Cover for No Agenda Show 1165: Duck Wubba Nub
August 18th, 2019 • 2h 59m

1165: Duck Wubba Nub


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.

Epstein's gal pal Ghislaine Maxwell spotted at In-N-Out Burger
Thu, 15 Aug 2019 21:44
August 15, 2019 | 4:06pm | Updated August 15, 2019 | 5:16pm
Enlarge Image Ghislaine Maxwell at an In-N-out Burger in Los Angeles, California.
Jeffrey Epstein's alleged madam and former lover Ghislaine Maxwell has been discovered '-- at In-N-Out Burger.
The 57-year-old was photographed alive and well Monday at the burger joint's location in Universal City, Los Angeles.
Once spotted, Maxwell '-- who was sitting alone with a pet pooch '-- told an onlooker: ''Well, I guess this is the last time I'll be eating here!''
Maxwell, who was reading a book called ''The Book of Honor: The Secret Lives and Deaths of CIA Operatives,'' has been underground for months '-- and has not been pictured in public since 2016.
The British-born socialite has long faced allegations that she served as the madam for Epstein, the disgraced convicted sex offender who died over the past weekend by apparent suicide while awaiting trial.
On Wednesday, it was reported that she has been living with tech CEO Scott Borgeson in his secluded mansion in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, since 2016, according to a close neighbor.
Maxwell left the residence about ''one month ago'' when the news of her involvement with Epstein broke, a neighbor told The Post.
Borgerson has flatly denied any romance with Maxwell.
''I am not dating Ghislaine, I'm home alone with my cat,'' he told The Post.
When asked about the status of his friendship with Maxwell now, Borgerson replied: ''I don't want to comment on that '-- would you want to talk about your friends?''
Maxwell reportedly recruited underage girls for Epstein and participated in their abuse. At least two women who accused Epstein of sexually abusing them sued Maxwell in 2015, alleging she launched a campaign to damage their reputations and discredit their allegations.
A new front in the Epstein case opened Wednesday morning as his accuser, Jennifer Araoz, filed a lawsuit against his estate, Maxwell and three unnamed female household staff members.
Araoz alleges she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Epstein at his New York City townhouse when she was 14 and 15 years old, including a forcible rape in 2002.
She first disclosed her alleged abuse in an exclusive ''Today'' show interview with Savannah Guthrie on July 10, the same day she filed papers in New York state court, saying she intended to sue Epstein.
The complaint Araoz filed Wednesday alleges Maxwell and the staffers ''conspired with each other to make possible and otherwise facilitate the sexual abuse and rape of Plaintiff.''
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Bill Gates and His Special Relationship With Jeffrey Epstein Still Stirring Speculations | Techrights
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 15:08
Posted in Bill Gates, Microsoft, Rumour at 7:53 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz
Bill Gates reportedly offered to help a serial abuser of young girls (while knowing what he had done)
Summary: Love of the ''children'' has long been a controversial subject for Microsoft; can Bill Gates and his connections to Jeffrey Epstein unearth some unsavoury secrets?
THIS IS a story more about crime than about software (very much like Microsoft, which owes its market position to crimes rather than technical merit). Bill Gates managed to use a fake 'charity' to push back against regulators, at times by bribing officials, bribing the media and so on. There's also the perverted aspect, which we rarely touch as that tends to lead to ''conspiracy theory'' accusations.
''There's also the perverted aspect, which we rarely touch as that tends to lead to ''conspiracy theory'' accusations.'' In the past we mentioned Microsoft's truly bizarre stance on pedophilia, even before Microsoft Peter was arrested for it (he's still in prison), as were people who worked in the home of Bill Gates. The subject merits further research as not much is known and we've seen some false rumours being spread too (several readers sent us links about it). Two of the links sent to us are below. One reader cited the Daily Mail, but we regard that to be an unreliable source.
The articles below seem to point to a reputation laundering effort. Some criminals buy themselves a new identity. Rich criminals just buy the media, as Bill Gates did, to ignore their crimes and instead paint them as ''Saints''. '–
Related/contextual items from the news:
Bill Gates reportedly met with Jeffrey Epstein to 'discuss philanthropy' after the disgraced financier went to jail for sex crimes The meeting took place in New York in 2013, according to CNBC, and is further evidence of how Epstein was able to make connections in elite society '-- even after he became a convicted sex offender.
Years after serving jail time, Jeffrey Epstein found a way to meet with Microsoft's Bill Gates to discuss philanthropyAfter the meeting in New York six years ago, Gates flew on one of Epstein's planes to meet with his family in Palm Beach, the people added. He did not, they noted, fly on the so-called ''Lolita Express,'' which was allegedly used to transport underage girls to Epstein's home in the Virgin Islands. The Daily Mail first reported on Gates using the plane in March of that year, citing flight records.
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Nothing Says 'New' Microsoft Like Microsoft Component Firmware Update (More Hardware Lock-in)Vicious old Microsoft is still trying to make life very hard for GNU/Linux, especially in the OEM channel/s, but we're somehow supposed to think that "Microsoft loves Linux"
Bill Gates and His Special Relationship With Jeffrey Epstein Still Stirring SpeculationsLove of the "children" has long been a controversial subject for Microsoft; can Bill Gates and his connections to Jeffrey Epstein unearth some unsavoury secrets?
Links 16/8/2019: Kdevops and QEMU 4.1Links for the day
The EPO's War on the Convention on the Grant of European Patents 2000 (EPC 2000), Not Just Brexit, Kills the Unitary Patent (UP/UPC) and Dooms JusticeTeam UPC continues to ignore the utter failures that have led to lawlessness at the EPO, attributing the demise of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) to Brexit alone and pretending that it's not even a problem
Links 15/8/2019: GNOME's Birthday, LLVM 9.0 RC2Links for the day
'Foundation' Hype Spreads in ChinaNonprofits seem to have become more of a business loophole than a charitable endeavour; the problem is, this erodes confidence in legitimate Free software and good causes
Links Are Not EndorsementsIf the only alternative is to say nothing and link to nothing, then we have a problem; a lot of people still assume that because someone links to something it therefore implies agreement and consent
The Myth of 'Professionalism'Perception of professionalism, a vehicle or a motivation for making Linux more 'corporate-friendly' (i.e. owned by corporations), is a growing threat to Software Freedom inside Linux, as well as freedom of speech and many other things
Links 14/8/2019: Best Chromebooks, EPEL 8.0, LibreOffice 6.2.6Links for the day
Being in Favour of Free/Libre Open Source Software Means Rejecting Software PatentsThose who believe in Software Freedom cannot at the same time believe that software patents are desirable; we've sadly come to a point where many companies that dominate so-called 'Open Source' groups actively lobby for such patents, in effect betraying the community they claim to be a part of
Links 14/8/2019: Apache Evaluated, HardenedBSD Has New ReleaseLinks for the day
Planet Python is Being Overrun by Microsoft, Just Like PyCon and Python in GeneralMicrosoft is perturbing the Free/Open Source software (FOSS) world from the inside, promoting Microsoft's most malicious proprietary software from within that world while taking positions of power in powerful FOSS projects
Coming Soon: The Innards of the Eric Lundgren Case That Microsoft is Desperate to Hide or Spin (by Defaming Lundgren)Microsoft is rather stressed about Eric Lundgren coming out of prison and telling how Microsoft put him there; right now Microsoft is mostly name-calling while seeking to control public dialogues
Wrong Person in Charge of the Linux Foundation (and in Charge of Linus Torvalds)There are several glaring issues when it comes to the leadership of Linux's steward; for one thing, it lacks actual background in... Linux
2019 Tech GlossaryThis clavis refers to what the de facto definition may be, based on how (and when) media uses the words nowadays
The Silence of the Media LambThere are reasons that are perfectly legitimate to criticise media which is unable and more so unwilling to cover particular scandals for fear that coverage can be detrimental to the media's owners and sponsors
LINUX.COM Managed by Apple's MacOS Users, Open Source Managed and Covered by People Who Reject Open SourceThe narratives are being hijacked; people who we're supposed to assume speak for Linux and for Open Source support neither of these things; they're only in it for the money
The Linux Foundation's Open Source Summit is a Proprietary Software Marketing VenueThe distortion of the term Open Source and promotion of proprietary software such as GitHub shows that the foundation called after ''Linux'' is actually more of a front group of hostile corporations '-- large brands and rich people to whom Open Source represents a threat that needs to be controlled
Links 13/8/2019: Mir 1.4 Released, Qt PDF DiscussedLinks for the day
Links 13/8/2019: KDevelop 5.4.1 and DragonFly 5.6.2 ReleasedLinks for the day
Spreading False Rumours or What's Most Likely Lies (Falsehoods) Won't Help Restore Justice at the EPOEPO management lies to everyone routinely (to courts, to the press, to staff and so on); it's not helping when lies or baseless hearsay are spread about EPO management as it helps Team Campinos censor/block/slander sites that expose EPO corruption (under he guise/pretext that these sites are disseminating lies; Campinos, by the way, has blocked Techrights for over a year without explanation, just like a truly insecure autocrat)
Links 12/8/2019: LXD 3.16 and GCC 9.2Links for the day
Links 12/8/2019: Xfce 4.14 and Lemur 4Links for the day
Openwashing Report: Perceptions Twisted to the Point Where 'Open Source' Becomes MeaninglessThe substitution of the term "Free" (as in libre) with "Open" is proving to be costly; The "Open Source" people, who sought to make "Free software" obsolete, have totally lost control of the brand, which is nowadays misused to the point of being 'throwaway' marketing blanket
Openwashing Report: Microsoft's Proprietary Software is 'Open', Surveillance is 'Open', Real Open Source® is 'Dangerous' and Paid Media Celebrates the Term's DistortionThe attack on the legitimacy and credibility of Free/Open Source software (FOSS) carries on; we're supposed to celebrate proprietary software (deeming it "open") while fearing actual FOSS and striving to make it more proprietary (whereupon it becomes "stronger")
Links 11/8/2019: DragonFly 5.6.2 and OpenBSD 6.6 BetaLinks for the day
Launching the Weekly Openwashing ReportIncreased focus on fake "Open Source" (or proprietary software with an "open" slant for marketing purposes)
Europe is Gradually Becoming a Hotspot for Patent Litigation and Trolls as Patent Quality DecreasesEuropean jurisdictions have become more attractive for players seeking to litigate rather than innovate; this is exactly what litigation firms have been drooling over all along, basically an opportunity to tax Europe with no benefits to the European economy
Linux is Not Winning, It's Changing (or Being Changed)Linux development is guided by the wrong interests '-- general interests which are themselves motivated by domination over the users rather than empowerment and emancipation of computer users
How To Write fig ProgramsThis is the second in a two-part series on fig
Law Suit Claims Scientology Leader Involved In Child Abuse and Human Trafficking | The Washington Pundit
Sat, 17 Aug 2019 13:46
A team of eight victims' rights attorneys on Tuesday filed the first of what they promise will be a series of lawsuits against the Church of Scientology and its leader, David Miscavige, on behalf of defectors who say they suffered a range of exploitation from child abuse, human trafficking and forced labor to revenge tactics related to the church's Fair Game policy.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of an unnamed Jane Doe born in 1979, outlines her lifetime of alleged suffering in Scientology where she was subjected as a child at the Clearwater headquarters to abuse inherent to auditing, Scientology's spiritual counseling that can more resemble interrogation. It states she joined the church's clergy-like Sea Org in California at 15, where people worked 100 hours a week for $46. She was at times held against her will. When she officially left Scientology in 2017, Doe was followed by private investigators and terrorized by the church as it published ''a hate website'' falsely stating she was an alcoholic dismissed from the sect for promiscuity, according to the complaint.
''This isn't going to be the last of the lawsuits being filed,'' Philadelphia-based attorney Brian Kent told the Tampa Bay Times, declining to say how many more are forthcoming. ''We've seen what can happen when there is truth exposed in terms of child abuse within organizations. You've seen it with the Catholic Church, you're seeing it with the Southern Baptist Convention now. We're hoping for meaningful change.''
The legal team is made up of lawyers from Laffey, Bucci & Kent LLP and Soloff & Zervanos PC of Philadelphia; Thompson Law Offices in California; and Child USA, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit dedicated to preventing child abuse. Scientology spokespeople Ben Shaw and Karin Pouw did not respond to an email or phone calls for comment.
Kent said Doe's name was withheld ''to protect her from additional public harassment'' by the church.
Well suck it up buttercup. As an American I have freedom of choice to boycott ANY business or entity that has beliefs and values that don't coincide with my own. Ie scientology. We no longer watch any shows or movies that contain actors who are active in Scientology. Ew!
'-- Katie Scott (@mamakatie64) August 9, 2019Your reminder that even Charles Manson thought Scientology was "too crazy."Scientology is a fucking cult of control, abuse, and humiliation. They deserve neither sympathy nor quarter.
'-- Jason Boyd ðŸ"¸'ðŸŒ (@JasonBoydWrites) August 16, 2019Continue Reading
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Ministry if Truthiness
A Times Editor Is Demoted as the Paper Discusses Its Coverage of Race - The New York Times
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 03:30
Image A publicly criticized front-page headline about President Trump and a Washington editor's Twitter posts were discussed at a staff meeting that The New York Times's top editor led this week. Credit Credit Jeenah Moon for The New York Times The New York Times said in a statement on Tuesday that Jonathan Weisman, a deputy Washington editor of The Times, had been demoted and would no longer oversee the paper's congressional correspondents because he repeatedly posted messages on social media about race and politics that showed what the paper called ''serious lapses in judgment.''
Mr. Weisman, 53, will lose the title of deputy editor, a designation for Times editors with wide-ranging duties and significant input into news coverage, a spokeswoman for the paper said.
Mr. Weisman met with Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, on Tuesday and apologized, the Times statement said. He will also no longer be ''active on social media,'' the statement added.
In a brief interview after the meeting with Mr. Baquet, Mr. Weisman, who will stay on at the paper as an editor, said: ''I accept Dean's judgment. I think he's right to do what he's doing. I embarrassed the newspaper, and he had to act.''
The reprimand came amid a broader discussion in the Times newsroom of how the paper covers race and the Trump administration in a polarized time. On Monday, Mr. Baquet led a staff meeting at which a recent front-page headline that generated heavy public criticism was a main topic.
Mr. Weisman, who joined The Times in 2012, was under scrutiny for messages he posted on Twitter on July 31 and Aug. 7. In the July 31 posts, he implied that it was inaccurate to describe certain politicians from urban areas as being representative of the Midwest and the South. He specifically mentioned four Democrats: Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Lloyd Doggett of Texas and John Lewis of Georgia. Three of the four are minorities.
''Saying @RashidaTlaib (D-Detroit) and @IlhanMN (D-Minneapolis) are from the Midwest is like saying @RepLloydDoggett (D-Austin) is from Texas or @repjohnlewis (D-Atlanta) is from the Deep South,'' Mr. Weisman wrote. ''C'mon.''
Mr. Weisman, who is white, deleted the tweet and a pair of follow-ups after they were criticized as racist on Twitter and in the African-American-focused online publication The Root.
The Times's standards editor, Phil Corbett, advised Mr. Weisman to be more careful on social media, Mr. Weisman said. But on Aug. 7, he ventured into similar territory.
Replying to a Twitter post by the progressive political organization Justice Democrats that included a photograph of Morgan Harper, a candidate the group was backing for a United States House seat in Ohio, Mr. Weisman noted that she would be challenging Representative Joyce Beatty, an African-American Democrat.
Ms. Harper quickly replied to Mr. Weisman's message, telling him, ''I am also black.''
To that, Mr. Weisman replied, ''@justicedems's endorsement included a photo,'' as if that settled the matter.
Roxane Gay, a contributing opinion writer to The Times since 2015, joined the discussion with a tweet that said, ''Any time you think you're unqualified for a job remember that this guy, telling a black woman she isn't black because he looked at a picture and can't see, has one of the most prestigious jobs in America.''
According to screenshots posted by Ms. Gay, Mr. Weisman sent messages to her saying she owed him ''an enormous apology.'' Ms. Gay made it clear in a subsequent tweet that she strongly disagreed with Mr. Weisman's demand.
Erica Green, a national education reporter at The Times, said in an interview that she understood why the tweets by Mr. Weisman, who was her editor, had provoked a backlash. She also defended him as a journalist and colleague, based on her experiences working with him on stories about minorities.
''As a black woman, I feel a little bit better that he is in the room,'' Ms. Green said.
Mr. Weisman, the author of the 2018 book ''(((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump,'' stepped away from Twitter for a few months in 2016 after becoming a target of online trolls. Before joining The Times, he worked at newspapers including The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.
Last week, The Times drew intense criticism '-- from readers, some of whom canceled subscriptions; members of its own staff; and prominent politicians '-- because of a front-page headline that Mr. Baquet described as ''credulous.'' The headline, ''Trump Urges Unity Vs. Racism,'' was changed for later editions.
In the first edition of the Aug. 6 paper, it sat atop an article that quoted President Trump's prepared remarks on the mass killings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, while also noting that Mr. Trump ''has himself amplified right-wing voices online with histories of racism and bigotry.'' Editors changed the headline to ''Assailing Hate but Not Guns.''
At the staff meeting on Monday, Mr. Baquet acknowledged ''a couple of significant missteps'' and likened the current political climate to the turbulent 1960s. He asked those in the packed 15th-floor room of The New York Times Building for their help in reporting on a difficult time, an effort that would require the paper's journalists to pay close attention to how they covered race and a divisive administration.
''This is hard stuff,'' he said, reading from prepared remarks.
Mr. Baquet, who became the first African-American executive editor in the history of The Times in 2014, took responsibility for the much-criticized headline, adding that the paper's print hub, which produces the newspaper's print version, was not given enough space to convey the story fairly.
The other main topic of discussion was the paper's reluctance to describe certain actions and comments by the president and some of his supporters as ''racist.'' Mr. Baquet said that, in general, it was sufficient to describe racist speech or behavior plainly in news articles without necessarily labeling it as such.
''My own view,'' he said, ''is that the best way to capture the kinds of remarks the president makes is to use them, to lay it out in perspective, and that is much more powerful than the use of a word.''
Some journalists in attendance expressed disagreement with that view, and Mr. Baquet said he was working with other editors to establish a written standard that would try to clarify when the use of ''racist'' and similar terms was warranted in news coverage.
Part of the reason for the gathering on Monday, he said, was the online behavior of Mr. Weisman, which seemed emblematic of larger debates inside and outside the newsroom.
''By the way,'' Mr. Baquet said toward the end of the meeting, ''let's catch our breath before tweeting stupid stuff or stuff that hurts the paper.''
A version of this article appears in print on
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Times Demotes an Editor Over Tweets About Race and Politics
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Inside the New York Times town hall.
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 11:54
In a transcript of the newspaper's crisis town-hall meeting, executive editor Dean Baquet grapples with a restive staff and outside scrutiny. New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2018.
Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival
Epstein Autopsy Reportedly Shows Broken Neck Bones More Consistent With Homicide Than Suicide What Ronald Reagan Can Teach Us About How an '... Absent-Minded Joe Biden Might Handle Being President Rep. Steve King: Without Rape and Incest, ''Would There Be Any Population of the World Left?'' ICE Keeps Deporting People to Countries They've Never Been to Before ''What I'm saying is that our readers and some of our staff cheer us when we take on Donald Trump, but they jeer at us when we take on Joe Biden,'' New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet told his staff in a town hall on Monday.
In the 75 minutes of the meeting'--which Slate obtained a recording of, and of which a lightly condensed and edited transcript appears below'--Baquet and the paper's other leadership tried to resolve a tumultuous week for the paper, one marked by a reader revolt against a front-page headline and a separate Twitter meltdown by Jonathan Weisman, a top editor in the Washington bureau. On Tuesday, the Times announced it was demoting Weisman from deputy editor because of his ''serious lapses in judgment.''
Baquet, in his remarks, seemed to fault the complaining readers, and the world, for their failure to understand the Times and its duties in the era of Trump. ''They sometimes want us to pretend that he was not elected president, but he was elected president,'' Baquet said. ''And our job is to figure out why, and how, and to hold the administration to account. If you're independent, that's what you do.''
Yet the problem for the Times is not whether it can navigate social-media controversies or satisfy an appetite for #resistance-based outrage, both of which it can tell itself are not a newspaper's job to do. It's whether it has the tools to make sense of the world. On this point, Baquet was not reassuring or convincing.
Staffers repeatedly asked Baquet about the paper's reluctance to use the word racist, in part because his explanations seemed inconsistent. Calling it a ''bizarre litmus test,'' Baquet argued it was ''more powerful'' to avoid directly using the label. ''The best way to capture a remark, like the kinds of remarks the president makes, is to use them, to lay it out in perspective,'' he said. ''That is much more powerful than the use of a word.''
When asked a few minutes later about the paper's historic use of racist to describe segregationist demonstrators in Arkansas in 1957, however, he said, ''I don't think anybody would avoid using the racist in a scene like that.'' By the first account, racist wasn't powerful enough language to describe Trump; by the second, Trump wasn't bad enough to call racist.
The remarks showed Baquet and the other speakers conceding some technical and procedural failings but rejecting, or avoiding, deeper criticisms of the paper's performance. A staffer, submitting a question anonymously, suggested that the headline that had caused all the trouble'--''TRUMP URGES UNITY VS. RACISM'''--''amplifies without critique the desired narrative of the most powerful figure in the country.''
Baquet and other editors addressed the headline as an operational problem, the result of a ''system breakdown,'' where a front-page layout had left too little space for nuance. ''We set it up for a bad headline,'' Baquet said, ''and the people who were in a position to judge it quickly and change it, like me, did not look at it until too late.''
The closest Baquet came to identifying a moment when the paper had misjudged current events was when he described it as being ''a little tiny bit flat-footed'' after the Mueller investigation ended. ''Our readers who want Donald Trump to go away suddenly thought, 'Holy shit, Bob Mueller is not going to do it,''' Baquet said. ''And Donald Trump got a little emboldened politically, I think. Because, you know, for obvious reasons. And I think that the story changed. A lot of the stuff we're talking about started to emerge like six or seven weeks ago.''
By this account, the question of how to address presidential racism was a newly emerged one, something the paper would need to pivot into. ''How do we cover America, that's become so divided by Donald Trump?'' he said. ''How do we grapple with all the stuff you all are talking about? How do we write about race in a thoughtful way, something we haven't done in a large way in a long time?''
This difficult transition from one big story to the next was not a failure, but an unfortunate turn of events, which caused readers to unfairly take out their frustration on the messenger. The Times, like everyone, has to live through a period of heightened hostility. ''There were tweets that people at the New York Times retweeted or liked last week that were really painful for this newsroom and for me personally,'' Baquet said.
And Twitter is not reality, as publisher A.G. Sulzberger told the staff earlier in the session. ''You know, someone did a study of Twitter shares that showed that 70 percent of all stories shared on Twitter were never opened,'' Sulzberger said. ''And to me, that's just a reminder that so much of the world is judging before they're actually engaging.''
The meeting transcript has been edited for grammar and continuity. And if you're a current or former New York Times employee, please feel free to get in touch.
Dean Baquet: If we're really going to be a transparent newsroom that debates these issues among ourselves and not on Twitter, I figured I should talk to the whole newsroom, and hear from the whole newsroom. We had a couple of significant missteps, and I know you're concerned about them, and I am, too. But there's something larger at play here. This is a really hard story, newsrooms haven't confronted one like this since the 1960s. It got trickier after [inaudible] '... went from being a story about whether the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia and obstruction of justice to being a more head-on story about the president's character. We built our newsroom to cover one story, and we did it truly well. Now we have to regroup, and shift resources and emphasis to take on a different story. I'd love your help with that. As Audra Burch said when I talked to her this weekend, this one is a story about what it means to be an American in 2019. It is a story that requires deep investigation into people who peddle hatred, but it is also a story that requires imaginative use of all our muscles to write about race and class in a deeper way than we have in years. In the coming weeks, we'll be assigning some new people to politics who can offer different ways of looking at the world. We'll also ask reporters to write more deeply about the country, race, and other divisions. I really want your help in navigating this story.
But I also want to [inaudible] this as a forum to say something about who we are and what we stand for. We are an independent news organization, one of the few remaining. And that means there will be stories and journalism of all kinds that will upset our readers and even some of you. I'm not talking about true errors. In those cases, we should listen, own up to them, admit them, show some humility'--but not wallow in them'--and move on. What I'm saying is that our readers and some of our staff cheer us when we take on Donald Trump, but they jeer at us when we take on Joe Biden. They sometimes want us to pretend that he was not elected president, but he was elected president. And our job is to figure out why, and how, and to hold the administration to account. If you're independent, that's what you do. The same newspaper that this week will publish the 1619 Project, the most ambitious examination of the legacy of slavery ever undertaken in [inaudible] newspaper, to try to understand the forces that led to the election of Donald Trump. And that means trying to understand the segment of America that probably does not read us. The same newspaper that can publish a major story on Fox News, and how some of its commentators purvey anti-immigrant conspiracies, also has to talk to people who think immigration may cost them jobs and who oppose abortion on religious grounds. Being independent also means not editing the New York Times for Twitter, which can be unforgiving and toxic. And actually, as Amanda Cox reminds me, doesn't really represent the left or the right. [inaudible] who care deeply about the Times and who want us to do better, we should listen to those people. But it is also filled with people who flat out don't like us or who, as Jack Shafer put it, want us to be something we are not going to be.
By the way, let's catch our breath before tweeting stupid stuff or stuff that hurts the paper'--or treats our own colleagues in a way that we would never treat them in person. It is painful to me personally, and it destabilizes the newsroom when our own staff tweets things they could never write in our own pages or when we attack each other on Twitter. But let me end where I began: This is hard stuff. We're covering a president who lies and says outlandish things. It should summon all of our resources and call upon all of our efforts to build a newsroom where diversity and open discussion is valued. We will make mistakes, and we will talk about them openly. We'll do things that cause us to disagree with each other, but hopefully we'll talk about them openly and wrestle with them. I want your help figuring out how to cover this world. I want the input'--I need it. So now I'm going to open the floor to questions.
Staffer: Could you explain your decision not to more regularly use the word racist in reference to the president's actions?
Baquet: Yeah, I'm actually almost practiced at this one now. Look, my own view is that the best way to capture a remark, like the kinds of remarks the president makes, is to use them, to lay it out in perspective. That is much more powerful than the use of a word.
The weekend when some news organizations used the word racist, and I chose not to, we ran what I think is the most powerful story anybody ran that weekend. [inaudible] [chief White House correspondent] Peter Baker, who stepped back and took Trump's remarks, looked at his whole history of using remarks like that, and I think it was more powerful than any one word. My own view? You quote the remarks. I'm not saying we would never use the word racist. I'm talking about that weekend. You quote the remarks. The most powerful journalism I have ever read, and that I've ever witnessed, was when writers actually just described what they heard and put them in some perspective. I just think that's more powerful.
Staffer: But what is [inaudible] the use of a very clear word most people [inaudible]?
Baquet: I think that that word it loses its power by the second or third time. I do. I think that these words'--can I talk about the use of the word lie for one second?
Staffer: As long as you come back to my original question.
Baquet: I will, I will. I'm not running away from you, you know me.
I used the word lie once during the presidential campaign, used it a couple times after that. And it was pretty clear it was a lie, and we were the first ones to use it. But I fear that if we used it 20 times, 10 times, first, it would lose its power. And secondly, I thought we would find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of deciding which comment by which politician fit the word lie. I feel the same way about the word racist.
I think that a bizarre sort of litmus test has been created: If you don't use the word racist, you're not quite capturing what the president said. I'm going to argue that, first off, if you go back and look at what Peter Baker wrote that weekend, it was more powerful than the news organizations that just tossed the word out lightly as the first thing. Secondly, I'm going to ask you to go back and read the most powerful journalism of the civil rights movement. The most powerful journalism of the civil rights movement'--for instance Joe Lelyveld's portrait of Philadelphia, Mississippi, after the murders of Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman'--were vivid descriptions of what people in Philadelphia, Mississippi, said and how they behaved. The lead of the story described an old white man sitting on his front porch, saying that the town wasn't racist, saying that everybody lived peacefully in the town. And as he was saying that, a much older black man walked by, and the guy called him ''boy.'' That is 20 times more powerful, by my lights, than to use the word racist. If the lead of that story had been ''Philadelphia, Mississippi, is a racist town,'' it would have been true, but it wouldn't have been as powerful. I don't expect everybody to agree with me. In fact, some of the people who were in the discussion that weekend don't agree with me, but that's how I feel, strongly.
Staffer: Hi. Thank you so much for doing this. I guess I have a two-part question. The first part is: Would it be fair to say that, if [contributing op-ed writer] Roxane Gay hadn't tweeted out what she tweeted out, that we wouldn't be having this conversation right now? And if that is true'--or, regardless of whether it's true'--I think that something that some people have been wondering is: Do you feel that there is a person in a high position of power who can be as explicitly self-critical of this organization as Roxane Gay has, and is in a position to be, because she's on the outside? Do you think that we would benefit from that?
Baquet: I know what you're getting at'--this is a roundabout public editor question, right?
Staffer: No, it's not. It's just true. I mean, I don't know if Roxane hadn't shared those tweets or those emails, whether we'd be having this conversation.
Baquet: Well, all I can say is, long before that happened I was out in the world meeting with groups of people, having one on one discussions with people. Meeting with, like, large groups of people who wanted to talk about using the words. I gave three interviews in one day. I mean, it's possible, but I guess I think that'--maybe I'm kidding myself, and tell me if I am'--I guess I think that we have been having self-critical discussions before that. Do you all think we haven't had enough of them? Let me turn it to you all, to the room.
Staffer: I mean, it doesn't seem like there's that much comfort with having certain kinds of discussions. And I think understanding that certain people's jobs weren't at risk, and that it was explicitly their job to be critical, is something that some people might relish or appreciate.
Baquet: Well, let me say something I would relish and appreciate. I would relish and appreciate anybody who wants to come to my office. And some of you have'--a lot of people have'--to tell me when there are things you don't like about the New York Times. I get the question about having an outside critic, and it's an interesting one. But to be frank, the best thing we can do is have a newsroom where, if you don't like something the newsroom is doing, you can come to me and talk about it. I hope some people feel that way. Some people don't, but I think that's more important. And I promise you, if anybody wants to come talk to me or members of the masthead about anything involving coverage'--and I've had 20 conversations in the last two weeks with people who disagree with me about coverage, or disagree with me about using the word racist, who disagree with me about a lot of stuff'--we only get through this if we get to the point where we can have those kind of conversations.
Staffer: Hi. You mentioned that there could be situations when we would use the word racist. What is that standard?
Baquet: You know, we actually should have a written standard. I wasn't expecting two weeks ago'--and [associate managing editor for standards] Phil [Corbett] is working with me and the masthead to come up with it. I can think of examples, like, you know, the governor'--was it the governor of Virginia with the costume? I mean, it's hard for me to answer, but yes, I do think there are instances when we would use it. It's hard for me to articulate an example of it.
A.G. Sulzberger: So I'm no longer in the newsroom, but Dean tends to bring me in on some of these conversations. And I think it's useful sometimes to show the journey a little bit of how we reach these decisions. Because otherwise it can feel a little bit like this is a single case in which we're deciding whether something is or is not racist. The conversation that I heard was really a conversation about labels and about whether we're going to use labels as shorthand for something that we can convey through words and actions and with greater color and detail. And the moment that, for me, really hammered home the risk of some of these labels was actually when someone passed along to me a headline that we had run six months before the ''Trump Makes Comments Condemned as Racist'' headline. And the headline we had used six months before was, ''Omar Makes Comments Condemned as Anti-Semitic.'' And the amount of pushback that that I and others received in that moment from leaders in the Jewish community was really considerable. People wanted us to call this phrase, ''It's all about the Benjamins, baby,'' an anti-Semitic phrase. They pointed out that this is actually an historically anti-Semitic trope. Though that it was an anti-Semitic trope was actually referred to in the body of the story, which I pointed out.
But we're really cautious with labels, because labels tend to slip. They tend to stick to each other. And I think that the conversation I heard Dean and other members of the leadership have was about whether or not those types of shortcuts actually end up doing the exact thing that we don't want, which is keep people from reading, would keep people from actually understanding, by giving folks who are inclined to be skeptical that that label is fairly applied'--whether it's anti-Semitic or racist or anything else'--to keep those people from having an easy out not to look at what actually just occurred, and what happened, and what the implications are, and what the effects are on the community. And I think this is a really tricky moment right now. You know, someone did a study of Twitter shares that showed that 70 percent of all stories shared on Twitter were never opened. And to me, that's just a reminder that so much of the world is judging before they're actually engaging. And I don't think any of us would defend the headline from last week. Not only would you not defend it, we changed it. But I do think that if you take a step further back, and you look at the entire front page, or the entire body of coverage, I actually think that you saw in unmistakable clarity all the themes that we rightfully should be addressing. I just wanted to say that.
Staffer: I wanted to ask about the Atlantic interview from last week, where you were talking about how the headline happened, and you said that the copy editors had written [inaudible] I believe that was a slip of the tongue. I do. But I think it raises important issues, because the copy desk was in fact [inaudible] frequently flagged things like this. It was the place that wrote a lot of headlines. I can recall, personally, numerous times on the copy desk when I and my fellow copy editors flagged and got changed problematic headlines or phrasings before they went into print. And I'm just wondering if there has been any discussion of the extent to which streamlined editing system increases the risk of errors like this.
Baquet: I don't think this one was the streamlined editing system. I mean we are having conversations about the streamlined editing system and whether some desks need more help, but I don't think that's what happened here.
Staffer: I'm not talking specifically about, you know, was this headline attributable to it. I'm talking about, in general, there are fewer eyes on stories and the copy editors would normally have been'--
Baquet: I know. I honestly don't think there are fewer eyes on that kind of story. There were a lot of eyes on that particular story. The eyes didn't come in all at the right time. I know. I get what you're saying. I don't think this was a copy desk issue. I really don't.
Staffer: To come back to the discussion of the word racist for a second, I'm sensitive to how charged a word it is. I'm sensitive to not using labels. But I was struck a couple of years ago. I went to Little Rock for the 60th anniversary of Central High School. And I went back and I reread Homer Bigart's story, you know, the day it happened, and it was a triple banner headline across the front page. And Homer Bigart, who was a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, his lead was, ''An impressive array of federal force cowed racist agitators outside Central High School.'' And I was thinking, wow, that's blunt, it's powerful, it's simple, it's direct. And I was thinking, I wonder if that would ever be the way we would do it today.
Baquet: Oh, sure. The scene he described is'--I mean, I've actually read this, I've gone back and looked at those stories. I don't think anybody would avoid using the ''racist'' in a scene like that. It was only Charlottesville times 100, in a historic moment. I think that headline would appear in the New York Times. And I can say, because'--.
Staffer: The flipside that I worked out'--
Baquet: But I think you'd also'... In a weird way, I would argue that proves my point. That was such a powerful moment in American history. It still resonates in American history. It was such a powerful scene of the American South at that moment, that in that instance, to have not used the word would have been weak. And I think, to me, I would argue that that proves my point.
Staffer: But the part that got me a little bit worried about is, if you compare it to how we would cover Charlottesville, which is different, sometimes we use these other words that sound like euphemisms or like'--
Baquet: Agree.
Staffer: '--you know, ''white nationalists who are racially tinged'' or we use things that seem to normalize and clean up and sanitize an ugly reality.
Baquet: Yeah, I hate racially tinged, racially charged, too. I think those are worse. If you're going to do what I said, if you're gonna put your money where your mouth is and actually just describe it, you shouldn't use sort of half-assed words like racially charged or racially tinged either. You should either say it when the moment comes or you should describe the scene. I agree with that.
Staffer: Hello, I have another question about racism. I'm wondering to what extent you think that the fact of racism and white supremacy being sort of the foundation of this country should play into our reporting. Just because it feels to me like it should be a starting point, you know? Like these conversations about what is racist, what isn't racist. I just feel like racism is in everything. It should be considered in our science reporting, in our culture reporting, in our national reporting. And so, to me, it's less about the individual instances of racism, and sort of how we're thinking about racism and white supremacy as the foundation of all of the systems in the country. And I think particularly as we are launching a 1619 Project, I feel like that's going to open us up to even more criticism from people who are like, ''OK, well you're saying this, and you're producing this big project about this. But are you guys actually considering this in your daily reporting?''
Baquet: You know, it's interesting, the argument you just made, to go back to the use of the word racist. I didn't agree with all of this from Keith Woods, who I know from New Orleans and who's the ombudsman for NPR. He wrote a piece about why he wouldn't have used the word racist, and his argument, which is pretty provocative, boils down to this: Pretty much everything is racist. His view is that a huge percentage of American conversation is racist, so why isolate this one comment from Donald Trump? His argument is that he could cite things that people say in their everyday lives that we don't characterize that way, which is always interesting. You know, I don't know how to answer that, other than I do think that that race has always played a huge part in the American story.
And I do think that race and understanding of race should be a part of how we cover the American story. Sometimes news organizations sort of forget that in the moment. But of course it should be. I mean, one reason we all signed off on the 1619 Project and made it so ambitious and expansive was to teach our readers to think a little bit more like that. Race in the next year'--and I think this is, to be frank, what I would hope you come away from this discussion with'--race in the next year is going to be a huge part of the American story. And I mean, race in terms of not only African Americans and their relationship with Donald Trump, but Latinos and immigration. And I think that one of the things I would love to come out of this with is for people to feel very comfortable coming to me and saying, here's how I would like you to consider telling that story. Because the reason you have a diverse newsroom, to be frank, is so that you can have people pull together to try to tell that story. I think that's the closest answer I can come.
Staffer: Yeah, I want to follow up and disentangle a couple of things that I've often seen conflated in these meetings. You have questions like ''should we call Donald Trump a racist'' and these broader discussions of our coverage getting flattened with the reason that I think we're here today, which is really narrowly the question of how we present the work that we do and the headlines that end up on our work. Because this is sort of the thing that a lot of us who are, in some capacity, public representatives of the Times feel ourselves called to answer for. Because there are these patterns of getting headlines wrong in a very specific way that recur repeatedly and in a way that makes me think that it's a process issue. And to me, the question of whether you put a phrase like ''racial fires'' in a headline is not actually about whether we think it's OK to call Donald Trump racist. It's whether we think it's OK to use euphemisms instead of direct, clear speech in a headline. Which I think is a question you would ask of any administration.
And the issue with last week's headline was not really about Trump per se. It was really more broadly about what kind of credulousness we want to reflect in terms of an administration'--any administration. Or about other cases where we're sort of shying away from the real content of the story to put a milder spin on it in the headline, which is sometimes actively misleading. And the process by which these headlines end up on stories is often kind of opaque, and it's not always clear whether we're taking on board the criticism that I think is very valid of a lot of these headlines. It is a real storyline about the Times out there now, that we are kind of repeatedly making mistakes that other people aren't making so much. And it is something that's kind of baffling to me from where I sit, and I guess I'm curious what is our process? How are we thinking about it? Do we perceive ourselves making the same errors repeatedly, or do we see these as sort of isolated episodes?
Baquet: I'm going to be really honest. I actually don't think we make a whole lot more mistakes. I think I've made clear I'm going to own up to my mistakes. I don't think we make a whole lot more mistakes than the Washington Post or anywhere else. After the headline issue came up, I think I heard from 10 executive editors, pretty much every major news organization. My favorite one was from somebody'--I guess I shouldn't use their names'--was somebody who said, ''I wish people cared about my headlines as much as they care about yours.''
Look, we are scrutinized. I ran another newspaper. I've never seen anything like this. We are scrutinized more than any other news organization in the country, in the world probably. To be frank, some of that comes with being the biggest and, I would argue, the best. And as hard as it is to do this, I think we have to accept it. We have to accept that maybe what goes along with being the New York Times is that we get scrutinized more. Maybe we should even say we deserve it more. You know? That's the position I'm going to take. I mean, it's almost funny when I read all of the attacks on the New York Times for not having a public editor. Nobody has a public editor! We're not the only ones that made the decision to not have a public editor.
My main point is, yeah, we do get beat up more. And I think we just have to own up to [inaudible] in the process. Should I, do you want me to walk through what happened in this headline again, or is that'--
Staffer: I would like to know. I mean I think in this specific case that's now been made public. But in general, kind of, how does this happen?
Baquet: I mean, I think that if I had to (and I will) engage in a little bit of self-criticism, I made a decision. So we're talking about print headlines here for a second. I made a decision that I still think was the right decision for the New York Times. We're not just a print newspaper anymore. We have a television show. We have a podcast. We have a daily website that reaches tens of millions people. I thought that the days when the executive editor sat and sort of picked the stories, fly spec-ed the headlines '... I just thought that that was sending the wrong signal to the room. What does that say to our video team if executive editor only cares about the print front page? I also, by the way, assembled a remarkable group of people who worry over the print front page. I'm going to also say that nobody puts out a print front page like the New York Times. Don't let getting whacked the last couple of weeks make you forget that. But I think I should probably spend a little more time thinking about it. You know, again, I've said half of the big decisions I've had to make as executive editor I've made in my bathrobe at home.
You know, I didn't look closely enough at it. I should make sure that the front page of the New York Times, which is still our glory, gets more scrutiny than it does, and we should all look at it. In this case, I've said it before, I think the layout boxed in the print hub in a way that probably made it impossible to put a great headline on it. But I think I should probably spend a little more stewing on the front page. Does that answer your question?
Staffer: Kind of. I mean, I think'--
Baquet: Push! Push, man. They've never been shy.
Staffer: I do think, I mean, I guess I see it as not a matter of like getting beat up over the past couple weeks. I feel like there's a sort of weariness with the share of the criticism directed towards us that is about the headlines that detracts from the discussion that we'd like to be having about the actual [inaudible].
Baquet: I agree, but I'm going to say one thing. And then [associate managing editor and Metro editor] Cliff [Levy] wants to say something. We let it distract us, if you don't mind my saying. You know, there's a little bit of '... there are HR people in the room? There's a little bit of a wallowing gene in the New York Times. Look, I don't think any executive editor has owned up to more mistakes than I have. I don't know if that means I've made more mistakes. Maybe it does. Or if it means I just believe in transparently owning up to your mistakes. But the last few months of the New York Times, we have produced some remarkable reports. Before I came in here, somebody from the national desk sent me a note pointing out just how amazing our coverage of El Paso was and how much it happened to have been driven by Latino reporters who felt powerfully about that story and wanted to surface it. We've got to move away from the position where we want to just beat ourselves up and not think about that stuff a little bit, too.
Cliff wanted to say something.
Cliff Levy: I just want to kind of delicately push back a little bit on this question of headlines. Headlines are very, very hard, as you well know. I spent a lot of time thinking about headlines. My colleagues on Metro might tell you that I'm kind of obsessed with them in an unhealthy way. A lot of the pushback that we often receive about headlines, particularly on social media is from people who have never written a headline, don't have an understanding of how hard it is, the burdens on a headline. Particularly the burdens on a headline in print space where you are really limited. But the burden's in digital, as well. We are limited by length and SEO and all these other factors. People who criticize our headlines'--particularly people who are not in this newsroom'--you'll say to them, ''Well, what would you want this headline to be?'' And they repeat back something to you that's like 15 lines or 15 words. You know, people want headlines that blitz out any nuance. They want headlines that say, ''Donald Trump Is a Racist,'' or ''Donald Trump Is a Liar'' or things that really take out all the texture and fabric of the article itself. And I will just say, you know, they're extremely hard to do well, and I think in general we do them extremely well. And I think Phil would probably want to add something to that.
Philip Corbett: I did want to push back just a little bit more. Sorry, we're all pushing back on you. This might not be a widely held view, but I would dispute the idea that when we have made mistakes about headlines in the last months or couple of years that they have always been in the same direction, which I think is how you put it. In other words, that the mistakes you're seeing are when we're going, shall we say, too easy on Donald Trump. There certainly have been headlines where I feel like that has been a failing. But I will say, honestly, there have been headlines that many of us have been concerned about or asked to have changed or have had discussion about where I felt the problem was the opposite. Where we were showing what could be read as bias against Trump, and were perhaps going too far in the opposite direction. So this goes to Cliff's point that headlines are hard to write anyway, and we're going to get them wrong sometimes. But I would not accept the criticism that the ones we get wrong necessarily show that we're bending over backwards in one direction, because I've definitely seen headlines that I've been uncomfortable with that have fallen too far on both sides of the line.
Staffer: So I share the concerns about how coverage can be done aggressively, but not from a default point of view, which can feed into outcomes that repeatedly read to a number of people across the newsroom'--and then outside as well'--being too cautious or winding up in a zone that fails to accurately represent the situation to the readers. Which is, of course, the mission that we all do believe in. And I have had conversations and exchanges with a number of colleagues in different roles, from different backgrounds across the newsroom in the past week. And one of the things that I've brought up'--and I know, Dean, you and I have talked about this a bit, too, is that some people, despite your welcoming stance as far as bringing feedback to you, are hesitant to speak up. Or don't necessarily feel like they can do that safely, or have the standing to do that. Or some may not even have the access to do that. I wondered if it would be OK for me to share some of the feedback that I got that people asked for to be anonymous, but that I thought was thoughtful and could be useful.
Baquet: Sure.
Staffer: OK, so here's just a selection that I thought was thoughtful.
''Saying something like divisive or racially charged is so euphemistic. Our stylebook would never allow it in other circumstances. I am concerned that the Times is failing to rise to the challenge of a historical moment. What I have heard from top leadership is a conservative approach that I don't think honors the Times' powerful history of adversarial journalism. I think that the NYT's leadership, perhaps in an effort to preserve the institution of the Times, is allowing itself to be boxed in and hamstrung. This obviously applies to the race coverage. The headline represented utter denial, unawareness of what we can all observe with our eyes and ears. It was pure face value. I think this actually ends up doing the opposite of what the leadership claims it does. A headline like that simply amplifies without critique the desired narrative of the most powerful figure in the country. If the Times' mission is now to take at face value and simply repeat the claims of the powerful, that's news to me. I'm not sure the Times' leadership appreciates the damage it does to our reputation and standing when we fail to call things like they are.''
And then this is a question that is more specifically about the process that you are also addressing: ''Why are we passing off the biggest, most important part of the stories that we know very well'''--this is from a writer'--''that we know very well to this strangely anonymized print hub I am often completely unaware of who is even writing the headlines for my stories. Why can't I or one of the editors who actually worked on the story just write it?''
Staffer: You know, I hurt the print hub in this case because I didn't think sufficiently about. '... We had created a front page, because we had two big stories, one of which had a two-column headline. One had a single line, four-column headline. It was designed with the print hub, but I don't think I sat and thought about, what can you really say in four words. Right? Now, I do not scrutinize the print hub headlines before it goes to press. I happen to think that many of the people on the print hub are some of our best editors and are extremely talented. The second I saw that headline'--I always get the front page that night'--I kind of put my head in the hands. And I called in before I knew there was a Twitter storm and said, you know, this is off. We've really got to fix this. But I think in some ways, you know, those of us involved that day did a disservice to our colleagues, because it was a very hard thing to write. They were writing it on deadline. And because the headline had seemed fine on the web all day, it didn't occur to me it would be problematic. But on the web they had a very large banner, and I think one of the things we've learned is that, if we're going to do something that's a banner, more of us should be involved. But I think I should've thought more about, if you have just four words, what can you write? I had been envisioning something like ''A Day of Reckoning.''
Staffer: Hi, I actually wanted to raise a different issue, not to stop the discussion about language. About the push for social media and audience engagement, it's very clear that the direction of the paper and of management is to incentivize and reward more engagement on social media. But then you have the things that get the most traffic on social media or something like people's Twitter accounts, where it might push them to write inflammatory or stupid or ill-thought-out things. So we're kind of incentivizing people to get eyes, but that also incentivizes people to say stupid things on social media.
Baquet: You know, other people can jump in here, I'm sort of unconvinced that the tweets that have made me uncomfortable happened because people wanted to get eyes. I mean, I don't think the tweet that sparked part of this discussion, from an editor in the Washington bureau, was because he wanted to get eyes. I think he just. '... We somehow have convinced ourselves that Twitter is not the real world, and that you can say things on Twitter that you wouldn't be able to say in a newspaper story. And we need to just convince ourselves that that is not true. I mean, others should jump in, but I'm not sure that the tweets that have made me uncomfortable are tweets that were just done to attract attention. But others?
Staffer: I'm wondering what is the overall strategy here for getting us through this administration and the way we cover it. Because I think one of the reasons people have such a problem with a headline like this'--or some things that the New York Times reports on'--is because they care so much. And they depend on the New York Times. They are depending on us to keep kicking down the doors and getting through, because they need that right now. It's a very scary time. And when something like this happens, or we have opinion columnists'--because people really can't tell the difference between op-eds and news anymore'--but when we have people who post and tweet incendiary things, like Bret Stephens, people don't understand. I think they get confused as to what we're trying to do.
Baquet: Yeah.
Staffer: And I'm just wondering, how can we tighten that up?
Baquet: Are you talking about coverage, or are you talking about social media?
Staffer: I'm talking about all of it.
Baquet: OK. I mean, let me go back a little bit for one second to just repeat what I said in my in my short preamble about coverage. Chapter 1 of the story of Donald Trump, not only for our newsroom but, frankly, for our readers, was: Did Donald Trump have untoward relationships with the Russians, and was there obstruction of justice? That was a really hard story, by the way, let's not forget that. We set ourselves up to cover that story. I'm going to say it. We won two Pulitzer Prizes covering that story. And I think we covered that story better than anybody else.
The day Bob Mueller walked off that witness stand, two things happened. Our readers who want Donald Trump to go away suddenly thought, ''Holy shit, Bob Mueller is not going to do it.'' And Donald Trump got a little emboldened politically, I think. Because, you know, for obvious reasons. And I think that the story changed. A lot of the stuff we're talking about started to emerge like six or seven weeks ago. We're a little tiny bit flat-footed. I mean, that's what happens when a story looks a certain way for two years. Right?
I think that we've got to change. I mean, the vision for coverage for the next two years is what I talked about earlier: How do we cover a guy who makes these kinds of remarks? How do we cover the world's reaction to him? How do we do that while continuing to cover his policies? How do we cover America, that's become so divided by Donald Trump? How do we grapple with all the stuff you all are talking about? How do we write about race in a thoughtful way, something we haven't done in a large way in a long time? That, to me, is the vision for coverage. You all are going to have to help us shape that vision. But I think that's what we're going to have to do for the rest of the next two years.
This is no longer a story where the Washington bureau every week nails some giant story by [Washington correspondent] Mike Schmidt that says that Donald Trump or Don McGahn did this. That will remain part of the story, but this is a different story now. This is a story that's going to call on different muscles for us. The next few weeks, we're gonna have to figure out what those muscles are.
In terms of how to keep people from having these discussions on social media, I'm not 100 percent sure. I think we should tighten the rules a little, which always upsets people a little bit. I mean, there were tweets that people at the New York Times retweeted or liked last week that were really painful for this newsroom and for me personally. So I'm gonna keep saying that, and maybe we should talk about the rules, too.
Staffer: It appears to be that the public narrative around the headline is different from the internal narrative that I've been hearing. So for example, I know that the copy desk thing was a slip. But I have also heard that someone actually raised concerns about the headline and was overruled. So, I'm just trying to reconcile what I'm hearing from my co-workers internally and what I'm hearing from my other co-workers in the public.
Baquet: I reached out to the person who raised questions about the coverage that day, who works on the print hub, and it's a little more complicated than that. She was leaving town, and I was leaving town. She thought it was a bad headline, but mainly she thought that particular story shouldn't led the paper. Her complaint was different than the narrative that has developed, which is that one person on the print hub threw their body in front of the headline. In my exchanges with her, that wasn't the case. She thought that that story should not have led the paper. And she thought the headline was bad, but mainly she thought the whole package, the whole architecture'--but mainly the story'--is what was wrong. And I told her frankly, in my exchange with her, which was good and helpful, I said look I disagree with you on this one. I'm happy to sit down and talk to you in person. I thought that was the right lead of the paper. I would not have minded, by the way, if she'd wandered into my office, knocked on the door, which I told her and which I will keep telling her when I talk to her in person. If she had come in and said, I think you picked the wrong lead of the paper, that's a little bit of a different narrative from the headline narratives. That make sense?
Staffer: Hi. I just kind of wanted to return to the internal debate before the headline went to print. Do you think there was a breakdown there other than space pressure or time pressure? And if so, I wonder what you think that that breakdown was?
Baquet: Again, I had this exchange with an editor as she was going away and I was going away. I'm not sure that was a breakdown. I think the breakdown was that we drew a page that was really, really, really hard to put a thoughtful headline on. This was a really complicated story. It was not a story that said, Trump said X. In fact, what was wrong with the story is that the ''Trump said X'' headline wasn't enough to capture the hypocrisy and all the kind of nuance we're talking about. So I think we built a page on deadline that made it really hard to put a headline on it. So we set it up for a bad headline, and the people who were in a position to judge it quickly and change it, like me, did not look at it until too late. So I guess this is a system breakdown. We didn't have a system in place where the people who would recognize it and then change it'--And maybe, by the way, the right change'--if you want me to tell you'--the perfect scenario for this headline would have been like this: The print hub'--I'm not blaming the print hub, I'm blaming me, because I set up this system'--the print hub comes in and says, ''We tried, we cannot put a headline on that story with this layout. You need to redraw the page.'' We would have redrawn the page in a way that allowed us to put a more nuanced headline on it. That would have been, in retrospect, the ideal situation.
Staffer: But the editors were looking at it, do you have the impression that they felt that that was necessary, or there was a recognition that there was a problem?
Baquet: I should ask [associate masthead editor] Tom [Jolly] and others on the print hub. I mean, there was a recognition among the masthead when it got sent around. As soon as the mockup of the front page got passed around, I looked at it. Matt looked at it. Everybody looked at and said, ''Oh shit.'' The first edition had already closed, so that was a system breakdown. Does that answer it? I'm trying to walk you through the process a little bit. Go ahead.
Staffer: It just seems like the people who could have recognized that, perhaps, did not or were not on the team to look at the first edition.
Baquet: Tom, do you have a thought about that? Tom runs the print hub.
Tom Jolly: Well, I think, a) the problem was that the editor felt like that difficult headline had to tie directly into the lead story. If we had made it a broader headline that addressed the package of four different stories, ''the day of reckoning'' or something along those lines, it would have solved it. In terms of a system problem, print hub had a meeting Thursday, and one of the things that we've realized is, we need to be looking at the front page. First of all, we need to be talking to the editors who are going to be writing the headlines that come in in late afternoon. They're not a part of the discussion during the day. We need to talk to them, give them a sense of what the storyline is. And then we need to review the page before it comes out. One of the problems here was that the page was already published, and that page goes to half of our print readers. So at that point, there was no bringing it back. Right? So yes we've addressed system issues that we've identified, and I've also talked with the editor from the stories going around. And she doesn't feel that she was rebuffed. Obviously, we would never want that to happen. And I think as Dean explained that was a little bit of a bigger issue. But I think the biggest thing is discussing the storyline at a time in the late afternoon or early evening when the editors who are just coming in have an opportunity to think it out one more time.
Baquet: Can I say something in support of the print hub? Because just for the record, I'm not sure I love this narrative of these sort of anonymous editors you know sitting on another floor fucking up the New York Times. The print hub builds the front page of the New York Times every day. Pick up today's front page. It is it is a thing of beauty. They do it every day. They're not some anonymous nobodies. They're fine journalists, assembled from across the newsroom, assembled from other news organizations. The original sin, I can say since I'm a Catholic and a former altar boy, the original sin was ours. Was setting up a front page that was really, really difficult to build a headline around. But don't, do not'... Go visit the print hub. I mean these are journalists just like us. I talked to the editor who wrote the headline. He's sick, you know. I mean he feels terrible. He feels more terrible than he should, to be frank. But it feels terrible, and I don't want to walk away from this with all of us thinking that they're a group of fumble fingers on another floor of the New York Times secretly fucking up the New York Times. They're not.
One more.
Staffer: When it came to actually changing that headline, how much influence did the reader input have? I mean, OK, all you guys didn't like it. You were unhappy. But was a change in the works, or was it the response?
Baquet: We were all'--it was a fucking mess'--we were all over the headline. Me. Matt. The print hub. Probably [assistant managing editor] Alison [Mitchell]. We were all over it, and then in the middle of it, [deputy managing editor] Rebecca Blumenstein sent an email'--but we were already messing with it '--saying, ''You should know, there's a social media firestorm over the headline.'' My reaction [inaudible] was not polite. My reaction was to essentially say, ''Fuck 'em, we're already working on it.'' And we were working on it, on deadline. We had already lost half of the papers, and it was too late to redraw the whole page. We would've lost the whole thing.
Baquet: Can I just say one thing? This is a hard story. This is larger than the headline. This is larger than the other stuff. This is a really hard story. This is a story that's going to call on like all of our muscles, all of our resources, all of our creativity, all of our empathy. Including all of our empathy for each other. It's going to call on us to be maybe a little less harsh with each other, because we're gonna make other mistakes. It's going to call on us to listen to each other more, including me listening to you all more. If you ask me how we end up getting through this with the best coverage, it's by having honest conversations. It's by inviting people into the Trump story who ordinarily might not have played on stories like this and making sure they get to participate in the coverage. But I hope this is a start, and I hope people take me at my word when I say you may come into me and tell me something you don't like. I may not agree with you. I will be direct, and I will say I don't agree with you. But I promise you I will listen and I promise you that in the end all of this influences the coverage. So thank you. Thank you.
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Hillary Clinton's Emails Were Sent to Gmail Address Similar to Name of Chinese Company
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 12:13
All but four of the 30,490 emails from Hillary Clinton's unauthorized email server were forwarded to a private Google email address featuring a name similar to a Chinese company, according to documents released by a Senate committee on Aug. 15.
Virtually every email that was sent to and from the Clinton-email server was forwarded to '','' which raised concerns that a foreign actor gained access to Clinton's emails after an intelligence community inspector general (ICIG) investigator searched Google for ''Carter Heavy Industries'' and came up with a result for Shandong Carter Heavy Industry Co., Ltd, according to the documents (pdf).
Shandong Carter Heavy Industry is a Chinese manufacturer of excavators and heavy machinery. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
Frank Rucker, the ICIG investigator, and Jeanette McMillian, an ICIG attorney, told the FBI about the anomaly on Feb. 18, 2016, at a meeting which included Peter Strzok, who had just taken over as the section chief heading the investigation. Rucker told Congress that Strzok was ''aloof and dismissive'' and didn't ask many questions.
Strzok has since gained notoriety for text messages he exchanged with FBI attorney Lisa Page, with whom he was having an extramarital affair. The pair expressed bias against then-candidate Donald Trump and in favor of Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign.
McMillian told Congress that her understanding of the Carter Heavy Industries email address was that it was a ''drop box'' to which the emails from the Clinton server were sent in real time.
''Even if you didn't address an email to this address, the email went to it anyway,'' McMillian said.
Rucker told Congress that it appeared that the Carter Heavy Industries email address was inserted into Clinton's server ''based on his reading of the metadata.'' Rucker was also concerned because he reviewed an email in which Clinton aide Huma Abedin and Abedin's husband, Anthony Weiner, discuss how Weiner's account was possibly hacked by a political opponent who ended up receiving copies of all of his emails.
The investigator told Congress that it appears that the Carter Heavy Industries email was inserted into the routing table of Clinton's server, but that he could only be sure if he examined the server, which he did not have access to. There could be an alternative explanation as to why the email address was in virtually every message, Rucker said.
McMillian and Rucker were interviewed by the Senate Finance and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees on Dec. 4, 2018, in response to media reports that cited anonymous sources claiming that China gained access to Clinton's emails. The committees released unclassified versions of those transcripts along with several sets of supporting documents on Aug. 14.
The documents include several emails from Clinton and her staffers with message metadata showing the Carter Heavy Industries email address as a recipient.
Inspector General's InquiryDepartment of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz was aware of the ICIG's referral to the FBI but did not address it in his 568-page report on the FBI and DOJ handling of the Clinton-email inquiry. Horowitz had promised Congress a year ago to look into and report on what the FBI did to investigate the matter. The newly released documents include the results of Horowitz's inquiry in the form of an April 9, 2019, letter to senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)
In the letter, Horowitz and Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson write that the Carter Heavy Industries email account was created by Platte River Networks employee Paul Combetta, who managed Clinton's email server. Combetta allegedly created the Carter Heavy Industries email on Aug. 20, 2012. Combetta then used the email as a ''dummy email'' in order to transfer messages archived on Clinton's second private server to the Platte River Networks server in early 2014.
What Combetta did with the email account between 2012 and 2014 and who else had access to it before and after the transfer remains a mystery. Neither the DOJ nor the ICIG inspector generals provide any details on whether the FBI ever examined the matter.
Combetta's use of this email account is addressed in Horowitz's report, although it is referred to as a ''dummy email'' instead of revealing the actual address. Horowitz and Atkinson do not explain how Combetta came to pick the email address. Combetta's lawyer told Horowitz that the Carter Heavy Industries email was a made-up name and that Combetta had no connection to Shandong Carter Heavy Industry Co., Ltd.
Combetta, through an attorney, refused to be interviewed by the DOJ inspector general about the matter, according to the letter. He also said he had no documents responsive to subpoena about the issue.
Horowitz wrote that his office did not find any evidence to contradict the claims of Combetta's lawyer.
''Accordingly, other than the similarity discussed above between the dummy email address and the name of a Chinese company identified by the former ICIG analyst and former Inspector General McCullough during a Google search, the ICIG and the DOJ OIG are unaware of any information that links Combetta or the dummy email address that he created with the Chinese government or a Chinese-owned company,'' Horowitz and Atkinson wrote.
Correction: the headline and text of the article have been adjusted to more accurately reflect the source documents. The name of the Chinese company involved, Shandong Carter Heavy Industry Ltd., came up in a Google search by ICIG investigator Frank Rucker, who became concerned that a foreign actor gained access to Hillary Clinton's emails.
Follow Ivan on Twitter: @ivanpentchoukov
Georgia ordered to scrap old voting machines after 2019
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 12:19
August 15, 2019 | 3:00pm | Updated August 15, 2019 | 3:25pm
Enlarge Image People cast their ballots ahead of the general election at Jim Miller Park in Marietta, Ga. AP
ATLANTA '-- A federal judge on Thursday ordered Georgia to stop using its outdated voting machines after this year and to be ready with hand-marked paper ballots if its new system isn't in place for the presidential primaries.
US District Judge Amy Totenberg's 153-page ruling Thursday is not a complete victory for either side.
A federal lawsuit filed by election integrity advocates and individual Georgia voters argues that the paperless touchscreen voting machines Georgia has used since 2002 are unsecure, vulnerable to hacking and can't be audited. They have been seeking statewide use of hand-marked paper ballots.
A law passed this year provided specifications for a new system. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger certified a new system last week and said new machines will be in place for the state's presidential primary election on March 24.
But the plaintiffs had asked Totenberg to order the state to immediately stop using the current system, which it plans to use for special and municipal elections this year. They also said they feared that the timeline for the implementation of the new machines is too tight, which could result in the old machines being used for 2020 elections.
Totenberg's order made it clear that she shares that fear: She said that if the new system is not ready by March, the state cannot default to the old machines.
Lawyers for state election officials and for Fulton County, the state's most populous county that includes most of Atlanta, argued it would be too costly, burdensome and chaotic to use an interim system for elections this fall and then switch to the new permanent system next year.
Totenberg said she believes a switch to hand-marked paper ballots for this fall would be feasible from a timing and cost perspective. But she expressed concern about the state's capacity to manage an interim solution while also transitioning to a new system.
The integrity of Georgia's voting system was heavily scrutinized during last year's midterm election, in which Republican Brian Kemp, the state's top election official at the time, narrowly defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams to become governor.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit had asked Totenberg last August to force Georgia to use hand-marked paper ballots for that election. The judge said then she had serious concerns about vulnerabilities in the voting system and chastised state officials for ignoring evidence of the problems. But she said it would be too chaotic at that point to switch so close to the November election.
Lawsuit aims to restore federal oversight of Georgia elections
Sun, 18 Aug 2019 13:02
A lawsuit alleging widespread voting problems in Georgia is pursuing an ambitious solution: restoration of the Voting Rights Act and federal oversight of elections.
After notching an initial court victory last month, allies of Stacey Abrams will now attempt to prove through their lawsuit that Georgia's election was so flawed that it prevented thousands of voters from being counted, especially African Americans.
The lawsuit links civil rights and voting rights with the aim of showing that elections are unfair in Georgia because racial minorities suffered most from voter registration cancellations, precinct closures, long lines, malfunctioning voting equipment and disqualified ballots. More than 50,000 phone calls poured into a hotline set up by the Democratic Party of Georgia to report hurdles voters faced at the polls.
If successful, the case has the potential to regain voting protections that were lost because of the U.S. Supreme Court's 2013 ruling in a case involving the Voting Rights Act, the landmark legislation approved in 1965. The court decided that several states with a history of discriminatory practices, including Georgia, no longer had to obtain federal clearance before making changes to elections.
Bringing Georgia back under the Voting Rights Act will be tough because the lawsuit would have to prove intentional discrimination in the state's election laws and practices. But the plaintiffs see an opportunity to try to make that case.
Free from federal supervision, voter suppression has been on the rise in Georgia, said Allegra Lawrence-Hardy, an attorney for the plaintiffs, which include Fair Fight Action, an advocacy group founded by Abrams, along with Ebenezer Baptist Church and other churches.
''This is modern-day Jim Crow,'' Lawrence-Hardy said. ''Minority voters simply have a harder time voting and having their vote counted in the state of Georgia than other voters. That's just factual, and that's part of the information we'll be submitting to the court.''
Georgia election officials say that's not, in fact, ''factual.''
They reject the idea that election laws and policies target minorities or infringe on voting rights, according to their filings in federal court.
Many of the alleged voting obstacles in November's election resulted from decisions made by local election officials '-- not by any statewide effort to disenfranchise voters '-- wrote defense attorneys for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. His office and his attorneys declined to comment.
The lawsuit ''attempts to string together a variety of isolated incidents to weave a new theory: that a variety of independent and unrelated actions by mostly local officials somehow resulted in constitutional violations that require massive judicial intervention,'' a March 5 defense brief states. ''Indeed, plaintiffs claim that Georgia's election system is so flawed that the only solution is to place the entire state in federal receivership.''
U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ruled against the state government's motion to dismiss the lawsuit May 30, allowing the case to move forward.
Already, the plaintiffs have collected testimony from more than 200 people who reported difficulties voting. They reported that voter registration records disappeared, provisional ballots were incorrectly issued to legitimate voters, hours-long lines discouraged turnout and voting machines flipped votes from Abrams to Brian Kemp, who won the governor's race by nearly 55,000 votes, a 1.4 percentage point margin of victory.
To try to show voting rights were violated, the plaintiffs will seek emails, documents and depositions from Georgia election officials.
No states are currently subject to federal review of elections under the Voting Rights Act, and only one city falls under that provision of the law: Pasadena, Texas, which settled a lawsuit filed by Hispanic voters alleging that their voting strength was diluted by redrawn voting districts.
Before the U.S. Supreme Court's 2013 Voting Rights Act decision in Shelby v. Holder, nine states were subject to federal oversight, including Georgia. Most of the states covered by the Voting Rights Act were in the South and West.
''This could turn out to be a case of national legal importance, but it's too early to say,'' said Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, who specializes in election law. ''The complaint presents a general picture about the kinds of hurdles African American voters and other voters faced. It's trying to show how all these things accumulate to a voting rights violation, even if any one in isolation might not.''
A judge could also order incremental changes to Georgia elections instead of making the state subject to federal clearance under the Voting Rights Act, said Lori Ringhand, a constitutional law professor at the University of Georgia.
''Depending on what the evidence shows, the judge would have a fair amount of discretion to decide how wide of a remedial system he would want to put in place,'' Ringhand said.
Though the election for governor is over, the lawsuit continues the fight for voting rights that invigorated last year's election, said the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor for Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached during the civil rights movement.
Georgia's election laws continue to harm African Americans, just as they did decades ago, Warnock said.
For example, a Georgia election policy called ''exact match'' prevented more than 53,000 people from being added to the state's list of active voters last year because of discrepancies in their registration information, such as a missing hyphen in their name. About 80% of those potential voters were African Americans, Latinos or Asian Americans.
In addition, Georgia's ''use it or lose it'' law allows election officials to cancel voters' registrations if they don't participate in elections for several years, a practice that critics say disproportionately affects minorities. More than 1.4 million registrations were canceled from 2012 to 2018 when Kemp was secretary of state because they stopped participating in elections, died, moved away or were convicted of felonies.
Warnock said these kinds of voting hurdles are more sophisticated versions of ''tricks they played in the darkest era of the South'' to prevent African Americans from voting, such as literacy tests and poll taxes.
''The efforts to keep ordinary people from voting find ways to reinvent themselves at every junction,'' Warnock said. ''All of these tactics really hearken back to the very era that the civil rights movement emerged to address.''
Some of the obstacles voters faced in November were caused by one-time problems rather than broad deficiencies in the voting system, said Deidre Holden, the elections supervisor for Paulding County, located west of Atlanta.
Record turnout led to long lines. Voter registrations were canceled when Georgians moved to a new county and forgot to re-register. Old voting equipment broke down.
''There were some good complaints, and some were blown out of proportion,'' Holden said. ''Complaints needed to be heard. I don't think anyone should be disenfranchised from voting. No one should ever be turned away.''
Without the protections of the Voting Rights Act, Georgia and other states have increasingly passed laws to remove voters from the rolls and limit new registrations, said Leigh Chapman, the director of the voting rights program for The Leadership Conference Education Fund, which focuses on elections, education and criminal justice issues.
''Georgia has been at the epicenter of the problem '-- a full-on assault on the right to vote,'' Chapman said. ''Until Congress restores the Voting Rights Act, it's critical that organizations bring these lawsuits to protect individuals' rights to vote.''
A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in February would create a process to determine which states with a history of voting rights violations must receive approval from the U.S. Department of Justice before making changes to election laws. The bill is pending in a subcommittee.
Georgia elected officials, including Kemp, have said voting has never been easier.
A record 7 million Georgians were registered to vote for November's election, when turnout reached an all-time high for a midterm.
In addition, the General Assembly passed a bill this year that changes many of the election laws criticized by the lawsuit. The new law replaces the state's voting machines, requires printed-out paper ballots, delays registration cancellations and prevents precinct closures within 60 days of an election.
The lawsuit contends that the legislation doesn't go far enough or address many of the difficulties voters reported on Election Day.
Jones ruled that the bill didn't address poll worker training of ballot handling, inappropriate cancellations of voter registrations and allegations that the state's ''exact match'' policy disproportionately impacts minority voters.
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The debate over Georgia's voting system is divisive, and these types of stories receive special treatment. We always try to present as much information as possible so that readers can use those facts to reach their own conclusions. To do that, we rely on a variety of sources that represent multiple points of view. Today's story includes comments from the attorney for the plaintiffs suing the state and a constitution law professor from the University of Georgia.
Percentage margin of victory for Bian Kemp in the race for governor
Million registrations that were canceled from 2012 to 2018 in Georgia
Million Georgians who were registered to vote for November's election, when turnout reached an all-time high for a midterm.
Testimony plaintiffs collected from people who reported difficulties voting
Brian Kemp's edge in votes to win the governor's race
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Chip in to be a part of our movement to ensure free and fair elections, so that the people's voices can be heard. Our democracy depends on it.
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Hong Kong
Behind a made-for-TV Hong Kong protest narrative, Washington is backing nativism and mob violence | The Grayzone
Sun, 18 Aug 2019 11:22
Hong Kong's increasingly xenophobic protests are devolving into chaos with help from US government regime-change outfits and a right-wing local media tycoon with close ties to hardliners in Washington.By Dan Cohen President Donald Trump tweeted on August 13 that he ''can't imagine why'' the United States has been blamed for the chaotic protests that have gripped Hong Kong.
Trump's befuddlement might be understandable considering the carefully managed narrative of the US government and its unofficial media apparatus, which have portrayed the protests as an organic ''pro-democracy'' expression of grassroots youth. However, a look beneath the surface of this oversimplified, made-for-television script reveals that the ferociously anti-Chinese network behind the demonstrations has been cultivated with the help of millions of dollars from the US government, as well as a Washington-linked local media tycoon.
Since March, raucous protests have gripped Hong Kong. In July and August, these demonstrations transformed into ugly displays of xenophobia and mob violence.
The protests ostensibly began in opposition to a proposed amendment to the extradition law between Hong Kong, Taiwan, mainland China, and Macau, which would have allowed Taiwanese authorities to prosecute a Hong Kong man for murdering his pregnant girlfriend and dumping her body in the bushes during a vacation to Taiwan.
Highly organized networks of anti-China protesters quickly mobilized against the law, compelling Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to withdraw the bill.
But the protests continued even after the extradition law was taken off the table '-- and these demonstrations degenerated into disturbing scenes. In recent days, hundreds of masked rioters have occupied the Hong Kong airport, forcing the cancellation of inbound flights while harassing travelers and viciously assaulting journalists and police.
Fu Guohao, reporter of GT website is being seized by demonstrators at HK airport. I affirm this man being tied in this video is the reporter himself. He has no other task except for reporting. I sincerely ask the demonstrators to release him. I also ask for help of West reporters
'-- Hu Xijin èƒé--è› (@HuXijin_GT) August 13, 2019
The protesters' stated goals remain vague. Joshua Wong, one of the most well known figures in the movement, has put forward a call for the Chinese government to ''retract the proclamation that the protests were riots,'' and restated the consensus demand for universal suffrage.
Wong is a bespectacled 22-year-old who has been trumpeted in Western media as a ''freedom campaigner,'' promoted to the English-speaking world through his own Netflix documentary, and rewarded with the backing of the US government.
But behind telegenic spokespeople like Wong are more extreme elements such as the Hong Kong National Party, whose members have appeared at protests waving the Stars and Stripes and belting out cacophonous renditions of the Star-Spangled Banner. The leadership of this officially banned party helped popularize the call for the full independence of Hong Kong, a radical goal that is music to the ears of hardliners in Washington.
Xenophobic resentment has defined the sensibility of the protesters, who vow to ''retake Hong Kong'' from Chinese mainlanders they depict as a horde of locusts. The demonstrators have even adopted one of the most widely recognized symbols of the alt-right, emblazoning images of Pepe the Frog on their protest literature. While it's unclear that Hong Kong residents see Pepe the same way American white nationalists do, members of the US far-right have embraced the protest movement as their own, and even personally joined their ranks.
Hong Kong protesters fly high Pepe the Frog Flag. LMAO
'-- Carl Zha (@CarlZha) August 10, 2019
Among the most central influencers of the demonstrations is a local tycoon named Jimmy Lai. The self-described ''head of opposition media,'' Lai is widely described as the Rupert Murdoch of Asia. For the masses of protesters, Lai is a transcendent figure. They clamor for photos with him and applaud the oligarch wildly when he walks by their encampments.
Lai established his credentials by pouring millions of dollars into the 2014 Occupy Central protest, which is known popularly as the Umbrella Movement. He has since used his massive fortune to fund local anti-China political movers and shakers while injecting the protests with a virulent brand of Sinophobia through his media empire.
Though Western media has depicted the Hong Kong protesters as the voice of an entire people yearning for freedom, the island is deeply divided. This August, a group of protesters mobilized outside Jimmy Lai's house, denouncing him as a ''running dog'' of Washington and accusing him of national betrayal by unleashing chaos on the island.
#HongKong tycoon Jimmy Lai criticized as conspirator behind violence in HK
'-- CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) August 11, 2019
Days earlier, Lai was in Washington, coordinating with hardline members of Trump's national security team, including John Bolton. His ties to Washington run deep '-- and so do those of the front-line protest leaders.
Millions of dollars have flowed from US regime-change outfits like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) into civil society and political organizations that form the backbone of the anti-China mobilization. And Lai has supplemented it with his own fortune while instructing protesters on tactics through his various media organs.
With Donald Trump in the White House, Lai is convinced that his moment may be on the horizon. Trump ''understands the Chinese like no president understood,'' the tycoon told the Wall Street Journal. ''I think he's very good at dealing with gangsters.''
'Stop unlimited invasion of mainland pregnant women!' Born in the mainland in 1948 to wealthy parents, whose fortune was expropriated by the Communist Party during the revolution the following year, Jimmy Lai began working at 9 years old, carrying bags for train travelers during the hard years of the Great Chinese Famine.
Inspired by the taste of a piece of chocolate gifted to him by a wealthy man, he decided to smuggle himself to Hong Kong to discover a future of wealth and luxury. There, Lai worked his way up the ranks of the garment industry, growing enamored with the libertarian theories of economists Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, the latter of whom became his close friend.
Friedman is famous for developing the neoliberal shock therapy doctrine that the US has imposed on numerous countries, resulting in the excess deaths of millions. For his part, Hayek is the godfather of the Austrian economic school that forms the foundation of libertarian political movements across the West.
Lai built his business empire on Giordano, a garment label that became one of Asia's most recognizable brands. In 1989, he threw his weight behind the Tiananmen Square protests, hawking t-shirts on the streets of Beijing calling for Deng Xiaoping to ''step down.''
Lai's actions provoked the Chinese government to ban his company from operating on the mainland. A year later, he founded Next Weekly magazine, initiating a process that would revolutionize the mediascape in Hong Kong with a blend of smutty tabloid-style journalism, celebrity gossip and a heavy dose of anti-China spin.
The vociferously anti-communist baron soon became Hong Kong's media kingpin, worth a whopping $660 million in 2009.
Today, Lai is the founder and majority stakeholder of Next Digital, the largest listed media company in Hong Kong, which he uses to agitate for the end of what he calls the Chinese ''dictatorship.''
His flagship outlet is the popular tabloid Apple Daily, employing the trademark mix of raunchy material with a heavy dose of xenophobic, nativist propaganda.
In 2012, Apple Daily carried a full page advertisement depicting mainland Chinese citizens as invading locusts draining Hong Kong's resources. The advertisement called for a stop to the ''unlimited invasion of mainland pregnant women in Hong Kong.'' (This was a crude reference to the Chinese citizens who had flocked to the island while pregnant to ensure that their children could earn Hong Kong residency, and resembled the resentment among the US right-wing of immigrant ''anchor babies.'')
Ad in Lai's Apple Daily: ''That's enough! Stop unlimited invasion of mainland pregnant women!'' The transformation of Hong Kong's economy has provided fertile soil for Lai's brand of demagoguery. As the country's manufacturing base moved to mainland China after the golden years of the 1980s and '90s, the economy was rapidly financialized, enriching oligarchs like Lai. Left with rising debt and dimming career prospects, Hong Kong's youth became easy prey to the demagogic politics of nativism .
Many protesters have been seen waving British Union Jacks in recent weeks, expressing a yearning for an imaginary past under colonial control which they never personally experienced.
In July, protesters vandalized the Hong Kong Liaison Office, spray-painting the word, ''Shina'' on its facade. This term is a xenophobic slur some in Hong Kong and Taiwan use to refer to mainland China. The anti-Chinese phenomenon was visible during the 2014 Umbrella movement protests as well, with signs plastered around the city reading, ''Hong Kong for Hong Kongers.''
æ--¯é‚£(Shina) is Japanese word for China that became derogatory during Sino-Japanese War. Post-War Japan gov ban its use in Kanji form (Chinese characters) in official document. Yet some people in Hong Kong and Taiwan use it to insult people from Chinese mainland. It=''Chink'' in Eng
'-- Carl Zha (@CarlZha) July 22, 2019
This month, protesters turned their fury on the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, spray-painting ''rioters'' on its office. The attack represented resentment of the left-wing group's role in a violent 1967 uprising against the British colonial authorities, who are now seen as heroes among many of the anti-Chinese demonstrators.
Besides Lai, a large part of the credit for mobilizing latent xenophobia goes to the right-wing Hong Kong Indigenous party leader Edward Leung. Under the direction of the 28-year-old Leung, his pro-independence party has brandished British colonial flags and publicly harassed Chinese mainland tourists. In 2016, Leung was exposed for meeting with US diplomatic officials at a local restaurant.
Though he is currently in jail for leading a 2016 riot where police were bombarded with bricks and pavement '' and where he admitted to attacking an officer '' Leung's rightist politics and his slogan, ''Retake Hong Kong,'' have helped define the ongoing protests.
A local legislator and protest leader described Leung to the New York Times as ''the Che Guevara of Hong Kong's revolution,'' referring without a hint of irony to the Latin American communist revolutionary killed in a CIA-backed operation . According to the Times, Leung is ''the closest thing Hong Kong's tumultuous and leaderless protest movement has to a guiding light.''
The xenophobic sensibility of the protesters has provided fertile soil for Hong Kong National Party to recruit. Founded by the pro-independence activist Andy Chan, the officially banned party combines anti-Chinese resentment with calls for the US to intervene. Images and videos have surfaced of HKNP members waving the flags of the US and UK, singing the Star Spangled Banner, and carrying flags emblazoned with images of Pepe the Frog, the most recognizable symbol of the US alt-right.
While the party lacks a wide base of popular support, it is perhaps the most outspoken within the protest ranks, and has attracted disproportionate international attention as a result. Chan has called for Trump to escalate the trade war and accused China of carrying out a ''national cleansing'' against Hong Kong. ''We were once colonised by the Brits, and now we are by the Chinese,'' he declared.
Protesters in Hong Kong waving the American flag and singing the American National anthem as they advocate for democracy. Wow!
'-- Kaya Jones (@KayaJones) August 12, 2019
Displays of pro-American jingoism in the streets of Hong Kong have been like catnip for the international far-right.
Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson recently appeared at an anti-extradition protest in Hong Kong, livestreaming the event to his tens of thousands of followers. A month earlier, Gibson was seen roughing up antifa activists alongside ranks of club wielding fascists. In Hong Kong, the alt-right organizer marveled at the crowds.
''They love our flag here more than they do in America!'' Gibson exclaimed as marchers passed by, flashing him a thumbs up sign while he waved the Stars and Stripes.
'British colonial past gave us the instinct to revolt' Such xenophobic propaganda is consistent with the clash of civilizations theory that Jimmy Lai has promulgated through his media empire.
''You have to understand the Hong Kong people '' a very tiny 7 million or 0.5 percent of the Chinese population '' are very different from the rest of Chinese in China, because we grow up in the Western values, which was the legacy of the British colonial past, which gave us the instinct to revolt once this extradition law was threatening our freedom,'' Lai told Fox News' Maria Bartiromo. ''Even America has to look at the world 20 years from now, whether you want the Chinese dictatorial values to dominate this world, or you want the values that you treasure [to] continue.''
During a panel discussion at the neoconservative Washington-based think tank, the Foundation For Defense of Democracies, Lai told the pro-Israel lobbyist Jonathan Schanzer, ''We need to know that America is behind us. By backing us, America is also sowing to the will of their moral authority because we are the only place in China, a tiny island in China, which is sharing your values, which is fighting the same war you have with China.''
While Lai makes no attempt to conceal his political agenda, his bankrolling of central figures in the 2014 Occupy Central, or Umbrella movement protests, was not always public.
Leaked emails revealed that Lai poured more than $1.2 million to anti-China political parties including $637,000 USD to the Democratic Party and $382,000 USD to the Civic Party. Lai also gave $115,000 USD to the Hong Kong Civic Education Foundation and Hong Kong Democratic Development Network, both of which were co-founded by Reverend Chu Yiu-ming. Lai also spent $446,000 USD on Occupy Central's 2014 unofficial referendum.
Lai's US consigliere is a former Navy intelligence analyst who interned with the CIA and leveraged his intelligence connections to build his boss's business empire. Named Mark Simon , the veteran spook arranged for former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin to meet with a group in the anti-China camp during a 2009 visit to Hong Kong. Five years later, Lai paid $75,000 to neoconservative Iraq war author and US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to organize a meeting with top military figures in Myanmar.
This July, as the Hong Kong protests gathered steam, Lai was junketed to Washington, DC for meetings with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, and Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Cory Gardner, and Rick Scott. Bloomberg News correspondent Nicholas Wadhams remarked on Lai's visit, ''Very unusual for a [non-government] visitor to get that kind of access.''
Today: Hong Kong publisher and democracy advocate Jimmy Lai met National Security Adviser John Bolton in DC. After meetings with @SecPompeo and @VP, this is meant to send a signal to Beijing. Very unusual for a nongovt visitor to get that kind of access.
'-- Nicholas Wadhams (@nwadhams) July 10, 2019
One of Lai's closest allies, Martin Lee, was also granted an audience with Pompeo, and has held court with US leaders including Nancy Pelosi and former Vice President Joseph Biden .
Among the most prominent figures in Hong Kong's pro-US political parties, Lee began collaborating with Lai during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. A recipient of the US government-funded National Endowment for Democracy's ''Democracy Award'' in 1997, Lee is the founding chairman of Hong Kong's Democratic Party, now considered part of the pro-US camp's old guard.
While Martin Lee has long been highly visible on the pro-western Hong Kong scene, a younger generation of activists emerged during the 2014 Occupy Central protests with a new brand of localized politics.
Teenager Vs. Superpower, with help from a bigger superpowerJoshua Wong meets with Sen. Marco Rubio in Washington on May 8, 2017 Joshua Wong was just 17 years old when the Umbrella Movement took form in 2014. After emerging in the protest ranks as one of the more charismatic voices, he was steadily groomed as the pro-West camp's teenage poster child. Wong received lavish praised in Time magazine, Fortune, and Foreign Policy as a ''freedom campaigner,'' and became the subject of an award-winning Netflix documentary called ''Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower.''
Unsurprisingly, these puff pieces have overlooked Wong's ties to the United States government's regime-change apparatus. For instance, National Endowment for Democracy's National Democratic Institute (NDI) maintains a close relationship with Demosistō, the political party Wong founded in 2016 with fellow Umbrella movement alumnus Nathan Law.
In August, a candid photo surfaced of Wong and Law meeting with Julie Eadeh, the political counselor at the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong, raising questions about the content of the meeting and setting off a diplomatic showdown between Washington and Beijing.
This is very very embarrassing. Julie Eadeh, a US diplomat in Hong Kong, was caught meeting HK protest leaders. It would be hard to imagine the US reaction if Chinese diplomat were meeting leaders of Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter or Never Trump protesters.
'-- Chen Weihua (@chenweihua) August 8, 2019
The Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong submitted a formal complaint with the US consulate general, calling on the US ''to immediately make a clean break from anti-China forces who stir up trouble in Hong Kong, stop sending out wrong signals to violent offenders, refrain from meddling with Hong Kong affairs and avoid going further down the wrong path.''
The pro-Beijing Hong Kong newspaper Ta Kung Pao published personal details about Eadeh, including the names of her children and her address. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus lashed out, accusing the Chinese government of being behind the leak but offering no evidence. ''I don't think that leaking an American diplomat's private information, pictures, names of their children, I don't think that is a formal protest, that is what a thuggish regime would do,'' she said at a State Department briefing.
But the photo underscored the close relationship between Hong Kong's pro-west movement and the US government. Since the 2014 Occupy Central protests that vaulted Wong into prominence, he and his peers have been assiduously cultivated by the elite Washington institutions to act as the faces and voices of Hong Kong's burgeoning anti-China movement.
In September 2015, Wong, Martin Lee, and University of Hong Kong law professor Benny Tai Lee were honored by Freedom House, a right-wing soft-power organization that is heavily funded by the National Endowment for Democracy and other arms of the US government.
Just days after Trump's election as president in November 2016, Wong was back in Washington to appeal for more US support. ''Being a businessman, I hope Donald Trump could know the dynamics in Hong Kong and know that to maintain the business sector benefits in Hong Kong, it's necessary to fully support human rights in Hong Kong to maintain the judicial independence and the rule of law,'' he said .
Wong's visit provided occasion for the Senate's two most aggressively neoconservative members, Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton, to introduce the ''Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act,'' which would ''identify those responsible for abduction, surveillance, detention and forced confessions, and the perpetrators will have their US assets, if any'... frozen and their entry to the country denied.''
Wong was then taken on a junket of elite US institutions including the right-wing Heritage Foundation think tank and the newsrooms of the New York Times and Financial Times . He then held court with Rubio, Cotton, Pelosi, and Sen. Ben Sasse .
In September 2017, Rubio, Ben Cardin, Tom Cotton, Sherrod Brown, and Cory Gardner signed off on a letter to Wong, Law and fellow anti-China activist Alex Chow, praising them for their ''efforts to build a genuinely autonomous Hong Kong.'' The bipartisan cast of senators proclaimed that ''the United States cannot stand idly by.''
A year later, Rubio and his colleagues nominated the trio of Wong, Law, and Chow for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.
Honored to have met Joshua Wong, a student leader who led a big protest demanding universal suffrage in Hong Kong.
'-- Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) November 18, 2015
Washington's support for the designated spokesmen of the ''retake Hong Kong movement'' was supplement with untold sums of money from US regime-change outfits like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and subsidiaries like the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to civil society, media and political groups.
As journalist Alex Rubinstein reported , the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, a key member of the coalition that organized against the now-defunct extradition law, has received more than $2 million in NED funds since 1995. And other groups in the coalition reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars from the NED and NDI last year alone.
While US lawmakers nominate Hong Kong protest leaders for peace prizes and pump their organizations with money to ''promote democracy,'' the demonstrations have begun to spiral out of control. From the ''Marginal Violence Theory'' to the mob violence reality After the extradition law was scrapped, the protests moved into a more aggressive phase, launching ''hit and run attacks'' against government targets, erecting roadblocks, besieging police stations, and generally embracing the extreme modalities put on display during US-backed regime-change operations from Ukraine to Venezuela to Nicaragua.
AJE in position to cover HK protesters' "hit and run strategy."
Here's William Engdahl on Otpor!, the CIA-backed Serbian group that trained thousands of youth activists in countries around the world in color revolution swarming tactics:
'-- Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) August 13, 2019
The techniques clearly reflected the training many activists have received from Western soft-power outfits. But they also bore the mark of Jimmy Lai's media operation.
In addition to the vast sums Lai spent on political parties directly involved in the protests, his media group created an animated video ''showing how to resist police in case force was used to disperse people in a mass protest.''
While dumping money into the Hong Kong's pro-US political camp in 2013, Lai traveled to Taiwan for a secret roundtable consultation with Shih Ming-teh, a key figure in Taiwan's social movement that forced then-president Chen Shui-bian to resign in 2008. Shih reportedly instructed Lai on non-violent tactics to bring the government to heel, emphasizing the importance of a commitment to go to jail.
According to journalist Peter Lee , ''Shih supposedly gave Lai advice on putting students, young girls, and mothers with children in the vanguard of the street protests, in order to attract the support of the international community and press, and to sustain the movement with continual activities to keep it dynamic and fresh.'' Lai reportedly turned off his recording device during multiple sections of Shih's tutorial.
One protester explained to the New York Times how the movement attempted to embrace a strategy called, ''Marginal Violence Theory'': By using ''mild force'' to provoke security services into attacking the protesters, the protesters aimed to shift international sympathy away from the state.
But as the protest movement intensifies, its rank-and-file are doing away with tactical restraint and lashing out at their targets with full fury. They have thrown molotov cocktails into intersections to block traffic; attacked vehicles and their drivers for attempting to break through roadblocks; beaten opponents with truncheons; attacked a wounded man with a US flag; menaced a reporter into deleting her photos; kidnapped and beat a journalist senseless; beat a mainland traveler unconscious and prevented paramedics from reaching the victim; and hurled petrol bombs at police officers.
A Hong Kong protester continued to attack Chinese reporter for @globaltimesnews with American flag 🇺🇸 even as Paramedics finally freed him from the crowd and tried to rush him to hospital
'-- Carl Zha (@CarlZha) August 13, 2019
The charged atmosphere has provided a shot in the arm to Lai's media empire, which had been suffering heavy losses since the last round of national protests in 2014. After the mass marches against the extradition bill on June 9, which Lai's Apple Daily aggressively promoted, his Next Digital doubled in value , according to Eji Insight.
Meanwhile, the protest leaders show no sign of backing down. Nathan Law, the youth activist celebrated in Washington and photographed meeting with US officials in Hong Kong, took to Twitter to urge his peers to soldier on : ''We have to persist and keep the faith no matter how devastated the reality seems to be,'' he wrote.
Law was tweeting from New Haven, Connecticut, where he was enrolled with a full scholarship at Yale University. While the young activist basked in the adulation of his US patrons thousands of miles from the chaos he helped spark, a movement that defined itself as a ''leaderless resistance'' forged ahead back home.
Dan Cohen is a journalist and co-producer of the award-winning documentary, Killing Gaza. He has produced widely distributed video reports and print dispatches from across Israel-Palestine, Latin America, the US-Mexico border and Washington DC. Follow him on Twitter at @DanCohen3000.
Jay-Z defends NFL deal with Roc Nation, talks Kaepernick - theGrio
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 14:24
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, and Jay-Z appear at a news conference at ROC Nation on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019 in New York. The NFL and ROC Nation, Jay-Z's entertainment and sports representation company, announced Tuesday they were teaming up for events and social activism, a deal Jay-Z said had been in the works over the last seven months. (Ben Hider/AP Images for NFL)A day after Jay-Z announced that his Roc Nation company was partnering with the NFL, the rap icon explained that he still supports protesting, kneeling and NFL player Colin Kaepernick, but he's also interested in working with the league to make substantial changes.
The Grammy winner and entrepreneur fielded questions Wednesday at his company's New York City headquarters alongside NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. When directly asked if he would kneel or stand, Jay-Z said: ''I think we've moved past kneeling and I think it's time to go into actionable items.''
He then added: ''No, I don't want people to stop protesting at all. Kneeling '-- I know we're stuck on it because it's a real thing '-- but kneeling is a form of protest. I support protest across the board. We need to bring light to the issue. I think everyone knows what the issue is '-- we're done with that,'' he added. ''We all know the issue now. OK, next. What are we moving (on to) next? '...And I'm not minimizing that part of it because that has to happen, that's a necessary part of the process. But now that we all know what's going on, what are we going to do? How are we going to stop it? Because the kneeling was not about a job, it was about injustice.''
Jay-Z has been among the biggest supporters of Kaepernick, who sparked a fissure in the NFL when he decided to kneel when the national anthem was played before games to protest the killings of blacks by police officers. Some called him unpatriotic, and he has not played for the NFL since he opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in 2017. Earlier this year, the NFL settled a lawsuit brought by Kaepernick and Eric Reid that alleged that owners colluded to keep them from playing in the league (Reid criticized Jay-Z's new deal with the league).
When asked why he didn't involve Kaepernick in the new Roc Nation-NFL deal, Jay-Z said: ''You'd have to ask him. I'm not his boss. I can't just bring him into something. That's for him to say.''
Jay-Z also said he and Kaepernick had a conversation about the new deal but offered no details about what was discussed.
Kaepernick didn't comment on the deal, but tweeted about his social justice work Wednesday.
''Today marks the three year anniversary of the first time I protested systemic oppression. I continue to work and stand with the people in our fight for liberation, despite those who are trying to erase the movement! The movement has always lived with the people!'' he wrote.
The NFL and Jay-Z's entertainment and sports representation company announced Tuesday they were teaming up for events and social activism, a deal Jay-Z said had been in the works over the last seven months.
''First thing I said to Roger was, 'If this is about me performing at the Super Bowl, then we can just end this conversation now,'' Jay-Z said.
The league plans to use Roc Nation '-- home to Rihanna, DJ Khaled and other stars '-- to consult on and co-produce its entertainment presentations, including the Super Bowl halftime show. The NFL will also work with Jay-Z's company to help its Inspire Change initiative, created by the league after an agreement with a coalition of players who demonstrated during the national anthem to protest social and racial injustice in this country. Those demonstrations were sparked by Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.
''Everyone's saying, 'How are you going forward if Kaep doesn't have a job?' This was not about him having a job. That became part of it,'' Jay-Z said. ''We know what it is '-- now how do we address that injustice? What's the way forward?''
Jay-Z added that ''the NFL has a huge platform and we can use that huge platform.''''I believe real change is had through conversation, real conversation and real work '... and what better way to do it than where the conversation first took place.''
Jay-Z has turned down invitations to perform at the Super Bowl, even rapping about it in a song. Rihanna has also turned down the gig.
Jay-Z said he is not performing at the 2020 halftime show, which his company will co-produce, and said he turned down the offer in the past because he ''didn't like the process.''''You take four artists and everyone thinks they're playing the Super Bowl, and it's almost like this interview process,'' he said. ''I think the process could have been more definite.''Maroon 5 headlined this year's halftime show and when it was announced that Travis Scott was to join as a special guest, reports surfaced online that Jay-Z didn't want the rapper to perform. Jay-Z acknowledged that was true, but clarified it didn't have anything to do with Kaepernick.
''My problem is (Travis) had the biggest year to me last year,'' Jay-Z explained, ''and he's playing on a stage that had an M on it. I didn't see any reason for him to play second fiddle to anyone that year and that was my argument.''
Goodell also answered several questions Wednesday. When a reporter asked a question, looking at both Goddell and Jay-Z, the rapper said: ''Are you asking me?''
''I'm not the commissioner yet,'' Jay-Z said as the room burst into laughter.
Jayz NFL deal to get ahead of trump donorship story
The Statue of Liberty was created to celebrate freed slaves, not immigrants, new museum recounts - The Washington Post
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 13:14
Lady Liberty was inspired by the end of the Civil War and emancipation. The connection to immigration came later. The original torch and flame, and a full-scale face model, are displayed in the new Statue of Liberty Museum in New York. (Richard Drew/AP)The new Statue of Liberty Museum in New York Harbor boasts a number of treasures: the original torch, which was replaced in the 1980s; an unoxidized (read: not green) copper replica of Lady Liberty's face; and recordings of immigrants describing the sight of the 305-foot monument.
It also revives an aspect of the statue's long-forgotten history: Lady Liberty was originally designed to celebrate the end of slavery, not the arrival of immigrants. Ellis Island, the inspection station through which millions of immigrants passed, didn't open until six years after the statue was unveiled in 1886. The plaque with the famous Emma Lazarus poem '-- ''Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free'' '-- wasn't added until 1903.
''One of the first meanings [of the statue] had to do with abolition, but it's a meaning that didn't stick,'' Edward Berenson, a history professor at New York University and author of the book ''The Statue of Liberty: A Transatlantic Story,'' said in an interview with The Washington Post.
[Trump adviser Stephen Miller was right about the Statue of Liberty's famous inscription]
The monument, which draws 4.5 million visitors a year, was first imagined by a man named ‰douard de Laboulaye. In France, he was an expert on the U.S. Constitution and, at the close of the American Civil War, the president of a committee that raised and disbursed funds to newly freed slaves, according to Yasmin Sabina Khan, author of the book ''Enlightening the World: The Creation of the Statue of Liberty.''
Laboulaye loved America '-- often giving speeches described by a New York Times correspondent in 1867 as ''feasts of liberty which move the souls of men to their deepest depths'' '-- and he loved it even more when slavery was abolished.
In June 1865, Laboulaye organized a meeting of French abolitionists at his summer home in Versailles, Berenson said.
''They talked about the idea of creating some kind of commemorative gift that would recognize the importance of the liberation of the slaves,'' Berenson said.
Left: An undated photo of French abolitionist ‰douard de Laboulaye. Right: Sculptor Fr(C)d(C)ric-Auguste Bartholdi in 1880. (National Library of France; Smithsonian Institution)Laboulaye secured the partnership of sculptor Fr(C)d(C)ric-Auguste Bartholdi, who took his sweet time developing an idea. An early model, circa 1870, shows Lady Liberty with her right arm in the position we are familiar with, raised and illuminating the world with a torch. But in her left hand she holds broken shackles, an homage to the end of slavery.
(A terra cotta model still survives at the Museum of the City of New York.)
One theory has her face being adapted from a statue Bartholdi had proposed for the Suez Canal, meaning her visage could resemble that of an Egyptian woman. The Times reported she was based on the Roman goddess Libertas, who typically wore the type of cap worn by freed Roman slaves.
In the final model, Lady Liberty holds a tablet inscribed with the Roman numerals for July 4, 1776. The broken chains are still there though, beneath her feet, ''but they're not all that visible,'' Berenson said.
A close-up of part of the chains at the Statue of Liberty's feet. (National Park Service)Bartholdi made a number of trips to the U.S. to whip up support for his colossal structure, according to the National Park Service. And sailing into New York Harbor, he spotted the perfect location for it: Bedloe's Island, then occupied by the crumbling Fort Wood.
Fundraising in both France and the United States took a while, and according to the NPS, Bartholdi cast the project in the broadest terms possible to widen the net of potential donors. He also built the torch-bearing arm to tour around and inspire people to open up their wallets.
Left to right: The bust of the Statue of Liberty on display in Paris in 1884 before it was shipped to the United States. The statue towers over Paris rooftops in 1884. The right arm of the statue on display in Philadelphia in 1876. (AP)Bartholdi finished building the statue in Paris in 1884. Two years later, he oversaw its reconstruction in New York. ''Liberty Enlightening the World'' was ''unveiled'' on Oct. 28, 1886 '-- but that did not involve a very big sheet. Instead, there were fireworks, a military parade, and Bartholdi climbing to the top and pulling a French flag from his muse's face.
By then, ''the original meaning of the abolition of slavery had pretty much gotten lost,'' Berenson said, going unmentioned in newspaper coverage.
In fact, black newspapers railed against it as meaningless and hypocritical. By 1886, Reconstruction had been crushed, the Supreme Court had rolled back civil rights protections, and Jim Crow laws were tightening their grip.
In his book, Berenson quotes an 1886 editorial in the black newspaper the Cleveland Gazette: ''Shove the Bartholdi statue, torch and all, into the ocean until the 'liberty' of this country is such as to make it possible for an industrious and inoffensive colored man in the South to earn a respectable living for himself and family '... The idea of the 'liberty' of this country 'enlightening the world,' or even Patagonia, is ridiculous in the extreme.''
W.E.B. Du Bois also mentioned this in his autobiography, recalling seeing the statue upon arriving back in the United States in 1894 after two years in Europe: ''I know not what multitude of emotions surged in the others, but I had to recall [a] mischievous little French girl whose eyes twinkled as she said: 'Oh, yes, the Statue of Liberty! With its back toward America, and its face toward France!'''
There were immigrants on board that ship with Du Bois, but he didn't talk to any of them. The ship was segregated.
Read more Retropolis:
The Lincoln Memorial as a pyramid? That wasn't the craziest idea pitched a century ago.
How statues of Robert E. Lee and other Confederates got into the U.S. Capitol
Whether she's on the $20 bill or not, Harriet Tubman made men pay for underestimating her
She was captured and enslaved 400 years ago. Now Angela symbolizes a brutal history.
Here's the Memo About the 'Burden of Being Black at Google' - VICE
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 15:16
Read the full memo written by a departing Google employee on his experience as a Black person at Google. by Motherboard Staff
Aug 15 2019, 3:57pm
Share Tweet Image: Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Before leaving the company, a Black Google employee wrote a memo called "The Weight of Silence" and sent it to his coworkers. The memo is "a personal reflection on diversity and inclusion at Google, and 3 ways to improve both."
The memo is at least the third in recent years to extensively detail internal culture at the company. Motherboard has obtained the memo and has embedded it below. Personal details have been redacted to protect the author from retaliation.
The Purge
'Shooting,' 'Bomb,' 'Trump': Advertisers Blacklist News Stories Online - WSJ
Sun, 18 Aug 2019 14:42
Like many advertisers, Fidelity Investments wants to avoid advertising online near controversial content. The Boston-based financial-services company has a lengthy blacklist of words it considers off-limits.
If one of those words is in an article's headline, Fidelity won't place an ad there. Its list earlier this year, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, contained more than 400 words, including ''bomb,'' ''immigration'' and ''racism.'' Also off-limits: ''Trump.''
Some news organizations have had difficulty placing Fidelity's ads on their sites, ad-sales executives said, because the list is so exhaustive and the terms appear in many news articles.
Big advertisers have been burned several times in recent years when their digital ads appeared next to offensive content, including fabricated news articles, hateful or racist videos on YouTube and pornographic material.
Such miscues happen, in part, because of the complexities of online ad-buying, where brands generally target certain kinds of audiences rather than specific sites or types of content. It has become clear to advertisers that one way to protect themselves is to stipulate the websites or types of web content they want to avoid, and ensure their partners'--digital ad brokers and publishers'--honor those wishes.
''Political stories are, regardless of party affiliation, not relevant to our brand,'' a Fidelity spokesman said in a written statement. The company also avoids several other topics that it says don't align with published content about business and finance.
Marketers have used blacklists for years to sidestep controversy. Airlines avoided articles dealing with airline crashes, for instance. Now those blacklists are becoming more sophisticated, specific and extensive, ad executives said.
Online news publishers are feeling the impact, from smaller outlets to large players such as, USA Today-owner Gannett Co. , the Washington Post and the Journal, according to news and ad executives.
The ad-blacklisting threatens to hit publications' revenue and is creating incentives to produce more lifestyle-oriented coverage that is less controversial than hard news. Some news organizations are investing in technologies meant to gauge the way news stories make readers feel in the hopes of persuading advertisers that there are options for ad placement other than blacklisting.
Consumer-products company Colgate-Palmolive Co. , sandwich chain Subway and fast-food giant McDonald's Corp. are among the many companies blocking digital ad placements in hard news to various degrees, according to people familiar with those companies' strategies.
Some companies are creating keyword blacklists so detailed as to make almost all political or hard-news stories off-limits for their ads. ''It is de facto news blocking,'' said Megan Pagliuca, chief data officer at Hearts & Science, an ad-buying firm owned by Omnicom Group Inc.
The use of lengthy keyword lists ''is going to force publishers to do lifestyle content and focus on that at the expense of investigative journalism or serious journalism,'' said Nick Hewat, commercial director for the Guardian, a U.K. publisher. ''That is a long-term consequence of this sort of buying behavior.'' The Guardian has had some advertisers block words such as ''Brexit,'' he said.
During the second quarter of this year, 177 advertisers that worked with ad measurement firm DoubleVerify Inc. blocked their ads from appearing on news or political content online, up 33% from the year-earlier period and more than double the 2017 total, the company said.
Integral Ad Science Inc., a firm that ensures ads run in content deemed safe for advertisers, said that of the 2,637 advertisers running campaigns with it in June, 1,085 brands blocked the word ''shooting,'' 314 blocked ''ISIS'' and 207 blocked ''Russia.'' Almost 560 advertisers blocked ''Trump,'' while 83 blocked ''Obama.''
The average number of keywords the company's advertisers were blocking in the first quarter was 261. One advertiser blocked 1,553 words, it said.
The polarized political environment in the U.S. has put brands on heightened alert. Marketers are mindful of the backlash they can face on social media when customers feel they advertised in offensive content. One Twitter account, Sleeping Giants, called out hundreds of brands that appeared on the right-wing news site Breitbart News Network following the 2016 presidential election, prompting widespread blacklisting of the site.
Colgate-Palmolive is blocking online ad placements in news stories, according to people with knowledge of its ad strategy. ''In general, our media buying goals are to advertise where people are most likely to be receptive to what we have to say,'' a Colgate spokeswoman said in an email. The company said it looks for ''opportunities more likely to fit with the brand's positive, optimistic message."
Subway said it has blacklisted 70,000 websites, including most hard-news outlets. The company wants to align with ''positivity and the moments when our guests will be most likely to consider getting Subway,'' said Melissa Sutton, Subway's director of media services.
Used-car retailer CarMax Inc. blocks online ads it purchases through automated systems from appearing next to news content in categories such as ''disasters,'' ''extreme violence'' and ''inflammatory politics'' to ensure the integrity of its brand, the company said.
McDonald's currently is blocking hard news from its automated ad purchases in the U.S., according to a person familiar with its ad buying. ''The first time your brand is damaged, it's not easily fixed,'' said Bob Rupczynski, senior vice president of marketing technology at McDonald's, during a recent ad conference in Cannes, France.
Hotel company Marriott International Inc. avoids buying digital ads near opinion or commentary news, according to a person familiar with its approach.
Alphabet Inc. 's Google has a long keyword blacklist that contains more than 500 words and phrases, including ''privacy,'' ''federal investigation,'' ''antitrust,'' ''racism,'' ''FBI,'' ''taxes,'' ''anti-Semitic,'' ''gun control'' and ''drought,'' according to a copy reviewed by the Journal. The list has made it difficult for at least one news publisher to place Google ads on its site, a person familiar with the matter said.
Blacklisting is cutting into the revenue of some online news publishers, even though they sometimes can replace blocked ads with content from other advertisers.
The audiences of many online publishers grew after President Trump launched his campaign'--the ''Trump bump.'' At the same time, ''they are losing revenue because some clients are using extensive keyword exclusion lists,'' said John Montgomery, executive vice president of global brand safety at GroupM, one of the world's largest ad-buying firms.
It is a worrisome trend for the news business, a sector already taking a hit as advertising spending shifts to online ad giants Facebook Inc. and Google. Spending on newspaper print ads in the U.S. has plummeted 32% over the past five years, according to estimates from Zenith, an ad-buying company owned by Publicis Groupe SA ., which is owned by AT&T Inc., said it deals with some advertisers whose blacklists exceed 1,000 words. Among the words advertisers most often wanted to avoid on during the first half of the year were ''shooting,'' ''Mueller,'' ''Michael Cohen'' and ''crash.'' The most-blocked term during the time period was ''Trump,'' which was blocked 636,636 times, CNN said.
Some digital publishers said the push for brand safety amounts to indirect censorship. Vice Media told advertisers at a presentation in May that it will no longer allow brands to block 25 words, including ''bisexual,'' ''gay,'' ''HIV,'' ''lesbian,'' ''Latino,'' ''Middle Eastern,'' ''Jewish'' and ''Islamic.''
''Bias should not be the collateral damage of our much-needed brand-safety efforts,'' said Cavel Khan, senior vice president of client partnerships for North America at the Brooklyn-based media company.
Marketers became more aggressive about protecting their brands online after a 2017 article by the Times of London that carried the headline: ''Big brands fund terror through online adverts.'' The article reported that ads from well-known brands were appearing on YouTube channels promoting hate speech or terrorism.
In the ensuing months, similar ad-placement problems plagued YouTube and other advertising platforms such as Facebook. Advertisers began taking a more cautious approach to digital advertising, enlisting the help of firms specializing in ''brand safety,'' ad buyers said.
''What turned out to be a reaction to protect a brand from unsafe things that are mostly user generated content,'' on sites such as YouTube, ended up hurting media companies focused on producing real journalism, said Christine Cook, senior vice president and chief revenue officer of CNN's digital operations.
In automated ad buying, brands aim their ads not at specific websites, but at audiences with certain characteristics'--people with certain shopping or web browsing histories, for example. Their ads are matched in real time to available inventory in online ad marketplaces that can come from thousands of websites. That is why brands sometimes are surprised to find their ads on websites they find controversial.
Ad-tech firms specializing in brand safety offer advertisers multiple ways to control their ad placements. Advertisers can block entire categories, such as ''politics'' or ''violence,'' using classifications brand-safety firms have set up after crawling the web. They can avoid certain keywords that appear in an article or headline. And they can establish a blacklist of sites to avoid or a white-list of sites they deem safe.
Brand safety has become a big business on Madison Avenue. Some agencies have hired teams of people to monitor digital ad placements, and some marketers have hired brand-safety officers.
Ad-technology firm OpenSlate said so many companies have asked for help avoiding news and political content on YouTube that it developed an algorithm last year to identify channels focusing those areas. Mike Henry, OpenSlate's chief executive officer, said about one-third of its top 100 clients are currently avoiding news and politics on YouTube.
Some ad-sales executives said the technology used for brand safety is too blunt because it doesn't take into account the full context of how specific words are used in a news story or video. and Gannett are creating technology intended to give advertisers a better way to gauge if a news story is controversial. said it is testing a new product dubbed SAM, for Sentiment Analysis Moderator, that uses machine learning to score its site's content for whether it will make readers feel ''mostly negative,'' ''somewhat negative,'' ''neutral,'' ''somewhat positive'' or ''mostly positive.''
CNN tested the system by having it score 70,000 pieces of content, then having human editors review the content to see whether the technology worked. The company is testing the system with some advertisers who want to buy ads based on sentiment.
The New York Times and USA Today also have been using sentiment analysis to help brands advertise in news articles that may have a positive or optimistic sentiment.
Allison Murphy, senior vice president for ad innovation at New York Times Co., said the company now offers several different ad-targeting options. ''We can satisfy a brand that is fine with politics but doesn't want to be around President Trump,'' she said.
In May, representatives of several companies, including, USA Today and the Journal met to discuss how they could work with ad agencies and measurement companies to devise a way to move the sector beyond keyword blacklists, according to people familiar with the meetings.
The ''overreliance on long keyword blacklists has a real cost'' to both publishers and brands, said Josh Stinchcomb, global chief revenue officer of the Journal and Barron's, both owned by News Corp . ''To that end, we are building proprietary tools that ensure brand safety.''
The Washington Post also is using new technologies that help advertisers gauge the context of stories.
Ms. Cook at said news organizations must change advertisers' perception of news. ''One of the things I have been evangelizing is all the dimensions of other content types'' the company creates, she said.
Some news publishers, including and USA Today, are producing and promoting more ad-friendly lifestyle, technology, business and sports content.
''If a client says to us, 'We are just really not comfortable with news,' unlike some of our competitors, we don't have to say, 'Let me talk to you about why you should run in news,' '' said Michael Kuntz, chief operating officer of national sales at USA Today Network, which includes USA Today and more than 100 local news outlets.
Still, he said, ''the future of the digital news space is heavily reliant on us continuing to change the perception around why news does not need to be a polarizing category.''
'--Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg contributed to this article.
Trauma Counselors Were Pressured to Divulge Confidential Information About Facebook Moderators, Internal Letter Claims
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 22:49
Nearly 1,500 miles from the Menlo Park headquarters of Facebook, at a company outpost in Austin, Texas, moderators toil around the clock to screen and scrub some the most gruesome, hateful, and heinous posts that make their way onto the social network and its photo-sharing subsidiary, Instagram. They are required to view as many as 800 pieces of disturbing content in a single shift, and routinely turn to on-site counselors to help cope with the procession of stomach-turning images, videos, and text. But some members of this invisible army have complained, in a statement widely circulated within Facebook, that the outsourcing giant that officially employs them, Accenture, has repeatedly attempted to violate the confidentiality of these therapy sessions.
The moderators work from within a special section for outsourced staffers at Facebook Austin. The Texas outpost is designed to mimic the look and feel of the company's famously opulent Silicon Valley digs, but Accenture workers say they're reminded daily of their secondary status and denied perks, prestige, and basic respect. This second-class tier at Facebook, a sort of international shadow workforce, has been well documented in the media, from Manila to Arizona, and it's not clear whether the company has done anything to address it beyond issuing defensive PR statements. Moderators in Austin say their job is a brutalizing slog and that Facebook remains largely indifferent to their struggles. Access to on-site counseling is one of the few bright points for this workforce.
The letter alleges that Accenture managers attempted to pressure multiple on-site counselors to share information relating to topics discussed in employee trauma sessions.
But now even this grim perk has been undermined by corporate prying, according to a letter drafted by a group of about a dozen Austin moderators who work across Facebook and Instagram. The letter alleges that, starting in early July, Accenture managers attempted to pressure multiple on-site counselors to share information relating to topics discussed in employee trauma sessions. This information was understood by both counselors and Accenture employees to be confidential, said several Accenture sources interviewed by The Intercept. It is not clear what specific information related to the sessions was sought by the managers.
Facebook moderators, who spoke to The Intercept on the condition of anonymity fearing workplace reprisal, said a therapist '-- or ''wellness coach,'' as they're known internally '-- refused to discuss a moderator's session with Accenture management and later resigned over the incident.
Accenture's Austin operation has a history of dissent: Its contractors have previously expressed workplace grievances on an internal company-wide Facebook message board known as Workplace. A May report from the Washington Post described how Austin moderators organized and published complaints over a starting wage of $16.50 an hour, which left some moderators working side jobs like driving for Uber ''to make ends meet.'' The article noted that thousands of employees had viewed or commented on posts on Workplace complaining over issues like ''micromanagement, pay cuts and inadequate counseling support.''
Facebook's Austin moderators spoke out again earlier this month, posting to Workplace a letter detailing the confidentiality concerns related to the Accenture counseling program, known as WeCare, which provides licensed ''wellness coaches'' to the company's content screeners. The Workplace letter calls the alleged pressuring of workplace therapists ''at best a careless breach of trust into the Wellness program and, at worst, an ethics and possible legal violation,'' and ''no longer an isolated incident but a systemic top-down problem plaguing Accenture management.''
The full letter, obtained by The Intercept, is below. We have removed specific references to Accenture managers who have not been contacted for comment.
[email protected] Complaint
I'm sharing the following on behalf of coworkers who wish to remain anonymous.
Please consider the following an official complaint to [email protected]
It has come to our attention that an Accenture [manager] pressured a WeCare licensed counselor to divulge the contents of their session with an Accenture employee. The counselor refused, stating confidentiality concerns, but the [manager] pressed on by stating that because this was not a clinical setting, confidentiality did not exist. The counselor again refused. This pressuring of a licensed counselor to divulge confidential information is at best a careless breach of trust into the Wellness program and, at worst, an ethics and possible legal violation.
Before we continue, we must unequivocally state that confidentiality does exist for these sessions. Because these counselors are licensed and required to keep confidentiality in their personal practices, there is an expectation of privacy prior to engagement. In order for that confidentiality to not exist, the patient must sign a confidentiality and HIPAA waiver prior to any sessions having taken place. The receiver of the care must be made fully aware that there is no confidentiality. Neither Facebook, Accenture, nor WeCare can remove confidentiality post facto from any previous session. If these entities wish for confidentiality to cease to exist in these sessions, they must have every single person utilizing these resources to sign a waiver. However, forcing us to sign away our confidentiality could open all counselors to losing their license due to ethics diligence set out by their governing boards. It could be very difficult for WeCare to run a multi-million dollar business contracting to Facebook if their counselors begin to fear losing their licenses AND workers stop utilizing this resource due to lack of confidentiality. Facebook, Accenture, and WeCare may try to feign ignorance or implement common liability limiting language in their response. We hope all parties do not succumb to these common and repeated trends, and instead do what is right instead of what you are legally allowed to get away with.
In order for workers to feel safe when divulging information to these counselors, we are requesting the following:
[Accenture] Manger: The manager who pressed the counselor for confidential medical information must be removed from the project immediately. To do any less would be Facebook, Accenture, and WeCare condoning breaches in medical confidentiality. Allowing the pressuring of a licensed counselor into committing an act [that] could strip the counselor of their credentials must be addressed swiftly.
Affirm Confidentiality: Facebook must affirm that wellness interactions with WeCare counselors and Wellness Champs have been and always will be confidential within the necessary safety reporting standards. To do any less would throw the validity of all wellness interactions into question, make it impossible for WeCare to deliver care, and most importantly would open all licensed counselors to losing their licenses and possible litigation for delivering counseling under false pretenses of confidentiality. Anything less than clinical confidentiality will lead to HIPAA violations by all parties.
Restructure Wellness Program: Any and all changes to the wellness program will be negotiated by and announced by WeCare and their [Facebook account manager] signing off on it. Any changes made to wellness procedures outside this chain of command will be unenforceable and seen as vendors overreaching their authority.
Before Facebook, Accenture, and WeCare launch their independent investigations into these claims against the [manager], we would like to thank everyone involved for their due diligence in this matter.
Since the beginning of writing this letter we became aware that [a different manager] that the above [manager] reports to is now pressuring these counselors to divulge more confidential information. This is no longer an isolated incident but a systemic top-down problem plaguing Accenture management. This must be addressed as soon as possible. Unless all entities involved address this issue properly and swiftly, they will open themselves up to a plethora of HIPAA violations that are incredibly financially punitive. Until FB affirms confidentiality has always and will always exist in those sessions we implore everyone to stop utilizing the licensed wellness counselors. If Accenture management is trying to use WeCare to gather information on workers, we as workers cannot in good faith trust that anything we say to a licensed counselor could not then be used to have us terminated.
If you would like to work with us in our efforts to ensure wellness confidentiality, the integrity of the wellness program, and the general wellbeing of [contingent workers], please send an email to [REDACTED].
Rolfe Lowe, an attorney of the firm Wachler & Associates who specializes in health care law and HIPAA compliance, told The Intercept that the incident as described likely didn't constitute a HIPAA violation.
''We're a body in a seat, and they don't acknowledge the work we do.''
The letter, already viewed thousands of times, prompted a quick reply from an outsourcing manager at Facebook corporate, who claimed that an internal investigation had found ''no violation or breach of trust between our licensed counselors and a contracted employee,'' though he added that the company will ''continue to address this with Accenture to ensure everyone is handling this appropriately,'' and that the team's ''wellness coaches'' will receive a ''refresh'' on what they ''can and can't share.''
A Facebook spokesperson didn't answer specific questions posed about the allegations but provided a statement:
''All of our partners must provide a resiliency plan that is reviewed and approved by Facebook. This includes a holistic approach to wellbeing and resiliency that puts the needs of their employees first. All leaders and wellness coaches receive training on this employee resource and while we do not believe that there was a breach of privacy in this case, we have used this as an opportunity to reemphasize that training across the organization.''
Accenture provided this statement:
These allegations are inaccurate. Our people's wellbeing is our top priority and our trust-and-safety teams in Austin have unrestricted access to wellness support. Additionally, our wellness program offers proactive and on-demand counseling and is backed by a strong employee assistance program. Our people are actively encouraged to raise wellness concerns through these programs. We also review, benchmark and invest in our wellness programs on an ongoing basis to create the most supportive workplace environment '' regularly seeking input from industry experts, medical professionals and our people.
According to workers interviewed by The Intercept, hundreds of moderators at Facebook Austin sometimes share a single counselor for their shift. Some of them doubt that Facebook takes their well-being seriously: ''We're trash to them,'' said one moderator. ''We're a body in a seat, and they don't acknowledge the work we do.'' Facebook is ''largely responsible for any trauma reps experience, from a moral standpoint,'' according to another moderator. ''They just wanted to further remove themselves from responsibility for making our lives hell.''
One source familiar with the mental health situation in Austin, speaking on the condition of anonymity fearing retaliation, described a ''toxic environment'' where traumas compound and multiply as contractors are exposed to deeply disturbing imagery day in and day out while being denied meaningful care: ''People are afraid to take a wellness break for 10 minutes because they're gonna have hell to pay.''
The same source said that Austin moderators had at one point been encouraged by WeCare counselors to talk among themselves when struggling with mental anguish '-- ''to just turn to their neighbor, and just start connecting, talk, take a walk, do something just to connect and disconnect from the screen. And that worked really well for a lot of people.'' But this practice was soon banned by Accenture, the source said, because it cut into the time that could be spent clearing the queue of disturbing content; Accenture, the source said, told moderators that they could stretch their legs in an adjacent parking garage, but not stray any further outside the office.
Similar cuts have been made to counselor access: Multiple Accenture sources told The Intercept that moderators could previously count on 45 minutes every week with a counselor, or two hours a day for those viewing images of child sexual abuse, with a minimum quota of one visit per quarter. Today, moderators find themselves barred from even this scant mental health care unless ''their productivity was high enough for that day,'' said one of the sources, regardless of whether they'd spend all day reviewing Ku Klux Klan memes or acts of rape. ''Management's idea of wellness is that it needs to be as minimal as possible,'' added another Accenture source, ''because any time not in production is seen as bad.''
Neither Facebook nor Accenture responded to questions about these allegations beyond their general denials.
All of this has led to what one source familiar with the situation described as an ''abysmal'' mental health climate in Austin, where moderators are subjected to psychological horrors and then left feeling disposable and vulnerable. In some cases, the moderators are ''poor, they're felons, they're people that don't have any other options,'' said the source. ''They're uneducated folks. How are we supposed to assume that they know how to and when to ask for help? Or even that there's a problem?'' But even with some semblance of financial security and mental health-savvy, this source doubts that anyone stands a chance in the long term: ''No one should have to consume high levels of content with graphic violence, hate, gore, sexual abuse, child abuse, brutality, animal abuse, porn, self-mutilation and more at these rates, without proper mental health resources and advocates, and be expected to function normally.''
DeepMind's Losses and the Future of Artificial Intelligence | WIRED
Sun, 18 Aug 2019 15:10
Alphabet's DeepMind lost $572 million last year. What does it mean?
DeepMind, likely the world's largest research-focused artificial intelligence operation, is losing a lot of money fast, more than $1 billion in the past three years. DeepMind also has more than $1 billion in debt due in the next 12 months.
Does this mean that AI is falling apart?
WIRED OPINIONABOUTGary Marcus is founder and CEO of Robust.AI and a professor of psychology and neural science at NYU. He is the author, with Ernest Davis, of the forthcoming Rebooting AI: Building Artificial Intelligence We Can Trust.
Not at all. Research costs money, and DeepMind is doing more research every year. The dollars involved are large, perhaps more than in any previous AI research operation, but far from unprecedented when compared with the sums spent in some of science's largest projects. The Large Hadron Collider costs something like $1 billion per year and the total cost of discovering the Higgs Boson has been estimated at more than $10 billion. Certainly, genuine machine intelligence (also known as artificial general intelligence), of the sort that would power a Star Trek''like computer, capable of analyzing all sorts of queries posed in ordinary English, would be worth far more than that.
Still, the rising magnitude of DeepMind's losses is worth considering: $154 million in 2016, $341 million in 2017, $572 million in 2018. In my view, there are three central questions: Is DeepMind on the right track scientifically? Are investments of this magnitude sound from Alphabet's perspective? And how will the losses affect AI in general?
On the first question, there is reason for skepticism. DeepMind has been putting most of its eggs in one basket, a technique known as deep reinforcement learning. That technique combines deep learning, primarily used for recognizing patterns, with reinforcement learning, geared around learning based on reward signals, such as a score in a game or victory or defeat in a game like chess.
DeepMind gave the technique its name in 2013, in an exciting paper that showed how a single neural network system could be trained to play different Atari games, such as Breakout and Space Invaders, as well as, or better than, humans. The paper was an engineering tour de force, and presumably a key catalyst in DeepMind's January 2014 sale to Google. Further advances of the technique have fueled DeepMind's impressive victories in Go and the computer game StarCraft.
The trouble is, the technique is very specific to narrow circumstances. In playing Breakout, for example, tiny changes'--like moving the paddle up a few pixels'--can cause dramatic drops in performance. DeepMind's StarCraft outcomes were similarly limited, with better-than-human results when played on a single map with a single ''race'' of character, but poorer results on different maps and with different characters. To switch characters, you need to retrain the system from scratch.
In some ways, deep reinforcement learning is a kind of turbocharged memorization; systems that use it are capable of awesome feats, but they have only a shallow understanding of what they are doing. As a consequence, current systems lack flexibility, and thus are unable to compensate if the world changes, sometimes even in tiny ways. (DeepMind's recent results with kidney disease have been questioned in similar ways.)
Deep reinforcement learning also requires a huge amount of data'--e.g., millions of self-played games of Go. That's far more than a human would require to become world class at Go, and often difficult or expensive. That brings a requirement for Google-scale computer resources, which means that, in many real-world problems, the computer time alone would be too costly for most users to consider. By one estimate, the training time for AlphaGo cost $35 million; the same estimate likened the amount of energy used to the energy consumed by 12,760 human brains running continuously for three days without sleep.
But that's just economics. The real issue, as Ernest Davis and I argue in our forthcoming book Rebooting AI, is trust. For now, deep reinforcement learning can only be trusted in environments that are well controlled, with few surprises; that works fine for Go'--neither the board nor the rules have changed in 2,000 years'--but you wouldn't want to rely on it in many real-world situations.
Little Commercial SuccessIn part because few real-world problems are as constrained as the games on which DeepMind has focused, DeepMind has yet to find any large-scale commercial application of deep reinforcement learning. So far Alphabet has invested roughly $2 billion (including the reported $650 million purchase price in 2014). The direct financial return, not counting publicity, has been modest by comparison, about $125 million of revenue last year, some of which came from applying deep reinforcement learning within Alphabet to reduce power costs for cooling Google's servers.
Deep reinforcement learning could be like the transistor, a research invention that changed the world, or it could be a ''solution in search of problem.''
What works for Go may not work for the challenging problems that DeepMind aspires to solve with AI, like cancer and clean energy. IBM learned this the hard way when it tried to take the Watson program that won Jeopardy! and apply it to medical diagnosis, with little success. Watson worked fine on some cases and failed on others, sometimes missing diagnoses like heart attacks that would be obvious to first-year medical students.
Of course, it could simply be an issue of time. DeepMind has been working with deep reinforcement learning at least since 2013, perhaps longer, but scientific advances are rarely turned into product overnight. DeepMind or others may ultimately find a way to produce deeper, more stable results with deep reinforcement learning, perhaps by bringing it together with other techniques'--or they may not. Deep reinforcement learning could ultimately prove to be like the transistor, a research invention from a corporate lab that utterly changed the world, or it could be the sort of academic curiosity that John Maynard Smith once described as a ''solution in search of problem.'' My personal guess is that it will turn out to be somewhere in between, a useful and widespread tool but not a world-changer.
Nobody should count DeepMind out, even if its current strategy turns out to be less fertile than many have hoped. Deep reinforcement learning may not be the royal road to artificial general intelligence, but DeepMind itself is a formidable operation, tightly run and well funded, with hundreds of PhDs. The publicity generated from successes in Go, Atari, and StarCraft attract ever more talent. If the winds in AI shift, DeepMind may be well placed to tack in a different direction. It's not obvious that anyone can match it.
Meanwhile, in the larger context of Alphabet, $500 million a year isn't a huge bet. Alphabet has (wisely) made other bets on AI, such as Google Brain, which itself is growing quickly. Alphabet might change the balance of its AI portfolio in various ways, but in a $100 billion-a-year revenue company that depends on AI for everything from search to advertising recommendation, it's not crazy for Alphabet to make several significant investments.
Concerns of OverpromisingThe last question, of how DeepMind's economics will affect AI in general, is hard to answer. If hype exceeds delivery, it could bring on an ''AI winter,'' where even supporters are loath to invest. The investment community notices significant losses; if DeepMind's losses were to continue to roughly double each year, even Alphabet might eventually feel compelled to pull out. And it's not just the money. There's also the lack of tangible financial results thus far. At some point, investors might be forced to recalibrate their enthusiasm for AI.
It's not just DeepMind. Many advances promised just a few years ago'--such as cars that can drive on their own or chatbots that can understand conversations'--haven't yet materialized. Mark Zuckerberg's April 2018 promises to Congress that AI would soon solve the fake news problem have already been tempered, much as Davis and I predicted. Talk is cheap; the ultimate degree of enthusiasm for AI will depend on what is delivered.
For now, genuine machine intelligence has been easier to hype than to build. While there have been great advances in limited domains like advertising and speech recognition, AI unquestionably still has a long way to go. The benefits from sound analysis of large data sets cannot be denied; even in limited form, AI is already a powerful tool. The corporate world may become less bullish about AI, but it can't afford to pull out altogether.
My own guess?
Ten years from now we will conclude that deep reinforcement learning was overrated in the late 2010s, and that many other important research avenues were neglected. Every dollar invested in reinforcement learning is a dollar not invested somewhere else, at a time when, for example, insights from the human cognitive sciences might yield valuable clues. Researchers in machine learning now often ask, ''How can machines optimize complex problems using massive amounts of data?'' We might also ask, ''How do children acquire language and come to understand the world, using less power and data than current AI systems do?'' If we spent more time, money, and energy on the latter question than the former, we might get to artificial general intelligence a lot sooner.
More Great WIRED StoriesHow the West got China's social credit system wrongTour the factory where Bentley handcrafts its luxury ridesHow to reduce gun violence: Ask some scientistsIt Came From Something Awful blames 4chan for TrumpSeeing through Silicon Valley's shameless ''disruption''''¨ Optimize your home life with our Gear team's best picks, from robot vacuums to affordable mattresses to smart speakers.ðŸ'(C) Want more? Sign up for our daily newsletter and never miss our latest and greatest stories
Trump has asked aides if it's possible to buy Greenland, sources say
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 03:23
(C) Pool President Donald Trump has on multiple occasions brought up buying Greenland from the Danish government and the White House counsel's office has looked into the possibility, two sources told CNN on Thursday.
Trump's interest in buying Greenland was first reported on Thursday by The Wall Street Journal. The Journal reported that people familiar with the deliberations said the President has raised the issue during meetings and dinners, asking aides and listening seriously about the possibility and advantages of owning Greenland. He also asked his White House counsel to research the matter, according to two of the people.
Two of the people also told the Journal that Trump's aides were divided on the issue, with some praising it as solid economic strategy and others dismissing it as a passing fancy.
CNN has contacted the White House and the State Department for comment.
Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory, is home to Thule Air Base, the US military's northernmost base, located about 750 miles above the Arctic Circle and built in 1951. The radar and listening post features a Ballistic Missile Early Warning System that can warn of incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles and reaches thousands of miles into Russian territory.
Aides expressed both expectation and reservation at the President's still-unclear interest in the idea and had questions about the island's military and research potential, the Journal reported. They pointed to those outside the administration floating a Greenland purchase as a potential legacy-builder for Trump, similar to President Dwight Eisenhower's statehood for Alaska, the paper added.
According to the Journal, one person described a dinner last spring where Trump told associates he had been advised to look into buying Greenland because Denmark faced financial trouble from supporting the territory.
"What do you guys think about that?" Trump asked the room, the person told the paper. "Do you think it would work?"
The person told the paper that Trump's comments seemed like more of a joke about his power than a genuine question. The person thought that the President was interested in Greenland due to its natural resources.
Trump's attempt would not be the first American effort to buy Greenland. Though President Harry Truman dodged questions about his pursuit of control in the region, the United States allegedly tried to buy Greenland in 1946, and in 1867, Secretary of State William Seward showed interest in purchasing the island.
Report: President Trump Wants to Buy Greenland
Sat, 17 Aug 2019 15:27
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'Do you think it would work?' he asked associates
Posted Aug 16, 2019 2:49 AM CDT
(Newser) '' President Trump has been talking about buying an island that could become America's biggest'--and least populous'--state, insiders say. Sources tell the Wall Street Journal that the president has repeatedly asked advisers "with varying degrees of seriousness" about the possibility of buying Greenland from Denmark. One insider says Trump told associates at a dinner last spring that he had been told Denmark has been struggling with the cost of assisting the semi-autonomous island and he should consider buying it. "What do you guys think about that?" the source says he asked associates. "Do you think it would work?" Greenland, which lies east of the Canadian Arctic, has a population of fewer than 58,000 people in 811,000 square miles. It also has an American air base with around 600 personnel.
The idea met with ridicule online, though it isn't completely unprecedented, the Washington Post notes. President Harry Truman offered Denmark $100 million for Greenland in 1946, and President Andrew Johnson considered buying both Greenland and Iceland in 1867. In 1917, the US bought the Danish West Indies for $25 million and renamed them the US Virgin Islands. "This idea isn't as crazy as the headline makes it seem," tweeted GOP Rep. Mike Gallagher. "This a smart geopolitical move. The United States has a compelling strategic interest in Greenland, and this should absolutely be on the table." There's been no official comment yet from Denmark, which Trump is due to visit next month in a trip apparently unrelated to his Greenland ambitions. (Read more Greenland stories.)
My Take on This Story
Show results without voting |
Buying Greenland isn't a good idea '-- it's a great idea
Sat, 17 Aug 2019 15:31
| August 17, 2019 12:00 AM
The reaction to President Trump's sudden interest in buying Greenland from Denmark has been mostly one of derision. And Denmark, which owns the territory, appears to oppose any sale.
But don't laugh '-- an American purchase of Greenland could represent an extraordinary deal in terms of America's national security, economic interests, and environmental protection.
As much as it might seem out of the blue, U.S. acquisition of Greenland is not at all a strange or irrational idea. Following Denmark's fall to Nazi Germany in 1940, American forces defended Greenland. The roots of American-Greenland comradeship are thus old and formal. In 1946, one Harry S. Truman even attempted to purchase Greenland for $100 million. Was Truman crazy? On the contrary, he was the president who ended a global war and set America on its ultimate course to defeat the Soviet Union.
As for the contemporary utility of purchasing Greenland, it has extraordinary strategic value. Through the U.S. Air Force base already present at Thule, Greenland offers critical intelligence capabilities to conduct satellite operations and to detect possible over-the-North-Pole nuclear missile launches from China or Russia. Thule better allows the U.S. to warn its citizens of an imminent attack.
And it does more than that. Thanks to Thule's deep water port and long runway, the base provides a logistics hub for operations in the Arctic. And it gives the U.S. military the means to deter and defeat prospective aggression. Russia, in particular, has been working to secure territorial control over resource-rich areas of the Arctic. America's presence in Greenland is increasingly relevant for that reason.
The purchase of Greenland would further strengthen these existing national security benefits. Unbound from political sensitivities in Denmark, for example, the U.S. could station missile forces in Greenland, including intermediate range missile forces. Russia's Arctic ambitions would have to be put on ice.
Greenland also abounds with resources. An already energy independent U.S. would have unfettered access to a land rich not only in hydrocarbons but also in rare earth metals that are currently only available from an adversary, China. Greenland also controls flourishing fishing waters.
But this isn't just about American interests. Greenland's small population also has everything to gain from a massive influx of American investment. The surge in tourism alone would surely offer a vast untapped potential.
And Greenland offers many grand opportunities for environmental protection. Its waters are home to numerous species of Whale, its lands to numerous species of flower and animals, and its skies to numerous species of birds. Greenland offers the potential for vast new designated wildlife reserves, and it would give American scientists the chance to study the Arctic environment from a unique vantage point.
As odd as it might sound at first blush '-- and America's purchase of Alaska also seemed very odd at the time '-- Americans of all political stripes would benefit from Greenland and its 56,000 inhabitants joining our national family.
Trump wants to buy Greenland
Specifically, they report that “in meetings, at dinners
and in passing conversations, Mr. Trump
has asked advisers whether the U.S. can
acquire Greenland, listened with interest when they discuss its abundant resources and geopolitical importance
and, according to two of the people, has
asked his White House Counsel to look into the idea.”
They also report
that “some of his advisers have supported the
concept,” though others dismiss it as an unrealistic flight of fancy.
The truth is that
though it sounds kind of silly, it makes perfect sense if you happen to share Trump’s
indifference to environmental issues and
indigenous rights.
Greenland is
believed to contain a lot of natural resource wealth that is difficult to exploit due to the large
amounts of ice and permafrost in the
But the planet is
getting warmer. A vision of American public policy that is neither interested in halting the
warming process nor concerned about the
environmental impact of exploring the resources would naturally want to acquire such a potentially
rich land. Many Americans, of course, do
not share that policy philosophy, but it is very much the Trump worldview.
But the practical
problem is that Greenland is not for sale — and there is no indication that Greenland’s inhabitants
want to see their island strip-mined by
“We are open for
business, but we’re not for sale,” the island’s
foreign minister, Ane Lone Bagger, told Reuters when it called for
some follow-up reporting.
EU Commission president hospitalized for urgent surgery - press service - Emergencies - TASS
Sun, 18 Aug 2019 12:11
BRUSSELS, August 17. /TASS/. President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has had to cut his holiday in Austria short and has been rushed to a hospital in Luxembourg to have his gallbladder removed, the European Commission's press service reported on Saturday.
"President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker had to shorten his holiday in Austria for medical reasons. He was taken back to Luxembourg where he will undergo an urgent cholecystectomy (surgical removal of the gallbladder)," the statement reads.
The term of 64-year old Juncker in the office will expire on October 31, he will be succeeded by German Ursula von der Leyen. Earlier, Juncker already mentioned his intent to retire from politics after leaving his post.
Trump Labor Department rule would let religious employers discriminate - Vox
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 15:33
The Trump administration caused an uproar Wednesday for proposing a policy that would give certain federal contractors the right to discriminate against people who don't share their employer's religious views.
''Unconscionable,'' ''shameless,'' and ''dangerous'' were just a few of the reactions from lawmakers and civil rights advocates over the religious-exemption rule that seemed, in particular, to target LGBTQ employees. Patricia Shiu, who oversaw the federal contracting office under President Barack Obama, described it to Vox as shocking.
The proposed rule from the Department of Labor dramatically transforms the government's decades-old policy that bars federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on their race, sex, religion, disability, or national origin. It would instead weaken these protections by expanding the policy's one exemption: the religious exemption.
Religious organizations '-- such as a Catholic legal aid group, for example '-- are already allowed to reject certain job candidates of different faiths. The new rule would go far, far beyond that, letting Catholic-affiliated businesses fire an LGBTQ employee because their views on same-sex marriage conflict with Catholic teachings. Or fire a pregnant woman who is unmarried.
The new rule would gut anti-discrimination protections in a ''major and transformational way,'' Shiu, who is now an advisor for the Berkeley Center on Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law, told Vox. ''It's so startling.''
While the rule seems to target LGBTQ individuals, as most religious exemption policies do, it's so broad that it creates a loophole for employers to discriminate against anyone, Shiu said. She points out that big contractors could ask for a religious exemption so they don't have to hire women, by saying that their religion dictates that women cannot work outside the home.
The Labor Department has played down this possibility, saying in its proposal that employers can't use religion as an excuse to discriminate against protected groups. Right now, LGBTQ workers aren't explicitly protected by federal anti-discrimination law, but even if they were, it would be awfully hard for an employee to prove that a company is using the exemption as a cover to discriminate.
The proposed change is, above all, a political move. By targeting the LGBTQ community, President Donald Trump is showing his support for the fundamentalist evangelical Christians who make up his base of support. These groups, which oppose same-sex marriage, have been fighting for years to weaken protections for LGBTQ Americans.
The new labor rule, explainedMore than 42,000 US businesses hold federal contracts, and all of them agree to follow certain rules to keep their lucrative deals with the government. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed Executive Order 11246, which prohibited contractors from discriminating against people on the basis of race '-- similar to protections Congress gave to individuals as part of the Civil Rights Act. At the time, many federal contractors would not hire black employees, so the goal was to make sure that taxpayer-funded contracts only go to businesses with integrated workforces.
Later on, the executive order would expand protections to employees based on other protected characteristics, such as a person's sex, religion, national origin, or disability. In 2014, Obama's labor department expanded it further to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The religious exemption was meant to be super narrow. Past administrations have interpreted it to apply only to nonprofit organizations, such as churches or social service groups, and these groups could only turn away employees who don't belong to their faith.
Trump's executive order interprets that exemption far more broadly to include a much larger group of employers, such as for-profit companies that have a religious affiliation (St. Jude's Hospital, Goodwill, and Georgetown University, for example).
The new rule also explicitly creates a broader definition of the word ''religion.'' Instead of viewing religion as a particular organized religion, the government would now include ''all aspects of religious belief, observance, and practice as understood by the employer.'' That language is very vague.
But here is the most concerning line in the 46-page document: The rule would ''clarify that the religious exemption allows religious contractors not only to prefer in employment individuals who share their religion, but also to condition employment on acceptance of or adherence to religious tenets as understood by the employing contractor.''
In other words, not only could a religious hospital that contracts with the government refuse to hire someone who is Muslim or Jewish, they could also refuse to hire someone in a same-sex marriage or fire someone who had sex before marriage.
Conservative groups are pushing the limits of religious freedomSome religious groups have been trying to weaken anti-discrimination laws at every level.
The US Pastors Council and Texas Values, two nonprofit evangelical groups, filed multiple lawsuits in county and federal court in October, claiming that Christian businesses and churches have a constitutional right to fire '-- or not hire '-- LGBTQ workers.
One lawsuit challenged the federal Civil Rights Act, which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against job candidates and workers based on their religion, sex, gender, or race. Two other lawsuits sought to strike down part of an Austin, Texas, city ordinance that prohibits employers from discriminating against similar groups, and explicitly includes protections based on ''sexual orientation'' and ''gender identity.''
In one of the lawsuits against the city of Austin, lawyers for Texas Values said the organization will not comply with the law. ''Texas Values will not hire or retain practicing homosexuals or transgendered people as employees, because their lifestyles are contrary to the biblical, Judeo''Christian understandings of sexuality and gender that Texas Values seeks to promote,'' they wrote in the complaint.
The federal lawsuit was dismissed in March; the county case is still pending.
The lawsuits marked a new front in the evangelical battle against the LGBTQ civil rights movement. Both right-wing Texas groups were also outspoken in the fight against the spread of so-called ''bathroom bills,'' which allow transgender individuals to use public restrooms designated for their identified gender.
Two Supreme Court cases foreshadowed thisIn one of the Texas cases, the US Pastors Council argued Christian employers are allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ workers based on protections in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The federal law, enacted in 1993, sets a high standard for government legislators when writing laws that might burden a person's right to exercise their religion. The act states that such a law must further a ''compelling government interest'' and must be tailored to minimize the burden on individual religious practices.
The law has generally been used to analyze other laws that might infringe on an individual's religious freedom. But in a controversial 2014 ruling, the US Supreme Court extended the protection to Christian-owned corporations. In that case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts store chain challenged the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate, which required businesses to offer health insurance plans that covered the cost of birth control.
David Green, the evangelical owner of Hobby Lobby, objected to the mandate on the grounds that he was religiously opposed to paying for employees' use of a form of contraception known as the ''morning-after pill.'' He considered this type of contraception similar to abortion.
The Supreme Court narrowly ruled in his favor, in a 5-4 decision. Justice Samuel Alito, in writing the majority opinion, said that the federal government had a compelling goal in crafting Obamacare's contraceptive mandate: giving women free access to family planning services. But Alito argued that the government could achieve that goal without infringing on a business owner's religious views. The government, for example, could pay for the contraception, or provide an exemption to businesses whose owners object to contraception on religious grounds.
The ruling was the first time the Supreme Court had extended the act's individual religious freedom protection to a for-profit company.
That's why the case raised so much alarm among LGBTQ advocates, who viewed it as potentially opening the door for businesses to discriminate against gay and transgender employees on the grounds that an employer is exercising religious beliefs.
However, in response to these concerns, Alito made clear that the court's decision did not mean businesses could do such a thing. ''This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to '... provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice,'' Alito wrote in the majority opinion.
That same view was reiterated in the court's 2018 ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which a Colorado cake shop owner refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, based on the owner's religious objection to same-sex marriage.
Though the court ruled in favor of the business owner, the majority said it did so because the Colorado government showed clear anti-religious bias when handling the case. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, made clear that religious beliefs do not justify discrimination against LGBTQ individuals.
Our society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth. For that reason the laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must, protect them in the exercise of their civil rights. The exercise of their freedom on terms equal to others must be given great weight and respect by the courts.
The problem with these rulings and with the latest labor department rule is that it will be almost impossible for marginalized workers to prove illegal discrimination: Employers could simply justify their actions by pointing to their religious beliefs.
Shiu, who led the federal contracting office from 2009 to 2016, said the new rule is completely unnecessary. She said no federal contractors ever asked for a religious exemption to justify firing someone (or to refuse hiring someone) when she was the director.
''It's a terrible solution in search of a problem,'' she told Vox.
Mercedes-Benz Releases Diversity Ad Campaign Featuring Mustachioed Drag Queen In An Evening Gown | The Daily Caller
Sun, 18 Aug 2019 11:51
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Mass Shooters
Breaking911 on Twitter: "JUST IN: Coroner says Dayton gunman had cocaine, alcohol, anti-depressants in his system during the mass shooting that killed 9 - AP" / Twitter
Thu, 15 Aug 2019 20:26
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What's behind the dubious claim that psychiatric drugs fuel mass shootings? | PolitiFact
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 15:24
One question hangs over every mass shooting: How could a person plot and execute such horrific violence? In the search for answers, psychiatric drugs have emerged as a culprit.
One viral list that gets to the heart of this belief catalogues several dozen assailants and the psychiatric medicine they were said to be on.
For example, the list includes the case of Eric Harris, one of the Columbine High School shooters, who the Washington Post confirmed had been prescribed the antidepressant Luvox. Likewise, the New York Times confirmed that Jeff Weise, a Minnesota teen who in 2005 killed nine before killing himself, and whose name also appeared on the list, had been prescribed Prozac.
Many readers pointed to this list and another story to push back against our fact-checking of misinformation after the attacks in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. But experts say we shouldn't presume a causal link based on such a relatively small number of cases. More broadly, they told us there is no convincing research that prescription medication fuels violence.
Some 42 million Americans have taken antidepressants, a class of psychiatric drug that is often alleged to have a link to violence. That's around 13% of the U.S. population, with higher rates for women (16.5%) and people over the age of 60 (19%), according to 2017 data from the National Center for Health Statistics.
But mass shooting incidents, while tragic, happen less frequently than would be expected if psychiatric drugs were the cause, experts say. The number of mass shootings in the United States depends on how you count. A Washington Post database, which defines mass shootings as four or more people killed, counts 165 such incidents since the tally began in 1966, an average of about three per year.
"If there was a connection or link, one would expect it to be pronounced, or at least much greater than we are seeing," said Dr. James Knoll, director of forensic psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical University. "Why do we not see increased violence in women? People over 60?"
At many readers' urging, we took a closer look at the roots of this recurring claim.
A Church of Scientology-affiliated theory
Readers pointed us to a 2018 report from the Citizens Commission on Human Rights International. The commission bills itself as a watchdog of the mental health industry, and its report creates the impression that a cause-and-effect relationship exists between prescription drugs and violence.
Co-founded by the Church of Scientology, the commission is widely seen as a manifestation of Scientology's antipathy toward the psychiatric field. L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology's founder, helped launch the commission in 1969 after his dreams of seeing Scientology replace psychiatry fizzled, Stephen Kent, a sociologist at the University of Alberta who studies new religion, told an NPR affiliate station.
To its credit, the commission has performed some successful oversight of the mental health field. For instance, in the 1970s it helped to shine a spotlight on a dangerous treatment known as "deep sleep therapy" that was being administered at an Australian hospital and killed 25 patients. But as a Daily Beast investigation shows, the commission has also endorsed fringe theories, like the notion that psychiatry was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and the Holocaust.
A number of readers sent us a link to the commission's 2018 report as proof that psychiatric drugs cause mass shootings. The report's title, "Psychiatric Drugs: Create Violence & Suicide," makes it easy for readers to draw this conclusion '-- and the impression is reinforced by section headings like "Violence: Psychotropic Drugs' Best Kept Secret," "Psychiatric Drugs Create Hostility, Aggression & Suicide" and "School Shootings: The Missing Link."
But the thrust of the report doesn't support a cause-and-effect relationship.
The authors allow that "there can be numerous reasons for mass murder, violent crime and suicide." On page 23 of the document they characterize the relationship between psychiatric treatment and violence not as one of cause and effect, but correlation.
It describes psychiatric drugs as a "common denominator" in many recent mass shootings. As support, it cites dozens of cases where people who were said to have been on psychiatric drugs when they committed acts of violence against others and/or themselves.
Based on feedback from our readers, it's clear that many interpret the report as proof that psychiatric drugs are responsible for mass violence.
But six experts we spoke to '-- a mix of psychiatrists and specialists on crime and violence '-- said a causal link has not been scientifically established.
Knoll, of the SUNY Upstate Medical University, said psychological autopsies of public mass shooters show the assailants' disturbed feelings were present before taking medication.
Such psychological studies tend to show the shooters were motivated by deep resentment, self-centeredness and ideologically driven hate, plus a desire to "leave a mark on history, even if an obscene one," he said.
"They do not complain of medication side effects '-- many are not even on them '-- or of medications 'inserting' murderous compulsions into their heads," Knoll added.
Law enforcement officials block a road at the scene of a mass shooting at a shopping complex Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (AP)'‹
Dr. Gwen Adshead, a forensic psychotherapist in England and an expert on the psychology of violent behavior, said that in her view there is no evidence that psychiatric medicine is linked to mass shootings. In fact, she said, in many cases the argument gets the causal relationship backwards.
"Most people who commit these kinds of acts of severe violence are only prescribed medication because of their horrible thoughts, moods, and ideas," she said. "Further, the majority of people who carry out these acts are not known to any mental health service."
One study included in the commission's report is based on an analysis of adverse reactions to prescription drugs that doctors or patients have reported to the Food and Drug Administration. Based on these self-reports, researchers found that 25 psychiatric drugs '-- 11 antidepressants, six sedative/hypnotics and three attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drugs '-- were disproportionately associated with violence.
But Knoll cautioned against ascribing too much weight to self-reported cases of adverse reactions.
If an association between medication and violence were established either through research or overwhelming anecdotal reports, the FDA would remove a product from the market. But this has never happened for antidepressants, he said. And as we've previously reported, there's no scientifically meaningful link between the ADHD treatment Ritalin and school shootings.
"Most people likely do not understand that just because something is reported to the FDA," Knoll said, "it does not mean that this was a scientific finding."
Internet fever swamps say Obama death squad suppressed the truth
The second source many readers cited comes from the website AmmoLand.
The April 2013 post, which carries the headline, "Every Mass Shooting Shares One Thing In Common & It's NOT Weapons," lists names of shooters and psychiatric drugs they are said to have been prescribed. Prescription drugs are the "single largest common factor," it argues.
The post was written by Dan Roberts, whose bio describes him as a grassroots gun rights supporter. Roberts did not respond when prompted for a comment.
The AmmoLand article claims that gun manufacturer John Noveske posted the list to Facebook days before he died under suspicious circumstances. The author strongly insinuates that Noveske, 36, was killed for exposing the link between prescription drugs and mass-casualty shootings.
Another variation holds that then-President Barack Obama ordered Noveske's killing to send a message to gun rights activists, according to a Mother Jones report that investigated the claim.
But an Oregon State Police report of Noveske's Jan. 4, 2013, fatal automobile accident makes no mention of suspected foul play. The police report said Noveske lost control of his car while traveling on an Oregon highway before striking two large boulders. The vehicle rolled and ejected Noveske, who according to police, was not wearing a seatbelt.
The AmmoLand article contains a list of several dozen attackers and their alleged prescription drugs '-- the same list Noveske is said to have posted. We were unable to locate the original Facebook post Noveske is said to have authored, so the true origins of the list remain murky.
While a desire to blame psychiatric medication for gruesome acts of violence is understandable, it doesn't reflect what is known about the true motivation behind mass shootings, Knoll said.
"It is much more satisfying to point at a pill and say, 'There! That's what caused it!' " he said. "It is less satisfying to think about how severe selfishness, resentment and desire for infamy are simply a part of the broad range of human nature."
Dayton Gunman Had Drugs in His System, Coroner Says - WSJ
Sun, 18 Aug 2019 14:31
Toxicology report found cocaine, alcohol, antianxiety drug in Connor Betts's system
Connor Betts had cocaine, alcohol and an antianxiety drug in his system when he opened fire on a crowded street in Dayton, Ohio, in the early hours of Aug. 4, killing nine people, including his own sister, the Montgomery County coroner said.
A ''one-hit'' pipe and plastic bag found on Betts also contained cocaine, Dr. Kent Harshbarger said at a news conference on Thursday on his initial findings. He didn't elaborate on any drug levels.
Connor Betts had cocaine, alcohol and an antianxiety drug in his system when he opened fire on a crowded street in Dayton, Ohio, in the early hours of Aug. 4, killing nine people, including his own sister, the Montgomery County coroner said.
A ''one-hit'' pipe and plastic bag found on Betts also contained cocaine, Dr. Kent Harshbarger said at a news conference on Thursday on his initial findings. He didn't elaborate on any drug levels.
Betts, 24 years old, suffered gunshot wounds to his torso and upper and lower extremities, primarily around the bulletproof vest he was wearing, Dr. Harshbarger said.
All nine victims in the shooting had gunshot wounds from Betts's AR15-style pistol, but Dr. Harshbarger said two victims were also hit by police fire. These shots were received after they already had been fatally shot by Betts, the coroner said.
''Depending on the position of the police officers, the moving assailant, fleeing victims and the dynamics of the physical environment itself'--all over a very short period of time'--there is a danger in shooting, and there is a danger in not shooting,'' Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said.
''It is a dynamic and chaotic environment,'' Chief Biehl said, adding that if the officers had not opened fire when they did, many more individuals would have also died.
Betts was gunned down by fast-acting police officers stationed in the popular downtown area within 30 seconds of opening fire.
His motive is still unknown, but Chief Biehl said earlier this week that ''There's a history of obsession with violence and violent ideations, discussion of and interest in mass shootings and interest in carrying out a mass shooting.''
Authorities in El Paso, Texas, also released more details Thursday about the deadly mass shooting there, which took place barely 13 hours before Betts began shooting.
El Paso police officials released a photo of a man they are hoping to speak with because of his ''heroic'' actions the day a gunman killed 22 people in a crowded Walmart .
''Our only concern is to get an account of that day,'' a police spokesman said. ''Without question he did help save lives that day by his actions.''
On social media, the officials asked for help identifying the man, who is seen wearing a blue checkered shirt and a baseball cap.
''We don't know the reason he's not coming forward,'' the spokesman said. ''He might not be aware we need to speak to him.''
Write to Talal Ansari at
Austin Slammed By Crippling Ransomware Attack | Zero Hedge
Sun, 18 Aug 2019 11:18
A coordinated ransomware attack has affected at least 20 local government entities in Texas, the Texas Department of Information Resources said. It would not release information about which local governments have been affected.
The Texas Division of Emergency Management is coordinating support from other state agencies through the Texas State Operations Center at DPS headquarters in Austin, according to KUT News.
City employees scrambling in the aftermath of the attack.
Press secretary for the department, Elliot Sprehe, said DIR was working to confirm which government entities are affected and which ones are still standing.
"It looks like we found out earlier today, but we're not currently releasing who's impacted due to security concerns,'' he said.
KUT tried to contact the city of Austin for more details about the attack but the city refused to release any more information.
The Department of Information Resources advises jurisdictions that have been impacted to contact their local Texas Department of Emergency Management Disaster District Coordinator. DIR says it's committed to providing the resources necessary to bring affected entities ''back online.''
Of course, this isn't the only major ransomware attack to inflict a major southern city in recent months:The City of Atlanta was hit with a crippling ransomware attack last spring, and Baltimore got hit with an attack that will cost the city nearly $20 million when it's all said and done.
Khan claims Pakistan 'doesn't fear death,' as Modi maintians stony silence '-- RT World News
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 15:26
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has escalated his no-holds-barred verbal assault on nuclear rival India, as tensions once again reach boiling point over the disputed territory of Kashmir.
In recent days, Khan warned the Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that ''no force can stop'' Pakistan from achieving its goals, adding that India will ''fail miserably in its attempt to smother the Kashmiri liberation struggle.''
Also on India vowed not to use nukes first, but that may change one day '' defense minister Khan's comments began during Pakistan's Independence Day on Wednesday, when he visited Pakistan-administered Azad Jammu and Kashmir to express solidarity with Muslims in the region. He has ramped up the war of words on Twitter ever since, culminating in a tweetstorm on Friday.
''The fascist, Hindu supremacist (Narendra) Modi government should know that while armies, militants and terrorists can be defeated by superior forces; history tells us that when a nation unites in a freedom struggle and does not fear death, no force can stop it from achieving its goal,'' Khan proudly declared.
The fascist, Hindu Supremacist Modi Govt should know that while armies, militants & terrorists can be defeated by superior forces; history tells us that when a nation unites in a freedom struggle & does not fear death, no force can stop it from achieving its goal.
'-- Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) August 16, 2019He also took aim at the international community on Thursday, tweeting about the potential for a ''Srebrenica-style massacre'' in Kashmir following the Indian government-imposed communications blackout.
Meanwhile, Indian media is reporting that New Delhi's response to the slew of verbal tirades from the Pakistani PM has been ''stinging silence.''
The standoff comes after India revoked Article 370 of its constitution which afforded special status and semi-autonomy to the Jammu and Kashmir region. It has since enforced trade barriers, cut off transport links and ordered a communications blackout in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
During a 92-minute speech marking India's Independence celebrations on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not mention Pakistan once, in marked contrast to Imran Khan's Pakistan Independence Day speech the previous day.
Also on India rejects Pakistan army's claim of 5 Indian soldiers dead in border clashes in Kashmir Modi did, however, address the situation in Kashmir, saying that ''fresh thinking'' is needed after seven decades of failure to ensure peace in the region. ''We do not believe in creating problems or prolonging them,'' he said.
On Thursday, yet more violence broke out along the disputed border region, with claims from both sides that they inflicted casualties on their opponents met with denials.
According to the Pakistani military, at least three of its soldiers and five Indian soldiers died in an exchange of gunfire. Delhi denies the events even took place.
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Opportunity Zones
Note from OZ producer
Opportunity zone fund manager and project developer, here. I know OZs inside
and out.
Fact: 8,764 Opportunity zones in the US and territories ( all of Puerto Rico is
a OZ)
Texas has 628 of these zones.
Zones were designated by state governors, who could only pick 25% of their
eligible census tracts.
Eligible census tracts are declining census tracts, where property values were
declining, unemployment is high, wages low.
Strict rules on OZ Qualified Property.
"Significant Improvement rule"
Requirement to put 100% +$1 of purchase price of the property into improvements
within a strict time line. Example: Buy a $1M building, have 31 months to put
atleast $1M +$1 into capital improvements into that property. Roofs, windows,
system upgrades.
Also there is the "Original Use" rule, cannot tear down or change the
use of a building unless it has been vacant for atleast 5 years. This prevents
someone from buying an occupied apartment building, kicking everyone out,
bulldozing the place and building a highrise in its place.
With property values so high, and the significant improvement rule, only the
shittiest structures work.
It's just not feasible to purchase a decent property at market rate, and then
put an equal amount in improvements; unless that property is a compleat slum.
Vacant property how ever doesnt have the significant improvement rule as the
basis cost of the land is not calculated, and there is no original use to worry
Adam you said your home is located within an OZ, and you just recently
purchased it; is there anyway within 31 months your could also put 100% of what
you bought the property for, in improvements? Unless you bought a board up
crack house, I'm gonna assume the answer is no.
For this reason, I do not believe the OZ program is making anyone homeless to
any significant amount, and over all is infact bringing new residential units
online, freeing up market supply.
You want to know what is making people homeless? Its technology! In the form of
access to cheap, effective background checks. People who repeatedly exhibit
anti social behaviors can no longer hide from their past.
Been evicted a time or two? have terrible credit, violent or sexual criminal
history? Landlords can review your entire life, with only $12, social security
number, and an internet connection.
In tight housing markets where a vacant rental will receive dozens of
applications in a day or two, why would any landlord take a gamble on any less
that stellar applicant?
Reasonable persons move to cheaper cost of living locations when rents are too
high for them. The "I lost my job at the factory and now I'm living in a
box under a bridge" is bullshit. Government safety nets, particularly for
women and children are well funded, numerous, and wide spread. Look at the VASH
program for veterans; there is absolutely no shortage of resources for housing
veterans. The problem is no landlord wants to take on a known problem tenant.
This country doesnt have a shortage of housing, or a shortage of $ to house
people, this country has a shortage of landlords who are willing to be
repeatedly kicked in the teeth by; tenant caused damages, and noise complaints,
drug dealers, vandalism, bed bugs, mental health nutcases, fights, arsonists,
and people who shit in the swimming pool.
Cheers gents!
& OZs are going to be huge!
IRS estimated there is $4.7 Trillion in unrealized capital gains eligible for
this program; perspective the IRS only collects about $3.2 Trillion each year.
The real play is in venture capital, as there is OZ Qualified Businesses! There
is absolutely no reason for VCs to not require the companies they invest in to
be located in OZs.
The upside is paying 0% capital gains at exit.
People are already shitting on the streets outside Twitter, are they really
afraid to have offices a different neighborhood?
California's Biggest Cities Confront a 'Defecation Crisis' - WSJ
Sat, 17 Aug 2019 14:42
Lawmakers ban plastic straws as a far worse kind of waste covers the streets of San Francisco and L.A.
They say there's a smartphone app for everything, and doubters should know there are now at least two dealing with excrement on the sidewalks of San Francisco. The city has its official SF311 app, part of its ''San Francisco at your Service'' program, and last year a private developer introduced Snapcrap, which allows residents to upload a photo of an offending specimen directly to the SF311 website. This alerts the city's new five-person ''poop patrol,'' which will follow up, presumably, with a smile.
Then there are the maps....
They say there's a smartphone app for everything, and doubters should know there are now at least two dealing with excrement on the sidewalks of San Francisco. The city has its official SF311 app, part of its ''San Francisco at your Service'' program, and last year a private developer introduced Snapcrap, which allows residents to upload a photo of an offending specimen directly to the SF311 website. This alerts the city's new five-person ''poop patrol,'' which will follow up, presumably, with a smile.
Then there are the maps. At least three maps charting the location of ''poop complaints'' in the city have been assembled, the latest and best by the nonprofit Open the Books. Their map shows most of the city covered by brown pin dots, each marking a report to the Department of Public Works.
The website dubs San Francisco ''the doo-doo capital of the U.S.'' They noted that the city's poop reports almost tripled between 2011 and 2017.
The problem draws attention because the poop increasingly comes not from dogs but from humans. In partial defense of his city, Curbed SF's Adam Brinklow explains that the reports submitted to the city didn't distinguish between human and dog excrement, and that there were 150,000 dogs and fewer than 10,000 homeless people within city limits. But he admits that homelessness was probably the leading edge of the problem in San Francisco as well as Los Angeles, where 36,000 people live on the streets, and many do their business there.
The majority of the nation's homeless people now live in California. There are myriad causes at work, no doubt. But there was no ''defecation crisis'''--a term usually associated with rural India'--in the 1930s, even with unemployment at 25%, vagabonds roaming the country, and shantytowns and ''Hoovervilles'' springing up everywhere. Today's homeless and the hobos of the Great Depression are different in many ways. The triple scourges of drug abuse, mental illness and family breakdown have produced anomie and derangements far deeper than those seen in the 1930s, when the widely shared nature of the economic and psychological distress provided its own grim comfort.
In California at least, one is struck by the contrast between the fastidious attention paid to the social duty of scooping up and disposing of dog feces, and the rather more paralyzed and guilty reaction to the plague of human feces. The former is treated as a moral imperative among the enlightened'--and the thin plastic bags used as the means to this moral end have so far escaped the fate of plastic straws, well on their way to being outlawed as an environmental outrage. Even social-justice warriors don't consider it their personal duty, however, to tidy up after their fellow human beings on the streets.
Confronted on the sidewalk with a nasty fait accompli, most people are indignant. But the questions they then ask often diverge. Those of a more traditional disposition might wonder, ''What is wrong with these people?'' Those of a more progressive mind-set might exclaim, ''Why hasn't the government designed a program to solve this?''
Each is sincere, and society will have to try to answer both to make things better. But it's the former inquiry, prepared to make some difficult and unfashionable moral distinctions, that needs encouragement in deep-blue California. ''Homeless'' was originally an adjective. It became a collective noun, denoting the victims of homelessness, only later, under the influence of the 20th century's confidence that the first step in solving a social problem is to name it. Not all problems are social, however, and few if any social problems can be ''solved,'' in the strong sense of the term.
Without wishing to return to the Elizabethan Poor Laws, we ought to consider what was lost when the courts discouraged Americans from thinking of ''homelessness'' in light of the old laws against vagrancy. Under that understanding, no one had a right to camp out indefinitely on public property, much less to defecate on it. Public property belonged to the public'--to everyone'--and couldn't be privatized for the benefit of one or more vagrants, however poor or sick. Though that principle would need to be applied to modern circumstances, it is the indispensable starting point for thinking about the shocking problems of the Golden State.
Mr. Kesler is editor of the Claremont Review of Books, from whose summer issue this is adapted.
The Squad
BDS movement condemns Israel's decision to prevent U.S. Congresswomen's visit | BDS Movement
Sun, 18 Aug 2019 11:34
Israel is blocking Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilham Omar from visiting the Occupied Palestinian Territory due to their support for Palestinian freedom. We call for cutting U.S. military aid to Israel.
The Palestinian-led BDS movement condemns the far-right Israeli government's McCarthyite decision to prevent Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar from visiting the Occupied Palestinian Territory over their support for Palestinian freedom. We call for cutting US military aid to Israel. Israel's far-right government, with Trump's collusion, has again put itself on par with apartheid South Africa in the past, and other rogue regimes in the present. As its decades-old regime of military occupation and apartheid is exposed to the world, and as the BDS movement for Palestinian rights continues to grow worldwide, Israel is desperately intensifying its McCarthyite war on BDS and on people of conscience who stand in solidarity with our pursuit of freedom, justice and equality. We salute Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, and we call for escalating pressure on Congress to implement the Leahy Law, which conditions US military aid to other governments on their respect for human rights, by cutting US military aid to Israel.
Stay updated! Sign-up for news, campaign updates, action alerts and fundraisers from the BDS movement.
Free Energy
US Navy Regards Electromagnetic Propulsion & Tesla Shield Patents as Operable >> Exopolitics
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 13:39
The US Navy has for the second time in a year intervened to support a patent application for an exotic propulsion system technology lodged by one of its employees, Dr. Salvator Pais, which had been rejected by the US Patent and Trademark Office. The Drive's Brett Tingley comprehensively examines many details of Dr. Pais' proposed invention, and why the Navy has intervened to support two of his applications.
The first time the Navy intervened concerned Dr. Pais' patent application for a ''Hybrid Aerospace-Underwater Craft'' (HUAC), which would generate a quantum vacuum (electromagnetic bubble) around the craft enabling it to move through air and water at tremendous velocities. Here's how Tingley summarized the HUAC's capabilities:
In the Navy's patent application for the HUAC, it's claimed that the radical abilities of propulsion and maneuverability are made possible thanks to an incredibly powerful electromagnetic field that essentially creates a quantum vacuum around itself that allows it to ignore aerodynamic or hydrodynamic forces and remove its own inertial mass from the equation. Thus, the ability to generate such high-frequency electromagnetic waves is key to the alleged abilities of this theoretical hybrid craft that can soar near effortlessly through air and water at incredible speeds with little to no resistance or inertia.
The HUAC application was rejected on November 28, 2017 until the Navy's Chief Technical Officer of the Naval Aviation Enterprise, James Sheehy, intervened on behalf of Dr. Pais, which I discussed in a previous article. The patent was eventually granted a year later on 12/4/2018.
However, another of Pais revolutionary patent applications, for a ''Piezoelectricity-induced Room Temperature Superconductor'' was also initially rejected by the patent examiner as explained by Tingley:
Nevertheless, Pais' room temperature superconductor patent was rejected under 35 U.S.C. 101 because the examiner determined ''the disclosed invention is inoperative and therefore lacks utility'' and that ''no assertions of room-temperature superconductivity have currently been recognized or verified by the scientific community.''. That code states that patents will be granted only for ''any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.''
According to the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) code 2164.07, patents are rejected on these grounds in cases ''when the examiner concludes that an application claims an invention that is non-useful, inoperative, or contradicts known scientific principles.''
Once again, Dr. Sheehy intervened and on 11/27/2018 wrote a letter to the patent examiner where he stated:
I am familiar with the above referenced patent application (and related amendment), as well as the development, usage and properties of the piezoelectricity-induced room temperature superconductor. That as a result of my education and career, I am regarded as a subject matter expert and can be considered ''a person of ordinary skill in the art'' in the subject matter of the above patent application.
That the invention described in the above referenced patent application is operable and enabled via the physics described in the patent application and the peered reviewed paper described in the Inventor Amendment.
A slide from Pais' 2019 presentation ''Room Temperature Superconducting System for use on a Hybrid Aerospace-Undersea Craft.'' Source: Brett Tingley
Sheehy's reference to the patent application as ''operable and enabled'' is highly significant, as observed by Tingley:
At the heart of these questions is the term ''operable.'' In most patent applications, applicants must assert proof of a patent's or invention's ''enablement,'' or the extent to which a patent is described in such a way that any person who is familiar with similar technologies or techniques would be able to understand it, and theoretically reproduce it.
However, in these patent documents, the inventor Salvatore Pais, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division's (NAWCAD) patent attorney Mark O. Glut, and the U.S. Naval Aviation Enterprise's Chief Technology Officer Dr. James Sheehy, all assert that these inventions are not only enabled, but operable.
In short, Pais and his employer are claiming his inventions actually work. In addition to Sheehy's letter of support, a letter was also written on behalf of Pais by his patent attorney Mark Glut who emphasized the room temperature superconductor invention was both ''operable and enabled''.
On June 6, 2019, Pais and Glut had a telephone interview with the rejecting Patent Examiner, Paul Wartalowicz. Tingley discovered through Freedom of Information Act requests that the appeal to overturn the latest rejection is ongoing.
In addition to the HUAC discussed earlier, another successful patent is the ''The High Energy Electromagnetic Field Generator (HEEMFG)'' which is essentially an electromagnetic forcefield. The patent's significance was explained by Tingley:
In the patent for the HEEMFG, the technology is described as being able to create what is essentially a force field straight out of science fiction, one that could generate ''an impenetrable defensive shield to sea and land as well as space-based military and civilian assets, protecting these assets from such threats as Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles, Radar Evading Cruise Missiles, Top Attack for Main Battle Tanks (land and sea-based systems), as well as counteracting the effects of solar-induced Coronal Mass Ejections or defending critical military satellites in an ASAT [anti-satellite] role (space based system).
The similarity to Nikola Tesla's electromagnetic shield is striking. Back in the 1930's, Tesla proposed an electromagnetic shield based on scalar waves, explained as follows:
Scalar Waves can be warped into a dome around objects, such as cities or houses (publishing companies included). Such a Scalar Wave force field is generally known as a Tesla Shield, and it would be analogous to the ''shields'' referred to in the popular ''Star Trek'' series. Tesla Shields have a definite defensive application, and could not in any way be used for offensive purposes (although a platoon of soldiers charging into a Tesla Shield would be instantly disintegrated). The only defense from a blast of a Scalar Wave Howitzer would be a Tesla Shield.
Tesla Shield. Illustration by Hal Crawford
In sum, there are three patents that have been successfully awarded so far to Pais where the Secretary of the Navy is the assignee. In chronological order, these are the HEEMFG shield whose full title is the ''Electromagnetic Field Generator and method to generate an Electromagnetic Field'' (granted 11/20/2018. a ''Craft using an inertial mass reduction device'' (granted 12/4/2018), and the ''High Frequency Gravitational Wave Generator''(granted 06/18/2019).
To date, the patents granted to Pais have met with considerable scientific skepticism. Tingley interviewed Dr. Mark Gubrud, a physicist at the University of North Carolina, who said the following about the room temperature superconductor patent application:
Pais's patents flow as an intimidating river of mumbo-jumbo that most trained physicists would recognize as nonsense, although many might simply disengage in confusion, and there are always some who might even be credulous. Of what, however, is hard to say, as it is not really clear what Pais is even claiming, apart from the room-temperature superconductor which, if it were true, would be huge news.
Pais deploys fairly sophisticated babble to make this sound plausible to those who know what real physics sounds like, but don't understand much of it. Which is likely to include most patent examiners, journalists, and Pais's own enablers in the Navy.
In bringing his article to a close, Tingley reached the following conclusion:
If the Navy has indeed managed to develop operable room temperature superconductors and electromagnetic force fields, these technologies would revolutionize warfare in ways not seen in centuries, or maybe even ever, not to mention leading to paradigm changes in civilian technology. Yet the largest question remains: if the Navy indeed possesses these technologies, or even thinks they are obtainable in the near term, why make the patents public?
Tingley ponders a number of possibilities including Pais' patent applications being part of a sophisticated Navy disinformation campaign to throw China and other US military competitors off the track.
Among these possibilities, is one that is close to the truth based on my research into US Navy and Air Force Secret Space Programs which have been documented in two books respectively available here and here.
Tingley states:
It's also at least worth considering that some breakthroughs in highly exotic propulsion might have been made and that the Navy is willing to invest big bucks into seeing them progress further. Maybe those advances happened many years ago and only now is the Pentagon willing to slowly disclose them.
This is precisely what I believe is happening with Pais' patent applications. The US Navy is letting the world know about technologies that have been secretly researched and developed decades ago, and put into operation in classified space programs.
This is the reason why Pais, Sheehy and Glut all assert that the room temperature superconductor (along with Pais' other inventions) is operable and enabled. We are being told the Navy has already developed these technologies in secret space programs, and it's time for conventional scientists to wake up to the truth and for commercial companies to start developing these technologies for the civilian aerospace industry.
Further Reading
US Navy Disclosing Secret Space Program Technologies through Patents SystemTrump & Congress briefed on US Navy Pilot UFO Sightings '' The Connection to Space Force & DisclosureUS Navy Pilot reports of UFOs go mainstreamNavy Admiral describes Reverse Engineering program involving extraterrestrial spacecraftThe Admiral Wilson Leaked UFO Document & Corporate Reverse Engineering of Alien TechnologyNew Book! US Air Force Secret Space Program '' Shifting ET Alliances & Space Force Tags: Brett Tingley, exotic propulsion, James Sheehy, Navy Secret Space Program, Salvator Pais, Tesla Shield
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VIDEO - Hong Kong protests: More than 100,000 march peacefully - BBC News
Sun, 18 Aug 2019 12:19
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption Hong Kong demonstrators on why they're still protestingMore than 100,000 people are holding another day of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, amid increasingly severe warnings from the Beijing authorities.
Activists and police have clashed over the past 10 weeks, but this weekend's rallies have so far been peaceful.
The protests were sparked by an extradition bill, which has since been suspended by the Hong Kong government.
China, which has built up security forces in nearby Shenzhen, has likened the protests to terrorist activity.
The protest organisers, the Civil Rights Human Front, were denied authorisation for a march through the city, but police have allowed Sunday's demonstration in Victoria Park.
The South China Morning Post newspaper tweeted a time lapse photo of the park filling up.
One of the marchers, named as Mr Wong, told the BBC's Lam Cho Wai at the scene: "We have been fighting for more than two months, but our government has no response at all. We could just come out again and again."
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption How Hong Kong got trapped in a cycle of violenceLarge crowds also marched in the nearby areas of Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Wan Chai in defiance of the police ban.
Protesters seek to boost supportStephen McDonell, BBC News, Hong Kong
Heavy driving rain did not dissuade people of all ages from attending, filling Victoria Park then spilling out to occupy major roads in all directions.
Subway railway stations were forced to close after being clogged with protesters heading to the rally.
Though permission to march was not granted by the authorities, the sheer weight of numbers around the park has meant that activists had to move into Hong Kong's streets spreading across eight lanes at a time.
After increasingly violent clashes in recent weeks there's been a concerted effort to win back broad public support in the push for democratic reforms here by placing a greater focus on larger peaceful gatherings.
How have recent protests unfolded?The violence has intensified in the past few weeks, and police have frequently fired tear gas and rubber bullets.
Last weekend activists occupied the airport, leading to hundreds of flights being cancelled. There were further clashes with police on Tuesday.
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Media caption The BBC's Stephen McDonell observed the new quick-moving tactics of police against protesters on SaturdayThe turmoil has plunged one of Asia's leading financial centres into crisis. Many businesses remained closed on Sunday, amid fears of further violence.
What is Beijing saying?The Chinese government hardened its rhetoric following the airport unrest, condemning it as "behaviour that is close to terrorism".
It was the second time in a week that Chinese officials have publicly likened the protests to terrorist activity.
Some observers believe that the repeated use of such language suggests that China is losing patience with the protesters and signals that an intervention by Beijing is increasingly likely.
Thousands of armed police have been stationed across the border in Shenzhen.
What is the movement about?It was sparked by a bill that would allow extradition from Hong Kong the Chinese mainland.
Critics argue that the proposal would undermine the territory's judicial independence and could be used to target those who speak out against the Chinese government.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Sunday's protest began in Victoria park The former British colony has a special status, with its own legal system and judiciary, and rights and freedoms not seen in mainland China.
The bill - announced by the government in February - was suspended following mass rallies in June. But the protesters want it withdrawn altogether.
They are also demanding democratic reform and an investigation into alleged police brutality.
More background on the protests
Image copyright Reuters What questions do you have about Hong Kong? Let us know and a selection will be answered by a BBC journalist.
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VIDEO - The many colours of Pride: Green | Mercedes-Benz Canada - YouTube
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VIDEO - Harry Markopolos is one of many to accuse GE of faulty accounting, says Ajamie LLP's Tom Ajamie - YouTube
Sat, 17 Aug 2019 15:07
VIDEO - Harry Markopolos explains fraud accusations against GE - YouTube
Sat, 17 Aug 2019 15:02
VIDEO - (4) Madoff whistleblower Harry Markopolos details fraud allegations against General Electric - YouTube
Sat, 17 Aug 2019 14:44
VIDEO - AOC: Trump Supporters Not Educated Enough to Recognize Their Own Racism | Breitbart
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 23:50
This week on Crooked Media's ''Pod Save America,'' Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said many of President Donald Trump's supporters were not educated enough on racism to understand the policies they support are racist.
Ocasio-Cortez said, ''It's not about asking are Trump voters racist. We need to talk about racism, not racists. Racist '-- it's a very two-dimensional, boring conversation. Is something racist, yes or no.''
She continued, ''We need to talk about racism, its contours, its histories, where it manifests, how it's used, because like all winning political phenomena, whether good or bad in your opinion, they rely on collation building. So Trump relied on a coalition, and a core part of that coalition were racists building a collation with all sorts of other people that could be susceptible to racist views'--if they were blankets and layered and made people feel good about it not being a racist thing.''
She added, ''So there are a lot of people that support Trump that genuinely don't believe that they are racist because we do not talk about or educate people on recognizing racism. And because we do not do that we get caught in this debate of is something racist. Then people use their defensiveness, and they say, 'Well, it's not racist because I'm not racist and I believe this thing because it's economic in nature.'''
Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN
VIDEO 21mins - Marianne Williamson in San Francisco | Marianne 2020
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 16:12
Updates directly from our team
Let's Create This.This campaign is about forging a new political possibility in America. It's about all of us working together to create a rising tide of citizen activism and activation. It's not just about electing a candidate. It's about you....your power....and your world.
VIDEO - Obama has taken active interest in Biden's campaign: report | TheHill
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 15:15
Former President Obama has taken an active interest in Joe Biden Joe BidenWarren leads Democratic field by 5 points in Wisconsin: poll O'Rourke says Trump 'terrorizing' immigrants in campaign relaunch speech Harris wins endorsement of former CBC Chair Marcia Fudge MORE 's presidential campaign, even holding a lunch with his former vice president last month, according to a report in The New York Times.
Obama also summoned top members of Biden's campaign to his Washington, D.C., home earlier this year for a briefing on Biden's communications and digital media strategies ahead of the former vice president's campaign launch.
Obama is not endorsing a candidate in the Democratic presidential primary, where polls show Biden is the front-runner.
He has pledged to stay neutral in the race and has made few forays into political life. An exception came last month when Obama warned against political leaders who give support to white supremacy and white nationalists, remarks that came after a deadly shooting in El Paso, Texas. The suspect in that shooting allegedly targeted Hispanics.
But the Times report states that Obama is watching Biden's campaign closely and has offered advice at different times.
The former president has reportedly urged Biden's campaign to include younger advisers, and the Times reported that Obama is frustrated with some of Biden's closest advisers, who he perceives as out of touch with the younger activist base of the Democratic Party.
Obama asked two Biden aides '-- spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield and former White House communications adviser Anita Dunn '-- to visit with him in March for a briefing on its strategy. Afterwards, the Times reported that Obama told the aides they should make sure that Biden does not ''embarrass himself'' or ''damage his legacy'' while running for president.
Biden has tied himself closely to Obama in his campaign, and his popularity, particularly with African American voters, has been largely attributed to his years in the Obama White House.
In a Fox News poll published Thursday, Biden held first place overall with 31 percent of the vote compared to his closest competitor, Sen. Elizabeth Warren Elizabeth Ann WarrenWarren leads Democratic field by 5 points in Wisconsin: poll The danger of using race and politics to declare guilt or innocence Harris wins endorsement of former CBC Chair Marcia Fudge MORE (D-Mass.), who has moved into second place at 20 percent.
VIDEO - Racial wealth gap: If black families had the wealth of white ones, it would add $1.5 trillion to economy -- report - CBS News
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 14:52
Ray Dalio: Wealth gap a "national emergency"
The typical black family in America has one-tenth the wealth of the typical white family'--and that gap has been widening since 2004. Closing the racial wealth gap would add $1.5 trillion to the entire U.S. economy, according to a new report from McKinsey. "This is not something that affects only one community," the report's author said.The typical white family in America has 10 times the wealth of a typical black family'--a figure that has barely changed in two decades and has actually widened in the current economic expansion.
This persistent, and growing, disparity has become a pressing issue for Democrats, with four presidential hopefuls making their case in June at the Black Economic Alliance Forum and a House Judiciary subcommittee debating reparations for slavery just this summer.
But it's also infiltrating corporate America. The consulting firm McKinsey this week issued an estimate of just how much the historic and current discrimination against African-Americans is hurting the broader economy. That estimate: Somewhere between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion.
If black families were as wealthy as white ones, in other words, America's economy would benefit from the addition of "between 4 and 6 percent of the projected GDP in 2028," according to the report.
This gap shows itself in many ways. The most valuable possessions the bulk of Americans own is their homes. But black Americans, who were kept out of homeownership by local and even federal policy through much of the 20th century, are much less likely to own their homes today. When they do own, black Americans disproportionately own houses in poorer neighborhoods with lower home values and get less favorable mortgage terms than white Americans.
How black farmers were forced from their land"The racial wealth gap is a reflection of long-term policies and practices by both the public and private sectors that have systematically disadvantaged black, Latinx and Native communities in favor of white Americans," Nina Banks, a professor of economics at Bucknell University, said via email.
As the Atlantic reported this week, federally sanctioned farm policies throughout the 20th century dispossessed 1 million black farmers of their land. Black people today have more college debt, less access to banking services and lower pay than their white counterparts.
All this contributes to the state of affairs in which the typical white family is worth about $171,000, while the typical black family is worth $17,600. And because the wealth (or poverty) Americans are born into determine their earning power, wealth inequity carries across to incomes, with white Americans earning $1 million more over a working lifetime than their black counterparts.
This doesn't hurt just black Americans, McKinsey said, but creates an overall drag on the economy. The upside is that reducing that inequity is likely to be an overall positive on the economy, said Jason Wright, a partner at McKinsey and one of the authors of the report.
"That's not just the money in black pockets, that's the entire economy '-- dollars in the hands of African-Americans, being distributed to people of all types, all businesses, all over the country," he said.
The fact that an elite corporate consultancy is taking up an inequality issue long relegated to nonprofits and community activist groups has caused a bit of surprise.
Historian says billionaires should stop talking philanthropy, start talking taxes"It's an interesting moment that a group that most of us would think of as pretty mainstream and not having any particular agenda on this issue is highlighting it," said Sam Brooke, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center's economic justice division. "The fact that they're taking it up shows how nonthreatening and beneficial to everyone these proposals can be."
However, Brooke went on, closing the gap won't happen without targeted policies'--something unlikely to happen in the current administration, he said.
"We continue to see policies that are put in place that continue to have a disparate effect on black Americans," he said, including efforts to restrict access to public housing for people who have criminal convictions, as well as to make it harder to bring cases of housing discrimination
"This is also an issue that government needs to get behind on. It's not something that we could look to the private sector and say, if only there were access to good [interest] rates, we would fix this."
Banks, the Bucknell professor, said it was "noteworthy that the issue of the racial wealth gap has been taken up by a mainstream consultancy," but added that the central concern should be on achieving racial equity'--not economic benefits.
VIDEO - Trump rally New Hampshire: President tells man to exercise adding 'our movement is a movement of love' | indy100
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 14:44
During a campaign rally, president Donald Trump fat-shamed a protestor, then just eight seconds later, he said his movement was built on 'love'.
About halfway through the rally, which was being held at the Southern New Hampshire University Arena in Manchester, NH, a protestor high up in the stadium interrupted Trump's speech, attracting the president's attention.
Speaking at the rally, Mr Trump said to the protestor:
That guy has got a serious weight problem. Go home, get some exercise.
Then, in true Trump style, eight seconds later, he added:
Our movement is built on love.
Security personnel then proceeded to escort the protestor out of the arena, while at the same time, the rest of the rally booed, reports the Huffington Post.
According to other reporters in attendance, three more protestors were also escorted from the event. Mr Trump used his speech to hit out at the European Union, accusing it of being " worse than China, just smaller" .
MORE: Man filmed punching protester outside Trump rally in Ohio
He also attempted to reassure his supporters about the state of the US economy, despite the volatile nature of the stock market at present - Dow Jones recently recorded its worse day of the year - , and he told rally-goers that their financial security is dependent upon his re-election in 2020, reports the Evening Standard.
Emphasising his point, he said:
Whether you love me or hate me you have to vote for me.
The US leader also advocated for the number of facilities to house people suffering from mental health issues to be expanded, without suggesting how it would be paid for.
Speaking to the gathered crowd, he said:
We will be taking mentally deranged and dangerous people off of the streets so we won't have to worry so much about them.
We don't have those institutions anymore, and people can't get proper care. There are seriously ill people and they're on the streets
HT Huffington Post
More: Stephen King just destroyed Trump's fresh border wall claims with three words
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VIDEO - Virgin Islands Senator: Epstein Evidence 'May Have Been Lost'
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 14:32
Evidence of Jeffrey Epstein's crimes and operations ''may have been lost,'' warned U.S. Virgin Islands Sen. Oakland Benta (D) in a Monday interview on SiriusXM's Breitbart News Tonight with host Rebecca Mansour and special guest host Matt Boyle. ''What's going on here is what should have happened a long time ago,'' said Benta of federal authorities investigating an island owned by Epstein. '' As a result of all that has transpired, the federal government decided [to investigate] now, whether it's too late or not '-- because there have been so many people on the island since Mr. Epstein has been incarcerated and, at the same time, there's valuable information, evidence-wise, that we may have lost.''
Benta added, ''What's going on is that they have seized the island, and they're moving forward and doing, probably, what you call asset forfeiture, as far as securing what they can.''
Elements of the U.S. Virgin Islands' government were complicit in Epstein's crimes, determined Benta.
Benta remarked, ''I do pray that once the investigation has taken place, as a result of so many people within this territory who are the leadership of this government, of this territory, hiding behind curtains as parasites, and '... bringing young ladies to our shores from elsewhere and destroying their lives at will, with passion, without consideration for the child's soul. And many individuals who participated in these acts are fathers themselves; they have children as well.''
''I'm very upset that our very government leadership, stewardship of this government, who are part of it '-- participated and turned a blind eye for financial gain,'' stated Benta.
Mansour asked if the U.S. Virgin Islands' ''reputation of being used as a tax shelter'' is related to Epstein's involvement with the territory.
Benta explained, ''What has happened with this is the members who are responsible to make sure that the individuals who came in [to the U.S. Virgin Islands] under the program [of economic development] were legitimate, that they, in fact, had the resources as far as what was put on paper, and that they were vetted through Interpol as well as the State Department.''
Benta continued, ''What ended up happening was that cash became the access for turning a blind eye and allowing the fraudulent acts to take place on the territory by individuals who did not have what they said they had, and in hiding all of this in hedge funds as they did it, and manipulating and controlling the government of the Virgin Islands. And some senators, who they financed as far as campaigns and other things, a blind eye was turned, and of course, here comes the tax evasion and the fraud '... by hiding all that they said they had by fraudulent acts. It was all a scam.''
Breitbart News Tonight broadcasts live on SiriusXM Patriot channel 125 weeknights from 9:00 p.m. to midnight Eastern or 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Pacific.
Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter @rkraychik .
VIDEO - (3) Bill Maher on Twitter: "This is the new trick in Democratic politics, dig up something your opponent said decades ago that looks bad by today's standards and pretend that's mic-drop evidence of your awesome moral superiority. #ESPCP #WokeAF ht
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 13:43
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VIDEO - deadFwd on Twitter: "@THErealDVORAK @adamcurry I read about this earlier in the week. Bet someone sub consciously glanced at it and remembered" / Twitter
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 13:32
Welcome home! This timeline is where you'll spend most of your time, getting instant updates about what matters to you.
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Spread the word The fastest way to share someone else's Tweet with your followers is with a Retweet. Tap the icon to send it instantly.
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VIDEO - Portland mayor issues warning to protesters planning violence - YouTube
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 13:22
VIDEO - Man accused of carrying numerous weapons into downtown Austin park | KXAN
Fri, 16 Aug 2019 12:28
AUSTIN (KXAN) '-- A man was arrested Wednesday after allegedly carrying several weapons into a downtown Austin park.
Austin police responded to the call around 1:32 p.m. at Pease Park off North Lamar Boulevard. A witness called and said they saw the suspect, 23-year-old Dalton Broesche, pulling a semi-automatic weapon out of the backseat of his car.
According to official court documents, police located him walking through the park carrying a loaded nine millimeter handgun, an extra magazine for the pistol, an expandable metal baton, two knives, a flashlight and black gloves.
Once confronted, police reported that he also took officers to a wooded spot in Pease Park where he had hidden the fully-loaded, AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle. The rifle was carrying a magazine loaded with 30 rounds of ammunition.
''I think his intentions were bad,'' said UT senior Iris Karami. Karami was one of the callers who alerted the authorities. ''It's easy and it's normal to be scared, but how you react is going to determine what is going to happen to you, your family and other people.''
Broesche was taken into custody and charged with two counts of unlicensed carrying of a weapon for a pistol and a baton found in his possession. Police say Broesche also had an outstanding warrant for his arrest in Harris County.
''Officers did an excellent job of responding to this situation and taking Broesche into custody without incident while also keeping everyone at the park safe.''
Austin Police DepartmentPolice booked Broesche into Travis County Jail where is currently facing a $55,000 bond.
''A great park''People at Pease Park were shocked to hear Wednesday's news. Noah Flores, a counselor for ATX Kids Club, said he takes his campers to the park almost every day.
''I want them to feel safe, I want them to be comfortable because that's how they have fun,'' Flores said.
Flores said the El Paso shooting is still top-of-mind, which keeps him on high alert.
''I have to look around, make sure there is no one suspicious, no one dangerous. I'm going to have to be more vigilant,'' Flores said.
Even with this recent Austin arrest, Flores said he will continue to take his campers to the park.
This is a pretty good neighborhood and a great place for children,'' Flores said. ''This is a great park and I'd hate to see it's name tarnished.''
Carrying in TexasIn Texas, you can openly carry guns in public, but there are rules.
If you're carrying long guns and rifles, it must be done in a safe, non-threatening manner. You don't need a license.
For a handgun, you can carry it openly, but you need a license. Handguns must be carried in a shoulder or belt holster.
If you're carrying on a college campus, it has to be concealed.
Remember, these laws apply to public places. Private businesses can enforce their own restrictions. People convicted of certain crimes can't carry a gun.
VIDEO - Norah O'Donnell makes remarks on sexual harassment during story about Placido Domingo | Daily Mail Online
Thu, 15 Aug 2019 20:23
CBS Evening News anchor Norah O'Donnell was caught saying, 'Sounds like somebody else here' when discussing sexual harassment allegations made against opera singer Placido Domingo.
O'Donnell was overheard during a segment of the report in which the Spanish opera star said he believed all his past relationships were welcomed and consensual.
The Emmy Award-winning host could be heard on a hot mic apparently saying: 'Sounds like somebody else here.' just shortly before the camera returned back to her and she concluded the news item.
The comment was subsequently deleted from the audio when the clip was uploaded to the CBS.
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CBS Evening News anchor Norah O'Donnell was caught saying 'Sounds like somebody else here' when discussing sexual harassment allegations made against opera singer Placido Domingo
O'Donnell was overheard during a segment of the report in which the Spanish opera star said he believed all his past relationships were welcomed and consensual
The television network had to respond to sexual assault allegations against some of its own employees previously.
Charlie Rose was fired in 2017 following a string of sexual misconduct allegations.
Last December, CBS settled lawsuits with three women who claim they were harassed by presenter Charlie Rose.
Brooks Harris, Sydney McNeal and Chelsea Wei have agreed payouts with CBS which has not released the amounts at their request.
The women, who worked with Rose on CBS This Morning and 60 Minutes, accused him of sexual misconduct in November 2017. He was fired the day after the news emerged.
At the time of the episode, O'Donnell said the women who came forward had 'a lot of courage' and should continue to speak about it.
She added: 'Let me very clear. There is no excuse for this alleged behavior. It is systematic and pervasive and I've been doing a lot of listening and I'm going to continue to do that.'
'This I know is true, women can not achieve equality without in the workplace or in society until there is a reckoning and a taking of responsibility.
When broaching sexual misconduct allegations made against her former colleague Charlie Rose, O'Donnell claimed there was 'no excuse for this alleged behavior'
Nine women in the opera world have said that they were sexually harassed by Placido Domingo in encounters that took place over three decades. He is pictured here in 2017
'I am really proud to work at CBS news, there are so many incredible people here especially on this show.'
When the allegations were first made against him in November 2017, Rose said: ' It is essential that these women know I hear them and deeply apologize for my inappropriate behavior. I am greatly embarrassed.
'I have behaved insensitively at times, and I accept responsibility for that, though I do not believe that all of these allegations are accurate.'
O'Donnell also commented after former CBS chief Les Moonves was forced to to step down from his role in September. Multiple women had accused him of either forcing himself on them or being sexually inappropriate.
The mother-of-three claimed Moonves had always treated her 'fairly and with respect.'
But she added: 'Still, it's been for me another sleepless night thinking about this, the pain that women feel, the courage that it takes for women to come forward and talk about this.
In January it was reported that Moonves was challenging the decision made by the CBS board to withhold his $120 million severance package.
The disgraced executive was set to walk away with a $120 million golden parachute if an investigation into his allegations of sexual misconduct found that there were not grounds to terminate him for cause.
That investigation found multiple reasons however, according to the network.
Last December, CBS settled lawsuits with three women who claim they were harassed by presenter Charlie Rose, (pictured)
In a statement released in December, CBS said that Moonves' 'willful and material misfeasance, violation of Company policies and breach of his employment contract, as well as his willful failure to cooperate fully with the Company's investigation' justified the board's decision to oust the president and chairman earlier this year.
Eight singers and a dancer have alleged Placido Domingo sexually harassed them during encounters that took place over 30 years, starting in the late 1980s.
The women claim they were sexually harassed by the long-married, Spanish-born superstar in encounters at venues that included opera companies where he held top managerial positions.
Many of the allegations revealed by Associated Press relate to the prolific conductor and singer's time as director of both the Los Angeles and Washington Opera.
Domingo later issued a statement describing the allegations from as 'inaccurate.'
He added: 'Still, it is painful to hear that I may have upset anyone or made them feel uncomfortable - no matter how long ago and despite my best intentions.
'I believed that all of my interactions and relationships were always welcomed and consensual. People who know me or who have worked with me know that I am not someone who would intentionally harm, offend, or embarrass anyone.'
VIDEO - GE shares drop after whistleblower raises red flags on its accounting
Thu, 15 Aug 2019 20:21
General Electric shares saw their biggest drop in more than a decade Thursday after Madoff whistleblower Harry Markopolos targeted the conglomerate in a new report, accusing it of issuing fraudulent financial statements to hide the extent of its problems.
A website has been set up to disseminate the report,, where Markopolos calls it "a bigger fraud than Enron." The financial investigator, who was probing GE for an unidentified hedge fund, writes that after more than a year of research he has discovered "an Enronesque business approach that has left GE on the verge of insolvency."
"My team has spent the past 7 months analyzing GE's accounting and we believe the $38 Billion in fraud we've come across is merely the tip of the iceberg," Markopolos said in the 175-page report. Markopolos alleges that GE has a "long history" of accounting fraud, dating to as early as 1995, when it was run by Jack Welch.
"It's going to make this company probably file for bankruptcy," Markopolos told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street. " "WorldCom and Enron lasted about four months. ... We'll see how GE does."
The stock closed 11% lower in its biggest drop since April 2008, ending the day at $8.01 per share.
GE's CEO issued a statement calling the allegations false, and driven by market manipulation.
"GE will always take any allegation of financial misconduct seriously. But this is market manipulation '' pure and simple," Lawrence Culp, chairman and CEO of GE said in a statement. "Mr. Markopolos's report contains false statements of fact and these claims could have been corrected if he had checked them with GE before publishing the report."
Culp said the fact that Markopolos never talked to company officials before publishing the report "goes to show that he is not interested in accurate financial analysis, but solely in generating downward volatility in GE stock so that he and his undisclosed hedge fund partner can personally profit."
Enron, which had more than $63 billion in assets at the time, declared bankruptcy on December 2001 in what was then the largest corporate collapse in U.S. history. Roughly 4,000 Enron employees lost their jobs following its collapse. The energy company's downfall began with the discovery of accounting irregularities. Twenty-one people, including former CEO Jeffrey Skilling, were convicted in the scandal, and accounting firm Arthur Andersen was forced out of business after it was found guilty of obstruction of justice.
A year after the Enron scandal broke, long-distance phone company WorldCom, filed for bankruptcy after revelations of an accounting fraud. It had $107 billion in assets at the time.
One area of Markopolos' case focuses on GE's long-term care insurance unit, for which the company had to boost reserves by $15 billion last year. By examining the filings of GE's counterparties in this business, he alleges that GE is hiding massive losses that will only increase as policyholders grow older. He claims that GE has filed false statements to regulators on the unit. Separately, he goes on to find issues with GE's accounting on its oil and gas business Baker Hughes.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on Markopolos' findings.
Markopolos is a Boston-based accounting expert who gained attention after pointing out irregularities with Bernie Madoff's investment strategy, and how it was impossible to generate the returns the fraudster claimed years before the Ponzi scheme was exposed. He was largely ignored at the time. More recently, Markopolos helped uncover a foreign currency trading scandal at a group of banks.
The Markopolos group looking into GE includes forensic accounting veteran John McPherson, co-founder of MMS Advisors, which specializes in the insurance industry.
"GE has been running a decades long accounting fraud by only providing top line revenue and bottom line profits for its business units and getting away with leaving out cost of goods sold, SG&A, R&D and corporate overhead allocations," the report said.
GE's market value as of Wednesday's close was $78.8 billion. With Thursday morning's skid, the market cap was down to $69.9 billion. Markopolos told the paper the insurance unit would need to raise reserves by more than $18.5 billion. He estimates GE's already hefty debt-to-equity ratio of 3:1 would skyrocket all the way to 17:1 if the company restates its actual results.
Here are the main points Markopolos makes in the report which are now available to read online:
"This is my accounting fraud team's ninth insurance fraud case in the past nine years and it's the biggest, bigger than Enron and WorldCom combined. In fact, GE's $38 Billion in accounting fraud amounts to over 40% of GE's market capitalization, making it far more serious than either the Enron or WorldCom accounting frauds." "GE utilizes many of the same accounting tricks as Enron did, so much so that we've taken to calling this the GEnron case." "Of the $29 Billion in new LTC reserves that GE needs, $18.5 Billion requires cash immediately while the remaining $10.5 Billion is a non-cash GAAP charge which accounting rules require to be taken no later than 1QTR 2021. These impending losses will destroy GE's balance sheet, debt ratios and likely also violate debt covenants." "When you benchmark GE to a responsible insurance carrier using going concern accounting such as Prudential (PRU), GE needs $18.5 Billion in additional reserves in order to be able to pay claims. We compare GE's LTC policies to Prudential and Unum, two insurers with similar pre-mid-2000's vintage LTC policies, but whose policies have much lower risk characteristics than GE's. Prudential's 2018 loss ratio on similar policies was 185% and they're reserving $113,455 per policy while GE's loss ratios are several times higher and they're only reserving $79,000 per policy. Just to match Prudential's level of reserves would require an immediate $9.5 Billion increase in reserves." "GE would change its reporting formats every 2-4 years to prevent analysts from being able to make comparisons across time horizons! In other words, GE went out of its way to make it impossible to analyze the performance of their business units. "Why would a company do that? We could only think of two reasons: 1) to conceal accounting fraud or 2) because they're so incompetent they're not capable of keeping proper books and records. I'm not sure which reason is worse because both are bad and each is a path to bankruptcy."GE is already under investigation by the Justice Department and SEC for potential accounting practices. That includes a $22 billion charge the company took in the third quarter related to acquisitions made in its power business.
The struggling industrial conglomerate abruptly removed its former CEO and chairman John Flannery last year after only a year on the job and installed Culp, former Danaher CEO, as his successor.
Flannery had been appointed in August 2017, taking the reins from Jeff Immelt as GE's stock steadily eroded. The company's value had continued set new lows as investors remain unconvinced by Flannery's turnaround vision. Last summer, GE was kicked out of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. It had been the longest-serving component of the blue chip index at 111 years.
Long-term care policies typically pay for end-of-life costs, like nursing homes or assisted living. It's known as one of the more costly and unpredictable parts of the insurance market '-- especially as the average American lifespan rises. In January 2018, GE reported a $6.2 billion charge based on liabilities in its long-term care business, which is run by the company's financial services unit, GE Capital. To make up for the costs, GE Capital said it needed to set aside $15 billion to hold against potential losses, and stopped paying a dividend to its parent company for the "foreseeable future."
The costs prompted an investor lawsuit and prompted an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which GE has said it is cooperating with.
GE pointed out that Markopolos gave an unnamed hedge fund he is working with access to the report ahead of time. Markopolos said he has given the report to securities regulators and that certain information he has uncovered has been given to law enforcement only, and is not in the public report.
A disclaimer on the website read: "Prior to the initial distribution of this Report on August 15, 2019, the Company entered into an agreement with a third-party entity to review an advanced copy of the Report in exchange for later-provided compensation. That compensation is based on a percentage of the profits resulting from the third-party entity's positions in the securities, derivatives, and other financial instruments of, and/or relating to, General Electric Company ("GE") (NYSE: GE). Those positions taken by the third-party entity are designed to generate profits should the price of GE securities decrease."
GE reported better-than-expected second-quarter earnings and gave an upbeat outlook for its industrial cash flow '-- a key metric watched by investors. GE also announced that long-time executive Jamie Miller, who has been with GE since 2008, was stepping down. She was appointed as CFO in 2017 under Flannery.
GE said its power unit is showing "signs of stabilization" but the segment's orders remained sluggish, with $4.9 billion in booked orders, representing a drop of 22% from a year earlier. Revenue fell by 25% year over year in the second quarter, while power barely reported a profit of $100 million.
Here is the full GE statement to CNBC:
"We have never met, spoken to or had contact with this person. While we can't comment on the detailed content of a report that we haven't seen, the allegations we have heard are entirely false and misleading.
It's widely known and the WSJ has previously reported that he works for and is compensated by unnamed hedge funds. Such funds are usually financially motivated to try to generate short selling in a company's stock to create unnecessary volatility.GE stands behind its financials. We operate to the highest-level of integrity in our financial reporting and we have clearly laid out our financial obligations in great detail.
We remain focused on running our business every day and following the strategic path we have laid out. We will not be distracted by this type of meritless, misguided and self-serving speculation and neither should anyone in the investor community. "
Addressing Mr. Markopolos's allegations:
GE Insurance: We believe that our current reserves are well-supported for our portfolio characteristics, and we undertake rigorous reserve adequacy testing every year. The future implementation of the GAAP insurance accounting standard, which will be highly dependent on a number of variables, will not affect statutory accounting, which drives our funding requirements.BHGE accounting: As a majority shareholder of BHGE, we are required to report consolidated earnings (under U.S. GAAP law), contrary to what Mr. Markopolos alleges. Further, consolidation of BHGE by GE includes additional disclosure of BHGE's results made through BHGE segment results reporting in the notes to GE's consolidated financial statements. BHGE is also a stand-alone SEC registrant with its own separate SEC filings under Form 10-Q and 10-K as a separate company. In the most recent 10Q, GE disclosed the loss upon deconsolidation of BHGE from a sale of our interest (taking us below our current majority position) would be approximately $7.4B as of 7/26/19.
GE's liquidity: Contrary to Mr. Markopolos's allegations, GE continues to maintain a strong liquidity position, committed credit lines, and several executable options to monetize assets. The Company ended the second quarter with $16.9B of Industrial Cash excluding Baker Hughes GE, $12.5B of liquidity at GE Capital and access to $35B of credit facilities. As it relates to GE's leverage targets, as the Company has previously stated during 2Q earnings, it expects to make significant progress towards these goals by the end of 2020.
Read the entire report here.
Correction: An earlier version misstated the years when GE was removed from the Dow Jones Industrial Average and when GE reported a $6.2 billion charge.

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