1117: Composting People

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

3h 2m
March 3rd, 2019
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Executive Producers: Christopher O Cowan, Sir James, Baron of Class G Airspace and Dame Elise, Sir Jon Helmer, Lawrence Abele, Kyle Parker, Dame Pill Pusher of South Texas Billie Villareal, Sir Jason McKinney of the Null-Pointer-Exception, Dominick Vitale, Steven C. Rink, Brian Doerr, Sir Moser the Moserian Knight of the 33rd Parallel, Gretchen Wittig; Dame G$ the hysteria skeptic, Nicco Renna, Lilly & Larry, James, Dame Firecracker, Sir Paul Wilson the Trusted Advisor

Associate Executive Producers: Kyle Casey, Sir Rutherford the Brave, Erik, John D. Croft, Baron Gordon Walton, Sir Ryan J Brady, Knight of the Three Rivers, Darren Grimes, Sir Patrick Comer of So Cal Hills

Cover Artist: Darren O'Neill


Start of Show
Austin Meetup
Trump's CPAC Speech
US Offers $1 Million Reward for Hazma bin Laden
Saudi Arabia Revokes Citizenship of Hazma bin Laden
Al-Qaeda Is Back
NBC Today: Hazma bin Laden Married Daughter of 9/11 Mastermind Mohamed Atta
Doctors Without Borders Close Ebola Centers in The Democratic Republic of Congo After Attacks
PBS NewsHour: Shields and Brooks on The White House’s Revolving Door
Canadian SNC-Lavalin Corruption Scandal
The Vergecast: Casey Newton on The Secret Life of Facebook Moderators
Convenient Risk-Free Apple Pay Integration
Surge in Circulation of $100 Bills
Washington State Morgues Are Full, Thanks to Opioid Crisis
Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou To Be Extradited to The US
Washington Governer Jay Inslee Announces 2020 Presidential Campaign
60 Minutes: The Climate Change Lawsuit That Could Stop The US Government
Sunrise Movement Children on Democracy Now!
Producer Note: Agenda 2030 Deadline
William Happer Breaks Down During Interview Over Climate Change Denial Allegations
Birthdays & Title Changes
Virginia First Lady Under Fire for Handing Cotton to African American Students on Mansion Tour
The Grand Tour TV Show
US Puts More Sanctions on Venezuela
German Minister Calls For Voting Age To Be Lowered to 16 Years
End of Show
Suggest a new chapter
Hazma Bin Laden - The Exit Strategy
Saudi Arabia revokes citizenship of Osama bin Laden's son | Euronews
Sat, 02 Mar 2019 02:29
Saudi Arabia announced Friday it had revoked the citizenship of Hamza bin Laden, the son of the late al-Qaida leader who has become an increasingly prominent figure in the terror network.
There was no immediate explanation why the royal decree stripping his citizenship, signed in November, was only becoming public now. However, the announcement comes after the U.S. government on Thursday offered a $1 million reward for information leading to his capture as part of its "Rewards for Justice" program.
The kingdom similarly stripped Osama bin Laden's citizenship in 1994 while living in exile in Sudan when Hamza bin Laden was just a child. Where he is now remains in question.
"This is an example of history rhyming," said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies who studies al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. "He's basically born right after al-Qaida is founded, so his life is totally consumed in the establishment, the formation of al-Qaida and the launching of its war against the West and America."
Saudi Arabia revoked Hamza bin Laden's citizenship in November, according to a circular by the Interior Ministry quietly published Friday by the country's official gazette. State-run media in the kingdom did not report on the decision.
Bin Laden is believed to have been born in 1989, the year of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, where his father became known among the mujahedeen fighters. His father returned to Saudi Arabia and later fled to Sudan after criticizing the kingdom for allowing U.S. troops to deploy in the country during the 1991 Gulf War. He later fled Sudan for Afghanistan in 1996, where he declared war against the U.S.
As leader of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden oversaw a series of attacks, including the 1998 bombings of the U.S. in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as the bombing of the USS Cole off Yemen. He and others plotted and executed the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and the Pentagon, which led to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. U.S. Navy SEALS ultimately killed bin Laden in a raid on a house in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011.
For Hamza bin Laden, now believed to be around 30, his father initially worried for his safety and thought to send him away for study, but his son instead "wants to get into the fight," Joscelyn said. He's then sent away for explosives training in Pakistan.
Video released by the CIA in 2017 that was seized during the Abbottabad raid shows Hamza bin Laden with a trimmed mustache but no beard, at his wedding. Previous images have only shown him as a child. The State Department said in its announcement Thursday about the $1 million bounty on him that it believes he married the daughter of Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Hamza bin Laden began appearing in militant videos and recordings in 2015 as an al-Qaida spokesman.
"If you think that your sinful crime that you committed in Abbottabad has passed without punishment, then you thought wrong," he said in his first audio recording.
In recent years, the Islamic State group, which began as al-Qaida in Iraq before breaking away from the terror group, has taken much of the international attention. However, Joscelyn warned al-Qaida remains a transnational threat, something that authorities may now pay more attention to as the Islamic State group withers away in Syria.
A United Nations report published last year noted that Hamza bin Laden "continued to emerge as a leadership figure in al-Qaida." It suggested both he and Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took over al-Qaida after Osama bin Laden's death, "are reported to be in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas."
"Al-Qaida's leadership demonstrates strategic patience and its regional affiliates exercise good tactical judgment, embedding themselves in local issues and becoming players," the U.N. report warned. "While there is as yet little evidence of a re-emerging direct global threat from al-Qaida, improved leadership and enhanced communication will probably increase the threat over time."
Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellap.
Kyrgyzstan: Fighting prejudice one hijab at a time | Eurasianet
Sat, 02 Mar 2019 20:23
There is nothing like wearing a hijab in Kyrgyzstan to split a crowd.
For the fourth year in a row, Islam-themed monthly magazine Umma has organized festivities in Bishkek and Osh, the country's two largest cities, to mark World Hijab Day. The holiday was dreamt up by New York-based activist Nazma Khan and has been marked every February 1 since 2013 with the stated goal of fostering tolerance.
In a country like Kyrgyzstan, where secular conservatives, growing numbers of observant Muslims and a ghetto of Western-leaning liberals routinely engage in ideological pitched battles of words, casually adopting this simple item of dress generates more heat than understanding.
The annual hijab day event had a slow start in Kyrgyzstan. Around 150 women turned up to attend the first time in Bishkek. This year proved more successful and drew closer to 2,000 people.
At the venue, a shopping center, organizers gave talks on the history of the hijab and offered masterclasses on how best to wear it and tie knots. Activists were bestowed with awards in recognition of their public work promoting women's rights and designers displayed the latest trends in Islam-appropriate clothing at a fashion catwalk. Visitors also took part in quizzes and other games, for which prizes were handed out.
Umma chief editor Elianna Maryam Satarova said her goal was to help dispel a commonplace association between the hijab and religious radicalism. Kyrgyz women who choose to don the headscarf get abuse and ridicule from people on the street on a regular basis, Satarova said.
Hijab-tying lessons at a World Hijab Day event In order to play down the religious connotation of the event, the name was subtly changed '' to Day of the Headscarf '' and the date was moved forward to February 2, a Saturday, so that more people might attend.
This has given the festivity a broader appeal, Satarova argued: ''On this holiday you see a lot of women in elechek, the traditional headdress of Kyrgyz women.''
It has also helped to have the endorsement of some respected public figures. This year, member of parliament Ainuru Altybayeva, seasoned rights advocate Rita Karasartova, and television presenter and self-styled fashion guru Assol Moldokmatova were among the guests at the Bishkek event.
Satarova said that the intent is not to promote the adoption of the headscarf, but rather to demonstrate that it poses no danger to the public.
''There are still stereotypical, negative attitudes toward women and girls wearing the hijab. If earlier these women faced aggression, now they are ignored, as if they do not exist. It is often because of the hijab that women are not hired or even allowed into swimming pools,'' she said.
Traditionally, it is married women in Kyrgyzstan who adopt the headscarf. Karasartova, the rights activist, explained how she had one planted on her head the day of her wedding.
''I don't wear a headscarf all the time, but like all Kyrgyz kelin [daughters-in-law], I wear one when I am going to the village to visit my husband's relatives,'' she said.
Adopting the hijab may arguably be as much a fashion statement as one about faith. At the very least, asserting one's religious identity is no excuse for dispensing with glamor. Chinara Mamadzhakypova, who founded her own design studio, this year presented a collection of hats fashioned out of scarves.
''I have been actively incorporating elements of Islamic fashion into my collection and I often give away headscarves to women who buy my clothes. A woman in a scarf looks very gentle and distinguished,'' Mamadzhakypova said.
Asel Amatova, also a designer, has been wearing the hijab for just over a year. At the Bishkek event, she showcased wedding and evening dresses she had styled.
''I started to produce this line of clothes as soon as I put on the hijab myself,'' Amatova said.
That embrace of the hijab was not without its difficulty, however.
''Even though my parents are also Muslims, they were not enthusiastic about this change in their lives. But while my relatives were understanding ['...] I often got aggression from strangers. One day, an elderly grandmother shouted at me, saying: 'Here comes the black hag!''' Amatova said.
A recurrent motif heard from champions of the hijab at the Bishkek celebrations was how it transforms its wearer.
''After I put on the hijab, I became kinder, softer, more tolerant. My behavior in public has changed for the better,'' Amatova said.
There was a smattering of very young girls at the hijab event. Zhipara, the mother of 11-year-old Rakhima, herself began donning the hijab 14 years ago. Having her daughter do the same seemed natural.
''From when she was three years old, I would occasionally put the hijab on my daughter and she liked it. She began to wear it for real about two years ago, and now she wears it all the time,'' Zhipara said.
To Zhipara's relief, other children in her class appear to be accepting of Rakhima and her clothes.
Curious and inspired, this Eurasianet correspondent turned to Venus Akelenova, owner of a beauty salon that caters to Muslim women, for help picking out a suitable scarf. The transformation was radical. The sense was that the hijab bestowed not just femininity but also a sense of security.
As if to illustrate that the hijab has reached a near-critical point of popular acceptance, it drew little attention from passersby in restaurants or on the street. It was a different story on social media, however, as many people reacted angrily to a photo of this correspondent in a hijab posted to Facebook.
''What are you doing? Propagandizing the hijab?'' wrote one.
''Are you going to Syria?'' asked another.
''Take off that scarf right now. It does not suit you. You look like an old granny,'' opined a third.
The negativity was shocking. Although there were plentiful supportive comments, the more poisonous ones received lots of endorsements.
The takeaway has been that it may become necessary '' just to make a point '' to make wearing the hijab an annual tradition until everybody gets that it is not for them to decide how people should live.
Tajikistan and its terrible, horrible, no good, very bad internet | Eurasianet
Sat, 02 Mar 2019 20:10
At the start of this year, the internet in Tajikistan did something even the most jaded pessimists could barely have imagined possible. It got worse.
Speeds are dropping. The government continues to engage in bouts of censorship , depriving users of access to their favorite websites. From time to time, social media websites like Twitter, video-hosting platform YouTube and local news sites Asia-Plus and Avesta are blocked .
The tech-savvy circumvent blockages with virtual private network, or VPN, applications. Engineers responsible for enforcing the censorship have got better at disabling those too, however. Even when VPNs do work, the speeds are so poor that browsing becomes a near-pointless slog.
Another set of popular resources that has become routinely unusable are messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, Viber and Signal. On most connections, only by making calls late at night is it possible to have a conversation for any useful duration.
Private internet service providers, or ISPs, say they are at a loss to explain what is happening to the messaging apps. Some speculate that these too have somehow been blocked.
One possible root cause is seen in the call made in January by the head of the tax committee, Nusratullo Davlatzoda, for a levy be slapped on voice calls made with the apps.
It is unclear how this would work in practical terms, since the bulk of calls made through functions like WhatsApp are free of charge for people hooked to the internet or on a data package. One presumed fix would be to somehow calculate the volume of outgoing and incoming data being consumed on calls and devise a charge on that basis.
Davlatzoda has said that a proposal to this effect has been presented to parliament by his office. When quizzed by reporters about how the levy would be measured, he responded that this would all eventually be made clear. But only after the legislation is adopted, he added.
Sabur's paradise
The industry knows no scourge greater than the State Telecommunications Service.
This would-be regulator is surely like none other in the world. In addition to devising and enforcing the rules, it also operates the state-run phone and internet company Tojiktelecom. This company in turn runs a nebulous centralized data spigot called the Unified Electronic Communications Switching Center, or EKTs in its Russian-language acronym.
Changes to the rules at the start of 2018 radically enhanced Tojiktelecom's earning power. Citing vague security concerns, the government deprived local fixed-lined and mobile service providers of the right to buy data traffic from neighboring countries. Instead, ISPs were required to buy their data from Tojiktelecom. This has given the company a suffocating degree of leverage over its privately owned peers.
All the people that spoke to Eurasianet for this story did so on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
A manager at one local ISP said that Tojiktelecom has since the start of 2019 been pressuring providers into buying larger packages of data. The company's monopoly status makes this child's play.
''The regulator puts pressure on us by reducing the speed of the internet, and blocking websites and some resources,'' the manager told Eurasianet.
Another source, a representative of a mobile company, has told Eurasianet that Tojiktelecom demands a rate two or three times higher than what partners in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan used to charge for internet data.
Tojiktelecom has declined to provide the same information, citing the need for commercial secrecy.
This whole situation is almost universally laid at the feet of one man '' the head of the communications regulator, Beg Sabur (n(C) Beg Zuhurov).
Sabur has been in the job since 2011, but his position was truly consolidated in 2015, when his son Ramza married one of President Emomali Rahmon's daughters, Zamira. He has not looked back since.
It was in December of that year that the EKTs came into being. The way this system is described by Tajik officials is intended to convey the impression that it is somehow analogous to Russia's SORM, a powerful filtration mechanism used by security services in several post-Soviet countries to keep tabs on online-based content and exchanges.
Immaterial of whether Tajikistan is truly equipped with this state-of-the-art data-monitoring node, its stated existence has empowered the telecommunications regulators to charge mobile companies a 20 dirham ($0.02) flat fee for every incoming and outgoing international call. Seeing how hundreds of thousands of Tajiks live abroad for work and rely on the phone to keep in touch with family back home, that makes for a healthy chunk of change. This money is then purportedly parlayed into maintenance of this system.
Other restrictions have proven similarly lucrative to well-positioned businesspeople.
Last year, Sabur ordered his staff to inspect Wi-Fi routers at public venues like cafes and restaurants. His agency explained that the check was motivated by their wish to protect public health.
"Sometimes we are seeing the use of Chinese routers that are harmful to people's health. Our responsibility is to prevent this,'' one unnamed telecommunications service official told local media.
It later emerged that businesses offering public Wi-Fi were being compelled to source their internet from a provider called Oshno-Group. The same outfit was also behind the paid Wi-Fi terminals that sprung up around Dushanbe.
Oshno-Group belongs to another of Sabur's five known sons '' Siyovush Zuhurov.
It is not so rosy for others in the industry.
According to Sabur's own agency, overall revenue in the sector slumped to $275 million in 2018, down from $550 million in 2013.
At the end of the tunnel, more darkness
According to calculations by the International Telecommunication Union, a UN agency, total bandwidth in Tajikistan stood at around 10 gigabytes per second in 2015. By 2017, that had dropped to 4.15 gigabytes per second. In all Central Asian nations, the trend has gone sharply in the other direction.
The deputy head of the telecommunications service, Ilhomjon Atoyev, will not hear any of this. At a press event on January 28, he said that as of the coming March, Tajikistan's bandwidth was set to increase from 20 to 50 gigabytes per second. He added, for safe measure, that it had doubled this past year alone.
Anybody with an internet connection in Tajikistan knows this to be unadulterated nonsense. In fact, in January one internet analytics company ranked Tajikistan's mobile internet speed the slowest in the world.
Industry experts warn that no improvement should be expected any time soon. One telecommunications analyst with a granular understanding of the workings of the state regulator told Eurasianet that nobody in government feels any strong incentive to shake things up.
''The EKTs have been up and running for more than one year. The fall in revenue continues and now add to that the fact that the internet is getting slower and the range and quality of services is in decline,'' the analyst said.
The body with the ultimate power to fix something would be the telecommunications monitoring council in the presidential administration.
''Back in 2011, the council had two sessions chaired by the president of Tajikistan himself. Pressing issues on industrial policy were discussed. Experts expressed their opinion about various matters,'' the analyst said. ''But since 2012, the council has held no hearings and the industry has been in constant decline.''
'Kidnapped' Tajik Activist Reappears In Europe
Sat, 02 Mar 2019 20:10
A prominent Tajik opposition activist, who resurfaced in Dushanbe last month from self-imposed exile in the Netherlands, has returned to Europe.Sharofiddin Gadoev appeared on a video live-streamed on a Tajik opposition group's Facebook account on March 2 and issued thanks ''to all the organizations and countries'' that voiced concern over his case.
''It is thanks to your tireless efforts that I'm able to speak in a free and peaceful environment,'' Gadoev said.
''I will possibly give...more details in the next few hours,'' Gadoev said, standing next to Muhiddin Kabiri, the leader of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT).
The Europe-based opposition National Alliance of Tajikistan that shared the video said it was live-streamed from Germany's Frankfurt Airport.
Gadoev, a member of the banned Group-24 opposition movement, recently resurfaced in Tajikistan, sparking claims that he was abducted during a trip to Russia.
Tajik authorities insist Gadoev, 33, returned voluntarily on February 15. They shared a video that shows Gadoev criticizing the opposition and urging other activists to follow suit and return to Tajikistan.
But on February 21, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said Gadoev was arrested in Tajikistan on suspicion of ''criminal activities,'' an allegation linked to his past business activities.
Tajik authorities have not announced his arrest or commented on the Dutch statement.
Four leading human rights groups -- Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the Association of Central Asian Migrants, and the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia -- said in a February 24 statement that Gadoev should be released from Tajik custody and allowed to return immediately to the Netherlands, where he has refugee status.
Sources investigating Gadoev's case discovered that Russian security service officers forced Gadoev into a car in Moscow on February 14 and drove him to Domodedovo Airport, where the activist was placed on a flight to Dushanbe, the human rights groups said in their statement.
Steve Swerdlow, HRW's Central Asia researcher, said that in Tajikistan Gadoev was facing ''trumped-up charges for his peaceful exercise of freedom of expression."
There were no immediate comments from Tajik officials about Gadoev's return to Europe.
President Emomali Rahmon, who has ruled Tajikistan since 1992, has been repeatedly criticized for crackdowns on dissent.
Group 24 was banned as an ''extremist'' movement in October 2014 after it called for antigovernment protests in Dushanbe and other cities.
The IRPT, a key political rival of the Tajik government, was banned by the Supreme Court as a ''terrorist'' organization in 2015. The party had in previous years been a coalition member within the government.
China's base is a strategic setback for India's Eurasian aspirations - Opinion - Jerusalem Post
Sat, 02 Mar 2019 20:14
A general view shows the town of Khorog, Tajikistan. (photo credit: REUTERS/SHAMIL ZHUMATOV)
An investigative report by The Washington Post recently revealed that Chinese troops have been stationed for at least three years on Tajikistan's southeastern border, less than 30 km. from Pakistani-administered Kashmir, across the narrow strip of northeastern Afghanistan known as the Wakhan Corridor, which extends to China and separates Tajikistan from Pakistan and Gilgit-Baltistan.While neither Beijing nor Dushanbe have acknowledged China's military presence alongside the panhandle, the objective of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) base seems to be to prevent jihadi Uighur militants returning from Syria and elsewhere to re-enter China's restive Xinjiang province.India has unsuccessfully sought for more than 15 years to establish its own military base in Tajikistan. The PLA base in Tajikistan constitutes a severe setback for New Delhi's ambition to increase its strategic footprint in Central Asia.
Washington Post investigators saw one of the military compounds and interacted with uniformed Chinese troops in Murghab, the closest market and some 137 km. from the base. The soldiers reportedly wore the insignia of the Xinjiang units of the PLA. In 2016, Chinese mine-resistant armored vehicles bearing the logo of China's paramilitary forces were photographed patrolling Baza'i Gonbad in the Wakhan Corridor itself.
Seeking not run afoul of Russian sensitivities as Moscow is Dushanbe's main security provider, China's forces in Tajikistan could plausibly be composed of paramilitaries under PLA command or perhaps PLA troops out of standard uniform. Given the 2016 terrorist attack on China's embassy in Kyrgyzstan by a Uighur suicide bomber allied with the Syrian jihadi organization Jabhat al-Nusra, a former al-Qaeda affiliate, Beijing faces a credible threat as Central Asian and Uighur jihadis exit Syria.
China's military presence in Tajikistan, in addition to its already outsized role in the land-locked country's economy, poses a strategic challenge to New Delhi as Tajikistan is India's gateway to Central Asia. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's failure to improve on the lackluster results of his predecessor Manmohan Singh's diplomacy in Tajikistan raises questions about India's capacity to maintain strategic partnerships across Eurasia.
TAJIKISTAN IS India's closest Central Asian neighbor, with the distance between Dushanbe and New Delhi being almost the same as between New Delhi and Mumbai. Moreover, Tajikistan's proximity to Pakistani-administered Kashmir would makes the country an invaluable strategic asset for India if New Delhi could establish an air base on Tajik soil capable of conducting reconnaissance and combat operations.
In this regard, India's air base at Farkhor, Tajikistan, its only foreign airbase, is sorely deficient. India began operating the Farkhor base in May 2002, with Russian acquiescence, to support Indian relief and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. However, with no active Indian combat squadrons at Farkhor, the airbase does not provide India with an alternative attack route against Pakistan or the ability to affect militant operations in Kashmir.
The base's main function is to transport India's relief and reconstruction supplies into Afghanistan. India airlifts resources to Tajikistan's Ayni air force base located 15 km. from Dushanbe and then transports material approximately 150 km. to Farkhor, where it is then trucked to Afghanistan.
The Ayni airbase has been the key to India's strategic footprint in Tajikistan. India's interest in the Ayni base began 19 years ago with the February 2000 Subrahmanyam Committee report, which investigated the intelligence failure that led to the 1999 Kargil War. This is according to Ambassador Phunchok Stobdan, a senior fellow for Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) and the visionary spirit behind India's 2012 ''Connect Central Asia'' policy.
The Ayni airbase, also called Gissar and originally used by the Soviets during the 1980s, was abandoned after the USSR withdrew from Afghanistan. During the Manmohan Singh era, India contributed technical assistance and $70 million to renovate the airbase between 2004 and 2010. India's Border Roads Organization (BRO), directed by India's Army Corps of Engineers, extended the main runway, built a control tower and constructed three hangars capable of housing squadrons of MiG-29 bombers used by the Indian Air Force. In September 2010, a Tajik Defense Ministry spokesman also confirmed to the press that the Ayni airbase had state-of-the-art navigational and defense technology and a runway extended to 3,200 meters to accommodate all types of aircraft.
NONETHELESS, there are no reports of Indian combat aircraft ever having been stationed at the base. Although the BRO began the Ayni renovations in 2004, the Manmohan Singh government seems never to have developed a coherent vision of how to use the base or leverage its position with the Tajik government.
Russia's 201st Motor Rifle Division (MRD), Moscow's largest military contingent abroad prior to its Syria deployment, is stationed in Dushanbe and two other Tajik cities. In December 2010, Tajikistan announced that Russia was the only country under consideration to use the Ayni airbase in the future. Although India continues to maintain approximately 150 personnel at the air base, New Delhi has been effectively closed out of Ayni.
Despite a decade-long opportunity, provided by the US regional presence, for India to develop an expanded role in Central Asia, it did not project any significant military or economic power in the region. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Tajikistan during his highly-touted 2015 tour of the five Central Asian republics resulted in no tangible gain for India in Tajikistan. It is quite possible that Modi's visit coincided with the onset of Chinese operations in southern Tajikistan and the Wakhan Corridor.
New Delhi still seeks to develop an expanded combat presence at Ayni, and will need to incentivize Moscow as well as Dushanbe. During his October 2018 visit to Tajikistan, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind visited the Ayni air base. With the United States planning to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, China and Pakistan are well placed to prevent India from projecting any hard power in Central Asia. China's active military presence in Tajikistan thus constitutes a severe strategic setback for India.
Unless New Delhi can entice Russia to engage India as a strategic counter-balance to growing Chinese influence in Central Asia, it will watch from the sidelines as the Beijing-Moscow partnership defines the security architecture and commercial trade routes of the new Eurasia.
Dr. Micha'el Tanchum is a Fellow at the Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at Hebrew University and an affiliated scholar with the Centre for Strategic Studies at Baskent University in Ankara, Turkey (Baskent-SAM). Follow @michaeltanchum. This article originally appeared in South Asian Monitor. Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>
Tajikistan: Report confirms significant Chinese security presence in Pamirs | Eurasianet
Sat, 02 Mar 2019 20:12
''Remember,'' a Chinese soldier told a reporter nosing around a remote spot in eastern Tajikistan. ''You never saw us here.''
The cat's out of the bag now.
A front-page story on the Washington Post on February 19 has confirmed long-held suspicions about the Chinese military presence in the desolate quadrant where the borders of Tajikistan, China and Afghanistan intersect.
If it was previously suspected the deployment might be a small affair, however, the reporting by Gerry Shih suggests something far more grand.
Photos taken by Shih and satellite images show a complex of around two dozen two-story buildings and lookout towers. Personnel spotted by the journalist were seen to be wearing the collar insignia of a unit from Xinjiang, the Chinese territory neighboring Tajikistan.
One soldier, who told the Post reporter his surname was Ma, said the troops had been in the location for ''three, four years.''
Curiously, although the deployment is meant to be a secret, the soldiers appear to have been remarkably sloppy in circulating freely around the town of Murghab to do their shopping and top up their mobile SIM cards. Murghab is out of the way, but the town does nonetheless get a steady trickle of visitors passing through in the summer.
It remains a mystery what purpose the military installation actually serves or even which unit of the Chinese armed forces it operates under. Analysts contacted by the Post speculated that the troops in Tajikistan ''may be paramilitary units under the command of the central military leadership but technically distinct from the People's Liberation Army.''
The probable existence of the installation had already been reported, last March, by the International Crisis Group, or ICG, a think tank. A researcher for ICG cited officials in the Pamirs and in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, who described the facility as a ''joint counter-terrorism centre'' housing both Chinese and Tajik forces.
Although the Chinese state publicly that they do not seek to have an armed contingent inside Afghanistan, Russian analysts cited by the Washington Post suggest otherwise.
Alexander Gabuev, a researcher at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said that he and other colleagues were told during a private talk at a governmental think tank in Beijing in 2017 that China's security presence in Tajikistan extended into the Afghan section of the Wakhan Corridor, the slim finger of territory that lies along the northern extremity of Pakistan.
China's eagerness to have boots on the ground in this spot appears to stem from concern about the potential for unrest from Islamist Uyghur militants. An unknown number of Uyghurs are believed to have left their homes in the Xinjiang region in the last five years or so to join the ranks of militant groups in the Middle East. Like governments in Central Asia, China is uneasy about the arguably implausible prospect of those fighters returning to their native land.
In the longer term, however, this deployment indicates a potentially paradigm-changing development. Albeit in a small and token fashion, this represents the first apparently permanent physical Chinese military presence anywhere in the former Soviet Union.
The ICG report from last year cited Russian sources who indicated that Moscow was not happy with the creeping Chinese presence in Central Asia, a region that the Kremlin deems its strategic backyard.
Beijing is by far Tajikistan's more generous creditor. At last count, the outstanding debt stood at around $1 billion, although this figure may be even greater depending on how one is counting. This lending has not been without its costs. In 2011, Tajikistan ceded territory to China in return for an unspecified amount of debts being wiped off the slate. Officials in Dushanbe have spoken little about this deal, but have sought when quizzed to sell it as a financially advantageous way to settle what had been a long-standing territorial dispute.
For now, Russia is the main player in town on the security front. Indeed, in what may have been in part a tacit signal to the Chinese, forces with the armies of Russia and Tajikistan held joint military drills in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast in July. Russian defense official said at the time that some 10,000 soldiers from Tajik armed forces and Russia's Tajikistan-located 201st military base were taking part in the exercise. It goes without saying that the Chinese deployment looks minuscule in comparison.
Tajikistan: Children barred from attending church, 5,000 Bible verse calendars burned | The Christian Post
Sun, 03 Mar 2019 13:03
World Watch Monitor
| Saturday, March 02, 2019 A church in Isfara, northern Tajikistan, 2005. | World Watch MonitorTajik authorities implementing a new religion law are barring children from attending religious services and have burned thousands of calendars with Bible verses.
Amendments to Tajikistan's Religion Law came into force in January last year, giving the state greater control over religious education, and increasing the amount of information religious organizations must pass on to the state.
The State Committee for Religious Affairs and Regulation of Traditions, Ceremonies and Rituals now demands ''all kinds of information on the number of members, finances and activities,'' a member of a religious community told Oslo-based news agency Forum 18 anonymously, fearing reprisals.
They also gather information about the number of children age 10 and younger who are attending religious meetings, using the Religion Law and the Parental Responsibility Law to put pressure on parents and religious communities.
In December, Mukhiddin Tukhtakhojayev, the SCRA official responsible for non-Muslim communities, made an unannounced visit to a religious community to obtain information. Forum 18 did not reveal the name of the community, to prevent reprisals.
''While Tukhtakhojayev was present, a few children under the age of 10 came into the meeting to see their parents briefly,'' a human rights defender who wished to remain anonymous, told Forum 18.
''Tukhtakhojayev did not say anything during the meeting, but a few days later summoned the leaders of the religious community for questioning. He then forced them to write a statement explaining the reasons why the children were present in the meeting.''
A few days later, the community was fined the equivalent to almost eight months' average wage for violating the Religion Law.
'Religious propaganda'In the same month, 5,000 calendars with Bible verses, which were imported by the Baptist Church, were confiscated by custom officials and destroyed. The church also received a fine of about four months' average wage for ''producing, distributing, importing, or exporting religious literature and items of a religious nature which have not passed through the compulsory prior state religious censorship.''
A customs official told Radio Free Europe that inspection had shown the calendars had ''elements of propaganda of an alien faith,'' Forum 18 reported.
SCRA spokesperson Afshin Mukim told the radio broadcaster that ''propaganda of a religion must be done only within the Baptist Church, and the calendars had religious propaganda in them,'' and said the number of calendars was greater than the number of Baptists in the country, according to the news agency.
Tajikistan is a Central Asian country with the highest percentage of Muslims, approximately 97 percent, but the former Soviet republic is determined to be secular and to keep Islam under control.
Target of persecutionOf the eight ''Persecution Engines'' the international religious-freedom watchdog Open Doors measures, 'Islamic oppression' and 'dictatorial paranoia' has made Tajik Christians a target of persecution.
Christian converts from a Muslim background are most vulnerable to persecution in Tajikistan, in particular from family, friends and the community, Open Doors says. Non-traditional Christian communities, like the Baptist Church, also suffer from raids, threats, arrests and fines by authorities.
The Central Asian country is 29th on the 2019 Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.
This article was originally reported by World Watch Monitor here.
Olympics to allow transgender athletes to compete without gender reassignment surgery | Daily Mail Online
Sun, 03 Mar 2019 14:36
The Olympics are reportedly adopting a new policy that opens the field of competition to transgender athletes.
The International Olympic Committee received proposed guidelines in November from its 'Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism', which allow for broader policies that would include transgender athletes.
Olympic officials have not confirmed the new guidelines, which have already been adopted by other regulatory sports organizations, but the policy is available on the organization's website.
The International Olympic Committee received proposed guidelines in November at its 'Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism' that change policies for transgender athletes. Pictured above is an aerial view of Olympic Stadium in July, nearly a year befoer the kick off of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games
The policy change would allow transgender athletes to compete without having gender reassignment surgery. It only requires athletes to have completed at least one year of hormone replacement therapy
The policy change would be in line with NCAA standards in the United States, which allow male-to-female and female-to-male transgender athletes to compete without having gender reassignment surgery, according to ESPN.
The current Olympic rules acknowledge transgender athletes' right to compete, but with specific provisions under the Stockholm Consensus, which was adopted in 2004.
The policies, adopted before the Athens Olympics, say transgender athletes have to have gender reassignment surgery and have legal recognition of the gender they were assigned at birth. They also have to have undergone at least two years of hormone replacement therapy after surgery.
The proposed new rules would allow transgender athletes to compete after one year of hormone replacement therapy and no surgery is required.
The proposal might open doors for transgender athletes like Chris Mosier. Last year Mosier qualified for the US Sprint Duathlon team, competing against men. He has yet to qualified for the 2016 Olympics
Joanna Harper, chief medical physicist, radiation oncology at Providence Portland Medical Center, was one of the people at the Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism. She is also trans, and said her voice was important in determining the new guidlines.
'The new IOC transgender guidelines fix almost all of the deficiencies with the old rules,' Harper said wrote in an email to OutSports. 'Hopefully, organizations such as the ITA will quickly adapt to the new IOC guidelines and all of the outdated trans policies will get replaced soon.'
'The waiting period for trans women goes from two years after surgery to one year after the start of HRT,' Harper added. 'This matches up with the NCAA rules and is as good as anything. The waiting period was perhaps the most contentious item among our group and one year is a reasonable compromise.'
The proposal might open doors for transgender athletes like Chris Mosier, who last year qualified for the US Sprint Duathlon team, competing against men.
The guidelines also contain recommendations that the Olympics put rules in place following the results of Indian sprinter Dutee Chand's (pictured left) victory in Court of Arbitration for Sport in July
Chand's story drew parallels to South African 800-meter runner Caster Semenya (pictured above in 2012), who was subjected to gender testing after winning a world title in 2009
Mosier has not undergone gender reassignment surgery but fulfills the hormone replacement guidelines.
It is unknown if the International Triathlon Union - which oversees the World Championship tri- and duathlon events - will also adopt the new regulations in time for Mosier to compete.
The IOC's commitment to World Anti-Doping Code and WADA's international standards will remain constant with the policy change.
The guidelines also contain recommendations that the Olympics put rules 'in place for the protection of women in sport and the promotion of the principles of fair competition' after the results of Indian sprinter Dutee Chand's victory in Court of Arbitration for Sport in July.
The decision allowed for female athletes with naturally elevated levels of testosterone to compete.
'The IAAF, with support from other International Federations, National Olympic Committees and other sports organisations, is encouraged to revert to CAS with arguments and evidence to support the reinstatement of its hyperandrogenism rules,' the policy reads.
Forty years ago Caitlyn Jenner (left) won a gold medal at the Montreal Summer Olympics in the Men's Decathlon event when she was then known as Bruce Jenner (right). If she were to compete today - if she had undergone one year of hormone replacement therapy - she could compete in the women's event
It continues: 'To avoid discrimination, if not eligible for female competition the athlete should be eligible to compete in male competition.'
Prior to the ruling, Chad was suspended for having high levels of testosterone.
Her story drew parallels to South African 800-meter runner Caster Semenya, who was subjected to gender testing after winning a world title in 2009.
She was suspended for more than a year before she went on to win a silver medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Forty years ago Caitlyn Jenner won a gold medal at the Montreal Summer Olympics in the Men's Decathlon event when she was then known as Bruce Jenner.
If she were to compete today - if she had undergone one year of hormone replacement therapy - she could compete in the women's event.
A. Since the 2003 Stockholm Consensus on Sex Reassignment in Sports, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of autonomy of gender identity in society, as reflected in the laws of many jurisdictions worldwide.
B. There are also, however, jurisdictions where autonomy of gender identity is not recognised in law at all.
C. It is necessary to ensure insofar as possible that trans athletes are not excluded from the opportunity to participate in sporting competition.
D. The overriding sporting objective is and remains the guarantee of fair competition. Restrictions on participation are appropriate to the extent that they are necessary and proportionate to the achievement of that objective.
E. To require surgical anatomical changes as a pre-condition to participation is not necessary to preserve fair competition and may be inconsistent with developing legislation and notions of human rights.
F. Nothing in these guidelines is intended to undermine in any way the requirement to comply with the World Anti-Doping Code and the WADA International Standards.
G. These guidelines are a living document and will be subject to review in light of any scientific or medical developments.
In this spirit, the IOC Consensus Meeting agreed the following guidelines to be taken into account by sports organisations when determining eligibility to compete in male and female competition:
1. Those who transition from female to male are eligible to compete in the male category without restriction.
2. Those who transition from male to female are eligible to compete in the female category under the following conditions:
2.1. The athlete has declared that her gender identity is female. The declaration cannot be changed, for sporting purposes, for a minimum of four years. 2.2. The athlete must demonstrate that her total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to her first competition (with the requirement for any longer period to be based on a confidential case-by-case evaluation, considering whether or not 12 months is a sufficient length of time to minimize any advantage in women's competition). 2.3. The athlete's total testosterone level in serum must remain below 10 nmol/L throughout the period of desired eligibility to compete in the female category. 2.4. Compliance with these conditions may be monitored by testing. In the event of non-compliance, the athlete's eligibility for female competition will be suspended for 12 months. 2) Hyperandrogenism in female athletes In response to the interim award dated 24 July 2015 in Chand v AFI and IAAF CAS 2014/A/3759, the IOC Consensus Meeting recommended:
Rules should be in place for the protection of women in sport and the promotion of the principles of fair competition.
The IAAF, with support from other International Federations, National Olympic Committees and other sports organisations, is encouraged to revert to CAS with arguments and evidence to support the reinstatement of its hyperandrogenism rules.
To avoid discrimination, if not eligible for female competition the athlete should be eligible to compete in male competition.
Source: International Olympic Committee
Austin Texas MeetUp
Ambassador Ross Reynolds - Keg Whisperer at Austin Beer Works
Producer Jason's experience
Hey Adam,
I just wanted to give you my report on the Austin meetup.
The No Agenda “Community” are the most amazing group of people. I had an
amazing time!
This was my first NA meetup, and I was welcomed
immediately by the group. I loved when
we all immediately started singing the No Agenda anthem after the
knightings. There must have been over
100 of us with our beers and NA foam fingers!
Makes me a proud NA listener AND a proud Texan!
Shout outs to Steven and Rob! Fantastic to meet you both!
I can see why Tina is called the keeper. She was so
extremely charming and persuasive, that I plan to volunteer at Ronald McDonald
charities when I get a chance. You did good, sir!
Thanks to everyone who organized the meetup and brought
the foam fingers.
And, thank you Adam for being the leader of us hooligans!
I’m glad I de-bonerized myself tonight, but I will keep
donating regularly in the future.
MeetUp T-Shirts
was great meeting you at the event today! I was the one wearing the No Agenda
Austin Meet Up shirt. I currently work three jobs at the moment, a full time
job in screen printing, my own screen printing company (FMI Designs) and I do
website work for Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion. The only reason I bring that up
is I’m spread a little thin at the moment and I didn’t have enough brain cells
or time to figure out how to get everyone at the event a shirt. The only thing
I could think of was setting up a page where everyone could buy one and all
profits would go to the show. My company is brand new so as long as we can
cover the cost, we can hook up everyone with shirts. The shirts is $4 and
printing is about $3, so $7 total for cost. I’m selling them for $20 so $13
goes to the show. I know it’s not much but I’m just trying to figure out
another way I can contribute. A link to the shirt is below:
you’d like to set it up a different way, just let me know.
you guys!
Green New Deal
A February to remembrrr in L.A.: It never even reached 70 degrees - Los Angeles Times
Sun, 03 Mar 2019 12:35
Home restaurant's sprawling outdoor patio in Los Feliz, set under a canopy of large trees, was designed to take advantage of California's temperate climate and typically sunny skies.
But this February has been so cold that the restaurant scrambled to set up extra heaters outside the Craftsman-style house to keep diners and workers warm during the record-setting cold winter.
''We had three heaters going for a while and this month it just hasn't been enough,'' said Sam Yoo, a manager at the restaurant. ''I'm trying to have the waiters and hostesses wear warmer clothing, but I have one heater set up right by the host stand so they don't catch colds.''
For the first time since forecasters began recording data '-- at least 132 years '-- the mercury did not reach 70 degrees in downtown Los Angeles for the entire month of February.
Note: One day of data is missing from the year 1940. (Los Angeles Times)
The average high for the month was 61 degrees, significantly lower than the historical average of 68 for February. That makes it the eighth-coldest February on record, said Ryan Kittell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.
''Most of the time we'll get one or two Santa Ana wind events in between the rain that would give us temperatures above 70 degrees,'' he added. ''But it's just been back-to-back storms and no offshore flows.''
It's a big change for Southern California, where temperatures having been rising to record levels in recent years along with a prolonged drought. Weather experts said the chilly February doesn't signal a larger change in some of those trends.
Even factoring in the cold snap, California is still warmer than average, and swings between periods of severe winter rainstorms and profound drought will probably become more pronounced in the future because of climate change, said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA.
He added that it might not be as cold as locals perceive it to be given how much warmer it has been in the last several years.
''This year seems anomalous because we have already internalized a lot of the warming that's occurred,'' he said.
On Thursday, a light drizzle blanketed the barren streets of Santa Monica. Mist clung to the tops of palm trees that swayed in the wind and the sky was so gloomy that the ocean was barely visible from a few blocks away. A lone street artist with a guitar crooned the opening chords of Leonard Cohen's ''Hallelujah,'' but most people wrapped in heavy coats and armed with umbrellas sped by without lingering to listen.
Samantha Nava, 26, woke up early to commute from downtown to Santa Monica College, where she's studying journalism. The L.A. native pulled on jeans, a thin shirt and a dark denim jacket and capped it off with a beanie, but said she always feels ill-prepared for the cold.
''I tend to wear one layer because it's L.A. and I keep expecting it's going to get warmer, but it doesn't,'' she said.
Several factors '-- including a lack of offshore wind and, more broadly, climate change '-- have played into California's weird winter weather, experts say.
The recent cold snap has also brought snow to portions of the Southland that rarely see any. It stems, in part, from a weakening polar vortex '-- a wide expanse of swirling cold air in Earth's poles. When the polar vortex is strong, there's powerful west-to-east wind that traps cold air in the Arctic. If it weakens and the air is no longer a continuous band, cold air can spill out of the Arctic and move down to the West Coast, Swain said.
The city came close '-- within one degree '-- of hitting the 70 mark, but it never quite warmed up enough to get there.
''There's plenty of days in January and February where people want to go to the beach and we usually get a few of those days every winter,'' Kittell said. ''We haven't had any in February.''
On sunny winter days '-- and even drizzly ones '-- beachgoers can easily spot surfers bobbing in the crisp ocean water waiting for the perfect wave to catch back to shore. Die-hard surfers brave the elements year-round regardless of the cold, but this year beaches up and down the Southern California coast have been more frequently empty.
Kevin Cuthbertson usually rides waves rain or shine, but even he hasn't been in the water for six weeks. Most of his friends have been out of the ocean for a month, a tough reality for a group that sees being in the water as an essential part of life on the West Coast.
It's cold and dirty, and the swells are mediocre compared to what's typical when a winter storms roll in. The cold also makes it difficult to move and jump on the board when a wave finally forms, he said.
"Ice cream headaches, some people get that,'' the 72-year-old added. ''I feel it in my hands and feet, even though I have booties and gloves. After a while, the cold seeps in."
Not everyone in Southern California is singing the winter blues. Back-to-back winter storms this year have blanketed California's mountain ranges with snow, making this a banner winter for skiers and snowboarders.
The storms have covered Mountain High Resort in Wrightwood with more than 8 feet of fresh snow this winter, while Big Bear Mountain Resort has received more than 10 feet. This season has provided the best conditions for snow sports in roughly a decade, said John McColly, vice president of sales and marketing at Mountain High, who added that it ''feels like a real winter this year.''
Matt Martinez, 41, is an avid surfer who spends the colder months chasing storms that provide local mountains with a blanket of fresh powder. He likens riding hard-packed artificial snow created by local resorts to sending a skateboard down a paved street. Gliding on softer fresh snow, he said, is like catching a wave in the ocean.
''The big allure for me is chasing that fresh track down the mountain and trying to find that perfect run,'' the San Pedro resident said. ''When you're drawing your line down the mountain, you get this weightless feeling like you're gliding on nothing.''
Why 2030 is an important year
I believe the pressure for the
next decade (we are all going to die by 2030) is that the "science"
of climate models will start falling apart by then.
Near or around 2030 is
when the major (western) models HadCRUT4.6 ,CMIP5 and RCP start
diverging in such a manner that their accuracy (of prediction) cannot be
argued. Temp change will be either on trend for less than 1C or 2C+.
Said in the language of climate
scientist: if we get to 2030 and the rate of temp change is not as
dramatic as we have said, then its just another climate change trend
we have records of before - the earth will not be on fire... This will be very
bad for grant funding...
Youth climate strikers: 'We are going to change the fate of humanity' | Environment | The Guardian
Sat, 02 Mar 2019 19:09
The students striking from schools around the world to demand action on climate change have issued an uncompromising open letter stating: ''We are going to change the fate of humanity, whether you like it or not.''
The letter, published by the Guardian, says: ''United we will rise on 15 March and many times after until we see climate justice. We demand the world's decision makers take responsibility and solve this crisis. You have failed us in the past. [But] the youth of this world has started to move and we will not rest again.''
The Youth Strikes for Climate movement is not centrally organised, so keeping track of the fast growing number of strikes is difficult, but many are registering on FridaysForFuture.org. So far, there are almost 500 events listed to take place on 15 March across 51 countries, making it the biggest strike day so far. Students plan to skip school across Western Europe, from the US to Brazil and Chile, and from Australia to Iran, India and Japan.
See the full visual
''For people under 18 in most countries, the only democratic right we have is to demonstrate. We don't have representation,'' said Jonas Kampus, a 17 year old student activist, from near Zurich, Switzerland. ''To study for a future that will not exist, that does not make sense.''
The letter says: ''We are the voiceless future of humanity ... We will not accept a life in fear and devastation. We have the right to live our dreams and hopes.'' Kampus helped initiate the letter, which was created collectively via a global coordination group numbering about 150 students, including the first youth climate striker, Sweden's Greta Thunberg.
The strikes have attracted some criticism and Kampus said: ''We wanted to define for ourselves why we are striking.'' Another member of the coordination group, Anna Taylor, 17, from north London, UK, said: ''The importance of the letter is it shows this is now an international movement.
Taylor said: ''The rapid growth of the movement is showing how important it is and how much young people care. It is vital for our future.'' Janine O'Keefe, from FridaysForFuture.org, said: ''I'll be very happy with over 100,000 students striking on 15 March. But I think we might reach even beyond 500,000 students.''
Thunberg, now 16 years old and who began the strikes with a solo protest beginning last August, is currently on holiday from school. She was one of about 3,000 student demonstrators in Antwerp, Belgium on Thursday, and joined protesters in Hamburg on Friday morning.
Related: 'Our leaders are like children,' school strike founder tells climate summit
In recent days, she has sharply rejected criticism of the strikes from educational authorities, telling the Hong Kong Education Bureau: ''We fight for our future. It doesn't help if we have to fight the adults too.'' She also told a critical Australian state education education minister his words ''belong in a museum''.
The strikes have been supported by Christiana Figueres, the UN's climate chief when the Paris deal to fight global warming was signed in 2015. She said: ''It's time to heed the deeply moving voice of youth. The Paris Agreement was a step in the right direction, but it's timely implementation is key.'' Michael Liebreich, a clean energy expert, said: ''Anyone who thinks [the strikes] will fizzle out any time soon has forgotten what it is to be young.''
In the UK, about Taylor said more than 10,000 students went on strike on 15 February: ''I'm anticipating at least double that on 15 March.''
Thousands of UK students strike over climate change '' videoThe strikes would not end, Taylor said, until ''environmental protection is put as politicians' top priority, over everything else. Young people are cooperating now, but governments are not cooperating anywhere near as much as they should''. She said students were contacting her from new countries every day, including Estonia, Iceland and Uganda in recent days.
Kampus, who was invited to meet the Swiss environment minister, Simonetta Sommaruga, on Wednesday, said: ''The strikes will stop when there is a clear outline from politicians on how to solve this crisis and a pathway to get there. I could be doing so many other things. But I don't have time as we have to solve this crisis. My dream is to have a life in peace.''
The Making Of Greta Thornberg
Sun, 03 Mar 2019 12:11
Wrong Kind of Green Jan 17, 2019 350.org / 1Sky, Avaaz, B Team [Managed by Purpose - the PR Arm of Avaaz], Greenpeace, Social Engineering, United Nations, Whiteness & Aversive Racism, World Wildlife Fund (WWF)By Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer
January 17, 2019
''What's infuriating about manipulations by Non Profit Industrial Complex is that they harvest good will of the people, especially young people. They target those who were not given skills and knowledge to truly think for themselves by institutions which are designed to serve the ruling class. Capitalism operates systematically and structurally like a cage to raise domesticated animals. Those organizations and their projects which operate under false slogans of humanity in order to prop up the hierarchy of money and violence are fast becoming some of the most crucial elements of the invisible cage of corporatism, colonialism and militarism.'' '-- Hiroyuki Hamada, artist
The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg '' for Consent has been written in six acts.
In ACT I we disclose that Greta Thunberg, the current child prodigy and face of the youth movement to combat climate change, serves as special youth advisor and trustee to the burgeoning mainstream tech start-up, ''We Don't Have Time''. We then explore the ambitions behind the tech company We Don't Have Time.
In ACT II we illustrate how today's youth are the sacrificial lambs for the ruling elite. Also in this act we introduce the board members and advisors to ''We Don't Have Time.'' We explore the leadership in the nascent We Don't Have Time and the partnerships between the well established corporate environmental entities: Al Gore's Climate Reality Project, 350.org, Avaaz, Global Utmaning (Global Challenge), the World Bank, and the World Economic Forum (WEF).
In ACT III we deconstruct how Al Gore and the planets most powerful capitalists are behind today's manufactured youth movements and why. We explore the We Don't Have Time/Thunberg connections to Our Revolution, the Sanders Institute, This Is Zero Hour, the Sunrise Movement and the Green New Deal. We also touch upon Thunberg's famous family. In particular Thunberg's celebrity mother, Malena Ernman (WWF Environmental Hero of the Year 2017), and her August 2018 book launch. We then explore the generous media attention afforded to Thunberg in both May and April of 2018 by SvD, one of Sweden's largest newspapers.
In ACT IV we examine the current campaign, now unfolding, in ''leading the public into emergency mode''. More importantly, we summarize, who and what this mode is to serve.
In ACT V we take a closer look at the Green New Deal. We look at Data for Progress and the targeting of female youth as a key ''femographic''. We connect the primary architect and authors of the ''Green New Deal'' data to the World Resources Institute. From there, we walk through the interlocking Business & Sustainable Development Commission and the New Climate Economy '' a project of the World Resources Institute. We disclose the common thread between these groups and the assignment of money to nature, represented by the Natural Capital Coalition and the non-profit industrial complex as an entity. Finally, we reveal how this has culminated in the implementation of payments for ecosystem services (the financialization and privatization of nature, global in scale) which is ''expected to be adopted during the fifteenth meeting in Beijing in 2020.''
In the final act, ACT VI [Crescendo] we wrap up the series by divulging that the very foundations which have financed the climate ''movement'' over the past decade are the same foundations now partnered with the Climate Finance Partnership looking to unlock 100 trillion dollars from pension funds. We reveal the identities of individuals and groups at the helm of this interlocking matrix, controlling both the medium and the message. We take a step back in time to briefly demonstrate the ten years of strategic social engineering that have brought us to this very precipice. We look at the relationship between WWF, Stockholm Institute and World Resources Institute as key instruments in the creation of the financialization of nature. We also take a look at what the first public campaigns for the financialization of nature (''natural capital'') that are slowly being brought into the public realm by WWF. We reflect upon how mainstream NGOs are attempting to safeguard their influence and further manipulate the populace by going underground through Extinction Rebellion groups being organized in the US and across the world.
With the smoke now cleared, the weak and essentially non-existent demands reminiscent of the 2009 TckTckTck ''demands'' can now be fully understood.
Some of these topics, in addition to others, will be released and discussed in further detail as addenda built on the large volume of research. This includes stepping through the looking glass, with an exploration of what the real ''Green New Deal'' under the Forth Industrial Revolution will look like. Also forthcoming is a look at the power of celebrity '' and how it has become a key tool for both capital and conformity.
[ *Note: This series contains information and quotes that have been translated from Swedish to English via Google Translator. ]
''How is it possible for you to be so easily tricked by something so simple as a story, because you are tricked? Well, it all comes down to one core thing and that is emotional investment. The more emotionally invested you are in anything in your life, the less critical and the less objectively observant you become.'' '-- David JP Phillips, We Don't Have Time board of directors, ''The Magical Science of Storytelling''
Greta Thunberg, We Don't Have Time, Facebook, October 26, 2018
August 2018, Finance Monthly, co-founder of We Don't Have Time, Ingmar Rentzhog
We Don't Have TimeAs this term is quickly becoming the quote du jour as a collective mantra to address the ongoing environmental disaster that can best be described as a nod to the obvious, it's true that we don't have time. We don't have time to stop imperialist wars '' wars being the greatest contributor to climate change and environmental degradation by far '' but we must do so. Of course this is an impossible feat under the crushing weight of the capitalist system, a US war economy, and the push for a fourth industrial revolution founded on renewable energy. Yet inconvenience has nothing to do with necessity in regards to addressing a particular situation. What is never discussed in regard to the so-called ''clean energy revolution'' is that its existence is wholly dependent on ''green'' imperialism '' the latter term being synonymous with blood.
But that's not what this article is about.
This article is about new financial markets in a world where global economic growth is experiencing stagnation. The threat and subsequent response is not so much about climate change as it is about the collapse of the capitalist economic system. This article is about the climate wealth opportunity of unprecedented growth, profits, and the measures our elite classes will take, in order to achieve it '' including the exploitation of the youth.
What is We Don't Have Time?
''Our goal is to become among the biggest players on the internet.'' '-- Ingmar Rentzhog, We Don't Have Time, December 22, 2017, Nordic Business Insider
On August 20, 2018 a tweet featuring a photo of ''a Swedish girl'' sitting on a sidewalk was released by the tech company We Don't Have Time, founded by its CEO Ingmar Rentzhog:
''One 15 year old girl in front of the Swedish parliament is striking from School until Election Day in 3 weeks[.] Imagine how lonely she must feel in this picture. People where just walking by. Continuing with the business as usual thing. But the truth is. We can't and she knows it!''
Rentzhog's tweet, via the We Do Not Have Time twitter account, would be the very first exposure of Thunberg's now famous school strike.
Above: ''We Don't Have Time'' tweet, August 20, 2018
Tagged in Rentzhog's ''lonely girl'' tweet were five twitter accounts: Greta Thunberg, Zero Hour (youth movement), Jamie Margolin (the teenage founder of Zero Hour), Al Gore's Climate Reality Project, and the People's Climate Strike twitter account (in the identical font & aesthetics as 350.org). [These groups will be touched upon briefly later in this report.]
Rentzhog is the founder of Laika (a prominent Swedish communications consultancy firm providing services to the financial industry, recently acquired by FundByMe), appointed chair of the think tank Global Utmaning (Global Challenge in English) on May 24, 2018, and serves on the board of FundedByMe. He is a member of Al Gore's Climate Reality Organization Leaders, where he is part of the European Climate Policy Task Force. He received his training in March 2017 by former US Vice President Al Gore in Denver, USA, and again in June 2018, in Berlin.
Founded in 2006, Al Gore's Climate Reality Project is a partner of We Don't Have Time.
The We Don't Have Time Foundation cites two special youth advisors and trustees: Greta Thunberg and Jamie Margolin. [Source]
M¥rten Thorslund, Chief Marketing and Sustainability Officer (CSO) of We Don't Have Time took many of the very first photos of Thunberg following the launch of her school strike on August 20, 2018. In the following instance, photos taken by Thorslund accompany the article written by David Olsson, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of We Don't Have Time, This 15-year-old Girl Breaks Swedish Law for the Climate, published August 23, 2018:
''Greta became a climate champion and tried to influence those closest to her. Her father now writes articles and gives lectures on the climate crisis, whereas her mother, a famous Swedish opera singer, has stopped flying. All thanks to Greta.
And clearly, she has stepped up her game, influencing the national conversation on the climate crisis?'--?two weeks before the election. We Don't Have Time reported on Greta's strike on its first day and in less than 24 hours our Facebook posts and tweets received over twenty thousand likes, shares and comments. It didn't take long for national media to catch on. As of the first week of the strike, at least six major daily newspapers, as well as Swedish and Danish national TV, [1] have interviewed Greta. Two Swedish party leaders have stopped by to talk to her as well.'' [Emphasis added]
The article continues:
''Is there something big going on here? This one kid immediately got twenty supporters who now sit next to her. This one kid created numerous news stories in national newspapers and on TV. This one kid has received thousands of messages of love and support on social media'.... Movements by young people, such as Jaime Margolin's #ThisIsZeroHour that #WeDontHaveTime interviewed earlier, speaks with a much needed urgency that grown-ups should pay attention to'...'' [Emphasis in original]
Yes '' there was, and still is, something going on.
It's called marketing and branding.
''- Yesterday I sat completely by myself, today there is one other here too. There are none [that] I know.'' '-- Greta Thunberg, August 21, 2018, Nyheter newspaper, Sweden [Translation via Google]
The ''one kid immediately got twenty supporters'' '' from a Swedish network for sustainable business. What is going on '' is the launch of a global campaign to usher in a required consensus for the Paris Agreement, the New Green Deal and all climate related policies and legislation written by the power elite '' for the power elite. This is necessary in order to unlock the trillions of dollars in funding by way of massive public demand.
These agreements and policies include carbon capture storage (CCS), enhanced oil recovery (EOR), bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), rapid total decarbonisation, payments for ecosystem services (referred to as ''natural capital''), nuclear energy and fission, and a host of other ''solutions'' that are hostile to an already devastated planet. What is going on '' is a rebooting of a stagnant capitalist economy '' that needs new markets '' new growth '' in order to save itself. What is being created is a mechanism to unlock approx. 90 trillion dollars for new investments and infrastructure. What is going on is the creation of, and investment in, perhaps the biggest behavioural change experiment yet attempted, global in scale. And what are the deciding factors in what behaviours global society should adhere to? And more importantly, who decides? This is a rhetorical question as well now the answer: the same Western white male saviors and the capitalist economic system they have implemented globally that has been the cause of our planetary ecological nightmare. This crisis continues unabated as they appoint themselves (yet again) as the saviours for all humanity '' a recurring problem for centuries.
''Our goal is to become at least 100 million users. It is an eighth of all who have climbed on social media. Only last month we managed to reach 18 million social media accounts according to a media survey that Meltwater news made for us. At Facebook, we are currently seven times the number of followers among the world's all climate organizations. We are growing with 10,000 new global followers per day on Facebook.'' '-- Ingmar Retzho interview with Milj¶ & Utveckling, October 15, 2018
We Don't Have Time identifies itself as a movement and tech startup that is currently developing ''the world's largest social network for climate action''. The ''movement'' component was launched on April 22, 2018. The web platform is still in the progress of being built, but is to launch on April 22, 2019 (coinciding with Earth Day). ''Through our platform, millions of members will unite to put pressure on leaders, politicians and corporations to act for the climate.'' The start-up's goal to rapidly achieve 100 million users has thus far attracted 435 investors (74.52% of the company's shares) via the web platform FundedByMe.
The startup intends to offer partnerships, digital advertising and services related to climate change, sustainability and the growing green and circular economy to ''a large audience of engaged consumers and ambassadors.''
We Do Not Have Time is mainly active in three markets: social media, digital advertising and carbon offsets. [''In the US alone estimated market for carbon offsetting amount to over 82 billion USD of which voluntary carbon offset represents 191 million USD. The market is expected to increase in the future, in 2019 estimated 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions to be associated with any kind of cost for offsetting.''] As the company is a niche organization, social networks are able to provide services tailored to platform users. The startup has identified such an opportunity by offering its users the ability to purchase carbon offsets through the platform's own certification. This option applies to both the individual user of the platform as a whole organizations/companies on the platform.
One incentive of many identified in the start-up investment section is that users will be encouraged to ''communicate jointly and powerfully with influential actors.'' Such influencers are Greta Thunberg and Jamie Margolin who both have lucrative futures in the branding of ''sustainable'' industries and products, if they wish to pursue this path in utilizing their present celebrity for personal gain '' a hallmark of the ''grassroots'' NGO movement. [Further reading: The Increasing Vogue for Capitalist-Friendly Climate Discourse]
The tech company is banking on creating a massive member base of ''conscious users'' that will enable ''profitable commercial collaborations, for example, advertising'':
''Decision makers '' politicians, companies, organizations, states '' get a climate rating based on their ability to live up to the users' initiative. Knowledge and opinion gather in one place and users put pressure on decision makers to drive a faster change.''
''The main sources of revenue come from commercial players who have received high climate rating and confidence in the We Don't Have Times member base.[2] '... The revenue model will resemble the social platform of TripAdvisor.com's business model, which with its 390 million users annually generates over $ 1 billion in good profitability'...We will work with strategic partners such as Climate Reality leaders, climate organizations, bloggers, influencers and leading experts in the field.''
Video: We Don't Have Time promotional video, published April 6, 2018 [Running time: 1m:38s]
A ''state of conscious and permanent visibility assures the automatic functioning of power.'' '-- Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish
Comparable to other social media endeavors where ''likes'', ''followers'', and unfathomable amounts of metadata determine financial success, the fact that the business is virtual enables high profit margins. The return on investment, best described as mainstream acquiescence and desirability by way of exposure, will be obtained through future dividends. In anticipation of this projected success, the tech company plans to take its business to the stock exchange in the near future. (Think Facebook and Instagram). The most critical component to the success of this startup (like its predecessors) is achieving a massive member base. Therefore, according to the company it ''will work actively with both enlisting influencers and creating content for various campaigns linked to the hashtag #WeDontHaveTime.''
On April 18, 2018 the crowdfunding platform FundedByMe (utilized by We Don't Have Time to enlist investors) acquired Ingmar Rentzhog's Laika Consulting. Excerpts from the press release are as follows:
''FundedByMe today announced that they acquire 100% of the shares in the established financial company Laika Consulting AB, a leading communications agency in financial communications. As a result, the company doubles its investment network to close to 250,000 members, making it the largest in the Nordic region. The acquisition is a strategic step to further strengthen FundedByMe's range of financial services'...
[Ingmar Rentzhog] will continue to work on strategic client projects for FundedByMe and Laika Consulting in part-time. Moreover he takes a role in the company's board. The majority of his time he will focus on climate change through the newly established company, ''We Don't Have Time'', as a CEO and founder.'' [Emphasis added] [Source] [3]
We Don't Have Time Software App: The Latest Wave of Western & Corporate Ideology at Your Fingertips ''He treats his mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or bright beads. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.'' '-- Chief Seattle, 1780-1866
In October 2016 Netflix aired the third season of Black Mirror, ''a Twilight Zone''esque anthology TV series about technological anxieties and possible futures.'' The first episode ''Nosedive'' posits a shallow and hypocritical populace in which ''social platforms, self-curation and validation-seeking'' have become the underpinning of a future society. [Black Mirror's third season opens with a vicious take on social media]. The disturbing episode shares parallels to the concept behind We Don't Have Time. The difference being instead of rating people exclusively, we will be rating brands, products, corporations and everything else climate related.
Acquisition International Magazine Issue 10, 2018
The not unintended results will be tenfold. The corporations with the best advertising executives and largest budgets will be the winners. Greenwashing will become an unprecedented method of advertising as will the art of ''storytelling'' (no one ever said a story has to be true). Small or local businesses with little financial means will more than often be the losers. Especially hit will be migrant entrepreneurs whose cultures differ from ours in the West '' where ''Western democracy'' is the only democracy that is valid.
Adding to the conversation as to who is ultimately benefiting from this endeavor from a cultural, social, geographical and ethnic perspective is the fact that ''subconscious biases about race or gender, is a proven problem on many crowdsourced platforms.'' [Source] Ultimately, this means that in order to acquire the needed support as a multimedia platform, the self-interest of the Western world must be at the fore with no concern for the Global South '' other than what we can continue to steal from her. The inconvenient truth is that all roads lead to the same collective (if even subconscious) goal: the preservation of whiteness.
Rentzhog assures his audience that ''our core, though, will remain, namely to empower our users to put pressure on world leaders so that they move faster towards an emission-free world and environmentally sustainable solutions and policies.'' [Acquisition International Magazine Issue 10, 2018]
An ''emission-free world'' sounds enticing '' yet there are no plans whatsoever to retract our growth economies. ''Environmentally sustainable solutions'' '... according to who? According to a tribal elder who upholds the principles of ''the seventh generation'' (the Indigenous belief that humans must properly provide for its descendants by ensuring that our actions in the present allow the Earthly survival of seven succeeding generations '' not to be confused with Unilever's Seventh Generation acquisition) '' or according to the World Bank? (We all know the answer to this rhetorical question.)
Another inconvenient truth, regarding the above promise, is that there is growing pressure on governments to increase Federal research and development funding to develop and deploy ''deep decarbonisation'' technologies as one of the primary ''solutions'' to climate change. This was proposed at the Paris Climate Accord with Bill Gates' ''Mission Innovation'' initiative which committed to doubling government investment in energy technology.
''We want it to cost more, in terms of revenue, public support and reputation, to not work on lowering emissions and improve environmental sustainability, whereas those that lead the way should be recognized for this. Our vision is to create a race towards environmental sustainability and CO2 neutrality, making it the core priority for businesses, politicians and organizations worldwide.'' '-- Acquisition International Magazine Issue 10, 2018
Here again, we must look closely at language and framing. Who are ''those that lead the way''? Are they referring to Western citizens who can fit all their belongings in a duffle bag? [Here it must be said that the environmental heroes in the West are NOT the Richard Bransons or Leonardo DiCaprios of the world. The real heroes for the environment, due to their almost non-existent environmental footprint, are the homeless '' despite the scorn they receive from society as a whole.] Are they referring to the African Maasai who to this day, literally leave no trace? Or are ''those that lead the way'' Unilever and Ikea (represented on the We Don't Have time board). This is another rhetorical question we all know the answer to. Notice the mention of CO2 ''neutrality'' rather than a drastic reduction of CO2 emissions. Convenient language when one of the main pillars of the business model is the sale of carbon offsets '' rationalizing a continuance of the same carbon based lifestyle by constructing a faux fantasy one, that anyone with monetary wealth, can buy into.
As online reviews and ratings systems have become a Western staple of determining the worthiness of a person, group or corporation, the internet presently is a primary source of determining the quality of an entity. One example of this type of system is the online site Trip Advisor, which utilizes user feedback as a measuring stick of a hotel, airline, car rental, etc. As the Trip Advisor rating system is the revenue model We Don't Have Time seeks to emulate, we will explore this particular rating system.
Whereas a reputable and established website such as Trip Advisor is based on an actual experience '' We Don't Have Time evaluations are more geared toward promises into the future regarding a green technology revolution and/or the effectiveness of advertising in making people believe the veracity of these promises. By utilizing fake accounts (think Twitter and Facebook), strategically orchestrated campaigns will effectively allow the app to break political careers and demonize people and countries based on the numbers of ratings (''climate bombs''). These bombs can be administered against any foe that does not embrace the technologies (sought by the West to benefit the West) of this so-called revolution, regardless if the reason for doing so is justifiable or not.
The word ''bombs'' itself will become reframed. Rather than associating bombs with militarism (never touched upon by We Don't Have Time) the word bomb itself will eventually become first and foremost associated with ratings, bad products, bad ideas and bad people. Such is the power of language and framing when combined with social engineering. Here, the behavioural economics of hatred can be weaponized '' a virtual new form of soft power. The Nicaraguan Sandinista government who did not sign onto the Paris Agreement because it is too weak (and serves only Western interests) could quickly become a pariah on the global stage- as the West controls the stage. Already a target for destabilization, the soft power app would be applied as the ruling class sees fit.
When one contemplates the non-profit industrial complex, it must be considered the most powerful army in the world. Employing billions of staff, all inter-connected, today's campaigns, financed by our ruling oligarchs can become viral in a matter of hours just by the interlocking directorate working together in unity toward a common goal to instil uniform thoughts and opinions, which gradually create a desired ideology. This is the art of social engineering. Conformity and emotive content as tools of manipulation has been and always will be the most powerful weapons in the Mad Men's toolbox. If 300, 000 people have already voted with ''climate hearts'' on a ''trending'' topic in under 48 hours '' it must be a great idea.
''Nobody wants to be bottom of the class.'' Ingmar Retzhog, We Don't Have Time, December 22, 2017, Nordic Business Insider
To be clear, the West is in no position to ''teach'' (nudge/engineer) the ''correct'' value system regarding sustainability to the world, when the biggest polluters on the planet are manufactured into ''climate leaders'' and ''climate heroes''. This is reality turned on its head. A reality we are conditioned to accept. Institutions such as the United Nations in tandem with the media, spoon-feed this insanity (that defies all logic) to the global populace, in servitude to the ruling classes.
''Nudging'': Acquisition International Magazine Issue 10, 2018
Finally, but certainly not lastly, this behavioral science platform lends itself to the continued devolvement of critical thinking. With virtually everything and everyone to rate all day long '' who has time to look in depth at any given policy or product that after all, sounds, looks and feels simply amazing due to sophisticated marketing coupled with behavioural change tactics? It is vital to keep in mind that social engineering '' and massive profit '' are the key merits and purpose of this application.
End Notes:
[1] TV 2 Danmark Danish public service, SVT Swedish public service, TV 4 News, Metro TV, Dagens Nyheter, Aftonbladet (August 20, 2018), Sydsvenskan, Stockholm Direkt, Expressen (August 20, 2018) , ETC, WWF, Effekt Magazin, G¶teborgsPosten,Helsingborgs Dagblad, Folkbladet, Uppsala Nya tidning, Vimmerby Tidning, Pite¥ Tidningen, Bor¥s Tidning, Duggan, VT, NT, Corren, OMNI, WeDontHaveTime CEO viral FaceBook post that mention it first. [Source]
[2] Click-based advertising based on highly rated companies that want to drive traffic to their websites; Targeted web advertising for companies that want to reach out to environmentally aware users in different segments; Business subscriptions where companies and organizations have the opportunity to interact with the members and get the right to use the We Don't Have Times brand and the company's rating in their marketing [Source]
[3] ''Laika Consulting was one of the first companies in Sweden to work with crowdfunding when we established the brand in 2004. I look forward to follow the company's growth closely. A combination of Laika's expertise in listed companies, together with FundedByMe with its international and digital presence, can create new opportunities for growth.''says Laika's CEO, Ingmar Rentzhog.'' [Source]
[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation and Counterpunch. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can support her independent journalism via Patreon.]
[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas. He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]
Rebrand nuclear energy
Why Renewables Can't Save the Planet - Quillette
Thu, 28 Feb 2019 23:54
When I was a boy, my parents would sometimes take my sister and me camping in the desert. A lot of people think deserts are empty, but my parents taught us to see the wildlife all around us, including hawks, eagles, and tortoises.
After college, I moved to California to work on environmental campaigns. I helped save the state's last ancient redwood forest and blocked a proposed radioactive waste repository set for the desert.
In 2002, shortly after I turned 30, I decided I wanted to dedicate myself to addressing climate change. I was worried that global warming would end up destroying many of the natural environments that people had worked so hard to protect.
I thought the solutions were pretty straightforward: solar panels on every roof, electric cars in every driveway, etc. The main obstacles, I believed, were political. And so I helped organize a coalition of America's largest labor unions and environmental groups. Our proposal was for a $300 billion dollar investment in renewables. We would not only prevent climate change but also create millions of new jobs in a fast-growing high-tech sector.
Our efforts paid off in 2007 when then-presidential candidate Barack Obama embraced our vision. Between 2009''15, the U.S. invested $150 billion dollars in renewables and other forms of clean tech. But right away we ran into trouble.
The first was around land use. Electricity from solar roofs costs about twice as much as electricity from solar farms, but solar and wind farms require huge amounts of land. That, along with the fact that solar and wind farms require long new transmissions lines, and are opposed by local communities and conservationists trying to preserve wildlife, particularly birds.
Another challenge was the intermittent nature of solar and wind energies. When the sun stops shining and the wind stops blowing, you have to quickly be able to ramp up another source of energy.
Happily, there were a lot of people working on solutions. One solution was to convert California's dams into big batteries. The idea was that, when the sun was shining and the wind was blowing, you could pump water uphill, store it for later, and then run it over the turbines to make electricity when you needed it.
Other problems didn't seem like such a big deal, on closer examination. For example, after I learned that house cats kill billions of birds every year it put into perspective the nearly one million birds killed by wind turbines.
It seemed to me that most, if not all, of the problems from scaling up solar and wind energies could be solved through more technological innovation.
But, as the years went by, the problems persisted and in some cases grew worse. For example, California is a world leader when it comes to renewables but we haven't converted our dams into batteries, partly for geographic reasons. You need the right kind of dam and reservoirs, and even then it's an expensive retrofit.
A bigger problem is that there are many other uses for the water that accumulates behind dams, namely irrigation and cities. And because the water in our rivers and reservoirs is scarce and unreliable, the water from dams for those other purposes is becoming ever-more precious.
Without large-scale ways to back-up solar energy California has had to block electricity coming from solar farms when it's extremely sunny, or pay neighboring states to take it from us so we can avoid blowing-out our grid.
Despite what you've heard, there is no ''battery revolution'' on the way , for well-understood technical and economic reasons.
As for house cats, they don't kill big, rare, threatened birds. What house cats kill are small, common birds, like sparrows, robins and jays. What kills big, threatened, and endangered birds'--birds that could go extinct'--like hawks, eagles, owls, and condors, are wind turbines.
In fact, wind turbines are the most serious new threat to important bird species to emerge in decades. The rapidly spinning turbines act like an apex predator which big birds never evolved to deal with.
Solar farms have similarly large ecological impacts. Building a solar farm is a lot like building any other kind of farm. You have to clear the whole area of wildlife.
In order to build one of the biggest solar farms in California the developers hired biologists to pull threatened desert tortoises from their burrows , put them on the back of pickup trucks, transport them, and cage them in pens where many ended up dying.
As we were learning of these impacts, it gradually dawned on me that there was no amount of technological innovation that could solve the fundamental problem with renewables.
You can make solar panels cheaper and wind turbines bigger, but you can't make the sun shine more regularly or the wind blow more reliably. I came to understand the environmental implications of the physics of energy. In order to produce significant amounts of electricity from weak energy flows, you just have spread them over enormous areas. In other words, the trouble with renewables isn't fundamentally technical'--it's natural.
Dealing with energy sources that are inherently unreliable, and require large amounts of land, comes at a high economic cost.
There's been a lot of publicity about how solar panels and wind turbines have come down in cost. But those one-time cost savings from making them in big Chinese factories have been outweighed by the high cost of dealing with their unreliability.
Consider California. Between 2011''17 the cost of solar panels declined about 75 percent, and yet our electricity prices rose five times more than they did in the rest of the U.S. It's the same story in Germany, the world leader in solar and wind energy. Its electricity prices increased 50 percent between 2006''17, as it scaled up renewables.
I used to think that dealing with climate change was going to be expensive. But I could no longer believe this after looking at Germany and France.
Germany's carbon emissions have been flat since 2009, despite an investment of $580 billion by 2025 in a renewables-heavy electrical grid, a 50 percent rise in electricity cost.
Meanwhile, France produces one-tenth the carbon emissions per unit of electricity as Germany and pays little more than half for its electricity. How? Through nuclear power.
Then, under pressure from Germany, France spent $33 billion on renewables, over the last decade. What was the result? A rise in the carbon intensity of its electricity supply, and higher electricity prices, too.
What about all the headlines about expensive nuclear and cheap solar and wind? They are largely an illusion resulting from the fact that 70 to 80 percent of the costs of building nuclear plants are up-front, whereas the costs given for solar and wind don't include the high cost of transmission lines, new dams, or other forms of battery.
It's reasonable to ask whether nuclear power is safe, and what happens with its waste.
It turns out that scientists have studied the health and safety of different energy sources since the 1960s. Every major study, including a recent one by the British medical journal Lancet , finds the same thing: nuclear is the safest way to make reliable electricity.
Strange as it sounds, nuclear power plants are so safe for the same reason nuclear weapons are so dangerous. The uranium used as fuel in power plants and as material for bombs can create one million times more heat per its mass than its fossil fuel and gunpowder equivalents.
Danger's Deliverance | @ShellenbergerMD https://t.co/nTezEeWejR
'-- Quillette (@Quillette) August 23, 2018
It's not so much about the fuel as the process. We release more energy breaking atoms than breaking chemical bonds. What's special about uranium atoms is that they are easy to split.
Because nuclear plants produce heat without fire, they emit no air pollution in the form of smoke. By contrast, the smoke from burning fossil fuels and biomass results in the premature deaths of seven million people per year, according to the World Health Organization.
Even during the worst accidents, nuclear plants release small amounts of radioactive particulate matter from the tiny quantities of uranium atoms split apart to make heat.
Over an 80-year lifespan, fewer than 200 people will die from the radiation from the worst nuclear accident, Chernobyl, and zero will die from the small amounts of radiant particulate matter that escaped from Fukushima.
As a result, the climate scientist James Hanson and a colleague found that nuclear plants have actually saved nearly two million lives to date that would have been lost to air pollution.
Thanks to its energy density, nuclear plants require far less land than renewables. Even in sunny California, a solar farm requires 450 times more land to produce the same amount of energy as a nuclear plant.
Energy-dense nuclear requires far less in the way of materials, and produces far less in the way of waste compared to energy-dilute solar and wind.
A single Coke cans worth of uranium provides all of the energy that the most gluttonous American or Australian lifestyle requires. At the end of the process, the high-level radioactive waste that nuclear plants produce is the very same Coke can of (used) uranium fuel. The reason nuclear is the best energy from an environmental perspective is because it produces so little waste and none enters the environment as pollution.
All of the waste fuel from 45 years of the Swiss nuclear program can fit , in canisters, on a basketball court-like warehouse, where like all spent nuclear fuel, it has never hurt a fly.
By contrast, solar panels require 17 times more materials in the form of cement, glass, concrete, and steel than do nuclear plants, and create over 200 times more waste.
We tend to think of solar panels as clean, but the truth is that there is no plan anywhere to deal with solar panels at the end of their 20 to 25 year lifespan.
Experts fear solar panels will be shipped, along with other forms of electronic waste, to be disassembled'--or, more often, smashed with hammers'--by poor communities in Africa and Asia, whose residents will be exposed the dust from toxic including lead, cadmium, and chromium.
Wherever I travel in the world I ask ordinary people what they think about nuclear and renewable energies. After saying they know next to nothing, they admit that nuclear is strong and renewables are weak. Their intuitions are correct. What most of us get wrong'--understandably '-- is that weak energies are safer.
But aren't renewables safer? The answer is no. Wind turbines, surprisingly, kill more people than nuclear plants.
In other words, the energy density of the fuel determines its environmental and health impacts. Spreading more mines and more equipment over larger areas of land is going to have larger environmental and human safety impacts.
It's true that you can stand next to a solar panel without much harm while if you stand next to a nuclear reactor at full power you'll die.
But when it comes to generating power for billions of people, it turns out that producing solar and wind collectors, and spreading them over large areas, has vastly worse impacts on humans and wildlife alike.
Our intuitive sense that sunlight is dilute sometimes shows up in films. That's why nobody was shocked when the recent sequel of the dystopian sci-fi flick, ''Blade Runner,'' opened with a dystopian scene of California's deserts paved with solar farms identical to the one that decimated desert tortoises.
Over the last several hundred years, human beings have been moving away from what matter-dense fuels towards energy-dense ones. First we move from renewable fuels like wood, dung, and windmills, and towards the fossil fuels of coal, oil, and natural gas, and eventually to uranium.
Energy progress is overwhelmingly positive for people and nature. As we stop using wood for fuel we allow grasslands and forests to grow back, and the wildlife to return.
As we stop burning wood and dung in our homes, we no longer must breathe toxic indoor smoke. And as we move from fossil fuels to uranium we clear the outdoor air of pollution, and reduce how much we'll heat up the planet.
Nuclear plants are thus a revolutionary technology'--a grand historical break from fossil fuels as significant as the industrial transition from wood to fossil fuels before it.
The problem with nuclear is that it is unpopular, a victim of a 50 year-long concerted effort by fossil fuel, renewable energy, anti-nuclear weapons campaigners, and misanthropic environmentalists to ban the technology.
In response, the nuclear industry suffers battered wife syndrome, and constantly apologizes for its best attributes, from its waste to its safety.
Lately, the nuclear industry has promoted the idea that, in order to deal with climate change, ''we need a mix of clean energy sources,'' including solar, wind and nuclear. It was something I used to believe, and say, in part because it's what people want to hear. The problem is that it's not true.
France shows that moving from mostly nuclear electricity to a mix of nuclear and renewables results in more carbon emissions, due to using more natural gas, and higher prices, to the unreliability of solar and wind.
Oil and gas investors know this, which is why they made a political alliance with renewables companies, and why oil and gas companies have been spending millions of dollars on advertisements promoting solar, and funneling millions of dollars to said environmental groups to provide public relations cover.
What is to be done? The most important thing is for scientists and conservationists to start telling the truth about renewables and nuclear, and the relationship between energy density and environmental impact.
Bat scientists recently warned that wind turbines are on the verge of making one species, the Hoary bat, a migratory bat species, go extinct .
Another scientist who worked to build that gigantic solar farm in the California desert told High Country News, ''Everybody knows that translocation of desert tortoises doesn't work. When you're walking in front of a bulldozer, crying, and moving animals, and cacti out of the way, it's hard to think that the project is a good idea.''
I think it's natural that those of us who became active on climate change gravitated toward renewables. They seemed like a way to harmonize human society with the natural world. Collectively, we have been suffering from an appeal-to-nature fallacy no different from the one that leads us to buy products at the supermarket labeled ''all natural.'' But it's high time that those of us who appointed ourselves Earth's guardians should take a second look at the science, and start questioning the impacts of our actions.
Now that we know that renewables can't save the planet, are we really going to stand by and let them destroy it?
Michael Shellenberger is a Time Magazine ''Hero of the Environment,'' and president of Environmental Progress, an independent research and policy organization. Follow him on Twitter @ShellenbergerMD
How Perception of Fossil Fuel Futures Have Evolved | Watts Up With That?
Sat, 02 Mar 2019 16:22
An Engineer's Perspective
By Ronald Voisin,
A couple decades ago an international team of volcanologists arranged for the tag-on launch of a first generation orbiting gravimeter in order to study volcanism (the legitimate auspicious being pure scientific endeavor). While that intended function was successful, a much more important capability unexpectantly came to pass. Subsequent generations of these devices showed exactly where and to what extent natural gas, oil and coal were located as they have revealed progressively higher resolution images of Earth's deep interior. Several more generations of these devices are possible and this explains the recent substantial increases in estimated recoverable oil and gas and coal for that matter. Meanwhile, fracking and horizontal drilling have enormously reduced the costs and surface-area-impact of fossil fuel recovery.
In the 1920's we believed, quite honestly, that there were only 5, maybe 10 more years of recoverable oil. The simplistic plan was to make hay while the Sun shined'...the economy was rocking.
And in spite of continuing significant increases in consumption, in the 1930's we still believed that there were 5, maybe 10 more years of recoverable oil.
This same thinking continued to be true in the 1940's. But with a regular stream of new oil finds occurring, there was the suggestion that maybe oil recovery innovation could keep the Sun shining on this growing oil consuming activity for some time to come.
In the '50's and '60's we upped our estimate and thought that in spite of ever growing demand we have 10, maybe 20 more years of recoverable oil.
In the '70's, even though we got scared by the Middle East oil crisis, we still thought 10, maybe 20 more years.
In the '80's, '90's and half way through the 2000's we still thought precariously 10, maybe only 20 more years. And this thinking prevailed year after year even as an inundation of Peak-Oil concerns came from every direction in the late '90's and early 2000's.
But in around 2008 something remarkable happened. A fantastically improved 3rd generation orbiting gravimeter gave a much more clear view. So now here we are in the 2010's and we now believe, and for good reason, that there is a century, likely two centuries, and possibly 5 centuries of economically recoverable fossil fuels. That realization changes things quite a bit.
And guess what else, it turns out that North America has more oil and more natural gas and more coal than anywhere else in the World. Who'ed 'a thunk-it?
You might wonder why 1) you're hearing this from me and 2) why you aren't hearing about the great extent of the this discovery in general? Well, regarding the 1st question'...since 2006 I've been intensely interested in volcanism as a climate driver. In '06, '07 and '08 I was digesting all the late-breaking news regarding volcanism (also digested Amazon's two top-rated Earth Science text books cover to cover).
The volcanologists were ecstatic with the results of the 1st generation Hewlett-Packard built device. They wanted to study magma plumes responsible for the Hawaiian Island Chain, the Aleutian Island Chain and Mediterranean Italy. And even though gravitationally, magma is somewhat poorly differentiated from the general mantle, since they knew exactly where they wanted to look, they generally were able to find what they were looking for.
As they examined these 1st generation gravimetric mapping results, an astute observer happened to notice that an unexplained image anomaly in the American Appellations looks somewhat similar to seismically derived images of the coal fields of Appellatia.
For obvious reason the serendipity of this find was exciting. Unexpectantly, a new technology's look into Earth's volcanic interior also reveals fossil fuel pockets. And with a 1st Gen orbiting gravimeter under their belt, HP promised that they could readily develop a 2nd Gen device with 10X better sensitivity than the one currently in orbit.
However, the serendipity of the 1st Gen device observations sparked far greater interest. Much more well-funded thinking went into future devices. I don't know specifically, but I suspect the 3rd Gen device up there now has 1000X the resolution of the 1st Gen device.
The volcanologists wrote prolifically about the early results. And in these same papers, they would sometimes comment on the unexpected but now obvious: coal, oil and natural gas in particular are highly differentiated gravitationally from the general mantle and so easily spotted with this new imaging technology. However, by 2011 or so, no further mention of fossil fuels was being made by the volcanologists even though the gravimetric understanding of volcanos continued to greatly expand.
Regarding the 2nd question'...the USA was not just lifting-the-kilt on North American fossil fuels. We came to understand the global distribution of them. We came to know who had what, just what fossil fuel reserves existed in the Middle East, Russia, China, as well as with Friendlies, such as Europe, Australia, Canada, and Mexico. This information has enormous geopolitical significance'...possibly the greatest geopolitical significance of any human discovery ever. Papers dealing specifically with gravimetric identification of fossil fuels were Google disappeared. Additionally, huge fossil fuel reserves runs counter to the AGW meme. So of course it is suppressed for both strategic (geopolitical) and stupid (AGW) reasons.
Meanwhile, enhanced levels of atmospheric CO2 continue to stimulate the prolific expansion of all life on Earth'...enhancing biodiversity everywhere we might choose to look. If you care to challenge this notion, Google ''greening Earth'', and do some quality reading.
Humanity will never run out of fossil fuels. Going forward, distributed compact nuclear will likely be both safer and more economical such that we nonetheless eventually leave fossil fuels largely behind.
Ronald VoisinTaylor, MI
About the Author
Ronald D Voisin is a retired engineer. He spent 27 years in the Semiconductor Lithography Equipment industry mostly in California's Silicon Valley. Since retiring in 2007, he has made a hobby of studying climate change. Ron received a BSEE degree from the Univ. of Michigan '' Ann Arbor in 1978 and has held various management positions at both established semiconductor equipment companies and start-ups he helped initiate. Ron has authored/co-authored 31 patent applications, 27 of which have issued.
Leviathan Gas Rig Reaches Israel | Exploration & Production
Sun, 03 Mar 2019 12:31
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Feb. 1 inaugurated the foundation of the Leviathan natural gas rig, effectively stomping out protests from residents and environmentalists who say it is too close to shore.
Leviathan, discovered in 2010, is one of the world's largest gas discoveries of the past decade. The rig's foundation, known as a platform jacket, arrived on a barge that sailed from Texas. Its topside is expected in several months. It is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
''Israel is becoming an energy power. Israel is independent, and is not dependent on anyone for its energy needs,'' Netanyahu told reporters at the site, about 120 km (75 miles) off Israel's Mediterranean coast.
Leviathan will be connected by a subsea pipeline to a production platform much closer to shore, just 10 km (6 miles) from a popular beach, angering some opposition lawmakers, environmentalists and residents.
They have demanded, with several unsuccessful petitions to Israel's Supreme Court, the rig be pushed farther out to sea. But the arrival of the platform's massive legs effectively stomps out the protest and any doubt it created around the completion of Israel's largest energy project ever.
The project operator, Texas-based Noble Energy, has a 39.66% stake in the field, while Israel's Delek Drilling holds a 45.34% share, and Ratio Oil has the remaining 15%.
California's San Bernardino County slams the brakes on big solar projects - Los Angeles Times
Sun, 03 Mar 2019 14:05
A view of a smaller-scale commercial solar project in Lucerne Valley, Calif., seen on Feb. 25, 2019. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
California's largest county has banned the construction of large solar and wind farms on more than 1 million acres of private land, bending to the will of residents who say they don't want renewable energy projects industrializing their rural desert communities northeast of Los Angeles.
Thursday's 4-1 vote by San Bernardino County's Board of Supervisors highlighted a challenge California could face as it seeks to eliminate the burning of planet-warming fossil fuels.
State lawmakers passed a bill last year requiring utility companies to get 60% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and 100% from climate-friendly sources by 2045. But achieving those goals will require cooperation from local governments '-- and big solar and wind farms, like many infrastructure projects, are often unpopular at the local level.
Representatives of national solar developers including First Solar and Clearway Energy urged the supervisors to consider the economic benefits of solar projects, including jobs and tax revenues. They were joined by union members, who told the supervisors that solar farms create hundreds of high-paying construction jobs.
''They're temporary construction jobs, but that's what we make our livelihood off of. And to put language in there that strictly prohibits these projects from going forward would be irresponsible,'' said Justin Lanford, president of the San Bernardino County chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Dozens of local residents spoke in support of the proposed ban, known as Renewable Energy Policy 4.10. They came from high desert communities such as Daggett, Joshua Tree and Lucerne Valley, where existing solar projects are seen by many as eyesores that destroy desert ecosystems and fuel larger dust storms.
Sara Fairchild, a resident of Pioneertown, said she's been working with a group trying to get California Highway 247, which runs from Yucca Valley to Barstow, designated as a state scenic highway. Supporters say the designation would draw tourists and boost local economies. But Fairchild is worried that several solar projects proposed along or near the highway would ruin the pristine desert landscapes that make the area so attractive.
''These vast open areas are precious for their natural, historical and recreational qualities. But they are fragile, and no amount of mitigation can counter the damage that industrial-scale renewable energy projects would cause,'' Fairchild told the supervisors. ''Once destroyed, these landscapes can never be brought back.''
A view of Lucerne Dry Lake in California's San Bernardino County, where a large solar project has been proposed. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
The policy approved by the supervisors prohibits utility-oriented renewable energy projects '-- defined as projects that would mostly serve out-of-town utility customers, rather than local power needs '-- within the boundaries of Community Plans that have been adopted by more than a dozen unincorporated towns. Construction of utility-oriented solar and wind farms would also be banned in so-called Rural Living zones. Solar projects that are already going through the permitting process would still be allowed to proceed.
Supervisor Robert Lovingood said residents ''spoke clearly about what they want to see.''
''If we don't adopt this, that's just spitting in their face,'' he said, adding that the county has already designated several smaller areas where renewable energy projects could be approved.
Curt Hagman was the only supervisor to vote against the restrictions. He said he doesn't want to preclude new renewable energy technologies that might have less of an impact on rural areas, while still bringing economic benefits to the county. And he said the supervisors already have the ability to reject bad projects.
V. John White, a Sacramento lobbyist who leads the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, said before Thursday's vote that there's still a lot of land where solar and wind projects can be built in California, including retired farmland in the Central Valley and Imperial County. But the backlash against big solar projects in San Bernardino County, he said, shows that state officials ''will have to involve local governments more directly than what we've done up through now'' as they work to achieve higher renewable energy targets.
William Happer | Dean of the Faculty
Sun, 03 Mar 2019 14:17
William (Will) Happer, the Cyrus Fogg Bracket Professor of Physics and one of the pioneers in the field of optically polarized atoms, is transferring to emeritus status at the end of this academic year. Will is known for developing rigorous theories to analyze his elegant atomic physics experiments as well as for extensive service to Princeton and the U.S. government. His research has initiated several vibrant fields outside of atomic physics.
Will was born in Vellore, India, on July 27, 1939. He and his mother, Gladys Morgan Happer, a medical missionary, soon came back to the United States while his father, Colonel William Happer, served with the Indian Army in the Middle East and North Africa during World War II. Will was on one of the few ships from India to the United States that was not sunk by U-boats. Near the end of the war, he lived in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where his mother served as the first medical doctor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The lab was started as a part of the Manhattan Project. The excitement of this childhood experience probably led to Will's career in physics.
Will received a B.S. in physics from the University of North Carolina in 1960. Under the supervision of Professor Donald Hamilton, he received his Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University in 1964. His thesis focused on measurements of spins and magnetic moments of radioactive nuclei, a topic of considerable interest at the time because of its connection with the nuclear shell model. He began his academic career in 1964 at Columbia University's Department of Physics, where he was privileged to get to know his ''scientific grandfather,'' I. I. Rabi, and where he became interested in applications of optically polarized atoms in atomic and nuclear physics.
Will's early work focused on the spin polarization of alkali-metal atoms (sodium, potassium, rubidium, cesium). He was one of the first to investigate the effects of light with a wavelength slightly different from the atomic resonance, and he studied several effects including the rotation of the light polarization and Raman atomic transitions. These have become mainstays of modern atomic physics. In what has become a trademark of all his research, Will combined experimental measurements with the development of rigorous theoretical models and simple intuitive explanations. He also studied the unique properties of spin relaxation collisions between alkali-metal atoms, which led, 30 years later, to the development of precision alkali-metal clocks and magnetometers. In addition to his scientific work at Columbia, he served as a co-director and director of the Columbia Radiation Laboratory that was established by I. I. Rabi during World War II.
After arriving in Princeton as a professor of physics in 1980, Will began to investigate methods for polarizing nuclear spins of noble gas atoms by spin-exchange collisions with alkali-metal atoms, an effect that was first observed by Professor Thomas Carver at Princeton. Will was one of the first to realize the importance of van der Waals molecule formation during collisions between atoms, and he developed a detailed theory of spin-exchange optical pumping. Based on this theory and detailed experimental studies, he devised the crucial experimental tech­niques for producing large quantities of noble gases with high nuclear polarization. Such ''hyperpolarized'' gases have found many diverse applications.
An initial motivation for producing large nuclear spin polarizations was to use 3He (or Helium-3) as a polarized target in high-energy scattering experiments in order to investigate nuclear interactions and spin structure. The techniques developed in Happer's group have been used in electron scattering experiments at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and are now being used at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in a variety of nuclear physics experiments.
Once large quantities of polarized noble gases could be produced, it became apparent that they would find many uses outside of pure physics. One of the most dramatic applications is the magnetic resonance imaging of the lungs. Since noble gases are generally inert, they can be safely inhaled, leading to beautiful images of lung air spaces that could not be obtained by any other means. Will and his collaborators started a company to commercialize this technology, which eventually became part of General Electric. Today, dozens of research groups in the world are exploring biological applications of nuclear spin polarized noble gases.
Will is also known for his extensive government service. Since 1976, he has been a member of JASON, a group of scientists and engineers who advise the federal government on matters of defense, intelligence, energy policy, and other technical problems. While partic­ipating in the 1982 JASON summer study, he proposed to use a thin sodium layer in the upper atmosphere as a source of an artificial guide star to correct the ''seeing'' distortions in optical telescopes due to the effects of atmospheric turbulence. The sodium layer is excited from the ground with a laser and adaptive optics are used with real-time feed­back to cancel the distortions. Today, most large optical telescopes use such laser guide-star systems. From 1987 to 1990, Will served as chair of the steering committee of JASON.
From 1991 to 1993, Will served in President George H. W. Bush's administration as the director of energy research in the Department of Energy, where he oversaw a basic research budget of roughly $3 billion. His responsibilities included directing much of the federal funding for high energy and nuclear physics, materials science, magnetic confinement fusion, environmental science, the human genome project, and other areas. More recently, he chaired the National Academy of Sciences' Panel on Nuclear and Radiological Issues and the National Research Council's standing committee on improvised explosive devices.
His University service includes being the chair of the University Research Board from 1995 to 2005. He has published over 200 scientific papers. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He was awarded the 1997 Broida Prize and the 1999 Davisson-Germer Prize of the American Physical Society.
NS overweegt proef met duurdere kaartjes in de spits | NOS
Sun, 03 Mar 2019 14:49
De Nederlandse Spoorwegen willen uitproberen of duurdere treinkaartjes in de spits de drukte in de trein kunnen verminderen. Op een nog nader te bepalen traject wil de NS een proef doen met kaartjes die meer kosten op de drukste momenten en goedkoper zijn tijdens rustigere uren.
Veel reizigers zitten nu tussen 07.30 en 08.30 uur in de trein. De NS denkt erover om in deze zogeheten hyperspits op (C)(C)n traject een proef te doen met prijsprikkels. Welk traject is nog niet duidelijk, maar het zal op een plek zijn waar de capaciteit niet kan worden verhoogd door meer of langere treinen te laten rijden.
Lange tijd was de NS-directie tegen plannen om de drukte in de trein te spreiden met verschillende tarieven, maar volgens bestuurslid Tjalling Smit is het onvermijdelijk om hier toch over na te denken. "Ook al winnen we hier niet de populariteitsprijs mee, het wordt steeds drukker op het spoor en we moeten alle mogelijkheden verkennen. Ook de prijs aanpassen hoort hierbij", bevestigt hij na berichtgeving eerder vandaag op treinreiziger.nl.
Gezondheid en veiligheidDe Spoorwegen verwachten dat er in 2022 tot 18 procent meer treinreizigers zijn dan in 2017, en op sommige trajecten is de groei naar verwachting nog hoger. Volgens NS wordt de drukte op enkele perrons en in sommige treinen dan zo groot "dat de gezondheid en veiligheid van reizigers in gevaar komen".
NS benadrukt dat duurdere treinkaartjes in de spits niet bedoeld zijn om geld te verdienen. Een prijsverhoging in de hyperspits betekent volgens de Spoorwegen automatisch dat een kaartje voor dat traject tijdens andere uren goedkoper wordt.
Of de proef met aangepaste prijzen er daadwerkelijk komt, is nog niet zeker. Daarvoor moet het ministerie van Infrastructuur en Waterstaat als concessieverlener toestemming geven. Ook wil NS het plan nog bespreken met reizigersorganisaties en zijn er nog wat technische hobbels om de proef uit te voeren.
Staatssecretaris Van Veldhoven zegt in een reactie dat ze snapt dat NS wil onderzoeken of prijsprikkels de drukte in de trein kunnen spreiden, maar ze wil een proef alleen onder strenge voorwaarden toestaan. Haar belangrijkste voorwaarde is dat de trein altijd aantrekkelijk en betaalbaar moet blijven voor reizigers.
KritiekReizigersvereniging Rover is niet blij met het plan. Volgens Rover is een treinkaartje al duur genoeg en kunnen de Spoorwegen beter alleen de prijzen verlagen in de daluren, als ze reizigers willen verleiden om dan in de trein te stappen.
Ook gelooft de reizigersvereniging niet dat er trajecten zijn waar het niet effectief is om langere en meer treinen in de spits in te plannen. Er zou volgens Rover juist nog meer ingezet moeten worden op trajecten waar elke tien minuten een trein rijdt.
Verder wijst Rover erop dat proeven met aangepaste lesuren op scholen en universiteiten ook succesvol zijn gebleken. Door de schoolroosters te verschuiven, nam de drukte in de trein flink af. NS zegt zelf ook met meer onderwijsinstellingen en werkgevers in gesprek te zijn om les- en werktijden aan te passen.
Soylent Green!
Washington could become the first state to legalize human composting
Sat, 02 Mar 2019 05:17
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Dec. 29, 2018, 6:06 PM GMT / Updated Dec. 31, 2018, 2:45 AM GMT
By Tafline Laylin
When Americans die, most are buried or cremated. Washington could soon become the first state to allow another option: human composting.
The novel approach, known as ''recomposition,'' involves placing bodies in a vessel and hastening their decomposition into a nutrient-dense soil that can then be returned to families. The aim is a less expensive way of dealing with human remains that is better for the environment than burial, which can leach chemicals into the ground, or cremation, which releases earth-warming carbon dioxide.
''People from all over the state who wrote to me are very excited about the prospect of becoming a tree or having a different alternative for themselves,'' said state Sen. Jamie Pedersen, a Democrat, who is sponsoring a bill in Washington's Legislature to expand the options for disposing of human remains. The recomposition bill would also make Washington the 17th state to allow alkaline hydrolysis, the dissolving of bodies in a pressurized vessel with water and lye until just liquid and bone remains. Pedersen plans to introduce the bill when the new legislative session begins next month.
Pedersen sees recomposition as an environmental and a social justice issue. He said allowing it would particularly benefit people who can't afford a funeral or aren't comfortable with cremation. Recompose aims to charge $5,500 for its services, while a traditional burial generally cost more than $7,000 in 2017, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. (Cremation can cost less than $1,000, though that doesn't include a service or an urn.)
The push to allow composting of human remains originates with Katrina Spade, 41, a Seattle-based designer who started focusing on the idea in 2013 while working on her master's in architecture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
''We really only have two easily accessible options in the U.S. '-- cremation and burial,'' she said. ''And the question is: Why do we only have two options, and what would it look like if we had a dozen?''
Spade's initial goal was to design a system that would restore people's connection to death and its aftermath, which she said had been severed in part by the funeral industry. A friend introduced her to the farming practice of composting livestock after they die. Called mortality composting, the practice has been shown to safely keep pathogens from contaminating the land, while creating a richer soil.
''It was like a lightbulb went off and I started to envision a system that uses the same principles as mortality composting '... that would be meaningful and appropriate for human beings,'' she said.
She worked with researchers at Western Carolina University and the Washington State University to turn her vision, which she dubbed ''recomposition,'' into reality. The process involves placing unembalmed human remains wrapped in a shroud in a 5-foot-by-10-foot cylindrical vessel with a bed of organic material such as wood chips, alfalfa and straw. Air is then periodically pulled into the vessel, providing oxygen to accelerate microbial activity. Within approximately one month, the remains are reduced to a cubic yard of compost that can be used to grow new plants.
The vessel where the composting takes place. CAHNRS Communications / Washington State Univ.The safety of the process depends on maintaining a temperature of 131 degrees Fahrenheit for 72 consecutive hours to destroy pathogens, according to Spade. This heat is generated by the naturally occurring microbes.
Recompose, a public-benefit corporation Spade founded in 2017 to expand research and development of her concept, recently co-sponsored a $75,000 pilot program through Washington State University.
Led by researcher Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, associate professor of sustainable and organic agriculture at Washington State, the five-month program recomposed six donor bodies in a carefully controlled environment, aiming to allay concerns about spreading pathogens.
The research concluded in August, and the recomposition of human remains was found to be safe, according to Carpenter-Boggs, who plans to submit her results for publication in 2019. (Recomposition isn't for everyone '-- some pathogens, like the bacteria that causes anthrax, are known to survive composting in animals, so recomposition's safety will depend on excluding people with certain illnesses.)
Recompose founder Katrina Spade, left, with researcher Lynne Carpenter-Boggs. CAHNRS Communications / Washington State Univ.''The advantage that I see as a soil scientist and an environmental scientist is that it is relatively low in resource use and it also creates this soil-like or compost-like product that helps to store carbon,'' Carpenter-Boggs said. Human compost adds nutrients to soil, potentially improving its ability to absorb water and reduce erosion, she added.
An earlier version of Pedersen's bill, which included alkaline hydrolysis but not recomposition, failed in Washington in 2017, which Pedersen attributed to opposition from the Roman Catholic Church.
Thomas Parker, a former lobbyist for the Washington State Catholic Conference, said the church was concerned about dissolved human remains draining into sewers.
But State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, a Republican who chaired the Senate's Labor and Commerce Committee in 2017, when the bill was introduced, said the church's opposition did not play a significant role in the legislation's failure. ''We prioritized other issues that year,'' Baumgartner said.
Alkaline hydrolysis may go against Catholic doctrine that requires the human body to be respected, said James LeGrys, theological adviser to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. LeGrys was unfamiliar with recomposition, but noted that it could be problematic if body parts are separated in any way.
There is little risk of this happening through recomposition unless families request it, according to Spade, who said she has not received opposition from any groups, religious or otherwise. She anticipates that some families may choose to take their loved one's remains home to plant, while others may donate remains to nourish conservation lands.
Pedersen has signed up several co-sponsors of the bill in the state Senate, which is now under Democratic control, and he's optimistic about its chances. Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, has not taken a public position on the bill and did not respond to a request for comment. If the bill passes, it would take effect May 1, 2020.
This would allow Recompose to officially launch operations in Seattle. Spade hopes to partner with funeral homes and cemeteries to bring recomposition to other parts of the state and country. In the meantime, her company is developing a modular vessel design and refining its business model.
For Spade, the pilot program at Washington State University affirmed the inherent beauty of naturally returning humans to the soil.
''This is something that is really good for humanity,'' she said.
CORRECTION (Dec. 30, 2018 9:45 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated a university Katrina Spade worked with. It is Washington State University, not the University of Washington.
'Crippling' Attacks Force Doctors Without Borders to Close Ebola Centers in Congo - The New York Times
Fri, 01 Mar 2019 16:42
Image An Ebola treatment center in Katwa, in northeastern Congo, was set ablaze. Credit Credit Laurie Bonnaud/Medecins Sans Frontieres, via Reuters Two attacks on Ebola treatment centers in the Democratic Republic of Congo have forced the international aid group Doctors Without Borders to close the facilities, it said on Thursday, warning that the outbreak was not under control.
In the first attack, on Sunday night, unidentified assailants threw stones at a treatment center in Katwa, in northeastern Congo, and set fire to the structure. They destroyed much of the building, equipment and patient wards, and the brother of a patient died, though the circumstances were unclear.
Doctors Without Borders said that its staff members were safe and that patients had been transferred to other facilities, but it called the attack a debilitating blow to efforts to contain the outbreak, which has killed 553 people so far. It is the second-worst Ebola epidemic in history, after the crisis that left 11,310 people dead in West Africa from 2014 through mid-2016.
''This attack has crippled our ability to respond to what is now the epicenter of the outbreak,'' Emmanuel Massart, the emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in Katwa, said in
a statementon Tuesday.
Three days later there was another attack in the night, this time in the nearby city of Butembo. The attackers tried to set fire to the building, and the next day bullet holes were visible on the wall, said Dr. Michael Yao, the incident manger for the World Health Organization. Patients and medical staff were reported safe by the aid group, including 15 confirmed to have Ebola.
Officials said they did not know what motivated the attacks. ''It looks like an organized group that wants to target treatment centers,'' Dr. Yao said.
He said the loss of the centers was especially damaging because they were part of an alert system for suspected cases and offered
experimental treatmentsthat had shown success. But officials acknowledged that they had struggled to gain the trust of many Congolese.
At first, Dr. Yao said, there was community resistance because it was the region's first experience with the disease, which carries a stigma. And although health workers slowly built trust with local people, many patients arrived in treatment centers too late '-- an often deadly delay because of Ebola's 21-day incubation period.
''When somebody comes late to a treatment center they have less chance to survive,'' he said, calling it a ''vicious cycle'' that creates a negative public perception. In the eyes of many people, he said, treatment facilities began to look like ''a kind of center where people come to die.''
Adding to the resistance is a climate of intense distrust toward outsiders, born in part from the long-running conflicts in the region and the
divisive campaignsleading up to an election last month, when some politicians
spread false rumorsabout the virus's origins. There are more than 100 armed groups involved in near-constant conflict in eastern Congo, and militias and security forces alike are accused of brutalizing civilians. That has left many unsure whom to trust.
The violence has frustrated efforts to eliminate the outbreak, and the W.H.O. warned that it could result in the spread of Ebola in the region. Whitney Elmer, deputy country director for the aid group Mercy Corps, said that there had been several waves of distrust and violence before, and that health workers needed to collaborate better with community groups and leaders.
''Community engagement takes time,'' she said. ''There's a lot of fear and there's a lot of misconceptions, and in a 21-day period you're talking about life and death.''
The workers are trying to address the resistance by speaking with community leaders and offering the testimony of Ebola survivors, who now number more than 300, Dr. Yao said.
The W.H.O.
saidit was expanding housing and treatment for the patients forced to move. The agency has recorded
814 confirmed infectionsand 65 probable cases, and determined that risks remain ''very high'' for the outbreak to spread nationally or across the border into Uganda, Rwanda or South Sudan.
With international groups, Congo quelled an Ebola outbreak last year, and aid workers said the success of that campaign was cause for hope in the current crisis. But for now, Ms. Elmer said, the loss of the two centers was ''absolutely crippling in the area where it's the biggest hot spot right now.''
A version of this article appears in print on, on PageA9of the New York editionwith the headline: Ebola Treatment Centers in Congo Are Closed After Attacks
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ALIMA USA's board of directors - ALIMA
Sat, 02 Mar 2019 15:30
The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) is a medical aid organization, registered in France with its operational headquarters in Dakar, Senegal, and offices in Paris and New York.
ALIMA and ALIMA-USA are distinct organizations working towards the same goal. ALIMA is registered in France under the Association Law of 1901. ALIMA-USA is registered in the USA as a nonprofit under the IRS status of 501(c)3.
To contact ALIMA-USA, please call: + 1 (646) 619 9074 or write to ALIMA.USA, One Whitehall Street, 2nd Fl, New York NY 10004, USA. Email: info.usa@alima.ngo
The board of directors of ALIMA-USA is as follows:
Dr. Pierre Cremieux, PhD (President) is the President of Analysis Group, an economics, finance and strategy consulting firm which he joined in 1997. Prior to joining Analysis Group, Pierre was a Professor of economics at Universit(C) in Qu(C)bec in Montr(C)al. At Analysis Group, he is part of the leadership team and serves as an expert in both litigation and non-litigation matters on issues ranging from antitrust to finance and labor and employment. He has worked in a variety of industries, including high tech, pharmaceuticals, biotech, financial products, consumer products, and commodities. Much of his academic research focuses on antitrust related issues and various aspects of health economics ranging from the analysis of clinical trial data and observation studies to economic impact analysis and cost-effectiveness studies.
In addition to serving as a founding member and chair of the board of ALIMA USA, Dr. Cremieux is on the Board of Partners in Health. He is also a founding member and chair of the Haitian Global Health Alliance (HGHA), the sister organization to GHESKIO, a Haitian NGO clinic directed and operated by Haitians focused on HIV and TB treatment as well as other communicable and non-communicable diseases. He is also on the Health Plan Board of the Boston Medical Center, an institution dedicated to providing services to all patients in need regardless of ability to pay. He maintains an active research agenda and has worked with the leadership at PIH, GHESKIO, and BMC through Analysis Group's Pro Bono program on clinical research, health economics and data management issues. His scientific research in antitrust and health economics has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals.
Elya Tagar (treasurer) is the Director of the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) Australia. Previously Elya was the Senior Director for HIV, TB and Health Financing at CHAI in the US. He joined as Country Director in the DR Congo and went on to manage CHAI's operations in francophone West Africa, overseeing nine country programs focusing primarily on pediatric HIV, and went on to lead CHAI's HIV financing work before taking on his current role. Before joining CHAI Elya worked as a management consultant with McKinsey and Co in New York, working with clients in the pharmaceutical, financial and public sectors on strategy and operational priorities.
Denise Jarvinen (clerk) is a graduate from Wellesley College and a doctor in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley. After working as a scientist at the Marine Policy Center at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, she worked as an environmental economic consultant. She then decided to apply her skills in a different direction and started working in the non-profit sector with a particular focus on grant writing and other activities related to folk music. She is now on the Board of the Traditional Music Foundation, which she launched almost ten years ago, the International Bluegrass Music Museum, and the International Bluegrass Music Association. Over the years, she has also worked on various issues in public health from work for the Institute on Health and Aging and the UC Berkeley School of Public Health to her current role on the philanthropic board of the Boston Medical Center.
Jody Blagrove JD/MBA is a Procurement Manager at Becton Dickinson, a market leader in the medical device industry. Working in the health industry she understands the importance of advancing global health and providing everyone with access to healthcare. Ms. Blagrove immigrated to the United States from a poor rural town in Jamaica, WI, in which local health clinics were nonexistent. Jody graduated from Brown University with honors in Latin American Studies and holds a JD and MBA from Rutgers University
Catherine Dumait-Harper is a consultant on international humanitarian affairs and frequent speaker on issues related to international humanitarian law (IHL), including the Responsibility to Protect Civilians in conflict situations. Catherine represented Doctors Without Borders as their delegate to the United Nations from 1993 to 2005. She also served as Vice-Chairperson of the NGO Working Group in the Security Council, which meets regularly with Ambassadors of member states of the UN Security Council. Catherine is currently a member of the Advisory Boards of Action Against Hunger, the Sanam Vaziri Quraishi Foundation and the French Heritage Language Program of New York.
Alan Harper is consultant in the field of portfolio credit quality at financial institutions. Alan has 25 years of experience in the financial sector, first with Citicorp and then with The Fuji Bank/ Mizuho Corporate Bank. As Senior Vice President and Credit Supervisor at Fuji Bank and Mizuho Corporate Bank, he conducted diligence on proposals generated by lending units, formulated credit decisions, and controlled exposures to clients in the Americas. In the non-profit area, Alan served as treasurer and director of the non-profit organization, Economists for Peace and Security, from 2006-11. Alan also served as president and officer of the NY Association for Business Economics (1999-2002).
Augustin Augier is the Secretary General of ALIMA and co-opted board member of ALIMA USA. After completing studies in business school, Augustin began his professional career in mergers and acquisitions, then in France's National Assembly working in a parliamentary group. Starting in 2005, he spent three years as project coordinator for areas of conflict with an international medical NGO. In 2009, he was one of the founding members of ALIMA, for whom he served as Director General until 2013.
Glenda Hersh is an Emmy award-winning producer and co-president and co-CEO of Truly Original Media, two of television's leading producers of unscripted programming. Glenda co-founded True Entertainment in 2000, alongside business and producing partner Steven Weinstock and also assumed the helm of Original Media in 2015. Together they lead all creative, development, programming and operations for both companies. Previously, Glenda was a principal in The New York Times-owned New York Times Television and its precursor, Video News International. Glenda's shows have earned a total of three Emmy awards and ten Emmy nominations.
John Penney is executive VP of product strategy and consumer business development for Twentieth Century Fox. Prior to his current role, John was the Chief Strategy Officer for Starz, the premium cable and satellite television network, and also serves as Chairman of the Board of STARZ PLAY Arabia. Previous to joining Starz in 2010, John was President and Head of Corporate Development of Foresee Entertainment, a media and entertainment company he co-founded. John previously served as Head of Global Media Strategy for IMG, Inc., Senior Vice President at HBO, and Executive Vice President at ACTV. John serves on the Executive Board of the Consumer Technology Association, as a Trustee of the CTA Foundation, and is a Founding Member of the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences' Vision Council. John holds a bachelor's in Social Psychology from Wesleyan University and a master's in Public Policy and Administration from Columbia University.
Julie Rousseau, PhD is a Certified Nurse Midwife, Registered Nurse, and Associate Clinical Professor at the University of California, Irvine Program in Nursing Science, where she also serves as Associate Director for Strategy and Innovation. Prior to joining UC Irvine, Julie was a faculty member at Columbia University's School of Nursing. She is part of research teams working on maternal health, emotional and reproductive health, and geriatric care for underserved communities. She has authored and managed nursing workforce and interdisciplinary care team grants and taught extensively on women's health, reproductive health, and nursing practice and ethics. Julie is an expert on Japanese and medical historical studies, having received a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University. She holds master's and bachelor's of science in Nursing and Nurse-Midwifery from Columbia University and a bachelor's in History from Georgetown University.
Kris Torgeson MPH is the Global CEO of Lifebox Foundation. Previously Kris was ALIMA USA's Founding Executive Director. She joined Doctors Without Borders/M(C)decins Sans Fronti¨res (MSF) in 1998 and was Director of Communications for MSF in the United States before serving as Secretary General of MSF International in Geneva, Switzerland from 2008 to 2012. She holds a bachelor's degree in East Asian Studies from Wesleyan University, a master's in Chinese literature from Columbia University, and a master's in public health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Truly Original
Sat, 02 Mar 2019 15:30
Truly Original creates a broad range of scripted and unscripted programming for television and digital platforms. Run by Emmy award-winning producers Glenda Hersh and Steven Weinstock, who serve as Truly Original's co-presidents and CEOs, the company is a subsidiary of Endemol Shine North America. Truly Original's hit series include Ink Master and Ink Master: Redemption for Spike; The Real Housewives of Atlanta, The Real Housewives of Potomac, Don't Be Tardy, Shahs of Sunset, Summer House and Stripped, for Bravo; Vanity Fair Confidential for ID; Swamp People for History; Comic Book Men for AMC; Hack My Life for truTV; I Love You'... But I Lied for Lifetime; The Horn for Red Bull TV, and many others. Truly Original is headquartered in New York City.
Press access may be curbed at hearing on Epstein sex abuse | Miami Herald
Sat, 02 Mar 2019 13:27
A court hearing on whether to unseal sensitive documents involving the alleged sex trafficking of underage girls by Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein '-- and the possible involvement of his influential friends '-- will play out in a New York City courtroom next week.
But it may happen behind closed doors, with the news media and public barred '-- at least in part.
An attorney for lawyer Alan Dershowitz wrote a letter to the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Tuesday, asking whether the media should be excluded from the proceeding because his oral arguments on behalf of his client could contain sensitive information that has been under seal.
The appeals court had not responded to his concern as of Friday, but if the hearing is closed during his lawyer's argument, it would represent the latest in a long history of successful efforts to keep details of Epstein's sex crimes sealed.
Dershowitz, a professor emeritus at Harvard, constitutional law expert and criminal defense attorney, represented Epstein, who in 2008 received what many consider an unusually light sentence for sexually abusing dozens of girls at his Palm Beach mansion. Two women '-- one of whom was underage '-- have said Epstein and his partner, British socialite and environmentalist Ghislaine Maxwell, directed them to have sex with Dershowitz, 80, and other wealthy, powerful men. Dershowitz and Maxwell have denied the claims.
Oral arguments are scheduled Wednesday to hear an appeal by the Miami Herald and other parties seeking to unseal a 2015 court case involving Epstein and Maxwell. The Herald, as part of an ongoing investigation into Epstein's case, hopes to shed more light on the scope of Epstein's crimes, who was involved and whether there was any undue influence that tainted the criminal justice process.
A legal brief supporting the Herald's appeal was filed in December by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 32 other media companies, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Dow Jones, Fox News, Gannett, Politico, Reveal Center for Investigative Reporting and Tribune Publishing Co.
The case '-- which was settled in 2017 '-- involved Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who sued Maxwell in federal court in the Southern District of New York in 2015. Giuffre had asserted that Maxwell and Epstein trafficked her and other underage girls, often at sex parties that Epstein hosted at his homes in New York, New Mexico, Palm Beach and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Maxwell called her a liar. Giuffre sued for defamation.
As the case was litigated, the judge allowed a vast trove of documents, including testimony by witnesses, to be sealed. Dershowitz, having been publicly implicated in Epstein's crimes by Giuffre, tried unsuccessfully to get the judge to unseal a select number of documents that he says will exonerate him. Blogger Michael Cernovich also filed a motion to release a portion of the sealed documents.
The judge denied their motions in 2016, as the case was still ongoing, saying release of the documents could taint a potential jury pool.
After the case was settled, the Herald filed a more extensive motion, arguing that with the case now closed, all the documents should be made public. The motion, filed in April 2018, came as the Herald was working on an investigative series, Perversion of Justice, which detailed how Epstein and his lawyers manipulated federal prosecutors to obtain one of the most lenient sentences for a child sex offender in history.
Dershowitz's lawyer, Andrew G. Celli Jr., emphasized to the Herald that Dershowitz is not trying to ban the media from the proceeding; he is simply giving the court a heads up that his arguments could include information that has never been made public because it's under seal.
''What the letter says very clearly is we intend to make reference to the sealed material in open court, so we want to notify the judges that this is my intention to make my arguments,'' Celli said. ''We want the courtroom to be open so long as we can argue the substance of what we want to unseal.''
Barbara Petersen, executive director of the First Amendment Foundation, pointed out that since the judges are well aware that sealed documents are at the heart of the appeal, Dershowitz's request comes across more as a ''veiled threat.''
''It's like 'if you don't keep out the media, then we are going to reveal stuff and let the chips fall where they may,' '' she said. ''They don't want it to come out and they don't want to make a motion and ban the media, so they are hoping the judges do it for them.''
Attorneys for Giuffre also want the case unsealed.
''Ms. Giuffre is a victim of Jeffrey Epstein's sex trafficking organization,'' her attorney, Paul Cassell, said in a statement attached to the Herald's appeal. ''When she bravely came forward to explain what happened to her at the hands of Epstein and his powerful friends, Epstein's 'Madame' and girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, told the world that Ms. Giuffre was a liar. Ms. Giuffre filed a defamation action.''
The case was settled in Giuffre's favor, with Maxwell paying Giuffre millions.
Maxwell wants the case to remain sealed and earlier tried to get the judge to destroy the sealed documents, but her motion was denied earlier this week.
Epstein's deal, brokered by then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta, allowed Epstein to plead guilty to two prostitution charges in state court, and in exchange, Epstein and an untold number of others were given federal immunity. Epstein served just 13 months in the county jail, although much of his incarceration was served at his office in downtown West Palm Beach on ''work release.''
Last week, a federal judge ruled that Acosta, now President Donald Trump's secretary of labor, violated the law because he and other prosecutors deliberately kept the deal secret from Epstein's victims, who are now in their late 20s and early 30s.
Cernovich's lawyer, Marc J. Randazza, said he has never seen a court seal nearly an entire court record like this.
''I've seen partial seals, but I've never seen anything where it went quite that far. That in of itself is newsworthy,'' he said. ''What kind of power here is able to influence our court system in such a big way? Something is amiss and I'm glad that journalists are out there looking at it.''
Fentanyl use drove drug overdose deaths to a record high in 2017, CDC estimates - The Washington Post
Sat, 02 Mar 2019 05:24
CDC drug overdosesDrug overdose deaths surpassed 72,000 in 2017, according to provisional estimates recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That represents an increase of more than 6,000 deaths, or 9.5 percent, over the estimate for the previous 12-month period.
That staggering sum works out to about 200 drug overdose deaths every single day, or one every eight minutes.
The increase was driven primarily by a continued surge in deaths involving synthetic opioids, a category that includes fentanyl. There were nearly 30,000 deaths involving those drugs in 2017, according to the preliminary data, an increase of more than 9,000 over the prior year.
Deaths involving cocaine also shot up significantly, putting the stimulant on par with drugs such as heroin and the category of natural opiates that includes painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. One potential spot of good news is that deaths involving those latter two drug categories appear to have flattened out, suggesting the possibility that opiate mortality may be at or nearing its peak.
Overdose estimates for selected drug types in 2017.The CDC cautions that these figures are early estimates based on monthly death records processed by the agency. The CDC adjusts these figures to correct for underreporting, because some recorded deaths are still pending full investigation. Final mortality figures are typically released at the end of the following calendar year.
The CDC updates these provisional numbers monthly. The recent inclusion of December 2017 means that a complete, albeit early look at 2017 overdose mortality is now available for the first time.
Geographically the deaths are distributed similarly to how they've been in prior years, with parts of Appalachia and New England showing the highest mortality rates. Once again, the highest rates were seen in West Virginia, with 58.7 overdose deaths for every 100,000 residents. The District of Columbia (50.4), Pennsylvania (44.1), Ohio (44.0) and Maryland (37.9) rounded out the top five.
At the other end of the spectrum, states in the Great Plains had some of the lowest death rates. Nebraska had the fewest with just 8.2 deaths per 100,000, a rate less than one-seventh the rate in West Virginia.
Despite the nationwide increase, the CDC's preliminary data also shows overdose rates fell in a number of states, including North Dakota and Wyoming, compared with the prior year. Particularly significant were the decreases in Vermont and Massachusetts, two states with relatively high rates of overdose mortality.
Beyond that, the month-to-month data brings some potentially good news: Nationwide, deaths involving opioids have plateaued and even fallen slightly in recent months, from an estimated high of 49,552 deaths in the 12-month period ending in September 2017 down to 48,612 in the period ending January of this year. While it's too early to say whether that trend will continue through 2018, those numbers are somewhat encouraging.
Opiate death estimates through January 2018.A chief concern among substance abuse experts is the ubiquity of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that's roughly 50 times more potent than heroin. Because it's cheap and relatively easy to make, it's often mixed with other drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
Policymakers have struggled to come up with an adequate response to the opioid crisis. Overdose deaths initially ballooned during the Obama administration, which was criticized by experts for being slow to respond to the problem. Last year, the Trump administration declared the epidemic a ''public health emergency'' but allocated no new funding for states to address the issue. Former congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), a member of the task force that the administration convened to tackle the epidemic, criticized President Trump late last year for being ''all talk and no follow-through'' on opioids.
Alarming global surge of measles cases a growing threat to children '' UNICEF
Sun, 03 Mar 2019 15:17
Ten countries accounted for approximately three-quarters of the total increase in measles in 2018, including significant outbreaks in Brazil, Madagascar, the Philippines, Ukraine, and Yemen
NEW YORK, 1 March 2019 '' UNICEF warned today that global cases of measles are surging to alarmingly high levels, led by ten countries accounting for more than 74 per cent of the total increase, and several others that had previously been declared measles free.
Globally, 98 countries reported more cases of measles in 2018 compared to 2017, eroding progress against this highly preventable, but potentially deadly disease.
Countries with ten highest increases in cases between 2017 and 2018
Ukraine30,338Philippines13,192Brazil10,262Yemen6,641Venezuela4,916Serbia4,355Madagascar4,307Sudan3,496Thailand2,758France2,269Ukraine, the Philippines and Brazil saw the largest increases in measles cases from 2017 to 2018. In Ukraine alone, there were 35,120 cases of measles in 2018. According to the government, another 24,042 people were infected just in the first two months of 2019. In the Philippines so far this year, there have been 12,736 measles cases and 203 deaths[1], compared to 15,599 cases in the whole of 2018."This is a wake up call. We have a safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine against a highly contagious disease '' a vaccine that has saved almost a million lives every year over the last two decades,'' said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF's Executive Director. ''These cases haven't happened overnight. Just as the serious outbreaks we are seeing today took hold in 2018, lack of action today will have disastrous consequences for children tomorrow.''
Measles is highly contagious, more so than Ebola, tuberculosis or influenza. The virus can be contracted by someone up to two hours after an infected person has left a room. It spreads through air and infects the respiratory tract, potentially killing malnourished children or babies too young to be vaccinated. Once infected, there is no specific treatment for measles, so vaccination is a life-saving tool for children.
In response to these outbreaks, UNICEF and its partners are supporting governments to urgently reach millions of children in countries around the globe. For example:
In Ukraine, UNICEF has provided ongoing support to accelerate routine immunization across the country and address vaccine hesitancy, including additional efforts to stop the most recent outbreak that has claimed 30 lives since 2017. In February, the Ministry of Health, with UNICEF's support, launched an immunization drive at schools and clinics in the worst-hit Lviv region in western Ukraine, where negative attitudes toward immunization, and previous shortages in vaccine supply, have resulted in low vaccination rates.In the Philippines, the government, with support from UNICEF and partners, will conduct a campaign to vaccinate 9 million children against measles across 17 regions. Using social media, campaigners plan to encourage apprehensive parents, and health workers.In Brazil, from August to September 2018, the government carried out a campaign against polio and measles, targeting more than 11 million children under five. UNICEF encouraged people to get vaccinated, and trained health monitors working in migrant shelters for Venezuelans. UNICEF has included the measles vaccine as part of the Municipal Seal programme that covers 1,924 municipalities.In Yemen, where years of conflict led to an outbreak, local authorities with support from UNICEF, WHO and GAVI vaccinated more than 11.5 million children in February. In Madagascar, from 3 September to 21 February, 76,871 people were infected by measles and 928 died, a majority of which were children. In January, the government, with support of partners including UNICEF, launched an immunization campaign to target all 114 districts. Over 2 million children were immunized in 25 districts. In February, 1.4 million children were vaccinated, with another 3.9 million more to follow in March. Notable reported measles cases in 2018 in countries with no reported cases in 2017Brazil10,262Moldova312Montenegro203Colombia188Timor-Leste59Peru38Chile23Uzbekistan17Poor health infrastructure, civil strife, low community awareness, complacency and vaccine hesitancy in some cases have led to these outbreaks in both developed and developing countries. For example, in the United States, the number of measles cases increased six-fold between 2017 and 2018, reaching 791 cases. More recently, the U.S. has seen outbreaks in New York and Washington state.
''Almost all of these cases are preventable, and yet children are getting infected even in places where there is simply no excuse,'' said Fore. ''Measles may be the disease, but, all too often, the real infection is misinformation, mistrust and complacency. We must do more to accurately inform every parent, to help us safely vaccinate every child.''
To fight measles, UNICEF is issuing an urgent appeal to governments, health care providers, and parents to do more to contain the disease by:
Understanding that vaccines are safe and effective and can save a child's lifeVaccinating all children between the ages of six months to five years during outbreaksTraining and equipping health workers so they can provide quality servicesStrengthening immunization programmes to deliver all life-saving vaccinesNotes to editors
Download photos and b-roll here.
About the Measles and Rubella Initiative
UNICEF is part of the Measles and Rubella Initiative, a private-public partnership of five global partners including WHO, CDC, United Nations Foundation and American Red Cross that has been spearheading a global push towards measles and rubella elimination.
[1] Note: The analysis is based on WHO's global measles and rubella data of 194 countries for the year 2017 and 2018. To know more, click here. The analysis is based on the total confirmed cases of measles.
Pastor Andrew Brunson becomes a Hungarian citizen
Sun, 03 Mar 2019 12:04
Andrew Brunson, a 50-year old American pastor who lived in Turkey since the mid-1990s was jailed by local authorities for his alleged participation in a coup against Turkish strongman Tayyip Erdogan.
Brunson and his wife, Norine were arrested in October 2016 along with other Americans. Norine was released after two weeks but her husband was held for two years, facing a sentence of up to 35 years in prison if convicted.
Brunson's release became a major political cause in the U.S. President Trump tweeted ''Working very hard on Pastor Brunson!'' Vice President Pence has frequently invoked Brunson in speeches and Trump called him a ''great American Christian.'' The US administration even announced economic sanctions against Turkey after negotiations for his release fell through.
Pastor Bunson prays with President Trump in the White House.
The pastor was finally released in October 2018. Four months later Brunson became a Hungarian citizen.
''I am very glad to also be a Hungarian citizen as my wife is Hungarian and my children also define themselves as Hungarians and we have many relatives in the country,'' Brunson said.
Norine and Andrew Brunson (left) with Hungarian Ambassador Lszl" Szab" and his wife Ivonn Szever(C)nyi after receiving Hungarian citizenship in Washington DC.
Norine Brunson (nee Steiner) is an American with Hungarian ancestry. Her father Joseph (J"zsef) Steiner left Hungary as a young man during the 1956 revolution to become a noted Hungarian-language Christian radio broadcaster operating in Monaco. Joseph's mother, Ida Csopjk, was one of the daughters of Attila Csopjk, a legendary leader of the Hungarian Baptist movement.
The Hungarian government is friendly with Turkey and Prime Minister Orbn admires President Erdogan. Now Hungary is using Brunson to promote Hungary's pro-Christian aid programs.
Orbn (left) and Erdogan '' mutual admiration.
Brunson worked with Christian Syrian refugees in Turkey and is appreciative of Hungary's Christian aid policy, especially the ''Hungary Helps'' initiative. It seems that the pastor is not bothered by the fact that Hungary has never criticized Erdogan's anti-Christian policies and never raised its voice to support Pastor Brunson's release either.
Obviously Brunson has the legal right to assume Hungarian citizenship but his support of the Orbn-regime is troubling.
Gy¶rgy Lzr
Author: Gy¶rgy LzrGy¶rgy Lzr came to the US in 1980 on a UNESCO fellowship to complete his Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina. He later moved to California where he became mesmerized by the entrepreneurial spirit of Silicon Valley and spent the next 25 years in high-tech consulting focusing on the financial aspects of technology. In the last couple of years he became a contributor to several Hungarian and English language publications. He and his wife enjoy spending time in Hungary, they try to go to Europe as often as they can.
No Belt Three Roads
SPOILERS: Cheap car challenge currently being filmed in Chongqing, China : thegrandtour
Fri, 01 Mar 2019 21:22
I speak Chinese and after digging through Chinese media reports on the presenters' recent visit to Chongqing, this is what I found:
- THERE WILL BE A CHEAP CAR CHALLENGE (road trip through China): Richard in a Cadillac STS, Jeremy in a BMW 7-series E38, James in a Mercedes S-Class W140. Interestingly, the cars were pictured on German license plates and they received temporary Chinese license plates from Chongqing city authorities, which leads me to believe that they were shipped to China specifically for the filming of this segment (link with pictures)
- Chongqing is regarded by many as the Detroit of China, so the guys will be filming a piece investigating the industrial development of the city's car industry. They'll be testing the Hongqi L5 Limousine, which Jeremy said he was looking forward to testing.
- The guys will be in the Chongqing Central Business District from Jul 22 - 24, and they'll be in Anshun (安éºå¸‚) and Liupanshui (六ç›æ°´) in Guizhou province in the near future. A source said that they'll be in China filming for an entire month, but I haven't been able to verify this info.
- When asked whey they chose to film in Chongqing and not Beijing/Shanghai/Hong Kong, Jeremy said: "Initially we wanted to film something about big infrastructure projects in China, but we went to the pub and forgot about that. Actually I'm not sure why we came to Chongqing and not another city. But we're here (in Chongqing), and we think this is a good place to launch DriveTribe." James added that Chongqing was a warm place.
Sources (in Chinese):
Any Collusion
The Russian Spy Who Wasn't | The New Republic
Sat, 02 Mar 2019 13:31
On a steamy Sunday last July, at about half-past noon, a caravan of unmarked SUVs exited the FBI's Washington, D.C., field office, an eight-story concrete building that exudes all the charm of a supermax prison. The cars moved swiftly across the city; speed was critical. There were indications that the target, who had canceled the lease on her apartment and packed her belongings, was about to take flight.
Just before one o'clock, the SUVs turned off Wisconsin Avenue and into a parking lot at 3617 38th Street NW, a low, red-brick apartment building near American University. Armed agents in bulletproof vests filled a narrow corridor outside apartment 208. Inside, Maria Butina was watching the Wimbledon men's final on TV and preparing for a long drive in a U-Haul truck to South Dakota. Having just graduated from American University with a master's degree in international affairs, she was about to start working as a consultant in the cryptocurrency industry. Her boyfriend of five years, a 57-year-old Republican activist named Paul Erickson, would be traveling with her to his home in Sioux Falls.'(C)
''Everything was boxed up,'' Erickson told me. ''The last thing to do was to pack the electronics, to unplug the TV and the internet. And then pound! Pound! Pound! I answered the door, and there was a team of six agents in the hallway.'' Three of the agents surrounded Erickson while the other three went after Butina. ''The team went in, dragged her out, spun her around, cuffed her in the hallway, and announced her arrest,'' Erickson said.'(C)
According to federal prosecutors, Butina's graduate studies, and her relationship with Erickson, were just a cover; in reality she was a clandestine Russian agent sent to the United States to use sex and seduction to infiltrate conservative political circles and influence the White House's policies toward Russia. Denied bail out of fear she might run to the Russian Embassy, or jump into an embassy car, she was charged with violating Section 951 of the U.S. Code: acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign power, as well as with a conspiracy charge associated with it. She is the only Russian arrested to date in the government's ongoing investigation into the Kremlin's efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.'(C)
Slim and stylish, with long red hair flowing halfway down her back, Butina seemed to fit the stereotype of a Russian spy popularized by figures like Anna Chapman, the Russian sleeper agent arrested in New York in 2010, as well as the fictional spy-seductress played by Jennifer Lawrence in the movie Red Sparrow and the Soviet operative played by Keri Russell in the TV series The Americans. ''Real-life 'Red Sparrow'? Court Filings Allege Russian Agent Offered Sex for Access,'' blared an ABC News headline. ''Maria Butina, Suspected Secret Agent, Used Sex in Covert Plan, Prosecutors Say,'' declared The New York Times.'(C)
Since August 17, Butina has been housed at the Alexandria Detention Center, the same fortresslike building that holds Donald Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. On November 10, she spent her 30th birthday in solitary confinement, in cell 2F02, a seven-by-ten-foot room with a steel door, cement bed, and two narrow windows, each three inches wide. She has been allowed outside for a total of 45 minutes. On December 13, Butina pleaded guilty to conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian Federation. She faces a possible five-year sentence in federal prison.'(C)
With anti-Russia fervor in the United States approaching levels directed at Muslims following the attacks of September 11, 2001, it was easy for prosecutors to sell the story of Butina as a spy to the public and the press. But is she really? Last February, Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the Russia probe, indicted 13 Russian spies for interfering with the 2016 election. And in July, two days before Butina was arrested, Mueller charged twelve more Russians with hacking into email accounts and computer networks belonging to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. It is not inconceivable that Butina is among their ranks.'(C)
Yet a close examination of Butina's case suggests that it is not so. Butina is simply an idealistic young Russian, born in the last days of the Soviet Union, raised in the new world of capitalism, and hoping to contribute to a better understanding between two countries while pursuing a career in international relations. Fluent in English and interested in expanding gun rights in Russia, she met with Americans in Moscow and on frequent trips to the United States, forging ties with members of the National Rifle Association, important figures within the conservative movement, and aspiring politicians. ''I thought it would be a good opportunity to do what I could, as an unpaid private citizen, not a government employee, to help bring our two countries together,'' she told me.'(C)
The government's case against Butina is extremely flimsy and appears to have been driven largely by a desire for publicity. In fact, federal prosecutors were forced to retract the most attention-grabbing allegation in the case'--that Butina used sex to gain access and influence. That Butina's prosecution was launched by the National Security Section of the District of Columbia federal prosecutor's office, led by Gregg Maisel, is telling in itself: According to a source close to the Mueller investigation, the special counsel's office had declined to pursue the case, even though it would have clearly fit under its mandate.'(C)
Despite the lack of evidence against Butina, however, prosecutors'--abetted by an uncritical media willing to buy into the idea of a Russian agent infiltrating conservative political circles'--were intent on getting a win. In the context of the Mueller investigation, and in the environment that arose after Trump's election, an idealistic young Russian meeting with influential American political figures sounded enough like a spy to move forward.'(C)
Butina told me her story over a number of long lunches starting last March at a private club in downtown Washington, D.C. She was always early, except on April 25, when she didn't show up.'(C)
She later apologized; a dozen FBI agents had raided her apartment. ''They knocked on the door, and that knock I will never forget,'' she told me. ''They pushed me inside, told me to sit down. I was completely in shock, but what could I do?'' The agents searched her apartment for approximately seven hours, apparently looking for hidden transmitters or other evidence of spy-craft. ''It was a horrible day in my life,'' Butina said. The FBI found nothing, however. There was no mention of spy gear in her indictment, and there were no charges of espionage.'(C)
This was the second time the U.S. government had sifted through Butina's personal life. Nine days earlier, in response to a request from the Senate Intelligence Committee, she voluntarily turned over more than 8,000 documents and electronic messages and testified in a closed hearing for eight hours. But they also uncovered nothing incriminating.'(C)
''Look, I imagined I could be in prison in Russia. I could never imagine I could go to jail in the United States. Because of politics?'' Butina told me over the phone a few weeks after she was taken into federal custody. It was one of a series of exclusive interviews I conducted with Butina, Erickson, and other prominent figures involved in the case, none of whom have spoken previously to the media. ''I didn't know it became a crime to have good relations with Russia'--now it's a crime,'' she told me earlier. ''They hate me in Russia, because they think I'm an American spy. And here they think I'm a Russian spy.'''(C)
''If I'm a spy,'' she added, ''I'm the worst spy you could imagine.'''(C) '(C)
Butina was born on November 10, 1988, in the remote Siberian city of Barnaul. Part of the first post-Communism generation, she developed a passion for politics and international relations. In 2010, she graduated from Altai State University in Barnaul with master's degrees in political science and education. After running unsuccessfully for a position in the local government, she opened a small chain of furniture stores. Hoping to expand her business, she moved to Moscow in August 2011, at the age of 22, but quickly realized that the commercial competition in the capital was too great for her to succeed. Instead, she turned back to political activism and the issue of gun rights.'(C)
Photo courtesy of Maria Butina Gun ownership in Russia is highly restricted. With few exceptions, handguns are illegal, and guns for hunting and sport are difficult to obtain. ''The checks were incredibly hard just for a shotgun,'' Butina told me. ''For a rifle, you have to have been an owner of a shotgun with no problems with the law.'' But, as in the United States, support for gun ownership in Russia has been growing in rural areas. ''The strongest support is outside Moscow,'' she said, particularly among conservative, middle-aged Russian men who view guns as a way to protect their families. ''Self defense'--that was the issue that they were fighting for,'' Butina said.'(C)
At the time, the NRA was also looking to expand internationally, and Butina was surprised at how similar their outlooks were. ''They were talking about guns in exactly the same way we do,'' she said. ''That formed my idea that if we ever want to build a truthful friendship between the U.S. and Russia '... it should be people based, not leaders based.'' '(C)
The idea that citizens should be allowed to carry firearms had been one of the most popular issues in Butina's campaign for political office, and she had started a small gun rights group in Barnaul. Soon after arriving in Moscow, she placed a notice on the internet asking anyone in the city interested in supporting the legalization of weapons to meet at a local restaurant. ''A lot of people showed up,'' she said. ''This is how the whole movement started.'' As the organization grew, they chose a name, the Right to Bear Arms, and began to hold regular meetings. By 2014, they had collected 100,000 signatures in support of legislation that would grant citizens the right to defend themselves and their property using deadly force.'(C)
The group itself was consciously modeled after the NRA. ''It was created as the Russian version of the NRA, and we wanted to have as much NRA involvement as possible,'' said a former member, who asked that his name not be used because of fear of retaliation in Russia. But unlike the NRA, which has become closely aligned with the conservative movement in the United States, Butina's group sought support from across the political spectrum. ''I'm an advocate for gun rights,'' Butina said. ''For me it didn't matter, I talk to left or right, in government or oppositional. I had a slogan written on the door of my office that anyone who supports gun rights may come in, but you leave your flag behind.'''(C)
Butina became well-known for her public support of gun rights in Russia, appearing frequently on television, in newspapers and magazines, and at rallies and protests. The work was, at times, dangerous; Russian President Vladimir Putin instinctively distrusts activist organizations, and surveillance was pervasive. ''She was under constant FSB surveillance in Russia,'' said Erickson, speaking of the Russian intelligence agency. ''They would go to all the public meetings of her group, and they would go to all the rallies. Sometimes just show up in her offices once a week.'' Putin also has a long history of opposing gun rights. Last October, he ordered the Rosgvardia, the national guard, to get tougher when it comes to guns.'(C)
''We were watched,'' Butina told me, ''but unless you crossed the line, no one's going to go to prison. The question becomes: Do you cross this line? Do you become dangerous to the regime at a certain point? I had a bag packed in my hallway at home in case I'm imprisoned, somebody can bring it to me. That's my reality.'''(C)
On October 30, 2013, Butina drove to Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport to meet two Americans who she hoped would lend support to her fledgling organization: David Keene, a former president of the NRA, whom Butina had invited to speak at the second annual meeting of the Right to Bear Arms; and Paul Erickson, who had come along as Keene's ''body man.'' The two men had deep ties to America's conservative power centers. In addition to serving as the NRA's president, Keene, now 73, was the former chairman of the American Conservative Union. If Keene had been a general in the conservative movement, Erickson was a seasoned guerrilla fighter. Between campaign stints for Ronald Reagan, Pat Buchanan, Richard Viguerie, and Mitt Romney were far-flung missions in support of anti-Soviet rebel forces in places like Angola, Nicaragua, and Afghanistan.'(C) (On February 6, a federal grand jury indicted Erickson on 11 counts of wire fraud and money laundering in a case unrelated to Maria Butina.)
Butina and Keene had become acquainted through a mutual friend: Alexander Porfiryevich Torshin. A passionate pro-gun enthusiast, Torshin, 65, was a senator in the Duma and the first deputy chairman of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russia's Parliament. Torshin was an early supporter of Butina and the Right to Bear Arms. ''We will start organizing our own Russian NRA,'' he tweeted in 2012, shortly after meeting Butina. A month later, he invited her and other gun rights supporters to the Duma for the first of a number of meetings to discuss possible legislative action to loosen gun regulations.'(C)
Torshin traveled frequently to the United States. ''His obsessions were coming to the United States twice a year for the NRA and the National Prayer Breakfast,'' said Erickson. Keene, who described Torshin as ''sort of the rabbi of gun rights in Russia,'' had met him years earlier on one of these trips, and the two had developed a friendship.'(C)
''Keene is a very astute judge of character,'' said Erickson. ''He spoke to Torshin, got to know him a little bit, and came to decide that Torshin was an honest man, which is rare in Russian politics.'' At one point, Keene had invited Torshin to talk to the NRA's legislative affairs committee in Washington. That, in turn, led to the invitation from Butina that brought Keene and Erickson to Moscow.'(C)
Photo via Instagram Keene and Erickson were convinced that the Right to Bear Arms was a genuine organization, and that Butina was a forceful leader. ''We watched over the course of nine hours that day her run this thing like the Trans-Siberian Railroad, boom, boom, boom,'' Erickson said. ''What Maria had built, over that year and the next'--she eventually peaked at almost 10,000 members nationwide'--it was real. It was not a false front.'' '(C) '(C) For Keene, it was an opportunity to renew his friendship with Torshin, and also to assess Butina, a relative newcomer in the global gun rights movement. As Erickson recalled, Keene told him, ''We think that this group is probably real, but we don't know. It's worth a trip to meet this woman.'' Erickson and Keene were initially skeptical of Butina's ability to lead a national group. ''These were rural farmers and urban industrial workers; big men, hard men, and very dedicated,'' Erickson said. Would they really follow Butina? Their opinion changed when they saw her address the several hundred attendees at a conference center near the banks of the Moscow River. ''She strides to the podium, steps up on the stage, slams a gavel, calls the thing to order, and in machine-gun Russian, staccato Russian, starts this thing off,'' Erickson said. ''And all the guys in the rear stepped back.'''(C)
Five months later, Butina made her first visit to the United States. Keene had invited her to attend the NRA's 2014 convention in Indianapolis and tour the group's headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia. On her public blog, Butina posted a photo of herself and Keene outside the building. ''An experience at the Washington office of the NRA,'' she wrote. Butina updated her blog frequently with details about the places she visited, events she attended, and people she met, including politicians.'(C)
Back home in Moscow, the Russian government was making note of her new friendships. The previous month, the United States and Russia had clashed over the invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, and the United States had levied sanctions against Russia. Keene adopted the prevailing attitude of the government, and wrote an editorial in The Washington Times denouncing ''Russia's aggression.'''(C)
Shortly after Butina posted the photo of her and Keene at NRA headquarters, Marika Korotaeva, a Kremlin official and the former head of the Department for Internal Policy at Putin's presidential office, got in touch with her boss, Timur Prokopenko. ''Hey. Help please,'' she wrote. ''Butina ... is now posting pictures with the president of the National Rifle Association at the main office in Virginia. Against the backdrop of statements about the supply of arms to Ukraine, I ask your help.... We have to shut her down completely.'' (The text was part of a large batch of messages made public by a group of Russian hackers who had targeted Prokopenko.)'(C)
Russian authorities continued to monitor Butina and, according to Erickson, attempted to recruit her as an informant. As U.S. prosecutors later noted, during a search of Erickson's apartment in South Dakota, FBI agents discovered a handwritten note: ''How to respond to FSB offer of employment?'' To U.S. authorities, this was evidence that Butina had ties to the Russian intelligence service. According to Erickson, however, the opposite was true. Butina had no interest in working for the FSB, he told me, adding that he was the one who had written the note before one of Butina's trips to Moscow. He was simply helping her prepare for the inevitable questioning she would face back home. ''A question they always asked is, 'Perhaps you'd like to make a more formal relationship,''' Erickson said. ''How do you answer that to say 'no' in such a way that it doesn't get you in trouble?'''(C)
In January 2015, Torshin was appointed deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia, the equivalent of the U.S. Federal Reserve. Over the next few years, he and Butina traveled together to the annual NRA conventions and hosted senior NRA members in Moscow. Butina translated for Torshin, who spoke no English. At one point, after a host in the United States asked if they would like one hotel room or two, Torshin made business cards that listed her as his ''special assistant.'' Prosecutors would later use this made-up title as evidence that she was an employee of the Russian government, although Butina said the cards were meant to keep anyone from mistaking her relationship with Torshin for a romantic one. ''My relations with Torshin are like my grandfather,'' she told me. ''He never 'directed' me to do anything, since I didn't work for him or the government.'''(C)
In April 2015, Torshin and Butina joined more than 78,000 people in Nashville at the NRA's convention'--''nine acres of guns,'' according to one of the event's ads. With the presidential election a little more than 18 months away, a dozen Republican hopefuls also crowded in for short speeches. Butina circulated among the candidates and had her picture taken with Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor and presidential candidate, to whom she was introduced by David Keene. She was surprised that Walker was able to speak a few words in Russian. ''We talked about Russia,'' she wrote on her blog. ''I did not hear any aggression towards our country, the president or my compatriots. How to know, maybe such meetings are the beginning of a new dialogue between Russia and the US and back from the Cold War to the peaceful existence of the two great powers?!'''(C)
The government later characterized this encounter as evidence of Butina's tradecraft as a spy, part of Russia's larger ''influence operation.'' According to the FBI's affidavit against her, Butina was a ''covert Russian agent'' working ''at the direction'' of Torshin on behalf of the Russian government to''develop relationships with American politicians in order to establish ... 'back channel' lines of communication.'' All of Butina's travels and meetings within the United States, in this light, were evidence of a plot ''to penetrate the U.S. national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation.'''(C)
Photo via Facebook Keene scoffed at the idea. ''She was a typical mid-twenties young woman interested in politics, and she wanted to have her picture taken,'' Keene told me. ''She was no different from 200 similar women you'd meet here or anywhere else. If this is their idea of a spy, they're really hurting.'''(C)
In February 2016, Butina traveled again to the United States to give a talk at the Conference on World Affairs in St. Petersburg, Florida. Before that, however, she traveled to the Safari Club International Convention in Las Vegas with Joe Gregory, a wealthy member of the NRA whom she had met in Moscow. An annual jamboree for camo-loving trophy hunters, held at the Mandalay Bay hotel, the Safari Club convention featured ''pay to slay'' auctions'--where attendees bid to join big-game safaris to kill animals like lions and leopards'--and live music from Merle Haggard and Blood, Sweat & Tears. Torshin was there, and Butina called Erickson to see if he wanted to join them. ''He says, 'Well, I actually have a friend who is a big hunter and who likes Russia and believes in peace with U.S.-Russia friendship,'' said Butina. ''And if you would like to meet him, he's there.'''(C)
The friend was George D. O'Neill Jr., 68, great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller Jr. and an heir to the Rockefeller fortune. He and Erickson had known each other since the early 1990s, when Erickson was running Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign. In 2010, O'Neill and his father sponsored a joint U.S.-Russia conference in Moscow. ''I met Torshin long before I met Maria,'' O'Neill told me. ''He was a Gorbi guy'--a Gorbachev person'--and that's where this impulse to work with America came from. That's what he told me.'''(C)
In Las Vegas, Butina and O'Neill discussed ways to bridge the differences between their two countries. A short while later, she received an invitation from him saying he would like to host dinners for ''intellectuals who believe in U.S.-Russia friendship.'' The purpose of the dinners was ''to promote a Realistic and Restrained Foreign Policy and work to substantially improve the relations between Russia and The United States. I have no other agenda.'''(C)
As Butina was looking into master's degree programs in the United States, O'Neill offered to assist with her finances. The help was critical, since her parents in Siberia could not afford the expense. Torshin, her supposed handler, never offered to help pay her two-year tuition. Instead, it was O'Neill, and her boyfriend Erickson, who gave her the money to enroll at American University's Graduate School of International Service.'(C) Unlike Scott Walker, whom Butina met in passing, and whom she would later be accused of attempting to influence, her real ties were to men like Erickson and O'Neill, who had a few connections in Washington but in reality had little to no power. Still, Butina was eager to play a role in O'Neill's quiet campaign to open an informal U.S.-Russia communications channel on the eve of the election, and O'Neill saw in Butina someone who could help with that project.'(C)
Torshin did want to help Butina and O'Neill, however. He was a ''Gorbi guy'' after all, and had taken part in O'Neill's earlier U.S.-Russia friendship conference in Moscow. He had also been a regular visitor to the United States for a decade or more, and he regarded Butina as a friend and prot(C)g(C). Butina told Torshin that O'Neill ''enjoys proximity to the formation of the future White House administration (regardless of which side wins),'' and that the gatherings ''should help the White House experts form the correct outlook towards Russia.'' Torshin conveyed his strong approval. Torshin was ''very much impressed by you and expresses his great appreciation for what you are doing to restore relations between the two countries,'' Butina wrote to O'Neill, according to the FBI's affidavit. ''He also wants you to know that Russians will support the efforts from our side.'' It was one more piece of evidence the government used against Butina.'(C)
In April 2016, as the political season was heating up in the United States, Butina and Torshin also discussed the possibility of Torshin attending the NRA convention the following month, according to private Twitter messages the FBI recovered from Butina's computer. Torshin wasn't sure he could go, because the timing of the conference conflicted with his duties at the Central Bank of Russia. ''I hope your female boss will understand,'' Butina wrote to Torshin on April 28. ''This is an important moment for the future of our country.'''(C)
These were the na¯ve hopes of a grad student, not the plotting of a Kremlin operative, as the U.S. government alleged. Had Butina been a spy and Torshin her handler, she surely would have been ordered to begin cultivating a real person of influence'--there were hundreds out there'--and not an idealistic outsider like O'Neill. Yet U.S. authorities cited all these messages as evidence that she was working on behalf of the Russian government. (When I contacted Torshin for an interview, he replied, ''I consider it advisable to do this after the publication of the results of all the investigations in the United States.'')'(C)
The May dinner was held in the Washington Room at the Army Navy Club, not far from the White House. A dozen people were seated beneath a copy of George Washington's yellowed parchment commission naming him commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. Made up of a cross-section of Washington literati, the group included the publisher of a conservative magazine, the head of a Libertarian think tank, a Hollywood producer, the liberal leader of a foreign policy discussion forum, and the head of a Eurasian policy group. ''Maria shows up with Paul Erickson,'' said a lawyer who attended but asked that his name not be used, ''and George introduced both of them to us.'' He added that Butina told everyone that she was a close friend and associate of Torshin, and that they had known each other for years. ''If this woman's a spy, then getting up and disclosing this information is not the way you would do it,'' he said.'(C)
O'Neill preferred to conduct his friendship dinners in private, but in the summer of 2016, with the news filled with allegations of Russian interference in the election, maintaining a low profile was difficult. This was especially troubling for Butina. ''Right now I'm sitting here very quietly after the scandal about our FSB hacking into the [Democratic Party's] emails,'' she wrote to Torshin in July 2016, referring to the messages released by WikiLeaks on July 22 by suspected Russian hackers. ''My all too blunt attempts to befriend politicians right now will probably be misinterpreted, as you yourself can understand.'' Torshin was sympathetic but unable to help. He simply told her that she was ''doing the right thing.'''(C)
As she began classes at American University, Butina continued to help O'Neill organize his dinners. Among the people she invited, at the urging of Erickson, was J.D. Gordon, a former Navy commander and Pentagon spokesman whom she had met at a social function on September 28, 2016. He had spent the previous six months as director of national security on the Trump campaign and was anticipating a position of continued influence if Trump was elected. The next day, according to documents I was able to obtain, Butina sent Gordon an email.'(C)
''These dinners were started by George O'Neill, a conservative American businessman who's also a public policy genius,'' she wrote. ''The dinners are private, off-the-record, and NO ONE is ever there in their 'official' capacity. It's just a chance to talk about what smart future diplomacy might look like.'''(C)
A few hours later, Gordon emailed back saying he couldn't make the dinner. But he did include a link to a Politico article that listed him as a member of Trump's ''New Brain Trust,'' and that referred to him as the ''Trump national security adviser,'' who ''is shifting to the transition to focus on veterans and national security.'' A couple of weeks later, Gordon invited Butina to attend a Styx concert. She accepted, and later went to Gordon's birthday party, along with half a dozen other people. That was the extent of their relationship. Gordon sent Butina a few more emails asking to get together again. In one, he boasted about a recent trip to Europe where he ''met with a couple of Foreign Ministers, a Deputy Prime Minister and dozens of other government officials,'' and added, ''one of my co-hosts, a former Hungarian Ambassador to the EU, said I rcvd more press in Budapest '... than Vladimir Putin.'' But Butina never replied.'(C)
The nature of this relationship is important to consider in the context of what came later. To a Kremlin-directed agent of influence, as Butina supposedly is, Gordon would seem to have been the perfect catch: a senior military officer with high-level Pentagon connections, a widely quoted Washington insider, and, most important, a key national security link to Trump on the eve of the election. Yet instead of recruiting him, Butina dismissed him, because her interest was helping O'Neill with his dinners, not Moscow with its spying. Equally strange for a supposed secret agent, she never bothered to tell Torshin about Gordon, something that would normally get both the secret agent and the handler a nice Kremlin promotion.'(C)
Following Trump's election, and the barrage of allegations about Russian interference, the political climate grew even more toxic. But when Torshin announced that he was planning to bring a group of prominent Russians with him to the National Prayer Breakfast in February, just after the inauguration, O'Neill agreed to host another of his dinners. Butina again helped with the guest list. Since first arriving in the United States, she had spent much of her time networking with conservatives and members of the Republican Party. Now she was actually going to bring them together with fellow Russians and hopefully establish an informal back channel of communication between the two countries. ''People in the list are handpicked by [Torshin] and me and are VERY influential in Russia,'' Butina wrote to Erickson on November 30, 2016.'(C)
Months earlier, Butina and Torshin had even flirted with the idea of getting Putin himself to lead the Russian delegation to the prayer breakfast. Ukraine's former prime minister had attended the 2016 gathering, where President Barack Obama had given an address. Butina and Torshin believed that Putin's attendance, so soon after the presidential election, would be a large step toward improved U.S.-Russia relations. ''Torshin says, 'Let me talk to somebody in the Kremlin and maybe the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,''' Butina told me. But the idea went nowhere. And while Torshin was able to obtain approval to attend the 2017 prayer breakfast, the Russian government declined to send official representatives. ''There will be no state leaders and delegations,'' Torshin told Butina in an email obtained by the FBI. Still, to U.S. authorities, the fact that Butina and Torshin were even talking to the Russian government'--and inviting ''influential'' Russians to attend O'Neill's dinner and the prayer breakfast'--was proof that they were working for the Kremlin.'(C)
The FBI has never revealed why it began investigating Butina, but it was probably as part of an inquiry into Torshin's possible ties to the Russian mafia, which the FBI was alerted about in 2012. The special agent eventually assigned to Torshin's case was named Kevin Helson. Helson worked for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's forensics lab in Knoxville, analyzing blood smears and latent fingerprints, before joining the FBI. He was an odd choice to lead a complex, politically charged counterintelligence investigation of the deputy chief of the Central Bank of Russia. Helson's partner was Michelle Ball, who had previously worked as a local news reporter and part-time anchor for a Biloxi, Mississippi, television station. She appears to have had no experience in anything related to the law, Russia, or counterintelligence.'(C)
By the summer of 2017, about two years after the investigation began, the U.S. government had yet to find anything with which to charge Butina. Gregg Maisel and his team of prosecutors didn't give up, however. One idea was to show that Butina was the conduit for illegal cash going from Putin to the Trump campaign, via Torshin and Butina's ties to the NRA. The NRA had reported spending $30 million to support Trump, almost triple what it donated to Republican candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.'(C)
The investigation was dutifully leaked to the press. ''FBI Investigating Whether Russian Money Went to NRA to Help Trump,'' read a McClatchy headline last January, with Butina mentioned as possibly involved. But the investigation produced no evidence of illicit cash transfers.'(C)
The inquiry by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the FBI's surprise raid on Butina's apartment also failed to turn up anything incriminating. Years of physical surveillance, which, according to a knowledgeable source, included secretly following her to interviews with me, at a cost of perhaps $1 million or more, also came up empty.'(C)
Lacking evidence of espionage, money laundering, passing cash to the Trump campaign, violating Russian sanctions, or any other crime, prosecutors finally turned to Section 951, acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign power. Based on the Espionage Act of 1917, the law was enacted in 1948 during the ''Red Scare,'' a time when Senator Joseph McCarthy exploited the exaggerated fears of Communist infiltration of government, the film industry, and other parts of society.'(C)
The few cases that have been brought under the statute involved targeting ''sleepers'' and other deep-cover spies sent to the United States without diplomatic immunity, and therefore subject to arrest. But while rarely used, it is also very broad. ''We used to joke,'' said a former FBI counterintelligence supervisor, ''that's what you use if you didn't really have any evidence, because it would have been such an easy thing to find evidence whether it was there or not.'''(C)
It was a weak case. According to the FBI's affidavit, Butina's low-level networking with conservative activists and politicians, her efforts to help O'Neill with his dinners, and even her idealistic thoughts about bringing the two countries closer'--the affidavit cites a statement Butina made to Torshin that, by inviting NRA officials to Moscow, ''maybe '... you have prevented a conflict between two great nations'''--were part of a sinister, anti-American plot. This sort of insinuation and assumption is, essentially, the beginning and the end of the case against Maria Butina.'(C)
Among the FBI's key pieces of evidence is a four-year-old email exchange with Erickson in which Butina fantasizes about a possible ''diplomacy'' project aimed at building constructive relations between Russia and the United States and suggests that such a project would require a budget of $125,000, for her to attend conferences and the Republican National Convention. What Helson didn't mention in the affidavit, however, is that because there was never any funding from Torshin, the Russian government, or anyone else, there was no influence operation. It was talk, nothing more.'(C)
Helson also described a search of Butina's computer, during which he discovered another four-year-old conversation, this time with Torshin, in which they discussed an article Butina had published in The National Interest calling for improved U.S.-Russia relations. ''BUTINA asked the RUSSIAN OFFICIAL to look at the article,'' the affidavit states, ''and the RUSSIAN OFFICIAL said it was very good.'' She sent him an article to read. Torshin read it and liked it. Therefore, Butina is a spy. This is the quality of the FBI's case. When Scott Walker announced his presidential candidacy, Torshin asked Butina to ''write [him] something brief,'' which she did. This, too, became another piece of evidence for Helson, further proof that Butina was a covert Kremlin operative. Such mundane revelations go on for a dozen pages.'(C)
Yet there was no evidence that Butina was under the orders, direction, or control of either the Russian government or Torshin. Torshin exhibited no power or authority over her, and she had no obligation to fulfill any order or request. She could not be fired, demoted, or reassigned by him. ''I've never been employed, I've never been paid by the government,'' Butina told me, and no evidence of it has ever been presented by the FBI or prosecutors.'(C)
It could, in fact, be argued that it was O'Neill and not Torshin for whom Butina was working. He was the one paying her tuition, and she was assisting him with his dinners and events.'(C)
Arresting Butina on such grounds set an extremely dangerous precedent. Why couldn't the Russian government simply return the favor to the United States? Putin, in fact, even seemed to suggest that Butina's arrest would lead to retribution. ''The law of retaliation states, 'An eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth,''' he said in a news conference on December 20. On December 28, Russian authorities arrested an American citizen, Paul Nicholas Whelan, a former Marine attending a wedding in Moscow, and charged him with espionage. Like Butina, he had visited the country frequently, exhibited an affinity for it, was involved with guns as a licensed dealer'--and is probably innocent. Now facing a possible 20-year prison term in Russia, he was likely arrested simply in retaliation for Butina's arrest and with the idea of a trade.'(C)
Courtroom sketch: Dana Verkoutern/AP Images Prosecutors, faced with a humdrum case involving a grad student, friendship dinners, and little evidence, landed on the idea of sex, with Butina as the Kremlin's Red Sparrow. ''They were interested in sex,'' one of the witnesses interviewed by the FBI told me. They ''wanted to know if George [O'Neill] had sex with Maria. They couldn't establish that, but that's what they wanted.'' O'Neill, who's married with five children, denied the allegation that he'd had an affair with Butina. ''That's ridiculous,'' he told me. ''Maybe these guys have been watching too much TV.'''(C)
The FBI also seemed convinced, the witness said, that Paul Erickson had been seduced as part of what they called Butina's ''honeypot thing.'' At Butina's arraignment, prosecutor Erik Kenerson argued that Butina posed a flight risk, because her relationship with Erickson was ''duplicitous'' and ''simply a necessary aspect of her activities.'' His evidence for this claim was that Butina had occasionally complained about Erickson, and also that she had offered another person sex ''in exchange for a position within a special interest organization.'''(C)
The claim, however, was a false and deliberate ''sexist smear,'' Butina's lawyers argued. What the government refused to reveal was that the basis for the accusation that she exchanged sex for access was a three-year-old joke in a text to a longtime friend, a Russian public relations employee at the Right to Bear Arms. Humorously complaining about taking her car for an annual inspection, he wrote, ''I don't know what you owe me for this insurance they put me through the ringer.'' Facetiously, Butina replied, ''Sex. Thank you very much. I have nothing else at all. Not a nickel to my name.'' The friend then wrote back in the same humorous vein that sex with Butina did not interest him. Butina was also a longtime friend of the colleague's wife and child. Butina's lawyers pointed out that prosecutors had ''deleted sentences, misquoting her messages; truncated conversations, taking them out of context; replaced emoticons with brackets, twisting tone; and mistranslated Russian communications, altering their meaning.'''(C)
Yet the prosecution's suggestion that Butina traded sex for influence worked very well as a publicity tactic. ''Who Is Maria Butina? Accused Russian Spy Allegedly Offered Sex for Power,'' read the headline in USA Today. CNN carried the breaking news banner, ''The Russian Accused of Using Sex, Lies, and Guns to Infiltrate U.S. Politics.'' Within days, a simple Google search using the phrase ''Maria Butina'' and ''sex'' produced more than 300,000 hits, and she became the butt of jokes on shows like Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.'(C)
For Butina, the slander was ''just a pure sexist story,'' she told me. ''I'm still considered to be the source of the money, a honeypot, all this crazy stuff.'' The government also accused her, falsely, of using her master's degree program, where she earned a straight-A average, as a cover to stay in the United States. She was frustrated and disillusioned. ''I came here because kids of my generation believed in the U.S., because our laws are based on yours. This is the human rights place. They just smashed my reputation.'''(C)
Months later, when Butina's defense attorneys finally forced the prosecutors to reveal the innocent, underlying messages, Kenerson claimed it was a simple misunderstanding on their part. It was a claim Judge Tanya Chutkan didn't buy. ''It took approximately five minutes for me to review those emails and tell that they were jokes,'' she said. Kenerson then asked for and received a gag order so that neither Butina nor her attorney, Robert Driscoll, would be able to talk to the press and tell their side of the story until the end of the trial.'(C)
When I asked Frank Figliuzzi, the former head of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division, about the prosecution's conduct, he was angry. ''I am troubled and hope there is a full inquiry,'' he told me. ''This is disturbing. The question is whether this is convenient ineptitude or something far deeper.'''(C)
''They manipulated the evidence,'' was the opinion of a former assistant U.S. attorney familiar with the Washington, D.C., office. It was a place he had spent many years prosecuting cases. ''The government is basically calling her a whore in a public filing.... I think it was an attempt to influence media coverage.'' He added, ''This seems like somebody panicked, they moved too early, now they're trying to figure out what to do.'''(C)
It is also another example of the media marching in formation with the government, as it did in the lead-up to the war in Iraq. ''I think journalism skepticism stops at whatever a prosecutor says,'' the former assistant U.S. attorney told me. ''If you're supposed to afflict the powerful, the most powerful people to afflict are the people who have the power to put you in jail. But those are the people reporters are so often most credulous about.'''(C)
A senior CIA official who held one of the highest jobs in the agency's Clandestine Service, and who worked closely with the FBI on many spy cases, offered a cynical view of the bureau's counterintelligence work. ''They want to generate headlines. They don't care if the information is credible or not,'' he said, asking to remain anonymous because of his past clandestine work. ''I feel sorry for Butina; she got caught up in this whole vortex. They're just interested in putting another notch in their belt, and they don't care who gets hurt in the process.'''(C)
Driscoll, Butina's attorney, is a former deputy assistant attorney general with the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and has handled political and national security-related cases for decades, but never anything like this. ''I wake up periodically at night and think this case is taking place in some alternative reality,'' he told me. ''A 'spy' who uses no tradecraft and posts her every move on social media; a 'handler' who travels with and communicates openly with his charge; and a 'mission' to somehow undermine the United States by having friendship dinners with Russians and Americans seeking peace.'''(C) '(C)
On November 23, 2018, Butina went to sleep on a blue mat atop the gray cement bed in her cell, her 81st day in solitary confinement. Hours later, in the middle of the night, she was awakened and marched to a new cell, 2E05, this one with a solid steel door and no food slot, preventing even the slightest communication. No reason was given, but her case had reached a critical point. Prosecutors were hoping to get her to plead guilty rather than go to trial, and had even agreed to drop the major charge against her: acting as an unregistered foreign agent of Russia. Born and raised in Siberia, she is terrified of solitary confinement. Fifteen days later, still in solitary, she signed the agreement, pleading guilty to the lesser charge, one count of conspiracy.'(C)
During our interviews before her arrest, Butina told me that she was ''a huge fan'' of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. ''I love the story,'' she said. ''For some reason it fascinates me. It seems to be simple, but it's so complicated a story.'' Stepping off the plane to begin grad school at the start of the Trump-Russia maelstrom, she, like Alice, began her tumble down the rabbit hole.
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Smartphone Cracking Devices Popping Up On Ebay - With Sensitive Info Still On Them | Zero Hedge
Sun, 03 Mar 2019 15:18
A valuable piece of Israeli-made technology used by police around the world to crack into iPhones, Android devices and other modern mobile devices have been popping up on Ebay - often containing private data after sellers have failed to properly wipe them, according to Forbes.
When eBay merchant Mr. Balaj was looking through a pile of hi-fi junk at an auction in the U.K., he came across an odd-looking device. Easily mistaken for a child's tablet, it had the word ''Cellebrite'' written on it. To Mr. Balaj, it appeared to be a worthless piece of electronic flotsam, so he left it in his garage to gather dust for eight months.
But recently he's learned just what he had his hands on: a valuable, Israeli-made piece of technology called the Cellebrite UFED. -Forbes
Cellebrite has landed millions in federal contracts for their technology; from the FBI to Immigration and Customs Enforcement - but Ebay buyers have been acquiring the tablet-style cracking devices for between $100 and $1,000. Brand new, Cellebrite units start at $6,000.
Cellebrite, meanwhile, is not happy.
On Tuesday, two sources from the forensics industry passed Forbes a letter from Cellebrite warning customers about reselling its hugely popular hacking devices because they could be used to access individuals' private data. Rather than return the UFEDs to Cellebrite so they can be properly decommissioned, it appears police or other individuals who've acquired the machines are flogging them and failing to properly wipe them. Cybersecurity researchers are now warning that valuable case data and powerful police hacking tools could have leaked as a result. -Forbes
Cybersecurity expert and Hacker House training academy founder Matthew Hickey conducted an experiment last month in which he bought a dozen such units to test. What he found on the secondhand kits was disturbing - as they contained information on what devices searched, along with what types of data were removed and mobile identification information such as the IMEI code.
He was also able to find what appeared to be Wi-Fi passwords which could have belonged to either police agencies or private entities which used the devices, such as independent investigators or business auditors.
Hickey believes he could have extracted more personal information, such as contact lists or chats, though he decided not to delve into such data. ''I would feel a little awful if there was a picture of a crime scene or something,'' he said. But using the information within a UFED, Hickey believes a malicious hacker could identify the suspects and their relevant cases.
In one screenshot provided by Hickey to Forbes, the previous UFED user had raided phones from Samsung, LG, ZTE and Motorola. Hickey had tested it on old iPhone and an iPod models with success. -Forbes
"You'd think a forensics device used by law enforcement would be wiped before resale. The sheer volume of these units appearing online is indicative that some may not be renewing Cellebrite and disposing of the units elsewhere," Hickey told Forbes.
"Units are intended to be returned to vendor precisely for this reason, people ignoring that risk information on the units being available to third parties."
Cellebrite uses encrypted software exploits to crack into mobile phones - often kept secret from manufacturers such as Apple and Google, according to Hickey. The company's devices are so good at finding their way into iOS devices that they were able to crack the passcodes of even the latest Apple models, up to the iPhone X.
Apple, meanwhile, is in a constant race with Cellebrite to find and patch the flaws.
The Untold Story of Otto Warmbier, American Hostage - GQ
Sat, 02 Mar 2019 19:11
Within 48 hours of his return, Otto had a fever that had risen to 104 degrees. After doctors confirmed to Fred and Cindy that their son would never be cognizant again, they directed that his feeding tube be removed. They lived at his bedside until, six days after returning home, Otto died.
Hundreds of people lined the streets to witness Otto's hearse, and many made the W hand gesture representing his high school. Wearing an American-flag tie, Fred watched his son ''complete his journey home'' with a haggard stare.
After a mourning period, Fred and Cindy appeared on Fox & Friends in September 2017, once more reportedly seeking to catch the president's eye, and called the North Koreans ''terrorists'' who had ''intentionally injured'' Otto. Fred graphically described damage to Otto's teeth and foot as the result of torture and demanded that the administration punish the dictatorship. Shortly afterward, the president showed his approval by tweeting ''great interview'' and noting that Otto was ''tortured beyond belief by North Korea.'' To lobby for the United States to take legal action against North Korea, Fred hired the lawyer who represents Vice President Mike Pence in the special counsel's Russia investigation. In early November, Congress backed banking restrictions against North Korea that were named for Otto. And later that month, Trump designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, which would allow harsher future sanctions, stating, ''As we take this action today, our thoughts turn to Otto Warmbier.''
''Being imprisoned was lonely, isolating, and frustrating,'' Kenneth Bae, an American who'd been detained in North Korea, told me. ''I was on trial for all of America.''
Around the same time as Otto's death, U.S. hostilities with North Korea were growing heated. This was the period of ''fire and fury,'' and of Trump and Kim comparing who had the ''bigger & more powerful'' nuclear buttons. Behind the scenes in Washington, dovish diplomats, like Joseph Yun, were replaced by hawks, like John Bolton, one of the architects of the Iraq war. The likelihood of conflict grew so real that an American diplomat warned a Seoul-dwelling friend in confidence to move his assets out of South Korea.
On TV and social media, and in official speeches, Republican officials cited Otto's death as a reason Kim Jong-un needed to be confronted. When making a case for a forceful response against North Korea to the South Korean National Assembly, in November 2017, Trump said their common enemy had ''tortured Otto Warmbier, ultimately leading to that fine young man's death.'' In his January 2018 State of the Union address, Trump pledged to keep ''maximum pressure'' on North Korea and to ''honor Otto's memory with total American resolve,'' while the Warmbiers wept in the gallery. Meanwhile, Fred and Cindy traveled the country reinforcing the narrative that Otto was tortured. As Cindy told the United Nations in New York City, ''I can't let Otto die in vain.'' In April 2018, the Warmbiers, seeking damages, filed a lawsuit alleging that North Korea ''brutally tortured and murdered'' their son.
Despite how Trump and his administration boosted the narrative that Otto was physically tortured, however, the evidence was not clear-cut. The day after the Warmbiers went on national television to declare that Otto had been ''systematically tortured and intentionally injured,'' a coroner who had examined Otto, Dr. Lakshmi Kode Sammarco, unexpectedly called a press conference. She explained that she hadn't previously done so out of respect for the Warmbiers. But her findings, and those of the doctors who had attended Otto, contradicted the Warmbiers' assertions.
Fred had described Otto's teeth as having been ''re-arranged'' with pliers, but Sammarco reiterated that the postmortem exam found that ''the teeth [were] natural and in good repair.'' She discovered no significant scars, dismissing the one on his foot as not definitively indicative of anything. Other signs of physical trauma were also lacking. Both sides of Otto's brain had suffered simultaneously, meaning it had been starved of oxygen. (Blows to the head would have likely resulted in asymmetrical, rather than universal, damage.) Though the Warmbiers declined a surgical autopsy, non-invasive scans found no hairline bone fractures or other evidence of prior trauma. ''His body was in excellent condition,'' Sammarco said. ''I'm sure he had to have round-the-clock care to be able to maintain the skin in the condition it was in.'' When asked about the Warmbiers' claims, Sammarco answered, ''They're grieving parents. I can't really make comments on what they said or their perceptions. But here in this office, we depend on science for our conclusions.'' Three other individuals who had close contact with Otto on his return also did not notice any physical signs consistent with torture.
Here's How Trump's Failed Hanoi Summit Could Be the Reykjavik of Our Time
Sun, 03 Mar 2019 14:35
Nothing in his summit with Kim Jong Un became President Donald Trump like the leaving it (to paraphrase Macbeth). ''Sometimes you have to walk,'' Trump said at a closing news conference in Hanoi, after his abortive talks with the North Korean dictator.
At least he had a closing news conference. The last walk-away summit'--in Reykjavik, between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev'--had none.
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Reagan left the Iceland capital on October 12, 1986, so furious that none of us traveling with him dared to approach him for a while. His body language'--livid red face, pursed lips and relentless pacing back and forth back in the U.S. ambassador's residence after that summit collapsed'--told the story then.
But not the story for long. That president soon calmed down and plunged on. And if the recent Hanoi summit is going to have a shot at being the Reykjavik of our time, as Sean Hannity and others have suggested, this president should, too.
What's the big lesson of the first walk-away summit for the second? Simply that bounce-back is possible.
The president needs to push his team back on the field, to see if the other side is still playing, or will. After Reykjavik fell apart'--solely because of Reagan's refusal to scrap the Strategic Defense Initiative (unkindly dubbed ''Star Wars''), as Gorbachev demanded'--the president had us contact the Soviets and see if we could resume the talks, with SDI intact. After a few months of a hissy-fit stall, the Soviets sheepishly returned to the table.
Hence, after ''the darkest hour'' came the ''dawn'' of three historic accomplishments.
First came the Soviet agreement to zero-out intermediate nuclear forces altogether. This is the accord that Trump foolishly tossed on the scrapheap recently.
Nonetheless, the INF accord has fulfilled a historic role. In 1981, the Soviets' SS-20 missile was poised to obliterate all NATO capitals and Tokyo and, in peacetime, to divide us from our key allies. Its presence constituted the foremost international threat that Reagan faced during his first five years in office.
That threat was removed after the Soviets returned to the table to negotiate on the basis of the Reykjavik provisions.
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Second, the arms talks over the years following the ''failed Reykjavik summit'' launched a precipitous and unimaginable decline in the total nuclear arsenals of both sides'--more than an 80 percent reduction by the USSR and some 75 percent for the U.S.
Third was a transformation of the personal relationship between Reagan and Gorbachev, and thus between the U.S. and the USSR.
When asked over the subsequent years what changed the frigid superpower relationship when he assumed office, Gorbachev has always shot back: ''Reykjavik. Reykjavik changed everything!''
When asked: How so? he responds, ''That's where the two leaders, for the first time, had an extensive conversation over the most critical issues.''
Is any bounce-back possible now?
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho says no. ''This kind of opportunity may never come again.''
But that's precisely what White House chief of staff Donald Regan said at the close of the Reykjavik summit. The two leaders would never, he claimed, meet again.
They did, and these will'--and should.
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But before they do should come the type of spadework we did for the president 33 years ago, when the negotiators worked painfully on detailed treaty terms with the Russian team. Now, such spadework terms might include three elements.
First might be Kim continuing his nuclear and missile test ban, and dismantling the Yongbyon nuclear site. Some international inspectors would need to verify these actions, because trust is nonexistent.
Second, the U.S. might give Kim something critical to him by opening intra-Korean economic and human dealings. This goodwill package might include family reunification and some South Korean economic development up North. With that would come a reporting on human right conditions there, with prods to open the brutal concentration camps for those who merely tuned in BBC or VOA radio and their entire families.
Third, parties might agree to some equalization of the conventional forces on both sides of the demilitarized zone, where the North Korean Army now has overwhelming arms. If Kim is as intent on economic development for his starving Fourth World country as he says, this is a prime place to save some Korean won.
Reagan's overall ''peace through strength'' approach applies here. Until a bright new dawn, the Trump administration must realize that weakness is provocative and strength deters. The 23,500-plus American GIs on the Korean border for the past two generations have been worth every dollar, to keep that peace and help make South Korea the prosperous democracy it has become today. And the U.S. deployment of the THAAD missile defense system is critical to protect South Korea and other Asian friends, especially Japan, against incoming ballistic missiles from North Korea.
The Trump-Kim tango will go on, if for no other reason than the two adore being on the world's center stage. Besides, the diplomatic process, no matter how laborious and lengthy, is better than the adolescent name-calling and threat-making the two leaders indulged in during Trump's first year in office.
With the proper working-level preparation, the next time around, both can then find that nothing in their summitry so became them like the resuming it.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry plan to raise their child without gender-stereotypes | Daily Mail Online
Fri, 01 Mar 2019 11:47
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have yet to confirm the sex of their baby but don't expect the newborn to be wearing blue or pink, as they want to raise their child without gender-stereotyping, a new report claims.
The 37-year-old Duchess of Sussex is said to have told her friends that she and Harry, 34, will be avoiding gender-stereotypes with their son or daughter; the revelation comes just a month after it was reported that they had designed a gender-neutral nursery for the unborn child.
'Meghan has been talking to some of her friends about the birth and how she and Harry plan to raise their baby. Her exact word was fluid,' a source told Vanity Fair.
No pink or blue: Meghan Markle, 37, and Prince Harry, 34, are reportedly planning on raising their unborn child without any gender-stereotyping
Plan: Meghan, pictured in New York last week, reportedly told friends at her recent baby shower that they are going to take a 'fluid approach to gender'
'She said they plan to raise their child with a fluid approach to gender and they won't be imposing any stereotypes,' the royal insider added to the magazing.
It's unclear what exactly the royal may have meant by the term 'fluid,' as there are multiple interpretations of what that might look like.
As parents, the royal couple may decide to avoid dressing their firstborn in certain colors that are associated with one gender more than the other and encourage their child to play with a variety of toys that are typically associated with specific sexes, for example dolls and trucks.
On the other end of the spectrum, there is a small group of parents who are raising 'theybies' '-- children who aren't identified as male or female.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex's modern approach to parenting may be a testament to Meghan's California upbringing, as focusing on more of a gender-fluid upbringing has proven to be a popular view shared by many A-list stars.
Kate Hudson recently made headlines after she revealed in an interview with AOL that she is planning to take a 'genderless approach' to raising her newborn daughter Rani.
Dolls and trucks: The Duchess of Sussex said she and Harry won't be 'imposing any stereotypes' on their child
Modern mom: Their modern approach to parenting may be a testament to Meghan's California upbringing, as many A-list stars are raising their children in similar ways
She later clarified her statement, explaining that she simply meant she is raising her kids to feel free to be whoever they want to be.
'Me saying a "genderless approach" was a way of refocusing the conversation in a direction that could exist outside of the female stereotype,' she said. 'It just felt a little antiquated to me. Not all girls want to be a princess, some want to be a king.'
Angelina Jolie, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Russel Brand are also among the celebrities who have spoken candidly about steering clear of gender stereotypes while raising their children.
In January, it was reported that Meghan and Harry designed an eco-friendly, gender-neutral nursery at their new home, Frogmore Cottage in Windsor, where they plan to move before the baby's expected arrival in late April, early May.
The nursery is believed to include a bedroom, a playroom, and a spare-bedroom for Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland, when she stays with the couple.
As part of the nearly $4 million renovation of their Grade II listed home Frogmore Cottage, which is on the Queen's Windsor Estate, they also reportedly made plans to install childproof window and a $66,000 eco-friendly boiler.
Famous mom: Kate Hudson recently made headlines after she revealed in an interview that she is planning to take a 'genderless approach' to raising her newborn daughter Rani
Open: Bryce Dallas Howard (left) and Russel Brand (right) have both publicly spoke about letting their respective children dress however they want, regardless of their gender
Looking back: Angelina Jolie was open about her daughter Shiloh Jolie-Pitt wanting to wear boys clothes and be called 'John' at the age of three
Meghan has enlisted the help of the star interior designer Vicky Charles, who decorated the chic hotel Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire, which hosted Meghan's bachelorette party for three days.
Royal sources said the nursery will be painted in trendy whites and grays, with Meghan avoiding any paints tested on animals or ones that contain milk or bee's wax as an ingredient.
Instead, she has chosen a vegan, non-toxic, eco-friendly emulsion by Organic and Natural Paint Co.
'Rather than opt for fashionable Farrow and Ball paint in favored shades such as Wevet, Peignoir and Pavilion Gray, and Salmon, the Sussexes are much in favor of The Organic & Natural Paint Co's Auro range for the nursery,' The Sun reported.
The paint brand, based in Norfolk, was set up in 2012 by father of two Chris Ridley after his family suffered from respiratory issues.
Infusing the paints with rosemary and eucalyptus oils is said to boost the immune system and creativity, and even enhance memory.
Decor: Meghan and Harry are planning to move into Frogmore Cottage before their baby's arrival, and they designed a 'gender-neutral' nursery decorated in shades of white and gray
Professional: Meghan has enlisted the help of the star interior designer Vicky Charles (pictured), who decorated the chic hotel Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire
The plot thickens: Megan reportedly told guests at her shower that she and Harry are expecting a baby boy, but earlier this month she said it was a 'surprise'
The sex of the royal baby remains unclear, but it was recently reported that Meghan told a friend at her lavish baby shower in New York City that she and Harry are expecting a boy.
Others have speculated that she is having a girl based on the decor at her star-studded party, which was held at The Mark Hotel's incredible Grand Penthouse Suite.
Decorations for the shower started arriving the day before the bash, and there was plenty of pink '-- from the blush-colored roses to the cotton candy machine that was brought into the hotel.
Earlier this week, a video that emerged on social that appears to give a glimpse at the decorations inside the penthouse party.
Royal fan account harry_meghan_updates shared a video on Instagram Stories, claiming that the short clip was actually captured inside the star-studded baby shower.
The video shows a dessert table that features plenty of sweet treats, including four macaron towers from Laduree, which cost a total of $460.
It's possible that Meghan took a gender-neutral approach to her shower decor, as her close pals were treated to multiple cupcakes iced in pink and green frosting as well as stork-shaped cake pops and miniature slices of carrot cake.
Also seen in the video are the iced baby-themed cookies that Meghan's longtime friend and makeup artist Daniel Martin shared photos of earlier this week.
Behind-the-scenes: Earlier this week, a video that emerged on social that appears to give a glimpse at the decorations inside the penthouse party
Gender-neutral shower? The buffet featured stork cake pops, macaron towers, and miniature slices of carrot cake in shades of pink and green
Added touch; The crowning glory was a two-tiered cake that featured a miniature paper cut out of Harry and Meghan standing next to a stroller
Goodies! A picture of an iced cookie from the party shows a stork carrying a baby in a light green blanket
The crowning glory was a two-tiered cake, which featured a miniature paper cut out of Harry and Meghan, standing next to a stroller.
The confection is believed to be the work of event designer Darcy Miller, who has been credited with putting together the lavish dessert buffet at the event.
It is unknown who filmed the clip, which the account reposted from another Instagram Story, but the location is tagged as The Mark Hotel, where the royal's shower was held.
Meghan's decision to avoid raise her child without gender stereotypes makes sense considering her history of battling gender discrimination from an early age.
In 1993, Meghan wrote a letter to Procter & Gamble lobbying the Ivory Dishwashing Liquid manufacturer to change its chauvinistic commercial after watching it in her grade school social studies class.
The commercial proclaimed that 'women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans,' and Meghan took issue with the 'sexist' phrasing.
'I don't think it is right for kids to grow up thinking that mom does everything,' she told Nick News that year.
Proctor & Gamble responded by changing the wording of the commercial from 'women' to 'people.'
Olympics to allow transgender athletes to compete without gender reassignment surgery | Daily Mail Online
Sun, 03 Mar 2019 14:36
The Olympics are reportedly adopting a new policy that opens the field of competition to transgender athletes.
The International Olympic Committee received proposed guidelines in November from its 'Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism', which allow for broader policies that would include transgender athletes.
Olympic officials have not confirmed the new guidelines, which have already been adopted by other regulatory sports organizations, but the policy is available on the organization's website.
The International Olympic Committee received proposed guidelines in November at its 'Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism' that change policies for transgender athletes. Pictured above is an aerial view of Olympic Stadium in July, nearly a year befoer the kick off of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games
The policy change would allow transgender athletes to compete without having gender reassignment surgery. It only requires athletes to have completed at least one year of hormone replacement therapy
The policy change would be in line with NCAA standards in the United States, which allow male-to-female and female-to-male transgender athletes to compete without having gender reassignment surgery, according to ESPN.
The current Olympic rules acknowledge transgender athletes' right to compete, but with specific provisions under the Stockholm Consensus, which was adopted in 2004.
The policies, adopted before the Athens Olympics, say transgender athletes have to have gender reassignment surgery and have legal recognition of the gender they were assigned at birth. They also have to have undergone at least two years of hormone replacement therapy after surgery.
The proposed new rules would allow transgender athletes to compete after one year of hormone replacement therapy and no surgery is required.
The proposal might open doors for transgender athletes like Chris Mosier. Last year Mosier qualified for the US Sprint Duathlon team, competing against men. He has yet to qualified for the 2016 Olympics
Joanna Harper, chief medical physicist, radiation oncology at Providence Portland Medical Center, was one of the people at the Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism. She is also trans, and said her voice was important in determining the new guidlines.
'The new IOC transgender guidelines fix almost all of the deficiencies with the old rules,' Harper said wrote in an email to OutSports. 'Hopefully, organizations such as the ITA will quickly adapt to the new IOC guidelines and all of the outdated trans policies will get replaced soon.'
'The waiting period for trans women goes from two years after surgery to one year after the start of HRT,' Harper added. 'This matches up with the NCAA rules and is as good as anything. The waiting period was perhaps the most contentious item among our group and one year is a reasonable compromise.'
The proposal might open doors for transgender athletes like Chris Mosier, who last year qualified for the US Sprint Duathlon team, competing against men.
The guidelines also contain recommendations that the Olympics put rules in place following the results of Indian sprinter Dutee Chand's (pictured left) victory in Court of Arbitration for Sport in July
Chand's story drew parallels to South African 800-meter runner Caster Semenya (pictured above in 2012), who was subjected to gender testing after winning a world title in 2009
Mosier has not undergone gender reassignment surgery but fulfills the hormone replacement guidelines.
It is unknown if the International Triathlon Union - which oversees the World Championship tri- and duathlon events - will also adopt the new regulations in time for Mosier to compete.
The IOC's commitment to World Anti-Doping Code and WADA's international standards will remain constant with the policy change.
The guidelines also contain recommendations that the Olympics put rules 'in place for the protection of women in sport and the promotion of the principles of fair competition' after the results of Indian sprinter Dutee Chand's victory in Court of Arbitration for Sport in July.
The decision allowed for female athletes with naturally elevated levels of testosterone to compete.
'The IAAF, with support from other International Federations, National Olympic Committees and other sports organisations, is encouraged to revert to CAS with arguments and evidence to support the reinstatement of its hyperandrogenism rules,' the policy reads.
Forty years ago Caitlyn Jenner (left) won a gold medal at the Montreal Summer Olympics in the Men's Decathlon event when she was then known as Bruce Jenner (right). If she were to compete today - if she had undergone one year of hormone replacement therapy - she could compete in the women's event
It continues: 'To avoid discrimination, if not eligible for female competition the athlete should be eligible to compete in male competition.'
Prior to the ruling, Chad was suspended for having high levels of testosterone.
Her story drew parallels to South African 800-meter runner Caster Semenya, who was subjected to gender testing after winning a world title in 2009.
She was suspended for more than a year before she went on to win a silver medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Forty years ago Caitlyn Jenner won a gold medal at the Montreal Summer Olympics in the Men's Decathlon event when she was then known as Bruce Jenner.
If she were to compete today - if she had undergone one year of hormone replacement therapy - she could compete in the women's event.
A. Since the 2003 Stockholm Consensus on Sex Reassignment in Sports, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of autonomy of gender identity in society, as reflected in the laws of many jurisdictions worldwide.
B. There are also, however, jurisdictions where autonomy of gender identity is not recognised in law at all.
C. It is necessary to ensure insofar as possible that trans athletes are not excluded from the opportunity to participate in sporting competition.
D. The overriding sporting objective is and remains the guarantee of fair competition. Restrictions on participation are appropriate to the extent that they are necessary and proportionate to the achievement of that objective.
E. To require surgical anatomical changes as a pre-condition to participation is not necessary to preserve fair competition and may be inconsistent with developing legislation and notions of human rights.
F. Nothing in these guidelines is intended to undermine in any way the requirement to comply with the World Anti-Doping Code and the WADA International Standards.
G. These guidelines are a living document and will be subject to review in light of any scientific or medical developments.
In this spirit, the IOC Consensus Meeting agreed the following guidelines to be taken into account by sports organisations when determining eligibility to compete in male and female competition:
1. Those who transition from female to male are eligible to compete in the male category without restriction.
2. Those who transition from male to female are eligible to compete in the female category under the following conditions:
2.1. The athlete has declared that her gender identity is female. The declaration cannot be changed, for sporting purposes, for a minimum of four years. 2.2. The athlete must demonstrate that her total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to her first competition (with the requirement for any longer period to be based on a confidential case-by-case evaluation, considering whether or not 12 months is a sufficient length of time to minimize any advantage in women's competition). 2.3. The athlete's total testosterone level in serum must remain below 10 nmol/L throughout the period of desired eligibility to compete in the female category. 2.4. Compliance with these conditions may be monitored by testing. In the event of non-compliance, the athlete's eligibility for female competition will be suspended for 12 months. 2) Hyperandrogenism in female athletes In response to the interim award dated 24 July 2015 in Chand v AFI and IAAF CAS 2014/A/3759, the IOC Consensus Meeting recommended:
Rules should be in place for the protection of women in sport and the promotion of the principles of fair competition.
The IAAF, with support from other International Federations, National Olympic Committees and other sports organisations, is encouraged to revert to CAS with arguments and evidence to support the reinstatement of its hyperandrogenism rules.
To avoid discrimination, if not eligible for female competition the athlete should be eligible to compete in male competition.
Source: International Olympic Committee
War on Cash
Surge in $100 bills in circulation may be linked to global corruption
Fri, 01 Mar 2019 11:42
Scott Eisen | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A customer prepares to pay for an order with cash on the first day of retail recreational marijuana sales at the Cultivate Holdings dispensary in Leicester, Massachusetts, on Nov. 20, 2018.
The amount of $100 bills in circulation is surging. And it's leaving some economists scratching their heads.
The number of outstanding U.S. $100 bills has doubled since the financial crisis, with more than 12 billion of them across the world, according to the latest data from the Federal Reserve. C-notes have passed $1 bills in circulation, Deutsche Bank chief international economist Torsten Slok said in a note to clients this week.
Generally, economists believe the surge is related to people around the world wanting to hoard cash, a similar force that's driven the interest in cryptocurrencies. High denomination, high value currency notes have historically been a preferred form of payment for criminals, given the anonymity, lack of transaction record and relative ease with which they can be brought across borders.
Nicholas Colas, co-founder of DataTrek Research, has been down the "rabbit hole of a topic" for more than a decade. He said the growth in $100 bills in circulation is a signal the world is relying on them as a store of value '-- and still using them for international crime.
"It has nothing to do with the U.S. economy and nothing to do with interest rates," said Colas. "There's certainly enough evidence to say it is an enabler of corruption, but it is also a way for people to keep assets outside of the financial system albeit in a kind of bulky way."
The number of hundred dollar bills abroad began surging after the Gulf War and U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, according to Colas. Part of stabilizing the region meant replacing local currencies with something, and "that something was the U.S. dollar."
Those larger bills also have a longer shelf life than any other form of U.S. cash. Still, Deutsche Bank's Slok said multiple factors could explain the increase in C-notes.
"It could be driven by a global fear of negative interest rates in Europe and Japan, or it could be a savings vehicle for U.S. households worried about another financial crisis, or it could be driven by more demand from the global underground economy," Slok said.
80% overseasA 2018 research paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago estimates that 60 percent of all U.S. bills and almost 80 percent of all $100 bills are now overseas. That's up from 15 to 30 percent around 1980, according to research from Federal Reserve Board economist Ruth Judson. She found that economic and political instability contribute to this demand.
Projecting future demand for U.S. currency is "challenging" and depends on how quickly the economy grows, interest rates, new payments technologies, and on whether people in other countries continue to see U.S. dollar bills as a useful asset '-- "all factors that are, to say the least, uncertain," according to the Chicago Fed.
A surge in digital payments may be contributing to the lessening demand for lower denomination bills. Rising smartphone use, a shift toward online shopping and improvements in network bandwidths pushed global digital commerce volume above the $3 trillion mark in 2017, according to a recent McKinsey report. That is on track to more than double by 2022, according to McKinsey.
There has been pressure to get rid of high denomination notes to curb international crime. Lawrence Summers, former Treasury secretary and director of the National Economic Council in the White House, has argued for abolishing $100 bills. Summers wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post in 2016 titled, "It's time to kill the $100 bill."
"A moratorium on printing new high denomination notes would make the world a better place," Summers said, citing its potential for crime. "Here is a step that will represent a global contribution with only the tiniest impact on legitimate commerce or on government budgets. It may not be a free lunch, but it is a very cheap lunch."
He referenced a Harvard research paper written by former Standard Chartered bank chief executive Peter Sands, who argued to eliminate high denomination, high value currency notes.
"By eliminating high denomination, high value notes we would make life harder for those pursuing tax evasion, financial crime, terrorist finance and corruption," Sands wrote.
The global illicit money flows were "staggering" and fuel crimes from drug trafficking and human smuggling to theft and fraud, Sands said. He estimated that depending on the country, tax evasion robs the public sector of anywhere between 6 percent and 70 percent of what authorities estimate they should be collecting. And despite "huge investments in transaction surveillance systems, and intelligence, less than 1 percent of illicit financial flows are seized.
Soon after that paper was published in 2016, the European Central Bank announced it would stop producing the 500 euro note, citing concerns it could facilitate illegal activities. Despite similar pressure on the Fed, Colas isn't optimistic it will take the same steps as long as cash distribution is still profitable.
"The Federal Reserve and Treasury make 99 dollars for every $100 dollar bill they print and sell offshore," Colas said. "There's a natural desire to keep printing these things '-- the U.S. government makes a lot of money selling them."
How could a second UK referendum on Brexit be organised? | Euronews
Sun, 03 Mar 2019 13:09
This article has been updated to take account of new developments.
Britain's main opposition Labour Party has formally backed calls for a second referendum on Brexit, after parliament rejected its alternative plan to leave the European Union.
The party is expected to table an amendment pushing for another public vote on the UK's EU membership when the prime minister presents her revised Brexit deal to MPs on or by March 12. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he will also continue to argue for other "available options", including a general election.
Two backbench Labour MPs have proposed a compromise plan to support Theresa May's deal, on condition that it is then put to a public vote for approval.
In a response to the huge parliamentary defeat in January on the original UK-EU withdrawal deal, the prime minister dismissed calls for a second referendum. The United Kingdom voted by 52% to 48% in June 2016 to leave the European Union.
However, as the exit date at the end of March draws near and with no deal in place, the latest developments in the UK parliament have opened the door to the possibility of Brexit being delayed.
Although EU leaders are open to a postponement, chief negotiator Michel Barnier and French President Emmanuel Macron have suggested that the UK might need to provide a good reason.
The other 27 EU countries would need to agree unanimously on an extension to Article 50 '' and might insist on conditions. Some believe a short delay would likely achieve nothing, while a longer extension either might be subject to a new referendum or would almost certainly bring increased calls for one.
At the moment it is thought unlikely that there is enough support in the UK parliament to hold another public vote. At least two dozen Labour MPs are thought to be against, while only around 10 ruling Conservatives are believed to be in favour.
However, supporters of a "People's Vote" hope the idea will gain strength '' particularly if May's Brexit deal is voted down again.
A year to organise?Existing rules on referendums deal with the time needed for people to be consulted about the question by the independent Electoral Commission, for parliament to examine the legislation, and for the referendum campaign.
The UK government estimates that it could take more than a year to organise another vote, Politico has reported. The publication highlights a document it says was drawn up by the Cabinet Office.
The paper lists the stages that would need to be completed: drafting the bill, passing primary legislation, testing by the Electoral Commission of the question, passing secondary legislation, designating the official campaigns, and finally, a 10-week period for the campaigns to run.
The document cites the timetable from the 2016 EU referendum, when the process took 13 months and cost almost £130 million ('‚¬150 million) '' according to the electoral regulator. However, supporters of a second referendum accused the government of trying to undermine support for another vote.
It has been pointed out that other countries have held a referendum in an extremely short amount of time: in 2015 Greece staged a vote on the EU bailout in barely a week.
''With political will, legislation can be rushed through on significantly reduced timescales,'' according to a study published last October by the Constitution Unit at University College London (UCL).
Paul Tyler, a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords and the party's spokesperson for constitutional and political reform, has estimated the whole process could take 16-17 weeks.
Other obstacles to a 'People's Vote'The UCL report warns that given the polarised political environment over Brexit, the result of any referendum must be perceived as legitimate.
The more complicated the question, however, with potentially multiple options, the more controversial it would be and the more time the process would take.
Would the ballot be a straight choice between the negotiated withdrawal deal and continued EU membership, as Labour proposes? Or would it include a potential no-deal Brexit, the outcome many "Leave" supporters argue for? Or would it allow all three options?
Simple UK parliamentary arithmetic suggests an added complication: given the lack of a strong majority and the controversial nature of legislation linked to a second vote, attempts to disrupt the process would be highly likely.
A cross-party group pushing for a referendum proposed a mechanism to head off unnecessary delays, preparing a bill to allow the Electoral Commission to begin paving the way for a vote without having to wait for the main legislation to be passed.
The UCL study also recommends improvements to the rules governing referendums and covers for example government activity, the designation of the lead campaigners, and financial regulation. There are recommendations regarding the quality of information available to the public: online advertising should be more transparent; broadcasters could develop fact-checking further.
Unblocking the mess '-- or messing with democracy?''If the political will existed to hold a referendum in the UK, this would almost certainly be accommodated in one way or another by the EU27,'' the UCL study concludes.
Theresa May remains vehemently opposed to a second public vote, telling the House of Commons that such a move ''could damage social cohesion by undermining faith in our democracy.'' The prime minister's Brexit strategy has been dedicated to delivering the result of the June 2016 vote when the UK voted to leave the EU.
There have been warnings that another vote would create more uncertainty and division. Those who placed such faith in the first referendum would feel cheated. Depending on the question, a second poll could even bring another victory for ''Leave'' '-- exactly the scenario most second vote enthusiasts seek to avoid.
However, many supporters of a public vote believe that if no majority emerges for any other outcome, it may eventually become the only solution left standing.
Read more on this subject:
Brexit Guide: where are we now?
Why did Brexit and Remain MPs reject May's deal?
Out There
Canada reaches for the Moon and beyond | Prime Minister of Canada
Sun, 03 Mar 2019 14:52
NewsCanada reaches for the Moon and beyond Saint-Hubert, Quebec - February 28, 2019
Countries from around the world are getting ready to send people beyond the International Space Station (ISS) and into our solar system. Canada is investing in our space program to support initiatives that will create hundreds of jobs for Canadians, unlock new markets for our businesses, and help us answer important questions about our planet, our universe, and ourselves.
The Lunar GatewayThe United States-led Lunar Gateway is an international collaboration in human space exploration. About one-fifth of the size of the ISS, it will orbit the Moon and serve as a:
science laboratorytest site for new technologiesmeeting location for exploration to the surface of the Moonmission control centre for operations on the Moonfuture stepping stone for voyages to MarsThe Gateway is expected to be fully functional in the Moon's orbit around 2026.
Canada's contribution to the Gateway will be a smart robotic system '' Canadarm3 '' that will include a robotic arm, equipment, and specialized tools. This advanced system will help maintain, repair, and inspect the Gateway. It will move equipment, support spacewalks, assemble and deploy scientific instruments, and handle scientific samples collected on the Moon's surface.
This system will help us develop breakthrough technologies that do not exist today, just as past space robotics led to the neuroArm '' the world's first robot capable of performing high-risk surgery on previously inoperable tumours '' and the Image-Guided Autonomous Robot (IGAR) that helps with the early detection and treatment of breast cancer.
Lunar Exploration Accelerator ProgramThe Canadian Space Agency's (CSA) new Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program will help Canadian businesses and academic institutions use and test new technologies in lunar orbit and on the surface of the Moon in the fields of health, artificial intelligence, and robotics. The program will spur innovation and new technologies that have applications here on Earth, and will help Canadians get prepared for the jobs of tomorrow in the new global space economy.
Junior astronauts initiativeThrough the CSA's new junior astronauts initiative, Canadian youth will develop teamwork and communications skills while taking part in activities related to space, science, and technology. Top-performing participants will attend a space camp with astronauts at the CSA's headquarters in Saint-Hubert, Quebec, and learn how they could have a role in future Canadian space missions.
Related ProductHistoric investments in Canada's space program to create jobs and new industries
VIDEO - Lawsuit could put U.S. government's role in climate change on trial - 60 Minutes - CBS News
Sun, 03 Mar 2019 12:49
UCLA Professor of Environmental Law Ann Carlson thought it would be dismissed. But the lawsuit filed on behalf of a group of kids alleging the U.S. government knowingly failed to protect them from climate change isn't going away. The Trump administration alone has lost five appeals to stop it, two in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. If won, says Carlson, the impact on America would be "massive." Steve Kroft reports on this unusual yet significant suit on the next edition on 60 Minutes, Sunday, March 3 at 7 p.m., ET/PT on CBS.
Juliana v. United States alleges the constitutional rights of the 21 plaintiffs are being denied by the government for continuing to promote fossil fuels, despite knowing of their link to climate change and its impact. It is named for the lead plaintiff Kelsey Juliana, a 22-year-old University of Oregon student. Julia Olson, an Oregon lawyer and the executive director of the non-profit legal center, "Our Children's Trust," filed the suit four years ago. She has compiled 50 years and 36,000 pages of evidence, some going back to the Lyndon Johnson Administration.
The case has forced the government to make many admissions about the relationship between human activity and climate change, leaving much of the suit's evidence uncontested. It's one of the reasons courts have not dismissed it. Another reason, says Carlson, is its plaintiffs. "You have a number of kids who are very compelling plaintiffs who are experiencing the harms of climate change now and will experience the harms of climate change much more dramatically as they get older."
Olson selected the plaintiffs from 10 states. The youngest is 11-year-old Levi Draheim, who lives on a mile-wide barrier island in Florida. Walking along the beach near his home, the sixth-grader says he has a stake in climate change. "I fear that I won't have a home here in the future'... That the island will be underwater because of climate change."
Olson likes where she stands. "They admit that the government has known for over 50 years that burning fossil fuels would cause climate change'...don't dispute'...that climate change is a national security threat and a threat to our economy'...to people's lives and safety," she says. "We have them with their own words. It's really the clearest, most compelling evidence I've ever had in any case I've litigated in over 20 years," Olson tells Kroft.
In what could be a landmark decision someday, a federal judge in Eugene, Oregon, ruled against the government's motion to dismiss, writing, "Exercising my reasoned judgment, I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society." Says Carlson, "That's a big stretch for a court," pointing out the Constitution does not provide for protecting the environment. Still, she says, allowing the government to be asked to protect its citizens from climate change, is not that radical.
But Carlson warns: "If the plaintiffs won, it'd be massive, particularly if they won what they're asking for, which is get the federal government out of the business of in any way subsidizing fossil fuels and get them into the business of dramatically curtailing greenhouse gases in order to protect the children who are the plaintiffs in order to create a safe climate. That would be enormous."
(C) 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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VIDEO - Doctors Without Borders Suspends Operations In Ebola Epicenter In Congo : Goats and Soda : NPR
Sat, 02 Mar 2019 15:03
Assailants set fire to an Ebola treatment center run by Doctors Without Borders in Katwa, a rural suburb in Democratic Republic of the Congo, on February 25. Lauris Bonnaud/Reuters hide caption
toggle caption Lauris Bonnaud/Reuters Assailants set fire to an Ebola treatment center run by Doctors Without Borders in Katwa, a rural suburb in Democratic Republic of the Congo, on February 25.
Lauris Bonnaud/Reuters The aid group Doctors without Borders is suspending its work in the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The move comes after two separate attacks on its treatment centers there. The organization says, at best, it will be weeks before it returns.
"When I send my teams I need to be sure that they are going to come back alive," says Emmanuelle Massart, the on-the-ground emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in the region. "The attacks were really, really violent."
The first took place last Sunday night.
"It started around ten o'clock," says Massart.
Somewhere between 20 to 100 men converged on the group's treatment center in a rural suburb called Katwa.
"They started to throw stones. And then they started to put part of the center on fire '' where we had all the logistical and water and sanitation equipment. And then ... the triage center and the cars."
After about 15 minutes the attackers scattered. But the center was already in ruins.
The next attack was on Wednesday night '-- at a treatment center seven miles away, in a city called Butembo. This time the assailants were even more brazen.
"They used a car to ram the gate," says Massart. "There were men inside. They divide in different teams. They start to destroy things. They start shooting. So the police arrive and they start shooting at each other."
The gun battle lasted about 30 minutes. One officer was killed.
At the time, there were several dozen patients at the center who were suspected or confirmed to have Ebola. Many of them just picked up and ran.
Massart arrived on the scene soon after and says everyone was traumatized. His colleagues told him, "You are afraid for your life. You feel completely helpless."
Officials of the World Health Organization say several patients are still at large. The rest have been moved to a center in Katwa operated by another international charity, called Alima. The facility was originally a transit center to house people suspected of Ebola until they could be moved somewhere else for treatment. But the government and WHO are working with Alima to equip it to offer the full panoply of care.
The need is great. Katwa is the newest hot spot in this seven-month-long outbreak, with more than 200 new cases in recent weeks that bring the overall total in Congo to nearly 900 cases.
Massart says despite this dire prognosis, Doctors Without Borders will not return until it can be sure there will be no more attacks.
Requesting protection from the Congolese police or military or even United Nations peacekeepers is not an option, he says.
"It's a general principle of Doctors Without Borders that if you accept the protection of one side you will be the target of the other," he says.
Instead, the group maintains that the best way to stay safe is to make sure you win the support of the community. "Normally, the population understands that you are doing something good for them, so they will protect you," he says.
And while it's not yet clear who the assailants were in the two attacks, Massart says the larger takeaway is clear. In Katwa and Butembo, "there is a level of mistrust that we have to correct very, very quickly."
He adds that it's not surprising. Katwa and Butembo are in an isolated, impoverished area with a history of armed conflict that's made people wary of '-- and sometimes even hostile to '-- outsiders.
Add to this the fact that Ebola is a disease that has never reached this region before and that at first blush doesn't seem all that different from more familiar diseases.
"At the beginning you will have the same symptoms as malaria or typhoid fever '' things that the communities are used to dealing with. So Ebola is seen as a disease like the other ones, and they don't see why we should put people in treatment centers."
After all, malaria can be deadly too. But they have never been foreign medical workers insisting that as soon as a family member shows signs of it you need to send them off to a bunch of strangers in plastic suits.
This mistrust has serious consequences beyond the attacks. Because people don't come forward for treatment, a very high number are dying of Ebola in their communities. And at that end stage of the disease, they are at their most contagious.
And while Doctors Without Borders and other groups have done some work educating communities about Ebola, it clearly has not been sufficient, says Massart. In particular, "we should have involved the community in the decision making."
For instance, he says, instead of simply erecting the Ebola treatment center in a location chosen by the government, "we should have gone to the community and said, 'Where do you think we should put it?' "
The failure to consult the local population seems surprising given that Doctors Without Borders has a long history of treating Ebola in areas where there's been community resistance. And the Katwa center was opened in January, long after numerous episodes of violent resistance in earlier hot spots of this very outbreak.
Massart says part of the problem is that there are so many different groups involved in the response '' and each one handles different aspects.
"We are very known for patient care, and that's where we have been put," he says.
And in Katwa, "there were other people that were in charge of community engagement and communication. So we didn't do it ourselves because it was supposed to be done and done well [by others.] But unfortunately it was not."
Now he says, Doctors Without Borders is rethinking its role. The group will continue to provide patient care in other less violent areas of the outbreak.
But in Katwa and Butembo, he wonders: "Is patient care where we will have the biggest impact? Or should we put more forces in community engagement?"
Sat, 02 Mar 2019 14:45
Sat, 02 Mar 2019 12:55
VIDEO - The best explanation of SNC-Lavalin scandal yet - YouTube
Sat, 02 Mar 2019 12:48
VIDEO - Boost Mobile TV Commercial, 'Quit Your Glitchin'!' - iSpot.tv
Fri, 01 Mar 2019 14:40
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About Boost Mobile TV Commercial, 'Quit Your Glitchin'!'This family has a serious problem with glitching out on their current mobile network. Each family member can't seem to stop freezing, buffering or completely disappearing. Luckily for them, Boost Mobile says that its network is super fast and super reliable. After flipping Boost's switch, the family stops malfunctioning, putting an end to their resting glitch faces. For a limited time, the cellular company is offering four lines of unlimited data for $100 per month and four free phones when you switch.
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VIDEO - BBC Click on Twitter: "Style meets tech at London Fashion Week for the world's first live mixed reality catwalk.'... "
Thu, 28 Feb 2019 21:09
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VIDEO - Michelle Rempel asks about alleged prostitutes for Gaddafi's son - Watch Trudeau's unreal "answer" - YouTube
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  • 0:09
    this is no agenda from northern Silicon
  • 0:24
    Valley were in this day in 1903 Sing
  • 0:29
    Sing prison began taking prisoners
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    fingerprints it was the beginning of the
  • 0:33
    end I'm Jesse tomorrow nice Oh fight you
  • 0:44
    ran out of music bed that doesn't happen
  • 0:46
    very often
  • 0:46
    I gotta shorten these things I just you
  • 0:49
    got to talk to the writers I have
  • 0:51
    another one that I was gonna use which
  • 0:53
    was kind of interesting actually wording
  • 1:00
    it correctly okay in 1812 yes this was
  • 1:05
    the first u.s. foreign aid bill
  • 1:08
    authorized for relief of victims of an
  • 1:12
    earthquake in Haiti Venezuela yeah and
  • 1:21
    let me guess was it a very odd
  • 1:22
    earthquake your earthquake machine back
  • 1:31
    oh no no no they may not have rules Vern
  • 1:33
    I think was writing in that era I mean
  • 1:35
    that's possible do you never know you
  • 1:37
    never know in the morning everybody it
  • 1:39
    is the No Agenda Show episode 1117 and
  • 1:43
    the day after the day after the big
  • 1:46
    Austin Texas Meetup I I gotta tell you
  • 1:51
    cracking the mic this morning I'm I'm
  • 1:53
    actually a little self-aware why well
  • 1:56
    because condemning you for something no
  • 1:58
    but when you meet everybody and you put
  • 2:02
    native faces to names and
  • 2:04
    you can hear how closely they're
  • 2:06
    listening it's like now I'm like
  • 2:07
    self-conscious make sure we do
  • 2:11
    everything just right what what an
  • 2:12
    incredible group of people yesterday use
  • 2:14
    I know you saw the pictures by the way I
  • 2:17
    want to correct myself Jules Verne was
  • 2:20
    not yet born he was born in nineteen to
  • 2:22
    eighteen twenty-eight yes because I
  • 2:24
    don't want to get a nasty note almost an
  • 2:26
    unforgivable mistake ten years old so I
  • 2:29
    think the head count was about 125 looks
  • 2:34
    like about based on everything it looks
  • 2:37
    like it was but that sounds about right
  • 2:38
    yeah it was really incredible there oh
  • 2:43
    yeah you got that many people just gonna
  • 2:45
    last a lot longer yeah and it was so
  • 2:48
    good man the Austen beer works did you
  • 2:51
    meet everyone at the 125 and say hello I
  • 2:53
    hope so I certainly stayed long enough
  • 2:56
    until you know there was almost no one
  • 2:57
    left so if someone didn't come up and
  • 3:00
    they weren't wrangled by the keeper or
  • 3:01
    by the shill then we missed each other
  • 3:03
    but I think I think I pretty much met
  • 3:05
    everybody and wow what a group we got
  • 3:08
    teachers we've got nurses we've got it's
  • 3:10
    um weirded weirdo some big giant weird
  • 3:13
    guy with that with a with a Guy Fawkes
  • 3:16
    mask and long beard yeah like a
  • 3:24
    celebrity man he had his glasses on he's
  • 3:27
    got a shades on he had his his little
  • 3:29
    parade on oh yeah he just kind of slid
  • 3:32
    in hey everybody sir Jean here Duke Duke
  • 3:35
    of Texas sheriff sheriff to Marriott
  • 3:38
    never yeah I think there were two things
  • 3:43
    that made well besides everyone being
  • 3:44
    there to other things that made this
  • 3:45
    Meetup extra special without a doubt
  • 3:47
    were the nametags and I'm unsure who
  • 3:50
    brought those but there were nametags
  • 3:52
    pre filled out with the name Ben there
  • 3:56
    were some variations Benjamin Bernadette
  • 3:59
    you know stuff like that it was very
  • 4:02
    funny but Mark Hall our documentarian
  • 4:06
    the supreme really blew it out of the
  • 4:09
    water with the foam finger number one no
  • 4:11
    agenda hands gloves that was just what a
  • 4:15
    great idea
  • 4:17
    yeah that was good I think that's a
  • 4:20
    premium we need to we need to keep going
  • 4:22
    I don't think we actually got one there
  • 4:23
    was so many people they were gone in
  • 4:25
    seconds I was like haha so yeah it was
  • 4:30
    just John I mean there's people who we
  • 4:33
    know from the show that I've known for
  • 4:35
    years and if not met he was it was
  • 4:38
    really fantastic really fantastic well
  • 4:41
    I'm good everyone glad everyone had a
  • 4:42
    good time yeah I'm hard to top that
  • 4:44
    number yeah you seem to be trying to
  • 4:47
    throw some smackdown on Twitter that
  • 4:49
    California can do better I don't know
  • 4:50
    where you're gonna count for you can do
  • 4:52
    better but you know it's whether it will
  • 4:56
    do better than an issue okay now you got
  • 4:58
    are you gonna try it are you gonna do
  • 5:00
    something like in Los Angeles perhaps
  • 5:01
    sure okay
  • 5:04
    yeah I understand I can understand
  • 5:06
    you're a little intimidated by our girth
  • 5:08
    here in Texas Texas typical Texas crap
  • 5:11
    you know these guys the whole state is
  • 5:13
    like this they're just full of
  • 5:15
    themselves everybody's got to be bigger
  • 5:16
    or Texas would be the biggest state and
  • 5:19
    you're not the biggest aid Alaska's
  • 5:20
    bigger all right why don't you go do a
  • 5:23
    meet up in Alaska see if you can beat us
  • 5:25
    start in Anchorage doesn't have this
  • 5:27
    this no they don't have that D'Alessio
  • 5:31
    doesn't care they're now getting free
  • 5:33
    money from oil and there's a lot of
  • 5:35
    grass yeah although it was as we go
  • 5:42
    through the notes later in the donation
  • 5:43
    segment it was an interesting variety of
  • 5:45
    things that were illegal that were
  • 5:47
    slipped into envelopes what yeah yeah
  • 5:53
    are we opening the envelopes last night
  • 5:56
    trying to get the spreadsheet and credit
  • 5:57
    everybody properly and you know it's
  • 6:00
    like oh what's this mmm okay I thought
  • 6:01
    that smelled kind of familiar all right
  • 6:03
    what's this a mushroom all kinds of
  • 6:07
    stuff people give out us as party favors
  • 6:09
    and it's there what's that Texas and
  • 6:14
    Nussbaum came in - yes I heard that it's
  • 6:18
    the guy's amazing
  • 6:19
    he's baby he's been supporting the show
  • 6:21
    as almost I think from day one he's been
  • 6:23
    supporting it for as long as anyone yeah
  • 6:27
  • 6:29
    there was still time for prep well
  • 6:31
    that's a good thing yeah a lot going on
  • 6:33
    there is a lot going on where do you
  • 6:35
    want to start cuz I got a couple of
  • 6:37
    topics that I mean if you have a serious
  • 6:40
    I got some some clips from truck I don't
  • 6:43
    you hear Trump CPAC speech you know
  • 6:44
    completely missed it
  • 6:46
    huge mistake not listening to it while I
  • 6:48
    was doing you have to go back okay
  • 6:51
    because it's you know his normal ad-lib
  • 6:54
    speech in front of the big crowd sure
  • 6:56
    sure it was this it this was beyond the
  • 7:00
    pale for two hours of ad-lib complaint
  • 7:06
    oh my goodness plain what CPAC is and
  • 7:08
    who's behind this conservative part it's
  • 7:12
    a conservative political action group
  • 7:14
    political political action committee
  • 7:16
    right yeah and so it has a meeting every
  • 7:20
    year they've had these things for a long
  • 7:22
    time it's very controversial it's the
  • 7:24
    one this is the one that they voted in
  • 7:27
    one time they they did a when the t p--
  • 7:29
    before the tea party was was or the rant
  • 7:33
    the Ron Paul tea party you mean before
  • 7:35
    the government party sure they they were
  • 7:38
    big celebrities at this thing and then
  • 7:40
    the CPAC the CPAC thing is far as I'm
  • 7:43
    concerned slightly corrupt they rousted
  • 7:45
    the originals at the tea party people
  • 7:47
    and then they brought in these
  • 7:48
    interlopers this year they did hit
  • 7:50
    grosses at four one two three four five
  • 7:53
    six seven eight nine what unusual thing
  • 7:59
    they had michelle malkin coming if
  • 8:02
    anyone can go find her speech you're
  • 8:04
    gonna see as a killer speech that it
  • 8:08
    hits the nail on the head about CPAC and
  • 8:10
    all the rest of it and she'll never get
  • 8:12
    invited back how good so she did a good
  • 8:14
    job then oh I thought her speech was the
  • 8:17
    best you have no clips from her no I'm
  • 8:20
    gonna get the whole thing out I'll clip
  • 8:22
    some from it it's mostly just
  • 8:24
    complaining about its it's a very good
  • 8:27
    I'm just recommending people go see it
  • 8:29
    so what just before you go what exactly
  • 8:31
    is the point of this conservative
  • 8:33
    political action quantity can come out
  • 8:37
    and they can all shake their fist at the
  • 8:39
    Liberals why
  • 8:41
    it held now though I mean this is hell
  • 8:43
    about this time every year
  • 8:44
    oh it's every year okay oh yeah it's
  • 8:46
    been on it's always on c-span it's
  • 8:48
    played you know
  • 8:49
    c-span will play it on c-span - oh oh
  • 8:53
    that's that's a movie no that's not
  • 8:55
    c-span 3 yeah so Trump comes on and he
  • 9:03
    does - over 2 hours of material was this
  • 9:08
    like new stuff worst I think most of it
  • 9:11
    was new yeah new material Wow
  • 9:14
    there's a lot of old stuff was mixed in
  • 9:16
    I think whenever whenever that that we
  • 9:19
    had that clip where like Trump has as
  • 9:21
    he's humorless he has no humor I guess
  • 9:23
    he took that to heart I don't think he
  • 9:26
    paid much attention to that because he
  • 9:28
    is pretty funny but there was my
  • 9:31
    favorite that I think the most classy
  • 9:32
    example of this get this I have this
  • 9:35
    article the BBC they describe this
  • 9:39
    speech and I'm gonna I'm gonna read a
  • 9:41
    quote from this article this is the
  • 9:42
    BBC's yeah like I was trying to find
  • 9:47
    stuff like you do yes I'd know the
  • 9:51
  • 9:51
    the BBC's okay no I'm not gonna find it
  • 9:55
    that way the me she saw all he did was
  • 9:57
    they use every word except lashed out
  • 9:59
    okay about how Trump was there just a
  • 10:02
    slam Buller
  • 10:04
    but slam lash out just trying to get the
  • 10:10
    title of this thing bang and I can't
  • 10:15
    find it anyway I know why can't find you
  • 10:18
    said in my hand a second ago look at
  • 10:21
    this one last sheet Oh anyway so they go
  • 10:24
    on and on about Trump's just be it was
  • 10:30
    it was an attack but it was all in good
  • 10:32
    humor and I have three accepts from the
  • 10:34
    speech will get the outlook for the for
  • 10:36
    the article as we play one of these this
  • 10:38
    is just I'll give you three interesting
  • 10:46
    examples because one of them this a 36
  • 10:48
    second clip this is trumpet CPAC the
  • 10:51
    great tariff debate and I am
  • 10:54
    washing this go what what is this what's