Cover for No Agenda Show 1124: Work To Rules
March 28th, 2019 • 2h 51m

1124: Work To Rules


Every new episode of No Agenda is accompanied by a comprehensive list of shownotes curated by Adam while preparing for the show. Clips played by the hosts during the show can also be found here.

Green New Deal
What voting 'present' means
Dear Adam Curry,
There is good reason to vote “present” in any
parliamentary body - which follows Robert’s Rules of Order.
First, contrary to what the Attorney General of the UK
said, a parliament can re-vote on a matter which it has adopted or
rejected. However such requires a motion
from a member of the “winning side”.
However, under certain rules, no one can participate in
the re-vote who was NOT present.
Thus, on the “Green New Deal” resolution, if any Dems ever convince just one member of the
opposition to make a motion for a re-do, and the re-do motion is adopted, those
members of the Senate, who were “present” at the earlier vote can “vote” again.
Second, a vote is not necessarily final. Any one who votes “present” is - in effect -
asking the Chair for more time.
Depending on the rules of order, the Chair can leave the question open
(meaning all those who were “present” can cast a Yea or Nay later) or the Chair
can entertain motions from the floor to allow those who were “present” to cast
a vote.
Third, members of Congress often “miss” votes.
Such was common through the 1980s. (Hard to vote when you are trying to raise
20-100k per week). Challengers would
rail that “Senator Out-of-Touch” missed a lot of votes.
Hence, by voting “present” one has established their
alibi, however flimsy, that they were “working.”
John Calvin Jones, PhD (political science)
Senate blocks Green New Deal | TheHill
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 03:53
The Senate on Tuesday blocked the Green New Deal, a progressive climate change resolution that Republicans view as prime fodder heading into the 2020 presidential election.
The Senate voted 0-57 on taking up the resolution, with 43 Democrats voting present. The measure was widely expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed to overcome the procedural hurdle.
Most Democrats were expected to vote present, a move that allowed them to avoid taking a formal position. Sens. Joe Manchin Joseph (Joe) ManchinFCC claims on broadband access under scrutiny Senate gears up for Green New Deal vote Overnight Energy: Green New Deal vote set to test Dem unity | Renewables on track to phase out coal, study finds | EPA chief reportedly recuses himself from mine review MORE (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Angus King Angus Stanley KingGreen New Deal vote tests Dem unity in Senate Overnight Defense: Senate rejects border emergency in rebuke to Trump | Acting Pentagon chief grilled on wall funding | Warren confronts chief over war fund budget Shanahan grilled on Pentagon's border wall funding MORE (I-Maine) voted with Republicans against the measure.
Republicans have seized on the measure as an example of Democrats shifting to the left ahead of next year's presidential election. Every Democratic senator running for the party's nomination in 2020 has co-sponsored the Senate Green New Deal resolution.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Addison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Dems look for traction following Barr-Mueller findings Senate GOP eyes probes into 2016 issues 'swept under the rug' Senate gears up for Green New Deal vote MORE (R-Ky.) lashed out at the proposal ahead of the vote on Tuesday, calling it an item on the ''far-left wish list that many of our Democratic colleagues have rushed to embrace.''
''The American people will see, they will see which of their senators can do the common sense thing and vote no on this destructive socialist daydream. And they will see which senators are so fully committed to radical left-wing ideology that they can't even vote no on self-inflicted economic ruin,'' he said.
The resolution, introduced last month by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Alexandria Ocasio-CortezOmar controversy looms over AIPAC conference Senate gears up for Green New Deal vote Overnight Energy: Green New Deal vote set to test Dem unity | Renewables on track to phase out coal, study finds | EPA chief reportedly recuses himself from mine review MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey Edward (Ed) John MarkeySenate gears up for Green New Deal vote Overnight Energy: Green New Deal vote set to test Dem unity | Renewables on track to phase out coal, study finds | EPA chief reportedly recuses himself from mine review Green New Deal vote tests Dem unity in Senate MORE (D-Mass.), strives for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the United States while creating millions of ''good, high-wage jobs.'' It's faced pushback from conservatives as well as some Democrats for being too broad and including wish list items not directly related to climate change, like expanding family farming and transitioning away from air travel.
Leading into Tuesday, Democrats accused McConnell of trying to set up a ''gotcha'' vote since no hearings were held on the fast-tracked legislation, which was widely expected to fail to get the 60 votes needed to ultimately pass the Senate.
Speaking at a rally Tuesday morning, Markey blasted Republicans for putting on a "sham vote."
''They are calling a vote without hearings, without expert testimony, without any true discussion of the costs of climate inaction and the massive potential for clean energy job creation in our country. And that is because Sen. McConnell wants to sabotage the call for climate action,'' he said.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer Charles (Chuck) Ellis Schumer4 in 5 Americans say they support net neutrality: poll GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar MORE (D-N.Y.) added that Republicans were making ''a mockery of the legislative process'' by bringing the Green New Deal resolution up for a vote just to have the Senate vote it down.
''Republicans want to force this political stunt to distract from the fact that they neither have a plan nor a sense of urgency to deal with the threat of climate change. ... It's a political act. It's a political stunt,'' he said.
The resolution has divided the Senate Democratic caucus, which ranges from red-state centrists to progressives such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren Elizabeth Ann WarrenElizabeth Warren after TMZ catches her sprinting to catch train: 'Try and keep up' Senate gears up for Green New Deal vote Senate GOP proposes constitutional amendment to keep Supreme Court at 9 seats MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders Bernard (Bernie) SandersHere's why Biden, Bernie and Beto are peaking Senate gears up for Green New Deal vote Overnight Energy: Green New Deal vote set to test Dem unity | Renewables on track to phase out coal, study finds | EPA chief reportedly recuses himself from mine review MORE (I-Vt.), who are both running for president.
Sen. Dick Durbin Richard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate GOP eyes probes into 2016 issues 'swept under the rug' Senate gears up for Green New Deal vote Senate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said the Green New Deal was ''aspirational'' and he wanted something that was ''legislational.''
''I think there are parts of that Green New Deal that are excellent and some that I disagree with. At this point in time I'm going to be voting present '... because I believe we should be legislational. I believe we should be bipartisan,'' he said.
A dozen Democratic senators co-sponsored Markey's Green New Deal resolution, including six 2020 White House hopefuls. Those senators followed suit with Markey in voting present on the bill Tuesday.
Prior to the vote, Sen. Chris Murphy Christopher (Chris) Scott MurphyFather of Sandy Hook victim dies in apparent suicide Sanders: 'We must follow New Zealand's lead' and ban assault weapons The fear of colorectal cancer as a springboard for change MORE (D-Conn.), a co-sponsor, said that he and ''almost every, if not every'' Democrat would be voting present on the resolution.
Progressive groups signaled ahead of the vote that they were giving senators a pass on the Green New Deal vote and were supportive of senators who planned to vote present.
Ocasio-Cortez also lashed out over the weekend at Republicans, saying they were ''wasting votes'' and should ''stop wasting the American peoples' time [and] learn to govern.''
Pushing back on Senate Republicans, Democrats attempted to turn the tables by trying to debate their conservative counterparts on their climate views. Many lawmakers goaded GOP members to state what climate legislation they instead supported, if not the Green New Deal.
"[McConnell] and his colleagues want to make a mockery of the national debate that we have started with the Green New Deal, and that's because they have no plans to fight climate change,'' said Markey. ''Republicans have no intention of passing legislation to combat climate change.''
All 47 members of the Senate Democratic Conference introduced a short alternative resolution last month stating that human activity is the ''dominant cause'' of climate change and that Congress should take ''immediate'' action. Sen. Susan Collins Susan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Dems look for traction following Barr-Mueller findings Senate rejection of Green New Deal won't slow Americans' desire for climate action Senate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks MORE (Maine) '-- who is up for reelection next year in a state won by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton Hillary Diane Rodham ClintonPapadopoulos claims he was pressured to sign plea deal Here's why Biden, Bernie and Beto are peaking The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Dems look for traction following Barr-Mueller findings MORE in 2016 '-- is the only Republican senator who supported it.
McConnell said Tuesday that he believes that climate change is real and caused by humans, but characterized the Green New Deal resolution as "nonsense."
"The way to do this consistent with American values and American capitalism is through technology and innovation '... not to shut down your economy, throw people out of work," McConnell told reporters. "This is nonsense. And if you're going to sign onto nonsense, you ought to have to vote for nonsense."
After a year of extreme weather, including historic, deadly fires and hurricanes, as well as reports that 2018 was one of the warmest years on record, Democrats argue they have public opinion on their side.
Two polls released earlier this year found that a majority of Americans believe climate change is happening. More than 70 percent of respondents held that view, according to a University of Chicago and Associated Press poll. Meanwhile, 73 percent told researchers at Yale University and George Mason University that global warming is happening, marking a 10-point shift from March 2015.
But Republicans and the White House doubled down Tuesday on their belief that the Democrats coalescing around the Green New Deal could pay dividends for the president and GOP lawmakers during next year's election.
Sen. Lindsey Graham Lindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Dems look for traction following Barr-Mueller findings Senate GOP eyes probes into 2016 issues 'swept under the rug' Top Senate Judiciary Dem asks Barr to hand over full Mueller report by April 1 MORE (R-S.C.) said Trump brought up the proposal during a closed-door lunch with Senate Republicans and told them to "make sure you don't kill it too much, because I want to run against it."
As the Senate floor drama unfolded Tuesday, the Democratic-led House remained quiet as to how it plans to address its own Green New Deal resolution.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi Nancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Dems look for traction following Barr-Mueller findings Democrats face dilemma after Mueller probe ends Raskin embraces role as constitutional scholar MORE (D-Calif.) has not committed to holding a hearing on the plan, despite calls from House GOP leaders last week to do so. And Ocasio-Cortez nor climate activist supporters of the legislation have called for a similar vote on the legislation in the House.
The House GOP campaign arm pounced on the reality Tuesday, with National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Michael McAdams saying progressives should ''demand'' Pelosi bring the Green New Deal up for a vote otherwise ''they should quit their political posturing and admit the Green New Deal is nothing but a fantasy right up there with Bigfoot and rainbow unicorns.''
The Dirty Secret Of Renewables Advocates Is That They Protect Fossil Fuel Interests, Not The Climate
Thu, 28 Mar 2019 13:20
Are climate activists aware that their renewable energy advocacy is a far more valuable form of greenwashing than any amount of oil and gas industry advertising ?
AP Everybody from Greenpeace to student activist Greta Thunberg to Green New Dealer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) says we have to transition from fossil fuels to renewables in order to save the climate.
But if solar and wind are substitutes for fossil fuels, why are the world's biggest oil and gas firms promoting them?
Over the last three years, the five largest publicly-traded oil and gas companies, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, BP, and Total invested a whopping one billion dollars into advertising and lobbying for renewables and other climate-related ventures.
Their ad blitz has targeted the global elite in airports and on Twitter. ''Natural gas is the perfect partner for renewables,'' say airport ads run by Norwegian oil and gas giant Statoil. ''See why #natgas is a natural partner for renewable power sources,'' tweets Shell.
Oil & gas companies promote renewables because they know solar & wind lock-in their product.
Total No sooner had I landed in Germany, for 2017 U.N. climate talks, when I was confronted by airport ads paid for by Total, the French oil and gas company reading, ''Committed to Solar'' and ''Committed to Natural Gas.''
All of which raises the question: why, if renewable energy advocates are defenders of the climate, are they working with the oil and gas industry to replace zero-pollution nuclear plants with fossil fuels?
Why Environmentalists Turned Against Clean Energy
In the 1950s and 1960s, conservationists were pro-nuclear. They understood that nuclear plants would produce pollution-free electricity on a tiny fraction of the land required for coal mining, hydro-electric dams, and oil and gas drilling.
At the time, California's utilities were heavily regulated and had an obligation to the public to keep electricity prices low. They proposed to build nuclear plants to eliminate the state's reliance on oil and natural gas.
In the mid-1960s, the Sierra Club supported the building of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant to replace fossil fuels. ''Nuclear power is one of the chief long-term hopes for conservation,'' argued Sierra Club President Will Siri in 1966.
''Cheap energy in unlimited quantities is one of the chief factors allowing a large, rapidly growing population to set aside wildlands, open space and lands of high-scenic value,'' added Siri, who was a biophysicist, mountaineer, and veteran of the Manhattan Project.
Not everyone thought cheap energy was a good thing. ''If a doubling of the state's population in the next 20 years is encouraged by providing the power resources for this growth,'' countered Club Executive Director, David Brower, California's ''scenic character will be destroyed.''
After weighing the arguments, the Sierra Club's Board of Directors voted nine-to-one to support the building of Diablo Canyon.
In response, Brower quit and started a new group, Friends of the Earth (FOE). ''There's no more important issue in my life,'' said Brower, than to ''see that Friends of the Earth does everything it can, here and abroad, to stop the nuclear experiment.''
Would you be shocked to learn that the founding donor of FOE was oilman Robert Anderson, owner of Atlantic Richfield? He gave FOE the equivalent of $500,000 in 2019 dollars.
''What was David Brower doing accepting money from an oilman?'' his biographer wondered . The answer is that he was developing the environmental movement's strategy of promoting renewables as a way to greenwash the killing of nuclear plants and the expanded use of fossil fuels.
At the exact same time, California's former governor, Edmund ''Pat'' Brown, was raising $100 billion (in 2019 dollars) from U.S. banks for Indonesia's state oil company. In exchange, he received exclusive rights to sell Indonesian oil in California and a $360,000 (in 2019 dollars) donation to his son Jerry's campaign for governor.
After he won, Gov. Jerry Brown's aides took actions to defend the family's oil monopoly. One of them, acting as an air pollution regulator, killed a refinery being built by Chevron, which would have competed directly with the Brown oil business, while another worked to kill nuclear plants.
By 1976, activists who feared that cheap nuclear energy would fuel overpopulation had taken over the Sierra Club. The organization's new executive director proposed a strategy to foment hysteria about nuclear in order to impose regulations to make nuclear expensive.
"Our campaign stressing the hazards of nuclear power will supply a rationale for increasing regulation,'' he explained , ''add to the cost of the industry, and render its economics less attractive.''
Along with groups like Union of Concerned Scientists and NRDC, Sierra Club claimed that the clean if slightly warmer water that comes out of nuclear plants was a kind of ''thermal pollution,'' and demanded unnecessary and expensive measures to mitigate the non-problem.
Working together, Brown and the Sierra Club killed so many nuclear power plants between 1976 and 1979 that, had they been built, California would today be generating all of its electricity from zero-emissions sources.
Greenwashing Gas
Environmental Defense Fund also got its start in California in the 1960s and 1970s. It created detailed energy forecasts purporting to prove that California didn't need to build nuclear plants because it could simply reduce electricity consumption. California couldn't, and massively expanded its use of natural gas, instead.
In the late 1980s, EDF made an alliance with Wall Street and natural gas companies to deregulate electricity markets. Along with the lack of nuclear power, deregulation resulted in the 2000 energy crisis, which allowed natural gas investors to fleece California ratepayers out of billions of dollars.
NRDC, too, advocated deregulation and even helped natural gas giant Enron, distribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to environmental groups. ''On environmental stewardship, our experience is that you can trust Enron,'' buzzed NRDC's Ralph Cavanagh. Enron executives at the time were defrauding investors of billions of dollars in an epic criminal conspiracy.
From 2009 to 2011, lawyers and lobbyists with EDF and NRDC advocated for and helped write mind-bogglingly complex cap-and-trade climate legislation that would have created, and allowed its Wall Street donors to take advantage of, a carbon-trading market worth upwards of $1 trillion.
Today, EDF works with the world's largest multinational oil and gas companies to demand changes to regulations in ways that benefit highly-capitalized firms and undercut smaller, less-capitalized competitors.
In recent years the work of hiding outlandish assumptions about renewables and efficiency has fallen to Stanford's Mark Z. Jacobson. By simply entering numbers into an Excel spreadsheet, Jacobson managed to convince many politicians, journalists, and activists that we can power the world on 100% renewables.
What is the source of Jacobson's funding? Why the Precourt Institute for Energy, which was founded by Jay Precourt, an oil and gas magnate and board member of Halliburton, the oil and gas services firm. The board of the Institute is a who's who of oil, gas, and renewables investors.
Today, the Sierra Club, EDF, and NRDC together take in more than half a billion dollars each year from donors that include billionaire coal, natural gas, and renewables investors like Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg.
Sierra Club and EDF have received a minimum of $136 million and $60 million, respectively, from oil, gas, & renewables investors, and are currently working alongside the American Petroleum Institute to kill nuclear plants in California, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
NRDC, for its part, has a minimum of $70 million directly invested in oil and gas and renewable energy companies that stand to profit from the closure of nuclear plants. It, too, is working to kill nuclear plants in California, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania .
Even smaller groups, like WISE International and Environmental Law and Policy Center , take money from natural gas and renewables companies while fighting to replace nuclear plants with natural gas and renewables.
Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace '-- which rakes in $350 million annually, crashes drones into nuclear plants, and recently declared, ''Sabotaging nuclear is a vital part of saving the climate'' '-- both keep their donors secret.
EDF, NRDC, and Sierra Club know perfectly well that solar and wind require the expansion of fossil fuels. How could they not? They've been killing nuclear plants and watching air pollution rise, as a result, for a half-century.
Renewables advocates know that had California and Germany invested $680 billion into new nuclear power plants, instead of renewables and the grid upgrades they require, the two places would be generating 100% of their electricity from clean, zero-emission energy.
They know that Germany today spends nearly twice as much as France for electricity that produces ten times the emissions per unit of energy because France receives 75% of its electricity from nuclear while Germany is phasing nuclear out.
And they know that, after investing $33 billion over the last decade to add more solar and wind to the grid, France had to use less nuclear and more natural gas, resulting in higher electricity prices and more carbon-intensive electricity.
Sometimes on Twitter, after I point these things out, someone will quip, ''A lesson in unintended consequences.'' But after 50 years of killing nuclear plants and promoting renewables, the main consequence of anti-nuclear advocacy '-- more fossil fuel pollution '-- can no longer be considered unintentional.
What about climate activists like AOC and Thunberg? Are they aware of the extent to which their renewable energy advocacy is a far more valuable form of natural gas greenwashing than any amount of Twitter and airport advertising? If they aren't, they should be.
Thunberg and AOC are right that we have a moral obligation to do the right thing on climate change. Unfortunately, neither of them does.
If Solar And Wind Are So Cheap, Why Are They Making Electricity So Expensive?
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 21:12
Clipper yacht Liverpool 2018 passes the Burbo Bank Wind Farm on August 14, 2017, off Liverpool, England. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
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Over the last year, the media have published story after story after story about the declining price of solar panels and wind turbines.
People who read these stories are understandably left with the impression that the more solar and wind energy we produce, the lower electricity prices will become.
And yet that's not what's happening. In fact, it's the opposite.
Between 2009 and 2017, the price of solar panels per watt declined by 75 percent while the price of wind turbines per watt declined by 50 percent .
And yet '-- during the same period '-- the price of electricity in places that deployed significant quantities of renewables increased dramatically.
Electricity prices increased by:
51 percent in Germany during its expansion of solar and wind energy from 2006 to 2016; 24 percent in California during its solar energy build-out from 2011 to 2017; over 100 percent in Denmark since 1995 when it began deploying renewables (mostly wind) in earnest. What gives? If solar panels and wind turbines became so much cheaper, why did the price of electricity rise instead of decline?
Electricity prices increased by 51 percent in Germany during its expansion of solar and wind energy.
One hypothesis might be that while electricity from solar and wind became cheaper, other energy sources like coal, nuclear, and natural gas became more expensive, eliminating any savings, and raising the overall price of electricity.
But, again, that's not what happened.
The price of natural gas declined by 72 percent in the U.S. between 2009 and 2016 due to the fracking revolution. In Europe, natural gas prices dropped by a little less than half over the same period.
The price of nuclear and coal in those place during the same period was mostly flat.
Electricity prices increased 24 percent in California during its solar energy build-out from 2011 to 2017.
Another hypothesis might be that the closure of nuclear plants resulted in higher energy prices.
Evidence for this hypothesis comes from the fact that nuclear energy leaders Illinois, France, Sweden and South Korea enjoy some of the cheapest electricity in the world.
Since 2010, California closed one nuclear plant (2,140 MW installed capacity) while Germany closed 5 nuclear plants and 4 other reactors at currently-operating plants (10,980 MW in total).
Electricity in Illinois is 42 percent cheaper than electricity in California while electricity in France is 45 percent cheaper than electricity in Germany.
But this hypothesis is undermined by the fact that the price of the main replacement fuels, natural gas and coal, remained low, despite increased demand for those two fuels in California and Germany.
That leaves us with solar and wind as the key suspects behind higher electricity prices. But why would cheaper solar panels and wind turbines make electricity more expensive?
The main reason appears to have been predicted by a young German economist in 2013.
In a paper for Energy Policy , Leon Hirth estimated that the economic value of wind and solar would decline significantly as they become a larger part of electricity supply.
The reason? Their fundamentally unreliable nature. Both solar and wind produce too much energy when societies don't need it, and not enough when they do.
Solar and wind thus require that natural gas plants, hydro-electric dams, batteries or some other form of reliable power be ready at a moment's notice to start churning out electricity when the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining.
And unreliability requires solar- and/or wind-heavy places like Germany, California and Denmark to pay neighboring nations or states to take their solar and wind energy when they are producing too much of it.
Hirth predicted that the economic value of wind on the European grid would decline 40 percent once it becomes 30 percent of electricity while the value of solar would drop by 50 percent when it got to just 15 percent.
Hirth predicted that the economic value of wind would decline 40% once it reached 30% of electricity, and that the value of solar would drop by 50% when it reached 15% of electricity.
In 2017, the share of electricity coming from wind and solar was 53 percent in Denmark, 26 percent in Germany, and 23 percent in California. Denmark and Germany have the first and second most expensive electricity in Europe.
By reporting on the declining costs of solar panels and wind turbines but not on how they increase electricity prices, journalists are '-- intentionally or unintentionally '-- misleading policymakers and the public about those two technologies.
The Los Angeles Times last year reported that California's electricity prices were rising, but failed to connect the price rise to renewables, provoking a sharp rebuttal from UC Berkeley economist James Bushnell.
''The story of how California's electric system got to its current state is a long and gory one,'' Bushnell wrote, but ''the dominant policy driver in the electricity sector has unquestionably been a focus on developing renewable sources of electricity generation.''
Part of the problem is that many reporters don't understand electricity. They think of electricity as a commodity when it is, in fact, a service '-- like eating at a restaurant.
The price we pay for the luxury of eating out isn't just the cost of the ingredients most of which which, like solar panels and wind turbines, have declined for decades .
Rather, the price of services like eating out and electricity reflect the cost not only of a few ingredients but also their preparation and delivery.
This is a problem of bias, not just energy illiteracy. Normally skeptical journalists routinely give renewables a pass. The reason isn't because they don't know how to report critically on energy '-- they do regularly when it comes to non-renewable energy sources '-- but rather because they don't want to.
That could '-- and should '-- change. Reporters have an obligation to report accurately and fairly on all issues they cover, especially ones as important as energy and the environment.
A good start would be for them to investigate why, if solar and wind are so cheap, they are making electricity so expensive.
Michael Shellenberger, President, Environmental Progress. Time Magazine "Hero of the Environment."
I am a Time Magazine ''Hero of the Environment,'' Green Book Award Winner, and President of Environmental Progress, a research and policy organization. My writings have'... Read More
I am a Time Magazine ''Hero of the Environment,'' Green Book Award Winner, and President of Environmental Progress, a research and policy organization. My writings have appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, Nature Energy, and PLOS Biology. My TED talks have been viewed over 1.5 million times. Read Less
French farmers say their cattle are dying from electricity generated by wind turbines, solar panels - TheBlaze
Thu, 28 Mar 2019 08:44
Cattle farmers in France say their stock are dying off from exposure to electricity generated by nearby wind turbines and solar panels, blaming lethal levels of volts through the ground and water sources for their losses.
What are the details?When a number of cattlemen in Cotes-d'Armor, Brittany, noticed unexplained weight loss and death occurring in their herds, veterinarians couldn't offer any explanation. So the farmers ran tests on their land, and determined that electrical currents from nearby wind turbines and solar panels were exposing their cows to energy at levels "three times the accepted threshold for animals," the Daily Mail reported.
Local farmer Patrick Le Nechet claims the mysterious deaths began after the installation of new photovoltaic solar panels near his land. He told French radio station Europe 1, "There is a lot of direct current coming into the earth. When we see all the animals die, it is untenable," according to the Mail.
Some herds in Cotes-d'Armor have dwindled by the hundreds in recent years, allegedly because of electricity emitted by antennas, transformers, and turbines. Farmers from nearby Pays de la Loire have also reported losses of animals near wind turbines, and a farmer from Val de Saone, in Rhone, blamed electrical currents for harming the health and behavior of his stock two years ago.
The Val de Saone farmer reportedly told Le Progres, "When there are power spikes, some cows gather in one corner, others start to limp, calves that felt good the day before, die."
Anything else?Thibaut Bouchut of France's Sanitary Defense Group reportedly explained that cattle are much more vulnerable to electrical currents than people, saying, "The human body has an electrical resistance of 1,500 Ohms, while the cows, only 500 Ohms, not to mention that they are not separated from the ground by rubber soles.
"Breeders are not always aware of electrical disturbances," Bouchut continued, "and sometimes the seemingly unexplained problems they face discourage them, even if they are competent. Farms close down because of that."
Article 13
'Dark day for internet freedom': EU lawmakers approve controversial copyright reform '-- RT World News
Thu, 28 Mar 2019 12:44
The European Parliament has voted to adopt the highly controversial Article 13 provision which would govern the production and distribution of content online under the auspices of increasing copyright protections.
Tuesday's move will update the EU's 20-year-old copyright rules and will govern audiovisual content, much to the dismay of many social media users who have already begun outpouring their grief online.
However the parliament said in a statement that sharing memes and gifs has been protected ''even more than it was before'' and they will continue to be available and shareable on online platforms.
MEPs passed the legislation by 348 votes to 274 Tuesday. Opponents had hoped for last-minute amendments to be made but their efforts were in vain.
European Parliament adopted the text and we did not have a chance to vote on articles 11&13 again. 4 votes difference on allowing for the amendments to be voted. New controversial copyright law underway for Europe ðŸ
'-- Marietje Schaake (@MarietjeSchaake) March 26, 2019Julia Reda, a German MEP with the Pirate Party, described it as a ''dark day for internet freedom."
Article 13 or 'The Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market' makes all platforms legally responsible for the content hosted and shared on their platforms.
The process of updating the bloc's copyright laws began in the European Commission two years ago, ostensibly to protect Europe's publishers, broadcasters and artists and guarantee fair compensation from big tech companies.
EU member states now have two years to pass their own laws putting Article 13 into effect.
Also on What is Article 13? Controversial EU copyright law faces final vote The law will require anyone sharing copyrighted content to obtain permission from rights owners, even if the content is just an animated GIF on Twitter. To protect their platforms from legal trouble, sites such as Facebook and Wikipedia will now be forced to implement ''upload filters'' to ensure that user-generated content doesn't violate copyright.
Expensive to implement, vulnerable to bugs, and prone to inadvertently censoring lawful content, such filters have been slammed by critics as an existential threat to free expression on the internet.
Tens of thousands marched in protest across Germany ahead of the vote, decrying what they viewed as severe online censorship.
Tech giant Google said that while the directive is ''improved'' it will still lead to legal uncertainty and will damage Europe's creative and digital economies.
Critics have argued that the only way for Article 13 to be effectively enforced would be through the use of upload filters which automatically check content to see if it's copyrighted or not, at least in theory. However, the exact mechanics of such a system have yet to be fully debated and the potential for abuse is immediately clear.
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EU's Parliament Signs Off on Disastrous Internet Law: What Happens Next? | Electronic Frontier Foundation
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 21:51
In a stunning rejection of the will of five million online petitioners, and over 100,000 protestors this weekend, the European Parliament has abandoned common-sense and the advice of academics, technologists, and UN human rights experts, and approved the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive in its entirety.
There's now little that can stop these provisions from becoming the law of the land across Europe. It's theoretically possible that the final text will fail to gain a majority of member states' approval when the European Council meets later this month, but this would require at least one key country to change its mind. Toward that end, German and Polish activists are already re-doubling their efforts to shift their government's key votes.
If that attempt fails, the results will be drawn-out, and chaotic. Unlike EU Regulations like the GDPR, which become law on passage by the central EU institutions, EU Directives have to be transposed: written into each member country's national law. Countries have until 2021 to transpose the Copyright Directive, but EU rarely keeps its members to that deadline, so it could take even longer.
Unfortunately, it is likely that the first implementation of the Directive will come from the countries who have most enthusiastically supported its passage. France's current batch of national politicians have consistently advocated for the worst parts of the Directive, and the Macron administration may seek to grab an early win for the country's media establishment.
Countries whose polity were more divided will no doubt take longer. In Poland, politicians were besieged by angry voters wanting them to vote down the Directive, while simultaneously facing brazen denunciations from national and local newspaper owners warning that they would ''not forget'' any politician who voted against Article 11. The passing of the Directive will still leave that division between the Polish people and the media establishment, with politicians struggling to find a domestic solution that won't damage their prospects with either group.
The rhetoric in Germany in the last few days was not much better. German politicians claimed with straight faces that the tech companies had paid this weekend's protestors to march on the streets. Meanwhile, the Christian Democratic Union, Angela Merkel's party, whose own Axel Voss as the ringleader for the Directive, put out a policy proposal that suggested it could implement Article 13 not with filters, but with a blanket licensing regime. Legal experts have already said that these licenses won't comply with Article 13's stringent requirements '' but it's going to be hard for the CDU to walk back from that commitment now.
Which brings us to the future prospect of legal challenges in Europe's courts. Again, unlike the GDPR, which gave existing regulatory bodies the clear power to adjudicate and enforce that law and its ambiguities, it's unclear who is supposed to impose consistency in the EU between, say, a harsh French regime and a potentially softer German solution, or interpret the Directive's notoriously incoherent text.
That means it will fall by default to Europe's judicial system, and the long, slow road to a final decision by the EU's superior court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
We can expect media and rightsholders to lobby for the most draconian possible national laws, then promptly march to the courts to extract fines whenever anyone online wanders over its fuzzy lines. The Directive is written so that any owner of copyrighted material can demand satisfaction from an Internet service, and we've already seen that the rightsholders are by no means united on what Big Tech should be doing. Whatever Internet companies and organizations do to comply with twenty-seven or more national laws '' from dropping links to European news sites entirely, to upping their already over-sensitive filtering systems, or seeking to strike deals with key media conglomerates '' will be challenged by one rightsholder faction or another.
But there's also opportunities for the courts to rein in the Directive '' or even throw out its worst articles entirely. One key paradox at the heart of the Directive will have to be resolved very soon. Article 13 is meant to be compatible with the older E-Commerce Directive, which explicitly forbids any requirement to proactively monitor for IP enforcement (a provision that was upheld and strengthened by the ECJ in 2011). Any law mandating filters could be challenged to settle this inconsistency.
But who will represent Internet users in court? Big Tech has some of the motive and the millions to do it, but after this heavy defeat, those increasingly defensive giants may well decide that it will be better to settle out of court, and strike a deal that pays a danegeld to the established media in Europe '' at a price that will conveniently lock out any potential tech upstarts to their market dominance in that market.
That means Europe's Internet users can't depend on the tech companies to fight this. The battle will have to continue, as it has done in these last few weeks, with millions of everyday users uniting online and on the streets to demand their right to be free of censorship, and free to communicate without algorithmic censors or arbitrary licensing requirements.
EU netizens will need to organize and support independent European digital rights groups willing to challenge the Directive in court.
And outside Europe, friends of the Internet will have to brace themselves to push back against copyright maximalists attempting to export this terrible Directive to the rest of the world. We must, and we will, regroup and stand together to stop this Directive in Europe, and prevent it spreading further.
What EU Lawmakers Mean When They Talk About Copyright (Hint: They Don't Mean Your Copyright) - Center for Democracy & Technology
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 21:48
The ongoing debate around the controversial Article 13 of the EU's Copyright Directive has exposed what looks like a sizable gap between what regulators think is covered by copyright and what is actually covered by copyright. From the way Rapporteur Axel Voss and others talk about the kinds of materials they expect will be addressed by Article 13, it seems they think copyright covers only the rights to music and movies owned by major labels and production houses. They seem to think that the online services targeted by the article (online content sharing service providers or OCCSPs) will be able to ''conclude'' licensing agreements with all relevant rightsholders. After all, the main idea behind Article 13 is to improve rightsholders' bargaining power in licensing negotiations with OCSSPs so that authors and artists get a bigger cut of the ad revenue those sites earn, thereby closing the so-called ''value gap.''
If the world of copyright were as limited in scope as Article 13 proponents seem to think, then perhaps this licensing obligation would be achievable. However, since 1886 when the ''formalities'' necessary to obtain copyright protection were abolished (in Europe), the scope of material protected by copyright has ballooned to cover all original expressions ''fixed'' in tangible media: major studios' movies, books, and music, yes, but also family vacation snapshots, text posts on social media, personal blogs, and so on. Here's where the practical application of a licensing obligation starts to fall apart (and we'll leave aside the complications around 'incidental uses ' of copyrighted material for now) '' there is just no way for any OCSSP to even identify all rightsholders whose content may appear on their site, much less enter into licensing negotiations with them.
For example, consider the popular practice of posting screenshots from one social media site to another. Even assuming that licenses for the original post were properly obtained by the first OCSSP (through agreements with each of the rights holders for the post itself as well as any depictions/reproductions of third-party content within the post), by what means could the second OCSSP (on whose site the screenshot is later posted) determine who the rightsholders are, much less find a way to obtain licenses from them? At least some proponents of Article 13 suggest that extended collective licensing (ECL) could solve this problem, pointing to a separate set of provisions (Article 9A) in the Copyright Directive.
The premise is this: OCSSPs would obtain ''blanket licenses'' covering all uploaded content by paying into a collective fund that would then be distributed to all relevant rightsholders, according to how often and in what ways their protected content appears on OCSSP sites. Again, this model might work if the only rightsholders in question are major studios, publishers, and labels; they already have some of the internal mechanisms necessary to track artists and distribute royalties to them. But copyright is broader than that. In reality, an Article 13-compliant blanket licensing program must either a) have a method for tracking and distributing royalties to every person on Earth whose original content appears in any way on any OCSSP operating in the EU or b) be based on a universal license fee of zero. As in, ''in exchange for, and by the use of our service you hereby agree to grant us permission to make this work available, including by extending permission to other OCSSPs to make the same or similar works available on their sites.''
The former is impossible. The latter entirely defeats the stated purpose of Art. 13.
In addition to being either impossible or pointless, the ECL model for accommodating the licensing obligation of Art. 13 also ignores a subsequent provision stating that rightsholders are not obligated to license their works. A blanket licensing model would therefore need a mechanism for opting out, leaving OCSSPs back at square one for identifying and addressing the works of those rightsholders who do not wish to be part of the ECL program. Which brings up another blindspot in the logic of Art. 13 proponents: a single work may have multiple authors, multiple rightsholders. What are OCSSPs or rightsholders supposed to do when some, but not all, rightsholders for a single work agree to licensing terms? Block it.
The disparity between reality and Art. 13's proponents' perception of copyright is problematic on many levels.
First, if they actually believe that only the movie studios', music labels', and publishers' works are protected by copyright, then their understanding of copyright is fundamentally flawed. Alternatively, it may be that major rightsholders are the only intended beneficiaries of Article 13's efforts to enhance licensing negotiations. If true, then Art. 13 amounts to a broad value judgement about which artists deserve additional compensation to fill the ''value gap'' and ignores the likelihood that many independent artists will be worse off, either because it will simply be easier to block content from unknown rightsholders than to establish a compliant licensing mechanism or because of the complexities and failures of automated filtering systems (the mandatory back-up option for unlicensed works). Either way, Article 13 will lead the EU and all OCSSPs who wish to operate there toward a closed web , dominated by the works of major rightsholders and putting independent creators at a disadvantage.
Second, if Art. 13 proponents fully understand the scope of copyright and yet still believe that blanket licensing will actually translate into a bigger slice of the OCSSPs revenue for all rightsholders, then that belief can only be based on an assumption that collective licensing mechanisms can be developed to address all types of content, including a viable way to handle those rightsholders who opt out, in each of the EU's 28 member states. Even in an over-simplified scenario where this might be possible, it seems extremely unlikely that anyone other than major rightsholders (and collective rights management organizations) would benefit from collective licensing.
Third, and perhaps most troubling, is the possibility that the licensing provisions of Art. 13 are not actually expected to result in more favorable licensing agreements for copyright holders, which implies that the impossible provisions are merely a way to drive OCCSPs toward automated filtering mechanisms, or even out of existence . We have already written about why mandating these systems is undesirable: they cannot account for exceptions and limitations to copyright , they are error prone , they only enhance the advantages of the largest OCCSPs , and the liability OCCSPs will face without them pushes operators toward even more aggressive filters. Once again, Art. 13 leads toward a more closed web ( as some sites will demonstrate this week ), but even worse, implementation of filtering technology for one purpose, copyright, opens the door to expanding those filters to address other policy goals .
If this all sounds bad, it is. But, Members of the European Parliament can stop it from becoming reality when they vote on the Directive next week. We urge MEPs reject the proposed text on Article 13.
Manifesto for an open and fair internet
Mon, 25 Mar 2019 13:14
We all live among the digital revolution. We want to shape it, not prevent it. Authors must be paid. Therefore, the internet needs good rules. There is no freedom without rules! Otherwise, only the strongest will prevail as has happened with the internet-giants. We are no technophobes. We want good governance for the digital world. We want an open and fair internet.Copyright law has to be clarified for today's digital world, but not weakened or abolished. We want a sustainable culture. A free internet is not always free of charge. We have long had the new monopolies of American tech giants, who determine the rules of the game online. The criticism we have is merely of the myths and fighting talk, which are poisoning the current debate: A free internet at no charge, publishers as evil exploiters, authors ripped off by collecting societies, the enforcement of copyright as censorship.
Google and Facebook are already using filter algorithms. They filter not only '' as intended '' illegal content (e.g. pornographic or terrorist content), but also completely legal content (e.g. photos of naked bodies). They do so arbitrarily and without democratic regulation. The new directive, however, will regulate filters. At the same time, the platforms currently earn their money by making third parties' content accessible and advertising it, without paying appropriate fees to the creators of this content '' photographers, musicians, authors, graphic artists. This is where the new directive on European copyright law comes in: Article 13 regulates how licensing works for platforms. Platforms should pay creatives fair and reasonable remuneration by obtaining licences for the global repertoire. If they have such flat-rate licences from collecting societies, they do not need to filter content.
This is the purpose of Article 13.
Only those commercial platforms have to license whose main purpose is to monetize and curate large quantities of copyrighted content by making it available to the general public (Art. 2.5). Furthermore, Article 9a, which is mostly ignored in the public debate, extends the competences of collecting societies to make it easier for platforms to acquire licences '' they do not have to negotiate individual contracts with each right-holder!
A number of other exceptions and regulations create more legal certainty for all parties:
We are in favour of this copyright reform. It is a fair balance between users, platforms and authors!
Supporters Of Article 13, After Denying It's About Filters, Now Say It's About Regulating Filters Which They Admit Don't Work | Techdirt
Mon, 25 Mar 2019 12:54
from the get-your-freaking-story-straight deptAs the EU Parliament gets ready to vote on the EU Copyright Directive and Articles 11 and 13, the desperation from the supporters of these laws is reaching a fever pitch. It's gotten to the point that their own arguments no longer make any sense and are totally inconsistent with what they've been saying for months. Late last week, a new group sprung up with a website called It is an astounding document in so many ways, not the least of which is it admits that Article 13 is about filters, while also admitting that filters don't work.
It starts off with a huge misrepresentation: that the authors supporting it are for an "open and fair internet without censorship." Except that's belied by the rest of the "manifesto," which makes about as much sense as any other ranting internet manifesto:
We all live among the digital revolution. We want to shape it, not prevent it. Authors must be paid. Therefore, the internet needs good rules. There is no freedom without rules! Otherwise, only the strongest will prevail as has happened with the internet-giants. We are no technophobes. We want good governance for the digital world. We want an open and fair internet.
Authors are paid. If they sell their works to willing customers, they get paid. Nothing has changed. Indeed, artists are making more money than ever before. Also, what's with the Orwellian "there is no freedom without rules" line in there?
Of course, the next paragraph suggests who might actually be behind this particular manifesto. See if you can figure it out by looking at the "myths" they claim they are busting:
The criticism we have is merely of the myths and fighting talk, which are poisoning the current debate: A free internet at no charge, publishers as evil exploiters, authors ripped off by collecting societies, the enforcement of copyright as censorship.
Wait, who's asking for an internet free of charge? No one that I know of. And also, if you don't believe that copyright is frequently and regularly used for censorship, you simply have not been paying attention and have no place in this debate. You are ignorant.
But, let's focus in on the other one: complaining that it's a myth that publishers and collection societies rip off those they supposedly represent. I'm guessing that this manifesto was put together by those very collection societies. And since they insist this is a myth, let's go for a little walk down memory lane about collection societies.
There was the Spanish collection society, SGAE who was raided by the police after its top execs were accused of stealing $550 million from artists.A UK government-backed inquiry into abuse by collection societies received so many entries from people so angry that it felt it needed to block their release.In the US, ASCAP both announced that it was taking in more money than ever and that it was cutting payments to artists on the same day.In India, courts had to step in to block collection societies from collecting money from concerts they had no right to collect money over.In Germany, GEMA told musicians that they were simply not allowed to offer music for free as it would violate GEMA's rules.In Peru, another corruption scandal found that a collection society there was diverting revenue from artists to friends.In Kenya, a collection society was found to be paying less than one-third of the money it was supposed to be giving out. That resulted in a court having to step in and bar the collection society from continuing to collect.In France, the local collection society made bands pay the collection society in order to make their own albums, and again in order to get paid the money they are owed.And those are just a few quick examples from Techdirt in doing a quick search. There are many, many, many more such stories. In 2012 there was an entire paper
detailing many more examples. And, since that was 7 years ago, last year, a
second version of the paper was published with even more examples.
So, gee, I wonder where we get the idea that collection societies rip off creators?
And, from there, things get even weirder in the manifesto:
Google and Facebook are already using filter algorithms. They filter not only '' as intended '' illegal content (e.g. pornographic or terrorist content), but also completely legal content (e.g. photos of naked bodies). They do so arbitrarily and without democratic regulation. The new directive, however, will regulate filters. At the same time, the platforms currently earn their money by making third parties' content accessible and advertising it, without paying appropriate fees to the creators of this content '' photographers, musicians, authors, graphic artists. This is where the new directive on European copyright law comes in: Article 13 regulates how licensing works for platforms. Platforms should pay creatives fair and reasonable remuneration by obtaining licences for the global repertoire. If they have such flat-rate licences from collecting societies, they do not need to filter content.
Um, what?
Google and Facebook are already using filters. We agree. But then... it admits that the filters don't work, because they work "arbitrarily." And then they admit that Article 13 will "regulate filters" which apparently no one told them they're not supposed to admit until after Article 13 becomes law. Indeed, every time we mention that Article 13 will require filters, someone shows up in our comments with some demand about how the law says nothing anywhere about filters. Yet here, whoever is behind this manifesto appears to be arguing the following:
Google and Facebook already use filters.Those filters are arbitrary and block legal contentArticle 13 will "regulate filters"And then they don't need to use filters any more.I'm honestly stumped. It's true that filters don't work very well. But nothing in Article 13 fixes that. I
think they're trying to say that if companies just pay to license up every bit of content (i.e., throw lots of money at collection societies described above) then they won't need to use filters any more, but
that is not what Article 13 says by any stretch of the imagination. First, for that to be true, it would only apply if a site could be guaranteed that it was even
possible to
license every possible bit of content ever. Which it is not. And thus, they would still need to use filters. Which lead to mass, automated censorship.
The manifesto goes on from there, with some other nonsense -- such insisting that "Memes are safe!" but it's really not worth spending more time on it, other than to suggest that if this is truly the best that collection societies could do with their propaganda, perhaps next time they should pay their writers more to write something coherent, and which doesn't disagree with basically all the other lobbying messaging about Article 13.
Filed Under: article 13, censorship, copyright, eu copyright directive, filters, manifesto, upload filters
EU backs controversial copyright law - BBC News
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 14:27
Image copyright Peter Macdiarmid Image caption Web pioneer Sir Tim Berners-Lee has warned about the possible consequences of copyright changes The European Parliament has backed controversial copyright laws critics say could change the nature of the net.
The new rules include holding technology companies responsible for material posted without proper copyright permission.
Many musicians and creators say the new rules will compensate artists fairly - but others say they will destroy user-generated content.
The Copyright Directive was backed by 348 MEPs, with 278 against.
The laws on copyright were last amended in 2001.
It has taken several revisions for the current legislation to reach its final form.
It is now up to member states to approve the decision. If they do, they will have two years to implement it once it is officially published.
The two clauses causing the most controversy are known as Article 11 and Article 13.
Article 11 states that search engines and news aggregate platforms should pay to use links from news websites.
Article 13 holds larger technology companies responsible for material posted without a copyright licence.
It means they would need to apply filters to content before it is uploaded.
Article 13 does not include cloud storage services and there are already existing exemptions, including parody.
The European Parliament said that memes - short video clips that go viral - would be "specifically excluded" from the Directive, although it was unclear how tech firms would be able to enforce that rule with a blanket filter.
'Step forward' or 'massive blow'?Robert Ashcroft, chief executive of PRS for Music, which collects royalties for music artists, welcomed the directive as "a massive step forward" for consumers and creatives.
"It's about making sure that ordinary people can upload videos and music to platforms like YouTube without being held liable for copyright - that responsibility will henceforth be transferred to the platforms," he said.
However the campaign group Open Knowledge International described it as "a massive blow" for the internet.
"We now risk the creation of a more closed society at the very time we should be using digital advances to build a more open world where knowledge creates power for the many, not the few," said chief executive Catherine Stihler.
'Noble aims'Google said that while the latest version of the directive was improved, there remained "legal uncertainty".
"The details matter and we look forward to working with policy-makers, publishers, creators and rights holders, as EU member states move to implement these new rules," it said.
Kathy Berry, senior lawyer at Linklaters, said more detail was required about how Article 13 would be enforced.
"While Article 13 may have noble aims, in its current form it functions as little more than a set of ideals, with very little guidance on exactly which service providers will be caught by it or what steps will be sufficient to comply," she said.
European Parliament Rapporteur Axel Voss said the legislation was designed to protect people's livelihoods.
"This directive is an important step towards correcting a situation which has allowed a few companies to earn huge sums of money without properly remunerating the thousands of creatives and journalists whose work they depend on," he said.
"It helps make the internet ready for the future, a space which benefits everyone, not only a powerful few."
Article 13: Politicians vote in favor of EU's controversial copyright law - CNET
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 12:02
Protesters march against the EU Copyright Directive in Leipzig, Germany this weekend.
Peter Endig/picture alliance via Getty Images The European Parliament on Tuesday voted in favor of adopting a controversial new law that will bring sweeping reforms to how copyrighted content posted online is governed. The legislation was adopted with 348 votes in favor and 274 against.
For proponents of digital rights, the decision by politicians will come as a huge blow after over a year of campaigning for what they perceive as the upholding of the integrity of the internet. MEP Julia Reda, one of the most vocal critics of the directive said on Twitter that the vote signalled a "dark day for internet freedom.
Years in the making, the EU Copyright Directive has been heavily debated and divisive among politicians, as well as aggravating the wider tech industry. One part of the proposal in particular -- Article 13, which will govern the way copyrighted content is uploaded to the internet -- has many in the tech community throwing their hands up in despair.
Article 13 dictates that anyone sharing copyrighted content must get permission from rights owners -- or at least have made the best possible effort to get permission -- before doing so. But this doesn't just mean full songs, movies, TV shows and images. It also means gifs, memes and screenshots.
In order to enforce this, internet platforms will be forced to use upload filters to evaluate anything they put online. Even the wealthiest online services such as Facebook and YouTube, which have spent years developing this technology, haven't been able to prove pre-moderation of content is a foolproof method for preventing content from surfacing online that shouldn't be there.
Ahead of the vote on Tuesday, EU Commissioner for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip pointed out that nothing in the text of the legislation stipulates the use of upload filters. But it's hard to imagine a way in which tech platforms and social networks could otherwise realistically comply with the rules.
The concern is that the legislation will lead to a far more locked-down and less creative version of the internet as we know it today. It may also stymie competition between internet platforms, as only the biggest and wealthiest may be able to afford to comply with the legislation.
A second section of the directive, Article 11, which says search engines and news aggregators will be charged to display snippets of news they're linking to (known as a link tax), is also frustrating tech companies.
Back in January, Google said it may have to pull its news service from Europe entirely if the directive passes in its current state. Screenshots captured by Search Engine Land showed how Google news results could appear in Europe if Google doesn't pay the tax (spoiler alert: they're just a bunch of empty boxes). Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment following the outcome of the vote.
Before the text can be adopted in European law it must next be approved by the Council of the European Union. A vote is expected to take place on April 9.
The end of open: BBC blocks its podcasts on Google
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 11:25
March 25, 2019 · By James Cridland · 3.6 minutes to read
Some time on March 19th, the BBC started blocking all access to its podcasts on Google search, Google Assistant, and Google Podcasts. No new podcasts have appeared within Google Podcasts since March 19th, and many podcasts have already been removed altogether from the service. All BBC podcasts are affected across Google properties, including the popular Global News Podcast and Brexitcast.
A BBC spokesperson confirmed the block, and gave this statement to us:
''The BBC requires platforms (such as Google's Assistant) to meet certain conditions for BBC content to be available on their services. We seek to make our content as accessible to audiences as possible, but until it can be made available in a way that meets our Terms of Use and the BBC's Distribution Policy, certain BBC content will be unavailable through specific Google products.''
The Corporation has also posted a message on their FAQ.
Talking to Podnews, a BBC spokesperson said that Google is required to sign a licence to link to their podcasts; and that the Distribution Policy also requires Google to supply user data to the BBC. There has been a ''consultation with Google'', and the BBC ''has no choice but to stop Google from making podcasts available via Google products.''
However, Ofcom, the UK media regulator, requires that ''the BBC must offer the public services to third parties in response to reasonable requests for supply, except where the BBC has an objective justification for not doing so. In offering the public services for supply, and in supplying those services, the BBC must act on a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory basis.'' (¶3.3.2).
In recent months, the BBC have been removing some of its podcasts from third-party platforms, and placing them exclusively within their BBC Sounds app. BBC podcasts are supported by advertising outside the UK, though BBC Sounds remains unavailable to non-UK listeners.
The BBC is funded by a mandatory charge of US$200 per UK household in the form of a television licence fee, which earned the corporation $5bn last financial year (p69). Additional commercial income in the same year was $1.6bn from worldwide activities including programme sales.
News bulletins on Google Assistant remain unaffected.
Our takeWhat does this mean? This could mean the end of the open and distributed nature of podcasting, if the BBC gets their way.
There already is legal precedent that licences are not required for merely linking to content from a search engine or from other websites. A podcast is a link to audio content on the publisher's server, using an RSS feed expressly for this purpose. It's no different to a link to a story on BBC News's website; using the OpenGraph metadata for this purpose.
The requirement for a licence is impractical. There are 670,000 podcasts in the current podcasting ecosystem, and any podcast app developer would be reluctant to be forced to sign tens of thousands of different licences to run a podcast app. This requirement would essentially kill podcasting apps.
The BBC's requirement for user data, again, clashes with how podcasts work: every link from Google is a direct download from the BBC, so user data - in terms of location, device and total downloads - is already implicitly supplied.
The podcasts are being blocked by a specific instruction in the robots.txt file on the BBC's podcast RSS server, which disallows access to any Google product from seeing any BBC RSS file. Many podcast apps do not use robots.txt at all, however. If the BBC has concerns about how its content is made available in other podcast apps - and, in some cases, they should - they would find it difficult to block access. Arguably, therefore, the only reason the BBC can block Google is because Google voluntarily honours the robots.txt protocol.
This may be a further attempt by the corporation to force usage of BBC Sounds, the corporation's new audio app. Earlier this year, a number of podcasts were removed, and placed exclusively within BBC Sounds. However, the poorly-reviewed app is not available outside the UK.
The BBC's Charter requires the corporation to ''reflect the United Kingdom, its culture and values to the world'' (¶6.5). With chaos in the UK around Brexit, to deny listeners access to podcasts containing news from the UK seems, at a time of virtual national emergency, a major mis-step: and would appear to be wholly against the Charter's aims.
'--James is the Editor of Podnews, and was first involved in podcasting in January 2005.
Previously...<< If a podcast is too long, a fifth of listeners never return
CWB Chicago: Exclusive: Chicago Police Department's complete investigative file of Jussie Smollett case
Thu, 28 Mar 2019 12:01
CWBChicago is posting the complete Chicago Police Department investigative file on the Jussie Smollett "hate crime" investigation that we have received in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
We have not read or reviewed the files for completeness or accuracy.
FILE 2 HEREThese files were provided by the Chicago Police Department in response to a FOIA request that CWBChicago submitted upon learning that the Cook County State's Attorney's Office had reached a sealed agreement to resolve Smollett's criminal exposure in the case.
Our requests for video, including bodycam, surveillance, and interrogation, was denied.
Will you help us recover the costs of operating CWBChicago? You can make a contribution or purchase a subscription HERE. ----------
Tina Tchen - Wikipedia
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 16:24
Christina M. "Tina" Tchen (simplified Chinese: éè'美 ; traditional Chinese: é"é ç¾Ž , pinyin: Ch(C)n Yuǎnměi) (born January 25, 1956) is an American lawyer. From 2011 until 2017, she served as Assistant to President Barack Obama; Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama; and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.[2][3][4] From the date of Obama's inauguration until January 5, 2011, she was the Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, previously known as the Office of Public Liaison.[3][5]
Early life and education [ edit ] Tchen was born in the U.S. to Chinese immigrants who fled the People's Republic of China in 1949. Her father worked as a psychiatrist and her mother as a scientist.[6] She grew up in Beachwood, Ohio where she graduated from Beachwood High School. She has known Amy Rule, Rahm Emanuel's wife, since they were teenagers together in suburban Cleveland.[7]She graduated from Radcliffe College of Harvard University in 1978,[1] and received her law degree in 1984 from Northwestern University School of Law.
Career experience [ edit ] After graduation from Radcliffe, Tchen worked for several years for the Illinois Bureau of the Budget where she served as the Governor's budget analyst for the Department of Children and Family Services. She then went to law school, and after graduation went to work as an associate attorney for the Chicago office of the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.[6]
Tchen worked at Skadden for 25 years[8] where she specialized in litigation at all levels of the state and federal courts. She represented companies, officers and directors in shareholder class and derivative actions. She also handled a wide range of commercial, intellectual property, and employment-related litigation, and represented public agencies in state and federal class actions, including the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the Illinois Department of Public Aid and the Chicago Housing Authority. She was a partner at Skadden for 13 years before her appointment to the Obama administration.[6]
In March 2019, Tina Tchen was hired to investigate the Southern Poverty Law Center's "workplace culture" after allegations of sexual and racial harrassment led to the firing of the SPLC's co-founder and resignation of its president.[9]
Dismissal of charges against Jussie Smollett [ edit ] Tchen contacted Chicago State Attorney Kim Foxx about Actor Jussie Smollet a week before 16 felony charges against him were unexpectedly dropped. Smollet had claimed to have been the victim of an assault by two white males who allegedly beat him, doused him with bleach and placed a noose around his neck. He claimed they shouted racist and homophobic slurs and wore hats supporting President Donald J. Trump. After a thorough investigation by the Chicago Police Department, evidence showed that Smolett had hired two Nigerian brothers with whom he worked to stage the "assault" and paid them $3500.00 by check. The brothers testified before a Grand Jury which returned a 16 felony count indictment against Smollet charging him with, among other things, false reports to law enforcement.
Tchen's contact with Foxx and the subsequent decision to drop the charges against actor Jussie Smollett has led the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago to request a formal investigation into abuse of power in failing to pursue charges in the Smollett case.[10]
Community and professional service [ edit ] Tchen has served on several boards for organizations involved in public, legal and social policy: the Chicago Bar Association Foundation; the Field Foundation of Illinois (chair of the board); the Chicago Public Library (trustee); and the Chinese American Service League (board member).[11]
Tchen has served on the Judicial Nominations Commission for the Northern District of Illinois and has served in several leadership positions with the American Bar Association Litigation Section.
Awards [ edit ] Tchen is the recipient of a number of awards recognizing her contributions in the legal field: Leadership Award from the Women's Bar Association of Illinois (1999); "Women of Achievement" award from the Anti-Defamation League (1996); and Chicago Lawyer (Magazine) "Person of the Year" (1994). She was selected for inclusion in Chambers USA guide to America's Leading Lawyers for Business (2008) and The Best Lawyers in America (2009). She also was selected in 2007 as one of the top three women business lawyers in Illinois by the Leading Lawyers Network.[12] In 2011, she was honored with the Harvard College Women's Leadership Professional Achievement Award.[13]
Political donations [ edit ] Tchen made 13 donations totaling $7,850 to various Democratic political campaigns in 2008.[14] She was also an early supporter of Barack Obama's run for the U.S. presidency, and was an effective fundraiser for his campaign.[6]
References [ edit ] ^ a b Skiba, Katherine (2011-01-06). "Michelle Obama's new chief of staff 'energetic' and 'driven ' ". Chicago, IL: Chicago Tribune . Retrieved 2011-09-15 . ^ "Tina Tchen to become Michelle Obama's Chief of Staff". Washington, DC: Asian American Action Fund. 2011-01-05 . Retrieved 2011-01-05 . ^ a b "Tina Tchen to Join Office of the First Lady as Chief of Staff". Washington, DC: The White House Office of the First Lady. 2011-01-05 . Retrieved 2011-01-05 . ^ "Council on Women and Girls: Leadership". Washington, DC: The White House Council on Women and Girls. 2009-10-01. Archived from the original on 2011-10-01 . Retrieved 2011-09-15 . ^ "Engagement, Women, Health Care, and Yarn". Washington, DC: The White House Office of Public Engagement. 2009-05-18 . Retrieved 2011-09-15 . ^ a b c d Who Runs Gov. "Profiles: Christina M. Tchen" Archived 2009-08-20 at the Wayback Machine,, accessed August 2, 2009. ^ "Amy Rule: Chicago's reluctant first lady". Chicago Tribune. 2012-07-02. ^ "Christina M. Tchen". Washington Post. 2012-11-16 . Retrieved 2018-11-13 . ^ Burch, Audra D. S.; Blinder, Alan; Eligon, John (2019-03-25). "Roiled by Staff Uproar, Civil Rights Group Looks at Intolerance Within". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331 . Retrieved 2019-03-27 . ^ "State's Attorney Kim Foxx's texts and emails". Chicago Tribune. 2019-03-13 . Retrieved 2019-03-26 . ^ "CHRISTINA M. TCHEN". Washington, DC: The White House Office of Public Engagement. 2009-08-31. Archived from the original on 2011-09-04 . Retrieved 2011-09-15 . ^ "President-elect Obama announces more key White House staff" Archived 2008-12-06 at the Wayback Machine, ^ "Harvard College Women's Center - Women's Leadership Awards" Archived 2012-07-11 at, ^ Political Campaign Contributions [1], "Christina Tchen." Note: The dollar amount given on the main webpage is cumulative. To view the annual contributions, click on the individual links on the main page. External links [ edit ] Profile at White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs at WhiteHouse.govCouncil on Women and Girls at WhiteHouse.govAppearances on C-SPANJoining the Office of the First Lady, Tina Tchen,, January 5, 2011"Christina Tchen". Chicago Chinese News. 2011-01-05 . Retrieved 2011-01-05 . Tina Tchen Video produced by Makers: Women Who Make America Office Name Term Office Name Term White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel 2009''10 National Security Advisor James L. Jones 2009''10 Pete Rouse 2010''11 Thomas E. Donilon 2010''13 William M. Daley 2011''12 Susan Rice 2013''17 Jack Lew 2012''13 Deputy National Security Advisor Thomas E. Donilon 2009''10 Denis McDonough 2013''17 Denis McDonough 2010''13 White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Mona Sutphen 2009''11 Tony Blinken 2013''14 Nancy-Ann DeParle 2011''13 Avril Haines 2015''17 Rob Nabors 2013''15 Dep. National Security Advisor, Homeland Security John O. Brennan 2009''13 White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Jim Messina 2009''11 Lisa Monaco 2013''17 Alyssa Mastromonaco 2011''14 Dep. National Security Advisor, Iraq and Afghanistan Douglas Lute' 2009''13 Anita Decker Breckenridge 2014''17 Dep. National Security Advisor, Strategic Comm. Ben Rhodes 2009''17 White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Planning Mark B. Childress 2012''14 Dep. National Security Advisor, Chief of Staff Mark Lippert 2009 Kristie Canegallo 2014''17 Denis McDonough 2009''10 Counselor to the President Pete Rouse 2011''13 Brooke D. Anderson 2011''12 John Podesta 2014''15 White House Communications Director Ellen Moran 2009 Senior Advisor to the President David Axelrod 2009''11 Anita Dunn 2009 David Plouffe 2011''13 Daniel Pfeiffer 2009''13 Daniel Pfeiffer 2013''15 Jennifer Palmieri 2013''15 Shailagh Murray 2015''17 Jen Psaki 2015''17 Senior Advisor to the President Pete Rouse 2009''10 Deputy White House Communications Director Jen Psaki 2009''11 Brian Deese 2015''17 Jennifer Palmieri 2011''14 Senior Advisor to the President and Valerie Jarrett 2009''17 Amy Brundage 2014''16 Assistant to the President for Liz Allen 2016''17 Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs 2009''11 Director, Public Engagement Tina Tchen 2009''11 Jay Carney 2011''13 Jon Carson 2011''13 Josh Earnest 2013''17 Paulette L. Aniskoff 2013''17 Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton 2009''11 Director, Intergovernmental Affairs Cecilia Mu±oz 2009''12 Josh Earnest 2011''13 David Agnew 2012''14 Eric Schultz 2014''17 Jerry Abramson 2014''17 Director of Special Projects Stephanie Cutter 2010''11 Director, National Economic Council Lawrence Summers 2009''10 Director, Speechwriting Jon Favreau 2009''13 Gene Sperling 2011''14 Cody Keenan 2013''17 Jeffrey Zients 2014''17 Director, Digital Strategy Macon Phillips 2009''13 Chair, Council of Economic Advisers Christina Romer 2009''10 Chief Digital Officer Jason Goldman 2015''17 Austan Goolsbee 2010''13 Director, Legislative Affairs Phil Schiliro 2009''11 Jason Furman 2013''17 Rob Nabors 2011''13 Chair, Economic Recovery Advisory Board Paul Volcker 2009''11 Katie Beirne Fallon 2013''16 Chair, Council on Jobs and Competitiveness Jeff Immelt 2011''13 Miguel Rodriguez 2016 Director, Domestic Policy Council Melody Barnes 2009''12 Amy Rosenbaum 2016''17 Cecilia Mu±oz 2012''17 Director, Political Affairs Patrick Gaspard 2009''11 Director, Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Joshua DuBois 2009''13 David Simas 2014''17 Melissa Rogers 2013''17 Director, Presidential Personnel Nancy Hogan 2009''13 Director, Office of Health Reform Nancy-Ann DeParle 2009''11 Johnathan D. McBride 2013''14 Director, Office of National AIDS Policy Jeffrey Crowley 2009''11 Valerie E. Green 2014''15 Grant N. Colfax 2011''13 Rodin A. Mehrbani 2016''17 Douglas M. Brooks 2013''17 White House Staff Secretary Lisa Brown 2009''11 Director, Office of Urban Affairs Adolfo Carri"n Jr. 2009''10 Rajesh De 2011''12 Racquel S. Russell 2010''14 Douglas Kramer 2012''13 Roy Austin Jr. 2014''17 Joani Walsh 2014''17 Director, Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy Carol Browner 2009''11 Director, Management and Administration Bradley J. Kiley 2009''11 White House Counsel Greg Craig 2009''10 Katy A. Kale 2011''15 Bob Bauer 2010''11 Maju S. Varghese 2016''17 Kathryn Ruemmler 2011''14 Director, Scheduling and Advance Alyssa Mastromonaco 2009''11 Neil Eggleston 2014''17 Danielle Crutchfield 2011''14 White House Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu 2009''13 Chase Cushman 2014''17 Danielle C. Gray 2013''14 Director, White House Information Technology David Recordon 2015''17 Broderick D. Johnson 2014''17 Director, Office of Administration Cameron Moody 2009''11 Personal Aide to the President Reggie Love 2009''11 Beth Jones 2011''15 Brian Mosteller 2011''12 Cathy Solomon 2015''17 Marvin D. Nicholson 2012''17 Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren 2009''17 Director, Oval Office Operations Brian Mosteller 2012''17 Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra 2009''12 Personal Secretary to the President Katie Johnson 2009''11 Todd Park 2012''14 Anita Decker Breckenridge 2011''14 Megan Smith 2014''17 Ferial Govashiri 2014''17 Director, Office of Management and Budget Peter R. Orszag 2009''10 Chief of Staff to the First Lady Jackie Norris 2009 Jack Lew 2010''12 Susan Sher 2009''11 Jeffrey Zients 2012''13 Tina Tchen 2011''17 Sylvia Mathews Burwell 2013''14 White House Social Secretary Desir(C)e Rogers 2009''10 Brian Deese 2014 Julianna Smoot 2010''11 Shaun Donovan 2014''17 Jeremy Bernard 2011''15 Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra 2009''11 Deesha Dyer 2015''17 Steven VanRoekel 2011''14 Chief of Staff to the Vice President Ron Klain 2009''11 Tony Scott 2015''17 Bruce Reed 2011''13 United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk 2009''13 Steve Ricchetti 2013''17 Michael Froman 2013''17 White House Chief Usher Stephen W. Rochon' 2009''11 Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske 2009''14 Angella Reid 2011''17 Michael Botticelli 2014''17 Director, White House Military Office George Mulligan 2009''13 Chair, Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley 2009''14 Emmett Beliveau 2013''15 Michael Boots 2014''15 Dabney Kern 2016''17 Christy Goldfuss 2015''17 Position Appointee Chief of Staff to the Vice President Steve Ricchetti Counsel to the Vice President Cynthia Hogan Counselor to the Vice President Mike Donilon Assistant to the Vice President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Liaison Evan Ryan Assistant to the Vice President and Director of Communications Shailagh Murray Deputy Chief of Staff to the Vice President Shailagh Murray Deputy National Security Adviser to the Vice President Brian McKeon Residence Manager and Social Secretary for the Vice President and Second Lady Carlos Elizondo National Security Adviser to the Vice President Colin Kahl
SPLC & Tina Tchen -- Center Taps Lawyer Who Interfered in Jussie Smollett Case | National Review
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 16:24
Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama, listens at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., May 27, 2014. (Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS)The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has hired Tina Tchen, a former Obama staffer who recently tried to intervene in the Jussie Smollett hate-crime-hoax case on the actor's behalf, to conduct a review of workplace-harassment allegations in the wake of co-founder Morris Dees's firing.
Last Thursday, the SPLC announced Dees's dismissal for unspecified violations of company policy and said that Tchen, who served as chief of staff to Michelle Obama and now runs a firm focused on ''workplace cultural compliance,'' would conduct a ''comprehensive assessment of our internal climate and workplace practices.''
That announcement came one day after the Chicago Sun Times obtained communications between Tchen and Cook County state's attorney Kim Foxx in which Tchen asked Foxx to persuade Chicago Police Department superintendent Eddie Johnson to turn the investigation of Smollett's case over to the FBI.
Tchen reportedly made the request, which Johnson refused to comply with, at the behest of one of Smollett's relatives.
In an email sent just two days after Smollett falsely claimed he was jumped by a pair of Trump-supporting bigots, Foxx reached out to Tchen to let her know that she had contacted Johnson, as the Obama alumnus had previously requested.
''Spoke to Superintendent Johnson. I convinced him to reach out to FBI to ask that they take over the investigation,'' Foxx wrote.
''OMG this would be a huge victory,'' Tchen wrote in response to a text message from Foxx containing the same information as was included in the email.
''I make no guarantees,'' Foxx responded, ''but I'm trying.''
Fraternal Order of Police president Kevin Graham sent a letter to the Department of Justice on Friday calling for an investigation into Tchen's interference in the Smollett case and Foxx's complicity in same.
''Private attorneys are not allowed to interfere with ongoing police investigations, particularly at the request of private individuals associated with subjects being investigated by the police,'' Graham wrote in a letter sent Friday to John R. Lausch, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, obtained by CWBChicago.
Smollett pled not guilty last week to 16 counts of filing a false police report. He is out on $100,000 bail.
The exact cause of Dees's firing remains unclear but it is likely related to some form of harassment given the statement issued by the SPLC, which refers to a violation of the group's values. In the wake of Dees's firing, a former staffer seemed to confirm that the organization is in need of reform, describing the culture in a New Yorker expos(C) as rife with sexual harassment, as well as gender-based and racial discrimination.
The former staffer, Bob Moser, also accuses Dees and other senior staffers of abandoning the organization's roots in favor of running ''a highly profitable scam.'' The group, which got its start bankrupting Ku Klux Klan chapters, has in recent years taken to labeling ordinary conservative groups ''hate groups'' and tarring moderate reformers as bigots.
The SPLC did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
SPLC hires Tina Tchen to review workplace culture after Morris Dees firing
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 16:23
What we know about SPLC's firing of co-founder Morris Dees Nate Chute, USA Today Network
Days after it fired co-founder Morris Dees for undisclosed misconduct issues, the Southern Poverty Law Center hired a Chicago-based lawyer well-versed in gender and racial equity issues to review its workplace environment and policies.
Tina Tchen, a former White House official and Chicago-based lawyer, has been retained to review SPLC's workplace culture and practices. (Photo: White House)
Tina Tchen previously worked as chief of staff to then-first lady Michelle Obama and now leads a "workplace cultural compliance" practice at Buckley LLP, which examines "gender and racial equity, sexual harassment" and other diversity barriers in the workplace.
The review was announced on Thursday alongside the termination of Dees. SPLC President Richard Cohen said at the time Dees failed to adhere to the organization's "values," hinting at misconduct.
Morris Dees (Photo: Melanie Rodgers Cox)
''The events of the last week have been an eye-opening reminder that the walk towards justice must sometimes start at your own front door and force you to look at your past so you can improve your future," said Bryan Fair, chair of SPLC's board, in a release. "A key first step in that process for the SPLC is an immediate, top-to-bottom external review of our workplace culture and our past practices and policies. Tina Tchen's extraordinary experience and qualifications will be indispensable in helping us build a more effective and just organization.''
According to a biography on Buckley LLP's website, Tchen previously served as chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama and assistant to President Barack Obama. She was involved in multiple White House gender equity initiatives, as well as in the formation of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. She is also a co-founder of the TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund, according to an SPLC release.
Tchen on Monday would not specifically speak to the issues her SPLC review might focus on, though she said it would look "holistically" at its workplace culture to "build diverse workplaces" for all groups of people.
"This is an incredible institution in our country, and I'm honored to be working with them to build a workplace that will live up to the values of SPLC, of justice and equality," Tchen said.
Though it remains unclear what may have led to Dees' termination last week, the civil rights lawyer has weathered criticism for decades, with a 1994 Montgomery Advertiser series citing concerns about racial discrimination against back employees.
Staffers at the time ''accused Morris Dees, the center's driving force, of being a racist and black employees have 'felt threatened and banded together.''' Dees strenuously denied the accusation at the time.
A review of the center's 2019 board and senior staff reveals that senior leadership at SPLC remains largely white. This week, multiple employees sent a signed letter to SPLC leadership outlining concerns about workplace culture as well as sexism and racism, according to a Los Angeles Times report. Former employees tell the Advertiser the SPLC has been a "toxic" work environment for some time, with high employee turnover.
But it's unclear if these complaints are directly connected to Dees' termination, as the aging co-founder said he hadn't tried a case in nearly a decade and was not involved in the center's day-to-day operations. A former employee said he maintained a desk at the Montgomery office in recent years, but wasn't in the office every day.
Tchen said Monday her charge is to look at the entire organization, not just its Montgomery headquarters, and to craft recommendations
''Every workplace, including social justice organizations, must work hard to create a workplace culture that fully reflects their values and priorities, including when it comes to racial and gender diversity," Tchen said in a release. "I am honored to have been asked to lead a comprehensive process to address all aspects of the workplace culture at SPLC, and look forward to working with staff, management and the board to build a workplace at SPLC that will truly reflect respect and safety for all, and the principles that SPLC has long stood for: truth, justice, equity and inclusion.''
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Melissa Brown at 334-240-0132 or
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Jussie Smollett: Stop 'campaign' against Empire star, lawyer says - BBC News
Thu, 28 Mar 2019 12:38
Image copyright Getty Images Jussie Smollett's lawyer has accused authorities of "continuing their campaign" against the actor.
The Empire star had been accused of arranging a fake racist and homophobic attack on himself in Chicago in January.
On Tuesday all the charges against him were dropped - but the city's mayor called that move "a whitewash".
Jussie's lawyer says "the case is closed" and "no public official has the right to violate" her client's rights.
Patricia Brown Holmes says the 36-year-old star "is innocent until proven guilty in the court of law".
She said: "We respectfully request all government agencies involved live up to the ethical tenants of their office.
"The case was dismissed. We should all allow Mr Smollett to move on with his life as a free citizen."
Jussie Smollett claims two men beat him up and put a noose around his neck on 29 January.
In February he was charged with filing a false police report.
In yet another twist to the case, all the charges against him were dropped on 26 March.
But since then Chicago police and the city's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, have been publicly very critical of the actor.
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson: "Smollett dragged city's reputation through mud"Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Jussie had dragged Chicago's reputation "through the mud".
While Rahm Emanuel maintains that Jussie has lied about the alleged attack for "self promotion".
Illinois prosecutor Joe Magats said the charges were dropped because Jussie forfeited a $10,000 (£7,600) bond payment and carried out community service.
Mr Magats said Jussie "is not a victim of a hate crime".
Donald Trump tweeted about the case, calling it "outrageous" and an "embarrassment" to the US.
He says the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) will be investigating.
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Mueller Report
Dick Morris: Collusion - Hillary's Hoax
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 10:32
The myth of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin now stands exposed as the greatest political hoax in American history!
And it was Hillary Clinton's hoax.
It was Clinton who bought and paid for the phony dossier that led to the $40 million investigation that found NO COLLUSION.
Flashback to the summer of 2016. Clinton was having difficulty getting traction against Donald Trump. Despite the obvious lines of negative attack that Trump's record suggested, she was unable to bring him down.
Criticism of his scams at Trump University, his employment of illegal immigrants in his Florida resorts, his evasiveness about releasing his tax returns, his putdowns of Latino immigrants, his business bankruptcies, the horror stories of defrauded contractors, his brutal dismissal of John McCain's heroic war record, and, eventually, his disgusting boasting on the ''Access Hollywood'' tape all failed to destroy or even weaken him.
TRENDING: Dick Morris: Now that Mueller Won't Verify the Allegations, It's Time To Shoot the Alligators
Lesser mortals would have crumbled under such a barrage, but Trump seemed to be Teflon.
So Clinton and her longtime minions '-- including reputation assassin Sid Blumenthal and his wacky sidekick and career dirty trickster Cody Shearen '-- delivered elaborately specific allegations about a corrupt nexus between Trump Tower and the Kremlin.
It was called ''the dossier.''
The problem was that the dossier was nothing but a collection of lies and misrepresentations masquerading as intelligence.
To embellish the story, the campaign hired Fusion GPS, a negative research firm, to provide details of the imagined conspiracy. There, Nellie Ohr, wife of Bruce Ohr, the number four person at the Justice Department, worked with Fusion CEO Glenn Simpson and Shearer to embroider the allegations with publicly available circumstantial evidence.
When their exercise in creative writing was over, they hunted up a source to whom they could attribute the resulting dossier. They hit upon former UK MI-6 agent Christopher Steele. In return for a fee '-- paid by the Clinton campaign '-- Steele permitted his byline and credibility to be slapped on the dossier cover page. A well-respected spy in Moscow in the 1990s, Steele seemed the ideal front man.
Armed with this fanciful narrative, Clinton used the phony charges in the make-believe dossier as ammunition against her Republican opponent in their debates. Finally, she thought, she had a winning issue and she pounded it with greater force in each of the three successive debates.
Trump would be Putin's ''puppet,'' she charged. She accused Trump of ''encouraging espionage against our people.'' She said Putin ''very clearly'' favored Trump and said that it was an ''unprecedented situation'' when a ''foreign government'' is trying to ''interfere in our election.''
As Trump gathered momentum, Obama's national security team rallied to the cause of defeating him. Director of Central Intelligence James Clapper and the CIA Director John Brennan both worked overtime with Obama holdovers at the Justice Department and the FBI to leak phony disinformation that seemed to attest to the veracity of Clinton's charges.
RELATED: Dick Morris: Hey Mueller! Cohen Never Went to Prague
In a desperate bid to derail Trump's victory, they leaked the dossier right before the election (with the help of Sen. John McCain).
Determined to impugn or impeach Trump, the conspiracy spread and the director of counterintelligence at the FBI, Andrew McCabe, and his two co-workers Peter Strzok and Lisa Page actively worked to spread the disinformation to a complicit media. They even invented the story that the FBI had actually overheard conversations between Trump campaign officials and Kremlin intelligence.
From the beginning, the collusion narrative was Clinton's hoax. In my years with the Clintons, I learned that whenever there was a scandal that its tentacles always went back to Hillary. ''All scandals lead to Hillary'' was the motto I used at the time.
Now the worst scandal of her career stands exposed before us all. The most zealous anti-Trumpers in the offices of special counsel Robert Mueller have been unable to prove a fraction of the collusion charges. They were just made up from whole cloth.
Tally the damage: A new Administration was unable to get its footing because of the phony charges. The American people were distracted from real issues for almost three years and many came to believe that their president was a traitor in the grasp of Putin. Goaded beyond endurance by the credibility attached to the inane charges, the president left himself vulnerable to the charge that he obstructed justice.
All of Clinton's lies over the years have finally come to this: A massive hoax perpetrated, with malicious forethought, on the American people in the middle of a presidential election.
The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website.
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.
Ministry of Truthiness
Jonathan Swan on Twitter: "The Trump campaign is sending this memo to TV producers:'... "
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 19:32
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Massacre in Muslim Mosque in Christ Church
Christchurch attacks - press releases : Latest news : OFLC
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 10:02
Christchurch attack publication 'The Great Replacement' classified objectionable23 March 2019
A publication reportedly written by the terrorist behind the fatal attacks in Christchurch, has been officially classified as objectionable.
''Others have referred to this publication as a 'manifesto', but I consider it a crude booklet that promotes murder and terrorism. It is objectionable under New Zealand law,'' says Chief Censor David Shanks.
The document, examined under the Films, Videos & Publications Classification Act 1993 (FVPCA), is deemed objectionable for a number of reasons.
''It promotes, encourages and justifies acts of murder and terrorist violence against identified groups of people, '' says Mr Shanks.
''It identifies specific places for potential attack in New Zealand, and refers to the means by which other types of attack may be carried out. It contains justifications for acts of tremendous cruelty, such as the deliberate killing of children.''
''We have dealt with terrorist promotional material before which was deliberately designed to inspire, encourage and instruct other like-minded individuals to carry out further attacks. For example we have found a number of ISIS publications to be objectionable in previous decisions. This publication falls in the same category."
An objectionable classification for this publication is considered to be a justifiable limit on freedom of expression under the Bill of Rights Act in this case.
''There is an important distinction to be made between 'hate speech', which may be rejected by many right-thinking people but which is legal to express, and this type of publication, which is deliberately constructed to inspire further murder and terrorism,'' says Mr Shanks.
''It crosses the line.''
It is recognised that the publication has been widely reported on over the past week, with many media outlets publishing commentary on it, and sometimes providing links to it or downloadable copies. Many New Zealanders may have read it, possibly seeking answers for why this dreadful atrocity took place.
Most people reading the publication will not be harmed by it. ''Most New Zealanders who have read this will simply find it repellent. But most New Zealanders are not the target audience. It is aimed at a small group who may be receptive to its hateful, racist and violent ideology, and who may be inspired to follow the example set by its apparent author.''
It is an offence to possess or distribute an objectionable publication. People who have downloaded this document, or printed it, should destroy any copies.
Those engaged in further reporting on the Christchurch attack may be tempted to consider the use of quotes from the publication that have already been used in other media reports.
''That use of excerpts in media reports may not in itself amount to a breach of the FVPCA, but ethical considerations will certainly apply,'' said Shanks.
''Real care needs to be taken around reporting on this publication, given that widespread media reporting on this material was clearly what the author was banking on, in order to spread their message.''
''We also appreciate that there will be a range of people, including reporters, researchers and academics, who will be in possession of the publication for a range of legitimate purposes, including education, analysis and in-depth reporting. Those individuals can apply for exemptions, so they can legitimately access and hold a copy.''
Information on this process can be found here.
''New Zealanders can all play a part in denying those who exhort hatred, killing and terror. If you have a copy of this publication, delete or destroy it. If you see it, report it. Do not support the murderous objectives of its author by republishing or distributing it.''
If you see material of this nature online, report it immediately.
To report harmful content on Twitter, click here.
To report harmful content on Facebook, click here.
To report harmful content on Instagram, click here.
To report harmful content on YouTube, click here.
Any harmful content should also be reported to the Department of Internal Affairs, click here.
For further information:
Sia AstonActing Communications ManagerOffice of Film & Literature ClassificationPhone 021
A Star is Born : Featured classification decisions : OFLC
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 10:19
Unrestricted M: Suicide, sex scenes, offensive language and drug use
Spoiler alertThis page outlines how the classification criteria were applied. We do our best to discuss the content while avoiding spoilers, but please avoid reading this information if you do not want to learn anything about the content of this movie.
Why this movie received an updated descriptive noteA Star is Born was given an updated descriptive note in NZ within its first week of exhibition.
A Star is Born was not classified by the OFLC when it released in New Zealand. It had been rated an M in Australia so was automatically cross-rated M (Unrestricted, suitable for 16 years and over) in New Zealand by the Film & Video Labelling Body. At that stage, it carried a descriptive note 'Sex scenes, offensive language and drug use.' The Chief Censor required that the warning note be updated to include 'suicide' after receiving complaints from members of the public, including health care providers.
The first complaint involved Police Victim Support advising that they responded to two vulnerable young people who had been severely triggered by the scene. The Mental Health Foundation also informed us of a number of complaints.
The method of suicide used in A Star Is Born is the most common method of suicide in NZ.
Chief Censor David Shanks says that although A Star Is Born handles the topic relatively sensitively, the OFLC felt it was in the best interest of the NZ public to add a warning, particularly considering NZ's appalling suicide rate. ''Many people in New Zealand have been impacted by suicide. For those who have lost someone close to them, a warning gives them a chance to make an informed choice about watching,'' says David.
The Film & Video Labelling Body issued a new certificate to be displayed and alerted exhibitors to the note change so that they could update their information. Where possible, the distributor must update the label on all advertising.
''We avoid unnecessary 'spoilers', but properly informing the viewing public is our primary concern.''
What's behind New Zealand's shocking youth suicide rate? - BBC News
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 10:31
Image copyright Getty Images Think of New Zealand and what likely comes to mind is beautiful nature - fjords, mountains and magnificent landscapes, vast, empty and endless.
But for years already, the country has been struggling with another form of isolation - depression and suicide.
A new report by Unicef contains a shocking statistic - New Zealand has by far the highest youth suicide rate in the developed world.
A shock but no surprise - it's not the first time the country tops that table.
The Unicef report found New Zealand's youth suicide rate - teenagers between 15 and 19 - to be the highest of a long list of 41 OECD and EU countries.
The rate of 15.6 suicides per 100,000 people is twice as high as the US rate and almost five times that of Britain.
Why New Zealand?There's a combination of reasons, and it's important not to only focus on one statistic, warns Dr Prudence Stone of Unicef New Zealand.
The high suicide rate ties in with other data, showing for instance child poverty, high rates of teenage pregnancies or families where neither of the parents have work.
New Zealand also has "one of the world's worst records for bullying in school", says Shaun Robinson of the Mental Health Foundations New Zealand.
He explains there is a "toxic mix" of very high rates of family violence, child abuse and child poverty that need to be addressed to tackle the problem.
Image copyright AFP Image caption Many New Zealanders live in remote rural communities New Zealand's own statistics also reveal that suicide rates are highest for young Maori and Pacific Islander men.
"This shows us there are also issues around cultural identity and the impact of colonisation," he says.
According to the most recent data of 2014, the suicide rate among Maori men across all age groups is around 1.4 times that of the non-Maori.
"It is alarming to see - and perhaps it is an indicator of the level of institutional and cultural racism in our society," says Dr Stone.
"There is no research for us to say that conclusively but it certainly suggests as much."
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Could the country's tough rugby culture be adding to pressure on teenage boys? Beyond the bleak numbers there's another possibility that some cite as a possible cause for the troubling situation.
Health and support services across all Western countries have for years been fighting the stigma attached to depression perceived as weakness.
And this might in fact be more of a problem in New Zealand than in other countries.
"There is a tradition of the hardened-up mate culture within New Zealand," says Dr Stone. "It puts pressure on men to be of a particular mould, pressure on boys to harden up to become these tough beer-drinking hard men. "
She says there's been a slight change in recent years, with musicians and film makers emerging as role models for a different kind of New Zealand male - people that are "not your typical All Black big tough type" but show there can be a playful approach to masculinity.
Image copyright Youthline Image caption Phone helplines can often offer life-saving support "A lot of the Western world does really take an attitude: 'I'm just gonna grin and bear it,'" agrees Briana Hill, spokeswoman for Youthline, a phone helpline specifically aimed at young people.
"But I think there definitely is an added stoicism in the New Zealand psyche around 'I'm just gonna work through this myself' which you might not experience as much in other countries."
It's not that there's no support system to address the issue but the problem is that it's completely over-stretched.
Demand for services has shot up by 70% over the past decade, explains Mr Robinson, while the number of suicide-related callouts by police have gone up by 30% in the past four years alone.
It is a problem that Briana Hill of Youthline is only too familiar with. There are too many calls that they are simply not able to take, she says, because they don't have the capacity.
Image copyright Youthline Image caption Youthline's counsellors are a mix of professionals and volunteers The unanimous sense among the expert community is that there needs to be more funding to help the services that address the problem.
But equally important is a more general focus to create awareness of the problem and to prioritise it.
"The country is not doing a good job of supporting its young people to be able to manage the pressure, the stresses, the emotional and mental challenges that they are facing," says Shaun Robinson.
The persistence of the problem, though, over the years has already pushed it higher up the agenda of policy makers.
It has, for instance, become a topic in political debates ahead of the country's general election in September this year.
In April, the government published a draft for a national suicide prevention strategy which currently is up for public consultation.
While there is a lot of debate around the draft, even those who say it falls short agree that it's an important step towards shifting the country's sky-high suicide rates more into the public focus.
If you are feeling emotionally distressed and would like details of organisations in the UK which offer advice and support, go online to In New Zealand, you can find similar information at Youthline and Lifeline.
New Zealand suicide rate highest since records began |
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 10:30
The number of people who have taken their own lives in New Zealand is the highest since records began, with 668 dying by suicide in the past year.
It was the fourth year in a row that number has increased. It was also the highest number of suspected suicide deaths since the coroner's annual provisional suicide statistics were first recorded in 2007-08.
Figures released on Friday by Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall show the number of Māori deaths is also the highest since records began, with 142 deaths from July 2017 to June 2018.
New Zealand's suicide rate - the number of suicides per 100,000 population - is at the highest levelsince the statistics were first recorded in 2007 and has increased for the fourth year in a row.
Māori men continue to be disproportionately represented, 97 died by suicide in the past year, 12 per cent more than last year.
READ MORE: * National suicide numbers rise three years in a row* Let's talk about suicide: please don't go * 'The day my heart cracked in half' * Suicidal people 'fight harder than anyone' * 'We're disconnected and failing'
"It's time for us to empower Māori and give them the resources they need to continue to strengthen our whānau and communities," Mental Health Foundation Māori development manager Ellen Norman said.
"We can't ignore the social determinants of suicide, including poverty, violence and the legacy of colonisation. We won't see a shift in our suicide rates until we start to address these factors."
The suicide rate per 100,000 people was 13.67, up from 12.64 the previous year.
Female suicides increased by 44 compared to the year before - a 30 per cent increase to 193. While there were 475 males who died by suicide, 18 more than 2017.
The highest number of suicides was the 20-24-year-old group with 76 deaths. The next highest was the 45-49-year-old group with 67 deaths.
Judge Marshall said suicide continues to be a significant health and social problem in New Zealand.
"It's a tragedy to see the number of self-inflicted deaths increase again" said Marshall.
"We need to keep talking about how to recognise the signs that someone may want to take their own life. If someone expresses thoughts and feelings about suicide, take them seriously."
Part of the role of the Coroner is to make comments or recommendations to help prevent similar deaths in the future.
"Recommendations made in the last year include facilitating better information sharing between health care professionals, ensuring that adequate and up-to-date training in suicide risk assessment is undertaken by counsellors and psychotherapists and making policy changes to how mental health referrals are handled by District Health Boards.
"However, the same comment is often repeated by Coroners. If you think someone is at risk, support them to reach the appropriate services as soon as possible."
Of the DHBs, Auckland had the highest increase of suicide deaths - 73 which was a 70 per cent increase on last years figures.
Mental Health chief Shaun Robinson said the statistics show New Zealand's provisional suicide rate is now the highest it has been this century.
Chief Coroner, Judge Deborah Marshall, said suicide continues to be a significant health and social problem in New Zealand.
"There are so many people around New Zealand working to prevent suicide. They're doing great work and they're saving lives every day," Robinson said.
"Lifekeepers is a great example of effective, community-driven solutions to suicide, and there are many more. We must make the effort to learn from the successes of these initiatives and expand their reach to communities across Aotearoa."
In the 1990s New Zealanders made a unified effort to reduce suicide and it worked, he said.
"This major work has lost momentum and we're going backwards. This must be urgently addressed.
"Thousands of people have come through times of feeling suicidal and survived. We need to listen to what worked for them and why," Mr Robinson says.
"As a nation we can turn this tragic situation around, if we listen to what is working, resource it and join the dots into a concerted plan of action.
Shaun Robinson, head of Mental Health Foundation, said the last Government dropped the ball and allowed our suicide prevention strategy to lapse without replacement.
"The last Government dropped the ball and allowed our suicide prevention strategy to lapse without replacement.
"This government has instructed the Mental Health Inquiry to come up with a plan. Leadership from government, resources and an action plan are needed urgently. There is no time to waste."
1737, Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
Lifeline '' 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
Youthline '' 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email or online chat
Samaritans '' 0800 726 666
Suicide Crisis Helpline '' 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
What's Up '' 0800 942 8787 (for 5''18 year olds). Phone counselling is available Monday to Friday, midday''11pm and weekends, 3pm''11pm. Online chat is available 7pm''10pm daily.
Kidsline '' 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline) for young people up to 18 years of age. Open 24/7. '' or email or free text 5626
Anxiety New Zealand - 0800 ANXIETY (0800 269 4389)
Supporting Families in Mental Illness - 0800 732 825
History of censorship in New Zealand : About NZ Classification : OFLC
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 10:12
The history of censorship in New Zealand starts early in the 20th Century and involves several different government agencies and a variety of mediums.
On 1 October 2014, New Zealand's current censorship legislation, the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993, had been in force for 20 years. This Act is administerd by the Ministry of Justice.
Click on one of the following links to learn more about some milestones in New Zealand censorship history. For each item, we include references to the source of the information so that you can read more about the topic if you want to.
1892: The Offensive Publications Act 1892 was New Zealand's first censorship legislation 1896: The first film exhibition in New Zealand 1910: The Indecent Publications Act was passed 1916: From March 1916 the Government had the power to ban films about the war in Europe 1916: The first Censor of Cinematograph Films was appointed under the Cinematograph Film Censorship Act 1916 1920s: A system of graded age recommendations was introduced 1920s: The introduction of sound in movies 1935: Committee of Inquiry into the Motion Picture Industry 1938: Comics banned under the new import licensing regulations 1939: Advent of WWII leads to further censorship 1951: Censorship during the Waterfront Strike 1957: New regulations create innovative new classification categories 1961: The new classification categories are included within the Cinematograph Films Act 1961 1963: The Indecent Publications Tribunal became the judge of indecency in books, magazines and sound recordings 1976: The Cinematograph Films Act 1976 introduces the idea of 'injury to the public good' 1987: Video Recordings Act established the Video Recordings Authority (VRA) 1989: The Report of the Ministerial Committee of Inquiry into Pornography is published 1993: Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) established under the new Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 1999: Bill Hastings became second Chief Censor of Film and Literature, replacing Kathryn Paterson 1999: A Court of Appeal ruling, Moonen v Film and Literature Board of Review, clarified the way in which the Classification Office must apply the Bill of Rights Act 1990 in classification decisions 2000: A Court of Appeal ruling, Living Word Distributors v Human Rights Action Group, led to the Classification Act being amended 2003: Manhunt was the first video game banned in New Zealand 2004: The Classification Office held public consultations in Aramoana before classifying the film Out of the Blue 2004: The Classification Office reconsidered the classification of the film Irreversible, and its new classification was confirmed by the Film and Literature Board of Review 2004: The Court of Appeal rules on the classification of the film Baise-Moi 2005: The Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Amendment Act 2005 was passed 2006: Changes to the Crimes Act made it an offence to film someone without their knowledge 2007: Hostel 2 was refused classification for cinema release after the director refused to cut a scene 2010: Chief Censor Bill Hastings resigned his position to become a District Court Judge and head of the new Immigration and Protection Tribunal 2011: Dr Andrew Jack became Chief Censor of Film and Literature on 7 March 2011 2014: The Warehouse stops stocking publications with an R18 classification 2015: Law change means higher penalties for offences relating to objectionable publications 2015: Into The River classified unrestricted, decision upheld on review 2017: David Shanks became Chief Censor of Film and Literature on 8 May 2017 List of Chief Censors since 1916 1892: The Offensive Publications Act 1892 was New Zealand's first censorship legislation Customs was regulating the importation of indecent material into New Zealand as early as 1858, but the first censorship legislation was not enacted until 1892.
The Offensive Publications Act 1892 banned any picture or printed or written matter which was of an indecent, immoral, or obscene nature, which included advertisements relating to such matters as venereal disease. The Act laid down the criteria that magistrates should take into account when determining the indecency of material.
This Act was replaced by the Police Offences Act in 1908. After two years this system of censoring publications was again revised.
Paul Christoffel, Censored: a short history of censorship in New Zealand, Research Unit, Department of Internal Affairs 1989
1896: The first film exhibition in New Zealand ...the first movie screening was at the Auckland Opera House on 13 October 1896 when a short programme of 'moving pictures' was projected on an Edison Kinematograph imported from the United States.
Chris Watson and Roy Shuker, In the Public Good?: Censorship in New Zealand, The Dunmore Press 1998, p28 1910: The Indecent Publications Act was passed The Indecent Publications Act passed in 1910 was not amended until 1954. It incorporated provisions from previous acts, and strengthened the law allowing the searching of premises and the seizure of 'indecent' and 'obscene' material. All offences involving indecent material were made liable to summary conviction, eliminating the need for expensive jury trials.
The Act did not attempt to define 'indecent', but did lay down criteria which 'magistrates (sic) should take into account when determining the indecency of material.'
The traditional medical concerns remained prominent. The Act deemed indecent '...any document or matter which relates or refers ... to any disease affecting the generative organs of either sex, or to the complaint or infirmity arising from or relating to sexual intercourse, or to the prevention or removal of irregularities in menstruation, or to drugs, medicines or appliances, treatment, or methods for procuring abortion or miscarriage or preventing conception.
It was a defence, however, that the work was of 'literary, scientific, or artistic merit or importance', and that the act of the accused was not of 'an immoral or mischievous tendency'. The Act thus spelt out for the first time the distinction between work which was of 'literary, scientific, or artistic, merit' and that which was not. The purpose, according to the Attorney General, John Findlay, was to protect the 'liberty which improves and ennobles a nation' while removing the 'license which degrades.'
Paul Christoffel, Censored: a short history of censorship in New Zealand, Research Unit, Department of Internal Affairs 1989, p9 1916: From March 1916 the Government had the power to ban films about the war in Europe Regulations were introduced during WWI, 'aimed at films which might discourage army recruitment by showing the conditions under which the war was being fought. The screening of such a film in Timaru, which included shots of the dead and wounded, appears to have provoked the move.'
Paul Christoffel, Censored: a short history of censorship in New Zealand, Research Unit, Department of Internal Affairs 1989, p12
1916: The first Censor of Cinematograph Films was appointed under the Cinematograph Film Censorship Act 1916 The Cinematograph Film Censorship Act 1916, passed in August, made it illegal to show any film which had not first been approved by a government-appointed censor. Virtually the only directive given the censor was that no film should be approved which 'in the opinion of the censor, depicts any matter that is against public order and decency, or the exhibition of which for any other reason is, in the opinion of the censor, undesirable in the public interest'.
The words 'in the opinion of the censor' imparted sweeping discretionary powers. Film distributors were, however, given the right to appeal the censor's decision to a three-person board appointed by the Minister of Internal Affairs. Until 1934, no one could appeal the censor's approval of a film, however.
The words 'undesirable in the public interest' were also rather sweeping, going beyond the concern with 'indecency' in the other censorship legislation. When questioned in the house about this clause, the Minister of Internal Affairs indicated it was specifically included so films could be censored for political reasons, in particular their effect on army recruitment.
The 1916 Act also made provision for films to be restricted to specified classes of persons. This provision was rarely used before the 1950's, when age restrictions, such as R16, became common.
Paul Christoffel, Censored: a short history of censorship in New Zealand, Research Unit, Department of Internal Affairs 1989, p12 1920s: A system of graded age recommendations was introduced The 1916 Act also made provision for films to be restricted to specified classes of persons. This provision was rarely used before the 1950s, when age restrictions, such as R16, became common. In 1920 however, a system of recommendary classifications was introduced.
A 'U' certificate denoted that a film was suitable for everyone, while an 'A' classification indicated that a film was considered by the censor to be suitable for adults only. It was left to parents to police the censor's recommendations.
Paul Christoffel, Censored: a short history of censorship in New Zealand, Research Unit, Department of Internal Affairs 1989, p12 In 1920 the Legislative Council, Parliament's upper house, debated the need to 'strengthen and make more drastic the censorship of cine-films ... with the object of eliminating the noxious elements which are tending to destroy the moral sense of so many young persons.'
The capture of the film market by Americans, observed the editor of the Manawatu Daily Times, meant that New Zealand youth were seeing life 'through the artificial, spurious and meretricious glare of Broadway, New York' (Editorial, 18 October 1920).
Chris Watson and Roy Shuker, In the Public Good?: Censorship in New Zealand, The Dunmore Press 1998, p32 1920s: The introduction of sound in movies Films became more sophisticated with the arrival of sound, and were thus aimed at a more mature audience. In 1930, a record 102 films (3.9 percent of the 2,626 submitted) were banned, indicating that the censor was taking a cautious approach to the sound revolution. The introduction of the voluntary Hays Code in the American industry in 1932 seems to have made films from that country more acceptable to the censor, and bannings were rare by the end of the decade.
Paul Christoffel, Censored: a short history of censorship in New Zealand, Research Unit, Department of Internal Affairs 1989, p15 1935: Committee of Inquiry into the Motion Picture Industry In New Zealand in 1935 a Committee of Inquiry into the Motion Picture Industry, after considering various submissions and evidence on 'the effect of films on juveniles', came down in favour of the status quo. Its report concluded that 'the censorship of films is at present carried out in a very satisfactory manner', and that it was up to 'parental control' to observe the certificates issued by the censor.
Chris Watson and Roy Shuker, In the Public Good?: Censorship in New Zealand, The Dunmore Press 1998, p37 1938: Comics banned under the new import licensing regulations Comic books were initially reprints of newspaper comic strips. During the 1930s, these became orientated more towards action, violence, romance and adventure with the likes of Buck Rogers becoming popular. Action and violence became more predominant from 1937, when comic books started to feature original material, thus removing the restrictions imposed by the family orientation of most newspapers. Superheroes such as Batman and Superman appeared on the scene...
In 1938 a deputation met with the Ministers of Customs and Education to discuss their concern about comic books. Later that year several comics were banned under the new import licensing regulations, which restricted publications placing 'undue emphasis' on sex, obscenity, horror, crime and cruelty.
Paul Christoffel, Censored: a short history of censorship in New Zealand, Research Unit, Department of Internal Affairs 1989, pp20-21 1939: Advent of WWII leads to further censorship In 1939, the Labour Government introduced stringent censorship of newspapers, the post, telegraph, radio, and books. The Director of Publicity, J.T. Paul, was placed in charge of press censorship. In April 1940 he announced that he would suppress all outgoing news 'likely to convey a prejudicial view to overseas countries concerning the National War effort in New Zealand.'
Newspapers were forbidden to publish stories on certain topics without his approval, and he could prosecute the publishers of any item he judged prejudicial to the public interest.
Internal mail was selectively censored, and there was blanket censorship of all other postal communications. Up to 250 staff were employed to censor letters, including 22 full-time and seven part-time translators. Radio scripts were previewed by the censor, but there was no need to censor radio news, which at the time consisted entirely of summarised newspaper stories. A special Customs Department committee was set up to examine books; it banned many political works.
Paul Christoffel, Censored: a short history of censorship in New Zealand, Research Unit, Department of Internal Affairs 1989, p18 Chief Censor's excision notice23/7/40 - I hereby give you notice that dialogue is to be removed in the film Path(C) News No. 93D
'Thirty thousand British are left dead or captured by the Germans.' also 'suffer a terrific setback, realising that they are underequipped on land & in the air.' Please send second and subsequent copies, or notify in writing within ten days that no second copy will be imported.
1951: Censorship during the Waterfront Strike The Waterfront Strike of 1951 saw some of the harshest censorship in New Zealand history. The National Government under Prime Minister Sidney Holland declared a state of emergency, and amendments to legislation made possession of 'seditious' literature (literature which criticised the government) an imprisonable offence. Union meetings were also banned and it was an offence to give aid (including food) to striking wharfies or their families.
Leaflet banned during the Strike 1957: New regulations create innovative new classification categories The new film censorship regulations which were gazetted last June and which came fully into operation in December are of interest to the public generally, but they should be of very particular interest to teachers, parents, and all others who have any influence over film-going by children. Indeed, it is not too much to say that unless this interest is actively shown, New Zealand's present system of film censorship could conceivably collapse. For the basis of the system is that primary responsibility for deciding what films should be seen by children is assumed, not by the Government, but by parents and teachers.
Gordon Mirams, Chief Censor of Films, Department of Internal Affairs, Reprinted from Education, Vol. 6, No. 1 February 1957 1961: The new classification categories are included within the Cinematograph Films Act 1961 Probably the most important event in the field of cinematograph films administration was the enactment of the Cinematograph Films act 1961. This Act ... consolidated and amended the legislation relating to cinematograph films and brought into statute law important matters of principle formerly included in regulations. The latter relate mainly to film censorship, theatre licensing, film safety provisions, and the licensing of projectionists.
The Act liberalises very substantially the provisions of the law relating to the exhibition of films. Projection licences, previously required to be held by persons showing films, have been abolished and exhibitors' licences will in future be required only by commercial exhibitors...
The functions of the Licensing Authority have been extended. Among other things it is empowered to...conduct all necessary inquiries and investigations with respect to exhibitor's licences and permits and renters' licences...
One important consequence of the new Act is that as from 1 October 1964 the importation, manufacture, renting, transportation, and exhibition of highly inflammable film will be prohibited, thus eliminating the likelihood of film fires which, for so many years, has been the major hazard associated with the motion picture industry.
Department of Internal Affairs, Annual Report for the year ended 31st March 1962, p32 1963: The Indecent Publications Tribunal became the judge of indecency in books, magazines and sound recordings Moves towards law reform had already begun in 1959, the Government realising something had to be done about a system which had become rather unwieldy. The Secretary for Justice called together representatives from the book trade (libraries, writers, publishers etc) to form a law review committee. The committee met four times, the last in April 1962. The result was a major reform to New Zealand censorship law, the Indecent Publications Act 1963.
It was originally intended that the law review committee would help draft amendments to existing legislation. Indeed, in 1961 the law was amended to allow the censoring of sound recordings. But eventually it was decided that a new Act was required.
The result was a highly innovative piece of legislation which made a dramatic break with the tradition of following overseas trends... The main innovation was the establishment of the Indecent Publications Tribunal. The tribunal became the arbiter of indecency in books, magazines and sound recordings.
Paul Christoffel, Censored: a short history of censorship in New Zealand, Research Unit, Department of Internal Affairs 1989, p24 1976: The Cinematograph Films Act 1976 introduces the idea of 'injury to the public good' When introducing the 1976 Bill to Parliament, Internal Affairs Minister Alan Highet made it clear that his intention was to liberalise film censorship. He hoped, he said, that New Zealand would 'move towards the maturity of attitude whereby the abolition of censorship for adults can eventually become a reality'.
The fundamentals of the Act as they relate to censorship still stand. Out went the references to 'public order and decency' dating from the 1916 Act. The censor was required to determine only whether a film 'is or is not likely to be injurious to the public good'. In determining injuriousness to the public good, the censor was required to take into account a number of specific criteria. These included:
the likely effect of the film on its audience; its artistic or other merits; the way in which the film depicts anti-social behaviour, cruelty, violence, crime, horror, sex etc; the 'extent and degree to which the film denigrates any particular class of the general public by reference to the colour, race, or ethnic or national origins, the sex, or the religious beliefs of the members of that class'; other relevant circumstances, such as likely time and place of exhibition'. Paul Christoffel, Censored: a short history of censorship in New Zealand, Research Unit, Department of Internal Affairs 1989, p33 1987: Video Recordings Act established the Video Recordings Authority (VRA) The use of video recordings increased in the 1980s, and debate arose as to whether these should be subject to some form of classification.
In response to public concerns, the Video Recordings Act was passed in 1987. The Act established the Video Recordings Authority (VRA), the decision-making equivalent of the film censor, which it charged with classifying videos of a restricted nature. The Video Recordings Authority was administered by the Department of Internal Affairs.
The Act required all videos for sale or hire to carry rating or classification labels. Rating decisions, which were recommendations as to the likely suitable audience for the video, were made by a labelling body, on the basis of classifications by the New Zealand film censor, overseas film censors, or on occasions by viewing it themselves. Any video that was a candidate for restriction, cutting or being banned, was required to be referred to the VRA.
Apart from an amendment in 1990, the Video Recordings Act 1987 and the Video Recordings Authority remained in force until the current Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 and the Office of Film and Literature Classification replaced them.
1989: The Report of the Ministerial Committee of Inquiry into Pornography is published In late 1987 the Minister of Justice appointed a Committee of Inquiry into Pornography in response to public concern about the classification system. One of the concerns was that the split in jurisdiction between the film censor on the one hand (who continued to classify films intended for public exhibition), and the VRA on the other (which classified videos intended for private use) resulted in inconsistent decisions.
The Committee released its report, based on extensive consultation and investigation, in February 1989. Two of its central recommendations were for the censorship of films, videos, and publications to be dealt with by one comprehensive Act of Parliament and that decisions be made by one administering government department. The Report of the Ministerial Committee of Inquiry made 202 recommendations for change.
1993: Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) established under the new Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 Based largely on the recommendations of the Ministerial Inquiry into Pornography, New Zealand's current censorship legislation (known as the Classification Act) was passed in 1993.
The Classification Act replaced the Films Act 1983, the Video Recordings Act 1989, and the Indecent Publications Act 1963. The powers of the Chief Censor of Films' office, the Video Recordings Authority and the Indecent Publications Tribunal were given to the new Office of Film and Literature Classification headed by the Chief Censor of Film and Literature Previous classification decisions of the old censorship bodies remained in force, however, the Classification Office has the power to reclassify older films, videos, and publications The first Chief Censor of Film and Literature was Kathryn Paterson. The Deputy Chief Censor was Lois Hutchinson. Kathryn Paterson was from Australia and had worked at the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, the Censorship Board and the Classification Office. When she was appointed Chief Censor, the opposition women's affairs spokesperson Elizabeth Tennet MP raised fears that Kathryn Paterson would import Australian 'macho cultural imperialism' into New Zealand. Lois Hutchinson had been head of the Video Recordings Authority.
In its initial years a number of pornographic films classified by previous agencies were resubmitted to the new Classification Office to be examined according to the criteria in the Classification Act. A number of these films were banned as a result.
The new office officially opened and began classifying publications in October 1994.
Kathryn Paterson and Lois Hutchinson were Chief Censor and Deputy Chief Censor until 1998.
1999: Bill Hastings became second Chief Censor of Film and Literature, replacing Kathryn Paterson Bill Hastings was appointed Deputy Chief Censor in 1998 on the recommendation of the Jenny Shipley-led National coalition government.
He was appointed Chief Censor on the recommendation of the Helen Clark-led Labour coalition government. His initial three-year appointment was renewed in 2002, 2003 and 2006.
Bill Hastings 1999: A Court of Appeal ruling, Moonen v Film and Literature Board of Review, clarified the way in which the Classification Office must apply the Bill of Rights Act 1990 in classification decisions As a result of the Moonen case, the Court of Appeal determined that the Classification Office must always fully consider the freedom of expression set out in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 whenever it restricts, cuts, or bans a publication.
The following is taken from the introduction to the Court of Appeal decision:
This appeal concerns the relationship between freedom of expression and censorship of objectionable publications. The appellant (Mr Moonen) appealed to the High Court from the decision of the Film and Literature Review Board ('the Board') determining that a book called The Seventh Acolyte Reader ('the Book') and various photographs were objectionable in terms of s3 of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 ('the Act'). Appeals from the Board to the High Court (under s58) and from the High Court to this Court (under s70) are restricted to questions of law. Gendall J held that the Board had made no error of law in coming to its decision, and dismissed the appeal. Mr Moonen appeals to this Court contending that Gendall J's decision is erroneous in law.
The paragraphs below are taken from the consideration sheets used by classification officers when they apply the law to a publication they are classifying. They show the impact of the Court of Appeal decision on the day-to-day work of the Office:
In Moonen v Film and Literature Board of Review (Moonen I), the Court of Appeal stated that the words 'promotes or supports' must be given 'such available meaning as impinges as little as possible on the freedom of expression' in order to be consistent with the Bill of Rights. The Court then set out how a publication may come within a definition of 'promotes or supports' in s3(2) that impinges as little as possible on the freedom of expression:
Description and depiction... of a prohibited activity do not of themselves necessarily amount to promotion of or support for that activity. There must be something about the way the prohibited activity is described, depicted or otherwise dealt with, which can fairly be said to have the effect of promoting or supporting that activity.
Mere depiction or description of any of the s3(2) matters will generally not be enough to deem a publication to be objectionable under s3(2). When used in conjunction with an activity, the Classification Office defines 'promote' to mean the advancement or encouragement of that activity. The Classification Office interprets the word 'support' to mean the upholding and strengthening of something so that it is more likely to endure. A publication must therefore advance, encourage, uphold or strengthen, rather than merely depict, describe or deal with, one of the matters listed in s3(2) for it to be deemed to be objectionable under that provision.
The full decision of the Court of Appeal can be accessed on the Court of Appeal website.
The case involved two videos imported from the United States by Living Word Distributors Limited. The videos were titled Gay Rights / Special Rights: Inside the Homosexual Agenda and AIDS: What You Haven't Been Told. The videos opposed awarding equal rights to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals, and blamed homosexuality for the spread of HIV and AIDS.
The Office of Film and Literature Classification classified the videos as R18. That classification was challenged by the Wellington-based Human Rights Action Group, which wanted the videos banned.
The Film and Literature Board of Review classified the videos as objectionable, reasoning that they dealt with 'matters such as sex' (in the form of sexual orientation and sexual behaviour) and represented particular classes of persons as inferior to others by reason of a prohibited ground for discrimination.
Living Word Distributors Limited appealed to the High Court, which upheld the legal process followed by the Board. The distributor then appealed the High Court decision to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal determined that the Classification Office only has jurisdiction over publications that fit through one of the five subject matter gateways of sex, horror, crime, cruelty, and violence, which were defined as activities rather than mere expressions of opinion or attitude. For example, matters such as sex have to show sexual activity rather than just a sexualised pose.
The Classification Office cannot use any of the criteria listed in section 3(3) of the Act to expand the scope of the gateways.
The Court of Appeal considered that the subject matter provision was intended to limit the reach of censorship laws to activities involving sex, horror, crime, cruelty or violence. It called this the 'subject matter gateway'. The decision threw doubt on the ability of censorship authorities to classify some types of material that did not depict activity but were likely to be injurious to the public good. Examples included:
Sexualised images of naked children where no sexual activity was depicted Covert pictures of naked adults Material that represents a particular class of persons as inferior to others by reason of a prohibited ground for discrimination but did not depict activities involving sex, horror, crime, cruelty or violence (so-called 'hate speech') Offensive language Dangerous imitable conduct Self-harming behaviour As a result of this decision, in 2005 Parliament amended the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act to permit the Classification Office to restrict some publications which do not fit into the gateway defined by the Court of Appeal. It also redefined matters of sex in section 3(1) to include visual images of children and young persons who were fully or partially nude. Other implications of the decision were changes to the Crimes Act to cover secret filming of people (e.g. in swimming pool changing rooms).
The full decision of the Court of Appeal can be accessed on the Court of Appeal website.
2003: Manhunt was the first video game banned in New Zealand In its summary of reasons for the decision, the Classification Office concluded that:
Learning how to acquiesce in, tolerate, or take enjoyment from inflicting violence, cruelty and suffering over the length of time it takes to play this game requires an antisocial attitudinal shift, (and reinforces such attitudes amongst those who already have them) that is likely to be injurious to the public good. Another likelihood of injury to the public good lies in the game's potential to adversely affect young people and adults alike, who may find the constant focus on inflicting injury or death in a brutal and callous manner disturbing and distressing. The third likelihood of injury arises from the fact that the game immerses the player in violent gameplay intended to be a source of excitement and pleasure. To a greater or lesser degree, this has the potential to inure players to brutal violence generally.
2004: The Classification Office held public consultations in Aramoana before classifying the film Out of the Blue Out of the Blue, directed by Robert Sarkies, is a film about the massacre of 13 people by gun collector David Gray, in the small Otago township of Aramoana in 1990. Before the film's release in New Zealand, members of the Aramoana community contacted the Office of Film and Literature Classification and expressed their reservations about the film.
After the film had been submitted to the Office, the director of the film, Robert Sarkies, said that he was worried that his film would be given a higher censor's rating because it was a New Zealand movie.
The Classification Office held two consultations on Out Of The Blue with people involved in the tragedy at Aramoana. Nine people, either related to the victims or who had themselves been injured, attended the first meeting. The second consultation was attended by twenty-one members of the Aramoana community. Participants said that they appreciated the opportunity to express their opinions and responses to the film. The results of the consultation were presented in a report.
Out of the Blue: Report on Consultations with Families of Victims & Members of the Aramoana Community (PDF, 630KB)
There were several media articles published about the Classification Office's consultations with the Aramoana community:
The families of the victims obviously are part of the public of New Zealand. But equally we have to balance that against the right of the film-maker to make the film... and the fact that other people want to see something about what was a public event.
Bill Hastings, former Chief Censor, New Zealand Herald 23/9/2006 The Chief Censor's decision to consult locals on the classification of Out of the Blue is PC gone mad. I think it's ridiculous to canvass them about the film, simply because they have already seen it.
Robert Sarkies, Director of Out Of The Blue, New Zealand Herald 23/9/2006 Out Of The Blue was classified as restricted to persons aged 15 years and over with the descriptive note 'contains violence and content that may disturb'.
The depiction of real life events in the film required special consideration by the Classification Office. In the classification decision it noted that:
Many adult New Zealanders are likely to remember the actual event, which is likely to affect the impact the film has on them. Those who were closely involved in the tragedy at Aramoana are likely to find the film upsetting and potentially traumatic.
The film's director Robert Sarkies agreed with the R15 classification. He said that 'an R15 restriction allows the film in the future to be seen in senior high school classes. Fifteen year olds are old enough to comprehend the film'. The classification decision noted that:
The film is likely to present violence to teenagers in a new light. Rather than the sanitised and glorified violence often depicted in popular mainstream productions, Out Of The Blue presents violence in a realistic manner. The random, unspectacular nature of violence is captured, as are the devastating repercussions it has for good, honest, real people.
2004: The Classification Office reconsidered the classification of the film Irreversible, and its new classification was confirmed by the Film and Literature Board of Review The film Irreversible was controversial due to its depiction of extreme violence and sexual violence, including an extended rape scene. Irreversible was originally classified in 2003 as:
Objectionable except if the availability of the publication is restricted for the purpose of study in a tertiary institution, or for the purpose of exhibition as part of the 2003 Beck's Incredible Film Festival or a film festival organised by an incorporated film society, and in all cases to persons who have attained the age of 18 years.
In 2004 the distributor applied to have the decision reconsidered by the Classification Office. The distributor was seeking a lighter classification that would allow for a general release of the film in cinemas, asking that New Zealanders be 'given a chance to see an acknowledged cinematic masterpiece'. The reconsideration was granted, and the films classification was amended to allow for theatrical screenings. The descriptive note remained unchanged: 'Brutal sexual violence, graphic violence and sex scenes'.
In the summary of reasons for the classification decision, it was stated that:
The Classification Office is mindful of the need to preserve the widest possible availability of the film. The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 requires that the classification of a publication should represent the minimum interference with the freedom of expression consistent with preventing likely injury to the public good. Taking the above factors into account, the Office has agreed to the further step of allowing Irreversible to be released for theatrical screening.
The widening of Irreversible's availability does not, however, apply to DVD and video versions of the film offered for supply to the public. Restriction to theatres where access is controlled prevents the possibility inherent in video and DVD formats of access by persons under the age of 18 years and of inadvertent exposure to the material in the private viewing situation. Restricting the exhibition of the film to public forums also prevents editing and reproduction.
Some organisations believed the new classification was too liberal - and both Viewers for Television Excellence (Vote) and The Society for the Promotion of Community Standards (SPCS) applied to the Film and Literature Board of Review to have the film's classification changed. Among other concerns about the new classification of the film, the SPCS submitted that the Classification Office was 'passing the buck' with regard to enforcement of the classification, and stated that:
This restriction is totally inadequate. The issue remains. Is there any tendency whatsoever to promote or support sexual violence etc (see s3(2) of the [Classification] Act). We believe there is and the defence strategy of offering 'differing interpretations' is wrong in law.
The submission from VOTE stated that the Board's decision will have 'implications regarding its potential television release which evokes concern' and that Irreversible should be classified as objectionable (banned) so that it cannot be shown on television. (While broadcasts are not classified, it is illegal to screen a film which has been classified as objectionable, or objectionable unless specific 'cuts' are made).
The Board of Review assigned the same classification to the film, but added these words to the descriptive note: 'Strobe lighting and sound effects may affect some people'. The Board stated that any cuts made to the film would 'destroy the high impact' of significant scenes in the film, and that an age restriction of 18 years was 'justified due to society's wish to protect children and young persons from likely injury', while still 'providing the minimum interference with the rights under the Bill of Rights Act'.
The Board also reaffirmed that the classification prohibited the release of the film, regardless of format, for domestic retail or rental. With regards to VOTE's concerns about the film being broadcast on television, the Board noted that 'television programmes are dealt with under the Broadcasting Act 1989' and were therefore beyond their jurisdiction.
Useful links Section 3 Meaning of objectionable 2004: The Court of Appeal rules on the classification of the film Baise-Moi The decision by the Classification Office limited the availability of the French film Baise-Moi:
for the purpose of study in a tertiary media or film studies course or as part of a film festival organised by an incorporated film society, and in both cases to persons who have attained the age of 18 years
The film carried the descriptive note 'sexual violence, graphic violence and explicit sex scenes'. Below is an excerpt from the Classification Office's decision:
The Classification Office consulted widely over the classification of this film, including a consultation with members of the public. Submissions were received by various interested parties, and the classification of this publication in other jurisdictions has been considered. In classifying this publication, the option of excising part or parts of it were considered but found to be impractical. A restriction to adults only is not sufficient to minimise the likely injury that has been identified therefore the publication is also restricted to either a specified purpose or to a class of person.
This decision was appealed to the Film and Literature Board of Review by the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards, which submitted that the film should be banned outright. The Board classified the film as R18 with the descriptive note 'contains frequent disturbing depictions of violence and repeated explicit sexual content'. Below is an excerpt from the Board's decision:
In respect of s3(4) of the Act, the dominant effect is that just desserts are meted out in the end to the two main characters. The Board acknowledges a degree of merit in Baise-Moi as a post-modern movie with some value from a feminist perspective. Baise-Moi is a provocative film on the human condition and it is noted that it is listed in the top ten films for the year 2000 in Time Magazine.
The Society for the Promotion of Community Standards appealed the Board of Review's decision to the High Court on a point of law. This appeal was upheld and Baise-Moi was sent back to the Board for a new classification. Justice Hammond's decision stated that:
...The Board did err in law in this instance in failing to have regard to the impact of the various mediums of formats in which this film might be presented... to my mind, the broader view taken by the OFLC is correct in law.
In the Board's new decision, the theatrical film version of Baise Moi was again classified as R18, while the DVD/video version of the film was:
objectionable unless restricted to theatrical exhibition or are exhibited as part of a tertiary media or film studies course, and in all cases to persons who have attained the age of 18 years.
The Board also assigned a new descriptive note: 'contains frequent disturbing depictions of violence and repeated explicit sexual content and sexual violence'.
The Society for the Promotion of Community Standards appealed this new classification decision to the High Court, and this time the appeal was dismissed. The Society then took the case to the Court of Appeal, which 'allowed the appeal in part', as it found that the Board:
...wrongly purported to make separate classifications for the publication in film form and the publication in video/DVD form, the Board could have achieved the same practical result lawfully. It could have made one classification for the film, imposing restrictions that meant that it could not be viewed in any medium except by persons over the age of 18 years, and could be viewed only through theatrical exhibition or as part of a tertiary media studies or film studies course. In those circumstances, we consider that the appropriate course for us to take is to quash the Board's decision and substitute a new decision having the same practical effect, but which complies with the requirements of the Act.
The Court then issued the following classification in place of the Board's most recent decision:
The film Baise-Moi is objectionable except if:
the availability of the film is restricted to persons who have attained the age of 18 years; and the film is used for the purpose of: theatrical exhibition; or exhibition to participants in a tertiary media studies course or a tertiary film studies course. Useful links Section 3 Meaning of objectionable 2005: The Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Amendment Act 2005 was passed Amendments to the Classification Act focus on the criteria used to classify publications. The amendments:
Expanded the definition of 'objectionable' to ensure nude pictures of children and young persons are included Allowed a publication to be age-restricted for highly offensive language and dangerous imitable conduct; Increased penalties for possession and distribution of objectionable publications. Many of these amendments resulted from the Living Word case in 2000.
2006: Changes to the Crimes Act made it an offence to film someone without their knowledge This amendment is a result of the Living Word decision in 2000.
2007: Hostel 2 was refused classification for cinema release after the director refused to cut a scene The decision was upheld by the Film and Literature Board of review, and the film was later released on DVD with the scene cut from it.
2010: Chief Censor Bill Hastings resigned his position to become a District Court Judge and head of the new Immigration and Protection Tribunal Bill Hastings was Chief Censor for 12 years and replaced Kathryn Paterson.
Bill Hastings' time as Chief Censor saw some key decisions and reforms to censorship law. The 2005 amendments to the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 were influenced by the 1999 Court of Appeal Moonen decision and the 2000 Court of Appeal decision on the Living Word videos. In 2003 the Classification Office banned its first video game, Manhunt, and in 2004 classified the controversial film Passion of the Christ as R16. (Passion of the Christ was subsequently classified as R15 by the Film and Literature Board of Review.)
During the period Bill Hastings was Chief Censor, there was an emphasis on public information and transparency in decision making processes. Examples of this are the research projects undertaken by the Office and consultation with members of the public on films like Out of the Blue, and The Passion of the Christ. Bill Hastings called in a number of unrestricted films for classification after parents had expressed concern about their ratings, for example Scooby-Doo, Happy Feet, and Land of the Lost. He also undertook a large number of public speaking and education commitments, including extensive touring of the Censor for a Day Programme for senior secondary school students.
Bill Hastings' personal life was criticised by some conservative lobby groups who felt that as an openly gay man he would be too permissive in his role as Chief Censor. Of the classification decisions changed by the Board between 2000 and 2010, however, only one, Me, Myself and Irene, had its restriction raised. All other decisions were upheld, and in a few cases the restriction was lowered by the Board.
On 21 June 2010, it was announced that Bill Hastings was to be appointed a District Court Judge and Chair of the Immigration and Protection Tribunal. His Honour Judge Hastings was sworn in at Wellington on the 9th of July 2010.
2011: Dr Andrew Jack became Chief Censor of Film and Literature on 7 March 2011 Dr Jack's previous job was as the Group Manager, Legal and Advisory Services at the New Zealand Customs Service. He also worked for the New Zealand Police as Chief Legal Advisor.
2014: The Warehouse stops stocking publications with an R18 classification After concerns around the content within Grand Theft Auto V, the Warehouse Group pull all stock with an R18 classification from their shelves.
2015: Law change means higher penalties for offences relating to objectionable publications Amendments to the Classification Act create stricter penalties for offending relating to child sexual abuse material. This includes higher maximum penalties for possessing, making, distributing, importing or exporting this material. There is now a presumption of imprisonment for repeat offenders.
2015: Into The River classified unrestricted, decision upheld on review Upon reconsideration, the Classification Office decided that restricting Into The River was not justified and would remove a quality resource from young people that allowed them to explore issues such as racism, peer pressure and bullying. The Classification Office found that the R14 age restriction had led to many cases of access and exposure to the book being restricted from people of all ages, including the target audience of teenage boys and young men. The Classification Office stated that any potential harm that could arise from the unrestricted availability of Into the River could be mitigated by librarians, parents and teachers.
The Board of Review accepted an application by Family First to review the classification of Into the River following the decision by the Classification Office to remove the R14 restriction from the book. The Board of Review examined the book again using the classification criteria in the Classification Act. This time the majority decision was to classify the book as Unrestricted. This means that the book can now be supplied to anyone of any age (once the decision was registered the Interim Restriction Order was no longer in force).
The Board considers the book is likely to educate and inform young adults about the potentially negative consequences that can follow from involvement in casual sex, underage drinking, drug taking, crime, violence and bullying. The Board considers that the book serves a useful social purpose in raising these issues for thought and debate and creating a context which may help young adults think more deeply about the immediate and long term consequences of choices they may be called upon to make.
2017: David Shanks became Chief Censor of Film and Literature on 8 May 2017 David is a senior public servant who has held roles as chief legal officer and a number of acting deputy chief executive positions. Most recently, David was Director - Health and Safety and Security at the NZ Ministry of Education.
Chief Censor David Shanks List of Chief Censors since 1916 NameAppointedTerm endedYears in roleWilliam Jolliffe 1916 1927 11 Walter Alfred Tanner 1927 1937 10 William Arthur Von Keisenberg 1938 1949 11 Gordon Holden Mirams 1949 1959 10 Douglas Charles McIntosh 1960 1976 16 Bernard Tunnicliffe 1977 1982 5 Arthur Everard 1983 1990 7 Jane Wrightson 1990 1994 4 Kathryn Paterson 1994 1998 4 William K Hastings 1998 2010 12 Dr Andrew Jack 2011 2017 6 David Shanks 2017 - - Chief Censors William Jolliffe, William Von Keisenberg, Gordon Mirams, Douglas McIntosh, Bernard Tunnicliffe, Arthur Everard, Jane Wrightson, Kathryn Paterson, Bill Hastings, Dr Andrew Jack, David Shanks.
Carlsen and Giri campaign for racial equality | ChessBase
Thu, 28 Mar 2019 11:44
3/21/2019 '' "Breaking a rule in chess to change behavior in life." World Champion Magnus Carlsen and GM Anish Giri team up in a social campaign dubbed "Move for Equality" in honour of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The pair shot a brief video in Oslo on Tuesday for the promotion.
Master Class Vol.8: Magnus Carlsen
Scarcely any world champion has managed to captivate chess lovers to the extent Carlsen has. The enormously talented Norwegian hasn't been systematically trained within the structures of a major chess-playing nation such as Russia, the Ukraine or China.
"Talent is universal, but not"Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri are not necessarily the pair you would imagine joining forces for any campaign. They've been known to feud on Twitter, and are more often poking fun at each other away from the board than finding common ground on an important social cause. But this week they came together in Oslo to kick off a promotional campaign with the hashtag #MoveForEquality and ending racial discrimination as its raison d'ªtre.
Carlsen teased the campaign yesterday in a 16-second video, square, like a chessboard:
And today the campaign released the full version on Carlsen's Facebook page:
Official site:
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which was initiated in 1966, "is an opportunity for people around the world to renew their commitment to making our world a place of justice and dignity, where all races are treated equally."
As a historical aside, it wasn't a "rule" as such for White to move first until the late-19th century. Prior to that it was common to refer to the "first player" and "second player" but which colour pieces the first player actually used were a matter of choice, and became a convention first in publishing games, and eventually in playing games as well. For instance, according to contemporaneous sources the 'immortal game' of Adolf Anderssen actually had Anderssen, the 'first player' blacking with Black.
In a clever, toungue-in-cheek response, Carlsen and Giri's chief seconds, Peter Heine Nielsen and Erwin l'Ami respectively, shared their own views on equality:
You mean 1.e5 e4 2.Nf6 Nc3 3.Bb4 Nf3?
'-- Erwin l'Ami (@erwinlami) March 21, 2019The campaign was created with support of UNESCO's International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities (ICCAR).
"We cannot change the rules of chess permanently, but we flipped the board for one game touse chess to bring a new perspective to the discussion about equality," says Carlsen. About the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Integrity Initiative leaks: £10mn in UK govt funding for 'network of NGOs' to combat Russia '-- RT UK News
Thu, 28 Mar 2019 12:03
A seventh batch of Integrity Initiative leaks has been dumped by hackers, revealing British government plans to build an umbrella network of organizations across Europe focused exclusively on countering 'Russian disinformation.'
Hackers, claiming to be linked to the Anonymous collective, have been dumping batches of Integrity Initiative (II) documents online since November 2018, gradually uncovering a major UK government-funded project which secretly conducted Europe-wide anti-Russia influence campaigns while posing as a simple disinformation-fighting charity. Earlier leaks led the II to make their public Twitter account temporarily private and to completely wipe their website pending an "investigation" into the situation.
NGOs under umbrella of government grants
The latest batch reveals a UK-funded program called the EXPOSE Network, which aimed to "upskill" existing ''counter-disinformation'' organizations by offering grants and training, while their activities would then be coordinated with the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to "ensure effectiveness."
Organizations named in the proposal for the project included the UK-based Bellingcat, the Prague-based European Values think tank, and the Digital Forensic Research Lab (a project of the arms-manufacturer-funded Atlantic Council). The hackers claim it was these groups and a couple of others which were among the "most eager" to receive nearly £10 million ($13.2 million) in potential government funding, which would be dished out over three years between the summer of 2018 and March 2021.
Andy Pryce, the FCO's head of counter-disinformation and media development, met with two consortia, one of which is known as the ZINC network (and includes Bellingcat and DFRL), in August 2018 concerning their involvement in the EXPOSE Network. The documents, however, are just proposals, and Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins has maintained previously on Twitter that his organization has not received FCO funding.
Bellingcat hasn't received funding or information from the FCO, nor the Integrity Initiative. The document you're citing in the tweet was a proposal, one they didn't follow through on with Bellingcat.
'-- Eliot Higgins (@EliotHiggins) January 23, 2019Contractors taking part in the FCO project should be able to "handle sensitive information,'' have an "awareness of acting on behalf of HMG" (Her Majesty's Government), and must sign a "strict" non-disclosure agreement. Contractors should also be able to ensure that the network's outputs are ''used by a wide range of media outlets'' and ''gain prominence on social media.''
A 118-page report titled "Upskilling to Upscale" examines a number of organizations across multiple regions including the Balkans, the Baltics, central Europe, eastern Europe and the Caucasus.
Bogeyman Russia builds 'artificial reality'
As with most Integrity Initiative leaks so far, the main target of these British government-funded truth-seeking efforts appears to be Russia, with the very first line of the report denouncing "Kremlin-backed disinformation" and focusing exclusively thereafter on Russian "disinformation." The report also accuses Moscow of trying to "contaminate" the "information ecosystem" of the Western world.
In Georgia and the Balkans, the report claims, Russian propaganda is "smuggled into the national consciousness" in the form of ''anti-EU and anti-Western narratives" '-- a claim that, essentially, anyone who is critical of the EU or the West is a Russian propagandist.
"Integrity Initiative" - a 7th release of documents exposing the workings of this shadowy outfit that wages informational war on dissent and dissenters.
'-- Tim Hayward (@Tim_Hayward_) March 26, 2019Another newly leaked document reads almost like a sci-fi script and explains how "Russian active measures" can be understood and countered. Russia does not just pose a potential military threat to Britain, it says, but a broader information threat designed to "alter population perception" to create an "artificial reality" to benefit Russia.
The FCO proposed a budget of £20,000 ($26,375) to cover two specialists at a rate of £250 ($330) per day to identify Russian "active measures" and determine whether there is a "single playbook" from which they are orchestrated. The FCO expected a report detailing the results of the investigation, which would help them "neutralize" these so-called active measures.
This particular project was to be "undertaken outside direct government control to minimize the inevitable accusation of being part of an orchestrated state-sponsored active measure."
Also on 'Influencing human behavior': UK MoD-funded psychological research project leaked UK spies scope out info-warriors
As part of the latest dump, the leakers also posted what they said was one of many "strictly confidential reports" prepared for the FCO by British spies "who travel around the world" to "measure the capabilities of potential agents.'' The partly redacted document appears to provide detailed information on a certain "media monitoring outfit," the name and location of which are redacted. A "key figure" at the organization is named as David Schraven, a German journalist. The report about the monitoring group is broken down into information about its "general reputation," its "corporate verification," its "political exposure [to Russia]," its "issues with the authorities,'' its "donors" and "potential conflicts of interest."
According to his Twitter bio, Schraven works for, which is listed in another leaked document as one of the German organizations countering disinformation in Europe '' so it is possible that the entire redacted document is about Correctiv.
Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan previously denied that government funding had gone specifically toward funding the II's social media activities (including its attacks on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn) '' but the leaks have confirmed that the entire organization is a UK government-funded project '' and growth of its social media profiles was singled out in previous documents as being crucial to its success. In a statement on the new leaks, the hackers said Duncan had ''shamelessly lied'' to MPs about the initiative.
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Avenatti, facing multiple federal charges, suggests Los Angeles fraud case has connection to Trump
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 13:06
Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti suggested in a fiery statement to Fox News late Monday that the Los Angeles lawyers suing him for allegedly stealing from a former client's settlement fund -- a matter that prompted California prosecutors to slap Avenatti with federal criminal fraud charges on Monday -- have political motivations and are "close" to the Trump administration.
Although Avenatti's dramatic New York arrest for an alleged $25 million extortion scheme targeting sports apparel giant Nike dominated headlines on Monday, the separate federal wire and bank fraud charges that Avenatti simultaneously faces in Los Angeles may pose his greatest legal threat. Avenatti faces up to 47 years in jail on the New York charges, and 50 years in the California case, which resulted from a much longer-running investigation involving a lengthier paper trail.
Fox News has exclusively obtained text messages and email conversations between Avenatti, 48, and the former client, Gregory Barela, which documented Barela's persistent efforts for several months in 2018 to locate and obtain funds he was owed pursuant to a settlement agreement that resulted from his intellectual property dispute with an out-of-state company.
Financial documents also reviewed by Fox News show that the money had been wired to an account designated by Avenatti on Jan. 5, 2018, but that Avenatti continued to dodge increasingly frantic questions from the client as to where the funds were.
"We did nothing wrong and were entitled to every dollar received," Avenatti told Fox News, without providing documentation. "And of course, [Barela] is represented by a person close to Trump." (Avenatti's comments came just a day after Attorney General William Barr announced that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had cleared Trump and his campaign of illegally colluding with Russians -- a matter that, among others, Avenatti had said would bring down Trump's presidency.)
Stephen G. Larson, a former George W. Bush-appointed U.S. District Court judge who founded Larson O'Brien LLP and now represents Barela in his civil complaint against Avenatti, told Fox News he was grateful that prosecutors filed criminal charges. Barela's complaint is currently in arbitration, but may soon be moved to state court if Avenatti does not pay the required arbitration fees.
''We and our clients applaud the US Attorney and IRS Criminal Investigation for addressing this matter and we intend to carefully follow its progress through the criminal justice system," Larson told Fox News.
Responding to Avenatti's attacks on his law firm, another partner at Larson O'Brien LLP, Steven Bledsoe, said simply: "Falsification of legal documents and theft of client funds is not a political matter."
(C) Provided by Fox News Network LLC Federal prosecutors in California charged that Barela's settlement "called for $1.6 million in settlement money to be paid on January 10, 2018," but that instead, Avenatti gave Barela a "bogus settlement agreement" with a false payment date of March 10, 2018. According to prosecutors' affidavit, Avenatti misappropriated his client's settlement money, in violation not only of federal law but also state ethics requirements, and used it to pay expenses for his coffee business and other ventures.
"When the fake March 2018 deadline passed and the client asked where the money was," prosecutors said, "Avenatti continued to conceal that the payment had already been received."
In March 2018, according to the statement of claims filed in arbitration by Barela's attorneys, Barela visited the Eagan Avenatti law firm in Newport Beach, Calif., to ask about the money -- only to see two attorneys who work with Avenatti, John Arden and Ahmed Ibrahim, allegedly try to keep quiet about it.
"Mr. Barela saw Mr. Arden's reflection in the glass wall of the conference room and observed Mr. Arden gesturing towards Mr. Ibrahim to stop discussing Mr. Barlea's settlement payment," the document asserts, after which "both Mr. Ibrahim and Mr. Arden ... actively deceived Mr. Barela by not disclosing that the settlement payment had been received."
In an email dated April 5, 2018, and reviewed by Fox News, Barela wrote to Avenatti that he would "like to discuss my options for collections" on the settlement funds. Ten days later, Barela again sought Avenatti's advice on the "status" of the transfer, and "next actions" to take if the funds were not collected.
On May 7, 2018, Barela wrote that if the company "does not pay soon," he might "need a little help" financially from Avenatti. On May 15, Barela again asked if the company had "respond[ed] or paid." Barela also noted in one conversation that he was planning to host a watch party at his home for an upcoming Avenatti appearance on "60 Minutes."
After several advances of funds from Avenatti, on Oct. 10, 2018, Barela wrote, "I was hoping to have an update" on the settlement funds and "get our money." He tells Avenatti, "I need 8K by Tuesday or I'm in deep sh**," and on Oct. 22, he emailed a dire assessment.
"Michael, I was waiting for your call and I know you get busy," Barela wrote on Oct. 22. "I send updates like this so you don't have to dig up old emails. I know your [sic] under pressure so let's discuss what you can or can't do? ... Just so you know I am in real financial trouble and am working on trying to get another loan. I am trying to use the [settlement] agreement to secure it. I need to know that we really have the ability to collect and timing to the best of you [sic] opinion."
The email concluded by asking whether the company had "responded" and "if not what is our next action."
Avenatti did not disclose that he had received the wire transfer in his conversations with Barela, according to Barela's attorneys and a review of emails between Avenatti and Barela, stretching throughout most of 2018.
Avenatti, who briefly considered a bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination and posted a $300,000 bond in New York on Monday, told Fox News earlier this year that Barela's story was "ridiculously false" and "fraudulent," adding that "we previously represented Mr. Barela in multiple matters and he has received 100 percent of what he is entitled to."
Avenatti also insisted that Barela lacks credibility, in part because of legal troubles. Court records obtained by Fox News show that Barela is on probation related to his work on a construction project without having proper licensing, and was ordered to pay nearly $50,000 in restitution.
But Bledsoe, on Monday, asserted that the paper trail was simply damning, saying simply, "This day has been a long time coming. ... I wouldn't have believed this case if I had not seen the documents myself.''
"Mr. Avenatti is a big talker, but I don't think there is anyway to get around the written record that we believe shows that he falsified the terms of the settlement agreement, denied receiving the settlement payment, and then spent his client's settlement money," Bledsoe told Fox News, adding that the Los Angeles case involves an accusation of the "falsification of a settlement agreement and theft of client funds that is supported by straightforward documentation, including bank records, text messages, and emails."
Calling Avenatti's attacks on his client "disgraceful" attempts to misdirect, Bledsoe added: ''Falsifying settlement documents and taking a client's money is about as low as a lawyer can get. It appears that is what Mr. Avenatti has done."
Separately in Los Angeles, U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said Avenatti was also charged following a two-year IRS tax investigation after he allegedly obtained $4.1 million in loans for his law firm and coffee business from a Mississippi bank by using phony tax returns stating that he had made $4,562,881 in 2011, $5,423,099 in 2012, and $4,082,803 in 2013.
Avenatti also stated that he had paid more than $1 million in estimated taxes to the IRS in 2012 and 2013 when, according to prosecutors, he actually owed the IRS $850,438 plus interest and penalties for the years 2009 and 2010. In addition, authorities say, Avenatti paid no personal income taxes for 2011, 2012 and 2013 and paid no estimated taxes in 2012 and 2013.
"[Avenatti] is a corrupt lawyer who instead fights for his own selfish interest," Hanna said, adding that the allegations against the attorney "paint an ugly picture of lawlessness and greed."
Avenatti became famous as the lawyer for Daniels, the adult-film actress who alleged she had an affair with President Trump in 2006 while his wife Melania was pregnant with the couple's son, Barron. In the last year, Daniels and Avenatti became household names in their fight against Trump, dominating cable news shows for months and taunting the president in interviews.
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VIDEO - Paul Joseph Watson on Twitter: "You have to give them credit. They're wannabe dictators. They don't hide it. They brag about it." / Twitter
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VIDEO - Kliff Kingsbury: Cardinals allowing cellphone breaks' during meetings |
Thu, 28 Mar 2019 12:29
Kliff Kingsbury allowing phone breaks at Cardinals team meetings so players can "get that social media fix."
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury says he will allow cellphone breaks during team meetings to help players stay focused and to also get their "social media fix."
"You start to see kind of hands twitching and legs shaking, and you know they need to get that social media fix, so we'll let them hop over there and then get back in the meeting and refocus," Kingsbury said, via
Kingsbury said he used the tactic during his time at Texas Tech, where he spent six seasons before being fired and getting the Arizona job.
"I think coming from the college ranks to obviously, those young men, it's got to be quick hitters, 20 minutes at a time, give them a break and get them back in," KIngsbury said. "We want to make sure that when we have them, they're focused, and they're locked in, and we're maximizing their time.
So if we've got to split it up or have shorter meetings, that's what we do."
The Cardinals, who have missed the playoffs in each of the past three seasons, have the No. 1 overall pick in next month's draft.
VIDEO - BREAKING ðŸ--´ President Trump SLAMS Russia at Meeting with Guiados Wife at the White House - YouTube
Thu, 28 Mar 2019 12:18
VIDEO - Alyssa Milano on Twitter: "This video. This is so important. Regardless of your politics, please watch this @AOC video." / Twitter
Thu, 28 Mar 2019 11:24
Replying to
@OpenMin14217448 @Alyssa_Milano @AOC The governor of Michigan is Rick Snyder, a republican, who passed an emergency mgmt law placing municipal jurisdiction under his appointed viceroys, who then made the decision to switch to a water source that even GM wouldn't use bc is rusted their car parts. Do your HW
VIDEO - Joe Biden blames sexual assaults on 'white man's culture'
Thu, 28 Mar 2019 11:24
By Chris Perez
March 26, 2019 | 10:34pm
Former Vice President Joe Biden Getty Images for It's On Us
Women have been suffering in ''a white man's culture'' '-- which has continually turned a blind eye to sexual assault and misconduct, according to former Vice President Joe Biden, who propped up Anita Hill as an example.
''To this day I regret I couldn't come up with a way to give her the kind of hearing she deserved,'' Biden said Tuesday while speaking at an event to combat sexual violence on college campuses.
''But I also realized there was a real and perceived problem the [Senate Judiciary] committee faced: They're a bunch of white guys.''
The 76-year-old Democrat continued, ''No, I mean it sincerely '-- a bunch of white guys'...hearing this testimony. So'...when Anita Hill came to testify, she faced a committee that didn't fully understand what the hell it was all about.''
Biden, who was Judiciary chairman for the 1991 Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, got criticized heavily for his handling of the Hill situation. Thomas was accused of harassing Hill, who is black, while he was her supervisor.
''Last fall, you saw it all over again in the Kavanaugh hearing,'' Biden blasted. ''Almost 30 years'...the culture '-- the institutional culture '-- has not changed. We have an obligation to change the culture in this country.''
Later on during his speech, Biden brought up a widespread misconception about the ''rule of thumb'' being an old reference to British common law and it's tolerance of domestic abuse.
''This is English jurisprudential culture '-- a white man's culture,'' Biden said, describing how people think the ''rule of thumb'' was a law that allowed husbands to beat their wives with sticks no thicker than their thumbs.
''It's got to change,'' he repeated.
Describing sexual assault, Biden claimed it was ''about the abuse of power.''
''It's not about sex,'' he said. ''It's about power. The most insidious abuse of power of all. And right now we live in a culture where the abuse of power is allowed to penetrate the highest offices of government, where it lives in board rooms and global corporations, and it poisons entire industries '-- from Hollywood to hotel workers. It pushes down women all around the world.''
Biden spoke for more than a half hour during Tuesday's event, which was held at the Russian Tea Room in Manhattan. He repeatedly condemned violence against women throughout his speech.
''No man has a right to lay a hand on a woman, no matter what she's wearing, she does, who she is'...Never,'' Biden said. ''If you see a brother taking an inebriated co-ed up the stairs at a fraternity house and you don't go and stop it, you're a damn coward. You don't deserve to be called a man.''
VIDEO - Billboard Removes Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" From Hot Country Songs Chart
Thu, 28 Mar 2019 11:23
*sad cowboy emoji*Lil Nas X's viral country-trap hit ''Old Town Road'' has been removed from Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart.
According to a Rolling Stone report, Billboard reportedly removed the song and informed Lil Nas X's label, Columbia Records, that his inclusion was a mistake. A note on the Billboard chart site shows Lil Nas X appears to have had the ''highest ranking debut'' on the chart. ''Old Town Road'' debuted at no. 19.
Billboard did not publicly announce the change, but in a statement released to Rolling Stone, the publication said that ''upon further review, it was determined that 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X does not currently merit inclusion on Billboard's country charts. When determining genres, a few factors are examined, but first and foremost is musical composition. While 'Old Town Road' incorporates references to country and cowboy imagery, it does not embrace enough elements of today's country music to chart in its current version.''
A Billboard representative provided another statement to Rolling Stone indicating that race did not play a part in Lil Nas X's track being removed from the country chart. Though, in the past, Billboard has had a history of defining genres by race.
An insider with knowledge of the matter reportedly spoke to Rolling Stone and posed the question, ''When do we get to the point where [black artists] can be accepted and played on other formats?''
READ: From DeFord Bailey to Ray Charles to Solange: The Long Lineage of Black Artists Making Country Music Pop
Lil Nas X hasn't released an official statement in response to the news, but appears to have expressed disappointment in Billboard's decision on social media. The Atlanta artist retweeted the info and posted a sad face emoji on Twitter and an excerpt from the Rolling Stone report to his Instagram account that stated, ''Lil Nas X's 'Old Town Road' blew up so fast radio professionals had to rip it from YouTube to play it on the air, and the music industry is still scrambling to decide what, exactly, to call it.''
READ: Two Black Country Singers, Jimmie Allen and Kane Brown, Make History Debuting at No. 1
''Old Town Road'' was released on Dec. 2, 2018 and went viral thanks to memes and online users dancing to the track on the TikTok app.
Source: Rolling Stone
Statement on Dismissal of Charges for Jussie Smollett | Cook County State's Attorney
Thu, 28 Mar 2019 10:45
March 26, 2019
"After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollet's volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case.
In the last two years, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office has referred more than 5,700 cases for alternative prosecution. This is not a new or unusual practice. An alternative disposition does not mean that there were any problems or infirmities with the case or the evidence. We stand behind the Chicago Police Department's investigation and our decision to approve charges in this case. We did not exonerate Mr. Smollet. The charges were dropped in return for Mr. Smollet's agreement to do community service and forfeit his $10,000 bond to the City of Chicago. Without the completion of these terms, the charges would not have been dropped. This outcome was met under the same criteria that would occur for and is available to any defendant with similar circumstances."
VIDEO - Kim Foxx Speaks Out in 1st TV Interview on Smollett Case
Thu, 28 Mar 2019 08:48
Sponsored Kim Foxx Speaks Out in 1st TV Interview on Smollett Case NEWSLETTERS Receive the latest multimedia updates in your inbox Email Privacy policy |
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VIDEO - RT on Twitter: "'6mn people who want to revoke #Article50 can't be betrayed' '' #Tusk on #Brexit'... "
Thu, 28 Mar 2019 08:36
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VIDEO - Remarks on the Green New Deal - YouTube
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 22:01
VIDEO - Chicago prosecutors on defense after dropping all charges against Jussie Smollett | Fox News Video
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VIDEO - British Conservative: U.K. Should Leave European Union Without A Brexit Deal | Here & Now
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 16:17
John Redwood arrives on the second day of the Conservative Party Conference 2016 at the ICC Birmingham on October 3, 2016 in Birmingham, England. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)British Prime Minister Theresa May appears to be losing control of Brexit negotiations. Members of her own party are turning against her as the original deadline to leave the European Union approaches at the end of the week.
Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson talks with John Redwood (@johnredwood), a conservative member of Parliament, who thinks Britain should just leave the EU without a deal.
This segment aired on March 26, 2019.
VIDEO - Rockland County Declares Measles State of Emergency, Bans Unvaccinated Minors From Public Spaces - NBC New York
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 15:47
"We believe this to be the first such effort of this kind nationally and the circumstances we face here clearly call for that," the county executive saidPublished Mar 26, 2019 at 11:40 AM | Updated 3 hours ago NEWSLETTERS Receive the latest local updates in your inboxIt's a health crisis that local leaders are telling everyone to take very seriously. Checkey Beckford reports. (Published Tuesday, March 26, 2019)
What to KnowRockland County declared a countywide State of Emergency relating to the ongoing measles outbreak TuesdayA ban went into effect at midnight, Wednesday, barring any unvaccinated minor from public places for 30 days or they are vaccinatedAs of last Thursday, there are 151 confirmed reported cases of measles in the county, according to Rockland County Rockland County has declared a state of emergency and banned children who are unvaccinated against the measles from public places after a local outbreak entered its 26th week '-- the longest since the disease was eradicated in the United States in 2000, according to officials in the New York.
The ban went into effect at midnight, Wednesday, barring anyone younger than 18 who is unvaccinated against the measles from public places until they receive the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. The ban expires in 30 days.
Those unable to be vaccinated for documented and confirmed medical reasons are exempt from the declaration.
"We believe this to be the first such effort of this kind nationally and the circumstances we face here clearly call for that," said Rockland County Executive Ed Day at a Tuesday press conference. "Rockland will lead the way in service and safety to the people here."
Rockland Declares Measles EmergencyThe outbreak started after seven unvaccinated travelers with measles entered the county in early October, Day said. As of Tuesday, there were 153 confirmed cases.
Rockland County has been grappling with a measles outbreak in recent months affecting residents in Spring Valley, New Square and Monsey. Officials had previously asked students who are unvaccinated not to attend school.
Still, Day said county officials have been met with "pockets of resistance" from people unwilling to comply with health department advice and this played a part in the decision to enact a ban.
Anyone found in violation could face six months in jail and/or a $500 fine, Day said. However, he added that the county is not looking to arrest people, but rather a means to grab the public's attention.
Measles is a highly contagious disease. Young children, the immunocompromised and non-immune pregnant women are at highest risk for severe complications. Measles is transmitted by airborne particles, droplets and direct contact with the respiratory secretions of an infected person.
Measles typically presents in adults and children as an acute viral illness characterized by fever and generalized rash. The rash usually starts on the face, proceeds down the body and may include the palms and soles. The rash lasts several days. Infected individuals are contagious from four days before rash onset through the fourth day after the rash appears.
Rockland County to Declare Measles State of EmergencyRockland officials encourage everyone to be up-to-date with the MMR vaccine to help protect them in case of any future exposure to measles in Rockland.
Rockland health officials have urged those who are ill with a fever, rash, or conjunctivitis (red watery eyes) to stay home, not have visitors and not go out in public.
To further prevent the spread of illness, the Rockland Health Department said individuals who have symptoms consistent with measles should contact their health care provider, a local clinic or local emergency department before going in person to prevent exposing the illness to others.
The Rockland County Department of Health is coordinating its response with the New York State Department of Health. The Department of Health will also host free MMR vaccination clinics Wednesday from 1 to 3 p.m. One in Pomona and another in Spring Valley.
VIDEO - 'We're Expecting A Third Wave': Over 100 Mumps Cases Reported Amid Temple University Outbreak '' CBS Philly
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 15:17
March 27, 2019 at 8:00 amFollow CBSPHILLY Facebook | TwitterPHILADELPHIA (CBS) '-- The number of mumps cases associated with Temple University has now reached into the triple digits as 105 people have come down with the highly contagious disease. Officials say that there are 18 confirmed cases and 87 probable cases.
Due to the growing number of mumps cases, Temple University will be holding two walk-in vaccination clinics this week.
''I think we have a handle on it, but we're expecting a third wave,'' said Marky Denys, Temple University's student health director.
Mumps Cases Spreading Throughout Philadelphia Region Following Temple University Outbreak
Officials say that all of the cases have some affiliation with the university and have gradually increased over the last month.
''We are working to identify stem causes,'' said Dr. Steve Alles, of the Philadelphia Health Department. ''It would be a typical social event on college campus.''
Mass vaccination clinics are set for Wednesday and Friday on campus. Students, faculty and staff will be able to receive the Mumps-Measles-Rubella (MMR) vaccine free of charge. The clinics will be held in Temple's Mitten Hall's Great Court on Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m.'' 4 p.m. No appointments are necessary, but you will need to have your OWLcard present.
Thousands Of Students Sign Online Petition Asking Temple University To Temporarily Close Amid Mumps Outbreak
Health officials say close to 1,000 people have received booster shots.
''We are prepared for 1,800 tomorrow,'' said Denys.
Temple students have largely gone about their educations, unaffected by illness, but well aware of the stories circulating far beyond campus about the situation.
''I told my friends, too, you got to go out and get it done,'' said student Goodwill Agbaadem.
Mumps is a highly infectious disease passed through saliva and respiratory secretions. While the incubation period is 12 to 25 days, symptoms often appear 16 to 18 days after exposure. The symptoms for the mumps are similar to the flu and often include tender swollen glands below the ear and along the jawline on one or both sides of the face and neck, headache, fever and cold-like symptoms. People with mumps are considered infectious from two days before swelling begins through five days after the start of swelling. You can learn more about mumps on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Temple University Mumps Outbreak Grows To Nearly 100 Cases, Officials Say
If you have questions or are experiencing symptoms, you are encouraged to contact Temple University Student Health Services at or Employee Health Services at
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VIDEO - Lol - YouTube
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 15:10
VIDEO - LIVE: Juncker and Tusk opening statements and debate on results of Brexit European Council summit - YouTube
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 15:07
VIDEO - Kamala Harris says she's 'completely confused' on the Smollett case | TheHill
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 04:17
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris Kamala Devi HarrisSenate gears up for Green New Deal vote Senate GOP proposes constitutional amendment to keep Supreme Court at 9 seats Overnight Energy: Green New Deal vote set to test Dem unity | Renewables on track to phase out coal, study finds | EPA chief reportedly recuses himself from mine review MORE (Calif.) said Tuesday evening that she is "completely confused" and "at a loss" after prosecutors dropped charges earlier in the day against "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett.
"I'm completely confused. I don't understand. I don't know. I don't know the underlying evidence. There's a sealed document, obviously. I don't know. I'm at a loss," Harris said during an interview on CNN's "The Situation Room."
Prosecutors in Cook County, Ill., announced earlier Tuesday that the charges against Smollett had been dropped.
Smollett, 36, had previously been indicted by a grand jury on 16 felony counts after prosecutors accused him of filing a false report when he said he was the victim of a hate crime.
"After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollet's volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case," the Cook County State's Attorney's Office said in a statement Tuesday.
During her interview on CNN, Harris added that she thinks "we're going to have to leave it up to the judgment of the prosecutor."
"I think we should leave it up to the judgment of the police chief and the mayor, of course, to give us some better sense of what's going on. I don't know," she added.
Harris drew headlines in January after condemning what she called "an attempted modern day lynching" after Smollett claimed that two men attacked him, put a noose around his neck and poured a chemical substance on him while yelling racial and homophobic slurs at him.
She later said that she was "sad, frustrated, and disappointed" after police in Chicago accused Smollett of staging the alleged attack.
"When anyone makes false claims to police, it not only diverts resources away from serious investigations but it makes it more difficult for other victims of crime to come forward,'' she said in a statement at the time.
"At the same time, we must speak the truth: hate crimes are on the rise in America," she added.
VIDEO - Chicago mayor calls dropping of charges against Jussie Smollett a 'whitewash of justice'
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 19:25
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VIDEO - Blitzer presses Swalwell on past comments about collusion - YouTube
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 14:39
VIDEO - James Clapper reacts to call he should be investigated - YouTube
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 14:31
VIDEO - ABC NEWS Sr National Correspondent DESTROYS Obama Crony John Brennan: "Has a lot to answer for"'...Used CIA Credentials To Deceive Americans About Secret Info He Had On Trump [VIDEO]
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 13:59
In a stunning betrayal by the mainstream media of an Obama crony, ABC News Senior National Correspondent, Terry Moran demanded that Obama's former CIA director, John Brennan, be held accountable for misleading the American public with his lies about secret intel he was in possession of, as it related to the Trump-Russian collusion fairytale.
Moran tweeted:
John Brennan has a lot to answer for'--going before the American public for months, cloaked with CIA authority and openly suggesting he's got secret info, and repeatedly turning in performances like this.
John Brennan has a lot to answer for'--going before the American public for months, cloaked with CIA authority and openly suggesting he's got secret info, and repeatedly turning in performances like this.
'-- Terry Moran (@TerryMoran) March 25, 2019
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Trending: BABS IN HOT WATER After Comments Supporting Michael Jackson's Child Molestation: ''It didn't kill them''
John Brennan has consistently been one of the loudest critics of President Trump, suggesting over and over that he was guilty of collusion and even guilty of ''treason,'' with absolutely no evidence to back up his irrational claims against a sitting President of the United States.
In December 2018, Brennan reminded everyone of how Trump is living rent-free in his head, as he posted an incredible response to President Trump's tweet about his former sleazy lawyer, Michael Cohen. In his tweet, Brennan arrogantly told Trump he was relieved that our duly elected president would not be able to run for office again.
Whenever you send out such inane tweets, I take great solace in knowing that you realize how much trouble you are in & how impossible it will be for you to escape American justice. Mostly, I am relieved that you will never have the opportunity to run for public office again.
Whenever you send out such inane tweets, I take great solace in knowing that you realize how much trouble you are in & how impossible it will be for you to escape American justice. Mostly, I am relieved that you will never have the opportunity to run for public office again.
'-- John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) December 10, 2018
During a scathing interview, Center for Security Policy analyst Fred Fleitz reveals to Fox News' Martha MacCallum how the crooked former CIA chief John Brennan may have perjured himself over testimony about anti-Trump Steele dossier.
Under oath, Brennan has denied knowing the Clinton campaign commissioned the dossier. He also told the House intelligence panel the CIA didn't rely on the dossier ''in any way'' for its reports on Russian interference. Committee staff are taking a second look at his May 2017 testimony.
''The best way to skew an intelligence assessment is to limit the number of players,'' said Fred Fleitz, who worked as a CIA analyst for 19 years and helped draft national intelligence estimates at Langley. He says ''there is no question in my mind'' that political propaganda from the dossier made it into the January 2017 assessment.
In mid-August, 2018, President Trump revoked John Brennan's security clearance. Here is a portion of his statement, where President Trump shares the reasons behind his decision that include calling into question Brennan's objectivity and credibility.
As the head of the Executive Branch and Commander in Chief, I have a unique constitutional responsibility to protect the nation's classified information, including by controlling access to it. Today, in fulfilling that responsibility, I have decided to revoke the security clearance of John Brennan, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Historically, former heads of intelligence and law enforcement agencies have been allowed to retain access to classified information after their government service, so that they can consult with their successors regarding matters about which they may have special insights, and as a professional courtesy. Neither of these justifications supports Mr. Brennan's continued access to classified information.
First, at this point in my administration, any benefits that senior officials might glean from consultations with Mr. Brennan are now outweighed by the risks posed by his erratic conduct and behavior.
Second, that conduct and behavior has tested and far exceeded the limits of any professional courtesy that may have been due to him. Mr. Brennan has a history that calls into question his objectivity and credibility.
On August 19, 2018, Obama's former director of national intelligence, James Clapper was asked by CNN's Jake Tapper to respond to Brennan calling Trump's widely panned press conference alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin ''nothing short of treasonous.'' Tapper asked Clapper, ''Do you think that John Brennan's hyperbole is an issue here, is one of the reasons we're having this crisis?''
Clapper responded by throwing Brennan under the bus, ''I think it is,'' Clapper said. ''I think John is sort of like a freight train, and he's going to say what's on his mind. I think, though, that the common denominator among all of us that have been speaking up, though, is genuine concern about the jeopardy or threats to our institutions and values, although we may all express that in different ways, and I think this is what this is really about. But I think John and his rhetoric have become an issue in and of itself.''
Now, for the big question'--Will John Brennan, James Clapper, his former boss, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Bruce and Nellie Ohr, Andrew McCabe, James Comey, and all of the players who worked so hard to overthrow a duly elected President of the United States be held accountable?
We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.
VIDEO - Glenn Greenwald Rips MSNBC to Tucker Carlson: They Fed People 'Total Disinformation' and Exploited Fears on Russia
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 13:00
video Glenn Greenwald Rips MSNBC to Tucker Carlson: They Fed People 'Total Disinformation' and Exploited Fears on RussiaThe Intercept's Glenn Greenwald tore into MSNBC tonight for its Russia coverage following the completion of Robert Mueller's report.
Tucker Carlson''''who said earlier in his show there needs to be accountability for people who pushed Russia conspiracy narratives''''said of Greenwald, ''From the very beginning, he questioned the theory. He ultimately concluded it was a sham investigation with no evidence to support it. For that he was roundly attacked.''
Greenwald singled out MSNBC tonight in particular for criticism:
''It wasn't just Howard Dean, it was continuously on MSNBC, which''''let me just say, should have their top hosts on primetime go before the cameras and hang their head in shame and apologize for lying to people for three straight years, exploiting their fears to great profit. These are people who were on the verge of losing their jobs. That whole network was about to collapse. This whole scam saved them. And not only did they constantly feed people for three straight years total disinformation, they did it on purpose, Tucker.''
He credited Carlson's show for letting his audience ''hear the other side of the story before saying ''MSNBC did the exact opposite.''
''There was a whole slew, not just me, of left-wing journalists with very high journalistic credentials, far more than anyone on that network, like Matt Taibbi and Jeremy Scahill and and many others, including myself, who were banned from the network because they wanted their audience not to know that anybody was questioning or expressing skepticism about the lies and the scam that they were selling because it was so profitable,'' he continued.
Greenwald denounced the ''fraud that they perpetrated on their audience'' and how he and others were accused of being Russian agents, saying ''there's still no accountability'' and they ''still won't apologize.''
He even said that CNN or MSNBC looked like ''state TV'' or ''CIA TV'' for analysts like John Brennan that they've hired since 2017.
At one point Carlson asked him if there will be any media accountability. Greenwald knocked Rachel Maddow in particular and said ''she's a huge corporate brand and she's a big celebrity among liberals so they're going to keep her on the air.''
You can watch above, via Fox News.
[image via screengrab]
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VIDEO - BOMBSHELL STUDY: Harvard Ph.D. 'Google flipped seats, shifted 78 Million votes to Democrats in 2018 midterms' '' DC Clothesline
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 12:56
Google's biased search algorithm actually flipped seats in the 2018 US midterm elections, according to a researcher who found the search engine's ''dramatically biased'' results could have shifted over 78 million votes to Democrats.
''Upwards of 25 percent of the national elections in the world are being decided without people's knowledge by Google's search algorithm,'' senior research psychologist Dr. Robert Epstein of the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology told RT, calling the search engine the ''deciding factor'' in close races.
Epstein, who received his PhD in psychology from Harvard University and is the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, said that his methodology was thorough and meticulous.
''We did this very, very carefully. We had field agents focusing on three congressional races in California which were very hotly contested races in Republican districts,'' Epstein told RT.
''And we gave to these field agents about 500 election-related search terms. Each one had different search terms for different districts, where there are different issues, of course.
''And the point is, we simply looked at what kind of search results they received when they were conducting election-related searches.''
Epstein's study of three 2018 California House races found Google played the deciding role in flipping those Republican-held seats to the Democrats, influencing millions of undecided voters by controlling what they saw when they searched 500 election-related terms. Google's results showed a ''significant liberal bias,'' unlike Bing's or Yahoo's '' and with 90 percent of the search engine's market share in the US, that bias is enormously influential.
Search results favoring one side of an issue can influence anywhere from 20 to 80 percent of undecided voters, depending on the issue and demographic group, Epstein said. He has spent six years investigating the role of what he calls the Search Engine Manipulation Effect (SEME) in swaying public opinion, more recently focusing on the political ramifications by looking at various countries' elections.
''People trust algorithmic output. They trust Google. They think because it's generated by a computer, they don't see the human hand '' they think it's impartial and objective and, because of that, their opinions change,'' Epstein said.
While Google denies it manipulates search rankings to manipulate political sentiment or makes election-specific tweaks, Epstein says their response is disingenuous '' he never claimed they re-ranked results, merely that the results they displayed were biased.
We found very consistently that on Google they ended up with search results favoring liberals and favoring liberal news sources, and it was quite a dramatic effect.
Despite denials, Google has already faced hefty government fines for manipulating search results. In 2017, the European Union imposed a '‚¬2.4 billion ($2.7 billion) fine on the tech giant for purportedly tailoring search results to favor its own comparison shopping service.
Google was hit with a $21.1 million fine a year later '' this time in India, where the company was accused of directing web users who were searching for flights to its own flight search page '' depriving other businesses of gaining a foothold in the market.
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VIDEO - VIDEO: The Liberal Media's Most Embarrassing Mueller Failures
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 12:48
The Sunday afternoon letter from Attorney General Bill Barr on the Mueller report has rocked the political world and burst more than a few bubbles in the liberal media, most notably their years-long insistence that the President and/or his team colluded with Russia.
Some journalists have conceded this reality, while others are mimicking Japanese soldiers still fighting World War II in 1971.
MRC analysts dug into our video archives dating back to 2017 and the official launch of the Trump-Russia probe and found the wildest quotes that failed to stand the test of time. Check out the video for more examples as the quotes below are only a sampling of the individuals who might need a few hugs going forward.
At one point during the probe, Keith Olbermann had an online show thanks to GQ. On August 22, 2017, he bloviated: ''The firing of James Comey, an investigation which alone could produce a stack of counts of obstruction of justice that could be fatal to the Trump presidency.''
That same month, disgraced liberal journalist Dan Rather warned on MSNBC that there's ''a political hurricane out there at sea'' by the name of ''Hurricane Vladimir'' that could spell doom for the Trump presidency.
CNN's Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter still holds Rather in high regard and Stelter was one of the single worst offenders of the false collusion narrative. On his December 16, 2018 show, he lectured: ''Does the public understand just how much trouble the President is in. If not, that is a failing of the press.''
During that same show, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch claimed that ''[w]e have dramatic evidence of collusion'' in addition to ''a motive'' so we therefore ''have the proof all we need of a scandal that's arguably worse than Watergate.''
On the December 4, 2017 Hardball, then-USA Today reporter Heidi Przybyla asserted: ''We're seeing that the collusion piece of this, piece by piece, starting to be built out and every week, it seems there's a new member of the team who knew something about the discussions that were going on with the Russians.''
The media's eagerness to hype the ''collusion'' scandal gave a chance for various figures from Watergate to slide back into the spotlight, earning TV gigs while claiming that their experiences decades ago informed what Mueller would do and '-- spoiler alert '-- it didn't help them at all.
One such person was former Nixon official John Dean, who argued on the December 7, 2018 Erin Burnett OutFront after the Roger Stone indictment that ''the totality of today's filing show that the House is going to have little choice the way this is going other than to start impeachment proceedings.''
And of course we'd be remiss if there wasn't a nod to CNN chief White House correspondent/poet laureate Jim Acosta, who had this exchange with Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on October 30, 2017 (click ''expand''):
ACOSTA: Sarah, how can you describe Mr. Papadopoulos as having a limited role when there is a photograph of Mr. Papadopoulos sitting at a table with then-candidate Trump.
SANDERS: The President has thousands of photographs with millions of people, so '--
ACOSTA: He was sighted by then-candidate Trump in a meeting with The Washington Post as to who his top foreign policy advisers are. That seems to fight against what you are saying and also, how is it not collusion when George Papadopoulos was in contact with various people who are promising dirt on Hillary Clinton and a series of events that closely mirrors what occurred with the President's own son. He had contacts with Russians '--
SANDERS: This individual was on a '--
ACOSTA: '-- in pursuit of information that was damaging about the Clintons. How is all of that not collusion?
Well, it's not collusion. Even Robert Mueller said so.
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VIDEO - Cenk Uygur: Trump Made A Deal With Russia, "Might Not Last Six Months" | Video | RealClearPolitics
Mon, 25 Mar 2019 06:46
'The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur comes to the conclusion that Donald Trump "made a deal" with Russia where he gets paid."He might not last six months!" Uygur said. "Because he did a deal with the Russians."
"The Russians helped me win the election a little bit because of the propaganda and the leaked emails and that's helpful, and then later I'll think about lifting the sanctions," he said speaking for President Trump.
"He did a business deal with the Russians: You give me money, you give me a portion of the oil contracts, then I lfit the sanctions. I Donald J. Trump make money!"
Via 'The Young Turks':
The Young Turks Cenk Uygur doubles down on a prediction he made when Michael Flynn resigned as National Security Advisor that Donald Trump possibly made a deal with Russia.Back in February, Uygur brought up the possibility of Trump's business contacts also communicating with Russia and how that supports his argument that the President made a deal. At the time, Uygur brought up the importance of Carter Page and his role in making a deal since he's a businessman and former foreign policy advisor to the campaign.
''If Flynn didn't act on his own and Trump is directing Carter Page, and Flynn, and Manafort, and Roger Stone, etc., to deal with the Russians and it's not just so he has a better chance at winning the election but it's because he has something to gain then'...'' Uygur said.
Uygur talks about Trump making a deal with Russia, again, in reaction to Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, recusing himself. This happened on the same day reports of Page meeting with the Russian ambassador came out.
''He might not last six months,'' Uygur says, predicting the end of Trump's presidency, ''because he did a deal with the Russians.''
He adds that this isn't a deal to win the election since Trump only really cares about making money, '''You give me money, you give me a portion of the oil contracts, then I lift the sanctions for you guys.'''
''His priority is 'how do I turn the presidency into more money','' Uygur explains, arguing for the importance of an investigation of Trump's ties to Russia.
VIDEO - Todd Laments Trump Never Dragged Before a Grand Jury, Frets He'll 'Banana Republic Us' (VIDEO) '' True Pundit
Mon, 25 Mar 2019 03:38
Well, it's finally here. Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered his report on the Russia investigation late Friday afternoon to Attorney General William Barr and the liberal media began to conflagrate. During the early evening buzz on MSNBC's MTP Daily, host Chuck Todd seemed to express concern over the fact that Mueller allowed President Trump and his legal team to answer written questions, instead of testifying before a grand jury.
Speaking with California Congressman Eric ''nuke the gun owners'' Swalwell (D) on the phone, Todd pressed him on Trump's form of testimony:
This report was concluded without interviewing the President of the United States in front of a grand jury. Now, there's plenty of '' there was plenty of legal reasons perhaps that Bob Mueller decided not to go through with that. Will that be known as a mistake or not?
Of course, Todd's fretting was empty because lying to federal investigators is illegal either way. '' READ MORE
Rep. Doug Collins Releases Transcript From 'Spygate' Target George Papadopoulos'... | The Last Refuge
Thu, 28 Mar 2019 12:43
Earlier today House Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins, released the 239-page transcript (full pdf below) from testimony delivered by George Papadopoulos. This latest transcript release happens on the same day that Papadopoulos released his book, ''Deep State Target.''
George Papadopoulos is the low-level Trump campaign advisor targeted by the CIA and FBI in early 2016. Papadopoulos was the excuse behind the FBI conducting Operation Crossfire Hurricane that began on July 31st, 2016.
It is widely suspected, almost certain, that CIA Director John Brennan enlisted the help of U.S. and foreign intelligence assets to run operations against the Trump campaign. The objective was to give the false and manufactured appearance of compromise. Once the CIA established the possibility of compromise that opened the door for FBI investigation.
It's likely the operation run by Brennan targeting Papadopoulos is at the center of the two-page ''EC'' (electronic communication); an origination document given to FBI Director James Comey to start the counterintelligence operation (Crossfire Hurricane) against the Trump campaign. Two of the intelligence assets Brennan organized were Joseph Misfud and Stefan Halper.
Despite his position as a central target of the FBI investigation, Papadopoulos was never questioned until January 2017; highlighting the point he was indeed simply a manufactured tool to assist the larger scheme in monitoring candidate Trump. George Papadopoulos was never charged with any illicit criminal or spying activity.
When Robert Mueller took over the Crossfire Hurricane operation, the FBI ran an elaborate entrapment string against Papadopoulos using a CIA asset in Israel and a payment of $10,000 in cash. FBI Agents were waiting at the airport in Washington DC for Papadopoulos to return. However, that part of the Mueller plan failed because Papadopoulos left the money behind. So they applied pressure another way, from his book:
Here's the Transcript: .
Now, many people have asked: what could possibly put George Papadopoulos on the radar of John Brennan? Why make him a target?
Well, remember that 2014/2015 massive natural gas reserve discovery off the coast of Israel'.... long before the 2016 election?
Remember that?
Well, there was a development late in 2018:
JERUSALEM (AP) '-- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said that Israel, Greece and Cyprus will sign an agreement early next year to build a pipeline to carry natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe, while the United States pledged its support for the ambitious project.
The $7 billion project, expected to take six or seven years to complete, promises to reshape the region as an energy provider and dent Russia's dominance over the European energy market. It also could curtail Iranian ambitions to use Syria as a gateway to the eastern Mediterranean.
Speaking at a summit with the Greek and Cypriot leaders in southern Israel, Netanyahu said the three nations reaffirmed their commitment to the pipeline and discussed ''important aspects'' of the project. Italy is also a partner in the pipeline's planning. Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said the project is waiting for a green light from the European Union to move forward.
''We're going to sign formally, officially, this agreement in a few months,'' he said.
In another boost for the project, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman hailed the pipeline as integral to the ''stability and prosperity of the Middle East and Europe,'' and urged all countries in the region to ensure its success.
Washington is eyeing the east Mediterranean with renewed interest. In a meeting with the Greek foreign minister earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the region ''an important strategic frontier'' for Washington, which is working to strengthen its relations with ''democratic allies there like Greece and Cyprus and Israel.'' (read more)
Here's the interesting aspect'.... Do you know who was the original energy policy consultant; the person who wrote the obscure -at the time- policy paper; a plan to avoid putting an EU pipeline through Turkey; and the person who put all of these regional heads together; that ultimately ended with this announced deal?
That would be the little known, generally invisible young energy adviser, who would eventually become the central figure in the ''spygate'' targeting, George Papadopoulos.
Yes, for those following the granules as they expose, that 2014 energy extraction strategy; a plan from a little known energy consultant; would have put Papadopoulos in opposition to the interests of President Obama, candidate Clinton, Turkey, Qatar and ultimately Iran and Russia.
Huh'... Funny that.
It's almost as if'.....
Palantir in multi-million dollar Pentagon deal IPO on horizon
Thu, 28 Mar 2019 12:12
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Alexander Karp, CEO of Palantir Technologies Inc.
Palantir Technologies, a Silicon Valley data analytics company founded by Trump adviser Peter Thiel and with roots in the CIA-backed In-Q-Tel venture capital organization, has won a major Army contract worth up to $800 million, CNBC has confirmed.
It's the first time the venture-backed company has been named a "defense program of record." Programs of record are essentially the biggest, multi-year projects awarded by the Pentagon.
The contract would require Palantir to build an intelligence system to aid soldiers in remote environments, called an Army Distributed Common Ground System, known as a DCGS-A. It was previously reported by the Washington Post.
Palantir, which has been rumored to be close to an initial public offering, beat out Raytheon, a more traditional defense contractor without Palantir's Silicon Valley roots, a departure for the Army in terms of its biggest contracts.
"While we are disappointed in the Army's decision on this initial delivery order, it represents a relatively small number of systems. We will actively compete for future delivery orders as we continue to work closely with the Army to help them meet their intelligence needs," said Maureen Stevens, a Raytheon spokeswoman, via email. Stevens said Raytheon was awarded a DCGS-A 10-year contract last March, part of a "multiple delivery" plan by the Army. The Pentagon did not immediately respond to request for comment.
The deal would dwarf Palantir's most recent government contracts, including a $222 million award in 2016 from the Department of Defense's Special Operations Command (SOCOM). That sole-source award was for a technology and logistics software and support project called "All-Source Information Fusion," meant to bring together intelligence and other information gathered by SOCOM, which oversees the special operations units of all branches of the U.S. military.
Palantir's customers have included top-tier banks, government agencies, health-care firms and manufacturers in the automotive and aerospace industries. The company provides tools for visualizing and making use of huge swaths of data, using proprietary software. Financial industry analysts have been monitoring Palantir as an IPO candidate for 2019.
Thiel co-founded Palantir in 2003, and was the company's largest shareholder at its last round of funding in 2015, which valued it at $20 billion. The iconoclastic tech investor is worth $2.5 billion according to Forbes, and earned his fortune as an early leader of PayPal and investor in Facebook, where he sits on the board of directors. He was a prominent supporter of Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, and has advised the administration informally on technology and science since then.
Senators demand to know why election vendors still sell voting machines with 'known vulnerabilities' | TechCrunch
Thu, 28 Mar 2019 11:47
Four senior senators have called on the largest U.S. voting machine makers to explain why they continue to sell devices with ''known vulnerabilities,'' ahead of upcoming critical elections.
The letter, sent Wednesday, calls on election equipment makers ES&S, Dominion Voting and Hart InterCivic to explain why they continue to sell decades-old machines, which the senators say contain security flaws that could undermine the results of elections if exploited.
''The integrity of our elections is directly tied to the machines we vote on,'' said the letter sent by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Warner (D-VA), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Gary Peters (D-MI), the most senior Democrats on the Rules, Intelligence, Armed Services and Homeland Security committees, respectively. ''Despite shouldering such a massive responsibility, there has been a lack of meaningful innovation in the election vendor industry and our democracy is paying the price,'' the letter adds.
Their primary concern is that the three companies have more than 90 percent of the U.S. election equipment market share but their voting machines lack paper ballots or auditability, making it impossible to know if a vote was accurately counted in the event of a bug.
Yet, these are the same devices tens of millions of voters will use in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.
Spokespeople for ES&S and Diminion said their companies will respond to the letter they received. Hart InterCivic did not return a request for comment.
The senators, including Klobuchar '-- who is running for president '-- said the elections remain ''under serious threat.''
Security experts have for years sounded the alarm about insecure voting machines. A key concern is that these devices can be easily hacked to meddle with election results. Just months ago, during early voting in some Texas counties, voters found problems with Hart's election machines, with, in some cases, options removed entirely from the ballot screen. In ES&S' case, the company sparked anger in the Capitol after saying it would not provide its systems to security researchers. Its announcement came not long after it had a disastrous reception at Def Con's Voting Village, which saw one of its voting machines hacked.
The ranking Democrats say paper ballots are ''basic necessities'' for a reliable voting system, but the companies still produce machines that don't produce paper results. Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill last year that would make a paper trail mandatory in future elections, but it never passed.
The companies have until April 9 to respond to the senators' letter.
Updated with comment from ES&S and Dominion. Corrected date of reply to April 9.
Wikipedia Editors Paid to Protect Political, Tech, and Media Figures | Breitbart
Thu, 28 Mar 2019 08:48
A report in Huffington Post recently revealed the case of Wikipedia editor Ed Sussman, who was paid by media clients such as NBC and Axios to help diminish critical material. Paid editors operating in a similar manner to Sussman have worked on behalf of CNN contributor Hilary Rosen and the CEOs of Reddit and Intel, among other clients.Other conduct by Sussman not covered by the Huffington Post shows him authoring fluff pieces for NBC executives and getting his proposed changes approved by another paid Wikipedia editor.
The report by Ashley Feinberg detailed former journalist Ed Sussman's work as a paid Wikipedia fixer for clients such as Axios, NBC, and Facebook. Sussman did this work through the firm WhiteHatWiki, which he argues follows Wikipedia policies. Sussman disclosed his paid editing on Wikipedia and ostensibly worked within the rules by having other editors approve proposed changes.
However, Feinberg's article noted several of Sussman's requests involved removing or watering down potentially damaging material about clients, even when citing sources considered reliable on the site. Such removals would appear to violate Wikipedia's neutrality policy, which states:
All encyclopedic content on Wikipedia must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV), which means representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without editorial bias, all of the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic.
In one example Feinberg cited, Sussman requested changes to the page of Axios journalist Jonathan Swan regarding a false report he made last September claiming Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was resigning. A line noting the incident in Swan's article was replaced with a paragraph hyping that Swan was ''the first to report'' Rosenstein's offer to resign, despite the offer being refused. Sussman backed this spin with a New York Times article treating the incident as a failure of the Axios reporting model, a fact not mentioned in Sussman's proposed edit.
Many of Sussman's approved changes to the pages of his clients engaged in this subtle spin and cherry-picking. Changes to the NBC News page defended the network's refusal to air Ronan Farrow's story, subsequently published by The New Yorker, on the sexual assault allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, despite the very sources cited being more critical and Farrow's own criticism of the network's refusal to air the story. Feinberg identifies similar spin in Sussman's portrayal of NBC's handling of sexual assault allegations against the network's own Matt Lauer.
Not all of Sussman's work for NBC was noted in Huffington Post's report. Feinberg mentions Sussman worked on NBC News chairman Andrew Lack's page, but he also created the initial draft of the page, which another editor approved in its entirety. Sussman's article notes Lack became NBC chairman amidst controversy over anchor Brian Williams, who was caught lying about his experiences during the 2003 Iraq War. His article did not mention the close relationship Lack had with Williams as noted in one of the article's cited sources. Lack reportedly even advised Williams during the controversy and lobbied on his behalf with executives.
President of MSNBC Phil Griffin also benefited from Sussman's intervention as a short article on Griffin prominently noting his description of the cable news network as the ''place to go for progressives'' was expanded in line with a proposal by Sussman. In the new version, the only mention of the channel's political persuasion involved Griffin disputing claims of a partisan bias at the outlet.
Feinberg's reports about Sussman's bludgeoning style, such as proposing extensive changes difficult to review and peppering various editors with requests to act on his proposals, is not abnormal for paid editors. Another paid editing firm that has exhibited similar practices is Beutler Ink, run by long-time editor and Wikipedia blogger William Beutler. Beutler has been engaged in paid editing for over a decade, having previously worked for New Media Strategies on behalf of clients such as Disney and Koch Industries. His more recent paid editing has been at his eponymous firm and includes work for several figures in government and media.
In 2016, he had the page on CNN contributor Hilary Rosen changed to remove mention of aggressive tactics she pursued against file-sharing while head of the RIAA, despite repeatedly citing a Wired article detailing them. His only reference to criticism Rosen faced during her tenure was mentioning she received death threats and had to hire security. A section on her LGBT advocacy was also added, which ended up being the second-longest on her page. Controversies involving her role as a PR consultant at Democrat-affiliated SKDKnickerbocker, who paid Beutler, were greatly trimmed and watered down.
SKDKnickerbocker also hired Beutler to help with the article on then-ambassador to Hungary under Obama, Colleen Bell. His proposed changes were largely implemented and toned down criticism of her appointment while touting her work as ambassador with a particular emphasis on her criticism of Hungarian President Orban's policies on refugees. Bell's appointment had been criticized due to her role as a bundler for Obama and another ambassador who faced this criticism, Robert Mandell, also hired Beutler. He proceeded to have information about the amount Mandell raised for Obama replaced with the smaller amounts Mandell personally donated.
Another client of Beutler's was Brian Krzanich, the CEO of Intel, whose page Beutler got changed to burnish his progressive credentials. His article previously focused mostly on controversy over a fundraiser for Trump held at his home. Krzanich was not the only CEO client of the firm. One employee of Beutler's firm got the page on Reddit CEO Steve Huffman changed to hype his role in redesigning the site after stating he joined at a ''particularly difficult time'' for the site. The changes also downplayed Huffman contradicting Reddit's long-time free speech stance despite citing a source that noted numerous high-level company figures, including former CEO Yishan Wong, previously acknowledged this stance.
One pattern of Sussman's Wikipedia behavior that Feinberg mentioned and Beutler also demonstrated was a tendency towards canvassing editors or groups to get them to act favorably on his requests then repeatedly going back to them for more support. Like several requests from Sussman, Beutler's requests for assistance tended to be geared towards eliciting sympathy for his efforts and bias editors in favor of his position. Using notifications that would bias discussion in their favor would, as Feinberg suggests, go against Wikipedia guidelines.
Their commonalities also extended to the occasionally questionable choice in assistance. One of Sussman's requested changes on Swan's page was implemented by someone who was also a paid editor and that Sussman specifically requested. He sought the same editor's help with the NBC article. Beutler in his efforts sought help on the Rosen and Mandell articles from editors who had worked for the United States government, which they both disclosed as potential conflicts of interest.
Wikipedia's policies do not ban paid editors from approving the proposals of other paid editors provided they are not working for the same client. In a case last year, Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee, akin to a Supreme Court, sanctioned two long-time editors after one had his paid edits approved by the other despite both working for the same paid editing firm. Neither were banned for these practices, not even from further paid editing.
Many Wikipedia editors are resistant to paid editing, but the practice is generally tolerated so long as editors disclose their affiliation and get their edits approved by other editors as Sussman and Beutler have done. As such response from Wikipedia to Feinberg's piece has been dismissive, suggesting the activities complied with the rules. Concerns are focused more on paid editors who do not disclose their affiliation, which violates the site's Terms of Use and has sometimes allegedly involved elements of extortion and fraud.
Just as with Wikipedia's supposed reliability against fake news, rules permitting disclosed paid editing presume the unpaid amateurs on the site will be able to effectively analyze and evaluate the edits of well-compensated professionals. However, even undisclosed paid editors frequently slip past Wikipedia's ad hoc methods of detection. The site's effectiveness at constraining bias introduced by paid editors is thus not much greater than its ability to constrain its rampant political bias.
(Disclosure: the author of this piece was paid in the past for edits on Wikipedia as part of several editing contests)
T. D. Adler edited Wikipedia as The Devil's Advocate. He was banned after privately reporting conflict of interest editing by one of the site's administrators. Due to previous witch-hunts led by mainstream Wikipedians against their critics, Adler writes under an alias.
Sandy Hook Shooter's Psychiatrist Arrested '' Citizens Commission on Human Rights, CCHR
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 21:21
Photo: Contributed / Brookfield Police Department
On December 14th 2012 Adam Lanza attacked students and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut with an AR-15 rifle leaving 20 children and 6 adults dead.
There have been two recent news stories related to the Adam Lanza case.
One concerns the unethical behavior of Lanza's former psychiatrist, Dr. Paul Fox.
The second story describes a court's attempt to determine who is responsible for this tragedy.
Did Lanza's Former Psychiatrist Hide Evidence?
On December 17, 2012 Connecticut police reached Dr. Fox to interview him about the Adam Lanza case. The psychiatrist had moved to New Zealand after things had gotten a bit hot for him in the Northeast.
Just six months earlier, the 59 year old psychiatrist had been accused of sexual assault of a female patient while practicing as a psychiatrist in Brookfield, Connecticut. The patient in question was 19 years old, and state records show that Fox prescribed her ''three to four'' psychiatric drugs and also gave her free samples. The girl's mother stated her daughter ''was turning into a zombie.''
Following this accusation, Dr. Fox voluntarily gave up his license to practice in New York and Connecticut and began working as a psychiatrist in New Zealand, almost 9,000 miles away from his former office.
During the phone call with the Connecticut police, Fox stated that the only records he had brought to New Zealand were billing records and that all of his medical records pertaining to clients he treated in the United States were ''currently in storage in the United States.''
Twenty-four hours after that phone call, Dr. Fox contacted the Connecticut police, telling them that any medical records pertaining to Adam Lanza had been destroyed. Based on the investigative records, Fox last saw Lanza in 2007, which means Dr. Fox destroyed Lanza's psychiatric records two years earlier than the law allows.
When Fox told law enforcement officials that he had retained his patient billing records, investigators failed to follow this important lead, since billing records offer a great deal of information about a patient's treatment.
In New Zealand, Dr. Fox worked for the Waikato District Health Board (DHB).
A statement from the DHB said Dr. Fox was employed for 19 months before returning to the US.
During his time in New Zealand, he treated Nicky Stevens, the son of local politician Dave Macpherson. Nicky died while under psychiatric care.
Dr. Fox was de-registered by the New Zealand Medical Council in February 2014.
When Dr. Fox moved back to Maine he discovered his sexual abuse of patients in Connecticut had not been forgotten by the authorities. He was arrested at his home in Peaks Island, Maine on April 20th, 2016 by detectives and Homeland Security Agents and charged with three counts of second-degree sexual assault.
What is Known About Adam Lanza's Psychiatric Treatment?
Dr. Fox had prescribed the antidepressant Lexapro for Adam. Both Adam and his mother Nancy were reluctant to use the medication. Kathleen Koenig, a nurse specialist in psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center convinced them to try it.
Lanza's mom described her son's reaction to the drug:
''On the third morning he complained of dizziness. By that afternoon he was disoriented, his speech was disjointed, he couldn't even figure out how to open his cereal box. He was sweating profusely . . . it was actually dripping off his hands. He said he couldn't think. . . . He was practically vegetative. He did nothing but sit in his dark room staring at nothing.''
There is also a report of a second psychiatric drug prescribed to Lanza and a second adverse reaction.
Nurse Koenig told police in an interview that Adam was given Celexa, another SSRI antidepressant drug.
Immediately after prescribing a small dose of Celexa to Adam Lanza, Koenig received a phone call from Nancy Lanza who reported her son was ''unable to raise his arm.''
However, the nurse didn't feel that Nancy Lanza's reports of her son's reactions to the drug were real and felt Adam ''had a biological disorder and needed medication.''
One serious side effect of the Celexa is ''muscle rigidity.'' Adam had complained that he could not lift his arm.
A side effect of Lexapro is ''sweating increased.'' Nancy Lanza had told Koenig that Adam had this exact reaction.
The concerned mom was labeled ''non-compliant.''
It's unclear the time sequence of when these drugs were given and Dr. Fox has done his best to hide the exact treatment he gave to Adam.
Given Dr. Fox's unethical practices in hiding his sexual involvement with his female patient and his questionable work in New Zealand, it's not unreasonable to suspect Dr. Fox might be hiding other matters. Some of his CVS Pharmacy records were also part of the investigation as they relate to the distribution of controlled substances. Questionable billing practices and improper retention of patient records were also examined. Perhaps something regarding Adam's exact prescriptions and treatments is yet to be revealed.
Celexa comes with warnings that it can cause suicidal behavior, suicide attempts and suicidal ideation, aggression, hostility (predominantly aggression, oppositional behavior and anger) and/or related behavior.
Lexapro comes with warnings that it can increase suicidal thoughts or actions, hostility or aggressive behavior.
Changing dosages or suddenly stopping the medication can also create these behaviors.
AbleChild, a 501c3 non-profit organization, whose mission includes raising public awareness regarding the psychiatric labeling and drugging of children has been following the Adam Lanza case closely.
The group has filed a Freedom of Information Act in Connecticut asking to see the full mental health, toxicology and autopsy records of Adam Lanza.
AbleChild hopes these questions will be answered:
Now that Fox has returned to the states, and clearly is under the watchful eye of law enforcement, will Sandy Hook investigators request Fox's billing records for psychiatric ''treatment'' of Adam Lanza?Did Adam Lanza, while under the psychiatric care of Dr. Fox or while a patient at Yale Child Study Center, participate in a clinical trial? (In other words, was Lanza receiving experimental treatments?)Could Nancy Lanza's notes, now being withheld by the state, provide additional information about the treatment Adam Lanza received while under Fox's care that might expose further violations of FDA clinical trial record retention laws?Who Is The Real Culprit?
On April 14, 2016 Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that a lawsuit can proceed against Bushmaster, the manufacturer of the AR-15 rifle used by Adam Lanza in his attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The lawsuit was filed back in 2014 by the families of nine of the people who were killed.
Bushmaster argued it is protected by a 2005 federal law blocking lawsuits against gun makers when their products were used in the commission of crimes, but the judge declined to dismiss the lawsuit.
It's interesting to note that the 114 page report ''Shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School'' written by the Office of the Child Advocate for the State of Connecticut sums up the responsibility for the shooting by saying, ''Finally, none of the findings in this report should be interpreted as exculpating (freeing from blame) or reducing Adam Lanza's accountability for his actions'...In the end only he, and he alone, bears responsibility for this monstrous act.''
Adam Lanza killed himself after committing the murders.
Putting all the blame on Lanza lets the true criminal off the hook. The psychiatrist who prescribed this troubled young man pharmaceuticals with known violent side effects is the real culprit in this tragedy.
http://wwHYPERLINK ''''wHYPERLINK '''' ''''king-news/hc-bookfield-adam-lanza-psychiatrist-arrested-0423-20160422-story.html '''"anza-ex-psychiatrist-charged-sexual-assault-article-1.2611499 ''''st-who-treated-adam-lanza-may-lead-to-answers-in-murder-investigation/ ''''t-adam-lanzas-mental-health-treatment-reveals-multiple-drugs/ ''''sandyhook11212014.pdf
Sum-of-Three-Cubes Problem Solved for 'Stubborn' Number 33 | Quanta Magazine
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 21:08
Abstractions blogBy John Pavlus March 26, 2019
A number theorist with programming prowess has found a solution to 33 = x" + y" + z", a much-studied equation that went unsolved for 64 years.
Mathematicians long wondered whether it's possible to express the number 33 as the sum of three cubes '-- that is, whether the equation 33 = x"+ y"+ z" has a solution. They knew that 29 could be written as 3" + 1" + 1", for instance, whereas 32 is not expressible as the sum of three integers each raised to the third power. But the case of 33 went unsolved for 64 years.
Now, Andrew Booker, a mathematician at the University of Bristol, has finally cracked it: He discovered that (8,866,128,975,287,528)" + (''8,778,405,442,862,239)" + (''2,736,111,468,807,040)" = 33.
Booker found this odd trio of 16-digit integers by devising a new search algorithm to sift them out of quadrillions of possibilities. The algorithm ran on a university supercomputer for three weeks straight. (He says he thought it would take six months, but a solution ''popped out before I expected it.'') When the news of his solution hit the internet earlier this month, fellow number theorists and math enthusiasts were feverish with excitement. According to a Numberphile video about the discovery, Booker himself literally jumped for joy in his office when he found out.
Why such elation? Part of it is the sheer difficulty of finding such a solution. Since 1955, mathematicians have used the most powerful computers they can get their hands on to search the number line for trios of integers that satisfy the ''sum of three cubes'' equation k = x" + y" + z", where k is a whole number. Sometimes solutions are easy, as with k = 29; other times, a solution is known not to exist, as with all whole numbers that leave behind a remainder of 4 or 5 when divided by 9, such as the number 32.
But usually, solutions are ''nontrivial.'' In these cases, the trio of cubed integers '-- like (114,844,365)" + (110,902,301)" + (''142,254,840)", which equals 26 '-- looks more like a lottery ticket than anything with predictable structure. For now, the only way for number theorists to discover such solutions is to play the mathematical ''lottery'' over and over, using the brute force of computer-assisted search to try different combinations of cubed integers, and hope for a ''win.''
But even with increasingly powerful computers and more efficient algorithms thrown at the problem, some whole numbers have stubbornly refused to yield any winning tickets. And 33 was an especially stubborn case: Until Booker found his solution, it was one of only two integers left below 100 (excluding the ones for which solutions definitely don't exist) that still couldn't be expressed as a sum of three cubes. With 33 out of the way, the only one left is 42.
The reason it took so long to find a solution for 33 is that searching far enough up the number line '-- all the way to 1016, or ten quadrillion, and just as far down into the negative integers '-- for the right numerical trio was computationally impractical until Booker devised his algorithm. ''He has not just run this thing on a bigger computer compared to the computers 10 years ago '-- he has found a genuinely more efficient way of locating the solutions,'' said Tim Browning, a number theorist at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria.
Previous algorithms ''didn't know what they were looking for,'' Booker explained; they could efficiently search a given range of integers for solutions to k = x" + y" + z" for any whole number k, but they weren't able to target a specific one, like k = 33. Booker's algorithm could, and thus it works ''maybe 20 times faster, in practical terms,'' he said, than algorithms that take an untargeted approach.
With 33's winning ticket now in hand, Booker plans to look next for a solution for 42. (He already determined that none exist in the ten-quadrillion range; he'll have to look further out on the number line, to at least 1017.) But even when he or another number theorist has identified sum-of-three-cubes solutions for every eligible integer up to 100, they'll then face 11 more ''stubborn'' integers without sum-of-three-cubes solutions between 101 and 1,000, and an infinitude of them beyond that. What's more, Booker and other experts say, each new solution found for one of these holdouts sheds no theoretical light on where, or how, to find the next one. ''I don't think these are sufficiently interesting research goals in their own right to justify large amounts of money to arbitrarily hog a supercomputer,'' Booker said.
So why bother with 33 or 42 at all?
What is ''sufficiently interesting,'' Booker explained, is that each newfound solution is ''a tool for helping you decide what's true'' about the sum-of-three-cubes problem itself. That problem, stated as k = x" + y" + z", is what number theorists call a Diophantine equation '-- a kind of algebraic structure whose properties have fascinated mathematicians for millennia. ''They're rich enough to encode [other mathematical] statements that have nothing to do with Diophantine equations,'' said Browning. ''They're rich enough to simulate computers.''
Diophantine equations are polynomial equations whose unknown variables must take integer values. Their basic properties can stymie number theorists. For instance, no mathematical method exists that can reliably tell whether any given Diophantine equation has solutions. According to Booker, the sum-of-three-cubes problem ''is one of the simplest'' of these thorny Diophantine equations. ''It's right at the frontier of what we can handle,'' Browning added.
For that reason, number theorists are eager to understand anything they can about sums of three cubes. A major result would be to prove the conjecture that k = x" + y" + z" has infinitely many solutions for every whole number k, except those k that have a remainder of 4 or 5 after being divided by 9. The tools devised for such a proof might pry open the logic of the problem, or apply to other Diophantine equations. Results like Booker's for 33 offer support for this conjecture, giving number theorists more confidence that it's a proof worth pursuing. Indeed, every time number theorists have looked further up the number line with their search algorithms '-- for example, by extending out to 1014 in 2009, to 1015 in 2016, and now to 1016 in 2019 '-- new solutions for previously stubborn integers have reliably been found, knocking out possible counterexamples to the conjecture.
''All of these things are kind of an accumulation of data,'' Browning said. He noted that Booker's new solution for 33 ''is not going to change the course of mathematical research in this area. But it's gratifying to see that things are falling as they should.''
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Wed, 27 Mar 2019 21:06
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CNN and MSNBC ratings plummet, Fox News triumphs in wake of 'no collusion'
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 18:20
Obviously energized and invigorated by the positive official news absolving President Trump of collusion, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham, FNC's three prime-time hosts, did some of their best shows ever on Monday. Greatly assisting their efforts was their access to and the expert editing and presentation of an archive of video clips of CNN and MSNBC hosts and guests projecting the demise of President Trump and predicting his indictment at the hands of Special Counsel Robert Mueller going back to 2016 and right up to last week. The unequivocal description of the Mueller Report by Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein '-- namely, that that there was no collusion with Russia on the part of Trump and his campaign to impact the 2016 presidential election '-- gave added meaning to the clips and to the analysis by the hosts and guests all evening on Fox News.
As a constant viewer of cable news and a veteran reporter and analyst of the business behind the flat screen and before that the tube, going back decades, I hadn't experienced such a natural high since the evening of November 8, 2016, when Donald J. Trump was declared the winner of the presidency.
Sean Hannity's opening monologue, Fox News Channel March 25, 2019.
Sean Hannity's exceptional Monday show was not interrupted by a commercial break until 45 minutes into the one-hour program. This unusual format allowed the host almost a full half-hour for his opening monologue, "Mainstream media has lied to you for years" (transcript, video), which began:
We have so much to unpack here. I'm just telling you tonight, it's the tip of the iceberg. This will take months.
Stay with us. I have so many details. And we are holding everyone accountable.
Mueller's report on Russia election interference finds, as we have been telling you, zero collusion between the president, his campaign, and Russia. Tonight, Newt Gingrich, Senator Lindsey Graham, the great one Mark Levin, Rudy Giuliani, Jay Sekulow will be here in just a moment.
My opening monologue and how we got here, what it means '-- and more importantly where do we go forward. ...
Many of you since yesterday have been writing to me and you want me to spike the football. I am not in any type of celebratory mood. This is a time where every American that now knows the truth should be angry at what has happened here to all of America. I am ticked off, and the rest of the country should be, too.
This is only the first chapter. This must be a day of reckoning for the media, for the Deep State, for people who abused power '-- and did it so blatantly.
On Monday evening, Fox News not only exceeded the number of viewers of MSNBC and CNN combined. It also beat two of the broadcast network channels, including CBS, which ran a Mueller Report special, and ABC, which programmed Fix It.
In 2017 and into 2018, I reported extensively in a series of articles for American Thinker on the cable news wars and the low and high points of Fox News. After 15 years of ratings dominance, Fox News in early 2017 was in trouble: its brilliant co-founder and CEO Roger Ailes had been forced out in July 2016, and months of tumult followed, including the upending of FNC's dominant prime time schedule early in 2017 with the departures of hosts Megyn Kelley and Bill O'Reilly. After the disastrous summer of 2017, Fox News righted itself with the strongest conservative prime time opinion line-up in its 20+ year history, with Carlson, Hannity, and Ingraham holding down 8''11 P.M. E.T.
According to most metrics, in 2018 and 2019 to date, FNC has held on to its overall ratings lead, well ahead of not only its cable news competition, but almost all other cable television channels as well. It was often bested in prime time, however, by MSNBC and its virulent, one-sided, non-stop anti-Trump programming, especially in the 9 P.M., hour when resistance icon Rachel Maddow often beat Sean Hannity in the demo and sometimes in total viewers.
The ratings success of MSNBC and to a lesser extent CNN '-- which usually did much better in the demo compared with its paltry numbers of total viewers '-- suggested that the strategy of the executives at NBC and CNN starting in November 2016 to go all-out 24/7 anti-Trump was paying off.
The collapse of the ratings for these two resistance channels since this past weekend, however, may be a sign that not only is their heyday coming to an end '-- but the whole political game in the wake of the Mueller Report has changed and, with it, the prospects for the looming presidential campaign and the re-election of President Trump in 2020.
On Tuesday evening, an email from Fox News Media Relations informed me that "Sean Hannity will present an exclusive interview with President Donald Trump on Wednesday, March 27th at 9 PM ET [with a replay at 10 P.M. P.T]. During the interview, President Trump will react to Attorney General William Barr's summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report and discuss the latest [news] surrounding his administration, including border security."
Peter Barry Chowka writes about politics, media, popular culture, and health care for American Thinker and other publications. Peter's new website is Follow him on Twitter at @pchowka.
The long awaited news on Sunday that the Mueller Report had exonerated President Trump of collusion with Russia instantly shed major new light on the complicity of the mainstream media in perpetrating the mass delusion of collusion. The news also had an immediate and potentially game-changing impact on the cable news television ratings.
Starting on Sunday and continuing all day Monday, CNN and MSNBC '-- the two cable "news" channels that over the past two years have morphed into high-impact electronic facilitators of the anti-Trump resistance '-- saw their ratings plummet...precipitously. Meanwhile, the Fox News Channel (FNC), the only mainstream media outlet to even question the whole collusion meme from the outset, trounced the competition. On Monday, Fox News had more than twice as many viewers '-- in both total numbers and in the preferred 25- to 54-year-old demographic '-- than MSNBC and CNN combined. According to Nielsen Media Research, FNC surpassed CNN and MSNBC combined in every hour on Monday from 5 P.M. to 12 midnight, while CNN had its second lowest weekday prime-time ratings of 2019 and its third lowest demo of the year.
Obviously energized and invigorated by the positive official news absolving President Trump of collusion, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham, FNC's three prime-time hosts, did some of their best shows ever on Monday. Greatly assisting their efforts was their access to and the expert editing and presentation of an archive of video clips of CNN and MSNBC hosts and guests projecting the demise of President Trump and predicting his indictment at the hands of Special Counsel Robert Mueller going back to 2016 and right up to last week. The unequivocal description of the Mueller Report by Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein '-- namely, that that there was no collusion with Russia on the part of Trump and his campaign to impact the 2016 presidential election '-- gave added meaning to the clips and to the analysis by the hosts and guests all evening on Fox News.
As a constant viewer of cable news and a veteran reporter and analyst of the business behind the flat screen and before that the tube, going back decades, I hadn't experienced such a natural high since the evening of November 8, 2016, when Donald J. Trump was declared the winner of the presidency.
Sean Hannity's opening monologue, Fox News Channel March 25, 2019.
Sean Hannity's exceptional Monday show was not interrupted by a commercial break until 45 minutes into the one-hour program. This unusual format allowed the host almost a full half-hour for his opening monologue, "Mainstream media has lied to you for years" (transcript, video), which began:
We have so much to unpack here. I'm just telling you tonight, it's the tip of the iceberg. This will take months.
Stay with us. I have so many details. And we are holding everyone accountable.
Mueller's report on Russia election interference finds, as we have been telling you, zero collusion between the president, his campaign, and Russia. Tonight, Newt Gingrich, Senator Lindsey Graham, the great one Mark Levin, Rudy Giuliani, Jay Sekulow will be here in just a moment.
My opening monologue and how we got here, what it means '-- and more importantly where do we go forward. ...
Many of you since yesterday have been writing to me and you want me to spike the football. I am not in any type of celebratory mood. This is a time where every American that now knows the truth should be angry at what has happened here to all of America. I am ticked off, and the rest of the country should be, too.
This is only the first chapter. This must be a day of reckoning for the media, for the Deep State, for people who abused power '-- and did it so blatantly.
On Monday evening, Fox News not only exceeded the number of viewers of MSNBC and CNN combined. It also beat two of the broadcast network channels, including CBS, which ran a Mueller Report special, and ABC, which programmed Fix It.
In 2017 and into 2018, I reported extensively in a series of articles for American Thinker on the cable news wars and the low and high points of Fox News. After 15 years of ratings dominance, Fox News in early 2017 was in trouble: its brilliant co-founder and CEO Roger Ailes had been forced out in July 2016, and months of tumult followed, including the upending of FNC's dominant prime time schedule early in 2017 with the departures of hosts Megyn Kelley and Bill O'Reilly. After the disastrous summer of 2017, Fox News righted itself with the strongest conservative prime time opinion line-up in its 20+ year history, with Carlson, Hannity, and Ingraham holding down 8''11 P.M. E.T.
According to most metrics, in 2018 and 2019 to date, FNC has held on to its overall ratings lead, well ahead of not only its cable news competition, but almost all other cable television channels as well. It was often bested in prime time, however, by MSNBC and its virulent, one-sided, non-stop anti-Trump programming, especially in the 9 P.M., hour when resistance icon Rachel Maddow often beat Sean Hannity in the demo and sometimes in total viewers.
The ratings success of MSNBC and to a lesser extent CNN '-- which usually did much better in the demo compared with its paltry numbers of total viewers '-- suggested that the strategy of the executives at NBC and CNN starting in November 2016 to go all-out 24/7 anti-Trump was paying off.
The collapse of the ratings for these two resistance channels since this past weekend, however, may be a sign that not only is their heyday coming to an end '-- but the whole political game in the wake of the Mueller Report has changed and, with it, the prospects for the looming presidential campaign and the re-election of President Trump in 2020.
On Tuesday evening, an email from Fox News Media Relations informed me that "Sean Hannity will present an exclusive interview with President Donald Trump on Wednesday, March 27th at 9 PM ET [with a replay at 10 P.M. P.T]. During the interview, President Trump will react to Attorney General William Barr's summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report and discuss the latest [news] surrounding his administration, including border security."
Peter Barry Chowka writes about politics, media, popular culture, and health care for American Thinker and other publications. Peter's new website is Follow him on Twitter at @pchowka.
Facebook bans white nationalism from platform after pressure from civil rights groups
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 18:03
Breaking News EmailsGet breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
March 27, 2019, 5:06 PM GMT
By David Ingram
Facebook is banning white nationalism and white supremacy from its social network following criticism that it had not done enough to eliminate hate speech on its platform.
The social media giant said in a blog post Wednesday that conversations with academics and civil rights groups convinced the company to expand its policies around hate groups.
''Today we're announcing a ban on praise, support and representation of white nationalism and separatism on Facebook and Instagram, which we'll start enforcing next week,'' the company wrote in the post. ''It's clear that these concepts are deeply linked to organized hate groups and have no place on our services.''
Scrutiny of Facebook reached new heights in the past two weeks after a gunman in Christchurch, New Zealand, used Facebook to livestream his attacks on two mosques that killed 50 people.
Under Facebook's change, people who search for terms associated with white supremacy will instead see a link to the page of Life After Hate, a nonprofit that helps people to leave hate groups, the company said.
The change was first reported earlier Wednesday by Vice Media's tech publication Motherboard, which had previously found that Facebook's policies banned white supremacy but allowed white nationalism and white separatism.
The social network, which counts more than 2 billion users, has faced growing criticism over its decisions about what kinds of speech to take down and what to leave up, and it maintains a sprawling book of rules that employees use to decide what to censor.
''Going forward, while people will still be able to demonstrate pride in their ethnic heritage, we will not tolerate praise or support for white nationalism and separatism,'' Facebook said in its post.
Facebook has previously taken action in the wake of race-based violence, removing links to a white supremacist website and taking down a page used to organize the ''Unite The Right'' rally in 2017.
Color of Change, an advocacy group that has called on technology companies to do more to fight racial hatred, called Facebook's decision a ''critical step forward.''
''Facebook's update should move Twitter, YouTube, and Amazon to act urgently to stem the growth of white nationalist ideologies, which find space on platforms to spread the violent ideas and rhetoric that inspired the tragic attacks witnessed in Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, and now Christchurch,'' Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, said in a statement.
A Twitter representative Wednesday declined to say whether the company was considering adopting a similar change. Amazon and YouTube did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Twitter does not explicitly ban white nationalism, though its rules tell users they may not affiliate with organizations that ''use or promote violence against civilians.'' Its rules also prohibit the use of ''hateful images or symbols'' in profile images, and Twitter says it enforces those policies vigorously and regardless of ideology.
Facebook has moved in recent years to expand its policies and take action against hate speech and misinformation, and the company has begun to enlist outside perspectives in its decision making.
On Tuesday, Ime Archibong, Facebook's vice president of product partnerships, revealed some details about a new oversight board that the company is forming to provide guidance on its ''most challenging and contentious content decisions'' and ''hold us publicly accountable if we don't get them right.''
''The board, as currently envisioned, will consist of about 40 global experts with experience in content, privacy, free expression, human rights, journalism and safety,'' Archibong wrote in a blog post. ''Where we need to, we will supplement member expertise through consultation with geographic and cultural experts to help ensure decisions are fully informed.''
Some U.S. lawmakers want the federal government to do more to learn about the relation between online extremism and hate crimes. House and Senate Democrats including Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., have introduced legislation that would require the Justice and Commerce departments to study how people are using the internet to fuel hate crimes.
Anne Speckhard, the director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism, or ICSVE, told NBC News that recommending anti-hate groups is a new more for Facebook.
Speckhard studies counter-extremism, specifically how groups like ISIS recruit using the internet, and said that Google had taken similar steps to favor anti-extremist content when at-risk users searched terms that would typically lead them to ISIS propaganda.
''We know [Facebook] has been working nonstop on it,'' Speckhard said. ''The truth is, far-right hate speech is a lot harder to identify than ISIS films. People use humor. They're more witty about it than ISIS has been.''
Facebook funds ICSVE's documentary project, titled ''Breaking the ISIS Brand,'' which has created more than 100 videos showing ISIS members disillusioned by their cause. The videos are meant to be shared on social media
Domestic extremism researchers largely praised the news. Becca Lewis, who studies white supremacy on social media for nonprofit technology research organization Data & Society, called Facebook's announcement ''a huge step in the right direction and one that is cause for cautious optimism.''
''For years, Facebook has tiptoed around the issue of white supremacy on its website, which has ultimately allowed it to thrive there, mostly unchecked,'' Lewis said. ''These steps suggest that the platform may finally be taking the issue more seriously than it has in the past.''
Lewis also said it's important to ''keep the pressure on platforms to follow through'' on the changes, as social media companies have not always made good on maintaining their platforms after initial announcements.
''At the same time, platforms have made a habit of releasing PR statements about changes they plan to make, and then ultimately not following through in meaningful ways,'' Lewis said.
David Ingram covers tech for NBC News.
It's official: Russiagate is this generation's WMD
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 16:43
Note to readers: in light of news that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation is complete, I'm releasing this chapter of Hate Inc. early, with a few new details added up top.
Nobody wants to hear this, but news that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is headed home without issuing new charges is a death-blow for the reputation of the American news media.
As has long been rumored, the former FBI chief's independent probe will result in multiple indictments and convictions, but no ''presidency-wrecking'' conspiracy charges, or anything that would meet the layman's definition of ''collusion'' with Russia.
With the caveat that even this news might somehow turn out to be botched, the key detail in the many stories about the end of the Mueller investigation was best expressed by the New York Times:
A senior Justice Department official said that Mr. Mueller would not recommend new indictments.
Attorney General William Barr sent a letter to congress summarizing Mueller's conclusions. The money line quoted the Mueller report:
[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.
Over the weekend, the Times tried to soften the emotional blow for the millions of Americans trained in these years to place hopes for the overturn of the Trump presidency in Mueller. As with most press coverage, there was little pretense that the Mueller probe was supposed to be a neutral fact-finding mission, as apposed to religious allegory, with Mueller cast as the hero sent to slay the monster.
The Special Prosecutor literally became a religious figure during the last few years, with votive candles sold in his image and Saturday Night Live cast members singing ''All I Want for Christmas is You'' to him featuring the rhymey line: ''Mueller please come through, because the only option is a coup.''
The Times story today tried to preserve Santa Mueller's reputation, noting Trump's Attorney General William Barr's reaction was an ''endorsement'' of the fineness of Mueller's work:
In an apparent endorsement of an investigation that Mr. Trump has relentlessly attacked as a ''witch hunt,'' Mr. Barr said Justice Department officials never had to intervene to keep Mr. Mueller from taking an inappropriate or unwarranted step.
Mueller, in other words, never stepped out of the bounds of his job description. But could the same be said for the news media?
For those anxious to keep the dream alive, the Times published its usual graphic of Trump-Russia ''contacts,'' inviting readers to keep making connections. But in a separate piece by Peter Baker, the paper noted the Mueller news had dire consequences for the press:
It will be a reckoning for President Trump, to be sure, but also for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, for Congress, for Democrats, for Republicans, for the news media and, yes, for the system as a whole'...
This is a damning page one admission by the Times. Despite the connect-the-dots graphic in its other story, and despite the astonishing, emotion-laden editorial the paper also ran suggesting ''We don't need to read the Mueller report'' because we know Trump is guilty, Baker at least began the work of preparing Times readers for a hard question: ''Have journalists connected too many dots that do not really add up?''
The paper was signaling it understood there would now be questions about whether or not news outlets like itself made galactic errors by betting heavily on a new, politicized approach, trying to be true to ''history's judgment'' on top of the hard-enough job of just being true. Worse, in a brutal irony everyone should have seen coming, the press has now handed Trump the mother of campaign issues heading into 2020.
Nothing Trump is accused of from now on by the press will be believed by huge chunks of the population, a group that (perhaps thanks to this story) is now larger than his original base. As Baker notes, a full 50.3% of respondents in a poll conducted this month said they agree with Trump the Mueller probe is a ''witch hunt.''
Stories have been coming out for some time now hinting Mueller's final report might leave audiences ''disappointed,'' as if a President not being a foreign spy could somehow be bad news.
Openly using such language has, all along, been an indictment. Imagine how tone-deaf you'd have to be to not realize it makes you look bad, when news does not match audience expectations you raised. To be unaware of this is mind-boggling, the journalistic equivalent of walking outside without pants.
There will be people protesting: the Mueller report doesn't prove anything! What about the 37 indictments? The convictions? The Trump tower revelations? The lies! The meeting with Don, Jr.? The financial matters! There's an ongoing grand jury investigation, and possible sealed indictments, and the House will still investigate, and'...
Stop. Just stop. Any journalist who goes there is making it worse.
For years, every pundit and Democratic pol in Washington hyped every new Russia headline like the Watergate break-in. Now, even Nancy Pelosi has said impeachment is out, unless something ''so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan'' against Trump is uncovered it would be worth their political trouble to prosecute.
The biggest thing this affair has uncovered so far is Donald Trump paying off a porn star. That's a hell of a long way from what this business was supposedly about at the beginning, and shame on any reporter who tries to pretend this isn't so.
The story hyped from the start was espionage: a secret relationship between the Trump campaign and Russian spooks who'd helped him win the election.
The betrayal narrative was not reported as metaphor. It was not ''Trump likes the Russians so much, he might as well be a spy for them.'' It was literal spying, treason, and election-fixing '' crimes so severe, former NSA employee John Schindler told reporters, Trump ''will die in jail.''
In the early months of this scandal, the New York Times said Trump's campaign had ''repeated contacts'' with Russian intelligence; the Wall Street Journal told us our spy agencies were withholding intelligence from the new President out of fear he was compromised; news leaked out our spy chiefs had even told other countries like Israel not to share their intel with us, because the Russians might have ''leverages of pressure'' on Trump.
CNN told us Trump officials had been in ''constant contact'' with ''Russians known to U.S. intelligence,'' and the former director of the CIA, who'd helped kick-start the investigation that led to Mueller's probe, said the President was guilty of ''high crimes and misdemeanors,'' committing acts ''nothing short of treasonous.''
Hillary Clinton insisted Russians ''could not have known how to weaponize'' political ads unless they'd been ''guided'' by Americans. Asked if she meant Trump, she said, ''It's pretty hard not to.'' Harry Reid similarly said he had ''no doubt'' that the Trump campaign was ''in on the deal'' to help Russians with the leak.
None of this has been walked back. To be clear, if Trump were being blackmailed by Russian agencies like the FSB or the GRU, if he had any kind of relationship with Russian intelligence, that would soar over the ''overwhelming and bipartisan'' standard, and Nancy Pelosi would be damning torpedoes for impeachment right now.
There was never real gray area here. Either Trump is a compromised foreign agent, or he isn't. If he isn't, news outlets once again swallowed a massive disinformation campaign, only this error is many orders of magnitude more stupid than any in the recent past, WMD included. Honest reporters like ABC's Terry Moran understand: Mueller coming back empty-handed on collusion means a ''reckoning for the media.''
Of course, there won't be such a reckoning. (There never is). But there should be. We broke every written and unwritten rule in pursuit of this story, starting with the prohibition on reporting things we can't confirm.
#Russiagate debuted as a media phenomenon in mid-summer, 2016. The roots of the actual story, i.e. when the multi-national investigation began, go back much further, to the previous year at least. Oddly, that origin tale has not been nailed down yet, and blue-state audiences don't seem terribly interested in it, either.
By June and July of 2016, bits of the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, which had been funded by the Democratic National Committee through the law firm Perkins Coie (which in turn hired the opposition research firm Fusion GPS), were already in the ether.
The Steele report occupies the same role in #Russiagate the tales spun by Ahmed Chalabi occupied in the WMD screwup. Once again, a narrative became turbo-charged when Officials With Motives pulled the press corps by its nose to a swamp of unconfirmable private assertions.
Some early stories, like a July 4, 2016 piece by Franklin Foer in Slate called ''Putin's Puppet,'' outlined future Steele themes in ''circumstantial'' form. But the actual dossier, while it influenced a number of pre-election Trump-Russia news stories (notably one by Michael Isiskoff of Yahoo! that would be used in a FISA warrant application), didn't make it into print for a while.
Though it was shopped to at least nine news organizations during the summer and fall of 2016, no one bit, for the good reason that news organizations couldn't verify its ''revelations.''
The Steele claims were explosive if true. The ex-spy reported Trump aide Carter Page had been offered fees on a big new slice of the oil giant Rosneft if he could help get sanctions against Russia lifted. He also said Trump lawyer Michael Cohen went to Prague for ''secret discussions with Kremlin representatives and associated operators/hackers.''
Most famously, he wrote the Kremlin had kompromat of Trump ''deriling'' [sic] a bed once used by Barack and Michelle Obama by ''employing a number of prostitutes to perform a 'golden showers' (urination) show.''
This was too good of a story not to do. By hook or crook, it had to come out. The first salvo was by David Corn of Mother Jones on October 31, 2016: ''A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump.''
The piece didn't have pee, Prague, or Page in it, but it did say Russian intelligence had material that could ''blackmail'' Trump. It was technically kosher to print because Corn wasn't publishing the allegations themselves, merely that the FBI had taken possession of them.
A bigger pretext was needed to get the other details out. This took place just after the election, when four intelligence officials presented copies of the dossier to both President-Elect Trump and outgoing President Obama.
From his own memos, we know FBI Director James Comey, ostensibly evincing concern for Trump's welfare, told the new President he was just warning him about what was out there, as possible blackmail material:
I wasn't saying [the Steele report] was true, only that I wanted him to know both that it had been reported and that the reports were in many hands. I said media like CNN had them and were looking for a news hook. I said it was important that we not give them the excuse to write that the FBI has the material or [redacted] and that we were keeping it very close-hold [sic].
Comey's generous warning to Trump about not providing a ''news hook,'' along with a promise to keep it all ''close-held,'' took place on January 6, 2017. Within four days, basically the entire Washington news media somehow knew all about this top-secret meeting and had the very hook they needed to go public. Nobody in the mainstream press thought this was weird or warranted comment.
Even Donald Trump was probably smart enough to catch the hint when, of all outlets, it was CNN that first broke the story of ''Classified documents presented last week to Trump'' on January 10.
At the same time, Buzzfeed made the historic decision to publish the entire Steele dossier, bringing years of pee into our lives. This move birthed the Russiagate phenomenon as a never-ending, minute-to-minute factor in American news coverage.
Comey was right. We couldn't have reported this story without a ''hook.'' Therefore the reports surrounding Steele technically weren't about the allegations themselves, but rather the journey of those allegations, from one set of official hands to another. Handing the report to Trump created a perfect pretext.
This trick has been used before, both in Washington and on Wall Street, to publicize unconfirmed private research. A short seller might hire a consulting firm to prepare a report on a company he or she has bet against. When the report is completed, the investor then tries to get the SEC or the FBI to take possession. If they do, news leaks the company is ''under investigation,'' the stock dives, and everyone wins.
This same trick is found in politics. A similar trajectory drove negative headlines in the scandal surrounding New Jersey's Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who was said to be under investigation by the FBI for underage sex crimes (although some were skeptical). The initial story didn't hold up, but led to other investigations.
Same with the so-called ''Arkansas project,'' in which millions of Republican-friendly private research dollars produced enough noise about the Whitewater scandal to create years of headlines about the Clintons. Swiftboating was another example. Private oppo isn't inherently bad. In fact it has led to some incredible scoops, including Enron. But reporters usually know to be skeptical of private info, and figure the motives of its patrons into the story.
The sequence of events in that second week of January, 2017 will now need to be heavily re-examined. We now know, from his own testimony, that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had some kind of role in helping CNN do its report, presumably by confirming part of the story, perhaps through an intermediary or two (there is some controversy over whom exactly was contacted, and when).
Why would real security officials litigate this grave matter through the media? Why were the world's most powerful investigative agencies acting like they were trying to move a stock, pushing a private, unverified report that even Buzzfeed could see had factual issues? It made no sense at the time, and makes less now.
In January of 2017, Steele's pile of allegations became public, read by millions. ''It is not just unconfirmed,'' Buzzfeed admitted. ''It includes some clear errors.''
Buzzfeed's decision exploded traditional journalistic standards against knowingly publishing material whose veracity you doubt. Although a few media ethicists wondered at it, this seemed not to bother the rank-and-file in the business. Buzzfeed chief Ben Smith is still proud of his decision today. I think this was because many reporters believed the report was true.
When I read the report, I was in shock. I thought it read like fourth-rate suspense fiction (I should know: I write fourth-rate suspense fiction). Moreover it seemed edited both for public consumption and to please Steele's DNC patrons.
Steele wrote of Russians having a file of ''compromising information'' on Hillary Clinton, only this file supposedly lacked ''details/evidence of unorthodox or embarrassing behavior'' or ''embarrassing conduct.''
We were meant to believe the Russians, across decades of dirt-digging, had an empty kompromat file on Hillary Clinton, to say nothing of human tabloid headline Bill Clinton? This point was made more than once in the reports, as if being emphasized for the reading public.
There were other curious lines, including the bit about Russians having ''moles'' in the DNC, plus some linguistic details that made me wonder at the nationality of the report author.
Still, who knew? It could be true. But even the most cursory review showed the report had issues and would need a lot of confirming. This made it more amazing that the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, held hearings on March 20, 2017 that blithely read out Steele report details as if they were fact. From Schiff's opening statement:
According to Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who is reportedly held in high regard by U.S. Intelligence, Russian sources tell him that Page has also had a secret meeting with Igor Sechin (SEH-CHIN), CEO of Russian gas giant Rosneft'... Page is offered brokerage fees by Sechin on a deal involving a 19 percent share of the company.
I was stunned watching this. It's generally understood that members of congress, like reporters, make an effort to vet at least their prepared remarks before making them public.
But here was Schiff, telling the world Trump aide Carter Page had been offered huge fees on a 19% stake in Rosneft '' a company with a $63 billion market capitalization '' in a secret meeting with a Russian oligarch who was also said to be ''a KGB agent and close friend of Putin's.''
(Schiff meant ''FSB agent.'' The inability of #Russiagaters to remember Russia is not the Soviet Union became increasingly maddening over time. Donna Brazile still hasn't deleted her tweet about how ''The Communists are now dictating the terms of the debate.'' )
Schiff's speech raised questions. Do we no longer have to worry about getting accusations right if the subject is tied to Russiagate? What if Page hadn't done any of these things? To date, he hasn't been charged with anything. Shouldn't a member of congress worry about this?
A few weeks after that hearing, Steele gave testimony in a British lawsuit filed by one of the Russian companies mentioned in his reports. In a written submission, Steele said his information was ''raw'' and ''needed to be analyzed and further investigated/verified.'' He also wrote that (at least as pertained to the memo in that case) he had not written his report ''with the intention that it be republished to the world at large.''
That itself was a curious statement, given that Steele reportedly spoke with multiple reporters in the fall of 2016, but this was his legal position. This story about Steele's British court statements did not make it into the news much in the United States, apart from a few bits in conservative outlets like The Washington Times.
I contacted Schiff's office to ask the congressman if he knew about Steele's admission that his report needed verifying, and if that changed his view of it at all. The response (emphasis mine):
The dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele and which was leaked publicly several months ago contains information that may be pertinent to our investigation. This is true regardless of whether it was ever intended for public dissemination. Accordingly, the Committee hopes to speak with Mr. Steele in order to help substantiate or refute each of the allegations contained in the dossier.
Schiff had not spoken to Steele before the hearing, and read out the allegations knowing they were unsubstantiated.
The Steele report was the Magna Carta of #Russiagate. It provided the implied context for thousands of news stories to come, yet no journalist was ever able to confirm its most salacious allegations: the five year cultivation plan, the blackmail, the bribe from Sechin, the Prague trip, the pee romp, etc. In metaphorical terms, we were unable to independently produce Steele's results in the lab. Failure to reckon with this corrupted the narrative from the start.
For years, every hint the dossier might be true became a banner headline, while every time doubt was cast on Steele's revelations, the press was quiet. Washington Post reporter Greg Miller had a team looking for evidence Cohen had been in Prague. Reporters, Miller said, ''literally spent weeks and months trying to run down'' the Cohen story.
''We sent reporters through every hotel in Prague, through all over the place, just to try to figure out if he was ever there,'' he said, ''and came away empty.''
This was heads-I-win, tails-you-lose reporting. One assumes if Miller's crew found Cohen's name in a hotel ledger, it would have been on page 1 of the Post. The converse didn't get a mention in Miller's own paper. He only told the story during a discussion aired by C-SPAN about a new book he'd published. Only The Daily Caller and a few conservative blogs picked it up.*
It was the same when Bob Woodward said, ''I did not find [espionage or collusion]'... Of course I looked for it, looked for it hard.''
The celebrated Watergate muckraker '' who once said he'd succumbed to ''groupthink'' in the WMD episode and added, ''I blame myself mightily for not pushing harder'' '' didn't push very hard here, either. News that he'd tried and failed to find collusion didn't get into his own paper. It only came out when Woodward was promoting his book Fear in a discussion with conservative host Hugh Hewitt.
When Michael Cohen testified before congress and denied under oath ever being in Prague, it was the same. Few commercial news outlets bothered to take note of the implications this had for their previous reports. Would a man clinging to a plea deal lie to congress on national television about this issue?
There was a CNN story, but the rest of the coverage was all in conservative outlets '' the National Review, Fox, The Daily Caller. The Washington Post's response was to run an editorial sneering at ''How conservative media downplayed Michael Cohen's testimony.''
Perhaps worst of all was the episode involving Yahoo! reporter Michael Isikoff. He had already been part of one strange tale: the FBI double-dipping when it sought a FISA warrant to conduct secret surveillance of Carter Page, the would-be mastermind who was supposed to have brokered a deal with oligarch Sechin.
In its FISA application, the FBI included both the unconfirmed Steele report and Isikoff's September 23, 2016 Yahoo! story, ''U.S. Intel Officials probe ties between Trump adviser and Kremlin.'' The Isikoff story, which claimed Page had met with ''high ranking sanctioned officials'' in Russia, had relied upon Steele as an unnamed source.
This was similar to a laundering technique used in the WMD episode called ''stove-piping,'' i.e. officials using the press to ''confirm'' information the officials themselves fed the reporter.
But there was virtually no non-conservative press about this problem apart from a Washington Post story pooh-poohing the issue. (Every news story that casts any doubt on the collusion issue seems to meet with an instantaneous ''fact check'' in the Post.) The Post insisted the FISA issue wasn't serious among other things because Steele was not the ''foundation'' of Isikoff's piece.
Isikoff was perhaps the reporter most familiar with Steele. He and Corn of Mother Jones, who also dealt with the ex-spy, wrote a bestselling book that relied upon theories from Steele, Russian Roulette, including a rumination on the ''pee'' episode. Yet Isikoff in late 2018 suddenly said he believed the Steele report would turn out to be ''mostly false.''
Once again, this only came out via a podcast, John Ziegler's ''Free Speech Broadcasting'' show. Here's a transcript of the relevant section:
Isikoff: When you actually get into the details of the Steele dossier, the specific allegations, you know, we have not seen the evidence to support them. And in fact there is good grounds to think some of the more sensational allegations will never be proven, and are likely false.
Ziegler: That's...
Isikoff: I think it's a mixed record at best at this point, things could change, Mueller may yet produce evidence that changes this calculation. But based on the public record at this point I have to say that most of the specific allegations have not been borne out.
Ziegler: That's interesting to hear you say that, Michael because as I'm sure you know, your book was kind of used to validate the pee tape, for lack of a better term.
Isikoff: Yeah. I think we had some evidence in there of an event that may have inspired the pee tape and that was the visit that Trump made with a number of characters who later showed up in Moscow, specifically Emin Agalarov and Rob Goldstone to this raunchy Las Vegas nightclub where one of the regular acts was a skit called ''Hot For Teacher'' in which dancers posing as college Co-Ed's urinated '' or simulated urinating on their professor. Which struck me as an odd coincidence at best. I think, you know, it is not implausible that event may have inspired...
Ziegler: An urban legend?
Isikoff: ...allegations that appeared in the Steele dossier.
Isikoff delivered this story with a laughing tone. He seamlessly transitioned to what he then called the ''real'' point, i.e. ''the irony is Steele may be right, but it wasn't the Kremlin that had sexual kompromat on Donald Trump, it was the National Enquirer.''
Recapping: the reporter who introduced Steele to the world (his September 23, 2016 story was the first to reference him as a source), who wrote a book that even he concedes was seen as ''validating'' the pee tape story, suddenly backtracks and says the whole thing may have been based on a Las Vegas strip act, but it doesn't matter because Stormy Daniels, etc.
Another story of this type involved a court case in which Webzilla and parent company XBT sued Steele and Buzzfeed over the mention their firm in one of the memos. It came out in court testimony that Steele had culled information about XBT/Webzilla from a 2009 post on CNN's "iReports'' page.
Asked if he understood these posts came from random users and not CNN journalists who'd been fact-checked, Steele replied, ''I do not.''
This comical detail was similar to news that the second British Mi6 dossier released just before the Iraq invasion had been plagiarized in part from a thirteen year-old student thesis from California State University, not even by intelligence people, but by mid-level functionaries in Tony Blair's press office.
There were so many profiles of Steele as an ''astoundingly diligent'' spymaster straight out of LeCarre: he was routinely described as a LeCarre-ian grinder, similar in appearance and manner to the legendary George Smiley. He was a man in the shadows whose bookish intensity was belied by his ''average,'' ''neutral,'' ''quiet,'' demeanor, being ''more low-key than Smiley.'' One would think it might have rated a mention that the new ''Smiley'' was cutting and pasting text like a community college freshman. But the story barely made news.
This has been a consistent pattern throughout #Russiagate. Step one: salacious headline. Step two, days or weeks later: news emerges the story is shakier than first believed. Step three (in the best case) involves the story being walked back or retracted by the same publication.
That's been rare. More often, when explosive #Russiagate headlines go sideways, the original outlets simply ignore the new development, leaving the ''retraction'' process to conservative outlets that don't reach the original audiences.
This is a major structural flaw of the new fully-divided media landscape in which Republican media covers Democratic corruption and Democratic media covers Republican corruption. If neither ''side'' feels the need to disclose its own errors and inconsistencies, mistakes accumulate quickly.
This has been the main reportorial difference between Russiagate and the WMD affair. Despite David Remnick's post-invasion protestations that ''nobody got [WMD] completely right,'' the Iraq war was launched against the objections of the 6 million or more people who did get it right, and protested on the streets. There was open skepticism of Bush claims dotting the press landscape from the start, with people like Jack Shafer tearing apart every Judith Miller story in print. Most reporters are Democrats and the people hawking the WMD story were mostly Republicans, so there was at least some political space for protest.
Russiagate happened in an opposite context. If the story fell apart it would benefit Donald Trump politically, a fact that made a number of reporters queasy about coming forward. #Russiagate became synonymous with #Resistance, which made public skepticism a complicated proposition.
Early in the scandal, I appeared on To The Point, a California-based public radio show hosted by Warren Olney, with Corn of Mother Jones. I knew David a little and had been friendly with him. He once hosted a book event for me in Washington. In the program, however, the subject of getting facts right came up and Corn said this was not a time for reporters to be picking nits:
So Democrats getting overeager, overenthusiastic, stating things that may not be [unintelligible] true'...? Well, tell me a political issue where that doesn't happen. I think that's looking at the wrong end of the telescope.
I wrote him later and suggested that since we're in the press, and not really about anything except avoiding ''things that may not be true,'' maybe we had different responsibilities than ''Democrats''? He wrote back:
Feel free to police the Trump opposition. But on the list of shit that needs to be covered these days, that's just not high on my personal list.
Other reporters spoke of an internal struggle. When the Mueller indictment of the Internet Research Agency was met with exultation in the media, New Yorker writer Adrian Chen, who broke the original IRA story, was hesitant to come forward with some mild qualms about the way the story was being reported:
''Either I could stay silent and allow the conversation to be dominated by those pumping up the Russian threat,'' he said, ''or I could risk giving fodder to Trump and his allies.''
After writing, ''Confessions of a Russiagate Skeptic,'' poor Blake Hounsell of Politico took such a beating on social media, he ended up denouncing himself a year later.
''What I meant to write is, I wasn't skeptical,'' he said.
Years ago, in the midst of the WMD affair, Times public editor Daniel Okrent noted the paper's standard had moved from ''Don't get it first, get it right'' to ''Get it first and get it right.'' From there, Okrent wrote, ''the next devolution was an obvious one.''
We're at that next devolution: first and wrong. The Russiagate era has so degraded journalism that even once ''reputable'' outlets are now only about as right as politicians, which is to say barely ever, and then only by accident.
Early on, I was so amazed by the sheer quantity of Russia ''bombshells'' being walked back, I started to keep a list. It's well above 50 stories now. As has been noted by Glenn Greenwald of the Intercept and others, if the mistakes were random, you'd expect them in both directions, but Russiagate errors uniformly go the same way.
In some cases the stories are only partly wrong, as in the case of the famed ''17 intelligence agencies said Russia was behind the hacking'' story (it was actually four: the Director of National Intelligence ''hand-picking'' a team from the FBI, CIA, and NSA).
In other cases the stories were blunt false starts, resulting in ugly sets of matching headlines:
''Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility''
Washington Post, December 31, 2016.
''Russian government hackers do not appear to have targeted Vermont utility''
Washington Post, Jan. 2, 2017.
''Trump Campaign Aides had repeated contacts with Russian Intelligence,'' published by the Times on Valentine's Day, 2017, was an important, narrative-driving ''bombshell'' that looked dicey from the start. The piece didn't say whether the contact was witting or unwitting, whether the discussions were about business or politics, or what the contacts supposedly were at all.
Normally a reporter would want to know what the deal is before he or she runs a story accusing people of having dealings with foreign spies. ''Witting'' or ''Unwitting'' ought to be a huge distinction, for instance. It soon after came out that people like former CIA chief John Brennan don't think this is the case. ''Frequently, people who are on a treasonous path do not know they're on a treasonous path,'' he said, speaking of Trump's circle.
This seemed a dangerous argument, the kind of thing that led to trouble in the McCarthy years. But let's say the contacts were serious. From a reporting point of view, you'd still need to know exactly what the nature of such contacts were before you run that story, because the headline implication is grave. Moreover you'd need to know it well enough to report it, i.e. it's not enough to be told a convincing story off-the-record, you need to be able to share with readers enough so that they can characterize the news themselves.
Not to the Times, which ran the article without the specifics. Months later, Comey blew up this ''contacts'' story in public, saying, ''in the main, it was not true.''
As was the case with the ''17 agencies'' error, which only got fixed when Clapper testified in congress and was forced to make the correction under oath, the ''repeated contacts'' story was only disputed when Comey testified in congress, this time before the Senate Intelligence Committee. How many other errors of this type are waiting to be disclosed?
Even the mistakes caught were astounding. On December 1, 2017, ABC reporter Brian Ross claimed Trump ''as a candidate'' instructed Michael Flynn to contact Russia. The news caused the Dow to plummet 350 points. The story was retracted almost immediately and Ross was suspended.
Bloomberg reported Mueller subpoenaed Trump's Deutsche Bank accounts; the subpoenas turned out to be of other individuals' records. Fortune said C-SPAN was hacked after Russia Today programming briefly interrupted coverage of a Maxine Waters floor address. The New York Times also ran the story, and it's still up, despite C-SPAN insisting its own ''internal routing error'' likely caused the feed to appear in place of its own broadcast.
CNN has its own separate sub-list of wrecks. Three of the network's journalists resigned after a story purporting to tie Trump advisor Anthony Scaramucci to a Russian investment fund was retracted. Four more CNN reporters (Gloria Borger, Eric Lichtblau, Jake Tapper and Brian Rokus) were bylined in a story that claimed Comey was expected to refute Trump's claims he was told he wasn't the target of an investigation. Comey blew that one up, too.
In another CNN scoop gone awry, ''Email pointed Trump campaign to WikiLeaks documents,'' the network's reporters were off by ten days in a ''bombshell'' that supposedly proved the Trump campaign had foreknowledge of Wikileaks dumps. ''It's, uh, perhaps not as significant as what we know now,'' offered CNN's Manu Raju in a painful on-air retraction.
The worst stories were the ones never corrected. A particularly bad example is ''After Florida School Shooting, Russian 'Bot' Army Pounced,'' from the New York Times on Feb 18, 2018. The piece claimed Russians were trying to divide Americans on social media after a mass shooting using Twitter hashtags like #guncontrolnow, #gunreformnow and #Parklandshooting.
The Times ran this quote high up:
''This is pretty typical for them, to hop on breaking news like this,'' said Jonathon Morgan, chief executive of New Knowledge, a company that tracks online disinformation campaigns. ''The bots focus on anything that is divisive for Americans. Almost systematically.''
About a year after this story came out, Times reporters Scott Shane and Ann Blinder reported that the same outfit, New Knowledge, and in particular that same Jonathon Morgan, had participated in a cockamamie scheme to fake Russian troll activity in an Alabama Senate race. The idea was to try to convince voters Russia preferred the Republican.
The Times quoted a New Knowledge internal report about the idiotic Alabama scheme:
We orchestrated an elaborate 'false flag' operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet'...
The Parkland story was iffy enough when it came out, as Twitter disputed it, and another of the main sources for the initial report, former intelligence official Clint Watts, subsequently said he was ''not convinced'' on the whole ''bot thing.''
But when one of your top sources turns out to have faked exactly the kind of activity described in your article, you should at least take the quote out, or put an update online. No luck: the story remains up on the Times site, without disclaimers.
Russiagate institutionalized one of the worst ethical loopholes in journalism, which used to be limited mainly to local crime reporting. It's always been a problem that we publish mugshots and names of people merely arrested but not yet found guilty. Those stories live forever online and even the acquitted end up permanently unable to get jobs, smeared as thieves, wife-beaters, drunk drivers, etc.
With Russiagate the national press abandoned any pretense that there's a difference between indictment and conviction. The most disturbing story involved Maria Butina. Here authorities and the press shared responsibility. Thanks to an indictment that initially said the Russian traded sex for favors, the Times and other outlets flooded the news cycle with breathless stories about a redheaded slut-temptress come to undermine democracy, a ''real-life Red Sparrow,'' as ABC put it.
But a judge threw out the sex charge after ''five minutes'' when it turned out to be based on a single joke text to a friend who had taken Butina's car for inspection.
It's pretty hard to undo public perception you're a prostitute once it's been in a headline, and, worse, the headlines are still out there. You can still find stories like ''Maria Butina, Suspected Secret Agent, Used Sex in Covert Plan'' online in the New York Times.
Here a reporter might protest: how would I know? Prosecutors said she traded sex for money. Why shouldn't I believe them?
How about because, authorities have been lying their faces off to reporters since before electricity! It doesn't take much investigation to realize the main institutional sources in the Russiagate mess '' the security services, mainly '' have extensive records of deceiving the media.
As noted before, from World War I-era tales of striking union workers being German agents to the ''missile gap'' that wasn't (the ''gap'' was leaked to the press before the Soviets had even one operational ICBM) to the Gulf of Tonkin mess to all the smears of people like Martin Luther King, it's a wonder newspapers listen to whispers from government sources at all.
In the Reagan years National Security Adviser John Poindexter spread false stories about Libyan terrorist plots to The Wall Street Journal and other papers. In the Bush years, Dick Cheney et al were selling manure by the truckload about various connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda, infamously including a story that bomber Mohammed Atta met with Iraqi intelligence officials in Prague.
The New York Times ran a story that Atta was in Prague in late October of 2001, even giving a date of the meeting with Iraqis, April 8, or ''just five months before the terrorist attacks.'' The Prague story was another example of a tale that seemed shaky because American officials were putting the sourcing first on foreign intelligence, then on reporters themselves. Cheney cited the Prague report in subsequent TV appearances, one of many instances of feeding reporters tidbits and then selling reports as independent confirmation.
It wasn't until three years later, in 2004, that Times reporter James Risen definitively killed the Atta-in-Prague canard (why is it always Prague?) in a story entitled ''No evidence of meeting with Iraqi.'' By then, of course, it was too late. The Times also held a major dissenting piece by Risen about the WMD case, ''C.I.A. Aides Feel Pressure in Preparing Iraqi Reports,'' until days after war started. This is what happens when you start thumbing the scale.
This failure to demand specifics has been epidemic in Russiagate, even when good reporters have been involved. One of the biggest ''revelations'' of this era involved a story that was broken first by a terrible reporter (the Guardian's Luke Harding) and followed up by a good one (Jane Mayer of the New Yorker). The key detail involved the elusive origin story of Russiagate.
Mayer's piece, the March 12, 2018 ''Christopher Steele, the Man Behind The Trump Dossier'' in the New Yorker, impacted the public mainly by seeming to bolster the credentials of the dossier author. But it contained an explosive nugget far down. Mayer reported Robert Hannigan, then-head of the GCHQ (the British analog to the NSA) intercepted a ''stream of illicit communications'' between ''Trump's team and Moscow'' at some point prior to August 2016. Hannigan flew to the U.S. and briefed CIA director John Brennan about these communications. Brennan later testified this inspired the original FBI investigation.
When I read that, a million questions came to mind, but first: what did ''illicit'' mean?
If something ''illicit'' had been captured by GCHQ, and this led to the FBI investigation (one of several conflicting public explanations for the start of the FBI probe, incidentally), this would go a long way toward clearing up the nature of the collusion charge. If they had something, why couldn't they tell us what it was? Why didn't we deserve to know?
I asked the Guardian: ''Was any attempt made to find out what those communications were? How was the existence of these communications confirmed? Did anyone from the Guardian see or hear these intercepts, or transcripts?''
Their one-sentence reply:
The Guardian has strict and rigorous procedures when dealing with source material.
That's the kind of answer you'd expect from a transnational bank, or the army, not a newspaper.
I asked Mayer the same questions. She was more forthright, noting that, of course, the story had originally been broken by Harding, whose own report said ''the precise nature of these exchanges has not been made public.''
She added that ''afterwards I independently confirmed aspects of [Harding's piece] with several well-informed sources,'' and ''spent months on the Steele story [and] traveled to the UK twice for it.'' But, she wrote, ''the Russiagate story, like all reporting on sensitive national security issues, is difficult.''
I can only infer she couldn't find out what ''illicit'' meant despite proper effort. The detail was published anyway. It may not have seemed like a big deal, but I think it was.
To be clear, I don't necessarily disbelieve the idea that there were ''illicit'' contacts between Trump and Russians in early 2015 or before. But if there were such contacts, I can't think of any legitimate reason why their nature should be withheld from the public.
If authorities can share reasons for concern with foreign countries like Israel, why should American voters not be so entitled? Moreover the idea that we need to keep things secret to protect sources and methods and ''tradecraft'' (half the press corps became expert in goofy spy language over the last few years, using terms like ''SIGINT'' like they've known them their whole lives), why are we leaking news of our ability to hear Russian officials cheering Trump's win?
Failure to ask follow-up questions happened constantly with this story. One of the first reports that went sideways involved a similar dynamic: the contention that some leaked DNC emails were forgeries.
MSNBC's ''Intelligence commentator'' Malcolm Nance, perhaps the most enthusiastic source of questionable #Russiagate news this side of Twitter conspiracist Louise Mensch, tweeted on October 11, 2016: ''#PodestaEmails are already proving to be riddled with obvious forgeries & #blackpropaganda not even professionally done.''
As noted in The Intercept and elsewhere, this was re-reported by the likes of David Frum (a key member of the club that has now contributed to both the WMD and Russiagate panics) and MSNBC host Joy Reid. The reports didn't stop until roughly October of 2016, among other things because the Clinton campaign kept suggesting to reporters the emails were fake. This could have been stopped sooner if examples of a forgery had been demanded from the Clinton campaign earlier.
Another painful practice that became common was failing to confront your own sources when news dispositive to what they've told you pops up. The omnipresent Clapper told Chuck Todd on March 5, 2017, without equivocation, that there had been no FISA application involving Trump or his campaign. ''I can deny it,'' he said.
It soon after came out this wasn't true. The FBI had a FISA warrant on Carter Page. This was not a small misstatement by Clapper, because his appearance came a day after Trump claimed in a tweet he'd had his ''wires tapped.'' Trump was widely ridiculed for this claim, perhaps appropriately so, but in addition to the Page news, it later came out there had been a FISA warrant of Paul Manafort as well, during which time Trump may have been the subject of ''incidental'' surveillance.
Whether or not this was meaningful, or whether these warrants were justified, are separate questions. The important thing is, Clapper either lied to Todd, or else he somehow didn't know the FBI had obtained these warrants. The latter seems absurd and unlikely. Either way, Todd ought to been peeved and demanded an explanation. Instead, he had Clapper back on again within months and gave him the usual softball routine, never confronting him about the issue.
Reporters repeatedly got burned and didn't squawk about it. Where are the outraged stories about all the scads of anonymous ''people familiar with the matter'' who put reporters in awkward spots in the last years? Why isn't McClatchy demanding the heads of whatever ''four people with knowledge'' convinced them to double down on the Cohen-in-Prague story?
Why isn't every reporter who used ''New Knowledge'' as a source about salacious Russian troll stories out for their heads (or the heads of the congressional sources who passed this stuff on), after reports they faked Russian trolling? How is it possible NBC and other outlets continued to use New Knowledge as a source in stories identifying antiwar Democrat Tulsi Gabbard as a Russian-backed candidate?
How do the Guardian's editors not already have Harding's head in a vice for hanging them out to dry on the most dubious un-retracted story in modern history '' the tale that the most watched human on earth, Julian Assange, had somehow been visited in the Ecuadorian embassy by Paul Manafort without leaving any record? I'd be dragging Harding's ''well placed source'' into the office and beating him with a hose until he handed them something that would pass for corroborating evidence.
The lack of blowback over episodes in which reporters were put in public compromised situations speaks to the overly cozy relationships outlets had with official sources. Too often, it felt like a team effort, where reporters seemed to think it was their duty to take the weight if sources pushed them to overreach. They had absolutely no sense of institutional self-esteem about this.
Being on any team is a bad look for the press, but the press being on team FBI/CIA is an atrocity, Trump or no Trump. Why bother having a press corps at all if you're going to go that route?
This posture has all been couched as anti-Trump solidarity, but really, did former CIA chief John Brennan '' the same Brennan who should himself have faced charges for lying to congress about hacking the computers of Senate staff '' need the press to whine on his behalf when Trump yanked his security clearance? Did we need the press to hum Aretha Franklin tunes, as ABC did, and chide Trump for lacking R-E-S-P-E-C-T for the CIA? We don't have better things to do than that ''work''?
This catalogue of factual errors and slavish stenography will stand out when future analysts look back at why the ''MSM'' became a joke during this period, but they were only a symptom of a larger problem. The bigger issue was a radical change in approach.
A lot of #Russiagate coverage became straight-up conspiracy theory, what Baker politely called ''connecting the dots.'' This was allowed because the press committed to a collusion narrative from the start, giving everyone cover to indulge in behaviors that would never be permitted in normal times.
Such was the case with Jonathan Chait's #Russiagate opus, ''PRUMP TUTIN: Will Trump be Meeting With his Counterpart '' or his Handler?'' The story was also pitched as ''What if Trump has been a Russian asset since 1987?'' which recalls the joke from The Wire: ''Yo, Herc, what if your mother and father never met?'' What if isn't a good place to be in this business.
This cover story (!) in New York magazine was released in advance of a planned ''face-to-face'' summit between Trump and Putin, and posited Trump had been under Russian control for decades. Chait noted Trump visited the Soviet Union in 1987 and came back ''fired up with political ambition.'' He offered the possibility that this was a coincidence, but added:
Indeed, it seems slightly insane to contemplate the possibility that a secret relationship between Trump and Russia dates back this far. But it can't be dismissed completely.
I searched the Chait article up and down for reporting that would justify the suggestion Trump had been a Russian agent dating back to the late eighties, when, not that it matters, Russia was a different country called the Soviet Union.
Only two facts in the piece could conceivably have been used to support the thesis: Trump met with a visiting Soviet official in 1986, and visited the Soviet Union in 1987. That's it. That's your cover story.
Worse, Chait's theory was first espoused in Lyndon Larouche's ''Elephants and Donkeys'' newsletter in 1987, under a headline, ''Do Russians have a Trump card?'' This is barrel-scraping writ large.
It's a mania. Putin is literally in our underpants. Maybe, if we're lucky, New York might someday admit its report claiming Russians set up an anti-masturbation hotline to trap and blackmail random Americans is suspicious, not just because it seems absurd on its face, but because its source is the same ''New Knowledge'' group that admitted to faking Russian influence operations in Alabama.
But what retraction is possible for the Washington Post headline, ''How will Democrats cope if Putin starts playing dirty tricks for Bernie Sanders (again)?'' How to reverse Rachel Maddow's spiel about Russia perhaps shutting down heat across America during a cold wave? There's no correction for McCarthyism and fearmongering.
This ultimately will be the endgame of the Russia charade. They will almost certainly never find anything like the wild charges and Manchurian Candidate theories elucidated in the Steele report. But the years of panic over the events of 2016 will lead to radical changes in everything from press regulation to foreign policy, just as the WMD canard led to torture, warrantless surveillance, rendition, drone assassination, secret budgets and open-ended, undeclared wars from Somalia to Niger to Syria. The screw-ups will be forgotten, but accelerated vigilance will remain.
It's hard to know what policy changes are appropriate because the reporting on everything involving the Russian threat in the last two to three years has been so unreliable.
I didn't really address the case that Russia hacked the DNC, content to stipulate it for now. I was told early on that this piece of the story seemed ''solid,'' but even that assertion has remained un-bolstered since then, still based on an ''assessment'' by those same intelligence services that always had issues, including the use of things like RT's ''anti-American'' coverage of fracking as part of its case. The government didn't even examine the DNC's server**, the kind of detail that used to make reporters nervous.
We won't know how much of any of this to take seriously until the press gets out of bed with the security services and looks at this whole series of events all over again with fresh eyes, as journalists, not political actors. That means being open to asking what went wrong with this story, in addition to focusing so much energy on Trump and Russia.
The WMD mess had massive real-world negative impact, leading to over a hundred thousand deaths and trillions in lost taxpayer dollars. Unless Russiagate leads to a nuclear conflict, we're unlikely to ever see that level of consequence.
Still, Russiagate has led to unprecedented cooperation between the government and Internet platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, all of which are censoring pages on the left, right, and in between in the name of preventing the ''sowing of discord.'' The story also had a profound impact on the situation in places like Syria, where Russian and American troops have sat across the Euphrates River from one another, two amped-up nuclear powers at a crossroads.
As a purely journalistic failure, however, WMD was a pimple compared to Russiagate. The sheer scale of the errors and exaggerations this time around dwarfs the last mess. Worse, it's led to most journalists accepting a radical change in mission. We've become sides-choosers, obliterating the concept of the press as an independent institution whose primary role is sorting fact and fiction.
We had the sense to eventually look inward a little in the WMD affair, which is the only reason we escaped that episode with any audience left. Is the press even capable of that kind of self-awareness now? WMD damaged our reputation. If we don't turn things around, this story will destroy it.
An earlier version of this story claimed Miller personally went to Prague. In fact, it seems the Post just sent reporters on the ground in Prague to hotels in search of Cohen.
**James Comey's testimony: ''Although we got acccess to the forensics from the pros that they hired, which again '-- best practice to get access to the machines themselves, but my folks tell me was an appropriate substitute.''
Image by Mike MaguireEarlier in 'Hate Inc.':
Preface: An Interview with Noam Chomsky
The Beauty Contest
The Ten Rules of Hate (Rules 1''6)
The Ten Rules of Hate (Rules 7''10)
The Church of Averageness
The Church of Averageness: The High Priests
The Church of Averageness (continued)
The Church of Averageness: ''Polls Say''
'The Fairway is Now 'Hate Inc.'
You (Don't Really) Decide
Controversy Creates Cash
How Reading the News is Like Smoking
All the Folk Devils Are Here
BuzzFeed's Big Scoop and the Media's Giant Factual Loophole
The Class Taboo
How We Turned the News Into Sports
Turn it Off
The Scarlet Letter Club
200 Million People At Risk: National Weather Service Warns Apocalyptic Midwest Floods Are ''A Preview Of What We Expect Throughout The Rest Of The Spring'' '' End Of The American Dream
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 15:41
The flooding that just struck the middle part of the country was the worst blow to U.S. farmers in decades, but now the National Weather Service is telling us that it was just ''a preview of what we expect throughout the rest of the spring''. Can that possibly be true? After the immense devastation that we have already witnessed, how much worse can the flooding possibly get? Already we have seen thousands of homes and farms be completely destroyed, and we are being told that the total economic damage is in the billions of dollars. Sadly, the truth is that a lot worse is still yet to come. Thanks to a very snowy winter, a massive amount of snow is going to melt during the next several weeks, and that alone would produce tremendous flooding. But on top of all of that melting snow, forecasters are telling us that it will be a very rainy spring. In fact, the Weather Channel is warning that there will be ''above-average precipitation across much of the Lower 48'' over the next three months, and one meteorologist is forecasting that it is ''not looking like we are going to see any dry stretches anytime soon''. And this is on top of all of the very heavy rainfall that has been falling in recent weeks. At this point, the Mississippi River basin has already gotten ''three times as much rainfall as in a normal year''.
Even without any additional flooding, U.S. food production would be way down this year. The recent flooding is going to keep thousands of farmers from planting crops on time, and thousands of others are not going to be able to use their fields at all.
But when you factor in what is going to happen over the next three months, we are talking about an agricultural disaster of unprecedented magnitude in modern American history.
At this moment, some areas in the Upper Midwest still have ''more than 20 inches of snow'' on the ground'...
In the eastern Dakotas and Minnesota, more than 20 inches of snow remains on the ground. The Missouri, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers drain the central United States, but it takes several weeks for the water to travel downstream. In the meantime, emergency officials are warning local residents to make evacuation plans as well as purchase flood insurance in certain areas.
All of that water has to go somewhere, and authorities are warning that 200 million people are at risk'...
The record-setting floods deluging the Midwest are about to get a lot worse. Fueled by rapidly melting snowpack and a forecast of more rainstorms in the next few weeks, federal officials warn that 200 million people in 25 states face a risk through May.
A lot of people out there seem to think that the flooding will just be isolated to the major rivers, but that is simply not true.
Yes, all-time flooding records will continue to be shattered along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, but the National Weather Service is telling us that nearly ''the entire eastern two-thirds of the nation'' will be dealing with flooding this spring'...
Almost the entire eastern two-thirds of the nation should see flooding this spring, National Weather Service deputy director Mary Erickson said at a news conference on Thursday. Some 25 states are forecast to see ''moderate'' to ''major'' flooding, the weather service said.
The Midwest floods are ''a preview of what we expect throughout the rest of the spring,'' she said. ''The flooding this year could be worse than what we have seen in previous years '... even worse than the historic floods we saw in 1993 and 2011,'' Erickson added.
Are you starting to get the picture?
This is the worst case scenario for U.S. flooding that surpasses all previous worst case scenarios. Thousands more farms will be destroyed. Billions of dollars worth of additional damage will be done to our agricultural industry. Food production is going to come up way short, and we are all going to experience tremendous pain at the supermarket as food prices skyrocket.
If you live in any of the following areas, you need to have your emergency plan ready, because things are about to get really, really bad'...
The areas under the highest risk of moderate to major flooding, according to NOAA, are the upper, middle and lower Mississippi River basins, including the mainstem Mississippi River, Red River of the North, Great Lakes, eastern Missouri River, lower Ohio River, lower Cumberland River and Tennessee River basins.
U.S. farmers have already lost millions upon millions of bushels of wheat, corn and soybeans to the flooding that has already happened. As I have repeatedly stressed, our planet is changing, weather patterns are becoming more severe, and even if they understood what is happening there is absolutely nothing that the radical environmentalists can do to stop it.
Just look at what is happening on the other side of the world. Australia was just hit by a ''severe category 3 cyclone'', and this came exactly one day after it was hit by a category 4 cyclone'...
A severe category 3 cyclone blew into the key mining region of Pilbara in Western Australia Sunday, forcing evacuations and a halt to port operations, as the north of the country dealt with the effects of an even more powerful storm that hit the previous day.
Cyclone Veronica weakened from a category 4 storm before its core winds hit the coast near the mining centre of Port Hedland, but officials warned the system was slow moving and would continue pounding the region with gale force winds and heavy rain for 24 to 48 hours.
We are witnessing things that we have never seen before, and ''the new normal'' is just going to keep getting stranger and stranger.
If you live anywhere in the middle portion of the country, please take this flooding very seriously. Authorities are using apocalyptic language to describe this crisis, and they are not exaggerating the potential threat one bit.
About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally-syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is the author of four books including Get Prepared Now, The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters. His articles are originally published on The Economic Collapse Blog, End Of The American Dream and The Most Important News. From there, his articles are republished on dozens of other prominent websites. If you would like to republish his articles, please feel free to do so. The more people that see this information the better, and we need to wake more people up while there is still time.
New York county bars unvaccinated minors from public places amid measles outbreak '-- RT USA News
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 15:31
Rockland County has declared an emergency over a measles outbreak, banning everyone under 18 who is not vaccinated from public places such as malls and churches. Those who violate the law will face misdemeanor charges.
Rockland County Executive Ed Day told a press conference on Tuesday that the New York suburb would be taking drastic measures to stop the measles outbreak which has plagued its residents since October as he declared an emergency, effective as of midnight on Wednesday.
Also on 'I will never get over feeling I killed my son': Anti-vaccination activists refuse to be 'silenced' Day said that the county was going through the longest ever measles outbreak in US history, after the highly contagious disease was declared eradicated in the US in 2000. The outbreak is now in its 26th week and, despite health officials' efforts to encourage people to vaccinate their children, many are still reluctant.
Some put up fierce resistance, Day said, and the inspectors were being "hung up on or told not to call again."
"They've been told 'We're not discussing this; do not come back' when visiting the homes of infected individuals as part of their investigations," he said, denouncing this behavior as "unacceptable" and "a shocking lack of responsibility."
He also took aim at the old-fashioned way of building resistance to the disease '' the so-called 'measles parties' '' that have been championed by anti-vaxxers. Day noted that the disease can lead to dangerous complications such as brain swelling and premature birth and should not be contracted on purpose.
READ MORE: 'No vaccine, no school': Italy starts punishing parents who refuse to immunize their kids
The ban means that children who have not yet received their first shot of MMR vaccine will be barred from public places, which are defined as places that are intended for more than 10 persons, such as buses, schools, restaurants, malls, as well as places of worship.
The law would be enforced as any other emergency declaration and those found in violation might end up in jail for up to six months or face a $500 fine, Day said, noting that the law was aimed at encouraging people, not punishing. "There will be no law enforcement and deputy sheriffs asking for you vaccination records. This is ridiculous," he said.
Some 72 percent of the population in the country have been vaccinated, which is far below the 97 percent threshold over which it is considered to be effective. The efforts to stop the outbreak have been primarily torpedoed by Jewish orthodox families, who refuse to follow the vaccination guidelines citing their religious beliefs.
Also on Toxic reaction: Anti-vaxxers may be wrong, but Facebook censoring people for being wrong is worse Day specifically noted that county officials have talked to "over a hundred rabbis" to promote vaccination. He noted that there would be no exemption from the law based on religious grounds.
So far, 153 measles cases have been registered in Rockland County since October, which is nearly half of all the cases that have been reported statewide in the same period.
The declaration of emergency has faced a pushback from the anti-vaxx movement, while some criticized the measure as a step towards a police state.
''The 30 day Rockland NY ban on unvaccinated children which begins tomorrow, March 27th, seems to have been deliberately planned to extend over Passover, which runs from April 19th to April 27th and which normally involves many synagogue and other public events.'' '-- @AgeofAutism
'-- Natural Health Media (@NatHealthMedia) March 27, 2019Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!
Soldier charged after 'going rogue' during computer game on virtual battlefield
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 15:06
A soldier has been formally charged after ''losing his rag'' during a virtual battlefield exercise and killing his comrades.
The Edinburgh-based Army rifleman is believed to be the first soldier to be punished under UK military law for offences in a virtual scenario rather than in real life.
He is said to have been fed-up with being stuck at a computer rather than training outside.
A source from 3rd Battalion, the Rifles told the Mail on Sunday: ''We'd spent two weeks sitting in front of laptops pretending we were in a really hostile urban environment - I'd challenge anyone to take it seriously for that long.
''All this was taking place in an office at our headquarters, when we'd rather be doing real-life soldiering outside in the fresh air. But there's less of that sort of exercise these days because the Army has committed to Unit-based Virtual Training.
''We were supposed to imagine we were travelling in armoured vehicles through a really hostile built-up area. One of the lads just lost his rag and 'opened fire' as it were, killing the soldier next to him.
''He then drove down the street deliberately smashing into cars. It's safe to say the officers in our battalion did not find it as funny as we did.''
T he unidentified Rifleman was reprimanded after the exercise and later formally charged with disobeying orders.
His reputed punishment was to spend a weekend carrying out guard duties at the 3 Rifles base at Redford Barracks in the Scottish capital.
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: ''We take the training of our service personnel very seriously and anyone who is disruptive to this training will receive disciplinary action.
''Virtual reality training programmes are able to deliver greater flexible training and replicate complex scenarios allowing for rapid experimentation, development of tactics and ability to test new vehicles in multiple environments.''
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Amherst College backs down on PC 'language guide' '' Boston Herald
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 14:50
A politically charged glossary for Amherst College students that disparages capitalism and dictates a broad range of PC gender terms has been withdrawn after campus Republicans howled in protest, saying the Orwellian language guide threatened to stifle free speech.
''It wasn't the college's place to tell us what these things meant,'' senior Brantley Mayers of the Amherst College Republicans told the Herald. ''They were establishing the parameters of speech.''
On Wednesday, the elite Western Massachusetts liberal arts college's Office of Diversity & Inclusion posted and emailed to students a ''Common Language Guide,'' a 36-page document containing dozens of politically correct definitions. Then hours later, following complaints, unposted it.
The document defines ''capitalism'' as a system that ''leads to exploitative labor practices, which affect marginalized groups disproportionately.''
''White feminism'' is ''predicated upon the erasure of women of color and the ways in which racism and sexism converge and compound one another.''
''Homonationalism,'' per the document, is used ''to explain the ways in which cis-gay and lesbian veterans of the Iraq War were celebrated as proof of American exceptionalism in contrast to racist/orientalist discourse about Iraqi combatants and other people in Central Asia racialized outside of U.S. understandings of whiteness.''
Amherst College President Biddy Martin '-- who claimed she hadn't seen the document before it was posted and sent out '-- said in a statement that the guide ''takes a very problematic approach.''
''When the approach assumes campus-wide agreement about the meaning of terms and about social, economic, and political matters, it runs counter to the core academic values of freedom of thought and expression,'' Martin said. ''I was not aware that the document was being produced and I did not approve its circulation. It cuts against our efforts to foster open exchange and independent thinking. It is not a formal college document and will not be used as one.''
Norm Jones, the head of that office, wrote in a statement that the goal ''was to help create greater awareness of the ways many people at Amherst and beyond understand their own identities.''
But, he said, ''I believe it was a mistake to send it from my office to the entire community because of the implication that the guide is meant to dictate speech and expression or ideology on campus. It does not represent an official position of the College or an expectation that everyone on campus should use any particular language or share a point of view. ''
The PC language guide comes at a time when conservatives say they are increasingly under attack on university campuses '-- with speakers canceled, subjected to violent protests and hectoring, and even charged onerous security fees, while students and professors who take conservative positions say they have been hounded or penalized. Amherst College's about-face is seen by free-speech advocates as a rare victory.
''It's pretty uncommon to see something like this retracted,'' said Adam Steinbaugh of FIRE, a group that advocates for free speech on campuses nationally.
Mayers and fellow senior Rob Barasch of the College Republicans both praised the college's handling of their complaints, and said they appreciate their assurances that the school was not trying to enforce the document.
But Mayers said this is the latest example of people at the school making people with his views feel unwelcome, saying, ''A culture has been bred on campus that dismisses conservative viewpoints and dismisses conservative students.''
Why a Growing Glacier Isn't Good News for the Climate - Motherboard
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 14:46
Jakobshavn glacier calving. Image: NASA/GSFC/Jefferson Beck
An iconic glacier in Greenland is growing again after two decades of shrinking. But that doesn't mean things are looking up, experts say'--just the opposite. The icy behemoth remains a looming climate threat.
The Jakobshavn glacier, also called the Ilulissat glacier, has been called Greenland's ''fastest-flowing and fastest-thinning'' by NASA. Twenty years of retreat ranked Jakobshavn as one of Earth's ticking timebombs for climate change, as its ice melt could contribute to catastrophic global sea level rise. So, a new NASA study claiming that the glacier is now gaining mass seems hopeful on the surface.
A team of researchers led by NASA's Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) project published their findings on Monday in Nature Geoscience. Jakobshavn, which is Greenland's largest glacier and covers roughly 110,000 square kilometers, had been retreating 1.8 miles and thinning 130 feet per year as of 2012, NBC News reported. But two years ago, parts of it began to grow at approximately the same rate.
''The thinking was once glaciers start retreating, nothing's stopping them,'' Josh Willis, OMG's lead scientist and one of the study's authors, told National Geographic. ''We've found that that's not true.''
The growth was significant enough to be characterized as a reversal of Jakobshavn's long standing retreat, attributed to a circulation of cooler ocean water in Disko Bay, which feeds the Ilulissat Icefjord where the glacier is located.
Natural ocean cycles (similar to El Ni±o) have made these waters 3.6 degrees Celsius cooler at certain depths than the norm in recent years. But as the authors stress, they will eventually warm again, and shouldn't be seen as climate change progress. In fact, the NASA scientists' findings suggest that changes in ocean temperature are more impactful when it comes to glacier melt (and growth) than previously thought.
''In the long run we'll probably have to raise our predictions of sea level rise again,'' Willis told NBC News.
A different study published in Nature last year also found that Greenlandic ice as a whole is perilously sensitive to warming temperatures.
It's important to note that glacier melt throughout Greenland isn't stopping'--and the behavior of Jakobshavn shouldn't be expected from the island's hundreds of other glaciers.
Greenland's ice sheet is the world's largest contributor to sea level rise, losing 270 billion tons of ice each year, primarily due to climate change. These losses raised the global sea level 7.5 millimeters between 1992 and 2011, and were a frightening preview of Greenland's capacity to submerge metropolitan areas such as lower Manhattan in New York City.
The McCain-Trump Controversy Is a Hypocritical Joke
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 10:45
President Donald Trump announced last week that he had saved America's last remaining tank factory from closing, but all the liberal media seem to care about is how the president feels about a dead senator.
The whole episode reminds me of the Don Henley song ''Dirty Laundry'' '-- ''kick 'em when they're up, kick 'em when they're down.'' John McCain was vilified by the media and Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign, but the media have now reversed their own attacks on the man.
The manufactured controversy started after Trump '-- whom McCain constantly attacked and undermined for the whole of Trump's involvement in public life '-- tweeted a quote from former independent counsel Ken Starr about the widely reported fact that the late Sen. McCain helped spread the Democrat-funded ''Steele dossier'' around Washington in an effort to embarrass the newly-elected president, and worse, create the conditions for the flawed and partisan Mueller investigation.
That was all it took for the pro-Democrat ''mainstream'' media to unleash their attack dogs.
Following his meeting with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro last week, reporters asked why the president was ''attacking'' McCain.
TRENDING: Dick Morris: Now that Mueller Won't Verify the Allegations, It's Time To Shoot the Alligators
Trump responded frankly, explaining that ''I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be.''
That didn't satisfy the liberal media '-- NBC News even called his remarks about McCain ''the ultimate bully move'' '-- so the president abandoned the politically correct niceties and spoke his mind during his visit to the Lima Army Tank Plant, noting that he never received a thank you for authorizing the funeral arrangements that McCain had planned for himself.
Some have argued that the president should have just ignored the journalists who posed accusatory questions in an effort to drum up controversy, but that's exactly what he did seven months ago when McCain passed away and it didn't make any difference. The liberal media still ran dozens of hit pieces and breathless faux-outrage cable news segments about it in an attempt to goad the president to say something. Like the song goes ''We can do 'the innuendo,' we can dance and sing and when it's said and done we haven' told you a thing'' '-- this was indeed the case here.
''Fine,'' you might say, ''but couldn't he have made the whole issue go away if he just mumbled a few kind words about McCain to satisfy the liberal media?''
Trump tried that approach, too, and all it got him was another round of hit pieces and faux-outrage cable news segments.
Judging from their aggrieved reactions to the notion that someone could dislike McCain, you would think journalists consider him to be some kind of a saint.
To be certain, McCain's death last year, at age 81, was tragic. He served his country honorably in both Vietnam and the U.S. Senate, received nearly 60 million votes for president of the United States in 2008, and accepted his defeat to Barack Obama with poise and dignity.
The sudden canonization of St. John of Phoenix by the media, however, is pure, cynical dishonesty. Throughout McCain's career in public service, liberal journalists alternated between praising and condemning him according to how it suited their political agenda '-- whenever he broke ranks with the GOP, they praised McCain as a centrist ''maverick,'' but when he became the Party's standard bearer, they relentlessly demonized him as a right-wing extremist
The same people who are now lionizing the late-Sen. McCain, after all, spent the entirety of the 2008 campaign smearing him as a warmonger and worse.
RELATED: Leftist Fears Realized: The Birth of Defiant Conservatism
In fact, the opinions expressed in the media about McCain during that election campaign were far more denigrating than anything Trump has said about him. Unlike Trump, for instance, liberal journalists also called McCain a racist '-- repeatedly.
The media have been similarly disingenuous about McCain's military record, turning an off-the-cuff remark Trump made in 2015 into a standard ''#resistance'' talking point, even though media outlets had themselves attacked McCain's military record in the past '-- again, and again, and again.
It should be clear by now that the Democrat-aligned ''journalists'' in the mainstream press are just shedding crocodile tears in hopes of keeping the Trump-McCain feud in the news cycle a little bit longer.
They never actually liked John McCain '-- in some cases, they seem to have outright despised him '-- but they've always been willing to pretend they did if they thought it would hurt other Republicans. Even in death, McCain remains a useful pawn for the left-wing media. They should be ashamed'...but as the song goes, ''give us dirty laundry'' '-- and that's just what they gave the American public.
Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer is a retired senior intelligence operations officer and Acting President of the London Center for Policy Research.
The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website.
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.
S. 874: A bill to authorize the cancellation of removal and adjustment of status of certain individuals who are long-term United States residents and who entered the United States as children, and for other purposes.
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 10:40
Introduced: Sponsor: Sen. Lindsey Graham [R-SC]
This bill was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary which will consider it before sending it to the Senate floor for consideration.
Sen. Lindsey Graham [R-SC] is the chair of the committee. Summary
Denmark Paying UN to Stem Migration From Africa
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 10:24
Denmark has announced a fresh cash injection for programs designed to stem the flows of African migration at their sources.
Funding totaling approximately $1.5 million (10 million DKK) will be directed to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) appeal for the Mediterranean route, according to a statement from Denmark's Foreign Ministry.
"Efforts are taking place in the countries of origin and transit of Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal and Sudan and can help reduce further migration flows," the Foreign Ministry explains.
"Activities include information campaigns on risks and realistic outcomes of travel, strengthening local authorities' capacity to handle migration and protection, help with voluntary return of migrants and refugee integration in host communities and resettlement, desert rescue, protection of unaccompanied children, victim assistance for gender-based violence, monitoring of conditions in detention centers in Libya and evacuation from Libya of vulnerable refugees to Niger for further resettlement."
Top Danish officials recently visited Frontex operations in Sicily, including Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen, Minister of Integration Inger St¸jberg, and Minister for Development Cooperation Ulla T¸rn...s.
"It is crucial that we strengthen the EU's external borders if we are to handle the migration pressures against Europe in the future," T¸rn...s said. "At the same time, it is crucial that we strengthen efforts on migration routes in the Sahel region, including with support for local authorities, so that they can better fight human trafficking networks, and that we contribute to information efforts so that young Africans are not tempted - with their lives - into a hopeless journey towards Europe."
It is interesting to note that Denmark's latest contribution to the UNHCR's Mediterranean efforts are lower than in previous years - 35 million DKK in 2018 and 15 DKK in 2017.
In November, 2018, Infowars Europe helped bring to light revelations that migrants were using preloaded MasterCard debit cards bearing insignias of the UNHCR and EU to pay for goods and services along their journeys.
Denmark appears to be moving in a different direction on issues related to immigration than many European countries, recently announcing plans to start sending migrants home instead of integrating them, quarantining certain foreign criminals on an isolated island, and stripping a Moroccan jihadist of his Danish citizenship in a landmark legal ruling.
Europe appears lost as reports emerge that German police are actually covering up migrant crimes to push the narrative that migrants are never violent or break the law and should be welcomed with open arms.
(PHOTO: Jesus Merida/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
House Armed Services Committee 'denies' Pentagon's transfer of $1 billion to fund a border fence - TheBlaze
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 10:20
The House Armed Services Committee sent a letter to the Pentagon, denying its transfer of $1 billion in existing Defense Department funding in order to pay for the construction of a portion of border barrier between the U.S. and Mexico.
What funding?On Monday, the Pentagon sent a notification to Congress announcing its plans to reallocate $1 billion in existing funds to pay for the construction of 57 miles of "18-foot-high pedestrian fencing" along the U.S. border with Mexico.
That same day, the Senate Appropriations Committee sent a letter to acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan calling the move a "dollar-for-dollar theft from other readiness needs of our Armed Forces."
What did the committee say?On Tuesday, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing regarding Pentagon funding for 2020. During the hearing, Shanahan admitted that moving the funds around was a politically risky move.
"The discussion '... is that by unilaterally reprogramming, it was going to affect our ability long term to be able to do discretionary reprogramming that we had traditionally done in coordination," Shanahan said, according to Politico. "It was a very difficult discussion, and we understand the significant downsides of losing what amounts to a privilege."
Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) sent a letter to the Pentagon's comptroller, David L. Norquist, on Tuesday, saying that the committee had "completed its review of the proposed reprogramming request" that "would transfer approximately $1.0 billion among fiscal year 2019 appropriations.
"The committee denies this request," Smith continued. "The committee does not approve the use of Department of Defense Funds to construct additional physical barriers and roads or install lighting in the vicinity of the United States border."
Can the committee do that?It's not clear whether or not the committee's disapproval can actually stop the transfer of funds. Since the funds were already granted to the Pentagon and since the Pentagon is following through on President Donald Trump's emergency declaration, it's possible that the committee has no authority in this case.
According to Reuters, the Pentagon believes that it is well within its legal right to move the funds without congressional authorization. If this does turn out to be the case, the committee's disapproval would be symbolic, but would not actually stop the funds from being reallocated.
However, this move could have implications for future spending bills and might leave the Pentagon with less leeway in how freely it can move funds from one area to another. These are the "downsides" that Shanahan referred to during the hearing.
TheBlaze has reached out to Smith's office for comment.
Drug Addiction Expert: Beto's A 'Tweaker'
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 04:22
Skip to contentLaw enforcement officer analyzes Beto's body language, concludes he's an addict - March 26, 2019 Presidential candidate Robert Francis O'Rourke, better known as ''Beto,'' is a drug addict, a career law enforcement officer has concluded.
Posting a video of O'Rourke at a recent campaign stop, Roscoe B. Davis, a professed ''career LEO,'' says along with being able to read people and specializing in behavioral science, he's seen enough addicts in his line of work to assess the former Texas House Rep.
I've spent half a century as a cop. A good cop can read people, behavioral science is part of my CJ degree. I've spent a huge portion of my career dealing with Drug addicts & dealers. I'm telling you this guy is an addict, he's a tweeker. Watch his body language & twitching.
'-- Roscoe B Davis🎖'­¸'­¸'­¸ (@RoscoeBDavis1) March 25, 2019
''I've spent half a century as a cop,'' Davis wrote on Twitter Monday. ''A good cop can read people, behavioral science is part of my CJ degree. I've spent a huge portion of my career dealing with Drug addicts & dealers. I'm telling you this guy is an addict, he's a tweeker. Watch his body language & twitching.''
While not accusing him of abusing drugs, President Trump also recently commented on Beto's bizarre body language, specifically questioning whether the former rep's flailing arms were indicative of a mental illness.
WATCH: President Trump reacts to Beto O'Rourke's entrance to the 2020 presidential race: ''Whoever it is, I'll take them all.''
'-- MSNBC (@MSNBC) March 14, 2019
''He has a lot of hand movement. Is he crazy or is that just the way he acts?'' Trump answered when asked his thoughts on the Texas Democrat's presidential announcement. ''I've never seen hand movement, I watched him a little while this morning, doing, I assume some kind of a news conference. I've actually never seen anything quite like it. Study it. I'm sure you'll agree.''
It should be noted Beto recently stated during a campaign stop in Iowa that he's never used the psychoactive substance LSD.
Records: Former Michelle Obama aide, Smollett relative reached out to Kim Foxx | Chicago Sun-Times
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 04:13
Just days after Jussie Smollett told Chicago police he had fought off a pair of attackers who targeted him in an apparent hate crime, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx tried to persuade Police Supt. Eddie Johnson to turn the investigation over to the FBI.
Foxx's call to Johnson came after an influential supporter of the ''Empire'' actor reached out to Foxx personally: Tina Tchen, a Chicago attorney and former chief of staff for former First Lady Michelle Obama, according to emails and text messages provided by Foxx to the Chicago Sun-Times in response to a public records request.
Tchen passed Foxx's number to a relative of the actor, and the ensuing conversations with the family member were cited by Foxx last month as the reason she recused herself from Smollett's prosecution as the actor faces disorderly conduct charges for allegedly making a false police report.
Tina Tchen | Sun-Times files
Text messages show Tchen contacted Foxx on Feb. 1, three days after Smollett said he was jumped by two men as he walked home from a sandwich shop near his Streeterville home. Tchen texted Foxx to set up an early morning phone call.
''I wanted to give you a call on behalf of Jussie Smollett and family who I know. They have concerns about the investigation,'' Tchen wrote in a text sent before 5 a.m., seeking to set up a call with Foxx before Tchen left on an 8 a.m. flight to New York.
A few hours later, Foxx received a text from a relative of Smollett, who said she'd received the number from Tchen.
In an interview with the Sun-Times this week, Foxx said that the family member expressed concerns about leaked information about the investigation '-- information that media outlets attributed to ''police sources.''
''They had no doubt about the quality of the investigation, but believed that the FBI would have a tighter lid on the information,'' said Foxx, adding that Johnson initially seemed receptive to the idea of turning the case over to the FBI.
Jussie Smollett walks into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, Tuesday, March 12, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
Foxx said she has made similar calls to Johnson in cases involving lower-profile victims.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the FBI was involved from the start of the investigation, as is the case in most possible hate crime investigations, but there was never a discussion of the CPD giving up the case to federal investigators. The department confirmed last week that there is an ongoing internal investigation of the unnamed sources who gave the press information.
The conversations with Smollett's relative took place during the period of the investigation when Smollett was considered the victim of a hate crime, not a suspect in a hoax, Foxx said.
Her decision to recuse herself was based on the conversations with the family member, which included information about Smollett.
An email included with the records requested by the Sun-Times shows Foxx's chief ethics officer sent a message to top staff announcing Foxx had recused herself from the case on Feb. 13 '-- about a week before Smollett was charged, and the same date as her last text message and calls with Smollett's relative.
Foxx spokesman Robert Foley announced that the top prosecutor had recused herself and turned the case over to her top deputy, Joseph Magats, on Feb. 19, without explaining why.
The next day, Foley elaborated in a statement to reporters that Foxx ''had conversations with a family member of Jussie Smollett about the incident and their concerns, and facilitated a connection to the Chicago Police Department who were investigating the incident.''
The text messages show Foxx told both Tchen and Smollett's relative that Foxx had reached out to Johnson personally about handing the investigation off to the FBI.
''Spoke to the superintendent earlier. He is going to make the ask. Trying to figure out logistics. I'll keep you posted,'' Foxx wrote the relative that evening.
''OMG this would be a huge victory,'' the relative texted in reply.
In an email message to Tchen sent the same day, Foxx wrote: ''Spoke to the Superintendent Johnson. I convinced him to reach out to FBI to ask that they take over the investigation. He is reaching out now and will get to me shortly.''
Tchen did not respond to requests for comment from the Sun-Times.
Defense lawyer and Chicago-Kent College of Law professor Richard Kling said that it would not be unusual for prosecutors to reach to police during an investigation, though it is likely rare that a victim would get the state's attorney's personal phone number. Foxx's decision to recuse, once it became clear that Smollett was likely to be facing charges, was appropriate, Kling said.
''I don't think it is odd or rare for prosecutors to talk to police, or for (Foxx) herself to ask what is going on in a particular case,'' Kling said. ''And, once she realized she had talked to a family member who may have given her information about a pending case, recusing herself was exactly the right thing to do.''
Complete List of Genders - The Complete List of All Genders - Wattpad
Wed, 27 Mar 2019 04:10
                          "Since you Wattpad folks seem to have the collective intelligence of an average domesticated turkey, I have put this here in order to tell all you monkeys that this book is in no way an accurate representation of anything, and exists purely for comedic purpouses"
                                   Abimegender'' A gender which is profound, deep, and infinite.
                          Absorgender'' A gender that changes to conform to the genders of those around you. As you are around more people, even if some leave, they continue to add to the genders you feel. You remain as the genders that you have taken in until you hit a max of some sort. At that point you become like a blank slate, being only one gender (it doesn't have to be agender or neutral, it can be any gender and the base gender can be different each time).
                          If you absorb one gender more easily than other genders, you can replace gender in the term with the gender you absorb best. Like absorgirl, absornonbinary, absordemiboy, etc.
                          Adamasgender- A gender which refuses to be categorized.
                          Adeptogender'' When your gender identity was obtained through your realization of your kinself. as in your kin realization spurred your gender realization. (note: the gender and kin type do not necessarily have to correlate with each other)
                          Aerogender'' See evaisgender.
                          Aesthetgender'' A gender derived from an aesthetic, also known as videgender.
                          Aethergender''  A gender that feels very wide, commanding, breathtaking and powerful.
                          Affectugender'' A gender affected by mood swings.
                          Agender'' Having no gender or a lack of gender identity
                          Agenderfluid'' See cancegender.
                          Agenderflux'' See librafluid.
                          Alexigender'' Gender identity which is fluid between more than one gender, but the individual cannot tell what those genders are.
                          Aliusgender'' A gender which is removed from common gender descriptors and guidelines.
                          Ambigender'' A feeling of two genders simultaneously, but without fluidity/shifting. May be used synonymously in some cases with bigender.
                          Amaregender- A gender that changes depending on who you're in love with.
                          Ambonec'' Identifying as both man and woman, yet neither at the same time.
                          Amicagender'' A gender that changes depending on which friend you're with at the moment.
                          Amogender'' See flirtgender.
                          Amorgender'' When your gender changes whilst in the presence of an individual to whom you have developed a deep connection for. This could be a romantic attraction, platonic connection, a spiritual affinity or anything similar.
                          Androgyne'' Feeling in between, or a combination of, man and woman (or boy and girl).
                          Anesigender'' Physically feeling like a certain gender but feeling more comfortable identifying as another.
An Ex-Fox News Host Pitched 'Financial Freedom.' His Clients Want Their Money Back. - The New York Times
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 21:11
Clayton Morris has been sued by nearly two dozen customers who say they were sold ramshackle homes as investment properties.
Image Clayton Morris, a former "Fox and Friends Weekend" host, at his home in New Jersey. He and his wife offered to help average investors get into real estate, but many of the couple's clients say they lost thousands of dollars. Credit Credit Jackie Molloy for The New York Times INDIANAPOLIS '-- Clayton Morris walked away from his job as a Fox News host in 2017 to devote himself to the next phase of his professional life: helping regular people achieve financial independence.
Mr. Morris, a host on ''Fox and Friends Weekend,'' already had a popular real estate investing podcast when he and his wife, Natali, decided to become full-time real estate advisers. Their plan was to connect mom-and-pop investors with turnkey investment homes in Detroit, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Fla., and several other cities. Their company, Morris Invest, would handle the details: finding properties, overseeing renovations, hiring property managers to rent out the houses. All clients had to do was put up the cash and wait for the checks to arrive.
Morris Invest helped sell at least 1,000 properties over the past two years, reaping more than $5 million in referral fees and profits from the sales, according to resale prices and interviews with investors and a lawyer for a former business partner. But Mr. Morris's customers said many of the homes in Indianapolis had cost them dearly.
Nearly two dozen customers are now suing Mr. Morris and his company. They contend that the properties were in worse shape than advertised, and that rehab work paid for upfront was done poorly or not at all. Vacant lots sold on the expectation of new homes being built are strewn with trash. One house gutted by fire was sold a few days later to an unwitting investor, according to a lawsuit.
''He comes across as this nice, likable family guy,'' said Brian Freeman, a California lawyer who plunked down about $40,000 for a ramshackle home that was in such bad shape he was issued fines. ''He's famous and I thought, 'He's not going to ruin his entire reputation.' Obviously, in hindsight, I feel like such an idiot.''
Image A lot in Indianapolis that was sold to an investor. A house was supposed to have been built on the site, according to court documents. Credit Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times The Morrises face a half-dozen lawsuits, including one in federal court, and more will probably follow. Lawyers in Indianapolis are fielding calls from disgruntled customers and angry renters, and Indiana's attorney general has opened an investigation. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the Federal Trade Commission said it had received 21 consumer complaints.
The couple insisted they were not to blame for the properties' problems.
''We were a victim, too,'' Mr. Morris, 42, said during an interview with his wife at a coffee shop near their suburban New Jersey home.
The couple said they had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars on homes that they and their relatives bought from a property-management company that was one of their business partners in Indianapolis. The company, Oceanpointe Investments, was the seller of the homes the Morrises' clients bought, and, according to the couple, it was supposed to do the renovations and manage the properties.
The Morrises said that Oceanpointe, which many Morris Invest clients said they had never heard of until after buying the homes, is the real villain and liable for any damages. Few, if any, problems have arisen in other cities, they said. Oceanpointe blames the Morrises, saying they are responsible for the promises made to investors.
Also caught in the middle are the renters who lived in some of the homes. They say that poor upkeep resulted in collapsing ceilings and frequent plumbing problems. Furnaces often did not work properly, leaving homes freezing cold in winter. One renter in a pending landlord-tenant case blamed poor living conditions for the premature birth of girl who died an hour after delivery.
The Morrises said they were not aware of the extent of the problems.
''We didn't know any were living in abject conditions,'' Ms. Morris, 40, said.
'Incestuous Networks'The unfolding affair demonstrates the allure that real estate speculation still holds for individual investors roughly a decade after one of the worst housing crises in United States history.
Image Larry McLeskey and his wife bought this Indianapolis house. They said they had lost $40,000 on the property. Credit Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times It can be problematic when such investors look to charismatic personalities for investing tips. Many of the financial gurus pushing investors into real estate play off fears of economic insecurity, according to Philip Garboden, a professor of affordable housing at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
In a research working paper financed partly by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Garboden wrote that amateur investors were vulnerable to exploitation by those who ''evangelize'' the process and tend to play down the risks of investing in ''low-end'' urban real estate.
''These are very incestuous networks,'' Mr. Garboden said in an interview. ''They know the contractors. The property manager. The whole system thrives on keeping every dollar invested in that network.''
Investment gurus, he said, tend to have a common message: Investing in real estate can help guide the average investor to financial independence.
Making the PitchMr. Morris's sales pitch did not lean heavily on his career in broadcast journalism. But he did not keep it a secret, either. He alluded to his new career in a lighthearted seven-minute video send-off that Fox News put together and that showed Mr. Morris competing in an obstacle course competition and grilling burgers outside the Manhattan studio.
Real estate investing, he said in marketing materials, had given him the financial security to quit his 9 to 5 broadcast job. ''I'm a big fan of this radical idea that everyone should be able to achieve total financial freedom,'' the biography on one of his websites says.
With his wife '-- a former anchor for CBS Interactive '-- he wrote a book, ''How to Pay Off Your Mortgage in 5 Years.''
Image Beth Stern, Steve Doocy, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Mr. Morris on "Fox and Friends" in 2014. Credit Rob Kim/Getty Images But the couple's new venture did more than offer advice: It was a one-stop shopping experience for investors who wanted to buy rental homes '-- by dipping into their retirement savings, if necessary.
An email sent to one client who signed up last year summed up the pitch:
Are you working LONG hours but never quite able to get ahead? Are you worried about making COSTLY mistakes with a vacant rental property? Are you intimidated by the thought of DOING IT ALL yourself? Stop worrying, and let us take care it!
The Morrises pulled in hundreds of customers from across the United States and as far away as Israel and South Korea. They helped sell nearly 700 homes in Indianapolis alone.
''It was his name and his promise,'' said Larry McLeskey, one of nearly two dozen individual investors suing Mr. Morris in the federal lawsuit. Mr. McLeskey, who lives in Michigan, said that he and his wife, Kay, had lost $40,000 after selling a home in Indianapolis. ''No one was taking care of the home.''
Danny Gomes, a real estate agent from Redding, Calif., sued Morris Invest separately after, he said, he lost $52,000 on an Indianapolis home he bought last year, just days after it was largely destroyed in a fire. The house is now boarded up, its back half all but gone.
Image The house at 1509 Asbury Street in Indianapolis that Danny Gomes bought. The home had been damaged in a fire days before the deal closed, but Mr. Gomes did not know that until several months later. Credit Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times Image Mr. Gomes at his home in California. He said he had paid in advance for renovations to the Indianapolis property that were never completed. Credit Alexandra Hootnick for The New York Times Mr. Gomes said he had learned about the fire only several months later, when the city sent him a notice warning that the property was unsafe and needed to be boarded up.
Until then, he believed the house was being rehabilitated, work he paid for when he bought it. One of Mr. Morris's employees, who is also Ms. Morris's sister, told Mr. Gomes that she would be his ''point of contact for the rehab process,'' according to an email provided to The New York Times.
Mr. Gomes said it was only after he learned about the fire that he discovered Morris Invest was simply getting a referral fee for sending customers to Oceanpointe.
''When it hit the fan,'' Mr. Gomes said, ''they said they were just the middleman.''
'Happy as a Clam'As the Morrises tell it, they were blindsided just like everyone else. The couple, who have three young children, said they were frustrated with all the anger directed at them. They have put their own home up for sale, in part out of concern for their safety.
They place the blame squarely on Oceanpointe and its founder, Bert Whalen.
The Morrises said they met Mr. Whalen in 2014, when they bought a few homes in Indianapolis and used Oceanpointe to fix up and manage them. By 2016, Mr. Morris was referring one or two investors a week to Mr. Whalen's firm. The Morrises said they had eventually formalized the relationship, sending buyers to Oceanpointe and earning a fee on each sale.
Image Another of the Indianapolis homes that Mr. Morris's company, Morris Invest, sold as investment properties. He is now facing a half-dozen lawsuits filed by disgruntled buyers. Credit Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times Mr. Morris said it was not until spring 2018 that he became fully aware of the problems his customers were having with Oceanpointe. The relationship formally ended in May.
The Morrises said they would not have gotten involved with Mr. Whalen had they known that Indiana regulators moved to deny a renewal of his real estate license in December 2015. A state regulator determined that he had failed to disclose convictions for operating a car and motorboat while intoxicated and, on at least one occasion, had not turned over rent money he had collected for a property owner. His real estate license was permanently revoked in January 2018.
Despite the break with Oceanpointe, the Morrises said they had many satisfied customers. Renovation work was done on 60 percent of the 700 homes sold in Indianapolis, Mr. Morris estimated.
''There are hundreds of people who are as happy as a clam,'' he said.
There are many, however, who are not.
For clients dissatisfied with the work on their properties, Mr. Morris said Oceanpointe had agreed to indemnify Morris Invest against all lawsuits and investor claims. The Morrises' lawyer sent a letter to Mr. Whalen in October seeking to enforce the indemnification agreement. The couple declined to provide a copy of the agreement.
John Tompkins, a lawyer for Mr. Whalen, blamed Morris Invest, which he said had collected a $6,500 referral fee on every property.
Mr. Whalen's businesses ''have done everything required by their investment agreements and contracts,'' Mr. Tompkins said.
He disputed the suggestion that the indemnification agreement held Oceanpointe solely responsible for problems with the selling of the homes.
''The problems that have come up relate to Morris exclusively,'' Mr. Tompkins said. ''The misunderstandings of those buyers related to misstatements by Morris and his sales personnel.''
A New VentureThe Morrises have largely gotten out of the real estate business in Indianapolis. They are focused mainly on Detroit, where they have sold more than 200 homes, largely without the kind of complaints they face in Indianapolis.
Morris Invest, though, is no longer their top priority.
The Morrises are now selling an online financial advice and planning program: Financial Freedom Academy. The program offers a ''proven system for building wealth, guaranteed,'' according to its website.
The site describes a conversation that Mr. Morris said transformed his life: He was seated next to real estate investor on a trip to New Zealand several years ago, and learned the man and his wife were on a two-month vacation after making money acquiring homes, fixing them up and renting them out.
''From that moment on, I made it my mission to follow in his footsteps,'' Mr. Morris says on the site.
Mr. Morris is inviting investors to follow in his footsteps with a nine-session online program at a special introductory rate of $697.
Matthew Goldstein covers Wall Street and white collar crime and housing issues. @ mattgoldstein26
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Once Jailed in Guantnamo, 5 Taliban Now Face U.S. at Peace Talks - The New York Times
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 20:40
Image Mullah Khairkhwa, center, during peace talks in Doha, Qatar. ''I am really not thinking about who is sitting across from me and what they had done to me,'' he said. Credit Credit Al Jazeera DOHA, Qatar '-- When the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and toppled the Taliban government, even those who surrendered were treated as terrorists: handcuffed, hooded and shipped to the American detention camp in Guantnamo Bay, Cuba.
Now, in a stark demonstration of the twists and contradictions of the long American involvement in Afghanistan, five of those men are sitting across a negotiating table from their former captors, part of the Taliban team discussing the terms of an American troop withdrawal.
[To follow the Afghan war peace negotiations, sign up for the weekly At War newsletter.]
''During our time in Guantnamo, the feeling was with us that we had been brought there unjustly and that we would be freed,'' said one of the former detainees, Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa. ''But it never occurred to me that one day there would be negotiations with them, and I would be sitting there with them on one side and us on the other.''
The five senior Taliban officials were held at Guantnamo for 13 years before catching a lucky break in 2014. They were exchanged for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only known American service member to be held by the insurgents as a prisoner of war.
In recent months, as the American and militants took up intense negotiations to try to end the conflict in Afghanistan, the Taliban leadership made a point of including the former prisoners. Each day during the recent round of talks in Doha, Qatar, the five men sat face to face with American diplomats and generals.
During days of slow and at times frustrated discussions at the most recent session, which ended on March 12, it was the Taliban side that was often more emotional. Some gave impassioned speeches about how vital it was that the Americans completely leave Afghanistan in as little as six months.
The usual response from the American side, led by the senior envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, was to give detailed technical explanations about why withdrawing was complex and needed to be slower, perhaps over years.
But other than Mullah Khairkhwa, the former detainees seemed more reluctant to speak, officials involved in the talks said.
When they did address the group, they seemed less harsh or strident than some of the other Taliban negotiators, perhaps mellowed by years of hardship or wary that their freedom could be fragile. Over the past few years, they have stayed in Doha and have been reunited with their families, but remain under watch by the Qatari authorities at the request of the United States.
The five former Guantnamo detainees had varying roles during the Taliban government. Mullah Khairkhwa served as a governor and acting minister of interior. Abdul Haq Wasiq was deputy minister of intelligence.
Image From left, the former Guantnamo Bay detainees Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, Abdul Haq Wasiq, Mullah Fazel Mazloom, Mullah Norullah Noori and Mohammad Nabi Omari. They are now part of the Taliban team negotiating the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. Credit Department of Defense Perhaps the most infamous figure in the group is Mullah Fazel Mazloom, a front-line commander who was also chief of the Taliban army. While accusations of human rights abuses by the others have generally remained vague, there seems to be considerably more evidence against Mullah Mazloom, who is accused of mass killings and scorched-earth brutality.
During an initial tribunal hearing at Guantnamo '-- The New York Times obtained the transcript via the Freedom of Information Act '-- Mullah Mazloom (his last name means ''meek'') showed no remorse.
''There is a 25-year war between person to person, village by village, city by city, province by province, and tribe against tribe,'' he told the tribunal. ''If you think this is a crime, then every person in Afghanistan should be in prison or bring them here.''
Still, he insisted: ''I never fought against the new government. I never fought against America.''
In their introductions around the table as negotiations started last month, the five men held up their detention at Guantnamo as the most important part of their identity.
''In important moments like this, my own personal troubles don't come to mind,'' Mullah Khairkhwa said in the interview, after the negotiations had ended. ''I am really not thinking about who is sitting across from me and what they had done to me.''
''What is important is what we are talking about,'' he said, ''and what is in it for our interests, for our goal and for our country.''
The men's Guantnamo files include several notations about uncooperative behavior and instigations, including throwing milk at guards and tearing up their mattresses in protest.
Listed in Mullah Khairkhwa's record, along with making disruptive noises or refusing to eat or shower at times, is this: trying to kill himself and urging others to kill themselves. But in his tribunal hearing, Mr. Khairkhwa denied having done so.
''There was no spoon in my meal, so I asked the guard for a spoon,'' Mullah Khairkhwa said, according to the transcript. ''Other detainees also shouted that they did not have spoons, either. The sergeant said he was sorry and from orders of his boss he could not provide me with a spoon.''
''When I asked the reason,'' Mullah Khairkhwa added, ''he said that I was trying to kill myself and encourage others to do the same.''
[See the Times interactive project ''The Guantnamo Docket,'' a collection of documents and research about the roughly 780 people who have been detained there.]
Most of the men were detained and sent to Guantnamo after they had surrendered '-- or even after they had started cooperating with the leadership of the new government the United States had installed in Afghanistan.
Image American diplomats and representatives of the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, last month. Credit Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs, via Associated Press At the time of his arrest, Mullah Khairkhwa had retreated to private life in his family's home village, and had reached out to President Hamid Karzai, who came to power in the wake of the American invasion.
Mullah Khairkhwa, according to his Guantnamo documents, was accused of narcotics trafficking and of closely associating with Osama bin Laden's men in Al Qaeda. He denied both accusations in his hearings.
The former Taliban government deputy intelligence chief, Mr. Wasiq, had come to a meeting with C.I.A. operatives to discuss cooperation with American and Afghan officials. But he and some of his associates who had come along were bound and taken away, with at least one of them rolled up in a carpet.
Mullah Mazloom had surrendered to Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek strongman in northern Afghanistan whose militia allied with American Special Operations forces. General Dostum sent thousands of Mullam Mazloom's men to an overcrowded prison, and his militia killed hundreds '-- if not thousands '-- of those foot soldiers after an insurrection in the prison.
Mullah Mazloom and some others were eventually turned over to the Americans.
A timeline for an American withdrawal from Afghanistan has been a stubborn sticking point during the long days of talks. But an even more frustrating issue has been how to define who is a terrorist and who is not. That definition is central as the United States has tried to seek assurances from the Taliban that Afghan territory will not again be used as a staging ground for terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies.
When they were toppled and hunted down, the Taliban were an oppressive regime, denying citizens basic rights, including keeping women and girls out of school and behind house walls. In the group's 18-year insurgency since, they have resorted to acts of terrorism like truck bombings that have caused mass civilian casualties.
But now that the United States' priority has shifted to withdrawal, and out of the pragmatic need to negotiate with the Taliban, American envoys have turned to parsing words to find some definition of terrorism they can hold in common with the Taliban.
In some of the sessions sitting across the table from the former Guantnamo detainees was Gen. Austin S. Miller, the commander of the American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, in his four-star uniform. Last October, General Miller narrowly escaped death in an attack by a Taliban infiltrator that killed a prominent Afghan security chief, Gen. Abdul Raziq, who had been walking beside him in a heavily guarded compound in Kandahar Province.
According to several officials on both sides who knew details of the talks, General Miller told the Taliban that he respected them as fighters, but that the war needed to end. He also evoked a mutual need to fight the terrorism of the Islamic State.
''We could keep fighting, keep killing each other,'' General Miller was quoted as saying. ''Or, together, we could kill ISIS.''
Mullah Khairkhwa said that even though the two sides had not been able to reach a final agreement this time, the two sides shared a common interest, at least, in ending the war.
''It's been a long war, with lots of casualties and destruction and loss,'' he said. ''What gives me hope is that both teams are taking the issue seriously. On every issue, the discussions are serious, and it gives me hope that we will find a way out '-- as long as there are not spoilers to ruin it.''
Conf(C)d(C)ration Internationale des Soci(C)t(C)s d'Auteurs et Compositeurs - Wikipedia
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 19:38
The International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (French: Conf(C)d(C)ration Internationale des Soci(C)t(C)s d'Auteurs et Compositeurs, CISAC) is an international non-governmental, not-for-profit organisation that aims to protect the rights and promote the interests of creators worldwide. It advocates for strong legal protection of copyright and authors' rights. It is the world's largest international network of authors' societies, also known as Collective Management Organisations (CMOs), copyright / royalty collection societies, collecting societies, or Performing Rights Organisations (PROs).
The president of CISAC is French electronic music composer Jean Michel Jarre, who was appointed in June 2013. His predecessor was singer/songwriter Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, who served as President until his death in 2012.[1] Painter Herv(C) Di Rosa serving as President in the interim, until the appointment of Jarre.
In 2013, the organisation expanded its Vice Presidency to four new positions, allowing for the representation of more territories and a broader range of creative repertoires. The four new Vice Presidents include: Ang(C)lique Kidjo, a Grammy award-winning performing artist and activist from Benin, Javed Akhtar, a celebrated scriptwriter, poet, lyricist from India, Marcelo Pi±eyro, an Academy Award-winning producer and film director from Argentina, and Ousmane Sow, a revered sculptor from Senegal.
Currently, 238 authors' societies from 121 countries are members of CISAC. Together, these authors' societies represent music publishers and approximately four million creators and publishers from all geographic regions and all artistic fields (music, audiovisual, drama, visual arts and literature).[2]
In 2015, CISAC's member societies collected, '‚¬8.6bn in royalties[3] from their respective national territories.
CISAC was founded in 1926.[4] Its international headquarters are located in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, with four regional offices based in Budapest, Hungary (European Affairs), Santiago, Chile (Latin American and Caribbean Affairs), Burkina Faso (African Affairs) and, since January 2013, Beijing, China (Asia-Pacific Affairs).
CISAC is financed by membership dues and has three official languages: English, French and Spanish.
History [ edit ] Founding [ edit ] CISAC was founded in France in 1926 by 18 authors' societies from 18 European countries,[5] at the time representing mainly the dramatic arts (i.e. playwrights and stage directors).
Authors' societies are by and large non-for profit organisations that were established by creators to facilitate the management of their rights. The principle activities of authors' societies are to grant licenses, collect royalties for the use of its affiliates' creative works and distribute these royalties to rights holders.
Since its inception, CISAC's mission has been to represent creators in every corner of the globe and promote their rights. CISAC initially consisted of five federations, one each for dramatic performing rights; public performing rights; mechanical rights; literary rights; and film rights. In 1966, CISAC united the five federations to form the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers as it exists today.
Recent history [ edit ] Since 1994, CISAC has been working to improve data exchanges on creative works between authors' societies. Known as the Common Information System (CIS) project, CISAC has worked on the development of ISO certified international standards for the identification of creative works and rights holders.[6]
These include the International Standard Musical Work Code (ISWC), the International Standard Audiovisual Number (ISAN), the International Standard Text Code (ISTC) and the International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI), a unique identifying number linked to contributors (such as a songwriter or publisher) and which complements CISAC's Interested Party Information (IPI) System where more detailed information on the rights owner, accessible to authors societies, is held.
CISAC released "CIS-Net powered by FastTrack" in 2004, an Internet-based network for sharing musical works information between authors' societies.[7] CISAC is also in the process of developing IDA, an International Database for Audiovisual works and their rights holders.[8] By facilitating the identification of creative works and their relevant rights holders, such tools aim to speed up the distribution of royalties to creators for use of their works.
In 2004, CISAC revised its statutes, creating an annual General Assembly and a Board of Directors to oversee CISAC's actions, allowing CISAC to impose rules on its members to ensure high professional standards and enabling CISAC to dedicate more resources to getting creators directly involved in the defence of their rights.
In June 2007, CISAC's General Assembly elected singer-songwriter Robin Gibb (The Bee Gees) as CISAC's President and Mexican film director Alfonso Cuar"n as Vice-President. Gibb's 3-year term was renewed in June 2010. French visual artist and painter Herv(C) Di Rosa, co-founder of the artistic movement "Figuration libre",[9] was elected Vice-President in 2010. The role of CISAC President and Vice-President is to voice the opinion of the international community of creators and to defend the system of collective management that protects their rights. Over the years, this role has been fulfilled by several renowned creators, such as Robert de Flers, Richard Strauss, Armand Salacrou, and Leopold Sedar Senghor.[10]
From 2007 to 2013, CISAC has organised the biennial World Creators Summit,[11] an international forum for stakeholders to discuss the future of copyright and creators' interests in the digital era.
CISAC adopted a series of Professional Rules for all of its member societies in 2008. The Professional Rules are a set of criteria related to the management of rights and the collection and distribution of royalties by which CISAC member societies should abide. The objective of these Rules is to ensure that CISAC's members operate according to high standards of professionalism. The initiative was developed to reflect greater transparency by authors' societies towards various stakeholder groupings and the media.
Mission and goals [ edit ] CISAC works to protect the rights and promote the interests of creators across all regions of the world and artistic fields; music, audiovisual, drama, literature and visual arts. It enables collective management organisations to seamlessly represent creators internationally and ensure that royalties flow to authors for the use of their works anywhere in the world. CISAC provides business, legal, and IT support to protect creators' rights and to foster the development of the international network of collective management societies (CMOs).
Membership [ edit ] As of June, 2015 CISAC's a membership organisation includes 230 authors' societies from 120 countries,[12] indirectly representing around four million creators. There are three membership categories, depending on a society's status and operations: Member, Provisional and Associate.[13]Authors' societies are largely non-profit organisations that are established by creators to facilitate the management of their rights. As it is very difficult for an individual creator to monitor all uses of their work and negotiate payment for these uses, many choose to entrust their rights to an authors' society. An authors' society's primary activities is to grant licenses and collect royalties and distribute royalties to the right holders for the use of their works.
Funding [ edit ] CISAC's budget comes from annual membership dues, which are based on a percentage of the gross royalties collected annually by each member society.
Organisation [ edit ] Revolving around the General Assembly, CISAC's highest representative entity, CISAC is composed of different administrative bodies that guide its operations and strategy.
General Assembly [ edit ] CISAC's General Assembly is composed of delegates from all of CISAC's Member societies. The General Assembly elects the Board of Directors and CISAC's President and Vice-President, and endorses the main resolutions, decisions and plans put forth by the Board of Directors. Only Members have the right to vote at the General Assembly.
President and Vice-President [ edit ] The role of CISAC's President and Vice-President is to represent the international community of creators and to defend the system of collective management that protects their rights.
Board of Directors [ edit ] A Board of Directors composed of representatives from 20 of CISAC's member societies and elected by the General Assembly for a three-year period to govern CISAC's activities. The Board's composition reflects CISAC's geographical diversity and the multitude of artistic repertoires it represents.
The current Chairman of the Board is Eric Baptiste, CEO of SOCAN, a music authors' society in Canada ; the Vice-Chairmen are Javier Guti(C)rrez Vicen, CEO of Visual Entidad de Gesti"n de Artistas Plsticos (VEGAP), a visual arts authors' society in Spain, and Marisa Gandelman, CEO Uni£o Brasileira de compositores (UBC), a music authors' society in Brazil.[14]
Secretariat [ edit ] CISAC's Director General is Gadi Oron, who was appointed in September, 2014. A lawyer by trade and an expert in international copyright law,[15] Oron has been working with the creative industry for over 15 years. He joined CISAC in 2012 as General Counsel of the organisation.
Committees [ edit ] CISAC has created a variety of committees that address a wide range of legal, strategic, technical, regional or creative issues related to authors' rights and serve to provide guidance on the operational aspects of the organisation.
Services and activities [ edit ] CISAC's main activities are: setting professional standards for authors' societies; implementing information systems to facilitate the identification of creative works and their relevant rights holders in order to precipitate the distribution of royalties to creators; contributing to the development of authors' societies around the world; advocating for authors' rights internationally; and building strategies to help societies deal with the changes brought on by the digital era. CISAC is an active participant within the international intellectual property community and collaborates with the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the UNESCO on matters of mutual interest.
Setting professional rules and standards for authors' societies [ edit ] CISAC provides tools to its members that promote best business practices for all repertoires, including:
CISAC model contracts for "reciprocal representation" [ edit ] Reciprocal representation principles are the basis of the international network of authors' societies. They make it possible for one society to represent the worldwide creative repertoire in their home territory. For example, if a Spanish society and an Australian society have signed a "reciprocal representation" agreement, the Spanish society can represent the Australian society's repertoire in Spain and the Australian society can represent the Spanish society's repertoire in Australia. They grant licenses for uses of each other's repertoires and collect royalties for these uses.
Through this system of agreements, a content user (e.g. a radio broadcaster or a night club) can obtain a single license from their local authors' society for use of the worldwide repertoire of creative works. This makes it possible for creators to receive royalties for uses of their works all over the world.
Professional rules and binding resolutions [ edit ] In 2008, CISAC implemented a set of Professional Rules '' binding principles with which all of CISAC's members must comply. They include best practices in governance, financial management, communication, administration, and the management and exchange of information relating to creative works and their relevant right holders.
Information networks and smart metadata [ edit ] CISAC manages an international information system (called the Common Information System or CIS) for the exchange of information about works, their usage and the relevant rights holders between authors' societies.[16]
Advocating for authors' rights [ edit ] Another branch of CISAC's activities is advocating for authors' rights and serving as a spokesperson for its members at the international level. CISAC works in close collaboration with authors' societies and governments to ensure local laws uphold authors' rights. It organises and participates in numerous training programmes and seminars for judges and content users that aim to deepen their understanding of copyright, authors' rights and licensing.
Resale rights campaign [ edit ] Together with European Visual Artists (EVA), the European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers (GESAC) and other visual arts societies, CISAC has orchestrated an international campaign for the universal implementation of artists' resale right. Efforts focus on promoting a new international treaty that would remedy existing shortfalls and introduce the resale right as a mandatory element of copyright protection.
Global policy and government relations [ edit ] CISAC monitors international developments and participates in negotiations on new treaties and other copyright-related initiatives. CISAC also weighs in on other treaty-related discussions taking place within the framework of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva. In a high level meeting held in February 2014, a CISAC delegation of creators' representatives met with WIPO's Director General to agree on joint projects and promote increased visibility for creators within WIPO.
World Copyright Summit [ edit ] Historically, CISAC organised the World Copyright Summit, which subsequently became the World Creators Summit, an international forum that brought together authors' societies, creators, industry leaders from the technology and entertainment sectors, policymakers and consumer representatives to discuss the future of copyright/authors' rights and creativity in the digital era. Four summits were held in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013.
Studies and reports [ edit ] The Creative Industries and the BRICS [ edit ] In 2014, CISAC released an economic study that identifies the potential within Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) to increase their creative industries' and contribution to GDP over the next ten years. The study includes an action plan for policymakers to unlock the potential of the creative industry in these regions.[17]
Cultural Times '' The First Global Map of Cultural and Creative Industries [ edit ] In 2015, CISAC published a survey prepared by Ernst & Young, that quantifies the global economic and social contribution of the creative sector, analyzing 11 Cultural and Creative Industries (CCI): advertising, architecture, books, gaming, movies, music, newspapers/magazines, performing arts, radio, television and visual arts.[18]
Global Collections Report [ edit ] CISAC publishes an annual report on its members' royalty collections. The report analyses royalty collections by region, repertoire and type of rights and looks at market trends affecting the use of creative works and the payment of royalties.
Key figures [ edit ] 230 authors' societies in 120 countries (as of June, 2015)[19]
103 societies in Europe49 societies in Latin American and the Caribbean30 societies in Africa20 societies in Asia-Pacific18 societies in North America (Canada '' USA)Global Royalty Collections in 2014 by all of CISAC's Members:[2]
7.9bn total collections by CISAC member societies+5.0% growth in total collections in constant euro (year-on-year)+2.8% growth in total collections in current euros (year-on-year)Music accounted for 87% of overall collections, up 2,4%Non-music collections accounted for 13.0% of overall collections, up 5.2%Performing Rights made up 79% of total collections, up 3.8%+4.1% growth in Europe (61% of total collections)+11% growth in BRICS countriesControversy [ edit ] The so-called "CISAC Case" was a competition law case brought by the European Commission against a group of authors' societies in Europe. It specifically concerned performance rights in music repertoires and the relationship between authors' societies managing rights in music content. The proceedings focused on specific provisions in the reciprocal representation agreements signed between these societies. These provisions were based on a Model Contract for Reciprocal Representation, developed by CISAC.
2008 Decision
The Commission's decision alleged that the 24 European Economic Area (EEA) societies had engaged in concerted practices and illegally reached an arrangement on the territorial scope of their respective reciprocal representation agreements.[20] CISAC was not included in the decision, nor were there any monetary penalties for the societies. CISAC and 21 of the 24 EEA societies appealed the decision before the EU General Court in October 2008.[21]
Final ruling
On 12 April 2013, the EU General Court issued its ruling in the 2008 appeal. The judgement annulled the 2008 decision of the EU Commission.
See also [ edit ] List of copyright collection societiesAuthors' rightsCopyrightCultural industryCultural property lawDroit de suiteIntellectual propertyIntellectual rightsNotes and references [ edit ] ^ "Jean Michel Jarre succeeds Robin Gibb as CISAC president", Express ^ a b "CISAC 2015 Global Collections Report: Royalties Remain Stable At $8.8 Billion", Billboard, 2015 ^ Global live royalties up 8.5% YoY in 2015, IQ Magazine, 2016 ^ Frank Hoffmann, Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound (New York: Routledge, 2004), 464 ^ Steve McClure, "CISAC Revamps: Rights Body Streamlines Exec Structure," Billboard, October 30, 2004, 61 ^ "New ISO standard for worldwide identification of musical works", ISO, 2002 ^ "CISAC Announces Launch of CIS Net Using FastTrack Technology", BMI, 2004 ^ "WHAT'S IDA?", IDA-net ^ W. Scott Haine, Culture and Customs of France, (Portsmouth: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006), 269 ^ Jean Alexis Ziegler, "What is CISAC?" Billboard, 15 November 1986, 73 (C-2) ^ "CISAC World Creators Summit 2013", Copyright and Technology, 2013 ^ "International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC)", Culture 360 ^ "International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers", Unesco ^ "Executive Wach: Berklee College Of Music, BMG, SOCAN, SESAC, Riptide Music Group, CISAC", Music Dish, 2014 ^ "Gadi Oron appointed director general of CISAC", Intellectual Property Magazine, 2014 ^ "CISAC Announces Launch of CIS Net Using FastTrack Technology", BMI, 2004 ^ "The Benefits Of Copyright Around The World In Three Reports", Copyright Alliance, 2014 ^ "First-of-Its-Kind Report Assembles Hard Numbers on the World's Creative Industries", Billboard, 2015 ^ "CISAC 2015 Global Collections Report: Royalties Remain Stable At $8.8 Billion", Billboard, 2015 ^ "Commission prohibits practices which prevent European collecting societies offering choice to music authors and users", Europa, 2008 ^ External links [ edit ] Official website World Creative
New Report: Germany Caved To France On Copyright In A Deal For Russian Gas | Techdirt
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 19:35
from the horse-trading:-the-public-internet-for-russian-gas deptIn the hours leading up to the vote in the EU Parliament on the EU Copyright Directive, the German publication FAZ (which has been generally supportive of the Directive) has released quite a bombshell (in German), suggesting that the reason Germany caved to France on its terrible demands concerning copyright was in order to get France's approval of the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia.
If you don't recall, the German delegation had actually pushed back on the more extreme versions of Article 13 -- and, in particular, had demanded that a final version have a clear carve-out for smaller companies, so as not to have them forced out of business by the onerous demands of the law. However, after some back and forth, Germany caved in to France's demands, with many left scratching their heads as to why. However, some noted the "coincidence" in timing, that right after this, France also withdrew its objections to the pipeline which is very controversial in the EU (and the US, which is threatening sanctions).
FAZ notes that there were whispered rumors about Germany and France basically trading these two proposals, with Germany effectively selling out the open public internet in exchange for easier access to Russian gas. However, it has now seen documents that support this claim. Germany's economic minister, Peter Altmaier apparently promised startups that Germany would not cave on its promise to create a carve-out for all companies with less than 20 million euros in revenue per year -- only to drop that demand the very next day.
According to FAZ, the French delegation directly suggested the idea of France backing away from its opposition to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline if Germany backed away from its concerns about Article 13. And, voila, within days, Germany gave up on its demands regarding Article 13 and, a few days later, France switched sides and agreed to support the pipeline. So, as the German MEPs go to the polls tomorrow, we'll see if they think it was a fair deal to sell out the public internet in exchange for some Russian gas.
Filed Under: article 13, copyright, eu copyright directive, france, germany, internet, nord stream 2, oil, pipelines, russia
CHS: A mysterious syndrome that makes marijuana users violently ill is starting to worry doctors - Business Insider
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 19:12
When she became so uncontrollably sick that she resorted to scalding her skin in a hot bath for the third time in a row, Mrs. X began to wonder whether it had something to do with smoking marijuana.
For nearly a decade, the Australian woman had experienced sudden and severe episodes of nausea and vomiting in connection with using the drug. Before that, she'd smoked safely for years, with no symptoms.
In 2004, a team of emergency-room physicians in Australia detailed her experience anonymously alongside a handful of similar cases in the same region that year. In nearly all those cases, the people described an illness that cropped up suddenly, often after decades of normal marijuana use. Piping hot baths were their only relief.
The Australian physicians dubbed it "cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome," or CHS.
Though the Australians' report raised some red flags locally, most experts continued to think that cases like Mrs. X's were rare across the globe '-- until a spate of similar reports cropped up elsewhere.
Now, several recent studies from ER physicians across Europe and the US are suggesting that CHS could be a lot more common than previously thought.
The latest study was published on Monday by a team of clinicians in Colorado, where marijuana was legalized medically in 2009 and recreationally in 2014. In their study, which appeared in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, the physicians described more than 2,500 cannabis-related ER visits to a large public hospital in the state from 2012 to 2016.
They found that stomach issues like nausea and vomiting were the main driver of the trips, even before psychiatric problems like intoxication and paranoia. And of those stomach issues, CHS was the most commonly reported problem and the top reason for the people to be booked at the hospital.
"To see that this was a leading reason for people coming to the ER, that was pretty striking," Andrew Monte, an associate professor of emergency medicine at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital who led the study, told Business Insider.
"We have to do a better job of educating users on the fact that this phenomenon exists," he added.
Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, echoed Monte's concerns about cannabis and CHS in an editorial published with the study.
"We must recognize that the full range of potential adverse health consequences from cannabis consumption are not fully understood," she wrote.
From a 'barely known' illness to something that could affect millions each year Because marijuana was widely illegal until recently, few studies have explored its effects, positive or negative. Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
Because cannabis was widely illegal until very recently, very few studies have explored the full range of its effects, positive or negative.
Two decades ago, CHS was unheard of. Then in the early 2000s, a spate of researchers began to describe clusters of stomach-related issues that appeared to stem from heavy and repeated cannabis use. Though they coined a name for the problem, they still had no idea what was causing it or how to stop it.
More than a decade later, in 2017, a team of German ER doctors described CHS as a "barely known" illness characterized by intense nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. They still hadn't pinned down a cause, but they did identify a cure: quitting cannabis.
A year later, in New York, clinicians surveyed thousands of patients at a large urban public hospital and concluded that every year as many as 3 million Americans could experience something like CHS. Again, the only definitive treatment they identified was quitting marijuana.
Read more: A mysterious syndrome in which marijuana users get violently ill is starting to worry researchers
For the latest study, the Colorado researchers chronicled nearly 10,000 ER visits to the University of Colorado Health's Anschutz campus, a large public hospital in Aurora, roughly 30 minutes from Denver. Of all the visits, about 2,500 were related to marijuana.
Of the weed-related visits, 31% were stomach-related, making stomach issues the leading cause of all ER trips for cannabis. And of the stomach-related cannabis visits, CHS emerged as the most common adverse event and the main driver of hospital admissions.
Monte's findings are chipping away at the assumption that CHS is uncommon.
"CHS is certainly not very rare," Monte told Business Insider. "We see it absolutely every week in our ER."
Other researchers agree.
"This isn't surprising, and we're certainly going to see more of this," Joseph Habboushe, an associate professor at NYU Langone and the lead author of the CHS paper published last year, told Business Insider.
Habboushe is working on a study to identify some new relief methods for the symptoms of CHS. Monte said one of his graduate students was working on a similar paper.
For Mrs. X, the only thing that helped was quitting. When she started smoking again, she was OK for a few months, but then her symptoms returned.
The authors of the Australian study documenting her case wrote in 2004 that the people who "rechallenged themselves by resuming marijuana" had "relapsed within months."
Judge overseeing key Jeffrey Epstein-related suit dies - POLITICO
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 17:07
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Sweet was appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, confirmed that same year and continued to hear and rule on cases through the last few months. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images
An elderly federal judge presiding over a key lawsuit relating to financier pedophile Jeffrey Epstein died Sunday, adding another twist to the drawn-out legal saga and to efforts to unseal still-secret details about the conduct of Epstein, his enablers and one of his accusers.
Manhattan-based U.S. District Court Judge Robert Sweet passed away Sunday at age 96, the court announced. Sweet was appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, confirmed that same year and continued to hear and rule on cases through the last few months.
Story Continued Below
Sweet was assigned to a lawsuit that emerged from the aftermath of Epstein's controversial plea deal a decade ago, in which he escaped federal charges by pleading guilty to two prostitution-related offenses in state court. Epstein ended up spending 13 months in jail, with daily furloughs that allowed him to work in his office.
Critics have denounced the plea deal and the government official who negotiated it: Alexander Acosta, then the top federal prosecutor in south Florida and now U.S. secretary of Labor. The sentence, critics say, was excessively lenient for a man who faced allegations of procuring dozens of teenage girls for sex acts.
The sex trafficking lawsuit that Sweet oversaw pitted one of Epstein's alleged victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, against a longtime friend of Epstein and heir to a newspaper fortune, Ghislaine Maxwell.
In exchange for financial settlements, Giuffre and many other victims waived their right to sue Epstein. But those waivers did not preclude lawsuits against some others, like Maxwell, who were alleged to have facilitated Epstein's efforts to hire teenagers to provide massages that often involved sex.
Maxwell denied the allegations but settled the suit on the eve of trial in 2017 after Sweet turned down her lawyers' motion to shut down the case.
The settlement did not end the controversy, however. During the course of the case, Sweet approved blanket sealing of many of the submissions from both sides, detailing some of the best arguments and evidence they intended to present if the case went to trial.
The secrecy eventually prompted motions from Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, author and social media personality Mike Cernovich and the Miami Herald to unseal some or all of the records in suit.
Dershowitz, a former lawyer for Epstein, is seeking unsealing because he says the court files contain evidence that can prove him innocent of claims Giuffre and another woman made that they had sex with him at Epstein's direction. Cernovich has said he's offended by the secrecy in the case and eager to expose pedophilia among American elites. The Miami Herald sought the information as part of reporting for a series it wound up publishing last year.
Sweet turned down the motions, prompting a series of appeals.
At an argument session earlier this month, three 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals judges seemed to view the secrecy in the suit as excessive and unjustified.
All the judges on the panel appeared to favor making some records from the case public soon, but there was some discussion about the process for considering opening all the records. One question debated at the argument was whether Sweet should oversee that process or whether it should be handed over to another judge. That question is now moot.
Maxwell has opposed unsealing records in the case. In addition, last week, two anonymous individuals came forward to urge the appeals court not to release information in the court files about third parties who may have been discussed during depositions in the case.
Interest in the Epstein case escalated following the publication of the Herald series and in the wake of a judge's ruling last month that federal prosecutors, including Acosta, violated federal law by misleading alleged victims about the status of the case against Epstein in the weeks leading up to the plea deal in 2008.
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Jussie Smollett's Sisters Worked for Barack Obama '' True Pundit
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 17:03
From Jussie Smollett's sister's Instagram page, she admits herself and another of Jussie's sisters worked long hours for Barack Obama during his presidential bid.
Smollett's sisters, who are actresses and activists, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, and Jazz Smollett-Warwell, worked as leading campaign surrogates for former President Barack Obama
Smollett-Bell posted about her support for Obama on Instagram on President Donald Trump's Inauguration Day:
''Feeling a lot of emotions. I remember meeting then Senator @barackobama 9 years ago. I'd been invited to introduce him in Nevada during the primaries. He was the underdog, the odds were stacked against him. Said he was too young, too black, too different'...he was an other. I've always been an other so I saw myself in him. My own relative told me I was wasting my time, going state to state, knocking on doors for this guy with the funny name. I can't tell you how many people hung the phone up on my sister @jazzsmollettwarwell and me as we clocked in our hours, phone banking. Working as if this was a full time job, I worked for free, because this work was food for my soul. They whispered that you couldn't do it. That we couldn't do it. And then tried to block you even when we proved them wrong. TWICE. You will go down as the greatest president who did the most with the least help from his ''congressional leaders''. So I thank you for being you. Unapologetically. Your very existence demanded that I take the limits off my own. Before you, I lived in a world of boundaries and limits. You were audacious enough to dream big, and demanded we dream even bigger. So thank you for all you've given us. We will keep dreaming, keeping fighting, keep knocking on doors, keep traveling and spreading the gospel truth. Because it never was about you, it was about us, the ''others''. Yes we can. Yes we did. Yes we will.#powertothepeople ''ŠðŸ½ #ThanksObama #tbt #mypresident
Smollett-Bell supported her brother Jussie's claims even after evidence seems to suggest it was an elaborately staged hoax. READ MORE:
Chicago police union wants federal investigation into Kim Foxx's handling of Jussie Smollett case | WGN-TV
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 15:46
CHICAGO '-- Chicago's police union is calling for a federal investigation into the Cook County State's Attorney's actions in the Jussie Smollett case.
Three days after Smollett claimed he was attacked, Kim Foxx asked Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson to turn the case over to the FBI.
The request came after Foxx exchanged text messages and emails with relatives and a supporter of Smollett, who said they were worried about leaks in the investigation.
Foxx later recused herself from the case.
The FOP wants federal investigators to determine whether Foxx broke the law.
Related storiesJussie Smollett pleads not guilty to disorderly conduct chargesAttorney: Brothers regret role in alleged Smollett schemeJudge OKs camera in court for Jussie Smollett's hearing ThursdayJussie Smollett indicted on 16 felony counts by grand jury
Jussie Smollett Charges Dropped; 'His Record Has Been Wiped Clean' '' CBS Chicago
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 15:43
CHICAGO (CBS) '-- Less than two weeks after ''Empire'' actor Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly lying to police about a hate crime, prosecutors have dropped charges in the case.
Cook County prosecutors agreed to drop the charges against Smollett at an unscheduled hearing in the case Tuesday morning. Smollett will forfeit the $10,000 bail he posted after his arrest.
''After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollett's volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case,'' the Cook County State's Attorney's office stated in an email.
Sources tell CBS 2 that CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson is furious and that he received no notification about the charges being dropped. CBS 2 is told that he will speak after the police graduation taking place.
Smollett's spokesperson said his record would be ''fully expunged.''
''Today, all criminal charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and his record has been wiped clean of the filing of this tragic complaint against him. Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29th. He was a victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator as a result of false and inappropriate remarks made to the public causing an inappropriate rush to judgement,'' spokeswoman Anne Kavanaugh stated in an email.
''Jussie and many others were hurt by these unfair and unwarranted actions. This entire situation is a reminder that there should never be an attempt to prove a case in the court of public opinion. That is wrong. It is a reminder that a victim, in this case Jussie, deserves dignity and respect. Dismissal of charges against the victim in this case was the only just result.
''Jussie is relieved to have this situation behind him and is very much looking forward to getting back to focusing on his family, friends and career.''
A judge also granted a motion to seal the case.
More details are expected soon, after an unscheduled emergency hearing Tuesday morning.
Smollett was accused of falsifying a police report, and lying to police. Each of the 16 counts against him covers various alleged acts that Smollett falsely described to the officers''including that he was hit by two men, that they yelled racial and homophobic slurs and poured a chemical on him.
Smollett, who is black and openly gay, had told police he was attacked as he was walking home around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29. He claimed two masked men '' one of them also wearing a red hat '' shouted racist and homophobic slurs as they beat him, put a noose around his neck, and poured a chemical on him.
Police said, in reality, Smollett had paid Ola and Abel Osundairo to stage the attack.
CBS 2's Charlie De Mar has reported Smollett also directed the brothers to buy the noose at a hardware store and the hat and masks at a store in Uptown. Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said police have the check.
Police said the two brothers wore gloves during the staged attack, and did punch Smollett, but the scratches and bruises on Smollett's face most likely were self-inflicted.
Police at the time said the attack was a publicity stunt because the actor was upset about his pay on the show.
Smollett has denied all the allegations.
More on Jussie Smollett:
Brothers At The Center Of Jussie Smollett Case In A Different Fight: The Boxing Ring
While actor Jussie Smollett fights for his freedom, the two brothers at the center of his case were involved in a different kind of fight Thursday night.
Jussie Smollett Pleads Not Guilty To Disorderly Conduct Indictment; Accused Of Orchestrating Hate Crime Hoax
''Empire'' actor Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty Thursday to 16 counts of disorderly conduct, nearly a week after he was indicted for allegedly lying to police about a hate crime.
March 25 2019 Tim Murtaugh Trump Campaign Memo to TV Producers | Politics Of The United States | Donald Trump
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 14:41
To: Television Producers From: Tim Murtaugh Director of Communications, Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. Date: March 25, 2019 Regarding: Credibility of Certain Guests As you know, Special Counsel Robert Mueller
s report found that no one associated with President Donald J. Trump
s 2016 campaign colluded with Russia, despite repeated offers from Russia-linked operatives. The Special Counsel also made no r ecommendation on obstruction, which is a decision in itself. Using the information provided by Mueller, the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General determined that there was no obstruction. This is all the r esult of the Special Counsel
s 2,800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants, 500 witness interviews, 40 FBI agents, 19 lawyers, and $25 million in taxpayer funds. The only way to interpret these conclusions is as a total and complete vindication of President Trump. The issuance of these definitive findings comes a fter two years of Democrat leaders and others lying to the American people by vigorously and repeatedly claiming there was evidence of collusion. They made many of these false claims, without evidence, on your airwaves. The list of guests who made outlandish, false claims in cludes, but is not limited to:
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT):
The evidence is pretty clear that there was collision between the Trump campaign and the Russians
All In,
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA):
I think there
s plenty of evidence of collusion or conspiracy in plain sight.
CBS This Morning,
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY):
There was obviously a lot of collusion. The question i s how high. Every day we
every day
every so often we get new information about involvement.
Erin Burnett OutFront,
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA):
''In our
investigation, we saw strong evidence of collusion.
'' 3/16/18)
DNC Chairman Tom Perez:
And over the course of the last year we have seen, I think, a mountain of evidence of collusion between the campaign and the Russians to basically affect our democracy.
''Meet the Press,'' 4/22/18)
America should allow other countries to vote in the 2020 election | The Independent
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 12:39
I was nine years old when I first seriously pondered the result of a US presidential election. It was 2000 and my father suggested we bet on who would win the 2000 vote '' George W Bush or Al Gore. In the kitchen of our apartment in the Paris suburbs, I bet a piece of gum that it would be Gore. Two months later, the Supreme Court decided otherwise, and I didn't realise until many years later how close I had come to being right.
Perhaps that's when it originated: the idea that maybe other countries shouldn't just be left wringing their hands every four years and waiting to see who US citizens had chosen to appoint as (to speak like a White House staffer on Scandal) the leader of the Free World.
And perhaps that seed of an idea continued to gestate in 2004, when we waited to find out whether John Kerry would deprive George W Bush of a second term; then in 2008, when T-shirts bearing Barack Obama's red and blue ''Hope'' poster started cropping up on the streets of the French capital; and again in 2012, when we learned the names of his Republican challengers.
We'll tell you what's true. You can form your own view.From 15p '‚¬0.18 $0.18 USD 0.27 a day, more exclusives, analysis and extras.
Then, of course, came November 2016, by which time I had moved from my native France to the US. I came home from work at approximately four the morning after the election and spent an hour or two on the phone with my mother (it was mid-morning in Paris) talking about Donald Trump's ascent to power and what it meant for America as well as for the world.
One election after the next, we have seen how much the results of the US presidential vote impact not just the 50 states, but the rest of the planet too. And if the future of foreign countries is shaped to a significant extent by what goes on on US Election Day, shouldn't they get a say in who gets to lead the most powerful nation in the world for the next four years?
In other words: shouldn't foreign countries have a right to vote in the US presidential election?
I know, I know. The idea sounds so absurd, so outrageous that it's hard to know where to begin your rebuttal. I have floated it around, timidly, in bars and at various dinner parties over the years, and let me tell you '' it's hard to get people to agree with me. And I get it: it's never been done. I will probably never be done. But last week, a terrorist killed 50 people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The alleged gunman, who had referred to himself as a white nationalist, viewed Donald Trump as ''a symbol of renewed white identity''. So, yes, I think it's high time to acknowledge the fact that what happens in the US has immense, tangible consequences on the rest of the world, and I am tired of crossing my fingers hoping that American voters will do the right thing.
Mike Pompeo says it is 'possible' that God send Trump to save Jewish people
I remember the Iraq war debate, and how George W Bush expressed his disappointment at my country and others for deciding not to align with US forces '' while insisting that he was ''not mad'' we had decided to opt out of the invasion. I remember our collective bewilderment at the term ''freedom fries'', and I remember lacking clarity on some of the details, on account of being 11 years old at the time. But the feeling that the US, more than any other nation, shapes our collective future has only grown clearer and stronger since.
Perhaps it helps to imagine America as the pot in which tomorrow's ideas are brewed, for better or worse. Perhaps it helps, too, to look at the more tangible signs of how US politics contribute to shaping all of our lives. The most convincing example may be global warming, and Donald Trump's overt skepticism when it comes to climate change. In January this year, the president of the world's most powerful nation infamously tweeted: "In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In coming days, expected to get even colder. People can't last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming [sic]? Please come back fast, we need you!"
It goes without saying that whatever the US does or does not do to limit the effects of global warming impacts every single being, human or otherwise, on this planet.
Then comes the economy: in June last year, we were warned that tensions between the US and its main trading partners could precipitate global trade turmoil similar in scale to the 2008 financial crisis. Whoever gets to sit in the Oval Office, then, plays a major role in shaping the state of our wallets as well as the state of the planet. Is it really that outrageous that people around the world might want to have a say on who runs the show?
I am, of course, aware that the US is extremely unlikely to go along with my idea. This isn't a country that's particularly known for avidly seeking external input. And of course, there's the idea that the right to vote is intrinsically tied to residence, and that those who don't live in a given country aren't qualified to make a call on what goes in said country.
Except things are more complicated, and more nuanced than that. Take, for example, the idea that living in a country is a condition to having the right to vote there. Permanent residents such as myself, also known as green card holders (also known as people who aren't US citizens but live and work in the US full-time) pay the same income tax as US citizens, but don't get to vote. Naturally, US citizens (like citizens of many other countries) still get to vote for their president even if they permanently move to a different country. All this to say: there is an established disequilibrium between who gets to vote in the US presidential election and who arguably has the most skin in the game.
leftCreated with Sketch. rightCreated with Sketch.
1/22 Bernie Sanders The 2016 runner-up has announced that he will be running again in 2020
2/22 Hillary Clinton The 2016 Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State says she is ''still considering'' whether she will run again.
3/22 Joe Biden The former vice president - poised to be a frontrunner if he runs - is thought highly likely to run. He recently told supporters "save your energy, I may need it soon"
4/22 Kamala Harris The former California attorney general will be running for president in 2020. Introduced to the national stage during Jeff Sessions' testimony, she has endorsed Medicare-for-all and proposed a major tax-credit for the middle class.
5/22 Elizabeth Warren The Massachusetts Senator has formally launched her bid for president in 2020. A progressive Democrat, she is a major supporter of regulating Wall Street.
6/22 Beto O'Rourke The former Texas congressman told Oprah Winfrey that he ''has been thinking about running for presidency'', but stopped short of formally announcing his bid to run in 2020.
7/22 Kirsten Gillibrand The New York Senator formally announced her presidential bid in January, saying that ''healthcare should be a right, not a privilege.''
8/22 Cory Booker The New Jersey Senator has announced that he will be running for the presidency in 2020. If he secures the nomination he said finding a female vice president would be a priority.
9/22 John Delaney The Maryland congressman was the first to launch his bid for presidency, making the announcement in 2017.
10/22 Julian Castro The former San Antonio mayor announced his candidacy in January and said that his running has a ''special meaning'' for the Latino community in the US.
11/22 Tulsi GabbardThe Hawaii congresswoman announced her candidacy in January, but is likely to face tough questions on her past comments on LGBT+ rights and her stance on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
12/22 Pete ButtigiegThe Indiana mayor and war veteran will be running for president. If elected, he would be the first openly LGBT+ president in American history.
13/22 Andrew YangThe entrepreneur has announced his presidential candidacy, and has pledged that he would introduce a universal basic income of $1,000 a month to every American over the age of 18.
14/22 Marianne WilliamsonThe author and spiritual advisor has announced her intention to run for president. She had previously run for congress as an independent in 2014 but was unsuccessful.
15/22 John Kerry The former secretary of state has said he is still thinking about whether to run.
16/22 Michael Bloomberg The entrepreneur and former New York mayor'' with a net worth of around $50bn '' has said he will decide by the end of February whether to seek the presidency.
17/22 Howard SchultzFormer Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has not yet ruled out running for president in 2020, despite criticism that his bid could help re-elect Mr Trump by dividing the Democrat vote.
18/22 Eric Holder The former attorney general has said he will decide in ''the next month or so'' whether to run as a 2020 presidential candidate.
19/22 Eric Swalwell The California congressman said he is ''ready to do this'' and will decide before April whether to run.
20/22 Terry McAuliffeThe former Virginia governor, who worked to elect Democratic governors during 2018 midterms, said there was a ''50 per cent'' chance he would run.
21/22 Sherrod Brown The Ohio senator is still undecided about whether to run for president in 2020.
22/22 Mitch Landrieu The former New Orleans mayor said he doesn't think he will run for president, but ''never say never''.
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
1/22 Bernie Sanders The 2016 runner-up has announced that he will be running again in 2020
2/22 Hillary Clinton The 2016 Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State says she is ''still considering'' whether she will run again.
3/22 Joe Biden The former vice president - poised to be a frontrunner if he runs - is thought highly likely to run. He recently told supporters "save your energy, I may need it soon"
4/22 Kamala Harris The former California attorney general will be running for president in 2020. Introduced to the national stage during Jeff Sessions' testimony, she has endorsed Medicare-for-all and proposed a major tax-credit for the middle class.
5/22 Elizabeth Warren The Massachusetts Senator has formally launched her bid for president in 2020. A progressive Democrat, she is a major supporter of regulating Wall Street.
6/22 Beto O'Rourke The former Texas congressman told Oprah Winfrey that he ''has been thinking about running for presidency'', but stopped short of formally announcing his bid to run in 2020.
7/22 Kirsten Gillibrand The New York Senator formally announced her presidential bid in January, saying that ''healthcare should be a right, not a privilege.''
8/22 Cory Booker The New Jersey Senator has announced that he will be running for the presidency in 2020. If he secures the nomination he said finding a female vice president would be a priority.
9/22 John Delaney The Maryland congressman was the first to launch his bid for presidency, making the announcement in 2017.
10/22 Julian Castro The former San Antonio mayor announced his candidacy in January and said that his running has a ''special meaning'' for the Latino community in the US.
11/22 Tulsi GabbardThe Hawaii congresswoman announced her candidacy in January, but is likely to face tough questions on her past comments on LGBT+ rights and her stance on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
12/22 Pete ButtigiegThe Indiana mayor and war veteran will be running for president. If elected, he would be the first openly LGBT+ president in American history.
13/22 Andrew YangThe entrepreneur has announced his presidential candidacy, and has pledged that he would introduce a universal basic income of $1,000 a month to every American over the age of 18.
14/22 Marianne WilliamsonThe author and spiritual advisor has announced her intention to run for president. She had previously run for congress as an independent in 2014 but was unsuccessful.
15/22 John Kerry The former secretary of state has said he is still thinking about whether to run.
16/22 Michael Bloomberg The entrepreneur and former New York mayor'' with a net worth of around $50bn '' has said he will decide by the end of February whether to seek the presidency.
17/22 Howard SchultzFormer Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has not yet ruled out running for president in 2020, despite criticism that his bid could help re-elect Mr Trump by dividing the Democrat vote.
18/22 Eric Holder The former attorney general has said he will decide in ''the next month or so'' whether to run as a 2020 presidential candidate.
19/22 Eric Swalwell The California congressman said he is ''ready to do this'' and will decide before April whether to run.
20/22 Terry McAuliffeThe former Virginia governor, who worked to elect Democratic governors during 2018 midterms, said there was a ''50 per cent'' chance he would run.
21/22 Sherrod Brown The Ohio senator is still undecided about whether to run for president in 2020.
22/22 Mitch Landrieu The former New Orleans mayor said he doesn't think he will run for president, but ''never say never''.
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
How would it work, then? If the US were to entertain the possibility of letting foreigners participate in the presidential vote (and again, I'm not holding my breath), how would we make it happen? Does each foreign country get the same weight as each of the 50 states? Surely, that would be giving too much weight to the outside world. Do we restrict the vote to member states of NATO and/or historical allies? This seems slightly more realistic '' as realistic as it gets in this purely hypothetical scenario '' but also somewhat unfair to those whose voices would be left out.
I have clearly disclosed my status as a French citizen, so I know the question will be raised: how would I react if someone proposed to let other countries vote in the French presidential election? Well, France is currently about five spots behind the US in the ranking of the world's most powerful nations, and its GDP is more than seven times lower. But sure, should France ever have the kind of political and cultural influence the US currently yields, then I'd be inclined to let others have a say. In fact, I might even vote in favour of it.
We'll tell you what's true. You can form your own view.
At The Independent, no one tells us what to write. That's why, in an era of political lies and Brexit bias, more readers are turning to an independent source. Subscribe from just 15p a day for extra exclusives, events and ebooks '' all with no ads.
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D66 wil 'alle Duitsers zijn homo'-leuzen in het stadion verbieden - AT5
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 10:51
D66 vindt dat voetbal een stuk LHBTI-vriendelijker kan. Het zou klaar moeten zijn met muzikale spreekkoren die ongemoeid 'alle Duitsers zijn homo' scanderen, aldus raadslid Jan-Bert Vroege.
'Homo' wordt volgens de partij nog structureel als scheldwoord gebruikt in de kleedkamer en op het veld. Vroege: 'Dat niemand optreedt tegen deze muzikaal ondersteunde spreekkoren is bizar als je er over nadenkt.' De D66'er wil discriminatie rondom voetbalwedstrijden 'hard bestrijden'.
De partij heeft enkele maatregelen voorgesteld om de sport inclusiever te maken. Zo moet er overleg komen met de organisatie van grote voetbalwedstrijden over het bestraffen van homofobe spreekkoren. Daarnaast wil de partij tijdens het EK in 2020 aandacht voor de LHBT+ gemeenschap zien in de fanzones. 'Het is een voetbalfeest voor heel voetbalminnend Nederland. Daar hoort geen discriminatie en homohaat bij.'
#SorryJohanVoetbal en de homogemeenschap hebben een ongemakkelijke verhouding met elkaar, zoals ook vorig jaar duidelijk werd. De jonge voetbalsupporter Bowi Jong stelde toen een soortgelijke eis aan de KNVB: meer regulering van de soms kwetsende spreekkoren.
Johan Derksen, presentator van voetbalprogramma Veronica Inside, merkte toen op dat het 'heus niet zo moeilijk was om uit de kast te komen'. Dit zorgde voor een landelijke storm op social media om vervelende ervaringen te delen onder de hashtag #SorryJohan.
Life as one of China's 13 million 'deadbeats' means slow trains, special ring tones | South China Morning Post
Tue, 26 Mar 2019 03:40
Passengers wait for a train to depart from the Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan, central China's Hubei province. In China, only those who cannot afford the high-speed train take the slow train. Photo: AP
Individuals on a national list of 'discredited individuals' are barred from taking airplanes and high-speed trainsA total of 13 million individuals are on the credit blacklist maintained by China's courtsTopic | China's social credit system
Sarah Dai
Published: 6:00am, 26 Mar, 2019
Updated: 10:40am, 26 Mar, 2019
Why Did Omidyar Shut Down The Intercept's Snowden Archive? | Washington Babylon
Mon, 25 Mar 2019 23:47
Remember the ''Pierre Omidyar Insurgency''? That was the title of a fawning New York Magazine profile in 2014 of the Silicon Valley billionaire who financed The Intercept after Edward Snowden's theft of thousands of classified National Security Agency documents from his Booz Allen Hamilton NSA workstation in Hawaii. The story was just one of many adoring articles to appear in the left-liberal media at the time, with its author swooning over The Intercept's ''scorching brand'' of ''fearless, adversarial journalism'' and detailing in ironic tones the wacky adventures of its world-famous founding editor, Glenn Greenwald.
Five years later, those articles, and The Intercept's extravagant claims, look ridiculous. On March 13, its readers learned that Omidyar's First Look Media, was shutting down access to its vast archive of NSA documents. The news appeared in The Daily Beast, a center-right entertainment publication that's known for its slanted, neocon-tinged reporting on Russia and North Korea. Its initial dispatch focused on Laura Poitras, Snowden's first contact, who was said to be ''livid'' and ''sickened'' about the archive's closing.
''This decision and the way it was handled would be a disservice to our source, the risks we've all taken, and most importantly, to the public for whom Edward Snowden blew the whistle,'' Poitras wrote in an email shared with Intercept staff. According to the Beast, she learned of the decision when First Look CEO Michael Bloom sent out an email saying that because other news organizations had ''ceased reporting'' on the NSA archive ''years ago,'' First Look had decided to ''focus on other editorial priorities.''
Greenwald, who won a Pulitzer for his spoon-fed reporting on Snowden, has been surprisingly reticent about the closing. He has provided only the vaguest of details about the future of the documents that Snowden earmarked for him while he was working for Booz, one of America's most notorious intelligence contractors. In a Twitter post the after the Beast story broke, he took the company line that it was purely a business decision. ''Like all digital media outlets, the Intercept has been confronted with financial restraints,'' the $500K+ a year founder and journalist explained in his best bureaucratic voice. ''The budget given to the Intercept by First Look Media for 2019 forces its editor-in-chief Betsy Reed, in consultation with the Intercept's senior editors, to make extremely difficult decisions.''
Greenwald added that he and Poitras ''continue to possess full copies of the archive'' and that he is working to ''ensure that publication'' of the material will continue with ''academics and researchers, not reporters'' working with institutions that have enough funds ''to do so robustly, quickly and responsibly.'' He didn't bother to mention Omidyar and the enormous investment ($250 million, equal to what Jeff Bezos paid to buy the Washington Post) gave to him and his partners to create The Intercept in the first place (Omidyar is the ''sole shareholder'' of First Look, its IRS form 990 states). And true to form, his ''fearless'' Intercept has yet to inform its many readers and supporters about the shutdown on its website. That's odd, considering that it was financed by Omidyar specifically to control, publicize and promote Snowden's archive. And perhaps that's why the slogan ''fearless, adversarial journalism'' quietly disappeared from The Intercept Twitter feed in recent months and was replaced by the bland ''We pursue the stories others don't.'' Who doesn't?
The story of the shutdown raises fundamental questions about why the decision was made and what, ultimately, will happen to the Snowden collection and the vast number of secrets about US and global intelligence agencies still buried in its archive.
I believe the answers to these questions lie in two areas: first, the extensive relationships the Omidyar Group, the billionaire's holding company, and the Omidyar Network, his investment vehicle, have forged over the past decade with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and other elements of the national security state; and second, the massive funds Omidyar and his allies in the world of billionaire philanthropy control through their foundations and investment funds. ''They have the resources of small nation-states,'' says a corporate lawyer familiar with their operations.
In my view, the Snowden collection had become problematic to Omidyar as he positioned himself as a key player in USAID's ''soft power'' strategy to wean the world from ''extremism'' with massive doses of private and public monies. The classified NSA documents may not have been a problem under the Obama White House, where Omidyar enjoyed privileged status. But under Trump, whose Justice Department has gone beyond Obama's attacks on whistleblowers by pursuing Julian Assange and Wikileaks, holding on to the Snowden cache may had become a liability. It's a plausible theory, based on extensive reporting and research I've done over the last five years.
Before starting, let me say that my reporting comes with no help from The Intercept. Greenwald, Scahill and Reed did not respond to detailed emails to the three of them seeking comment for this story. That's not surprising, considering that, along with editor Ken Silverstein, journalist Mark Ames and a few others, I've been a critic of its operations from the beginning (I was also quoted prominently in a New York magazine profile of Reality Winner and how The Intercept failed her by stupidly turning over her original documents to NSA for review). But that's their loss; they all know me, and have even quoted from my work; they're well aware that I've been writing about US intelligence, national security and contracting for years.
Omidyar, too, has refused comment. I've tried for two years to contact him through the Omidyar Group and the Omidyar Network, to no avail. But he damn sure knows what I'm doing: he just started following me on Twitter. As a result, this story is left to my propensity, always, to follow the money. That's the first and best rule I learned in journalism, and it definitely applies here. So let's follow Omidyar's fortune, estimated by Forbes at $12.2 billion, that he created from eBay and PayPal back in the 1990s.
Please consider supporting us with as little as $1 per month via our Washington Babylon Patreon account. Every little bit helps and will keep us delivering great coverage
Viewpoint: Mueller called it (largely) right on Trump - BBC News
Mon, 25 Mar 2019 23:31
Image copyright Getty Images Jubilation, anger and simple relief it's finally here - Americans responded to the partial release of the special counsel's report in a number of ways. But what about the legal issues raised? Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University, gives his view.
For millions of Americans, Robert Mueller's headline findings have hit hard.
Even after two years of preparation, many Americans were not prepared to hear that President Donald Trump would not only complete his term in office but might not even be charged with a single crime in the Russian investigation.
Mr Mueller himself seemed to sense the shock that would come with his findings.
After finding categorically that no crime of collusion occurred, he hedged on the question of obstruction by saying that while he did not conclude the president committed a crime, he also did "not exonerate him."
Mr Mueller seemed to be following an old joke about a man who calls his brother who has been house sitting during a long trip. The brother immediately says "Fluffy is dead."
The man yells at his brother that this is not how you tell someone their cat is dead - rather you build it up by first saying the cat is "stuck on the roof and then call back to say she fell".
After the brother apologised, the man asked how their mom is doing, and the brother paused and replied: "Mom's stuck on the roof..."
The slight roundabout way of clearing President Trump had about the same effect - it was little comfort.
People had invested Mr Mueller with their hopes for a premature termination of the Trump administration.
After Attorney General William Barr concluded that Mr Trump had not committed criminal obstruction, the inescapable fact was that he is likely to finish his term of office. There, I said it.
In reality, we never really needed the "roof" build-up.
1. CollusionLet's start with collusion. For two years, I have written that the theories of collusion crimes were factually and legally flawed. Nevertheless, people tuned into channels like CNN and MSNBC where they heard legal experts assure them that collusion was clear and criminal charges imminent.
This echo-chamber viewing actually convinced millions that Trump would be frog-walked to a federal penitentiary with his Russian handlers. It was all part of the collusion delusion.
The grand collusion conspiracy was never particularly convincing. It would have Trump or his family or aides helping to hack computer systems and then arrange for the leaking of the information through WikiLeaks.
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption Mueller report: One summary, two interpretationsThere was never any explanation on why Russian intelligence would take such a risk and place itself at the mercy of a serial social media user. Then there is the implausible meeting of this secret cell in Trump Tower with half of the world's media downstairs.
The Russians in the meeting did not even know who would attend. It lasted roughly 15 minutes and focused virtually entirely on the ban on Russian adoptions (an issue that the Russian lawyer had long lobbied against). While evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton was promised, nothing was disclosed.
Then there was the interest in Trump and people like Roger Stone in obtaining the WikiLeaks emails. The question is why such efforts were necessary for co-conspirators. Virtually every reporter and political operative in Washington was trying to get access to the same material.
Yet legal experts still proclaimed that crimes from collusion to conspiracy to treason were already established. None of that changed as Mueller filed numerous indictments and memorandums with courts that conspicuously omitted any evidence supporting collusion.
Collusion was the crime of hope over experience and a wide array of pundits and politicians kept hope alive until Mueller dispatched the theory in his report in roughly two dozen words: "[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."
2. ObstructionObstruction was always a closer question. Some of us opposed the appointment of a special counsel before Mr Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.
When he took that self-defeating step, the situation changed - many of us called for a special counsel because now there was a possible crime of obstruction. It did not make it a strong claim and I questioned its viability, but it deserved to be investigated.
The problem was that Mr Trump never fired Mr Mueller. He was never accused of destroying evidence. He never forced the investigation to a premature end.
To be sure, he acted in a highly inappropriate and objectionable way. Indeed, he almost counterpunched his way into an obstruction case. Yet, despite his best efforts, he failed.
Obstruction is based on a state of mind. When Mr Mueller found that there was no evidence of collusion, it undermined such an obstruction case.
It could still occur but Mr Trump needed to intend to obstruct the investigation. The problem is that Mr Trump's irresponsible and self-defeating tweets on the investigation were consistent with such statements in a myriad of other areas from immigration to North Korea. He maintained that the investigation was not only based on a false allegation but the result of a Deep State conspiracy.
Indeed, a federal appellate court in February just reaffirmed what many of us (including Barr himself) have been trying to point out - obstruction crimes are narrowly construed by the courts to establish a close "nexus" between the alleged misconduct and an official proceeding.
The Fourth Circuit was the latest court to throw out a conviction on that basis in United States v Young last month. Notably, the court cited the case of Arthur Anderson v United States, which two of Mr Mueller's top aides lost before the Supreme Court by overextending such language.
The fact that Mr Trump refused to be interviewed on obstruction was not likely determinative. Most targets do not give testimony before a grand jury and prosecutors base their decision on the rest of the record.
If Mr Trump's testimony was determinative, Mr Mueller could have sought to force it or he could have stated that the absence of the testimony was the reason why he could not reach a final decision.
However, all the president had to do is continue to repeat that he fired Mr Comey because of his poor record and attacked the investigation because it was launched in the absence of a crime (which Mr Mueller himself confirmed could not be established).
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The firing of James Comey was scrutinised by Mueller Ultimately, Mr Mueller punted on the ultimate question. Mr Barr explained that Mr Mueller did "not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him." However, both the attorney general and his deputy took just two days to say the obvious - there was no obstruction case to be made. In other words, the obstruction indictment was stuck on the roof.
In the end, everyone but the public came out ahead.
The president was not charged and used the investigation to rally his base. The Democrats used the investigation to help retake the House of Representatives. The media enjoyed massive ratings in pushing the collusion allegations.
Everyone had windfall benefits except the public, which was left feeling like chumps or victims or both.
Yes, Mr Trump will finish his term. But the distemper - and the investigations - will continue up to the 2020 elections.
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and served as the last lead defence counsel in an impeachment in the US Senate
How Cambridge flunked the Peterson test - UnHerd
Mon, 25 Mar 2019 15:25
GroupthinkThe University's shabby treatment of the psychology professor smacks of intellectual cowardice 4 mins 25 March 2019
There is an oddity about almost every 'scandal' involving Jordan Peterson. Each time a person or institution tries to diminish him, they end up revealing far more about themselves than their target. When Cathy Newman tried to assail him for Channel 4 News, it wasn't just her interviewing skill that was shown up, but a rottenness in the media industry as a whole.
Perhaps it will be the same with the latest scandal surrounding him and '' this time '' Cambridge University. Late last year, some people associated with the university raised the possibility that Peterson (who is currently on leave from his teaching position at the University of Toronto) might like to take up a temporary post as a visiting fellow in the Faculty of Divinity. Peterson had planned to use the position to prepare for a series of lectures on the book of Exodus (following on from his hugely successful lectures on the book of Genesis).
The arrangement could have benefited both parties. Peterson would have been able to enjoy the contributions of other fellows at Cambridge, while the university could have shown itself to be at the absolute forefront of the great discussions and the big issues of our time.
More from this author
What Peterson shares with Pelagius By Giles Fraser
Aside from his body of academic work, one of Peterson's achievements as an intellectual has been one that very few academics in our age has managed '' he has taken academic discussions out into the widest possible public realm. Is there any other public figure who can fill auditoriums around the world night after night with people willing listen to serious and deep lectures on everything from the Bible and Dostoyevsky to neurology and metaphysics? Cambridge would be hard pressed to find another such person. Or anyone who could even come close.
But it wouldn't have simply been a matter of the University acquiring his 'star status'. Nor of giving the students greater access to someone for whom they have a great appetite '' as Peterson's packed audiences in the city (including at the Cambridge Union) last year showed. Most important was the opportunity it would have given Cambridge to show that it was a class apart. Specifically, that was above the kind of low-grade, intellectually numbing, identity-politicking of our time.
There is a tendency to assume that the worst of the no-platforming, safe-space, snowflake ideology only exists at the lowest-grade universities, and that the higher up the academic food-chain you go, the less the insistence on intellectual uniformity is tolerated. Certainly, the University of Chicago has tried to lead a way out of the anti-free speech movements of our time, as did Oxford a few years ago when the Chancellor of that University told students that those unwilling to embrace freedom of thought should ''think about being educated elsewhere''.
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Douglas Murray in conversation with Jordan Peterson By Douglas Murray
That is the attitude that a world-class university should take. By giving Jordan Peterson even a temporary berth, Cambridge could have demonstrated that it too was going to lead the way out of the mire that lesser institutions have positively immersed themselves in.
But it has not. Before the university even had the decency to alert Peterson to the fact, it was announced that the offer of a visiting fellowship had been rescinded. And the University itself was not even the one to break the news that the offer had been rescinded. That pleasure '' for pleasure it must have been for them '' went to the Cambridge University Student Union (CUSU) which announced the news on social media before the faculty itself made the announcement.
It is clearly this group of students who have put pressure on the academics of the Divinity Faculty to rescind the offer. And it is clear from the content of this article on Varsity what the basis of those complaints must have been.
The laundry list of insinuations and accusations include the issue of gender pronouns (naturally) and also such damning facts as the claim that the accused has ''further described the concept of white privilege as a 'Marxist lie'''. As though anybody could ever have even thought such a thing.
Crowing about their victory, the CUSU said:
''We are relieved to hear that Jordan Peterson's request for a visiting fellowship to Cambridge's Faculty of Divinity has been rescinded following further review. It is a political act to associate the University with an academic's work through offers which legitimise figures such as Peterson.''
They went on to claim, ''His work and views are not representative of the student body and as such we do not see his visit as a valuable contribution to the University, but one that works in opposition to the principles of the University.''
It would require a thesis to unpick the number of fallacies and presumptions in that statement. For example, the idea that employing Peterson is a political act unlike the recruitment of other academics (are other academics either wholly non-political or political in the 'correct' direction?) and the assumption that in order to be at a university, a professor must be ''representative of the student body'' and much more.
When Peterson was in Cambridge last year he was certainly of enormous interest to the student body. Otherwise he would hardly have packed out of each of his venues. All that the CUSU exercise in neo-bureaucrat-ese proves is that the standard of students, like the standard of faculty, has obviously diminished in Cambridge of late.
Peterson has issued a statement that is justifiably angry. Everything about the University's behaviour has been shabby '' up to and including the claim that Peterson chased the divinity faculty to have a place at the university, rather than the other way around.
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Jordan Peterson for President (yes, I know) By Peter Franklin
But as with most other episodes involving Peterson, what starts out as a controversy turns into a societal biopsy. On this occasion, it is not only Cambridge University which has been exposed, but other institutions, including the media. For how did the London Times choose to report the news? By running the story under the headline Cambridge turns away alt-right darling Jordan Peterson.
You can learn so much about from a headline like that. Not about the subject of the piece, but about the media that would run it. Of all the things they could have used as a prefix to discuss Peterson (global bestselling author, internationally renowned thinker, world's most famous Canadian), why choose that drive-by shooting of a description: ''alt-Right darling''. A claim which is simultaneously just short of libellous, craftily misleading and undisguisedly contemptuous.
But as I say, this just goes to prove something that Peterson has proved plenty of times before. Those institutions and entities that try to assail him inadvertently end up revealing far too much about their own presumptions and prejudices. And they, not him, are left looking not just shallow, but unmistakably callow.
This Spyware Data Leak Is So Bad We Can't Even Tell You About It - Motherboard
Mon, 25 Mar 2019 14:18
This story is part of When Spies Come Home, a Motherboard series about powerful surveillance software ordinary people use to spy on their loved ones.
A company that sells consumer-grade software that lets customers spy on other people's calls, messages, and anything they do on their cell phones left more than 95,000 images and more than 25,000 audio recordings on a database exposed and publicly accessible to anyone on the internet. The exposed server contains two folders with everything from intimate pictures to recordings of phone calls, given that the app markets itself mostly to parents.
Troy Hunt, a researcher who maintains the breach database Have I Been Pwned?, analyzed the database and said that there were around 16 gigabytes of images and around 3.7 gigabytes of MP3 recordings in it. Motherboard confirmed his analysis. (It's hard to say how many unique pictures and recordings there are, however. Some pictures appear to have been uploaded multiple times.)
This breach is just the latest in a seemingly endless series of exposures or leaks of incredibly sensitive data collected by companies that promise to provide services for parents to keep children safe, monitor employees, or spy on spouses. In the last two years, there have been 12 stalkerware companies that have either been breached or left data exposed online: Retina-X (twice), FlexiSpy, Mobistealth, Spy Master Pro, SpyHuman, Spyfone, TheTruthSpy, Family Orbit, mSpy, Copy9, and Xnore.
We can't tell you the name of the company that's the latest'--but certainly not the last'--to join that list. That's because despite our repeated efforts to alert the company to the leak, it has yet to fix the problem or acknowledge our request for comment. Because the leaked data violates the privacy of hundreds if not thousands of people, and because that data is still very easy for anyone to find and access, even naming the company publicly could lead bad actors to it.
Got a tip? You can contact this reporter securely on Signal at +1 917 257 1382, OTR chat at, or email
The exposed database was found by security researcher Cian Heasley, who contacted us when he found it earlier this year. The database is still online, and has been online for at least six weeks. Pictures and audio recordings are still being uploaded to it nearly every day. We won't name the company to protect the victims who may be getting spied on without their consent or knowledge, and'--on top of that'--are having their pictures and calls uploaded to a server open to anyone with an internet connection.
We have spent weeks trying to ethically disclose this vulnerability to the company and to get the private images secured. We reached out to the company's official contact email, displayed on its site. No answer. We reached out to the Gmail address of the site's administrator, who also appears to be the company's founder. No answer. We left a voicemail to a Google Voice number listed on the site's WHOIS details. No answer.
We reached out to GoDaddy, the domain registrar for the company's main site, as well as the leaky database, which is on the same domain. Company employees told us there's not much they can do.
The US Federal Trade Commission did not respond to a request for comment.
The company that's hosting the actual content, a hosting provider called Codero, did not respond to multiple requests for help via email.
Read More: Don't Use Software To Spy On Your Spouse
So, as of today, weeks after Heasley found the database and Motherboard tried to warn the company, the pictures and audio recordings are still out there, for all to see and listen to.
Motherboard was unable to reach any victims or customers because the exposed server does not contain any contact information, such as email addresses or telephone numbers of victims or users. The data uploaded, in any case, is still highly sensitive, possibly identifying, and in some cases consists of nude and otherwise intimate images.
The spyware app that's leaking this data allows its customers to monitor pretty much everything on the cellphone where it's installed. The spyware lets its operator read the target's phone contacts, text messages, listen to calls, record ambient sound by turning on the microphone, and much more.
Heasley, who is analyzing the security of several stalkerware apps, said that the URL of the database was exposed in the source code of the app. The URL is also relatively easy to guess.
''This is the level of security these guys work with,'' Heasley, who studies computer security and forensics at Napier University in Edinburgh, Scotland, told Motherboard in an online chat. ''It'd be funnier if it wasn't stalking victim's data.''
''People should not be using these tools in the first place,'' Eva Galperin, who has researched stalkerware and is the director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Motherboard. ''But the fact that these companies aren't very good at securing their own data is just the cherry on the bad idea sundae.''
Additional reporting by Joseph Cox.
Listen to CYBER, Motherboard's new weekly podcast about hacking and cybersecurity.
A close reading of William Barr's summary of the Mueller report.
Mon, 25 Mar 2019 14:16
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White House: Donald Trump 'Happy' but 'Angry' over Mueller Report
Mon, 25 Mar 2019 13:43
President Donald Trump is thrilled with the conclusion of the Robert Mueller investigation, but also angry, according to White House officials.White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley spoke about the president's reaction to the conclusion of the investigation during an interview with Breitbart News editor-in-chief Alex Marlow on Monday on SiriusXM Patriot.
''I spoke to the president about this, I was at Mar-a-Lago with him when this all started coming down, and he was obviously very happy with the outcome, but he made the point to me, 'I'm angry, do you think it's ok to be angry?''' Gidley said. ''I said absolutely, you should be and I think the American people should be.''
Gidley reminded supporters of the president that the investigation was a brutal process that lasted close to three years, based on a phony dossier.
He continued:
Remember this was June 2016, it's closer to three years worth of an investigation in which they spied on a US campaign, they wiretapped people in the United States, bit on a Russian dossier that now has been disproven and debunked multiple times, and spent upwards of about $30 million on this particular investigation and it returned with exactly what everyone knew which is there is no collusion, there is no obstruction, and no indictments are coming, and it's a complete and total exoneration.
Gidley said supporters should start asking questions about who would be held accountable at the end of the investigation.
The next place we need to move is, who's going to pay for this, what have we been doing for the last three years, whose heads are going to roll over wasting all this time and all this money and dragging down a country, think about the times when the president is on the international stage trying to make deals and trying to have conversations with foreign leaders, and they could be potentially leery or something based on what the mainstream media is trying to push on the American people which we know is a complete and total lie.
He revealed that White House staff were particularly relieved with the investigation's conclusion, especially the ones who were with the president in the beginning.
Any person listening to this right now knows what it's like to be falsely accused of something and to be exonerated in this manner on a global stage, where now everyone understands that you did nothing wrong, and you were trying to explain that to the American people, even though 93 percent of the news coverage against you is negative, you've now been exonerated, you couldn't imagine the weight that was lifted of so many of the staff, people who have been with him from the beginning '... looking around saying finally people understand that this whole thing was a hoax, the whole thing was a witch hunt.
Gidley ridiculed journalists who were still trying to claim that the Mueller report did not completely exonerate the president.
''Prosecutors don't exonerate, they prosecute, and if they have evidence, you better believe that they'll prosecute, they had none, there is none, so he's clear,'' he said.
Gidley said the media had ''the rug got pulled out from under them'' after following the Russia investigation narrative for so long that it would take them time to regroup for another way to attack the president.
He said
There's so many unanswered questions, but the ones about Donald Trump now are all answered and that's why the media has lost it's collective mind today, because they've got nothing else, I mean this is two years, two and a half I'd say for some, just dedicated to this one fake and phony narrative and now it's gone and they've got to figure out how to regroup so they can all get back on the same page to try and attack him to move into 2020.
But Gidley added that it was a ''great day'' for the administration and the United States of America.
''It's a great day for him and this is a great day for this administration, but it is a great day for the American people who voted for this president in droves, who had an election that the Democrats tried to steal from them, ever since he was elected he was called illegitimate,'' he said.
Gidley said the president was vindicated and that it was time to move on from the investigation narrative and focus on his agenda.
''This has been a wild ridiculous road to go down for the last three years, but the president is on top, as usual, we're going to continue winning for the American people,'' he said.
Breitbart News Daily broadcasts live on SiriusXM Patriot 125 weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Eastern.
Hackers Hijacked ASUS Software Updates to Install Backdoors on Thousands of Computers - Motherboard
Mon, 25 Mar 2019 13:41
Researchers at cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab say that ASUS, one of the world's largest computer makers, was used to unwittingly to install a malicious backdoor on thousands of its customers' computers last year after attackers compromised a server for the company's live software update tool. The malicious file was signed with legitimate ASUS digital certificates to make it appear to be an authentic software update from the company, Kaspersky Lab says.
ASUS, a multi-billion dollar computer hardware company based in Taiwan that manufactures desktop computers, laptops, mobile phones, smart home systems, and other electronics, was pushing the backdoor to customers for at least five months last year before it was discovered, according to new research from the Moscow-based security firm.
The researchers estimate half a million Windows machines received the malicious backdoor through the ASUS update server, although the attackers appear to have been targeting only about 600 of those systems. The malware searched for targeted systems through their unique MAC addresses. Once on a system, if it found one of these targeted addresses, the malware reached out to a command-and-control server the attackers operated, which then installed additional malware on those machines.
Kaspersky Lab said it uncovered the attack in January after adding a new supply-chain detection technology to its scanning tool to catch anomalous code fragments hidden in legitimate code or catch code that is hijacking normal operations on a machine. The company plans to release a full technical paper and presentation about the ASUS attack, which it has dubbed ShadowHammer, next month at its Security Analyst Summit in Singapore.
''We saw the updates come down from the Live Update ASUS server. They were trojanized, or malicious updates, and they were signed by ASUS."
The issue highlights the growing threat from so-called supply-chain attacks, where malicious software or components get installed on systems as they're manufactured or assembled, or afterward via trusted vendor channels. Last year the US launched a supply chain task force to examine the issue after a number of supply-chain attacks were uncovered in recent years. Although most attention on supply-chain attacks focuses on the potential for malicious implants to be added to hardware or software during manufacturing, vendor software updates are an ideal way for attackers to deliver malware to systems after they're sold, because customers trust vendor updates, especially if they're signed with a vendor's legitimate digital certificate.
''This attack shows that the trust model we are using based on known vendor names and validation of digital signatures cannot guarantee that you are safe from malware,'' said Vitaly Kamluk, Asia-Pacific director of Kaspersky Lab's Global Research and Analysis Team who led the research. He noted that ASUS denied to Kaspersky that its server was compromised and that the malware came from its network when the researchers contacted the company in January. But the download path for the malware samples Kaspersky collected leads directly back to the ASUS server, Kamluk said.
Motherboard sent ASUS a list of the claims made by Kaspersky in three separate emails on Thursday but has not heard back from the company.
But the US-based security firm Symantec confirmed the Kaspersky findings on Friday after being asked by Motherboard to see if any of its customers also received the malicious download. The company is still investigating the matter but said in a phone call that at least 13,000 computers belonging to Symantec customers were infected with the malicious software update from ASUS last year.
''We saw the updates come down from the Live Update ASUS server. They were trojanized, or malicious updates, and they were signed by ASUS,'' said Liam O'Murchu, director of development for the Security Technology and Response group at Symantec.
This is not the first time attackers have used trusted software updates to infect systems. The infamous Flame spy tool, developed by some of the same attackers behind Stuxnet, was the first known attack to trick users in this way by hijacking the Microsoft Windows updating tool on machines to infect computers. Flame, discovered in 2012, was signed with an unauthorized Microsoft certificate that attackers tricked Microsoft's system into issuing to them. The attackers in that case did not actually compromise Microsoft's update server to deliver Flame. Instead, they were able to redirect the software update tool on the machines of targeted customers so that they contacted a malicious server the attackers controlled instead of the legitimate Microsoft update server.
Two different attacks discovered in 2017 also compromised trusted software updates. One involved the computer security cleanup tool known as CCleaner that was delivering malware to customers via a software update. More than 2 million customers received that malicious update before it was discovered. The other incident involved the infamous notPetya attack that began in Ukraine and infected machines via a malicious update to an accounting software package.
Costin Raiu, company-wide director of Kaspersky's Global Research and Analysis Team, said the ASUS attack is different from these others. ''I'd say this attack stands out from previous ones while being one level up in complexity and stealthiness. The filtering of targets in a surgical manner by their MAC addresses is one of the reasons it stayed undetected for so long. If you are not a target, the malware is virtually silent,'' he told Motherboard.
But even if silent on non-targeted systems, the malware still gave the attackers a backdoor into every infected ASUS system.
Tony Sager, senior vice president at the Center for Internet Security who did defensive vulnerability analysis for the NSA for years, said the method the attackers chose to target specific computers is odd.
''Supply chain attacks are in the 'big deal' category and are a sign of someone who is careful about this and has done some planning,'' he told Motherboard in a phone call. ''But putting something out that hits tens of thousands of targets when you're really going only after a few is really going after something with a hammer.''
Kaspersky researchers first detected the malware on a customer's machine on January 29. After they created a signature to find the malicious update file on other customer systems, they discovered that more than 57,000 Kaspersky customers had been infected with it. That victim toll only accounts for Kaspersky customers, however. Kamluk said the real number is likely in the hundreds of thousands.
Most of the infected machines belonging to Kaspersky customers (about 18 percent) were in Russia, followed by fewer numbers in Germany and France. Only about 5 percent of infected Kaspersky customers were in the United States. Symantec's O'Murchu said that about 15 percent of the 13,000 machines belonging to his company's infected customers were in the U.S.
Kamluk said Kaspersky notified ASUS of the problem on January 31, and a Kaspersky employee met with ASUS in person on February 14. But he said the company has been largely unresponsive since then and has not notified ASUS customers about the issue.
The attackers used two different ASUS digital certificates to sign their malware. The first expired in mid-2018, so the attackers then switched to a second legitimate ASUS certificate to sign their malware after this.
Kamluk said ASUS continued to use one of the compromised certificates to sign its own files for at least a month after Kaspersky notified the company of the problem, though it has since stopped. But Kamluk said ASUS has still not invalidated the two compromised certificates, which means the attackers or anyone else with access to the un-expired certificate could still sign malicious files with it, and machines would view those files as legitimate ASUS files.
This wouldn't be the first time ASUS was accused of compromising the security of its customers. In 2016, the company was charged by the Federal Trade Commission with misrepresentation and unfair security practices over multiple vulnerabilities in its routers, cloud back-up storage and firmware update tool that would have allowed attackers to gain access to customer files and router log-in credentials, among other things. The FTC claimed ASUS knew about those vulnerabilities for at least a year before fixing them and notifying customers, putting nearly a million US router owners at risk of attack. ASUS settled the case by agreeing to establish and maintain a comprehensive security program that would be subject to independent audit for 20 years.
The ASUS live update tool that delivered malware to customers last year is installed at the factory on ASUS laptops and other devices. When users enable it, the tool contacts the ASUS update server periodically to see if any firmware or other software updates are available.
''They wanted to get into very specific targets and they already knew in advance their network card MAC address, which is quite interesting.''
The malicious file pushed to customer machines through the tool was called setup.exe, and purported to be an update to the update tool itself. It was actually a three-year-old ASUS update file from 2015 that the attackers injected with malicious code before signing it with a legitimate ASUS certificate. The attackers appear to have pushed it out to users between June and November 2018, according to Kaspersky Lab. Kamluk said the use of an old binary with a current certificate suggests the attackers had access to the server where ASUS signs its files but not the actual build server where it compiles new ones. Because the attackers used the same ASUS binary each time, it suggests they didn't have access to the whole ASUS infrastructure, just part of the signing infrastructure, Kamluk notes. Legitimate ASUS software updates still got pushed to customers during the period the malware was being pushed out, but these legitimate updates were signed with a different certificate that used enhanced validation protection, Kamluk said, making it more difficult to spoof.
The Kaspersky researchers collected more than 200 samples of the malicious file from customer machines, which is how they discovered the attack was multi-staged and targeted.
Buried in those malicious samples were hard-coded MD5 hash values that turned out to be unique MAC addresses for network adapter cards. MD5 is an algorithm that creates a cryptographic representation or value for data that is run through the algorithm. Every network card has a unique ID or address assigned by the manufacturer of the card, and the attackers created a hash of each MAC address it was seeking before hard-coding those hashes into their malicious file, to make it more difficult to see what the malware was doing. The malware had 600 unique MAC addresses it was seeking, though the actual number of targeted customers may be larger than this. Kaspersky can only see the MAC addresses that were hard-coded into the particular malware samples found on its customers' machines.
Image: Shutterstock
The Kaspersky researchers were able to crack most of the hashes they found to determine the MAC addresses, which helped them identify what network cards the victims had installed on their machines, but not the victims themselves. Any time the malware infected a machine, it collected the MAC address from that machine's network card, hashed it, and compared that hash against the ones hard-coded in the malware. If it found a match to any of the 600 targeted addresses, the malware reached out to, a site masquerading as a legitimate ASUS site, to fetch a second-stage backdoor that it downloaded to that system. Because only a small number of machines contacted the command-and-control server, this helped the malware stay under the radar.
''They were not trying to target as many users as possible,'' said Kamluk. ''They wanted to get into very specific targets and they already knew in advance their network card MAC address, which is quite interesting.''
Symantec's O'Murchu said he's not sure yet if any of his company's customers were among those whose MAC addresses were on the target list and received the second-state backdoor.
The command-and-control server that delivered the second-stage backdoor was registered May 3 last year but was shut down in November before Kaspersky discovered the attack. Because of this, the researchers were unable to obtain a copy of the second-stage backdoor pushed out to victims or identify victim machines that had contacted that server. Kaspersky believes at least one of its customers in Russia got infected with the second-stage backdoor when his machine contacted the command-and-control server on October 29 last year, but Raiu says the company doesn't know the identity of the machine's owner in order to contact him and investigate further.
There were early hints that a signed and malicious ASUS update was being pushed to users in June 2018, when a number of people posted comments in a Reddit forum about a suspicious ASUS alert that popped up on their machines for a ''critical'' update. ''ASUS strongly recommends that you install these updates now,'' the alert warned.
In a post titled ''ASUSFourceUpdater.exe is trying to do some mystery update, but it won't say what,'' a user named GreyWolfx wrote, ''I got an update popup from a .exe that I had never seen before today'....I'm just curious if anyone knows what this update would possibly be for?''
When he and other users clicked on their ASUS updater tool to get information about the update, the tool showed no recent updates had been issued from ASUS. But because the file was digitally signed with an ASUS certificate and because scans of the file on the VirusTotal web site indicated it was not malicious, many accepted the update as legitimate and downloaded it to their machines. VirusTotal is a site that aggregates dozens of antivirus programs; users can upload suspicious files to the site to see if any of the tools detect it as malicious.
''I uploaded the executable [to VirusTotal] and it comes back as a validly signed file without issue,'' one user wrote. ''The spelling of 'force' and the empty details window are indeed odd, but I noticed odd grammar errors in other ASUS software installed on this system, so it's not a smoking gun by itself,'' he noted.
Kamluk and Raiu said this may not be the first time the ShadowHammer attackers have struck. They said they found similarities between the ASUS attack and ones previously conducted by a group dubbed ShadowPad by Kaspersky. ShadowPad targeted a Korean company that makes enterprise software for administering servers; the same group was also linked to the CCleaner attack. Although millions of machines were infected with the malicious CCleaner software update, only a subset of these got targeted with a second stage backdoor, similar to the ASUS victims. Notably, ASUS systems themselves were on the targeted CCleaner list.
The Kaspersky researchers believe the ShadowHammer attackers were behind the ShadowPad and CCleaner attacks and obtained access to the ASUS servers through the latter attack.
''ASUS was one of the primary targets of the CCleaner attack,'' Raiu said. ''One of the possibilities we are taking into account is that's how they intially got into the ASUS network and then later through persistence they managed to leverage the access '... to launch the ASUS attack.''
Barbados plans for developing cannabis industry | Caribbean News Service
Mon, 25 Mar 2019 13:18
Barbados has announced plans to establish a medicinal cannabis industry project implementation unit tasked with establishing the administrative framework for the timely implementation of the project.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who delivered her administration's 2019-2020 national budget, earlier this week, said the Unit will be headed by a director, who will be responsible for championing the programme and ensuring that an expansive educational and sensitisation campaign is implemented.
She said it was necessary to explain to Barbadians ''what we are doing with the development of this new industry and how it can help many many Bajans in the management of serious medical conditions which the fees in this country''.
Mottley said that one of the tasks of the unit will be to facilitate the establishment of a Medicinal Cannabis Authority and Board, which will be responsible for regulating the medicinal cannabis industry, through the formulation and implementation of appropriate policies, procedures and guidelines, as well as for the conduct of inspections.
She told legislators that the island would be seeking to establish partnerships with entities who have the necessary experience and who are willing to invest in the development of the industry.
She said this would include the assistance of the University of the West Indies (UWI) with establishment of a train-the-trainers programme; the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Council will assist with accreditation through Caribbean or National Vocational Qualifications (CVQS/NVQS); and the University of Guelph for the establishment of a research and development, as well as a certification programme.
Mottley said that her government would ensure that any policies related to medical cannabis cannot exclude the participation of the Barbadian population and as a result, her administration will ensure that local entrepreneurs will be given opportunities for full participation.
She said her administration has not yet taken a decision regarding recreational cannabis, saying ''that is a decision we have said is only for the people of Barbados by way of a referendum and my government believes there are more important things that we have to focus on in the immediate future before I announce any such date for that referendum,' she said.
She said that the expansion of the tourism industry would also benefit ''n\because we must not make that was made for three centuries in this country, where for example, we believe that we only produce for export of bulk.
''We have to trigger and access all of the value added in the product that we can so that we are not just exporting medical cannabis, we are looking at the production of oil, which have a higher value added, we looking at the establishment of a pain management clinics in the tourism industry so that we can attract people who want to come to Barbados to recuperate,'' she said.
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Exclusive: The FBI Had Already Accessed Family Tree DNA's Database Before Cooperation
Mon, 25 Mar 2019 13:16
The conundrum for the company: What to do? How to respond?
FamilyTree's legal analysis indicated the FBI had probable cause, by the sheer numbers. That was proven mathematically by a study in Science in November 2018, which showed that the scope of current DNA databases can identify 60 percent of Americans of European ancestry.
''They have (a) probable cause statement in that paper,'' said Greenspan. ''It's reality '... I could either pretend it didn't exist'--or I could try like heck to manage it.
''You roll with the punches, you do the best you can,'' the CEO added.
The consequent headlines and criticism, however, amounted to a ''very painful experience'''--with accusations and outrage from some.
Last week, FamilyTreeDNA issued an update to the terms of service'--as well as a privacy statement in regard to the law enforcement matching preferences. The changes, announced by email to all the FamilyTreeDNA members, are an attempt to further regulate FamilyTree database searching for law enforcement'--and to make sure that the customers have the option to not assist it. All agencies have to register to upload DNA samples and get a listing of closest relatives'--and law enforcement will have to go through a review and approval process at FamilyTreeDNA. And the searches will be limited to cases of identifying deceased remains'--or identifying rapists and murderers, Greenspan said.
The new opt-out or opt-in process will affect customers differently around the world. The United States and the rest of the world will automatically be opted in, but given an opt-out option. Those in Europe are the reverse, automatically opted-out with the possibility of opting in to assist police. (The deceased are automatically opted-in in America, and opted-out in Europe.)
Additionally, FamilyTreeDNA set up a citizens' panel of six genealogists and a bioethicist to comment on the direction that the company would take with respect to criminal investigations.
One of the panel members is Roberta Estes, a FamilyTreeDNA volunteer group project administrator. Estes recently explained in her blog post how she came about her personal support of using genealogical databases to find violent criminals; namely, her own child was kidnapped more than 30 years ago. Although her child was recovered weeks later, about a thousand miles away, and brought back home, she wrote that she can't help but be overcome emotionally by some of the children and families who aren't so lucky. She can't bring back a victim, she writes, but she ''can help to offer them closure and justice by including my DNA in both databases.''
Greenspan said it was Estes' story that helped guide him accordingly, by working with detectives.
''We're only dealing with the worst of the worst crimes '... exclusively on cases that are murder and sexual assault,'' said Greenspan. ''We didn't sign up ever to be a law-enforcement group. We were confronted with one of those greatest-good-for-the-greatest-number definition of utilitarian (problems).''
Some indications indicate Greenspan may have public opinion on his side. A recent paper in PLOS One featured a survey of 1,500 people'--and indicated that some 90 percent of people at-large support the use of genealogy the way law enforcement has thus far used it to catch cold-case killers and serial rapists.
FamilyTree's opt-out option may be proving the point still further. In the week since an opt-out was given to American customers, seven-tenths of 1 percent have opted out, with five-tenths coming the very first day of the announcement. (Roughly 10 percent of FamilyTreeDNA's total customer base is from Europe, and was automatically removed from law enforcement searches last week. At the same time, a thousand Europeans have opted back in to help American cops, and the remaining customers will be sent letters of encouragement to do so, as well, Greenspan said.)
The competitors have taken the opposite stance. Ancestry and 23andMe both contend they vigilantly defend their members' privacy. They issue intermittent ''transparency reports'' that indicate minimal requests from law enforcement worldwide'--and even fewer issuances of users' information.
For instance, the latest quarterly report produced by 23andMe last month indicates five data requests'--and ''no customer information '... turned over in any of the requests,'' according to a spokesman. Ancestry says it received 10 requests from law enforcement in 2018'--all related to credit-card fraud and misuse, and identity theft. Police got the data in seven of the cases, they said.
Both companies strenuously denied cooperating with law enforcement, in answer to Forensic Magazine queries.
GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA may have some overlap, but they also are not identical. So using both would presumably amplify the search power, if both databases are used to find potential relatives. It would only strengthen the ability to find a majority of people in America.
''I think that the plan should be if law enforcement has a file, if I was them, I would put it in both databases,'' he said. ''They're not a competitor. Maybe we're competing who can do the most good.''
The power of adding FamilyTreeDNA's database to genealogy searches have already started to mount, the arrests accumulating week after week. James Alan Neal, now 72, was arrested earlier this year in the abduction and murder of 11-year-old Linda O'Keefe in Orange County, Calif. as she walked home from school in 1973. Michael A. Soares, now 33, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the ''ambush'' hammer attack murder of John Fay, 66, who was jogging in a park in Warwick, R.I., one spring day in 2013. A garage repairman named Kevin Konther was arrested in California in January on charges related to the rape of a 9-year-old girl and a woman in the 1990s. And last month, 52-year-old Jerry Westrom was arrested and charged with one count of second-degree murder for the 1993 slaying of a 35-year-old woman named Jeanie Ann Childs in South Minneapolis.
We banned phones at our school and everyone's happier now
Mon, 25 Mar 2019 03:35
By Darren Harrison March 24, 2019 '-- 11.58pm
I have been teaching in the secondary system in Melbourne for a number of years. This year feels, in some ways, a little different for many of us at my college. This feeling, which I would describe as one of relief, comes about simply because we, as a school, have taken a firm stand against the ubiquitous mobile phone. This stance does not mean that we think that phones cannot be a useful learning tool in the classroom. It is just that now our experience tells us that in the vast majority of cases, when it comes to mobile phones there is usually very little learning taking place.
Banning phones in the classroom has worked for one school. Credit: Glenn Hunt
I imagine this would be the case for countless schools. We had students sitting on the floor in corridors before school, texting or running their well-worn thumbs down the interface of their phone, obsessed with their Instagram feeds. We had students entering their homeroom and in many instances placing their school books on the table and instantly reverting to their phones without even a cursory glance at their teacher or fellow students. Some teachers were collecting phones to place in a basket at the start of each lesson, which would eat into valuable time and often produce further teenage angst. Students took photos of written or typed messages on the whiteboard and even, undoubtedly, of each other.
Last lesson would produce further checking in of phones and often little beeps to register an incoming message, or even, just as annoying, their phone would flash suddenly if it was on silent. I don't know how many times the students accessed their phone during the day but I shudder to think. Perhaps it would go beyond double figures.
It's not that we, as a school, did not act on obsessive mobile phone use. Teachers regularly confiscated phones. We made a big deal of it in meetings and as part of our general classroom rules. It is just that what we were doing was not effective enough.
Well that's all in the past and this year we all feel so much better for it. This is all because my school made the decision at the end of last year that enough is enough.
We formed a new decree.
Phones could be accessed before school and after school and that was it. Placed in lockers throughout the day. No phone on a person either in class or at lunchtime or recess. The first day in about 21 phones were collected throughout the morning and afternoon. Day two that number was five, and so on. Now it barely raises a ripple of dissent. Miraculously, we are all used to it. Teachers practise what they preach. And I get the feeling students actually like it. School is easier this way. It is nice to check your phone at the end of the day. But now it seems normal not to worry or think about it until the bell has gone and there are buses and trains to catch.
Naturally this doesn't quite happen without some consequences. But I don't think they are particularly harsh. They don't need to be. First time: phone confiscated for the day. Second time: the same deal but a 30-minute detention on top of that. Third time: a 60-minute detention and a parent or guardian has to come in to collect the phone. There are further penalties beyond that, but several weeks in and we haven't got beyond that. And I don't think we will. We can all see and feel the benefits. I wish every high school would do something like this.
Darren Harrison is a teacher at St Columba's College, Essendon.
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