1055: Tongue Jammin

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

3h 3m
July 30th, 2018
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Executive Producers: Sir Karl with a K

Associate Executive Producers: James Thurman, Sir Andrew-NC4AG

Cover Artist: Comic Strip Blogger


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City report on Confederate monuments raises idea of renaming Austin
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 12:27
Known as both the ''father of Texas'' and the namesake of the state's capital, Stephen F. Austin carved out the early outlines of Texas among his many accomplishments.
He also opposed an attempt by Mexico to ban slavery in the province of Tejas and said if slaves were freed, they would turn into ''vagabonds, a nuisance and a menace.''
For that reason, the city of Austin's Equity Office suggested renaming the city in a report about existing Confederate monuments that was published this week.
Also on the list of locales to possibly be renamed: Pease Park, the Bouldin Creek neighborhood, Barton Springs and 10 streets named for William Barton, the ''Daniel Boone of Texas,'' who was a slave owner.
To be sure, the identified streets and parks are only suggested for reconsideration. And the city, Bouldin Creek, Pease Park and the Barton-related landmarks '-- a group that includes Barton Springs '-- were included in a lower-tier list of ''assets for secondary review'' in the report. Still, the report did identify several streets staff consider related to the Confederacy and worthy of more immediate action. Those streets are:
' Littlefield Street
' Tom Green Street
' Sneed Cove
' Reagan Hill Drive
' Dixie Drive
' Confederate Avenue
' Plantation Road
The city estimates that it would cost $5,956 to rename the seven streets.
While the cost of such changes might appear reasonable, opposition to similar renamings has tended to revolve around the inconvenience and expense faced by longtime homeowners and business owners who must deal with a new address. Complaints along those lines surfaced earlier this year when the Austin City Council changed the names of two streets recognizing Confederate leaders.
Before the council renamed Robert E. Lee Road as Azie Morton Road and Jeff Davis Avenue was changed to William Holland Avenue, the city gathered input from residents along those streets. A majority opposed the changes, which occurred in April.
Some accused the city of whitewashing history.
The latest report acknowledged the likelihood of opposing viewpoints and nodded to inconveniences to businesses and residents and the view that changing the names could be considered a threat to historical preservation. It also asked whether the proposed changes reside on a slippery slope.
''What's next and where do we stop?'' the report asks.
Any changes to road names would require public hearings and action from the City Council. Before the city changed the two street names in April, the city's staff had reached out to all residents to seek their input.
A change to the city's name, meanwhile, likely would require an election since ''Austin'' would have to be struck from the city charter and replaced.
The report also identified numerous historical markers related to the Confederacy on city property that could be targeted for removal. Those include a marker for the Confederate States of America that's located at Congress Avenue and Cesar Chavez Street.
However, the city would need approval from the Texas Historical Commission and the Travis County Historical Commission to move them.
Any new street names might fall in line with a 2017 recommendation from the Austin Commission for Women that called for the city to address gender and racial disparities in the naming of public symbols. The commission also suggested preference should be given to individuals connected to Austin and having a ''positive relationship and history with the community.
The Equity Office's report concludes, ''It is essential to acknowledge that societal values are fluid, and they can be and are different today compared to when our city made decisions to name and/or place these Confederate symbols in our community.
''It is also important to acknowledge that nearly all monuments to the Confederacy and its leaders were erected without a true democratic process. People of color often had no voice and no opportunity to raise concerns about the city's decision to honor Confederate leaders.''
Exclusive: Kimberly Guilfoyle Left Fox News After Investigation Into Misconduct Allegations, Sources Say
Fri, 27 Jul 2018 12:28
When it was revealed last week that longtime Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle would be leaving the network , some Fox News and White House insiders were surprised that she was choosing to move on from the cable news channel and head to a pro-Donald Trump super PAC. For nearly two years '-- even once rumors eventually kicked up that she might join the Trump administration '-- Guilfoyle said that, as a single mother, she had to think of her son's financial future and couldn't afford to leave the high-paying gig, multiple sources told HuffPost.
Guilfoyle's departure was initially billed as her decision. However, as HuffPost first reported last week, multiple sources said she did not leave the network voluntarily. They said Guilfoyle was informed her time at Fox News was up following a human resources investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior including sexual misconduct, and that her lawyers had been involved since the spring. Sources also said that despite being told she would have to leave by July, Guilfoyle repeatedly attempted to delay her exit and tried to have her allies appeal to Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, to let her stay at the network.
This story is based on interviews conducted over the past year with 21 sources inside and outside Fox News and 21st Century Fox. All sources spoke to HuffPost on the condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized to speak to the press, did not want to raise Guilfoyle's ire or have signed nondisclosure agreements that prevent them from speaking to others about their experiences.
Guilfoyle announced Tuesday that she had left the Fox News.
In response to an email with a list of 19 detailed questions, Guilfoyle's attorney John Singer wrote the following statement:
''Any accusations of Kimberly engaging in inappropriate work-place conduct are unequivocally baseless and have been viciously made by disgruntled and self-interested employees. During her lengthy and decorated tenure with the company, Kimberly was beloved, well-respected, and supportive of anyone she ever met. It's utterly preposterous that there are those who are nefariously and greedily twisting innocent conversations amongst close friends into much more than what it actually was for financial gain. Kimberly has happily moved onto the next chapter of her life and hopes others will do the same.''
Multiple sources told HuffPost that Guilfoyle's exit from Fox News, where she had worked since 2006, came after her alleged inappropriate workplace behavior could no longer be tolerated by the network. Vanity Fair, which broke the story about Guilfoyle leaving the network, and The Daily Beast, which reported that Fox News staff allegedly waged a ''hostile whisper campaign'' against Guilfoyle, have said she crossed the line by using network makeup artists for personal outings, but the accusations Guilfoyle faced were much more serious.
Six sources said Guilfoyle's behavior included showing personal photographs of male genitalia to colleagues (and identifying whose genitals they were), regularly discussing sexual matters at work and engaging in emotionally abusive behavior toward hair and makeup artists and support staff.
People pass by ads for Fox News at the News Corporation building in New York City in June. (Eduardo Munoz / Reuters)
According to sources, Guilfoyle was the subject of a human resources investigation that started last year and involved interviews with Fox News employees, including hair and makeup artists and producers. Sources said HR warned Guilfoyle about her behavior several times, including a stern warning from Kevin Lord, the head of Fox News HR, in the fall of 2017. HuffPost also began investigating Guilfoyle's workplace conduct last year.
Sources said 21st Century Fox prefers that problematic employees retire or resign rather than be terminated '• the company has taken this approach with Fox News talent and executives in the past, as well as with Guilfoyle, who was not formally terminated. This method gives talent and executives a quieter way to exit and the network avoids a contentious departure. According to two sources, the network told Guilfoyle she was being given time to find a new job that she could announce before leaving.
A spokesperson for Fox News declined to comment for this story. In response to questions last Friday about Guilfoyle's exit, the network issued a terse statement: ''FOX News has parted ways with Kimberly Guilfoyle.'' It declined to comment any further on her departure. Hours after HuffPost published its report that Guilfoyle's departure was not voluntary, her attorneys from the law firm Clare Locke LLP sent a threatening legal notice to HuffPost and this reporter, claiming the story was false and defamatory and that failure to retract it would constitute evidence of ''actual malice.''
Becoming Isolated
Two years ago, network insiders considered the idea of Guilfoyle's involuntary departure from Fox News to be impossible. She was a prot(C)g(C) of Roger Ailes, who was the chairman of the network at the time, and many saw her as untouchable. She was, as one source described it, ''the woman who knows too much.''
But Guilfoyle had become increasingly isolated in the past year, sources said. Three of her co-hosts on ''The Five'' (Dana Perino, Jesse Watters and Greg Gutfeld) have been given second shows to host themselves. Guilfoyle was not given the opportunity to host her own program while she was a co-host of the panel show.
Current and former Fox News employees told HuffPost that Guilfoyle openly complained about feeling slighted and criticized other women at the network. One target of her criticism was Judge Jeanine Pirro, who hosts the popular show ''Justice with Judge Jeanine'' on Saturdays and is close to Trump. Guilfoyle told colleagues that Pirro was too old (she is 67) and should no longer be on television, according to two sources who also said Pirro caught wind of Guilfoyle's disparaging comments.
Guilfoyle also began dating Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, this spring, and sources said some people at Fox News were concerned that easing her out of the network would be slowed or halted due to the Trump family's close relationship with Murdoch. But a well-placed source told HuffPost that Murdoch signed off on the plan to remove Guilfoyle, which was brought to him by Suzanne Scott, who became CEO of Fox News in May.
While Scott reports jointly to Murdoch and his son Lachlan, who also holds the title of executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, the elder Murdoch is particularly passionate about running the cable news network and has a close hand in the decision-making. Sources said Guilfoyle's allies had repeatedly attempted to lobby Murdoch but that he was impervious to those efforts. A source familiar with Murdoch's thinking told HuffPost that the executive bristles at outside efforts to push him on business matters and that he had caught wind of Guilfoyle's behavior and was not interested in allowing it to continue.
Fox News was a hotbed of sexual harassment and retaliation under Ailes, but executives at Fox News have worked over the past two years to improve the workplace culture and institute major changes in large part due to potential legal liabilities and regulatory concerns in the U.S. and U.K. Guilfoyle, according to several sources, failed to adapt to the new culture and still operated as if she were working under Ailes.
A spokesperson for Murdoch declined to comment for this story.
Guilfoyle called female on-air talent at Fox News and asked them to make supportive statements about Ailes publicly, sources said. Five sources who said they received calls from Guilfoyle said she framed it as making a decision as to whether they were 'Team Roger' or 'Team Gretchen.' Some media reports have speculated that Guilfoyle's relationship with Trump Jr. and her desire to actively campaign with him caused her to leave the network, but Guilfoyle had been told her time at the network was up before it was revealed that she was dating Trump Jr. And while Fox News standards would not have allowed her to campaign for a political candidate at events or online, a closeness to the Trump family and Trump administration certainly wouldn't be seen as a reason to leave. Sean Hannity, Pirro and Lou Dobbs, who all work for Fox News or Fox Business, are close to the president and serve as informal advisers to him.
Guilfoyle, a former San Francisco County prosecutor, started at the network in 2006 as a legal analyst and worked her way up to become co-host of ''The Five.'' She also served as a fill-in host for top-rated Fox News stars like Hannity. While living in the city, Guilfoyle was married for several years to then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (Newsom is now lieutenant governor of California and the front-runner in the current gubernatorial campaign). This reporter worked for Newsom for several years but has no relationship with Guilfoyle and has never spoken to her.
The Assistant
For many years, Guilfoyle was close to her Fox News colleague Eric Bolling, who was pushed out of the network after HuffPost reported that he sent unsolicited lewd photos to female colleagues. They shared a young female assistant who, according to three sources, was deeply unhappy at work and was desperate to get out from under what she described to sources as Guilfoyle's emotionally abusive behavior and attempts to involve her in her personal sexual matters by regularly sharing details about her sex life. ''[Guilfoyle's assistant] was desperate to get away from Kimberly, she kept on trying to find a way to get a new job or get reassigned within the network,'' a source who had spoken to the assistant told HuffPost.
Bolling was pushed out of the company in September 2017 following a HuffPost report about his alleged misconduct . The assistant was interviewed by an outside law firm as part of 21st Century Fox's investigation into Bolling. After detailing her experiences working for Bolling and Guilfoyle and discussing her options with the network, the assistant was moved to work on another program. The assistant's lawyer later approached the network about her claims; the assistant was subsequently placed on paid leave at her request. She did not reply to a request for comment.
Loyalty To Roger Ailes, Later A Liability
The current and former Fox News employees who have spoken to HuffPost over the past year said Guilfoyle, who has a reputation for being unfailingly loyal to certain people, caused a rift among women at the network after former network host Gretchen Carlson sued Ailes for sexual harassment and retaliation. Some of those sources expected Guilfoyle to be pushed out for leading the charge against Carlson and others, and were surprised when she managed to hold on.
Guilfoyle called female on-air talent at Fox News in the summer of 2016 and asked them to make supportive statements about Ailes publicly, sources said. Five sources who said they received calls from Guilfoyle said she framed it as making a decision as to whether they were ''Team Roger'' or ''Team Gretchen.''
According to two sources with direct knowledge of the conversations, Guilfoyle began at least two phone calls by noting she had spoken to Ailes' wife, Elizabeth, and his personal attorney Peter Johnson Jr. At the time, Fox News employees believed Ailes to be virtually unfireable. Guilfoyle's close relationship with him made them nervous because they were afraid of retaliation if they didn't support him publicly, sources said.
Sources said that, on the calls, Guilfoyle discussed other Ailes supporters at the network who wanted to do something to help him. And she told at least two female Fox News hosts that she had already informed the Aileses and Fox News executives of the women's support. The women were shocked to hear that Guilfoyle had made that assumption and painted them into a corner.
Two sources said Guilfoyle was particularly vitriolic in those conversations about then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly, telling one person that Kelly was widely disliked across the newsroom for not speaking up in support of Ailes. (Kelly has since left Fox News for NBC News.) According to multiple sources, Kelly sat down for an interview with the law firm retained by 21st Century Fox to conduct an investigation into misconduct allegations at the network, and Kelly said she had been subject to harassment and intimidation by Ailes.
Two sources told HuffPost that Lachlan Murdoch, who was advocating for Ailes' ouster, sought to push out Guilfoyle in the summer of 2016 after hearing about her campaign to garner support for Ailes from female Fox News employees.
According to four sources, Guilfoyle also approached then-Fox News host Meghan McCain and told her the network would let her take Perino's position on ''The Five'' if she made a statement publicly supporting Ailes. McCain never made such a statement, and Perino is still a host of ''The Five'' and of her own program on the network. McCain left Fox News last year to join ABC as a co-host of ''The View.''
Many Fox News and Fox Business hosts did speak out in support of Ailes, including Hannity, Pirro, Bill O'Reilly (who was later ousted in his own sexual harassment scandal) and Brit Hume. Some Fox News employees, including executives, have said they have come to regret their support of Ailes, but Guilfoyle remained steadfast in her support of him even after the Murdochs pushed him out.
Guilfoyle's final days at Fox News were markedly different than her tenure during the Ailes era. She had an open door to the network chairman at the time and was close to his top executives and staffers.
Days before she left Fox News for the last time, Guilfoyle got herself booked on Steve Hilton's Sunday program '• even though she had been told she was no longer going to be on air. According to two sources, she told Hilton he should tell Fox News brass he wanted her as a regular. Hilton, according to sources, didn't know that Guilfoyle was leaving the network.
The woman who once organized a lobbying campaign to keep Ailes at Fox News was now fighting for her own future at the network, but this time she didn't have anyone by her side.
CBS Board to Investigate Allegations Against CEO Leslie Moonves '' Variety
Fri, 27 Jul 2018 19:00
The CBS Corp. board of directors will investigate allegations of sexual misconduct that are to be raised against CEO Leslie Moonves in a report in the New Yorker expected to be published today. Moonves status as CEO is unchanged and independent members of CBS' board voiced their ''full support'' at present for Moonves and the rest of his management team.
''All allegations of personal misconduct are to be taken seriously. The Independent Directors of CBS have committed to investigating claims that violate the Company's clear policies in that regard,'' the board said in a statement. Upon the conclusion of that investigation, which involves recently reported allegations that go back several decades, the Board will promptly review the findings and take appropriate action.
''The timing of this report comes in the midst of the company's very public legal dispute. While that litigation process continues, the CBS management team has the full support of the independent board members. Along with that team, we will continue to focus on creating value for our shareowners,'' the board statement said.
The board will hire an independent firm to conduct an investigation into the allegations, and is in the process of identifying the firm.
The allegations, some decades-old, are surfacing as Moonves and CBS are embroiled in a legal battle with parent company National Amusements Inc. (NAI) for control of the company. Moonves and Shari Redstone, vice chairman of CBS Corp. and Viacom and president of NAI, have been at odds over the strategic direction of CBS and are set to fight it out in a Delaware courtroom in October.
The sides have been in the thick of discovery and depositions during the past few weeks in preparation for the trial. Moonves, 68, has had the staunch support of the majority of CBS' 14-member board, but the revelation of harassment accusations against the CEO will undoubtedly add a layer of complexity to the board's evaluation of its best course in the legal case '-- and raises questions about Moonves' continued leadership at CBS.
Moonves is just the latest media titan to come under fire for allegations of sexual harassment, inappropriate behavior and abuse of power in workplace settings. In the past two years, dozens of women have come forward with stories of harassment at the hands of powerful figures as the #MeToo movement emboldened women and raised the sensitivity in corporate America to abusive and coercive activity in the workplace.
Former Weinstein Co. chief Harvey Weinstein is now facing criminal charges of rape and sexual assault in New York after exposes last October by the New York Times and Farrow in the New Yorker detailed allegations of criminal behavior stretching back decades.
Longtime ''Today'' anchor Matt Lauer and ''CBS This Morning'' anchor Charlie Rose were hastily forced out of their shows after multiple women offered harassment and abusive claims. Kevin Spacey was fired from Netflix's ''House of Cards'' amid allegations he assaulted actor Anthony Rapp when Rapp was 14, among other men. Comedian Louis C.K. has retreated from public view and lost his production deal with FX after multiple women came forward with stories that he exposed himself to them without their consent.
Former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes was forced out of the empire he built in 2016 when former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment suit against him. Former Fox News star Bill O'Reilly was also fired after a New York Times report on the many harassment settlements involving the anchor over the last 15 years. Disney/Pixar leader John Lasseter, Def Jam founder Russell Simmons, and filmmaker Brett Ratner are also among the industry figures who have been ostracized following allegations of harassment or worse.
If Moonves were to be forced out at CBS, he would not be easy to replace. One of the industry's most powerful figures, Moonves is highly regarded for his creative skills and instincts about shows and stars with the potential to yield broad-based hits. As CEO, he also impressed investors by navigating CBS through the digital upheaval of the past decade. He took CBS into the OTT arena with the CBS All Access and Showtime standalone services, and CBS reaped the rewards of licensing its vast library of TV programs to Netflix and other digital platforms.
Moonves is known for maintaining a close-knit team of top executives who have long worked with him at CBS and some even before during his years at Lorimar and Warner Bros. TV.
Moonves started out as president of CBS Entertainment in 1995 and restored the Tiffany network's standing as the nation's most-watched network with such hits as ''Everybody Loves Raymond,'' ''CSI,'' and ''Survivor.'' He was promoted to head of CBS Television in 1998 and to chairman in 2003, and when CBS and Viacom were split up in 2006, he went solo as president and CEO. He became chairman in 2016 when ailing media magnate Sumner Redstone was forced by pressure from investors to shift to the chairman emeritus role.
Moonves' relationship with Shari Redstone has been fraught and irreparably damaged by the legal blow up. It has been widely held that if CBS loses its fight to slash Redstone's voting power from 80% to 20%, Moonves would leave the company.
CBS had filed a lawsuit against NAI on May 14, accusing its controlling shareholder of breach of fiduciary duty by pursuing an agenda that went against the interests of all CBS shareholders. NAI, which also controls Viacom, has vehemently denied CBS' allegations and vowed to stop the effort to strip NAI of its voting control in the company. The CBS board on May 17 voted 11-3 to issue a special dividend to shareholders that would have the effect of diluting NAI's voting control over CBS through controlling nearly 80% of voting shares. NAI quickly responded with a suit of its own against CBS and its board members, challenging their right to issue the dividend.
Redstone firmly believes CBS and its sister company, Viacom, would be worth more together than they are apart, particularly in a world where rivals are getting bigger. Her thinking, says a person familiar with it, is that Viacom's cable networks attract a young, diverse viewership that would add breadth to CBS. The company's vaunted Paramount studio and its infrastructure in foreign markets would only help.
At CBS, the thinking is that the combination is not in the interest of shareholders. One worry is that having to negotiate carriage deals for Viacom and CBS together would crimp the leverage the latter enjoys with cable and satellite distributors.
Leslie Moonves Accused of Sexual Misconduct in Ronan Farrow Expos(C) | Hollywood Reporter
Fri, 27 Jul 2018 18:59
8:45 AM PDT 7/27/2018 by Kim Masters
The CBS CEO, one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, is accused of unwanted kissing and touching in a New Yorker article set to be published Friday.The New Yorker is poised to publish an article by Ronan Farrow that includes allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of embattled CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
A spokesperson for The New Yorker says, ''We don't comment on pieces we haven't published." Sources with knowledge of the article say it delves into the broader culture at CBS and will publish later today on the magazine's website.
CBS said in a statement that it is investigating the claims made against Moonves. ''All allegations of personal misconduct are to be taken seriously," the network stated. "The Independent Directors of CBS have committed to investigating claims that violate the Company's clear policies in that regard. Upon the conclusion of that investigation, which involves recently reported allegations that go back several decades, the Board will promptly review the findings and take appropriate action.''
CBS added: ''The timing of this report comes in the midst of the Company's very public legal dispute. While that litigation process continues, the CBS management team has the full support of the independent board members. Along with that team, we will continue to focus on creating value for our shareowners.''
The allegations are said in part to involve instances of unwanted kissing and touching that occurred more than 20 years ago, as well as numerous claims that occurred more recently.
Moonves, 68, has been married to CBS personality Julie Chen since 2004. (The two wed less than two weeks after Moonves finalized his divorce from Nancy Wiesenfeld, whom he had married in 1978.)
Farrow, the reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news of Harvey Weinstein's alleged pattern of rape and sexual assault, is said to have investigated Moonves and the environment at CBS for months, as rumors swirled through the industry that such an article was in the works.
It is unclear what impact The New Yorker report will have at a time when Moonves is locked in litigation with Shari Redstone, the controlling shareholder in both CBS and Viacom. The feud erupted after CBS resisted Redstone's desire to merge the two companies, which she controls through voting shares in the Redstone family-controlled trust, National Amusements Inc.
CBS sued Redstone in May to prevent her from attempting to take control by ousting directors or changing bylaws. Redstone responded with her own lawsuit saying Moonves had no right to strip her of control of CBS.
CBS received unwelcome scrutiny in November when it fired Charlie Rose after The Washington Post reported that eight women had accused the talk-show host and co-anchor of CBS This Morning of sexual misconduct. In a May 3 follow-up, the paper reported that CBS managers had been warned about Rose's conduct on three occasions, as early as in 1986 (long before Moonves worked at the network) and as recently as in April 2017. Among an additional 27 women who came forward with allegations against Rose were 14 CBS News employees.
A charismatic one-time actor, Moonves has long wielded exceptionally tight control over CBS while producing exceptional results. He has kept hits on the air during a turbulent time for the broadcast business: In 2017, CBS ranked as the most-watched network in terms of total viewers (as it had done for nine consecutive years), though it trailed NBC in the 18-to-49 demo.
With entertainment consumption habits changing quickly, Moonves launched the CBS All Access streaming service with a spinoff of The Good Wife and a revamped Star Trek series.
Moonves joined CBS in 1995 and remained there after Sumner Redstone acquired the company in 2000. He took the network from last to first place in the ratings with hits including Everybody Loves Raymond, Survivor and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
In 2006, when Viacom split its businesses into two publicly traded companies, Moonves was named president and CEO of the newly formed CBS Corp. He became chairman in 2016.
Moonves has a close-knit executive cadre working for him but he is known to demand great loyalty and he has made enemies along the way. When Howard Stern jumped from CBS Radio to Sirius Satellite, Moonves sued the shock jock for $500 million, prompting Stern to go on CBS' own Late Show wearing an ''I Hate Les Moonves'' shirt.
Les Moonves and CBS Face Allegations of Sexual Misconduct
Sat, 28 Jul 2018 12:36
August 6 & 13, 2018 Issue
Six women accuse the C.E.O. of harassment and intimidation, and dozens more describe abuse at his company. In the tumultuous field of network television, Moonves has enjoyed rare longevity as a leader.
Illustration by Oliver MundayAugust 6 & 13, 2018 Issue
Six women accuse the C.E.O. of harassment and intimidation, and dozens more describe abuse at his company. In the tumultuous field of network television, Moonves has enjoyed rare longevity as a leader.
Illustration by Oliver MundayFor more than twenty years, Leslie Moonves has been one of the most powerful media executives in America. As the chairman and C.E.O. of CBS Corporation, he oversees shows ranging from ''60 Minutes'' to ''The Big Bang Theory.'' His portfolio includes the premium cable channel Showtime, the publishing house Simon & Schuster, and a streaming service, CBS All Access. Moonves, who is sixty-eight, has a reputation for canny hiring and project selection. The Wall Street Journal recently called him a ''TV programming wizard''; the Hollywood Reporter dubbed him a ''Wall Street Hero.'' In the tumultuous field of network television, he has enjoyed rare longevity as a leader. Last year, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, he earned nearly seventy million dollars, making him one of the highest-paid corporate executives in the world.
In recent months, Moonves has become a prominent voice in Hollywood's #MeToo movement. In December, he helped found the Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, which is chaired by Anita Hill. ''It's a watershed moment,'' Moonves said at a conference in November. ''I think it's important that a company's culture will not allow for this. And that's the thing that's far-reaching. There's a lot we're learning. There's a lot we didn't know.''
But Moonves's private actions belie his public statements. Six women who had professional dealings with him told me that, between the nineteen-eighties and the late aughts, Moonves sexually harassed them. Four described forcible touching or kissing during business meetings, in what they said appeared to be a practiced routine. Two told me that Moonves physically intimidated them or threatened to derail their careers. All said that he became cold or hostile after they rejected his advances, and that they believed their careers suffered as a result. ''What happened to me was a sexual assault, and then I was fired for not participating,'' the actress and writer Illeana Douglas told me. All the women said they still feared that speaking out would lead to retaliation from Moonves, who is known in the industry for his ability to make or break careers. ''He has gotten away with it for decades,'' the writer Janet Jones, who alleges that she had to shove Moonves off her after he forcibly kissed her at a work meeting, told me. ''And it's just not O.K.''
Thirty current and former employees of CBS told me that such behavior extended from Moonves to important parts of the corporation, including CBS News and ''60 Minutes,'' one of the network's most esteemed programs. During Moonves's tenure, men at CBS News who were accused of sexual misconduct were promoted, even as the company paid settlements to women with complaints. It isn't clear whether Moonves himself knew of the allegations, but he has a reputation for being closely involved in management decisions across the network. Some of the allegations, such as those against the former anchor Charlie Rose, as reported by the Washington Post, have already become public. Other claims are being reported here for the first time. Nineteen current and former employees told me that Jeff Fager, the former chairman of CBS News and the current executive producer of ''60 Minutes,'' allowed harassment in the division. ''It's top down, this culture of older men who have all this power and you are nothing,'' one veteran producer told me. ''The company is shielding lots of bad behavior.''
In a statement, Moonves said, ''Throughout my time at CBS, we have promoted a culture of respect and opportunity for all employees, and have consistently found success elevating women to top executive positions across our company. I recognize that there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances. Those were mistakes, and I regret them immensely. But I always understood and respected'--and abided by the principle'--that 'no' means 'no,' and I have never misused my position to harm or hinder anyone's career. This is a time when we all are appropriately focused on how we help improve our society, and we at CBS are committed to being part of the solution.'' According to CBS, there have been no misconduct claims and no settlements against Moonves during his twenty-four years at the network. A statement from the company said, ''CBS is very mindful of all workplace issues and takes each report of misconduct very seriously. We do not believe, however, that the picture of our company created in The New Yorker represents a larger organization that does its best to treat its tens of thousands of employees with dignity and respect. We are seeing vigorous discourse in our country about equality, inclusion, and safety in the workplace, and CBS is committed to being part of the solution to those important issues.''
The allegations are surfacing at a time when CBS is engaged in an increasingly acrimonious fight with its former parent company, Viacom, which acquired CBS in 1999 and spun it off as a separate entity seven years later. A holding company founded by the mogul Sumner Redstone still owns a majority stake in both Viacom and CBS, and Redstone's daughter and heir, Shari Redstone, has sought to reunite the businesses. Moonves has resisted the move, and in May Redstone's holding company and CBS filed lawsuits against each other. All of the women making allegations against Moonves began speaking to me before the current lawsuits, in independent interviews carried out during the past eight months. All said that they were not motivated by any allegiance in the corporate battle. But several felt that this was an opportunity to examine a workplace culture that many of the women in this story described as toxic.
Illeana Douglas, who later received an Emmy nomination for her role in HBO's ''Six Feet Under,'' was introduced to Moonves in 1996. At the time, she was meeting with networks, looking for a deal to write and perform for television. Moonves, who was then the president of CBS Entertainment, seemed to take a personal interest in her. He told Douglas that he was a fan of her performances in the Martin Scorsese films ''Cape Fear'' and ''Goodfellas,'' and urged her to work with CBS. ''There was the big sell'--he was telling me, 'You're gonna get a house with a pool, you're gonna love it, it's a great life,' '' Douglas recalled. She agreed to sign a holding deal with CBS, which promised to pay her three hundred thousand dollars to appear exclusively in the network's programs.
CBS ultimately didn't proceed with a pilot that Douglas wrote, but the network cast her in a comedy called ''Queens,'' as an eccentric native of the New York borough. In March, 1997, shortly before production of the pilot episode began, Moonves called Douglas's manager, Melissa Prophet, and told her that he was concerned about Douglas's attitude during a reading with her co-star, Penelope Ann Miller. Prophet relayed the concern to Douglas, who was surprised and confused: the reading, in front of a group of CBS executives, had elicited uproarious laughter. Moonves, she said, had taken her by the shoulders and congratulated her. Moonves had told Prophet that he wanted to meet with Douglas, alone, to insure that they were creatively aligned. (Prophet told me that she did not recall the conversation or setting up the meeting.) By then, Douglas had worked closely with Moonves for months. ''He seemed more than just my boss,'' she told me. ''He was very much like a father figure.''
When Douglas met with Moonves at his office, she began to raise concerns about the ''Queens'' script, but Moonves, she recalled, cut her off. ''He interrupts me to ask me am I single,'' she said. Douglas, whose nearly decade-long relationship with Scorsese was coming to an end, was caught off guard. ''I didn't know what to say at that point,'' she told me. ''I was, like, 'I'm single, yes, no, maybe.' '' She began talking about the script, but Moonves interjected, asking to kiss her. According to Douglas, he said that they didn't have to tell her manager: ''It'll just be between you and me. Come on, you're not some nubile virgin.''
As Douglas attempted to turn the focus back to work, Moonves, she said, grabbed her. ''In a millisecond, he's got one arm over me, pinning me,'' she said. Moonves was ''violently kissing'' her, holding her down on the couch with her arms above her head. ''What it feels like to have someone hold you down'--you can't breathe, you can't move,'' she said. ''The physicality of it was horrendous.'' She recalled lying limp and unresponsive beneath him. ''You sort of black out,'' she told me. ''You think, How long is this going to go on? I was just looking at this nice picture of his family and his kids. I couldn't get him off me.'' She said it was only when Moonves, aroused, pulled up her skirt and began to thrust against her that her fear overcame her paralysis. She told herself that she had to do something to stop him. ''At that point, you're a trapped animal,'' she told me. ''Your life is flashing before your eyes.'' Moonves, in what Douglas assumed was an effort to be seductive, paused and asked, ''So, what do you think?'' Douglas told me, ''My decision was to get out of it by joking my way out, so he feels flattered.'' Thinking that reminding Moonves that he was her boss might discourage him, she told him, ''Yes, for the head of a network you're some good kisser.'' Moonves frowned and got up. She scrambled to find her briefcase. ''Well, this has been great. Thanks,'' she recalled saying, moving toward the door. ''I've got to go now.''
Moonves, she said, followed her to the door and blocked her path. He backed her up to the wall, pressing against her, with his face close to hers. ''It was physically scary,'' Douglas told me. ''He says, 'We're going to keep this between you and me, right?' '' Attempting to put him off with a joke, she replied, ''No, sir, we won't tell anyone that you're a good kisser.'' Moonves released her and, without looking at her, walked away. ''It was so invasive,'' she said of the threatening encounter. ''It has stayed with me the rest of my life, that terror.''
Outside Moonves's office, she began to cry. ''My skirt is all twisted,'' she recalled. ''I'm standing in the hall and I thought of his family.'' Moonves's assistant, sitting nearby, asked whether her parking needed to be validated. Douglas told me, ''I remember thinking, Does she know? Does this happen all the time?''
In her car, Douglas said, ''I lost it. I felt sick.'' Prophet, her manager, called and, as Douglas worked up the nerve to tell her what had happened, Prophet said that she had just got off the phone with Moonves. He'd said that he and Douglas had a great meeting and ''had a lot of fun.'' Douglas told me, ''I thought, Oh, my God, he's covered his tracks.'' In that moment, she said, ''I decided, just bury it.'' Later that day, Douglas returned to the house she was renting and told a friend who was staying with her, the actor Craig Chester, about the incident. ''She was trying not to cry, but her voice was shaking. I've never seen her that emotional before,'' Chester recalled. ''She said that he got on top of her and held her down and she couldn't get away. If it was any other situation outside business, I would have said, 'Let's go to the cops.' '' But, Chester said, ''there was no talk about going to the police or anything like that, because it was obvious that it would be career suicide.''
The following week, Moonves showed up at the first day of rehearsals for ''Queens.'' ''As soon as I saw him, I thought I was going to collapse. Everything came back to me. I was shaking,'' Douglas told me. She felt that Moonves's demeanor was intended to intimidate her. ''He was eying me warily,'' she said. Her distress was evident to her co-stars. ''There was obviously something going on with her emotionally,'' Penelope Ann Miller told me. ''When she came in to test, everything was on. And then, after, on set, it was like she wasn't there.'' Last year, before the rise of #MeToo, Douglas told Miller what had happened. ''Hearing her story, it all made sense,'' Miller recalled.
After the second rehearsal, Moonves took Douglas aside. '' 'What the fuck do you think you're doing out there? You're not even trying,' '' Douglas recalled Moonves saying. She took it as a reference to her failure to comply with his advances and to maintain her composure afterward. Douglas told me that she had ''played by all the rules, I didn't say anything, and now he was berating me.'' On set, she struggled to keep her comedic timing, and cried in front of other cast members.
Several days into rehearsals, Moonves called Douglas at home. ''It was, you know, 'You make me fucking sick. You are not funny,' '' she recalled. Moonves told her that she wouldn't ''get a fucking dime'' of the money she was owed, and that she would ''never work at this network again.'' (In a statement, CBS said that Moonves acknowledges trying to kiss Douglas, but that ''he denies any characterization of 'sexual assault,' intimidation, or retaliatory action,'' including berating her on set and personally firing her from ''Queens.'')
Prophet told me that Moonves and CBS Business Affairs called her to say that Douglas would be replaced on the show and that her deal would be cancelled. According to Douglas, Prophet called her and ''said I'd burned all my bridges at CBS, that she was firing me.'' (Prophet recalled firing Douglas and said that the two had a heated exchange. She said that she didn't know about Douglas's allegation, and denied the comment about burning bridges. ''There are no bridges at CBS,'' she said. ''There is just Les Moonves.'') Douglas said that her agent, Patrick Whitesell, who was then at Creative Artists Agency, later called to say that the agency wished her well in future endeavors of her own. ''I love the way C.A.A. fired me,'' Douglas said. ''They never told me I was fired. They just kept wishing me the best of luck.'' (Whitesell told me that he had not been aware of Douglas's allegation and did not recall that her departure from C.A.A. was related to the dissolution of her CBS deal.)
Distraught, Douglas called Scorsese and told him the story, saying that she wanted to hire a lawyer and sue Moonves. Scorsese said that he remembers Douglas calling him about the allegation and being shocked by it. Scorsese urged her to be cautious about taking legal action against such a powerful person, but agreed to refer her to his law firm; there, Douglas began working with an attorney named Bill Sobel. Sobel confirmed that Douglas had described the encounter with Moonves at the time, and his contemporaneous notes back up her account. ''I believed Illeana,'' he told me. ''What happened to her was reprehensible.''
Douglas told me that Sobel warned her that it was a matter of her word against Moonves's. Sobel, who said that he had a frank conversation with Douglas about the risks of suing, ultimately called CBS to attempt to recoup some of her lost wages. (She had received a fifty-thousand-dollar advance payment for her appearance in the ''Queens'' pilot, but felt that she was owed the remaining two hundred and fifty thousand.) After a junior staff member at CBS Business Affairs told Sobel that Douglas had been fired because of her poor performance in rehearsals, and that the network intended to withhold her pay, Sobel suggested that he ask Moonves about the meeting he had had alone with Douglas. ''My conversation was simply 'Hey, ask Les what happened in the room, and he'll probably want you to do the right thing here,' '' Sobel told me. ''I felt he knew what I was saying.''
According to communications and contracts reviewed by The New Yorker, the head of CBS Business Affairs, rather than the junior staffer, replied to Sobel with a new proposition. ''When the head of the whole thing called me back,'' Sobel said, ''it was very clear to me that they took my comments about what happened in the room very seriously.'' CBS proposed that the agreement be ''settled out'' for a hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars, and then agreed to pay Douglas an additional two hundred and fifty thousand to appear in a new miniseries.
Douglas and Sobel both saw the miniseries as cover for a settlement; she didn't even know what the show was about. ''I go from being sexually assaulted, fired for not having sex with Les Moonves, fired by everyone, to 'We are going to pay you in full and we also want you to be on this miniseries,' '' Douglas recalled. ''My understanding is, this is what they were going to do in exchange for not suing.''
Shortly after the offer came, Douglas received a call from Moonves. '' 'So, you're gonna do the mini?' '' she remembered him asking. Although she wanted accountability, she was still frightened, and said that she would do it. She recalled Moonves, sounding upbeat, remarking, '' 'Tits and guns, baby. Tits and guns.' '' (Douglas later learned that the miniseries, called ''Bella Mafia,'' focussed on the women of an Italian crime family and emphasized sex and violence.) Moonves asked Douglas if they were ''O.K.,'' and Douglas replied, ''Yes, sir.''
In its statement, CBS said that the agreement with Douglas about ''Bella Mafia'' was intended to fulfill her over-all deal with the network, and was unrelated to her meeting with Moonves. ''There were no funds added for settlement purposes,'' CBS said. ''The amount paid was half of what she was owed, which is not what one might do if concerned about a claim such as this.''
Jo An Kincaid, an executive producer on the ''Queens'' pilot and Penelope Ann Miller's manager at the time, said that she was not consulted about Douglas's dismissal. ''One day she was just not there. Gone and replaced,'' Kincaid said. ''It was very unusual. I was an executive producer. There should have been an explanation.'' In an e-mail, Judge Reinhold, one of Douglas's co-stars, wrote, ''Illeana was hilariously unique in her comedy and fun to work with.'' He added, ''We were all surprised and disappointed that she left.''
Douglas told numerous people about the incident over the years, and even published a lightly fictionalized version of it in a 2006 compilation, ''Fired!'' She also performed the story before audiences. ''I didn't exactly keep it a secret,'' Douglas said. ''People used to come up to me afterward and go, 'I know who it is,' and just laugh about it.''
Douglas appeared in ''Bella Mafia,'' and, afterward, C.A.A. resumed representing her. But she believes that the incident ''derailed any future career I would have had at CBS.'' In two instances, years later, personal connections helped her secure acting roles on shows that aired on the network, and a Web series of hers appeared on a CBS streaming service. But otherwise, in a career that has included extensive work with every other major network, she said, ''I never auditioned or ever had any kind of television-show deal at CBS.'' Like the other women I spoke to, she said that people around her discouraged her from publicly naming Moonves in this story. She told me that she was doing so because she wanted to protect other women, and that she wished she had been warned before her meeting. ''In retrospect, of course, you say, 'Oh, it's all a crazy setup,' '' she told me. ''I was, I hate to say it, the perfect victim.''
More than a decade earlier, in the spring of 1985, Janet Jones was attempting to break into the industry as a writer. The producer Mike Marvin liked an idea that Jones had for a screenplay, and helped broker a meeting between her and Moonves, who at the time was a vice-president at Twentieth Century Fox. It was Jones's first pitch meeting in Hollywood. Moonves's assistant scheduled a late-afternoon appointment at his office.
When Jones arrived, many employees were leaving for the day, but Moonves's assistant was there. ''I had my briefcase and my pants suit,'' Jones recalled. ''I was really prepared.'' Moonves surprised her by asking if she wanted a glass of wine. She declined, sat down on the couch, and began pitching her screenplay. Suddenly, Jones told me, ''he came around the corner of the table and threw himself on top of me. It was very fast.'' Moonves, she said, began trying to kiss her. Jones said that she struggled, and then shoved Moonves away hard, yelling, ''What do you think you're doing?'' Moonves, appearing startled, got up. '' 'Well, I was hitting on you. I wanted a kiss,' '' she recalled him saying. Jones began to leave. ''He said, 'Oh, come on, it's nothing,' '' she said. '' 'Calm down, don't be so excited.' ''
When Jones got to the door, it was locked. She was terrified. ''If you don't open this door,'' she told him, ''I am going to scream so loud and so long that everyone on the lot is going to come over.'' She remembered Moonves walking to his desk or to a nearby bureau to unlock the door, rather than doing so directly. She fled, noticing on her way out that the assistant had left. ''That's when I got really upset,'' she told me. ''I just thought, Oh, my God. This wasn't like a little momentary boo-boo. It was this well-thought-out thing.''
Jones drove to the house of a friend, the artist Linda Salzman Sagan. There, Jones told me, ''I just completely melted down, just crying and shaking.'' Sagan told me that she remembers the visit clearly, and that Jones described the incident in detail at the time. ''She was very, very upset,'' Sagan recalled. ''I had never seen her like that. I was really astounded by what she told me. I knew how powerful he was in terms of a career.'' Jones also told her boyfriend at the time, Larry Jackson, who said, ''She came home one day scared and in tears because she said Les had jumped her at a business meeting.''
Mike Marvin told me that he remembers introducing Jones to Moonves, and that she was troubled by the meeting. He said that he confronted Moonves about it at a gathering, saying, ''Whatever happened, that girl was upset.'' Moonves, Marvin said, became furious. ''We definitely had a screaming match over this,'' Marvin told me.
Not long afterward, Jones received a call from Moonves's assistant, who said that she had Moonves on the line. ''My heart went into my feet,'' Jones recalled. Moonves began shouting at her. '' 'People's reputations are important. Do you understand?' '' she remembered him saying. '' 'I'm warning you. I will ruin your career. You will never get a writing job. No one will hire you. Do you understand what I'm saying to you?' '' Jones hung up the phone, then threw up. ''I was just absolutely mortified. Does this mean he'll be putting me on a list somewhere and I'll never get a job?'' she recalled thinking. ''This person could stop me from doing this passion, this career I had spent my whole life putting together. It's kind of hard to fathom that one person could do that, but he could.'' (CBS said that Moonves has no recollection of the interactions with Jones.)
Jones told me that she found the threats more scarring than the original incident. She said, ''The revenge behavior, the 'I'll get you for not kissing me, I'll get you for not doing what the hell I want you to do''--it never quite leaves you.'' Years later, she saw him at an industry event and, she said, ''I almost fainted. I was still terrified.''
Two other women described Moonves forcibly touching or kissing them during business meetings. The producer Christine Peters was an industry veteran when she first encountered Moonves, in the early aughts. She had worked as a story analyst for the company behind ''Rain Man'' and ''Gorillas in the Mist'' before becoming a production head for Robert Evans, who had produced ''The Godfather'' and ''Chinatown.'' She became a close friend and confidante of Sumner Redstone, the owner of Viacom, to whom she was at times romantically linked in the press. (Peters, like the other women in this story, said that she had no interest in the battle over the future of Redstone's empire.) After Viacom acquired CBS, Redstone enlisted Peters to help build a rapport with Moonves, who was the president and C.E.O. of CBS Television at the time. They had a series of dinners with Moonves and his wife in 2003 and 2004.
Peters produced the 2003 romantic comedy ''How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days,'' which was based on a book she had acquired, and which ultimately grossed more than a hundred and seventy-seven million dollars. ''I was proud to be bringing females into the seats and really addressing them,'' she told me. In 2006, Moonves, who had become the chairman of CBS, had dinner with Peters and Redstone to discuss his plans to launch a film studio, CBS Films, which was founded the next year. Moonves was considering executives to oversee the endeavor, and Redstone suggested Peters. Moonves seemed excited about the idea.
When Moonves and Peters met at his office to discuss the prospect, Peters told me, she came with a detailed presentation on her business model, which focussed on female audiences. ''It was: this is the demographic, here are the underutilized release dates, here's why female buyers predominate,'' she said. ''I remember him being very enthusiastic, saying it made a lot of sense.'' She was sitting on a couch and, as she continued her pitch, he sat down uncomfortably close. ''He said, 'This is really great,' '' she recalled. ''Then he just put a hand up my skirt.'' Moonves, she said, slid his hand up her thigh and touched her underwear.
''I was in a state of shock,'' Peters recalled. Immediately, she worried about how Moonves would react to a rejection. She tried to get out of the situation by gathering her documents and saying, ''Oh, wow, oh, my God, it's late, I have to be at another meeting. Can we finish this tomorrow? I'm so excited! So excited!'' Moonves, she recalled, suggested that he walk her to her car. Fearing further advances, Peters said that she had a driver outside. She had come to the meeting with a colleague, who was waiting in the lobby. The colleague told me that Peters emerged earlier than anticipated, appearing shaken, and said that they had to leave quickly. An acquaintance of Peters's told me that she recounted the story to him several years ago, describing an advance from a top executive and a job that she didn't get afterward, without naming Moonves. Last year, Peters told him that the executive was Moonves. (CBS said that Moonves categorically denies any alleged touching or inappropriate conduct during the meeting.)
Peters told me, ''I remember sitting in the car and just crying. I worked my whole life to be here and I just lost my opportunity.'' Because of her long tenure in the industry, Peters said, ''I expected to be taken seriously. I never in a million years saw that coming.'' She said that she was surprised in part because she thought her relationship with Redstone would have put Moonves on guard. ''I couldn't understand why he would do that in light of the situation with Sumner,'' she told me. In the end, she decided not to tell Redstone, because she worried about what the fallout might be. Like Jones, Peters told me that Moonves ''was smart enough to not have anyone there. It was a setup.'' (Twice in later years, Peters participated in group meetings that involved Moonves.)
A prominent actress who played a police officer on a long-running CBS program, who was too frightened of reprisals to use her name, said that she also attended a business meeting with Moonves that ended in unwanted advances. The actress had known Moonves for years. In the late eighties, at the height of her show's popularity, Moonves, who was then at a production company called Lorimar, requested a lunch meeting at a restaurant. There, Moonves told the actress that he had long had a crush on her but had not said anything to her because she had been in a relationship with a mutual friend. She declined his advance but thanked him for lunch. ''It wasn't offensive,'' she recalled. In 1995, when Moonves became president of CBS Entertainment, the actress called to congratulate him. ''He said, 'You should have fucked me when I asked you to,' and I said, 'No shit!' '' the actress told me. They laughed.
Soon afterward, CBS Business Affairs informed the actress that her series deal with CBS was being terminated. She called Moonves and expressed shock. He requested a lunch meeting in his private dining room at the office. She told me, ''I went in, I thought, to make a deal.'' At the lunch, Moonves told her that he intended to focus on younger talent, and that she was too old. ''Then he again said, 'I've always been so attracted to you,' '' she told me. ''I was so upset. I said, 'Jesus, Leslie, I'm gonna go.' '' Moonves asked her to sit down. She did so, pushing food around her plate until she had to leave. Then, she told me, ''I walked over and leaned to give him a kiss on the cheek.'' Moonves, she said, grabbed her and forcibly kissed her: ''He shoved his tongue down my throat. I mean shoved.''
Appalled, she pushed him away. ''He had approached me to go to bed with him twice, but he did it politely,'' she said. ''But this time he just stuck his tongue down my throat.'' As she left, she began to cry. ''No one had ever done that to me before,'' she said. ''I found it sickening.''
Like Douglas, the actress said that she never worked for CBS again. Almost two decades later, an executive at CBS contacted her about coming back to the network. It turned out that the executive wanted her to sign a book deal with Simon & Schuster, which is owned by CBS. (CBS said that Moonves has no recollection of making unwelcome advances toward the actress, and that he made no efforts to block future business between her and CBS.)
The actress thought that the consequences would be too great if she told CBS about the incident. ''I never reported it,'' she told me. ''I just thought, Gee, there goes my career.'' At an event not long afterward, she encountered a showrunner who has overseen multiple programs at CBS, and told her the story. The showrunner, who had also worked with Moonves, recalled that the actress was still hurt by the incident and told me that she was ''not surprised'' by the story. ''I had already had to deal with misogynist bullying from him myself,'' she told me.
Two women told me that they rebuffed unwanted advances from Moonves in professional settings, and that they believed career opportunities disappeared as a result. Dinah Kirgo, who won an Emmy as a writer for ''The Tracey Ullman Show,'' first encountered Moonves in the early eighties, when he was the vice-president of development at Saul Ilson Productions, a partnership with Columbia Pictures Television. She and her sister and producing partner, Julie Kirgo, met with Moonves and others about a television deal. ''We left the meeting very confident we had an over-all deal with Leslie,'' Kirgo told me. The sisters told their agent to expect an offer from Moonves.
Instead, shortly after Kirgo got home, Moonves called her directly. ''He said, 'That was a great meeting, now we have to go out to dinner,' '' she recalled. Kirgo replied that she and Julie would be happy to have dinner with him. ''He said, 'No, just you and me.' He said, 'You're very expensive, and I need to know you're worth it,' '' Kirgo told me. ''I was sort of in shock and I said, 'Well, Leslie, I don't think your wife would appreciate us having that kind of dinner.' '' Moonves coldly ended the conversation. (CBS said that Moonves has no recollection of the meeting or the phone call.)
Kirgo and her sister never heard from Moonves again. Afterward, Kirgo's agents told her they had received reports that she had a reputation for being difficult to work with. Kirgo told me that she had never heard complaints before, and that she believed saying no to Moonves had hurt her career. ''It's very insidious, what he did,'' she said.
Julie Kirgo confirmed the details of her sister's story and said that Dinah had told her about the call at the time. ''It's just kind of awful to feel that you have energy and talent and that's being appreciated, and then suddenly to find out that that's not where somebody's interests lie at all. You feel betrayed,'' she said. ''It pisses me off to this day.''
In 1992, a former child star who asked to be identified only by her first name, Kimberly, was introduced to Moonves by a friend, who was a member of Moonves's staff and told her that Moonves could help her get back into television. At a dinner meeting that the three attended, Moonves began by asking questions about Kimberly's acting career. But when the friend went to the bathroom Moonves turned to Kimberly and said, in a perfunctory way, ''Let's go. Let's just get a hotel room. Let's just do this.'' She was shocked. ''I said, 'What are you talking about?' '' When she explained that she had a husband and a child, Moonves became angry and left. (The friend recalled making the introduction to Moonves, and said that her only motivation in doing so was to help Kimberly's career. CBS said that Moonves has no memory or record of the meeting.)
''The power differential was so great,'' Kimberly told me. ''I was really scared, because I thought I was burning some sort of a bridge that was going to be great for me.'' As a child star, she said, ''I'd been taught that powerful people can hurt you, they can ruin you, they can ruin your career.'' She said that the turn from business meeting to sexual overture seemed to be well practiced. ''It was set up to be that way,'' she said. ''I thought, Wow, is this the way the world works and I just don't get it?''
CBS is a multibillion-dollar corporation, with dozens of divisions, and Moonves is only indirectly involved with many of them. However, experts on sexual harassment told me that misconduct by a chief executive can reverberate across aspects of even the largest companies. ''If you have a company with an abuser on the top, they typically surround themselves with people like them, who engage in similar behavior,'' Debra Katz, a lawyer specializing in sexual harassment, told me. ''It can put a set of enablers in place, who protect powerful people when they get challenged for misconduct, and who work to discredit and manage out women who come forward with allegations.''
Thirty current and former CBS employees described harassment, gender discrimination, or retaliation at the network. Many said that men accused of misconduct were promoted, even after the company was made aware of those allegations. Their stories match several that have already emerged in public reports. Earlier this year, Leslie Isaacs, a vice-president at Pop, the cable channel jointly operated by CBS and the film studio Lionsgate, filed a lawsuit alleging that CBS was aware of a hostile workplace at the channel. Her complaint described harassment and discrimination by male colleagues, including a vice-president who allegedly instructed female employees to ''show your clients your tits.'' Isaacs told me, ''It wouldn't be happening at Pop if it wasn't covered up at CBS, and if CBS wasn't complicit. They know, and it's been tolerated.'' (Isaacs has entered into a private mediation process with CBS. A Pop spokesperson said, ''Pop engaged an independent investigator who conducted a complete investigation and found nothing to corroborate this alleged statement.'' CBS said that it flatly denies any efforts to cover this up.)
In December, CBS confirmed that Brad Kern, the showrunner and executive producer of ''NCIS: New Orleans,'' had been the subject of sexual-harassment and gender-discrimination allegations. He had retained his position for more than a year after the company was made aware of the claims. (This season, Kern stepped down from his position as showrunner, but he remains a consulting producer. Last month, the company said that it was launching a new investigation'--its third'--into Kern's behavior. CBS said that the allegations were investigated and resulted in disciplinary action but that the matter ''merits further inquiry.'')
Other allegations have centered on CBS News. Last summer, Erin Gee, who worked at CBS for more than fifteen years, filed a lawsuit alleging that an executive director at ''CBS Evening News'' urged her to have sex with a co-worker with whom she was having difficulties in order to ''break the ice,'' and that she was demoted after complaining about gender discrimination. In May, a magistrate judge in New York criticized CBS for failing to save e-mails from the time of Gee's allegation. ''I find the conduct of CBS here to be shocking,'' the judge, Sarah Netburn, reportedly said during a hearing. ''It is hard to draw any other conclusion than that they were trying to avoid producing and saving those e-mails.'' (The network has since reached a settlement with Gee, and her attorney declined to comment. CBS said that ''the matter has been resolved.'') In 2015, a CBS reporter, Kenneth Lombardi, alleged in a lawsuit that a CBS News supervisor texted him links to pornography, and that a senior producer had grabbed his crotch. Lombardi claimed that when he complained to a manager she replied, ''Never bring up gender discrimination again!'' (An attorney for Lombardi said that he was not at liberty to discuss the suit. CBS said that the matter has been resolved.)
In November, Charlie Rose was suspended after the Washington Post reported that eight women had accused him of sexual harassment, including groping. According to the Post, Rose has now been accused of sexual harassment by at least thirty-five women, and managers at the network were made aware of the allegations on at least three occasions. (Rose apologized in response to the initial allegations, but called the paper's subsequent reporting on additional complaints ''unfair and inaccurate.'')
''60 Minutes,'' the news division's flagship program, for which Rose was a contributing correspondent, has been a focal point of allegations. Some of those allegations involve Jeff Fager, who is currently the executive producer of ''60 Minutes,'' and whom Moonves appointed chairman of CBS News in 2011, a position he held until 2015. Six former employees told me that Fager, while inebriated at company parties, would touch employees in ways that made them uncomfortable. One former ''60 Minutes'' producer told me, ''It was always 'Let's go say hello to Jeff, 'cause you have to pay homage to him, but let's do it early in the evening, before he starts getting really handsy.' '' In one incident, at which several employees were present, Fager allegedly made drunken advances to an associate producer, commenting on her breasts and becoming belligerent when she rebuffed him. (Fager denied the allegations, saying that ''they never happened.'')
Others said that Fager protected men accused of misconduct, including men who reported to him. According to several people who were told about the incident at the time, a senior producer named Vicki Gordon alleged that another senior producer, Michael Radutzky, threatened to throw furniture at her and twisted her arm behind her back, causing her to scream. (Radutzky categorically denied the allegations, saying that they were fabricated.) The sources told me that Fager said he would address the matter with Radutzky directly, and instructed Gordon not to inform the CBS office of human resources. Later, Fager asked her to apologize to Radutzky, to mitigate conflict in the office. (Fager said, ''I have never discouraged anyone from going to H.R.'') Radutzky, who left the network earlier this year, remained in his job for several years after the alleged incident. ''It was common knowledge at '60 Minutes' that Michael Radutzky was an out-of-control guy, especially but not exclusively toward women. We all saw it, almost on a daily basis,'' David Gelber, a former producer, told me. ''And yet Fager not only tolerated him'--he elevated him to a position of leadership, even after Fager knew perfectly well how abusive he was.'' (Radutzky strongly denied Gelber's characterization of his behavior.) Sophie Gayter, a ''60 Minutes'' employee who alleged to the Post that Charlie Rose had groped her, told me that Fager ''enabled the other men on the floor to do whatever the heck they wanted.'' Fager, one network executive said, ''would let people know he communicated with Les directly,'' adding that ''people took that to mean Les supported him completely.''
CBS, one former associate producer said, ''is an old network. Everything in there feels old: the people, the furniture, the culture, the mores.'' Many of the women described the atmosphere at CBS News specifically as a ''frat house.'' One former employee said, ''I had several producers and editors over the age of sixty who would greet me by kissing me on the mouth. I had people touch my butt a couple times.'' She added, ''Fager seemed to encourage that climate. It wasn't even that he turned a blind eye toward it.'' Katie Couric, who was an anchor at the network and a contributing correspondent for ''60 Minutes'' from 2006 to 2011, when Fager helped force her out, told me that it ''felt like a boys' club, where a number of talented women seemed to be marginalized and undervalued.''
In a statement, Fager said, ''It is wrong that our culture can be falsely defined by a few people with an axe to grind who are using an important movement as a weapon to get even, and not by the hundreds of women and men that have thrived, both personally and professionally, at '60 Minutes.' '' He added, ''A majority of our senior staff are women. All of them worked their way up the ranks and are now managers of our broadcast. Half of our producers and a majority of our associate producers are women. It is a challenging place to do well and promotions are earned on merit and are not based on gender.'' Lesley Stahl, who has been a ''60 Minutes'' correspondent since 1991, told me, ''This notion that '60 Minutes' is an unpleasant, unwelcoming place for women isn't true.'' She said, ''In my own experience, Jeff is supportive of women and decent to women.'' Anderson Cooper, who has been a correspondent for the show since 2006, told me, ''I work there part time, but in all the years I've been there I've never seen Jeff engage in any inappropriate behavior.''
Gayter and another junior female employee told me that their bosses asked them to complete the company's mandatory online sexual-harassment training programs for them. ''Many assistants did it for their bosses,'' Gayter said. ''We'd book their travel, do their expenses, and then do their sexual-harassment training.'' Former employees told me that there were few avenues for them to register confidential complaints about discrimination and misconduct. ''People say, 'You could call H.R.' Honestly, I've never met a single person from H.R.,'' one producer said. ''There's no oversight.'' Some said that they had witnessed retaliation against those who did attempt to speak out. At CBS News, ''there was no one to turn to,'' one former producer told me, saying that she had reported Charlie Rose's behavior, and that the complaint resulted in no repercussions for Rose. ''If it's just behavior from the top, tolerated at the top, and there's no one to talk to, what do you do?'' she said.
A former journalist at ''60 Minutes'' named Habiba Nosheen told me that she had complained to management that Ira Rosen, a producer on the program, had subjected her to numerous sexual comments and suggested that she flirt with sources. Two other women told me that they had experienced similar conduct from Rosen. (In a statement, Rosen said that ''CBS extensively investigated these complaints and found them to be false, misleading, and unsubstantiated.'' He said, ''I have always and continue to deny these allegations.'')
When Nosheen filed a written complaint and met with Fager about the allegations against Rosen, she said, he told her not to worry about the possibility that other women might be harassed by Rosen. She told me that Fager is ''an enabler of this 'Mad Men' culture at '60 Minutes.' '' Afterward, there appeared to be no repercussions for Rosen, and she was frozen out of assignments. Days after she made her complaint to Fager, he and two of his deputies called Nosheen into a meeting to go over criticisms of her work performance which she found specious. One involved a tense exchange with a co-worker that had happened a year earlier. The format of the meeting, she said, was highly unusual. ''It was so obvious to me that they began to implement a strategy of retaliation,'' she told me.
In June, 2016, Nosheen filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She resigned a month later. ''As an investigative journalist, every day I try to hold people in power accountable. I look people in the eye and ask them why they turned their backs when they witnessed something unethical happening,'' she told me. ''I knew I couldn't look myself in the mirror and hold others accountable if I wasn't brave enough to do the same in my own place of work.'' An e-mail from a CBS lawyer shows that, after Nosheen left the network, CBS threatened to enforce a non-compete clause in her contract, which would prevent her from seeking employment elsewhere, unless she withdrew her E.E.O.C. complaint and signed a nondisclosure agreement. The E.E.O.C. ultimately issued a Notice of Dismissal and Right to Sue letter, saying that it was unable to conclude whether or not a violation of federal law had occurred and that it would be up to Nosheen to pursue the matter in civil court.
Another woman told me that she had spoken to CBS's legal department about Rosen's and Fager's behavior. ''I was shocked by the lack of seriousness and regard that CBS legal showed my story,'' she told me. (In a statement, CBS's chief compliance officer said, ''It is the policy and practice of CBS to investigate all complaints and to promptly remediate any problems that are identified,'' adding that ''the policies against discrimination and harassment include anti-retaliation provisions, and anyone raising a complaint is assured that he or she will be protected from retaliation.'') The woman told me that she eventually left the network because of the atmosphere. ''A lot of my memories of '60 Minutes' are of other women coming into my office, closing the door, and just breaking down because of working as a woman at CBS,'' she said. ''Toward the end of my time there, I thought, God, I love the stories, I love the work, but this has to be easier somewhere else.''
The producer who talked about Fager's behavior at parties told me that she, too, left the show because of ''a very toxic culture toward women.'' She said, ''What makes me really upset was this was something I really loved doing, and I was good at, and won a lot of awards for. And I basically had to leave the business, because where else am I going to go? There were other places, but nothing of that stature.''
The New Yorker reviewed three six-figure settlements with ''60 Minutes'' employees who have filed complaints of sexual harassment or discrimination. The women who received those payments were required to sign nondisclosure agreements that prevented them from speaking about their experiences, with penalties for any breach. Several other women who have made allegations against CBS News declined to speak with me on the record, citing nondisclosure agreements. (The CBS chief compliance officer said, ''On occasion, the resolution of allegations in the workplace has involved financial settlements,'' adding that ''settlements do not amount to admissions of guilt.'')
''The N.D.A.s are a silencer and a bully tactic,'' Mo Cashin, who worked in several roles for CBS News, including as a broadcast manager, told me. ''It's unfortunate and hypocritical, particularly in the media, where it appears executives have more interest in protecting and oftentimes rewarding fellow senior employees who have a documented history of bad behavior than protecting their victims.''
Fager has tried to keep the allegations about the treatment of women at ''60 Minutes'' from surfacing publicly. According to the Times, in 2015 Fager took over the writing of a book about ''60 Minutes'' after the original author, Richard Zoglin, began asking people about the subject. In April, as two Washington Post reporters, Irin Carmon and Amy Brittain, were reporting an article about the allegations of harassment at CBS News, including complaints about Fager and Rosen, lawyers retained by Fager threatened to sue the Post, and presented testimonials about Fager's good character. ''There was this ham-handed effort to make women at the show say Jeff was a wonderful person,'' one producer said. ''It was so obvious we were doing it with a gun to our heads.'' Fager's lawyers also attacked the professionalism of the two reporters. In the end, the paper published a story that included complaints of harassment against Charlie Rose from dozens of women, but not allegations about Fager or Rosen. In a statement, the Post said, ''The reporting throughout was vigorous and sustained and fully supported by Post editors. Nothing that met our longstanding standards for publication was left out. Nor did outside pressures, legal or otherwise, determine what was published.'' CBS employees told me that they were alarmed by the attempts to kill the reporting. ''The hypocrisy of an investigative news program shutting down an investigative print story is incredible,'' one told me.
Fager said, ''There's a reason these awful allegations have not been published before'--despite the efforts of a few former employees who did not succeed at '60 Minutes.' It is because they are false, anonymous, and do not hold up to editorial scrutiny.''
The CBS chief compliance officer said, ''CBS previously retained attorney Betsy Plevan of Proskauer Rose to conduct an independent investigation of alleged misconduct at CBS News. Ms. Plevan's work is ongoing, and includes investigating allegations in this story. CBS has taken the allegations reported in the press seriously, and respects the role of the press in pursuing the truth, which is a role that is central to the mission of CBS News.''
In June, Carmon, in a speech accepting a Mirror Award for the Post's reporting on Charlie Rose, warned that stories of abuse by powerful men in the news industry were still being suppressed. ''The stories that we have been doing are actually about a system. The system has lawyers and a good reputation. It has publicists,'' she said. ''Indeed, the system is sitting in this room. Some more than others. The system is still powerful men getting stories killed that I believe will someday see the light of day.'' Fager was seated in the audience, and later in the ceremony accepted an award on behalf of ''60 Minutes.''
Habiba Nosheen, the employee who filed the E.E.O.C. complaint, said that she decided to report the harassment to the network after an e-mail appeared in her work in-box in March of 2016. It was a message to all CBS employees, from Moonves. ''Simply put,'' Moonves wrote, ''CBS has a zero-tolerance policy towards discrimination or sexual harassment in our company or related businesses.'' Nosheen told me, ''I know it sounds ridiculous, but for a second I believed it.''
CBS is not the only network to face complaints of sexual harassment in recent years. In November, Matt Lauer, a co-host of ''Today,'' on NBC, was fired after being accused of sexual misconduct. Roger Ailes, the chairman and C.E.O. of Fox News, and the Fox anchor Bill O'Reilly both resigned after allegations were made against them. The actions of Ailes and O'Reilly have resulted in at least sixty-five million dollars in sexual-harassment settlements.
Experts told me that addressing patterns of harassment at a company as large as CBS generally depends on reform at the highest levels. ''This sort of conduct is tied to over-all climate and oftentimes to how women are seen or valued within an entire organization,'' Fatima Goss Graves, the president and C.E.O. of the National Women's Law Center, said. ''And there's no question that the head of the organization sets the tone for the entire organization.''
For the women who have made claims against Les Moonves, his public stance as a supporter of the #MeToo movement and his role in the Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace have been unnerving. Janet Jones told me that, when she heard that he was on the commission, ''I thought, Oh, for God's sake, he has no shame.'' The commission is made up of, and funded by, industry leaders, and its members are not vetted. Illeana Douglas knew people who were associated with the commission, and considered telling them her story, until she saw that Moonves was also a member. ''I don't think that the fox should be guarding the henhouse,'' she said. '...
How Hollywood Vetting Works'--Or Doesn't'--in the Age of Twitter - The Ringer
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 05:46
On Friday, Disney fired James Gunn, the director who helped make the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise a massive box-office hit, and who was in the process of finishing the script for its third installment. His downfall began, like many mistakes do, on Twitter. After actor-director-producer Mark Duplass tweeted praise for right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro, Gunn came to his defense and became entangled with a handful of alt-right personalities. Not long after this dispute, The Daily Caller published a handful of old, cringe-y tweets in which Gunn joked about pedophilia and molestation. (Sample: ''I want to go big game hunting but know it's morally questionable. So I'm going to split the difference and go big game raping.'') They were gross and tasteless, but alt-right personalities like Mike Cernovich'--of Infowars and Pizzagate infamy'--purposefully misinterpreted them as serious indicators that Gunn is a child molester. Before you could say ''teen Groot,'' Walt Disney Studios chair Alan Horn announced that Gunn would no longer be working with the company, publicly condemning his old posts as ''indefensible and inconsistent'' with the studio's values. Gunn, in turn, issued his own reply: ''As I've developed as a person, so has my work and my humor,'' he tweeted. ''It's not to say I'm better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it's shocking and trying to get a reaction are over.''
''Hollywood Man Cut From Project Like Cancerous Mole'' is the simple version of the story, and one we've become rightfully acquainted with as the entertainment industry continues to grapple with decades' worth of misogyny, sexual harassment, and discrimination. But the details of Gunn's offense and undoing, in particular, indicate a new era of hyperpartisan, crowdsourced opposition campaigns on Hollywood's horizon. In May, Disney-owned ABC abruptly canceled its highly rated reboot of Roseanne, after show lead Roseanne Barr tweeted a racist remark about former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. Though Barr's vile comments were not equivalent to Gunn's gross jokes, both figures' punishments were the same, and they mark an emerging post-Gamergate trend among networks and movie studios to sever ties with talent on the very day they are revealed to be problematic. Major Hollywood productions must now contend with the slippery personal brands of headline actors, directors, and producers to preserve their names and fortunes. That Gunn's hasty termination has been met with protest from fans suggests they're still struggling with how to do that. What credence should a corporate entity like Disney give to an online mob's complaints? How should it determine (or enforce) a standard of behavior? And to what lengths is it willing to go to ensure an untainted creative project? Amid this field of land mines, a specific contractual question between talent and entertainment companies has emerged: How quickly can one party jump ship the second the other self-sabotages its brand?
Social media has been around long enough for us to age with it, and most people's accounts are filing cabinets of past personae, neuroses, and ill-conceived opinions. In an attempt to maintain a steady stream of ''whataboutism,'' alt-right figures are now exploiting these repositories with extreme vigor. Major movie and television companies are much more concerned with the damage that negative scrutiny can do to a big-budget project's rollout than they appear to be with offering nuanced solutions to social media scandals. In turn, they are scrambling for practical ways to protect themselves from the potential expense of a Barr or a Gunn. As Douglas Johnson, an entertainment lawyer at a Los Angeles''based firm, told me of recent contractual negotiations: ''They're looking for a quick out.''
In some cases, issues of public perception can be solved by simply investing more in background checks. Franchises like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have suffered in recent years when contestants' hateful posts or social media activity surfaced midseason. One casting director I spoke to earlier this month said that mistakes like those are more common because networks have passed the vetting costs onto production companies, which are less likely to spend money on thorough investigations. Recent missteps'--including the casting of a man who had been previously charged for groping and assaulting a woman (he was later convicted)'--have been enough to catch the networks' attention. This month, Rob Mills, ABC's senior vice president of alternative programming, told The Ringer that The Bachelor would more thoroughly vet its contestants' online activity.
But in the case of deals between major companies like Disney and talent like Gunn, Johnson said that behind-the-scenes legal negotiations are mostly focused on who will be held responsible if and when either side's reputation is smeared. The morality clause'--a piece of standard contractual language that has historically allowed brands to terminate contracts with celebrities'--has become a hot topic. Celebrities now want the ability to do the same with brands that have misbehaved. And both sides are pushing for more flexibility as to what qualifies as a moral violation in the first place.
''People are getting sideswiped by stuff they never even thought would hit them,'' Johnson said. ''So they're just trying to craft language in contracts that is as broad as possible. And now there's a big fight in town between talent and the other side. Because talent is saying, 'Well, wait a minute, this could be almost subjective.' Who wants to get thrown off of a film because somebody reads something the wrong way?''
Gunn is just one of many celebrities who has been careless enough to leave a previous lifetime's worth of tasteless jokes online. That someone with a public-facing job would still think it's OK to keep an extensive record of pedophilia-related humor under his name on the internet speaks to the deep hubris of the entertainment industry. According to Johnson, that's part of the reason studios don't simply tell their talent to wipe their online accounts before reporting to set. ''I have never heard of someone being required to go back and scrub all of their social media,'' Johnson said. ''A lot of these guys live and die on their social, so I think that'd be unusual.'' Given that Hollywood has proved a fruitful arena for both liberal and conservative vigilantes, another high-profile firing seems likely. And it may ultimately be a new era of contracts with broad morality clauses'--not common sense or decency'--that motivates talent to tidy up their social media accounts.
''With these clauses that are being drafted, if they don't clean out stuff that's objectionable, they're putting themselves subject to be thrown off a project,'' Johnson said. ''On their own, they're probably going to be [deleting]. And that's probably enough deterrent without needing to write in that, 'Hey, you better go back and scrub everything.'''
Since Gunn's firing, both Rick and Morty's Dan Harmon and Last Week Tonight's Jill Twiss have been targeted by enterprising online sleuths in an attempt to stain their reputations. Ideally, Hollywood executives would be able to sift through this madness by weighing the nuances and offenses of each case carefully. In reality, the fate of creators' reputations may very well come down to a few lines in a something-million-dollar contract that implies in legalese, what the internet has been saying all along: never tweet.
LifeLock Security Bug Puts Millions of Customer Emails at Risk | Experian
Fri, 27 Jul 2018 14:23
LifeLock customers may be at risk for phishing attacks, thanks to a bug on one of the firm's marketing pages that could have exposed customers' emails.
Symantec, LifeLock's parent company, says it fixed the issue and found no indication customer email addresses have been harvested. Still, the company's investigation is ongoing and it's smart to be vigilant if you're a LifeLock customer or former customer.
Here's What You Need to KnowThe LifeLock bug potentially enabled fraudsters to harvest email addresses by simply changing one number in the address of a web page used by customers to unsubscribe from LifeLock communications. The number represents a specific customer and altering it revealed that customer's email address.
With this type of vulnerability, hackers can potentially gather email addresses and use them to send messages designed to look like they are coming from a legitimate company. This is a practice known as spear phishing.
Be skeptical of any email communications that contain links, especially ones urging you to take immediate action.
Watch Out For Phishing and Malware AttacksScammers often embed hyperlinks into an email that take you to a fake site where they collect your information or load malware onto your computer.
Before clicking on a suspicious link, hover your mouse over it to see what the actual URL looks like. Look for warning signs, such as if the URL doesn't begin with ''https'' or the URL goes somewhere other than where the hyperlinked text says it will go.
Whatever you do, do not enter any personal information or credentials via links in emails. Instead, forward any suspicious email to the company itself. You can also call the company directly to confirm whether any such messaging is legitimate.
Here are some additional guidelines for detecting and avoiding spear phishing scams:
1. Check the URL of Any Website Requesting Personal InformationPull up the organization's real website and compare the text that appears before the first ''slash'' (/) in its address.
Look for slight anomalies such as .co instead of .com, ''typos'' or extra ''dots'' in the main name, etc. Also make sure the address begins with https://; the ''s'' indicates it's encrypting your data.
2. Proof for Spelling Multiple typos or spelling errors could be a sign the email does not come from a legitimate source.
3. Confirm That the Email or Web Address Is CorrectScammers may mimic websites from known companies in order to fool you by changing a letter or word so it closely resembles a legitimate address.
4. Look for AttachmentsIt's unusual for a legitimate financial institution or company to send account information as an attachment; be wary of any email you receive that says a statement or bill is attached. Opening a suspect attachment could allow malicious software to download onto your computer or smartphone.
Protect Your IdentityIf you're worried about your personally identifiable information being out there, you can access your free Experian credit report and run a free dark web scan to find out if information like your Social Security number, phone number, or email addresses are on the dark web.
If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft, you might want to file a free initial security alert that remains active on your account for 90 days at the Experian fraud center. (You only need to file it with one credit bureau'--they are legally required to share such alerts with their counterparts, so you don't need to file with all three.) This fraud alert will notify any lenders pulling your credit report to take extra steps to verify your identity'--a measure that can frustrate and dissuade identity thieves.
However, fraud alerts do not completely block access to your credit reports. For the highest level of protection, you might consider freezing your credit reports, a measure that prevents lenders from issuing new credit in your name altogether.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.
Teens Debate Big Issues on Instagram Flop Accounts - The Atlantic
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 12:36
More teenagers are getting their information from so-called flop accounts.
Taylor Lorenz Jul 26, 2018 Instagram / Thanh Do / The AtlanticIt's harder and harder to have an honest debate on the internet. Social-media platforms like Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook Groups are rife with trolls; forums are plagued by archaic layouts and spambots. Teenagers who are looking to talk about big issues face additional frustrations, like the fact that most adults on these platforms don't take them seriously.
Naturally, they've turned to Instagram. Specifically, they've turned to ''flop'' accounts'--pages that are collectively managed by several teens, many of them devoted to discussions of hot-button topics: gun control, abortion, immigration, President Donald Trump, LGBTQ issues, YouTubers, breaking news, viral memes.
But as flop accounts grow by the thousands as teens seek refuge from the wider web, many of the internet's worst dynamics have begun to duplicate themselves on Instagram. Some flop accounts are rife with polarization, drama, and misinformation. All the while, an increasing number of teens are turning to these types of accounts for news, seeing them as more reliable and trustworthy than traditional media.
The accounts post photos, videos, and screenshots of articles, memes, things, and people considered a ''flop,'' or, essentially, a fail. A flop could be a famous YouTuber saying something racist, someone being rude or awful in person, a homophobic comment, or anything that the teen who posted it deems wrong or unacceptable. Some of the teens who run a given account know one another in real life; more likely, they met online.
''Flop accounts bring attention to bad things or bad people that people should be aware of. We also post cringeworthy content for entertainment purposes,'' said Alma, a 13-year-old admin on the flop account @nonstopflops.
According to teens, flop accounts began as a way to make fun of celebrities and popular YouTubers, but sometime over the past year they've morphed into something more substantive: a crucial way to share and discuss opinions online.
''Content [on flop accounts] is centralized around things that we think are factually or morally wrong, and it's how we critique them,'' said Taylor, a 15-year-old in Illinois who is an admin on a flop account. ''Today, for instance, I posted a flop that was this lady making fun of someone for being homeless. That's a horrible thing to do.''
Flop accounts have a few characteristic visual cues. They usually have the word flop in their name and a generic image for their avatar. In Instagram's bio section, account admins all list their first name; their emoji ''signature,'' which they use as shorthand to sign comments and captions; their pronouns; and often their ages; which run from 13 to 18.
Some flop accounts cover specific issues or topics; others are broad. ''Every fandom will have flop accounts,'' said Lea, a 16-year-old in Illinois who runs a flop account about the Nickelodeon series The Loud House (and who, like many of the teens I spoke with, asked to be identified by her first name only, citing privacy concerns). There are flop accounts dedicated to the lip-sync app Musical.ly and to YouTube, as well as to calling out the bad behavior of specific people, like the YouTuber Onision, who frequently bashes other YouTubers, or the rapper 6ix9ine, who has a criminal record of sexual misconduct with a minor. Then there are IRL flops, ''like 'Oh, this thing happened to me and it was really messed up,''' explained Alex, a 13-year-old in Georgia and an admin on @lgbtflops.
But one type of flop has been outpacing the rest in recent months: politically themed flops. More politics flop accounts are cropping up, and broad-based flop accounts have begun featuring politics and social-justice flops, teens say. They also say they're turning to flop accounts for real news and debate about issues that matter to them. ''Everyone started making a lot of accounts on Instagram to vent through about social issues, and the community blew up through that,'' said Danny, a 15-year-old in California.
Luna, a 15-year-old admin on @Flops.R.us, said that she and other teens use flop accounts as a space, away from parents, teachers, or people who don't take them seriously, to discuss issues and formulate ideas. ''Flop accounts are your place where you can get your or other people's opinions out,'' she said.
''Teenagers want an outlet to express their opinions with the same kind of conviction that they generally might not be able to express at home or other parts of their life,'' said Hal, a 17-year-old admin on @toomanyflops_.
''Liberal flop accounts point out problematic behavior or spread liberal opinions,'' said Bea, a 16-year-old in Maryland who founded the account @hackflops. ''Conservative accounts post about feminism and whether the movement is good or bad, whether you can be conservative and LGBT, or Black Lives Matter and whether it's better or worse than All Lives Matter '... I've formed my opinions largely based upon what I see in the flop community.''
Dann, a 17-year-old in New Jersey, said his politics have tilted rightward after spending more time on flop accounts. ''I was very left-leaning when I started this account, very [social-justice warrior],'' he said. '' And over the course of running the account, my opinions have shifted. I was exposing myself to more stuff, then the things I was posting as a flop I kind of ended up agreeing with more and more,'' he said. While he used to post flops calling for gun control, now he believes in the Second Amendment and is ''pro''gun rights.''
Some flop accounts' admins hold wildly disparate beliefs, which can end up causing problems when it comes to retaining followers. ''There's many diverse opinions among the admins ourselves on @toomanyflops_,'' Hal said. ''Some of us are pro-life, some are pro-choice, some are transgender, some are religious, some are atheist ... As account admins, we always try to engage in dialogue and promote discourse.''
But sometimes that doesn't work out. Hal said one flop he posted about a pansexual musician ended up losing the account a couple hundred followers overnight. He worries about flop accounts turning Instagram into more of an echo chamber. ''Everyone wants to see content they agree with,'' he said.
Most teens say they'll at least try to engage with content on flop accounts from both sides, even if just to find more flop ideas for their own accounts. ''We aren't forcing anyone to see our content, but if you want to come and educate yourself, have a good laugh, you can see kids your own age talking about important topics,'' Alma said.
The main thing teens who engage with flop accounts share is a strong distrust of the news media. Teens said they turned to flop accounts specifically because they didn't believe what they read in the news, saw on TV, or even were taught in their U.S.-history class, since, as one teen saw it, their teacher is just one person giving an opinion. Teen flop-account admins and followers said they found information on flop accounts to be far more reliable because it could be crowdsourced and debated.
''You don't want to read things in a newspaper, because that's filtered. That's not interactive,'' Alma said. ''Flop accounts, you can comment, ask questions, and you usually get replies.'' Alma said that a big reason she found news outlets to be so unreliable is that she believes each article is written through the lens of a single reporter's opinion or agenda.
''A lot of news nowadays claims to be facts, but it's based off people's opinions or they purposefully omit information,'' she said.''I wish we could trust articles more, but it's been proven multiple times of people reporting things that aren't true. It's just hard to know who to trust, so you always feel the need to check things yourself. You can't just read an article and take it as fact, because there's always a chance that it isn't.''
''Flop accounts have a lot of people fact-checking each other instead of just depending on one source giving us information,'' Dann said. ''The fact that we're all posting about these things means we all have to do research and it's a lot of people completing these things together, not just one person, which makes us trust it more.''
But even accurate information can be warped to present a biased viewpoint, and some flop admins have accidentally posted misinformation before eventually realizing it and taking it down.
''I don't know how Facebook works because I don't use it, but it's easier to spread misinformation on Instagram because we have the Explore feed,'' said Markus, a 15-year-old in South Carolina who is an admin on the account @nonstopflops. He said that he hasn't come across tons of misinformation himself, but he has seen a lot of what he describes as propaganda.
Flop-account admins said that if it was determined that they had spread fake news or false information, they'd remove it, but they try to do their own research and not rely on the word of a follower. When followers do call foul on a post, admins ask them to provide backup and sourcing before they take their post down.
Several teens said they hope that flop accounts remain a teen thing. The accounts feel like a refuge for some kids whose parents don't align with their politics or beliefs, and they worry that older people joining the community would just get confused or ruin it.
Siva Vaidhyanathan, a media-studies professor at the University of Virginia, said he thinks flop accounts are a good thing. ''You have people engaging directly with claims about the world and arguing about truthfulness and relevance in the comments. It's good that that's happening,'' he said. ''If young people are getting more politically engaged because of it, all the better.''
''One thing when we're talking about teens is that they're still in those formative years, this point in time where they're kind of figuring out what their beliefs are,'' said Jeffrey Lyons, an assistant professor of political science at Boise State University, adding that social media allow teens to be exposed to a broader variety of viewpoints than they'd likely encounter offline.
''You need a core set of beliefs to find who you are,'' Alma said. ''Whose opinions about what is going on now are more important than the people who are growing up now, who are experiencing it now, whose ideas and opinions are molded by what's going on now?''
We want to hear what you think. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.
Taylor Lorenz is a staff writer at
The Atlantic, where she covers technology.
Shut Up Slave!
Serving healthy conversation
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 06:06
In March, we introduced our new approach to improve the health of the public conversation on Twitter. One important issue we've been working to address is what some might refer to as ''trolls.'' Some troll-like behavior is fun, good, and humorous. What we're talking about today are troll-like behaviors that distort and detract from the public conversation on Twitter, particularly in communal areas like conversations and search. Some of these accounts and Tweets violate our policies, and, in those cases, we take action on them. Others don't but are behaving in ways that distort the conversation.
To put this in context, fewer than 1% of accounts make up the majority of accounts reported for abuse, but a lot of what's reported does not violate our rules. While still a small overall number, these accounts have a disproportionately large '' and negative '' impact on people's experience on Twitter. The challenge for us has been: how can we proactively address these disruptive behaviors that do not violate our policies but negatively impact the health of the conversation?
A new approach
Today, we use policies, human review processes, and machine learning to help us determine how Tweets are organized and presented in communal places like conversations and search. Now, we're tackling issues of behaviors that distort and detract from the public conversation in those areas by integrating new behavioral signals into how Tweets are presented. By using new tools to address this conduct from a behavioral perspective, we're able to improve the health of the conversation, and everyone's experience on Twitter, without waiting for people who use Twitter to report potential issues to us.
There are many new signals we're taking in, most of which are not visible externally. Just a few examples include if an account has not confirmed their email address, if the same person signs up for multiple accounts simultaneously, accounts that repeatedly Tweet and mention accounts that don't follow them, or behavior that might indicate a coordinated attack. We're also looking at how accounts are connected to those that violate our rules and how they interact with each other.
These signals will now be considered in how we organize and present content in communal areas like conversation and search. Because this content doesn't violate our policies, it will remain on Twitter, and will be available if you click on ''Show more replies'' or choose to see everything in your search setting. The result is that people contributing to the healthy conversation will be more visible in conversations and search.
In our early testing in markets around the world, we've already seen this new approach have a positive impact, resulting in a 4% drop in abuse reports from search and 8% fewer abuse reports from conversations. That means fewer people are seeing Tweets that disrupt their experience on Twitter.
Our work is far from done. This is only one part of our work to improve the health of the conversation and to make everyone's Twitter experience better. This technology and our team will learn over time and will make mistakes. There will be false positives and things that we miss; our goal is to learn fast and make our processes and tools smarter. We'll continue to be open and honest about the mistakes we make and the progress we are making. We're encouraged by the results we've seen so far, but also recognize that this is just one step on a much longer journey to improve the overall health of our service and your experience on it.
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Setting the record straight on shadow banning
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 06:05
People are asking us if we shadow ban. We do not. But let's start with, ''what is shadow banning?''
The best definition we found is this: deliberately making someone's content undiscoverable to everyone except the person who posted it, unbeknownst to the original poster.
We do not shadow ban. You are always able to see the tweets from accounts you follow (although you may have to do more work to find them, like go directly to their profile). And we certainly don't shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.
We do rank tweets and search results. We do this because Twitter is most useful when it's immediately relevant. These ranking models take many signals into consideration to best organize tweets for timely relevance. We must also address bad-faith actors who intend to manipulate or detract from healthy conversation.
As a specific example, if a search result has 30,000 tweets, here's what we take into consideration when ranking:
Tweets from people you're interested in should be ranked highly Tweets that are popular are likely to be interesting and should be higher ranked Tweets from bad-faith actors who intend to manipulate or divide the conversation should be ranked lower This last bullet is the basis of our work around serving healthy public conversation. Here are some of the signals we use to determine bad-faith actors:
Specific account properties that indicate authenticity (e.g. whether you have a confirmed email address, how recently your account was created, whether you uploaded a profile image, etc) What actions you take on Twitter (e.g. who you follow, who you retweet, etc) How other accounts interact with you (e.g. who mutes you, who follows you, who retweets you, who blocks you, etc) We know this approach is working because we see fewer abuse reports and spam reports.
What Happened This Week
Yesterday, we identified an issue where some accounts weren't auto-suggested in search even when people were searching for their specific name. To be clear, this only impacted our search auto-suggestions. The accounts, their tweets and surrounding conversation about those accounts were showing up in search results. As of yesterday afternoon, this issue was resolved.
There were a number of follow up questions relating to our thread yesterday that we wanted to address:
''How many people were impacted by the search auto-suggest issue?'' Hundreds of thousands of accounts were impacted by this issue. This impact was not limited to a certain political affiliation or geography. And, to be clear, these accounts were only impacted within search auto-suggestions-- they still appeared in search results. This issue has now been resolved. ''It looks like this only affected Republican politicians. Were Democratic politicians also impacted?'' Yes, some Democratic politicians were not properly showing up within search auto-suggestions as result of this issue. As mentioned above, the issue was broad-ranging and not limited to political accounts or specific geographies. And most accounts affected had nothing to do with politics at all. ''OK, so there was a search auto-suggest issue. But what caused these Republican representatives to be impacted?'' For the most part, we believe the issue had more to do with how other people were interacting with these representatives' accounts than the accounts themselves (see bullet #3 above). There are communities that try to boost each other's presence on the platform through coordinated engagement. We believe these types of actors engaged with the representatives' accounts-- the impact of this coordinated behavior, in combination with our implementation of search auto-suggestions, caused the representatives' accounts to not show up in auto-suggestions. In addition to fixing search yesterday, we're continuing to improve our system so it can better detect these situations and correct for them. We're focused on making these systems better and smarter over time and sharing our work and progress with all of you. We think it's critical to promoting healthy public conversation on Twitter and earning trust.
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TSA is tracking regular travelers like terrorists in secret surveillance program - The Boston Globe
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 05:50
Did you scan the boarding area from afar?
Have a cold, penetrating stare?
Sleep on the plane? Use the bathroom? Talk to others?
This is just some of the information that federal air marshals collect on thousands of regular US citizens under a secret, domestic surveillance program. Welcome to the Quiet Skies By Jana Winter
July 28, 2018
Federal air marshals have begun following ordinary US citizens not suspected of a crime or on any terrorist watch list and collecting extensive information about their movements and behavior under a new domestic surveillance program that is drawing criticism from within the agency.
The previously undisclosed program, called ''Quiet Skies,'' specifically targets travelers who ''are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base,'' according to a Transportation Security Administration bulletin in March.
The internal bulletin describes the program's goal as thwarting threats to commercial aircraft ''posed by unknown or partially known terrorists,'' and gives the agency broad discretion over which air travelers to focus on and how closely they are tracked.
Brynn Anderson/Associated Press
But some air marshals, in interviews and internal communications shared with the Globe, say the program has them tasked with shadowing travelers who appear to pose no real threat '-- a businesswoman who happened to have traveled through a Mideast hot spot, in one case; a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, in another; a fellow federal law enforcement officer, in a third.
It is a time-consuming and costly assignment, they say, which saps their ability to do more vital law enforcement work.
TSA officials, in a written statement to the Globe, broadly defended the agency's efforts to deter potential acts of terror. But the agency declined to discuss whether Quiet Skies has intercepted any threats, or even to confirm that the program exists.
Release of such information ''would make passengers less safe,'' spokesman James Gregory said in the statement.
Read the checklistAlready under Quiet Skies, thousands of unsuspecting Americans have been subjected to targeted airport and inflight surveillance, carried out by small teams of armed, undercover air marshals, government documents show. The teams document whether passengers fidget, use a computer, have a ''jump'' in their Adam's apple or a ''cold penetrating stare,'' among other behaviors, according to the records.
Air marshals note these observations '-- minute-by-minute '-- in two separate reports and send this information back to the TSA.
All US citizens who enter the country are automatically screened for inclusion in Quiet Skies '-- their travel patterns and affiliations are checked and their names run against a terrorist watch list and other databases, according to agency documents.
Explore the behavior checklist 1. Subject was abnormally aware of surroundings (If observed, check any that apply below) | Y N Unknown
Reversing or changing directions and/or stopping while in transit through the airport Attempting to change appearance by changing clothes, shaving etc. while in the airport or on the plane Using the reflection in storefront windows to identify surveillance Observing the boarding gate area from afar Boarded last Observing other people who appear to be observing FAM team and/or subject 2. Subject exhibited Behavioral Indicators (If observed, check any that apply below) | Y N Unknown
Excessive fidgeting Excessive perspiration Facial flushing Rapid eye blinking ''Adam's apple jump'' Rubbing/wringing of hands Strong body odor Sweaty palms Trembling Cold penetrating stare Exaggerated emotions Gripping/''White knuckling'' bags Wide open, staring eyes Face touching Other 3. Subject's appearance was different from information provided (If yes, check any that apply below) | Y N Unknown
Lost weight Gained weight Balding Graying Hair length/style change Goatee Visible Tattoos (Describe) Visible Piercings (Describe) Beard Mustache Apparent Altered Experience (Explain) Clean shaven Other 4. Subject slept during the flight (If observed, check any that apply below) | Y N Unknown
Subject slept during most of the flight Subject slept briefly 5. General Observations (Provide detailed descriptions of any electronic devices in subject's possession in AAR) | Y N Unknown
Checked baggage? In possession of cell/smartphone? In possession of multiple phones? Used phone to talk? Used phone to text? In possession of computer? Seated in first/business class? Used lavatory? In possession of any unusual items? Traveled with others? Met with others in the airport? Engaged in conversation with others? Subject initiated conversation with FAM? Carryon baggage? Other notable activity? Subject engaged in ''more than casual contact'' with airport or airline employee? 6. For Domestic Arrivals Only (If possible, provide identifiers (license plate, vehicle description) of pick up vehicle in AAR) | Y N Unknown
Picked up at curbside shuttle, taxi, bus or public transit? Picked up at curbside by private vehicle? Obtained rental car for transportation The program relies on 15 rules to screen passengers, according to a May agency bulletin, and the criteria appear broad: ''rules may target'' people whose travel patterns or behaviors match those of known or suspected terrorists, or people ''possibly affiliated'' with someone on a watch list.
The full list of criteria for Quiet Skies screening was unavailable to the Globe, and is a mystery even to the air marshals who field the surveillance requests the program generates. TSA declined to comment.
When someone on the Quiet Skies list is selected for surveillance, a team of air marshals is placed on the person's next flight. The team receives a file containing a photo and basic information '-- such as date and place of birth '-- about the target, according to agency documents.
The teams track citizens on domestic flights, to or from dozens of cities big and small '-- such as Boston and Harrisburg, Pa., Washington, D.C., and Myrtle Beach, S.C. '-- taking notes on whether travelers use a phone, go to the bathroom, chat with others, or change clothes, according to documents and people within the department.
Air marshals are following citizens to or from cities big and small, including these airports
New York
San Francisco
Washington, D.C.
Las Vegas
Myrtle Beach
Los Angeles
San Francisco
Washington, D.C.
Las Vegas
Myrtle Beach
Los Angeles
New York
San Francisco
Washington, D.C.
Las Vegas
Myrtle Beach
Los Angeles
San Francisco
Las Vegas
San Francisco
Las Vegas
Quiet Skies represents a major departure for TSA. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the agency has traditionally placed armed air marshals on routes it considered potentially higher risk, or on flights with a passenger on a terrorist watch list. Deploying air marshals to gather intelligence on civilians not on a terrorist watch list is a new assignment, one that some air marshals say goes beyond the mandate of the US Federal Air Marshal Service. Some also worry that such domestic surveillance might be illegal. Between 2,000 and 3,000 men and women, so-called flying FAMs, work the skies.
Since this initiative launched in March, dozens of air marshals have raised concerns about the Quiet Skies program with senior officials and colleagues, sought legal counsel, and expressed misgivings about the surveillance program, according to interviews and documents reviewed by the Globe.
Send The Boston Globe a confidential news tip
Send a tip''What we are doing [in Quiet Skies] is troubling and raising some serious questions as to the validity and legality of what we are doing and how we are doing it,'' one air marshal wrote in a text message to colleagues.
The TSA, while declining to discuss details of the Quiet Skies program, did address generally how the agency pursues its work.
''FAMs [federal air marshals] may deploy on flights in furtherance of the TSA mission to ensure the safety and security of passengers, crewmembers, and aircraft throughout the aviation sector,'' spokesman James Gregory said in an e-mailed statement. ''As its assessment capabilities continue to enhance, FAMS leverages multiple internal and external intelligence sources in its deployment strategy.''
Scott LaPierre/Globe Staff
Agency documents show there are about 40 to 50 Quiet Skies passengers on domestic flights each day. On average, air marshals follow and surveil about 35 of them.
In late May, an air marshal complained to colleagues about having just surveilled a working Southwest Airlines flight attendant as part of a Quiet Skies mission. ''Cannot make this up,'' the air marshal wrote in a message.
One colleague replied: ''jeez we need to have an easy way to document this nonsense. Congress needs to know that it's gone from bad to worse.''
Experts on civil liberties called the Quiet Skies program worrisome and potentially illegal.
''These revelations raise profound concerns about whether TSA is conducting pervasive surveillance of travelers without any suspicion of actual wrongdoing,'' said Hugh Handeyside, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project.
''If TSA is using proxies for race or religion to single out travelers for surveillance, that could violate the travelers' constitutional rights. These concerns are all the more acute because of TSA's track record of using unreliable and unscientific techniques to screen and monitor travelers who have done nothing wrong.''
George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said Quiet Skies touches on several sensitive legal issues and appears to fall into a gray area of privacy law.
If this was about foreign citizens, the government would have considerable power. But if it's US citizens '-- US citizens don't lose their rights simply because they are in an airplane at 30,000 feet.
'-- Jonathan Turley, George Washington University law professor
''If this was about foreign citizens, the government would have considerable power. But if it's US citizens '-- US citizens don't lose their rights simply because they are in an airplane at 30,000 feet,'' Turley said. ''There may be indeed constitutional issues here depending on how restrictive or intrusive these measures are.''
Turley, who has testified before Congress on privacy protection, said the issue could trigger a ''transformative legal fight.''
Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor chosen by President Obama in 2013 to help review foreign intelligence surveillance programs, said the program could pass legal muster if the selection criteria are sufficiently broad. But if the program targets by nationality or race, it could violate equal protection rights, Stone said.
Asked about the legal basis for the Quiet Skies program, Gregory, the agency's spokesman, said TSA ''maintains a robust engagement with congressional committees to ensure maximum support and awareness'' of its effort to keep the aviation sector safe. He declined to comment further.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Beyond the legalities, some air marshals believe Quiet Skies is not a sound use of limited agency resources.
Several air marshals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly, told the Globe the program wastes taxpayer dollars and makes the country less safe because attention and resources are diverted away from legitimate, potential threats. The US Federal Air Marshal Service, which is part of TSA and falls under the Department of Homeland Security, has a mandate to protect airline passengers and crew against the risk of criminal and terrorist violence.
John Casaretti, president of the Air Marshal Association, said in a statement: ''The Air Marshal Association believes that missions based on recognized intelligence, or in support of ongoing federal investigations, is the proper criteria for flight scheduling. Currently the Quiet Skies program does not meet the criteria we find acceptable.
''The American public would be better served if these [air marshals] were instead assigned to airport screening and check in areas so that active shooter events can be swiftly ended, and violations of federal crimes can be properly and consistently addressed.''
These revelations raise profound concerns about whether TSA is conducting pervasive surveillance of travelers without any suspicion of actual wrongdoing.
'-- Hugh Handeyside, American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project
TSA has come under increased scrutiny from Congress since a 2017 Government Accountability Office report raised questions about its management of the Federal Air Marshal Service. Requested by Congress, the report noted that the agency, which spent $800 million in 2015, has ''no information'' on its effectiveness in deterring attacks.
Late last year, Representative Jody Hice, a Georgia Republican, introduced a bill that would require the Federal Air Marshal Service to better incorporate risk assessment in its deployment strategy, provide detailed metrics on flight assignments, and report data back to Congress.
Without this information, Congress, TSA, and the Department of Homeland Security ''are not able to effectively conduct oversight'' of the air marshals, Hice wrote in a letter to colleagues.
''With threats coming at us left and right, our focus should be on implementing effective, evidence-based means of deterring, detecting, and disrupting plots hatched by our enemies.''
Hice's bill, the ''Strengthening Aviation Security Act of 2017,'' passed the House and is awaiting consideration by the full Senate.
Read the bulletinThe Globe, in its review of Quiet Skies, examined numerous TSA internal bulletins, directives, and internal communications, and interviewed more than a dozen people with direct knowledge of the program.
The purpose of Quiet Skies is to decrease threats by ''unknown or partially known terrorists; and to identify and provide enhanced screening to higher risk travelers before they board aircraft based on analysis of terrorist travel trends, tradecraft and associations,'' according to a TSA internal bulletin.
The criteria for surveillance appear fluid. Internal agency e-mails show some confusion about the program's parameters and implementation.
A bulletin in May notes that travelers entering the United States may be added to the Quiet Skies watch list if their ''international travel patters [sic] or behaviors match the travel routing and tradecraft of known or suspected terrorists'' or ''are possibly affiliated with Watch Listed suspects.''
Travelers remain on the Quiet Skies watch list ''for up to 90 days or three encounters, whichever comes first, after entering the United States,'' agency documents show.
Travelers are not notified when they are placed on the watch list or have their activity and behavior monitored.
Quiet Skies surveillance is an expansion of a long-running practice in which federal air marshals are assigned to surveil the subject of an open FBI terrorism investigation.
In such assignments, air marshal reports are relayed back to the FBI or another outside law enforcement agency. In Quiet Skies, these same reports are completed in the same manner but stay within TSA, agency documents show, and details are shared with outside agencies only if air marshals observe ''significant derogatory information.''
Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
According to a TSA bulletin, the program may target people who have spent a certain amount of time in one or more specific countries or whose reservation information includes e-mail addresses or phone numbers associated to suspects on a terrorism watch list.
The bulletin does not list the specific countries, but air marshals have been advised in several instances to follow passengers because of past travel to Turkey, according to people with direct knowledge of the program.
One air marshal described an assignment to conduct a Quiet Skies mission on a young executive from a major company.
''Her crime apparently was she flew to Turkey in the past,'' the air marshal said, noting that many international companies have executives travel through Turkey.
''According to the government's own [Department of Justice] standards there is no cause to be conducting these secret missions.''
Jana Winter can be reached at jana.winter@globe.com and on Twitter @JanaWinter. This investigation was made possible through the Spotlight Investigative Journalism Fellowship, a social impact initiative of Participant Media. For more, go to www.spotlightfellowship.com.
Join the discussionDesign and development: Saurabh Datar and Irfan Uraizee
Audience engagement: Heather Ciras
Photo editor: Leanne Burden Seidel
Video production and editing: Scott LaPierre and Anush Elbakyan
Listening Instruments
Hearing Aid Automation and User Interaction: Have the Best of Both with Widex Evoke Sara Barnes Hearing Aids - Adults 23191
Sat, 28 Jul 2018 15:43
Learning ObjectivesAfter this course, participants will be able to:
Describe changes to the Widex fitting rationale.List the 2 new sound classes available in Widex EVOKE.Explain the benefits of user-focused Machine Learning in hearing aids.Introduction and OverviewWith Widex EVOKE we are able to offer solutions for clinicians and patients that have never been seen before in the hearing aid market. Today, we discuss how this product is intelligent through improved automation and machine learning. We will also take a look at the EVOKE style, and discuss the different app options. Widex developed this product using a thoughtful process, keeping in mind how people live day-to-day. With hearing aids, we inherently make assumptions about what patients want to hear. We assume they want to hear speech in the environment. As an industry, hearing aid manufacturers are quick at making these assumptions, and as a result, hearing aids have historically become more automatic. However, we cannot always understand the intention of what people want to hear in a specific environment.
With this new product, we wanted to take into account what hearing is like in real life. Imagine, for a moment, that you are on a beach in Hawaii. You can feel the sand in your toes, the sun on your skin and the gentle breeze off the ocean. You can hear the ocean waves, the ice clinking in your cold beverage. and the ukulele player. In that environment, what do you want to hear? For me, I love the ocean waves. My intention in that environment would be that I can hear the waves. Some of you might be musicians and may prefer to hear the ukulele player. Others might rather hear the conversation going on around them. Each of our intentions could be different in that environment. Widex wanted to take all of that into account when building our new hearing aid, Widex EVOKE.
Widex EVOKE: Intelligent Today, Smarter TomorrowThe tagline for Widex EVOKE is "Intelligent Today, Smarter Tomorrow." We are going to break that down and talk about the components in this hearing aid that make it smart, automatic and functioning for your patients today. This hearing aid has the ability to evolve as your patient wears it. That's going to provide unlimited possibilities for the future.
Today, we will discuss the following upgrades and new features:
The new chipset Four new sound profilesTwo enhanced sound classesThree new specialized programsReal-time machine learning (the industry's first)EVOKE Dual Core Chipset
What makes a good chip? It has to be powerful and able to process quickly, in order to give your patients a more accurate analysis and reaction to the real-life environment. Unfortunately, the tradeoff of having a more powerful chip is that the battery drain tends to be higher.
Widex is excited to announce our dual-core chipset. Widex has always had the bottom chip, known as the closed accelerated core. That's a closed chip. In other words, it is dipped in silicone, in order to lower the drain on the battery. However, if a chip is closed, it makes it harder to evolve the chip. That's why we have now added the top chip: the open flexible core. That chip means that we can make changes to the chip throughout the life of the hearing aid. Because we are using two chipsets which interact together, we can provide 30% more processing power, which translates to a more accurate analysis and reaction to real-life environment.
Distributed computing . Our smartphones have a large amount of processing power. A hearing aid can not have that much processing power because we don't have the space for it. The open and closed chipset has allowed us to harness the computing power in the phone, and use that to implement decision-making processes in the hearing aid. Additionally, we can take that information and upload it to the Widex cloud. When patients make changes in the app, those changes can be uploaded to our cloud and we can keep track of them. If we see a trend, we can push a firmware update back to the hearing aid through the phone. We are able to use that computing power in the phone to communicate with the cloud and talk to the flexible core. This gives us not only more processing power, but also more information than has ever been available.
Smarter AutomationThe primary goal of the hearing aid is to deliver automation and the most accurate sound setting decisions possible. With the new chipset, Widex is able to make the hearing aids more automatic, allowing us to:
Update our variable speed compressor (VSC) in each sound class Double the fluid sound analyzer training Offer 20% more sound classes Which is better: slow-acting compression or fast-acting compression? The fact is, they are both beneficial. In general, Widex has been focused on slow-acting compression, which is better for preserving temporal and spectral cues, resulting in a more natural sound. On the other hand, fast-acting compression is able to pick up the nuances of sound in dynamic environments. Widex has been able to use both types of compression before, but now, we've attached them to our fluid sound controller, allowing us to use both types of compression strategies simultaneously. We are able to use what's going on in the environment to not switch just back and forth between slow and fast, but to use both forms of compression at the same time. Currently, Widex is the only manufacturer that has been able to achieve this, because of the updates to our chipset.
In order to measure if this strategy offered significant improvement for speech intelligibility, we conducted a study to test people's signal-to-noise ratio level (SRT). We wanted to find out how noisy it has to be for a patient to score 85% on an SRT test (Figure 1). We found that with slow-acting compression, patients needed to have a high signal-to-noise ratio. Fast was a little bit better, but with our variable speed compression using both strategies at the same time, the patients were able to have better word recognition in noisier environments. Patients are able to hear better in noise because of our variable speed compression.
Figure 1. Speech intelligibility in noise.
In the past, we used to follow the guideline that if a patient scored lower on a cognitive test, we should lean toward using slow-acting compression. With this product, that notion is obsolete. You no longer need to balance between fast acting or slow acting. This product is going to be a good fit for all patients, regardless of their cognition, because they're going to be able to hear in dynamic environments and the hearing aid will preserve those temporal cues. You and your patients get the benefit of both slow and fast-acting in one product. It doesn't have to be part of your selection process.
Fluid Sound Technology: Sound ClassesIn our product, we have a universal program which is able to detect the environment. We call those environments sound classes. We are able to accurately identify what environment your patient is in. Then behind the scenes, we are able to make automatic adjustments to those sound classes through the features, through the gain. In our previous high-end product (in the 440), we had nine sound classes. In our new product, we are adding three more sound classes.
In our previous product, we had one music sound class, so your patient would be able to detect music. We had two quiet sound classes: one with and without speech. We had a transport sound class (i.e., it could detect if your patient was in a car) and we also had an urban sound class, with and without speech. I compare the urban sound class to situations such as the grocery store, an office environment, or walking down the street. Lastly, we had a party sound class, with and without speech. Party is more of a restaurant environment. Those all worked well, but because of our new processing power, we wanted to add more.
Social sound class . With EVOKE, we've added the social sound class, which is a bridge between party and quiet. Previously, if your patient was sitting around the dinner table, the hearing aid would detect party because there are several people talking. However, in a dinner party environment, you're going to have a good signal-to-noise ratio, because there's not a lot going on around you besides the talking. The social sound class reduces some of the distant sounds (e.g., someone clamoring in the kitchen, the refrigerator running, etc.). It's going to push those unwanted sounds away and it's going to pull in more of the dinner party guests' voices. A lot of people spend their time in smaller social gatherings, for example, at the dinner table or playing card games. In these types of environments, this social sound class will give those patients good and accurate sound quality.
Music sound classes . Previously, we had one music sound class. With EVOKE, we have introduced two new music sound classes to accommodate different styles of music: classical and contemporary. In general, with contemporary (i.e., rock) music, there is not a huge contrast between soft sounds and loud sounds. With classical music, there are a lot of low soft sounds, then a lot of louder sounds. Also, the frequency bandwidth is usually a little bit wider with classical music. Now, we are able to distinguish between the qualities of contemporary and classical.
Figure 2 provides an overview of our entire Sound Class system, so you can see the sound classes available at each level of technology. If you had previously fit patients with the Unique or the Beyond, you can see we've added more sound classes in our lower level technology. In the 440, we've added the classical music versus contemporary and the social. In the 330, we've added transport and urban classes. We've even added transport into the 220-level product.
Figure 2. Sound classes.
What you should expect to see is superior automation for dynamic lives. As your patients go about their days, the hearing aids are going to adjust automatically for them. Remember: For each of those sound classes in the software, as the fitter, you are empowered to help your patient in each of those environments. If your patients have complaints in specific environments, you're able to make adjustments to those.
The Power of Machine LearningNext, we are going define and discuss machine learning. First, I'm going to do a brief review of some of the terminology related to machine hearing, and then we'll get into how it applies to hearing aids.
Automation. In general, automation is a system trained to complete a task. It's not evolving; it's fixed. As an example, think about a manufacturing plant, such as the factory in Denmark where they make wax traps for a lot of hearing aid manufacturers, including Widex. In the factory, there's one machine dedicated to punching out the wax traps. That's an example of an automated machine.Artificial intelligence. AI is the theory and development of computer systems to be able to perform cognitive tasks that usually require human intelligence. If you think about an automatic car, that automatic car has been trained to make decisions. Artificial intelligence has the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being programmed to do so.Machine learning. Machine learning is a sub-category of artificial intelligence. You probably have been exposed to machine learning in your everyday life and you didn't even know it. I'm a big fan of Netflix and I love to watch 30-minute sitcoms at the end of the day. Sometimes, I'll complete an entire television series, and when it is over, I wish I had another TV show to watch. Netflix is magically there to suggest recommendations for you. They use that machine learning process to help select recommendations for you based on what you've already watched.Widex is taking the power of machine learning and applying it to hearing aids. This is the industry's first real-time machine learning. As I stated earlier, it is cloud-based network learning. Coming up, we are going to talk more about how this machine learning applies to hearing aids.
Sometimes, people hear the term "machine learning" and become worried about whether they will be replaced by a machine. As hearing healthcare professionals, our world is evolving. One of our Widex trainers, James Martin, has been quoted as saying, "Hearing care professionals will not be replaced by technology, but those who do not use and understand technology will be outperformed by those who do." We have to make sure that we are using technology to benefit our patients. I want you to think about that as we go through the next section.
SoundSense LearnSoundSense Learn is our feature that uses the real-time machine learning. How does listening intention generally work with your patients? Let's look at a typical scenario. One of your patients is out in an environment. They get frustrated, they feel like they can not hear well. They might make an adjustment to their volume control, but maybe they don't. Hopefully, your good patients will say, "I wasn't hearing well. I'd love to go back to my provider and tell them what's going on and make changes." Then, they come in and they describe their environment to you. You take what they say, interpret it into programming speak and make the adjustment. Then, perhaps they go back out again, and hopefully, the adjustment you've made has helped. There is a lot of interpretation going on in that interaction.
This is the way SoundSense Learn works. Your patient is in an environment. They're able to make changes in their app to their hearing aid via SoundSense Learn. Those hearing aid settings are changed in real-time, and your patient is able to immediately tell if it works or not. How many times have you been in a situation where your patients say, "I made a few changes to my hearing aids, but I'm not sure if it made a difference or not"? With SoundSense Learn, we are trying to make sure to guide your user to perfect sound.
In the app, your patient will have two setting samples to listen to: A and B (Figure 3). The differences between A and B are the differences in that equalizer in the app. The hearing aid will start at two different setting points. It will start with an A setting and a B setting. Your patient will listen to A and then to B, and determine which one they like best. In the app, they'll move the slider over to indicate whether they like it moderately better, a lot better, or a little bit better. As they do that, then they'll hit "Next", and listen to another A and B sample. They'll go through a few A and B samples until they indicate, "Yes, this is my intention in this environment, my needs are being met right now." If they want, they can save that program as a favorite. Once they open and close their battery doors or change it to another program, those settings will be erased. Whatever changes they're making in this part of the app in the SoundSense Learn, they're not being saved or overriding your hearing aids; it's just allowing your patients to be happier in the moment.
Figure 3. How Sound Sense Learn works.
What part of this uses machine learning? Just how sophisticated is this? Modern hearing aids have a multitude of parameters that all contribute to the end user experience. A common approach for comparing settings and collecting end-user input is by using some form of paired comparisons (A/B testing). However, the number of comparisons needed to optimize hearing aid parameters rapidly increases as we introduce more parameters (Figure 4). The number of paired comparisons needed to sample this space fully is over two million. Clearly, relying on a traditional approach for ending up with an ideal HA setting for a given user's auditory intention will take too long. Because we can use the distributed computing power in the phone to access machine learning, the user will get personalization within moments. Your patients are going to be able to go through two million different settings within seconds to achieve their optimal situation.
Figure 4. Paired comparisons needed to optimize hearing aid parameters.
To review the SoundSense Learn process:
Patient has difficulty hearing.Patient uses the real-time machine learning AB comparison for instant benefit.Patient changes are uploaded into the Widex Cloud.Patient receives long-term learning benefits through firmware updates. Patient gets instant gratification to hear in-the-moment and long-term learning benefits These are real-life environments that your patients are in. If your patient came in and said, "I'm having a hard time hearing at the swimming pool", that would be a challenging adjustment to make in the office, especially, when you're not in that environment with them.
We conducted some internal research to determine the proof of benefit for patients using Sound Sense Learning (Figure 5). We surveyed patients and asked them to rate their perceived improvement in comfort and quality in three conditions: using SoundSense Learn, using the Universal setting with the Classifier disabled, and the Universal setting with the Classifier ON.
Figure 5. Subjective improvement in both comfort and quality.
The results indicated that patients reported better sound quality and higher comfort levels with SoundSense Learn. In their real-life environments, when patients were able to make adjustments based on what they wanted to hear, their perceived improvement skyrocketed. SoundSense Learn, the industry's first real-time machine learning and cloud-based network learning, provides significant benefit to your patients.
SoundSense AdaptAnother feature that's part of our machine learning umbrella is SoundSense Adapt. This technology isn't new to the industry, but Widex's SoundSense Adapt is the industry's best. It's a gradual learning over time with our preference control, referred to as volume control by most manufacturers. Widex calls it preference control, because we don't simply make everything louder or softer. Widex makes things either more audible or more comfortable. We do that by changing the features and changing the gain based on the environment. With Widex, there is more going on behind the scenes.
Patients can access preference control through their app, through the buttons on their hearing aids, or through their accessories. Anytime there is a button with a plus or a minus, that's going to be a preference control change. If your patient maintains the change that they made for at least 30 seconds, gradually over time the hearing aid is going to change. We cap it at a maximum of 50% of a change from the original settings (about two or three click maximum). I used this with previous products when I was in the clinic, and I found that patients were turning it way down or way up, and the automatic learning was following their lead too much or making too many changes to their settings. Widex has implemented the cap, so that over time as the hearing aids learns, the gradual changes in the hearing aids will make a big difference for the patient.
Another aspect that makes SoundSense Adapt different and more useful is that it is sound class specific. The change is only logged when a patient presses a button in a specific environment. If your patient turns it up two clicks when they wake up in the morning and they're in a quiet environment, the hearing aid is only going to learn the change in the quiet environment. Like I said, the change is learned in the environment where they make it. That way over time, the hearing aid isn't going to be making changes to transport or social -- it's only making changes in the environment where the patient makes the change. If you don't like the changes that were made, you can clear out the options, or even decide to turn it off if you choose. Try it with a few of your patients. I think what you can expect to see is reduction in fine tuning when your patients come back. Because it is such a conservative and specific system, you're going to be seeing those benefits of fewer follow-ups, fewer patient visits.
EVOKE Fitting EnhancementsToday, I'm going to give you a brief overview of the fitting enhancements that we've made, mostly involving the software. As before, you're going to follow the same fitting flow. We expect to do the gain optimization or feedback test, the sensogram (if you choose to), and then you'll have the fine-tuning changes with the sound classes, the SoundSense Adapt, and then some new programs. Obviously, you'll want to end with some counseling and guidance.
Experienced User vs. Inexperienced UserOne of the enhancements we've made to the fitting flow is that now we have four sound rationales or profiles. Previously, Widex has had an open fit rationale and a vented rationale (what we used to call Flex Fit). Those two rationales have been updated, based on some studies that we conducted. we are also introducing a new user versus experienced user rationale. Now you have four options:
New user open fitNew user vented fitExperienced open fitExperienced vented fit The open and vented fit will be automatically selected for you when you go into the software and you choose either an open tip or a vented tip.The reason that we are introducing the option to select user experience level is because you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Have you ever turned on the hearing aids and your patient made that scrunched up, wincing face? We don't want your patients to have that experience. Once you connect the hearing aids, and you choose the receivers and the tips, now you will be able to select the experience level of the client. An experienced client would be one who has had at least one year of active hearing aid use. If they do not have that level of use, they would be considered inexperienced. For example, if a patient has had a hearing aid for seven years, but they've only worn it for seven hours, that would be considered an inexperienced user. The experienced rationale is about 2 dB louder than the inexperienced level. we are not talking about a huge difference, but the 2 dB can mean the difference between a wincing grimace and a smiling face when you turn on the hearing aids.
Faster Gain Optimization TestWhen fitting hearing aids, one of the most frustrating things you can say to a patient is, "we are going to run this calibration test, and while it is running, we can not talk." Then, as soon as you hit "Start", the patient says, "I hear it". We've made the gain optimization test shorter. In comparison, with Dream, it lasted about 22 seconds. With Unique and Beyond, it was about 25 seconds. With EVOKE, we've shortened the test to under 15 seconds. That's less time for your patients to talk or move or jolt in the middle, making the test more accurate. In addition, the dual-core system now allows us to save part of the feedback test, so when you change tips, we can run the test in under 10 seconds (usually in six or seven seconds). This is going to improve patient comfort, as well as save time and decrease frustration.
New Programs: Comfort, Impact and SocialWe've also added three new manual programs for you to individualize the fit further. These are not part of the automatic universal system; these are additional programs that you could add for your patients to access manually. These new options allow you to customize the fit more, based on patient need.
Comfort . By popular demand, we have brought back the Comfort program. Imagine you've been hanging out with your family for three days, and you don't want to talk or listen to anyone anymore. This is the time for the Comfort program. This is when you're not trying to hear speech. For those patients that go into environments where they don't want to listen to people and they just want to be as comfortable as possible, this is going to provide them with 12 to 18 dB of noise reduction.
Impact . We've also introduced the Impact program. We were trying to design a program to give you the best access to speech in challenging situations. It has aggressive noise reduction, fast compression, and a sharper overall sound quality. The appeal of the Impact program depends on the user's personal preference toward sharp sounds. Some customers have a very visceral reaction to this program. Patients either love this program or they don't, because it has a sharp quality. I would use this program if you have a patient who doesn't seem very satisfied, and you consider switching them to a different manufacturer. The Impact program has a different sound quality that's going to make the hearing aid sound a lot sharper. For some patients, that's going to make a big difference and allow you as the provider to stay within the Widex family, but still give them different options. Additionally, sometimes people like this program for when they're in noisy environments. It could be an optional manual program for them too. One of the sales reps that works for Widex has attention deficit disorder. He likes the Impact program, because it provides that sharper quality, making it easier for him to pay attention. I thought that was an interesting observation. When you order your first set of EVOKEs, I recommend that you listen to this program. Once you hear it, you will be able to gain an understanding of the sharper sound quality.
Social . Also, we talked about the Social sound class, but we've also added the Social program. The Social program is optimized for small group situations with multiple speakers with a focus on speech. This is a manual program that your patients could access. Why would you want to add a manual program if the hearing aid is so automatic? If you want to override what the hearing aid is doing automatically, that's when you would want to add this new Social program. If you want your patient access to that small group sound in an environment where the hearing aid wouldn't automatically detect that (because maybe they're in a noisy restaurant or they're in a quiet place), this allows you to manually override what the hearing aid would automatically do.
Widex Signature FeaturesWith all of that said, Widex is keeping and improving upon the signature features that we've always had in our products (Figure 6). This includes features such as our True Input technology with our A-to-D converter, as well as Speech Enhancer (our noise reduction strategy that's been proven to be effective in noise), SmartWind Manager, and our tinnitus treatment programs. All of these great features are still being maintained in our hearing aids.
Figure 6. Widex signature features.
EVOKE Styles and Technology LevelsWidex EVOKE is a full product launch. Figure 7 shows the full array of styles and technology levels that will be available.
Figure 7. EVOKE styles, technology levels and availability dates.
RIC OptionsWe have three 312 RIC options in this product. We have the Fusion 2 style (with the 2.4). If you have ordered Beyond Fusion 2s, those look similar on the outside (with that racing stripe), and have the push button with the W. It has the 2.4 or made for iPhone features. The Fusion 2 model is also compatible with the Z Power. If you're taking this course before June 2018, you would have to order a retro kit and the Fusion 2 and put it together in your office. After June 2018, you can order an EVOKE Fusion 2Z (a 312 RIC with 2.4 and Z Power), and we will put them together for you. Lastly, we do have our EVOKE Fusion style. That's the style that's going to look similar to the Fusion that was in the Unique or the Dream. Essentially, that means we have two 312 RIC styles. One has made for iPhone or 2.4 and one does not. You would order an EVOKE Fusion if you want to order a CROS, as the EVOKE Fusion is CROS compatible. Lastly, the 110 style only comes in the EVOKE Fusion. EVOKE Fusion for CROS and for 110; EVOKE Fusion 2 would be for everyone else. Coming in June 2018, we are also going to have our EVOKE Passion available (size 10 RIC). I'll talk more about this later, but it is a very small RIC, which gives it that cosmetic appeal.
BTE OptionsWe also have three BTEs. The Fashion is the tall skinny one, the Fashion Mini is the shorter one, both of which are 312s. The Fashion Power is a power size 13 BTE. This size 13 battery will last two to three weeks. If you have a patient that needs a power hearing aid, or even just needs a BTE, I would recommend this Fashion Power because of the battery life in it.
CustomThe customs will be available in July. We have the flip top style (also unfortunately known as "the toilet seat style"). Then we have the swing out style battery doors. Remember, those are the ones where you can order a push button or volume control if you need it. Then we also have a size 10 CIC and then the size 10 CIC micro. With the micro, you give up inner ear features and CROS compatibility.
Just to clarify, any of the hearing aids from the EVOKE Fusion to the EVOKE CIC are compatible with the CROS. The CROS transmitter is available in the Fusion style and the Fashion style. The transmitter has to be a Fusion or Fashion style, but the hearing aid could be any of the styles that are the EVOKE Fusion to the EVOKE CIC.
ColorsWe've also updated some of our colors (Figure 8). Anything with a yellow star has been updated. Winter silver has now become silver gray. When you see it in real life, the mic cover and the stripe are a little bit more matte so it blends more seamlessly. Titan gray is now titanium gray, again, to blend more seamlessly. Warm beige is now autumn beige. Midnight black is now tech black. If you do call and order using the old color names, we've trained our staff to understand the previous colors versus the new colors. we are also adding deep blue which should be available in July. This is going to be a great option for visually impaired patients that want to do red right, blue left. We've kept all of our fun colors too. I know a lot of people have been using the metallic blue for children because of the Disney movie "Frozen".
Figure 8. Widex EVOKE colors.
AccessoriesAll of the hearing aids will be compatible with all of our current accessories (Figure 9). We are also getting a new TV solution that will be wireless. It will connect to your TV and then it will transmit wirelessly to our 2.4 compatible hearing aids (Widex EVOKE 2.4 or the Fusion 2 models). When you're ordering for your patients, if you think they're going to be interested in the TV solution, make sure to order that Fusion 2 model.
Figure 9. Widex DEX accessories.
Figure 10 shows what features are available in each level of technology (Figure 10). I'm going to highlight that we have added more processing channels to the 330, 220 and 110, so the sound quality will be more precise and you will have more fine tuning options. As stated earlier, we've also added 20% more sound classes (11, 7, 4 and 3). Additionally, we've maintained SMARTWIND noise manager.
Figure 10. Features available in each level of technology.
EVOKE App OptionsWe have two apps that are compatible with the EVOKE hearing aids: the EVOKE app and the TONELINK app.
EVOKE App The layout of the EVOKE App is similar to the Beyond app, but we've enhanced it (Figure 11). This is only going to be an option for the Fusion 2 model with the 2.4. It is Android and iPhone compatible.
Figure 11. EVOKE App.
The features and capabilities of the EVOKE App include:
SoundSense LearnFirmware UpdatesPersonal ProgramsFind My Hearing AidsEqualizerSound MixerSoundSense AdaptR/L Preference ControlDirectional FocusProgram ChangeMuteAndroid and iPhone compatible Remember, your patients can get binaural streaming Made-for-iPhone connectivity, and they can listen either through the music template or the speech template, depending on which program they select when they're listening. This is our most feature-rich app and this is available with the Fusion 2 model.
TONELINK AppWe are also introducing the TONELINK app (Figure 12). This app is available with all styles, except for the micro CIC. You're probably not going to want to use this app concurrently with the Fusion 2 model. With the Fusion 2 model, you're going to use the EVOKE app. With all other models, your patients can use the TONELINK app.
Figure 12. TONELINK App.
How it works: The phone emits a high frequency sound, and that high frequency sound pairs the phone to the hearing aids. Every time your patient makes an adjustment in the app, there will be a high frequency tone that the hearing aid will "hear", and then the hearing aid will make that adjustment. Whenever they press a button on the app (e.g., volume up or volume down), that high frequency tone communicates to the hearing aids to increase or decrease the volume. The patient can also change programs through the app, as well as use directional focus (front, back, left, right). The TONELINK app is Android and iPhone compatible.
The TONELINK app is beneficial for your patients who want to have smaller hearing solutions than a 312 RIC, but they also want the easy control that you get with a phone. Instead of needing a remote or having to press a button on their ear, your patients have the option to use the TONELINK app, which is more discreet than using a remote. Plus, it's easy to use.
Summary and ConclusionIn summary, EVOKE is intelligent today, providing refined, natural sound with more precision, speed and superior automation than ever before. EVOKE offers intelligent user control, focusing on comfort and listening intentions in the moment, all while providing the lowest battery consumption of any of our competitors.
Some key upgrades and features of EVOKE include:
30% more processing power50% more sound training 20% more sound classes with integrated Variable Speed Compression3 new specialized programs4 new sound profilesBest natural preservation of loud and soft sounds In addition to being intelligent today, we have the ability to become smarter tomorrow through the industry's first real-time machine learning program, SoundSense Learn. Furthermore, Widex innovations are able to keep up with our patients' dynamic lifestyles, through SoundSense Adapt, as well as through the EVOKE app and the TONELINK app. All of these things are going to give you and your patient unlimited future potential.
Thank you for joining me today to learn about this product and how it can benefit your patients. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out via email: AOInquiry@widex.com
CitationBarnes, S. (2018, June). Hearing aid automation and user interaction: have the best of both with Widex EVOKE. AudiologyOnline, Article 23191. Retrieved from http://www.audiologyonline.com
Any Collusion?
Russian Hackers' New Target: a Vulnerable Democratic Senator
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 12:43
The Russian intelligence agency behind the 2016 election cyberattacks targeted
Sen. Claire McCaskillas she began her 2018 re-election campaign in earnest, a Daily Beast forensic analysis reveals. That makes the Missouri Democrat the first identified target of the Kremlin's 2018 election interference.
McCaskill, who has been highly critical of Russia over the years, is widely considered to be among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats facing re-election this year as Republicans hope to hold their slim majority in the Senate. In 2016, President Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by almost 20 points in the senator's home state of Missouri.
There's no evidence to suggest that this particular attack was successful. Asked about the hack attempt by
Russia's GRU intelligence agency, McCaskill told The Daily Beast on Thursday that she wasn't yet prepared to discuss it.
''I'm not going to speak of it right now,'' she said. ''I think we'll have something on it next week. I'm not going to speak about it right now. I can't confirm or do anything about it right now.''
In August 2017, around the time of the hack attempt, Trump traveled to Missouri and chided McCaskill, telling the crowd to ''
vote her out of office.'' Just this last week, however, Trump said,
on Twitter, that he feared Russians would intervene in the 2018 midterm elections on behalf of Democrats.
''In August 2017, around the time of the hack attempt, Trump traveled to Missouri and chided McCaskill, telling the crowd to 'vote her out of office.'''
The revelations of the attempted hack of McCaskill staffers comes just weeks after Special Counsel Robert Mueller
indicted12 Russian intelligence officers, accusing them of orchestrating cyberattacks that targeted the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Clinton's campaign in 2016.
On Friday, Trump is scheduled to chair a meeting of the National Security Council on election vulnerabilities facing the midterm elections'--amid persistent criticism, particularly after his Helsinki meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, that he isn't taking Russian interference seriously.
The attempt against McCaskill's office was a variant of the password-stealing technique used by Russia's so-called ''
Fancy Bear'' hackers against Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, in 2016.
The hackers sent forged notification emails to Senate targets claiming the target's Microsoft Exchange password had expired, and instructing them to change it. If the target clicked on the link, he or she was taken to a convincing replica of the U.S. Senate's Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) login page, a single sign-on point for e-mail and other services.
As with the Podesta phishing, each Senate phishing email had a different link coded with the recipient's email address. That allowed the fake password-change webpage to display the user's email address when they arrived, making the site more convincing.
In October, Microsoft wrested control of one of the spoofed website addresses'--adfs.senate.qov.info. Seizing the Russians' malicious domain names has been easy for Microsoft since August 2017, when a federal judge in Virginia issued a permanent injunction against the GRU hackers, after
Microsoft successfully suedthem as unnamed ''John Doe'' defendants. The court established a process that lets Microsoft take over any web addresses the hackers use that includes a Microsoft trademark.
Microsoft redirected the traffic from the fake Senate site to its own sinkhole server, putting it in a prime position to view targets trying to click through to change their passwords.
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The Daily Beast identified McCaskill as a target while investigating statements made by Microsoft VP Tom Burt last week in an appearance at the Aspen Security Forum. Burton discussed the Virginia injunction, and told the audience that it allowed Microsoft to thwart a phishing campaign against three midterm election candidates, who he declined to name.
''We did discover that a fake Microsoft domain had been established as the landing page for phishing attacks, and we saw metadata that suggested those phishing attacks were being directed at three candidates who are all standing for elections in the midterm elections,''
saidBurt, Microsoft's corporate vice president for customer security and trust. ''We took down that domain and working with the government actually were able to avoid anybody being infected by that particular attack.''
The most recent domain seizures recorded in the Virginia case took place between August and December of last year, when Microsoft grabbed seven malicious web addresses, including the ''qov.info'' address. A report from the security company Trend Micro
releasedin January listed that address and the role it played in a Senate phishing campaign against unnamed targets.
snapshotof a deep link on the phishing site taken September 26th by a website security scanner showed the fake password-change page with the Senate email address of a McCaskill policy aide on display.
''McCaskill has spoken out forcefully against Moscow, likening Russian election-meddling to 'a form of warfare' and calling Putin a 'thug and a bully.'''
There is a notable divide between Congress and the Trump administration over the vulnerability of the 2018 election to Russian election interference.
In March, the Senate Intelligence Committee warned state election officials to make cybersecurity a ''
high priority'' for their election systems, particularly over voter databases, and urged the states to bolster their coordination with the Department of Homeland Security. But the secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, appeared earlier this month to downplay the threat. While ''adversaries and nonstate actors'' consider U.S. elections a persistent target, Nielsen
saidthere are ''no indications that Russia is targeting the 2018 U.S. midterms at a scale or scope to match their activities in 2016.''
By contrast, Dan Coats, the embattled director of national intelligence, testified in February that Russia considered its 2016 election hacking a success. Putin ''views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations,'' Coats told the Senate intelligence panel. Last week, after being
rebukedby Trump beside Putin in Helsinki, Coats
reiteratedhis concern about Russia's ''ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy.''
Earlier this year, Congress appropriated $380 million, as part of a broader spending package, to individual states for election security. The Senate is currently weighing whether to authorize an additional $250 million in similar grants.
A spokesperson for the Senate Intelligence Committee declined to comment, as did a spokesperson for Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the panel.
McCaskill is one of 10 Senate Democrats facing re-election this year in states that Trump won in 2016. Her likely Republican challenger is Josh Hawley, who currently serves as the state's attorney general. Outside groups and campaign committees have spent more than $15.5 million against McCaskill so far.
McCaskill has spoken out forcefully against Moscow,
likeningRussian election-meddling to ''a form of warfare'' and calling Putin a ''thug and a bully.'' She was also caught up in the Podesta hack, which was revealed when WikiLeaks released the Clinton campaign chair's private email communications. The document dump
showedthat McCaskill called Podesta to inform him that she had ''info'' about an individual working in the State Department's inspector general's office, which at the time was investigating Clinton's private email server. The ''info'' was that a top aide at the inspector general's office once worked for a Republican senator, Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
McCaskill's criticisms of WikiLeaks stretch back nearly a decade. In 2010, she and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
called forprosecutions of individuals who send classified information to WikiLeaks. Earlier this month, Mueller's GRU
indictmentincluded Russian intelligence officers who,
through the Guccifer2.0 persona, are accused of funnelling the hacked 2016 data to WikiLeaks.
''I hope we can find out where this is coming from and go after them with the force of law,'' she said at the time.
'--with additional reporting by Spencer Ackerman
Hate Trumps Love
In a divided U.S., therapists treating anxiety are hearing the same name over and over: Donald Trump | CBC News
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 12:40
"Is he gonna blow us all up?"
So inquired one of Elisabeth LaMotte's patients recently, fretting out loud about the volatility of U.S. President Donald Trump's actions during a therapy session at her Washington practice.
It was a rhetorical question '-- one that predated Trump's threats of a showdown with Iran this week. But if the question wasn't meant in earnest, the politically induced anxiety LaMotte is hearing about from her clients certainly is, says the founder of the D.C. Counselling and Psychotherapy Center.
She refers to it as a "collective anxiety" among patients who feel on edge about how potentially dire the president's decisions could be.
"There is a fear of the world ending," she said. "It's very disorienting and constantly unsettling."
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a meeting with a group of Foreign Ministry officials in Tehran on Sunday. Rouhani has warned Trump against provoking his country, while indicating peace might still be possible. (Iranian Presidency Office via Associated Press) What's been called "Trump Anxiety Disorder" has been on the rise in the months following the election, according to mental-health professionals from across the country who report unusually high levels of politics-related stress in their practices.
And it's maybe not surprising given the relentlessly negative headlines and politically divisive climate.
—@realDonaldTrumpThis week, it was a menacing all-caps Trump tweet warning Iran about potentially historic "CONSEQUENCES." Previously, it was his Supreme Court picks and fears that the legal right to abortion could be overturned, or his immigration policies separating families at the border, or his apparent submission to Russian President Vladimir Putin before a global audience.
From Trump supporters, LaMotte hears about the pain of "feeling socially or familially isolated" for supporting the president's agenda, "even if they don't support his tactics."
From Trump's detractors, LaMotte has been struck by how much their anxieties resemble those of patients raised by a parent with a personality disorder '-- someone who would display traits like "grandiosity, excessive attention-seeking and severe lack of empathy."
"Whether it's conscious or not, I think we look to the president of the United States as a psychological parent," she said.
The symptomsIn a 2017 essay for a book co-edited by psychiatrists from Harvard Medical School and the Yale School of Medicine, clinical psychologist Jennifer Panning of Evanston, Ill., called the condition "Trump Anxiety Disorder," distinguishing it from a generalized anxiety disorder because "symptoms were specific to the election of Trump and the resultant unpredictable sociopolitical climate."
Though not an official diagnosis, the symptoms include feeling a loss of control and helplessness, and fretting about what's happening in the country and spending excessive time on social media, she said.
(Trump and his supporters, for their part, have their own term for a malady they see as afflicting only reactionary, anti-Trump progressives: "Trump Derangement Syndrome.")
...called ''The Case Against Impeaching Trump,'' which I would encourage all people with Trump Derangement Syndrome to read!
—@realDonaldTrumpPanning said intense consumption of media coverage of this presidency is making some people's Trump-related anxiety worse.
"They say they're wondering what's next," she said.
Trump's appointment of one conservative justice to the Supreme Court and the recent nomination of another has left one of her married lesbian clients "significantly concerned about the legitimacy of their marriage in the future," she said.
Researchers say fixating on the news and social media can increase politically induced stress. (Carlos Barria/Reuters) Connie Sherman, the manager of a dental practice in San Diego, said she's been sleeping fitfully post-election, constantly checking her phone for the latest headlines in the wee hours.
"When [special counsel] Robert Mueller's indictments news dropped, I wound up staying up in the middle of the night when I should have been sleeping, just thinking about it, just worried for our country," she said.
Stress of supporting TrumpThe American Psychological Association has recorded a rise in anxiety in the Trump era, with a five per cent increase (52 to 57 per cent) in politically induced stress levels over a six-month period before, during and after the 2016 election. Overall, stress levels were the highest they've been in a decade, according to the APA.
In an online survey in February 2017, two-thirds of Americans '-- including most Democrats as well as most Republicans '-- said they were stressed about the future of the nation. Most of the more than 3,500 people polled blamed the extreme political polarization for their anxiety. There was a strong correlation between stress levels and electronic news consumption.
One symptom of Trump-related anxiety is a fear of what might happen next '-- including, for example, how his judicial appointments could impact controversial issues like abortion rights. (Leah Millis/Reuters) Some Trump supporters also report feeling more stressed, confiding to therapists that uncivil discourse and attacks on the president were causing them anxiety.
Washington therapist Steve Stosny recounted how an official with the Trump administration came to see him not long ago. At work, the official explained, he felt anxious about his high-pressure job in a highly scrutinized White House. At home, he faced a more personal turmoil: his liberal-leaning family grew to resent him for working for Trump.
"His daughter was starting to hate him," Stosny said. "It was very hard on his spouse, too. The wife couldn't take it anymore. It's tough when one spouse is at war with the children."
The patient eventually left his job, but the damage was already done. The couple began divorce proceedings, Stosny said.
According to the APA, a person's political affiliation can affect their risk of anxiety. About 26 per cent of Republicans polled post-election considered "the political climate" to be a source of stress, compared to 72 per cent of Democrats who felt the same way.
Pro-Trump supporters face off with anti-Trump protesters outside a Trump rally in Phoenix, Ariz., back in August 2017. Some supporters of the president say the judgment and vitriol they're subjected to by Trump opponents stresses them out. (Sandy Huffaker/Reuters) Jaime Gale, a Trump supporter in Avon Lake, Ohio, often shares her anxiety over politics with her therapist.
"It reminds me of how I felt after 9/11," said Gale, 38, referencing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S., a time when she felt "fear of the unknown and unfamiliar."
"It scared the crap out of me. Now I'm scared of getting pounced on by somebody who doesn't like me because of Trump, just online."
The internet marketing consultant, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder, backs the president as a champion of border security and a strong steward of the economy.
But the at-times abusive attacks on Trump's leadership from liberals are hurtful and can make her blood boil.
"I see that rage and anger in other people '-- I feel it brought out in me, too."
Gale said she once got so drawn into the "vitriol" from liberal critics online that she had an anxiety attack.
Especially "disheartening" to Gale was being labelled a "racist" and "fascist" for supporting the president's policies.
Therapists around the country told CBC they're seeing politically tinged anger and anxiety from patients no matter their political affiliation.
In Columbus, Miss., John Hawkins's LGBTQ clients have opened up about their worries "that their marriages might be voided," while Trump supporters in his sessions worry that liberals are trying to thwart a president who is "doing the best he can."
In Oklahoma City, Kevon Owen, who practises a type of scripture-based psychotherapy known as Christian counselling, said he's "seeing a lot of people anxious about the possibility of war," and has counselled clients to stop submerging themselves in clickbait articles.
In Bardstown, Ky., clinical social worker Roland Gabbert said he's never seen such heavily politicized chatter in his office in his 40-year career.
"Both from people feeling the president is being persecuted and people just beside themselves with worry about the direction of the country."
'In our faces'Maybe nowhere is the anxiety over politics more deeply felt than in the nation's capital, said Alison Howard, a clinical psychologist in D.C. She said she engages "on a daily basis" with patients "struggling to make sense of what's happening with this president."
"It's in our faces all the time," she said. "People here are living and working in the same city where the pulse of the government is."
In downtown Washington, a lawyer and immigrant from Uganda now working in the Department of Agriculture sat chain-smoking a pack of American Spirit cigarettes. His clinical depression was being "compounded" by a cascade of negative White House-related news, he said. So, he's started to tune it out completely.
Perhaps no place is harder hit by political anxiety than Washington, D.C., a psychologist in the capital tells CBC News. (Mary F. Calvert/Reuters) "I had to get off social media. I had to stop paying for cable. I started only reading fiction," said the federal employee, who only gave the name Kenneth because he was worried speaking publicly might cause problems for him at his job.
"Maybe I should be talking to a therapist about this."
Asked if he had heard about the president's latest tweet to Iran's leader, he shook his head.
"Seriously, man '-- don't even tell me."
War on Straws
Plastic Straw Ban: You Can Be Sent to Jail for Breaking the New Law in This California City
Thu, 26 Jul 2018 19:57
More and more cities and food chains are introducing a ban on plastic straws. However, one area in California is dishing out a harsher punishment than anywhere else for breaking the new law.
In June, the city of Santa Barbara passed a bill banning the distribution or sale of plastic straws at bars, restaurants and other establishments, with plastic stirrers and cutlery only available upon request.
The ordinance, which comes into effect on 2:01 a.m. January 1, 2019, does include exemptions in consideration of the Americans with Disabilities Act, answering previous criticism of the ban that says it does not take into consideration how some handicapped people require flexible, plastic straws to drink.
According to Reason, the city has made breaking the plastic straw ban as an administrative infraction, meaning those caught disobeying it a second time risk a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to six months in jail.
The maximum penalty is in stark contrast to Seattle, who became the first major U.S. city to ban plastic straws in July. The maximum fine there is just $250.
However, as explained by Santa Barbara's Environmental Services Outreach Coordinator, Bryan Latchford, the hefty fine and possible prison sentence will only be implemented for businesses who repeatedly refuse to abide by the new law.
"Jail time or stiff fines are not the intent for first-time offenders," said Latchford told KEYT.
Keep up with this story and more by subscribing now
A woman drinks a McDonalds refreshment with a straw in Loughborough, Britain April 19, 2018. Santa Barbara in California is the latest city to impose a ban on plastic straws to help reduce waste. REUTERS/Darren Staples
According to the Santa Barbara Independent, only five restaurants within the city limits objected to the straw ban, which aims to significantly reduce the amount of plastic dumped into the ocean.
San Francisco's board of supervisors also recently voted to implement a ban on plastic straws and carryout containers that contain fluorinated chemicals, reports Fox News.
"San Francisco has been a pioneer of environmental change, and it's time for us to find alternatives to the plastic that is choking our marine ecosystems and littering our streets," Supervisor Katy Tang said in a statement.
In July, Starbucks announced it will be phasing out plastic straws in its 28,000 stores worldwide in favor of a sippable lid made from recyclable materials.
''By nature, the straw isn't recyclable and the lid is, so we feel this decision is more sustainable and more socially responsible,'' said Chris Milne, director of packaging sourcing for Starbucks.
''Starbucks is finally drawing a line in the sand and creating a mold for other large brands to follow. We are raising the water line for what's acceptable and inspiring our peers to follow suit.''
Red squirrel strangled by plastic jar sparks plea from Scottish conservation group - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 12:36
Updated July 29, 2018 12:23:25
Photos of a squirrel which died after becoming trapped inside a plastic jar are prompting calls for people to dispose of their rubbish thoughtfully.
The Grampian Moorland Group, which works to protect animals and rare heather moorland in the Scottish Highlands, posted the images of the dead red squirrel on its Facebook page, calling for people to think before they discard plastic waste.
The squirrel poked through the plastic jar and got caught, leaving it unable to move.
In the Facebook post, the conservation group said "discarded plastic proves hazardous to wildlife".
"One of our gamekeepers found this poor soul in a plastic jar, at woods, next to the busy main road, a popular scenic and tourist route," the post said.
The post was shared more than 780 times and received many comments condemning the poor disposal of rubbish.
Red squirrels are native to the United Kingdom, but the population has declined, especially since the arrival of the larger grey squirrel from the United States in 1876, which outcompetes for food and shelter and also spreads the deadly squirrelpox.
According to UK conservation group Red Squirrels United, there are less than 140,000 red squirrels left in the United Kingdom, the vast majority of them in Scotland.
Experts fear they could be extinct within the next 20 years.
First posted July 29, 2018 12:15:27
Ministry of Truthiness
10 percent of Congress is paying back student loans
Sat, 28 Jul 2018 01:09
Over 44 million Americans collectively hold nearly $1.5 trillion in student debt and almost no one is immune '-- including members of Congress. Even though the 115th Congress is one of the richest of all time, Roll Call found that one in 10 members holds student debt, either personally or for a family member.
Out of 530 voting members of Congress (431 members of the House of Representatives and 99 Senators, minus vacancies), 53 listed owing a total of $1.8 million in student loans in their financial disclosures. Of these student debt holders, 28 had a positive net worth and 25 had a negative net worth.
For instance, California Representative Ro Khanna listed $50,000 in student loans, but he is actually worth over $27 million thanks to considerable tech investments and his wife's significant family wealth. "I certainly have been very blessed and fortunate in my own life that I've been in a position where the loans are not crippling," he tells Roll Call. "But there are a lot of people who don't have that opportunity."
Florida Congressman Darren Soto is one of the 25 representatives who, based on the methodology used for Roll Call's Wealth of Congress report, has a negative net worth. "I still owe $75,000 and understand the great responsibility of repayment," he says. "I value education and believe having the ability to attend a top law school was an essential part of my success."
A representative for Rep. Soto maintains that despite his outstanding loan balance, he has a positive net worth.
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images
Soto, D-Fla
And student debt is now so common, it's actual bipartisan. Twenty-five of the representatives with student debt, including Khanna and Soto, are Democrats. The remaining 28 are Republicans. Sixteen of the congressional members with student debt are in their first term, but age isn't necessarily a primary reason these reps hold debt.
Many representatives have taken on student debt in order to support family members. Republican congressman Trey Gowdy reported owing more student debt than any other lawmaker in the House or the Senate. He took on more than $150,000 in student debt to finance his child's education.
Student Loan Repayment
Sat, 28 Jul 2018 12:57
DescriptionThe Federal student loan repayment program permits agencies to repay Federally insured student loans as a recruitment or retention incentive for candidates or current employees of the agency. The program implements 5 U.S.C. 5379, which authorizes agencies to set up their own student loan repayment programs to attract or retain highly qualified employees.
Employee CoverageAny employee (as defined in 5 U.S.C. 2105) is eligible, except those occupying a position excepted from the competitive civil service because of their confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating nature (e.g., Schedule C appointees).
Loans Eligible for PaymentLoans eligible for payment are those made, insured, or guaranteed under parts B, D, or E of title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 or a health education assistance loan made or insured under part A of title VII or part E of title VIII of the Public Health Service Act. (See Q&A 17 for examples of the types of student loans that are eligible for repayment.)
LimitationsAlthough the student loan is not forgiven, agencies may make payments to the loan holder of up to a maximum of $10,000 for an employee in a calendar year and a total of not more than $60,000 for any one employee.
Discretionary AuthorityAs with any incentive, this authority is used at the discretion of the agency. Each agency must develop a plan to describe how the program will be implemented.
Service AgreementAn employee receiving this benefit must sign a service agreement to remain in the service of the paying agency for a period of at least 3 years. An employee must reimburse the paying agency for all benefits received if he or she is separated voluntarily or separated involuntarily for misconduct, unacceptable performance, or a negative suitability determination under 5 CFR part 731. In addition, an employee must maintain an acceptable level of performance in order to continue to receive repayment benefits.
Periods in a Non-Pay StatusPeriods of leave without pay, or other periods during which the employee is not in a pay status, do not count toward completion of the required service period. The service completion date must be extended by the total amount of time spent in non-pay status. However, as provided by 5 CFR 353.107, absence because of uniformed service or compensable injury is considered creditable toward the required service period upon reemployment.
Annual ReportingAgencies are required to report annually to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) on their use of the student loan repayment authority. Before March 31 of each year, agencies must submit their reports for the previous calendar year. The reports must contain-
The number of employees who received student loan repayment this benefits;The job classifications of the employees who received student loan repayment benefits; andThe cost to the Federal Government of providing student loan repayment benefits.Annual reports to Congress on agencies' use of the Federal student loan repayment program.
CY 16 ReportCY 15 ReportCY 14 ReportCY 13 ReportCY 12 ReportCY 11 ReportCY 10 ReportCY 09 ReportCY 08 ReportFY 07 ReportFY 06 ReportFY 05 ReportFY 04 ReportFY 03 ReportFY 02 ReportReferences5 U.S.C. 53795 CFR Part 5375 U.S.C. 2105Back to Top
Under 5 U.S.C. 5379 and 5 CFR part 537, Federal agencies are authorized to implement a program under which they may agree to repay certain types of student loans as a recruitment or retention incentive for highly qualified personnel. Below is a summary of the best practices and lessons learned by agencies that have successfully implemented student loan repayment programs. This information is intended to assist agencies in establishing and administering a student loan repayment program.
Securities and Exchange Commission's Student Loan Repayment ProgramDetermine whether agency is going to repay all eligible loans (e.g., should the agency repay an employee's PLUS loan?).(See the Student Loan Repayment Program Questions and Answers.)Address eligibility issues (e.g., is program open to employees on appointments that can lead to permanent positions, such as career interns?).Determine whether the agency is going to repay loans taken out by an employee after employment to pay for courses toward a future degree, or only loans taken out for a completed degree.Give adequate time to process applications to allow for potential delays in communicating with lenders.Follow up with lenders to make sure payments are credited properly and employees are making required payments.Department of Justice's Attorney Student Loan Repayment ProgramPublish information on the Internet or agency intranet, including the agency's policy, forms, service agreements and other required documents, checklists, and frequently asked questions.Shift the burden of crafting legally sufficient justifications to the candidate/employee as part of the application process. This can be done by providing a standard justification format that prompts the requester to provide the necessary information.For ease in assembly, distribution, review, and selection, require the candidate/employee to package his or her application according to a standard format.If the agency cannot fund benefits for all eligible applicants, defer validation of loans until after tentative recipients are selected. Loans need not be validated for individuals who will not receive benefits.Require an applicant to submit a signed service agreement conditioned on selection for the program, which becomes null and void if he or she is not selected.Include consent to disclosure of financial information as part of the service agreement so loan holders will discuss account information with you.Require updated (and, if necessary, annotated) account statements as part of initial applications and annual renewals to ensure proper distribution to qualifying loans.Withhold renewal payments until the employee corrects any erroneous distributions to non-qualifying loans, which frequently occurs when one loan holder carriers multiple loans.Additional information is available for the Department of Justice's Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program.
Department of State's Student Loan Repayment ProgramIn the beginning:
Review other agencies' programs.Determine pitfalls.Receive assurances from management that program will be funded as a line item in first year's budget.Conduct survey samplings.Establish criteria for position-based eligibility.Coordinate procedural aspects with human resources and payroll offices.Obtain approval of policies and procedures by all bureaus/offices of the Department prior to implementation.Include unions in policy discussions.As the program matures:
Implement multiple communication channels. The Department of State established intranet and Internet Web sites, a Listserv to distribute messages automatically to subscribers, and a program email box exclusively for program exchanges, and funded an offsite postal and faxing service.Assure timely customer service. The Department of State implemented a policy that promises a 2-day response time to inquiries, resulting in positive customer feedback.Develop an online application system that will populate a database on student loan repayment benefits.Back to Top
Sample Agency Plan 1: Guidance On Student Loan Eligibility, Service And Repayment OptionsEligible LoansThe repayment authority, 5 U.S.C. 5379 as amended, is limited to student loans authorized by the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the Public Health Service Act. These are Federally insured loans made by educational institutions or banks and other private lenders.
The Higher Education Act covers guaranteed student loan programs such as: Stafford Loans (subsidized, unsubsidized, Direct subsidized, and Direct unsubsidized); Plus Loans (Federal and Direct Federal); Federal Consolidation Loans (Direct subsidized and Direct unsubsidized); Defense Loans (made before July 1, 1972); National Direct Student Loans (made between 7/1/72 and 7/1/87); and Perkins Loans.
Loans covered under the Public Health Service Act include the: Nursing Student Loan Program loans; Health Profession Student Loan Program loans; and Health Education Assistance Loan Program loans.
Eligibility, Size of Payments, Service, and Repayment OptionsEligibility for payments
The following options are intended to provide assistance in making determinations of eligibility that satisfy the requirement for fair and equitable treatment in the selection of repayment candidates. [Please note that, under the authorizing legislation and regulations, the need to maintain a balanced workforce in which women and members of racial and ethnic minority groups are represented must be taken into consideration in determining which candidates will be eligible. The spirit and intent of this requirement may be satisfied by directing recruitment information and activities toward events and locations that are most likely to produce candidates in the employment group(s) needed by the respective [AGENCY COMPONENT], even though the results of all recruitment efforts produce highly qualified candidates other than in the targeted employment group(s).]
Limit eligibility to those occupations which are priorities as specified in an [AGENCY COMPONENT] staffing and diversity plan. Thus, a business case is made on a pro-active basis as to which occupations and candidates and/or employees will be eligible.
Limit eligibility to those whose grade point averages (GPAs) meet the standard established by the [AGENCY COMPONENT] for both graduates and employees who are, or will be, enrolled in academic training while employed.
Periods of service and loan repayment periods
The next two payment options may require negotiations with the lender/note holder to adjust the existing payment schedule to conform to the dollar limits established under the Student Loan Repayment Program. They are intended to provide consistency in approach toward loan repayments. For example, in determining periods of service, the [AGENCY COMPONENT] may follow the current practice of service for [AGENCY]-paid training/education, which is to require service based on a ratio of 1:3, e.g., 3 months of service for a 1-month class.
Set the minimum period of service at 3 years for all candidates and then determine the loan payment period.
Convert the loan amount to years.
The loan payment period is the same as the period of service, which is determined by dividing the annual school cost into the loan balance.
Example 1 - total loan is $20,000; total cost for 4-year bachelors degree is $40,000; outstanding loan represents 2 years of total school cost; years of service is determined by multiplying 2 years of costs x 3 years of service per each year of payments = 6 years of service; loan is payable over 6 years at $3,333/yr.
Example 2 - total loan is $42,000 for an advanced degree; annual cost for 2 years is $21,000; outstanding loan represents the total 2 year cost; years of service is determined by multiplying 2 x 3 = 6; loan is paid over 6 years = $7,000/yr; therefore, the total amount that [AGENCY] would pay is 6 x $7,000 = $42,000.
The loan payment period is determined by dividing the maximum annual payment into the loan balance; the period of service is determined by multiplying the loan payment period by 3.
Example 1 - total loan is $20,000; $20,000 / $10,000 = 2 years of allowable payments, i.e., loan is payable over 2 years at $10,000 per year; 2 years of [AGENCY] payments x 3 years of service for each year of payments = 6 years of service.
Example 2 - total loan is $42,000 for an advanced degree; the maximum annual amount that may be paid by [AGENCY] is $10,000; therefore, the number of years of payments of $10,000 = 4.2 years; assuming that 3 years of service would be required for each year of student loan benefit payments, the related service requirement would be 4.2 years x 3 years = 12.6 years of service.
The loan payment period is determined by dividing the outstanding balance by the number of years to attain the degree; the period of service is determined by multiplying the loan payment period by 3.
Example 1 - total loan is $20,000 for a 4-year bachelors degree (which took 4 years to get); the loan payments are $5,000 per year ($20,000 / 4) for 4 years; years of service: 4 years of loan payments x 3 for each year of payment = 12;
Example 2 - total loan is $42,000 for a 2-year advance degree (which took 3 years to get); the loan payments are $10,000 per year, which is the maximum allowable per year, for 3 years, for a total of $30,000; years of service: 3 years of loan payments x 3 for each year of payment = 9.
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Payment SchedulesLump-Sum Net Payments
This occurs when the employee elects, and the lender/note holder agrees, to have one loan payment made each calendar year. The total amount of taxes is first deducted from the gross loan amount and a net payment is made annually to the lender/note holder. The flat rate of 28% will be used to determine the amount of Federal income taxes to be withheld from the gross loan payment amount; social security, Medicare, and State and local income taxes are then determined and withheld based on the gross amount authorized as supplemental wages.
Example - Gross amount of annual payment - $10,000; approximately $3,000 is withheld and reported on the employee's W-2; a net payment of approximately $7,000 is made to the lender/note holder.
Biweekly Payroll Payments
This occurs when the employee elects, and the lender/note holder agrees, to biweekly payments of a set amount. For this option, the amount of the loan payment is added to the gross salary amount to increase the total salary for that pay period; taxes are calculated and withheld based on the total salary to determine the employee's net pay.
The total payment amounts may vary from year to year because each calendar year does not always have 26 pay periods; the total amount will probably be less the first calendar year and is dependent on the employee's entry on duty date. Thus, the biweekly amount may need to be adjusted each year so that the maximum allowable per calendar year is not exceeded.
Example - Annual amount of payments - $5,200; employee's biweekly gross pay during the loan repayment period would be increased by $200; $200 would be paid to the lender/note holder each pay period (assuming 26 payments in any calendar year) resulting in a reduction in the employee's net pay of approximately $65 due to the taxes on the loan repayment amount.
Processing PaymentsAn employee may use [FORM NUMBER] for providing payment information in lieu of providing information on the employee, lender/note holder, and loan account separately. A separate [FORM NUMBER] is required for each loan. For lump-sum payments, the [FORM NUMBER] must clearly indicate that it is for a one-time payment with the amount indicated as "NET loan repayment." For biweekly payroll deductions, no further action is needed, as the payment will remain in effect until the end of the agreement period or, as a result of the annual recertification process (see the next section), notice is provided to the payroll office that the payment should be changed or stopped. Payments will automatically stop when the total authorized amount has been paid each year. If [FORM NUMBER] is used, it should be attached to the payroll copy of the service agreement.
Annual RecertificationsThis process should be similar to recertifications of retention allowances, in which the servicing human resources staff "suspenses" the effective date of the service agreement and follows up with the appropriate management official; the management official provides a statement that funds are still available for the entire calendar year and that each loan has been reviewed to ascertain whether or not it is in arrears or default. If the amount of the allotment(s) will not change, then a statement to that effect must be provided to the payroll office. If the amount of the loan repayment(s) will be different from the prior year, the new information must be provided. If the loan(s) is in arrears or default, then the management official must determine the appropriate course of action and inform the employee and the servicing human resources staff. If payments will be terminated, then the [AGENCY COMPONENT] must inform the employee, the payroll office, and the lender/note holder.
Interest DeductionsEmployees may be able to deduct the interest on their student loans even though the interest is included in the total loan amount and paid by the agency. Employees should review Chapter 3 of the Internal Revenue Service Publication 970, which is available at www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p970.pdf.
ReferencesAttachment 1: Sample Student Loan Repayment PlanAttachment 2: Sample Student Loan Repayment Program Service AgreementBack to Top
Sample Agency Plan 2PurposeThis instruction provides policy and guidance for implementing the Student Loan Repayment Program. This program is intended to facilitate the recruitment and retention of highly-qualified employees by allowing agencies to repay part or all of their Federally insured student loans.
ReferencesTitle 5, U.S. Code, Section 5379 Title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 537
DefinitionsStudent Loan: A loan made, insured, or guaranteed under parts B, D, or E of Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965; or a health education assistance loan made or insured under Part A of Title VII of the Public Health Service Act, or under Part E of Title VIII of that Act.
Loans covered under The Higher Education Act include such loans as:
Federal Stafford Loans -- including Federal subsidized, Federal unsubsidized, direct subsidized, and direct unsubsidized loans;Federal Plus Loans -- Federal and Direct Plus Loans;Federal Consolidation Loans -- direct subsidized, direct unsubsidized, and Federal Consolidation Loans;Defense Loans -- made before July 1, 1972;National Direct Student Loans -- made between 7/1/72 and 7/1/87;Federal Perkins Loans.Loans covered under the Public Health Service Act include loans made under:
The Nursing Student Loan Program;The Health Profession Student Loan Program; andThe Health Education Assistance Loan Program.Federal Direct Student Loan: The U. S. Department of Education is the lender for these loans. Direct loans include Federal Direct PLUS loans and Federal Direct Stafford loans.
Federal Family Education Loan Program: These loans are insured by the Department of Education. Loans are privately issued by a bank, credit union, or other lender that participates in the Federal Family Education Loan Programs.
Subsidized Loan: The U.S. Government pays the interest on the loan while the student is in school, during the 6-month grace period, and during periods of authorized deferment.
Unsubsidized Loan: The student is responsible for paying the interest accrued while the student is in school, during the 6-month grace period, and during authorized periods of deferment.
CoverageThe following are eligible for student loan repayment assistance:
Permanent employees;Employees serving a term appointment with at least 3 years remaining on their appointment;Employees serving in excepted appointments with non-competitive conversion to term, career, or career-conditional appointments (e.g., Presidential Management Interns, VRAs, and career interns);Temporary employees under 5 CFR 315.704 who are serving on appointments leading to conversion to term or permanent appointments.NOTE: Employees receiving a physicians' comparability allowance (PCA) under 5 CFR 595.105(e) are eligible. However, the amount of their PCA must be reduced by an amount equal to any loan repayment assistance received under this program.
Employees serving in confidential, policy determining, policymaking, or policy advocating positions (e.g., Schedule C employees) are not eligible.
Criteria for Payment:Eligible employees may be considered for loan repayment assistance up to $10,000 per calendar year, with a $60,000 lifetime maximum for any individual. More than one loan may be repaid so long as the combined repayments do not exceed these limits. Assistance may be provided for both recruitment and retention purposes. Recommendations will normally be made by the immediate supervisor, and approval will be at the discretion of the next higher level.
RecruitmentLoan repayment may be authorized upon determination that, in the absence of loan repayment benefits, the agency would have difficulty filling a position with a highly qualified candidate. Evidence of need may be based on:
The success of recent efforts to recruit suitable candidates for similar positions, including such indicators as offer acceptance rates, the proportion of positions filled, and the length of time required to fill positions;Recent turnover in the same or similar positions;Labor market factors that affect the ability to recruit for similar positions;Any special qualifications needed.This determination must be in writing and must document the criteria used to determine the amount of loan repayment benefits. Managers may consider the following criteria in deciding the amount:
The severity of the recruiting problem;Salary levels reported in published salary surveys for comparable non-Federal positions;The importance/criticality of the position to be filled and the effect on the agency if it is not filled or if there is a delay in filling it;Current salary of the candidate;Salary documented in a competing job offer;The disparity in cost of living between the candidate's current residence and the proposed duty station;The projected cost of further recruitment effort if the candidate does not accept the position;The extent of the individual's past training and experience that serves to qualify him/her for the position;Budget availability.Each determination for recruitment purposes and the amount to be paid must be made before the employee enters on duty.
RetentionLoan repayment may be authorized upon determination that, in the absence of loan repayment benefits, the agency would have difficulty retaining a highly qualified employee. Evidence of need may be based on--
The unique or high qualifications of the employee or the special need for the employee's services that makes it essential to retain him/her;The likelihood the employee would leave for employment outside the Federal service if he/she does not receive loan repayment benefits;The extent to which the employee's departure would affect the agency's ability to carry out an activity or perform a function that is deemed essential to the Agency's mission.This determination must be in writing and must document the criteria used to determine the amount of the loan repayment benefit. Managers may consider the following criteria in deciding the amount:
Salary levels reported in published salary surveys for comparable non-Federal positions;Salary documented in a competing job offer;The importance/criticality of the position and the effect on the agency if the employee were to leave;The projected cost of recruitment and training associated with replacement of the employee;The length of service of the employee with the [agency];Budget availability.Termination of BenefitsAn employee receiving loan repayment benefits will be ineligible for continued benefits if he/she--
Separates from the agency for any reason;Fails to maintain a fully satisfactory level of performance; orViolates any of the conditions of the service agreement.Back to Top
Service AgreementBefore any loan repayment may be made, the employee must sign a written agreement to serve a minimum of 3 years with the employing agency, regardless of the amount of repayment authorized. This 3-year period will begin when the first payment is made to the holder of the loan. Any further repayment made after the initial agreement has been completed will extend the service agreement by 1 additional year for each additional payment made. A model service agreement is at attachment 1.
The agreement may specify employment conditions considered appropriate, such as, but not limited to, the employee's position and the duties he/she is expected to perform, work schedule, or level of performance. However, the service agreement in no way constitutes a right, promise, or entitlement to continued employment or noncompetitive conversion to the competitive service, nor does it limit management's right to take corrective or disciplinary actions as otherwise appropriate.
Failure to Complete a Service AgreementAn employee who, voluntarily or because of performance or misconduct, fails to complete the agreed-upon period of service must refund the full amount of benefits received during the initial 3-year period. Employees who fail to complete the period of service under a 1-year extension (e.g., 4th year, 5th year), must repay the amount of the benefits received in the extension year only. If an employee fails to reimburse the agency, the amount outstanding will be recovered from the employee under established debt collection procedures.
Waiver of RepaymentRepayment may be wholly or partially waived at the discretion of the [agency] if recovery would not be in the public interest or would be against equity and good conscience. In making this determination, the [agency] will take into account consistency, fairness, and the cost to the taxpayer of recovering monies owed to the government. A waiver may be considered, but is not automatic, when an employee accepts a position in another operating division of the [agency].
When an employee is separated by death or disability retirement, or is unable to continuing working because of disability evidenced by acceptable medical documentation, repayment is automatically waived.
Procedures for Making Loan RepaymentsPayments will be made directly to the lending institution holding the loan on behalf of the employee. One payment will be made each year for the duration of the service agreement. Payments may be applied only to indebtedness outstanding at the time the agreement is signed, and no payment may be made before an employee enters on duty.
Loan repayment benefits made under this authority are in addition to basic pay. These benefits are subject to Federal income tax, FICA and Medicare withholding, and any State or local income tax that may be applicable. Tax withholdings will be deducted at the time payment is made.
ResponsibilitiesEmploying offices will''
comply with merit system principles when selecting employees to receive loan repayment benefits and consider the need to maintain a balanced and diverse workforce;ensure that their responsibilities under labor relations statutes and union agreements are fulfilled;verify that a student loan is Federally insured and eligible to be repaid under this program (see Attachment 2);verify the current loan balance at time of entrance on duty and any subsequent extensions of the service agreement (see Attachment 2);reach agreement with the holder on terms of payment;prepare the written justification for the loan and maintain case files (see Attachment 3); andprovide information needed to process the reimbursement request to the Program Support Office, Division of Payroll (see Attachment 4).Servicing Personnel Offices will''
develop and disseminate policies governing the use of the loan repayment program and provide technical guidance to employing offices concerning its administration;maintain a record of each determination made under this authority and retain the record for 3 years (files may be destroyed after 3 years); andreport annually to the Office of Human Resources the number of employees receiving benefits under this authority, their job classifications, and the amount of benefits.Employees will''
be responsible for making loan payments on the portion of the loan that continues to be their responsibility;be responsible for any income tax obligation resulting from the loan repayment benefit.ReferencesAttachment 1: Sample Service AgreementAttachment 2: Sample Form for Outstanding Loan InformationAttachment 3: Sample Form: Request Student Loan Repayment BenefitAttachment 4: Sample Payroll Processing InstructionsBack to Top
Section 5379 of Title 5, United States Code§ 5379. Student loan repayments
(a)(1) For the purpose of this section'--
(A) the term "agency" means an agency under subparagraph (A), (B), (C), (D), or (E) of section 4101(1) of this title; and
(B) the term "student loan" means'--
(i) a loan made, insured, or guaranteed under part B of title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1071 et seq.);
(ii) a loan made under part D or E of title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1087a et seq., 1087aa et seq.); and
(iii) a health education assistance loan made or insured under part A of title VII of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 292 et seq.) or under part E of title VIII of such Act (42 U.S.C. 297a et seq.).
(2) An employee shall be ineligible for benefits under this section if the employee occupies a position that is excepted from the competitive service because of its confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character.
(b)(1) The head of an agency may, in order to recruit or retain highly qualified personnel, establish a program under which the agency may agree to repay (by direct payments on behalf of the employee) any student loan previously taken out by such employee.
(2) Payments under this section shall be made subject to such terms, limitations, or conditions as may be mutually agreed to by the agency and employee concerned, except that the amount paid by an agency under this section may not exceed'--
(A) $10,000 for any employee in any calendar year; or
(B) a total of $60,000 in the case of any employee.
(3) Nothing in this section shall be considered to authorize an agency to pay any amount to reimburse an employee for any repayments made by such employee prior to the agency's entering into an agreement under this section with such employee.
(c)(1) An employee selected to receive benefits under this section must agree in writing, before receiving any such benefit, that the employee will'--
(A) remain in the service of the agency for a period specified in the agreement (not less than 3 years), unless involuntarily separated; and
(B) if separated involuntarily on account of misconduct, or voluntarily, before the end of the period specified in the agreement, repay to the Government the amount of any benefits received by such employee from that agency under this section.
(2) The payment agreed to under paragraph (1)(B) of this subsection may not be required of an employee who leaves the service of such employee's agency voluntarily to enter into the service of any other agency unless the head of the agency that authorized the benefits notifies the employee before the effective date of such employee's entrance into the service of the other agency that payment will be required under this subsection.
(3) If an employee who is involuntarily separated on account of misconduct or who (excluding any employee relieved of liability under paragraph (2) of this subsection) is voluntarily separated before completing the required period of service fails to repay the amount agreed to under paragraph (1)(B) of this subsection, a sum equal to the amount outstanding is recoverable by the Government from the employee (or such employee's estate, if applicable) by'--
(A) setoff against accrued pay, compensation, amount of retirement credit, or other amount due the employee from the Government; and
(B) such other method as is provided by law for the recovery of amounts owing to the Government.
The head of the agency concerned may waive, in whole or in part, a right of recovery under this subsection if it is shown that recovery would be against equity and good conscience or against the public interest.
(4) Any amount repaid by, or recovered from, an individual (or an estate) under this subsection shall be credited to the appropriation account from which the amount involved was originally paid. Any amount so credited shall be merged with other sums in such account and shall be available for the same purposes and period, and subject to the same limitations (if any), as the sums with which merged.
(d) An employee receiving benefits under this section from an agency shall be ineligible for continued benefits under this section from such agency if the employee'--
(1) separates from such agency; or
(2) does not maintain an acceptable level of performance, as determined under standards and procedures which the agency head shall by regulation prescribe.
(e) In selecting employees to receive benefits under this section, an agency shall, consistent with the merit system principles set forth in paragraphs (1) and (2) of section 2301(b) of this title, take into consideration the need to maintain a balanced workforce in which women and members of racial and ethnic minority groups are appropriately represented in Government service.
(f) Any benefit under this section shall be in addition to basic pay and any other form of compensation otherwise payable to the employee involved.
(g) The Director of the Office of Personnel Management, after consultation with heads of a representative number and variety of agencies and any other consultation which the Director considers appropriate, shall prescribe regulations containing such standards and requirements as the Director considers necessary to provide for reasonable uniformity among programs under this section.
(h)(1) Each head of an agency shall maintain, and annually submit to the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, information with respect to the agency on'--
(A) the number of Federal employees selected to receive benefits under this section;
(B) the job classification for the recipients; and
(C) the cost to the Federal Government of providing the benefits.
(2) The Director of the Office of Personnel Management shall prepare, and annually submit to Congress, a report containing the information submitted under paragraph (1), and information identifying the agencies that have provided benefits under this section.
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Part 537 of Title 5, Code of Federal RegulationsPart 537 '' Repayment of Student LoansSec.537.101 Purpose.537.102 Definitions.537.103 Agency student loan repayment plans.537.104 Employee eligibility.537.105 Criteria for payment.537.106 Conditions and procedures for providing student loan repayment benefits.537.107 Service agreements.537.108 Loss of eligibility for student loan repayment benefits.537.109 Employee reimbursements to the Government.537.110 Records and reports.
Authority: 5 U.S.C. 5379(g).
§537.101 Purpose.This part implements 5 U.S.C. 5379, which authorizes agencies to establish a student loan repayment program for the purpose of recruiting or retaining highly qualified personnel. Under such a program, an agency may agree to repay (by direct payment to the loan holder on behalf of the employee) all or part of any outstanding qualifying student loan or loans previously taken out by a job candidate to whom an offer of employment has been made, or by a current employee of the agency.
§537.102 Definitions.The definitions in this section apply only to part 537. In this part:
Agency has the meaning given that term in subparagraphs (A) through (E) of 5 U.S.C. 4101(1).
Authorized agency official means the head of an Executive agency or an official who is authorized to act for the head of the agency in the matter concerned.
Employee means an employee of an agency who satisfies the definition of the term in 5 U.S.C. 2105.
Loan payment means the net payment made by an agency to the holder of a student loan (after deducting any tax withholdings that may be made from the gross student loan repayment benefit credited to the employee).
Service agreement means a written agreement between an agency and an employee (or job candidate) under which the employee (or job candidate) agrees to a specified period of service in exchange for student loan repayment benefits, subject to the conditions set forth under this part.
Student loan means''
A loan made, insured, or guaranteed under parts B, D or E of title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965; or A health education assistance loan made or insured under part A of title VII of the Public Health Service Act or under part E of title VIII of that Act.Student loan repayment benefit means the benefit provided to an employee under this part in which an agency repays (by a direct payment on behalf of the employee) a qualifying student loan as described in § 537.106(b) previously taken out by such employee. The dollar value of this benefit is the gross amount credited to the employee at the time of a loan payment to the holder of the student loan, before deducting any employee tax withholdings from that gross amount as described in § 537.106(a)(6)(iii). A student loan repayment benefit is not considered basic pay for any purpose.
Time-limited appointment means a non-permanent appointment including'--
A temporary appointment under 5 CFR part 316, subpart D, or similar authority;A term appointment under 5 CFR part 316, subpart C, or similar authority;An overseas limited appointment with a time limitation under 5 CFR part 301, subpart B;A limited term or limited emergency appointment in the Senior Executive Service, as defined in 5 U.S.C. 3132(a), or an equivalent appointment made for similar purposes;A Veterans Recruitment Appointment under 5 CFR part 307;A Presidential Management Fellow appointment under 5 CFR 213.3102(ii) and 5 CFR 213.3102(jj);A Federal Career Intern appointment under 5 CFR 213.3202(o); andAn appointment under the fellowship and similar programs authority at 5 CFR 213.3102(r).Back to Top
§537.103 Agency student loan repayment plans.Before providing student loan repayment benefits under this part, an agency must establish a student loan repayment plan. This plan must include the following elements:
The designation of officials with authority to review and approve offering student loan repayment benefits (which may parallel the approval delegations used for other recruitment, relocation, and retention incentives);The situations in which the student loan repayment authority may be used;The criteria to meet or consider in authorizing student loan repayment benefits, including criteria for determining the size and timing of the loan payment(s);A system for selecting employees (or job candidates) to receive student loan repayment benefits that ensures fair and equitable treatment;The requirements associated with service agreements (including a basis for determining the length of service to be required if it is greater than the statutory minimum);The procedures for making loan payments;The provisions for recovering any amount outstanding from an employee who fails to satisfy a service agreement and conditions for waiving an employee's obligation to reimburse the agency for payments made under this part; andDocumentation and recordkeeping requirements sufficient to allow reconstruction of each action to approve a student loan repayment benefit.Back to Top
§537.104 Employee eligibility.Subject to the conditions in 5 U.S.C. 5379 and this part, an authorized agency official may approve student loan repayment benefits to recruit a highly qualified job candidate or retain a highly qualified employee who, during the service period established under a service agreement consistent with § 537.107, will be serving under'--An appointment other than a time-limited appointment; orA time-limited appointment if'--The employee (or job candidate) will have at least 3 years remaining under the appointment after the beginning of the service period established under a service agreement; orThe time-limited appointment authority leads to conversion to another appointment of sufficient duration so that his or her employment with the agency is projected to last for at least 3 additional years after the beginning of the service period established under a service agreement.An employee occupying a position that is excepted from the competitive service because of its confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character is ineligible for student loan repayment benefits.An employee becomes ineligible for student loan repayment benefits under the conditions described in § 537.108.Back to Top
§537.105 Criteria for payment.General criteria. Before authorizing student loan repayment benefits for an employee (or job candidate), an agency must make a written determination that'--The employee (or job candidate) is highly qualified and otherwise eligible (as described in § 537.104); andIn a case where the authorization is granted to recruit a job candidate to fill an agency position, the agency otherwise would encounter difficulty in filling a position with a highly qualified individual; orIn a case where the authorization is granted to retain a current employee of the agency, the employee otherwise is likely to leave the agency for employment outside the Federal service and it is essential to retain the employee based on the employee's high or unique qualifications or a special need of the agency.Retention considerations. In making a determination under paragraph (a)(2)(ii) of this section, an agency must consider the extent to which the employee's departure would affect the agency's ability to carry out an activity or perform a function that is deemed essential to its mission.Current Federal employees. An agency may not authorize student loan repayment benefits to recruit an individual from outside the agency who is currently employed in the Federal service.Selecting employees. When selecting employees (or job candidates) to receive student loan repayment benefits, agencies must ensure that benefits are awarded without regard to political affiliation, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, or handicapping condition.Back to Top
§537.106 Conditions and procedures for providing student loan repayment benefits.General conditions.Student loan repayment benefits may be provided at the discretion of the agency and are subject to such terms, limitations, or conditions as may be mutually agreed to in writing by the agency and the employee (or job candidate) as part of a service agreement under § 537.107.The student loan to be repaid must be a qualifying student loan as set forth in paragraph (b) of this section.The agency must document in writing each approval of student loan repayment benefits. An authorized agency official must review and approve each written determination. The written determination must show the employee (or job candidate) meets the criteria specified in § 537.105.An authorized agency official must approve student loan repayment benefits in connection with a recruitment action before the job candidate actually enters on duty in the position for which he or she was recruited. The agency and the job candidate may sign the service agreement (consistent with § 537.107) before the job candidate begins serving in the position, but the agency may not begin making loan payments until the job candidate begins serving in the position.Student loan repayment benefits are in addition to basic pay and any other form of compensation otherwise payable to the employee involved.Appropriate tax withholdings must be deducted or applied at the time any payment is made. Since these tax implications could create a financial hardship for the recipient of the student loan repayment benefit, agencies may lessen the impact of tax withholdings on an employee's paycheck in one of the following ways:Make smaller payments at periodic intervals throughout the year, rather than issue payments under this part in one lump sum;Allow the employee to write a check to the agency to cover his or her tax liability, rather than have the tax liability withheld from the employee's paycheck;Deduct the amount of taxes to be withheld from the student loan repayment benefit before the balance is issued as a loan payment to the holder of the loan.Note to § 537.106(a)(6): Contact the Internal Revenue Service for further details concerning these options, as well as the tax withholding implications of payments under this part.
Qualifying student loans.The agency may make loan payments only for student loan debts that are outstanding at the time the agency and the employee (or job candidate) enter into a service agreement. Before authorizing loan payments, an agency must verify with the holder of the loan that the employee (or job candidate) has an outstanding student loan that qualifies for repayment under this part. The agency must verify remaining balances to ensure that loans are not overpaid.The agency may repay more than one loan if the employee's student loan repayment benefit does not exceed the limits set forth in paragraph (c) of this section.These regulations do not impose a limit on the age of a student loan for qualification purposes. The agency may, however, specify in its agency plan that only student loans made within a certain timeframe are eligible for repayment.Benefit amount.In determining the amount of student loan repayment benefits to approve, an agency must consider the employee's (or job candidate's) value to the agency and how far in advance the agency is permitted to commit funds. If an agency decides to make additional student loan repayment benefits contingent on budget levels or other factors, it must address these contingent benefits in the written service agreement as described in § 537.107(a).The amount of student loan repayment benefits provided by an agency is subject to both of the following limits:10,000 per employee per calendar year; andA total of $60,000 per employee.In applying the limits in paragraph (c)(2) of this section, the agency must count the full student loan repayment benefit (i.e., before deducting any tax withholdings as described in paragraph (a)(6)(iii) of this section).Employee responsibility. Loan payments made by an agency under this part do not exempt an employee from his or her responsibility and/or liability for any loan(s) the individual has taken out. The employee also is responsible for any income tax obligations resulting from the student loan repayment benefit.Back to Top
§537.107 Service agreements.Before an employing agency makes any loan payments for an employee, the employee (or job candidate) must sign a written service agreement to complete a specified period of service with the agency and to reimburse the agency for the student loan repayment benefit when required by § 537.109. The service agreement also may specify any other employment conditions the agency considers to be appropriate, including the employee's (or job candidate's) position and the duties he or she is expected to perform, his or her work schedule, his or her level of performance, and the geographic location of his or her position. (See §§ 537.108 and 537.109.) The service agreement may address the possibility that, during the period the agreement is in effect, the agency may modify the agreement to provide student loan repayment benefits in addition to those fixed in the agreement based on contingencies or conditions specified in the agreement.The minimum period of service to be established under a service agreement is 3 years, regardless of the amount of student loan repayment benefits authorized. The agency and the employee may mutually agree to modify an existing service agreement, subject to the limitations at § 537.106(c)(2), to provide additional student loan repayment benefits for additional service without the need for an entirely new service agreement (which would require a new 3-year minimum service period). Periods of leave without pay, or other periods during which the employee is not in a pay status, do not count toward completion of the required service period. Thus, the service completion date must be extended by the total amount of time spent in non-pay status. However, as provided by 5 CFR 353.107, absence because of uniformed service or compensable injury is considered creditable toward the required service period upon reemployment.A service agreement made under this part in no way constitutes a promise of, or right or entitlement to, appointment, continued employment, or noncompetitive conversion to the competitive service. This condition should be stated in the service agreement.The service period begins on the date specified in the service agreement. That beginning date may not be'--Earlier than the date the service agreement is signed; orEarlier than the date the individual begins serving in the position for which he or she was recruited (when student loan repayment benefits are approved to recruit a job candidate to fill an agency position).The service agreement must contain a provision addressing whether the individual would be required to reimburse the paying agency for student loan repayment benefits if he or she voluntarily separates from the paying agency to work for another agency before the end of the service period. (See § 537.109(b)(2).)The agency may include in a service agreement specific conditions (in addition to those required by law) that trigger the loss of eligibility for student loan repayment benefits and/or a requirement that the employee reimburse the agency for student loan repayment benefits already received. (See §§ 537.108(a)(3) and 537.109(a)(2).) However, a service agreement may not require reimbursement based on-An employee's failure to maintain performance at a particular level (unless the employee is separated based on unacceptable performance); orAn involuntary separation for reasons other than misconduct, unacceptable performance, or a negative suitability determination under 5 CFR part 731 (e.g., an involuntary separation resulting from a reduction in force or medical reasons).Back to Top
§537.108 Loss of eligibility for student loan repayment benefits.An employee receiving student loan repayment benefits from an agency is ineligible for continued benefits from that agency if the employee'--Separates from the agency;Does not maintain an acceptable level of performance, as determined under standards and procedures prescribed by the agency; orViolates a condition in the service agreement, if the agreement specifically provides that eligibility is lost when the condition is violated.For the purpose of applying paragraph (a)(2) of this section, an acceptable level of performance is one that is equivalent to level 3 (''Fully Successful'' or equivalent) or higher, as described in 5 CFR 430.208(d). An employee loses eligibility for student loan repayment benefits if his or her most recent official performance evaluation does not meet this requirement.Back to Top
§537.109 Employee reimbursements to the Government.An employee is indebted to the Federal Government and must reimburse the paying agency for the amount of any student loan repayment benefits received under a service agreement if he or she'--Fails to complete the period of service required in the applicable service agreement (except as provided by paragraph (b) of this section); orViolates any other condition that specifically triggers a reimbursement requirement under the agreement.An agency may not apply paragraph (a) of this section based on an employee's failure to complete the required period of service established under a service agreement if'--The employee is involuntarily separated for reasons other than misconduct, unacceptable performance, or a negative suitability determination under 5 CFR part 731; orThe employee leaves the paying agency voluntarily to enter into the service of any other agency, unless reimbursement to the agency is otherwise required in the service agreement, as provided by § 537.107(e).If an agency and an employee mutually agree to modify an existing service agreement to provide additional student loan repayment benefits for additional service (as provided by § 537.107(b)), the modified service agreement may stipulate that, if the employee completes the initial service period but fails to complete the additional service period, he or she is required to reimburse the paying agency only for the amount of any student loan repayment benefits received during the additional service period.If an employee fails to reimburse the paying agency for the amount owed under paragraph (a) of this section, a sum equal to the amount outstanding is recoverable from the employee under the agency's regulations for collection by offset from an indebted Government employee under 5 U.S.C. 5514 and 5 CFR part 550, subpart K, or through the appropriate provisions governing Federal debt collection if the individual is no longer a Federal employee.An authorized agency official may waive, in whole or in part, a right of recovery of an employee's debt if he or she determines that recovery would be against equity and good conscience or against the public interest. (See 5 U.S.C. 5379(c)(3).)Any amount reimbursed by, or recovered from, an employee under this section must be credited to the appropriation account from which the amount involved was originally paid. Any amount so credited must be merged with other sums in such account and must be available for the same purposes and time period, and subject to the same limitations (if any), as the sums with which merged. (See 5 U.S.C. 5379(c)(4).)Back to Top
§537.110 Records and reports.Each agency must keep a record of each determination to provide student loan repayment benefits under this part and make such records available for review upon request by OPM. Such a record may be destroyed when 3 years have elapsed since the end of the service period specified in the employee's service agreement unless any dispute has arisen regarding the agreement. If the service agreement has not been fulfilled, there are other disputes regarding the agreement or the loan payouts, or the agreement has become the subject of litigation, the records should be kept until the agency is notified by agency counsel that all pending claims have been resolved, all litigation concluded, and any applicable periods for seeking further review has elapsed and, in any event, for a minimum of 6 years from the date the facts giving rise to the dispute occurred. If debt collection is pursued against the employee for repayments made by the agency, the agency must keep the records until the agency is notified by agency counsel that the debt is fully collected, compromised, or settled finally and that any applicable period for seeking further review has elapsed.By March 31st of each year, each agency must submit a written report to OPM containing information about student loan repayment benefits it provided to employees during the previous calendar year. Each report must include the following information:The number of employees who received student loan repayment benefits;The job classifications of the employees who received student loan repayment benefits; andThe cost to the Federal Government of providing student loan repayment benefits.Back to Top
Any employee (as defined in 5 U.S.C. 2105) who is highly qualified is eligible to receive a student loan repayment, except those employees who currently occupy or will occupy a position excepted from the competitive service because of its confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character (e.g., employees serving under Schedule C appointments). Under 5 CFR 537.104, agencies may offer student loan repayment benefits to recruit a highly qualified job candidate or retain a highly qualified employee who, during the service period established under a service agreement, will be serving under (1) an appointment other than a time-limited appointment or (2) a time-limited appointment if-
The employee (or job candidate) will have at least 3 years remaining under the appointment after the beginning of the service period; or The time-limited appointment authority leads to conversion to another appointment of sufficient duration so that his or her employment with the agency is projected to last for at least 3 additional years after the beginning of the service period. Thank you for your feedback!
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A student loan is eligible if it is made, insured, or guaranteed under parts B, D, or E of title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 or is a health education assistance loan made or insured under part A of title VII or part E of title VIII of the Public Health Service Act.
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Under 5 CFR 537.103, each agency must establish a plan that designates the officials who are authorized to review and approve offers of student loan repayment benefits. Agencies may use approval delegations similar to those used for other recruitment, relocation, and retention incentives.
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The types of academic degrees and/or levels covered by the program are not specified in law. Agencies are encouraged to tailor their plans to recruit highly qualified candidates and/or retain highly qualified employees in their current positions. Therefore, an agency may specify the types of degrees and levels necessary to attain this goal.
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No. An agency has discretionary authority to repay certain types of Federally made, insured, or guaranteed student loans as a recruitment or retention incentive for highly qualified candidates or current employees.
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Agencies should specify the beginning date of the service requirement in the job candidate's or employee's service agreement. The service requirement begins at the time specified in the service agreement, but may begin no earlier than the date the service agreement is signed or earlier than the date the individual begins serving in the position for which he or she was recruited (when student loan repayment benefits are approved to recruit a job candidate to fill an agency position).
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Yes. All ''highly qualified'' personnel, regardless of job series, including Senior Executive Service members, Federal Wage System employees, and employees covered by administratively determined pay systems, are eligible unless specifically excluded by law or regulation.
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The statute authorizing this program states that this incentive is to be used for employees of a given agency who have outstanding student loans. Thus, if the employee has a PLUS loan for his or her child, the loan would qualify for repayment. However, if a PLUS loan is held by an employee's parent, the employee is not eligible for loan repayment benefits for the parent's PLUS loan. While a PLUS loan an employee has previously taken out to help pay for his or her child's education is a qualifying student loan under 5 U.S.C. 5379(a)(1)(B) and 5 CFR 537.102, an agency may specify in its agency loan repayment plan that it will not offer to repay PLUS loans under its student loan repayment program.
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Agencies may not offer to repay a student loan for an employee who is likely to leave for any position in any branch of the Federal Government. (See 5 CFR 537.105(a)(2)(ii).)
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Agencies may offer student loan repayment benefits in conjunction with recruitment, relocation and retention incentives. Agencies may also use student loan repayment benefits in conjunction with a physicians' comparability allowance (PCA). However, 5 CFR 595.105(e) requires that the amount of the PCA be reduced by the amount of the student loan repayment.
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Loans made or insured under the Higher Education Act of 1965 include the following:Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL)
Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans Federal PLUS Loans Federal Consolidation Loans William D. Ford Direct Loan Program (Direct Loans)
Direct Subsidized Stafford Loans Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans Direct PLUS Loans Direct Subsidized Consolidation Loans Direct Unsubsidized Consolidation Loans Federal Perkins Loan Program
National Defense Student Loans (made before July 1, 1972) National Direct Student Loans (made between July 1, 1972, and July 1, 1987) Perkins Loans (made after July 1, 1987) Loans made or insured under the Public Health Service Act include the following:
Loans for Disadvantaged Students (LDS) Primary Care Loans (PCL) Nursing Student Loans (NSL) Health Professions Student Loans (HPSL) Health Education Assistance Loans (HEAL) Thank you for your feedback!
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Agencies are not required to make loan payments in one lump sum. In fact, making a loan payment in one lump sum to the loan holder on behalf of the employee accelerates the employee's tax liability and may increase the resulting tax burden. (See Questions and Answers on Tax Liability.)
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If an employee voluntarily separates from Federal service before completing the period of service required in the applicable service agreement or violates any other condition that specifically triggers a reimbursement requirement under the agreement, he or she is obligated to reimburse the paying agency for the full amount of the loan repayment benefits provided (gross before any tax deductions from the loan payment). For example, if an employee's agreement states that he or she will receive $10,000 per year for 3 years, and the employee leaves with 6 months remaining on the service agreement after receiving $25,000 in loan repayment benefits, the employee must reimburse the paying agency for $25,000.
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Current Federal employees or potential candidates may contact their current or potential employing agency for further information. Each participating agency must develop a plan that describes how the agency will implement the student loan repayment program.
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Agencies have several options for easing the tax liability on their employees. (See 5 CFR 537.106(a)(6) and Questions and Answers on Tax Liability.)
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Agencies are responsible for making their own determination regarding what this term means. In doing so, agencies should take into account consistency, fairness, and the cost to taxpayers of recovering monies owed to the Government.
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Total Count: 55, Number of Pages: 3, Page: 1
FACT CHECK: Are Congressional Staffers and Family Members Exempt From Repaying Student Loans?
Sat, 28 Jul 2018 12:55
Various statements circulated on the Internet over the years have claimed that all staffers working for members of Congress are automatically exempted from having to repay their student loan obligations:
Monday on Fox news they learned that the staffers of Congress members are exempt from having to pay back student loans. This will get national attention if other news networks will broadcast it. '... just where will all of it stop?
These statements have sometimes been garbled into similar claims that ''staffers of Congress family members are exempt from having to pay back student loans'' or simply ''congressional family members are exempt from having to pay back student loans.'' However, no law or program automatically exempts all congressional staffers or congressional family members from having to repay their student loan obligations.
The claim that all such persons are so exempted is based upon a misunderstanding of one particular federal employment program which provides some federal employees assistance in paying back student loans up to a certain amount, depending upon income level, length of employment, and other requirements.
The claim references the Federal Student Loan Repayment Program, which is essentially a discretionary benefit that can be offered by federal agencies to select employees as an aid in hiring and retaining qualified personnel for some important and hard-to-fill positions. The program has been used by many different federal government agencies (not just Congress), it does not apply to everyone who works for those agencies, and it does not forgive student loans in full.
As noted in the page describing the Federal Student Loan Repayment Program on the web site of the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM):
The Federal student loan repayment program permits agencies to repay Federally insured student loans as a recruitment or retention incentive for candidates or current employees of the agency.
Although the student loan is not forgiven, agencies may make payments to the loan holder of up to a maximum of $10,000 for an employee in a calendar year and a total of not more than $60,000 for any one employee.
An employee receiving this benefit must sign a service agreement to remain in the service of the paying agency for a period of at least 3 years. An employee must reimburse the paying agency for all benefits received if he or she is separated voluntarily or separated involuntarily for misconduct, unacceptable performance, or a negative suitability determination. In addition, an employee must maintain an acceptable level of performance in order to continue to receive repayment benefits.
Employees enrolled in the program must count such assistance as income and pay taxes on it.
According to a 2009 press release issued by the OPM about the purpose of the student loan repayment program:
''The program is part of a directed effort for agencies to compete with the higher salaries offered in the private sector and maintain a highly skilled workforce,'' said OPM Director John Berry. ''President Barack Obama has highlighted the importance of recruitment and retention tools and asked each agency to do its part to ensure 'this Government is as efficient as possible and that every taxpayer dollar that is spent is being spent wisely.' We have many critical skills gaps in the Federal government and we need to use every tool in our tool box to bring the best service to the American public. During my tenure, I intend to carry out the President's call of efficiency and good stewardship and encourage agencies to use student loan repayments in targeted and strategic ways.''
According to the OPM's August 2010 annual report on the Federal Student Loan Repayment Program, during the previous year 36 different federal agencies provided 8,454 employees with a total of more than $61.8 million in student loan repayment benefits, with the program being used most frequently to recruit and retain criminal investigators, attorneys, and intelligence analysts.
The report also noted that ''the six agencies making the most extensive use of student loan repayments'' did not include Congress, but comprised ''the Departments of Justice, Defense, Health and Human Services, and State, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Government Accountability Office,'' who between them accounted for over 80% of such expenditures.
The Federal Student Loan Repayment Program applies only to employees of federal agencies. It does not cover loans made to their children or other family members, and it does not provide student loan benefits to congressional family members.
New York Daily News executives deal blow to journalism | US news | The Guardian
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 11:40
When Donald Trump won the presidency, the New York Daily News greeted his victory with a front page image of a stars and stripes flag in a position of distress and lowered to half staff in front of the White House and the headline: ''House of horrors''.
Since then, Trump has been featured on the tabloid's front page in clown's facepaint and under fierce all-caps headlines ranging from ''Off his meds'' to ''Liar'' and ''racist''.
Related: Popular newspapers suffer greater circulation falls than qualities
Hardly subtle, but certainly in the fine tradition of the no-holds-barred tabloid journalism which has kept the rich and powerful off balance in New York for more than a century.
This week, some of the colour and a lot of the scrutiny was lost from the New York journalism scene as Tronc, new owners of the Daily News, abruptly fired half of the editorial staff after a meeting lasting one minute. The move came little over a year after Tronc bought the tabloid for $1, assuming responsibility for all of its operational and pension liabilities.
A city which once had nine daily titles is now down to Rupert Murdoch's New York Post, what is left of the Daily News and the upmarket New York Times and Wall Street Journal, which have both cut back significantly on reporting their own city in favour of greater analysis, national and international stories. The Village Voice has closed its print edition and lost most of its staff, while the news website DNAinfo has gone extinct and Gothamist was closed then re-opened by WNYC in a much-reduced form.
The Daily News has been on a roll, winning its 11th Pulitzer Prize in 2017, and it has been clearly galvanised by Trump '' it was even inspired by his excesses to reprise the most famous headline in its 99-year history.
It was in 1975 when Gerald Ford vowed to veto a bail-out for bankrupt New York City that his hectoring speech drew the headline: ''Ford to city: drop dead''. The Daily News waited four decades, but when Trump pulled the US out of the Paris climate accord, the editor-in-chief, Jim Rich went with ''Trump to world: drop dead''.
This week, Rich was gone in the cull that left the paper with 45 staff, down from more than 400 in the late 1980s. Rich declined to be interviewed for this article, but his Twitter profile bio captures his mood: ''Just a guy sitting at home watching journalism being choked into extinction.''
For a city of 8.6 million people, concerted local coverage is at a low point in a place where brash, pungent tabloids have long reflected New York's manic pace and stark inequalities.
The label ''yellow journalism'' was coined as a shorthand for New York's early tabloid rivalry during the 19th century battle between the press barons Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. A much-loved cartoonist, whose key character Yellow Kid was seen as a circulation booster, was poached by Hearst to help sales of his New York Journal. The term soon became synonymous with its sensationalist style as they whipped up anti-Spanish sentiment to sell papers and help create conditions for the Spanish-American war.
Later, the post-depression-era grit of the freelance street photographer Weegee was a vivid expression of the highly competitive battle to be fast and exciting.
Christopher Bonanos, author of Splash: The Making of Weegee the Famous, said Weegee ''was shooting to eat'' and he knew that getting a picture first and making it evocative would help it sell.
So instead of focusing on the burning building, he would aim his lens at the people weeping as they watched their home burn down or, as in a picture he captioned ''Their first murder'', a crowd of children fixated on the grim sight of a bloodied body in the gutter.
''He had a police radio next to the bed and a fire bell in his apartment connected to the fire department headquarters,'' Bonanos said. ''He would sit there drowsing all night listening to the radio and the second something came over he would throw on his jacket and be on the street 20 seconds later. Sometimes he was on the scene before the police would arrive.''
By the 1950s, movies such as Sweet Smell of Success revelled in the sleaze, with Burt Lancaster as the conniving columnist JJ Hunsecker, stepping between corrupt cops, philandering politicians and low-life publicity agents, to declare: ''I love this dirty town!''
Related: New Jersey pledges $5m for local journalism to boost state's 'civic health'
Whatever the industry's perceived seedy glamour, the great strength of the Daily News came from its beat reporters '' and the fact that the powerful dared not ignore it. Once the biggest circulation newspaper in America, selling 2.4m copies per day at its peak, it is down to around 200,000 today, but the power of the Daily News has survived.
Sarah Ryley, now writing about guns and policing at the Trace, landed that Pulitzer for the Daily News and ProPublica in 2017, with a series of articles about people being evicted from their homes based on secretive police reports which had never led to charges against them. Her reporting '' which led to 13 new laws '' was three years in the making, and started from information picked up during other investigations.
''I was almost about to give up on it, but part of the reason the city council responded in the way that they did was because of the power and influence the Daily News has in the city. They can't just ignore a piece that runs in the Daily News.
''The first story I wrote, we ran it online on a Friday and in print on a Sunday,'' she said. ''All day Friday, I was calling every city council member and got no response. When it ran in print on Sunday, they were tripping over themselves to respond '' it's just a testament to the power and influence of the Daily News in the city over the past 100 years. So it's not just something that can be replaced.''
The national picture of newspapers in decline is no better '' 40 of America's 110 largest daily newspapers have suffered layoffs since January 2017, a new study from the Pew Research Center found this week. The senior researcher Michael Barthel said: ''Over the past three years, there has been about a 15% fall in the overall number of newsroom employees, from about 46,000 to about 39,000.''
Kyle Pope, editor and publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review, said: ''We've been wringing our hands about this problem now for years. I really see this as the death spiral phase. I think there is no sign of it levelling off; it's getting worse. What's scary is the worse it is, the harder the case is going to be to save some of these places.
''This is the dirty secret that nobody talks about '' because a lot of these outlets have been so starved of resources for so long, a lot of them are frankly not that good. I'm not talking about the Daily News, but small local papers around the country. When I travel and I ask people, 'Why aren't you reading the local papers?,' they say, 'Have you seen the local paper?'''
But as he points out, local papers break stories that matter deeply to their communities. ''The case that now has to be made is 'What would you lose if this coverage went away?' When you talk about the best of local news, it's not esoteric or conceptual '' it's things like there was a guy running a school gymnastic programme who was abusing children and a local newspaper in Indianapolis exposed it.''
The reporter Erin Durkin had been at the Daily News 10 years before she lost her job this week, rising from intern to beat reporter in the now shuttered Brooklyn bureau before spending the past six years covering city hall.
Related: The billionaire who bought the LA Times: 'Hipsters will want paper soon'
She has watched the field of rival journalists in the Room 9 press room thin out and the Daily News's own politics team shrink from 14 reporters and editors to just two reporters. She has a keen sense of what is being lost when it comes to scrutiny of the city.
''It's about being there day in and day out, being able to tell the city what's going on in the neighborhoods, in the government, in the city,'' she said. ''The Daily News has always been the paper that did that. It's always been the paper of the city, of the working class, of the boroughs. You don't know the big story until you do the small story to find the big story.
''It was the Daily News that published the video of Eric Garner's death. And that is something which became a huge story, but that wasn't obvious from the beginning.''
Garner's death in 2014 caused revulsion around the world '' captured on video as he pleaded ''I can't breathe'' while a New York police officer held him in a chokehold. That officer will now face disciplinary charges, the Daily News revealed just last week.
Durkin said: ''We didn't know the circumstances of what happened and we didn't know how huge of an injustice story this was, but we went there anyway because somebody died and it was something people needed to know about. They went there and showed the city, and really, the whole world, what happened there.''
The photographer Ken Murray, who tracked down the video, lost his job this week, along with the entire photographic staff. The Daily News continues to have an image of a camera in its masthead.
'Police can no longer handle the lawless jungle after dark in Amsterdam' - ombudsman
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 05:59
As dark descends on Amsterdam, the Dutch tourist hotspot turns into an ''urban jungle'' where the police are powerless to handle crime, violence and drug trade, Arre Zuurmond, the city's ombudsman, warned.
"The city center becomes an urban jungle at night," Zuurmond told Dutch paper, Trouw. "Criminal money flourishes, there is no authority and the police can no longer handle the situation."
Drugs are being sold openly in the streets, pedestrian areas are used for car and bike races, there's widespread theft and other offenses, the ombudsman said, using the world ''mayhem'' to describe what's happening in the city.
Earlier, Zuurmond set up three CCTV cameras at the busy Leidseplein square ringed by bars and clubs, which is located in the south western part of the city center. The facts exposed as a result of his surveillance experiment turned out to be quite depressing.
"One night we counted 900 offences, mainly between the hours of 2:00am and 4:00am. The atmosphere is grim, and there is an air of lawlessness," the ombudsman told Trouw. "Scooters race through the pedestrian areas. There is a lot of shouting. Drugs are being bought. There is stealing,'' he said, adding that police often do not even try to intervene.
"There is violence but no action. You can even pee on the van of a mobile [police] unit and the driver won't say anything,'' Zuurmond said. He also described the situation at the square at night as ''intolerable lack of authority.''
The notorious Red Light district streets, which are ''packed'' with crowds of revelers in the evenings, also witness a high crime rate. Human trafficking has become a particular source of concern for the local authorities as it even prompted the municipality to launch a special project aimed at combating the issue as well as reducing the overall crime rate. However, all the efforts have been largely to no avail so far, the paper reports, citing the assessment made by the Amsterdam city court.
The problems deepen as they continue to spread across the city, Zuurmond warned. He particularly drew attention to the fact that some 2,000 illegal taxis are now roaming the streets at nights for fares. The city also has a flourishing black market with racketeers dealing with wads of cash. ''Shadowy money is everywhere in the city center,'' the ombudsman said.
The tense situation is partly a result of government policy, Zuurmond explained. ''The government has deliberately stimulated tourism after the economic crisis, but [it] has forgotten to'... take additional [security] measures.''
According to Dutch media, the problem that currently plagues the capital of the Netherlands might in fact be part of a larger issue. In the Netherlands, there are around 160,000 people who have been ''irrevocably convicted'' but have managed to avoid punishment, Trouw reports, citing data provided by the municipality of Amsterdam.
According to the ministry of justice, more than 12,000 out of the 160,000 have to serve a custodial sentence. About 10 percent of such convicts fleeing justice reportedly reside in Amsterdam, where they can actually apply for a new passport virtually without any background checks. As a result, hundreds of alleged ''street criminals'' just ''disappear.''
Amsterdam welcomes 18 million tourists every year '' more than the total population of the Netherlands. The city has recently been hit by a string of violent incidents. In late June, a motorcycle gang member was arrested after he allegedly fired an anti-tank missile at an office building which houses a magazine publisher in Amsterdam. Just days later, a van crashed into the head office of daily newspaper De Telegraaf in the Dutch capital, in what police believe was a deliberate attack. Neither incident resulted in casualties.
Last week, a Briton was shot in the head outside a caf(C) in Amsterdam by a fellow national in what police described as a gang feud. An international manhunt was launched after the incident. The shooting victim remains in the hospital in stable condition.
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Milestones: 1937''1945 - Office of the Historian
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 13:01
The Atlantic Charter was a joint declaration released by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on August 14, 1941 following a meeting of the two heads of state in Newfoundland. The Atlantic Charter provided a broad statement of U.S. and British war aims.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill
The meeting had been called in response to the geopolitical situation in Europe by mid-1941. Although Great Britain had been spared from a German invasion in the fall of 1940 and, with the passage of the U.S. Lend Lease Act in March 1941, was assured U.S. material support, by the end of May, German forces had inflicted humiliating defeats upon British, Greek, and, Yugoslav forces in the Balkans and were threatening to overrun Egypt and close off the Suez Canal, thereby restricting British access to its possessions in India. When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, few policymakers in Washington or London believed that the Soviets would be able to resist the Nazi onslaught for more than six weeks. While the British Government focused its efforts on dealing with the Germans in Europe, they were also concerned that Japan might take advantage of the situation to seize British, French, and Dutch territories in Southeast Asia.
Churchill's copy of the Atlantic Charter
Churchill and Roosevelt met on August 9 and 10, 1941 aboard the U.S.S. Augusta in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, to discuss their respective war aims for the Second World War and to outline a postwar international system. The Charter they drafted included eight ''common principles'' that the United States and Great Britain would be committed to supporting in the postwar world. Both countries agreed not to seek territorial expansion; to seek the liberalization of international trade; to establish freedom of the seas, and international labor, economic, and welfare standards. Most importantly, both the United States and Great Britain were committed to supporting the restoration of self-governments for all countries that had been occupied during the war and allowing all peoples to choose their own form of government
While the meeting was successful in drafting these aims, it failed to produce the desired results for either leader. President Roosevelt had hoped that the Charter might encourage the American people to back U.S. intervention in World War II on behalf of the Allies; however, public opinion remained adamantly opposed to such a policy until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Churchill's primary goal in attending the Atlantic Conference was ''to get the Americans into the war.'' Barring that, he hoped that the United States would increase its amount of military aid to Great Britain and warn Japan against taking any aggressive actions in the Pacific.
Roosevelt, on the other hand, wanted the British Government to affirm publicly that it was not involved in any secret treaties, particularly ones concerning territorial questions, such as those concluded by the Allies during the First World War concerning the division of enemy territory at war's end. Roosevelt also wished to arrange the terms by which Great Britain would repay the United States for its Lend Lease assistance. Roosevelt wanted the British to pay compensation by dismantling their system of Imperial Preference, which had been established by the British Government during the Great Depression and was designed to encourage trade within the British Empire by lowering tariff rates between members, while maintaining discriminatory tariff rates against outsiders.
Churchill was extremely disappointed by Roosevelt's refusal to discuss American entry into the war. Furthermore, Churchill understood that several aspects of the proposed joint declaration might be politically damaging for the Prime Minister. Churchill worried that the abandonment of Imperial Preference would anger the protectionist wing of his Conservative Party. The Americans also proved unwilling to warn Japan too strongly against any future military action against British possessions in Southeast Asia. Finally, both Churchill and many members of his Cabinet were alarmed by the third point of the Charter, which mentions the rights of all peoples to choose their own government. Churchill was concerned that this clause acknowledged the right of colonial subjects to agitate for decolonization, including those in Great Britain's empire.
Nevertheless, Churchill realized that the joint declaration was the most he could accomplish during the conference. While the United States would remain neutral, the declaration would raise the morale of the British public and, most importantly, bind the United States closer to Great Britain. Therefore, when Churchill forwarded the text of the declaration to his Cabinet on August 11, he warned them that would it be ''imprudent'' to raise unnecessary difficulties. The Cabinet followed Churchill's recommendation and approved the Charter.
While the Atlantic Charter of August 1941 was not a binding treaty, it was, nonetheless, significant for several reasons. First, it publicly affirmed the sense of solidarity between the U.S. and Great Britain against Axis aggression. Second, it laid out President Roosevelt's Wilsonian-vision for the postwar world; one that would be characterized by freer exchanges of trade, self-determination, disarmament, and collective security. Finally, the Charter ultimately did serve as an inspiration for colonial subjects throughout the Third World, from Algeria to Vietnam, as they fought for independence.
The Algos
'The discourse is unhinged': how the media gets AI alarmingly wrong | Technology | The Guardian
Thu, 26 Jul 2018 19:58
I n June of last year, five researchers at Facebook's Artificial Intelligence Research unit published an article showing how bots can simulate negotiation-like conversations.
While for the most part the bots were able to maintain coherent dialogue, the researchers found that the software agents would occasionally generate strange sentences like: ''Balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to.''
On seeing these results, the team realized that they had failed to include a constraint that limited the bots to generating sentences within the parameters of spoken English, meaning that they developed a type of machine-English patois to communicate between themselves. These findings were considered to be fairly interesting by other experts in the field, but not totally surprising or groundbreaking.
A month after this initial research was released, Fast Company published an article entitled AI Is Inventing Language Humans Can't Understand. Should We Stop It?. The story focused almost entirely on how the bots occasionally diverged from standard English '' which was not the main finding of the paper '' and reported that after the researchers ''realized their bots were chattering in a new language'' they decided to pull the plug on the whole experiment, as if the bots were in some way out of control.
Fast Company's story went viral and spread across the internet, prompting a slew of content-hungry publications to further promote this new Frankenstein-esque narrative: ''Facebook engineers panic, pull plug on AI after bots develop their own language,'' one website reported. Not to be outdone, the Sun proposed that the incident ''closely resembled the plot of The Terminator in which a robot becomes self-aware and starts waging a war on humans''.
Zachary Lipton, an assistant professor at the machine learning department at Carnegie Mellon University, watched with frustration as this story transformed from ''interesting-ish research'' to ''sensationalized crap''.
Exaggerated claims in the press about the intelligence of computers is not unique to our time, and in fact goes back to the very origins of computing itself
According to Lipton, in recent years broader interest in topics like ''machine learning'' and ''deep learning'' has led to a deluge of this type of opportunistic journalism, which misrepresents research for the purpose of generating retweets and clicks '' he calls it the ''AI misinformation epidemic''. A growing number of researchers working in the field share Lipton's frustration, and worry that the inaccurate and speculative stories about AI, like the Facebook story, will create unrealistic expectations for the field, which could ultimately threaten future progress and the responsible application of new technologies.
Exaggerated claims in the press about the intelligence of computers is not unique to our time, and in fact goes back to the very origins of computing itself.
In February 1946, when the school bus-sized, cumbersome Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (Eniac) was presented to the media at a press conference, journalists described it as an ''electronic brain'', a ''mathematical Frankenstein'', a ''predictor and controller of weather'' and a ''wizard''. In an attempt to tamp down some of the hype around the new machine, renowned British physicist DR Hartree published an article in Nature describing how the Eniac worked in a straightforward and unsensational way.
Much to his dismay, the London Times published a story that drew heavily on his research titled An Electronic Brain: Solving Abstruse Problems; Valves with a Memory. Hartree immediately responded with a letter to the editor, saying that the term ''electronic brain'' was misleading and that the machine was ''no substitute for human thought'', but the damage was done '' the Eniac was forever known by the press as the ''brain machine''.
It was a similar story in the United States after Frank Rosenblatt, an engineer at Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory, presented a rudimentary machine-learning algorithm called the ''perceptron'' to the press in 1958. While the ''perceptron'' could only be trained to recognize a limited range of patterns, the New York Times published an article claiming that the algorithm was an ''electronic brain'' that could ''teach itself'', and would one day soon ''be able to walk, talk, see, write, reproduce itself and be conscious of its own existence''.
While the giddy hype around AI helped generate funding for researchers at universities and in the military, by the end of the 1960s it was becoming increasingly obvious to many AI pioneers that they had grossly underestimated the difficulty of simulating the human brain in machines. In 1969, Marvin Minsky, who had pronounced only eight years earlier that machines would surpass humans in general intelligence in his lifetime, co-authored a book with Seymour Papert proving that Rosenblatt's perceptron could not do as much the experts had once promised and was nowhere near as intelligent as the media had let on.
Minsky and Papert's book suffused the research community with a contagious doubt that spread to other fields, leading the way for an outpouring AI myth debunking. In 1972, the philosopher Hubert Dreyfus published an influential screed against thinking machines called What Computers Can't Do, and a year later the British mathematician James Lighthill produced a report on the state of machine intelligence, which concluded that ''in no part of the field have the discoveries made so far produced the major impact that was then promised''.
This trough of disillusionment ushered in what has since been called the first AI winter, a period in which funding for research in the field dropped off almost entirely. The media, which had drummed up so many inflated expectations for ''electronic brains'', also lost interest. While there were small resurgences in the 1980s and 1990s, AI was more or less a topic relegated to the realm of corny sci-fi novelists '' computer scientists often avoided the term artificial intelligence altogether for fear of being viewed as ''wild-eyed dreamers''.
' ' '
The ice of AI's first winter only fully retreated at the beginning of this decade after a new generation of researchers started publishing papers about successful applications of a technique called ''deep learning''.
While this was fundamentally a decades-old statistical technique similar to Rosenblatt's perceptron, increases in computational power and availability of huge data sets meant that deep learning was becoming practical for tasks such as speech recognition, image recognition and language translation. As reports of deep learning's ''unreasonable effectiveness'' circulated among researchers, enrollments at universities in machine-learning classes surged, corporations started to invest billions of dollars to find talent familiar with the newest techniques, and countless startups attempting to apply AI to transport or medicine or finance were founded.
As this resurgence got under way, AI hype in the media resumed after a long hiatus. In 2013, John Markoff wrote a feature in the New York Times about deep learning and neural networks with the headline Brainlike Computers, Learning From Experience. Not only did the title recall the media hype of 60 years earlier, so did some of the article's assertions about what was being made possible by the new technology. ''In coming years,'' Markoff wrote, ''the approach will make possible a new generation of artificial intelligence systems that will perform some function that humans do with ease: see, speak, listen, navigate, manipulate and control.''
Since then, far more melodramatic and overblown articles about ''AI apocalypse'', ''artificial brains'', ''artificial superintelligence'' and ''creepy Facebook bot AIs'' have filled the news feed daily.
Lipton, a jazz saxophonist who decided to undertake a PhD in machine learning to challenge himself intellectually, says that as these hyped-up stories proliferate, so too does frustration among researchers with how their work is being reported on by journalists and writers who have a shallow understanding of the technology.
What Lipton finds most troubling, though, is not technical illiteracy among journalists, but how social media has allowed self-proclaimed ''AI influencers'' who do nothing more than paraphrase Elon Musk on their Medium blogs to cash in on this hype with low-quality, TED-style puff pieces. ''Making real progress in AI requires a public discourse that is sober and informed,'' Lipton says. ''Right now, the discourse is so completely unhinged it's impossible to tell what's important and what's not.''
There are policy makers earnestly having meetings to discuss the rights of robots when they should be talking about discrimination in algorithmic decision making
Lipton is not the first person to express concern about the new AI hype cycle and where it is taking the field. Last year, the pioneering roboticist Rodney Brooks wrote an article criticizing the ''hysteria about the future of artificial intelligence'' for MIT Technology Review. In 2013, New York University professor Gary Marcus wrote an article for the New Yorker in which he argued that the hype will create unrealistic expectations followed by disillusionment leading to another AI winter.
But for Lipton, the problem with the current hysteria is not so much the risk of another winter, but more how it promotes stories that distract from pressing issues in the field. ''People are afraid about the wrong things,'' he says. ''There are policymakers earnestly having meetings to discuss the rights of robots when they should be talking about discrimination in algorithmic decision making. But this issue is terrestrial and sober, so not many people take an interest.''
' ' '
In March last year, Lipton started his own blog to try to counter-balance and deconstruct some of the most damaging sensationalist AI news. So far, he has called out a ''low-quality'' profile of Elon Musk in Vanity Fair and an uncritical overview of Anthony Levandowski's so-called AI church, among others.
The blog has received some attention from the media and has a regular readership, but Lipton knows that his influence is limited. ''What really needs to happen is better training of journalists and more integrity,'' he says. ''Until that happens, my blog is just a pebble in the rapids of crap. I'm not altering the direction of the stream.''
Joanne McNeil, a writer who examines emerging technologies, agrees that there is a problem with uncritical, uninquiring tech journalism, and often uses Twitter to make fun of Terminator-style articles. But at the same time, she is weary of pointing the finger solely at journalists and believes that one of the causes of AI hype is an uneven distribution of resources.
''If you compare a journalist's income to an AI researcher's income,'' she says, ''it becomes pretty clear pretty quickly why it is impossible for journalists to produce the type of carefully thought through writing that researchers want done about their work.'' She adds that while many researchers stand to benefit from hype, as a writer who wants to critically examine these technologies, she only suffers from it. ''There are few outlets interested in publishing nuanced pieces and few editors who have the expertise to edit them,'' she says. ''If AI researchers really care about being covered thoughtfully and critically, they should come together and fund a publication where writers can be suitably paid for the time that it takes to really dig in.''
While closer interaction between journalists and researchers would be a step in the right direction, Genevieve Bell, a professor of engineering and computer science at the Australian National University, says that stamping out hype in AI journalism is not possible. Bell explains that this is because articles about electronic brains or pernicious Facebook bots are less about technology and more about our cultural hopes and anxieties.
''We've told stories about inanimate things coming to life for thousands of years, and these narratives influence how we interpret what is going on now,'' Bell says. ''Experts can be really quick to dismiss how their research makes people feel, but these utopian hopes and dystopian fears have to be part of the conversations. Hype is ultimately a cultural expression that has its own important place in the discourse.''
Ultimately, Lipton agrees that there is a place for speculative writing about AI and he acknowledges how imagination and emotion can motivate inquiry in the field. ''But I also think that boundary between wild speculation and real research is a little too flimsy right now,'' he says. ''As history shows us, this is a boundary that needs to be monitored so we can distinguish between what's important in the here and now and what's just fantasy.''
IBM's Watson gave unsafe recommendations for treating cancer - The Verge
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 13:51
IBM's Watson supercomputer gave unsafe recommendations for treating cancer patients, according to documents reviewed by Stat. The report is the latest sign that Watson, once hyped as the future of cancer research, has fallen far short of expectations.
In 2012, doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center partnered with IBM to train Watson to diagnose and treat patients. But according to IBM documents dated from last summer, the supercomputer has frequently given bad advice, like when it suggested a cancer patient with severe bleeding be given a drug that could cause the bleeding to worsen. (A spokesperson for Memorial Sloan Kettering said this suggestion was hypothetical and not inflicted on a real patient.)
''This product is a piece of s'--,'' one doctor at Jupiter Hospital in Florida told IBM executives, according to the documents. ''We bought it for marketing and with hopes that you would achieve the vision. We can't use it for most cases.''
The documents come from a presentation given by Andrew Norden, IBM Watson's former deputy health chief, right before he left the company. In addition to showcasing customer dissatisfaction, they reveal problems with methods, too. Watson for Oncology was supposed to synthesize enormous amounts of data and come up with novel insights. But it turns out most of the data fed to it is hypothetical and not real patient data. That means the suggestions Watson made were simply based off the treatment preferences of the few doctors providing the data, not actual insights it gained from analyzing real cases.
An IBM spokesperson told Gizmodo that Watson for Oncology has ''supported care for more than 84,000 patients'' and is still learning. Apparently, it's not learning the right things.
Trump threatens government shutdown over immigration, border security
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 14:38
Carlos Barria | Reuters
President Donald Trump gestures as he addresses the Veterans of Foreign Wars' 119th VFW national convention in Kansas City, Missouri, July 24, 2018.
President Donald Trump called on Congress to enact sweeping immigration reform, including a border wall, and threatened a federal government shutdown if Democrats refused to back his proposals.
In a series of early morning posts on Twitter, the president lambasted Congress over immigration reform. He then threatened to shut down the government if Congress didn't move U.S. laws "based on MERIT!"
TweetEarlier this year, the White House released a proposal for merit-based immigration, which floundered in Congress amid tepid support from within the president's own party.
The administration's framework included a $25 billion "trust fund" for a border wall, a path to citizenship for "Dreamer" immigrants, and an end to foreign visa lotteries that would end a program "riddled with abuse." In an analysis of the proposal, the libertarian Cato Institute called the plan "draconian", and said it would reduce legal immigration by up to 44 percent per year.
Amid searing images of undocumented families being separated at the border, Trump defended the controversial practice '-- which was in place under the Obama administration. Trump warned that there were "consequences when people cross our Border illegally." He argued that parents attempting to cross the border are "using children for their own sinister purposes."
Trump's tweet Sunday came several days after the government said more than 1,800 children separated at the U.S.-Mexico border have been reunited with parents, and sponsors after a federal judge ordered the reunions. Hundreds of children still remain separated.
--The Associated Press contributed to this article.
History of the 40-hour workweek
Sat, 28 Jul 2018 16:53
It took nearly a century for the eight-hour workday to become standard in the US. David S. Holloway/Getty In 1890, the US government began tracking workers' hours . The average workweek for full-time manufacturing employees was a whopping 100 hours .
Seventy-five years ago, on October 24, 1940, the eight-hour day and 40-hour workweek became standard practice in a range of industries. It was a long, drawn-out battle between workers and government officials.
We take a look back at the history of the 40-hour workweek, as well as how it's evolved in the last few years.
The history of the 40-hour workweek August 20, 1866: A new organization named the National Labor Union asked Congress to pass a law mandating the eight-hour workday. Their efforts technically failed, but they inspired Americans across the country to support labor reform over the next few decades.
May 1, 1867: The Illinois Legislature passed a law mandating an eight-hour workday. Many employers refused to cooperate, and a massive strike erupted in Chicago. That day became known as "May Day."
May 19, 1869: President Ulysses S. Grant issued a proclamation that guaranteed a stable wage and an eight-hour workday '-- but only for government workers. Grant's decision encouraged private-sector workers to push for the same rights.
1870s and 1880s: While the National Labor Union had dissolved, other organizations including the Knights of Labor and the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions continued to demand an eight-hour workday. Every year on May Day, strikes and demonstrations were organized to bring awareness to the issue.
May 1, 1886: Labor organizations called for a national strike in support of a shorter workday. More than 300,000 workers turned out across the country. In Chicago , demonstrators fought with police over the next few days. Many on both sides were wounded or killed in an event that's now known as the "Haymarket Affair."
1906: The eight-hour workday was instituted at two major firms in the printing industry.
September 3, 1916: Congress passed the Adamson Act , a federal law that established an eight-hour workday for interstate railroad workers. The Supreme Court constitutionalized the act in 1917.
September 25, 1926: Ford Motor Companies adopted a five-day, 40-hour workweek .
June 25, 1938: Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act , which limited the workweek to 44 hours.
June 26, 1940: Congress amended the Fair Labor Standards Act , limiting the workweek to 40 hours. The act went into effect on October 24, 1940 .
Technological advances allow us to work around the clock. Shutterstock
How the 40-hour workweek has evolved Recent research suggests that the 40-hour workweek may be on its way out '-- at least among professionals and executives.
In a survey by tax and professional services firm EY, half of managers around the world reported logging more than 40 hours a week. In the US, a whopping 58% of managers said they worked over 40 hours a week. Presumably, some of that time is spent at home answering emails, instead of at the office.
Meanwhile, there's evidence that some Americans see working around the clock as a kind of status symbol . While many people claim to be working 60- or 80-hour workweeks, much of that time isn't very productive. In fields like finance and consulting, some workers may only be pretending to work 80-hour weeks, a recent study suggests.
Yet for lower-income Americans, who may not view overwork the same way, there are some signs of progress.
In June 2015, Congress proposed a rule change that would expand the number of Americans who qualify for overtime pay. Workers who earn up to $50,440 a year would be eligible for time-and-a-half overtime wages when they work more than 40 hours per week. Currently, the threshold below which workers can earn overtime wages is just $23,660.
No matter your profession, the truth is that working longer hours can be counterproductive because you start putting out lower-quality work as time goes on.
In general, research suggests that we can handle working 60-hour weeks for three weeks '-- after that, we become less productive.
If our leaders won't lead, we must vote again on Brexit | Business | The Guardian
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 11:00
I recently met several people who said they were beginning to feel sorry for Theresa May. Well, up to a point, I should have thought. She apparently wanted to be prime minister from an early age, and is now a victim of what her predecessor from the late 1950s and early 1960s, Harold Macmillan, referred to as ''events''.
Macmillan's celebrated remark about ''events'' has gone down in political history. But, as with so many famous sayings, its full meaning has been lost. When asked what he feared most, he replied ''the opposition of events, dear boy''. This was a clever dig at the weakness of the Labour party in the 1950s, which was riven with deep resentment between the Gaitskellites and the Bevanites. Macmillan was not fearful of Her Majesty's Opposition.
In the present case the ''event'' '' the referendum result '' occurred before the present prime minister assumed office; indeed, that event precipitated her into No 10. And May is not fearful of the opposition, but of her own party. Everywhere I go, I meet people '' many of them Conservatives '' who sigh for an effective opposition.
May could be playing a clever game in which she declares at the 11th hour that she has done her best but has realised that, for the good of the country, the result of the referendum '' conducted under false pretences '' should be reversed. Unfortunately, while hoping that this might prove the case, I doubt it.
Every time she grinds on about the need not to let down the 37% of the electorate who voted Leave, I feel the need for what we moderate drinkers call a ''sharpener''. What about not letting down the majority 63%?
The apparent agreement between the US and EU to defuse Trump's tariff wars shows the benefit of being part of a bloc
At the very least, she has a divided country. With the potential post-Brexit economic horrors mounting by the day, I find it difficult to credit that a second referendum would not show that the nation had come to its senses.
Indeed, a recent YouGov poll put remaining in the EU at 54% and leaving with no deal at 46%. Things seem to be moving the right way for those champions of a second referendum, who include everyone from Labour peer Lord Adonis and Conservative MP Anna Soubry to the increasingly statesmanlike former Conservative prime minister Sir John Major, with the one and only Gary Lineker emerging as striker in their midst.
I myself have been hesitant about a second referendum, believing with the long-departed Edmund Burke that, as he said in his famous speech to the electors of Bristol, parliamentarians are our representatives, not just our delegates, and should be allowed to exercise their own considered judgment in these matters (it being common '' indeed Commons '' knowledge that the vast majority of MPs regard Brexit as an act of self-harm, not to say economic suicide).
However, if our prime minister, cabinet and other elected representatives cannot grasp this Churchillian opportunity for national leadership, the only hope is that they delegate the final say, once again, to the people: by which time one can only hope that the message has got through.
There is something truly ridiculous about the government preparing to stock up for a hard Brexit on 29 March 2019 '' facing the prospect of wartime shortages of supplies, not least of the vast quantities of food we import daily from ''the Continent'' '' when it is not 1914 or 1939 and the only war we are preparing for is a war on ourselves.
All this stuff propagated by Liam Fox, Jacob Rees-Mogg and co about the wonders of the free-trade agreements we could negotiate after Brexit is pie in the sky. We already enjoy countless free-trade agreements via our membership of the EU. And, as the Nobel laureate Paul Krugman recently pointed out, being a member of a customs union is much more important than being party to a free-trade agreement.
There are no customs checks within the EU, but there are under the North American Free Trade Agreement that operates between the US and Mexico. Businesses are concerned about the bureaucratic friction that, after Brexit, would impede the ''just in time'' flow of goods that is an integral part of the modern economy.
The apparent agreement last week between the US and EU to defuse Trump's tariff wars shows the benefit of our being part of a wider trading bloc. The American business executive David Rosen, who has had experience of dealings with Trump, says that the main reason why the mercantilist president wishes to break up the EU is so that he can weaken the bargaining power of the EU in trade negotiations. Given Trump's behaviour, this sounds all too plausible.
Vegas Massacre
Bodycam footage from Las Vegas shooting shows police believed there were multiple shooters - CBS News
Fri, 27 Jul 2018 11:12
People run from the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was hear on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
David Becker / Getty Images
LAS VEGAS -- More police body camera footage made public Wednesday shows officers directing concertgoers to safety and searching for what they thought were multiple shooters inside and outside a Las Vegas Strip hotel where a gunman opened fire in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Eight more video recordings, totaling almost eight hours, were released by Las Vegas police under a court order in a public records lawsuit by media including The Associated Press.
Fifty-eight people were killed and hundreds more wounded when Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino onto the Route 91 Harvest Festival on Oct. 1, 2017.
Las Vegas shooting survivor: MGM lawsuit "feels like bullets flying at my head" One shows a team of police starting on the roof of the Mandalay Bay resort and working their way downstairs.
Another shows officers directing people to evacuate from beneath the main stage of the Route 91 Harvest Festival venue. Two men rush past, carrying an injured woman.
Another showed teams with assault rifles ushering people out of concrete flood-control channels.
As with previous records released in batches since May 2, the videos show tension, tenderness, chaos and heartbreak following the shooting outside the Mandalay Bay resort. They do not shed new light on a motive.
Police and the FBI have said they believe former accountant and high-stakes gambler Stephen Paddock acted alone to amass an arsenal of weapons in his Mandalay Bay suite before opening fire into the concert crowd below.
Officials have said the attack had no link to international terrorism, but hotel owner MGM Resorts International last week invoked a provision of a federal law enacted after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The company wants federal courts to qualify the shooting as an act of terrorism and to declare the company has no liability to survivors or families of slain victims.
Body camera recordings released earlier showed officers using explosives to blast through the door to find Paddock dead on the floor from a self-inflicted gunshot. Assault-style weapons fitted with rapid-fire "bump stock" devices were strewn about in the suite.
Other police records have included witness accounts, audio recordings and snippets of 911 calls and police radio traffic, and hotel, helicopter and streetscape surveillance video from Las Vegas Strip.
Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, the elected head of the police department, has said he expected to update his January preliminary report with a final report by August.
Sgt. Jeff Clark, a department spokesman, said Wednesday the report is not yet complete.
(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.
Silicon Valley Douchebags
Silicon Valley nonprofits struggling, focus on impact to gain donors - Business Insider
Fri, 27 Jul 2018 14:36
The Apple Campus 2 is seen under construction in Cupertino, California in this aerial photo taken January 13, 2017. Noah Berger/Reuters
Less than 5% of donations from wealthy people in Silicon Valley reach local nonprofits. Silicon Valley nonprofits are trying to rely more on data analysis to show wealthy donors how their money could make an impact. Some nonprofits have hired marketing consultants to help out. Silicon Valley is home to many prominent philanthropists '-- Larry Page, Elon Musk, Pierre Omidyar, to name a few '-- but these billionaires often donate to causes outside the Bay Area.
Meanwhile, nonprofits in Silicon Valley are struggling to raise enough money as demand for their services grows, according to The Atlantic .
As a result, local organizations are being forced to act more like startups than traditional nonprofits to echo the mentality of Silicon Valley donors, who tend to measure effectiveness through data rather than altruism.
Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, his wife, have committed $120 million to improving education in underserved schools across the Bay Area, but gifts like theirs are not all that common among Silicon Valley billionaires.
Roughly 90% of donations from Silicon Valley go to national and international causes, according to The Giving Code, a 2016 report about philanthropy in Silicon Valley. Of the remaining 10%, a significant chunk benefits hospitals and large universities, while less than 5% reaches local groups.
The rising cost of living is producing a greater need for community-based services in Silicon Valley, where nearly one-third of residents require public or private assistance.
In Santa Clara and San Mateo counties '-- home to Silicon Valley cities like Cupertino and Menlo Park '-- about 80% of the local nonprofits surveyed in the report saw an increase in demand over a five-year period. But more than half of them are struggling to meet demand for their services, and many are gradually adopting the language of startups to market their work to donors, The Atlantic reported.
"In talking about the world and about their work, most nonprofit leaders speak a moral language that emphasizes social responsibility, social justice, equity, and the common good," Alexa Cort(C)s Culwell and Heather McLeod Grant, authors of The Giving Code, wrote in their report. "The new philanthropists are far more transactional when describing their work and their strategies. Theirs is a language of finance, of metrics, of power, of capitalism, of winners and losers."
The Bay Area is home to some of the wealthiest people in the world, with 74 billionaires reported to be living in San Francisco last year, according to financial research company Wealth-X.
These individuals are striving to be "bigger, better, and faster" in their donations than past philanthropists, according to The Giving Code.
Billionaires' donations, however, frequently go toward issues they have personal connections to, such as diseases that have affected their loved ones. Bill Gates, for example, donated $50 million to Alzheimer's research last year, saying the decision was personal because men in his family have been diagnosed with the disease. Gates teamed up with other philanthropists this year to put another $30 million into this research.
McLeod Grant told The Atlantic that tech donors also like to focus on large, systemic issues like healthcare and education.
Some nonprofits have already taken steps to focus more on data. The Silicon Valley Children's Fund, for example, hired a marketing firm to "speak in the language of business and metrics" and help the nonprofit raise money for foster youth, according to The Atlantic.
Many local organizations, however, are not able to contract specialists with their current budgets. Close to one-third of Silicon Valley nonprofits have large deficits, and nearly half only have enough cash on hand to keep running for three months.
To help nonprofits attract more donors, two local foundations recently awarded 20 grants to community-based organizations. The grants are worth more than $800,000 in total and are meant to bridge gaps in social networks and mindsets between local nonprofits and Silicon Valley philanthropists.
One of these groups, Sacred Heart Community Service, will use its grant to hire a consultant who can help the nonprofit come up with metrics to describe its work and terminology to articulate how it is helping low-income people in Santa Clara County.
Some nonprofit leaders say local organizations with similar objectives could begin collaborating to raise more money, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Galas, for example, are popular among wealthy people in the Bay Area, and can generate between $300,000 and $1 million in donations. But for some local nonprofits, the cost of hosting an annual gala is just too much.
More: BI Innovation Silicon Valley Philanthropy The Giving Code
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VIDEO - VIDEO : Hungary's PM Viktor Orban attacks the EU | Euronews
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 14:09
In an annual speech to ethnic Hungarians in Romania, he attacked the European Commission over its failure to protext the fundamental values behind the creation of the European Union
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VIDEO - Bret Stephens: 'I'm at the New York Times' to Oppose Trump | MRCTV
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 14:04
Read the full article on the MRC's NewsBusters blog.
Appearing on MSNBC Live With Katy Tur Friday afternoon to promote his latest article '' a fictitious look into a future in which President Trump has won reelection '' New York Times columnist Bret Stephens warned Democrats not to ''lose their marbles'' in 2020 and stated the obvious fact that he joined liberal paper in 2017 specifically to oppose the president.
VIDEO - Trump declares state of emergency in California | Fox News Video
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 13:17
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VIDEO - Fake news is a 'crisis in our democracy', report by MPs warns
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 13:00
Voters are being manipulated by "fake news" on social media, according to a new report from MPs.
The inquiry into fake news by the digital, culture, media and sport select committee says electoral law needs to be updated and tech companies need to do more to stop malicious propaganda on their networks.
Image: Damian Collins said fake news was a threat to democracyDamian Collins, who chairs the committee, called the issue "a crisis in our democracy - based on the systematic manipulation of data to support the relentless targeting of citizens, without their consent, by campaigns of disinformation and messages of hate".
The report suggests introducing a new tax on social networks to pay for digital literacy programmes in schools.
It also says the Electoral Commission should set up a code for political advertising on social media and that there should be greater transparency around online advertising.
0:25 Video: 23 April: Facebook fake ads 'disgusting' 0:45 Video: Lewis: I've been a victim of fake newsAdvertising is tightly controlled and monitored through other mediums so people know when someone is trying to sell them something - whether that is an idea, a candidate or a product.
But the inquiry found that the same transparency and regulation was not present when it came to social media and people were being manipulated as a result.
According to the report, most people use social media to connect with their loved ones and because most people trust their friends and family, they are less likely to question information shared on social media.
The MP's want a "digital Atlantic charter" to protect people's personal information and their rights in the digital world.
2:18 Video: 9 Feb: Social media giants quizzed by MPs over 'fake news' Mr Collins said: "Data crimes are real crimes, with real victims. This is a watershed moment in terms of people realising they themselves are the product, not just the user of a free service. Their rights over their data must be protected."
The report was criticised by the former campaign director of Vote Leave, Dominic Cummings.
Mr Cummings refused to give evidence to the committee - but leaked the report two days early on his online blog and declared "f*** the charlatans".
He linked to the publication saying "Here is the DCMS Report on Fake News. It is'... fake news."
Image: The former director of Vote Leave dismissed the reportIn March, a whistleblower revealed that Facebook had allowed the private information of millions of users to be collected without their knowledge and then given to a company called Cambridge Analytica.
Vote Leave, the official Brexit campaign group paid a Canadian company linked to Cambridge Analytica, called Aggregate IQ, to carry out work in targeting voters on social media.
In July, the Electoral Commission fined Vote Leave for breaching spending limits by channelling money through another campaign group to pay for more social media adverts with AIQ.
VIDEO - Russians Fail To Hack Computers Of Democratic Sen. McCaskill : NPR
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 12:42
Russians Fail To Hack Computers Of Democratic Sen. McCaskill The Daily Beast reports that Russian hackers have targeted Senator Claire McCaskill and her staff. The Missouri Democrat is in a tough race in this fall's election.
Russians Fail To Hack Computers Of Democratic Sen. McCaskillThe Daily Beast reports that Russian hackers have targeted Senator Claire McCaskill and her staff. The Missouri Democrat is in a tough race in this fall's election.
U.S. intelligence officials said the Russians were going to try to hack the midterm elections. Now, it appears to have happened. The target is one of this fall's most vulnerable Democrats, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill. NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell is with us in the studio now. Hey, Kelsey.
MARTIN: What can you tell us?
SNELL: Well, this is the first-known target of Russian interference in the 2018 election. It was first reported by The Daily Beast. And they found that Russian hackers made an unsuccessful attempt to breach McCaskill's computer system through targeted emails. McCaskill issued a statement last night saying she was not going to be intimidated by these attempts. She says she'll continue speaking out against Russia and said it's outrageous that Russia thinks they can get away with continued interference in U.S. elections.
The Daily Beast reported that hackers sent forged notifications that asked users to reset Microsoft Exchange passwords. In essence, it was a phishing scheme in that they were trying to bait McCaskill's staff into clicking on a link that would take them to a site where their information could be compromised.
MARTIN: This is what they've done before, right?
SNELL: Right.
MARTIN: I mean, the Russians are known to have done this phishing thing in the 2016 election.
SNELL: Yeah. The reporting indicates that it's really similar to what we saw in 2016, very similar to other ways that Russian hackers have attempted to get into U.S. email systems. It's the kind of thing that U.S. intelligence officials have been warning about. The director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, was saying that there were already these red warning lights blinking, saying that Russia was going to be interfering in the upcoming election. And that is, essentially, the entire U.S. intelligence community's assessment of what was going to happen.
MARTIN: Right.
SNELL: But it seems like it would contradict something that the president himself tweeted, which was that if the Russians were going to interfere in the election, he said that they were going to help Democrats, not go against Democrats. And that it was McCaskill seems to contradict that entirely.
MARTIN: OK. So why her?
SNELL: Well, McCaskill is one of the most prominent critics of Russia and of President Trump. She is - she's very outspoken on this. She noted in her own statement that this is something that she expects that she would be targeted. But she is also in a really competitive race. Missouri is seen as one of those places that could very easily go red in 2018. And she, you know, she's a close ally of Hillary Clinton and has been a strong critic of Putin. So this is something that she said that she was prepared for.
MARTIN: I mean, clearly, if the U.S. intelligence agencies have been warning about the possibility of Russian hacks into the midterms for so many months now, political campaigns had to have been prepared. I mean, you're saying that this was unsuccessful, so presumably, the McCaskill campaign had something in place to make this unsuccessful.
SNELL: Well, we don't really know yet. She hasn't really been commenting all that much. All we know is that, like we said, it was a phishing scheme. So the idea was that they were sent a link. They would click on it, and then presumably, have to put in information. The Daily Beast is reporting that the site that they went to mimicked some sort of internal Senate server that looked very much like something where you would reset a password. And it - by all appearances, they - maybe the staff did not go along with that. But it is a warning sign to all other Senate campaigns that this could be happening - or any campaign at all, that Russia is active and that the warning from the intelligence community is not incorrect.
MARTIN: NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell for us this morning. Kelsey, thanks so much.
SNELL: Thank you.
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VIDEO - Manny_Ottawa on Twitter: "Absolutely clueless: There was so much evidence to remove @cathmckenna from Cabinet'-- yet she remains'-- so we get more drivel and nonsense from her. https://t.co/b8mvZX7LN9"
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 12:09
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VIDEO - Fake news 'crowding out' real news, MPs say - BBC News
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 12:05
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Media caption Damian Collins, the committee's chairman, says "sophisticated" fake news is causing a "crisis for democracy"The volume of disinformation on the internet is growing so big that it is starting to crowd out real news, the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee chairman has said.
Tory MP Damian Collins said people struggle to identify "fake news".
MPs in their committee report said the issue threatens democracy and called for tougher social network regulation.
The government said it plans to introduce a requirement for electoral adverts to have a "digital imprint".
This would mean that all political communications carried online would need to clearly identify who it was published by.
Labour said the government "needs to wake up to the new challenges we face and finally update electoral laws".
The report follows the Cambridge Analytica data scandal earlier this year.
The London-based data analytics firms and tech giant Facebook were at the centre of a dispute over the harvesting and use of personal data - and whether it was used to influence the outcome of the US 2016 presidential election or the UK Brexit referendum.
Both firms deny any wrongdoing.
MPs considered evidence from around the world of how elections could be manipulated and heard how Russian agencies worked to influence votes by running adverts on Facebook.
Mr Collins told the BBC this had happened without the knowledge of the social network.
"That's why we feel that this is now a threat to our democracy," he said.
"If these tools that are so powerful, that can reach millions and millions of people all around the world at the touch of a button, if they can be effectively used to spread disinformation without the source of that information ever being revealed, as appears to be the case here, then that is a threat we have to confront."
He made clear the term "fake news" as used by figures like US President Donald Trump is different to the "concerted campaigns of disinformation" in which people or agencies deliberately spread false stories.
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Media caption A brief history of fake newsNew laws must be introduced to clamp down on the "wild west" social media world, their report said.
The committee also repeated its call for Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg to give evidence.
Facebook said it shared the committee's goal of making political advertising more fair and transparent.
It said it was working on ways to authenticate and label these type of adverts in the UK.
Image copyright AFP Image caption Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been asked to give evidence to the committee The committee scrutinised the role of Arron Banks, who made Britain's largest ever political donation when he gave £8.4m to the campaign to leave the EU.
It said that it was "unclear" where he had obtained the money, and he had failed to demonstrate that it came from within the UK.
Mr Banks "seemed to want to hide the extent of his contacts with Russia", which had discussed potential gold and diamond deals with him, and his spokesman Andy Wigmore was "a self-confessed liar", the committee concluded.
Mr Collins said: "If it turned out to be the case that he profited from these relationships with the Russian people he was meeting and discussing business deals with, and he used that money to invest in the Brexit campaign, then I think that would be a really serious matter."
The Information Commissioner's Office is also investigating whether the Leave.EU campaign, which Mr Banks co-founded, misused customer data from his insurance company for political purposes.
Mr Banks has said that the funding for his donation came from his personal wealth and has described the information commissioner's investigation as "a politically motivated attack".
Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie and the firm's former chief executive, Alexander Nix, were among the 61 witnesses who did give evidence.
A copy of the report was leaked on Friday by Dominic Cummings, the director of the official Brexit campaign group Vote Leave, who published it on his own blog.
Mr Cummings was asked and officially summoned to take part in the inquiry - to respond to allegations made against the Vote Leave campaign - but he refused. Mr Cummings called the report "fake news".
What did the committee find?The report said people were increasingly finding out about what is happening in the country, local communities and the world through social media - rather than through traditional forms of communication such as television, print media or the radio.
People were also less likely to question information shared on social media because most trust their friends and family.
Image copyright Reuters The MPs said this is where malicious actors come in to try to influence the billions of people who use social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
Fake news can come in a wide spectrum of forms, from satire and parody to fabricated images or propaganda, the report said.
What does the report recommend?The report made a series of recommendations.
It said:
Electoral law needs to be updated to reflect the modern worldA new tax on social networks could pay for digital literacy programmes in schoolsThe Electoral Commission should set up a code for political advertising on social mediaThere should be greater transparency around online advertisingThere should be a "digital Atlantic charter" to protect personal information and rightsMr Collins said: "Data crimes are real crimes, with real victims. This is a watershed moment in terms of people realising they themselves are the product, not just the user of a free service.
"Their rights over their data must be protected."
What has the reaction been?Labour's shadow secretary for digital, culture, media and sport, Tom Watson, said Britain's electoral laws needed updating "for the modern campaigning environment".
"Labour called for increased powers for the Electoral Commission during the passage of the Data Protection Bill on digital imprints, the disclosure of funding sources and settings for targeted adverts and increasing the commission's investigatory powers.
"These calls were rejected by the Conservatives," he said.
Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission welcomed the committee's report and said it backs calls to modernise electoral law.
What does the government say?A spokeswoman said: "The government takes disinformation very seriously, as with all types of online manipulation and internet harms.
"That is why we have said we will come forward with new online safety laws to make sure the UK is the safest place to be online.
"We note the committee's report and will consider its final recommendations"
The government is expected to publish a white paper later this year on proposals to reform laws to make the internet and social media safer.
The committee's final report is expected before the end of the year.
VIDEO - Drought woes? This tech can literally make it rain
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 11:26
Don't call them the weather gods, but this company can actually make it rain. North Dakota-based Weather Modification International uses planes to target clouds and draw out more rain from them.
The concept, called cloud seeding, has been around for decades. But there is new urgency due to climate change and a rapidly growing global population, which have disrupted global water supplies.
By 2025, two-thirds of the world's population may face water shortages, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
Related: Experts say algae is the food of the future. Here's why.
Weather Modification describes cloud seeding as "an enhancement" of the natural precipitation process. The technology makes storms more efficient by getting additional moisture out of clouds.
"If there [are] no clouds in the sky that have any moisture in them, then we can't do anything," Brian Kindrat, an aircraft captain at Weather Modification, told CNNMoney's Rachel Crane. "What we can do is tap into what is there and assist mother nature."
To do this, pilots target clouds with lots of moisture and inject small amounts of an inert chemical, which is a silver iodide mixture. The water in the clouds condenses around the new particles and becomes heavy. Then, it falls to the ground as precipitation.
"The idea is that once we're on top of a storm, as this passes through any liquid water, it's going to freeze it and turn it to snow, so it can fall out of the cloud," Kindrat said.
Cloud seeding didn't get much attention until 2017 when the National Science Foundation funded a study to determine its effectiveness. Weather Modification, launched in 1961, provided planes for the study.
The company sees cloud seeding as part of a solution for droughts.
"We aren't going to solve large climate shifts in areas, but if you went back and you looked in California and said if we had an additional 10%, 15%, 20% of snowpack and precipitation over the last 10 years ... it would be significantly different," said Neil Brackin, president of Weather Modification.
Snowpack is packed snow that melts slowly. It feeds streams and rivers as it melts.
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Companies are also interested. Idaho Power, which serves over 500,000 customers and has 17 hydroelectric power plants, invested more than $3 million dollars in a cloud seeding program to boost the snowpack in Idaho's highest mountains.
"That's what feeds our streams and rivers anid feeds our hydro system later in the summer and fall and that's really when we need that extra energy," said Shaun Parkinson, water resource leader at Idaho Power.
As a result of the cloud seeding program, it's seeing an 8% to 15% percent increase in snowpack. On average, that means it can power an extra 60,000 homes, according to the company.
The company has also seen a 300% return on its investment, which is equal to $9 million dollars worth of water that otherwise wouldn't have fallen onto mountain peaks.
But Idaho Power isn't the only one to benefit, according to Weather Modification.
"With cloud seeding a program such as this, it's a huge benefit to someone like Idaho Power, but that additional water is also there for the municipality. It's there for agriculture, it's there for consumption. So everybody is benefiting," said Weather Modification's Brackin.
But there are concerns about cloud seeding's long-term impacts. For example, it's unclear how making it rain in one state affects a neighboring state. It's also up for debate who "owns" the water -- such as which state or country -- that comes out of the clouds.
There are also environmental questions, such as ones related to the long-term impacts of silver iodide.
Although some critics may have concerns about companies impacting the weather, the company disputes that it's "playing God."
"We're not really playing God. I think that's really overstating what we're doing," Brackin said. "We're being very specific and targeted and environmentally friendly in what we're doing to enhance the natural precipitation."
CNNMoney's Rachel Crane, Bronte Lord and Alfredo Alcantara contributed to this report.
CNNMoney (New York) First published June 18, 2018: 10:09 AM ET
VIDEO - CNN's Jake Tapper Went Ballistic at Staff Over Botched Clips | Mediaite
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 06:19
exclusive CNN's Jake Tapper Went Ballistic at Staff Over Botched ClipsJake Tapper, CNN's august and outwardly civil newsman, blew up at his staff during a commercial break last week after they botched airing a series of clips on his show The Lead, a reliable CNN production source told Mediaite.
During last Tuesday's broadcast, Tapper '-- who had just returned from Helsinki '-- covered President Donald Trump's ever-changing explanation for his press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in which he cast doubt on US intelligence that the Kremlin was behind meddling in the 2016 election.
There were three clips that Tapper's team had lined up for his show. They were, in chronological order:
1. Trump, at Putin presser says, ''I don't see any reason why it would be Russia''
2. Trump, in televised statement, says he meant to say ''I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia.''
3. Trump, in televised statement, says he accepts that Russia meddled, before adding, ''Could be other people also.''
In the clip above, you can watch Tapper ask his team to run clip No. 3.
Tapper said: ''[Trump] still couldn't help himself. Bottom line, he doesn't believe and accept the intelligence community's assessment. So he contradicts himself even when asserting that he does. Let's run that clip once more.''
Tapper's team played clip No. 1.
Tapper responded: ''Okay, so that's what he said yesterday, now let's run the clip from today, when he undermines his attempted contradiction.'' (Again, requesting clip number 3).
His team ran clip No. 2.
An exasperated Tapper responded: ''Then he said, that, uh, he did accept the conclusion of the intelligence community, and then he undermined it, and I'd like to play that clip.''
His team didn't play any clip, and Tapper stared into the rolling camera before giving up '-- shaking his head and declaring: ''Alright, we don't have the clip for some reason.''
During the commercial break, we are told that Tapper went ballistic, berating his staff in front of the entire studio for ''not reading my emails!''
Our source described the outburst as ''unhinged'' and ''bananas,'' replete with a lot of shouting about the staff's incompetence.
CNN declined to comment.
If, by chance, you have video of the incident we would love to see it. Ping me: aidan@mediaite.com.
[image via screengrab]
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Have a tip we should know? tips@mediaite.com
VIDEO - YouTube - Watch Gregg Jarrett DESTROY #NeverTrumper Neil Cavuto on Russian Witch Hunt
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 05:57
VIDEO - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - Bringing Moral Courage to American Politics - Extended Interview - The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Video Clip) | Comedy Central
Sat, 28 Jul 2018 14:24
watch full episode The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Clip 7/26/2018
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez discusses her game-changing Democratic primary victory in New York and the values behind her campaign for a living wage and Medicare for all.
Tags: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez interviews The Daily Show interview extended interviews exclusives New York candidates campaigns socialism elections liberal Congress primaries Democrats health care economy work/office poverty voting the Midwest Medicare wealth taxes
VIDEO - The Daily Caller on Twitter: "''The Daily Show'' host @Trevornoah asked Socialist congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) how she plans to pay for her agenda. It really is hard to watch. https://t.co/OGiPAArlce"
Sat, 28 Jul 2018 12:25
Enter a topic, @name, or fullname
VIDEO - TODAY on Twitter: "Many U.S. travelers are planning European escapes this summer '-- but @KellyCobiella reports those who live year-round in those popular tourist spots are not always thrilled about it. https://t.co/YoHfrxRP69"
Sat, 28 Jul 2018 12:18
Many U.S. travelers are planning European escapes this summer '-- but
@KellyCobiella reports those who live year-round in those popular tourist spots are not always thrilled about it.
VIDEO - YouTube - WTF? Buzz Ald
Sat, 28 Jul 2018 11:37
VIDEO - VIDEO: Do Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez supporters understand socialism?
Fri, 27 Jul 2018 02:41
Last month, 28 year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shocked the world by defeating incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley to earn the Democratic nomination in New York's 14th Congressional District.
Ocasio-Cortez gained notoriety nationwide not just for her youth, but for her unabashed embrace of Democratic Socialism.
"I don't know where the money would come from, but they can figure it out."
In her official platform, Ocasio-Cortez offers support for free college, ''housing as a human right'', ''medicare for all,'' and a mandatory minimum living wage.
Wanting to know if her supporters liked the idea of Democratic Socialism, and if they'd support the government offering these services for free, I headed to Ocasio-Cortez's district, in Astoria, NY.
People on the street were quick to offer support for Ocasio-Cortez's brand of socialism, and overwhelmingly supported her vision for the district.
They were more hesitant, however, to offer ideas for how to pay for all of the free things that Ocasio-Cortez is promising.
''I don't know where the money would come from, but they can figure it out,'' one person stated confidently.
''Oh, God'... Us, I guess,'' conceded another.
One supporter seemed to think Americans would be okay with paying higher taxes, saying ''with a good idea, and a good reason to spend their tax money, people wouldn't actually mind paying more taxes.''
Another admitted that they're not quite sure what it is that they like about Ocasio-Cortez's economic philosophy, but insisted that ''I just know that democratic socialist is better than conservative.''
What would these people think when asked how socialism is working in Venezuela? Watch the full video to find out!
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @cabot_phillips


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