
The offending passage of the Declaration reads as follows:
''He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
''He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
''He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
''He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
''He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.''
While The Vindicator cannot be certain exactly what triggered Facebook's filtering program, the editor suspects it was most likely the phrase ''Indian Savages.''
Perhaps had Thomas Jefferson written it as ''Native Americans at a challenging stage of cultural development'' that would have been better. Unfortunately, Jefferson, like most British colonists of his day, did not hold an entirely friendly view of Native Americans.
Although, to be honest, there is a good deal in that passage that could be thought hateful.
The removal of the post was an automated action. If any human being working at Facebook were to review it, no doubt the post would be allowed, and the editor has searched for a means of contacting Facebook for an explanation or a opportunity to appeal the post's removal, but it does not appear the folks at Facebook want anyone contacting them. Or, at least, they do not make it easy. The Vindicator has sent Facebook a feedback message. That being the only way found so far to contact the company.
According to an article by Facebook Vice President of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert posted to newsroom.fb.com April 24, over the coming year Facebook is ''going to build out the ability for people to appeal our decisions.'' The first part of which is to provide a means by which users can request additional review of a decision by Facebook to remove a photo, video or post because Facebook found it violated their community standards.
However, no such review request option appeared on Facebook's notice to The Vindicator.
While unhappy with Facebook's action, the editor reminds readers that Facebook is a business corporation, not the government, and as such it is allowed to restrict use of its services as long as those restrictions do not violate any laws. Plus, The Vindicator is using Facebook for free, so the newspaper has little grounds for complaint other than the silliness of it.
The problem The Vindicator faces is that it has become dependent, perhaps too dependent, on Facebook to communicate with local residents and to promote the newspaper. Some Vindicator stories posted on thevindicator.com attract thousands of page views, but usually only after links to them are shared on Facebook. Plus, many bits of information are shared by the newspaper through Facebook alone.
So, the removal of this morning's post puts The Vindicator in a quandary about whether to continue with posting the final two parts of the Declaration scheduled for tomorrow and Wednesday. Should Facebook find anything in them offensive, The Vindicator could lose its Facebook page.
This is frustrating, but your editor is a historian, and to enjoy the study of history a person must love irony. It is a very great irony that the words of Thomas Jefferson should now be censored in America.
Kids in cages
The Billion-Dollar Business of Operating Shelters for Migrant Children - The New York Times
Mon, 02 Jul 2018 16:43
Casa Padre, a shelter run by Southwest Key Programs, houses roughly 1,500 immigrant children in a converted Walmart Supercenter in Brownsville, Tex. Credit Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times HARLINGEN, Tex. '-- The business of housing, transporting and watching over migrant children detained along the southwest border is not a multimillion-dollar business.
It's a billion-dollar one.
The nonprofit Southwest Key Programs has won at least $955 million in federal contracts since 2015 to run shelters and provide other services to immigrant children in federal custody. Its shelter for migrant boys at a former Walmart Supercenter in South Texas has been the focus of nationwide scrutiny, but Southwest Key is but one player in the lucrative, secretive world of the migrant-shelter business. About a dozen contractors operate more than 30 facilities in Texas alone, with numerous others contracted for about 100 shelters in 16 other states.
If there is a migrant-shelter hub in America, then it is perhaps in the four-county Rio Grande Valley region of South Texas, where about a dozen shelters occupy former stores, schools and medical centers. They are some of the region's biggest employers, though what happens inside is often highly confidential: One group has employees sign nondisclosure agreements, more a fixture of the high-stakes corporate world than of nonprofit child-care centers.
The recent separation of some 2,300 migrant children from their families under the Trump administration's ''zero tolerance'' policy on illegal border crossers has thrust this invisible industry into the spotlight in recent weeks, as images of toddlers and teenagers taken from their parents and detained behind locked doors have set off a political firestorm. President Trump's order on Wednesday calling for migrant families to be detained together likely means millions more in contracts for private shelter operators, construction companies and defense contractors.
A small network of private prison companies already is operating family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania, and those facilities are likely to expand under the new presidential directive, should it stand up to legal review, analysts said.
The range of contractors working in the migrant-shelter industry varies widely.
BCFS, a global network of nonprofit groups, has received at least $179 million in federal contracts since 2015 under the government's so-called unaccompanied alien children program, designed to handle migrant youths who arrive in the country without a parent or other family member. Many of the contractors, some of which are religiously affiliated organizations and emergency-management agencies such as Catholic Charities, see their work as humanitarian aid to some of the most vulnerable children in the world.
The tent camp in Texas was built this month to house unaccompanied migrant children between the ages of 13 and 17. Satellite imagery reveals how it sprouted up and what's inside. Published On June 22, 2018 Credit Image by Mike Blake, via Reuters; Planet, via Human Rights Watch But several large defense contractors and security firms are also building a presence in the system, including General Dynamics, the global aerospace and defense company, and MVM Inc., which until 2008 contracted with the government to supply guards in Iraq. MVM recently put up job postings seeking ''bilingual travel youth care workers'' in the McAllen area of South Texas. It described the jobs as providing care to immigrant children ''while you are accompanying them on domestic flights and via ground transportation to shelters all over the country.''
The migrant-shelter business has been booming since family separations began on a large scale last month along the southwest border.
For years, including during the Obama administration, contractors housed children who were caught illegally crossing the border unaccompanied by a parent or guardian. After the new policy, the contractors put in new beds and expanded beyond their licensed capacities to house the growing numbers of children the government separated from their families. In Texas alone, 15 shelters have received variances from state officials to expand, including adding bedroom space and toilets, increasing the total licensed capacity in Texas to nearly 5,300 children, from around 4,500.
The shelters' rush to house, and cash in on, the surge of children has made them a new target for Democrats, immigrant advocates and a vocal chorus of local, state and federal officials and community leaders.
Many of these contractors, including Southwest Key, whose president and chief executive, Juan Snchez, has been a well-known and politically connected figure in South Texas for years, saw themselves as the good guys in all the years they were sheltering, housing and educating young people who had crossed the border on their own. But as their client base increasingly has included children forcibly removed from their parents, that public good will has eroded.
Critics have released tax records showing Mr. Snchez's compensation '-- more than $770,000 in 2015 alone '-- and his organization's usually under-the-radar efforts to open new shelters have become pitched public battles. In Houston, a number of Democratic officials, including Mayor Sylvester Turner, called on Mr. Snchez to abandon plans to turn a former homeless shelter into a new migrant youth shelter near downtown. Mr. Turner and others said they would urge state regulators to deny the proposed shelter a child-care-facility license.
Some have raised concerns that the rush to expand will make it difficult to properly manage the housing and care of infants, toddlers and teenagers, all of whom have a host of complex emotional, health and legal issues. In recent years, a number of migrant youth shelters have run into problems unseen by the public: fire-code violations, lawsuits claiming abuse, and complaints from employees alleging wrongful termination and unpaid wages.
Image Migrant children in a recreation area outside Casa Padre. Credit Loren Elliott/Reuters The former Walmart shelter failed two of its 12 fire inspections, including for sprinkler-system problems, but passed its most recent inspection this month. State officials have investigated allegations of sexual abuse and neglectful supervision at numerous facilities.
Shelter executives and their supporters, as well as federal officials, say they stand behind the contractors' management, their fiscal responsibility and their overall mission.
''Our growth is in direct response to kids coming to the border,'' said Alexia Rodriguez, Southwest Key's vice president of immigrant children's services.
She said that Southwest Key shelters must be in compliance with hundreds of standards to keep their state licenses.
The majority of the thousands of potential violations that are investigated each year are self-reported by Southwest Key staff to state licensing officials, who conduct an investigation and decide whether there has been a violation. When applicable, Ms. Rodriguez said, staff members under investigation are suspended pending the results.
The 150 or so deficiencies cited over the past three years are out of tens of thousands of potential violations, most of which were reported by Southwest Key, Ms. Rodriguez said. ''We may overreport. But what's critical is how a company responds to a possible incident,'' she said. ''I can say we've never had a deficiency that was not addressed appropriately.''
While Southwest Key has garnered attention because of the Trump administration's policy of breaking up families at the border, only 10 percent of children in its facilities were separated from their relatives. The vast majority in its care still came to the United States alone as unaccompanied minors, mainly from Guatemala and El Salvador.
Image Security officers stood watch over a tent encampment housing immigrant children in Tornillo, Tex., on Wednesday. Credit Mike Blake/Reuters The group's shelter capacity has grown significantly: In 2010, it had capacity for up to 500 children a day across 10 shelters. Now it can serve up to 5,000 children a day across 26 shelters. The recent surge in family separations has put even more of a demand on its facilities.
In Harlingen one recent morning, the federal courthouse that hears immigration cases was packed. Teenagers who had been apprehended crossing the border sat in the courtrooms, fidgeting in their rolled-up jeans and sneakers.
In the lobby, a group of men and women whispered among themselves as they patiently waited for the hearings to end. They were there for the migrant youth. But they were neither relatives nor lawyers. They were contractors. Their job was to escort the detained children back to nearby shelters.
Transportation to and from shelters is but one service supplied by contractors on the federal dime.
Adults and children who are apprehended illegally crossing the border are detained and housed in a variety of facilities, some of which are run by the government and some by private contractors. There are detention centers at Border Patrol stations and at facilities operated by private-prison contractors such as CoreCivic. And then there are the migrant youth shelters.
One of the best-known is Casa Padre, the name of Southwest Key's shelter for 10- to 17-year-old boys at the converted Walmart. It is the largest shelter of its kind in the country, with nearly 1,500 boys.
The building is owned not by Walmart but by private owners, who lease it to Southwest Key. The Walmart was gutted, redesigned and renovated into a kind of mini-city, with murals, classrooms, medical offices, on-call physicians, work cubicles, movie theaters, a barbershop and a cafeteria.
Pre-Trump, Southwest Key was warmly received by left-leaning immigration activists and civil rights organizations. Post-Trump, some of the group's former allies are now leading the outcry.
Legal organizations including the A.C.L.U. and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law represented Southwest Key in a 2015 lawsuit against Escondido, Calif., accusing the city of manipulating land use and zoning laws to block the opening of a new center that could house 96 children.
The lawsuit quoted Escondido citizens who had opposed the facility in letters and hearings. ''I believe most of us are sick of paying for undocumented invaders,'' one comment read.
Southwest Key eventually received a $550,000 settlement from Escondido, but during the case the organization opened housing elsewhere instead.
''I was taken aback by the venom that came out of certain members of that community, and the threats I received personally to my safety and security,'' said Ms. Rodriguez, the Southwest Key executive. ''These are innocent children that have done nothing wrong, fleeing violent communities, and this is the response we were getting in Escondido?''
Migrant shelter operators say they have been wrongly thought to be housing youths in the kind of heavily crowded facilities near border crossings at which migrants receive their initial processing.
Images of children in chain-link cages and pens that have circulated online recently are mainly taken at Border Patrol sites run by the government. Housing at places like Southwest Key facilities generally include dorms, classroom areas and medical and counseling centers.
''If we ever put a kid in a cage, we'd be shut down for mistreating children,'' said Ms. Rodriguez. ''People are conflating us with the facilities run by Border Patrol, which is a division of Homeland Security. We work with the social service side of the federal government. We are not law enforcement.''
Alain Delaqueriere contributed research.
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Billion-Dollar Business In Migrants' Tent Cities
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Texas nonprofit has received $1.5 billion in federal money to run shelters for immigrant children | Immigration | Dallas News
Mon, 02 Jul 2018 16:54
A Texas nonprofit has received nearly half a billion dollars from the U.S. government this year to operate shelters for undocumented immigrant children who have been separated from their parents.
That's nearly half the money allocated so far this year for the federal unaccompanied alien children program, which is at the center of a raging debate over the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy for people crossing the border illegally.
The Austin-based nonprofit, Southwest Key Inc., has made $1.5 billion from the federal government in the last decade, according to U.S. Health and Human Services data.
The nonprofit says it runs 26 immigrant children's shelters in Texas, Arizona and California. Of those, 17 are in Texas, according to state Department of Health and Human Services records.
Southwest Key has received nearly $459 million of the $943 million spent nationwide this year. That's up from nearly $30 million in fiscal 2008 and nearly $285 million last year.
The nonprofit's federal money for children is allocated for home studies and release services, as well as for shelters.
Among the shelters is Casa Padre, a former Walmart in Brownsville that houses immigrant children the government separated from their parents after they entered the U.S. illegally.
Although the the amount the government paid to Southwest Key has grown since Donald Trump was elected, it also increased during the Obama administration.
Funding rose in 2015 when the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border surged.
Now that the Trump administration has implemented a policy of prosecuting anyone for the misdemeanor crime of crossing the border illegally, children are being separated from their parents while the adults await prosecution.
Under previous administrations, families remained together unless authorities found signs of abuse or other evidence that children were at risk with their parents. Previously, Southwest Key mainly housed unaccompanied minors.
It's unclear how or when the children will be reunited with their parents.
Where are the Texas shelters?The shelters in Texas are in Harris, El Paso, Cameron, Bexar and Montgomery counties.
Southwest Key is trying to open another facility in Houston, but the city's mayor is fighting against turning a warehouse into a temporary shelter
''There comes a time when we must say, 'This is wrong,''' Sylvester Turner said on Twitter. ''We must not sanitize ourselves into thinking that carrying out the policy in Houston is acceptable.''
But this issue unlike all others in government and politics is different because it involves our children. There comes a time when we must say this is wrong. We must not sanitize ourselves into thinking that carrying out the policy in Houston is acceptable. #KeepFamiliesTogether
'-- Sylvester Turner (@SylvesterTurner) June 19, 2018Turner later tweeted that Southwest Key was reconsidering the facility.
State Rep. Ana Hernandez, D-Houston, has asked the state not to issue a license to Southwest Key because of its previous violations.
A Texas Health and Human Services spokesman said no other companies or organizations are seeking to open facilities in the state. But more facilities may be needed as the Trump administration continues its policy of separating children and parents.
Given the 13 inspection deficiencies found at Southwest Key Programs' Brownsville childcare facility, I have called on the Department of Family and Protective Services to halt the issuance of a license for a proposed Houston child detention center. #TXLege #FamilesBelongTogether pic.twitter.com/arFbt7Eny5
'-- Ana Hernandez (@AnaHdzTx) June 18, 2018Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has spoken out against separating immigrant families but has said the city will help house children if necessary.
"The separation of a child from a parent who has entered our country to seek asylum is cruel and unconscionable," Rawlings said.
Will Southwest Key manage the Dallas shelters, if they are approved?It's unclear whether Southwest Key would run any shelters opened in Dallas.
Southwest Key did not respond to requests for comment.
Who runs Southwest Key and how much do they make?The nonprofit's president and CEO, Juan Sanchez, made more than $1.5 million in 2016, according to publicly available tax returns. That's an increase from 2013, when he earned $466,000.
Who is Juan Sanchez?Sanchez grew up poor in the border town of Brownsville, ''where life was full of challenges,'' according to a 2007 Southwest Key annual report.
After earning a doctorate in education from Harvard University, he returned to Texas, where he was the director of a residential treatment center.
Sanchez began Southwest Key in 1987 in Austin, and within 20 years it became ''one of the country's largest care providers for unaccompanied immigrant children and juvenile justice system-involved youth,'' the annual report says.
The nonprofit also operates two schools and programs for children in the juvenile justice system.
In the 2007 report, Sanchez noted a significant increase in demand for shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children.
''These young refugees are coming across the border without guardians, homeless and in need of a variety of special support,'' he said. ''We opened over 100 new shelter beds this year, making Southwest Key the largest provider of services for these children in the country. We have been extremely successful reuniting these children with their families at home and abroad.''
The following year, 2008, the federal government began funding the Unaccompanied Alien Children Program and Southwest Key grew further.
Casa Padre, in a former Walmart in Brownsville, is one of several facilities in Texas where the nonprofit Southwest Key houses children removed from their parents after crossing the border illegally.
(Loren Elliott /Getty Images)
How well-run are the shelters?Southwest Key's Texas shelters took in 11,100 minors in fiscal 2017, which ended last September. From October until earlier this month, its shelters had taken in more than 11,900.
Texas regulators found more than 150 violations at more than a dozen shelters run by Southwest Key in the last two years.
Violations included reports of a supervisor using poor judgment and escalating a situation that resulted in a girl harming herself. The nonprofit also was cited for failing to lock up medicines and cleaning supplies, as well as for not documenting when children received medicine.
Regulators also said the nonprofit had not run background checks on some staff members.
At one Southwest Key shelter, a child with a sexually transmitted disease did not receive treatment for two weeks, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
A Southwest Key spokeswoman, Cindy Casares, has said the nonprofit is pleased with its overall record and takes action when a staff member isn't up to the job.
''In the last three years, Southwest Key UM shelter programs have been evaluated for compliance on 73,292 standards and we are proud to say that less than 1 percent of those resulted in a deficiency,'' she said in a written statement. ''However, we take each of the deficiencies seriously by self-reporting to invite external investigations as well as performing our own internal investigations. When called for, staff have been terminated or retrained as we continue to strive for excellence in the services we provide to the children entrusted to our care.''
One former Southwest Key employee has drawn national attention in the last week for his allegation that he had been ordered to separate three siblings who were hugging at a shelter for undocumented children in Arizona. Antar Davidson said the incident made him realize his time working with Southwest Key needed to end.
''I was told that they should not be able to hug,'' Davidson told CNN about the incident involving a girl and her two brothers. ''And [I] basically realized that being in Southwest Key ... despite the good I was doing, would mean that I had basically come up to doing things I felt were morally wrong.''
Correction, 9:15 a.m., June 20, 2018: An earlier version of this story misstated how much the federal government has spent on children separated from their parents so far this year.
Obama's $1 Billion Giveaway to the Private Prison Industry
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 19:56
August 15, 2016 08/15/2016 11:47 am By Eric Levitz For the first time in modern American history, the government decides to detain all Central American women and children seeking asylum in the U.S., instead of allowing them to live freely until their days in court. The policy change is intended to send a message to anyone else seeking refuge from a plague of gang violence below our southern border: Don't believe everything you read on the Statue of Liberty.
And to implement this draconian proposal, the government awards a well-connected private prison company with a $1 billion no-bid contract '-- one that promises to pay the firm $20 million a month, no matter how few migrants its facility is responsible for housing at a given time. Then federal courts rule that this policy of mass detention isn't actually legal. But the contract is already signed, and so the Corrections Corporation of America collects millions in taxpayer money to maintain a nearly empty detention center .
This may sound like the kind of cruel, incompetent policy-making you'd expect from Donald Trump's administration. But it's actually the work of Barack Obama's. Per the Washington Post:
As Central Americans surged across the U.S. border two years ago, the Obama administration skipped the standard public bidding process and agreed to a deal that offered generous terms to Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest prison company, to build a massive detention facility for women and children seeking asylum.The four-year, $1 billion contract '-- details of which have not been previously disclosed '-- has been a boon for CCA , which, in an unusual arrangement, gets the money regardless of how many people are detained at the facility. Critics say the government's policy has been expensive but ineffective. Arrivals of Central American families at the border have continued unabated while court rulings have forced the administration to step back from its original approach to the border surge.
When the federal government wants to pay one of our nation's esteemed prison profiteers to build a detention center, it typically forces those companies into a bidding war. Nearly all private prison contracts allow federal funding to rise and fall along with the percentage of beds being occupied at a given facility. The government uses the bidding process to win taxpayers the best possible bargain.
That's how it's supposed to work, anyway. But in the case of the South Texas Family Residential Center, the Feds agreed to pay CCA for 100 percent capacity at all times, even when the facility is half-full '-- as it has been for months now.
CCA secured that sweetheart gig by offering the administration a quick way to get ''tough'' on the border amid the 2014 migrant crisis. Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson had become convinced that the only way to stem the tide of child migrants was through an ''aggressive deterrence strategy.'' Unable to deport asylum-seekers without giving them the opportunity to press their claims, Johnson decided mass detention would send the necessary message.
To get around a public bidding process that would have delayed construction, CCA convinced the town of Eloy, Arizona, to amend its existing contract with the company, to include provisions for the new facility.
And then federal courts ruled that detaining asylum-seekers for the purposes of deterrence is illegal. And then another noted that, for two decades, the U.S. government has been legally required to house migrant children in ''the least restrictive environment possible.''
Now the government pays millions each month for CCA to maintain hundreds of empty beds, while the number of new migrants crossing the border over the past 12 months is higher than it was during the same period two years ago.
The administration no longer describes the facility as a means of deterrence. But if the administration's goal had been to limit migrants' flight risk '-- rather than to make their lives miserable as a message to others '-- they could have pursued low-cost options like monitoring bracelets, instead a $1 billion facility.
But at least the South Texas Family Residential Center worked out for one set of stakeholders, or, more precisely, one set of shareholders. Per the Post:
CCA declined to comment on the evolution of family detention policy. But Hininger, CCA 's chief executive, said in a release for investors that the company was ''pleased'' with its performance at the start of the year. Its increase in revenue, the company said, was ''primarily attributable'' to the South Texas Family Residential Center. Obama's $1 Billion Giveaway to the Private Prison Industry
Inside the administration's $1 billion deal to detain Central American asylum seekers - The Washington Post
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 19:58
DILLEY, Tex. '-- As Central Americans surged across the U.S. border two years ago, the Obama administration skipped the standard public bidding process and agreed to a deal that offered generous terms to Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest prison company, to build a massive detention facility for women and children seeking asylum.
The four-year, $1 billion contract '-- details of which have not been previously disclosed '-- has been a boon for CCA, which, in an unusual arrangement, gets the money regardless of how many people are detained at the facility. Critics say the government's policy has been expensive but ineffective. Arrivals of Central American families at the border have continued unabated while court rulings have forced the administration to step back from its original approach to the border surge.
In hundreds of other detention contracts given out by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, federal payouts rise and fall in step with the percentage of beds being occupied. But in this case, CCA is paid for 100 percent capacity even if the facility is, say, half full, as it has been in recent months. An ICE spokeswoman, Jennifer Elzea, said that the contracts for the 2,400-bed facility in Dilley and one for a 532-bed family detention center in Karnes City, Tex., given to another company, are ''unique'' in their payment structures because they provide ''a fixed monthly fee for use of the entire facility regardless of the number of residents.''
The rewards for CCA have been enormous: In 2015, the first full year in which the South Texas Family Residential Center was operating, CCA '-- which operates 74 facilities '-- made 14 percent of its revenue from that one center while recording record profit. CCA declined to specify the costs of operating the center.
Federal authorities launched a nationwide operation to remove Central American illegal immigrants from the U.S. Here is what you need to know about why agents are targeting this group. (Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)
''For the most part, what I see is a very expensive incarceration scheme,'' said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House's Immigration and Border Security subcommittee. ''It's costly to the taxpayers and achieves almost nothing, other than trauma to already traumatized individuals.''
The Washington Post based this account on financial documents '-- including copies of the agreements spelling out the Dilley deal obtained from the National Immigrant Justice Center '-- and interviews with government lawyers and former immigration and homeland security officials.
CCA's chief executive, Damon Hininger, told investors in an earnings call this month that ICE recently has begun pushing for a more ''cost-effective solution.'' Those discussions, he said, are in the ''preliminary stage.''
The facility in Dilley '-- built in the middle of sunbaked scrub­land, in what used to be a camp for oil workers '-- now holds the majority of the country's mother-and-child detainees. Such asylum seekers, until two years ago, had rarely been held in detention. They instead settled in whatever town they chose, told to eventually appear in court. The Obama administration's decision to transform that policy '-- pushed by lawmakers assailing the porous state of the nation's border '-- shows how the frenzy of America's immigration politics can also bolster a private sector that benefits from a get-tough stance.
Before Dilley, CCA's revenue and profit had been flat for five years. The United States' population of undocumented immigrants had begun to fall, reversing a decades-long trend, and the White House was looking to show greater leniency toward illegal immigrants already in the country. But under pressure to demonstrate that it still took border issues seriously, the administration took a tougher stance toward newly arriving Central Americans.
''This was about the best thing that could happen to private detention since sliced bread,'' said Laura Lichter, a Denver immigration and asylum attorney who spent months living out of an old hunting lodge in Dilley.
For the first years of the Obama administration, the United States maintained fewer than 100 beds for family detention. But by the end of 2014, the administration had plans for more than 3,000 beds, and immigration advocates said the ramp-up had broken with America's tradition of welcoming those seeking a haven from violence. At the Dilley facility, detainees described in interviews an understaffed medical clinic and rampant sickness among children, among other problems.
CCA, a Nashville-based public company valued at $3.18 billion, declined interview requests for this story. The company declined to respond to 28 of 31 written questions. It said that ICE oversees medical care at the facility, and the agency said it was comfortable with the quality of care.
''CCA is committed to treating all individuals in our care with the dignity and respect they deserve while they have due process before immigration courts,'' the company said in a five-paragraph statement. ''Responding to pressing challenges such [as] this '-- and doing so in a way that can flexibly meet the government's changing needs '-- is a role that CCA has played for federal immigration partners for more than 30 years.''
The Central American asylum seekers were coming mostly from three countries in meltdown '-- El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras '-- where gang and drug-related violence have grown so rampant that their murder rates are now three of the world's five highest, according to U.N. data. By claiming that they feared for their safety, the Central Americans were not subject, as are other unauthorized migrants, to ordinary deportation; they were entitled to press their asylum claims. But Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who oversees ICE, heard from border patrollers that the emergency was brewing momentum: People kept coming because word was out that the United States was granting permisos to new arrivals, allowing them to walk right into the country.
According to lawmakers and administration officials, Johnson determined that the United States could cut down the surge only by demonstrating that asylum seekers wouldn't receive leniency. Johnson won approval from the White House to explore ramping up family detention for asylum seekers on a scale never before seen in America, part of what he called an ''aggressive deterrence strategy.'' He ordered ICE to figure out a way to make it work.
''This whole thing [was] building and reaching an unsustainable level,'' said Christian Marrone, then Johnson's chief of staff. ''We had to take measures to stem the tide.''
Fast action
In a matter of days, ICE patched together a temporary solution. In June 2014, it placed the first batch of Central American mothers and children at a law-enforcement training site in Artesia, N.M. The agency pulled border agents off their usual jobs to help run the facility, and it was wary of hiring new employees and building a permanent facility for a problem it didn't know how long would last.
''It makes sense that you put some of the risk on a private company,'' said Mark Krikorian, executive director at the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors stricter border control.
That's how ICE made the call to CCA.
The company, founded three decades earlier, had risen from near-bankruptcy thanks to an immigrant detention boom that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Over the following 15 years, the share of revenue that CCA got from federal contracts more than doubled, according to the company's annual reports. CCA and its only major competitor, the GEO Group, operate nine of the 10 largest immigration detention centers.
Through it all, CCA had pitched Washington on the idea that it could be an antidote to big government spending. One of the company's co-founders, Thomas Beasley, told Inc. magazine in 1988 that selling prisons was no different from ''selling cars, or real estate, or hamburgers.'' But behind that pitch, CCA was a mega-sized business '-- one that pays its chief executive $3.4 million and has on its payroll a slew of former senior government officials.
Immigration activists say CCA had already proved itself incapable of running a family detention center. Between 2006 and 2009 '-- the only other major U.S. attempt to house women and children seeking asylum '-- CCA ran a facility in Taylor, Tex. Children wore prison uniforms, received little education and were limited to one hour of play time per day, according to an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit filed against ICE in 2007 that led months later to a settlement agreement and improved conditions. Months after taking office, Obama closed the facility.
At ICE, officials saw the reboot of family detention as a welcome, if belated, sign of strength on the border. CCA was one of the two companies with the ''means'' to pull it off, along with GEO, said Phil Miller, an ICE deputy executive associate director who helps to oversee family detention. It could build a new facility quickly and had a legion of staff members with the right security clearances. (GEO, which referred all questions to ICE, ended up refurbishing a smaller facility.)
In forging their deal, CCA and ICE faced one major hurdle: the requirement for a public bidding process '-- one that threatened to significantly delay construction. So CCA found a workaround. In September 2014, the company approached Eloy, Ariz., an interstate town of 17,000, and asked its officials if they would be willing to amend its existing contract with the town. The company had been operating a detention center for undocumented men in Eloy since 2006. If Eloy modified that contract '-- essentially, directing CCA to build a new facility in another state, 1,000 miles away '-- the federal government would be freed from the bidding process. And by reaching out to a town already involved with the industry, CCA could also avoid the political risks that often come when trying to convince a new locality to build a detention center.
The deal is formed by two separate agreements: One between ICE and Eloy, the other between Eloy and CCA. Both were signed on the same day and refer to the family detention center in Dilley. As spelled out in the contracts, ICE provides the money to Eloy; Eloy, in turn, receives a small ''administrative fee'' for being party to the deal.
According to one Eloy official, county records and an account from the time in a local newspaper, the Eloy Enterprise, a CCA executive pitched the opportunity at a city council meeting in September 2014, saying Eloy could profit from the deal by collecting the payout from Washington, receiving a small percentage '-- roughly $1.8 million over the four years '-- and then passing the rest to CCA.
''At the time, there was some reluctance because of the optics'' to go along with it, said Harvey Krauss, the Eloy city manager. ''But I told everybody, we're not taking a position; we're just a fiscal agent. The federal government was in a hurry and this was an expedited way for them to get it done.''
ICE senior leaders signed off on the deal, an official at the agency said.
Mark Fleming, an attorney at the National Immigrant Justice Center, who has reviewed hundreds of federal ICE contracts, said the deal was ''singularly unique'' and was designed to ''avoid transparency.'' The center obtained copies of the financial agreements through Arizona ­open-records laws and gave them to The Post. Several other experts on federal procurement said that while the government can avoid bidding laws in urgent or national security cases, they had never before seen a facility in one state created with the help of a recycled contract from another.
''This is the arrangement of a no-bid contract by twisting and distorting the procurement process past recognition,'' said Charles Tiefer, a University of Baltimore law school professor, former solicitor and deputy general counsel of the House of Representatives, who reviewed the deal at the request of The Washington Post.
The contract shows how CCA is assured of a predictable payment, collecting a fixed amount of around $20 million per month '-- even when the facility's population drops.
A CCA spokesman, Jonathan Burns, said that the company is required by the contract to provide full staffing and other services no matter the population. But, from the government's perspective, the contract becomes less cost-effective when fewer people stay in Dilley. When 2,400 people are detained, the government spends what amounts to $285 per day, per person, according to a Post calculation. When the facility is half-full, as it has been in recent months, the government would spend $570. On some days when the facility is nearly empty, as it was for a period in January, the government would be paying multiples more.
At more than 200 non-family immigration detention sites, most per diems are between $60 and $85, according to an ICE document. The daily cost to detain children is higher, ICE officials said, because the government requires a litany of extra standards such as education courses and medicine for nursing mothers.
Critics say ICE could have chosen much more cost-effective alternatives. Ankle monitors, which could track asylum seekers as they await court dates, for example, cost several dollars per day.
Miller, the ICE official, said his agency didn't push as hard as usual for lower costs because of the ''immediacy'' of the need.
''If you need an air conditioner today, you're going to pay what the AC guy tells you,'' Miller said. ''If it's December and you want a new AC unit in place by June, you have more time to research.''
The deterrence issue
For the opening of the South Texas Family Residential Center on Dec. 15, 2014, Johnson flew to Dilley and announced that the country's borders are ''not open to illegal migration.'' A U.S. government ad blitz in Central America spread a similar message.
But immigration activists cast doubt on whether the United States is getting what it paid for: deterrence.
Border-crossing among ­asylum-seeking women and children has changed little from two years ago. Over the previous 12 months, according to government statistics, 66,000 ''family units'' '-- mostly women and children '-- have been apprehended at the border, compared with 61,000 in the same period two years earlier.
''What is the root problem? I don't believe it's a pull factor so much as a push,'' said John Sandweg, a former acting ICE director who left in early 2014, months before the immigration surge. ''I do not believe that family detention has been a deterrent.''
Initially, the government had intended Dilley to hold families for months at a time. But that model has been changed by two court decisions in 2015 '-- one determining that ICE couldn't detain asylum seekers ''simply to deter others,'' and one that the government had to abide by a ­two-decade-old settlement requiring that migrant children be held in the least restrictive environment possible. The judge in that case, Dolly Gee, ordered the government to release children ''without unnecessary delay,'' and Homeland Security has so far been unsuccessful in appealing.
As a result, stays at Dilley have shortened. Families are typically released in a matter of weeks, after women pass an initial interview establishing they have a ''credible'' reason to fear returning home. Even when Dilley has many empty beds, families sometimes aren't detained at all, according to immigration lawyers.
Use of the Dilley facility has become so ''haphazard,'' said Ian Philabaum, an advocacy coordinator, that in January it was nearly empty, even as Central Americans were arriving at a steady pace along the Texas border.
Government officials no longer say that the Dilley detention center is for deterrence. But Johnson said at a recent roundtable with reporters that family detention, though it had been ''reformed considerably,'' had still been useful for women and children while the government determined whether they had health problems or posed flight risks.
''I think we need to continue the practice so we're not just engaging in catch-and-release,'' Johnson said.
In a statement, CCA said it doesn't play any role in the enforcement of detention policies. ''We house only the detainees that are assigned to us by our government partners,'' a spokesman said. ''The basis for and duration of these individuals' detention is solely at the discretion of our government partners.''
Hininger, CCA's chief executive, said in a release for investors that the company was ''pleased'' with its financial performance at the start of the year. Its increase in revenue, the company said, was ''primarily attributable'' to the South Texas Family Residential Center.
Priscila Mosqueda contributed to this report.
Correction: An earlier version of this report incorrectly said the Corrections Corporation of America declined to comment on the evolution of family detention. A comment, provided before publication, is now included.
Nederland vindt het prima om kinderen op te sluiten voor ze worden uitgezet
Mon, 02 Jul 2018 12:50
Huilende kinderen die van hun ouders worden gescheiden en in kooien vastgezet. Het waren heftige beelden uit de Verenigde Staten '' waarover zoveel ophef ontstond, dat president Donald Trump er toch maar een eind aan maakte.
Ook premier Rutte gaf aan de situatie zorgelijk te vinden en meerdere politieke partijen vonden dat de Amerikaanse ambassadeur op het matje geroepen moest worden.
In dezelfde periode diende Bram van Ojik een motie in tegen het opsluiten van kinderen in Nederland, althans tegen de plaatsing van minderjarigen in vreemdelingendetentie.
Om ons zorgen te maken of op vingers te tikken, hoeven we namelijk het land niet uit. Ook hier sluiten we kinderen op voor ze worden uitgezet. In 2017 ging het om 50 alleenstaande minderjarigen en 130 kinderen die met hun ouders werden gedetineerd. Het komt zelfs voor dat ze in isoleercellen worden gezet.
Su¯cidale gedachtenVan Ojik stelde voor Het amendement van Van Ojik hiermee te stoppen, omdat de plaatsing in isoleercellen kan leiden tot 'su¯cidale gedachten en gedragingen, emotionele instorting, chronische depressie,onbeheersbare woede, hallucinatie en een hoge bloeddruk'.
Het voorstel haalde geen meerderheid, ook de partijen die de ambassadeur op het matje wilden roepen, stemmen tegen.
'Geen kind in de cel' is de naam van de coalitie waaronder Amnesty International, Defence for Children, Stichting INLIA, Kerk in Actie, Stichting Kinderpostzegels Nederland, Stichting LOS, UNICEF Nederland en VluchtelingenWerk Nederland zich verenigen.
'Creer een wettelijk verbod op grens- en vreemdelingendetentie bij kinderen'
Hun primaire aanbeveling: Lees op de site van Vluchtelingenwerk het rapport 'Creer een wettelijk verbod op grensdetentie (artikel 6 Vw) en vreemdelingenbewaring (artikel 59 Vw) bij kinderen.' Het zijn niet de minsten die voor een alternatief asielbeleid pleiten, maar dit wettelijk verbod is er nog steeds niet.
Dit is ook in strijd met het Kinderrechtenverdrag van de Verenigde Naties uit 1989, Op de site van Unicef kun je het Kinderrechtenverdrag inzien dat inmiddels door alle landen ter wereld is geratificeerd, behalve de Verenigde Staten. In het verdrag staat dat het belang van kinderen bij besluiten die hen aangaan voorop dient te staan. Dat gebeurt niet als migrantenkinderen worden vastgezet, benadrukte de voorzitter van het VN-Kinderrechtencomit(C) Hier lees je het nieuwsbericht van de VN in haar oproep van begin dit jaar geen kinderen in detentie te plaatsen.
Door tegen het voorstel van Van Ojik te stemmen, heeft de Tweede Kamer ook de oproepen van 'Geen kind in de cel' en het Kinderrechtencomit(C) naast zich neergelegd. Staatssecretaris Mark Harbers (Justitie en Veiligheid, VVD) vindt dat opsluiting en zelfs isolatie van kinderen moet kunnen, onder andere om te voorkomen dat gezinnen met kinderen zich onttrekken aan uitzetting.
Ook niet als uiterste middelMaar volgens de voorzitter van het VN-Kinderrechtencomit(C) is detentie van kinderen door de daaropvolgende schade ook als uiterst middel niet te rechtvaardigen. 'There can be no exceptions to this principle.'
Detentie is namelijk een stressvolle ervaring voor betrokken kinderen. Lees meer daarover bij Defence for Children Het gevoel dat ze elk moment opgepakt kunnen worden, leidt al tot trauma's, en eenmaal vastgezet raken kinderen gevoelig voor depressie en vertonen ze symptomen van PTSS. De International Detention Coalition schreef hier over alternatieven voor detentie Ook vragen ze zich af wat ze verkeerd hebben gedaan. Zijn gevangenissen immers niet voor boeven?
'Ik moest heel veel nadenken. Ik was heel erg bang. Maar ik dacht steeds 'we hebben niks gedaan'. Dat zei ik tegen mezelf.'
Het citaat is van Lees hier het hele rapport van Vluchtelingenwerk een jongen van zeven, die drie dagen vast zat.
Er zijn genoeg alternatievenEr is, kortom, genoeg reden om op zoek te gaan naar alternatieven voor detentie. Dat dan geen mensenrechten meer worden geschonden en geen nieuwe trauma's worden geschapen, zijn niet de enige voordelen. Detentie is ook duurder en minder effectief omdat het niet bijdraagt aan medewerking aan uitzetting.
Dit blijkt uit onderzoek van de International Detention Coalition, een samenwerkingsverband van meer dan 300 organisaties wereldwijd dat zich bezighoudt met immigratiedetentie. Zij troffen meer dan 250 alternatieven Hier lees je meer over die voorbeelden van de IDC voor detentie aan in meer dan zestig landen. Elk land is anders en pasklare oplossingen zijn er niet, maar het onderzoek toont wel aan dat het mogelijk is om tot alternatieven voor detentie te komen als de wil er is.
Maar precies daar schort het aan, ook in Nederland. Dat blijkt misschien wel het meest uit de motie 'gezinnen met kinderen op humane wijze meenemen'. Lees de motie van 11 juni dit jaar op de site van de Tweede Kamer
Gezinnen met kinderen worden nu soms midden in de nacht van hun bed gelicht door mannen in uniform
Gezinnen met kinderen worden nu soms midden in de nacht van hun bed gelicht door mannen in uniform, de regering wordt gevraagd daarmee te stoppen. Als gezinnen worden opgepakt, dan op zijn minst overdag zonder personeel in uniform, aldus het voorstel. 'Op humane wijze.'
De meerderheid van de Tweede Kamer stemt tegen en gaat over tot de orde van de dag.
Ja, de praktijk van asielbeleid is weerbarstig en het is makkelijker erover te schrijven dan daarover te beslissen. Maar detentie is geen oplossing en er zijn alternatieven.
En als we het over (C)(C)n basisprincipe eens zouden moeten zijn, is het wel dat kinderen geen slachtoffer mogen worden van het gedrag van grote mensen. Ze zijn zelf niet in staat om wie dan ook op het matje te roepen. Dat moeten wij doen.
March On unhinged
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 10:01
It's easy to define what we're against, but what are we for?
For movements to succeed they need to articulate a clear vision of the future. This is exactly what we set out to do when we conducted a massive nationwide interactive poll earlier this year: we wanted those of us who have marched, protested, and stood up to this administration and their cronies to define what we want for our country. We launched Operation Marching Orders, a mediated online conversation, inviting tens of thousands of people via email and social media -- and opening it up to anyone -- to participate in a really cool, interactive poll in which participants could see in real time how others were voting. The best part was this: participants could add their own statements that everyone else could vote on.
Over 6,000 people participated, more than 2,000 statements were added, and over 530,00 votes were cast. Out of this process we created the Declaration For Our Future, a living document that outlines what those of us who have marched and resisted are fighting for.
But this platform also serves another purpose: it gives elected officials -- or those who want to be elected -- their ''marching orders.'' It is a way of holding them accountable to the values, principles, and policies we identify together as a movement.
This interactive poll gave all of us -- in red states or blue states, urban or rural -- a voice in the change we want to see in our country. With this input, the Declaration For Our Future can become a guiding document.
We included both the declaration synthesizing people's entries, but also the statements people added themselves, so you can hear in their own voices the vision they have for our future.
Immigration activists, celebs launch hunger strike to end Trump policy
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 13:51
CLOSE
Edmilson Aguilar Punay, a 15-year-old from Guatemala, says the detention center where he was held was so crowded, some people had to sleep standing. USA TODAY
Members of the group La Union del Pueblo Entero watch a press conference in McAllen, Texas, on Saturday, June 23, 2018, about a hunger strike drawing attention to the plight of migrants on the US-Mexican border. LUPE advocates for migrant worker rights in the Rio Grande Valley. (Photo: Trevor Hughes/USA TODAY)
McALLEN, Texas '' Celebrities and everyday Americans turned immigration activists have launched a 24-day hunger strike aimed at pressuring the Trump administration to end its "zero tolerance" immigration policy.
Organized in part by the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization, the protest began at noon Saturday in front of a symbolic loaf of bread a few blocks from the federal courthouse in McAllen, the busiest station for detaining migrants trying to enter the United States from Mexico.
The McAllen station has been at the epicenter of protest '-- and drawn worldwide condemnation '-- due to it being the largest detention center for migrant children separated from their parents.
''What's going on today is just wrong,'' said Benito Lopez, a hunger strike participant and member of the Brown Berets, a group founded in the 1960s to help protect the rights of migrant farm workers.
The hunger strike will last 24 days to mark the estimated 2,400 children forcibly separated from their parents while crossing the border. Participants will each fast for 24 hours before passing off to someone else. Organizers asked that anyone participating donate money or food to border organizations like La Union del Pueblo Entero.
Hunger strike participants say they were heartened that worldwide outage prompted President Donald Trump on Wednesday to end his policy of forcibly separating families. But they said that's not enough, because thousands of kids have already been stripped from their parents' arms and detained separately.
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Last SlideNext SlideThe Trump administration has not yet explained how it plans to reunite those children with their parents, some of whom have been deported to their homes in Honduras or Guatemala.
"We will not rest until the very last one of these children is reunited with their families," said Efr(C)n Olivares of the Texas Civil Rights Project.
Among those participating in the hunger strike:
10 members of Congress and one U.S. senator. Alec Baldwin Martin SheenAlfre WoodardCCH PounderLevar BurtonKerry Kennedy, who runs the RFK Human Rights center More: Texas border chaos: Courts, families, government collide in zero tolerance debacle
More: Trump berates Democrats as he begs for their votes on immigration bill
More: Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' border prosecutions led to time served, $10 fees
Kennedy, who left federal court Friday morning aghast at the treatment of detained migrants charged with a misdemeanor, said most Americans value community, compassion and tolerance.
"Today, we have a president who has a different idea of what it means to be an American," Kennedy said.
Kerry Kennedy of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization speaks to reporters before beginning a hunger strike in McAllen Texas on Saturday, June 23, 2018. (Photo: Trevor Hughes/USA TODAY)
Trump says his zero tolerance policy is needed to protect the U.S. from criminals and other enemies crossing the southern border.
In McAllen and elsewhere along the border, the focus now has shifted away from the separation of families and toward the administration's apparent policy of turning away asylum-seekers.
Under international law, the United States is supposed to accept and give a hearing to anyone who claims asylum after reaching U.S. soil. But Border Patrol agents have been walking onto bridges across the Rio Grande River and telling at least some asylum seekers that they cannot be accommodated.
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Last SlideNext SlideThis has prompted some asylum seekers to cross illegally elsewhere, where they are detained by the Border Patrol and housed in warehouse-like detention centers before being prosecuted for illegal entry.
"It's Kafka-esque," Kennedy said. "We have to put a stop to it."
Follow Trevor Hughes on Twitter: @TrevorHughes
Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2ty7Vtd
OTG
Nokia 3110 too many sms messages
18 year old proves UT study theory
Hey Adam,
I heard your analysis on the University of Texas study on
phone placement and cognitive ability. This made me think of a personal example
and I completely agree with the study's findings.
I'm 18 years old and with this means I recently applied for
college. I had to take the ACT exam multiple times. The first few times, I
brought my phone with me inside and set it either under my desk or kept it in
my pocket. These early tests I did not do so well, sitting at around my state's
average.
On other tests, the phones were collected and taken to the
proctor's desk. I saw improvement and was happy with my score but I knew I
could take it to the next level.
I decided to take a class and they recommended to not even
bring your phone to the testing site. I followed their advice and saw a
dramatic point increase, a total of 13 points from the beginning to the end! I
definitely agree with this study and I love the OTG segement. Thank you for
your courage!
Sincerely,
Nicholas Orr
Kyocera flip phone
Adam, In the morning!
I am writing to you in regards to my OTG experience. My last
"smart" phone was the Samsung Galaxy Note II at launch, and I owned
it for about 1 year (so from 2012 - 2013). Since that phone died I was soured
on the idea of smartphones and decided to go back to the "old-school"
that I knew would not cost an arm and a leg to fix, and would not try to take
over my entire life. I also got rid of my social media accounts, and have been
having tons of fun, living life in the real world, not the fake garbage that
smartphones like to pump through their touch-screens.
I switched to the LG Cosmos 3 for about 5 years. This was a
great slide-out qwerty keyboard texting phone, and I went through about three
of them as I am a bit rough on phones. Finally in April 2018 my last Cosmo 3
started to "glitch" and I brought it to my carrier (V) to get it
fixed or replaced under warranty/insurance. They opened the back and looked at
the little sticker and said I had gotten it wet! I never dropped it in water I
am convinced that sticker is a conspiracy that changes color if you merely
breath on it. All phone manufacturers put it on all phones so the companies
never have to fix anything under warranty. The carrier transferred me to
insurance company.
After calling the insurance company that my carrier
sub-contracts to, I found out that they do not make any basic-phones anymore
for that price bracket, and so despite spending $10 a month for insurance
coverage the company couldn't replace my phone with another Cosmo 3 or any
basic phone for that matter! They tried to get me to replace it with a
smartphone and I told the lady on the phone that I didn't want her stupid smart
phones and I would not be replacing it under insurance. She seemed shocked that
someone wouldn't want the chance to "upgrade" to a "better
phone".
I went back to my carrier with the dilemma and they said the best they could do
was have me pay off my old phone, and then start up with a new
"feature" phone. I like the
re-branding that basic phones have undergone, they are no longer
"basic" but "feature. I decided on the Kyocera
DuraXV LTE. Despite not having a qwerty keyboard this FEATURE phone is packed
with FEATURES.
It only took me about 2 days to get used to T9 Word
recognition again, and I can text just as fast as someone on a
"smart" phone. It is also pretty durable and shock/water proof so
this will come in handy and hopefully protect the sacred sticker they hide in
the battery compartment. The phone also has hot-spot feature, so if I have LTE
service I can turn it on WiFi and check my email on a real computer like a
civilized gentleman. I believe this is the best of both worlds, as I can be
disconnected by default, but have the option of connecting if I absolutely need
to.
I am letting you know about this option as a great OTG
phone, as it seems that you may have written off anything that doesn't have a
QWERTY keyboard. I too prefer the QWERTY, but the amount that the Kyocera can
do it seems like a nice tradeoff.
a douchebag,
-jon in the Lehigh Valley, PA
p.s. delete your socialist media accounts
Need to Tag those who are sick
We're Not Addicted to Smartphones, We're Addicted to Social Interaction - Neuroscience News
Mon, 02 Jul 2018 12:12
Summary: A new study reports cell phones may be making us hypersocial, rather than antisocial as previous research suggests.
Source: McGill University.
We all know people who, seemingly incapable of living without the bright screen of their phone for more than a few minutes, are constantly texting and checking out what friends are up to on social media.
These are examples of what many consider to be the antisocial behaviour brought on by smartphone addiction, a phenomenon that has garnered media attention in the past few months and led investors and consumers to demand that tech giants address this problem.
But what if we were looking at things the wrong way? Could smartphone addiction be hyper-social, not anti-social?
Professor Samuel Veissi¨re, a cognitive anthropologist who studies the evolution of cognition and culture, explains that the desire to watch and monitor others, but also to be seen and monitored by others, runs deep in our evolutionary past. Humans evolved to be a uniquely social species and require constant input from others to seek a guide for culturally appropriate behaviour. This is also a way for them to find meaning, goals, and a sense of identity.
In a forthcoming study published in Frontiers in Psychology, Samuel Veissi¨re and Moriah Stendel, researchers in McGill's Department of Psychiatry, reviewed current literature on dysfunctional use of smart technology through an evolutionary lens, and found that the most addictive smartphone functions all shared a common theme: they tap into the human desire to connect with other people.
Healthy urges can become unhealthy addictions
While smartphones harness a normal and healthy need for sociality, Professor Veissi¨re agrees that the pace and scale of hyper-connectivity pushes the brain's reward system to run on overdrive, which can lead to unhealthy addictions.
''In post-industrial environments where foods are abundant and readily available, our cravings for fat and sugar sculpted by distant evolutionary pressures can easily go into insatiable overdrive and lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease ('...) the pro-social needs and rewards [of smartphone use as a means to connect] can similarly be hijacked to produce a manic theatre of hyper-social monitoring,'' the authors write in their paper.
''There is a lot of panic surrounding this topic,'' says Veissi¨re. ''We're trying to offer some good news and show that it is our desire for human interaction that is addictive and there are fairly simple solutions to deal with this.''
While smartphones harness a normal and healthy need for sociality, Professor Veissi¨re agrees that the pace and scale of hyper-connectivity pushes the brain's reward system to run on overdrive, which can lead to unhealthy addictions. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Turning off push notifications and setting up appropriate times to check your phone can go a long way to regain control over smartphone addiction. Research suggests that workplace policies ''that prohibit evening and weekend emails'' are also important.
''Rather than start regulating the tech companies or the use of these devices, we need to start having a conversation about the appropriate way to use smartphones'', said the professor in a recent interview. Parents and teachers need to be made aware of how important this is.''
About this neuroscience research article
Steps to regain control over smartphone addictions :
Relax and celebrate the fact your addiction reflects a normal urge to connect with others!Turn off push notifications and set appropriate times to check your phone intentionally.Create ''intentional protocols'' with friends, family and work circles to set clear expectations on when to communicateSource: Justin Dupuis '' McGill UniversityPublisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.Original Research: Abstract in Frontiers in Psychology.doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00141
Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
MLAAPAChicagoMcGill University ''We're Not Addicted to Smartphones, We're Addicted to Social Interaction.'' NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 7 February 2018. <http://neurosciencenews.com/social-interaction-addiction-8445/>.
McGill University (2018, February 7). We're Not Addicted to Smartphones, We're Addicted to Social Interaction. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved February 7, 2018 from http://neurosciencenews.com/social-interaction-addiction-8445/
McGill University ''We're Not Addicted to Smartphones, We're Addicted to Social Interaction.'' http://neurosciencenews.com/social-interaction-addiction-8445/ (accessed February 7, 2018).
Abstract
Hypernatural monitoring: a social rehearsal account of smartphone addiction
We present a deflationary account of smartphone addiction by situating this purportedly antisocial phenomenon within the fundamentally social dispositions of our species. While we agree with contemporary critics that the hyper-connectedness and unpredictable rewards of mobile technology can modulate negative affect, we propose to place the locus of addiction on an evolutionarily older mechanism: the human need to monitor and be monitored by others. Drawing from key findings in evolutionary anthropology and the cognitive science of religion, we articulate a hypernatural monitoring model of smartphone addiction grounded in a general social rehearsal theory of human cognition. Building on recent predictive-processing views of perception and addiction in cognitive neuroscience, we describe the role of social reward anticipation and prediction errors in mediating dysfunctional smartphone use. We conclude with insights from contemplative philosophies and harm-reduction models on finding the right rituals for honoring social connections and setting intentional protocols for the consumption of social information.
Feel free to share this Neuroscience News.
Do you text and drive? Your car insurance may go up
Mon, 02 Jul 2018 16:11
If you text and drive, it could cost you. Arity, a unit of insurance giant Allstate, is tracking in-car smartphone use so that insurance companies can either punish or reward drivers, depending on how they use their phone while driving.
The technology works by using the smartphone's accelerometer and gyroscope to sense whether the device is being moved -- likely in a driver's hand -- or lying flat on a surface. Arity can also tell whether the phone is unlocked and apps are being used.
Allstate ( ALL ) may soon use the technology to determine consumers' car insurance rates. In a statement, it described the technology as a way to promote safe driving.
Arity analyzed data from 160 million trips by hundreds of thousands of Allstate drivers. What it found confirmed research showing that drivers on their phones are more dangerous.
Arity then went a step farther and used Allstate claims data to see how expensive distracted driving is. It says it found that the most distracted drivers cost insurance companies 160% more than the least distracted drivers.
Drivers using smartphones are more likely to get into accidents, and these crashes tend to be more severe. Paying out claims for these crashes racks up big costs for insurance companies.
Related: Smartphones may be to blame for spike in pedestrian deaths
"We believe that people are coachable and that by driving less aggressively, using the phone less, there are opportunities to not only give a more accurate insurance price based on choices, but to give drivers more control," Arity CEO Gary Hallgren told CNN Tech.
He sees the company's new smartphone-tracking method as more accurate than basing a person's prices off their credit score, a common industry practice.
Hallgren expects smartphone data to become commonly used by car insurers in the coming years. Insurance companies who don't use this data risk losing their best drivers to other companies that offer discounts related to rates of distracted driving, Hallgren said.
But before this becomes a reality, Arity will need regulatory approval from state insurance offices. And car insurance companies such as Allstate won't be able to use the technology without drivers agreeing to it. Arity requires drivers to download an app so that it can track how a phone is being used while driving.
Related: Can tech prevent texting and driving?
For concerned drivers, there are ways to minimize the likelihood that Arity will think you're distracted.
Katie DeGraaf, Arity's director of product, advises drivers to put their phones in airplane mode while behind the wheel.
If a navigation app must be used, she suggests setting it before departing, and not touching it during the trip. Arity's software is less likely to identify a driver as distracted if the phone is mounted in a cradle, instead of being held in a driver's hand.
CNNMoney (San Francisco) First published January 24, 2018: 8:34 AM ET
Surface Phone reportedly cancelled due to AndromedaOS quality issues and more - MSPoweruser
Mon, 02 Jul 2018 19:10
Well, that was not completely unexpected. Despite building rumours of a 2018 release for Microsoft's long rumoured dual-panel mobile Surface device ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley reports that the project has been put on hold.
Reportedly part of the reason is that AndromedaOS which powers the device is just not ready to ship in time for RedStone 5, due to ''scheduling and quality'' issues. MaryJo also said there was no guarantee it will show up in the next version of the OS either.
Another reason, however, is that some in Microsoft just does not see enough demand for a pocket-sized foldable Surface device which can only run store apps. The device may eventually make it to market as a larger PC-sized (we assume laptop-sized) device that can run regular apps.
MaryJo reports the decision to withdraw Andromeda from RedStone 5 was made within the last few weeks, and blames it in part on a recent April Microsoft reorg. She suggests the steady stream of leaks in recent weeks was by internal fans of the project and intended to drum up external support for the doomed project. It is notable that every recent leak has come with a proviso that the project could still be cancelled at any moment.
In May we reported that Surface Hub 2 had been delayed due to the Surface Hub Shell, Aruba, also not being ready for the market.
The device would join a raft of other cancelled devices such as the Courier, Xbox Smartwatch, Microsoft Band 3, Zune, the Nokia McLaren, Surface Mini, the Microsoft Kin and more. It seems when it comes to ambitious software products Microsoft's vision routinely exceeds their reach.
Image credit David Breyer
"Stylish" browser extension steals all your internet history | Robert Heaton
Tue, 03 Jul 2018 20:55
02 Jul 2018
Before it became a covert surveillance tool disguised as an outstanding browser extension, Stylish really was an outstanding browser extension. It bestowed upon its users nothing less than the power to change the appearance of the internet. Its extensive bank of user-made skins gave bright websites a dark background, undid disliked UI changes, and added manga pictures to everything that wasn't a manga picture already. I spent many wonderful hours in its simple CSS editor, hiding the distracting parts of the web whilst unknowingly being spied on. Facebook news feed - gone. Twitter news feed - gone. Personal browsing history - gone. Quality of life and unexplained ennui - up and down respectively.
Unfortunately, since January 2017, Stylish has been augmented with bonus spyware that records every single website that I and its 2 million other users visit. Stylish sends our complete browsing activity back to its servers, together with a unique identifier. This allows it's new owner, SimilarWeb, to connect all of an individual's actions into a single profile. And for users like me who have created a Stylish account on userstyles.org, this unique identifier can easily be linked to a login cookie. This means that not only does SimilarWeb own a copy of our complete browsing histories, they also own enough other data to theoretically tie these histories to email addresses and real-world identities.
Stylish's transition from visual Valhalla to privacy Chernobyl began when the original owner and creator of Stylish sold it in August 2016. In January 2017 the new owner sold it again, announcing that ''Stylish is now part of the SimilarWeb family''. The SimilarWeb family's promotional literature lists ''Market Solutions To See All Your Competitors' Traffic'' amongst its interests. I'm starting to feel like I might have become the product. I understand that it probably isn't SimilarWeb company policy to threaten to show their users' browsing history to their mothers and rabbis unless they hand over a big pile of cash. But it wasn't Equifax company policy to lose all those Social Security Numbers either.
The SimilarWeb Privacy Policy says that they only collect ''non-personal'' data, and I assume that this is technically true. But accidents happen. When you unwittingly entrust your personal data to a company like SimilarWeb, not only do you have to hope that they have no actively evil intentions (besides those listed on their pricing page). You also have to hope that they have good data access controls, no rogue employees, and strong enough security to prevent the theft of all their data (formerly your data). Worse, even the filching of a nominally anonymized list of URLs has significant privacy and security implications. De-anonymization using IP addresses and the specifics of a user's browsing history is often straightforward. Who do you think that person visiting https://www.linkedin.com/in/robertjheaton/edit might be?
Single URLs with no additional context can be very sensitive too. For example, some websites use URLs containing special authentication tokens to log their users in automatically when they click a link in an email. When a user clicks on a link like mysocialnetwork.com/inbox?login_token=fsdj80d...etc..., the website uses the long, secret login_token in the URL as an alternative password, and logs the user into their account. This is a risky but sometimes defensible practice that relies on login tokens staying secret and unguessable. However, since they are part of the URL, Stylish happily records them and sends them back to the SimilarWeb servers. Their databases presumably contain secondary login credentials for user accounts on any number of other services.
Sensitive URLs crop up elsewhere too. My online medical provider shows me my medical documents using secret, 1000-character long URLs (generated by Amazon S3) that expire within a minute or so. For these pages, no login authentication beyond simply knowing the URL is required. Anyone who guessed the authentication token in the URL before it expired would be able to view and download my medical documents. In my opinion this is not best practice on the part of my online medical provider's engineering team. But the real world is full of things that are not best practice, and no conventional attacker is actually going to be able to guess a 1000-character long URL within a minute. Stylish makes life easier for them by harvesting the whole thing and recording it in their database. Now this stupid advertising company also owns pointers to my medical records. I really hope they never get hacked.
Most prevalently, many websites use URL tokens to allow users to reset a forgotten password. When a user clicks on the ''Forgot Your Password?'' button, the website sends them an email containing a special link. This link points to a long URL that looks something like mysocialnetwork.com/password-reset?reset_token=a3dJ3...etc.... When the user clicks on it, the website reads the reset_token, looks up the corresponding user, and allows them to safely reset their password. However, if an attacker were able to intercept these URLs and complete the password-reset process before the real user, they would gain total control over the account. Once again, Stylish hoovers up these password-reset URLs, taking its users' privacy and security into its own hands.
Even though Stylish's new snooping functionality has been public knowledge since the SimilarWeb announcement, I only discovered it last week whilst doing some unrelated work on a different website. It was like catching my favorite uncle picking his nose and eating it and stealing my passport. On the other hand, I never paid my uncle for any of the nice things he did for me, so what did I expect?
Whilst looking at Burp Suite, I noticed a large number of strange-looking requests going to api.userstyles.org.
HTTP requests that send a large blob of obfuscated data to a URL ending in /stats are almost never good news for users. I noticed that the data blob contained only letters and numbers and ended in %3D, the URL encoding for an = sign. This made me suspect that the blob had been Base64 encoded. I tried Base64 decoding it:
Still nonsense. But the decoded string also contained only letters and numbers, and also ended in an = sign. I tried Base64 decoding it a second time:
Pyrrhic victory. When I looked at the contents of the decoded payload, I realized that Stylish was exfiltrating all my browsing data. I Googled ''stylish spyware'' and found lots of shops selling fashionable espionage gear. I also found plenty of articles confirming that Stylish were up to no good.
I looked closer at the decoded payload and noted a unique tracking identifier. I remembered that I had signed up for a Stylish account in order to share some of my distraction-hiding skins with the world. I wondered whether my session cookie would get appended to Stylish's tracking requests if I logged in to userstyles.org.
Of course, it did. Stylish's session cookie is scoped to *.userstyles.org, so it gets sent to every userstyles.org sub-domain as well. To Stylish's very partial credit, the cookie is set to be very short-lived, and expires as soon as the browser is closed. This means that it is not appended to every tracking request - only the ones sent after the user logs in to userstyles.org but before they next close the browser. However, it only takes one tracking request containing one session cookie to permanently associate a user account with a Stylish tracking identifier. This means that Stylish and SimilarWeb still have all the data they need to connect a real-world identity to a browsing history, should they or a hacker choose to.
It's not news that browser extensions can be a security nightmare. It's not even enough to trust an extension's current, benevolent owner. Even the benevolent have to make a buck eventually, and quiet sales to organizations like SimpleWeb are not uncommon. SimilarWeb claims that they need to track every single website Stylish's users visit in order to recommend them styles for the current webpage. This is a solution in search of a flimsy justification. If this were all they were doing then they would only need to send themselves the current page's domain, not the full URL. And it doesn't even begin to explain why they also need to scrape and send themselves your actual Google search results from your browser window.
There's a check box in the Stylish control panel that claims to disable tracking, although SimilarWeb helpfully enable it by default. It does appear to work, at least until the next change to Stylish's 2,000-word privacy policy or 3,000-word Terms and Conditions. However, Stylish is no longer a well-meaning product with your best interests at heart. If you use and like Stylish, please uninstall it and switch to an alternative like Stylus, an offshoot from the good old version of Stylish that works in much the same way, minus the spyware.
Get new essays sent to you I publish new work on programming, security, and a few other topics several times a month.
Juggalos figured out how to beat facial recognition | The Outline
Tue, 03 Jul 2018 22:10
Last September, the world welcomed Juggalos (or Juggalettes, depending on which you prefer) to The Resistance when they marched on Washington en masses to protest the policies of the Trump administration. As if they weren't already doing the absolute most, the die-hard fans of the rap group Insane Clown Posse have become accidental heroes for people concerned about facial recognition tech: According to Twitter user @tahkion, a computer science blogger for WonderHowTo, Juggalo makeup outmatches the machine learning algorithms that govern facial recognition technology.
i made a breakthrough. it turns out juggalo makeup defeats facial recognition successfully. if you want to avoid surveillance, become a juggalo i guess pic.twitter.com/kEh7fUQeXq
'-- TAKHION (@tahkion) July 1, 2018In a series of follow-up tweets, @tahkion explained that facial recognition works by pinpointing the areas of contrast on a human face'--for instance, where a nose is located, or where the chin becomes the neck. As it happens, juggalo makeup often involves applying black paint below the mouth, but above the chin. That makes facial recognition vulnerable to misidentifying the placement of the jaw.
for anyone wondering why some face changes evade facial recognition and others don't, here's a visualization of how landmarks are placed on a few examples. juggalo makeup is particularly effective as it basically totally redefines what is interpreted as the jawline pic.twitter.com/dFSx5FEGc9
'-- TAKHION (@tahkion) July 1, 2018You might be thinking: ''Well, if Juggalos constantly wear this makeup, wouldn't the facial recognition technology just continually recognize their Juggalo faces?'' According to @tahkion, that depends on the Juggalo consistently wearing the same style of makeup. This problem also assumes that Juggalos wear their makeup all the time'--which they don't. The style is reserved for Insane Clown Posse shows and other special occasions, like the March on Washington.
Face-painting styles like ''corpse'' makeup also obscure the face. However, they don't create enough contrast to effectively confuse most facial recognition systems. Dramatic styles of feminine makeup, like heavy eyeliner, also are generally not enough to confuse facial recognition systems, @tahkion claims. However, facial recognition tech such as Apple's Face ID, which does not rely on visible light and uses depth perception, would not be tricked by juggalo makeup (otherwise it would never work in the dark).
People are constantly trying to come up with ways to work around facial recognition technology using everything from rigged hats (if you're out in public) to heavy pixelation (if you're online). Groups such as CVDazzle have tried to bring art into the effort to defeat facial recognition with art, using dramatic, futuristic styles of makeup'--but @tahkion claimed CV Dazzle doesn't always obscure the face as well as Juggalo makeup.
Facial recognition is already in broad use by law enforcement. This past week, the FBI used facial recognition to identify the man who opened fire on the offices of Maryland newspaper Capital Gazette, killing five people. But use of facial recognition is largely unregulated. Amazon's ''Rekognition'' tool has been piloted in the Orlando, FL and Washington County, OR police departments, and the company is looking to expand its use. Private companies like Moscow-based NtechLab have developed ''ethnicity recognition'' tools with the intention for it to be used by law enforcement to, in essence, automate racial profiling. This isn't just happening in the U.S.: in China, facial recognition is used to monitor citizen activity as a part of its extensive ''social credit'' system, which affects people's ability to get loans and use certain public services, like bike rentals.
On sites like Facebook, facial recognition technology been used for years to identify people in photos, suggest user tags, and perhaps prevent the unauthorized use of a photo. (If you delete your Facebook account, it remains unclear when or if all user data'--including facial recognition tools for a person'--is deleted.)
To be very clear, The Outline is not endorsing the creation of a Juggalo-makeup powered society that strives to avoid the utilization of facial data at all costs, even as we come to terms with the implicit bias embedded in the technology. But'... Juggalos'... Welcome (Back) to The Resistance.
Report: Facebook Investors Consider Coup of CEO Mark Zuckerberg | Breitbart
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 14:13
AFPAccording to a recent report, some Facebook investors are becoming tired of CEO Mark Zuckerberg's style of running the company and may be considering a coup.Just a few months ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress about the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. Shortly before this, during a call with members of the media, including Breitbart News, one reporter asked Zuckerberg whether or not there had been a discussion amongst board members about replacing Zuckerberg as chairman of the company. Zuckerberg paused shortly and gave a short, clipped answer: ''Not that I'm aware of.''
According to a recent report from Business Insider, that discussion amongst board members may have taken place. Scott Stringer, New York City's comptroller, who is responsible for overseeing the investment of approximately $895 million worth of Facebook shares through city pension funds, recently told Business Insider: ''We have concerns about the structure of the board that the company doesn't seem ready to address, which can lead to risks '-- reputational, regulatory, and otherwise.'' Doherty believes that Facebook's current situation is one of the past that regularly has failed. ''The idea that there should be an autocrat in charge of a gigantic public company, which has billions of dollars of shareholder money invested in it, is an anachronism,'' Doherty said. ''It harks back to the 19th century when you had these robber barons who were autocrats and dictators.''
Business Insider reports that through interviews with multiple investors, the two issues that consistently were brought up by investors were:
They want Zuckerberg to step down as chairman and an independent executive to be hired in his place.Shareholders also want Facebook's dual-class share structure to be abolished because they believe it concentrates too much power into the hands of Zuckerberg and his top team.Michael Frerichs, the Illinois state treasurer who has invested $35 million in Facebook said that shareholders want Zuckerberg removed as a chairholder for a very simple reason: ''He is not accountable to anyone, not the board or the shareholders, which is a bad corporate governance practice,'' he said. ''He's his own boss, and it has clearly not been working.''
Michael Connor, the director of Open Mic, a group which helps shareholders campaign for better management of the companies they've invested in, stated: ''When you combine the dual roles of chairman and CEO, plus that chairman and CEO personally owns a majority stake of that company, that's a toxic brew. It means there's very little room for any kind of dissent.''
Facebook, however, does not seem in any hurry to change their current operations. Following a proposal by shareholders to change the current share structure '-- which hadn't been updated since 2009, three years before the company went public '-- Facebook stated: ''We believe that our capital structure is in the best interests of our stockholders and that our current corporate governance structure is sound and effective.'' When asked about replacing Zuckerberg as chairman, Facebook stated that such a move would cause ''uncertainty, confusion, and inefficiency in board and management function.''
All of the investors interviewed assured Business Insider that they truly want what's best for the company '-- and for many of them, that means removing Zuckerberg as CEO. ''We have the best interests of the company at heart because we are a major investor,'' Patrick Doherty said. ''We have over $1 billion invested in Facebook at the moment, so we and the other investors coming forward believe that Facebook continues to be a good investment, but there are very serious problems that have to be dealt with.'' Scott Stringer stated: ''As long-term investors in Facebook, we want to make sure the company is strong,'' while Michael Frerichs continued: ''It's about making sure the long-term viability of the company, and with changes in corporate governance, we can reduce some of the risk. ''
Michael Connor discussed the arrogance of Silicon Valley tech companies saying: ''People think companies like Facebook are bulletproof, and they're not. You had companies like AOL and Yahoo come and go. You've had people like Travis Kalanick, who was the co-founder and CEO of Uber, who has come and gone. These things can self-destruct.''
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at lnolan@breitbart.com
How Smart TVs in Millions of U.S. Homes Track More Than What's on Tonight - The New York Times
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 11:47
A detail from a slide from a marketing presentation by Samba TV looking at how it can analyze what viewers are watching, determine how many connected devices they have in the house and then target them with ads.The growing concern over online data and user privacy has been focused on tech giants like Facebook and devices like smartphones. But people's data is also increasingly being vacuumed right out of their living rooms via their televisions, sometimes without their knowledge.
In recent years, data companies have harnessed new technology to immediately identify what people are watching on internet-connected TVs, then using that information to send targeted advertisements to other devices in their homes. Marketers, forever hungry to get their products in front of the people most likely to buy them, have eagerly embraced such practices. But the companies watching what people watch have also faced scrutiny from regulators and privacy advocates over how transparent they are being with users.
Samba TV is one of the bigger companies that track viewer information to make personalized show recommendations. The company said it collected viewing data from 13.5 million smart TVs in the United States, and it has raised $40 million in venture funding from investors including Time Warner Cable, the cable operator Liberty Global and the billionaire Mark Cuban.
Samba TV has struck deals with roughly a dozen TV brands '-- including Sony, Sharp, TCL and Philips '-- to place its software on certain sets. When people set up their TVs, a screen urges them to enable a service called Samba Interactive TV, saying it recommends shows and provides special offers ''by cleverly recognizing onscreen content.'' But the screen, which contains the enable button, does not detail how much information Samba TV collects to make those recommendations.
Samba TV declined to provide recent statistics, but one of its executives said at the end of 2016 that more than 90 percent of people opted in.
Once enabled, Samba TV can track nearly everything that appears on the TV on a second-by-second basis, essentially reading pixels to identify network shows and ads, as well as programs on Netflix and HBO and even video games played on the TV. Samba TV has even offered advertisers the ability to base their targeting on whether people watch conservative or liberal media outlets and which party's presidential debate they watched.
The big draw for advertisers '-- which have included Citi and JetBlue in the past, and now Expedia '-- is that Samba TV can also identify other devices in the home that share the TV's internet connection.
Samba TV, which says it has adhered to privacy guidelines from the Federal Trade Commission, does not directly sell its data. Instead, advertisers can pay the company to direct ads to other gadgets in a home after their TV commercials play, or one from a rival airs. Advertisers can also add to their websites a tag from Samba TV that allows them to determine if people visit after watching one of their commercials.
If it sounds a lot like the internet '-- a company with little name recognition tracking your behavior, then slicing and dicing it to sell ads '-- that's the point. But consumers do not typically expect the so-called idiot box to be a savant.
''It's still not intuitive that the box maker or the software embedded by the box maker is going to be doing this,'' said Justin Brookman, director of consumer privacy and technology policy at the advocacy group Consumers Union and a former policy director at the Federal Trade Commission. ''I'd like to see companies do a better job of making that clear and explaining the value proposition to consumers.''
Image The opt-in screen for Samba Interactive TV that many users see when setting up their smart TVs. They need to click through to another screen for the terms of service, which exceed 6,500 words, and the privacy policy, more than 4,000 words. Credit Chris Heinonen/Wirecutter, a The New York Times Company About 45 percent of TV households in the United States had at least one smart TV at the end of 2017, IHS Markit data showed. Samba TV, which is based in San Francisco and has about 250 employees, competes against several companies, including Inscape, the data arm of the consumer electronics maker Vizio, and a start-up called Alphonso.
It can be a cutthroat business. Samba has sued Alphonso for patent infringement. Last year, Vizio paid $2.2 million to settle claims by the Federal Trade Commission and the state of New Jersey that it was collecting and selling viewing data from millions of smart TVs without the knowledge or consent of set owners. In December, The New York Times reported that Alphonso was using gaming apps to gain access to smartphone microphones and listen for audio signals in TV ads and shows.
Samba TV's language is clear, said Bill Daddi, a spokesman. ''Each version has clearly identified that we use technology to recognize what's onscreen, to create benefit for the consumer as well as Samba, its partners and advertisers,'' he added.
Still, David Kitchen, a software engineer in London, said he was startled to learn how Samba TV worked after encountering its opt-in screen during a software update on his Sony Bravia set.
The opt-in read: ''Interact with your favorite shows. Get recommendations based on the content you love. Connect your devices for exclusive content and special offers. By cleverly recognizing onscreen content, Samba Interactive TV lets you engage with your TV in a whole new way.''
The language prompted Mr. Kitchen to research Samba TV's data collection and raise concerns online about its practices.
Enabling the service meant that consumers agreed to Samba TV's terms of service and privacy policy, the opt-in screen said. But consumers couldn't read those unless they went online or clicked through to another screen on the TV. The privacy policy, which provided more details about the information collected through the software, was more than 4,000 words, and the terms exceeded 6,500 words.
Image ''What you're really opting into is pervasive monitoring on your TV,'' said David Kitchen, center, a software engineer in London, who researched Samba TV's data collection after encountering its opt-in screen on his TV. Credit Tom Jamieson for The New York Times ''The thing that really struck me was this seems like quite an enormous ask for what seems like a silly, trivial feature,'' Mr. Kitchen said. ''You appear to opt into a discovery-recommendation service, but what you're really opting into is pervasive monitoring on your TV.''
Ashwin Navin, Samba TV's chief executive, said that the company's use of data for advertising is made clear through the reference to ''special offers,'' and that the opt-in language ''is meant to be as simple as it possibly can be.''
''It's pretty upfront about the fact that this is what the software does '-- it reads what's on the screen to drive recommendations and special offers,'' Mr. Navin said. ''We've taken an abundance of caution to put consumers in control of the data and give them disclosure on what we use the data for.''
Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said few people review the fine print in their zeal to set up new televisions. He said the notice should also describe Samba TV's ''device map,'' which matches TV content to mobile gadgets, according to a document on its website, and can help the company track users ''in their office, in line at the food truck and on the road as they travel.''
Mr. Brookman of the Consumers Union, who reviewed the opt-in screen, said the trade-off was not clear for consumers. ''Maybe the interactive features are so fantastic that they don't mind that the company's logging all the stuff that they're watching, but I don't think that's evident from this,'' he said.
Citi and JetBlue, which appear in some Samba TV marketing materials, said they stopped working with the company in 2016 but not before publicly endorsing its effectiveness. JetBlue hailed in a news release the increase in site visits driven by syncing its online ads with TV ads, while Christine DiLandro, a marketing director at Citi, joined Mr. Navin at an industry event at the end of 2015. In a video of the event, Ms. DiLandro described the ability to target people with digital ads after the company's TV commercials aired as ''a little magical.''
The Times is among the websites that allow advertisers to use data from Samba to track if people who see their ads visit their websites, but a Times spokeswoman, Eileen Murphy, said that the company did that ''simply as a matter of convenience for our clients'' and that it was not an endorsement of Samba TV's technology.
Companies like Samba TV are also a boon for TV makers, whose profit margins from selling sets can be slim. Samba TV essentially pays companies like Sony to include its software. Samba TV said ''our business model does subsidize a small piece of the television hardware,'' though it declined to provide further details.
Smart TV companies aren't subject to the stricter rules and regulations regarding viewing data that have traditionally applied to cable companies, helping fuel ''this rise of weird ways to figure out what someone's watching,'' said Jonathan Mayer, an assistant professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton University and a former technology adviser at the Federal Communications Commission.
The smart TV companies are overseen by the Federal Trade Commission, Mr. Mayer said, meaning that ''as long as you're truthful to consumers, even if you make it really hard to exercise choices or don't offer choices at all, you probably don't have much of a legal issue.''
Mr. Daddi said the trade commission had held up Samba TV as ''an exemplary model of data privacy and opt-in policies,'' pointing to its participation in a smart TV workshop the agency held in late 2016. A commission spokeswoman said that it invited a diverse array of panelists to events and that ''an invitation to participate in an F.T.C. event does not convey an endorsement of that company or organization.'' She added that the agency does not ''endorse or bless companies' practices.''
Mr. Daddi added: ''We have millions of viewers who have explicitly opted into our service and have continued to use it for years. So it is a fair argument to make that far more consumers are satisfied with Samba than surprised by it.''
Some worry, more broadly, about the TV industry's increasing ability to use and share information about what people are watching with the internet ad ecosystem.
"I think people have rebelled to the online targeted ad experience,'' Mr. Brookman said, ''and I think they wouldn't necessarily expect that from their TV.''
Kevin Roose contributed reporting.
Email Sapna Maheshwari at sapna@nytimes.com or follow her on Twitter: @sapna.
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Thermostats, Locks and Lights: Digital Tools of Domestic Abuse - The New York Times
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 11:44
In training sessions on domestic violence and technology, people have started asking about how to handle the use of connected home devices in abuse situations, said Erica Olsen, director of the Safety Net Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Credit Tony Luong for The New York Times SAN FRANCISCO '-- The people who called into the help hotlines and domestic violence shelters said they felt as if they were going crazy.
One woman had turned on her air-conditioner, but said it then switched off without her touching it. Another said the code numbers of the digital lock at her front door changed every day and she could not figure out why. Still another told an abuse help line that she kept hearing the doorbell ring, but no one was there.
Their stories are part of a new pattern of behavior in domestic abuse cases tied to the rise of smart home technology. Internet-connected locks, speakers, thermostats, lights and cameras that have been marketed as the newest conveniences are now also being used as a means for harassment, monitoring, revenge and control.
In more than 30 interviews with The New York Times, domestic abuse victims, their lawyers, shelter workers and emergency responders described how the technology was becoming an alarming new tool. Abusers '-- using apps on their smartphones, which are connected to the internet-enabled devices '-- would remotely control everyday objects in the home, sometimes to watch and listen, other times to scare or show power. Even after a partner had left the home, the devices often stayed and continued to be used to intimidate and confuse.
For victims and emergency responders, the experiences were often aggravated by a lack of knowledge about how smart technology works, how much power the other person had over the devices, how to legally deal with the behavior and how to make it stop.
''People have started to raise their hands in trainings and ask what to do about this,'' Erica Olsen, director of the Safety Net Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, said of sessions she holds about technology and abuse. She said she was wary of discussing the misuse of emerging technologies because ''we don't want to introduce the idea to the world, but now that it's become so prevalent, the cat's out of the bag.''
Some of tech's biggest companies make smart home products, such as Amazon with its Echo speaker and Alphabet's Nest smart thermostat. The devices are typically positioned as helpful life companions, including when people are at work or on vacation and want to remotely supervise their homes.
Some connected device makers said they had not received reports of their products being used in abuse situations. The gadgets can be disabled through reset buttons and changing a home's Wi-Fi password, but their makers said there was no catchall fix. Making it easy for people to switch who controls the account of a smart home product can inadvertently also make access to the systems easier for criminal hackers.
No groups or individuals appear to be tracking the use of internet-connected devices in domestic abuse, because the technology is relatively new, though it is rapidly catching on. In 2017, 29 million homes in the United States had some smart technology, according to a report by McKinsey, which estimated that the number was growing by 31 percent a year.
Image Ruth Patrick, who runs WomenSV, a domestic violence program in Silicon Valley, said she had some clients who were put on psychiatric holds '-- a stay at a medical facility so mental health can be evaluated '-- after abuse involving home devices. Credit Anastasiia Sapon for The New York Times Connected home devices have increasingly cropped up in domestic abuse cases over the past year, according to those working with victims of domestic violence. Those at help lines said more people were calling in the last 12 months about losing control of Wi-Fi-enabled doors, speakers, thermostats, lights and cameras. Lawyers also said they were wrangling with how to add language to restraining orders to cover smart home technology.
Muneerah Budhwani, who takes calls at the National Domestic Violence Hotline, said she started hearing stories about smart homes in abuse situations last winter. ''Callers have said the abusers were monitoring and controlling them remotely through the smart home appliances and the smart home system,'' she said.
Graciela Rodriguez, who runs a 30-bed emergency shelter at the Center for Domestic Peace in San Rafael, Calif., said some people had recently come in with tales of ''the crazy-making things'' like thermostats suddenly kicking up to 100 degrees or smart speakers turning on blasting music.
''They feel like they're losing control of their home,'' she said. ''After they spend a few days here, they realize they were being abused.''
Smart home technology can be easily harnessed for misuse for several reasons. Tools like connected in-home security cameras are relatively inexpensive '-- some retail for $40 '-- and are straightforward to install. Usually, one person in a relationship takes charge of putting in the technology, knows how it works and has all the passwords. This gives that person the power to turn the technology against the other person.
Emergency responders said many victims of smart home-enabled abuse were women.
Connected home gadgets are largely installed by men, said Melissa Gregg, a research director at Intel working on the implications of smart home technology. Many women also do not have all the apps on their phones, said Jenny Kennedy, a postdoctoral research fellow at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, who is researching families that install smart home technology.
(One in three women and one in four men have been victims of physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner, according to a 2010 Centers for Disease Control report.)
The people who spoke to The Times about being harassed through smart home gadgetry were all women, many from wealthy enclaves where this type of technology has taken off. They declined to publicly use their names, citing safety and because some were in the process of leaving their abusers. Their stories were corroborated by domestic violence workers and lawyers who handled their cases.
Each said the use of internet-connected devices by their abusers was invasive '-- one called it a form of ''jungle warfare'' because it was hard to know where the attacks were coming from. They also described it as an asymmetry of power because their partners had control over the technology '-- and by extension, over them.
One of the women, a doctor in Silicon Valley, said her husband, an engineer, ''controls the thermostat. He controls the lights. He controls the music.'' She said, ''Abusive relationships are about power and control, and he uses technology.''
Image Some of tech's biggest companies make smart home products, including Amazon with its Echo speaker and Alexa smart assistant. Credit Karsten Moran for The New York Times She said she did not know how all of the technology worked or exactly how to remove her husband from the accounts. But she said she dreamed about retaking the technology soon.
''I have a specific exit plan that I'm in the process of implementing, and one of my fantasies is to be able to say, 'O.K. Google, play whatever music I want,''' she said. Her plan with the smart thermostat, she said, was to ''pull it out of the wall.''
When a victim uninstalls the devices, this can escalate a conflict, experts said. ''The abuser can see it's disabled, and that may trigger enhanced violence,'' said Jennifer Becker, a lawyer at Legal Momentum, a women's rights legal advocacy group.
Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, said disabling the devices could also further cut off a victim. ''They're not sure how their abuser is getting in and they're not necessarily able to figure it out because they don't know how the systems work,'' Ms. Galperin said. ''What they do is they just turn everything off, and that just further isolates them.''
Legal recourse may be limited. Abusers have learned to use smart home technology to further their power and control in ways that often fall outside existing criminal laws, Ms. Becker said. In some cases, she said, if an abuser circulates video taken by a connected indoor security camera, it could violate some states' revenge porn laws, which aim to stop a former partner from sharing intimate photographs and videos online.
Advocates are beginning to educate emergency responders that when people get restraining orders, they need to ask the judge to include all smart home device accounts known and unknown to victims. Many people do not know to ask about this yet, Ms. Becker said. But even if people get restraining orders, remotely changing the temperature in a house or suddenly turning on the TV or lights may not contravene a no-contact order, she said.
Several law enforcement officials said the technology was too new to have shown up in their cases, though they suspected the activity was occurring.
''I'm sure that it's happening,'' said Zach Perron, a captain in the police department in Palo Alto, Calif. ''It makes complete sense knowing what I know about the psychology of domestic violence suspects. Domestic violence is largely about control '-- people think of physical violence but there's emotional violence, too.''
Some people do not believe the use of smart home devices is a problem, said Ruth Patrick, who runs WomenSV, a domestic violence program in Silicon Valley. She said she had some clients who were put on psychiatric holds '-- a stay at a medical facility so mental health can be evaluated '-- after abuse involving home devices.
''If you tell the wrong person your husband knows your every move, and he knows what you've said in your bedroom, you can start to look crazy,'' she said. ''It's so much easier to believe someone's crazy than to believe all these things are happening.''
Asking everyone in a home to understand smart home technology is essential, researchers said.
''When we see new technology come out, people often think, 'Wow, my life is going to be a lot safer,''' said Katie Ray-Jones, chief executive of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. But ''we often see the opposite with survivors of domestic violence.''
Follow Nellie Bowles on Twitter: @NellieBowles
If you are in an abusive relationship, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
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Tech's 'Dirty Secret': The App Developers Sifting Through Your Gmail - WSJ
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 13:57
Google said a year ago it would stop its computers from scanning the inboxes of Gmail users for information to personalize advertisements, saying it wanted users to ''remain confident that Google will keep privacy and security paramount.''
But the internet giant continues to let hundreds of outside software developers scan the inboxes of millions of Gmail users who signed up for email-based services offering shopping price comparisons, automated travel-itinerary planners or other tools. Google does little to police those developers, who train their computers'--and, in some cases, employees'--to read their users' emails, a Wall Street Journal examination has found.
One of those companies is Return Path Inc., which collects data for marketers by scanning the inboxes of more than two million people who have signed up for one of the free apps in Return Path's partner network using a Gmail, Microsoft Corp. or Yahoo email address. Computers normally do the scanning, analyzing about 100 million emails a day. At one point about two years ago, Return Path employees read about 8,000 unredacted emails to help train the company's software, people familiar with the episode say.
In another case, employees of Edison Software, another Gmail developer that makes a mobile app for reading and organizing email, personally reviewed the emails of hundreds of users to build a new feature, says Mikael Berner, the company's CEO.
Letting employees read user emails has become ''common practice'' for companies that collect this type of data, says Thede Loder, the former chief technology officer at eDataSource Inc., a rival to Return Path. He says engineers at eDataSource occasionally reviewed emails when building and improving software algorithms.
''Some people might consider that to be a dirty secret,'' says Mr. Loder. ''It's kind of reality.''
Neither Return Path nor Edison asked users specifically whether it could read their emails. Both companies say the practice is covered by their user agreements, and that they used strict protocols for the employees who read emails. eDataSource says it previously allowed employees to read some email data but recently ended that practice to better protect user privacy.
Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., says it provides data only to outside developers it has vetted and to whom users have explicitly granted permission to access email. Google's own employees read emails only ''in very specific cases where you ask us to and give consent, or where we need to for security purposes, such as investigating a bug or abuse,'' the company said in a written statement.
This examination of email data privacy is based on interviews with more than two dozen current and former employees of email app makers and data companies. The latitude outside developers have in handling user data shows how even as Google and other tech giants have touted efforts to tighten privacy, they have left the door open to others with different oversight practices.
Facebook Inc. for years let outside developers gain access to its users' data. That practice, which Facebook has said it stopped by 2015, spawned a scandal when the social-media giant this year said it suspected one developer of selling data on tens of millions of users to a research firm with ties to President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign. The episode led to renewed scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators in the U.S. and Europe over how internet companies protect user information.
There is no indication that Return Path, Edison or other developers of Gmail add-ons have misused data in that fashion. Nevertheless, privacy advocates and many tech industry executives say opening access to email data risks similar leaks.
For companies that want data for marketing and other purposes, tapping into email is attractive because it contains shopping histories, travel itineraries, financial records and personal communications. Data-mining companies commonly use free apps and services to hook users into giving up access to their inboxes without clearly stating what data they collect and what they are doing with it, according to current and former employees of these companies.
Gmail is especially valuable as the world's dominant email service, with 1.4 billion users. Nearly two-thirds of all active email users globally have a Gmail account, according to comScore , and Gmail has more users than the next 25 largest email providers combined. The data miners generally have access to other email services besides Gmail, including those from Microsoft and Verizon Communications Inc.'s Oath unit, formed after the company acquired email pioneer Yahoo. Those are the next two largest email providers, according to comScore.
Oath says access to email data is considered ''on a case-by-case basis'' and requires ''express consent'' from users. A Microsoft spokeswoman says it is committed to protecting customers' privacy and that its terms of use for developers prohibit accessing customer data without consent, and provide guidelines for how data can and can't be used. Neither company's privacy or developer policies mention allowing people to see user data.
Google's developer agreement prohibits exposing a user's private data to anyone else ''without explicit opt-in consent from that user.'' Its rules also bar app developers from making permanent copies of user data and storing them in a database.
Developers say Google does little to enforce those policies. ''I have not seen any evidence of human review'' by Google employees, says Zvi Band, the co-founder of Contactually, an email app for real-estate agents. He says Contactually has never had employees review emails with their own eyes.
Google said it manually reviews every developer and application requesting access to Gmail. The company checks the domain name of the sender to look for anyone who has a history of abusing Google policies, and reads the privacy policies to make sure they are clear. ''If we ever run into areas where disclosures and practices are unclear, Google takes quick action with the developer,'' a spokesman said.
Google says it lets any user revoke access to apps at any point. Business users of Gmail can also restrict access to certain email apps to the employees in their organization, the company said, ''ensuring that only apps that have been vetted and are trusted by their organization are used.''
Google has contended with privacy concerns since it launched Gmail in 2004. The company's software scanned email messages and sold ads across the top of inboxes related to their content. That year, 31 privacy and consumer groups sent a letter to Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin saying the practice ''violates the implicit trust of an email service provider.'' Google responded that other email providers were already using computers to scan email to protect against spam and hackers, and that showing ads helped offset the cost of its free service.
While some users complained the ads were creepy, people signed up for Gmail in droves.
Between 2010 and 2016, Google faced at least three lawsuits, brought by student users of Google apps as well as a broader set of email users, who accused it of violating federal wiretapping laws. Google, in its legal defense, emphasized that its privacy policy for Gmail said that ''no human reads your email to target ads or related information to you without your consent.'' Google settled one of the lawsuits; the other two were dismissed.
In 2014, Google said it would stop scanning Gmail inboxes of student, business and government users. In June of last year, it said it was halting all Gmail scanning for ads.
Meanwhile, Google in 2014 started promoting Gmail as a platform for developers to leverage the contents of users' email to develop apps for such productivity tasks as scheduling meetings. A new Gmail version launched this spring adds a link next to inboxes to a curated menu of 34 add-ons, including one that offers to track users' outgoing emails to report whether recipients open them.
Google says apps make Gmail more useful. Turning Gmail into a platform emulates Microsoft's Windows and Apple Inc.'s iPhone, which attracted outside developers to make their software more useful to corporate users.
Google doesn't disclose how many apps have access to Gmail. The total number of email apps in the top two mobile app stores, for Apple's iOS and Android, jumped to 379 last year, from 142 five years earlier, according to researcher App Annie. Most can link to Gmail and other major providers.
Almost anyone can build an app that connects to Gmail accounts using Google's software called an application programming interface, or API. When Gmail users open one of these apps, they are shown a button asking permission to access their inbox. If they click it, Google grants the developer a key to access the entire contents of their inbox, including the ability to read the contents of messages and send and delete individual messages on their behalf. Microsoft also offers API tools for email.
With Gmail, the developers who get this access range from one-person startups to large corporations, and their processes for protecting data privacy vary.
Return Path, based in New York, gains access to inboxes when users sign up for one of its apps or one of the 163 apps offered by Return Path's partners. Return Path gives the app makers software tools for managing email data in return for letting it peer into their users' inboxes.
Return Path's system is designed to check if commercial emails are read by their intended recipients. It provides customers including Overstock.com Inc. a dashboard where they can see which of their marketing messages reached the most customers. Overstock didn't respond to a request for comment.
Marketers can view screenshots of some actual emails'--with names and addresses stripped out'--to see what their competitors are sending. Return Path says it doesn't let marketers target emails specifically to users.
Navideh Forghani, 34 years old, of Phoenix, signed up this year for Earny Inc., a tool that compares receipts in inboxes to prices across the web. When Earny finds a better price for items its users purchase, it automatically contacts the sellers and obtains refunds for the difference, which it shares with the users.
Earny had a partnership with Return Path, which connected its computer scanners to Ms. Forghani's email and began collecting and processing all of the new messages that arrived in her inbox. Ms. Forghani says she didn't read Earny's privacy policy closely and has never heard of Return Path. ''It is definitely concerning,'' she says of the information collection.
Matt Blumberg, Return Path's chief executive, says users are given clear notice that their email will be monitored. All of Return Path's partner apps mention the email monitoring on their websites, he says, and Earny's privacy policy states that Return Path would ''have access to your information and will be permitted to use that information according to their own privacy policy.''
Oded Vakrat, Earny's CEO, says his company doesn't sell or share data with any outside companies. Earny users can opt out of Return Path's email monitoring, he says. ''We are actively looking for ways to improve and go above and beyond with how we communicate our privacy policy,'' he says.
Return Path says its computers are supposed to strip out personal emails from what it sends into its system by examining senders' domain names and searching for specific words, such as ''grandma.'' The computers are supposed to delete such emails.
In 2016, Return Path discovered its algorithm was mislabeling many personal emails as commercial, according to a person familiar with the matter. That meant millions of personal messages that should have been deleted were passing through to Return Path's servers, the person says.
To correct the problem, Return Path assigned two data analysts to spend several days reading 8,000 emails and manually labeling each one, the person says. The data helped train the company's computers to better distinguish between personal and commercial emails.
Return Path declined to comment on details of the incident, but said it sometimes lets employees see emails when fixing problems with its algorithms. The company uses ''extreme caution'' to safeguard privacy by limiting access to a few engineers and data scientists and deleting all data after the work is completed, says Mr. Blumberg.
Jules Polonetsky, CEO of the nonprofit Future of Privacy Forum, says he thinks users want to know specifically whether humans are reviewing their data, and that apps should explain that clearly.
At Edison Software, based in San Jose, Calif., executives and engineers developing a new feature to suggest ''smart replies'' based on emails' content initially used their own emails for the process, but there wasn't enough data to train the algorithm, says Mr. Berner, the CEO.
Two of its artificial-intelligence engineers signed agreements not to share anything they read, Mr. Berner says. Then, working on machines that prevented them from downloading information to other devices, they read the personal email messages of hundreds of users'--with user information already redacted'--along with the system's suggested replies, manually indicating whether each made sense.
Neither Return Path nor Edison mentions the possibility of humans viewing users' emails in their privacy policies.
Mr. Berner says he believes Edison's privacy policy covers this practice by telling users the company collects and stores personal messages to improve its artificial-intelligence algorithms. Edison users can opt out of data collection, he says. The practice, he says, is similar to a telephone company technician listening to a phone line to make sure it is working.
Write to Douglas MacMillan at douglas.macmillan@wsj.com
Google Is Building a City of the Future in Toronto. Would Anyone Want to Live There? - POLITICO Magazine
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 14:11
TORONTO'--Even with a chilly mid-May breeze blowing off Lake Ontario, this city's western waterfront approaches idyllic. The lake laps up against the boardwalk, people sit in colorful Adirondack chairs and footfalls of pedestrians compete with the cry of gulls. But walk east, and the scene quickly changes. Cut off from gleaming downtown Toronto by the Gardiner Expressway, the city trails off into a dusty landscape of rock-strewn parking lots and heaps of construction materials. Toronto's eastern waterfront is bleak enough that Guillermo del Toro's gothic film The Shape of Water used it as a plausible stand-in for Baltimore circa 1962. Says Adam Vaughan, a former journalist who represents this district in Canada's Parliament, ''It's this weird industrial land that's just been sitting there'--acres and acres of it. And no one's really known what to do with it.''
That was before Google.
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This past October, a coalition of the Toronto, Ontario and Canadian governments contracted with Sidewalk Labs, a sister company of Google, to come up with a $50 million design for a dozen acres on the waterfront's far eastern end. The idea is to reimagine Toronto's derelict waterfront as ''the world's first neighborhood built from the internet up,'' as Sidewalk describes it. The neighborhood, called Quayside, would leapfrog the usual slow walk of gentrification to build an entire zone, all at once, as a ''smart city,'' a sensor-enabled, highly wired metropolis that can run itself.
Toronto's choice of the Google-affiliated firm immediately captured the attention of urban planners and city officials all over the world; magazine stories trumpeted ''Google's Guinea-Pig City'' and ''A Smarter Smart City.'' Still in its early days, the partnership has left people curious but wary. Google? What does a tech company know about running a real live city?
In one sense, what's perhaps surprising is that it has taken this long. Silicon Valley's innovators have long had side obsessions with making the world a better place, driven largely by the confidence that their own brainpower and a near-total disregard for tradition can break old logjams. PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel helped seed the ''seasteading'' movement to create offshore libertarian paradises; the tech incubator YCombinator is currently running a public-policy experiment in Oakland, California, giving residents a guaranteed monthly stipend to see how it might improve their quality of life.
The notion of the feedback-rich ''smart city'' has circulated for years, and in practice has mostly taken the shape of centuries-old cities like New York or Boston adopting sensor-enabled stoplights or equipping their residents with an app for spotting potholes. But the real dream, a place whose constant data flow lets it optimize services constantly, requires something different, a ground-up project not only woven through with sensors and Wi-Fi, but shaped around waves of innovation still to come, like self-driving cars. Thanks to a host of technological advances, that's practical now in a way it never has been before. Mass-produced sensors now cost less than a dollar apiece, even for hobbyists; high-speed broadband and cheap cloud computing mean that a city can collect and analyze reams of data in real time.
In Toronto, Sidewalk sketches out a picture of a neighborhood where intelligent ''pay-as-you-throw'' garbage chutes separate out recyclables and charge households by waste output; where hyperlocal weather sensors could detect a coming squall and heat up a snow-melting sidewalk. Apps would tell residents when the Adirondack chairs on the waterfront are open, and neighbors would crowdsource approvals for block-party permits, giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down based on the noise the gathering was expected to produce. Traffic signals could auto-calibrate to ease pedestrian congestion during public events, or to ensure a smooth rush hour. The data from such systems would feed back into the city, which would constantly learn, optimizing its own operations from month to month, year to year. Sidewalk promises ''the most measurable community in the world.''
The idea is to reimagine Toronto's derelict waterfront as ''the world's first neighborhood built from the internet up.''
But with it comes a host of new questions, points out Vaughan, the Toronto MP. Day to day, a truly smart city runs on data and algorithms rather than civic decisions made by humans. So, who owns all the data produced by the city of the future? Who controls it? Whose laws apply?
These have been mostly abstract questions for urban-studies seminars so far, as cities adopt relatively small-bore innovations, like a streetlight system in Chicago that self-reports malfunctions to keep the lights on in high-crime areas. But there are already hints of darker potential. The ruler of Dubai says his plan to collect data on citizens is intended to ''make Dubai the happiest city on earth,'' but skeptics of the United Arab Emirates' human rights record aren't so sure what will happen when all its cellphone-obsessed residents are being tracked by an authoritarian state. ''The reality is that conversation is coming to cities anyway,'' Vaughan says. ''Let's have it now.''
Fans of what's become known as Sidewalk Toronto say there are few better places to have this conversation than Canada, a Western democracy that takes seriously debates over informational privacy and data ownership'--and is known for managing to stay polite while discussing even hot-button civic issues. Hitching up with tech companies that are flush with both cash and grand visions might be cities' best chance to leap into the future, or at least to turbocharge their lagging districts. But some aren't so sure cities will get the better end of the deal. Google is already buying up chunks of the Bay Area and New York; its power and public appeal could easily overwhelm cash-strapped local governments even before it becomes the repository for all that citizen data. Some urbanists and good-government advocates fret that going down the aisle with big corporations might be a short-term salvation that, generations from now, will have set cities on the wrong path.
***
Anthony Townsend, an urban planner and forecaster, has spent most of his career on the question of how the thoughtful application of technology can help cities solve their problems, including challenges of sustainability and inclusion. He is a champion of the idea that cities should engage in careful ''digital master planning,'' thinking through for themselves the role of technology in urban life. He's not shy about touting the importance of the movement, especially for sustainable living'--in a 2013 book, Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia, he wrote: ''The real killer app for smart cities' new technologies is the survival of our species'''--but also warns that cities are in danger of blindly and haphazardly embracing innovations presented to them by industry.
In Toronto, he likes the approach Sidewalk has taken so far: Rather than designing its own tech fantasy from scratch, Sidewalk started by asking Toronto for its own vision for its future, through a full year of public consultations, and it is using that to shape the company's plans. He wonders, though, whether Quayside is ambitious enough'--whether its accumulation of existing technology really amounts to the kind of breakthrough cities need. Modern cities, with money and an educated population, should be the labs for big new ideas about living, and Sidewalk is their best shot right now. ''I look at the bar that Google and [parent company] Alphabet have set for innovation, I look at what was proposed for Toronto, and I think, where are the moonshots?'' he wonders.
Other observers counter that Sidewalk is aiming high'--that aggregating all that technology in one place could be its own kind of breakthrough. One analogy that Sidewalk itself uses is to ancient Rome: The Romans didn't invent the aqueduct, but their engineering skill meant that their capital had a totally unprecedented supply of clean water, allowing them to build a city like nothing else that had ever existed. Modern cities thrive on information, but none has built itself around data infrastructure in a similar way; connecting a bevy of smaller-scale innovations through a common networked digital platform could be a hugely powerful innovation in itself. Sidewalk's former chief operating officer, borrowing a term from the software world, calls it a chance to ''reimagine the full stack.'' Bruce Katz, co-author of the 2018 book The New Localism and founder of the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program, says ''when you put it all together, you are talking about the future being fast forwarded.''
Google is not the first company to try reimagining a city. Epcot Center, the Florida theme park, has its roots as a real city-building idea. The name is an acronym for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, and it began as Walt Disney's vision of a carefully engineered urban paradise of the 1960s, one that would ''take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centers of American industry.'' ''I don't believe there's a challenge anywhere in the world that's more important to people everywhere than finding solutions to the problems of our cities,'' Disney said in a 1966 promo film introducing what would become Disney World. No less than the New York ''master builder'' Robert Moses called Disney's vision for Epcot ''overwhelming.'' But it wouldn't come to pass. Disney died of lung cancer shortly after shooting that film, and Disney, the company, balked at being in the city-building business. It ended up as a theme park.
But a great deal has changed since Disney's time. Cities themselves have more money and energy than ever; rather than building from scratch, like Disney did, modern smart-city builders want to harness the energy and dynamism of existing cities. And today's ''new technologies'' are more seamlessly integrated into people's daily lives than even Disney might have imagined. The corporations behind the technologies, like Google, have the power and reach to envision changes on a scale far beyond a theme park.
A truly smart city runs on data and algorithms rather than civic decisions made by humans. So, who owns all the data? Whose laws apply?
Google had been interested in city-building for some time'--former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has said that founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin began dreaming about reengineering cities ''years ago'''--but its venture into urbanism got more concrete in 2014, when Schmidt reached out to Dan Doctoroff, an investor and philanthropist who had been a deputy mayor of New York during Michael Bloomberg's administration and energetically drove its rebuilding after the 9/11 attacks. (''Dan Doctoroff has done more to change the face of this city than anyone since Robert Moses,'' Bloomberg once said.) Doctoroff was available: He had become CEO of Bloomberg's media company and then left when the former mayor unexpectedly returned.
Doctoroff formed Sidewalk Labs and headquartered it in Hudson Yards, a brand-new neighborhood on Manhattan's once-seedy far west side that took root amid what was left over from a failed 2012 Olympic bid that Doctoroff had helmed. (There was supposed to be a stadium in that spot.) And the company started looking for land.
Doctoroff had learned in New York that it's far easier to build where there are no people, and where higher levels of government can't tell you no, and Toronto had a rare opportunity on the table. Appealingly, it was on the waterfront, and the city was ready for it to change. It even had a new government structure in place to oversee the property, an entity called Waterfront Toronto, made up of three layers of government'--city, provincial and national'--which itself is the product of a failed Olympic bid. Its job was to make something happen. That so much of government was already on board with the waterfront project was hugely appealing to Sidewalk. Canada's youthful prime minister, Justin Trudeau, was invested in the idea; he had already been talking to Google's leadership about the possibility of a second Silicon Valley north of the border.
But in Schmidt's view, there was more than that in Toronto's favor. The local tech sector was booming. In fact, the very artificial intelligence that powers post-search Google was in large part pioneered at the University of Toronto. Toronto, whose population is half foreign-born, is a magnet for immigrants, and ''technology is powered by immigrants,'' said Schmidt. Doctoroff would later testify that Sidewalk had scoured the world, and ''out of the entire world, the single place that we thought was the best was Toronto.''
Waterfront Toronto issued a request for proposals for the site, with a tight turnaround of six weeks. Sidewalk scrambled and generated a plan hundreds of pages long, complete with quirky line drawings of local features, that offered a sweeping vision of a neighborhood built from the ground up'--actually, from below the ground up'--to be a home for innovation. It got the contract. At a news conference last October to announce the partnership,Trudeau argued that Torontonians had little choice but to get engaged in the debate about what could happen on the waterfront: ''We know the world is changing, and the choice we have is either resist it and be frightened by it'''--here, the PM mimed a grimace while pushing back an imagined force'--''or to say, we can step up, together, and shape it.''
***
So far, the deal hasn't exactly been a victory for transparency; Waterfront Toronto has declined to make the exact terms of its deal with Sidewalk public, so no one on the outside knows exactly what the city has promised Google, or vice versa. But the basic idea is for Sidewalk to go on a yearlong local listening tour, brainstorming along the way for a master development plan for the dozen-acre slice of land. If the plan is approved by Waterfront Toronto's board, that group and Sidewalk will serve as co-master developers, with the latter in charge of funding and ''innovation'''--how to design streets to handle self-driving cars, or how to build underground utility channels serving as conduits for city services that haven't even been dreamt up yet.
Charged with pulling all this off is Rohit Aggarwala, Sidewalk's head of urban systems. Known as ''Rit,'' Aggarwala'--like Trudeau, a spirited 46'--sports rimless glasses and close-cropped hair, and is something of the brains behind the Sidewalk Labs operation. Aggarwala, too, served in New York City government, as head of its sustainability plan. (Perhaps the flagship initiative of that plan, congestion pricing to ease traffic in the heart of the city, did not come to pass.) Aggarwala, who along the way picked up a master's degree in Canadian history, with a thesis called ''American Trade and Urban Dominance in Upper Canada, 1830-1850,'' said by phone that Quayside is ''clearly one of the most important potential new neighborhoods in North America.''
Part of the founding team at Sidewalk Labs, Aggarwala made a study of neighborhoods, even whole cities, designed from scratch. One was the original Epcot, which he credits as a visionary project that tried to ambitiously ''move the needle'''--in part by trying to conquer the sometimes inhospitably hot and humid environment of inland Florida with a vast downtown dome. With cars banished below ground, humans would travel around instead via never-stopping electric-powered trollies called People Movers. And it wasn't seen as a static achievement: Prefiguring the philosophy of ''iteration'' that would come to dominate Silicon Valley, Walt Disney said in the 1966 film that Epcot would ''always be in a state of becoming.'' It's an important principle, says Aggarwala. Even a highly planned community isn't done just because it's opened its doors.
What's more, even cities built from scratch aren't built in a vacuum, separate from traditional politics or conventional local goals. Aggarwala's counterpart in government is Kristina Verner, who once taught computer science at the nearby University of Windsor and now directs the innovation and sustainability portfolio for Waterfront Toronto. She considers herself a ''smart-cities nerd'' but says that the ''smart city'' branding that's attracted so much attention is more Google's than Toronto's. The city itself was mainly interested in the promise of solid economic development and a quick timetable. Sidewalk's pitch had a number of compelling points, she says: There was the financial commitment, in the form of the pledge of some $50 million poured into developing a plan for the site, and its ability to deliver that plan in a single year. Appealingly, Google itself promised to anchor the project, moving its Canadian headquarters from Toronto's financial district down to a to-be-determined spot on the eastern waterfront. But most attractive, she says, is that Sidewalk's proposal was soup to nuts. It was not simply a smart-cities play; it considered everything from sustainability to housing. ''Sidewalk's response was holistic in its answers to the questions posed,'' Verner says.
The relationship between government and Sidewalk remains a work in progress, and some critics worry that handing over too much control to a private company will set the wrong precedent. By definition, the autonomy of a smart city means taking some hands-on day-to-day decision-making away from elected officials and civil servants. And when the complex algorithms and data-collection decisions driving those city operations are in the hands of one company, that can raise worries that too much power over our civic lives is being handed over to private interests.
''Blurring the line between what is the public sector and what is the private sector is the thematic concern here,'' says Bianca Wylie, a Toronto-based open-government advocate and co-founder of the group Tech Reset Canada. ''We're talking about a lot of things that are municipal-service-delivery-related. Infrastructure'--I keep hearing the word 'infrastructure.' What are we talking about? What kinds of products and services are we talking about? And we're in this situation where we're making policy on the fly with a vendor.''
This is the first, and maybe broadest, point of concern that has started to bubble up about smart cities, not just in Toronto. Using data to organize and optimize, Google's expertise since its early days as a search company, makes a lot of sense in the online world, the argument goes, but is a far different tool when it's applied to the chaos that makes cities cities.
Allison Arieff, a San Francisco urbanist and design writer for the New York Times, says she is reserving judgment on Quayside'--after all, a shovel has yet to be put into the ground or sensor hooked up'--but considers herself wary. The for-profit tech sector, shot through with libertarian disdain for government and the build-and-flip ethos of the startup world, isn't well-matched for the kind of work it takes to run a city: long-term, and driven by civic improvement rather than stock prices. The most fundamental flaw she sees when it comes to Silicon Valley's city-building ambitions is the gap between what data can and can't do.The beauty of urban life is what happens organically, argues Arieff.''They really do believe in their heart and soul that it's all algorithmically controllable,'' she says, ''and it's just not.''
''They really do believe in their heart and soul that it's all algorithmically controllable,'' says urbanist Allison Arieff, ''and it's just not.''
At the street level, another worry is that Sidewalk could exacerbate a trend in urban innovation toward intentionally cutting down on actual human interactions. If even the beach chairs are wired and reservable, do neighbors ever have to meet? An example of what concerns urbanists is the ''meatless and wheatless'' eatery near Google's current Toronto headquarters, at which there are separate counter locations for picking up orders made via two competing Toronto-based food apps. Local workers breeze in, flash a phone, grab their prepackaged almond lime bowls and breeze out. It's impossibly efficient, and appealing to young tech workers who never have to take out their earbuds, but it also eliminates the most basic kind of human interaction at the heart of city living.
This is a growing critique of the ''smart cities'' movement, and I put it to Aggarwala. He considers it a caricature'--''It is taking it to a ridiculous extreme the idea that, 'Oh, you can run everything by an algorithm,''' he shoots back'--and thinks the critics are missing the point. Urbanists like Arieff, or the famed author and activist Jane Jacobs, value the fabric of cities for its density, life and serendipity. Aggarwala sees data as a way to protect and improve that experience, not replace it. Traffic signals already in place in many cities are timed to make it so no driver is kept waiting at a red light on an empty street in the middle of the night'--making cities both safer and smoother-running. Expanding that technology could do the same for the pedestrians that urbanists love. Today's technology, Aggarwala says, can ''optimize everyone's needs in a more rational way.'' Sidewalk's idea for snow-melting sidewalks would let residents enjoy more of the city for more of the year. Self-driving cars, integrated properly into the streetscape, could make it more humane. ''If you can count on a car to go straight down the middle of the street and obey the speed limit at all times, you can redesign the street'' in all sorts of ways, he says.
***
If all this seems like a great deal of attention directed at a tiny plot of land that takes about eight minutes to cross on foot, that's because there is, lurking behind Quayside, far more on the table. Just about all players involved believe that if Sidewalk can be successful at Quayside, it has a shot at the adjoining 800-acre Port Lands, a swath of problem space big enough to become home to a dozen new neighborhoods in a growing metropolis. Townsend, the consultant, says of the Port Lands: ''That's a city they're going to build there. This is just the warmup, this little piece.''
A project on that scale'--a dozen neighborhoods in one of the highest-profile cities in North America'--could set the tone for urban development all over the world from here on out. What sort of tone that will be, though, is the big question, and one area in which there are the fewest answers is the simple matter of information.
A truly smart city stands to radically increase the amount of data collected on its citizens and visitors, and it puts into sharp relief the responsibility a local government'--and the contractors it would inevitability hire to manage some of that digital infrastructure'--would have to both hold and probe that data. That dynamic quickly turns the future of the smart city from a technological question to a fundamentally civic one. Heaps of data are already piling up in cities around the world, with very little agreement on the best way to handle all that information. Toronto could well be a test bed, a suggestion Doctoroff has made himself.
At one of the series of roundtables Sidewalk Toronto has held, Doctoroff responded to a question about data management by saying, ''There are cameras everywhere anyway. There's chaos out there. Together we can bring order.'' Whose ''order'' will it be? That's what worries people. Take Dubai, says Ann Cavoukian, a civic-privacy specialist who is consulting for Sidewalk on the Toronto project. ''It's horrible'--the antithesis of privacy. They use sensors to identify everybody and track their movements.'' That city in the United Arab Emirates set out in 2014 to become what it called the world's smartest city. The director of the effort has said, ''In Dubai, we believe that happiness can be measured, and that we can aid our leadership to positively impact happiness for the city, through science and technology.''
Cavoukian served three terms as Ontario's privacy commissioner and is now Sidewalk Labs' lead outside privacy consultant on the Toronto project. She is known for having developed a concept called ''privacy by design,'' which in its simplest form argues that privacy must be baked into everything from software to cities from the very beginning. In an ideal privacy regime, the system can't track individuals; any personally identifiable information on people living in or moving through Quayside would be scrubbed right at the sensor. So a sidewalk, for example, could track the flow of pedestrians all day without ever knowing who they were. ''You strip the personal identifiers, you get rid of the privacy concerns,'' Cavoukian says.
Aggarwala says that over time Sidewalk has come to appreciate ''how deeply different'' the Canadian view of privacy is compared with that in the United States. Canadians tend to see privacy as a fundamental human right; Americans have historically been more willing to see it as something that should be protected, with abuses punished after the fact, but which can be traded away in exchange for some benefits, like free Gmail. Google makes its billions in large part by collecting data on its users and slicing and dicing it for the benefit of advertisers. Sidewalk has already stipulated that data collected in Quayside won't be used for advertising purposes. Says Cavoukian, ''It's not going to be a smart city of surveillance. It's going to be a smart city of privacy, and that will be a first.''
But even if, as Cavoukian contends, stripping personally identifiable data at the sensor in most cases largely addresses privacy concerns, other worries remain. Some privacy advocates worry about the idea of collective privacy, or the idea that data can be used to know things about communities they would rather not have everyone know, like tracking residents' movements to create a profile of the overall rhythms of a neighborhood, or even analyzing sewage for signs of concentrated drug use. That issue hasn't come up for discussion in Quayside, Cavoukian says. (Asked about it, Aggarwala says that community-level data can be hugely useful, pointing to the value of the Canadian and U.S. censuses, which are largely uncontroversial data-collection efforts.) And then there's the idea of what sort of entity makes the calls on how the data can be used. Waterfront Toronto's CEO has floated the notion of a ''data trust,'' a third party that would make decisions about proper uses of the information collected at Quayside.
While many of those questions of data are still abstract, one particularly pressing concern is data residency'--simply put, where the machines that hold the data generated by Quayside will actually reside. That matters, in part, because the laws of that place will largely govern how it can be used. The information economy depends on highly networked, decentralized systems that share data across companies, devices and borders. This data sharing has lately become a political issue, in part because the United States' handling of data has been the subject of global suspicion since the revelations of Edward Snowden. Some countries, including China, Russia and Brazil, reacted to evidence of U.S. companies' sharing of user data with the U.S. government by demanding so-called data localization or data sovereignty'--requiring that information that affects a country's people must be physically housed inside its borders. The United States had been making some headway advocating for open digital borders in trade negotiations, but President Donald Trump's withdrawal from some of those agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, means, says Daniel Castro, director of the Center for Data Innovation at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, ''the U.S. is no longer at the forefront'' of that debate.
Canadians see privacy as a fundamental human right; Americans see it as something that should be protected, with abuses punished after the fact.
When it comes to Quayside residents, Cavoukian says the data should stay in Canada'--be collected, processed and stored on Canadian servers. Waterfront Toronto's Verner, though, isn't so sure that's possible or even wise. As they have worked through the planning process for Quayside, she says, they have come across instances where it makes sense to let the data migrate, such as if the expert best able to solve an issue with a sensor in Toronto is located in, say, New York. Or if a company providing a service riding on top of the Sidewalk-powered digital layer is housed on the other side of the world. Keeping all the data strictly in Canada, Verner says, ''is a layer of making sure we've got an entire help desk, call center, or whatever it is here in Canada'''--and that, she says, might not be practical.
As the data debate makes clear, there's much here that isn't going to be in Toronto's hands, or even Sidewalk's, and it's not clear that the city has worked out that issue yet. Townsend, the former Sidewalk consultant, jabs that thus far in Toronto, Sidewalk has spent more time discussing garbage innovation than data management. ''This is the city-level question of our time,'' he says. ''And they haven't taken the slightest step in trying to even create a vision there.''
Sidewalk officials say they agree about the stakes'--''we have the opportunity here to really be innovators in terms of data governance,'' says one'--but say it's still a work in progress. Verner argues that the conversations will flow more freely once there are specific technologies to which to react. Cavoukian, for her part, holds that Sidewalk's only failing thus far is not pushing back aggressively enough against complaints about the company's seriousness when it comes to privacy. The company is giving every sign so far, she says, of making the correct moves.
***
The tech industry famously moves quickly, municipal governments less so. And as tech companies grow more interested in building cities of the future, some urban-development experts are drawing attention to what they say is a power imbalance. On the one hand, there's a well-funded industry comfortable with navigating the cutting edge of innovation. On the other, there are local governments eager to get their hands on tech's benefits quickly'--but which often lack the time, money and expertise to properly assess what, exactly, they stand to gain from it.
Cities can find themselves at the mercy of companies pitching everything from shiny new apps to, in the case of Amazon, a shiny second headquarters. ''Toronto got excited, people in the city are demanding this new city, and the city has, a little bit, lost control of the conversation,'' says Simone Brody, executive director of Bloomberg Philanthropies' What Works Cities. ''This isn't just a Google-Toronto problem. It's an Uber problem. It's an autonomous vehicle problem. Cities haven't figured out how to take the power back.''
Sidewalk says it appreciates the balance and takes pride in not nudging cities for handouts. Even Townsend, who can be critical of Sidewalk's work on Toronto, says it compares well on that point to Amazon, whose high-profile headquarters search has seen cities competing to offer the giant the sweetest deal. They should be careful what they wish for, he says: ''I think Amazon is always going to be an occupying force wherever they end up.''
But Brody argues that even where companies attempt to carefully navigate that power imbalance, it exists. The cold hard fact is that while cities have struggled, Silicon Valley has companies that have produced astonishingly large heaps of cash. And in many cases, they need places to put it. One way of looking at the Sidewalk Toronto project, argues Townsend, is as a bid for a hugely valuable piece of real estate dressed up with a bit of what he calls ''smartwashing.'' Google has been in the market for attractive properties in knowledge centers lately. It recently bought Manhattan's Chelsea Market for a whopping $2.4 billion. For companies with overflowing coffers, cities are an attractive place to put that cash.
Municipal governments, naturally, welcome those deep-pocketed corporate citizens, who often come bearing ideas for urban improvements. But officials might soon find that those companies end up owning not just slices of real estate but also, as they take on more local responsibility, huge chunks of information about how cities themselves function. ''When it comes to future negotiations, it's frightening that Google will have that data and cities won't,'' Brody says. Sidewalk has pointedly engaged in a series of public meetings and online consultations meant to give Torontonians a voice in the process. ''We are aware that we can't do anything without government,'' Doctoroff has said, ''and we are extraordinarily respectful of it.'' An on-site pavilion is meant to open up in Quayside in late summer. Some in the urban affairs world see that back-and-forth as a huge improvement over how developers tend to work, and give Sidewalk credit for rethinking the often hopelessly adversarial process that often marks real-estate projects.
''This is really a grand experiment, in many respects, that is going to teach not just Toronto but really cities all across the world what is the future city going to look like,'' says Bruce Katz, the author and former Brookings Institution official. ''And I can't imagine a better group of people to be entrusted with it.''
''Of course,'' he adds with a laugh, ''if you're Toronto, you're the lab.''
My Singularity
Hearing aid garbage chute story lost mate
ICE
Paul explains who does what at the border
Adam,
I know I mentioned this before but There is no Customs and
Border Patrol. CBP stands for Customs and Border Protection. The US Border
Patrol is a component of CBP, as is ICE. All are under DHS. Much of the
media makes the same mistake, understandable but not accurate.
ICE was formed at the onset of Homeland security in 2003 and
combined legacy INS Criminal Investigators with US Customs criminal
investigators. Interestingly, it was not always easy then and probably not now
to get ICE to even work immigration cases since many of the legacy Customs
investigators could not speak Spanish. Spanish language ability was mandatory
within INS enforcement agents. But, in recent years their focus is back on
aliens in a bigger way.
Interior checkpoints (within 100 air miles) are operated by
the US Border Patrol. I spent 15 years working at three checkpoints before
transferring to a line station where we work the border itself. I am happy to
see you researched that checkpoints are upheld by the SCOTUS. The idea
behind them is a secondary line of defense to funnel and apprehend illegal
traffic after it has made it away from the actual border. A factor that was
instrumental in making checkpoints so prolific was the courts' propensity
toward suppressing roving patrol traffic stops. The government could legally
get away with stopping everyone so that is what is done.
The U.S is being gamed by asylum seekers. The vast majority
of claims will be denied since their real reason for coming is financial.
Activists groups and the open borders people are spreading the word to ask for
asylum and bring children to bog down the ability to detain pending a decision.
It buys time and if you are released you can disappear. The answer is either
changing the law or simply speeding up the adjudication process. Conduct
credible fear interviews and asylum hearings every day at
detention centers then immediately remove those who are denied. When I was
still on the job until 2010, it was rare for any OTM (other than Mexican) to
even claim asylum.
By the way, I was present when the first iteration of walls
were constructed, 2005-2008 and in my area of responsibility, it made
our job much easier. However, a wall is just another tool that must be
enforced. It is a force multiplier but must be patrolled diligently. You can't
just build it and go wander off to the coffee shop.
You and John really are the best podcast in the universe. I
never miss a show.
All the best!
Paul Wells, US Border Patrol, Retired and douchebag
Poop Report
Wait until bird bikes start wiping out in poop on the sidewalks to do something about the homeless situation in Austin
The Death of a Once Great City | Harper's Magazine
Tue, 03 Jul 2018 12:36
N ew York has been my home for more than forty years, from the year after the city's supposed nadir in 1975, when it nearly went bankrupt. I have seen all the periods of boom and bust since, almost all of them related to the ''paper economy'' of finance and real estate speculation that took over the city long before it did the rest of the nation. But I have never seen what is going on now: the systematic, wholesale transformation of New York into a reserve of the obscenely wealthy and the barely here'--a place increasingly devoid of the idiosyncrasy, the complexity, the opportunity, and the roiling excitement that make a city great.
As New York enters the third decade of the twenty-first century, it is in imminent danger of becoming something it has never been before: unremarkable. It is approaching a state where it is no longer a significant cultural entity but the world's largest gated community, with a few cupcake shops here and there. For the first time in its history, New York is, well, boring.
This is not some new phenomenon but a cancer that's been metastasizing on the city for decades now. And what's happening to New York now'--what's already happened to most of Manhattan, its core'--is happening in every affluent American city. San Francisco is overrun by tech conjurers who are rapidly annihilating its remarkable diversity; they swarm in and out of the metropolis in specially chartered buses to work in Silicon Valley, using the city itself as a gigantic bed-and-breakfast. Boston, which used to be a city of a thousand nooks and crannies, back-alley restaurants and shops, dive bars and ice cream parlors hidden under its elevated, is now one long, monotonous wall of modern skyscraper. In Washington, an army of cranes has transformed the city in recent years, smoothing out all that was real and organic into a town of mausoleums for the Trump crowd to revel in.
By trying to improve our cities, we have only succeeded in making them empty simulacra of what was. To bring this about we have signed on to political scams and mindless development schemes that are so exclusive they are more destructive than all they were supposed to improve. The urban crisis of affluence exemplifies our wider crisis: we now live in an America where we believe that we no longer have any ability to control the systems we live under.
Construction on 57th Street, Billionaires' Row, by Fred R. Conrad
T hose of us who have been in New York for any amount of time are immediately suspected of nostalgia if we dare to compare our shiny city of today unfavorably, in any way, with what came before. So let me make one thing perfectly clear, as that old New Yorker Dick Nixon used to say, and list right now all the things I hated about the New York of the Seventies: crime, dirt, days-old garbage left on the street, cockroaches, the Bronx burning, homelessness, discarded hypodermic needles on my building's stoop, discarded crack vials'--and packs of burned-out matches'--on my building's stoop, cockroaches that scattered everywhere when you turned on the light, entire Brooklyn neighborhoods looking like a bombed-out Dresden, subway cars on which only one door'--or no door'--opened when the train came in, subway cars cooled in summer rush hours only by a single fan that swung slowly around and around, deindustrialization, those really big cockroaches that we called water bugs for some reason and that crunched under your feet.
New York today'--in the aggregate'--is probably a wealthier, healthier, cleaner, safer, less corrupt, and better-run city than it has ever been. The same can be said for most of those other cities seen as recent urban success stories, from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, Atlanta to Portland, Oregon. But we don't live in the aggregate. For all of New York's shiny new skin and shiny new numbers, what's most amazing is how little of its social dysfunction the city has managed to eliminate over the past four decades. Homelessness is at or near record levels. The Bronx, poster child for the bleakness of the city in the Seventies, remains the poorest urban county in the country, with almost 40 percent of the South Bronx, or more than a quarter-million people, still living below the poverty line. Bus-stop ads all over New York urge everyone to carry the emergency medication naloxone so that they can reverse some of the overdoses that kill nearly four New Yorkers every day.
The average New Yorker now works harder than ever, for less and less. Poverty in the city has lessened somewhat in the past few years, but in 2016 the official poverty rate was still 19.5 percent, or nearly one in every five New Yorkers. When the ''near poverty'' rate'--those making up to $47,634 a year for a family of four'--is thrown in, it means that almost half the city is living what has become a marginal existence, just one paycheck away from disaster. By comparison, the city's poverty rate in 1970'--in the wake of Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty'--was just 11.5 percent. By 1975, during the supposed collapse of New York, it had increased to 15 percent, a figure lower than it has ever been since then.
The immediate cause of the increase in poverty doesn't require much investigation. The landlords are killing the town. Long ago, the idea that ''rent is too damn high'' in New York was so thoroughly inculcated into the city's consciousness that it became a one-man political party and a Saturday Night Live sketch. But the rent is too damn high, and getting higher all the time. Whereas the old rule of thumb was that your rent should be one paycheck a month, or about 25 percent of your income, the typical New York household now spends at least one third of its income on rent, and three in ten renter households pay 50 percent or more, according to the latest New York Housing and Vacancy Survey.
And the situation is getting rapidly worse. According to the same survey, the price New York landlords wanted for vacant apartments from 2014 to 2017 increased by 30 percent, while the median household income for all renting families from 2013 to 2016 went up by 10 percent. The burden has fallen hardest on those who can least afford it, according to the real estate database StreetEasy, with rents rising fastest on the lowest wage earners in the city.
1 Although New York hosts what is estimated to be the largest population of homeless people in the United States, it is no coincidence that the other cities in the top ten are also generally seen as ''success stories.'' Tracking total numbers of the homeless has never been an exact science, but other cities that have some of the largest homeless populations include Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego, Washington, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Boston, and Philadelphia.The result has been predictable enough. Homelessness in the city has reached a level not seen here in decades, if ever. Today, an average of 60,000 people are provided shelter every night, in 547 buildings, by the city's Department of Homeless Services. Most of the newly homeless are not derelicts or the mentally ill. Of these people 70 percent are families with children, and at least one third of the families include a working adult. They were simply priced out of a market that seems to have no ceiling, victims of the ''ownership society'' that is modern New York.1 Whereas most New Yorkers used to rent apartments of all sizes, more and more of the buildings their families made home for generations have been either torn down and replaced or ''converted'' to condominiums or ''cooperative apartments,'' which sound like something socialistic but are not. The average condo and co-op sale prices in Manhattan shot up past the $2 million mark for the first time ever last year, while a townhouse will cost you $6.28 million.
One common belief, even in many liberal circles, is that the cause of these outrageous rents and prices is the very government intervention that was intended to ameliorate them: rent regulation. This notion might have some validity if, say, rent regulations in New York stifled construction. But they don't. New buildings in the city are not subject to rent control and never have been. More than 40,000 new buildings went up during Michael Bloomberg's twelve years as mayor (2002''13), and another 25,000 buildings were demolished. The city continues to furiously tear itself down and build itself back up again. New buildings are spiked into every available lot, and they rise higher than ever before.
Far from discouraging new construction, New York's housing policies encourage and subsidize it at every turn'--and, in doing so, have only made the city less affordable than ever. New York has had some sort of rent regulation continuously since 1943, and today nearly half of its apartments'--966,000 in all, containing around 2.5 million people'--are what is called rent-stabilized; that is, they are in buildings of six or more units, and are occupied by tenants who cannot be evicted or denied a lease renewal without due cause, and whose rents cannot be raised by more than a set amount determined every year by a government-appointed panel. This does not mean the rent doesn't go up. The rent on the rent-stabilized apartment that I've leased since 1980 has more than tripled in that time. Rents can also be raised when apartments are vacated, or when landlords make improvements to the building or to individual apartments.
Once the monthly rent hits $2,700, if an apartment is vacated, or if the total household income exceeds $200,000 for two consecutive years, the unit can pass out of rent stabilization. Forever. From 2006 to 2016, at least 139,000 apartments were deregulated, a number that includes an estimated one quarter of all apartments on the increasingly wealthy Upper West Side of Manhattan, where I live.
This is due to rising incomes at some addresses. But driving deregulation as well is the fact that private equity funds see great possibilities in your neighborhood. Your landlord is now much less likely to be a family or an individual who has owned one or two buildings for years, depending on them for a safe and steady income, and much more likely to be a faceless, massively financed international firm that is highly incentivized to force you out on the street and keep its investors happy. ''Not long ago a rent-stabilized building would sell for ten or at most twelve times its rent roll'--the amount of money, before expenses, that it generates in a year,'' wrote journalist Michael Greenberg in a meticulous analysis that appeared in last August's New York Review of Books. ''Today it sells for perhaps thirty or forty times that amount, or ten times what the rent roll would be after regulated tenants have been dislodged.''
W hat plagues New York, though, is not only the astounding rise in housing prices, disruptive as that is. It is also the wholesale destruction of the public city. Many of the city's most treasured amenities, essential to its middle-class character and built up for decades through the painstaking labors of so many dedicated individuals'--working people and philanthropists, labor leaders and social workers, reformers and politicians'--have now been torn away. Look at almost any public service or space in New York, and you will see that it has been diminished, degraded, appropriated.
The change in their day-to-day lives that has probably delighted New Yorkers the most over the past forty years has been the improvement in the city's vast subway system. Ridership has approached record levels in recent years, and on the first day of 2017, Governor Andrew Cuomo led a giddy celebration to mark the opening of three new stations on the fabled Second Avenue subway, which finally became a (partial) reality after first being proposed in 1920.
The self-congratulations were short-lived, as service on the remainder of the system began to decline precipitously. An antiquated and misconfigured train-signaling system'--one that, at the rate the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is working on it, will be fully replaced sometime in the late 2060s, by which time nanobots will likely have been doing the job for a generation'--began causing longer and longer delays, with both cars and platforms filling up with frustrated, angry passengers. The system's welcome new electronic scheduling signs began to report delays of such length'--next train: 22 minutes'--that they now produced only a Godot-like depression among riders.
In one of the many byzantine quirks of how we are governed in New York, the trains and buses are part of the MTA, which is controlled by Governor Cuomo. But the governor'--allegedly a Democrat'--rejected out of hand a proposal by New York mayor Bill de Blasio for a special ''millionaires' tax'' to fix the transit system, offering instead a ''genius transit challenge'' wherein anyone who came up with a great idea to make the trains run on time could win a million dollars.
The reasons for the subway's breakdown are legion. But the more telling lesson here is that a tax on the wealthiest New Yorkers to restore even the most vital public good cannot be so much as entertained.
51st St. 6:11 pm, from the series Platforms, by Natan Dvir (C) The artist
T he decline of the subways is just the latest diminution of public life in New York. Over the past few decades, what used to be regarded as inviolable public space has been systematically rolled up and surrendered to unelected private authorities. Starting with Central Park in 1980, much of New York's park system has been handed over to privately funded ''conservancies,'' supposedly subordinate to the city government but in truth all-powerful, and quite determined to put everything on a paying basis. A visit to the Central Park Zoo, once free, now costs $18 per adult, $13 per child. A ''total experience'' ticket for the world-renowned Bronx Zoo costs $36.95 for all ''adults'' over the age of twelve, $26.95 for younger children, and $31.95 for seniors'--in a borough where the median yearly household income is $37,525. (Rental of a single-seat stroller at the zoo will cost you $10. A wheelchair is free but requires a $20 deposit, lest you try to scoot off with it.)
Even the streets are no longer fully under public control. Starting in 1984, New York created seventy-five ''business improvement districts,'' more than any other city in the country'--though ­BIDs are now common in nearly every one of the nation's largest metropolitan areas. ­BIDs are supposed to be self-taxing coalitions of businesses, often employing the homeless and destitute to pick up trash, prettify the streets, and organize security patrols. But as the New York Times reported, one of the very first New York ­BIDs instead ''organized the workers into what were called 'goon squads' to use force to chase homeless people out of bank lobbies with A.T.M.s.''
In 2000, the Grand Central Partnership and the 34th Street Partnership ­BIDs finally settled a seven-year lawsuit charging that they had routinely paid their employees just $1 an hour to walk security patrols and clean toilets. The ­BIDs had dragged out the suit in the hope that their often homeless workers would simply give up and go away. But before that could happen, Sonia Sotomayor, then a federal district court judge in Manhattan, found the business districts guilty of breaking minimum-wage laws, using their newfound source of almost free labor to undercut competition'--and handing the money they made as a result to their already well-paid executives.
''You say you're doing so much for the city, but you're making that money off the backs of the homeless,'' Tommy Washington, then a forty-one-year-old former BID worker and plaintiff pointed out. ''You donate lampposts, flower beds, Bryant Park. How are you going to represent beautify if you're doing ugly behind that?''
Washington's question goes to the heart of the new New York, whom it's for, and what it means. Everywhere now, private institutions have largely taken over the neighborhoods around them, repurposing them solely to meet their own needs.
Our tax-free universities have been among the most shameless offenders. Cooper Union'--a cultural landmark founded in 1859 as a night school of the arts and sciences for working men and women'--abolished its legacy of free tuition after clotting the Astor Place area with disturbing glass boxes and nearly driving itself into bankruptcy. Fumihiko Maki's 400,000 square foot, $300 million black monolith at 51 Astor Place'--nicknamed the Death Star by local residents'--may well be the single worst act of vandalism in New York since the original Pennsylvania Station was torn down more than fifty years before, a looming wall that effectively obliterates what was one of the oldest and most vital public places in New York.
Cooper Union may be the most egregious defacer of its own neighborhood, but it's far from the only one. New York University has torn down much of the historic West Village, including most of what was the landmark Provincetown Playhouse and a home that Edgar Allan Poe once lived in. (NYU partially re-created the facade of the Poe house. Quoth the raven: Fuck you.) Columbia University used (and abused) the power of eminent domain to kick out residents and small businesses at the western end of 125th Street, and is now stuffing that street with the huge, glassy, dreadful buildings of its new Manhattanville campus, courtesy of its own international vandal, sorry, starchitect, Renzo Piano.
This has become an accepted way of proceeding in New York, even for subsidized institutions that are supposed to serve a public purpose. Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards, in downtown Brooklyn, was sold to the public in an elaborate bait-and-switch scheme as part of a spectacular ''urban utopia'' complex to be designed by Frank Gehry. It ended up instead as an arena with all the charm of your basic bus terminal, home to an unwanted basketball team owned by a Russian oligarch. But then, as with any major New York development today, some form of deception is requisite. The Atlantic Yards scam was bankrolled with hundreds of millions in public funding'--though the chicanery here is so involved that no one can even say for sure what the final public subsidy figures will be. The project includes at least $100 million forfeited when the MTA, which has a subterranean train-marshaling yard there, sold its lucrative aboveground rights to the site to the developer Forest City Ratner, which was the low bidder for them. Hundreds of local residents have already been relocated, and before the whole charade is over, thousands more may be displaced from their homes, dozens of longtime neighborhood businesses will have been shuttered, and community leaders will have been shamefully compromised with emoluments ranging from a luxury-box giveaway to an on-site basketball arena ''meditation room.'' But in a brilliant piece of political legerdemain, no elected official was forced to actually vote for the project.
Sports stadiums long ago became a preferred method of legalized graft in America, with even such struggling cities as Cleveland, Detroit, Baltimore, and Oakland, California, willingly shelling out hundreds of millions apiece to retain or attract major-league franchises. But New York has taken the practice to stygian depths. The two major-league stadiums opened in 2009 were far from the first or the only large public subsidies the city has given to the Yankees and the Mets. New York had already spent more than $100 million building free minor-league parks for both teams' farm clubs, in Staten Island and Coney Island, respectively. The current Yankee Stadium, erected on the site of what had been two beloved public parks, cost $2.3 billion, according to journalist Neil deMause, making it one of the most expensive stadiums ever built anywhere in the world. Construction was helped along with federal, state, and local government subsidies totaling $1.2 billion. Nonetheless, the Yankees reduced the number of seats available to the general public by more than 9,000 so that the team could make room for thirty-seven additional luxury suites in its ballpark.
It was much the same with the Mets' new park, out in Flushing's Willets Point, which hoovered up $614 million in public subsidies but nonetheless reduced the new ballpark's seating capacity from 57,354 to a mere 41,800 in order to increase its luxury suites from forty-five to fifty-four. But here the new stadium was intended only as the anchor of a grand plan by Michael Bloomberg to transform the entire area around it'--one terminus of an axis of redevelopment set to run across the entire width of the city, on a scale that only Robert Moses might have attempted.
Willets Point, once the site of a monumental municipal dump, the ''valley of ashes'' in The Great Gatsby, had evolved into a happy jumble of some 250 small industrial shops, most of them specializing in auto parts and repairs in an area known as the Iron Triangle. There they had thrived and prospered for more than eighty years, despite the city's refusal to build them sidewalks, paved roads, or even sewers. Once the Mets had their new park, though, Bloomberg pushed through a $3 billion development plan, with the Iron Triangle to become Willets West, mostly a gigantic shopping mall with 200 stores and what was planned to be 1.7 million square feet of retail space, surrounded by 5,500 market-rate and affordable apartments and other amenities.
2 A more human-size new plan, including 1,100 apartments for low-income New Yorkers, has since been announced by Mayor de Blasio, which is a welcome development'--but still not one that will resurrect hundreds of bulldozed family businesses.To facilitate this process, writes the impassioned social advocate Jeremiah Moss in his wrathful howl Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul, $1 billion worth of public land was transferred, gratis, to two developers, including Sterling Equities, controlled by Mets owner Fred Wilpon and his brother-in-law, Saul Katz. The whole scheme was ultimately blocked in court'--it's illegal to give away public land in New York State without a specific act of the legislature'--but the Iron Triangle was gone, its shops intimidated into closing by the threat of eminent domain, and then demolished by the city.2
Queens had long remained unscathed by development on this scale. More than anyplace else in New York, the borough retains some of the flavor of what the city was like in the Seventies, minus the crime and the decay. Almost one in every two residents is foreign-born, creating wonderful ethnic mixes in nearly all of its low-lying residential and industrial neighborhoods. But this cityscape is changing, too.
Much like the Martian spaceships from The War of the Worlds in both appearance and annihilating intent, the glass skyscrapers that now dominate Manhattan have in recent years jumped the East River. The first one, a 658-foot Citicorp office building, arrived in Long Island City in 1989. For years it stood alone, an awkward sentinel among the neighborhood's eclectic mix of row houses, auto shops, and manufacturers. As many of those businesses moved out for parts of the globe that don't pay a living wage, their emptying factory floors and warehouses were at least replaced by droves of art, movie, and television studios.
Then, in 1997, came the first residential towers, the forty-two-story Citylights residence, followed nine years later by the five apartment buildings of the East Coast LIC complex. By 2015, the land rush was on. Twenty-nine new buildings were added last year alone, according to New York magazine, with at least twenty-eight more ''on tap'' for 2018''2020. The tallest building of all was announced last November, a $3 billion project with a luxury condo towering 700 feet high.
Yet even this level of development is dwarfed by what is going on at the western anchor of Bloomberg's great crosstown axis. Hudson Yards, now approaching completion, is a project of staggering size, encompassing some sixty blocks along Manhattan's West Side'--''the largest private real estate development in the history of the United States and the largest development in New York City since Rockefeller Center,'' boasts its primary developer, Related Companies. Its immense glass skyscrapers are overwhelming. From some angles, they look like battling Transformers; from other perspectives, they seem, aptly enough, more like the smokestacks of an impossibly large steamship, about to shove off from the rest of the city altogether.
The projected figures are numbing, almost too big to digest. By the time it's finished, Hudson Yards will encompass at least sixteen major buildings, with 18 million square feet of commercial and residential space, 1 million square feet of retail and ''mixed-use space,'' a public school, at least one major hotel, and a five-acre public plaza. The ninety-two-story tower at 30 Hudson will, the developers say, boast the first open-air observation deck in New York higher than that on the Empire State Building. Its tenants will include a host of major corporations, while a seven-story shopping mall will include a Neiman Marcus department store, the likes of Dior and Chanel on the upper floors, and what they call a ''Fifth Avenue mix'' of shops such as H&M, Zara, and Sephora on the lower floors. (There will also be ''seven destination restaurants.'')
T hings I liked about that old New York, now vanished?
My neighbors.
Most of them are gone or going now, after decades in the same visibly slouching, century-old apartment house where I live. In the apartment below ours, from the day I moved in back in 1980 with three friends from college, was Mercedes, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, with her extended family of three generations. When her mother, Anna, a sunny, religious, and unfailingly kind woman, began to decline with the years, Mercedes tended to her devotedly at home, bringing a hospital bed into their living room. But their rent-controlled apartment was in Anna's name, and when she died, Mercedes and her husband could no longer afford even the stabilized rent and decided to move back to the Dominican Republic. After all those years, they were just gone, almost overnight.
Across the hall from me was Raymond, a self-destructive but amiable drunk who fell completely apart when his mother died. He could not keep up the rent, or himself, and was finally evicted and then banned from the block after several loud arguments with the super. He came back anyway and lay down in the middle of the street one afternoon'--a small Irish-Latino man, in his perpetual baseball cap and scraggly beard, insisting in his gravelly, whiskey-soaked voice that they should just go ahead and run him over. Artie and James, our constant eyes on the street, who spend much of their time sitting out on the stoop trying to convince me that the Mets are a major-league ball team, waved off the traffic and persuaded him to get up out of the street. Forgiven by the super, Raymond now comes back to sit on the stoop with his old friends, a living ghost haunting the block where he was born.
We have been almost a parody of multiculturalism on our little street. Black and white, Hispanic and Asian; straight, gay, and transgender; families of all kinds'--extended, adopted, arranged by convenience or design. Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist. I would come home and see the daughters of our Sikh mailman, before they grew up, playing baseball in the halls. In the evening, I sat at my desk in a little space, in this building cubbyholed with other little spaces and held together by what was once described as ''a hundred years of spit and dust,'' and felt as though I were poised over the center of the world. Beneath me I could hear a hive of dinnertime conversations carried on in half a dozen languages, smell cooking that came from all over the world, hear someone ringing a gong and repeating a Buddhist chant.
It is through all these interactions, multiplied a million times, that a truly great city is made. The street life'--the warrens of little shops and businesses that once sustained our neighborhood in the sort of ''exuberant diversity'' that Jane Jacobs considered a prerequisite for a successful city'--is being eradicated as well: the botanica on 96th Street that Susan, my sister-in-law, always visited to buy her healing herbs when she was in town; the Indian spice shop next to it, with the protective elephant-headed idol of Ganesh mounted outside.
These stores, like so many others in my neighborhood, have not been replaced. They are simply . . . gone. In an informal survey of Broadway, from 93rd Street to 103rd, I recently counted twenty-four vacant storefronts'--many of them very large spaces, enough to account for roughly one third of the street frontage. Nearly all of them have been empty now for months or even years.
Almost everything of use has gone. There was Oppenheimer Meats, a butcher shop whose founder had reportedly fled Nazi Germany and, I was told, brought his business down to our neighborhood from Washington Heights sometime in the Forties. A large, imposing man with a bristling mustache, he would strut behind his counter like a Prussian field marshal, but he hired people of every color from the neighborhood and left them to run the shop when he retired. Then, a few years ago, according to its new owner, Oppenheimer's rent was tripled. Out it went. Over on Amsterdam, between 97th and 98th Streets, was a whole row of enterprises: an excellent fish store, a pet shop, a Mexican restaurant named for Frida Kahlo, and a laundromat we used to call the St. Launder Center, thanks to how part of its name had been torn out of its awning. Then they were all gone, too, without warning. Soon after, I ran into Shirley, doughty little Asian abbess of the St. Launder Center. She said the landlord had upped the rent from a hefty $7,000 a month to $21,000, which is a hell of a lot of laundry.
On the corner of 98th and Broadway is the shell of what was once RCI, an independent appliance store founded in 1934 as Radio Clinic. It was one of the oldest surviving businesses on the Upper West Side. ­RCI's proprietor, Leon Rubin, left the Pale of Russia after his father was murdered there during the civil war that followed the revolution, when Leon was just twelve years old. In his shop, he used to sit in the front window in a white doctor's smock, pretending to ''operate'' on malfunctioning radios. RCI was passed down to Leon's son, Alan, and changed with the times, stocking up on appliances and electronics of all sorts. Alan's daughter, Jen, would demonstrate primitive Atari games in the same window where her grandfather had fiddled with radios. ''This was his family's business, and my dad wasn't budging,'' Jen Rubin would recall, in a book she's written about the family business.
RCI survived being looted and vandalized during the blackout rioting in the summer of 1977, but it couldn't withstand today's Manhattan rents. The little shop lost its lease in 2014, the business chased off after eighty years in the neighborhood. Today, more than three years later, its storefront remains empty. Like so many other abandoned spaces along Broadway, its doorway has become a refuge for the homeless and the mentally ill, supposedly purged from our city streets.
A couple of blocks up Broadway from RCI was the old Metro Theater, originally the Midtown, an aging art house that dated back to 1933 and survived long enough to become one of the oldest cinemas operating in New York. It had fallen on hard times and was showing pornos when I first moved into the neighborhood. Then it was bought and restored by a repertory-cinema impresario, Dan Talbot, who renamed it the Metro, burnished and restored its elegant Art Deco interior, and started showing old movies and then first- and second-run releases.
The Metro was shuttered in 2005. (Talbot died late last year, just a month before another of his marvelous reclamations, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, an Upper West Side institution and still extremely popular, was shuttered for who-knows-what real estate fast shuffle.) Already struggling, the Metro was all but enveloped by an outsized construction project, the Ariel East and Ariel West, two more multimillion-dollar condo giants built directly across Broadway from each other. Rising to thirty-seven and thirty-one stories respectively, they are related in size and style to nothing else in the neighborhood. Their existence was enabled by the fact that St. Michael's, a charming Episcopal church on the corner of 99th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, sold its air rights to developers. In New York today, survival for any older, underpatronized institution often involves cannibalizing the neighborhood it has pledged to serve.
The Metro never reopened. Its gorgeous marquee and purple-and-white terra-cotta tile work depicting the figures of comedy and tragedy had been landmarked, but there was no such protection for the interior. The developers ripped it all out, gutted it too quickly for anyone to object. It has remained empty and moldering for thirteen years now, the letters of its name and other parts of the ­facade left to slowly drop off, piece by piece, until there will be nothing left to landmark. Online neighborhood news sites constantly pass on rumors about what the Metro is likely to become, but nothing has materialized.
''I was really hoping for another bank or chain drug store, or a combination bank/chain drug store,'' read one reply to the latest conjecture.
Drawing by Steve Mumford
T hese are the choices we are left with now. If a movie theater you can duck into in the middle of the day was one of the small raptures of the modern urban landscape, all around us were the same sorts of existential conveniences. Those corner bakeries with the string-wrapped boxes where you could get a respectable layer cake on the way to someone's dinner party. A kosher butcher where you could pick up the lamb shank you realized you forgot just minutes before the family was due for Passover dinner. Decent Chinese food for a Friday night at home in front of the television.
We worry now in my neighborhood that the cobbler's shop across Broadway will be the next store priced out of business. The proprietor proudly displays calendar photos of erupting volcanoes from his native Ecuador in his shopwindows alongside pictures of his grandchildren at their confirmations. His grandson used to store his toys and coloring books in the boxes under the unused shoeshine chairs. When you walk in, there is always the sound of classical music on the radio, and the smell of something very elemental and raw, leather and polish, the scent of a real place serving a real purpose.
It is almost the only store around that sells anything of use anymore. There are a few small hardware shops left still, some dry cleaners, a large grocery store, and a couple of bodegas. But otherwise, Jane Jacobs's ''intricate ballet'' of the streets is being rapidly eradicated by a predatory monoculture. Everywhere, that which is universal and uniform prevails. Chain stores, of a type once unknown in New York, now abound. On those same ten blocks of my neighborhood where so many stores have been emptied out, I count three pharmacies, six bank branches, seven nail-and-beauty salons, three Starbucks, two Dunkin' Donuts and three 7-Elevens, five phone-and-cable stores, four eyewear shops. The coming growth industry seems to be in urgent care facilities, of which there are already two, to serve our ridiculously underinsured population.
This is not an anomaly; the problem is pervasive. There are so many empty shops now that the issue has even begun to slip out from under the official doctrine that the city has never been better than it is now. In true samizdat style, an informal but growing network of dissident government officials, journalists, angry and frustrated private citizens, and even real estate developers began to force the problem into 2017's generally somnolent municipal elections. Last June, the office of Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer found 188 vacant storefronts along Broadway from Battery Park to Inwood'--this on a main commercial avenue in an incredibly wealthy city, in the eighth year of an economic expansion.
Saddest of all is the planned demolition of the Essex Street Market. It was one of several indoor markets built by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia in 1940, back when the city endeavored to serve its people instead of just weed them out if they didn't make enough money. Built to house the myriad Jewish pushcart vendors of the chazzer mark, the legendary outdoor marketplace along Hester Street, it provided them with a safe, sanitary place to peddle their wares, protected from the elements and criminal shakedowns. Over the years, it came to house a wonderfully diverse collection of food stands, shops, and miniature restaurants, representing many of New York's different cultures. But it is scheduled to be razed before this year is out, its vendors grudgingly relocated to Essex Crossing'--another gigantically ugly ''mixed-use development'' going up on a wide stretch of land across Delancey Street, a space that had been kept vacant for decades as part of a corrupt political deal to keep more non-whites out of the neighborhood. And so we have come full circle, from a city that tried to help along its poor and embattled strivers to one that would rather keep the land barren until only the very richest are available.
3 When he said this, and before he was rewarded for his outspoken racism with endless magazine assignments and book contracts, Roger Starr was New York's housing commissioner. T he great threat to the New York of the Sixties and Seventies'--and many other cities in the Northeast and Midwest'--was considered to be the flood of largely unskilled, uneducated African Americans from the South and Hispanics from the islands. ''Stop the Puerto Ricans and the rural blacks from living in the city . . . reverse the role of the city. . . . It can no longer be the place of opportunity,'' the racist apparatchik Roger Starr implored back in the day. ''Our urban system is based on the theory of taking the peasant and turning him into an industrial worker. Now there are no industrial jobs. Why not keep him a peasant?''3
This sentiment was articulated, over and over again, by many of the would-be gentrifiers. But the ''peasants'' poured in just as the hopeful and the desperate had always come, though they encountered, for the first time in New York's history, a city that no longer had many entry-level industrial jobs to offer them. The result was perverse, a New York that was home to more than a million welfare recipients and featured almost full employment for everyone else; a city where 7 million to 14 million square feet of office space'--the size of the entire downtown of a metropolis such as Kansas City or Pittsburgh'--was built in New York every year from 1967 to 1970, as Ric Burns and James Sanders noted in their history of the city.
In the success story that New York is considered today, the situation is just as perverse: the rents are driving people and commerce away, but some of the tallest residential towers ever built sit all but empty. The cause is once again a flood of outsiders, though this time they are not poor but among the richest people in the world. They have already proved themselves more destructive to the health of the city than the least-skilled poor, and their depredations will do incalculably more damage to New York over the decades and even the centuries ahead.
In the brutally Darwinian world of the poor, they usually got jobs, started families, became useful and productive citizens, or failed and were pushed back out of New York'--back home or to another place'--or ended up incarcerated or even dead. The rich, though, are with us always, and now for the first time as a purely rapacious force, consuming the city's most valuable assets and contributing almost nothing in return. ''If we could get every billionaire around the world to move here, it would be a godsend,'' Bloomberg, the city's billionaire mayor, said in a moment of typical frankness back in 2013. But these are not your grandfather's billionaires.
New York has always attracted the wealthy and predatory, dating back at least to our most famous pirate, Captain Kidd. Coming here was seen as a sort of arrival, for individuals and businesses alike. Long a ''headquarters town,'' as early as 1901 New York was home to sixty-nine of the nation's two hundred largest corporations. Their owners lined Fifth Avenue with their fairy-tale mansions'--some of them later converted into museums or elegant stores'--or filled luxury apartment houses such as the Dakota. They hired the most renowned architects to erect gigantic advertisements for their transformative, world-conquering enterprises, including many of the most memorable structures ever built in the city: Grand Central Terminal; the Chrysler, Woolworth, Empire State, and Seagram buildings, among others. Noxious as the old robber barons could be, they at least dropped vast amounts of money into the local economy in the form of property taxes and purchases in elite shops. They employed people in droves'--small armies of domestics, vendors, and workers at all levels'--to service their needs and businesses. They contributed to the city through their building and philanthropy'--Rockefeller Center, Carnegie Hall, the Morgan Library, and the Frick Collection, to name just a few examples.
The new rich infesting the city, by contrast, are barely here. They keep a low profile, often for good reason, and rarely stick around. They manufacture nothing and run nothing, for the most part, but live off fortunes either made by or purloined from other people'--sometimes from entire nations. The New Yorker noted in 2016 that there is now a huge swath of Midtown Manhattan, from Fifth Avenue to Park Avenue, from 49th Street to 70th Street, where almost one apartment in three sits empty for at least ten months a year. New York today is not at home. Instead, it has joined London and Hong Kong as one of the most desirable cities in the world for ''land banking,'' where wealthy individuals from all over the planet scoop up prime real estate to hold as an investment, a pied- -terre, a bolt-hole, a strongbox.
For most of a decade now, like lava flowing inexorably from some deadly volcano, the residences of the superrich have moved east from the Time Warner Center to create Billionaires' Row, the array of buildings on 57th Street and several adjoining streets and avenues that is already dominating much of the Manhattan skyline. These ''supertall'' skyscrapers are defined as buildings taller than 984 feet: One57, at 157 West 57th Street (1,004 feet); 432 Park Avenue (1,396 feet). Well on their way to being built: 53 West 53rd Street (1,050 feet), 111 West 57th Street (1,428 feet), and 217 West 57th Street (1,550 feet). Finished or not, many of the apartments were'--at first'--snapped up as soon as they went on the market. The Times used to tick off their record-setting sales in its Sunday real estate section, down to the absurdly exact dollar and cent: one recent lower-end example, $47,782,186.53! Nor are the records these sales set likely to remain for long. A triplex at the forthcoming 220 Central Park South will reportedly be sold for $200 million, and a four-story apartment at the same address is priced to move at $250 million. These would be the largest home sales ever recorded anywhere in the United States.
Who spends this sort of money for an apartment? The buyers are listed as hedge fund managers, foreign and domestic; Russian oligarchs; Chinese apparel and airline magnates. And increasingly, to use a repeated Times term, a ''mystery buyer,'' often shielded by a limited liability company.
This is not the benevolent ''gentrification'' that Michael Bloomberg seemed to have had in mind but something more in the tradition of the king's hunting preserves, from which local peasants were banned even if they were starving and the king was far away. Or, to use a more urgent analogy, these areas are now the dead zones of New York, much like the growing oxygen-depleted dead zones of our oceans and lakes, polluted with pesticide runoff and deadly algae blooms.
Already, Billionaires' Row has throttled what used to be one of the more eclectic and delightful avenues in Manhattan. Along with Carnegie Hall, 57th Street boasted the graceful Art Deco Fuller Building, Steinway Hall, with its piano showroom; the Art Students League, the Russian Tea Room; the gorgeous little gem of a bookstore that was Rizzoli's, already a refugee from its old stand on Fifth Avenue; the marvelous ramble of Coliseum Books. A steamship company office, where my wife and I once booked a trip to Europe. A diverse array of movie houses, including, once upon a time, the Bombay Cinema, New York's only Hindi-language theater. Countless little restaurants, churches, coffee shops, art-supply stores, studios, and galleries. High culture and little hideaways, together they made up a stretch of Manhattan at its most alluring, a boulevard that was at one and the same time touristy and tony, a place to browse and to slip inside, both European and unmistakably New York.
Now the Steinway showroom has been banished to 43rd and 6th. The Coliseum was chased away and died. Rizzoli's lived to sell books another day, but its irreplaceable store and entire building were demolished. The Art Students League, where many of America's finest visual artists learned and taught, and which proved a refuge for countless more fleeing Europe in the Thirties and Forties, was bound up like a kidnapped heiress in protective scaffolding, while the Nordstrom Tower at 225 West 57th Street was allowed to build a cantilevered segment over it, hanging there like a permanent sword of Damocles.
The superexpensive apartments along Billionaires' Row will include not only many of the priciest domiciles ever purchased in the United States but also the highest places anyone has ever lived in this country, more than eighty and ninety stories in the air. Super tall, they are also super skinny, like 1,500-foot embodiments of the rich themselves. The Steinway Tower'--minus Steinway'--at 111 West 57th Street even has an 800-ton ''tuned mass damper'' at the top of its 1,428-foot height, to keep it from moving so much in the wind that it will nauseate its residents.
Together, these buildings perch over Central Park like a row of gigantic predatory birds. There are now so many of the supertalls gathered so closely together that they threaten to leave the lower sections of Central Park, the only true architectural marvel to be seen here, in shadow for much of the year. One simulation found that the shadows of the highest towers may knife a mile into the park on the winter solstice.
When the journalist Warren St. John protested against these towers that block the sun and literally leave children shivering in the park, he pointed out that the highest supertall apartments'--when they are occupied at all'--house maybe a few hundred people, as opposed to the 40 million individuals who use Central Park every year. But this seems to be the calculation on which New York now operates.
E ven for those who can afford the new New York, it is unclear how much they actually like it or maintain any ability to shape it to their tastes. What is the point, after all, of paying a fortune to live in a city that is more and more like everywhere else? New York is now jammed with some 62 million tourists every year, flocking to Disneyfied Broadway that is a pathetic imitation of what it once was. At the same time, its favorite nooks and crannies are being annihilated, even the more upscale ones. Bill Moyers, a longtime local resident, reports the same fate for all of his family's favorite neighborhood eateries, including Scaletta's, on West 77th Street. Moyers expects ''something upscale and fancy'' to replace it, but, he laments, ''today's prices can only guarantee something worse.''
Perhaps because they have done so much to annihilate the New York around them, every luxury of the new buildings is designed to pull its residents inward, away from the rest of us'--the very antithesis of urban life. This is another way in which the rich and their real estate brokers have made essential changes to the nature of New York.
The latest and greatest condo amenities now include an ''adult tree house'' and a ''sumac meander.'' The ''grand-scale residences'' at 70 Vestry Street, in ­TriBeCa, entice with ''warm-hued Beaumaniere limestone quarried from the banks of the Seine River in France'' (not to be confused with the Seine River in Dumont, New Jersey). The duplex penthouse at 50 United Nations Plaza ''comes with its own infinity-edge pool'' (judging by the proliferation of pools and billiards rooms, the average luxury condo owner in Manhattan is a combination of Esther Williams and Minnesota Fats); other ''focal points'' include ''the 10,000-pound handcrafted stainless steel staircase,'' in case you have a hankering to drive your Sherman tank up and down the steps.
''Private outdoor space'' is the true goal, and never have so many buildings been constructed in such an insular fashion in New York. Want a drink or a meal, a swim or a game of pool at the end of the day, a yoga class or a good book? There's no need to step out into the city. Something to do with the kids? Don't worry, there's no reason for them to go outside, either. All the best new buildings offer playrooms; the ''grand-scale'' 70 Vestry adds an ''art area, climbing structure, ball pit, slide, magnetic wall and faux farmers' market.''
The emphasis on privacy is constantly stressed. There is no need to expose even one's automobile to the prying eyes of the hoi polloi. My favorite fringe benefit, a luxury that has been steadily gaining favor not only in New York but also in such other favorite hangouts of the superrich as Miami and Singapore, according to the Wall Street Journal, is ''en suite parking.'' Over in Chelsea, 200 Eleventh Avenue was offering a separate elevator for your car, which could be taken directly up to your floor, with ''no senses of fumes, or sound, and it can burn for three-to-four hours before it imposes any risk on the building.''
New York's great buildings used to be chockablock with beacons, crowns, ornamentation, friezes, and statues, pointing the way to the future. We did not always like what they were selling, but they made a public argument; for example, the Chrysler Building, with its brilliant Art Deco diadem and silver hood-ornament gargoyles; the Woolworth Building ''cathedral of commerce,'' with its terra-cotta tiling, glittering mosaic and stained glass, and magnificent carvings; Grand Central Terminal, with its paeans to the history of transportation, celestial map, and statue of a glowering Vanderbilt; even the wonderfully gaudy, gold-frosted American Radiator Building, intriguing enough to become a major painting by Georgia O'Keeffe.
By contrast, Rafael Vi±oly's new supertall 1,396-foot-high residential tower at 432 Park Avenue, which is taller than the Empire State Building (excluding its antenna-cum-zeppelin mooring) and now dominates the Manhattan skyline from many viewpoints, was inspired by . . . a designer trash can, according to its architect. It comes from nothing and nowhere, just an extension of an empty, overpriced receptacle, and it means every bit as much to the people and the city that it lords itself over.
Hudson Yards, meanwhile, features the $455 million Shed, formerly the Culture Shed, no twenty-first-century Carnegie Hall but a six-story performance and exhibition space that is supposed to lend some cultural dimension to the vast development. The leading feature of its design is its ''retractable outer shell'' made up mostly of highly durable plastic; planned events include ''Fashion Week, TED Talks, and concerts'''--a virtual compendium of the banal and pretentious.
Next to the Shed, in Hudson Yards' Public Square, will be Vessel, the development's $200 million interactive, artistic centerpiece. This is a fifteen-story collection of 154 connected staircases, which thousands of visitors can climb at the same time, continually passing one another. Not even its developer is able to take it seriously. Related Companies chairman Stephen Ross jokingly called it ''the social climber.''
It must be admitted that in the new city, the values of our public authorities seem just as misplaced. Those three new stations of the Second Avenue subway that New York finally managed to produce last year, after nearly a century of effort, are devoid of anything connecting them to the city that has awaited them for so long. In his fervent celebration of what is, in the life of the city, a minuscule accomplishment, Governor Cuomo praised the design of the broad, bland new stations to the New York Times as ''a public space where community can gather and where culture and shared civic values are celebrated,'' and, at a news conference, predicted that ''this is just the beginning of a new period of rebirth.''
What actually happened was that the design of the new subway stations was outsourced to assorted stars of the modern art world, most of whom not one New Yorker in ten thousand would likely recognize by name or achievement. One of them, Chuck Close, filled his station with mosaic portraits of ''New York artists who have formed Mr. Close's wide circle,'' which includes Lou Reed and Kara Walker along with Cecily Brown, Philip Glass, Alex Katz, several younger artists he favored, and two self-portraits.
The artist Vik Muniz did Close one better, providing three dozen images of various friends, relatives, and cultural celebrities dressed up, reported the Times, like ''normal people,'' including ''the restaurateur Daniel Boulud holding a bag with a fish tail sticking out; the designer, actor, and man-about-town Waris Ahluwalia''; and Mr. Muniz himself, ''in a Rockwell-esque scene of him tripping, spilling papers from his briefcase,'' as well as his son, dressed ''in a tiger suit, like a Times Square mascot on lunch break.'' Isn't it marvelous? The artists are depicting themselves and their celebrity friends imitating us, waiting for a train and doing all the perfectly ordinary things that we ordinary people do!
It is one thing to replace some of the more offensive monuments and messages from the past, quite another to simply blank out everything with the generic and the tragically hip. Our buildings and our public art today are not a corrective but the easy disengagement of the developer. The void in our art reflects the sensory deprivation of our neighborhoods, where the complex and varied city has also been wiped out. Once the iconography of New York honored ideas, enterprises, achievers, and heroes, but today's public spaces speak a secret language of the cool and knowing, an inside joke that is lost on the rest of us. The things we have lost will never be found again, and the new things we have received are literally empty and spiritually devoid of meaning.
''W hat are you going to do about it?'' Boss Tweed, the corrupt sachem of Tammany Hall, allegedly sneered when confronted about the nineteenth-century New York that he and his confederates so ruthlessly plundered. What are we going to do about a New York that is, right now, being plundered not only of its treasure but also of its heart, and soul, and purpose?
Bill de Blasio, our current mayor and previously an obscure local politician, was first elected in 2013, running against Republican Joe Lhota, a longtime state and city bureaucrat under the old regime and its ethos of development first, now, and always. Lhota ran a scorched-earth campaign, warning New Yorkers in commercial after commercial that a vote for some fuzzy liberal like De Blasio meant regression, meant going back to the bad old days of runaway crime, bankruptcy, and disorder. When all the votes were counted, Lhota had lost by nearly 50 points.
Vowing to be the mayor of ''the other New York,'' De Blasio announced his intention to go after the threat looming over so many voters: the cost of living here. The new mayor promised to ''build or preserve'' 200,000 affordable rental units over the next ten years, something that sounded like a good start.
Of those 200,000 units, it developed, 120,000 were to be ''preserved,'' mostly by negotiating with landlords to rehabilitate buildings that had fallen into extreme disrepair or were seized by the city for back taxes. Crucial as this sort of work is, it only stanched the bleeding. The remaining 80,000 new units of affordable housing would start to materialize with De Blasio rezoning fifteen neighborhoods for higher-density habitation. The Bloomberg Administration had taken another approach, rezoning more than a third of the city but more often ''downzoning'' neighborhoods to limit housing capacity and preserve their ''character.'' Unsurprisingly, the downzoned neighborhoods tended to be whiter and more well-off than those that were upzoned, but ultimately a net of 15,000 buildings and 170,000 housing units were added during Bloomberg's three terms. This approach, as well, did absolutely nothing to contain rents.
Worse still was the other tool that De Blasio would use to coax the developers into building in these newly rezoned hot spots: article 421-a of the property tax code. This has been the leading means by which New York has built new housing since 1971, when the federal government largely dropped out of the business. It works like this: developers get massive tax breaks on new buildings for up to thirty-five years as long as they rent 25 to 30 percent of the units in said buildings below market rates. The developers are taxed only at what the property'--often a vacant lot'--was valued at to begin with, excluding all the value their new building adds to the property.
No one could ever accuse this provision of discouraging new building. But in recent years, 421-a has become most famous for leading landlords to add separate ''poor doors'' for their less wealthy tenants, as Extell announced it would do for its new tower at 40 Riverside Boulevard, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. (One is tempted to ask if the front entrance will be known as the ''ghost door'' for all those foreign investors who never show up.)
The greater problem, as Michael Greenberg spelled out in his New York Review of Books analysis, is that by its very definition new housing that is 25 to 30 percent ''affordable'' still means huge numbers of high-cost new rentals. It is, in other words, mass gentrification locked in for many years to come, while the city is further starved of tax dollars needed to maintain and improve its public services.
The 421-a tax break is an anachronistic tool left over from the Seventies, when both landlords and the middle class were abandoning the city in droves. Nothing could be further from the case today, and the recent evidence is abundant that continuing to use it is a counterproductive strategy, one that is subsidizing the wealthy while diminishing the amount of affordable housing available.
Not so coincidentally, as Greenberg reports, landlords have redoubled their efforts'--often illegal'--to bribe or intimidate their less affluent tenants into moving out. Some of the more egregious examples he cites are in Brooklyn: landlords cutting off heat and hot water, inviting belligerent homeless men to defecate and hold drug parties in the halls, not fixing collapsing walls and ceilings, nailing up plywood over doors, locking tenants out and getting them arrested, and, in one instance, even bearing false witness to get a tenant committed, temporarily, to a psych ward. The neighborhoods themselves look much improved; it's just the people that were lost.
Photographs of scaffolding on Broadway by Elizabeth Bick
I n my part of the forest, thank goodness, the process is (a little) more civilized, a sort of soft, running eviction. The large rental company that now owns every building on my side of the block (and much of the next block as well) brought in crews of what obviously seemed to be undocumented workers to repoint the brickwork, and thus drive up the rent for all of us by a couple of hundred dollars each month. Working out on precarious scaffolding in winter weather, these men were forbidden to talk to us, even when we tried to offer them water. As the older families move out, more crews descend on their apartments, tearing them apart, right down to the brick, in storms of noise and dust that go on for months.
They cut through electrical cables and crash through ceilings and walls too. An overly zealous smash that shattered our bathroom ceiling, in the workers' rush to get things done, led to that room being redone for the first time in thirty years. What we got was the same ''deluxe'' treatment that the new tenants receive: cheap linoleum tile made to look as close as possible to actual ceramic, cheap wooden shelving, and furnishings built to last a fortnight. All to lure the next tenants into accepting three times what my wife and I now pay. And there are rumors that next our perfectly adequate lobbies will be soon be ''redone,'' which will no doubt raise our rents more.
I like my new neighbors. They're terrific people, just like the old ones, and drawn from nearly as many different places. Better educated, usually, with better jobs, but just as friendly and helpful. They tend to be younger, with younger families, and it's nice to hear and see so many kids in the building again. On the surface, this would seem to be what New York'--and America'--is all about: everyone moving on up another rung on the socioeconomic ladder, the city filling again with the next extraordinary group of people who will cherish and enhance it.
But I try not to get too attached, for I know that their time here is limited. It couldn't help but be, paying as much as $5,000 a month, as they do, to squeeze growing families into 700 square feet. They are transient, here only for a few years at most, until the next child or the next job'--until they can buy a place of their own, or the home company in France or California decides to stop subsidizing such outrageous rents.
We are becoming a city of transients. Already, there are at least two apartments in my building operating as Airbnbs, an increasingly popular practice in many New York buildings; the only question is whether they are being run by the tenants or by the landlord. The potential safety or comfort of the rest of us, now living with night-to-night tenants who could be anybody, is not their concern.
The very idea of permanence is anathema to our landlords, just as it is to most employers in this city and in cities all over the country. It is the same thing for commercial spaces. Rather than drop their rent demands even now, landlords are often simply switching to short-term tenancies, better known as pop-ups. As Dennis Lynch detailed in The Real Deal, the real estate industry magazine, this can mean ''experiential activation'' renters ''looking to penetrate a conference or event crowd'--occupy a space for four days out of a month,'' on average. Or a ''brand launch'' that might last six weeks. Or a ''target market launch'' that averages three months. Anything from a day to a year, with the landlords reportedly enjoying the fact that such temporary clients don't require a long lease and are very easy to evict if anything goes wrong.
Between 2010 and 2014, Lynch writes, the rents in sixteen Manhattan retail corridors tracked by ­CBRE Group, the self-described largest commercial real estate services and investment firm in the world,
skyrocketed by a whopping 89.1 percent while total retail sales for the borough grew by only 31.9 percent, creating what the commercial brokerage firm called ''an unsustainable situation for some tenants as rents surpassed what their sales growth could support.''
What's more, this price gouging continued even as vacancies multiplied, a supposed impossibility under classical capitalist economics. The better business got, the more stores went under and were abandoned. The more storefronts went vacant, the higher rents kept going.
In some of the swankier districts of Manhattan, this can lead to the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Kanye West, or Tommy Hilfiger ''popping up.'' In less glamorous neighborhoods, such as my own, it's more likely to mean the headquarters of a political campaign, or the ubiquitous Halloween costume stores that open now in mid-September. But wherever and whatever they are, the lesson is the same: everything is temporary. The whole idea of a permanent community is fading away.
S o what are we going to do about it?
Some practical reforms might start with ending 421-a and other subsidies for wealthy developers, thereby bringing the city tens of billions of additional tax dollars over the next few years and eliminating a major incentive for those who would build primarily for the rich. With that money, or at least some percentage of it, New York City could then build its own affordable housing'--affordable for actual working-class people'--without worrying about support from the federal government or 80 percent of the apartments going to more of the rich, absent or otherwise. And, as Greenberg suggests, an additional, dedicated half cent in sales tax, say'--akin to how Los Angeles taxed itself recently to expand its mass transit system'--could provide a permanent funding source to build and rehabilitate housing.
When it comes to the retailers, others have dared to suggest reinstituting commercial rent control. David Dinkins even made that idea part of his winning mayoral platform back in 1989, though'--as happens with so many winning Democratic Party campaign promises'--once he was elected, Dinkins quickly made it clear that he had no intention of seriously pursuing any such popular measure.
Unbeknownst to most New Yorkers today'--so thoroughly has even the rumor of it been stomped out'--the city did have commercial rent control for eighteen years, from 1945 to 1963. This was the most widely prosperous time in New York's history, and an era that many New Yorkers still remember as the city's golden age. How much that was because of commercial rent control is probably unquantifiable, but obviously it didn't hurt.
Another good idea would be to restrain ourselves. For some sixty-five years, from 1942 to 2007, New York co-ops were forbidden from gleaning more than 20 percent of their building revenues from storefront rents, under the ­IRS's so-called 80/20 rule. Co-ops, then more collectivist enterprises, were originally encouraged as a way by which working- and middle-class tenants could save buildings for themselves that had been neglected or abandoned by landlords. In time, though, they became one more preserve of the wealthy, and in December 2007 their lobbyists managed to get Congress to repeal the 80/20 rule and let co-ops charge stores whatever they wanted. Since then, New York homeowners have been able to join the ranks of the biggest landlords, running longtime small businesses out of their stores with extortionate rent increases while reducing or eliminating their own monthly maintenance fees and other assessments. In other words, we have met the landlords, and they are us.
Actually instituting these reforms, though, or pushing through any number of other good legislative fixes, comes up against New York's dysfunctional political system. Because of archaic rules designed mostly to suppress Tweed's Tammany Hall and other long-vanished political machines, the city's ability to alter its own rental and tax laws is largely subject to approval from Albany, with predictable results. As Greenberg reported, state legislators from outside the city'--many of them Republicans'--are routinely given enormous contributions from developers, and subsequently thwart pro-tenant bills of any sort; from 2000 to 2016, city developers poured $83 million into legislative races, ''more than any other economic group.''
The prevailing idea that we now live in the best of all possible New Yorks remains a powerful one. A rationalization, perhaps, to compensate for the frustration we experience living in a system that no one really likes but that we feel helpless to alter. In a recent history-memoir titled St. Marks Is Dead, the journalist Ada Calhoun laid on another such coat of Pangloss with her entertaining narrative of one of New York's most fabled streets and neighborhoods. She concedes that the apartment she grew up in now would cost $5,000 a month but insists,
Who understands the soul of any place? Who deserves to be here? Who is the interloper and who the interloped-upon? Who can say which drunk NYU student stumbling down St. Marks Place will wind up writing the next classic novel or making the next great album?
Well, it will have to be a drunk NYU student who can afford $5,000 a month in rent. What Calhoun and the other adamant Pollyannas refuse to understand is that a bar is one thing, a dance hall is one thing, and even a Gap or a Starbucks is one thing, but a bank branch is another. It is a carpet and a machine from which one extracts money, then leaves. No one is writing a novel or an album about it. Those things that we do not value, that we do not actively protect, fade away and die.
I used to hang out on St. Marks Place, back when Calhoun was a girl. I was seeing a dancer from Waycross, Georgia, and we would go drink seventy-five-cent shots at the Holiday Cocktail Lounge, and talk with old Ukrainian men about the great middleweights they had seen fight, and watch the punks out from the dance clubs play pool. Afterward, we would go back to her place in Brooklyn, where she turned me on to the joys of homemade curry and Patti Smith's Horses album, among other delights. Walking back from her place to Manhattan one day, in the midst of a transit strike, I crossed the Manhattan Bridge with a couple of winos, with whom I stopped to watch the sun set over the Statue of Liberty, a moment I will remember for the rest of my life.
I did not believe that I was living in a utopia, or through the only possible iteration of St. Marks Place or New York City. But I defy anyone to have that experience in a bank branch, no matter how drunk they are.
C ities are all about loss. I get that. Intrinsically dynamic, cities have to change, or they end up like Venice, preserved in amber for the tourists. New York City, for all its might, is no more immune to economic sea changes than anyplace else'--maybe less so.
It could be said that New York has been gentrifying ever since a lack of space started to push its dozens of shipbuilding yards off the East Side and over to Greenpoint in the years just before the Civil War. Many other industries followed, rarely to the city's disadvantage, unless you pine for the open-air rendering plants and stockyards that also proliferated along the Manhattan waterfront. Just, I suppose, as residents of Pittsburgh or Detroit don't miss the choking haze at noon that meant ''prosperity'' back in the day.
New Yorkers, over time, made just about anything and everything, from chemicals to bread, metal parts to chocolates, furniture to crates for shipping fine art, toys, and clothes of every description. Moreover, as the busiest harbor in the world for most of a century, it moved things. These industries were constantly in flux, and by the end of World War II, as the only great world city that remained unbloodied and unbowed, New York still had more than a million manufacturing jobs, more than any other city on the planet.
These numbers declined slowly at first, then more rapidly, with about half of the old manufacturing base gone by the Seventies. Deindustrialization continued rapidly in the Eighties, until today there are estimated to be fewer than 80,000 manufacturing jobs, in 6,000 companies. Some of the last and most integral parts of the city's working culture are now finally fading away altogether. The Meatpacking District is a euphemism for drunken club-hopping and shopping. The Garment District, caught between Madison Square Garden and the Hudson Yards excrescence, is dissolving into still more trendy bars and restaurants. The rag trade, so instrumental in shaping the very nature of New York, has been steadily pulled overseas for years. The same thing has happened to the makers of clothing throughout America. The advent of container ships would have spelled the end of New York's hundreds of miles of working waterfront and the tens of thousands of jobs it provided no matter how much the city tried to keep them. For a generation, the piers rotted down to the pilings, while the waterfront crumbled into a drugs and sex bazaar. Things change, people go. Favorite stores and bars close. The owner of that deli you love gets tired of carving cold cuts all day and decides to retire to Florida. So what?
The trouble lies not in the inexorable fact that cities change but in our failure to deal with that. Since the Seventies, all that our urban leaders, in New York and elsewhere, Democratic as well as Republican, have been able to come up with is one scheme after another to invite the rich in.
The prevailing critique of American cities from the right, dating back to the Sixties, was that our existing social welfare state was unsustainable. The question haunting our urban success stories today is whether the prevailing conservative addiction to privately owned, government-subsidized mega-development is sustainable. Already, there are indications that the whole gimcrack structure is starting to give way. Before the end of last summer, The Real Deal was reporting a significant softening of the Manhattan condo market, with inventory up a hefty 35 percent from the year before.
With many of their buildings still just half-full or less, even after the initial rush to buy into them, developers are scrambling now, trying to encourage brokers with higher commissions; offering to pay for buyers' closing costs, storage units, and parking spaces; and shaving as much as 10 percent off the prices. The Madison Square Park Tower, an eighty-three-unit condo at 45 East 22nd Street, was offering, The Real Deal reports, ''to throw in two studio apartments and two parking spots for any buyer willing to shell out $48 million for the building's 7,000-square foot penthouse.''
Photographs by Isaac Diggs and Edward Hillel. Above: Impromptu Michael Jackson memorial on a barricade next to the Apollo Theater, 2009, from 125th: Time in Harlem. Below: A Red Lobster opening on the same lot, 2014
This weakness has even begun to spread to Billionaires' Row. The majority investor at 111 West 57th Street claimed in court that the building is facing a $100 million shortfall. All those sumac meanders don't grow on trees. Extell's One57 suffered the Row's first two foreclosures in 2017, including a possibly record-setting $50.9 million foreclosure on a condo contracted by one of its ''mystery buyers.'' (The New York Post later identified him as a Nigerian oil tycoon.) Extell even failed to rent out thirty-eight lower-floor units at One57, opting instead to list them for sale at a discounted price.
The danger of a city economy based on little more than these oversized piles of Jenga blocks should be obvious. The Real Deal demurred from trying to quantify just what the outstanding'--and the soon-to-be outstanding'--debt is on New York condos, but claimed, ''It's undoubtedly in the billions.''
M ore disturbing than any potential fiscal or physical collapse, though, is the moral collapse that New York has suffered. ''Too often, life in New York is merely a squalid succession of days, whereas in fact it can be a great, living, thrilling adventure,'' Fiorello La Guardia told New Yorkers during his 1933 mayoral campaign. Today, life in New York too often seems like a sci-fi version of itself in which we barely notice as our fellow human beings are picked off by the monsters living among us.
A little-noticed but quietly magnificent exhibition at Hunter College's Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute this past year, ''The New Deal in New York City'''--part of the nationwide Living New Deal history project'--put on display a vision for another way of life, a way of life that Mayor La Guardia was instrumental in building. The exhibit featured images of the first public housing in the United States, built by New York City from 1935 to 1937 with funds provided by the federal Works Progress Administration and Public Works Administration.
These projects'--the First Houses, Ten Eyck (now Williamsburg) Houses, and Harlem River Houses'--were built on a human scale, just four to five stories high. At First Houses, the spaces formerly occupied by one out of every three of the rotting tenements they replaced were left vacant, to let in air and light and provide room for children's playgrounds and places where their parents could sit and talk. The buildings were small, and they, too, were no utopia'--though they remain much-sought-after homes to this day. By 1941, according to the exhibit, a total of nine such projects had been built in New York, with 11,570 units, and more than 500 of these developments had gone up around the United States.
Unlike so much later public housing, they were not envisioned or designed as projects simply to store the poor but as integral parts of a new community. Their residents could take advantage of any number of other government-funded community projects all around them, from beautiful new swimming pools to refurbished'--and free'--schools and colleges. They could find work rebuilding their own city's infrastructure or writing guidebooks to New York. They could attend plays and concerts of all sorts.
Their buildings and the public institutions around them were adorned by murals, painted not by art-scene stars imitating them but by artists who lived among them and depicted the histories of their place and their own lives. This, again, was not utopia. Marion Greenwood, painting her murals for the Red Hook Houses, groused about how she had to endure the criticisms of both bureaucrats and tenants regarding her work, both classes of people she felt had a much lower appreciation of art than the Mexican peasants she had formerly worked with. But this was America, too'--and especially New York.
''I hope the day is dawning when private capital will devote itself to better and cheaper housing, but we know that the government will have to continue to build for the low-income groups,'' Eleanor Roosevelt asserted matter-of-factly at the opening of the appropriately named First Houses. ''That is a departure for us, but other governments have done it. Low-cost housing must go on in the United States.'' Getting back to these first principles, to a city and a society that are committed to providing a decent life for all its citizens, is the only way we can regain ''the great, living, thrilling adventure'' that La Guardia envisioned.
New York has been'--and should be'--a city of ambition and contentment. Of the getting-there and the got, with plenty of room carved out for those whose desires do not include that deluxe apartment in the sky but simply making a living and raising a family by doing something useful, or not doing anything especially useful at all but existing, living, appreciating the vast urban swirl around them.
Yes, the rich will be with us always. But New York should be a city of workers and eccentrics as well as visionaries and billionaires; a place of schoolteachers and garbagemen and janitors, or people who wear buttons reading is it fascism yet?'--as one woman in my neighborhood has for decades, even as she grows steadily grayer and more stooped. A city of people who sell books on the street'--and in their own shops. A city of street photographers, and immigrant vendors, and bus drivers with attitudes, and even driven businessmen and hedge fund operators. All helped to get along a little better, out of gratitude for all that they do to keep everything running, and to keep New York remarkable.
Instead, our leaders seem hopelessly invested in importing a race of supermen for the supercity, living high above the clouds. Jetting about the world so swiftly and silently, they are barely visible. A city of glass houses where no one's ever home. A city of tourists. An empty city.
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Big convention cancels its meeting in San Francisco over city's problems with homelessness and drug
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 10:35
Convention is canceling its meeting in San Francisco because its board members feel unsafe in the city Said it had three main concerns: open drug use, threatening behavior and mental illness on displayLast year, a board member was assaulted near the Moscone Center, where conventions are usually heldTourism is a big business in San Francisco, bringing in around $9billion a year and employing 80,000 people Mayor-elect London Breed is being urged to increase police foot presence and mental health servicesRoughly 7,500 people in the city are homeless and an estimated 22,000 are intravenous drug usersSan Francisco's spiraling homelessness and opioid crisis is starting to drive away business and tourists, and a $40million medical convention has cancelled after its attendees complained they were too scared to walk the streets alone.
DailyMail.com's shocking photos of San Francisco, on Tuesday, capture a city in turmoil; with homeless people passed out on the sidewalks, shooting up in the streets and begging for survival.
The issue has become so dire that Chicago-based organizers of a five-day, semi-annual medical convention, which attracts around 15,000 people and pumps $40 million into the local economy, have announced they are moving the event to Los Angeles.
They are blaming the appalling state of San Francisco's streets where open drug use and threatening behavior are now common.
Post-convention surveys also found the city's rocketing levels of homelessness and people suffering from serious mental illness on the streets, meant some members were afraid to leave their hotel. One board member was assaulted near Moscone Center last year.
And there are fears that this cancellation could be the tip of the iceberg.
San Franciscos spiraling homelessness and opioid crisis is starting to drive away business and tourists. Pictured, a smartly dressed man walks past two homeless people on the city's streets A $40million medical convention cancelled it's semi-annual after its attendees complained they were too scared to walk the streets alone. Pictured, a homeless man sleeps in front of City Hall in San FranciscoA homeless man, and his dog, begs on the street, in San Francisco, California on July 3 The Chicago-based organizers of the five-day, semi-annual medical convention, said that post-convention surveys found the city's rocketing levels of homelessness and people suffering from serious mental illness on the streets meant some members were afraid to leave their hotelIf the city doesn't act soon to clear up it's streets, tourism officials warn that it will have a dire impact on tourism, which is San Francisco's biggest industry, generating $9 billion a year, $725 million in local taxes and providing employment to around 80,000 people. Conventions represent almost 20 per cent of the tourism revenue, bringing in $1.7 billion of the business.
'It's the first time that we have had an out-and-out cancellation over the issue, and this is a group that has been coming here every three or four years since the 1980s,' said Joe D'Alessandro, the president and CEO of S.F. Travel, who declined to name the convention.
'There was a time when the biggest obstacle to having a convention here was that it can be expensive,' he said, 'but now we have this new factor'.
D'Alessandro said other conventions have also expressed concerns.
A woman offers a homeless man her leftovers in San Francisco, California on July 3, 2018 If the city doesn't act soon to clear up it's streets, tourism officials warn that it will have a fire impact on tourism - San Francisco's biggest industryA homeless woman uses a syringe to inject drugs into her leg on a sidewalk in San Francisco, California on July 3 - one of the many examples of open drug use on the streetsThe woman, who is surrounded by suitcases and the rest of her worldly belongings, is approached by a man moments after she injected herself Another homeless person (left) was seen using a syringe to inject drugs in broad daylightCity officials and hotels have begged Mayor-elect London Breed to increase police foot patrols and mental health services so tourists feel safer.
'I come from a third world country and it is not as bad as this,' one tourist told KPIX.
Another said things are so bad you 'can smell it'.
A report earlier this year by NBC Bay Area journalists found 100 drug needles and more than 300 piles of human feces during a survey of 153 blocks of downtown San Francisco.
If stuck by a used needle, one can be infected with diseases like HIV or Hepatitis. Fecal matter is also not just a smelly nuisance. As it dries, the germs become airborne and if inhaled, can prove deadly - especially for children.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Lee Riley warned the city was dirtier than some slums in India and Brazil.
'The contamination is'... much greater than communities in Brazil or Kenya or India,' the UC Berkeley professor said.
City officials and hotels have begged Mayor-elect London Breed to increase police foot patrols and mental health services so tourists feel saferA homeless man opens a door for a patron while begging for change in San Francisco, California on July 3 Another homeless man rests near the cable cars of San Francisco which is dealing with a spiraling homeless population Riley pointed out that slums in the countries mentioned are used as long-term housing for poor people, many of whom make an attempt to keep at least their homes and surroundings livable. But the homeless who live on the streets of downtown San Francisco are routinely being kicked from one encampment to the next, and therefore, don't feel a sense of obligation to clean up after themselves.
This results are 'extreme contamination.'
'The streets are filthy. There's trash everywhere. It's disgusting,' D'Alessandro told the San Francisco Chronicle.
'I've never seen any other city like this - the homelessness, dirty streets, drug use on the streets, smash-and-grabs.
D'Alessandro said tourists often list their grievances to him about the poor state of city streets.
And they're not the only ones with complaints. Several hotel managers and owners have also spoken out about the mess plaguing The Golden City.
Kevin Carroll, executive director of the Hotel Council, which represents 110 hotels, told the Chronicle: 'People say: "I love your city, I love your restaurants, but I'll never come back".'
A homeless woman picks out garbage from a trash can in San Francisco, California on July 3 A homeless woman rests with her dog and a trolley covered in American flags on TuesdayD'Alessandro said tourists often list their grievances to him about the poor state of city streetsAnd the Union Square Business Improvement District has begun training retail workers on the protocol to follow if a severely mentally ill or drug-addicted person wreaks havoc in their store.
'We're desperate enough to expose ourselves to look for solutions,' Karin Flood, executive director of the business improvement district, told the newspaper.
Mohammed Nuru, Director of the San Francisco's Public Works Department, told NBC he estimates $30million - nearly half of the city's $65million street cleaning budget - is aimed at cleaning up needles and feces from sidewalks and homeless encampments.
Organizations that hold events in the city, including the California Dental Association and the National Automobile Dealers Association, wrote a letter in 2015 to late mayor Ed Lee about the state of the streets, reported The Chronicle.
The letter talked about gritty scenes on the streets of San Francisco including human feces and harassment by mentally ill people and drug users.
It went on to say that if the situation didn't improve, 'your city will see that citywide conventions will not rebook San Francisco and will choose other cleaner and safer West Coast destinations.'
City officials and hotels are urging Mayor-elect London Breed to increase police foot presence and mental health services so tourists feel safer 'You may not know it, but tourists spend more money outside of the hotel than inside the hotel,' Hotel Council Executive Director Kevin Carroll told the Chronicle. 'Everything from restaurants to shopping to taking taxis.'
According to the San Francisco Gate, a recent count revealed that roughly 7,500 people in the city are homeless. Some people, however, believe that number is as high as 12,000.
During the 2017-208 year, San Francisco has budgeted more than $300million on fighting homelessness, including building more shelters.
CNN reported in May that there are an estimated 22,000 intravenous drug users in the city, many of whom openly inject in public areas. The city's drug problem was thrust into the spotlight when videos surfaced on YouTube of dozens of drug users sprawled on the floor at the Civic Center station openly injecting themselves with drugs as commuters hurried past.
Board members told city officials they do not feel safe walking the streets because of the large number of homeless people and open drug use on the streets
'20 pounds of human waste' dropped on San Francisco street corner - SFGate
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 12:02
Human waste on the corner of Polk and Cedar streets on June 30, 2018.
Human waste on the corner of Polk and Cedar streets on June 30, 2018.
Photo: Reddit / U/tusi2 Former homeless people share how best to help homeless
"I was homeless a few years ago for a couple months. I was quite lucky in that I was very resourceful and street smart as well as clean and sober. I slept on the beach sometimes and in an underground parking lot other times. I eventually figured out the shelter system and that helped me get better access to food and resources. I remember getting help with free food like day old bread and free fruit/sandwiches etc as well as free clothes and I was grateful for all of it.
"What I remember most though are the people who saw past the mental illness, past the skittish, scared girl and into the human being underneath. The hotel clerk who let me charge my phone and gave me free coffee, no strings attached; the police officer who told me about shelters instead of writing me a ticket; and the shelter worker who chatted with me about some silly show on tv.
"I always remember those people and when I now work with homeless and disadvantaged people I always look for their humanity even when it is hard to find."
'-- Pyid
lessFormer homeless people share how best to help homeless
"I was homeless a few years ago for a couple months. I was quite lucky in that I was very resourceful and street smart as well as clean and sober. I slept
... more Photo: Design Pics/Con Tanasiuk/Getty Images/Design Pics RF "I think the best help happens through organizations. It's hard to get out of homelessness because each piece a person is missing (a place to live, an income, etc.) makes obtaining all the rest more difficult.
"Individual contributions can be helpful, but none of them are the solution. People don't panhandle for change to put a down payment on an apartment. Offering food or socks is appreciated, and certainly a good thing to do. But if you want to help people get out of the situation, only charities or public programs are equipped to provide the holistic support people need."
'-- trebuchetfight
(Pictured: A homeless client at the shelter at Pier 80.)
less"I think the best help happens through organizations. It's hard to get out of homelessness because each piece a person is missing (a place to live, an income, etc.) makes obtaining all the rest more
... more Photo: Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle "I was not homeless for very long, and I had some money, but was not going to blow it on a hotel when I had a perfectly good car and could hide it for the night down rural streets in my hometown.
"I went to Walmart and needed to buy a hat, gloves and thicker socks, as well as some food. My friend's mom saw me there, and somehow she got me to talk about what was going on in my situation. She listened and asked a few questions. Very sweet and kind lady. She told me a story about how she went through something similar. She then INSISTED on purchasing my cart for me. It wasn't much, but I will never forget it."
'-- Starkohren
less "I was not homeless for very long, and I had some money, but was not going to blow it on a hotel when I had a perfectly good car and could hide it for the night down rural streets in my hometown.
"I went to
... more Photo: Asiseeit/Getty Images "When I was homeless, it would have been nice if it was made clear the options that were available in regards to finding housing etc. It would have been good to be able to use somewhere as an address for registering for benefits and things like that as I had such a hard time getting my money every fortnight, I was lucky in that I had someone whose address I could use but that could have ended at any time."
'-- ramona1987
less "When I was homeless, it would have been nice if it was made clear the options that were available in regards to finding housing etc. It would have been good to be able to use somewhere as an address for
... more Photo: Erin Castillo, Getty Images "It's community things that help best, I find. I got put on a program for homeless teens where someone came and checked on me every week and took me to a community house thing. We'd do things like learn simple practical or social skills like learning how to cook and fix things or learning how to tie a tie. They'd talk to us and build up friendly relationships. They never tried preaching to us or anything, we were never forced to join in, we could spend the day just being there and watching everything if we wanted. But they treated us like people so everyone always did something.
"I didn't really realize it at the time, but looking back that extreme amount of kindness helped a lot. People who didn't know me went out of their way to help me and make sure I was alright just out of the kindness of their heart."
'-- BlueCarmine
less "It's community things that help best, I find. I got put on a program for homeless teens where someone came and checked on me every week and took me to a community house thing. We'd do things like learn simple
... more Photo: Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle "I was 18, finally leaving abusive parents. I could only get part time work, and it just wasn't enough to have a roof over my head and food at the same time. A thing that really helped me was this wonderful woman who came up to me while I was panhandling in the rain - she gave me a backpack, and a heavy wool coat. The backpack was full of socks, gloves, hand-warmers, a beanie, toiletries, and a letter from her saying everything would be OK.
"In one fell swoop, she gave me warmth, and dignity."
'-- Capt_Gingerbeard
less "I was 18, finally leaving abusive parents. I could only get part time work, and it just wasn't enough to have a roof over my head and food at the same time. A thing that really helped me was this wonderful
... more Photo: Yagi Studio/Getty Images "There needs to be more opportunities for homeless or otherwise desperate people to do community oriented work. Where I live there used to be a program that had street people volunteering to pick up trash and hang holiday decorations and such. It was only for an hour or two at a time and in exchange they got access to laundry and showers and such, in addition to a daily meal available for all.
"People don't realize that the toughest part of being homeless isn't going without food. Of all the struggles, food is the easiest. Other things, like bathing, sleeping, s------g, are a little tougher, but you learn to take care of your needs fairly quickly. It's the time that gets you. You're outside, somewhat uncomfortable, maybe asking for handouts, being told to move along, get a job, etc, for hours and hours. Feeling totally useless messes with your head. The idea of getting wasted is very appealing. You start to resent "housies." Other homeless people are the only ones you relate to. It becomes a trap. If you don't have a safety net out there you eventually lose any desire to rejoin society.
"So just about any low pressure activity would be really helpful for homeless people to snap out of their rut and build some kind of connection to the community."
'-- moreLSDplease
less "There needs to be more opportunities for homeless or otherwise desperate people to do community oriented work. Where I live there used to be a program that had street people volunteering to pick up trash and
... more Photo: Hill Street Studios/Eric Raptosh/Getty Images/Blend Images RM "My boyfriend was homeless for a period of his life because of an abusive parent. He was lucky enough to have friends and family that helped to pull him out of his situation, but it obviously had a huge impact on how he lives his life.
"He always carries a few pre-made packs with toothpaste and a toothbrush, deodorant, disposable razors and shaving cream, socks, hand/feet warmers, etc. When he sees someone who needs help he gives them a pack and cash if he has it on him.
"But the best and most truly invaluable thing he does for the homeless people he meets is he stops and has a real conversation with them. He listens and shares stories and treats them with respect and dignity...
"He always tells me that it's not the money people need, it's normalcy. A daily routine and normal social interaction. Brushing your teeth, combing your hair, saying hello to your neighbor, and spending your day doing normal things and feeling normal. Too many cannot find this normalcy and so they turn to drugs and alcohol to escape their reality. Because they think they'll never feel normal again."
'-- jproxduh
less "My boyfriend was homeless for a period of his life because of an abusive parent. He was lucky enough to have friends and family that helped to pull him out of his situation, but it obviously had a huge impact
... more Photo: Gremlin/Getty Images "Don't just throw money at them. When I was on the street, a guy came up to me and gave me a tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush. I really needed them but the change people gave me went towards food because it was a necessity. It was amazing and he stopped by and had a chat with me. He understood what I needed and it made my day."
'-- iamprocrastinating_
less "Don't just throw money at them. When I was on the street, a guy came up to me and gave me a tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush. I really needed them but the change people gave me went towards food because it
... more Photo: Leslie-Ann Smith / EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeEm "I was somewhat homeless, as in I was living in cheap hotels. It was not uncommon that I checked out of one hotel and couldn't check in to the next for several hours. Sometimes I drove from one city to another and pulled over to take a nap. Nothing scared the s--- out of me like someone banging on my window. The person would say they were just seeing if I was okay ... I was, but you might have just given me a f------ heart attack."
'-- shrinkingviolet219
less "I was somewhat homeless, as in I was living in cheap hotels. It was not uncommon that I checked out of one hotel and couldn't check in to the next for several hours. Sometimes I drove from one city to another
... more Photo: Gusztv Hegyi / EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeEm A foul odor permeated from a massive bag of human excrement sludge left on a street corner in San Francisco's Tenderloin district Saturday.
The horrendous smell and sight quickly gained notoriety when a Reddit user posted a screen shot of a report made to San Francisco's Citizen app for identifying crimes.
"Twenty pounds of feces dumped onto sidewalk," the report called out.
Nancy Alfaro, a spokesperson for 311, says three reports of the human waste at the corner of Cedar and Polk were made to the city's customer service number and app on Saturday.
"The customers did report a large amount of waste," Alfaro says. "It was sent to Public Works."
Alfaro says while reports of human waste are common, this large of an amount is "not typical."
She "has no idea" why the bag was left in the neighborhood.
ALSO, San Francisco homelessness Q&A: Frequently asked questions, answers
Another Reddit user posted an image of the bag of poop on Saturday evening and said it was still there "as of 8 p.m."
"It was the most atrocious smell I've ever smelled in San Francisco," user tusi2 said.
The user said the waste was still on the corner at 10 p.m. but by Sunday morning it was gone.
"I wouldn't say this typical," said tusi2, who has lived in the Tenderloin for two years. "I can't say I've seen anything like that. I've seen open feces, smeared feces. I commend whoever put it in a bag. It could have been much worse."
Rachel Gordon, a spokesperson for San Francisco's Department of Public Works, confirms the mess was cleaned up Saturday night and she says a DNA sample wasn't taken to confirm whether it was human feces or waste from another animal.
"I don't know the source," Gordon says. "It could be people. It could be dogs. It could have been feces picked up from street. It could have been from someone's house. I'm glad it was in one place and in a bag."
Complaints about human waste around San Francisco increased by 400 percent from 2008 to 2018, according to 311. There were more than 21,000 reports made to 311 in 2017 alone. (Note: Some of the increase is likely due to more people using 311 when it became accessible through an app in 2013.)
The waste is largely linked to the thousands of people living in the city without housing and without access to public restrooms.
The City of San Francisco has added 18 staffed public restrooms known as pit stops since 2014 and there are plans to add five more. "We average about 1 flush every 10 minutes, collectively from those," says Rachel Gordon, a spokesperson for San Francisco's Department of Public Works.
AFFORDABLE HOMELESS HOUSING-US malls haven't been this empty since 2012, new Reis report says
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 13:17
Getty Images
U.S. malls haven't been this empty since 2012, when the retail industry was clawing its way back after the Great Recession, according to a new report from real estate research firm Reis.
The vacancy rate at regional and super regional malls reached 8.6 percent in the second quarter of 2018, based on a survey by Reis of 77 metropolitan areas across the country. That was up from 8.4 percent in the prior period, and a high not seen since the third quarter of 2012, when the vacancy rate was 8.7 percent.
The news comes as more consumers shop online and Amazon steals market share from traditional retailers. The industry's been struggling to survive, with many companies closing physical stores or reorganizing altogether in bankruptcy. Some haven't made it at all. It's put millions of square feet of store space back on the market this year, much of that within shopping malls.
Department store chain Bon-Ton went bankrupt, shuttering hundreds of stores, while Sears continues to trim its real estate portfolio. Toys R Us, an anchor at many open-air strip centers across the U.S., filed for bankruptcy late last year and just last week closed all of its locations for good.
Retailers were once rewarded for opening as many locations as possible, with square footage almost synonymous with the success of a business. With consumer shopping habits shifting online, brick-and-mortar stores have become expensive and redundant.
According to Reis, the vacancy rate isn't expected to improve in the near future. A report from Credit Suisse has predicted that 25 percent of U.S. malls will close by 2022.
Still, there were some bright spots in the data.
Those U.S. mall owners with top-tier properties or more heavily trafficked malls have maintained power over their tenants, as rents grew about 0.3 percent in the second quarter against a backdrop of heightened vacancies, Reis said.
Real estate investment trusts such as Simon, Macerich, GGP, Taubman and Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield have been filling shuttered storefronts with more restaurants, pop-up shops and experiential and service-oriented tenants such as gyms and walk-in medical clinics.
A cloud hanging over the retail real estate industry has meanwhile prompted a wave of mergers and acquisitions, with many public landlords trading at a heavy discount on the Street. Westfield was recently purchased by European property owner Unibail-Rodamco. Brookfield Property Partners is in the process of buying GGP. And activist investors are targeting Taubman and Macerich.
WATCH: 125 years later, Sears looks a lot different
Dogs are People Too
Woman Won't Clean Up Dog Poop on Airport Floor '' FlyerTalk - The world's most popular frequent flyer community
Tue, 03 Jul 2018 14:37
Woman Won't Clean Up Dog Poop on Airport Floor
Reddit user kevinnetter posted a photo to the Pet Free subreddit that appears to show a woman at Denver International Airport (DEN) with a dog on a leash who allegedly refused to pick up her dog's excrement and subsequently flipped the bird at the person filming.
She is joined in internet infamy by this woman who said ''they have people for that'' when someone asked her to clean up behind her pet.
And spokeswoman for Portland International Airport in Oregon, the airport where a dog famously had puppies while waiting for a flight, said that ''We find them making messes on the airport carpet, interfering with the airport's working dogs and, on occasion, biting other dogs or passengers.''
It's no wonder that airports are reportedly joining airlines in restricting pet travel.
To read more on this story, go to Reddit.
[Photo: Shutterstock]
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Melanie
News media paid Melania Trump thousands for use of photos in 'positive stories only'
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 10:09
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Since her husband took office Melania Trump has earned six figures from an unusual deal with a photo agency in which major media organizations have indirectly paid the Trump family despite a requirement that the photos be used only in positive coverage.
President Donald Trump's most recent financial disclosure reveals that in 2017 the first lady earned at least $100,000 from Getty Images for the use of any of a series of 187 photos of the first family shot between 2010 and 2016 by Belgian photographer Regine Mahaux.
It's not unheard of for celebrities to earn royalties from photos of themselves, but it's very unusual for the wife of a currently serving elected official. More problematic for the many news organizations that have published or broadcast the images, however, is that Getty's licensing agreement stipulates the pictures can be used in "positive stories only."
According to the revenue statement in President Trump's May financial disclosure, Melania Trump earned between $100,000 and $1,000,000 in photo royalties in 2017 from the Getty deal.
A photo of Barron and Melania Trump taken by Regine Mahaux and licensed via Getty Images was used in a 2016 NBC Nightly News segment.Federal officials are only required to give an income range in their filings, and both Getty and the White House declined requests to provide more precise figures or list the places the images had appeared.
But NBC News found at least a dozen organizations that had paid to use Mahaux's restricted images of the Trumps in 2017, resulting in indirect payment to the first family.
Yahoo News, NBC News, Marie Claire, the Daily Mail, My San Antonio, Houston Chronicle, House Beautiful, and SF Gate, the website for The San Francisco Chronicle, are among those that have featured Mahaux's highly stylized family portraits since Trump took office.
The February 2017 issue of the Russian edition of the fashion magazine Elle included a gilded Mahaux portrait of the first family.
A Mahaux group portrait of Donald, Melania and son Barron Trump was featured on the May page of the White House 2017 calendar that was on sale in the White House gift shop for $14. Bent Publishing, which publishes the calendars, confirmed that it licensed the Mahaux photo for the 2017 calendar. The 2018 calendar now on sale at the gift shop does not include any Mahaux images.
NBC News also found that numerous entities had used the images before President Trump took office, though no income from the Getty deal was itemized in any financial disclosure prior to 2017.
In August 2016, Mahaux's portrait of then-candidate Trump and his wife was featured in the official Republican National Convention guide book that was given to each delegate. Campaign finance records show the money to pay for the guide came from political donations to the Republican National Committee.
The program was produced by Great Lakes Publishing, which said it got the image from a committee involved in arranging the convention. Jeff Larson, a political consultant who ran that committee, said, "We didn't pay any royalties that I know of for that photo."
NBC's Nightly News included the images in a Nightly News segment on Melania Trump that aired July 18, 2016, during the Republican National Convention.
The French edition of Vanity Fair put one of the pictures on the cover of its August 2016 issue.
Fox News used the photos in a variety of news segments in 2016. Greta Van Susteren's show "On the Record" included two portraits of Melania Trump during an interview Van Susteren did with the future first lady. In November 2016, after Trump's upset election win, the first episode of the Fox News show "OBJECTified," hosted by TMZ founder Harvey Levin, depicted the life and rise of Donald Trump. The episode included two of the images taken by Mahaux.
A Fox News Channel spokesperson said in a statement that the Mahaux photos used by Fox "were provided by the Trump campaign and Melania Trump's office, who told us they had full ownership and rights to the photos."
A screenshot of a My San Antonio/San Antonio Express article featuring a Regine Mahaux image of Melania Trump. My San Antonio took the story down after an inquiry from NBC News.An NBC News spokesperson said NBC News did not agree or sign a statement that the image would be used for positive coverage, and was never informed that a portion of the royalties would go to the Trump family.
Several news organizations removed the images from their websites after inquiries by NBC News.
Yahoo took them down and said in a statement: "We were not aware of this specific arrangement with Getty nor was our editorial influenced by it. We have removed the image from Yahoo Lifestyle."
The San Francisco Chronicle deleted the images from its website as well, and said it was looking into how they came to be used.
The photographs were also pulled from the websites for The Houston Chronicle and The San Antonio Express-News following inquiries by NBC News. Hearst Communications Inc. owns the three newspapers and their websites. The images remained on other Hearst websites like those for the magazines House Beautiful and Marie Claire. Representatives for those publications did not return repeated calls and emails.
French Vanity Fair, Russian Elle, and the Daily Mail and Paris Match, which also used the photographs, did not respond to requests for comment.
A 2017 calendar featuring Donald, Melania and Barron Trump was offered for sale at the White House gift shop, and included a Regine Mahaux photo. A portion of the gift shop's revenues is donated to rural police departments.In a standard photo contract, the photographer gets royalties and the photo agency receives fees for each use of an image. Models are not paid royalties.
Paying royalties to the Trumps and limiting the use to only positive stories is unusual for news organizations, according to Akili Ramsess, executive director of the National Press Photographers Association. She said that celebrity wedding or baby photographs are sometimes licensed so part of the fees flows back to the celebrity. Keith Major, another Getty photographer who has also photographed Melania Trump, said he does not share royalties with her.
Getty's licensing agreement does not offer any hint that money is also paid to the Trumps, and the arrangement did not appear to have become public until the income was listed in the president's May financial filing.
However, Getty does make clear in its catalog that the images can only be licensed with permission by Getty or, in some cases, Mahaux, and that the images may be used for "positive stories only."
News organizations likely would not have known about the payments to Melania Trump, but could have been aware of the published stipulation about positive coverage in the catalog.
Indira Lakshmanan, a media ethicist at the Poynter Institute, said, "If I'm a news editor, I would use photos that don't have any restriction attached to them. There's a lesson for editors, for public figures. There are plenty of photos out there that you can use that don't have these restrictions."
Getty Images told NBC News that the details and amounts of payments to the Trumps are covered by confidential agreements. The agency declined to say whether there are separate royalty arrangements with other members of the Trump families, and declined all comment on the deal other than to say that once a photo has been licensed, Getty pays "contracted royalties back to the photographer and/or individual(s) as covered by their confidential agreement."
In a statement, a White House spokesperson said: "President Trump's recent Public Disclosure Report, which included information regarding Mrs. Trump's income and assets, was filed after being certified by the White House Ethics Counsel and the Office of Government Ethics. The report speaks for itself."
When NBC News reached photographer Regine Mahaux by phone, she said "everything is legal" and then asked that any questions be submitted to her by email. NBC repeatedly emailed her questions but did not get a reply.
Mahaux took the photos during sessions in 2010, 2011 and 2016. Most feature some combination of Trump, Melania and son Barron. At least one of the photos, depicting the future first lady floating inside a swan boat on a still lake, and her swinging from a chandelier, combines images into a composite. Getty noted in its online catalog that many of the images of the Trumps have been "retouched," including those that later appeared in various news publications.
Mahaux has worked closely with the Trumps since 2010. Several albums on the Getty website feature her intimate photoshoots with the family in Trump Tower. "I like working with the family's image '' it speaks to me. It inspires me," Mahaux told a French news outlet in 2017. Mahaux also took Melania Trump's official White House portrait, which is public and not subject to the licensing arrangement.
Melania's 2017 income from the Mahaux photos is an increase from previous years, based on the president's financial filings. Royalties from Getty Images do not appear in any of the financial statements submitted by Trump in the three prior years. Melania Trump likely earned some money during those years, but the income was below the federal government's threshold required for declaring the income.
Melania Trump is making thousands off of a licensing agreement with Getty '' ThinkProgress
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 09:52
Melania Trump may have earned as much as $1 million in royalties from Getty Images last year, thanks to an extremely unusual licensing agreement revealed in President Trump's most recent financial disclosures.
According to the documents, first reported by NBC News, Mrs. Trump earned money whenever a media outlet used ''any of a series of 187 photos of the first family, taken between 2010 and 2016 by the Belgian photographer Regine Mahaux.'' According to NBC, the financial disclosure is not specific, but states the first lady raked in between $100,000 to $1 million in the last year alone.
In effect this means that any time an outlet uses one of these photos, they're indirectly paying the first family. Outlets which have featured Mahaux's portraits include the Houston Chronicle, the Daily Mail, NBC News, Yahoo News, My San Antonio and The San Francisco Chronicle. Complicating the issue further is the fact that Getty's licensing agreement states the pictures must be used ''in positive stories only.''
Since NBC News reported the agreement, several media outlets have removed the photos from their sites. ''We were not aware of this specific arrangement with Getty nor was our editorial influenced by it,'' Yahoo said in a statement. ''We have removed the image from Yahoo Lifestyle.''
In most standard photography contracts, the photographer gets the royalties while the photo agency (in this case Getty Images) gets a fee for the use of an image. It's not unheard of for celebrities to get a portion of the royalties, but it is extremely rare for the wife of an elected politician to receive them. Getty photographer Keith Major told NBC News that he agreed it was an unusual arrangement.
The White House declined to comment on what the Trumps have done with the royalties they've received through the Getty deal. ''President Trump's recent Public Disclosure Report, which included information regarding Mrs. Trump's income and assets, was filed after being certified by the White House Ethics Counsel and the Office of Government Ethics,'' a White House spokesperson said. ''The report speaks for itself.''
Getty also declined to elaborate on whether there were separate royalty arrangements with other members of the Trump family, and said the amounts of payments were covered by confidential arrangements.
The NBC report is only the latest instance in which the first lady's photos have become headline fodder. Last week, as outrage grew about the Trump administration's family separation policy, Melania invited the press pool to watch her as she departed for a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border. However, she ended up further fanning the outrage by wearing a jacket with a phrase that read ''I really don't care, do u?''
Photos of her outfit immediately went viral, with the jacket '-- a $39 Zara coat '-- selling out online swiftly.
Although her aides claimed the jacket had no meaning, many speculated the first lady was sending a message. President Trump himself claimed the jacket had been intended for ''the Fake News Media.''
'''I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?' written on the back of Melania's jacket, refers to the Fake News Media,'' he tweeted. ''Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!''
''I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?'' written on the back of Melania's jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!
'-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2018
The Washington Post also noted that the decision to invite the press pool to view her departure itself was unusual, further confirming the president's tweet. ''When the first lady travels alone from Washington, her tarmac arrival is traditionally closed to the media, so the decision to allow Mrs. Trump to be photographed seemed deliberate,'' the Post's Emily Heil wrote.
SCOTUS
The switch in time that saved nine - Wikipedia
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 14:21
Conventional account Edit Through the 1935''36 terms, Roberts had been the deciding vote in several 5''4 decisions invalidating New Deal legislation, casting his vote with the "conservative" bloc of the bench, the so-called "Four Horsemen". This "conservative" wing of the bench is viewed to have been in opposition to the "liberal Three Musketeers". Justice Roberts and Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, the remaining two justices, were the center swing votes.
The "switch" came in the case West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, when the Court announced its opinion in March 1937.[1] Roberts joined Chief Justice Hughes, and Justices Louis Brandeis, Benjamin N. Cardozo, and Harlan Fiske Stone in upholding a Washington State minimum wage law. The decision was handed down less than two months after President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced his court-reform bill. Conventional history has painted Roberts's vote as a strategic, politically motivated shift to defeat Roosevelt's proposed legislation, but the historical record also lends weight to assertions that Roberts's decision happened much earlier.
The ruling marked the end of the Lochner era, a forty-year period in which the Supreme Court often struck down legislation that regulated business activity.
Historical view Edit Popular as well as some scholarly understanding of the Hughes Court has typically cast it as divided between a conservative and liberal faction, with two critical swing votes. The conservative Justices Pierce Butler, James Clark McReynolds, George Sutherland and Willis Van Devanter were known as "The Four Horsemen". Opposed to them were the liberal Justices Louis Brandeis, Benjamin Cardozo and Harlan Fiske Stone, dubbed "The Three Musketeers". Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and Justice Owen Roberts were regarded as the swing votes on the court.[9] Recent scholarship has eschewed these labels since they suggest more legislative, as opposed to judicial differences.[10] While it is true that many rulings of the 1930s Supreme Court were deeply divided, with four justices on each side and Justice Roberts as the typical swing vote, the ideological divide this represented was linked to a larger debate in U.S. jurisprudence regarding the role of the judiciary, the meaning of the Constitution, and the respective rights and prerogatives of the different branches of government in shaping the judicial outlook of the Court.
Roberts had voted to grant certiorari to hear the Parrish case before the election of 1936. Oral arguments occurred on December 16 and 17, 1936, with counsel for Parrish specifically asking the court to reconsider its decision in Adkins v. Children's Hospital,[12] which had been the basis for striking down a New York minimum wage law in Morehead v. New York ex rel. Tipaldo[13] in the late spring of 1936. In Tipaldo, the appellant had not challenged the Adkins precedent.[15] Having no "case or controversy" legs upon which to stand, Roberts and the rest of the majority deferred to the Adkins precedent, voting to strike the New York statute. Justice Butler authored the opinion of the Court in the Tipaldo case. He and the rest of the majority, excluding Roberts, shortly thereafter found themselves in the minority on the Parrish case.
In the Parrish case, Roberts indicated his desire to overturn Adkins immediately after oral arguments on Dec. 17, 1936. The initial conference vote on Dec. 19, 1936 was split 4-4; with this even division on the Court, the holding of the Washington Supreme Court, finding the minimum wage statute constitutional, would stand. The eight voting justices anticipated Justice Stone'--absent due to illness'--would be the fifth vote necessary for a majority opinion affirming the constitutionality of the minimum wage law. As Chief Justice Hughes desired a clear 5-4 affirmation of the Washington Supreme Court's judgment, rather than a 4''4 default affirmation, he convinced the other justices to wait until Stone's return before both deciding and announcing the case.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced his court reform bill on February 5, 1937, the day of the first conference vote after Stone's February 1, 1937 return to the bench. Roosevelt later made his justifications for the bill to the public on March 9, 1937 during his 9th fireside chat. The Court's opinion in Parrish was not published until March 29, 1937, after Roosevelt's radio address. Chief Justice Hughes wrote in his autobiographical notes that Roosevelt's court reform proposal "had not the slightest effect on our [the court's] decision," but due to the delayed announcement of its decision the Court was characterized as retreating under fire. Roosevelt also believed that because of the overwhelming support that had been shown for the New Deal in his re-election, Hughes was able to persuade Roberts to no longer base his votes on his own political beliefs and side with him during future votes on New Deal related policies. In one of his notes from 1936, Hughes wrote that Roosevelt's re-election forced the court to depart from "its fortress in public opinion." [19]
The "switch", together with the retirement of Justice Van Devanter at the end of the 1937 spring term, is often viewed as having contributed to the demise of Roosevelt's court reform bill by undermining the necessity of its passage. The failure of the bill preserved the size of the U.S. Supreme Court at nine justices, as it had been since 1869, and so remains to this day.
Roberts burned his legal and judicial papers,[20] so there is no significant collection of his manuscript papers as there is for most other modern Justices. However, in 1945 Roberts did provide Justice Felix Frankfurter with a memorandum detailing his own account of the events leading up to his vote in the Parrish case. The memorandum concludes that "no action taken by the President in the interim [between the Tipaldo and Parrish cases] had any causal relation to my action in the Parrish case."[21] From this, Justice Frankfurter called the charge against Roberts "false" and concluded
It is one of the most ludicrous illustrations of the power of lazy repetition of uncritical talk that a judge of with the character of Roberts should have attributed to him a change of judicial views out of deference to political considerations. ... Intellectual responsibility should, one would suppose, save a thoughtful man from the familiar trap of post hoc, ergo propter hoc.[21]
See also Edit References Edit Notes Edit ^ a b 300 U.S. 379 (1937) ^ See citations in the Conventional account section. ^ The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Archived 2007-01-18 at the Wayback Machine. ^ Jenson, Carol E. (1992). "New Deal". In Hall, Kermit L. Oxford Companion to the United States Supreme Court. Oxford University Press. ^ Kalman, Laura (2005). "AHR Forum: The Constitution, the Supreme Court, and the New Deal". American Historical Review. Washington, D.C.: American Historical Association. 110 (4). Archived from the original on 2011-06-29. ^ 261 U.S. 525 (1923) ^ 298 U.S. 587 (1936) ^ Morehead v. New York ex rel. Tipaldo, 298 U.S. 587, 604-05 (1936) (''The petition for the writ sought review upon the ground that this case is distinguishable from that one [Adkins]. No application has been made for reconsideration of the constitutional question there decided. ... He is not entitled, and does not ask, to be heard upon the question whether the Adkins case should be overruled. He maintains that it [the New York minimum wage law] may be distinguished on the ground that the statutes are vitally dissimilar.''). ^ Devins, Neal (1996). "Government Lawyers and the New Deal". William & Mary Law School . Retrieved July 8, 2012 . ^ Carter, Edward L.; Adams, Edward E. (August 15, 2012). "Justice Owen J. Roberts on 1937". The Green Bag. ^ a b Frankfurter, Felix (December 1955). "Mr. Justice Roberts". University of Pennsylvania Law Review . Retrieved February 22, 2015 . Sources Edit Cushman, Barry (1998). Rethinking the New Deal Court: The Structure of a Constitutional Revolution. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-511532-1. Leuchtenburg, William E. (1995). The Supreme Court Reborn: The Constitutional Revolution in the Age of Roosevelt. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-511131-6. McKenna, Marian C. (2002). Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Constitutional War: The Court-packing Crisis of 1937. New York, NY: Fordham University Press. ISBN 978-0-8232-2154-7. Philips, Michael J. (2001). The Lochner Court, Myth and Reality: Substantive Due Process from the 1890s to the 1930s. Westport, Conn: Praeger, Greenwood. p. 10. ISBN 0-275-96930-4. White, G. Edward (2000). The Constitution and the New Deal. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-00831-1.
Out There
Sir Gene - Venus vs Mars
SJWBLMLGBBTQQIAAP
Trans Woman Makes History, Will Compete for Spain in Miss Universe
Tue, 03 Jul 2018 04:05
Angela Ponce won the Miss Universe crown for Spain and now becomes the first trans woman to compete internationally.
Monday, July 2, 2018 - 14:34
For the first time ever, a transgender woman will compete for her country in the Miss Universe pageant, with Angela Ponce having been crowned as Spain's representative.
Angela Ponce this weekend won the Spanish crown and now becomes the first transgender woman to compete on behalf of any country. Ponce is able to do that thanks to trailblazer Jenna Talackova of Canada. Back when Donald Trump still owned the pageant in 2012, Talackova had been barred from competing to win the Canadian crown, until Trump sided with GLAAD and thousands of people who petitioned him in the fight over inclusion.
Talackova '-- who also had high-profile attorney Gloria Allred on her side '-- was allowed to compete and went on to win Miss Congeniality in Canada; then all trans women were allowed to compete in Miss Universe starting in 2013.
''Let's make history,'' Ponce wrote in English on Twitter in celebration, tagging Pride Month to note her win's timing at the end of June.
''Bringing the name and colors of Spain before the universe is my great dream,'' wrote Ponce in Spanish on Instagram. ''My goal is to be a spokesperson for a message of inclusion, respect and diversity not only for the LGBTQ+ community, but also for the entire world.''
See photos from Ponce's Instagram account below.
Political Moderates Are Lying - Quillette Preference Falsification
Preference Falsification
Tue, 03 Jul 2018 20:41
Cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead once suggested that we should ''never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.'' Mead is largely correct. Change is wrought by those willing to lead or force others toward it. Which is why we are skeptical that most people truly believe every position they express. Especially in public.
Do most people legitimately disagree with one another? Or are they merely conforming to supposedly dominant ideas? Though there are legitimate disagreements, we contend that modern American political tribalism has been artificially inflated by group-based conformity. That is, the moderate majority's submission to the demands of dedicated partisans has created a mirage of polarization.
Most Americans are not impassioned ideologues, neither coopted by Soros nor swayed by Koch. According to a May 2018 Gallup poll, 43% of Americans considered themselves ''Independents'' while 26% and 29% considered themselves ''Republicans'' and ''Democrats,'' respectively. In fact, it wouldn't be entirely inappropriate to characterize the average American as a disinterested political observer. A poll of Americans' attentiveness to the 2016 election revealed that 38% of respondents observed the election ''somewhat closely'' while 22% followed ''not too closely'' and 8% ''not at all.''
These results are not at all surprising given the tedium of politics. People have better things to do. And yet when it comes to specific issues, people are quick to take sides. Here, we describe how a small group of dedicated partisans have come to dominate the political scene, stoking the flames of mistrust and fomenting political tribalism.
Preference Falsifiers and Political Ringleaders
One of the most important concepts for understanding social behavior is preference falsification. Developed by economist Timur Kuran, preference falsification occurs when an individual publicly misrepresents their private views to fit into a social group. It is conformity for the sake of social self-interest.
And reputation matters. We falsify our preferences to maintain or improve our standing within a group. Conformity to group preferences yields approval, affection, and advancement within the group. Disobedience, however, is reputational forfeiture as we may lose our seat at the vaunted ''cool table.'' The punishment for nonconformity is disrespect and ostracism.
But preference falsification raises more questions than it answers. Why do the vast majority of us, despite our supposedly moderate beliefs, adopt more partisan viewpoints? How did these viewpoints become mainstreamed? Who decides the rewards and punishments for conformity and dissent?
In short, partisans run the show. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Skin in the Game, discussed how this works in an essay titled ''The Most Intolerant Wins.'' He gives a simple example: the widespread use of automatic shifting cars. Those who can drive manual shift cars can drive all automatic cars. But the reverse isn't true. Thus, the flexible manual shift drivers adapt to the inflexible drivers who can operate only automatic shift cars.
Taleb describes a Pareto distribution whereby a small number of highly inflexible individuals determine how a society is run. We might assume that the nature of democracy would mean the minority acquiesces to the whims of the majority. In reality, the majority's passivity toward a policy or behavior is surpassed only by the minority's rigidity toward it.
Committed ideologues are unshakable in their beliefs, unlikely to move toward the middle. On the other hand, moderates, less encumbered by bias, are more open to new ideas. Moderates are more likely to move toward the extremes than partisans are to move toward the middle. Given their flexibility, moderates tend to adopt the preferences of the intransigent minority.
But how does the moderate majority come to accept the preferences of an extreme minority? Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute provide an answer. The researchers, using mathematical modeling, found that there is a tipping point for when opinions held by a committed minority spread to the rest of the population. The tipping point is 10%. ''When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10%, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas'...once that number grows above 10 %, the idea spreads like a flame.''
In short, how we behave often depends on how many people are behaving in that manner.
For a viewpoint to become popular, a minimum number of group members must first adopt it. Once this threshold is reached, the viewpoint becomes self-sustaining with more and more adopting it. Thus, the preferences of an intransigent minority are mainstreamed once enough moderates adopt them.
Following Taleb's ''minority rule,'' political culture is driven by a small group of charismatic individuals. This makes intuitive sense as the actions of those in Washington drive the news cycle. Whether they be party leaders, activists, or intellectuals, these individuals are the heart and soul of a political movement. They draw the ''party lines.'' They create the tribe's preferences and the tribe is willing to follow along.
The ''minority rule'' manifests rather mundanely in American politics. There is a lot of talk about hope, change, and making America great again. Slogans are indicators of what a party and political movement might become under a new leader. Often, a party comes to resemble the person who leads it. The leader determines what policies to support, what enemies to hate, what morals to espouse, and what hills to die on.
As a result, group preferences can change at the drop of hat. When Barack Obama openly supported gay marriage in 2012, his view not only became the de facto position of the Democratic Party but also produced preference changes across the US. Group preferences can also change radically over time. The Obama presidency significantly changed the political alignment of the Democratic voter base. According to Pew Research, between 2008 and 2016, Democrats have moved significantly leftward on a number of issues including racial discrimination, immigration, and the role of government.
This is not unique to Democrats, however, as Republicans' political preferences have been ''Trumpified.'' YouGov polling indicates that between August 2014 and August 2017, Republicans' view of Russia as an ally increased from 9% to 30%. Furthermore, Vladimir Putin's favorability rating among Republicans increased from 12% to 32% between 2015 and 2017. And it's not just Russia. Once supporters of free trade, Republicans are now increasingly against it, favoring steel tariffs.
This is not to suggest that political leaders are solely responsible for determining group preferences. Tribal preferences can be generated by self-righteous late night hosts, potty-mouthed actors, and this guy.
When it comes to formulating their own preferences, non-partisans tend to free ride on the ideas of the most available partisan, be it Kimmel or Schumer (both Chuck and Amy).
How Echo Chambers Encourage Preference Falsification
There's no better time to join an echo chamber.
If everyone in your group holds the same viewpoint and constantly pats one other on the back for holding this view, then chances are you're stuck in an echo chamber. There are no fundamental disagreements or internal debates. Acceptable ideas are ''echoed'' both because many people share them and because most refrain from speaking honestly. A group of likeminded individuals can reinforce one another's tentative viewpoints through repeated interactions.
Consider this study by psychologists Serge Moscovici and Marisa Zavalloni. The researchers first asked participants their opinion of then French president, Charles de Gaulle. Next, participants were asked about their attitude towards Americans. Finally, the researchers asked the participants to discuss each topic as a group.
Discussion, it turns out, led individuals to become more extreme in their views. In particular, participants' support for de Gaulle and dislike for Americans intensified as they learned that others shared these views. The researchers concluded, ''Group consensus seems to induce a change of attitudes in which subjects are likely to adopt more extreme positions.'' When we see our uncertain opinions echoed back to us, our beliefs strengthen.
We enjoy being around ideological compatriots. But this drive to associate with the likeminded has become excessive. Our communities are fragmented. And echo chambers are everywhere.
Today, polarization among Republicans and Democrats is staggering. Tracking 10 political values since 1994, the Pew Research Center discovered a 36-percentage-point gap between Republicans and Democrats. The gap was only 15 points in 1994.
This demonstrates a genuine movement towards polarization. As it relates to President Trump, nearly nine-in-ten Republicans (88%) approve of his job performance, compared to just 8% of Democrats.
In fact, the network science literature has revealed heightened levels of political homophily (''birds of a feather flock together'') on social media. Though these platforms were originally designed to bring people together, it is common to see social media users separate into two isolated communities, liberals and conservatives.
From what we've described, it is highly unlikely that most people within these groups are extreme partisans. It is instead more likely that moderates make up the rank and file. This raises an interesting question: how do moderates navigate this complex web of political tribes and echo chambers?
Simply put, they falsify their preferences. Most moderates conform to group preferences that have been established by committed ideologues.
Conformity is the key, here. Moderates must go along with the intransigent minority to get along with the group. In order to function within an echo chamber, less opinionated entrants must falsify their preferences so as to not upset those who decide the rules, rewards, and punishments. Moderates who agree with the gist of what the group stands for will often support fringe positions for the sake of group solidarity and reputational preservation. If you insist on telling the truth, your reputational goose is cooked.
American universities offer a clear example of how committed partisans can pressure moderates into falsifying their preferences.
In Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt's piece entitled ''The Coddling of the American Mind,'' Haidt offers a brief yet significant revelation. He notes that the majority of his students are well-adjusted individuals willing to learn and confront their biases. It is, however, a small cadre of dedicated ideologues who insist that Haidt modify his language and issue trigger warnings.
Campus ideologues have created an ''ethical'' code of conduct for which the rest of the student body must follow. Aware of the reputational costs of defiance, the moderate majority conceal their true feelings, quietly nodding along to campus diktats. According to Gallup, 88% of students at Pomona College agreed that campus climate prevented them from speaking openly. In fact, one Pomona sophomore noted that defying campus dogma could result in being ''socially shunned.'' Surveys from the Foundation for Rights in Education and The Harvard Crimson also confirm this reality.
Similarly, our polarized politics encourages preference falsification. The best evidence of this stares us right in the face: President Trump.
Following the outcome of the 2016 American presidential election, many political observers asked one question: how could the polls be so wrong? Put simply, the polls didn't actually measure how people truly felt.
Of the 61 national polls tracking a two-way race since October, only six gave Trump the lead.
In fact, the Princeton Election Consortium and the New York Times put Clinton's victory at 99% and 85%, respectively. Only polls by the LA Times, IBD/TIPP, and the Trafalgar Group correctly predicted Trump's victory.
Despite their confidence in tried and true polling methods, pollsters simply could not account for preference falsification on the part of Americans.
Even if polling organizations managed to collect a representative sample, they can't always trust the responses that people give them. When a topic is controversial, respondents often modify their answers to align with what they perceive to be socially acceptable. This is called the social desirability bias.
However, when a large enough number of respondents falsify their preferences to the point where the results of the survey contradict the results of the event, this is called the ''Shy Tory Factor.'' This is named after British conservatives who hid their voting preferences from pollsters during Britain's 1992 general election.
Conclusively, a report from the American Association for Public Opinion Research revealed that preference falsification among Trump voters played a part in the incorrect polling results. In fact, Robert Cahaly, a senior analyst at the Trafalgar Group, revealed that altering his polling methodology to account for shy Trump supporters allowed him to correctly predict the election's outcome.
Characterized as racists and ''deplorables,'' Trump supporters felt hesitant to declare their voting preferences when polled. Publicly admitting one's support for Trump would garner disapproval. Pollsters could not breach this veil of false reportage.
A Journey to Abilene
Political polarization encourages preference falsification which in turn reinforces political polarization. This is the reality of our politics. It's not as though Americans believe every position they express in public. It's more so that inflexible partisans have pulled us to the fringes of the political spectrum. In fact, fewer Americans (32%) occupy the political center in 2018 compared to 1994 (49%) and 2004 (49%).
Preference falsification artificially inflates political polarization. If our political preferences have been falsified then our differences might not be as pronounced or as authentic as we think them to be.
Nevertheless, group-based conformity is dangerous. Especially when most of us don't actually agree with the directives of our intransigent overlords. Conformity can lead us down a path that most of us did not want to travel.
Imagine a group of people trying to make dinner plans. One person suggests driving to a restaurant in a distant city called Abilene. Another person, not wanting to travel very far but dreading an argument, says ''sure.'' A third individual, now thinking that her two peers want to go to Abilene, doesn't want to be the odd person out. She agrees that Abilene is a good idea. This domino effect leads to everyone thinking everyone else wants to go to Abilene when in fact a consensus does not exist.
This is called The Abilene Paradox, described by management expert Jerry B. Harvey. It resembles the aforementioned echo chamber. But the Abilene Paradox is stranger. It consists of individuals who do not agree with an idea yet acquiesce because of their mistaken belief that a consensus has been reached.
Why is any of this important? Well, if enough people falsify their preferences then many of us will begin to mistake polite but dishonest assent for the honest truth.
Suppose you and I publicly supported a policy we privately despised. If neither of us publicly dissents then we'll continue to openly support this policy, making it more plausible than it actually is. And neither of us benefits when our ''support'' for this policy paves the way for its implementation.
As Americans, we collectively arrive at Abilene when we truly believe political polarization to be authentic. When moderates acquiesce to the beliefs of partisans, they signal to the opposition their ideological inflexibility and unwillingness to come together. It may even be the case that moderates on either side agree with another. But if no one speaks their mind, similarities are never discovered and compromises are never made.
Under these conditions, political caricatures and derogatory terms are accepted as truth. We'll have bought into the idea that those on the other side are actually ''deplorables'' and ''snowflakes.'' Binary thinking, ideological brinksmanship, and bad faith assumptions will come to define us. Most importantly, we'll have succumbed to belief that we have nothing in common.
In short, perception will become reality. The preference falsification which props up political tribalism will in time legitimize it. Indeed, believing that we are divided may be indistinguishable from actually being divided.
Unfortunately, the evidence now increasingly suggests that our inauthentic differences are becoming authentic. We are succumbing to the sway of partisans.
According to the Pew Research Center, 44% of Democrats and 45% of Republicans hold a very unfavorable view of the opposition. In 1994, fewer than 20% in both parties viewed the opposing party very unfavorably. In fact, our dislike of our political opponents may be driven more by fear than it is by legitimate critiques. 55% of Democrats said that the Republican Party made them ''afraid'' while 49% of Republicans said the same about the Democratic Party. As per our point on perceived ideological inflexibility, a staggering 70% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans viewed the opposition as ''closed-minded.''
Political tribalism has even distorted our view of who our real enemies are. A poll conducted by The Daily Best revealed that Republicans were more favorable to Kim Jong Un (19%) compared to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (17%). Similarly, Democrats viewed Kim Jong Un (82%) less unfavorably than President Trump (88%).
In the case of American politics, it is clear that an intransigent political minority have led us towards political tribalism.
If the actual truth becomes unfashionable to express, then we will all operate under the assumption that everyone else holds opinions they do not actually believe. Cutting through this collective mirage can save us from a trip to Abilene. Or worse.
Vincent Harinam is a law enforcement consultant, research associate at the Independence Institute, and incoming PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge. He received his BA and MA in Criminology from the University of Toronto. You can follow him (or not) @vincentharinam on Twitter.
Rob Henderson is a Gates Cambridge Scholar and incoming Ph.D. student at the University of Cambridge. He received a B.S. in Psychology from Yale University and is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. You can follow him on Twitter @robkhenderson
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At Google, Sharing National Review Articles Can Get You Reported to HR | Breitbart
Tue, 03 Jul 2018 21:59
At Google, a company currently facing a class-action lawsuit alleging it discriminates against conservatives (as well as males, Caucasians, and Asians), it's possible to be reported to human resources for sharing articles from the most milquetoast of conservative magazines '-- National Review. The story of how the mildest of NeverTrump Republican sources can get one reported to HR can only be the explained by the madness of Google's internal message boards, where the company's left-wing employees exchange comments and opinions that put the wokest of Twitter's celebrity Trump-haters to shame.
A source inside Google provided Breitbart News with screenshots of an internal discussion among left-leaning employees berating the company over its sponsorship of CPAC earlier this year. The discussion eventually led to the HR report.
Calling CPAC ''hurtful to minorities,'' the employee went on to complain about the company's pro-diversity mailing list, ''Yes at Google,'' withdrawing its support from another mailing list because it had become too ''political.''
The left-wing employee of one of the most prestigious and well-paying companies in the world went on to compare the plight of working for a CPAC sponsor to the plight of Jews in 1930s Germany:
There are political parties who believe I should not be alive, maybe because I'm transgender, or because my parents are Jewish, or because I'm an immigrant. In 1930s Germany, the Nazis were just a political party. Should we not stand for what's right simply because someone has deemd the question of the value of my life as mere 'politics?' You can't talk about the personal safety of a queer non-binary Jewish immigrant such as myself without talking about 'politics'. As my T-shirt says, I AM a divisive issue.
Another Google employee responded, stating:
I saw a post today containing hate speech towards trans people and the poster knew it was bad. But the poster said it was in a mainstream Republican magazine and thus was ''politics''.
Another Google employee advised that the matter be ''escalated to HR'' because ''no, hate speech is not OK. Even when 'it's politics'''. The other employee responded that they had already done so.
According to the Google insider who contacted Breitbart News, the article that got an employee reported to HR for ''hate speech'' was ''Intersectionality, The Dangerous Faith,'' a National Review article by David French.
French is a staunch ''NeverTrump'' conservative who, egged on by arch-NeverTrumper Bill Kristol, briefly considered a run for president as an independent anti-Trump conservative candidate in 2016. The NeverTrump mantle was eventually taken up by Evan McMullin, who also failed to spoil Trump's victory. At Google, though, sharing articles from a moderate like French is all it takes to get you reported to HR. National Review itself emerged as the leading NeverTrump publication during the 2016 election.
Radical left-wingers at Google might feel less comfortable reporting their conservative employees to HR if the department did not have a history of taking action based on dubious reasons. Numerous examples of this can be found in the class-action lawsuit filed against the company by former employees who allege they were discriminated against on the basis of race, gender, and political viewpoint. According to the lawsuit, Google ''[failed] to protect employees from negative comments made about Caucasian men as Google protected members of other protected classes, and ignor[ed] formal requests for redress from Google managers and the Human Resources department.''
Examples of bias cited in the lawsuit include a threat made against viewpoint diversity supporter James Damore by Google employee Alex Hidalgo, who threatened to ''hound'' Damore until ''one of us is fired.'' Instead of taking action against Hidalgo, Google fired Damore. According to the lawsuit, Google HR also fired one of their plaintiffs, David Gudeman, after he questioned a Muslim co-worker's allegation that he had been investigated by the FBI because of his faith. In another instance, a Google employee was scolded by HR for sharing that he intended to teach traditional gender roles to his children.
Another plaintiff, Manuel Amador, alleges that in addition to being reprimanded by HR for opinions about race that he did not hold, and demanding he apologize over a falsified complaint, the company did nothing to stop routine harassment at the hands of Google's left-wing employees.
A Google spokeswoman said that the company ''respects and values that all of our employees have a right to having and expressing their opinion and point of view'' and that ''leadership considers it a top priority to make sure that, regardless of differing viewpoints, everyone feels included at Google and can engage in respectful, civil conversations with their colleagues.''
As Google HR was warning, reprimanding, and even firing employees for expressing mainstream conservative opinions, they were also turning a blind eye to open support within Google for the violent, far-left Antifa movement, a group that has been identified as a domestic terrorist organization by U.S. security agencies. When asked late last year, Google declined to offer a general denunciation of political violence.
For left-wingers at Google, supporting Antifa doesn't get you in trouble. Share an article from the mildest, most establishment conservative magazine, though? Prepare to be snitched on to HR. Evidence of a climate of a climate of hostility towards conservative employees at Google continues to mount.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter, Gab.ai and add him on Facebook. Email tips and suggestions to allumbokhari@protonmail.com.
Women really do talk more than men (13,000 words a day more to be precise) | Daily Mail Online
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 13:22
Sorry to interrupt, dear, but women really do talk more than men (13,000 words a day more to be precise) Researchers have found women have higher levels of Foxp2 protein Team from University of Maryland found male rats - the chattier gender in rodents - make more of the protein than female Previously been claimed that woman speak 20,000 words a day Girls learn to speak earlier and more quickly than boys ByFiona Macrae Science Correspondent
Published: 14:39 EDT, 20 February 2013 | Updated: 18:50 EDT, 20 February 2013
Ladies, the next time the man in your life complains you talk too much, silence him with science.
Tell him - at length, of course - it is all because of the Foxp2 protein.
It has been claimed previously that women speak about 20,000 words a day - some 13,000 more than the average man.
It has been claimed that women speak about 20,000 words a day - 13,000 more than the average man - and scientists say a higher amount of the Foxp2 protein is the reason women are more chatty
But now scientists have found the key to explaining why women are the more talkative sex.
A study just published suggests that higher levels of the protein are found in the female brain.
US researchers found that those with more Foxp2, known as the 'language protein', in their brains were the chattier. Among humans that was women, but in rats it was the males.
The researchers set out to determine what might make male rats more vocal than their female cage mates. They separated four-day-old pups from their mothers and counted the number of times they cried out.
Both male and female pups emitted hundreds of cries, but the males called out twice as often. As a result, when the pups were put back in the same cage as their mother, she fussed over her sons first.
Researchers found the so-called 'language protein' that makes women more talkative also causes male rats to be more vocal than their female cage mates
Tests on the parts of the brain known to be involved in vocal calls showed the male pups to have up to twice as much Foxp2 protein as the females.
The researchers then ramped up its production in the brains of female pups and reduced it in males. This led to the female rats crying out more often and their mothers showing more interest to them.
The males in contrast, became less 'talkative', the Journal of Neuroscience reports. Next, the University of Maryland researchers tested samples from ten boys and girls aged between three and five.
This showed the girls to have 30 per cent more of the Foxp2 protein than the boys, in a brain area key to language in humans.
Researcher Margaret McCarthy said: 'Based on our observations, we postulate higher levels of Foxp2 in girls and higher levels of Foxp2 in male rats is an indication that Foxp2 protein levels are associated with the more communicative sex.'
Studies have shown that the female love of chit-chat begins at a young age. Girls learn to speak earlier and more quickly than boys. They produce their first words and sentences earlier, have larger vocabularies and use a greater variety of sentence types than boys of the same age.
However, Simon Fisher, one of the Oxford team who first pinpointed the protein, cautioned against drawing big conclusions from a study of such a small number of children.
Ron Paul newsletters - Wikipedia
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 14:48
Beginning in 1978, for more than two decades, Ron Paul '' American physician, libertarian activist, congressman, and presidential candidate '' published a variety of political and investment-oriented newsletters bearing his name.[1][2] The content of some newsletters, which were widely deemed racist, was a source of controversy during his 1996 congressional campaign and his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns.
Contents
Ron Paul helped found the Foundation for Rational Economics and Education in 1976.[3] This think tank began publishing Ron Paul's Freedom Report newsletter.[4]
In 1984, as he left Congress, Paul also set up Ron Paul & Associates (RP&A), with his wife and daughter and his former congressional chief of staff, Lew Rockwell. The next year, RP&A began publishing several publications including The Ron Paul Investment Letter, The Ron Paul Survival Report, and The Ron Paul Political Report. By 1993, RP&A was earning $940,000 per year.[5] When Paul began working toward returning to Congress in 1995, he gave an interview to C-SPAN in which he described the newsletters as "business-financial", talking about "monetary matters and the gold standard."[6] Most articles did not carry a byline, and many were written in the first person.[2]
The newsletters drew attention for controversial content when raised as a campaign issue by Paul's opponent in the 1996 Congressional election, Charles "Lefty" Morris.[7]
Many articles in these newsletters contained statements that were criticized as racist or homophobic. These statements include, "Given the inefficiencies of what DC laughingly calls the criminal justice system, I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal."[8][9][10][11] An October 1992 article said, "even in my little town of Lake Jackson, Texas, I've urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense... for the animals are coming."[12] Another newsletter suggested that black activists who wanted to rename New York City after Martin Luther King, Jr. should instead rename it "Welfaria," "Zooville," "Rapetown," "Dirtburg," or "Lazyopolis."[2] An article titled "The Pink House" said "I miss the closet. Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities."[2][13][14] Another newsletter asserted that HIV-positive homosexuals "enjoy the pity and attention that comes with being sick" and approved of the slogan "Sodomy=Death."[2]
A number of the newsletters criticized civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., calling him a pedophile and "lying socialist satyr".[2][15] These articles told readers that Paul had voted against making Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday a federal public holiday, saying "Boy, it sure burns me to have a national holiday for that pro-communist philanderer, Martin Luther King. I voted against this outrage time and time again as a Congressman. What an infamy that Ronald Reagan approved it! We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day."[2][16][17] During the 2008 and 2012 presidential election campaigns, Paul and his supporters said that the passages denouncing King were not a reflection of Paul's own views because he considers King a "hero".[18][19][20]
In a January 2008 article in The New Republic, James Kirchick, who studied hundreds of Paul's newsletters held at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas, and at the Wisconsin Historical Society, wrote that the newsletters "reveal decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays".[2][21] The newsletters also criticized the state of Israel. One investment letter called Israel ''an aggressive, national socialist state''; a 1990 newsletter discussed the ''tens of thousands of well-placed friends of Israel in all countries who are willing to work for the Mossad in their area of expertise''; one quoted a "Jewish friend" who said the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was a "setup by the Israeli Mossad".[2]
During the 1996 reelection campaign Paul did not deny writing the newsletters,[22] and defended their content, saying that he opposed racism and his remarks about blacks had been taken out of context.[8][9][23]
In March 2001, Paul said he did not write the commentaries, but stopped short of denying authorship in 1996 because his campaign advisers had thought it would be too confusing and that he had to live with the material published under his name.[24][25] In 2011 Paul's spokesperson Jesse Benton said Paul had "taken moral responsibility because they appeared under his name and slipped through under his watch".[10]
Numerous sources said Lew Rockwell, who co-founded the firm that published the newsletters and remained an officer throughout its existence,[5] had written the racially charged content. In 2008, the libertarian news magazine Reason reported that "a half-dozen longtime libertarian activists" said that Rockwell had been the chief ghostwriter.[5] Former Ron Paul Chief of Staff John W. Robbins (1981''1985) publicly called on Rockwell to say he wrote the "puerile, racist" newsletters, and stated that "all informed people" believe that Rockwell ghostwrote the newsletters.[26] A New Republic listing of newsletters[21] showed that Rockwell's name appears on newsletters as either contributing editor or editor.[27][28]
Rockwell said that he was involved in the operations of the newsletters, but denied writing them, saying his role was confined to writing subscription letters.[29] He also said the person who ghost wrote the racially charged pieces "is now long gone" and that he "left in unfortunate circumstances."[29] He has described discussion of the newsletters scandal as "hysterical smears aimed at political enemies."[30]
In January 2012, The Washington Post reported that several of Paul's former associates said that there was no indication that he had written the controversial passages himself, but three people said that Paul had been very involved in the production of the newsletters and had allowed the controversial material to be included as part of a deliberate strategy to boost profits.[31] According to one of the associates, Paul's former secretary (and a self-described supporter of his 2012 Presidential campaign) Renae Hathway, Paul was a "hands-on boss" who would come into the Houston office, about 50 miles (80 km) from home, about once a week. She said, "It was his newsletter, and it was under his name, so he always got to see the final product... He would proof it." She also said, "We had tons of subscribers, from all over the world... I never had one complaint about the content."[31]
Ed Crane, founder and president of the Cato Institute, told Reason that in a discussion with Ron Paul during the period in which the newsletters were published, Paul said his chief source of campaign contributions was the mailing address for the controversial Spotlight magazine. Reason reports that the now defunct magazine, run by Holocaust denier Willis Carto, promoted anti-Semitism.[5] Paul denied the accusations, telling CNN that Hathway had made up what she had said, and that he had no recollection of the alleged conversation with Crane and did not know what Crane was talking about.[32]
During Paul's 2012 presidential campaign, journalist Ben Swann revisited the newsletters story and reported the name of another author, James B. Powell, found in the byline in a 1993 edition of the Ron Paul Strategy Guide '' an article titled "How to Protect Against Urban Violence", with purported racist content.[33] In his report Swann said the 2008 coverage by The New Republic had reported that only one of the controversial articles had a byline, but had not identified either the specific issue or the name of the author. However, in a Washington Post piece that argued that, "[on] the topic of Ron Paul's racist, homophobic and creepy-cum-conspiratorial newsletters, Swann allows his affection for constitutionalist politics to corrupt his judgment," Kirchick said that Swann's story on Powell consisted of no original reporting and had been previously documented in Kirchick's earlier pieces on the scandal.[34] Kirchick wrote in 2012 that he was disappointed that the media revelations of Paul's newsletters had not curtailed Paul's political career to the degree that seemed possible in 2008.[35]
6 Week Cycle
FBI Caught Red Handed: Set Up Lynch-Clinton Tarmac Meeting, According to IG Report '' True PunditTrue Pundit
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 11:03
PoliticsFBI Caught Red Handed: Set Up Lynch-Clinton Tarmac Meeting, According to IG ReportTake, for instance, page 203 of the report. In it, it's revealed that the ''impromptu'' meeting between Bill Clinton and then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch on a tarmac in Phoenix, which was supposedly just a meet cute of two very famous Democrats with private jets, was actually set up by Clinton's Secret Service detail and the FBI.
The 30-minute meeting on June 27, 2016, came just days before the Department of Justice was set to conclude its investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server for communication that included classified documents.
Clinton maintained it was just a standard meeting, nothing he postponed his flight for.
''It's absolutely not true,'' he told investigators about accusations he delayed his takeoff to meet with Lynch.
''I literally didn't know she was there until somebody told me she was there. And we looked out the window and it was really close and all of her staff was unloading, so I thought, 'she's about to get off and I'll just go shake hands with her when she gets off.'
He literally didn't know she was there, except the IG report specifically says he asked to meet with her.
''The Deputy Chief of Staff (for Lynch) said that she had 'zero knowledge' that former President Clinton was there before she saw him approach the plane. She stated, 'And if I had knowledge, I would not have been in that van. I would've'...stayed on the plane and got everybody off'.... No heads up or anything.'
''The Senior Counselor said she asked everyone in the van if they knew that former President Clinton was going to be there, and they all said no. The OPA (Office of Public Affairs) Supervisor said that he later learned that former President Clinton's Secret Service detail had contacted Lynch's FBI security detail and let them know that the former President wanted to meet with Lynch. (Emphasis ours.)
''Although Lynch's staff was supposed to receive notice of such requests, witnesses told us that they were not informed of the request from former President Clinton.'' '' READ MORE
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Q Missers
State Department Employee Pleads Guilty to Producing Child Pornography | USAO-EDVA | Department of Justice
Mon, 02 Jul 2018 19:07
ALEXANDRIA, Va. '' An Alexandria man pleaded guilty today to production of child pornography.
According to court documents, over at least a two year period, Skydance MacMahon, 44, conspired with an adult in Canada to produce over a thousand sexually explicit images and videos of minor children in Canada. These images and videos were produced at the direction of MacMahon using Skype and hidden cameras. MacMahon distributed these image and video files to other users and consumers of child pornography by providing access to the files on his cloud storage services and also by directly sending the files to other users. In addition to the child pornography images and videos MacMahon himself created, he also received and possessed thousands of images and videos of child pornography.
During the time he committed these offenses, MacMahon was a Digital Media Administrator at the Foreign Services Institute of the U.S. Department of State in Arlington.
MacMahon pleaded guilty to conspiring to produce child pornography and producing child pornography. He faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years and a maximum penalty of 60 years in prison when sentenced on October 12. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.
G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Nancy McNamara, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office, and Steve A. Linick, Inspector General for the Department of State, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga accepted the plea. Assistant U.S. Attorney Whitney Dougherty Russell is prosecuting the case.
Significant assistance was provided by the FBI's Cincinnati Field Office, the U.S. Department of State Office of Inspector General's Cyber Forensic Division, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Halifax Regional Police, Crown Prosecution Service, Special Prosecution Section, the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service, the Arlington County Police Department, and the Arlington County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:18-cr-261.
Inside the 'Q Group,' the Directorate Hunting Down Edward Snowden
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 13:38
Even before last week's revelations by The Guardian newspaper that the National Security Agency (NSA) was collecting call records from telecommunications companies and had the ability to mine user data from major U.S. Internet companies, the NSA was already on the trail of the leaker, according to two former U.S. intelligence officers with close ties to the agency.
On Sunday, The Guardian revealed its source'--a 29-year-old former U.S. Army soldier and CIA employee named Edward Snowden. Snowden'--who worked as a contract employee at an NSA station in Hawaii'--said he agreed to have his identity revealed because he feared that the NSA would put pressure on his family and his friends for information about his whereabouts. From a hotel in Hong Kong, he told The Guardian he expected he would never be allowed to return home and that he could end up imprisoned or murdered because of his decision to leak.
The people who began chasing Snowden work for the Associate Directorate for Security and Counterintelligence, according to former U.S. intelligence officers who spoke on condition of anonymity. The directorate, sometimes known as ''the Q Group,'' is continuing to track Snowden now that he's outed himself as The Guardian's source, according to the intelligence officers. Snowden began final preparations for his departure three weeks ago, The Guardian reports, copying the final documents he intended to share, telling his supervisor that he would need time off for medical treatment, and his girlfriend simply that he would be away. "That is not an uncommon occurrence for someone who has spent the last decade working in the intelligence world," he told the paper in his interview from Hong Kong.
The security and counterintelligence directorate serves as the NSA's internal police force, in effect watching the agency's watchers for behavior that could pose an intelligence risk. It has the authority to interview an NSA contractor or employee's known associates, and even to activate a digital dragnet capable of finding out where a target travels, what the target has purchased, and the target's online activity.
''We have seen the latest report from The Guardian that identifies an individual claiming to have disclosed information about highly classified intelligence programs in recent days,'' Office of the Director of National Intelligence spokesperson Shawn Turner said in a statement issued Sunday. ''The Intelligence Community is currently reviewing the damage that has been done by these recent disclosures. Any person who has a security clearance knows that he or she has an obligation to protect classified information and abide by the law.''
''It informs our adversaries. It puts American companies at risk internationally for simply complying with our laws,'' said Mike Hayden, a former director of the NSA and a former director of the CIA. ''It teaches practically everyone in the world'--sources, liaison services'--that America can't keep secrets.''
The impact of the leak inside the NSA has been enormous. ''There is complete freakout mode at the agency right now,'' one former intelligence officer tells The Daily Beast. ''There has never been anything like this in terms of the speed of referral of a crime report to the Justice Department. Normally this kind of thing takes weeks and weeks.''
Snowden's disappearance in May was immediately noticed by the directorate, and when The Guardian published the first court order and then documents associated with a program called PRISM, Snowden immediately became the leading suspect in the leak, the intelligence sources said, adding that the FBI was now investigating the leak as well.
In Congress, some members have already called for the United States to pursue Snowden's extradition and prosecute him for his unauthorized disclosures. ''If Edward Snowden did in fact leak the NSA data as he claims, the United States government must prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law and begin extradition proceedings at the earliest date,'' Rep. Peter King, the Republican chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterintelligence & Terrorism, said in a statement Sunday.Hayden dismissed the criticism that terrorists already knew the NSA was collecting vast amounts of telephone metadata before Snowden's leak.
''Let me get this right: I got a religious fanatic in the cave in the Hindu Kush, yet this is a front-page, above-the-fold story and he already knew this?'' he asked rhetorically. ''That does not make sense. It will teach guys to be far more cautious in the future."
The former U.S. intelligence officers, however, said the case is already being treated as a potential defection. ''I think it is really tragic that an American has to move to a place that has a reputation for less freedom,'' Snowden told The Guardian. ''Still, Hong Kong has a reputation for freedom in spite of the People's Republic of China. It has a strong tradition of free speech."
The former U.S. intelligence officers, though, compared Snowden with William Hamilton Martin and Bernon F. Mitchell, two NSA cryptologists who defected to the Soviet Union on June 25, 1960. Both held a press conference at the time where they disclosed U.S. spying programs from Moscow. An NSA assessment of that defection a few years later called it the worst intelligence breach in the history of the NSA'--a mark that may have just been passed.
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Press officers for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the NSA declined to comment for this story.
Any Collusion?
Senate committee: Russia meddled in 2016 election to help Trump - Vox
Tue, 03 Jul 2018 22:20
A GOP-led Senate panel concluded on Tuesday that the US intelligence community's 18-month-old conclusions about the 2016 presidential election '-- that Moscow meddled to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump'-- were ''well supported.''
The Senate Intelligence Committee released a seven-page summary that corroborates much of what the CIA, NSA, and FBI concluded back in January 2017, and praises their report as ''a sound intelligence product'' '-- despite President Donald Trump's continued insistence that Russia didn't interfere to help him and his criticism of the intelligence assessment as biased against him.
''The Committee has spent the last 16 months reviewing the sources, tradecraft and analytic work underpinning the Intelligence Community Assessment and sees no reason to dispute the conclusions,'' Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) said in a statement.
The report does point out that the CIA and FBI had ''high confidence'' that Russia was trying to help Trump win, but that the NSA only had ''moderate confidence'' of that finding. However, the committee writes that they found ''the analytical disagreement'' between the agencies ''was reasonable, transparent, and openly debated'' '-- not the result of political bias.
This report doesn't address the question of whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to interfere with the election. Special counsel Robert Mueller is continuing to investigate that possibility.
The Senate Intelligence Committee's report comes as Trump is preparing to meet Putin on July 16 in Helsinki. Trump says he will raise the topic of election meddling with the Russian leader.
The committee hasn't said its final word on thisBack in January 2017, three US intelligence agencies concluded that Putin ordered an ''influence campaign'' against Clinton to help Trump. Yet Trump himself has repeatedly voiced doubt about this assessment since.
Back in May, however, Sens. Burr and Mark Warner (D-VA), the intelligence committee's top officials, previewed today's findings by announcing they agreed with the intelligence community's conclusions.
''Our staff concluded that the [intelligence community's] conclusions were accurate and on point,'' Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said in a joint statement with the panel's chair, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). ''The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton.''
''There is no doubt that Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere with our 2016 elections,'' Burr said.
Now they've released more details about their conclusions. But they said that they're still preparing a ''comprehensive, classified report'' on the topic, which they plan to release in unclassified format eventually. So they haven't said their final word on the topic just yet.
Prosecutors debunk Trump-fueled conspiracy theory about former Wasserman Schultz aide
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 14:43
Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
Federal prosecutors on Tuesday publicly debunked conspiracy theories pushed by President Donald Trump and right-wing media that a former Democratic aide charged with bank fraud was actually a foreign spy trying to steal government secrets.
In a plea deal with Imran Awan, who worked as an information technology aide for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and other Democratic lawmakers, prosecutors said they had conducted "a thorough investigation" into claims that Awan stole information from government servers on behalf of another country while working for House Democrats, but reported that they found no evidence to support the conspiracy theories.
"The Government agrees that the public allegations that (Awan) stole U.S. House of Representatives equipment and engaged in unauthorized or illegal conduct involving House computer systems do not form the basis of any conduct relevant to the determination of the sentence in this case," prosecutors said.
David Damron, a spokesman for Wasserman Schultz, said on Tuesday that the lawmaker was pleased with the result of the investigation and that prosecutors had publicly shot down the conspiracy theories.
"We rely on our justice system to produce a fair result, after a considered, objective review," Damron said in a statement. "That role is even more important at a time when Donald Trump and his allies spread dangerous distortions with the intent of falsely smearing his political opponents."
The claims that Awan was improperly siphoning government data while working as a Democratic aide and storing it off-site on behalf of another country began on internet forums and was later spread by right-wing news outlets. The allegations then gained even more steam after Trump tweeted about the case twice earlier this year.
Trump referred to Awan as the "Pakistani mystery man" in an April tweet attacking Democrats and Wasserman Shultz.
"Just heard the Campaign was sued by the Obstructionist Democrats. This can be good news in that we will now counter for the DNC Server that they refused to give to the FBI, the Debbie Wasserman Schultz Servers and Documents held by the Pakistani mystery man and Clinton Emails," the president wrote.
In June, Trump tweeted that the government "must not let Awan ... off the hook" and suggested the Democrats' server was missing.
"Our Justice Department must not let Awan & Debbie Wasserman Schultz off the hook. The Democrat I.T. scandal is a key to much of the corruption we see today. They want to make a 'plea deal' to hide what is on their Server. Where is Server? Really bad!" Trump tweeted.
Officials said Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, defrauded the Congressional Federal Credit Union for $165,000 by lying on a home equity loan application, according to federal court documents. He was arrested last year at at Dulles International Airport trying to fly to Lahore, Pakistan.
Awan, 38, pleaded guilty to lying on the loan application and likely faces six months or less in jail. His wife left the U.S. last year.
To probe the conspiracy theories, prosecutors said they seized the server used by the House Democratic caucus, along with computers and other electronic devices and performed a forensic analysis. They also interviewed roughly 40 witnesses, according to the plea agreement.
"The Government has uncovered no evidence that your client violated federal law with respect to the House computer systems," says the plea agreement, addressed to Awan's lawyer. "Particularly, the Government has found no evidence that your client illegally removed House data from the House network or from House Members' offices, stole the House Democratic Caucus Server, stole or destroyed House information technology equipment, or improperly accessed or transferred government information, including classified or sensitive information."
Chris Gowen, Awan's lawyer, blasted the president and the conservative media in a statement.
"This case illustrates the real and tragic human consequences of a right-wing media operation that today goes far beyond mere political opportunism," Gowen said. "There has never been any missing server, smashed hard drives, blackmailed members of Congress, or breach of classified information."
He added, "Like so many irresponsible, misleading, or simply untrue tweets from the president, this allegation displayed a complete lack of respect for law enforcement. The president obviously knew from the beginning of this investigation that law enforcement was in possession of the House Democratic server."
Sessions DOJ: 'No Evidence' Imran Awan Broke Law w/ Congress's Computers
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 15:27
The Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed a plea deal Tuesday to Imran Awan '-- former IT staffer for top House Democrats '-- which states the federal government found ''no evidence'' that Awan ''violated federal law with respect to House computer systems.''The plea deal states:
The Government has uncovered no evidence that your client violated federal law with respect to the House computer systems. Particularly, the Government has found no evidence that your client illegally removed House data from the House network or from House Members' offices, stole the House Democratic Caucus Server, stole or destroyed House information technology equipment, or improperly accessed or transferred government information, including classified or sensitive information.
The DOJ's offer allows Awan to plead guilty to making a false statement on a loan or credit application; a violation of 18 U.S. Code § 1014. Although the crime carries a maximum sentence of 30 years imprisonment and a fine possibly exceeding $1,000,000 with restitution and interest penalties, the DOJ estimates a prison sentence of between zero and six months and a fine between $500 and $9,500 in the event of Awan's acceptance of its terms.
The offer includes dismissal of all charges against Awan's wife, Hina Alvi, listed in an August-issued indictment. It expires at the end of the day.
Awan, a Pakistani national, managed IT services for more than 20 congressional Democrats, including former DNC chairwoman Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) over several years.
Wasserman-Schultz opted against firing Awan until after he was arrested and had attempted to flee the country for Pakistan.
In May of 2017, Wasserman-Schultz threatened U.S. Capitol Police Chief Matthew R. Verderosa with ''consequences'' for not returning computer equipment seized as part of a criminal investigation related to Awan and his wife.
Chris Gowen, Awan's attorney, said last July that ''ultra-right-wing-media'' had victimized his client with an ''anti-Muslim, right-wing smear job.''
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DOJ Agrees Not To Prosecute Imran Awan For House Cybersecurity And Theft, But Questions Remain - The Daily Caller
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 19:50
Imran Awan entering federal court for his arraignment Sept. 1, 2017. (Screenshot from One America News used with permission) | Imran Awan Explained On Fox News | Cops Accidentally Gave Evidence To Awan
An assistant US attorney said Tuesday he would not prosecute Imran Awan, a former systems administrator for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other Democrats, for any crimes on Capitol Hill in a plea agreement that had him plead guilty to one count of bank fraud.
Only one person sat at the prosecutors' table: J.P. Coomey, who unsuccessfully prosecuted New Jersey Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez for corruption and was only added to the case Monday. There was no sign of Michael Marando, who had previously led the prosecution.
Coomey did not object to the removal of Awan's GPS monitor, said he would not oppose a sentence of probation, and agreed to drop charges against his wife, fellow former systems administrative Hina Alvi. (RELATED: Capitol Police Accidentally Gave Evidence To House Hacking Suspect's Defense Attorney)
The Department of Justice said it found ''found no evidence that [Imran] illegally removed House data from the House network or from House Members' offices, stole the House Democratic Caucus Server, stole or destroyed House information technology equipment, or improperly accessed or transferred government information.''
That statement appears to take issue '-- without explaining how '-- with the findings of the House's Nancy Pelosi-appointed inspector general, its top law enforcement official, the sergeant-at-arms, and the statements of multiple Democratic aides.
In September 2016, the House Office of Inspector General gave House leaders a presentation that alleged that Alvi, Imran, brothers Abid Awan and Jamal Awan, and a friend were logging into the servers of members who had previously fired him and funneling data off the network. It said evidence ''suggests steps are being taken to conceal their activity'' and that their behavior mirrored a ''classic method for insiders to exfiltrate data from an organization.''
Server logs show, it said, that Awan family members made ''unauthorized access'' to congressional servers in violation of House rules by logging into the servers of members who they didn't work for.
The presentation especially found problems on one server, that of the House Democratic Caucus, an entity chaired at the time by then-Rep. Xavier Becerra of California.
On Feb. 3, 2017, Paul Irving, the House's top law enforcement officer, wrote in a letter to the Committee on House Administration that soon after it became evidence, the server went ''missing.''
The letter continued: ''Based upon the evidence gathered to this point, we have concluded the employees are an ongoing and serious risk to the House of Representatives, possibly threatening the integrity of our information systems.''
Imran, Abid, Jamal, Alvi and a friend were banned from the House network the same day Kiko sent the letter.
The alleged wrongdoing consisted of two separate issues.
The first was the cybersecurity issues. In an April 2018 hearing spurred by the Awan case, Chief Administrative Officer Phil Kiko testified: ''The bookend to the outside threat is the insider threat. Tremendous efforts are dedicated to protecting the House against these outside threats, however these efforts are undermined when these employees do not adhere to and thumb their nose at our information security policy, and that's a risk in my opinion we cannot afford.''
The second was a suspected theft scheme. Wendy Anderson, a former chief of staff for Rep. Yvette Clarke, told House investigators she believed Abid was working with ex-Clarke aide Shelley Davis to steal equipment, and described coming in on a Saturday to find so many pieces of equipment, including iPods and Apple TVs, that it ''looked like Christmas.''
In the hearing, Kiko described ''egregious'' behavior by Imran, saying the House ''discovered evidence of procurement fraud and irregularities'' on top of the ''numerous violations of House security policies.''
''CAO's Office of Acquisition Management detected and flagged unusual invoices originating from five shared employees who served more than 30 House offices,'' Kiko said. ''The invoices, as submitted, were structured in a way to avoid the House's $500 equipment accountability threshold. Upon further investigation into the five shared employees' activities, the House IG discovered evidence of procurement fraud and irregularities, numerous violations of House security policies, and violations of the Committee's Shared Employee Manual, etc.''
Yet Tuesday's court document said:
The Govemment agrees that the public allegations that your client stole U.S. House of Representatives (''House'') equipment and engaged in unauthorized or illegal conduct involving House computer systems do not form the basis of any conduct relevant to the determination of the sentence in this case. The Government conducted a thorough investigation of those allegations, including interviewing approximately 40 witnesses; taking custody of the House Democratic Caucus server, along with other computers, hard drives, and electronic devices; examining those devices, including inspecting their physical condition and analyzing log-in and usage data; reviewing electronic communications between pertinent House employees; consulting with the House Office of General Counsel and House information technology personnel to access and/or collect evidence; and questioning your client during numerous voluntary interviews.
It concluded that the ''Government has uncovered no evidence that your client violated federal law with respect to the House computer systems,'' but didn't explain how it came to that conclusion.
The bank fraud to which Imran pleaded guilty involved withdrawing hundreds of thousands of dollars by lying on mortgage application and pretending to have a medical emergency that required draining Alvi's congressional retirement account, court records show. That money was then wired to Pakistan in January 2017. Prosecutors previously said they believe the Awans knew they were under investigation when they made the money moves, and described Imran as a flight risk.
Though the bank fraud occurred in January 2017, Imran wasn't arrested until July 2017, when he tried to leave the country and was taken into custody at Dulles airport. His lawyer is Chris Gowen, a former aide to Hillary Clinton.
Wasserman Schultz kept paying Awan after he was banned from Congress. A Capitol Police report shows that in April 2016, Imran left a laptop with the username RepDWS in a Capitol Hill phone booth late at night, and it was taken by police.
Police said they needed it as evidence, but Wasserman Schultz pledged ''consequences'' for the police chief. Wasserman Schultz' brother, a prosecutor in the D.C. US Attorney's office, has tweeted about the case under the handle ''fedpros.''
Gowen said he felt ''very strongly'' that the RepDWS laptop should not be examined, and prosecutors never publicly challenged that request.
No one else connected to Imran that was banned from the House has been charged, yet the House has not re-instated them. Imran, Hina, Abid and Jamal have also shared IT duties with Haseeb Rana, former McDonalds worker Rao Abbas and Nataliia Sova, a Ukrainian who is married to Abid.
House officials told TheDCNF that the vast majority of evidence about misconduct allegations on Capitol Hill '-- including $120,000 in missing equipment from the office of Yvette Clarke '-- is actually against Abid, not Imran.
Capitol Hill officials involved in oversight of the case previously told TheDCNF that the reason the DOJ was not pursuing the case was because the Democrats were refusing to press charges.
The agreement says:
After the entry of your client's plea of guilty to the offense identified in paragraph 1 above, your client will not be charged with any non-violent criminal offense in violation of Federal or District of Columbia law which was committed within the District of Columbia by your client prior to the execution of this Agreement and about which this Office was made aware by your client prior to the execution of this Agreement, all of which is contained in the attached Statement of Offense. However, the United States expressly reserves its right to prosecute your client for any crime of violence.
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US vs Imran Anwar
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 15:33
U.S. Department of JusticeJessie K. LiuUnited States AttorneyDistrict of ColumbiaJudiciary Center555 Fourth St.. N.W.Washington, D.C. 20530July 3,2018Christopher J. GowenGowen Silva & Winograd513 Capitol Court, NE, SuiteWashington, DC 20002Re:Dear Mr. Gowen:100United States v. Imran AwanCriminal Case No. l7-cr-l6l (TSC)This letter sets forth the full and complete plea offer to your client, Imran Awan(hereinafter referred to as "your client" or "defendant"), from the Office of the United StatesAttomey for the District of Columbia (hereinafter also referred to as "the Government" or "thisOffice"). This plea offer expires on July 3,2018. If your client accepts the terms and conditionsof this offer, please have your client execute this document in the space provided below. Uponreceipt of the executed document, this letter will become the Plea Agreement (hereinafterreferred to as "this Agreement"). The terms of the offer are as follows:1. Charges and Statutor"y PenaltiesYour client agrees to plead guilty to Count Three in the Indictment, charging your clientwith False Statement on Loan or Credit Application, in violation of l8 U.S.C. $ 1014.Your client understands that a violation of l8 U.S.C. $ 1014 carries a maximum sentenceof 30 years of imprisonment; a fine of $1,000,000 or twice the pecuniary gain or loss of theoffense, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. $ 3571(b)(3); a term of supervised release of not more than 5years, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. $ 3583(b)(l); mandatory restitution under 18 U.S.C. $ 36634; andan obligation to pay any applicable interest or penalties on fines and restitution not timely made.In addition, your client agrees to pay a special assessment of $ 100 per felony convictionto the Clerk of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Your client alsounderstands that, pursuant to l8 U.S.C. 5 3572 and $ 5E1.2 of the United States Sentencing
Commission, Guidelines Manual (2018) (hereinafter "Sentencing Guidelines," "Guidelines," or"IJ.S.S.G."), the Court may also impose a fine that is sufficient to pay the federal govemment thecosts of any imprisonment, term of supervised release, and period of probation. Further, yourclient understands that, if your client has two or more convictions for a crime of violence orfelony drug offense, your client may be subject to the substantially higher penalties provided forin the career-offender statutes and provisions of the Sentencing Guidelines.2. Factual StipulationsYour client agrees that the attached "Statement of Offlense" fairly and accuratelydescribes your client's actions and involvement in the offense to which your client is pleadingguilty. Please have your client sign and return the Statement of Offense as a written proffer ofevidence, along with this Agreement.3. Additional ChareesAfter the entry of your client's plea of guilty to the offense identified in paragraph 1above, your client will not be charged with any non-violent criminal offense in violation ofFederal or District of Columbia law which was committed within the District of Columbia byyour client prior to the execution of this Agreement and about which this Office was made awareby your client prior to the execution of this Agreement, all of which is contained in the attachedStatement of Offense. However, the United States expressly reserves its right to prosecute yourclient for any crime of violence, as defined in 18 U.S.C. $ l6 and./or 22D.C. Code $ 4501, if infact your client committed or commits such a crime of violence prior to or after the execution ofthis Agreement.4. Dismissal of Co-Defendant Hina AlviAs part of your client's guilty plea to the above offense, the Government will request thatthe Court dismiss all charges in the Indictment against co-defendant Hina Alvi at the time ofsentencing.5. Sentencins Guidelines AnalvsisYour client understands that the sentence in this case will be determined by the Court,pursuant to the factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. $ 3553(a), including a consideration of theSentencing Guidelines. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(cXlXB), and toassist the Court in determining the appropriate sentence, the parties agree to the following:A. Estimated Offense Level Under the GuidelinesThe parties agree that the following Sentencing Guidelines section applies:7Tota1 7UoS,S.G.2(¨(1) Base offense Lcvel‚‚ñ
Acceptance of ResponsibilityThe Government agrees that a 2-level reduction will be appropriate, pursuant to U.S.S.G.$ 3E1.1, provided that your client clearly demonstrates acceptance of responsibility, to thesatisfaction of the Government, through your client's allocution, adherence to every provision ofthis Agreement, and conduct between entry of the plea and imposition of sentence.Nothing in this Agreement limits the right of the Govemment to seek denial of theadjustment for acceptance of responsibility, pursuant to U.S.S.G. $ 3E1.1, and/or imposition ofan adjustment for obstruction ofjustice, pursuant to U.S.S.G. $ 3C1.1, regardless of anyagreement set forth above, should your client move to withdraw your client's guilty plea after itis entered, or should it be determined by the Government that your client has either (a) engagedin conduct, unknown to the Government at the time of the signing of this Agreement, thatconstitutes obstruction ofjustice, or (b) engaged in additional criminal conduct after signing thisAgreement.In accordance with the above, the Estimated Offense Level will be at least 5.B. Estimated Criminal History CategoryBased upon the information now available to this Office (including the representations bythe defense), your client has no criminal convictions.Accordingly, yow client is estimated to have 0 criminal history points and your client'sCriminal History Category is estimated to be I (the "Estimated Criminal History Category").Your client acknowledges that after the pre-sentence investigation by the United States ProbationOffrce, a different conclusion regarding your client's criminal convictions and/or criminal historypoints may be reached and your client's criminal history points may increase or decrease.C. Estimated Guidelines RangeBased upon the Estimated Offense Level and the Estimated Criminal History Categoryset forth above, your client's estimated Sentencing Guidelines range is 0 months to 6 months (the"Estimated Guidelines Range"). In addition, the parties agree that, pursuant to U.S.S.G. $ 5E1.2,should the Court impose a fine, at Guidelines level 5, the estimated applicable fine range is $500to $9,500. Your client reserves the right to ask the Court not to impose any applicable fine.The parties agree that, solely for the pufposes of calculating the applicable range underthe Sentencing Guidelines, neither a downward nor upward departure from the EstimatedGuidelines Range set forth above is warranted. The parties also agree that neither party will seekany offense-level calculation different from the Estimated Offense Level calculated above insubsection A. However, the parties are free to argue for a Criminal History Category differentfrom that estimated above in subsection B.3
Your client understands and acknowledges that the Estimated Guidelines Rangecalculated above is not binding on the Probation Office or the Court. Should the Court orProbation Office determine that a guidelines range different from the Estimated GuidelinesRange is applicable, that will not be a basis for withdrawal or rescission of this Agreement byeither party.Your client understands and acknowledges that the terms of this section apply only toconduct that occurred before the execution of this Agreement. Should your client commit anyconduct after the execution of this Agreement that would form the basis for an increase in yourclient's base offense level or justiff an upward departure (examples of which include, but are notlimited to, obstruction ofjustice, failure to appear for a court proceeding, criminal conduct whilepending sentencing, and false statements to law enforcement agents, the probation offrcer, or theCourt), the Government is free under this Agreement to seek an increase in the base offense levelbased on that post-agreement conduct.6. Agreement as to Sentencing AllocutionThe parties further agree that a sentence within the Estimated Guidelines Range wouldconstitute a reasonable sentence in light of all of the factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. $ 3553(a),should such a sentence be subject to appellate review notwithstanding the appeal waiverprovided below. Nevertheless, your client reseryes the right to seek a sentence below theEstimated Guidelines Range based upon factors to be considered in imposing a sentencepursuant to 18 U.S.C. $ 3553(a). The Government agrees not to oppose a probation onlysentence for your client.7. Reservation of AllocutionThe Government and your client reserye the right to describe fully, both orally and inwriting, to the sentencing judge, the nature and seriousness of your client's misconduct,including any misconduct not described in the charges to which your client is pleading guilty.The parties also reserve the right to inform the presentence report writer and the Court of anyrelevant facts, to dispute any factual inaccuracies in the presentence report, and to contest anymatters not provided for in this Agreement. In the event that the Court considers any SentencingGuidelines adjustments, departures, or calculations different from those agreed to and/orestimated in this Agreement, or contemplates a sentence outside the Guidelines range based uponthe general sentencing factors listed in 18 U.S.C. $ 3553(a), the parties reserve the right toanswer any related inquiries from the Court and to allocute for a sentence within the Guidelinesrange, as ultimately determined by the Court, even if the Guidelines range ultimately determinedby the Court is different from the Estimated Guidelines Range calculated herein.In addition, if in this Agreement the parties have agreed to recommend or refrain fromrecommending to the Court a particular resolution of any sentencing issue, the parties reserve theright to full allocution in any post-sentence litigation. The parties retain the full right ofallocution in connection with any post-sentence motion which may be filed in this matter and/orany proceeding(s) before the Bureau of Prisons. In addition, your client acknowledges that the4
Government is not obligated and does not intend to file any post-sentence downward departuremotion in this case pursuant to Rule 35(b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.8. Relevant Conduct for Purposes of Sentencing AllocutionThe Government agrees that, as part of its sentencing allocution, the relevant conduct forpurposes of determining your client's sentence is the conduct described in the Statement ofOffense.More specifically, the Govemment agrees that the public allegations that your client stoleU.S. House of Representatives ("House") equipment and engaged in unauthorized or illegalconduct involving House computer systems do not form the basis of any conduct relevant to thedetermination of the sentence in this case. The Government conducted a thorough investigationof those allegations, including interviewing approximately 40 witnesses; taking custody of theHouse Democratic Caucus server, along with other computers, hard drives, and electronicdevices; examining those devices, including inspecting their physical condition and analyzinglog-in and usage data; reviewing electronic communications between pertinent Houseemployees; consulting with the House Office of General Counsel and House informationtechnology personnel to access and/or collect evidence; and questioning your client duringnumerous voluntary interviews. The Government has uncovered no evidence that your clientviolated federal law with respect to the House computer systems. Particularly, the Governmenthas found no evidence that your client illegally removed House data from the House network orfrom House Members' offices, stole the House Democratic Caucus Server, stole or destroyedHouse information technology equipment, or improperly accessed or transferred govemmentinformation, including clas sif,red or sensitive information.9. Court Not Bound by this Asreement or the Sentencing GuidelinesYour client understands that the sentence in this case will be imposed in accordance with18 U.S.C. $ 3553(a), upon consideration of the Sentencing Guidelines. Your client furtherunderstands that the sentence to be imposed is a matter solely within the discretion of the Court.Your client acknowledges that the Court is not obligated to follow any recommendation of theGovernment at the time of sentencing. Your client understands that neither the Government'srecommendation nor the Sentencing Guidelines are binding on the Court.Your client acknowledges that your client's entry of a guilty plea to the charged offenseauthorizes the Court to impose any sentence, up to and including the statutory maximumsentence, which may be greater than the applicable Guidelines range. The Govemment cannot,and does not, make any promise or representation as to what sentence your client will receive.Moreover, it is understood that your client will have no right to withdraw your client's plea ofguilty should the Court impose a sentence that is outside the Guidelines range or if the Courtdoes not follow the Government's sentencing recommendation. The Government and your clientwill be bound by this Agreement, regardless of the sentence imposed by the Court. Any effortby your client to withdraw the guilty plea because of the length of the sentence shall constitute abreach of this Agreement.5
Conditions of ReleaseYour client acknowledges that, although the Government will not seek a change in yourclient's release conditions pending sentencing, the final decision regarding your client's bondstatus or detention will be made by the Court at the time of your client's plea of guilty. TheGovernmentmay move to change your client's conditions of release, including requesting thatyour client be detained pending sentencing, if your client engages in funher criminal conductprior to sentencing or if the Govemment obtains information that it did not possess at the time ofyour client's plea of guilty and that is relevant to whether your client is likely to flee or pose adanger to any person or the community. Your client also agrees that any violation of yourclient's release conditions or any misconduct by your client may result in the Govemment filingan ex pgrtlg motion with the Court requesting that a bench warrant be issued for your client'sarrest and that your client be detained without bond while pending sentencing in your client'scase.11B WaiversA. VenueYour client waives any challenge to venue in the District of Columbia.Bo Statute of LilllitationsYour client agrees that, should the conviction following your client's plea of guiltypursuant to this Agreement be vacated for any reason, any prosecution, based on the conduct setforth in the attached Statement of Offense, that is not time-barred by the applicable statute oflimitations on the date of the signing of this Agreement (including any counts that theGovernment has agreed not to prosecute or to dismiss at sentencing pursuant to this Agreement)may be commenced or reinstated against your client, notwithstanding the expiration of the statuteof limitations between the signing of this Agreement and the commencement or reinstatement ofsuch prosecution. It is the intent of this Agreement to waive all defenses based on the statute oflimitations with respect to any prosecution of conduct set forth in the attached Statement ofOffense that is not time-barred on the date that this Agreement is signed.C. Trial RightsYour client understands that by pleading guilty in this case your client agrees to waivecertain rights afforded by the Constitution of the United States and/or by statute or rule. Yourclient agrees to forego the right to any further discovery or disclosures of information not alreadyprovided at the time of the entry of your client's guilty plea. Your client also agrees to waive,among other rights, the right to plead not guilty, and the right to a jury trial. If there were a jurytrial, your client would have the right to be represented by counsel, to confront and cross-examine witnesses against your client, to challenge the admissibility of evidence offered againstyour client, to compel witnesses to appear for the purpose of testifying and presenting otherevidence on your client's behalf, and to choose whether to testify. If there were a jury trial and10B
your client chose not to testitt at that trial,your clicnt would have the right to have thejllryinstructcd that your clicnt's failllrc to tcstify could not bc held against your clicnt.Your clientwould mcr have thc rightto have thcj‚¶Ž°Œinstructed that your client is prcsllmcd irmocentuntil proven guilty,and that thc bllrden would bc on the United States to prove your client's guiltbeyond a reasonable doubt. Ifyour client were found guilty aer a trial,your client would havethcŒÜght to appeal your clicnt's conviction. Your client understands thatthe Fifth Amendment tothe Constitution ofthe Unitcd States protects yollr clicnt from thc use of self\incrilninatingstatements in a crilninal prosecution. By cntcring a plea of guilty,your client knowingly andvoluntarily waives or gives up your client's right against self\incrillnination.Your client acknowledgcs discussing with you Rule ll(o ofthe Federal Rules ofCriininal Procedllrc and Rule 410 ofthc Federal Rules ofEvidence,which ordinarlly liinit theadmissibility of statements rnade by a defendant in thc course ofplea discussions or pleaprocccdings if a guilty plea is later withdrawn. Your client knowingly and voluntarily waives therights that arise under these rules in the evcnt your client withdraws your client's guilty plca orwithdraws from this Agreement acr slkƒ_ung lt.Your clicnt also agrccs to waive all constitutional and statutory rights to a speedysentcnce and understands that thc date for sentencing will be sct by the Court.Do Appeal RightsYollr client agrees to waivc thc right to appeal thc conviction in this case on any basis,including but not limitcd to claim(S)that(1)thC Statute(S)tO WhiCh yollr client is pleading guiltyis unconstitutional,and(2)thc adIInittcd conduct docs not fall within thc scopc ofthe statute(s).Your clicnt llnderstands that fcderal law,speciflcally 1 8 U,S.C.3742,affords dcfcndants theright to appeal their scntcnces in certain circllmstances. Yollr clicnt also agrees to walvc theright to appeal thc sentence in this casc,including but not lilnited to any tellll ofilnprisollment,flnc,forfciture,award ofrestitution,tellll or condition of supcrviscd releasc,authority oftheCourt to set conditions ofrelease,and the manner in which the scntencc was detellllined,exceptto the extent thc Court scntences yollr client abovc thc statutory rnaxillllulln or guidelincs rangedeterlnincd by thc Court. In agreeing to this waiver,your client is aware that your client'sscntence has yet to be deterlnincd by the Court. Realizing the unccrtainty in estimating whatsentence the Court ultimatcly will ilnposc,your client knowingly and willingly waivcs yourclient's right to appcal thc scntence,to thc cxtent notcd above,in exchange lor the concessionsmade by the Govcrlmentin this Agrcement. Notwithstanding the above agreement to waive thcright to appeal the conviction and sentencc,your client retains thc right to appeal on thc basis ofineffective assistance ofcounsel,but not to raise on appeal other issues rcgarding thc convictionor sentencc.EBCollateral AttackYour client also waives any right to challenge the cohviction entered or sentence imposedunder this Agreement or otherwise attempt to modify or change the sentence or the manner inwhich it was determined in any collateral attack, including, but not limited to, a motion broughtunder 28 U.S.C. S 2255 or Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), except to the extent such a
motion is based on newly discovered evidence or on a claim that your client received ineffectiveassistance of counsel. Your client reserves the right to file a motion brought under 18 U.S.C.g 3582(c)(2), but agrees to waive the right to appeal the denial of such a motion.12. Use of Self-Incriminatins InformationThe Government and your client agree, in accordance with U.S.S.G. $ 181.8, that theGovernment will be free to use against your client for any purpose at the sentencing in this caseor in any related criminal or civil proceedingS, ffiy self-incriminating information provided byyour client pursuant to this Agreement or during the course of debriefings conducted inanticipation of this Agreement, regardless of whether those debriefings were previously coveredby an "off the record" agreement by the parties.13. RestitutionYour client understands that the Court has an obligation to determine whether, and inwhat amount, mandatory restitution applies in this case under 18 U.S.C. $ 3663A. TheGovernment will not be requesting that the Court order restitution as part of its sentence.Payments of restitution shall be made to the Clerk of the Court. In order to facilitate thecollection of financial obligations to be imposed in connection with this prosecution, your clientagrees to disclose fully all assets in which your client has any interest or over which your clientexercises control, directly or indirectly, including those held by a spouse, nominee or other thirdparty. Your client agrees to submit a completed financial statement on a standard financialdisclosure form which has been provided to you with this Agreement to the Financial LitigationUnit of the United States Attorney's Office, as it directs. If you do not receive the disclosureform, your client agrees to request one from usadc.ecfflu@usa.doj.gov. Your client willcomplete and electronically provide the standard financial disclosure form tousadc.ecfflu@usa.doj.gov 30 days prior to your client's sentencing. Your client agrees to becontacted by the Financial Litigation Unit of the United States Attorney's Office, throughdefense counsel, to complete a financial statement. Upon review, if there are any follow-upquestions, your client agrees to cooperate with the Financial Litigation Unit. Your clientpromises that the financial statement and disclosures will be complete, accurate and truthfuI, andunderstands that any willful falsehood on the financial statement could be prosecuted as aseparate crime punishable under 18 U.S.C. $ 1001, which carries an additional five years'incarceration and a fine.Your client expressly authorizes the United States Attorney's Office to obtain a creditreport on yogr client in order to evaluate your client's ability to satisff any financial obligationsimposed by the Court or agreed to herein.Your client understands and agrees that the restitution or fines imposed by the Court willbe due and payable immediately and subject to immediate enforcement by the United States. Ifthe Court imposes a schedule of payments, your client understands that the schedule of paymentsis merely a minimum schedule of payments and will not be the only method, nor a limitation onthe methods, available to the United States to enforce the criminal judgment, including without
limitation by administrative offset. If your client is sentenced to a term of imprisonment by theCourt, your client agrees to participate in the Bureau of Prisons' Inmate Financial ResponsibilityProgram, regardless of whether the Court specifically imposes a schedule of payments.Your client certifies that your client has made no transfer of assets in contemplation ofthis prosecution for the purpose of evading or defeating financial obligations that are created bythis Agreement and/or that may be imposed by the Court. In addition, your client promises tomake no such transfers in the future until your client has fulfilled the financial obligations underthis Agreement.14. Breach of AgreementYour client understands and agrees that, if after entering this Agreement, your client failsspecifically to perform or to fulfill completely each and every one of your client's obligationsunder this Agreement, or engages in any criminal activity prior to sentencing, your client willhave breached this Agreement. In the event of such a breach: (a) the Government will be freefrom its obligations under this Agreement; (b) your client will not have the right to withdraw theguilty plea; (c) your client will be fully subject to criminal prosecution for any other crimes,including perjury and obstruction ofjustice; and (d) the Govemment will be free to use againstyour client, directly and indirectly, in any criminal or civil proceeding, all statements made byyour client and any of the information or materials provided by your client, including suchstatements, information and materials provided pursuant to this Agreement or during the courseof any debriefings conducted in anticipation of, or after entry of, this Agreement, whether or notthe debriefings were previously characterized as "off-the-record" debriefings, and including yourclient's statements made during proceedings before the Court pursuant to Rule 11 of the FederalRules of Criminal Procedure.Your client understands and agrees that the Government shall be required to prove abreach of this Agreement only by a preponderance of the evidence, except where such breach isbased on a violation of federal, state, or local criminal law, which the Government need proveonly by probable cause in order to establish a breach of this Agteement.Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed to permit your client to commit perjury, tomake false statements or declarations, to obstruct justice, or to protect your client fromprosecution for any crimes not included within this Agreement or committed by your client afterthe execution of this Agreement. Your client understands and agrees that the Govemmentreserves the right to prosecute your client for any such offenses. Your client further understandsthat any perjury, false statements or declarations, or obstruction ofjustice relating to your client'sobligations under this Agreement shall constitute a breach of this Agreement. In the event ofsuch a breach, your client will not be allowed to withdraw your client's guilty plea.15. Complete AgreementNo agreements, promises, understandings, or representations have been made by theparties or their counsel other than those contained in writing herein, nor will any suchagreements, promises, understandings, or representations be made unless committed to writing
and signed by your client, defense counsel, and an Assistant United States Attomey for theDistrict of Columbia.Your client further understands that this Agreement is binding only upon the Criminaland Superior Court Divisions of the United States Attomey's Office for the District of Columbia.This Agreement does not bind the Civil Division of this Office or any other United StatesAttomey's Office, nor does it bind any other state, local, or federal prosecutor. It also does notbar or compromise any civil, tax, or administrative claim pending or that may be made againstyour client.If the foregoing terms and conditions are satisfactory, your client may so indicate bysigning this Agreement and the Statement of Offense, and returning both to me no later than July3, 201 8.Sinccrely yollrs,JESSIE K.LIUUnited States AttomeyD.C.Bar No.472845District of Columbia555 4th Street,NWWashington,DC 20530By:10Cooney
DEFENDANT'S ACCEPTANCEI have read every page of this Agreement and have discussed it with my attorney,Christopher J. Gowen. I fully understand this Agreement and agree to it without reservation. Ido this voluntarily and of my own free will, intending to be legally bound. No threats have beenmade to me nor am I under the influence of anything that could impede my ability to understandthis Agreement fully. I am pleading guilty because I am in fact guilty of the offense identified inthis Agreement.I reaffirm that absolutely no promises, agreements, understandings, or conditions havebeen made or entered into in connection with my decision to plead guilty except those set forthin this Agreement. I am satisfied with the legal services provided by my attorney in connectionwith this Agreement and matters related to it.o^t", ') - j'ltImran AwanDefendantATTORNEY' S ACKNOWLEDGMENTI have read every page of this Agreement, reviewed this Agreement with my client, ImranAwan, and fully discussed the provisions of this Agreement with my client. These pagesaccurately and completely set forth the entire Agreement. I concur in my client's desire to pleadguilty as set forth in this Agreement.Date: Zu3Eƒm8Christopher
F-Russia
'Major incident' near Salisbury as 2 checked for 'unknown substance' exposure '' police
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 10:12
British police have declared a ''major incident'' in the town of Amesbury, around 12 kilometers from Salisbury, where a man and woman fell ill after suspected exposure to ''an unknown substance.''
The man and woman, both in their 40s, were found unconscious in a property in Muggleton Road on Saturday, but Wiltshire Police did not report the incident until Wednesday. They are in critical condition at Salisbury District Hospital, where they are being treated ''for suspected exposure to an unknown substance,'' according to police.
The substance was initially believed to be heroin or crack cocaine from a contaminated batch of drugs, but police say they ''are keeping an open mind'' on what led to the incident. Further testing and an investigation are ongoing.
Police cordoned off and increased their presence in the areas in and around Amesbury and Salisbury, and the places the two frequently visited before they fell ill, as a precautionary measure. Meanwhile, Public Health England (PHE) said that a ''significant health risk'' to the wider public is not likely. There is also no further information on any potential dangers at this point.
The incident comes just four months after the poisoning of ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury. The UK and its Western allies were quick to point the finger at Russia, though they have yet to provide any proof.
Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations, while saying that London might have been ''destroying evidence'' in the case. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) also could not establish any links to show that the nerve agent used to poison the Skripals came from Russia.
In early June, the German government informed a parliamentary oversight committee during a closed hearing that it still had not received any evidence that Russia was behind the incident that took place in early March, German TV station RBB reports.
Novichok: in the light of new Salisbury incompetence, should we rethink the Skripal affair completely? '' The Slog.
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 10:47
A new Prime Minister, a new Foreign Secretary, and a major breach of Porton Down security that threatened to become political dynamite for a Conservative Government already struggling to survive after an ill-timed General Election. Is this how the Salisbury Novichok saga started '' as a means to cover up incompetence by blaming Putin?
¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤
Nothing is ever this simple, but herewith the Overture: a jaundiced eye applied to the latest Salisbury New Stuff about New Stuff, which by now is seriously Old Hat Stuff.
The unexpectedly good news about England's soccer success thus far (and the Russians turning out to be exemplary World Cup hosts in every way) has got everyone calmed down and in a generally good mood. That plus the best summer for many a long year means that, on the whole, the last thing anyone cares about is NATO and the collective security orgasms of Federica Mogherini. In fact, the only thing irritating the 17.4 million Leave-voting UK adults (that's 52% for the mathematically dyslexic) is that unelected power, bad losers, PR whores like Nina Schick, Care in the Community loons like Baron Astonish and geopolitics are getting in the way of what's left of our democracy.
Tomorrow sees a crunch Cabinet meeting. My hunch is that it will be followed by much smiling and loyalty signalling, but nothing that either the 17.4 million or the Sprouts of Brussels will sign up to'.....as things stand. So in order to please the US and its spawn NATO, the spin tempo has been upped a little '' and that's almost certainly why we see Novichok back in the headlines, increased public fears about deadly contamination, and Land Rover saying Brexit may well cause them to pull out of the UK. Perhaps the hope is that the harder Brexit cases in the Cabinet can be persuaded (with the help of dire MI5/6 warnings) to accept closer links to the Eutanic than they would prefer.
But as I suggested at the outset, nothing is that simple'.....although among the more twisted minds in the Big Vauxhall Box, it may well be one dimension of what's going on here.
In fact, if one analyses the events more closely, what I think we're watching here is part politicians looking for distraction, part gross incompetence on the part of the security and police forces of Britain, part Theresa May trying to box her way out of a mineshaft and '' possibly '' a new avenue of thinking about how the Salisbury saga got started that has come to light purely by accident.
Just to confuse you further, I want to start at the beginning, by writing about incompetence. I have long held the view (based on experience and memory, not ideology or a vivid imagination) that such conspiracies as exist often start as an attempt to cover up incompetence. We're in a mess not ''thanks to'' Brexit but because Theresa May's antennae are incompetent, politicians lie nonstop, our Foreign Secretary is incompetent, and police, security forces, military intelligence, the FCO and the Home Office are a truly vomituous mix of self-interested mendacity incapable of catching cholera in a sewer, let alone ''terrorists''.
Consider the track record before, during and since the Novichok nonsense:
There are now 18,000 jihadists in Britain, and we don't where they are.After four months on the case, those forces from which we expect expertise got the original Skripal diagnosis wrong, got the injured copper's condition wrong '' and stumbled about being ''sure'' in turn that Ms Skripal's flight baggage, Mr Skripal's car AC system, a park bench and a doorknob were the media used to try and bump them off.The scientists at Porton Down started by saying they didn't know the identity of the nerve agent for sure, then they became more sure, but not as sure as Boris Johnson said they were, because he's a pathological liar with form as long as the Grand National.Not a single suspect has been identified or held beyond the ''somebody in Russia being protected by the Putin r(C)gime'' line that suffers, lets face it, a credibility gap wider than the Grand Canyon. Grand Nationals and Canyons, you see: the governmental classes believe in Big when it comes to fibbing'....as indeed they do in most things.Boris Johnson attempted to start World War III by called the World Cup ''an attempt to do what Hitler did with the 1936 Olympics''. This morning '' in the light of Novichok II '' May's security minister Ben Wallace told Sky News that ''the World Cup is not about politics, it is about extraordinary athletes doing extraordinary things''. Bit of a difference in emphasis there? Surely not. After all, BoJo said he would boycott the tournament'.....but then changed his mind once England started winning.As regards this new case, it is now Thursday, the cops and Special Branch have been on it for 5 days, and the certainties were elucidated thus by the rather dull Mr Wallace today: ''We don't know exactly where the couple went last weekend and we haven't as yet located any next of kin, but we think at some time on Saturday or perhaps Sunday it's not clear, they may have gone to a hog roast. But what's clear from what we know so far is that this was not an attack as such, and may well be some left-over Novichok from the previous incident.'' That's up there with Peter Cook's memorable sketch about Inspector Streeb-Greebling and the Great Train Robbery of 1963: ''I should like to reassure the public that no train has been stolen, merely the money substances it was carrying''.Wallace then went on to say the UK had requested help from the Putin government and this had been refused. I'm sorry, but that is a blatant lie: the Russians offered full cooperation to the Foreign Office, and they rebuffed it '' for reasons which remain the subject of richly-deserved speculation.Every day for eight days on the trot during the Skripal affair, we were treated to the sight of yet more ''expert'' nerve agent clean-up Johnnies kitted out to the gills, and it now turns out that the clean-up was in fact a f**k-up, because they missed a bit. The way you do.So the Government's insistence that Salisbury was a safe zone afterwards was also a load of cobblers'....as a result of which two more people are now in Salisbury hospital being treated by staff subjected to yet more D-Notice threats about not talking the evil press '' who are ''just poking about in things that don't concern them'', as Prince Andrew is wont to remark.'Amateur night for Baldricks' doesn't even begin to get close to this as a track record, does it? One is reminded of the Jeremy Thorpe conspiracy Judge '' also satirised by Cook '' who said in a sketch devised by Peter, ''I turn now to evidence of blah-blah'....a man who could not even organise the simplest murder plot without cocking it up''. How we miss Cookie, and what a ball he'd be having with all this make-believe if he were still made flesh.
But it's the clean-up-cock-up connection that has made me think again about how the Skripal affair got started in the first place.
There are several things that have always bothered me beyond any other doubts in relation to the Salisbury caper:
It has been largely assumed by the media that the Skripals were and are British agents. In fact, as they had already been turned by MI5, there is no reason at all to believe firmly in their loyalty to any single sovereign. Are they simply still loyal to the Russian Federation?I always felt that their decision to settle in England almost within walking distance of the Portan Down Chemical Warfare facility was stretching coincidence somewhat. Did Russian controllers ask them to settle there?The timing of the attack never made any sense at all in the light of Russia's need to dilute a developing Russophobic narrative by using the World Cup as a showpiece.When Johnson, May, Trump and Macron turned the incident into an excuse to bomb Syria as ''a warning'' to Putin, they did so by accusing Assad of chemical warfare on his own People. Objectively, the kindest thing one can say about that accusation is that it too made no sense, and a variety of ''experts'' on the scene have said in unison that they have found no evidence of such an attack having occurred.Suppose that Slog's Law of Cock-up producing Cover-up turned to Cocker-ups' advantage applies here?
That is to say, let's suggest that the real centre of the original Black Op was Portan Down itself. That Sergei Skripal had fed the facility via his British controllers with stolen ''formulae'' obtained by his still active daughter Yulia. This was in fact for 'Novichok' -which the Russians could use as bait, as it was no longer of interest to them: having once been New Stuff, it was now Obsolete Stuff.
But then something alerted either the Porton Down scientists or MI5 to the fact that the Skripals were still RF agents. By this time, Boris Johnson was properly installed as Foreign Secretary with May (still close to the security services following her Home Office stint) in Number Ten. They were briefed that there was a problem.
And indeed it was a problem, for the Skripals had outwitted UK military intelligence'...and thus there had been a massive security breach which had to be disguised as something else.
So somewhere along the line, somebody '' the CIA maybe '' got involved and came up with the idea of making the best of a bad job'....by killing the Skripals with ''Russian'' nerve agent, blaming it on Putin, and using his close alliance with alleged chemical weapon beast Assad to enable the NATO bombing of key Syrian air force installations'....and thus pass advantage on to his enemies '' who were being bankrolled by the Pentagon, the CIA, John McCain and a host of other psychos.
But as always, the experts f**ked up. The dose the newly revealed traitors got was nowhere near strong enough to kill them'....perhaps even because their Russian controllers had deliberately falsified the formula they fed to MI5 via Yulia Skripal.
And then down the road, the chemical clear-up was screwed up as well. Which brings us to where we are today.
Now obviously, this is informed guesswork, and there could be many points where my theory here is at fault.
I ask you only this: does it strike you as more or less credible than the Dan-Dare-meets-Flash-Gordon bollocks we've all been asked to swallow up until now?
Let's face it, it wouldn't be the first time that government incompetence has been turned to geopolitical advantage via opportunist lies.
_________________________________________
Stormy
Stormy Daniels' Lawyer: I'll Run in 2020 If Trump Seeks Re-Election - The Daily Beast
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 22:19
Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against the president, says he will launch a White House bid in 2020 if President Trump runs for re-election. ''IF (big) he seeks re-election, I will run, but only if I think that there is no other candidate in the race that has a REAL chance at beating him. We can't relive 2016. I love this country, our values and our people too much to sit by while they are destroyed,'' Avenatti tweeted on Wednesday. His comments came in response to a question on whether he'd run to ''displace'' Trump. The president began his re-election efforts unusually early, having filed paperwork for his 2020 bid on the same day he was inaugurated.
Tarriffs!
EU considering international talks to cut car tariffs, report says
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 12:50
European officials are considering holding talks on a tariff-cutting deal between the world's largest car exporters to prevent an all-out trade war with the U.S., according to the Financial Times who cited diplomats briefed on the matter.
Adam Berry | Getty Images
An employee performs the final inspection of a Golf 7 automobile at the Volkswagen in Wolfsburg, Germany.
The proposal is being looked at by officials in Brussels, the administrative heartland of the European Union, ahead of a meeting between Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, and President Donald Trump in Washington later in July, the report published Wednesday said.
The FT reported that three diplomats, which it did not name, said the European Commission ''is studying whether it would be feasible to negotiate a deal with other big car exporters such as the U.S., South Korea and Japan.'' Such a move could address Trump's complaint that the U.S. sector is unfairly treated, while reducing export costs for other participating countries' auto sectors.
''Under such a deal, participants would reduce tariffs to agreed levels for a specified set of products '-- a concept in international trade known as a 'plurilateral agreement' that lets countries strike deals on tariffs without including the entire membership of the WTO,'' the FT said.
In June, Trump threatened to impose a 20 percent on all car imports from the EU sending shares of the region's carmakers lower. He said then that if the EU does not remove duties on U.S. cars, then the U.S. will have no choice but to act. The EU currently imposes tariffs of 10 percent on imports of passenger cars compared to the 2.5 percent duty currently imposed by the U.S.
Read the full story at the Financial Times website here.
NOKO
Syria's Assad has become Israel's 'ally' - Israel News - Haaretz.com
Tue, 03 Jul 2018 04:01
Israel wants Assad to remain in power. Both Israel and Assad depend on Russia, and when Israel threatens Assad over Iran, it should know it's threatening Russia, too
03:11
Early in 2012, the year after the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the Foreign Ministry drafted recommendations on Israel's position regarding Syrian President Bashar Assad. As Haaretz reported at the time, the ministry said Israel should denounce the slaughter in Syria and call for Assad's ouster. It argued that Israel shouldn't be the only Western country not to condemn Assad, since that would feed conspiracy theories that Israel preferred the mass murderer to remain in power.
The Israeli foreign minister at the time, Avigdor Lieberman, accepted this recommendation, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposed it. Netanyahu denounced the slaughter and the Syrian army and charged that ''various leaders have no moral qualms about killing their neighbors and their own people as well.'' But he never mentioned Assad as the person responsible or demanded his ouster. Israel's UN ambassador during that period, Ron Prosor, said Assad has ''no moral right to lead his people,'' but that was it.
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Sign up>> To Get Iran Out of Syria, Israel and the U.S. Must Cooperate With Putin
These diplomatic acrobatics and the Lieberman-Netanyahu dispute only fed the conspiracy theories, and Syrian rebel leaders were convinced that Israel wanted Assad to remain in power. They were right.
Now that Assad has regained control of most of Syria and is waging a final battle against rebels in the south, Israel is acting as if it is now reformulating its policy and becoming ''reconciled'' to Assad's continued rule. Several weeks ago, Israel reportedly told Russia it wouldn't oppose that, as if the decision were in its hands or as if Israel even had any leverage over what kind of government is in power in Syria after the war ends.
Related Articles Assad Forces Roll Through Rebel-held Towns Near Israeli Border Everything You Need to Know About Syria's Crisis on Israel's Doorstep But Israel isn't merely ''reconciled'' to rule by Assad. It also feared the prospect that the various rebel militias might succeed in ousting him, sparking a new civil war among the rebels themselves. Position papers drafted by the Israeli army and the Foreign Ministry over the past two years didn't actually voice support for the Syrian president, but their assessments show that they viewed his continued rule as preferable or even vital for Israel's security. Israel's close cooperation with Russia, which gave Israeli forces a free hand to attack Hezbollah and Iranian targets in Syria, added the Israelis to the unofficial coalition of Arab states that support Assad's continued rule.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, who met with the head of Syrian intelligence in 2015, said that same year that ''Egypt and Syria are in the same boat.'' Egyptian delegations visited Damascus despite Syria's ouster from the Arab League, and in a 2017 interview, Al-Sissi even said that ''Egypt supports the armies of states like Iraq, Libya and Syria.''
King Abdullah of Jordan was one of the first leaders to denounce Assad and demand his ouster. But he later reversed himself, thereby angering Saudi Arabia. And following conversations between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russian officials, even Riyadh is no longer publicly opposing Assad's continued tenure.
Russia's military intervention in Syria, which began in 2015, was initially viewed by Israel as ineffective and doomed to fail. But in reality, it bolstered Assad's status domestically, created a coalition with Iran and Turkey and neutralized the intervention of Arab states such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. And since the United States had withdrawn from the arena even before that, Israel ostensibly had to make do with the lesser evil.
But the Russian coalition is no love affair. Tehran and Moscow are at odds over control of the de-escalation zones. Turkey, which invaded Kurdish areas of northern Syria, threatens Russia's desire for a united Syrian state.
Therefore if Israel's goal is to oust Iran from Syria, Russia '-- rather than the United States or the Arab states '-- is the only power capable of limiting Iran's operations there and perhaps even getting it to leave.
Assad is deeply dependent on Russia, even more than on Iran. And that's convenient for Israel, because it means Syria's foreign policy, including its future policy toward Israel, will be vetted by the Kremlin, thereby at least ensuring coordination with Israel and a reduction in the threat from Syria. In exchange, Israel has committed not to undermine Assad's rule.
Moreover, Israel has insisted that the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement that followed the Yom Kippur War remains in effect, meaning Israel won't accept Syrian forces in parts of the Golan Heights demilitarized under that agreement. Officially, UN observers oversee the agreement's implementation. But in practice, it was the Assad regime that ensured that Syria upheld the agreement and that kept the border quiet for decades. Israel, which has a low opinion of UN observers, also used its military deterrence to persuade Assad that upholding the agreement served his interests.
Now Russia is effectively joining this supervisory force, and it sees eye to eye with Israel about the need to keep the border quiet. Therefore Israel ought to wish Assad sweeping success and a long life. And when Israeli ministers threaten his continued rule if he lets Iranian forces set up shop near Israel's border, they should know they're also threatening Russia '-- as well as Israel's new strategic partner in the presidential palace in Damascus.
Shut up Slave!
Violent tendencies can be 'zapped' out of your brain, new research suggests '-- RT World News
Mon, 02 Jul 2018 21:56
Electrical brain stimulation may help reduce people's inclinations to commit violent crimes, a new study has found. The 'shocking' treatment could potentially be used to treat or prevent violent behavior, researchers say.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore used an electrical current to stimulate a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, which has been linked to violent acts.
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They tested the procedure on 86 healthy adults, administering 20 minutes of brain stimulation to half of the test subjects before asking the whole group to consider two hypothetical scenarios, one describing a physical assault, the other a sexual assault. Afterwards, the participants were asked to rate the likelihood that they might commit similar acts.
Compared with the control group, the brain-stimulated group reported a 47 percent lower likelihood that they would commit a non-sexual physical assault, and a 70 percent lower likelihood of committing sexual assault.
Publishing their findings in the Journal of Neuroscience, the researchers describe how the stimulation procedure appeared to reduce people's intentions to commit violent acts. However, the reduction was not apparent in another part of the study, in which test subjects were allowed to vent their emotions on voodoo dolls. The dolls received the same level of abuse, regardless of whether the subject had been zapped or not. Furthermore, the study was not conducted on criminals, which raises questions about whether the study supports the notion that the procedure can reduce real-life crime.
The researchers say that, while far more testing needs to be done, if the procedure proves to be effective, it could be used to help reduce violent crimes in the future or to treat anti-social behavior.
''When most people think of crime they think bad neighborhoods, poverty, discrimination, and those are all correct,'' Adrian Raine, one of the researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, told the Guardian. ''But we also believe that there's a biological contribution to crime which has been seriously neglected in the past. What this shows is that there could be a new, different approach to try and reduce crime and violence in society.''
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THE EXPANDING EMPIRE OF DONALD TRUMP - The New York Times
Tue, 03 Jul 2018 10:42
, Page 006028 The New York Times Archives'DONALD! HEY, DONALD! DONALD!' THE men were yelling, eager to call him by name. A storm front of cigar smoke was gathering above the hotel ballroom, packed elbow-to-elbow for a breakfast-hour sports forum with a crowd that included some of New York's most wealthy, powerful and famous men.
Mayor Koch was there, former Mayors Lindsay and Beame, two United States Senators, the five borough presidents, judges, labor leaders, busines stycoons and sports celebrities, as well as team owners and executives such as George Steinbrenner, Sonny Werblin of the Knicks and Rangers, Fred Wilpon, president of the Mets, and several hundred men who make it their business to rub shoulders at such functions.
Yet, somehow, everyonme at this sports function was drawn to Donald Trump, the 37-year-old owner of the New Jersey Generals, a franchise in the upstart United States Football League. As Mr. Trump inched his way toward the exit, dragging a dozen reporters, emn int he crowd stood on their tiptoes to wave and call to him - like so many bejowled rock-star fans. There was a desperation about them as they reached throught he reporters to pat him on the back, to grasp his hand or just to stuff a business card into his coat pocket. If only he could cut them in.
Donald J. Trump is the man of the hour. Turnon the television or open a newspaper almost any day of the week and there he is, snatching some star form the National Football League, announcing some preposterously lavish project he wants to build. Public-relations firms call him, offering to handle his account for nothing, so that they might take credit for the torrential hoopla.
He has no public-relations agent. His competitors wonder how this can be, but watching him at the sports forum provided an explanation. While executives of the other teams told the audience about problems of negotiation and arbitration, about dirty restrooms inside their arenas and street crime outside and about 'attempting to move the Mets in the right direction,' Donald Trump was electrifying the room the rat-a-tat-tat revelations, dropping names of star N.F.L. players and coaches he would sign in a matter of hours. He said further that he would 'continue to create chaos' for the N.F.L. and, by the way, that he planned to build a domed stadium in New York.
IT IS NOT YET 9 AM SPENDING A DAY WITH Donald Trump is like driving a Ferrari without the windshield. It's exhilarating; he gets a few bugs in his teeth.
His next appointment is with Philip Johnson and John Burgee, the eminent architects. 'These guys are hot,' Mr. Trump declares as he breezes into their office. Models are brought in of Mr. Trump's next - can it be! - proposed building, a 60-story castle, Trump Castle, six cylinders of varying heights with gold-leafed, coned and crenelated tops to be built at 60th Street and Madison Avenue. There is to be a moat and a drawbridge. 'My idea,' says Mr. Johnson with a mischievous grin. 'Very Trumpish.'
'Trump is mad and wonderful,' says Mr. Johnson. The 77-year-old architect proclaimed the castle his 'most exciting project' ever. 'Other developers come in with sober faces, carrying their market-research studies on what the public will like.'
The combination of Mr. Johnson, who is leading the architectural charge out of the era of glassbox moderism with such unusual buildings as the 'Chippendale'-topped A.T.&T. building, and Donald Trump, who is excited about putting up the most distinctive buildings imaginable, seems positively dangerous. One can almost imagine this: 'Phil, I'd like to build a 135-story cheeseburger on Park Avenue.' 'Lettuce and tomato on that, Don?'
With castles on the drawing boards, the first tenants are moving into Mr. Trump's $125 million Trump Plaza luxury cooperative apartment building at Third Avenue and 61st. Street. His Generals are off to a winning start in their first season under his ownership. He is hovering attentively over his newly operned Xanadu of conspicuous consumption, the $200 million Trump Tower condominium-office-retail complex on Fifth Avenue, also supervising the final touches on Harrah's at Trump Plaza, a mammoth $220 million casino-hotel in Atlantic City set to open next month.
Just as the name Donald Trump is well-known to most New Yorkers, the name is now becoming recognized throughout the country. He is fast becoming one of the nation's wealthiest entrepreneurs, able to buy practically anthing he wants. He controls a company with assets estimated - some say conservatively estimated - $1 billion, and casino-industry analysts say his half interest in Harrah's may provide him with $40 million to $50 million more in annual income.
Although he is still interested in such ideas as putting up the world's tallest building on the East River, his mind wanders from the business of New York real estate. The Generals were an impulse buy. He made a bid on The New York Daily News in 1982, when the paper's fate was in doubt; he expressed interest in buying the Cleveland Indians. He has told people in the communications industry that he is 'very interested in communications,' which is like a 2,000-pound gorilla mentioning that he is very interested in becoming carnivorous. Until recently, he was purchasing large amounts of RCA stock, with an eye toward securing a controlling interest, but he gave up on that when the price of the stock more than doubled. He sold the stock, profiting handsomely from the failed takeover.
NEXT ON MR. TRUMP'S SCHEDULE IS A visit Trump Plaza on Third Avenue. The heads of several Fortune 500 companies have already bought co-ops here, along with Gov. John Y. Brown of Kentucky and his wife, Phyllis George; Martina Navratilova and Dick Clark.
While critics charge that Mr. Trump is a raving egomaniac, bent on putting his name on every inanimate boject in the city, he claims that putting on the Trump name is value added.
'These units are selling,' says Blanche Sprague, who is in charge of sales at Trump Plaza, 'because of the Trump name.' A man holding a trowel says he is proud to be working on a Trump building and always tells his friends.
'I don't think you understand,' Mrs. Sprague adds. 'When I walk down the street with Donald, people come up and just touch him, hoping that his good fortune will rub off.'
The Trump touch. It has set some people in New York to outright Trump worship; they call him 'a real-estate genius' who has helped lead the city out of the darkness of the mid-1970's into a new era of glamour and excitement. Mr. Trump does not take exception to that.
To others, the notion that Mr. Trump seems to be able to do just about anything he sets his mind to is terrifying. They see him as a rogue billionaire, loose in the city like some sort of movie monster, unrestrained by the bounds of good taste or by city officials to whom he makes campaign contributions, ready to transform Midtown into another glass-and-glitz downtown Houston, with Central park for parking.
This faction believes that the Donald Trumps of this world are tending to have their way with our cities nationwide, receiving enormous tax abatements and whatever zoning variations they request - all in the name of revitalization. That government is helping rich developers to become richer does not sit well with them, not when small shopkeepers, who do not share in such government largesse, are forced out of business by rising rents, not when poor people are sleeping in the streets. That Mr. Trump builds shops and apartments for the world's wealthiest people makes him that much more prone to attack.
Yet many urban-affairs experts view the developers as saviors of our postindustrial cities. 'With manufacturing leaving,' says George Sternlieb, director of the Center for Urban Policy Research at Rutgers University, 'anmd with Federal and state aid diminishing, our cities desperately need the rich. Cities are tending to fall into two categories: cities of consumption and cities with no economic base.'
The rich of the world can live anywhere they want, explain the experts; Mr. Trump leads them to New York. Sales taxes, user taxes, jobs and resulting payroll taxes are generated.
'The wheelers and dealers must be successful if New York is to be successful,' says Mr. Sternlieb. 'That doesn't make them lovable.' Mayor Koch says that, indeed, what is good for Donald Trump is often good for New York.
Of course, Midtown is perhaps the strongest real-estate market in the world. 'It is, therefore, appropriate in this case,' says Bernard Frieden, professor of city planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 'for residents to ask if developers are being subsidized excessively.'
Mr. Trump and other developers respond that they are far from having their way with our cities. Mr. Trump notes that he was denied a tax abatement worth $15 million to $20 million on Trump Tower. Other de3velopers claim that it has never been more difficult to build in New York, what with planning boards, community boards, restrictive codes and regulations.
TALE OT FRANK! SHOUTS A WOMAN, wrapping her arms around one of the Trump Tower doormen. C'mon and take it, honey, take it! Finally, Frank does take it, a snapshot of his wife Melody, with a man who says he was hired to open doors - albeit revolving doors - at Trump Tower but who has shown up for work dressed to guard Buckingham Palace: red military coat, gold braid, black bearskin hat, the works.
Alighting from his limousine - license plates DJT - Mr. Trump admits there are those who consider his doormen ostentatious. But he probably suspects Trump Tower has never been walked past unnoticed.
Having just opened last year, Trump Tower is already becoming something of a New York landmark. The shimmering glass skyscraper rises above its understated neighbors on Fifth Avenue, upstaging even Tiffany, next door.
It is home to shops so exclusive Melody said she couldn't even brag about seeing them because nobody back home had ever heard of the likes of Mondi, Fila, Amazoni, Botticellino, Buccellati. It all sounded like last night's dinner at Mamma Leone's to her. Johnny Carson, Sophia Loren and Steven Spielberg are among the notables who have purchased Trump Tower condominiums, which, with prices ranging from $550,000 to $10 million, are among the most expensive in New York.
All that is Donald Trump would seem to be embodied in this building. It is showy, even pretentious. Above the door are bronze letters two feet high that spell 'Trump Tower.' Just inside, past the palace guards, are two three-foot bronze T's. Then comes the piano player and violinist, dressed in tuxedos. That's entertainment.
'I told Donald I hate all that stuff,' says Philip Johnson, 'but people like the show. It is undeniably one of the most popular buildings in New York.' And these adornments would seem to be just the fuzzy pair of dice on the rear-view mirror of the Rolls-Royce. Architecture critics have hailed Trump Tower, Ada Louise Huxtable calling it 'a dramatically handsome structure' and Paul Goldberger describing its interior as 'warm, luxurious and even exhilarating.'
That Mr. Trump was able to obtain the location, when every real-estate developer in the world would have done just about anything to get it, is testimony to Donald Trump's persistence and to his skills as a negotiator. That he was able to put up a building of this dimension on this site demonstrates his finesse with the zoning code.
When he first proposed buying the site, occupied by Bonwit Teller and owned by the Equitable Life Assurance Company, he found that there are 29 more years on the lease. He called Genesco Inc., owner of Bonwit's, for eight years, asking to buy the lease. 'They literally laughed at me,' Mr. Trump recalls. Learning through a major stockholder that the conglomerate was cash-hungry, Mr. Trump called again and was sold the lease.
'He has the uncanny ability to smell blood in the water,' a competitor says. He obtained the air rights over Tiffany, which allowed him to build a much higher building, and went to Equitable, which sold him the land for a 50 percent interest in the project. Typically, Mr. Trump did not syndicate the deal but took in one major partner, in this case Equitable.
As is his custom, Mr. Trump shoudl reap millions of dollars from the project through sale of the condominiums and rent from the stores and 13 floors of offices.
Several New York merchants question how stores in Trump Tower can survive paying the high rents they are charged - the Charles Jourdan shoe store, for example, pays $1 million a year - and a few of the 48 stores have said they are in trouble. Several other merchants are expanding, and Mr. Trump claims that 100 stores are waiting to get in.
Trump Tower represents his guiding principle: Spend whatever it takes to buid the est. Them, let people know about it. In New York, there is no limit to how much money people will spend for the very best, not second best, the very best.
Mr. Trump sums up Trump Tower this way: The finest apartments in the top building in the best location in the hottest city in the world. This is Trump-speak. Mr. Trump has said that Trump Tower is for the 'world's best people,' and one who doubts his modesty commented that by way of proving it, Mr. Trump was moving in himself. The Trups recently had their third child, and the growing family will soon settle in a $10 million triplex penthouse.
The real-estate market is Mr. Trump's thermometer for gauing just how 'hot' a city is. 'New York is, right now, perhaps the hottest city ever,' he says. Recalling recent years when Paris, London, Los Angeles and Chicago had been hot, 'at some point, real estate here will have to go down, but that point is not in sight. One element that makes the market stronger here than in other U.S. cities is the Europeans, South Americans and others.'
Arriving in his office on the 26th floor of Trump Tower, Donald Trump is handed a sprial notebook by his secretary, Norma I. Foerderer, that lists about 50 telephone calsshe has received this morning that she deems worth mentioning. 'It's carzy,' he remarks. 'People are coming to me now because I have credibility.' He says he senses it is ephemeral. He is seizing the moment.
Mrs. Foerderer and a few others guard the ramparts, beating back dozens, sometime hundreds, of callers each day who would like to throw in with Mr. Trump n a variety of deals. Visitors are treaed to a slide show on Trump Tower while they wait - with superlatives by The Trump Organization and vocal accompaniment by Frank Sinatra. In their efforts to get through to Mr. Trump, some of the visitors tell Mrs. Foerderer they are old buddies of his, others bring candy and flowers. They want to propose marriage to Mr. Trump or to put a tank of dolphins in the lobby or have him back a Hollywood film or do a television series about rich people living in Trump Tower or sell him some oil wells in Oklahoma or some land in Ankara or ask if he would be interested in a plan to bulldoze Ellis Island to build a nice golf course and clubhouse out there. Some people try to make it simple for him and just ask for cash. The day before he has sent $3,000 to an unfortunate family he has red about in the newspaper, something he does frequently, according to Mrs. Foerderer.
For a billion-dollar corporation, there aren't too mny people around. Mr. Trump runs The Trump Organization, which includes several companies that buy, sell and develop land, own land and buildings, and a company, now inactive, that bought and sold gold, which, Mr. Trump confirmed, reaped him a $32 million profit. Mr. Trump owns all of these. He is a 50-50 partner in companies that own the Gran Hyatt hotel, Trump Tower and Harrah's at Trump Plaza. He owns 90 percent of the Trump Plaza cooperative building partnership. The Trump family owns 25,000 apartment units primarily in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island - the empire that Fred C. Trump, Donald Trump's father, built. The elder Mr. Trump looks after these apartments from an office at the rear of an apartment building at 600 Avenue Z in Brooklyn.
Fred Trump's empire, which he built from scratch, had an estimated value of $40 million when Donal joined the business 16 years ago. Donald's brother, Robert, is an executive vice president of the organization. (An older brother, Fred Jr., died several years ago.) His two sisters are Maryanne Trump Barry, a Federal Distict Court judge in Trenton, and Elizabeth J. Trump, a secretary at the Chase Manhattan Bank. They were raised in a 23-room house in Jamaica Estates. The family is of Swedish descent.
Donald Trump makes or approves practically all decisions. Although there is a board room, there is no board. At the moment, he is telling a doorman on the other end of the telephone not to put that tacky runner down on the eautiful marble floor when it rains. He does not seem to write anything down, keeping volumes of company files as mental notes.
Mr. Trump's wife, Ivana, is also an executive vice president of the company and has an office next door to her husband's. She is a former fashion model - 'a top model,' in Mr. Trump's words - who was married to Donald Trump seven years ago by the family's minister, the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale.
Ivana Trump, mother of three, retains her model's figure and glamour at age 35. Designers and manufacturers of perfume, jewelry, dresses nad panty hose have proposed naming product lis after her and using her in advertisements. She says she is not interested. She works 10 hour days at the office, handles a heavy social calendar and does most of the cooking for the family. Without trying to arouse undue sentiment against her, it shoud also be added that she is a top-flight skier, an alternate on the 1972 Czechoslovak Olympic team.
She speaks with a thick accent that only seems to add to her allure. 'Cowboys?' she says, her eyes brightening and her voice rising, as it does when she talks about most anything. 'We don't want Cowboys! Where can we go with Cowboys?' She was explaining why her husband bought the New Jersey Generals instead of the Dallas Cowboys. Says Louise M. Sunshine, another executive vice president: 'If it is not the impossible, Donald is simply not interested. There has to be creativity. Money ceased to be the object a long time ago.' Mr. Trump agrees with this assessment.
Mrs. Trump acts as interior designer for his projects, in concert with other designers. she and Mr. Trump make thousands of decisins, from picking all the wallpapers, curtain backings and braid for the doormen's uniforms to menus and doorknobs. Their selections seem based on galvanic skin response. They want the bathmats for Harrah's to add a measure of excitement.
Mrs. Trump spent a week at a quarry in Italy matching slabs of the distinctive, peach rose and pink Breccia Perniche marble for the atrium of Trump Tower. Some people criticize 'that pink marble' and Mrs. Trump responds: 'And what do they prefer? The cheap white travertine that is used in baks and all the other buildings? It is too cold, too common. Donald and I are more daring than that.' When people criticize the Trump Tower doormen's uniforms, she ansers: 'They are fun. Why must everyone be so serious?'
The couple's attention to detail is exceptional. Workmen at the Trump Plaza say that ona recent visit, Mr. Trump spotted a hairline crack that others could barely detect in a bathroom of one of the 140 cooperative apartments. He not only complained but stood there until a work crew came and replaced the marble.
Another worker at the site recalled that Mrs. Trump had an entire elevator cab replaced rather than have a small gap filled where the trim failed to meet the elevator wall. The construction manager of the Atlantic City project, Tom Pippett, said, when Mrs. Trump gave birth to the couple's third child, 'We hoped to get her off our backs for a least a month or so.' But she delivered the baby on a Friday and returned to work the next Tuesday.
Irving R Fischer, chairman of the board of HRH Construction Corporation, one of New York City's largest, and construction manager of Trump Tower, recalls mrs. Trump's decision that the handrails ont he balconies at Trump Plaza were the wrong color. 'He saw a gold Cadillac down the block,' he says, 'and yelled, 'That's the color!' We had to go out and buy goddamned Cadillac paint for the railings. These are things no other developer in the city ever thnks about. They leave it to architects and decorators.'
After lunch in the Trump Tower atrium restaurant - 'have a roll, these are the best rolls in the city' - Mr. Trump walks up to the Sherry-Netherland Hotel for talks, through an interpreter, with a group of Argentines. They are principal owners of 76 acres on the West Side, the largest single piece of undeveloped private property remaining in Manhattan, site of the proposed Lincoln West development. Although partners in the development say Mr. Trump is considering joining them in the project, a knowledgeable source says Mr. Trump left the meeting with an option to buy thm out entirely.
'He is an almost unbelievable negotiator,' says Irving Fischer of HRH Construction. 'I don't worship at the shrine of Donald Trump,' he says, 'but our company has given up trying to negotiate costs with him. We just say: 'Tell us what you want, you're going to get it anyway.''
Mr. Trump refuses to dicuss his deals publicly, but his negotiating bilities were there for all to see recently when he decided to sign the Giant's all-pro linebacker, Lawrence Taylor. Before the negotiating was over, Mr. Taylor's agent foundhimself paying Mr. Trump $750,000 in cash to get his player released from a contract he signed with the Fenerals so that he could re-sign with the Giants, and Mr. Trump had reaped millins of dollars of free publicity for having gone after one of the best players in football.
Three years ago, Mr. Trump went into a room with the owners of the Barbizon Plaza Hotel and an adjacent apartment buiding, purchased the property for about $13 million, according to records, and less than two months later took out a mortgage on it for $65 million. Sources in the industry say the value of hat parcel on Central Park South may now be as much as $125 million.
'Trump can sense whn people might want to get ot of a project,' says a developer, 'and he moves in, very quickly and very quietly so others will not get into the biddig and drive the price up. He trusts his instincts and has theguts to act on them.'
Roy M. Cohn, Mr. Trump's friend and attorney, adds: 'He has an uncanny sense of knowing that something is a good deal when it looks dismal to everyone else.'
Such was his first deal in Manhattan, his purchase of the Commodore Hotel on East 42nd Street in the mdid-1970's, when even the Chrysler Building across the street was in foreclosure. Fred Trump described his son's efforts to buy the hotel as 'fighting for a seat on the Titanic.' But, Donald Trump says, 'I saw all those people coming out of Grand Central Terminal, and I said to myself, 'How bad can this be?'' He completely renovated the hotel, reopening it as the chrome-and-glass Grand Hyatt Hotel.
In Atlantic City, he invested $1 million in land and other costs before the referendum on gambling was passed in 1976. By the early 1980's, his investment was $22 million. 'Everyone said stay away from Atlantic City,' Mr. Trump says. 'Everybody but about four guys. I wa one of the four.'
According to sources in Atlantic City familiar with the deal, Harrah's paid Mr. Trup $50 million in the casino hotel, which Mr. Trump already had under construction. Harrah's put up an additional $170 million in fiancing, agreed to charge Mr. Trump no managing fee and has guaranteed him no financial losses in any year.
He had moved in quietly, sending 14 different people to purchase 15 parcels of land and keeping his name out of it. 'If the seller was Italian,' says Mr. Trump, 'we sent an Italian' - something he probably did not learn at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Finance, where he received a B.A. in economics in 1968. He bought and sold a few pieces of real estate in Philadelphia when he was bored with classes.
'It's in his genes,' says Fred Trump, explaining his son's success in real estate and recalling his three sons growing up on construction sites and in rental offices.
'Donald Trump is the Michael Jackson of real estate,' says Mr. Fischer. 'We've been dealing with him since he was 16. He was an old trouper at age 25.'
His success also derives from his marketing skills. 'I want to bring a little showmanship to real estate,' Mr. Trumps says. He is often compared to the late William Zeckendorf, the renowned New York builder, who was said to owe much of his success to his personal flair. Other New York developers - including the Lefraks, the Rudins, te Tishmans, the Fishers, the Roses - go quietly about building more buildings than does Donal Trump, making their millions and keeping their names out of things.
Some developers find Mr. Trump's high-profile approach disagreeable, but most concede that it has worked for him.
Preston Robert Tisch, a developer and chief operating officer of the Loews Corporation, who lost out to Mr. Trump in the battle over whose site would be chosen for the city's convention cneter, concludes: 'He captured the imagination of people to a greater degree than I could.'
The condominiums in Trump Tower are selling rapdily at what many believe are exorbitant prices, while less costly units in Museum Tower, for example, another 'superluxury' building a few blocks away, are not. According to a marketing study of four such buildings made by the rudential Insurance Company of America, Donald Trump seems to be the only person in New York who knows how to market superluxury apartments. How do you sell a one-bedroom apartment costin as much as a line item in the Department of Defense budget? 'You sell them a fantasy,' Mr. Trump explains. 'He deserves full credit for his success,' says another builder. 'He spent $1 million on the waterfall in Trump Tower. No one else would have done that. If the building fails everyone will say: 'Well sure, what jackass spends a million bucks on a waterfall?''
'What sets Trump apart,' says Ben V. Lambert, a real-estate investment banker, 'is his ability to pierce through the canvas and get things don.He gets projectsliterally off the ground while others are having meetins and doing feasibility studies. But his real skill is putting together complex pieces of the puzzles: fiancing, zoning, parcels of land and such. This ethereal part of building is perhaps more important than the brick and mortar.'
Some have said that his father's money and political contacts with the Brooklyn Democratic organization, which produced former Mayor Abraham D. Beame and former Gov. Hugh L. Carey, are an important part of Donald Trump's success formula. To be sure, they played a part in his gaining a foothold in Manhattan real estate a decade ago. 'It's good to know people,' Fred Trump told his son. Henry J. Stern, the Parks Commissioner who wa then a City ouncil memer, sharply criticzed the tax abatement Mr. Trump received - the first ever for a commercial developer - on the Grand Hyatt Hotel project. 'Donald Trump runs with the same clique that continues to manipulate things behind the scenes in this city,' Mr. Stern then charged.
In retrospect, Mr. Stern now says: 'The tax abatement was a good thing. It made it possible for Donald Trump to take a risk an build a hotel that started a turnarond of that entire area.' Mayor Koch agrees with that assessment, as does Mr. Tisch, who, at the time, vociferously opposed the abatement as unfair to other developers and hotel operators.
'Donald Trump, Mr. Stern concludes, 'is a transplanted 19th-century swashbuckling entrepreneur, and it is up to public officials to rein him in. I don't so much fault him for asking the city for thigs as I do public officials who gave him his way.
'It is not a crime to contribute to politicians,' says Mr. Stern. 'For a New York real-estate developer not to contribute would probably make him look overtly hostile.'
Charges of political influence were also made when Mr. Trump hired Louise Sunshine to lobby for his site for the convention center. Mrs. Sunshine had been the chief fund-raiser for Governor Carey's re-election campaign and was collecting a state salary at the time. Concern was voiced over the intermingling of roles.
Some people still worry about Mr. Trump's political connections. Ruth W. Messinger is a City Council member who, despite her continued opposition to the project, has worked for four years to try to insure that a development at Lincoln West will be reasonably compatible with the neighborhood. Reports that Mr. Trump may buy into the project, she says, 'scare me to death.'
'He seems to get his way in this city,' she says. Mr. Trup is rather astonished that people feel this way after the city denied him a tax abatement on Trump Tower worth abot $15 million to $20 million.
Although it has yet to become an issue, some eyebrows were raised when Mr. Trump was named to a panel studying the feasibility and site selection of a domed sports complex in New York even though he has expressed a strong desire to build it.
Mrs. Messinger does not much care for Mr. Trump's 'contentiousness' in pressing a lawsuit against the city over refusal of his tax abatement on Trump Tower or for his filing suit against the official who refused it, Anthony Gliedman, the city's Housing Commissioner. Says Roy Cohn: 'You don't use the term 'settlement' with Donald.'
Mr. Trump's critics charge that this is typical of his bullying ways. Tenants of an apartment building at Central Park South and Avenue of the Americas owned by Mr. Trump charge thathe is trying to force them out. He has expressed a desire to build a lavish new hotel on the site of that building and the adjacent. Barbizon-Plaza Hotel. Mr. Trump has filed suits against several of the tenants and Housing Court judges have thrown several of the suits out f court on grounds that they were brought in bad faith to harass and annoy the tenants and were a blatant attempt to force the tenants out throug spurious and unnecessary litigation.
For his part, Mr. Trump claims that millionaires are paying $400 for large apartments with park views in the rent-controlled building. He has had tin placed over windows of vacant apartments, giving the building the look of a tenement. He has offered to house homeless peole in the empty apartments, an offer Mayor Koch declined because he viewed it as as an obvious attempt to make remaining tenants want to leave.
Mr. Trump first became a target for many of his critics when, in 1980, he jackhammered two Art Deco has-relief sculptures that had adorned the Bonwit building, which he was razing to make way for Trump Tower. He destroyed them rather than donating them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which had expressed interest in the pieces. Critics never fail to mention the episode. Now, Mr. Trump says he is sorry he did it, but insists that little interest was shown in preserving the statues until after they were demolished.
Mr. Trump does not place patience on his list of virtues. Workmen confirm a story that he paid $75,000 to truck several 40-foot trees from Florida to Trump Tower, where a tunnel was built into the building so the trees would not be damaged by frost. The 3,000-pound trees were then installed in the lower plaza of the atrium. Mr. Trump did not like the look. He ordered the trees removed, and, when workmen balked for 24 hours, Mr. Trump had the trees cut down with a chainsaw.
It is often pointed out that Mr. Trump is prone to exageration in describing his projects. Oh, he lies a great deal, says Philip Johnson with a laugh. But it's sheer exuberance, exaggeration. It's never about anything important. He's straight as an arrow in his business dealings.
Sometimes exaggeration just seems to swirl around him. A recent television show, 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, reported that his Greenwich, Conn., waterfront home is a $10 million estate. Mr. Trump will admit that, yes he paid less than one-third of that and says: I didn't tell them that.
Various figures, ranging from $6 million to $10 million have been reported as the amount he paid for the Generals, but, as one who was involved in the negotiations says, the figure is closer to $1 million. Mr. Trump answers: I never told them those other figures.
And just about every profile ever written about Mr. Trump states that he graduated first in his class at Wharton in 1968. Although the school refused comment, the commencement program from 1968 does not list him as graduating with honors of any kind. He says he never told them that either.
Some of mr. Trump's critics are worried that the man who may change New York's skyline before he's through may simply have no taste. The worry abot palace-guard doormen and talk of high-rise castles.
If the charge is that Donald is unsophisticated, says Roy Cohn, they are in some ways right. If you go with Donald to see an art collection, he's not that interested. He'd rather look out the windows at building.
His taste is all right, says Philip Johnson, but it is sometimes overwhelmed by his sense of publicity. He will become less and less glitzy. He'll listen to me.
Oddly enough, for all of those who criticize his buildings as not in the best of taste, architecture critics have generally hailed them. In her review of the glass-and-chrome Grand Hyatt, for example, Ada Louise Huxtable spoke of the building's ingenuity and elegance and called it urbane and elegant New York. After an afternoon of negotiating with the Argentines, Mr. Trump returns to his office and momentarily takes a seat behind a desk big enough for F-14 landings. The office is not, however, what is known in the decorating profession as a power office, the kind common among top executives that is designed to induce groveling. It is of casual, modern decor with models of buildings and blue-prints scattered about.
Mr. Trump has abandoned the flashy haberdashery he favored some years ago - a wardrobe that included a burgundy suit and matching shoes - and he now dresses conservatively if casually, often wearing dark suits, white shirts, subdued ties and loafers. He speaks slowly and softly and in the same casual manner to eminent architects an business moguls as to the cofee and sandwich vendor outside his casino-hotel. He is said, by acquaintances, to be generally even tempered and rarely seems ruffled. He is not given to unkind remarks and is nearly always in a positive frame of mind. I never think of the negative, he says. All obstacles can be overcome.
He talks boastfully about his projects, but is uncomfortable talking about himself. He does not smoke and does not drink alcohol. He plays golf and tennis regularly. His wife describes him as an all-American boy who likes country music best and prefers a steak and aked potato to anything called cuisine.
Although he is 6 feet 2 inches, he does not particularly stand out in a crowd. His sandy hair is probably a bit long by standards of the corporate world, with the sides slicked back just a bit. More often than not, published profiles describe him as handsome. His smile is an impudent-looking curl of the lip that makes his protrait appear less like the head of a billion-dollar corporation in his office than Elvis Presley in Viva Las Vegas.
He has boyish looks that are accentuated by the company he keeps. His equals in the business world are all much older than he and these are the people he most often socializes with. He has dificulty now figuring out who his real friends are, as billionaires will.
He has not yet indulged in planes, race cars, polo ponies, art work, yachts, and the like. He says he doesn't have time for all of that now and prefers putting his money back into his deals. Of course there is the estate in Greenwich, and, Mrs. Trump says, We have a speedboat up there, and I like to go out and go a hundred miles an hour in it and come back. We don't want to sit on a yacht all day. His father pulled Donald Trump out of a prep school because he didn't want his son growing up with spoiled kids with $40 ball gloves, sending him instead to military school. His father bragged at the sports forum that he had taken the subway and saved $15 car fare.
Mrs. Trump says that, though they both work long hours, they try to spend two or three nights a week at home with the children, aged 6 years, 2 years and three months, buut the social obligations do pile up. In addition to dinner parties, Mrs. Trump says they like to attend Broadway openings an that they frequent the ballet and opera. Mrs. Trump is active in support of the United Cerebral Palsy Fund and other charities, as well as the New York City Opera. She is also an active supporter of Ronald Reagan.
Mr. Trump seems to have maintained a detached view of his flood of fortune and publicity. He frequently mentions that all of the attention and success may well be fleeting.
His friends say that he is not yet fully cognizant of his station. He loves to got to '21' for lunch and be impressed with all the wealthy, powerful, famous people, says an acquaintance. He doesn't quite realize that he's one of them.
That may be changing. He recently make a secret offer to buy the place.
After dusk, he rides throught the city on his way to the last appointment of the day, enjoying the lights that make the whole city sparkle like the inside of Trump Tower. He talked about his plans for the future, as much as anyone who operates on spontaneous combustion can.
Mr. Trump says whatever else he gets into he will undoubtedly stay in real estate. He hints everal times at a deal in the works, a big deal, very Trumpish, regarding television. but he will not divulge details.
The football thing is cute, Trump Tower and the piano and all of that, it's all cute, but what does it mean? he says, sounding what borders on a note of uncharacteristic despair.
Asked to explain, he adds: What does it all mean when some wacko over in Syria can end the world with nuclear weapons?
He says that his concern for nuclear holocaust is not one that popped into his mind during any recent made-of-television movie. He says that it has been troubling him since his uncle, a nuclear physicist, began talking to him about it 15 years ago.
His greatest dream is to personally do something about the problem and, characteristially, Donald Trump thinks he has an answer to nuclear armament: Let him engotiate arms agreements - he who can talk people into selling $100 million properties to him for $13 million. Negotiations is an art, he says and I have a gift for it.
The idea thathe would ever be allowed to got into a room alone and negotiate for the United States, let alone be successful in disarming the world, seems the naive musing of an optimistic, deluded young man who has never lost at anything he has tried. But he believes that through years of making his views known and through supporting candidaes who share his views, it could someday happen.
He is constantly asked about his interest in running for elective office. Absolutely not, he answers. All of the false smiles and the red tape. It is too difficult to really do anthing.
He dislikes meetings and paperwork and is in the enviable position of being able to avoid both.
His last appointment of the day is a committee meeting of the New York Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commission. He walks in late to a conference room at Price Waterhouse & Company, the accounting firm, where a group of about 10 men, most of whom look to be corporate junior executives about his age, tired looking young men with their ties lossened after a long day at the office, gathered around a conference table.
Mr. Trump is the co-chairman, but he has not been to many of the meetings and, although they don't show it, some of the committee members are peeved. The meeting has already begun when he strolls in. There are written reports on the table about design contests and a fund-raising campaign for a memorial. A good deal of hand-wringing is going on over how in the world to raise even a small portion of the $1.4 million needed. The men are stating the need to energize that component of the campaign, to plug into that secor, to interface. Mr. Trump does not take off his coat and slouches in a chair. When he finally speaks up, he says hat he is on the commission because the young men who went to Vietnam got a bad deal - which, about the worst thing that can happen to anyone.
He then throws out the names of some people, friends of mine, whom they could probably tap for substantial contributions. Then, we're going to have the fund-raiser at Trump Tower, he says, punching through the canvas. I've called the White House. The President is coming, so we can raise the price of the 800 tickets from $500 to $1,000. That will just about put you where you want to be.
I hae to be going, he says. All of the men stare silently at him as he stands and picks up a copy of the afternoon newspaper on the conference table, looking for a moment at his photograph on both the front and back pages, photographs taken at the sports forum where the men called out his name. That was 10 hours, several projects and milions of dollars ago. He shakes his head and smiles at the photographs as the men continue to stare at him intently.
Mr. Trump, one of the men about his age asks sheepishly. What's Herschel Walker really like?
He's nice guy, really, Donald Trump says softly of his halfback. He's the nicest guy in the world.
Continue reading the main story
War on Chicken
Tyson Foods, Chicken Producers Face More Claims on Price Fixing
Tue, 03 Jul 2018 22:07
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#MeToo
Billionaire LaCroix CEO Denies Allegations of Groping
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 11:34
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Sorrell targets £1bn war'Ž chest for ad agency takeover spree - Sky News
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 14:51
The former WPP chief wants his new S4 Capital vehicle to be able to issue £1bn-worth of shares to fund deals, Sky News can reveal.
By Mark Kleinman, City editor
10:13, UK, Wednesday 04 July 2018
The former WPP chief Sir Martin Sorrell is plotting to raise up to £1bn for a takeover spree that could ultimately re-establish him at the helm of a sizeable international marketing services empire.
Sky News can reveal that a shareholder circular posted on Wednesday to investors 'Žin Sir Martin's new marketing services vehicle disclosed its ability to issue stock worth up to £1bn to fund acquisitions.
The size of the potential war chest is much greater than Derriston Capital - the cash shell that Sir Martin is acquiring - had previously indicated would be available to him.
Its disclosure comes as Sir Martin fights a '‚¬300m (£265m) bidding war with his former employer over what could become the first purchase by S4 Capital, his new venture: a Dutch-based digital creative agency called MediaMonks.
On Tuesday, Sky News revealed that WPP Group had tabled a rival bid for MediaMonks, pitching it into a headlong battle with Sir Martin less than three months after he quit the company amid acrimonious circumstances.News of their competing offers for MediaMonks comes less than a fortnight after Sir Martin told an audience at the Cannes Lions advertising festival that S4 would not be in direct competition with his former employer.
"I've referred to it being a peanut," he said.
"Although it does occur to me that some people have peanut allergies."
The size of Sir Martin's potential takeover war chest will raise expectations that S4 Capital may ultimately be regarded as a competitor to WPP.
That poses potentially awkward questions for both parties, given the absence of a non-compete clause in his final WPP contract.
He has, nevertheless, given confidentiality undertakings which could impact on S4's ability to strike certain deals.
In the circular ahead of a meeting later this month at which he will seek to take over Derriston and rename it S4, its board said it was "seeking shareholder'Ž approval to authorise the issue of up to 1bn consolidated ordinary shares...where the implied look-through issue price is not less than £1".
Sir Martin would avoid his influence being diluted by a B-share structure which allows him total control of S4.
Market speculation has already linked S4 Capital to other targets including MDC Partners, a US-listed agency group, in recent weeks.
Sir Martin left WPP following an investigation into allegations relating to the use of company funds to pay for a sex worker - which he has vociferously denied.
His ability to establish a business in direct rivalry with WPP, the owner of J Walter Thompson, Ogilvy and Young & Rubicam, while retaining up to £19m in unvested share options led to a limited shareholder protest against the chairman, Roberto Quarta, at last month's annual general meeting.
Sir Martin remains a significant shareholder in WPP, with much of his wealth tied up in the stock of the company he took from a manufacturer of shopping baskets in 1985 to bestriding the global advertising industry.
By the time he stepped down in April, WPP was valued by the stock market at more than £16bn.
Its shares have slipped in recent months, however, amid investor anxiety about the impact of marketing budget cuts and shifts at major global advertisers.
Ford has put its global creative business - held by WPP agencies - under review, while an executive at Unilever, WPP's second-largest client, said it would watch S4 Capital's progress with interest.
Sir Martin's progress is being closely watched by the world's biggest marketing services agencies, which are being forced to adapt to a fast-changing media landscape in which Facebook and Google have emerged as powerful challengers to traditional advertising media.
Sir Martin has committed £40m of his own money to the new venture, with institutional investors such as Lombard Odier, Miton, Schroders and Toscafund all backing the vehicle.
Dowgate Capital, a stockbroker, has been working with Sir Martin on fundraising activity by S4, which is structured so that it is controlled by its executive chairman with an iron grip.
Roberto Quarta, the chairman, has named two long-serving WPP executives as joint chief operating officers while a permanent successor to Sir Martin is being recruited.
It has not made any big strategic moves since Sir Martin's exit, although it has agreed to sell equity holdings in two technology businesses.
Vaccine$
Polio eradication: a vaccine we don't even use anymore is spreading the virus - Vox
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 14:14
The global push to immunize children against polio has been an incredible success, reducing polio cases by 99.9 percent.
But there's a lingering obstacle to a polio-free world: A scant number of people who got one version of the vaccine before it was phased out in 2016 carry a variant of the polio virus that was in that vaccine and has since mutated. The mutated virus can now be passed around in areas where few people have been vaccinated, sickening some along the way.
This is precisely what's playing out right now, in a very small polio outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and with a handful of cases in a few other countries.
This year, DRC has registered no wild polio viruses '-- that is, polio cases caught from the environment. And Type 2 polio has been completely eradicated in the wild since 1999. But DRC has seen seven cases of Type 2 polio this year that are linked to the vaccine in an outbreak.
The outbreak of vaccine-derived polio was first registered last June, in Maniema province, the central-eastern part of DRC. It has since spread to the south, and popped up in two provinces in the north.
''It's worrying because it's spreading,'' said Michel Zaffran, director of the polio eradication program at the World Health Organization, who added that the government is not yet taking the outbreak seriously enough. There are, thankfully, stockpiles of the polio-2 vaccine at the ready to confront resurgent outbreaks.
The success of the global polio eradication campaign may hinge on the outcome of the DRC's polio outbreak. Experts like Zaffran say beating the vaccine-derived version of the horrible paralysis-inducing disease is just as important as stopping wild polio from spreading. Here's why.
Why the oral polio vaccine has become a threat to polio eradication The World Health Organization's polio eradication program, which began in 1988, has been one of the greatest success stories in global health. At its peak in the middle of the 20th century, polio killed half a million people every year. In 1988, there were more than 125 polio-endemic countries. Now there are only three: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan (where ongoing political conflicts have made eradication efforts difficult).
This success can be traced back to 1950s, when Albert Sabin noticed that not all strains of polio virus-infected monkeys when exposed. He was able to isolate these strains '-- and prove they wouldn't infect humans '-- and form them into a swallowable serum that could be easily distributed the world over. (Jonas Salk, you may recall, invented the first polio vaccine, which was an injectable.)
That oral polio vaccine (or OPV, as it's often called) became the favored vaccine of the World Health Organization in its eradication efforts. It's extremely effective at immunizing the gut, where polio takes root in the body. Some 3 billion children have received this vaccine in the past 10 years alone.
Make no mistake: The world is this close to eradicating the disease because of the oral vaccine.
But the oral vaccine also came with a small risk: It can cause new cases of the disease.
''Very quickly, after you take the vaccine, [oral-vaccine viruses] revert'' to a dangerous form, Vincent Racaniello, a Columbia professor of microbiology and immunology, said in a 2016 interview. This typically isn't a problem, since by the time they become virulent, a person '-- and his or her surrounding community '-- is immune.
But if immunization is spotty, and if sanitation is lacking (as the virus is often passed through the gut into sewer systems), vaccine-derived polio can continue to spread for years.
Transmission of vaccine-derived polio works like this: A person swallows the oral vaccine, which contains a live, weakened virus. That virus can live in the gut for a while, and then pass from person-to-person, developing mutations along the way. ''When it circulates for a long time among too many poorly vaccinated or unvaccinated children,'' said Zaffran, ''this is how it is allowed to mutate and become virulent again.''
The gap between wild polio cases and vaccine-derived cases is narrowing That's what's happening in the DRC, where people are getting sick with a vaccine-derived variant of polio virus type-2.
In 2016, the Polio Global Eradication Initiative phased out the use of the polio type-2 oral vaccine. ''The outbreaks we are seeing now were seeded by vaccines used before switch in April 2016,'' Zaffran said. ''The same vaccine has been used in 155 countries for many years and the [vaccine-derived polio cases] have occurred only in a small number of countries with chronically low immunization coverage or with marginalized groups of population who do not have access to the immunization system,'' he added '-- like DRC.
The Eradication Initiative would like to (ideally) phase out all oral vaccines by 2020, and replace them with injectable vaccine. The injectable vaccines contain a dead virus that cannot cause polio, but they are more expensive and harder to administer.
According to the WHO's latest count, there have been seven vaccine-derived polio cases in the DRC this year, as well as one case in Nigeria, three in Somalia, and one in Papua New Guinea. Compare that to the numbers of wild polio virus cases: Afghanistan has seen eight this year, and Pakistan, three.
In 2017, there were 96 cases '-- globally '-- of vaccine-derived polio and just 22 cases from the wild virus. ''I would not say vaccine-derived polio viruses are more of an issue than wild polio viruses, but they are paralyzing kids more often and we need to treat them with same seriousness and speed [as wild polio],'' Zaffran said. ''If DRC doesn't manage to get its outbreak under control, we are running the risk of having exportation of this outbreak into neighboring countries.''
Recently, the DRC's health ministry '-- with the help of international partners like the WHO '-- managed to organize the world's first Ebola vaccination campaign early on in an outbreak and rapidly interrupt the spread of the deadly virus, which had already reached urban centers. That's a sign they can do the same for vaccine-derived polio, Zaffran said. The outbreak just needs to attract enough attention and political will.
Coffee
Association of Coffee Drinking With Mortality by Genetic Variation in Caffeine Metabolism: Findings From the UK Biobank | Complementary and Alternative Medicine | JAMA Internal Medicine | JAMA Network
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 14:08
Question Moderate coffee consumption has been inversely associated with mortality; however, does heavy intake, particularly among those with common genetic polymorphisms that impair caffeine metabolism, increase risk of mortality?
Findings This large prospective cohort study of a half million people found inverse associations for coffee drinking with mortality, including among participants drinking 1 up to 8 or more cups per day. No differences were observed in analyses that were stratified by genetic polymorphisms affecting caffeine metabolism.
Meaning This study provides further evidence that coffee drinking can be part of a healthy diet and offers reassurance to coffee drinkers.
Importance Prospective cohorts in North America, Europe, and Asia show consistent inverse associations between coffee drinking and mortality, including deaths from cardiovascular disease and some cancers. However, concerns about coffee, particularly among people with common genetic polymorphisms affecting caffeine metabolism and among those drinking more than 5 cups per day, remain.
Objective To evaluate associations of coffee drinking with mortality by genetic caffeine metabolism score.
Design, Setting, and Participants The UK Biobank is a population-based study that invited approximately 9.2 million individuals from across the United Kingdom to participate. We used baseline demographic, lifestyle, and genetic data form the UK Biobank cohort, with follow-up beginning in 2006 and ending in 2016, to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) for coffee intake and mortality, using multivariable-adjusted Cox proportional hazards models. We investigated potential effect modification by caffeine metabolism, defined by a genetic score of previously identified polymorphisms in AHR, CYP1A2, CYP2A6, and POR that have an effect on caffeine metabolism. Of the 502'¯641 participants who consented with baseline data, we included those who were not pregnant and had complete data on coffee intake and smoking status (n'‰='‰498'¯134).
Exposures Total, ground, instant, and decaffeinated coffee intake.
Main Outcomes and Measures All-cause and cause-specific mortality.
Results The mean age of the participants was 57 years (range, 38-73 years); 271 019 (54%) were female, and 387 494 (78%) were coffee drinkers. Over 10 years of follow-up, 14'¯225 deaths occurred. Coffee drinking was inversely associated with all-cause mortality. Using non''coffee drinkers as the reference group, HRs for drinking less than 1, 1, 2 to 3, 4 to 5, 6 to 7, and 8 or more cups per day were 0.94 (95% CI, 0.88-1.01), 0.92 (95% CI, 0.87-0.97), 0.88 (95% CI, 0.84-0.93), 0.88 (95% CI, 0.83-0.93), 0.84 (95% CI, 0.77-0.92), and 0.86 (95% CI, 0.77-0.95), respectively. Similar associations were observed for instant, ground, and decaffeinated coffee, across common causes of death, and regardless of genetic caffeine metabolism score. For example, the HRs for 6 or more cups per day ranged from 0.70 (95% CI, 0.53-0.94) to 0.92 (95% CI, 0.78-1.10), with no evidence of effect modification across strata of caffeine metabolism score (P'‰='‰.17 for heterogeneity).
Conclusions and Relevance Coffee drinking was inversely associated with mortality, including among those drinking 8 or more cups per day and those with genetic polymorphisms indicating slower or faster caffeine metabolism. These findings suggest the importance of noncaffeine constituents in the coffee-mortality association and provide further reassurance that coffee drinking can be a part of a healthy diet.
Clips
VIDEO - Angry Canadians support #BuyCanadian after attacks on Trudeau | CTV News
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 12:23
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may be taking a ''cooler heads'' approach to the barrage of insults from U.S. President Donald Trump and his top aides as Canada-U.S. trade tensions thicken, but consumers north of the border are proving less stoic.
Scores of shoppers and travellers are mounting strikes against America's pocketbook by boycotting U.S. goods and trips to the States. On Twitter, hashtags including #BuyCanadian, #BoycottUSProducts and #BoycottUSA are spreading tips on using purchasing power to defend Canada's honour.
Trump's trade rhetoric turned personal after Trudeau's closing news conference at the G7 summit in Quebec last Saturday. Trudeau said he had pushed back against the Trump administration's tariffs on steel and aluminum, and insisted Canada would ''not be pushed around'' on trade.
Those comments prompted a Twitter tirade from Trump in which he referred to Trudeau as ''dishonest'' and ''weak,'' and later said Trudeau's remarks would cost ''a lot of money for the people of Canada.'' Top Trump aides followed his lead. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said ''there's a special place in hell'' for Trudeau. A remark he later called a ''mistake.''
In response, one Ottawa man proudly tweeted a photo of a cart of ''Trump free'' groceries on Sunday. Others are refusing to buy Kentucky bourbon, California wine and Florida oranges, and ignoring major U.S. brands such as Starbucks, Walmart, and McDonald's.
Trudeau appeared to acknowledge the swell of support at an event for supply-managed farmers near Parliament Hill on Tuesday.
"There's a bit of a patriotic boost going on these past few days," he said to laughs from a table of stakeholders gathered under a tent.
Summer vacations have also been a focal point for patriotic protestors, with numerous commenters bragging about cancelled voyages to the U.S. in favour of keeping travel dollars at home.
''F*** you Trump. We just booked a $3,000 vacation to beautiful British Columbia. Happy anniversary to us. #Canadastrong #BuyCanadian #F***Tariffs,'' tweeted one angry user.
The number of same-day and overnight trips to the U.S. by Canadian residents rose 2.7 per cent in 2017 to 42.1 million, according to Statistics Canada. In 2016, Canadian tourists spent US$19.8 billion on visits to the U.S.
''Patriotic Americans should vacation in Canada this summer and step up our purchases of Canadian products and services. #BuyCanadian #AcheterCanadien #VacationCanada #VacancesCanada,'' wrote another user.
While Canadians may take pride in putting down their Jim Beam whiskey in favour of J.P. Wiser's Deluxe rye from Windsor, Ont., a group representing Canadian retailers warns there are limits to such substitutions.
Still, there is little denying Canada's importance when it comes to U.S. exports. Canada is the most important market for U.S. goods, importing a total of US$98.9 billion in the first four months of 2018, according data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The extent to which Canadians are willing to do without American products has yet to be seen. But if the online fervor for punishing Trump at the checkout line persists, it may serve as a reminder of Canada's economic heft.
''Fellow Canadians. Now is a good time to #buylocal. Now is a good time to #boycottUSproducts,'' wrote Twitter user Mary M on Monday. ''It's time to send a clear message to all the meek republican politicians and Trump voters #BoycottUSA #buyCanadian.''
VIDEO - How to declare independence from technology
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 11:59
Tech Guide Getty | Westend61
Young man riding a bike, freehand
I've always found summer to be a good time to step away from technology for a little bit. As often as I can, and I'll do it this week to celebrate the Fourth of July, I'll put down my phone for a few days and leave technology behind while I head to the beach.
You can use this week to declare your own independence, too, and take a break from technology. I've written a lot of guides over the last year that can help you do this. Sometimes it's as easy as leaving your phone behind, but you might also want to do a check-up on your technology use. Here's what you can do, and what some companies are doing, to help you declare independence from technology.
Stop Google from tracking everything you do online Google
Stop your iPhone from bugging you while you're driving Todd Haselton | CNBC
Use Do Not Disturb mode
Deactivate your Facebook account Todd Haselton | CNBC
Tap the General tab at the top of the screen
Use new controls to limit how often you stare at your phoneKeep a phone schedule and remove distracting appsTurn off notifications from people who text you too much Todd Haselton | CNBC
Turn off the Notifications toggle switch
If you're not ready to completely turn off your iPhone notifications, you can start by limiting alerts from certain apps, or even specific people. You may want to try turning off text message alerts from specific people in your address book, like those who text you too much.
Save articles to read later... and get back to the beach Todd Haselton | CNBC
Pocket is my favorite app for iPhone and Android for saving articles.
If you're on vacation this week and happen to get an email or text message telling you to read a news story, you might want to just save it for next week instead of staring at your screen. Check out my guide on how to save articles for reading later and then head back to the beach.
Set an out of office message from your iPhone Todd Haselton | CNBC
Turn on Automatic Reply
If you're heading on vacation this week and forgot to set an out of message response on your work email, you can do that right from your iPhone. So long as you already have your work email already going, you can follow my guide to setting an out of office message from your iPhone and forget about digging out your work laptop.
See how long you're using your iPhone each day
VIDEO - Seattle bans straws and utensils made of plastic - CBS News
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 11:42
Looking for a plastic straw to sip your soda? If you're in Seattle, you're out of luck. A city ban on plastic straws and utensils in bars and restaurants went in effect Sunday, in the latest push to reduce waste and prevent marine plastic pollution.
Seattle is believed to be the first major U.S. city to ban single-use plastic straws and utensils in food service, according to Seattle Public Utilities. The eco-conscious city has been an environmental leader in the U.S., working to aggressively curb the amount of trash that goes into landfills by requiring more options that can be recycled or composted .
The city's 5,000 restaurants will now have to use reusable or compostable utensils, straws and cocktail picks, though the city is encouraging businesses to consider not providing straws altogether or switch to paper rather than compostable plastic straws.
"Plastic pollution is surpassing crisis levels in the world's oceans, and I'm proud Seattle is leading the way and setting an example for the nation by enacting a plastic straw ban," Seattle Public Utilities General Manager Mami Hara said in a statement last month.
Proposals to ban plastic straws are being considered in other cities, including New York and San Francisco.
In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Theresa May announced in April a plan to ban the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds. She called plastic waste "one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world." India has vowed to ban all single-use plastics in four years' time .
Seattle's ban is part of a 2008 ordinance that requires restaurants and other food-service businesses to find recyclable or compostable alternatives to disposable containers, cups, straws, utensils and other products.
Businesses have time to work toward complying with the ban, said Jillian Henze, a spokeswoman for the Seattle Restaurant Alliance, an industry trade group. "We've almost had a year to seek out products to protect the environment and give customers a good experience (with alternatives)," she said.
The city had allowed exemptions for some products until alternatives could be found. With multiple manufacturers offering alternatives, the city let the exemption for plastic utensils and straws run out over the weekend.
Environmental advocates have been pushing for restaurants and other businesses to ditch single-use straws, saying they can't be recycled and end up in the ocean, polluting the water and harming sea life. A "Strawless in Seattle" campaign last fall by the Lonely Whale involving more than 100 businesses voluntarily helped remove 2.3 million single-use plastic straws.
Elsewhere in the U.S., the anti-plastic movement has had mixed success. In Hawaii, legislation to ban plastic straws died this year, with business groups, including the Hawaii Restaurant Association and Hawaii Food Industry Association, testifying against the measure. Furniture giant Ikea has said it would do away with plastics by 2020, while McDonald's has resisted studying the issue.
Smaller cities in California, including Malibu and San Luis Obispo, have restricted the use of plastic straws. San Luis Obispo requires single-use straws only be provided in restaurants, bars and cafes when customers ask for them. City officials said most customers will say "no" if asked if they want a straw.
Supporters say it will take more than banning plastic straws to curb ocean pollution but that ditching them is a good first step and a way to start a conversation about waste and ocean conservation. By some estimates, Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day, with some parts of the ocean now containing more plastic than fish .
Seattle urged businesses to use up their existing inventory of plastic utensils and straws before Sunday. Those who weren't able to use up their supply have been told to work with the city on a compliance schedule.
Businesses that don't comply may face a fine of up to $250, but city officials say they would work with businesses to make the changes.
(C) 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
VIDEO - Pride In STEM on Twitter: "Pride in STEM, @houseofstem, @InterEngLGBT, @OUTinSTEM invite you to celebrate the first International Day of LGBTQ+ People in STEM. Join us and dozens of organisations on July 5th for #LGBTSTEMDay ðŸ"¸'ðŸŒðŸ‘(C)🏾
Thu, 05 Jul 2018 10:05
Replying to
@PrideinSTEM @houseofstem and
2 others Pride in an identity is not tenable.Pride should come from who you are as a person, not your sexuality, race, etc.
VIDEO - Wiltshire pair 'poisoned by nerve agent' - BBC News
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 22:20
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Media caption Amesbury pair poisoned by NovichokA man and woman found unconscious in Wiltshire were poisoned by Novichok, the same nerve agent as ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal, police say.
The couple, believed to be Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess, are in a critical condition having been found unconscious at a house on Saturday.
Police say no one else has presented with the same symptoms.
There was "nothing in their background" to suggest the pair were targeted, the Met Police said.
Image copyright Facebook Image caption The pair, believed to be Dawn Sturgess, 44 and Charlie Rowley, 45 were found unconscious on Saturday Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said it could not be confirmed whether the nerve agent came from the same batch that Mr Skripal, and his daughter Yulia, were exposed to.
However he said the possibility was "clearly a line of enquiry".
Mr Basu said no contaminated items had yet been found but officers were putting together a "very detailed examination of their movements" in order to determine where the pair had been exposed to the substance.
"We [the public] shouldn't be picking up anything that we have no idea what it is because we have no idea what may have contained the nerve agent at this time," he added.
The Counter Terrorism Policing Network is now leading the investigation, working with Wiltshire Police.
Image copyright PA Image caption Police have cordoned off a number of areas including Muggleton Road in Amesbury England's chief medical officer, Sally Davies, said: "I want to reassure the public that the risk to the general public remains low."
The Skripal episode meant officials had a "well-established response" in place, she said.
"As before, my advice is to wash your clothes and wipe down any personal items, shoes and bags, with cleansing or baby wipes before disposing of them in the usual way.
"You do not need to seek advice from a health professional unless you are experiencing symptoms, as any individual who had been significantly exposed at the same time would by now have symptoms."
The news that the pair came into contact with Novichok was confirmed following analysis at the defence research facility at Porton Down, Wiltshire.
As a precautionary measure, sites in Amesbury and Salisbury, believed to have been visited by the couple before they fell ill, have been cordoned off.
There is no evidence to suggest either visited the sites that were decontaminated following the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.
Local residents have been warned to expect to see an increased police presence - including officers wearing protective equipment.
Image copyright Other Home Secretary Sajid Javid said his thoughts were with the two individuals affected and thanked the emergency services and staff at Salisbury District Hospital.
He said the events follow "the reckless and barbaric attack which took place in Salisbury in March".
"The government's first priority is for the safety of the residents in the local area but as Public Health England has made clear, the risk to the general public is low," he said.
"Tomorrow [Thursday] I will chair a meeting of the government's emergency committee Cobra in relation to the ongoing investigation."
Image caption The Amesbury branch of Boots was closed on Wednesday morning as a "precautionary measure" Security correspondent Gordon Corera said the poisoning was "hugely significant" as the public "will be worried about public health".
He also added: "The most likely hypothesis is that this is leftover Novichok from the attack on the Skripals back in March.
"Perhaps this is some of the Novichok prepared for the attack and discarded: maybe somewhere like a park, a house, and maybe these two came across it."
He added it could give counter-terrorism investigators new leads on where the nerve agent was "brought and put together" before the attack on the Skripals.
VIDEO - LOL: CNN Panel Tear Themselves Apart Over Blame for GOP SCOTUS Success - YouTube
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 18:43
VIDEO - YouTube - Dr Steve - Iran regime change
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 11:50
VIDEO - Kathy Griffin on Twitter: "Tonight...my @Nightline interview with ABC's @danbharris Hope you'll watch! https://t.co/5bNHE3y6RZ"
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 11:37
Log in Sign up Kathy Griffin @ kathygriffin Tonight...my
@Nightline interview with ABC's
@danbharris Hope you'll watch!
pic.twitter.com/5bNHE3y6RZ 1:23 PM - 3 Jul 2018 Twitter by: Kathy Griffin @kathygriffin B @ DollyMamaB
15h Replying to
@kathygriffin @Nightline @danbharris Setting the DVR now!
View conversation · janet snakehole @ misslexxmarie
15h Replying to
@kathygriffin @Nightline @danbharris I really love your short hair
View conversation · 1 opposing view @ 1no_censorship
15h Replying to
@kathygriffin @Nightline @danbharris It? Really? Are you going there? Bwahaha
pic.twitter.com/MdV6SIK4Vm View conversation · Mundi P @ Mundilynn
15h Replying to
@kathygriffin @Nightline @danbharris I LOVE it! ''There are no lines for me''. Damn straight!!
View conversation · 1 opposing view @ 1no_censorship
15h Replying to
@misslexxmarie @kathygriffin and
2 others Annie Lennox called and wants her look to not be copied by "this" "thing"
pic.twitter.com/TGJWP13fRU View conversation · Magic Mikey Mouse ''¨ðŸ'''‚¸ðŸ­ @ MichaelJMcA
15h Replying to
@kathygriffin @Nightline @danbharris You are such a queen.
View conversation · debbie palm @ debbiepalm44
15h Replying to
@kathygriffin @Nightline @danbharris Sweet! ðŸ'ªðŸ>>ðŸ
View conversation · Aaron Vallely @ Vallmeister
15h Replying to
@kathygriffin @Nightline @danbharris Fucking YASS KQWEEN. I am living for the endless amounts of fucks you don't have for this bullshit. Trump is literally locking up children and complimenting dictators and you're still getting flamed?
View conversation · Lello Callegari @ lellocallegari
15h Replying to
@kathygriffin @Nightline @danbharris There is no lines for you and we loooove it! You are the best.
View conversation · indieTV @ indietv
15h Replying to
@kathygriffin @Nightline @danbharris You are an AMERICAN PATRIOT!
View conversation · Electric trump 2 @ Billytrump6
15h Replying to
@kathygriffin @Nightline @danbharris liberalism is a mental disorder Kathy Griffin is very very sick she's very mentally ill she should be in a rubber room with doctors heavily medicated she needs a head CAT scan this is obviously a very sick woman
View conversation · Donald Nelson @ HanoyShan
15h Replying to
@kathygriffin @Nightline @danbharris I still think we haven't given the headless Trump theory enough consideration. It might be an improvement over the job he's doing now. We shouldn't be too quick to dismiss it.
View conversation · markchildress @ markchildress
15h Replying to
@kathygriffin @Nightline @danbharris Your first answer is just genius.
View conversation · Esther TheWonder Pig @ EstherThePig
15h Replying to
@kathygriffin @Nightline @danbharris 🌠It's your job as to push the envelope, and we love you for doing it so well.
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VIDEO - YouTube - Devin Nunes Brings The HEAT To Obama Admin With A Move That'll Have Them All Quivering In FEAR
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 11:12
VIDEO - YouTube - Q-We have the server!
Wed, 04 Jul 2018 10:58
VIDEO - Woman confronts Scott Pruitt at a restaurant, urges him to resign - CNNPolitics
Tue, 03 Jul 2018 22:17
Washington (CNN) A woman confronted Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt at a Washington restaurant on Monday and urged him to "resign before your scandals push you out."
Kristin Mink was having lunch with her son when she noticed Pruitt with a colleague at Teaism in Penn Quarter and decided to confront him, child in tow.
In a video of the encounter, Mink cites Pruitt's "slashing strong fuel standards for cars and trucks for the benefits of big corporations" and his "paying about 50 bucks a night to stay in a DC condo that's connected to an energy lobbying firm, while approving their dirty sands pipeline" as reasons for him to resign.
"We deserve to have somebody at the EPA who actually does protect our environment, somebody who believes in climate change and takes it seriously for the benefit of all of us, including our children," Mink tells Pruitt in the video.
The ethical questions facing the embattled EPA chief have continued to mount in recent days, with Pruitt aides detailing to members of Congress how he enlisted them for personal errands and a former EPA official who is expected to testify before Congress saying Pruitt used a "secret" calendar and omitted certain calls and meetings from the public calendar. A review of EPA documents by CNN found discrepancies between Pruitt's official calendar and other records.
The House Oversight Committee is investigating allegations of misuse of government funds, improper travel and outsized spending at the EPA. The EPA chief has also been the subject of roughly a dozen other inquiries into his actions at the agency.
Mink's confrontation of Pruitt marks the latest occurrence of Trump administration officials facing protesters confronting them while out in the community. While dining in a Mexican restaurant in Washington last month, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was yelled at by protesters. Days later, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was booted from a Virginia restaurant by its owner.
Responding to Mink's video in a statement to CNN, EPA spokesman Lincoln Ferguson said Pruitt "always welcomes input from Americans, whether they agree or disagree with the decisions being made at EPA."
The statement continued, "This is evident by him listening to her comments and going on to thank her, which is not shown in the video."
The video does not show what happened after the encounter, although Mink says in a written introduction to her video on Facebook that he simply got up and left. According to Ferguson, this is because Pruitt "had simply finished his meal and needed to get back to the EPA for a briefing."
CNN's Sara Ganim contribued to this report.
VIDEO - RAW: Space Force operating secretly since 1960s, says UFO resear - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU
Tue, 03 Jul 2018 22:08
Police make arrest in killing of confidential informant Police make arrest in killing of confidential informant Two weeks after a valley woman agreed to become a confidential informant for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, her body was found inside the garage of her home, according to an arrest warrant.
More > Two weeks after a valley woman agreed to become a confidential informant for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, her body was found inside the garage of her home, according to an arrest warrant.
More > RAW VIDEO: Shark pulls woman into water RAW VIDEO: Shark pulls woman into water A shark pulled a woman into the water after she tried to feed it, and the terrifying moment was caught on camera. (Source: Seven Network via CNN)
More > California bear gets hot tub treat California bear gets hot tub treat Altadena, California resident Mark Hough was about to enjoy a margarita last Friday, only to have his afternoon cocktail interrupted by a bear, who took advantage of the backyard hot tub and the drink Hough left behind. (AP)
More > MORE "Frank Marino's Divas Las Vegas" closes on Vegas Strip amid fraud allegations "Frank Marino's Divas Las Vegas" closes on Vegas Strip amid fraud allegations "Frank Marino's Divas Las Vegas" closes on Vegas Strip amid fraud allegations. (07/02/2018)
More > "Frank Marino's Divas Las Vegas" closes on Vegas Strip amid fraud allegations. (07/02/2018)
More > VIDEO Pawn Star Richard 'Old Man' Harrison laid to rest Pawn Star Richard 'Old Man' Harrison laid to rest Richard "Old Man" Harrison was laid to rest Sunday.
More > Richard "Old Man" Harrison was laid to rest Sunday.
More > Pahrump beagle saves owner from rattlesnake Pahrump beagle saves owner from rattlesnake A beagle saved her owner from a rattlesnake in Pahrump.
More > A beagle saved her owner from a rattlesnake in Pahrump.
More > The Rant: July 2, 2018 The Rant: July 2, 2018 Ranters sound off on the border policy, betraying U.S. allies and illegal fireworks.
More > Ranters sound off on the border policy, betraying U.S. allies and illegal fireworks.
More > RAW: Space Force operating secretly since 1960s, says UFO researcher RAW: Space Force operating secretly since 1960s, says UFO researcher Dr. Steven Greer offered a wry smile when told he was being interviewed on World UFO Day on July 2. ''There are two things going on,'' Greer said from his home in Virginia. ''There is the silly season of the UFO subject -- which is 90-plus percent of it -- and there are the very important operations that are going on. The silly stuff gets all the attention because it's silly.''
More > Dr. Steven Greer offered a wry smile when told he was being interviewed on World UFO Day on July 2. ''There are two things going on,'' Greer said from his home in Virginia. ''There is the silly season of the UFO subject -- which is 90-plus percent of it -- and there are the very important operations that are going on. The silly stuff gets all the attention because it's silly.''
More > Mountains Edge neighbors concerned raw meat dumping could attract coyotes Mountains Edge neighbors concerned raw meat dumping could attract coyotes Neighbors in the Mountains Edge community said someone has been dumping trash and raw meat right behind their homes.
More > Neighbors in the Mountains Edge community said someone has been dumping trash and raw meat right behind their homes.
More > 'Time warp' discovered by paranormal investigator outside of Las Vegas 'Time warp' discovered by paranormal investigator outside of Las Vegas A paranormal researcher said he's the first person to ever discover a time warp, and that he found it on the outskirts of Las Vegas.
More > A paranormal researcher said he's the first person to ever discover a time warp, and that he found it on the outskirts of Las Vegas.
More >
VIDEO - JamieR on Twitter: "Unbelievable, ICE agents bust a HUGE human trafficking ring in California and while they were preforming their job, Democrats were protesting in front of the house. ''ICE is not welcome here!'' This is the Democratic Party! S
Tue, 03 Jul 2018 22:07
Jean @ watspn1013
7h The ignorance of those opposing I.C.E. Is appalling! Do they know what human traffickers are? Human traffickers SELL humans! Little boys & girls as well as adults. Sex slaves for the little kiddies. Pedos LOVE them. Work slaves for most adults, unless they end up prostituted.
View conversation · Jean @ watspn1013
7h God bless the brave men and women for doing this job! Human traffickers also sell human organs to the highest bidders. Hearts, lungs, etc. of course, they kill the ''organ donors'' to get them. By all means, protest I.C.E. for arresting human traffickers! Ignorant progressive Libs!
View conversation · James ''Œ @ NoGunsNoGlory
6h I'm not really sure what's happening or why so I'm going to protest? They are protesting the removal of human sex traffickers out of their neighborhood? Maybe those neighbors were part of the ring.
View conversation ·
VIDEO - Gavin Williamson interrupted by Siri during Commons statement - BBC News
Tue, 03 Jul 2018 20:57
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson appeared to be interrupted by Siri on his iPhone as he addressed MPs in the Commons about Syria.
It led him to pause his statement on the fight against Islamic State as Speaker John Bercow remarked on the "very rum business".
Mr Williamson apologised for the "intervention", adding: "It is very rare that you're heckled by your own mobile phone."
VIDEO - YouTube - Trump Threate
Tue, 03 Jul 2018 10:01
VIDEO - YouTube - Liberal Linda Sarsour "Fighting Trump is JIHAD...Muslims have "NO need to assimilate"
Tue, 03 Jul 2018 03:49
VIDEO - Demetrius Pitts charged in Cleveland bomb plot after FBI sting
Mon, 02 Jul 2018 22:10
An Ohio man was charged Monday with plotting a Fourth of July terrorist bombing in Cleveland after a sting operation by the FBI, which gave him a bus pass so he could travel to scope out targets.
"I'm gonna be downtown when the thing go off," Demetrius Pitts, 48, told an undercover FBI employee posing as an al Qaeda sympathizer, according to a federal complaint. "I'm gonna be somewhere 'cause I wanna see it go off."
There's no indication that Pitts could have carried off any attack on his own. The criminal complaint suggests he viewed his role as planning and surveillance and did not want to be involved in obtaining or building any explosives.
Pitts served time in Ohio for a 1989 robbery and pleaded guilty to theft in Ohio in 2007. In 2016, the state of Pennsylvania had asked Ohio to extradite Pitts as a fugitive from charges of assault, robbery and theft.
Court documents say the FBI began paying attention to Pitts in 2015 when he sent a disturbing message to a local TV news program with a Facebook account registered under his alias, Abdur Raheem Rahfeeq.
After more alarming Facebook comments in 2017, the FBI took a closer look and determined that Pitts was interested in joining al Qaeda, training overseas and returning to the U.S. to stage an attack, the complaint said.
Demetrius Pitts in a police booking photo from February 2016. Franklin County Sheriff's OfficeAn undercover FBI employee met with Pitts and began recording their conversations, in which he fantasized about beheading President Donald Trump, attacking U.S. soldiers, and sowing terror in Cleveland on Independence Day.
"I'm trying to figure out something that would shake them up on the 4th of July," he said in one recording.
An FBI informant provided Pitts with a bus pass so he could get to downtown Cleveland to take photos of bombing targets. He allegedly pledged allegiance to terrorist leaders in videos made with a cellphone '-- which was also provided by the FBI. His passcode for the phone wasn't exactly a stumper: 0704, the date of the supposed attack.
Pitts allegedly also said he was interested in doing reconnaissance in Philadelphia, where he had lived. "Pitts indicated it was his 'job' to 'go look at the base of the ground,' and that it was up to other 'brothers' to complete the other parts of the job," the complaint said.
"I don't wanna meet all the Brothers," he told the undercover FBI employee at one point.
"Now what about the detonator guy?" the FBI employee asked.
"Now I don't even wanna meet him," Pitts said. "He has nothing to do with me.
"The only thing I'm going to be responsible for is going to look at the spot, to scope out the scenery," he added.
He seemed to try his FBI handler's patience when he suggested at the last minute that they switch from packing the explosives into remote-control cars and instead use a van.
Authorities arrested Pitts on Sunday and charged him with one count of providing material support to a terrorist organization. It was not clear if he had obtained an attorney and NBC News was unable to reach any of his family.
His Facebook pages, which have since been taken down, listed his occupation as a chef. He had left comments about threatening Trump and helping the Taliban on various sites over the last two years.
VIDEO - POLITICO on Twitter: "''Our talks today will no doubt concentrate on jobs and security,'' the Prime Minister of the Netherlands said Monday at the White House.'... https://t.co/UPWffWfckQ"
Mon, 02 Jul 2018 19:40
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VIDEO - CANCEL the blue wave: Maxine Waters is now attacking the leadership of HER OWN party '' True PunditTrue Pundit
Mon, 02 Jul 2018 19:17
PoliticsCANCEL the blue wave: Maxine Waters is now attacking the leadership of HER OWN partyIt looks as if California Rep. Maxine Waters is going to continue to be a problem for Democrats.
Sunday morning, she was a guest on Joy Reid's MSNBC show and started blasting the two leaders of her party, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.
Maxine Waters slams fellow Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, saying they ''will do anything'' to protect themselves.
This is the moment we have long awaited. pic.twitter.com/M55O5TpEh4
'-- Kyle Morris (@RealKyleMorris) July 1, 2018
These comments come after her encouragement of violence against Republicans and President Donald Trump. '' READ MORE
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VIDEO - The Columbia Bugle 🇺🇸 on Twitter: "The Frontrunner in Mexico's Presidential election is for giving amnesty to Opium and Marijuana growers, and will cease using the military against the cartels. He also believes migrants have a "human right"
Mon, 02 Jul 2018 17:06
Log in Sign up The Columbia Bugle 🇺🇸 @ ColumbiaBugle The Frontrunner in Mexico's Presidential election is for giving amnesty to Opium and Marijuana growers, and will cease using the military against the cartels. He also believes migrants have a "human right" to travel to the United States...
pic.twitter.com/MZj3ourMXa 4:38 PM - 29 Jun 2018 Twitter by: Fox News @FoxNews 🇺🇸Lawrence🐅 Faller🇺🇸 @ FallerLawrence
Jun 29 Replying to
@ColumbiaBugle How can Mexico condone illegally crossing our border with their harsh penalties for doing the same. Ludicrous.
pic.twitter.com/1Y4WRf5wzR View conversation · Richard @ RJFerryJr
Jun 29 Replying to
@ColumbiaBugle @MADavis1949 So if he wins, Did he just Declare War on the United States?
View conversation · Jean @ watspn1013
Jun 29 Replying to
@ColumbiaBugle The drug cartels must LOVE him!
View conversation · Alicia 🇺🇸M🇺🇸A🇺🇸G🇺🇸A🇺🇸 @ AliciaTolbert45
Jun 29 Replying to
@ColumbiaBugle OMG!!!
pic.twitter.com/C9zeDiLGdT View conversation · Aldo Shultz @ DrEarlSupreme
Jun 29 Replying to
@watspn1013 @Smilegreatday @ColumbiaBugle I think you mean, they must OWN him!
View conversation · SpookyMonster @ lostadriftx
Jun 29 Replying to
@ColumbiaBugle If they don't encourage migrants to cross into the US then who will send money back to Mexico? Hence the reason why Mexico doesn't have enforcement stopping people from crossing.
View conversation · Tony R @ 003a04f8c2054b7
Jun 29 Replying to
@ColumbiaBugle THAT GUY IS CONTROLED BY DRUG CARTELS ,HE IS GOING TO BE A HUGE PROBLEM
View conversation · Tony R @ 003a04f8c2054b7
Jun 29 Replying to
@RJFerryJr @ColumbiaBugle @MADavis1949 Yessss
View conversation · Constitutional-TQN👑 @ TechQn
Jun 29 Replying to
@ColumbiaBugle @DunsfordCascade We need a WALL STAT because it will get very ugly very fast if he wins.
View conversation · Shinyvelvetgarb @ Shinyvelvetgarb
Jun 29 Replying to
@ColumbiaBugle @Bloggasaurus He forgets we are a nation of gun owners.
View conversation · Q Team 12 @ wompol
Jun 29 Replying to
@ColumbiaBugle @Airbornex82nd #nanodrones View conversation · Denny Roach @ roachdjr46
Jun 29 Replying to
@Shinyvelvetgarb @Bloggasaurus @ColumbiaBugle These Communists trying to overthrow Our country know they've got to get the guns Or their line of BS will never take control.
View conversation · '--'(C) ð'•¬ð'–ð'–†ð'–›ð'–Žð'–ð'–ð'–Žð'– ð'•>>ð'–--ð'–Šð'– '(C)'-- @ AtavisticPoet
Jun 29 Replying to
@ColumbiaBugle Time to remove the one thing that props up the cartels: prohibition.
View conversation · Grace Asher🇺🇸 @ Grace_Asher1
Jun 29 Replying to
@ColumbiaBugle @dyerc2012 Well, he will win. They murdered all their conservative competition. Over 100 dead?
View conversation · '...¸Moms4Trump2020'...¸ @ Moms4Trump2020
Jun 29 Replying to
@ColumbiaBugle #Democrats #Liberals #Left ?????? NOW WHAT??? You people who hate your country!
pic.twitter.com/pL5DBA1U17 View conversation · Wako Smith @ political_Wako
Jun 29 Replying to
@ColumbiaBugle @mi2guys And the Dems are saying abolish ICE??? See why we can't EVER have them back in power??
View conversation · Geezer211 @ Geezer211
Jun 29 Replying to
@ColumbiaBugle @TechQn Better get some real border security in place now or we will soon be redefining what the term "opioid/drug epidemic" means.
View conversation · Constitutional-TQN👑 @ TechQn
Jun 29 Replying to
@Geezer211 @ColumbiaBugle Dead Americans dont matter to the DNC.
View conversation · Geezer211 @ Geezer211
Jun 29 Replying to
@TechQn @ColumbiaBugle All that matters is votes. The ends always justify the means with them.
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VIDEO - The Pre-Markets Rundown: July 02, 2018
Mon, 02 Jul 2018 10:52
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VIDEO - Acosta Defends Shouting Questions: 'If They Want to Send Me to Hell, I'll Still Be Shouting at The Devil'
Mon, 02 Jul 2018 04:11
Defending his tactic of shouting questions while reporting, CNN's Jim Acosta said he's simply doing his job.
In an appearance Sunday with Brian Stelter on Reliable Sources, Acosta explained that not every event at which the press appears has a built-in opportunity to ask questions, so he's forced to make his own.
''It's not like we barge into the Oval Office or barge into the Easter egg roll and start shouting questions,'' he told Stelter. ''What people don't understand is that typically at the end of these pool opportunities'...where we go in and talk to the president or he has an event, we wait until the very end of the bill signing or the event or whatever he has and he says, 'Ok, thanks, guys.' Then we'll go in and ask our questions.''
Acosta said he usually follows that procedure, adding that ''if they're not going to take our questions we have to find opportunities to ask those questions.''
''Listen, if they want to send me to hell, I'll still be shouting at the devil, is the way I look at it,'' he said. ''We have a job to do. I've said this times before and I'll say it again. They can kick us out of the briefing room, they can kick us out of the White House. We're still going to do our jobs.''
Acosta, who has been a frequent target of PresidentDonald Trump and the conservative media, grabbed attention Friday following Trump's remarks on the Capital Gazette shooting when he shouted across the crowd, asking him whether he'd stop characterizing the press as the people's enemy, receiving no response.
Watch the clip above, via CNN,
[Image via screengrab]
Follow Amy Russo on Twitter: @amymrusso
VIDEO - Chicken of the trees: Eating Florida's iguanas - Orlando Sentinel
Mon, 02 Jul 2018 04:11
While many people view South Florida's invasive iguana population as an annoyance at best and a pandemic at worst, Ishmeal Asson sees something else: lunch.
The Fort Lauderdale resident and native Trinidadian considers eating iguanas to be a way of life. Growing up, Asson learned to roast the island critters at roadside and backyard gatherings. Iguana is a staple in the Caribbean, where the reptiles are a native species and are known as ''pollo de los rboles,'' or chicken of the trees. Their meat contains more protein than chicken, and members of some cultures believe it has medicinal properties.
In South Florida, Asson is hardly alone in his taste for cooked iguana. He has more than a dozen friends who eat the animal, and they frequently hunt them using nets, snares and traps. ''We are having a cookout this weekend,'' he said earlier this week.
Asson said he and his friends use a traditional method of preparing iguana. ''First, we cut off the head, then roast [the body] on the fire. You have to roast it with the skin on because it's easier to take the skin off once it's roasted,'' he said. ''Then, we cut it up into pieces and season it with a lot of fresh produce like chives and onions. I love to season it with curry and hot pepper, too. It tastes like chicken.''
As someone who has eaten iguanas his entire life, Asson still finds humor in eating the prehistoric-looking reptiles. ''I prefer to eat it with the skin on,'' he said, ''because then I know what I'm eating. It kind of gives you a sense of humor, like, 'This is iguana,' you know?''
Iguana by the poundWhile Asson and other South Florida iguana lovers can nab the lizards for free and with little difficulty, their peers in other states order iguana meat from companies such as Exotic Meat Markets. Anshu Pathak, owner of the California-based company, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that he imports 10,000 pounds of iguana a month from Florida trappers.
He said that his company, which sells such items as lion steak and raccoon sausage, is helping to control the iguana population.
''I am making iguana sausages, hot dogs, iguana burgers,'' Pathak said. ''I am trying to do anything and everything to make them palatable to the public. The industry is only growing.''
Sun Sentinel
Exotic Meat Markets in California imports iguana from Florida and sells its meat in various forms. The owner says he makes iguana sausages, hot dogs and burgers.
Exotic Meat Markets in California imports iguana from Florida and sells its meat in various forms. The owner says he makes iguana sausages, hot dogs and burgers. (Sun Sentinel)
He said he sells the meat to customers and restaurants across the United States, offering boneless meat for $59.99 per pound and whole, skin-on iguana for $49.99.
Pathak said he used to import iguanas from Puerto Rico, but now gets them from trappers in Florida. He said that trappers sometimes send the reptiles frozen, but mostly transport them alive and by airplane.
''A lot of my customers want them whole, with guts in,'' he said.
Pathak said his facility has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. When he receives live iguanas, he said, he puts them in a freezer to kill them.
The FDA did not respond to inquiries about the consumption and commercialization of iguana meat.
Selling iguanas requires a Florida wildlife license, though a permit is not needed to possess one, according to Robert Klepper, law-enforcement media spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. There is no prohibition on who can buy an iguana, Klepper said.
South Florida's booming iguana population is causing officials to look at ways to manage the non-native species.
Brian Wood, owner of All American Gator, an alligator-processing and iguana-trapping company in Hollywood, is avidly searching for a market for his trapped iguanas. Wood said he captures more than a thousand of the creatures a month.
''I feel bad just killing them and wasting it, so I started keeping them,'' he said.
Now, more than a thousand of the lizards live on his iguana farm in LaBelle, in Hendry County. Because he captures so many, Wood said he feeds some to his alligators and turns others into wallets.
''With the number of iguanas I catch, I could make a fortune off selling them if I could find a market,'' Wood said. ''When I first started selling alligator, people asked, 'Who would eat alligator?' Now, I sell 80,000 pounds of it a year.''
'You just have to try it'Florida isn't the only place where the lizards run rampant. Green iguanas began to take over Puerto Rico in the early 2000s, undermining roadways, chomping on native plants and harassing islanders. It was when they started obliterating the island's crops that residents asked the government for help.
A bounty of up to $6 per pound was placed on the creatures' heads. Similar to Florida's python hunt, the Puerto Rican government issued permits in 2012 for private companies to legally hunt iguanas, said Daniel Galan-Kercado, who was secretary of Natural Resources for Puerto Rico at the time.
Brittany Peters / Courtesy
Brittany Peters sauteed seasoned iguana meat with onions and chives.
Brittany Peters sauteed seasoned iguana meat with onions and chives. (Brittany Peters / Courtesy)
''It was very effective in the first two years. They were capturing maybe 200 to 300 per week,'' Galan-Kercado said.
Private entities paid hunters for iguanas and then processed and exported the meat to the United States, Central America and Asia, he said. Some Puerto Ricans also started farming iguana, and it became a significant industry.
Commercializing iguana provided an answer for Puerto Rico, but so far, no iguana-export industry operates in Florida. Moreover, the reptile is far from appearing on most Floridians' dinner tables.
''You just have to try it, though,'' said Brittany Peters, who during a recent trip to South Florida made an iguana-inspired meal for the first time.
With no experience cooking the beasties, Peters went with a simpler route than roasting the meat over an open flame '-- she made burritos. Peters shot two green iguanas in the Keys, then skinned, boiled and sauteed the meat at her relatives' home in Fort Lauderdale.
She boiled the skinned body for about an hour, then picked off the tender meat. She added a chili-lime seasoning from Trader Joe's before sauteing it with onions.
Peters paired the white meat with sour cream, cilantro, avocado and lime for a ''delicious'' reptile burrito.
Brittany Peters / Courtesy
Brittany Peters paired iguana meat with avocado, sour cream, salsa and other burrito fillings.
Brittany Peters paired iguana meat with avocado, sour cream, salsa and other burrito fillings. (Brittany Peters / Courtesy)
(A note of caution to veteran and would-be iguana eaters: Although it is illegal to do so, nuisance iguanas are occasionally poisoned. Before biting into iguana meat, make sure it does not contain any poisons or other harmful substances.)
As an avid hunter, Peters lets none of the animals she kills go to waste. ''If you're going to participate in killing them, [iguana] is good enough, healthy enough and tasty enough that you should absolutely take the time to cook it, too,'' Peters said.
Overall, she gives her recipe three stars, but only because she's not a chef. ''With some classes, I think I could get it to taste even better,'' she said.
erushing@sun-sentinel.com, 954-356-4778 or Twitter @ellierushing
VIDEO - YouTube - MI6 Involvement in Torture - BBC Shuts Down Reporter - Jo Coburn Horrified
Mon, 02 Jul 2018 00:09

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