1205: Death Bus

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

2h 44m
January 5th, 2020
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Executive Producers: Sir Jobiwan of Weekapaug, Sir Mad Hatter, Baron of the Broke State Of Connecticut Gents, Shaun Newcomer, Sam Leung

Associate Executive Producers: Sir Dave, Earl of America's Heartland and Saudi Arabia, Sir Pipkin of The Space Coast, Sir Schwartz, Anonymous, Ryan Black

Cover Artist: Mountain Jay

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Soleimani Droning
Analysis
An Iran-Iraq war hero, who had been promoted to Division Commander at age 23, he
was revered as a prodigy of military and political strategy. He then becomes
the commander of the Revolutionary Guard (RG) and subsequentlyCommander of the
Quds Force, which is separate and ABOVE the Iranian Armed Forces.
During the reign of Ahmedinejad, through many privatization schemes, where most
lucrative organizations were awarded to the RG, Soleimani also became a major
economic power in Iran and the region.
Subsequently,the RG was also given control over critical border regions, the nation’s secret
service, the Strait of Hormuz and a vast network of smuggling, money laundering
operations, as well as development of missiles. They were also in charge of the
development and security of Iran's nuclear facilities.
He is billed as a master of proxy war strategy, and he ran covert operations
throughout the region and is known to have financed, trained and armed regional
forces against Israel, US and their allies. Like Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas,
Syrian militia (Iraqi and Afghan fighters) and Hashdi Shaabi, anIraqi umbrella
organization founded by Al Maliqi.
Having developed a very close relationship with Putin, he is considered to be the main
reason for the US’ failure to topple the Assad regime, something that was
central for Soleimani’s key strategic goals of a) establishing a shiite
government in Iraq, and b) preventing the US (or the west?) taking control of
Syria.
In short, this guy, had become a formidable force with a 50,000 troop armed and
trained army/navy/airforce of his own, whose ships were well capable of
shutting the gulf and the strait of Hormuz, and who had control of the most
critical assets of Iran. His power was now beyond the Mullahs he was meant to
be working for.
Ideologically, while Khameiney and the mullahs belong to a "reformist" branch
Shiism, apparently our general was in a different "radical" branch
which believed in expansion, and fighting a sort of covert jihad against the
sunnis.
This radical faction apparently makes up IRAN's own "deep state" and
all the signs were pointing towards the fact that they were getting ready to
push him to the top as some sort of supreme leader.
Just last week, The Guardian announced top 10 influencers of 2020 with this guy in
it. So he was definitely being prepped.
In other words, this guy had the mullahs by their bullahs!!!
--------
From here on, it is part speculation, but one that I find that fits all the pieces
together nicely. (By the way, it will sound a little Q-esque, but I guarantee
you this analysis and speculation is not through those channels at all)
Trump keeps saying, and has done so from the start, he wants to make a deal
with Iran.
The militant and powerful Soleimani is a big obstacle
The mullahs are scared for their lives and their dwindling power. More than
likely, Soleimani, who had become something of a regional CIA (or Mossad if you
will) in his own right, was pretty ruthless, may he Rest In Peace.
Donald and the mullahs cut a deal, and the Mullahs sell Soleimani out. The plan
for the assassination is made with help from the inside, possibly providing
Soleimani's every move.
There is a protest staged (or induced) at the US embassy (which could
have also served as a major distraction for certain moves to be made... like
dropping a couple hundred marines for the operation, etc)
I can probably find it if you want, but during the siege go the embassy I
remember seeing that the marines at the embassy had not put up much of a fight
to thwart the protesters, and I remember reading that the protesters found the
gas bombs the Americans shot at them "cute"
He was coming to Baghdad to mend some fences with Hadi Al-Amir, the leader of BADR
party of Iraq, with whom he had a falling out when Al-Amir started cooperating
with the US during invasion.
Al-Amir cancels at the last minute and sends his deputy (also a well known
radical shiite) to pick Soleimani at airport. And BOOM! Two radicals with one
drone.
Now Iran gov. posturing and screaming revenge, Trump posturing and telling them
he'll kick their asses, missiles falling on US locations with no one dying, all
for show... all to make the world believe.
Trump comes out of it a as a badass motherfucker to his MAGA base, Iran and
many other countries in the region give a sigh of relief to free themselves
from this guy. Since Turkey had been on the Topple Assad team of the Sunni
Federation, I am sure this guy had a lot on Erdogan as well...
(Side note: during the run up to New Year's, Trump was meant to have been staying at
Mara Lago, and even though his convoy would leave and come back every now and
then, and he would have visits from Pompeo and other top bras, nobody had a
visual on him for 5-6 days I believe (it was being tweeted by pool
photographers and cameramen from MaraLago). No photos/videos, no getting in or
out of his car, no trolling the press at the door or on the lawn... nothing..
So, he might have been elsewhere for this major and delicate operation. If not
directing it,)
'Brand new beautiful equipment' heading Iran's way to hit harder 'than ever before': Trump goes hyperbolic on Twitter '-- RT USA News
Sun, 05 Jan 2020 06:50
Hours after threatening to destroy 52 Iranian sites, President Trump went back on Twitter to brag about two trillion dollars' worth of 'beautiful' US military hardware, which he expects will carry out the destruction.
Facing promises of retaliation for the killing of a popular Iranian general whose death he ordered personally, Donald Trump threatened in no uncertain terms to escalate the conflict further. He said that if Tehran fails to turn the other cheek, the US will hit 52 Iranian sites of great value. Hours later, the US president returned to Twitter to brag about the amount of money the US military has received for equipment under his watch.
''We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World!'' he tweeted, going on to promise that if attacked, the US ''will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way.''
The United States just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment. We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World! If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way...and without hesitation!
'-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2020Friday's targeted assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran's Quds Force, marked a sudden and rapid escalation of Washington's stand-off with Iran. The US military claims the Iranian general approved an attack on an Iraqi base which killed an American. The Trump administration also justified the airstrike by accusing Soleimani of preparing an imminent attack on American citizens.
Stocks of US defense contractors rose in the wake of the killing as investors predicted that there will be no shortage of US taxpayers' money going their way if, as Trump threatened, their products are headed for Iran.
If you are wondering who benefits from endless wars, take a look at how stocks for weapons manufacturers began to rise as soon as Soleimani was killed. Defense contractors spent $84 million lobbying Congress last year and it certainly wasn't to promote diplomacy and restraint. pic.twitter.com/Ov1DWV90gE
'-- Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) January 3, 2020 Also on rt.com Trump says US will strike 52 Iranian sites 'VERY FAST & VERY HARD' if Tehran moves to avenge general's death If you like this story, share it with a friend!
Actress Rose McGowan Apologizes to Iran for Soleimani Airstrike: I Don't Side with Morally Corrupt USA
Sun, 05 Jan 2020 06:43
Actress Rose McGowan apologized on behalf of America for the U.S. military airstrike near Baghdad's airport that killed Tehran's top general Qassem Soleimani.
As Breitbart News reported, the U.S. military, at the direction of President Donald Trump, killed Iran's most significant military figure, Qassem Soleimani, in airstrikes that struck a huge blow to the Islamic Republic.
Rose McGowan responded by apologizing.
''Dear # Iran , The USA has disrespected your country, your flag, your people. 52% of us humbly apologize. We want peace with your nation. We are being held hostage by a terrorist regime. We do not know how to escape. Please do not kill us,'' the Scream actress said in a late-night rant.
Dear #Iran, The USA has disrespected your country, your flag, your people. 52% of us humbly apologize. We want peace with your nation. We are being held hostage by a terrorist regime. We do not know how to escape. Please do not kill us. #Soleimani pic.twitter.com/YE54CqGCdr
'-- rose mcgowan (@rosemcgowan) January 3, 2020
'' Thanks a lot, dickhead,'' McGowan tweeted at President Donald Trump before attempting to explain how ''it is only logical to appeal to Iran's pride by apologizing.''
''Of course #Soleimani was an evil evil man who did evil evil things. But that at this moment is not the fucking point. The United States is morally corrupt and acts illegally. It is only logical to appeal to Iran's pride by apologizing. I'm taking one for the team. #TeamStayAlive,'' the actress-activist said about a man who was personally responsible for the murder of thousands of innocents both in Iran and in neighboring countries, including hundreds of Americans.
Of course #Soleimani was an evil evil man who did evil evil things. But that at this moment is not the fucking point. The United States is morally corrupt and acts illegally. It is only logical to appeal to Iran's pride by apologizing. I'm taking one for the team. #TeamStayAlive
'-- rose mcgowan (@rosemcgowan) January 3, 2020
'' Fuck your freedom and shove it up your #MAGA ass,'' the Charmed star said in reaction to one Twitter user.
Fuck your freedom and shove it up your #MAGA ass https://t.co/RQr2x5pCS1
'-- rose mcgowan (@rosemcgowan) January 3, 2020
McGowan then declared: ''I do not side with Iran, but I most definitely do not side with the USA.''
I do not side with Iran, but I most definitely do not side with the USA #TeamStayAlive https://t.co/ShWtvgWYqj
'-- rose mcgowan (@rosemcgowan) January 3, 2020
The actress then suggested the possibility of World War III.
''I'm a registered Republican in California. I loathe the Clintons. I hate Trump. I will not vote Republican, but I cannot vote Democrat. I'd rather know what evil I'm getting, so I'll go Republican. This is about WWIII, so none of that shit matters anyway,'' she said.
I'm a registered Republican in California. I loathe the Clintons. I hate Trump. I will not vote Republican, but I cannot vote Democrat. I'd rather know what evil I'm getting, so I'll go Republican. This is about WWIII, so none of that shit matters anyway. #TeamStayAlive #RoseArmy pic.twitter.com/l7MtDXUVuy
'-- rose mcgowan (@rosemcgowan) January 3, 2020
''I will never vote Republican. I want the Democrats to win because we are less likely to die. I am a conscientious objector to the USA, it's policies, lies, corruption, nationalism, racism, and deep misogyny. It is our right and duty as citizens to dissent,'' McGowan said about the country that made her a millionaire.
I will never vote Republican. I want the Democrats to win because we are less likely to die. I am a conscientious objector to the USA, it's policies, lies, corruption, nationalism, racism, and deep misogyny. It is our right and duty as citizens to dissent.
'-- rose mcgowan (@rosemcgowan) January 3, 2020
McGowan, one of Harvey Weinstein's rape accusers, has never been shy of entering the public domain and debating social issues, although the irony of her not supporting America for taking action against a regime that slaughters women, among many other evils, appears lost on her.
This is the same person who conflated voting for Donald Trump with sexual assault, as Breitbart News reported, when McGowan said people who voted for Trump are victims of the same ''brainwashing'' that affects women who are complicit in helping to cover up sexual misconduct crimes.
Just last year McGowan declared living in America was more ''traumatizing'' than being raised in a cult.
''America was a lot more traumatizing to me, actually,'' Rose McGowan told FUBAR Radio, as Breitbart News reported. ''I found America much, much more hardcore than the cult,'' she said.
McGowan was born in Italy and spent the first decade of her life in the Children of God group, a polygamous cult that her parents were involved in.
***Update***
Early Friday, Rose McGowan attempted to walk back her remarks saying it's her right to freak out.
''Ok, so I freaked out because we may have any impending war. Sometimes it's okay to freak out on those in power. It's our right,'' she said. ''That is what so many Brave soldiers have fought for. That is democracy. I do not want any more American soldiers killed. That's it.''
Ok, so I freaked out because we may have any impending war. Sometimes it's okay to freak out on those in power. It's our right. That is what so many Brave soldiers have fought for. That is democracy. I do not want any more American soldiers killed. That's it.
'-- rose mcgowan (@rosemcgowan) January 3, 2020
Follow Simon Kent on Twitter: Follow @SunSimonKent or e-mail to: skent@breitbart.com
After Soleimani death, Colin Kaepernick decries US 'terrorist attacks against Black and Brown people' | Fox News
Sun, 05 Jan 2020 06:27
Former NFL player Colin Kaepernick on Saturday accused the United States of targeting minorities "at home and abroad," just days after the administration ordered a drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
"There is nothing new about American terrorist attacks against Black and Brown people for the expansion of American imperialism," he tweeted.
In a separate tweet, Kaepernick decried "American imperialism" and its "policing and plundering of the nonwhite world."
"America has always sanctioned and besieged Black and Brown bodies both at home and abroad," he wrote. "America militarism is the weapon wielded by American imperialism, to enforce its policing and plundering of the nonwhite world."
It's unclear what specifically Kaepernick was referring to, but his comments came amid left-leaning criticism of President Trump's decision to kill Soleimani, who led the elite Quds Force within the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC); the U.S. government has long considered him a terrorist.
COLIN KAEPERNICK NOT 'A VIABLE OPTION' TO PLAY IN XFL, COMMISSIONER ADMITS
Kaepernick's agent did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment.
The ex-NFL player previously faced a wave of backlash after he claimed to protest systemic racism by kneeling during the National Anthem. On Thanksgiving, Kaepernick attended an "Unthanksgiving event" where he accused the United States of stealing "over 1.5 billion acres of land from Indigenous people."
COLIN KAEPERNICK SPEAKS AT 'UNTHANKSGIVING' CELEBRATION, CRITICIZES US
Kaepernick had already faced immense criticism for previous comments, apparently pressuring NFL teams to avoid recruiting him.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell seemed to quash any possibility of a Kaepernick comeback in December.
Speaking to reporters at the league's winter meetings in Irving, Texas, Goodell addressed the scheduled Kaepernick workout for NFL teams in November -- an event that all but collapsed when Kaepernick decided at the last minute to relocate it away from the facility that he and league officials had initially agreed upon.
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''This was about creating an opportunity. We created that opportunity. It was a unique opportunity, a credible opportunity,'' Goodell said, according to Reuters, ''and he chose not to take it. I understand that."
''We've moved on,'' the commissioner added, suggesting that the league was finished considering Kaepernick for future workouts or team roster openings.
Fox News' Dom Calicchio contributed to this report.
Trump says US ready to strike 52 Iranian sites if Tehran attacks - BBC News
Sun, 05 Jan 2020 06:25
Image copyright Reuters Image caption President Trump warned Iran not to strike Americans or US assets President Trump has warned the US is "targeting" 52 Iranian sites and will strike "very fast and very hard" if Tehran attacks Americans or US assets.
The president's remarks followed the US assassination of Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian general, in a drone strike.
Soleimani's killing was a major escalation between the two nations, and Iran vowed to take "severe revenge".
Writing on Twitter, Mr Trump accused Iran of "talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets".
He said the US had identified 52 Iranian sites, some "at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture", and warned they would be "HIT VERY FAST AND HARD" if Tehran struck at the US.
The president said the targets represented 52 Americans who were held hostage in Iran for more than a year from late 1979 after they were taken from the US embassy in Tehran.
Shortly after the president's tweets were posted, the website of a US government agency appeared to have been hacked by a group calling itself "Iran Cyber Security Group Hackers". A message on the American Federal Depository Library Programme site read: "This is a message from the Islamic Republic of Iran.
"We will not stop supporting our friends in the region: the oppressed people of Palestine, the oppressed people of Yemen, the people and the Syrian government, the people and government of Iraq, the oppressed people of Bahrain, the true Mujahideen resistance in Lebanon and Palestine, [they] will always be supported by us."
The web page contained a doctored image of President Trump, depicting him being hit in the face and bleeding at the mouth. "This is only small part of Iran's cyber ability!" read text on the site.
What happened earlier on Saturday? Mr Trump's tweets followed a huge funeral procession for General Soleimani held in Baghdad, where he was killed in a targeted drone strike on Friday as he left the airport in a convoy. Mourners waved Iraqi and militia flags and chanted "death to America".
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption Thousands took to the streets of Kerman to mourn Gen Soleimani, a popular figure in IranSeveral rocket attacks shook the area shortly after the procession, including one in the Green Zone near the US embassy. The Iraqi military said nobody had been hurt.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks. Pro-Iranian militants have been blamed for other recent attacks.
Soleimani's body arrived back in Iran on Sunday, the country's IRIB news agency reported.
With Iran already threatening harsh reprisals for the killing of the Quds Force commander, President Trump has clearly determined that the best way to de-escalate is to raise the stakes in advance, making clear what will happen if Tehran follows through on its threats.
The Trump tweet is curious in many ways - not least the symbolic mention of 52 Iranian targets being held at risk - a reference to the 52 US hostages seized in the US Embassy in Tehran back in November 1979.
His mention of targets important "to the Iranian culture" suggests a much wider target list than just leadership, military or economic sites.
President Trump is struggling to establish some kind of deterrence. But the ball is now very clearly in Iran's court and it is very hard to see how Tehran can fail to act.
Mr Trump has pursued a contradictory policy ever since he abandoned the nuclear agreement with Tehran - increasing economic pressure, threatening military action, but actually doing very little, even when Iran shot down a sophisticated US drone and struck oil installations in Saudi Arabia.
Above all, he has repeatedly underscored his and Washington's fatigue with its military involvement in the region. This as much as anything else has undermined US deterrence, something Mr Trump is now seeking, belatedly, to restore.
Why did the US kill Soleimani? General Soleimani was widely seen as the second most powerful figure in Iran, behind Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The 62-year-old spearheaded Iran's Middle East operations as head of the elite Quds Force, and was hailed as a heroic national figure.
But the US branded the commander and the Quds Force terrorists, holding them responsible for the deaths of hundreds of US personnel.
Speaking on Friday afternoon, President Trump said Soleimani was "plotting imminent and sinister attacks" on US diplomats and military personnel in Iraq and elsewhere in the region.
Image copyright AFP/Getty Image caption Soleimani was seen as the second most powerful figure in Iran The general was killed by an air strike at Baghdad airport early on Friday, on the orders of President Trump. The president said the action was taken to stop, not start, a war.
Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei said "severe revenge awaits the criminals" behind the US attack. Soleimani's death would double "resistance" against the US and Israel, he added.
Iraqis are also mourning the death of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi who commanded the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah group and was killed along with Soleimani.
The group issued a warning to Iraqi security forces to "stay clear of American bases by a distance not less [than] 1,000m (0.6 miles) starting Sunday evening", al-Mayadeen TV reported.
In response to Iranian threats of revenge, the US has sent 3,000 more troops to the Middle East and advised its citizens to leave Iraq.
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption Democrats warn of 'dangerous escalation' with Iran and question whether Trump has a planOn Saturday the White House sent the US Congress formal notification of Friday's drone strike - in line with a 1973 law that states the administration must alert Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to immediate or imminent military action.
It was expected to clarify the authority under which the strike was launched, and the expected type and duration of military involvement. The notification is classified.
Nancy Pelosi, the top Congressional Democrat, said it "prompts serious and urgent questions about the timing, manner and justification of the administration's decision to engage in hostilities against Iran".
National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin - January 4, 2020 | Homeland Security
Sun, 05 Jan 2020 06:23
SummaryThe United States designated Iran a ''State Sponsor of Terrorism'' in 1984 and since then, Iran has actively engaged in or directed an array of violent and deadly acts against the United States and its citizens globally. The United States designated Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a Foreign Terrorist Organization on April 15, 2019 for its direct involvement in terrorist plotting.
Duration Issued: January 04, 2020 05:15 pm
Expires: January 18, 2020 01:00 pm
Details On January 2, 2020, the United States carried out a lethal strike in Iraq killing Iranian IRGC-Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani while Soleimani was in Iraq.Iranian leadership and several affiliated violent extremist organizations publicly stated they intend to retaliate against the United States.At this time we have no information indicating a specific, credible threat to the Homeland. Iran and its partners, such as Hizballah, have demonstrated the intent and capability to conduct operations in the United States.Previous homeland-based plots have included, among other things, scouting and planning against infrastructure targets and cyber enabled attacks against a range of U.S.-based targets.Iran maintains a robust cyber program and can execute cyber attacks against the United States. Iran is capable, at a minimum, of carrying out attacks with temporary disruptive effects against critical infrastructure in the United States.Iran likely views terrorist activities as an option to deter or retaliate against its perceived adversaries. In many instances, Iran has targeted United States interests through its partners such as Hizballah.Homegrown Violent Extremists could capitalize on the heightened tensions to launch individual attacks.An attack in the homeland may come with little or no warning.The Department of Homeland Security is working closely with our federal, state, local, and private sector partners to detect and defend against threats to the Homeland, and will enhance security measures as necessary. Types of Advisories BulletinDescribes current developments or general trends regarding threats of terrorism.
Elevated AlertWarns of a credible terrorism threat against the United States.
Imminent AlertWarns of a credible, specific and impending terrorism threat against the United States.
How You Can Help Report suspicious activity to local law enforcement who are best to offer specific details on terroristic indicators.Report suspicious activity or information about a threat, including online activity, to Fusion Centers and the FBI's Field Offices - part of the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative.Learn how to recognize signs of pre-operational planning associated with terrorism or other criminal activity. Be Prepared Be prepared for cyber disruptions, suspicious emails, and network delays.Be responsible for your personal safety. Know where emergency exits and security personnel are located. Carry emergency contact and special needs information with you.Implement basic cyber hygiene practices such as effecting data backups and employing multi-factor authentication. For more information visit CISA.gov.Connect, Plan, Train, and Report to prepare businesses & employees. Security tools/resources can be accessed through the DHS's Hometown Security Campaign. Stay Informed The U.S. Government will provide additional information about any emerging threat as additional information is identified. The public is encouraged to listen to local law enforcement and public safety officials.We urge Americans to continue to travel, attend public events, and freely associate with others but remain vigilant and aware of surroundings.The Department of State issues international travel alerts and warnings.For additional information visit Ready.gov.If You See Something, Say Something'. Report suspicious activity to local law enforcement or call 911.
Secret Hellfire Missile With Sword-Like Blades Made Mysterious Strike On Terror Leader In Syria - The Drive
Sun, 05 Jan 2020 06:11
We were first to question the weapon used in the bizarre strike and now we know it has been used to strike high-value targets in five countries.via TwitterThe U.S. military, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency, are reportedly using a specialized version of the ubiquitous Hellfire missile that swaps out the explosive warhead for inert ballast and an array of sword-like blades that pop out right before it impacts its target. The weapon is designed to give the U.S. government a way to target individual terrorists and militants with an extremely low chance of collateral damage, even to individuals very close by. It was reportedly the weapon responsible for killing Al Qaeda's then-number two leader, Abu Khayr Al Masri, as he drove in Syria in 2017, a strike that clearly involved some sort of mysterious munition, something that The War Zone was the first to call attention to.
The Wall Street Journal published its scoop of the weapon, reportedly designated the AGM-114R9X, on May 9, 2019. Anonymous U.S. government sources told the newspaper that the U.S. military had only fired them operationally "about a half-dozen times," but had done so against targets in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia. It is unclear whether this includes CIA-directed strikes that have utilized the missile.
The exact configuration of the R9X variant is unclear and the Journal was not able to obtain any pictures of it with its blades either stowed or deployed as they would be before impact. A diagram the newspaper put together from descriptions it received, which you can see below, shows the blades extending out laterally from the warhead section of the missile.
The six-bladed configuration has reportedly earned the nicknames "ninja bomb" and "the flying Ginsu," the latter being a reference to a brand of knives sold through television infomercials starting in the 1970s. The advertisements featured energetic pitchmen slicing through everything from fruits and vegetables to wood blocks and commercial plastic piping.
The standard AGM-114R, which has been in production since 2010, features an armor-penetrating warhead wrapped in a fragmentation sleeve that gives it a multi-purpose capability against both armored vehicles and soft targets. Since its introduction, a number of subvariants have also become available.
This includes the R2 version that adds in a "height of burst" capability that detonates the warhead approximately three feet from the impact point, creating an airburst effect. There is also an R1, R3, R8, and R13 variants, details of which do not appear to be readily available, and an R5 type specifically for export to U.S. allies and partners.
US Army
A chart showing details of various common AGM-114 variants, including the AGM-114R.
There are at least four other versions of the R9 subvariant, as well. "Their [Air Force Special Operations Command's] Hellfire variant, AGM-114R9, has an extremely low collateral damage warhead," according to the October 2018 edition of The Precision Strike Digest, the official publication of the Precision Strike Association. U.S. Special Operations Command introduced the R9E in 2014 and the R9H in 2016, and there is also reportedly an R9G variant, but there is no additional information on the differences between them.
SOCOM
A slide regarding U.S. Special Operations Command's Hellfire inventory as of 2016.
Some sources have indicated that the R9E has a "Low Collateral Damage" warhead, while the R9H is an improved "Very Low Collateral Damage" type. However, General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems builds the warhead for the R9E and describes it as an "advanced blast fragmentation warhead [that] penetrates and defeats a suite of diverse targets," which would seem to contradict this. At the same time, the U.S. Air Force has applied the "low collateral damage" description to blast-fragmentation munitions that simply have a reduced explosive filler.
GD-OTS
A screengrab from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems' website's entry on the R9E warhead.
It is possible that the entire R9 sub-series is focused on ways to reduce the risk of collateral damage. Another R9 variant may even have an entirely inert warhead, which would already reduce the risk of collateral damage substantially, while the R9X adds in the blades to help increase kill probability.
At the time of the Al Masri strike, without knowing the exact weapon involved, The War Zone noted that using a small munition with an inert warhead would increase the risk of failure, especially against a moving target, given that it would need to be very precisely hit the individual in question. The move to add sharp protrusions to the inert Hellfire design would seem to confirm these limitations.
There are also no details on the launch platforms involved, but The War Zone previously laid out a detailed case for CIA involvement in the Al Masri strike using a shadowy fleet of General Atomics Avenger drones, which you can read here. There are some indications as to who may be flying the drones, whether they are Avengers or Reapers, as well. But manned coalition aircraft do not operate in that area of Western Syria and the Journal says it confirmed the CIA at least directed that mission.
It is worth noting that the basic concept of using precision-guided munitions with inert warheads, often referred to as "concrete bombs," to help mitigate the chances of collateral damage for targeted strikes is hardly new. The U.K. Royal Air Force used inert precision-guided bombs in the opening phases of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the French Air Force did the same in Libya in 2011. The U.S. Air Force has also since developed a number of other specialized low-collateral damage bombs.
The particular impetus for the development of the R9X was as an alternative option to a ground assault to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, according to the Journal. The Al Qaeda founder was regularly surrounded by family members, including women and children, presenting a need for extreme precision in any possible air strike. The specialized Hellfire could have made it easier to confirm Bin Laden's death, including through subsequent DNA collection, something that U.S. personnel reportedly did following the 2011 raid.
Though special operators ultimately conducted that raid and killed Bin Laden, development of the ninja bomb Hellfire continued, spurred on additionally by President Barack Obama's new rules in 2013 for mitigating collateral damage in strikes outside officially declared war zones. One of the Journal's sources said that the missile remained an important tool for addressing what they described as a "right seat, left seat'' issue. The story suggested this could imply the ultimate goal is for an air-launched weapon that can kill a specific individual in car or truck without injuring anyone else, but it seems more likely that it was a figurative expression.
The video below shows just how much potential risk there is for collateral damage when using a standard Hellfire missile against an individual target.
The Journal says the strike that killed Al Masri in Syria in 2017 was one of the two it was able to confirm that involved one of these bladed missiles. But in this case, the weapon killed Al Masri and the individual seated next to him in his Kia sedan.
The only other example of an R9X use that the Journal could verify was the January 1, 2019 strike that killed Jamal Al Badawi, the alleged mastermind of the bombing of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. Badawi was driving alone at the time, making it impossible to assess whether the weapon could have killed him while leaving other occupants unscathed.
It is also worth noting that there were have previously been reports that President Donald Trump received a briefing prior to the strike against Al Masri on a highly specialized air-dropped munition intended to avoid civilian casualties, which would match the general description of the R9X, and that he was reportedly unimpressed. It is unclear if this has had any impact at all on the weapon's apparently highly limited use.
But the R9X's highly classified nature might just mean that its production remains extremely limited, leading to limited use and only by select crews familiar with its design and how to employ it properly. The aforementioned inherent limitations of these kinds of weapons with inert warheads, in general, might also reduce the instances where it is a practical option.
Google Earth
A satellite image of a testing site near Yucca Flat in the Nevada Test Site's Area 6. Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor behind the Hellfire, tests exotic weapons payloads for drones here.
But if the United States continues to prosecute targeted strikes against terrorists and militants, there will continue to be at least some demand for munitions such as the AGM-114R9X to mitigate the risks of collateral damage as much as possible. Having such a weapon can only expand the engagement windows for those strikes given the reduced hazard to other individuals, even those relatively close by to the target.
The emergence of the R9X certainly answers the questions The War Zone had posed after the Al Masri strike. That it has been in development for nearly a decade and is just becoming public knowledge now points to the high likelihood that there are other exotic munitions still in the classified realm that have yet to come out into the light.
Contact the author: jtrevithickpr@gmail.com
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As Tensions With Iran Escalated, Trump Opted for Most Extreme Measure - The New York Times
Sun, 05 Jan 2020 06:10
While senior officials argue the drone strike was warranted to prevent future attacks, some in the administration remain skeptical about the rationale for the attack.
Iranians in Tehran on Saturday protesting the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani. Credit... Ebrahim Noroozi/Associated Press WASHINGTON '-- In the chaotic days leading to the death of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran's most powerful commander, top American military officials put the option of killing him '-- which they viewed as the most extreme response to recent Iranian-led violence in Iraq '-- on the menu they presented to President Trump.
They didn't think he would take it. In the wars waged since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Pentagon officials have often offered improbable options to presidents to make other possibilities appear more palatable.
After initially rejecting the Suleimani option on Dec. 28 and authorizing airstrikes on an Iranian-backed Shia militia group instead, a few days later Mr. Trump watched, fuming, as television reports showed Iranian-backed attacks on the American Embassy in Baghdad, according to Defense Department and administration officials.
By late Thursday, the president had gone for the extreme option. Top Pentagon officials were stunned.
Mr. Trump made the decision, senior officials said on Saturday, despite disputes in the administration about the significance of what some officials said was a new stream of intelligence that warned of threats to American embassies, consulates and military personnel in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. General Suleimani had just completed a tour of his forces in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, and was planning an ''imminent'' attack that could claim hundreds of lives, those officials said.
''Days, weeks,'' Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Friday, when asked how imminent any attacks could be, without offering more detail other than to say that new information about unspecified plotting was ''clear and unambiguous.''
But some officials voiced private skepticism about the rationale for a strike on General Suleimani, who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops over the years. According to one United States official, the new intelligence indicated ''a normal Monday in the Middle East'' '-- Dec. 30 '-- and General Suleimani's travels amounted to ''business as usual.''
That official described the intelligence as thin and said that General Suleimani's attack was not imminent because of communications the United States had between Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and General Suleimani showing that the ayatollah had not yet approved any plans by the general for an attack. The ayatollah, according to the communications, had asked General Suleimani to come to Tehran for further discussions at least a week before his death.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence were two of the most hawkish voices arguing for a response to Iranian aggression, according to administration officials. Mr. Pence's office helped run herd on meetings and conference calls held by officials in the run-up to the strike.
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and General Milley declined to comment for this article, but General Milley's spokeswoman, Col. DeDe Halfhill, said, without elaborating, that ''some of the characterizations being asserted by other sources are false'' and that she would not discuss conversations between General Milley and the president.
The fallout from Mr. Trump's targeted killing is now underway. On Saturday in Iraq, the American military was on alert as tens of thousands of pro-Iranian fighters marched through the streets of Baghdad and calls accelerated to eject the United States from the country. United States Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the Middle East, said there were two rocket attacks near Iraqi bases that host American troops, but no one was injured.
In Iran, the ayatollah vowed ''forceful revenge'' as the country mourned the death of General Suleimani.
In Palm Beach, Fla., Mr. Trump lashed back, promising to strike 52 sites across Iran '-- representing the number of American hostages taken by Iran in 1979 '-- if Iran attacked Americans or American interests. On Saturday night, Mr. Trump warned on Twitter that some sites were ''at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD.''
The president issued those warnings after American spy agencies on Saturday detected that Iranian ballistic missile units across the country had gone to a heightened state of readiness, a United States official said on Saturday night.
Other officials said it was unclear whether Iran was dispersing its ballistic missile units '-- the heart of the Iranian military '-- to avoid American attack, or was mobilizing the units for a major strike against American targets or allies in the region in retaliation for General Suleimani's death.
On Capitol Hill, Democrats voiced growing suspicions about the intelligence that led to the killing. At the White House, officials formally notified Congress of a war powers resolution with what the administration said was a legal justification for the strike.
At Fort Bragg, N.C., some 3,500 soldiers, one of the largest rapid deployments in decades, are bound for the Middle East.
General Suleimani, who was considered the most important person in Iran after Ayatollah Khamenei, was a commanding general of a sovereign government. The last time the United States killed a major military leader in a foreign country was during World War II, when the American military shot down the plane carrying the Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto.
But administration officials are playing down General Suleimani's status as a part of the Iranian state, suggesting his title gave him cover for terrorist activities. In the days since his death, they have sought to describe the strike as more in line with the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State leader, who died in October in an American commando raid in Syria.
Administration officials insisted they did not anticipate sweeping retaliation from Iran, in part because of divisions in the Iranian leadership. But Mr. Trump's two predecessors '-- Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama '-- had rejected killing General Suleimani as too provocative.
General Suleimani had been in Mr. Trump's sights since the beginning of the administration, although it was a Dec. 27 rocket attack on an Iraqi military base outside Kirkuk, which left an American civilian contractor dead, that set the killing in motion.
General Milley and Mr. Esper traveled on Sunday to Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump's Palm Beach resort, a day after officials presented the president with an initial list of options for how to deal with escalating violence against American targets in Iraq.
The options included strikes on Iranian ships or missile facilities or against Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq. The Pentagon also tacked on the choice of targeting General Suleimani, mainly to make other options seem reasonable.
Mr. Trump chose strikes against militia groups. On Sunday, the Pentagon announced that airstrikes approved by the president had struck three locations in Iraq and two in Syria controlled by the group, Kataib Hezbollah.
Jonathan Hoffman, the chief Pentagon spokesman, said the targets included weapons storage facilities and command posts used to attack American and partner forces. About two dozen militia fighters were killed.
''These were on remote sites,'' General Milley told reporters on Friday in his Pentagon office. ''There was no collateral damage.''
But the Iranians viewed the strikes as out of proportion to their attack on the Iraqi base and Iraqis, largely members of Iranian-backed militias, staged violent protests outside the American Embassy in Baghdad. Mr. Trump, who aides said had on his mind the specter of the 2012 attacks on the American compound in Benghazi, Libya, became increasingly angry as he watched television images of pro-Iranian demonstrators storming the embassy. Aides said he worried that no response would look weak after repeated threats by the United States.
When Mr. Trump chose the option of killing General Suleimani, top military officials, flabbergasted, were immediately alarmed about the prospect of Iranian retaliatory strikes on American troops in the region. It is unclear if General Milley or Mr. Esper pushed back on the president's decision.
Over the next several days, the military's Special Operations Command looked for an opportunity to hit General Suleimani, who operated in the open and was treated like a celebrity in many places he visited in the Middle East. Military and intelligence officials said the strike drew on information from secret informants, electronic intercepts, reconnaissance aircraft and other surveillance tools.
The option that was eventually approved depended on who would greet General Suleimani at his expected arrival on Friday at Baghdad International Airport. If he was met by Iraqi government officials allied with Americans, one American official said, the strike would be called off. But the official said it was a ''clean party,'' meaning members of Kataib Hezbollah, including its leader, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Mr. Trump authorized the killing at about 5 p.m. on Thursday, officials said.
On Friday, missiles fired from an American MQ-9 Reaper blew up General Suleimani's convoy as it departed the airport.
Hollywood Erupts After Soleimani Airstrike: 'Hitler Did the Same Thing'
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 15:16
Alec Badlwin, Debra Messing, and Michael Moore led the Hollywood left, which rushed to social media with conspiracy theories and rage hours after the U.S. military airstrike that killed Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force.
''Start a war to eclipse an impeachment?'' was the theory actor Alec Baldwin shared with his Twitter followers.
Start a war to eclipse an impeachment? pic.twitter.com/eeUjQC5XFy
'-- HABFoundation (@ABFalecbaldwin) January 3, 2020
Indeed, deadly-airstrike-is-a-distraction-from-impeachment was a conspiracy shared by several of Baldwin's left-wing Hollywood peers.
''This is what putin wants! Chaos in the world! Trump is his puppet but this helps forget about his impeachment!!'' said actor John Leguizamo.
This is what putin wants! Chaos in the world! Trump is his puppet but this helps forget about his impeachment!! https://t.co/JNCb6FbIrZ
'-- John Leguizamo (@JohnLeguizamo) January 3, 2020
''He has set it up so that not one Allie we have ever had will come to America's aid all for Putin he is a war criminal and people are going to die he has put us in a war to stop from being impeached blood is on all the hands of the GOP who have put soulless party over America,'' said actress Rosanna Arquette, who later said ''Hitler did the same thing.''
He has set it up so that not one Allie we have ever had will come to America's aid all for Putin he is a war criminal and people are going to die he has put us in a war to stop from being impeached blood is on all the hands of the GOP who have put soulless party over America.
'-- Rosanna Arquette🌎''ŒðŸ¼ (@RoArquette) January 3, 2020
The Pentagon confirmed that President Donald Trump ordered the airstrike that killed the leader of the Foreign Terrorist Organization, Soleimani.
''At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization,'' The Department of Defense said in a statement Thursday.
But let the Hollywood left tell it, killing Soleimani '-- a man who was personally responsible for the murder of thousands of innocents both in Iran and in neighboring countries, including hundreds of Americans '-- was about President Trump either stroking his ego or an attempt to distract from the partisan impeachment push that's stalled in Congress.
''Please read Impeach, The Case Against Donald Trump by @ neal_katyal and my son, @ SammyKoppelman . The book clearly and cleanly and without drama, lays out the case, reminds us why Impeachment is what we need to focus on, not a Trumped-up war,'' said Showtime's Billions co-creator Brian Koppelman.
Please read Impeach, The Case Against Donald Trump by @neal_katyal and my son, @SammyKoppelman. The book clearly and cleanly and without drama, lays out the case, reminds us why Impeachment is what we need to focus on, not a Trumped-up war.
'-- Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman) January 3, 2020
''Hello fellow Americans. Do you know this man? Did you know he was your enemy? What? Never heard of him? By the end of today you will be trained to hate him. You will be glad Trump had him assassinated. You will do as you are told. Get ready to send your sons &daughters off 2 war,'' said Michael Moore.
Hello fellow Americans. Do you know this man? Did you know he was your enemy? What? Never heard of him? By the end of today you will be trained to hate him. You will be glad Trump had him assassinated. You will do as you are told. Get ready to send your sons &daughters off 2 war pic.twitter.com/8CprNDMgTf
'-- Michael Moore (@MMFlint) January 3, 2020
''He's a narcissist. He's in trouble. So he's starting a war,'' actor Bradley Whitford said.
He's a narcissist. He's in trouble. So he's starting a war.
'-- Bradley Whitford (@BradleyWhitford) January 3, 2020
OUR NATIONAL SECURITY IS IN SERIOUS DANGER. WE DONT TWEET OUT THINGS THAT PUT OUR TROOPS IN DANGER! GET THE TRUMPS OUT! VOTE OUT EVERY REPUBLICAN ENABLER.'' shrieked Oscar-winner Patricia Arquette.
OUR NATIONAL SECURITY IS IN SERIOUS DANGER. WE DONT TWEET OUT THINGS THAT PUT OUR TROOPS IN DANGER! GET THE TRUMPS OUT! VOTE OUT EVERY REPUBLICAN ENABLER. https://t.co/Tz4i7MMbBR
'-- Patricia Arquette (@PattyArquette) January 3, 2020
In another all-caps rants, actress Debra Messing said ''THERE IS A TWEET FOR EVERYTHING'' and added a hashtag that read ''Trump is the nation security threat.''
THERE IS A TWEET FOR EVERYTHING. #TrumpIsANationalSecurityThreat pic.twitter.com/qGoEmKUssH
'-- Debra Messing (@DebraMessing) January 3, 2020
''It's a war about politics. Shameful and dangerous,'' said Stephen King.
It's a war about politics. Shameful and dangerous. https://t.co/zQkR3nw904
'-- Stephen King (@StephenKing) January 3, 2020
Check out the melt downs below.
Don't know about you but I feel very secure in the knowledge that, as things heat up with Iran, we have a stable genius at the helm.
'-- Rob Reiner (@robreiner) January 3, 2020
Yo, did this dipshit just start a full-on war with Iran? With an air strike in neighboring Iraq, where the consequences of 17 years of war are still on fire?
'-- Jeffrey Wright (@jfreewright) January 3, 2020
he's got to go '... https://t.co/hmcrQJeyIt
'-- Don Cheadle (@DonCheadle) January 3, 2020
off to war '' god help us #RemoveTrump
'-- ROSIE (@Rosie) January 3, 2020
No war with Iran.
'-- rob delaney (@robdelaney) January 3, 2020
Actually, that will happen in Nov 2020 by way of our election. https://t.co/nHxwZuyCSk
'-- George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) January 3, 2020
Jerome Hudson is Breitbart News Entertainment Editor and author of the bestselling book 50 Things They Don't Want You to Know. Order your copy today. Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter and Instagram @jeromeehudson
Green New Deal
Heavy rain, damaging wind and large hail forecast for drought and fire-ravaged parts of NSW and QLD | Daily Mail Online
Sun, 05 Jan 2020 07:49
Drought and bushfire affected areas in parts of New South Wales and Queensland are set to be hit by severe thunderstorms and heavy rainfall.
As catastrophic fires burn across the country, a warning has been issued for the Northern Tablelands with another trough further to the west extending from western Queensland.
A warning has been issued for severe thunderstorms, damaging winds, heavy rainfall that may lead to flash flooding and large hailstones in the warning area over the next several hours.
Locations which may be affected include Armidale, Glen Innes, Ebor, Guyra, Walcha and Uralla.
A warning of severe thunderstorms, damaging winds, heavy rainfall that may lead to flash flooding and large hailstones has been issued
Orange sky: Dawn breaks over the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, New South Wales, amid extreme temperatures in the country
More than 100 bushfires are currently burning across the state and more than 2,000 firefighters are battling the blazes.
It is expected the heavy rainfall will come as a relief for exhausted firefighters battling the blazes.
Thousands of families are fleeing the devastated coast south of Batemans Bay.
MP Andrew Constance appeared visibly distraught as fires ravaged the area and was told nearly 400 homes have been lost in NSW.
'It's unfair, you know? I met four RFS guys yesterday who lost their homes,' he said.
'Beautiful neighbours of mine lost their homes. It is tough. We will get it together. We're tough here, we're pretty resilient people. We've been through a lot, we'll recover. It's just hard.'
A severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for parts of NSW and Queensland on Thursday
Fires have destroyed nearly 400 homes across NSW (Pictured: clouds brewing over the harbour bridge)
Rain is forecast for Armidale and Inverell. A warning has been issued for parts of NSW and QLD
After ripping through forest, the out-of-control Badja Forest Road fire has lept across the Princes Highway and devastated the coastline.
It is now burning at an alarming and uncontrollable rate, as locals and holidaymakers alike scramble to escape.
The Rural Fire Service is urging residents and holidaymakers to completely evacuate the south coast before Saturday, when conditions are likely to spiral out of control.
'It is not safe. Do not be here on Saturday,' the warning said.
There are fears that if people do not flee the embattled coastline, there will soon be no way out.
Police are reminding residents and tourists of road closures and traffic diversions due to the fires.
The mercury is expected to top 45C on Saturday and everyone is urged to evacuate the area due to dangerous conditions.
Holidaymakers attempting to flee Batemans Bay before temperatures reach 46C on Saturday were trapped on the roads with long rows of cars seen piled up on Thursday
This picture taken on December 31, 2019 shows a firefighter hosing down trees and flying embers in an effort to secure nearby houses from bushfires near the town of Nowra on the NSW south coast
AUSTRALIA'S BUSHFIRE CRISIS AT A GLANCE NEW SOUTH WALES:
- 15 lives lost, four in the past 48 hours
- One person remains missing
- More than 110 bushfires burning
- 3.6 million hectares burned, greater than the size of Belgium
- 1,298 homes confirmed destroyed
VICTORIA :
- Two people dead, 17 more missing
- About 50 bushfires burning
- More than 766,000 hectares burned
- 68 structures confirmed destroyed but this number is expected to rise significantly
TASMANIA :
- More than 30 bushfires burning, seven of significance
- 8000 hectares burned
- One home confirmed destroyed
SOUTH AUSTRALIA:
- One person dead
- About 20 bushfires burning, three of significance
- More than 60,000 hectares burned
- 88 homes confirmed destroyed
QUEENSLAND:
- About 30 bushfires burning
- 250,000 hectares burned
- 45 homes confirmed destroyed
WESTERN AUSTRALIA:
- More than 30 bushfires burning, two of significance
- 1.2 million hectares burned
- One home confirmed destroyed
State Emergency Operations Controller, Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys, said conditions are continuously changing and sections of roads closing and opening periodically as the fire emergency continues.
'The NSW Police Force and the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) are working to maintain safe travel passages for people in Southern NSW, but fires are impacting some of these routes,' Deputy Commissioner Worboys said.
'With the assistance of Transport for NSW, we have been running controlled access to various arterial roads to allow people to leave impacted areas, but sections of the Princes Highway are being closed periodically for safety reasons.
'The road networks are currently fully loaded in many areas, so please be patient and remain calm. Importantly, obey all directions from police or other emergency services.
'We also recommend you have plenty of fuel and a fully-charged mobile phone, as well as water and snacks for the trip, as lengthy delays are expected.'
This satellite image shows the devastation of the fires devastating the coastal town of Batemans Bay, on the NSW south coast, early Wednesday morning as the blaze continues to spread
This picture taken on December 31, 2019 shows firefighters struggling against the strong wind in an effort to secure nearby houses from bushfires near the town of Nowra
Roads which remain closed South of Nowra:
' Jerrawangala to Tomerong - Turpentine Road is closed
' Wandandian - Wandean Road is closed between the Princes Highway and Bollerang Road
' Nowra Hill to Charleyong - Braidwood Road/Nerriga Road is closed
Around Braidwood:
' Braidwood to Nelligen - the Kings Highway is closed
' Braidwood to Moruya - Araluen Road is closed
' Braidwood to Cooma - Cooma Road is closed
In and around the Snowy Mountains:
' Tumut to Adaminaby - the Snowy Mountains Highway is closed
' Batlow to Tumbarumba - Batlow Road is closed
A fire ravages bushland at the side of the road near Mt Wilson in the Blue Mountains
Further up towards Batemans Bay, the Clyde Mountain fire is also burning out-of-control.
On Thursday cars were being allowed to travel north from Batemans Bay on the Princes Highway, with thousands of motorists taking to the roads in a desperate attempt to escape.
There have been seven deaths in NSW alone since Monday.
This includes volunteer firefighter Samuel McPaul, as well as Patrick Salway, 29, and his 63-year-old father Robert.
Two bodies were found separately in Yatte Yattah, while another was found in a vehicle at Sussex Inlet.
Another body was discovered at Coolagolite, with a man missing and presumed dead in Belowra.
THE FORECAST IN YOUR CITY SYDNEY
FRIDAY: Min 22. Max 28. Cloud clearing.
SATURDAY: Min 21. Max 34. Hot. Smoke haze.
SUNDAY: Min 22. Max 25. Partly cloudy.
BRISBANE
FRIDAY: Min 22. Max 31. Partly cloudy.
SATURDAY: Min 21. Max 31. Mostly sunny.
SUNDAY: Min 21. Max 31. Mostly sunny.
ADELAIDE
FRIDAY: Min 24. Max 42. Very hot and sunny.
SATURDAY: Min 19. Max 25. Cloudy.
SUNDAY: Min 14. Max 23. Possible shower.
CANBERRA
FRIDAY: Min 15. Max 39. Smoke haze.
SATURDAY: Min 18. Max 41. Hot. Smoke haze.
SUNDAY: Min 18. Max 30. Possible shower.
MELBOURNE
FRIDAY: Min 14. Max 35. Hazy.
SATURDAY: Min 23. Max 29. Mostly sunny.
SUNDAY: Min 14. Max 18. Shower or two
PERTH
FRIDAY: Min 14. Max 23. Possible morning shower.
SATURDAY: Min 12. Max 28. Sunny.
SUNDAY: Min 16. Max 36. Sunny.
HOBART
FRIDAY: Min 14. Max 24. Partly cloudy.
SATURDAY: Min 16. Max 28. Partly cloudy.
SUNDAY: Min 12. Max 23. Partly cloudy.
DARWIN
FRIDAY: Min 26. Max 35. Partly cloudy.
SATURDAY: Min 26. Max 34. Partly cloudy.
SUNDAY: Min 26. Max 34. Shower or two. Possible storm.
Source: Bureau of Meteorology
'It's an Atomic Bomb': Australia Deploys Military as Fires Spread - The New York Times
Sun, 05 Jan 2020 06:51
With more than a month still to go in the fire season, the government announced a large-scale use of military assets, a deployment not seen since World War II.
Fighting a fire in Tomerong, New South Wales, Australia, on Saturday. Credit... Matthew Abbott for The New York Times HASTINGS, Australia '-- The evacuees walked down the gangway of the giant naval vessel to the dock, each carrying just a few items of luggage. Some held infants and others their dogs, whose legs were still shaky from the 20-hour voyage down the coast of Australia. They were weary, and their clothes smelled of smoke, but the terrible infernos were finally behind them.
Four days after a bush fire ravaged the remote coastal town of Mallacoota, forcing people to shelter on the beach under blood-red skies, more than 1,000 stranded residents and vacationers arrived on Saturday in Hastings, a town near Melbourne.
The authorities said it was most likely the largest peacetime maritime rescue operation in Australia's history. It was also a symbol of a country in perpetual flight from danger during a catastrophic fire season '-- and the challenge the government faces in getting the blazes under control.
Searing heat and afternoon winds propelled fires over large swaths of Australia on Saturday, adding to the devastation of a deadly fire season that has now claimed 24 lives. Thousands of people have been evacuated, while many towns and cities under threat were still smoldering from ferocious blazes that ripped through the countryside earlier in the week.
More than 12 million acres have burned so far, an area larger than Switzerland, and the damage is expected to only get worse in the extremely arid conditions that are allowing the fires to spread. The fires are also so hot and so large that they are creating their own weather patterns, which can worsen the conditions.
With more than a month still to go in the fire season, the government announced on Saturday a large-scale use of military assets, a deployment not seen since World War II, experts say. About 3,000 army reservists, along with aircraft and naval ships, are being made available to help with the evacuation and firefighting efforts.
''The government has not taken this decision lightly,'' said Defense Minister Linda Reynolds. ''It is the first time that reserves have been called out in this way in living memory.''
In anticipation of the bad conditions on Saturday, thousands of people were evacuated, largely from communities along the southeastern coast, where the towns swell with tourists during the summer. Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that a third Australian Navy ship, the Adelaide, would be used to evacuate people.
Mr. Morrison, who has been widely criticized for his response to the fires, had resisted a major intervention by the national government, saying firefighting has traditionally been the domain of the individual states. He has also minimized the link between global warming and the extreme conditions that have fueled the fires.
The states and their overwhelmingly volunteer force of firefighters in rural areas have been stretched and depleted by a season that started earlier and has been especially ferocious. While Australia has long dealt with bush fires, a yearslong drought and record-breaking temperatures have made for a more volatile and unpredictable season.
The Bureau of Meteorology reported that the western Sydney suburb of Penrith, which reached a high of 48.9 degrees Celsius, or 120 degrees Fahrenheit, was the hottest place in the country on Saturday. Last month Australia recorded its warmest day across the continent.
As climate change worsens, scientists are predicting that the fires will become more frequent and more intense.
John Blaxland, a professor at the Strategic and Defense Studies Center at the Australian National University, said the country had not seen a catastrophe on this scale, affecting so many people in so many different locations, since Australia became independent in 1901.
With other obligations in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, the military was not necessarily staffed to handle a looming climate crisis, he said. ''If this is the new normal, then that model is broken,'' he said.
Officials on Saturday said one major fire had crossed from the state of Victoria north into New South Wales and was spreading quickly. Fire-generated thunderstorms have appeared over blazes in two different places. Emergency workers were using cranes and air tankers to fight the fires, as winds moving up the coast were causing some of the blazes to merge.
The fires are blazing ferociously along Australia's eastern coast, as well as South Australia, Tasmania and parts of Western Australia.
In southern Australia, fire tore through a popular nature reserve known for its koalas, sea lions and other wildlife, killing a man and his grown son.
In towns along the coast between Melbourne and Sydney, shops closed, power was cut and the authorities went door to door ordering evacuations.
In Nowra, a coastal town two hours south of Sydney, the sky went dark as the air filled with choking smoke.
At a lawn-bowling club transformed into an evacuation center, people strapped on gas masks, while dogs barked frantically. A chaplain ministered to the anxious.
''There's nowhere safe,'' said Liddy Lant, a hospital cleaner still in her uniform who had fled from her home on Saturday. ''I could seriously just sit down and cry.''
The fire commissioner of the Rural Fire Service in New South Wales, Shane Fitzsimmons, told reporters on Saturday that more than 148 active fires were burning in his state alone, with 12 at an emergency level. Farther south, in Victoria, the authorities counted more than 50 active fires.
''This is not a bush fire,'' Andrew Constance, the transport minister in New South Wales, told ABC radio. ''It's an atomic bomb.''
For Australia's wildlife, the toll has been incalculable. About 87 percent of Australia's wildlife is endemic to the country, which means it can be found only on this island continent.
And a great many of those species, like the koala, the southern brown bandicoot and the long-footed potoroo, have populations living in the regions now being obliterated by the fires. Because the fires this season have been so intense and consumed wetlands as well as dry eucalyptus forests, there are few places many of these animals can seek refuge.
''We've never seen fires like this, not to this extent, not all at once, and the reservoir of animals that could come and repopulate the areas, they may not be there,'' said Jim Radford, a research fellow at La Trobe University in Melbourne.
At the evacuation center in Nowra, about a hundred people sought cover throughout the day. Children chased each other around as paramedics strapped oxygen masks onto elderly residents.
Ms. Lant, 71, said she received an emergency alert on Saturday afternoon telling her to evacuate immediately from North Nowra. She ran home to fetch her dog, Kaiser, and her bird. Her cat had fled. Firefighters were knocking on doors telling her neighbors to leave. Her brother is in Mallacoota, the town where residents are being evacuated by the navy.
''I've just had it,'' she said.
At the next table, the Barwick family and their two dogs were waiting, as they had for days. Although their home in Worrigee was not in the direct line of fire, they had arrived here on Tuesday night, having lived through a bush fire in 2017.
Their two children had been traumatized by that experience. Back then, they had to flee the approaching flames, spending hours on the beach.
''I don't need them seeing the plumes again,'' said Daniel Barwick. ''I'm just trying to protect them as much as possible.''
As people disembarked the naval ships in Hastings on Saturday, emergency service workers offered emotional support and premade sandwiches. Buses then took them either to Melbourne or a relief center in the nearby town of Somerville, where many would be picked up by friends and relatives.
The arrivals said they were thankful to be safely ashore. A man who had stepped off a bus in Somerville embraced a woman who had come to meet him, and sobbed.
What Darcy Brown, 16, craved most was a shower. Ms. Brown had just moved with her family to Mallacoota when the fire razed their new home and worsened her asthma. It was ''devastating,'' she said.
Others said their personal brush with climate disaster had crystallized their view that the government needed to do more not just to reduce heat-trapping emissions, but also to help the country adapt to a warmer world.
One woman disembarking the boat, Corrin Mueller, 23, carried a sign that read ''inaction costs more,'' which she described as referring to the Australian government's failure to reduce emissions.
''We're only here because nobody's acted quick enough,'' she said. ''And there's so much more we can still do to stop more people having to go through this.''
Livia Albeck-Ripka reported from Hastings; Isabella Kwai and Thomas Fuller from Nowra, Australia; and Jamie Tarabay from Hong Kong.
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Japan Says Ex-Nissan Boss Carlos Ghosn's Escape 'Illegal', 'Extremely Regrettable' for Country - Sputnik International
Sun, 05 Jan 2020 07:22
Carlos Ghosn, the once powerful CEO of the Nissan Motor Company, carmaker Renault SA and Mitsubishi Motors, was abruptly arrested and charged with financial improprieties in November 2018. He was held in jail and subsequently under house arrest in Tokyo, Japan, after being summarily dismissed from his position at Nissan.
Former car tycoon Carlos Ghosn's escape from Japan despite being under heavily guarded house arrest is "unjustifiable" and he is thought to have left the country using "illegal methods", the Japanese justice minister said on Sunday, 5 December, in the first official public comments on the case, writes The Telegraph.
Masako Mori said on Sunday there were no public records of the 65-year-old former Nissan boss leaving Japan.
(C) REUTERS / MOHAMED AZAKIR
Lebanese police officers are seen at the entrance to the garage of what is believed to be former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn's house in Beirut
"It is believed that he used some wrongful methods to illegally leave the country. It is extremely regrettable that we have come to this situation. The flight by a defendant on bail is unjustifiable," said the minister. The escape is viewed as a huge embarrassment for the Japanese justice system.Mori confirmed that Japan was undertaking an investigation into how Ghosn was able to leave the country.
"Our country's criminal justice system sets out appropriate procedures to clarify the truth of cases and is administered appropriately, while guaranteeing basic individual human rights," she said.Tokyo's public prosecutor's office responded by saying the escape proved their previous argument that Ghosn should have been kept in custody as a ''flight risk''.
(C) AFP 2019 / Kazuhiro Nogi
In this file photo taken on April 3, 2019, former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn (L) and his wife Carole (R) leave the office of his lawyer in Tokyo.
The case has also reignited the debate over Japan's justice system, where there is no presumption of innocence and the accused can be held for months before trial. Critics have branded it as ''hostage justice,'' while prosecutors argue the lengthy detention is necessary to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Interpol has issued a "red notice" for Carlos Ghosn, urging police forces around the world to arrest him.
'Rigged Justice System'In a statement issued after he arrived in Lebanon, which does not have an extradition treaty with Japan, Ghosn attacked the Japanese justice system, vowing to tell his story to the world's media next week.
As the businessman who chaired the alliance between Nissan, French carmaker Renault, and Mitsubishi denied the charges against him, he said:
"I am now in Lebanon and will no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied. I have not fled justice - I have escaped injustice and political persecution."Ghosn plans to hold a press conference in Beirut this week.
Houdini-like EscapeThe details of Ghosn's dramatic flight from Japan are still unclear; there have been unconfirmed reports that he had been smuggled out in a musical instrument case left over from a Christmas band's performance at his home in Tokyo.
Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported a surveillance video showed him leaving his house around noon on Sunday on his own, to finally board a private jet to Beirut via Istanbul.
'Fall From Grace'Carlos Ghosn, the Brazilian-born French businessman who was raised in Lebanon from the age of six, had faced multiple charges of financial misconduct that he denies.
Ghosn, who rose to become the car industry's most powerful executive and united Japanese firms Nissan and Mitsubishi with French company Renault in a global alliance, was suddenly arrested in November 2018 in Tokyo over allegations of dramatically under-reporting his earnings to the Japanese government while at the helm of Nissan and misusing company assets.
Former Renault-Nissan Alliance Chairman Carlos Ghosn
He says the charges, which carry a potential prison term of up to 15 years, are a politically motivated stitch-up by opponents of his planned merger of Nissan and Renault. What exactly happened has never been established.
The executive was locked up in Tokyo Detention Centre for more than 100 days and reportedly grilled by investigators for hours as they sought to extract a confession before he went to trial.
(C) AP Photo / Ng Han Guan
JAPAN NISSAN GHOSN COUP
Ghosn, 65, won bail in April 2019, but with strict conditions, which included a ban on overseas travel and living under surveillance.
Vape Wars
iQOS push at 7/11
Slackified
It's Official: Open-Plan Offices Are Now the Dumbest Management Fad of All Time | Inc.com
Sun, 05 Jan 2020 06:53
Over the decades, a lot of really stupid management fads have come and gone, including:
Six Sigma, where employees wear different colored belts (like in karate) to show they've been trained in the methodology.Stack Ranking, where employees are encouraged to rat each other out in order to secure their own advancement and budget.Consensus Management, where all decisions must pass through multiple committees before being implemented.It need hardly be said that these fads were and are (at best) a waste of time and (at worst) a set of expensive distractions. But open plan offices are worse. Much worse. Why? B ecause they decrease rather than increase employee collaboration.
As my colleague Jessica Stillman pointed out last week, a new study from Harvard showed that when employees move from a traditional office to an open plan office, it doesn't cause them to interact more socially or more frequently.
Instead, the opposite happens. They start using email and messaging with much greater frequency than before. In other words, even if collaboration were a great idea (it's a questionable notion), open plan offices are the worst possible way to make it happen.
Previous studies of open plan offices have shown that they make people less productive, but most of those studies gave lip service to the notion that open plan offices would increase collaboration, thereby offsetting the damage.
The Harvard study, by contrast, undercuts the entire premise that justifies the fad. And that leaves companies with only one justification for moving to an open plan office: less floor space, and therefore a lower rent.
But even that justification is idiotic because the financial cost of the loss in productivity will be much greater than the money saved in rent. Here's an article where I do the math for you. Even in high-rent districts, the savings have a negative ROI.
More important, though--if employees are going to be using email and messaging to communicate with co-workers, they might as well be working from home, which costs the company nothing.
In fact, work-from-home actually saves money because then employees can live in areas where housing is more affordable, which means you can pay them a smaller salary than if you force them to live in, say, a high-rent district like Santa Clara, California.
So there it is. Companies have spent billions of dollars to create these supposedly-collaborative workplaces and the net effect has been for those same companies to suffer billions of dollars in lost productivity.
What can you do about it? Well, if you're a business owner, just say no, or, if you've already drunk the Kool-Aid, admit you've been snookered. Re-implement work-from-home and convert your open plan office into a collection of private spaces.
What if you're just a worker-bee? Well, tread lightly. As a general rule, bosses don't react well when told they've made an expensive, dumb mistake. There are also some folk at your workplace whose careers are now tied to the "success" of the office redesign.
So, if you really want to try to change things, you'll need to deal with denial and cognitive dissonance. As Upton Sinclair might have said: "It is difficult to get people to understand something, when their salary depends on their not understanding it."
If I were in that situation, I'd use the overwhelming evidence against open plan offices to lobby for a more work-from-home so that the company can expand without adding office space. That's not only a good idea; it also allows the power-that-be to save face.
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War on Meat
The Meat-Lover's Guide to Eating Less Meat - The New York Times
Sun, 05 Jan 2020 06:51
A Good Appetite
Reducing your meat and dairy intake can help mitigate climate change. Melissa Clark has ideas for how to do it deliciously.
A vegetarian riff on Indian butter chicken, this fragrant stew of chickpeas is spiced with cinnamon, garam masala and fresh ginger, and is rich and creamy from the coconut milk. Credit... David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews. Published Dec. 31, 2019Updated Jan. 2, 2020
For all of my adult life, I've reveled in rare rib-eye steaks and oozing Camembert. I won't let go of my drumstick until I've gnawed off every bit of cartilage and golden skin, and it's best to not even talk about bacon so crisp that it won't bend for that first porky bite.
Yet over the past few months, I've cut way down on my lamb chops and grilled cheese sandwiches. And if you're a meat-and-dairy eater who aches over the environmental state of our planet, then you may be thinking of doing the same thing, too.
It started in the spring, when my Food colleague Julia Moskin teamed up with Brad Plumer from The New York Times Climate desk to report on how our current food system is contributing to climate change. The results were crystal clear and deeply depressing. Meat and dairy production alone account for 14.5 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions '-- as much each year as from all cars, trucks, airplanes and ships combined. It's a staggering statistic.
I'd always considered my food choices to be outside the problem. I get a local farm box of produce every week, and frequent the farmers' market for more vegetables, as well as grains and ethically raised meat. I limit seafood that's not sustainable, and when I do shop at a supermarket I mostly fill my cart with organic whole foods that are not highly processed (the occasional bag of Cheetos aside).
Evidence is piling up, though, that this isn't enough to make an impact. Only drastic changes will make a difference. The World Resource Institute, an environmental research group, recommends that wealthy nations cut their beef, lamb and dairy consumption by 40 percent to meet global emissions goals for 2050.
Becoming vegan would be the most planet-friendly way to go, followed by going vegetarian. In my case, those diets would be a professional liability, and to be perfectly honest, I don't know that I've got the willpower to stick to either one. I love meat and dairy too much to give them up entirely. But eating less of them '-- that I can do.
On the upside, eating less meat and dairy means there is more room on my plate for other delectable things: really good sourdough bread slathered with tahini and homemade marmalade, mushroom Bourguignon over a mound of noodles, and all those speckled heirloom beans I keep meaning to order online.
So how much meat and dairy should we actually be eating? And if we reduce our intake severely, do we then need to worry about getting enough protein?
According to Marion Nestle, an author and professor emeritus of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, if you are getting enough calories, then you are getting enough protein. (That is, unless you are an elite athlete.)
''People are very concerned about protein, but it's a nonissue,'' she said. ''It's in grains, it's in vegetables, it's everywhere. It will find you.''
With that anxiety abated, I turned to setting a concrete goal: a balance of plant-based versus meat-and-dairy meals to strive for every week, like my daily 10,000 steps (or should it be 15,000?), translated into broccoli and burgers.
After some mental calisthenics, I landed on trying to limit myself to two to three meals that include meat, seafood or dairy per week, and thrice-daily splashes of milk in my tea (nonnegotiable if I want to retain my sanity). I figure this is about a 40 percent reduction from the six to eight meaty, cheesy, anchovy- and yogurt-laden meals I had been eating weekly. (The rest were already meat- and dairy-free, and I don't typically eat breakfast.)
[Sign up for our Five Weeknight Dishes newsletter to get weekly recipe recommendations delivered to your inbox.]
Another way to strategize is to try keeping the daily mix of what you eat to 80 percent plant matter and 20 percent meat, dairy and seafood. (Going vegan all day, then having a small amount of meat or cheese with dinner is one way that people make this work.)
For my meat allotment, I've focused more on chicken, pork and local seafood (especially mollusks), which are generally less taxing to the environment than beef and lamb, both of which are now relegated to special-occasion status.
Of course, none of this is in any way a novel approach. The concept of flexitarianism has been around since the early 2000s, and it's a central tenet in much of Michael Pollan's writing. But somehow the term seems timeworn, and not at all evocative of the pleasures of the table.
I like to loosely think of my approach as mindful meat-eating. Now, when I do simmer up a pot of beef short ribs (or smear cream cheese on my bagel, or go for sushi), I'm thoughtful and deliberate about it, which makes it taste even more delicious, seasoned with anticipation.
And while the days of absent-minded chicken Caesar salads and oblivious cheese-and-cracker munching are for the most part over, the likes of avocado toast, salted cashews and popcorn covered with coconut oil and nutritional yeast can fill the void.
What follows is my own personal guide to eating less meat, and dairy too, with tips, strategies and plenty of recipes.
1. Eat Beans and More BeansWe are a family of bean lovers, so adding more of them to our weekly menu makes for happiness all around. To keep us from getting bored, though, I've widened the net, seeking out less common varieties like brown-dappled Jacob's Cattle beans and purple-swirled Christmas lima beans, along with my usual roster of chickpeas, lentils and cannellini.
I've also changed the way I think about chili, one of my go-to bean-based meals. I used to add a small amount of ground meat to my chili pot as a matter of course, unless I was making a specifically vegetarian chili. Now, I usually skip the meat '-- save for the occasional spoonful of bacon grease or lard for richness '-- and I don't miss it.
Beans are also excellent stand-ins for meat in certain recipes, like using chickpeas in a riff on Indian butter chicken, and filling tacos with black beans instead of pork. And there's an entire universe of dals that I'm continuing to explore.
When I can plan ahead, I like cooking all of my beans myself for better flavor and texture, not to mention the bonus of leftover bean broth from cooking, which tastes especially amazing if you add lots of salt and garlic to the bean pot. I always keep some of that broth in the freezer to use in soups and stews. If you love beans and don't have a pressure cooker (either manual or electric), you should really consider getting one. It cuts the cooking time in half.
That said, canned beans are one of the greatest supermarket convenience foods, ever. My pantry is never without them.
2. Turn to High-Protein Grains (Pasta Counts!)Yes, there's quinoa, the quick-cooking staple that fills many a grain bowl. But there's also kamut, teff, millet, wild rice, buckwheat, cornmeal and even pasta. Grains have a lot more protein than we often give them credit for, along with a host of other vital nutrients, especially when we eat them whole. (I'll always have a soft spot for white rice, though, whether it's steamed sticky rice, or basmati pilaf, or Carolina long-grain rice cooked into pudding.)
Grain bowls make diverse, ever-changing meals that I can throw together from whatever is in the fridge, anything from leftovers to condiments or both. These days I find myself putting together a grain bowl at least once a week, topped with roasted vegetables and some kind of savory sauce to bind everything together. These bowls never get boring.
But within this category, pasta is my first choice, and I adore it in every incarnation. And using toasted bread crumbs in place of Parmesan keeps the dairy quotient down, too.
3. Elevate Your Tofu GameWhether pillow-soft and fluffy or crisp-edged and browned, tofu is always welcome on my plate. This is not the case for the rest of my family, who give it the side-eye whenever I serve it. The trick in our house has been to pair tofu, which has a relatively neutral taste, with ingredients with pizazz '-- the more umami-intense, the better. Miso, soy sauce, mushrooms, hot sauce and fermented black beans do a lot of the heavy lifting.
Another strategy is to mix in a small amount of meat '-- ground chicken or pork, or a little bacon '-- to add a large amount of flavor. Cooking it all on a sheet pan makes for an easy weeknight meal.
4. Embrace Nuts and Seeds I could sing the praises of toasted nuts, nut butter and tahini here, but you probably already know everything you need to about them. Whether toasted and chopped so they're satisfyingly crunchy, or pur(C)ed and seasoned to become alluringly creamy dressings or sauces, nuts and nut butters are a great way to round out a plate of roasted, steamed or raw vegetables.
What I really want to talk about is my newfound love of homemade vegan cheese (though I won't turn my nose up at store-bought nut-based queso dip, either). The best recipes I've tried are made from cashews, ground up with nutritional yeast and all manner of seasonings (smoked paprika, garlic powder, oregano), and then set with agar powder.
No, they don't taste anything like actual cheese. But when I rush home, ravenous and stressed after work, and there's some in the refrigerator that I can heap onto my Wheat Thins and nibble with my glass of wine, I don't miss Stilton nearly as much as I'd feared.
5. Consider Plant-Based MeatsThere's no denying how processed most vegan meats are, loaded with unidentifiable ingredients, but they do scratch the itch for burgers and meatballs. And plant-based sausages remind me of kishke, a traditional Jewish and Eastern European sausage made with beef and bread or grains, in a very good way. These products are often a starting point for people who want to cut down on their meat intake '-- and, with some brands, once that faux burger patty is stuffed into a bun and loaded with condiments, it may be hard to tell the difference.
Of the various kinds of vegan meats, seitan is my personal favorite. (A traditional meat substitute in Asia that's made from wheat gluten, it's the stuff of mock duck.) I truly enjoy seitan's chewy texture and lightly earthy flavor. As vegan meats go mainstream and the competition gets fiercer, seitan sausages, taco crumbles and bacon are getting tastier '-- far more so than their old, bland health-food store brethren. Unfortunately, as much as my 11-year-old likes the idea of a plant-based meat with a name that sounds like the Devil's, she doesn't actually like seitan. More for me.
6. Make Every Bite of Real Meat CountNow that I'm eating less meat, every single morsel of it needs to hold its own. Which means I'm less likely to bother with a chicken breast when a smaller amount of Italian turkey sausage, saut(C)ed until crisp and strewn over my spinach salad, delivers a lot more oomph. Or how about some duck confit? Assertively flavored cured pork '-- bacon, salami, prosciutto '-- add salty brawn to roasted vegetables and grains, pastas and salads, and a little goes a long way.
Then there's good, concentrated broth, whether it's bone broth or otherwise. Using beef broth in mushroom Bourguignon contributes tons of savory character without adding any actual meat. And making bone broth from scratch with the leftovers of your blowout holiday prime rib helps, at least a tiny bit, with the severe problem of food waste in this country. But really, make it because it tastes good.
Recipes: Mushroom Bourguignon | Indian Butter Chickpeas | Meatless Meatballs in Marinara Sauce | Quinoa Bowl With Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Eggplant and Tahini | Maple-Roasted Tofu With Butternut Squash and Bacon | Roasted Vegan Sausages With Cauliflower and Olives | Black Bean Tacos With Avocado and Spicy Onions
China
China Pneumonia Outbreak Spurs WHO Action as Mystery Lingers
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 23:22
(Bloomberg) -- A mysterious lung infection in the central Chinese city of Wuhan is being monitored by the World Health Organization, which said it's in active communication with its counterparts in China, where an investigation is underway to determine the cause.
The United Nations agency activated its incident-management system at the country, regional and global level and is standing ready to launch a broader response if it's needed, the WHO's regional office in Manila said in Twitter posts Saturday.
Read More: Mysterious Pneumonia Outbreak's Cause Stumps Investigators
As of Friday, 44 people had been diagnosed with pneumonia, the cause of which is unknown, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said in a statement. That's up from 27 three days earlier. Eleven people are in serious condition. Some of the infected worked at a fresh seafood and produce market in the city.
''China has extensive capacity to respond to public health events and is responding proactively and rapidly to the current incident in Wuhan ''- isolating patients, tracing close contacts, cleaning up the market, and searching for the cause and for additional cases,'' the WHO said.
Pathogen studies have ruled out more common respiratory diseases, including influenza, avian flu and adenovirus, Wuhan health authorities said. All the patients are being treated under quarantine, according to the commission.
Governments in the region have started to take precautions to prevent any possible spread of the infections. Singapore's Ministry of Health said temperature screening will be implemented at Changi Airport for all travelers arriving from Wuhan. In Hong Kong, officials have classified the response level as ''serious'' -- the second-highest scale of action in its three-tier system -- with public hospitals reporting eight patients, aged from four to 50, who have been to the Chinese city and show symptoms for pneumonia.
Market ClosedThe Wuhan seafood market, which has since been closed, also sold birds, pheasants, and snakes, along with organs of rabbits and other wildlife, the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy said Thursday, citing media reports.
That's triggered concern about the potential jump of an unknown virus to humans -- reminiscent of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, which killed almost 800 people about 17 years ago. The Wuhan Institute of Virology didn't respond to an emailed request for comment on the infectious source.
It's not known whether a SARS-like ''coronavirus'' has been identified, although there have been ''numerous unsubstantiated reports mentioning a novel coronavirus that is SARS-like,'' the International Society for Infectious Diseases' ProMED-mail program said in an email Friday.
Several people were arrested for circulating fake news online about the viral spread of pneumonia, provincial authorities said, adding that rumors on social media alleging that there had been an outbreak of SARS are untrue, and no person-to-person transmission has been found so far.
Singapore has asked doctors to look out for suspected cases of pneumonia among people who have recently returned from Wuhan.
''Suspect cases with fever and acute respiratory illness or pneumonia and with travel history to Wuhan within 14 days before onset of symptoms will be isolated as a precautionary measure to prevent transmission,'' the city-state's Ministry of Health said in a Facebook post.
Hong Kong authorities said thermal-imaging systems will be deployed as part of increased fever surveillance at boundary check points. In Taiwan, the government has also implemented measures to prevent the spread of infections, its Centers for Disease Control said Tuesday.
(Adds measures taken by neighboring countries from the sixth paragraph.)
To contact the reporter on this story: Jason Gale in Melbourne at j.gale@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Shamim Adam at sadam2@bloomberg.net, Stanley James, Karthikeyan Sundaram
For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com
(C)2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Unhoused
While other tech giants fund housing initiatives, Amazon is opening a homeless shelter '-- inside its HQ | TechCrunch
Thu, 02 Jan 2020 07:26
As big tech gets bigger, industry leaders have begun making more noise about helping homeless populations, particularly in those regions where high salaries have driven up the cost of living to heights not seen before. Last January, for example, Facebook and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, among other participants, formed a group called the Partnership for the Bay's Future that said it was going to commit hundreds of millions of dollars to expand affordable housing and strengthen ''low-income tenant protections'' in the five main counties in and around San Francisco. Microsoft meanwhile made a similar pledge in January of last year, promising $500 million to increase housing options in Seattle where low- and middle-income workers are being priced out of the city and its surrounding suburbs.
Amazon has made similar pledges in the past, with CEO Jeff Bezos pledging $2 billion to combat homelessness and to fund a network of ''Montessori-inspired preschools in underserved communities,'' as he said in a statement posted on Twitter at the time, in September 2018.
Now, however, Amazon is taking an approach that immediately raises the bar for its rivals in tech: it's opening up a space in its Seattle headquarters to a homeless shelter, one that's expected to become the largest family shelter in the state of Washington.
Business Insider reported the news earlier today, and it says the space will be able to accommodate 275 people each night and that it will offer individual, private rooms for families who are allowed to bring pets. It will also feature an industrial kitchen that's expected to produce 600,000 meals per year.
The space is scheduled to open in the first quarter of the new year and is part of a partnership Amazon has enjoyed for years with a nonprofit called Mary's Place that has been operating a shelter out of a Travelodge hotel on Amazon's campus since 2016.
The new space, which BI says will have enough beds and blankets for 400 families each year, isn't just owned by Amazon but the company has offered to pay for the nonprofit's utilities, maintenance, and security for the next 10 years or as long as Mary's Place needs it.
BI notes that the shelter will make a mere dent in Seattle's homeless population, which includes 12,500 people in King County, where Seattle is located. But it's still notable, not least because of the company's willingness to house the shelter in its own headquarters.
It's a move that no other tech company of which we're aware has taken. The decision also underscores other cities' equivocation over where their own, growing homeless populations should receive support.
In just one memorable instance, after San Francisco Mayor London Breed last March floated an idea of turning a parking lot along the city's Embarcadero into a center that would provide health, housing services, and stays for up to 200 of the city's 7,000-plus homeless residents, neighboring residents launched a campaign to squash the proposal. It was later passed anyway.
Vox noted in report about Microsoft's $500 million pledge that many of these corporate efforts tend to elicit two types of reactions: either admiration for the companies' efforts '-- or frustration over the publicity these initiatives receive. After all, it's hard to forget that Amazon paid no federal tax in the U.S. in 2018 on more than $11 billion in profit before taxes. The company also threatened in 2018 to stop construction in Seattle if the city passed a tax on major businesses that would have raised money for affordable housing.
Whether Amazon '-- one of the most valuable companies in the world, with a current $915 billion market cap '-- is doing its fair share is certainly worthy of exploring in an ongoing way. The same is true of every tech company that's 'eating the world.'
Still, a homeless shelter at the heart of a company like Amazon is worth acknowledging '-- and perhaps emulating '-- too.
''It's not one entity that's going to solve this'' issue of urban homelessness, Marty Hartman, the executive director of Mary's Place, tells BI. ''It's not on corporations. It's not on congregations. It's not on government. It's not on foundations.
''It's all of us working together.''
Pictured above: A view of the new Mary's Place Family Center from the street, courtesy of Amazon.
Clips
VIDEO - Rep. Elise Stefanik Shares Her Perspective on Soleimani's Death'... | The Last Refuge
Sun, 05 Jan 2020 07:11
Alternatively '....
''From War With Iran?:
Were the United States to place secondary sanctions on all manner of goods, especially food, the effect would be far greater than an invasion by the entire U.S. army. How the Iranian people would deal with the choice between starving and ending their government's war on America would be their business.
From Iranian Analytics:
Trump's base accepts that he is backing out of the Middle East firing, not firing to get in'.... The current Iranian crisis is complex and dangerous. And by all means retaliation must be designed to prevent more Iranian violence and aggression rather than aimed at a grandiose agenda of regime change or national liberation. But so far the Iranians, not the U.S., are making all the blunders.
From Attack on Qassem Soleimani was deterrence, not escalation:
Iran knows it faces a choice it didn't think it faced before. It can vow hellish revenge, but now it has had a taste of the hell the United States can rain down in response. And while the mullahs are extreme, they do not appear to be imprudent. Ruthless self-interest might have gotten them going in the first place, and it is what might restrain them in the end. That is how deterrence works. And that is the bet Trump and the United States made by letting the Iranians know we were not going to take their aggression lying down.
From Targeting Soleimani: Trump was justified, legally and strategically:
A congressional authorization of military force would strengthen the president's hand. It would not require that force be used (or at least used to the full extent of the authorization), but it would show our enemies that our nation is ready to act in our defense. The strategies of Trump's predecessors were to hope that a committed jihadist enemy would come to its senses; hope that it would realize its purported interest in regional stability; and hope that by bribing it with billions of dollars in sanctions relief, ransom, and an industrial-strength nuclear program, we could de-escalate the conflict. President Trump's strategy is to remove the enemy's most effective military asset (who will not be easily replaceable), to demonstrate to the mullahs what can happen when resolve backs our exponentially superior capabilities, and to continue squeezing the regime with punishing economic sanctions '-- as it is pressured by the increasingly restive Iranian people. Peace through strength is the better plan.
From Trump Calls the Ayatollah's Bluff:
Deterrence, says Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, is credibly holding at risk something your adversary holds dear. If the reports out of Iraq are true, President Trump has put at risk the entirety of the Iranian imperial enterprise even as his maximum-pressure campaign strangles the Iranian economy and fosters domestic unrest. That will get the ayatollah's attention. And now the United States must prepare for his answer. The bombs over Baghdad? That was Trump calling Khamenei's bluff. The game has changed. But it isn't over.''
The Ayatollahs are now dealing with a NYC property developer businessman, a far different beast to the previous Community Organiser. If the Ays expect Obama type outcomes I fear there'll be tears before bedtime.
Like Liked by 16 people
VIDEO - Wife of Google Whistleblower Dies Following I-15 Crash '' NBC 7 San Diego
Sun, 05 Jan 2020 06:59
Facebook Twitter Instagram Submit Tips for InvestigationsNewslettersContact UsSend FeedbackKNSD EMPLOYMENT INFORMATIONTERMS OF SERVICEPrivacy policy '' NewKNSD Public Inspection FileDo Not Sell My Personal InformationAd ChoicesAdvertise with usCareers at NBC 7 Copyright (C) 2020 NBC Universal Inc. All rights reserved
VIDEO - Bloomberg: We Can't Just Let 'Average' Americans Have Guns; Warren: I Will Not Support Concealed Carry
Sun, 05 Jan 2020 06:42
Bloomberg: We Can't Just Let 'Average' Americans Have Guns; Warren: I Will Not Support Concealed Carry by Eric A. Blair January 3, 2020
They're coming for your guns.
Democrats have long wanted to take away guns from Americans, and two candidates for president are making no bones about their plans.
Billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who has a mini-army of bodyguards around him whenever he moves, says guns aren't for ''average'' people.
''You just do not want the average American carrying a gun in a crowded place,'' the former New York mayor said in Alabama. The presidential candidate said that it's the ''job of law enforcement to have guns and decide when to shoot.''
Bloomberg criticizes Texas church hero who saved 200 lives. ''It's the job of law enforcement to carry guns that .kill. We just can't ''let'' the average American have guns in a crowded place'...gun control saves lives'...''pic.twitter.com/d1Trc5xBrr
'-- Tosca Austen (@ToscaAusten) January 2, 2020
Bloomberg's comments came after a shooting at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, in which an ''average'' American shot and killed a crazed gunman who had begun firing in the church.
Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, also running for the 2020 Democratic nomination, said she would not support concealed carry laws that allow those ''average'' Americans to carry weapons.
''Will you support a universal conceal carry law for everyone in the country who's willing to be licensed and checked by the government?'' one supporter asked during a campaign event in Concord, New Hampshire.
''No,'' Warren said flatly, prompting cheers from the audience. ''I don't think conceal carry makes anyone safer.''
Brace yourself: They're coming for your guns.
VIDEO - Rain falls in NSW town of Eden proving welcomed bushfire relief | news.com.au '-- Australia's #1 news site
Sun, 05 Jan 2020 06:35
Conditions have eased on the far South Coast of New South Wales following a day of threatening bushfires, while rain has fallen in the town of Eden proving much needed relief following the earlier evacuation of residents.Thick smoke still blankets the area after the town experienced a number of difficult days as damaging bushfires raged through nearby regions. On Sunday morning an emergency level bushfire was headed towards the town, coming from the Victorian border. Containment lines are now being built around the area. One local resident said the arrival of rain on Sunday afternoon has been "heaven-sent". Image: News Corp Australia
VIDEO - 24mins - After Words with Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft | C-SPAN.org
Sun, 05 Jan 2020 06:17
September 16, 2008 2008-09-20T22:02:56-04:00 https://images.c-span.org/Files/4de/281154-m.jpg The authors of America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy (Basic Books; September 8, 2008) talked about their book. They discussed the current and future state of American foreign policy and presented their thoughts on a range of topics, including Iran, Russia, China, and the War in Iraq. David Ignatius moderated, as he moderated the conversations earlier in the year that inspired the book.
Zbigniew Brzezinski was the national security adviser to former President Jimmy Carter. He is the author of numerous books, including Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower. He is currently an International Studies professor at Johns Hopkins University and a counselor and trustee at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Brent Scowcroft was the national security adviser to former Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush as well as military assistant to former President Richard Nixon. Mr. Scowcroft is the co-author of A World Transformed with former President George H.W. Bush. He is currently president of the Scowcroft Group, a financial advisory firm.
David Ignatius is a columnist for The Washington Post. He was formerly a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and executive editor of the International Herald Tribune. Mr. Ignatius is the author of several novels, including Body of Lies and Agents of Innocence.The authors of America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy (Basic Books; September 8, 2008) talked about'... read more
The authors of America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy (Basic Books; September 8, 2008) talked about their book. They discussed the current and future state of American foreign policy and presented their thoughts on a range of topics, including Iran, Russia, China, and the War in Iraq. David Ignatius moderated, as he moderated the conversations earlier in the year that inspired the book.
Zbigniew Brzezinski was the national security adviser to former President Jimmy Carter. He is the author of numerous books, including Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower. He is currently an International Studies professor at Johns Hopkins University and a counselor and trustee at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Brent Scowcroft was the national security adviser to former Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush as well as military assistant to former President Richard Nixon. Mr. Scowcroft is the co-author of A World Transformed with former President George H.W. Bush. He is currently president of the Scowcroft Group, a financial advisory firm.
David Ignatius is a columnist for The Washington Post. He was formerly a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and executive editor of the International Herald Tribune. Mr. Ignatius is the author of several novels, including Body of Lies and Agents of Innocence. close
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VIDEO - BBC World Service - Newshour, Baghdad hit by rocket attacks as Iraqis mourn Soleimani
Sun, 05 Jan 2020 06:09
Angry mourners and rocket fire in Baghdad as Iraqis mourn the death of Iranian general Qasem Soleiman killed in a US air strike.
Show moreSeveral blasts shook the Baghdad area hours after a huge funeral procession for a top Iranian general killed by a US air strike on Thursday. Iranian leaders have vowed to avenge the killing of Qasem Soleimani, who was regarded as a terrorist by the US. Was his killing legal both under US domestic and international law? We hear from the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions.
Also on the programme: Australia mobilizes reserve military forces to help fight the raging bushfires - but there are warnings that the worst is yet to come; and we'll find out why the pronoun " they" has been voted word of the decade.(Picture: People in Baghdad attend the funeral ceremony of Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Forces, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, vice president of the Hashd al-Shaabi group. Credit: Murtadha Sudani/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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VIDEO-Report: Boko Haram Jihadists Behead Catholic Bride and Bridal Party
Sun, 05 Jan 2020 00:07
The communications director of the Catholic diocese of Maiduguri in Nigeria has confirmed that a bride-to-be and her bridal party were beheaded December 26 while en route to the December 31 wedding.
''They were beheaded by suspected Boko Haram insurgents at Gwoza on their way to her country home,'' Father Francis Arinse told Catholic News Service (CNS), regarding the alleged murders of Martha Bulus and her bridal party.
CNS reported further the alleged murders of Bulus and her bridal party occurred on the same day that 11 Christian aid workers had been murdered:
Several international media outlets reported Dec. 26 that the Islamic State group released a video showing it had beheaded 10 Christians and shot an 11th Dec. 26. The news agencies said they were unable to confirm the contents of the video but described the victims as men. IS said the beheadings were payback for the late-October killing of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghadi.
According to the Christian Post, the Islamic State in West Africa Province, a Boko Haram ''breakaway group'' associated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, claimed responsibility for the beheadings of the Christians shown in the video.
''This message is to the Christians in the world,'' said a man's voice in Arabic and the native Nigerian language over the video footage, SITE Intelligence Group told the New York Times.
The voice continued:
Those who you see in front of us are Christians, and we will shed their blood as revenge for the two dignified sheikhs, the caliph of the Muslims, and the spokesman for the Islamic State, Sheikh Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, may Allah accept them.
The video, which reportedly showed one Christian aid worker being shot and ten others beheaded, was published by the Islamic States' propaganda media outlet, Amaq News Agency.
Arinse said Bulus had been his parishioner at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Maiduguri when he first became a priest.
According to Arinse's report, the area has seen a number of abductions recently and government security has not been sufficient.
CNS noted that Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, chief of army staff in Nigeria, has said he is ordering greater security in the area and has urged his troops to ''stand firm against all the criminals.''
In December, the U.S. State Department said it had added Nigeria, along with Cuba and Nicaragua, to the Special Watch List of governments ''that have engaged in or tolerated 'severe violations of religious freedom.'''
According to the Post, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said:
We are designating [Nigeria] special watch list for the first time because of all of the increasing violence and communal activity and the lack of effective government response and the lack of judicial cases being brought forward in that country.
It is a dangerous situation in too many parts of Nigeria. The government has either not been willing to or have been ineffective in their response and the violence continues to grow.
The Post noted that Nigeria ''ranks as the 12th-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA's 2019 World Watch List.''
VIDEO-Gene ''not a Russian troll'' Naftulyev on Twitter: "Charlize Theron Teaches Afrikaans https://t.co/6zvK9RK7cz reminds me of @adamcurry teaching @THErealDVORAK Dutch words" / Twitter
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 23:51
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VIDEO - The plot against the president: The video | Power Line
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 18:37
Coming in at number two in my books of 2019 is Lee Smith's The Plot Against the President: The True Story of How Congressman Devin Nunes Uncovered the Biggest Political Scandal in U.S. History. I offered my appreciation of the book in ''All the president's men, take 2.'' Leslie Eastman was on my wavelength in her appreciation of the book for Legal Insurrection.
If you're looking for reviews, that's it! You are otherwise on your own.
The Steele Dossier is central to the story Lee has to tell. Since the publication of Lee's book, Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch '-- perpetrators of the dossier fraud at Fusion GPS '-- have published their own book, the aptly titled Crime In Progress. Jason Foster provides a useful counterpoint to Simpson and Fritsch in the Washington Examiner column ''Lies and distortions of the hatchet men at Fusion GPS.'' Lee Smith himself briefly comments on their book in the Spectator USA column ''A crime still in progress.'' The crime is still in progress, but it's not the one Simpson and Fritsch purport to reveal.
In the video below Epoch Times senior editor Jan Jekielek interviews Lee about The Plot Against the President. It is a good introduction to the book.
VIDEO-CIA Expert Breaks Down Iranian American Conflict After Soleimani Strike - Banned.Video
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 17:56
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VIDEO - APD: Man assaults patron at South Congress coffee shop, stabs 2 restaurant employees before jumping off roof | FOX 7 Austin
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 17:35
AUSTIN, Texas - UPDATE: "We can confirm that the suspect in yesterday's homicide on S. Congress is homeless. We are not releasing his name or the name of the deceased victim at this time due to the ongoing investigation. We will likely have a news conference on Monday to provide more details. No other information is available at this time," the APD said in an email Saturday morning.
APD: Man assaults patron at South Congress coffee shop, stabs 2 restaurant employees before jumping off roofAustin police officers responded to a suspicious persons call at Bennu Coffee on South Congress on Jan. 3 where they found two patrons actively trying to detain a white man in his mid-20s
A man has been arrested after Austin police say he assaulted someone at a South Congress coffee shop and then ran towards a nearby restaurant where he stabbed two employees before climbing onto the roof and jumping off on Friday morning.
APD officers responded to a suspicious persons call at Bennu Coffee on South Congress on Jan. 3 at 7:49 a.m. where they found two patrons actively trying to detain a white man in his mid-20s. The man had reportedly assaulted another patron for no apparent reason.
APD says during the struggle to arrest him, the man was able to break free and ran from the business.
''He had no shoes on. He had socks on, but barefooted. And I saw him run across the street to Freebirds,'' said a woman who works next door to the coffee shop.
RELATED: Suspect in custody following stabbing incident that left one dead, multiple injured
Around half an hour later, another 911 call reported the man had fled to a nearby Freebirds World Burrito. An employee there reported he and a coworker had been stabbed by the man who was seen by another witness leaving the restaurant and climbing on the roof of a nearby business.
The suspect was then seen running and jumping off the roof where he sustained life-threatening injuries.
ATCEMS transported one of the Freebirds employees and the suspect to Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas. The employee is currently in stable but serious condition and the suspect remains in critical condition.
APD: Man assaults one at South Congress coffee shop, stabs 2 restaurant employees before jumping off roofAustin police officers responded to a suspicious persons call at Bennu Coffee on South Congress on Jan. 3 where they found two patrons actively trying to detain a white man in his mid-20s
Despite life-saving measures by EMS, the other Freebirds employee succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at 8:30 a.m.
''It's a tragic situation that somebody has lost their life. This is the first homicide of 2020,'' said Sgt. David Daniels.
APD says this incident appears to be completely random and there is no ongoing threat to the community.
''You know, we all work in this small shopping center, so I know the employees that work here. I know the employees that work at Bennu,'' said Mela Star, manager at IVitamin. ''I'm sending love to all the families of any of the victims and sorry that this happened."
Detectives are asking anyone with video or information about this incident to call Crime Stoppers at 512-472-TIPS or use the new Crime Stoppers App or email APD Homicide at homicide.apd@austintexas.gov. You may remain anonymous. You can also submit tips by downloading APD's mobile app, Austin PD, free on iPhone and Android.
Gov Greg Abbott tweeted about the incident Friday evening, speculating that the suspect is "a homeless man with prior arrests."
On Friday night, a high ranking source at APD said the suspect is, in fact, a homeless man with a violent criminal history.
The identities of the victims and suspect are being withheld at this time.
VIDEO - (1) The Daily Wire on Twitter: ".@RealDonaldTrump: As president, my highest and most solemn duty is the defense of our nation and its citizens. https://t.co/cGhLPGgnXo" / Twitter
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 17:33
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VIDEO - The Beginner's Guide to Bitcoin Part 1: Andreas M. Antonopoulos on Why We Need Bitcoin - YouTube
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 17:30
VIDEO - 🌟ALERT! United Nations Actively Hiring Americans to DISARM Americans on American Soil! - YouTube
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 17:17
VIDEO - Rep. Maxine Waters Promises Russian Prankster Posing as Greta Thunberg to Save Fictitious Island - Sputnik International
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 17:15
US19:15 03.01.2020Get short URL
This is not the first time that the 81-year-old congresswoman and critic of President Donald Trump becomes the target of pranksters Vovan and Lexus. In 2017, she promised to help the non-existent country of Limpopo, which had suffered from Russian interference in its presidential election.
Russian pranksters Vladimir Kuznetsov (Vovan) and Aleksei Stoliarov (Lexus) posing as environmental activist Greta Thunberg and her father Svante called Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who promised to do everything she can to save the island of Chunga-Changa, suffering from terrible ecological problems. The only problem is that Chunga-Changa doesn't exist and is a fictitious island from a popular Soviet cartoon. The conversation was part of the prankster's new project "Stars Save the Earth".
The pranksters called the congresswoman, telling her that they were at an ecological protest in North Carolina, which was being held to raise awareness of the troubled island of Chunga-Changa and asked Waters to address the thousands of demonstrators who had come to take part in the strike. Waters agreed. During her speech to the non-existent demonstrators, she praised Greta Thunberg for her tireless work to fight climate change and encouraged the protesters to support Thunberg. ''But what's most important right now is that you all are there working so hard on this issue to make sure that the [Chunga-Changa] island is protected".
The congresswoman also promised to "do everything'' that she can to save the island of Chunga-Changa.
After that, the pranksters told Waters about a fictitious meeting with President Donald Trump at the UN climate summit. The prankster posing as Thunberg told Waters how Trump had ''confessed'' to her that he had pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open an investigation into his potential 2020 rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and that Greta would never achieve her goal. The pranksters claimed that Trump had threatened to put Thunberg on trial. "He [Biden] will go on trial with you and [a] bunch of your ecologists and Democrats. I already have a separate cage for all of you", the pranksters told Maxine Waters.
The duo then claimed that they had Trump's "statement" on record, which would help the Democrats finish what they started.
"Oh, yes! We are working very hard, we are putting together the facts and we are going after him. We are going to try everything that we have to impeach him'', Waters said.The congresswoman then invited Thunberg and her father to the United States and asked for a meeting.
VIDEO - BootsOnTheGround.mp3
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 17:13
VIDEO - Rep. Al Green Accidentally Reveals Democrats' Impeachment Plot | Pat Gray Unleashed - YouTube
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 17:11
VIDEO - Dem Rep: Assassination of Soleimani Happened Because of Impeachment - YouTube
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 10:11
VIDEO - Russian pranksters strike again: Fake Greta Thunberg convinces eager US politician that she has dirt on Trump '-- RT USA News
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 08:57
US Congresswoman Maxine Waters has allegedly fallen for a prank call in which she thought activist Greta Thunberg was offering her a tape of Donald Trump confessing to pressuring Ukraine into investigating his political rivals.
YouTube pranksters Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexey Stolyarov, who go by the names Vovan and Lexus, are claiming they tricked Waters (Dem-Calif.) into thinking she was speaking to teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg.
Vovan and Lexus made names for themselves by previously pranking Congressman Adam Schiff (Dem-Calif.) into thinking there were nude photos of US President Donald Trump that Schiff could get his hands on. They also claim to have pranked Waters two years ago, in a phone call where one posed as Ukraine's prime minister.
Though Waters herself has not responded to the new video, the woman at the other end of the phone identifies herself as the congresswoman and sounds an awful lot like her.
In the call, the pranksters pretend to be Thunberg and her father, with help from a female colleague, and claim to have proof that Trump pressured the Ukrainian government into investigating his political rivals, something Democrats have claimed, for months now, is true.
Greta's 'father' says on the call that his 'daughter' met Trump and he admitted to wrongdoing.
''He said to her, 'You know, little girl, nobody believe you anyway, I will tell you the truth. I really pushed on Ukrainian president and you know that you will never achieve your goals like those congressional fools that accuse me,'' the prankster posing as the famous teenager's father says.
''Oh my God, he mentioned the Ukrainian president?'' the woman who identifies herself as Waters responds.
Also on rt.com Greta Thunberg SEX joke triggers outrage at disabled British comedian 'Greta' then proceeds to offer to testify before Congress and Waters asks for a meeting when the teen activist is next in DC.
''And if the public knew that he talked to Greta like that, he made her cry, and told her she would never achieve '' this will go against him, too,'' Waters says.
The pranksters claim to have the Trump conversation recorded, which also gets Waters excited.
''You bring it to me,'' she says. ''You tell me what day you can get there. And we'll arrange to meet with you as quickly as we can.''
Another highlight of the call is Waters being tricked into believing an island called ''Chunga Changa'' is an actual place dealing with serious environmental issues.
Though Waters is unlikely to ever admit anything about the call if it really is her, Twitter users seem to have made up their mind.
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VIDEO-1 fatally stabbed, 3 hurt in morning attack in Austin, Texas
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 01:02
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VIDEO - Self-confessed sex god, Meat Loaf, 72, on threesomes, losing 70lb and climate change | Daily Mail Online
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 14:43
He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with worldwide sales of more than 80million records... and it turns out he's a bit of a catch, as well.
Meat Loaf, 72, told MailOnline he's always been able to get the best looking women, even when he was a 'fat motherf****', (his words).
The rock icon also discussed threesomes, losing 70lbs and why he thinks there's no such thing as climate change, claiming activist Greta Thunberg, 16, has been brainwashed.
'I got the best looking women when I was fat:' Self-confessed sex god, Meat Loaf, 72, on threesomes, losing 70lb and why he thinks Greta Thunberg has been brainwashed
Meatloaf, affectionately called Meat, is currently promoting Frankie And Benny's new vegetarian range, the concept being that Meat, backs VEG.
And beginning the interview, he said: 'You'll have to excuse me. I'm a little spaced out because I'm staying in character, but I'll do what I can. '
Married to Deborah Gillespie, Meat admitted he's never had a problem getting beautiful women and many of his songs do talk about his love-making prowess.
'Most of my songs are... well, true,' he said. 'They are story songs and I am really good at stories... I am a sex god, dear.
'I can't use bad language but people would ask me, "How can a fat M-F like you go out with all these good looking girls?"
Healthier: Meat Loaf was previously a vegetarian for 11 years and once went from 265lbs to what he weighs today, which is 195lbs (pictured in 1978)
'I said, "because I am not going out thinking about what you are thinking about".
'These days men don't open the doors, they don't do anything right. Truthfully, all they go out for is to get laid.
'I've never done that. It's not my first option; never has been - and that's why I've gone out with all these good looking women.'
Even at school, Meat Loaf, had a 'threeway', making out with two friends, Cindy and Judy.
He said: 'Oh yeah, that was the first double I had. We were making out in the parking lot in my mother's car.
Stunner: Currently married to Deborah Gillespie, Meat admitted he's never had a problem getting beautiful women and many of his songs talk about his expertise beneath the sheets
'My mother taught English and I happened to be in her class. Any kid whose mother is a teacher, and you wind up in their class, try to get out of it.
'If you were bad, you had to sit in the hall for five minutes. I was out in the hall all the time, but I didn't even do anything.
'She would say, "I know, but you've got to come to a higher standard than everyone else. I didn't even know what the hell she was talking about.'
Meat Loaf was a vegetarian for 11 years and once went from 265lbs to what he weighs today, which is 195lbs.
When asked if he has any tips on weightloss, he said: 'I will tell you how to lose weight. Look at the fat and the sugar content. Don't worry about the calories.
'Don't eat anything over 5g of fat and 3g of sugar. I once did a low carb diet and lost 70lbs but I put it all back on.'
Meat Loaf's Frankie And Benny's commercial is his first 'proper' job in four years because he has been in agony after four back surgeries.
He spends his evenings watching Law And Order and Prodigal Son and says he is keen for Netflix to hire him for a role.
Views: Meat believes there is no such thing as climate change and is convinced Greta Thunberg (pictured) has been brainwashed
Inching uncomfortably in his seat, he explained that he's still in constant pain if he sits still for too long.
'I feel a lot better than I did. I had the last surgery in 2016 and the first in 2015,' he said.
'With the first one, the screw came out and so they put in these basket type things... three of them. Within four weeks, two of those baskets had come out.
'My wife told me that I was in so much pain but I couldn't really remember it. That's how bad it was.'
Meat, who famously worked with President Trump on The Apprentice back in 2010, said he believes there is no such thing as climate change.
'I feel for that Greta. She has been brainwashed into thinking that there is climate change and there isn't.
'She hasn't done anything wrong but she's been forced into thinking that what she is saying is true.'
Would you do anything for Veg this January? Try Frankie & Benny's delicious new Meat-Free dishes, with 50% off mains from the 5th - 31st Jan.
Meat backs VEG! The singer has filmed a new commercial to promote Frankie And Benny's new vegetarian range (pictured)
VIDEO-DC Basement >> 🍊🍠("You are cowards. Leave it.") on Twitter: "@THErealDVORAK @adamcurry clip, what is this? How does this get monitored and enforced? https://t.co/zZmYx0C9tx" / Twitter
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 14:34
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VIDEO - Inside Jeffrey Epstein's cell, Sunday on 60 Minutes - CBS News
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 11:02
A 60 Minutes report is revealing new information about last August's jail cell death of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi reports on Sunday's 60 Minutes that Epstein's body was found by federal correctional officers "at approximately 6:30 a.m." and sources say one of them could be heard saying, "Breathe, Epstein, breathe."
Forensic Pathologist Dr. Michael Baden was hired by Epstein's brother, Mark, to investigate his death. Dr. Baden observed the autopsy and believes that Jeffrey Epstein died around 4:30 that morning, two hours earlier.
The New York Medical Examiner has ruled Epstein's death a suicidal hanging.
Alfonsi also reports on what was found inside Epstein's jail cell, saying the room was not sparse. There was a lot of bedding, an electrical cord, even pen and paper in the cell.
Before his death, Epstein, 66, was accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls. He had connections to several rich and powerful people, leading to speculation about his death.
Alfonsi investigates the known circumstances of the wealthy financier's death this Sunday, January 5, at 7 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
(C) 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
VIDEO-Tulsi Gabbard slams Soleimani airstrike - YouTube
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 10:48
VIDEO - Sanders Campaign Manager: Buttigieg and Biden Are Kowtowing to the Rich - YouTube
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 08:32
VIDEO - CNN Anchor Compares Iran General to French War Hero - YouTube
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 08:24
VIDEO - Pop Quiz on the Beach, Part 3 - YouTube
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 08:19
VIDEO - Lenny Bruce Discussing Fake News - YouTube
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 07:42
VIDEO - (20) Vanessa Herring on Twitter: ".@mayorbcyoung says, ''we're getting reports of somebody in a white van trying to snatch up young girls for human trafficking and for selling body parts. Adding, ''it's all over Facebook'' & ''that's
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 07:26
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VIDEO - What I Wasn't Told About Climate Change With Luca Rossi - YouTube
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 07:19
VIDEO - General Wesley Clark: The US will attack 7 countries in 5 years - YouTube
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 07:16
VIDEO - North Korea state TV airs video of Kim riding horse at Mount Paektu - YouTube
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 07:14
VIDEO - (3) EweGot 🇺🇸'­¸'­¸'­¸ on Twitter: "Nancy Pelosi the day after New Year's, in front of a 🎥, trying to talk. https://t.co/IA30imX9cu" / Twitter
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STORIES
Layla Moran: Lib Dem MP announces she is pansexual - BBC News
Sun, 05 Jan 2020 06:02
Image copyright PA Media Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran has announced she is pansexual and in a relationship with a woman.
The MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, who previously only had relationships with men, told PinkNews she is in a relationship with ex-Lib Dem press officer Rosy Cobb.
Pansexuality describes those who are attracted to a person regardless of their sex or gender.
"It's about the person themselves," said Ms Moran,
Speaking to the PinkNews website, Ms Moran - a potential candidate to become the next Lib Dem leader - also criticised Parliament as a "weird, backwards place" for LGBTQ people.
She said coming out in the context of being an MP had been "slightly more difficult" than telling her friends and family.
The MP also shared a picture of herself and Ms Cobb on Twitter, writing that she is now "just happy".
"It was really wonderful on the one hand, but also quite surprising for me in how I had identified before," she said.
"I feel now is the time to talk about it, because as an MP I spend a lot of my time defending our community and talking about our community. I want people to know I am part of our community as well."
She said her family and friends have been supportive, but some people had suggested being in a same-sex relationship could damage her career.
"They definitely would not have said anything like that had she been a man," she added.
"Parliament is a weird, backwards place. I don't know if there's any other (MPs) who would identify as pansexual, and not that many who identify as bisexual - there are a few women who are brilliant role models who have come out in their lesbian relationships."
'The person matters'Ms Moran, who did not rule out running to take over as Lib Dem leader, was asked to describe pansexuality to someone who is not familiar with the term.
"Pansexuality, to me, means it doesn't matter about the physical attributions of the person you fall in love with, it's about the person themselves," she said.
"It doesn't matter if they're a man or a woman or gender non-conforming, it doesn't matter if they identify as gay or not.
"In the end, these are all things that don't matter - the thing that matters is the person, and that you love the person."
According to the charity the LGBT Foundation, pansexuality is different from bisexuality - but they are not mutually exclusive and some people identify as both.
"Being bisexual means being attracted to more than one gender, while being pansexual means being attracted to people regardless of gender," the foundation said.
"Pansexuality is included under the bisexual umbrella, which covers anyone who experiences sexual or romantic attraction to more than one gender."
Meanwhile, charity Stonewall says pansexual "refers to a person whose romantic and/or sexual attraction towards others is not limited by sex or gender" - and bisexual people may also describe themselves as pansexual.
The Paranormies Present: S4 EP 54: Season 4 Finale & Recap
Sun, 05 Jan 2020 00:11
Season 4 was a long one, well over a year. We covered many many topics, broke down several happenings, the shitposting was hot and heavy, we had some old friends drop by, some new friends show up, and had a few losses and additions. It was a great season, and we couldn't have done it without you, the listeners. Thanks for listening, fam. We really appreciate you. So, for the final time this season, grab a beverage, get /comfy/, and let's get spoopy!
With: Johnny Monoxide, Bradshaw Wilson
Welcome our new intern and guy who does the "Jamie look this up" bit: Jack Hoffman
Music break: Paranormies Theme in D Minor, by Midwest Reich
Creepypasta: Don't Look In The Mirrors, read by Bradshaw Wilson
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Amid shut-off woes, a beacon of energy - The Washington Post
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 23:47
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Amid shut-off woes, a beacon of energy - The Washington Post
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 23:45
BLUE LAKE, Calif. '-- After months of wildfires, an essential question in a warming, windy California is this: How does the state keep the lights on? A tiny Native American tribe, settled here in the Mad River Valley, has an answer.
Build your own utility.
The Blue Lake Rancheria tribe has constructed a microgrid on its 100-acre reservation, a complex of solar panels, storage batteries and distribution lines that operates as part of the broader utility network or completely independent of it. It is a state-of-the-art system '-- and an indicator of what might be in California's future.
In early October, Pacific Gas & Electric cut power to more than 2 million people across Northern California, including all those who live here in rural Humboldt County, where redwood forests fringe the wild edge of the continent. The shut-off aimed to reduce the risk of wildfire, and as the region sat in darkness, the tribe's multimillion-dollar investment in its power system glowed.
Responding to public needs, the tribe transformed a hotel conference room into a newsroom so the local paper could publish. It used hotel guest rooms to take in eight critically ill patients from the county's Health and Human Services Department. The reservation's gas station and mini mart were among the only ones open, drawing a nearly mile-long line of cars.
The Blue Lake Rancheria served more than 10,000 people during the day-long outage, by some estimates, roughly 8 percent of Humboldt's population. And for a government that had largely ignored the tribe for more than a century, the tribe suddenly became a vital part of its emergency response.
''The irony was not lost on us,'' said Jason Ramos, a member of the tribal council who ran emergency operations during the blackout. ''When these power cuts started, we looked like geniuses for what we had done. But in truth, we didn't really see them coming when we made our decision.''
California, a hive of rapid private-sector innovation, is adjusting slowly to the accelerating changes in its climate. The sharp transition between heavy rains and hot, windy weather has primed the landscape for wildfires, which have burned larger and deadlier in recent years than at any time in history.
After an autumn of power cuts and economic losses, the reliability of California's electricity grid and of its three largest investor-owned utilities is among the most pressing public policy issues facing Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). The state lags behind some on the East Coast, where Tropical Storm Irene swamped towns in 2011, causing blackouts and a rethinking of how to strengthen a vulnerable electrical grid.
The ideas under consideration here are complicated by the bankruptcy of PG&E, the state's largest investor-owned utility. All would require a measure of public money '-- such as a state takeover of the grid or breaking up utilities into municipal agencies '-- and changes to a regulatory system yet to adapt to California's new climate-driven threats.
The Blue Lake Casino and Hotel is owned by the Blue Lake Rancheria tribe. Jana Ganion, energy director for the Blue Lake Rancheria tribe, stands in front of a solar array on the reservation. Its microgrid allowed the power to stay on, and the tribe shared electricity with neighbors.''It's like we have a high schooler stuck in the sixth grade,'' said state Sen. Henry I. Stern (D-Canoga Park), who represents a district that has experienced several fires and intentional blackouts this fall.
Stern, who lost his Malibu home in the 2018 Woolsey Fire, pushed through legislation that year that directs state regulators to revise the rules around microgrid use to make it easier for private-utility customers to use them. Then-Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who installed a microgrid on his Colusa County ranch, signed the bill, which sets a December 2020 deadline for the new regulations to be in place.
''We've got a mature technology stuck in a far less mature regulatory system,'' Stern said. ''It's as much a culture shift as an engineering challenge that we face now.''
[PG&E helped fund the careers of Calif. governor and his wife. Now he accuses the utility of 'corporate greed.']
No one keeps count of how many microgrids operate in the state. But many large university campuses, medical centers and public-safety operations have them.
The idea is simple. Microgrids are connected to the larger utility system when the electricity is on, contributing power in some cases. When there is a power cut, microgrids can become ''islands'' '-- disconnect from the system and use solar-generated energy stored in batteries to operate independently.
The chief obstacle to their wider use here is cost and regulations that make them prohibitively expensive for most private customers.
The Blue Lake Rancheria operates a 102-room hotel and casino, and the revenue helped pay for its $6.3 million microgrid, which keeps the businesses and the tribal government building open during blackouts. A state grant secured with help from the Schatz Energy Research Center, a clean-energy institute affiliated with Humboldt State University, also funded the project.
A major issue for microgrids is a rule that prohibits private-utility customers from selling electricity ''over the fence'' '-- on the public market '-- because they are not regulated by the state.
The ability to do so would make the economics far more feasible for neighborhoods, community groups and private customers interested in building microgrids, especially in rural areas, as a backup to the increasingly unreliable utility-provided electricity. One compromise would be to allow some private microgrid electricity sales only during blackouts, a step other states have taken.
''As you think about doing these systems, you have to ask how much they will cost and how do you continue to fund the rest of the grid,'' said a senior official in the Newsom administration who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe ongoing government discussions to improve electricity reliability. ''Microgrids are a tool, they have a role, and they must be one of many things we have to look at. But they are not a panacea.''
The public policy considerations are similar to those that define the debate around school vouchers: If too many children take public money to pay private-school tuition, what then becomes of the public school system? State regulators say the three utilities need almost $30 billion a year to operate.
Even those who favor more relaxed regulations worry that, down the road, too many microgrid users could create an electricity system of haves and have-nots in a state where that divide is already canyon-deep in housing, incomes and other aspects of daily life.
''Utilities have had the same business model for 100 years, and boy, is it hard for them to change,'' said Tom Williard, principal of Sage Energy Consulting, which advises businesses on the use of microgrids. ''But this is an issue that must be addressed quickly.''
One of the backup generators at the Play Station 777 gas and mini mart in Blue Lake, Calif. Randy Cox, the Blue Lake Rancheria tribe's electric system director, tests the microgrid transformers. A rude realizationHumboldt County has always considered itself an off-the-grid kind of place, the remote destination of a post-Summer of Love hippie migration that brought thousands here to live off the land.
A renowned marijuana industry emerged in the hard-to-reach canyons and valleys, and solar panels and generators helped keep the ''grows'' hidden from the law. That outlaw culture and black-market economy is now struggling to adapt, like the power system itself, to the regulations that come with a now-legal cannabis market.
But the October power shut-off, followed three weeks later by an even longer outage, revealed just how reliant Humboldt is on a vast, regionwide electricity grid.
While low humidity and high winds made Shasta County to the east a high-fire risk in October, cool, damp Humboldt faced no fire threat at all. Yet to protect Shasta, PG&E had to cut off transmission lines that also serve Humboldt.
''We always get the 'What is going on there?' question from businesses we talk to,'' said Gregg Foster, executive director of the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission in Humboldt. ''But we didn't know we were tied to a grid hundreds of miles away, and now we're looking at why their issues have become our problems.''
Those with generators when the lights went out flipped them on, creating fire risks of their own.
On the city of Arcata's central square, where the bead shops, cannabis oil vendors and vintage clothing stores attract a steady flow of tourists, owners of the Big Blue Cafe turned on their generator in the minutes after the power went out for the second time in October.
A few hours later, the popular diner was in flames, the generator later found to have vibrated across the floor to a wall, where the hot exhaust sparked the fire. The restaurant and its two neighbors are still closed.
The makeup of Humboldt's population also is a barrier to the large-scale adoption of microgrids. It is more transient than most, with a homeownership rate below the national average. Landlords and renters are far less likely to invest in a new, expensive electricity system. The median household income of $42,000 also is well below the national average.
But use of microgrids is growing with the help of state money.
At the California Redwood Coast-Humboldt County Airport, designed during World War II to train pilots how to fly in fog, an $11 million microgrid project is in the works. It is nearly twice as expensive as Blue Lake's microgrid but five times more powerful, a sign the costs for the systems are coming down.
When finished next year the microgrid will provide electricity to the airport, a U.S. Coast Guard Air Station, a nearby animal shelter and a few other nearby businesses during blackouts.
Michael Shackelford, manager of the Play Station 777, restocks the store's shelves. Shackelford is a fourth-generation Tolowa member of the Blue Lake Rancheria. A place for retreat Rancheria is the name the federal government gave to a series of small Native American reservations around the state's far-northern coast, and Blue Lake's reservation is indeed small. So is the tribe '-- 50 members, now, after more than a century of federal recognition.
The Mad River Valley flooded frequently until the 1950s, when the government built a levee to contain the unruly river. Now the tribe's land sits between county sewage ponds and a city dump, although the steep-valley landscape on a clear winter day remains breathtaking.
''For a long time, we have had to rely on ourselves. You couldn't count on help from the federal or the state government,'' said Ramos, the tribal council member. ''The sense of tribal sovereignty is strong.''
Of California's many natural plagues, it was not fire but tsunami that focused the tribe's interest on creating an independent power supply.
In early March 2011, an earthquake shook Japan, triggering the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The force created a tsunami that moved across the Pacific and flooded California's northern coast, including parts of Humboldt.
Now, tsunami warning signs line Humboldt's coastal roads. But the tribe noticed that, when residents sought higher ground at the time, many of them congregated in and around Blue Lake above the flood's high-water mark.
''The tsunami was really a wake-up call about how people experience a disaster here,'' said Jana Ganion, the tribe's energy director. ''We realized that people are going to come here for resources.''
When the lights went out in October, Heather Muller, emergency manager for the county's Department of Health and Human Services, said the agency began contacting its nearly 150 patients who use medical devices that rely on power.
Some were admitted to the hospital, which had its own emergency power. Muller said the staff identified eight patients ''who were not sick enough to be hospitalized but could possibly die overnight without power for their devices.'' They were checked into the reservation's hotel.
Journalists at the daily newspaper, the Times-Standard, needed power to put out the paper. Five journalists worked through the night in a reservation conference room, publishing updates online and even getting designs for the printed edition to Chico, a city 200 miles to the southeast.
''On a normal night, they send those pages back to us and we print them here,'' said Marc Valles, the Times-Standard's managing editor. ''This was not a normal night.''
The paper's delivery trucks in Humboldt met trucks from Chico halfway, picking up the morning edition and delivering it on time. With PG&E ''telling public officials one thing, and the public another,'' Valles said, it was especially important to have the paper's reporting as a guide.
''People are skeptical enough of distant officials already, and these mixed messages really didn't help,'' he said. ''That's true anywhere in America, but more so here.''
The Play Station 777 is lit up at night. The roof is covered in solar panels. The greening gridSolar panels cover two fenced-in acres behind the tribe's hotel and casino, and stacks of Tesla batteries sit in the shade of the building. Across from the hotel, the tribe is growing its own food in greenhouses. It turns cooking oil from the hotel kitchen into biofuel.
Ganion estimates that the microgrid decreases the tribe's greenhouse-gas emissions by 200 tons a year, pushing toward the tribe's goal of becoming carbon-neutral over the next decade. In addition, by selling energy to the broader grid during peak-use hours, the tribe saves roughly $200,000 a year in PG&E costs.
And it is expanding its self-run utility.
The roof of the Play Station 777 gas and mini mart is covered in solar panels, the power source for a second microgrid set to come online soon. The storage batteries are tucked behind the store, on the edge of the parking lot, a paved dot in a river valley changing like the state around it.
''The main culprit here is climate change,'' Ganion said. ''When we look for the solutions to the wildfires and the power shut-offs, examples of our changing climate, we must make these decisions through the lens of clean energy.''
Sir_Adam DeMouy on Twitter: "#NoAgenda FYI ... 52 Targets May be along these red lines..... @adamcurry https://t.co/XTjC9w22lg" / Twitter
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 23:41
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Brzezinski: On The Path To War With Iran - Global Research
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 23:25
The Rationale for War
'''...a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran'...''Zbigniew Brzezinski. 01 Feb 2007 The National Security Advisor to former President Carter testified before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on 1 Feb 2007. Dr.Zbigniew Brzezinski delivered a scathing assessment of the core mistakes made by the Bush administration in the Middle East. Just before describing what he termed the mythical historical narrative of the policy, he offered a scenario that the Bush administration might use as a convenient invitation to attack Iran.
War may result from Iraqi failures at governance attributed to Iranian interference followed '''...by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a 'defensive' U.S. military action against Iran'...'' The ''act'' would lead to a ''lonely America'' into a conundrum of conflict across Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Further isolation and estrangement from the world would be the end game for the United States.
18 Fateful Words
a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a ''defensive'' U.S. military action against IranBrzezinski doesn't waste any time setting off his own fire works. This phrase appears in the third paragraph (see full text below). He posits a possible justification for attacking Iran; clearly outside the bounds of rationality and built upon a foundation of myths.
Look at the use of ''terrorist act in the U.S.'' in the context of his prepared statement:
If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large. A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a ''defensive'' U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.. (.pdf of Brzezinski's testimony)
Note: The emphasis by underlining and the use of quotation marks around defensive is found in the original copy and presumed to be that of Dr. Brzezinski.
The remarkable wording is that Iran is ''blamed.''
'''...blamed on Iran'...'' Does that mean that they did it?
Brzezinski refers to ''a 'defensive' U.S. military action'' adding emphasis and meaning by the use of quotation marks highlighting defensive. This answers the question about Iran's blame in the scenario. The quotation marks around defensive indicate something other than that. This defines the meaning of ''blamed'' as somewhat akin to saying Iran would be the patsy, fall guy, or stooge for whoever actually committed the act.
Brzezinski's prepared testimony is a chilling and highly evocative analysis offered by a major player in the U.S. foreign policy establishment. Before serving in the Carter administration, he was the first director of the Trilateral Commission. This isn't speculation by an outsider supporting human rights or a peace activist, its insider information from the highest level of the United States foreign policy establishment.
Shortly after testifying Brzezinski was approached by Barry Grey, reporter for the World Socialist Web. Grey recounts the exchange:
Q: Dr. Brzezinski, who do you think would be carrying out this possible provocation?A: I have no idea. As I said, these things can never be predicted. It can be spontaneous.Q: Are you suggesting there is a possibility it could originate within the US government itself?A. I'm saying the whole situation can get out of hand and all sorts of calculations can produce a circumstance that would be very difficult to trace.
''I have no idea'' in response to the ''provocation'' is certainly not comforting since it implies the blaming of Iran would be arbitrary. Brzezinski's answers above indicate that the terrorist act ''can be spontaneous'' or ''the whole situation can get out of hand and all sorts of calculations'' can lead to the act. At one end of the spectrum of anti U.S. terrorist acts, we have something totally random which the administration grabs and runs with as an excuse for war. At the other end, we have out of control ''calculations'' which at the extreme might be taken to include something like Operation Northwoods given the absence of a denial to Grey's assertion in the second question above.
The plan swings into action'...blaming Iran
Gates Says Bombs Tie Iran to Iraq ExtremistsLolita Baldor Associated Press 9 Feb 2007
MUNICH, Germany (Feb. 9) '' Serial numbers and other markings on bombs suggest that Iranians are linked to deadly explosives used by Iraqi militants, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday in some of the administration's first public assertions on evidence the military has collected.
Just a week after Brzezinski outlined the modus operandi for the Bush crew, the supposed voice of reason at the Pentagon is selling a story of Iranian subversion. Trying it out on the road in Munich, Germany before the homeland premier, Gates indicated that weapons were found with Iranian serial numbers.
U.S. Secretary of DefenseRobert Gates on his European tour.
''I think there's some serial numbers, there may be some markings on some of the projectile fragments that we found'' that point to Iran, he said.
Gates' remarks left unclear how the U.S. knows the serial numbers are traceable to Iran and whether such weapons would have been sent to Iraq by the Iranian government or by private arms dealers.
Compare Gates' tentative assertion to this whopper used to justify Gulf War I: ''They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the babies on the cold floor to die'' said the Kuwaiti Ambassador's daughter, who, by the way, had never seen anything of the sort. Gates' tentative serial number claim is no way to whip up war fever. Even the AP reporter bluntly questioned his ability to know just what it is about those serial numbers that gives them that tell-tale Iranian look.
So it begins '' the rationale for war. The political basis for this scenario explains why the tactics must, of necessity, be so completely inept.
'''...9/11 as the equivalent of the Pearl Harbor'...''
After defining the specific dangers from the ill begotten Bush tactics, Brzezinski unveils the mythology that justifies the rush to war.
A mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a protracted and potentially expanding war is already being articulated. Initially justified by false claims about WMD's in Iraq, the war is now being redefined as the ''decisive ideological struggle'' of our time, reminiscent of the earlier collisions with Nazism and Stalinism. In that context, Islamist extremism and al Qaeda are presented as the equivalents of the threat posed by Nazi Germany and then Soviet Russia, and 9/11 as the equivalent of the Pearl Harbor attack which precipitated America's involvement in World War II. (Author's emphasis)
This short paragraph is the epitaph for the widely rejected neoconservative policies adopted by the White House. One can only wonder if the last line of the paragraph is a reference to the often quoted line from the Project for a New American Century anticipating the arrival of the brave new world of United States dominance. That PNAC goal will evolve slowly '''...absent some catastrophic and crystallizing event '' like a new Pearl Harbor'' (p. 51).
Corporate Media Response
Reporter Grey complained vigorously about the lack of corporate media coverage for this testimony. This is one of the minor ironies of this event '' a Socialist writer advocating for wide spread coverage of one of the most ardent anti-Communists of our time.
The silence was quickly broken when Barry Schweid of the Associated Press covered the story on the same day of the hearing, 01 Feb:
Brzezinski set out as a plausible scenario for military collision: Iraq fails to meet benchmarks set by the U.S., followed by accusations that Iran is responsible for the failure and then a terrorist act or some provocation blamed on Iran. This scenario, he said, would play out with a defensive U.S. military action against Iran.
They included ''blamed'' on Iran. The only less than representative element is the absence of quotation marks around defensive to imply something other than real defense. Banner headlines would have helped also.
The AP article appeared on MSNBC's web page, in the Guardian, and other media outlets.
The St. Petersburg Times (Times Wires) story on 2 Feb completes the process AP began and clearly represents the testimony:
While other former U.S. officials and ex-generals have criticized administration policy in committee hearings, none savaged it to the degree Brzezinski did. He set out as a plausible scenario for military collision: Iraq fails to meet benchmarks set by the administration, followed by accusations Iran is responsible for the failure, then a terrorist act or some provocation blamed on Iran, and culminating in so-called defensive U.S. military action against Iran. (Author's emphasis)
This clearly represents the most provocative statement in the testimony. It places the former national security advisor at the head of a pack of distinguished critics. This isn't headline news yet but in just 72 hours we have an honest reading of the implication that a ''so-called defensive'...action'' will arise from a terrorist act of questionable origin.
Now it's time for the White House Press Corp to move in and fully expose the story:
Mr. President, what do you think of a former National Security Advisor Brzezinski's claim that you're cooking up a war with Iran based on a questionable terrorist act?
The author acknowledges the contributions of these early analysts of Dr. Brzezinski's remarks.
Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot Citroen merger agreed | Auto Express
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 18:35
The merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), and Groupe PSA - owners of Peugeot, Citroen, Opel/Vauxhall and DS - has been finalised by the boards of both companies.
The 50/50 merger will see the FCA/PSA Group become the fourth largest car manufacturer by production volume. An output of 8.7 million units annually places the group behind only the Volkswagen Group, Toyota, and the Renault-Nissan alliance. It also becomes the third largest by revenue at '‚¬170 billion (£144.3 billion).
' Best electric cars to buy
The news comes as the two groups released a joint statement adding more details to the earlier confirmation of merger talks. An advantageous move for both firms, it would provide PSA access to American markets, while FCA would potentially be able to make use of PSA's newer, and electrified, vehicle architectures. The scale of the future giant would also present new opportunities linked to autonomous and connected vehicle projects.
Ownership of the merged companies is split 50-50 between PSA and FCA shareholders, with a '‚¬5.5 billion (£4.7bn) dividend for FCA shareholders, with PSA shareholders receiving a reported '‚¬3 billion (£2.6bn). Based on 2018 figures, the Group estimates that its revenues would be split 46 percent from Europe and 43 percent from North America.
The news also confirmed that current FCA Chairman John Elkann would chair the new Group, while the role of PSA CEO Carlos Tavares will expand to cover both FCA and PSA.
As it stands, the merger could put PSA's proposed plans to enter the North American market on hold, according to Tavares, given FCA's strong presence there already. ''We see strength of FCA in North America is outstanding, and we have 12 months ahead [while the merger process concludes] to think about it.''
However, should the US introduce any regulatory changes related to CO2 emissions, PSA would be primed to introduce its low-emission vehicles there. Tavares added, ''All the electrification know-how we have developed for the European market would be a very significant asset to bring to the US market for the appropriate level of improvement.''
We'll have to wait for the first fruits of the merger, but potentially no longer than a couple of years. Mike Manley, FCA CEO, noted the quick development time of the new Opel/Vauxhall Corsa after the brands were acquired by PSA, saying that ''it shows you that with the speed and the focus that you can actually converge on platforms, very quickly.''
FCA had net revenues of '‚¬115.4 billion (£99.66bn) on sales of 4.84 million vehicles across brands including Fiat and Jeep in 2018, on which profits of '‚¬5bn (£4.3bn) were generated - a profit increase of 34 per cent on the previous year. Groupe PSA, meanwhile, sold 3.88 million vehicles last year, generating '‚¬74 billion (£63bn) in revenue, and '‚¬3.295 billion (£2.844bn) in consolidated net income, up 40.4 per cent on 2017.
' Best hatchbacks to buy
Car companies are increasingly seeking business synergies and mergers as markets become ever-more competitive and crowded, and regulations continue to make the future of automobile production and use uncertain. In April this year, news broke that FCA would link up with Tesla to share its 'pool' of CO2 emissions in order to comply with EU regulations. Ford, meanwhile, will use Volkswagen's MEB platform to build electric cars from 2023.
Mike Manley, former FCA CEO whose role in the new group is as-yet unspecified said : "I'm delighted by the opportunity to work with Carlos and his team on this potentially industry-changing combination. We have a long history of successful cooperation with Groupe PSA and I am convinced that together with our great people we can create a world class global mobility company."
Carlos Tavares, new FCA/PSA CEO, said: ''This is going to be exciting, this is going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity and I'm really looking forward to support the creation of this merged company.''
Do you think a Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot Citroen merger is a good idea? Let us know your thoughts below...
Thousands of restaurant jobs axed as high-profile chains endured torrid 2019 | The Argus
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 17:37
More than 11,000 workers in UK restaurants lost their jobs last year amid another swathe of closures as woes in the sector saw the likes of Jamie's Italian bite the dust.
Figures compiled for the PA news agency by the Centre for Retail Research reveal there were 11,280 job losses in the casual dining sector in 2019 '' up 8% on the previous year.
Employment across the sector was hit hard as a raft of well-known names suffered another torrid year, with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's restaurant empire the biggest casualty after it collapsed in May with the loss of 1,000 jobs.
There were also a host of other high-profile eateries forced to shut sites or seek rescue deals as they battled another year of stagnating sales, overcapacity and rising costs.
The data shows another 922 restaurants were shut in 2019, which comes after 1,188 closed the previous year.
Last year saw cake chain Patisserie Valerie's fall from grace after calling in administrators following an accounting scandal now being probed by the Serious Fraud Office, while the owner of Giraffe and Ed's Easy Diner announced plans to close a third of its outlets.
Real estate adviser Altus Group said the sector has been hit by a ''lethal cocktail'' of rising costs and tax hikes.
Food prices have been sent soaring by the fall in the value of the pound since the EU referendum, while staff costs have surged due to rises in the minimum wage and property taxes have also been hiked to eye-watering levels.
This has all come at a time of rising competition due to over-expansion by a number of restaurant chains, while consumer confidence has been hit by Brexit uncertainty.
Despite recent closures, restaurant numbers are still up by 16% compared with 2010.
Alex Probyn, president of UK expert services at Altus Group, said: ''The race for space pushed up rents impacting on rateable values which came into effect in 2017.
''Extra tax for business rates coupled with rising food prices and staff costs through increases in both the national and minimum wages created a lethal cocktail as margins were squeezed.''
The Centre for Retail Research said independent eateries suffered the most in 2019 and are likely to bear the brunt once again this year.
Its data shows 585 independent restaurants were shut in 2019, while 337 chain-operated eateries were axed.
This compares with 622 chain-owned sites closing in 2018.
Professor Joshua Bamfield, a director at the Centre for Retail Research, said: ''The main problems in 2020 are likely to be found amongst the independents, who often lack the resources to reinvest or change their business model.''
But small independent restaurants in England will be given a helping hand this year, as those with a rateable property value of less than £51,000 will see their business rates bills slashed in half on April 1 thanks to the Government's move to increase the retail discount from 33%.
Altus said this will save the average small independent restaurant £10,624 in tax during 2020/21.
Under Donald Trump, drone strikes far exceed Obama's numbers - Chicago Sun-Times
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 17:32
If I gave you a pop quiz on recent current events, I bet you'd do pretty well, thanks to a 24-hour cable news cycle, late night talk shows, social media and popular culture.
You undoubtedly know that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had their first child this week. You can likely go into some detail about the Mueller report. You probably have an opinion of Attorney General William Barr.
OPINION
But what would you say if I asked you the following multiple choice question?
When it comes to President Obama's drone wars, President Trump has:
A. Ended them
B. Continued them
C. Escalated them
You're forgiven for not knowing the answer. It's C. This administration has not only surpassed the previous one's drone strike volume overseas, it has made the drone wars even more secretive, if that's possible.
We can cobble together some reporting on the numbers, but finding exact figures on drone strikes in the Trump administration is difficult. More on that in a minute.
According to a 2018 report in The Daily Beast, Obama launched 186 drone strikes in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan during his first two years in office. In Trump's first two years, he launched 238.
The Trump administration has carried out 176 strikes in Yemen in just two years, compared with 154 there during all eight years of Obama's tenure, according to a count by The Associated Press and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Experts also say drone strikes under President Trump have surged in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
And, as was the case during Obama's presidency, these strikes have resulted in untold numbers of civilian casualties. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan killed more than 150 civilians in the first nine months of 2018.
Amnesty International reports drones have killed at least 14 civilians in Somalia since 2017.
As of January of this year, U.S. drone strikes fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria have killed at least 1,257 civilians, according to the Pentagon, and a monitoring group, Airwars, estimates the number to be as great as 7,500.
That you might not be aware of what should be a startling and deeply troubling escalation in unaccountable remote-control warfare by the U.S. is both by design and default.
For one, the Obama administration paved the way for popularizing and normalizing drone wars, which also included the extrajudicial killing of U.S. citizens, first by hiding it, then by begrudgingly acknowledging it, and then by pretending to meaningfully constrain it.
Obama eventually put in place arcane requirements to issue public reports on civilian death tolls (but just in certain military theaters), to limit targets to high-level militants (again, in certain battlefields), and require interagency approval (also only for certain targets).
Trump has peeled back all of those requirements because, well, he can. We now know more than we did about U.S. drone wars when Obama first took office, but less than when he left.
You can also blame cowardly, partisan politics for hearing little from lawmakers about these escalations. Republicans, of course, no longer criticize these sorts of things '-- even if they subscribe to Trump's Obama-rebuking, ''America First'' isolationism. And Democrats who might take issue with unaccountable wars and civilian deaths know to do so they'd have to acknowledge Obama's role in the mess, and so '...Trump's tax returns it is.
You can't, however, blame the media for this one. Refreshingly, many mainstream outlets have been reporting on this escalation for months if not years. From Foreign Policy to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal to Fox News, The Washington Post to CNN, the issue is getting coverage. Whether Americans care or not is another story.
De-escalating our involvement '-- even shadow or unmanned '-- in overseas conflicts was something that many Trump critics and supporters were welcoming, especially abroad. One CBC headline from 2016 read, ''Drone King Barack Obama will not be missed.'' Another, from The Guardian: ''At least President Trump would ground the drones.''
It was all wishful thinking.
S.E. Cupp is the host of ''S.E. Cupp Unfiltered'' on CNN.
With Suleimani Assassination, Trump Is Doing the Bidding of Washington's Most Vile Cabal
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 10:27
While the media focus for three years of the Trump presidency has centered around ''Russia collusion'' and impeachment, the most dangerous collusion of all was happening right out in the open '-- the Trump/Saudi/Israel/UAE drive to war with Iran.
On August 3, 2016 '-- just three months before Donald Trump would win the Electoral College vote and ascend to power '-- Blackwater founder Erik Prince arranged a meeting at Trump Tower. For decades, Prince had been agitating for a war with Iran and, as early as 2010, had developed a fantastical proposal for using mercenaries to wage it.
At this meeting was George Nader, an American citizen who had a long history of being a quiet emissary for the United States in the Middle East. Nader, who had also worked for Blackwater and Prince, was a convicted pedophile in the Czech Republic and is facing similar allegations in the United States. Nader worked as an adviser for the Emirati royals and has close ties to Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince.
There was also an Israeli at the Trump Tower meeting: Joel Zamel. He was there supposedly pitching a multimillion-dollar social media manipulation campaign to the Trump team. Zamel's company, Psy-Group, boasts of employing former Israeli intelligence operatives. Nader and Zamel were joined by Donald Trump Jr. According to the New York Times, the purpose of the meeting was ''primarily to offer help to the Trump team, and it forged relationships between the men and Trump insiders that would develop over the coming months, past the election and well into President Trump's first year in office.''
One major common goal ran through the agendas of all the participants in this Trump Tower meeting: regime change in Iran. Trump campaigned on belligerence toward Iran and trashing the Obama-led Iran nuclear deal, and he has followed through on those threats, filling his administration with the most vile, hawkish figures in the U.S. national security establishment. After appointing notorious warmonger John Bolton as national security adviser, Trump fired him last September. But despite reports that Trump had soured on Bolton because of his interventionist posture toward Iran, Bolton's firing merely opened the door for the equally belligerent Mike Pompeo to take over the administration's Iran policy at the State Department. Now Pompeo is the public face of the Suleimani assassination, while for his part, the fired Bolton didn't want to be left out of the gruesome victory lap:
Congratulations to all involved in eliminating Qassem Soleimani. Long in the making, this was a decisive blow against Iran's malign Quds Force activities worldwide. Hope this is the first step to regime change in Tehran.
'-- John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) January 3, 2020Trump, who had no idea who Qassim Suleimani was until it was explained to him live on the radio by conservative journalist Hugh Hewitt in 2015, didn't seem to need many details to know that he wanted to crush the Iranian state.
Much as the neoconservatives came to power in 2001 after the election of George W. Bush with the goal of regime change in Iraq, Trump in his bumbling way assembled a team of extremists who viewed him as their best chance of wiping the Islamic Republic of Iran off the map.
While Barack Obama provided crucial military and intelligence support for Saudi Arabia's scorched earth campaign in Yemen, which killed untold numbers of civilians, Trump escalated that mass murder in a blatant effort to draw Iran militarily into a conflict. That was the agenda of the gulf monarchies and Israel, and it coincided neatly with the neoconservative dreams of overthrowing the Iranian government. As the U.S. and Saudi Arabia intensified their military attacks in Yemen, Iran began to insert itself more and more forcefully into Yemeni affairs, though Tehran was careful not to be tricked into offering this Trump/Saudi/UAE/Israel coalition a justification for wider war.
Protesters shout slogans against the United States and Israel as they hold posters with the image of top Iranian commander Qassim Suleimani, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a demonstration in the Kashmiri town of Magam on Jan. 3, 2020.
Photo: Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images
The assassination of Suleimani '-- a popular figure in Iran who is viewed as one of the major drivers of ISIS's defeat in Iraq '-- was one of only a handful of actions that the U.S. could have taken that would almost certainly lead to a war with Iran. This assassination, reportedly ordered directly by Trump, was advocated by the most dangerous and extreme players in the U.S. foreign policy establishment with that exact intent.
Assassination has been a central component of U.S. policy for many decades, though it has been whitewashed and normalized throughout history, most recently with Obama's favored term, ''targeted killings.'' The U.S. Congress has intentionally never legislated the issue of assassination. Lawmakers have avoided even defining the word ''assassination.'' While every president since Gerald Ford has upheld an executive order banning assassinations by U.S. personnel, they have each carried out assassinations with little to no congressional outcry.
In 1976, following Church Committee recommendations regarding allegations of assassination plots carried out by U.S. intelligence agencies, Ford signed an executive order banning ''political assassination.'' Jimmy Carter subsequently issued a new order strengthening the prohibition by dropping the word ''political'' and extending it to include persons ''employed by or acting on behalf of the United States.'' In 1981, Ronald Reagan signed Executive Order 12333, which remains in effect today. The language seems clear enough: ''No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.''
As I wrote in August 2017, reflecting on our Drone Papers series from two years earlier, ''The Obama administration, by institutionalizing a policy of drone-based killings of individuals judged to pose a threat to national security '-- without indictment or trial, through secret processes '-- bequeathed to our political culture, and thus to Donald Trump, a policy of assassination, in direct violation of Executive Order 12333 and, moreover, the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. To date, at least seven U.S. citizens are known to have been killed under this policy, including a 16-year-old boy. Only one American, the radical preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, was said to have been the 'intended target' of a strike.''
There's no justification for assassinating foreign officials, including Suleimani.
While many Democratic politicians are offering their concerns about the consequences of Suleimani's assassination, they are prefacing it with remarks about how atrocious Suleimani was. Framing his assassination that way ultimately benefits the extremist cabal of foreign policy hawks who agitated for this very moment to arrive. There's no justification for assassinating foreign officials, including Suleimani. This is an aggressive act of war, an offensive act committed by the U.S. on the sovereign territory of a third country, Iraq. This assassination and the potential for a war it raises are, unfortunately, consistent with more than half a century of U.S. aggression against Iran and Iraq.
For three years, many Democrats have told the country that Trump is the gravest threat to a democratic system we have faced. And yet many leading Democrats have voted consistently to give Trump unprecedented military budgets and surveillance powers.
Five months ago, California Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have prohibited this very type of action, but it was removed from the final bill. ''Any member who voted for the NDAA '-- a blank check '-- can't now express dismay that Trump may have launched another war in the Middle East,'' Khanna wrote on Twitter after Suleimani's assassination. ''My Amendment, which was stripped, would have cut off $$ for any offensive attack against Iran including against officials like Soleimani.''
Trump is responsible for whatever comes next. But time and again, the worst foreign policy atrocities of his presidency have been enabled by the very politicians who claim to want him removed from office.
More Administration Leaks and Ongoing House Maneuvers Highlight Dem 2020 Strategy'... | The Last Refuge
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 10:20
Yesterday CTH noted 2020 as the year when a variety of prior democrat operations will converge with a single goal in mind. We will see several years effort merging. Today, more evidence toward that objective is visible.
The House Judiciary Committeee (HJC) argued in the DC court of appeals to obtain the Mueller grand jury information [6(e) material], and compel testimony of former White House counsel Don McGahn. Also today, more leaks from the inside the administration.
The House has a group of dozens of various DOJ and former Obama officials working on their behalf. That House network also has several currently employed DOJ, FBI, State Department and Intelligence Community officials feeding them information on current real-time events. The HJC are currently arguing the Mueller material and the McGahn testimony are needed for the impeachment trial of President Trump.
First, if the HJC team wins the argument to the three member DC Appellate Court, the DOJ will likely file for a full 'en banc' review by the entire panel. If the HJC wins the 'en banc' argument the DOJ will likely appeal for an administrative stay by the Supreme Court.
However, if the HJC team loses, they will most likely not file an appeal and will quickly release the impeachment articles to the Senate. The impeachment articles (Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress) are currently withheld in an effort to bolster the DC appeals court argument; lose the legal argument and the Dems just start leaking anyway.
Second, the primary goal is to gain the Mueller material. By design the impeachment process was/is a means toward that end. Impeachment is not the end; impeachment is the means to an end. Impeachment is the legal standing to exploit the Mueller Dossier material.
It is the year-long contention of CTH that Team Nadler (HJC) already has the Mueller material. The Mueller Dossier is opposition research. The Mueller team was/is designed, and specifically constructed, to deliver that opposition research to the resistance group now represented inside the House by the aforementioned dozens of contracted lawyers.
It is our further contention to the Mueller material was collected with the intention to deliver this material to the House crews: Team Schiff (HPSCI) and Team Nadler (HJC).
Meaning, and it is important that everyone understand this:
'...the Mueller investigation used their massively expanded scope authority (2017 and 2018), and purposefully went into a bunch of irrelevant sideline issues (unrelated to Trump-Russia) because they were using their legal authority to assemble massive files of political research material '' to leave for discovery and/or leak-use in 2020.
The outcome of the Mueller investigation is irrelevant.
What Mueller wrote in his report is irrelevant.
The investigation itself was purposed to dig, legally, into every aspect of Donald Trump, his family, his friends, his finances, his companies, his legal holdings, his lawyers, his accountants, his history'... all of it'... and they did so under both Title-1 and Title-3 surveillance authority because the Mueller probe was a counterintelligence operation.
President Trump: travel records, phone records, electronic files, electronic communications, emails, electronic records, family files, medical records, bank records, tax records,'... THE WORKS '...all with unlimited surveillance authority as granted by former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the useful status of an unlimited counterintelligence operation. Think about the scale of the material Weissmann and Mueller gained access to.
Think about the scale of these Trump files we now call the Mueller Dossier.
Mueller was the insurance policy. What Weissmann and Mueller assembled was the insurance policy files. They legally spied on President Trump for more than two years; and they legally dug into his background for the same amount of time. This is the massive Mueller edition of the ''Trump Dossier''.
Remember, dozens of Democrat operatives behind Nadler have much of that Mueller collected material already; or they have been told about the content.
The HJC lawsuit is an attempt to gain legal authority to exploit it. However, if they don't get the legal authority, meaning they lose the lawsuits, they will use it anyway '' through a system of leaks to their resistance allies in the media.
Which brings us to the new phase'....
'... Understanding this ongoing process is the key to understanding a new ''Leak Clearing House'' created with this intent in mind. The clearing house is JustSecurity.Org
The ''Just Security'' group is similar to the ''Lawfare'' group. Their purpose is to receive and then distribute leaked material. They will be leaking material from Mueller, via the House teams, as well as material from current insider operations from the resistance.
As rcogburn discovered:
Justsecurity.org is part of the Reiss Center at NYU Law. Article on them in, of all places, the World Socialist Web Site. Most of it is easily verifiable (e.g. Andrew Weissman is a distinguished fellow and the place is run by ex-Obama people) and seems truthful, judge for yourself.
Highlights here. Article is in two parts, linked:
''A think tank for the national security establishment and the Democratic Party.''
''the Center's research is intimately integrated with the Democratic Party wing of the State Department and intelligence agencies. Its leading bodies are staffed with top national security and foreign policy officials from the Obama administration. Out of the 18 people on its list of Fellows and Affiliates, 14 are ex-Obama administration officials. Two members of its Board of Advisors and two of its Leadership Team are also former Obama administration officials.''
''In 2018, following Trump's ascendancy to the presidency, the center integrated the publication JustSecurity.org, which is playing a central role as a resource for pro-Democratic party media in the impeachment crisis. ''
''Through both its fellows and its publication, JustSecurity.org, the Reiss Center is closely integrated into the anti-Russia campaign of the national security apparatus and the Democratic Party, and their efforts to impeach Trump on a pro-war and anti-democratic basis. There is a direct connection to the anti-Russia campaign and impeachment efforts by the Democratic Party and intelligence agencies through Andrew Weissman, who is a distinguished senior fellow at the Reiss Center.
''Rachel Goldbrenner, the center's Executive Director and a professor of law at NYU, served as a senior advisor to Samantha Power'...has connections to Eric Ciaramella.''
''David S. Cohen, an advisor to the Center, was working in the Treasury Department in the Obama administration and was the deputy director of the CIA between 2015-2017. '... Cohen played a critical role in whipping up anti-Russian hysteria with unsubstantiated claims of interference in the 2016 election''
''Lisa O. Monaco'... distinguished senior fellow'...was the Homeland Security Advisor of Obama from 2013 to 2017. Jon Finer is another fellow who is the ex-Chief of State at US State Department, where he served as the senior advisor to John Kerry. He was also the US lead negotiator at the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal and the 2016 Paris Climate Accord.
The co-editor of JustSecurity.org is Ryan Goodman'...he served as special counsel to the general counsel of the Department of Defense in 2015-2016''
''The Reiss Center's public involvement proceeds through its JustSecurity.org publication. First established in 2013, the website was based at the Law School's center for Human Rights and Global Justice, before being relocated to the Reiss Center in September 2018, shortly after the latter's renaming. It is funded by NYU's School of Law as well as the Atlantic Philanthropies and Open Society Foundations'--both founded and chaired by George Soros.''
Part 1https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/12/10/nyu1-d10.htmlPart 2https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/12/11/nyu2-d11.html
Justsecurity.org and the Reiss Center are hosting a panel on Jan 16, ''Reforming the FISA Process: Proposals for the Future.''
Featured speakers: Andrew McCabe and Andrew Weissman. You can't make this stuff up.
https://www.lawandsecurity.org/calendar/reforming-the-fisa-process/
The Just Security group will leak material which will then be picked up by specific Democrat politicians and used as evidence to attack and undermine President Trump.
That effort began yesterday:
['...] Last month, a court ordered the government to release almost 300 pages of emails to the Center for Public Integrity in response to a FOIA lawsuit. It released a first batch on Dec. 12, and then a second installment on Dec. 20, including Duffey's email, but that document, along with several others, were partially or completely blacked out.
Since then, Just Security has viewed unredacted copies of these emails, which begin in June and end in early October. Together, they tell the behind-the-scenes story of the defense and budget officials who had to carry out the president's unexplained hold on military aid to Ukraine. (read more)
Democrat operatives inside government, and inside the Trump administration, leak the material to Just Security. Those leaks are then used by Democrat Politicians:
And that effort continues today:
Breaking via NYT: The Trump admin has disclosed there were 20 emails between a top Mulanvey aide and a colleague at the Office of Management and Budget discussing the Ukraine aid freeze, but OMB says it won't turn over the emails '--not even with redactions.https://t.co/sYnswvUVgZ
'-- Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 4, 2020
None of this is organic. All of this has been pre-planned. Just like the planning by Team Mueller when they were investigating President Trump with the intent to deliver the material to their political allies.
What Mueller assembled over two years was a ''Trump Dossier'' similar to the Steele Dossier.
The political opposition research against President Trump will either come out legally via HJC, or it will come out illegally via leaks. However, it will come out. The DC Appeals Court and/or the Supreme Court decisions will determine which path.
Most of the Mueller team material is irrelevant for the purpose of Trump-Russia. There is no there 'there', and there never was. The Mueller investigation in 2017/2018 was never really designed to find evidence of Trump-Russia'... it was designed to find dirt on Trump and his family. That dirt, under the guise of investigative evidence, was then assembled into a political dossier.
Anyone who could deliver rumor, innuendo, gossip or manufactured evidence toward that end, similar to the Steele Dossier was used and included in the Mueller material.
Forget about arguing the Mueller probe found nothing on Trump-Russia therefore'... (fill in blank). That argument is moot. The purpose of the Mueller effort was dirt on Trump; it didn't (and doesn't) matter what that dirt is. Essentially: find dirt, put in file.
Resistance 2020 is now the use of that material.
'... The other aspect that will be used in this 2020 effort will be for current insiders to direct those outside government exactly what the specifics are for targeted FOIA requests. All effective FOIA is a matter of knowing where to look. The inside groups will be telling the outside teams the agencies, people, dates, times and subjects of specific material that will be helpful in discovering the information. [Example Here]
(Buzzfeed) ['...] The hundreds of pages of documents, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, were the subject of a protracted legal dispute between the Justice Department and the House Judiciary Committee, which sought them over the summer as part of its impeachment inquiry. The committee had requested access to an unredacted copy of the Mueller report, grand jury testimony from the investigation, and the FBI's summaries of 33 interviews. The Justice Department resisted, claiming the impeachment inquiry does not entitle the panel to see those records. A federal judge disagreed, ruling in October that ''DOJ is wrong'' and that the White House and the Justice Department were ''openly stonewalling'' the committee. (link)
This is the background context for everything that will be taking place.
CTH cannot duplicate this explanation every time the activity is discovered and highlighted, therefore if you need to share it to someone coming in mid-story, bookmark it now.
This is the 2020 baseline.
Trump Deutsche Bank Loans Underwritten By Russian State-Owned Bank, Whistleblower Told FBI | Forensic News
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 09:37
January 3, 2020 8:44 pm By Scott Stedman, Eric Levai and Bobby DeNaultDeutsche Bank's loans to Donald Trump were underwritten by Russian state-owned VTB Bank, according to the whistleblower whose collection of thousands of bank documents and internal communications have captured the recent attention of federal investigators.
Val Broeksmit acquired the emails and files of his late father, Deutsche Bank executive William S. Broeksmit, after Broeksmit tragically took his own life in 2014.
Val informed the FBI in late 2019 about his knowledge of VTB's underwriting of Trump's loans, information he attributed to a network of sources connected to the bank he cultivated over the past five-plus years.
Underwriting is the process where financial institutions assess the ability of potential customers to fulfill their obligations. Underwriters have access to ''credit and financial information, as well as the state of the [property],'' according to US News, though underwriters can sometimes be unknown to the person seeking the loan.
Forensic News is not confirming the underlying claim that VTB underwrote Trump's loans from Deutsche Bank.
Forensic News can, however, confirm that at least some of Trump's loans were issued by a bank subsidiary with business ties to VTB. That subsidiary owed more than $48 million to VTB in 2013 and documents suggest the subsidiary continued doing business with VTB even after the bank was sanctioned in 2014.
One federal agent working on the Deutsche Bank investigation indicated that VTB is under scrutiny in the FBI criminal probe. ''We know VTB very well,'' the investigator said on background. That person did not comment directly on the Trump loans.
Val Broeksmit's full statement is below:
The Russian state bank VTB underwrote loans to Donald Trump via Deutsche Bank. Over the course of Trump's relationship with DB, an inordinate amount of questionable, mismanaged & risky loans approved by Deutsche Bank to Trump required his Personal Guarantee which, over time, also lost its value.
Trump's team at DB sought out creative ways to circumvent the varied protections DB's compliance team institutionally implemented, & whether by happenstance or by design Trump's loans became underwritten by Russia's own VTB.
I informed the FBI of this in 2019.
Val BroeksmitFor Val, much has changed over the past half-decade. As the frontman and founder in the indie band Bikini Robot Army, Val never imagined spending his days combing through highly complex financial records of one of the world's largest banks. But after his father's passing, Val's life took a radical turn.
Val's search for justice and answers, fueled by personal vengeance against the bank, motivated him to dig through a cache of over 21,500 emails and other documents from his father's accounts.
Inside, Val found thousands of emails between his father, Chief Risk Optimization Officer of Deutsche Bank, and other executives, along with attachments containing sensitive documents about Deutsche Bank's financial operations.
Now, Val has decided to go on the record with Forensic News to share exclusive details about what he told federal investigators.
He says that a recent New York Times profile, written by Times Editor David Enrich, ''completely fucked me over.'' Multiple characterizations of Val as a fame-seeking opioid-user who allegedly sought cash for the documents shocked and surprised him, given that he and Enrich collaborated for nearly five years deciphering Deutsche Bank's web. ''Shocked and surprised doesn't even begin to describe it. It felt like the rug was pulled out from under you and you fall, and fall, and fall,'' Val said.
Enrich stands by his reporting, saying, ''I think the article portrayed Val accurately and fairly. I know and feel badly that he didn't like it, and I hope that he has a more positive reaction to his and his father's prominent roles in my forthcoming book.''
An FBI source called that New York Times article ''not totally accurate,'' though the person declined to comment further.
Forensic News met with Val over a period of several months and obtained some of Val's documents and testimony.
BackgroundVal first contacted the DOJ in Spring 2016, stating, ''I'm writing in hopes of speaking to someone at the DOJ in reference to the evidence I have showing major fraud at one of the World's largest banks.''
More than two years later, Val got a response from the FBI, who immediately flew agents from New York to meet Val in Los Angeles in order to discuss his Deutsche Bank knowledge.
FBI officials are conducting an ongoing money-laundering investigation into Deutsche Bank.
Original email from Val to the DOJ in 2016.
Val met with agents multiple times in 2019. After handing over crucial documents, the FBI helped Val's French girlfriend and her seven-year-old son obtain visas to stay in the United States.
The New York Fed, an institution tasked with examining suspicious financial transactions, fined Deutsche Bank $41 million for anti-money laundering lapses weeks after Val provided some of his father's documents to the law firm BakerHostestler, who in turn gave them to the Fed.
Email between Val and the lawyer confirming the transfer of documents to the Fed.Email between Val and the lawyer confirming the transfer of documents to the Fed. Edited for clarity.
Val also transmitted documents to Italian prosecutors shortly before the convictions of ex-Deutsche Bank executives for their role in a scheme involving the largest Italian bank, Monte dei Paschi.
Top officials from Deutsche Bank and Monte dei Paschi colluded to cover up losses at the Italian bank. Between the years 2008-2012, the misconduct evolved into a criminal misrepresentation of the bank's finances, part of which Val's files suggested.
Many of the files that Val sent to Italian prosecutors from his father's account included messages with Michele Faissola, a senior Deutsche Bank executive who recently received a prison sentence of four years and eight months for his role in the Monte dei Paschi scheme.
VTB BankThe bank that allegedly underwrote Trump's loans is one of the largest banks in Russia, and is majority owned by the Russian government. VTB (Vneshtorgbank) was placed on a sanctions list by the U.S. and the European Union in July 2014 as punishment for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, ensuring anyone who continued doing business with the bank after that date could be subject to criminal liability.
VTB returned to headlines in 2018 when Donald Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, admitted that both he and Trump were told in 2015 that VTB would be the funder of the now-infamous Trump Tower Moscow project. Trump associate Felix Sater reportedly arranged for VTB to fund the project and worked to approve passports for a planned trip to Russia. As the election heated up, the trip became politically unpalatable and never occurred.
US sanctions on VTB at the time of the negotiations would have made the proposed funding for Trump Tower Moscow potentially illegal under American law. Cohen later pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow project. In the Mueller report (Vol I, p. 85), Cohen admits that he spoke directly to a Kremlin assistant about the project.
It has also been revealed that Trump signed a letter of intent for the project in October 2015, months after he officially started his presidential campaign.
Deutsche BankVal told FBI officials that an American subsidiary of Deutsche Bank, where his father worked as Chief Risk Officer and sat on the Board of Directors, had closer connections to VTB than previously understood.
The subsidiary, Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas (DBTCA), is a New York bank whose clients include Trump and other high-profile individuals. Records show that as of 2014, DBTCA employed only 700 people, compared to Deutsche Bank's 10,000 American employees, most of whom are also stationed in New York.
Documents provided by Val, including a 2013 DBTCA ''breach report,'' show that DBTCA owed VTB at least '‚¬35.8 million, or approximately $48.6 million. That liability has not been previously reported. Deutsche Bank had already provided a $1 billion structural loan to VTB in 2007, raising questions about why additional liabilities were being incurred to DBTCA by VTB in 2013.
Part of the Deutsche Bank breach report showing their liabilities to VTB Bank totaling more than 35.8 million euros.
Val also shared knowledge that Trump's loans were issued by DBTCA, not the main bank, and underwritten by VTB, ensuring that the Russian-owned entity would take the financial hit if Trump defaulted.
Records show that DBTCA's total assets are around $40 billion. At the time Trump took office, he owed DBTCA approximately $350 million '' nearly 1% of DBTCA's entire assets. Trump still owes $350 million to the bank, and his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner owe the bank up to $50 million.
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Trump and Deutsche BankTrump's relationship with Deutsche Bank goes back 30 years and includes successes, failures, and multiple lawsuits between the two. Trump received over $2 billion in loans from the bank, and used the money to build golf courses and high rises, selling a large portion of real estate to secretive LLC's and Russian mobsters.
In 2008, Trump sued Deutsche Bank after he was unable to make a payment on a $640 million loan he had received for Trump Tower Chicago. His claim was that he should be absolved from payment because Deutsche Bank helped cause the 2008 financial crash. Trump ultimately lost the case, which was resolved by both parties agreeing to settle for an undisclosed sum Trump was required to pay. In order to do so, he turned to yet another division of Deutsche Bank''DBTCA''and asked for another loan to pay off the first loan, which he also owed to Deutsche Bank.
DBTCA agreed, an arrangement characterized as ''unheard of'' by financial experts, according to the Times. Senior bank officials were later surprised to learn of the depth of the Trump-Deutsche Bank relationship and were baffled that Trump was largely debt-free.
Documents provided to Forensic News by Val confirm that Trump obtained at least some loans through DBTCA, not the main Deutsche Bank office. A bank spokesperson denied that Trump's loans were connected to VTB, telling Forensic News that ''more responsible news outlets have either investigated and avoided, or retracted, similar allegations as there is no truth to them.'' They did not comment on possible sanctions violations or other Deutsche Bank connections to VTB.
The original documents for Trump's Chicago loans are seen below. The Deutsche Bank signatories did not respond to questions for comment.The relationship between Trump and the controversial German bank is also littered with unorthodox financial agreements. In 2010, Rosemary Vrablic, an executive in the DBTCA division of the bank who worked with Trump and Kushner, approved a $106 million loan to purchase the Trump Doral Resort in Florida despite an internal banking team's estimation that Trump was overvaluing his assets by as much as 70 percent.
The bank approved a separate loan for $19 million to fund the Doral transaction even though the original loan was more than enough to cover the Doral's price tag of $105 million. Trump also purchased the Washington D.C. Old Post Office and converted it into a hotel in 2013 primarily using a loan approved by Ms. Vrablic, despite the fact DBTCA did not usually finance real estate transactions.
At the same time that Deutsche Bank was lending large amounts of money to Trump, regulators were investigating the bank for allegedly laundering huge sums of illicit Russian cash. In 2017, DBTCA was fined $425 million by the New York State Department of Financial Services as part of a mirror trading scheme out of Moscow. ''The department said Deutsche was moving money out of Russia by using a stock ''mirror trading'' strategy, in which its London branch would sell a trade that the Moscow branch bought earlier in the day.''
The bank was identified in 2019 as a central part of another Russian money laundering scheme designed to benefit Russian oligarchs. The $20 billion scheme involved a series of fake loans in the UK from 2010-2014. ''Deutsche Bank was used to launder the money via its corresponding banking network '' effectively allowing illegal Russian payments to be funneled to the US, the European Union and Asia,'' the Guardian reported.
VTB and DBTCAForensic News also obtained emails, documents, banking records, and other communications from Val and others showing a closer relationship between VTB and DBTCA than previously reported.
Additionally, a separate set of documents from companies with business in Russia indicates that DBTCA acted as a correspondent bank and intermediary bank for VTB 24 '' a previous subsidiary of VTB '' even after sanctions were implemented in 2014.
A correspondent bank is one established by a banking institution to receive deposits from or make payments on behalf of another, usually foreign, financial institution. DBTCA acting as a correspondent bank for a VTB subsidiary post-2014 may have been a violation of U.S. sanctions, according to experts.
One document, included in the recent 29leaks cache of files, shows a UK-based company stating that DBTCA was the correspondent bank for VTB 24. The leaked document is a letter from a principal (Ayub Khan) in the company, Quantum Business Partners Ltd, attempting to make payments totaling $73,000 to a Russian company account. ''I understand that [the] VTB bank'...funds are currently held in the correspondent bank account in New York'' the man writes. The bank in question is DBTCA, as seen below:
Though the letter is not dated, additional leaked emails from the same man, Ayub Khan, show him instructing a business formations company to ''activate telephone and fax'' for his business in early May 2015.
Additionally, metadata for the document shows that it was scanned on May 15, 2015, almost a year after the original sanctions on VTB:
There is no indication that Quantum Business Partners or Khan have done anything wrong. Their story simply presents evidence of a continued relationship between VTB 24 and DBTCA after sanctions were levied.
Two other documents, from two other companies with business in Russia list DBTCA as an intermediary bank for VTB. Intermediary banks usually help facilitate transactions. By definition, they are a middleman between the beneficiary bank and the issuing bank.
Document 1 showing DBTCA as an intermediary bank for VTB 24.
Document 2 showing DBTCA as an intermediary bank for VTB 24.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) did not respond to requests for comment on whether these documents suggest a sanctions violation. As a whole, the documents show a closer relationship between DBTCA and VTB than publicly known.
ConclusionVal's documents remain in the hands of federal investigators. Their contents have bolstered cases resulting in millions of dollars in fines and prison sentences for some Deutsche Bank executives overseas.
American law enforcement investigations into Deutsche Bank continue, while Val continues to search for answers about Deutsche Bank and his father's passing.
The Trump Organization, VTB, and Rudolph Giuliani, the President's personal attorney, did not respond to requests for comment.
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How to Halt Global Warming for $300 Billion - Bloomberg
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To replace gas taxes, Oregon and Utah ask EVs to pay for road use | Ars Technica
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 09:10
fair, or not fair? '-- Gas taxes pay for the upkeep of our roads, but electric cars don't use gasoline. Jonathan M. Gitlin - Jan 3, 2020 6:09 pm UTC
Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty Images
The end of 2019 saw a bunch of headlines proclaiming that it was a huge year for the electric vehicle. Yet more declare that actually, 2020 will be the year the EV really takes off. It's true there are now more EVs; plug-in hybrid ones, battery ones, and even hydrogen fuel cell EVs in a range of shapes, sizes, and prices, and five of them made it into my list of the 10 best things I drove last year. When the numbers for 2019's plug-in EV sales are complete, we expect more EVs to have been sold in 2019 than any year before, even if total new car sales in the US have dropped.
Still, let's not get ahead of ourselves; EVs might be outselling manual transmissions by nearly 2:1, but they still account for little more than a rounding error in the context of ~17 million new car and truck sales. If that has you depressed, take heart that the trend for EV sales is moving in the right direction. And it's a trend that is starting to worry some of the states. That's because the US has traditionally paid for the upkeep of its roads via direct taxation of gasoline and diesel fuel, which means that as our fleet becomes more fuel-efficient, that revenue will drop in relation to the total number of vehicle miles traveled each year.
Utah tries something newAs a result, some states are starting to grapple with the problem of how to get drivers to pay for the roads they use in cars that use less or even no gas per mile. At the start of this year, Utah has begun a pilot Road Usage Charge program, coupled to an increase in registration fees for alternative fuel vehicles. Assuming a state gas tax of 30c/gallon and 15,542 miles/year driven, Utah says it collects $777 a year from a 6mpg heavy truck, $311 from a pickup getting 15mpg, $187 from a 25mpg sedan, $93 from a 50mpg hybrid, and nothing from anyone driving a battery EV.
So in 2020, Utah is increasing vehicle registration fees. In 2019, registering a BEV in Utah would cost $60; in 2020 that will be $90, increasing to $120 in 2021. PHEV fees were $26 in 2019, increasing to $39 this year and $52 in 2021, and not-plug-in hybrid fees have gone from $10 to $15, increasing to $20 next year. An extra $30 a year'--or even $60 a year'--is pretty small in the grand scheme of things, particularly considering how much cheaper an EV is to run.
But Utahns with EVs have an alternative. Instead of paying that flat fee, they can enroll in the pilot program that involves fitting a telematics device to the car. The device tracks the actual number of miles driven on Utah's roads. These are billed at a rate of 1.5c/mile, but only until the total equals whatever that year's registration fee for the vehicle would have been; participating in the pilot means you could pay less than you would otherwise, but Utah's Department of Transportation says that participants would not ever be charged more than that year's registration fee. The data will be collected by a contractor called Emovis, which operates toll roads around the US.
"This is just one of the avenues we're investigating for the future because with all the alternative-fuel vehicles, there is going to come a time when the gas tax is not going to be able to fund transportation like it has for the past 100 years," said UDOT spokesperson John Gleason.
Oregon has been at this for a whileOregon is another state that has been working on solving this problem for a while now'--this Ars forum thread about the topic is exactly 11 years old today, in fact. In 2020, Oregon is increasing its state gas tax by 2c/gallon, and like Utah, it's also increasing vehicle registration fees. Now, fees for registering your car in Oregon will depend on how many miles per gallon your car gets; a two-year registration for something that gets below 19mpg will cost $122, rising to $132 for a vehicle between 20''39mpg, then $152 for a vehicle that gets 40mpg or better, and $306 for a BEV.
Like Utah, there is a way to avoid some of those increases, as long as you own a 40+mpg vehicle or a BEV. By enrolling in OReGO'--which began in 2015 as a pilot for 5,000 road users but which is now being expanded'--you can cut that two-year fee to $86 for a 40+mpg vehicle or a BEV. Like Utah's system, OReGo also requires participants fit their car with a telematics device to track the actual miles they travel on the state's roads. Those are billed at 1.8c/mile'--Oregon evidently decided its roads are worth a little more than those in Utah'--but you can then get credited for any fuel tax you pay in the state. (Obviously, this only applies to hybrid and PHEV drivers.)
Knowing Ars Technica's audience, I'm pretty sure that some of you will be horrified by these approaches. After all, it means surrendering yet more personal data to private companies and local authorities. And it's fair to say that support is not universal for these approaches, particularly as the data unequivocally shows that a reduction in subsidies for EVs directly correlates with fewer EVs sold. What's more, state gas taxes aren't the only gas taxes we pay'--the federal gas tax will also need tackling at some point in the future. And with such low market penetration, the problem of declining gas tax revenues isn't much of a problem right now. But it will be, so it's probably wise for people to think about how to solve that while we have time.
Police shoot man dead after deadly stabbings in Paris park
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 09:02
PARIS (AP) '-- A man armed with a knife rampaged through a Paris park attacking passers-by seemingly at random Friday, killing one person and injuring two others before police shot him dead, officials said.
Police officers secure the area after a man attacked passerby Friday Jan.3, 2020 in Villejuif, south of Paris. A man armed with a knife attacked passers-by Friday in a southern Paris park, injuring some, before being shot by police, French officials said. Police officers secure the area after a man attacked passerby Friday Jan.3, 2020 in Villejuif, south of Paris. A man armed with a knife attacked passers-by Friday in a southern Paris park, injuring some, before being shot by police, French officials said. January 03, 2020The man's motives weren't immediate ly clear. A witness said he saw the attacker stab one man and that he appeared to select victims at random. ''We heard screams,'' said the witness, who gave only his surname, Dia. Police fired round after round in bringing him down, he added.
''We heard a first shot, someone shout 'Drop your weapon!'" he said. Then ''there were several shots fired.'' Officials said one victim died and two others were injured in the afternoon attack in Villejuif in the southern suburbs of Paris.
Police union official Yves Lefebvre said officers opened fire repeatedly because they feared the man was wearing an explosive belt and might blow himself up.
Australian Police Say Arsonists & Lightning to Blame For Bushfires, Not Climate Change '' Summit News
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 08:59
Authorities in Australia are working on the premise that arsonists and lightning strikes are to blame for bushfires that have devastated numerous areas of the country, not ''climate change'' as many global warming alarmists have claimed.
Since November, the fires have struck various regions of the state of New South Wales, destroying thousands of buildings and killing at least 22 people.
Despite the fact that bushfires are not uncommon in Australia, the severity of the damage led numerous climate change alarmists to blame the disaster on man-made global warming.
Earlier this week, Bernie Sanders blamed those who were ''delaying action on climate change'' for ''the blood-red sky and unbreathable air in Australia because of raging forest fires.''
However, according to those tasked with investigating the fires, climate change has nothing to do with it.
Police are now working on the premise arson is to blame for much of the devastation caused this bushfire season. A strike force will investigate whether blazes were deliberately lit, and bring those responsible to justice. https://t.co/TWh1KQycs4 @ebatten7 #NSWFires #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/Dul8dMFrZv
'-- 7NEWS Sydney (@7NewsSydney) January 3, 2020
''Police are now working on the premise arson is to blame for much of the devastation caused this bushfire season,'' reports 7 News Sydney.
Authorities in the country have formed Strike Force Indarra, comprising of detectives from homicide and arson units in an attempt to find the culprits.
Other causes for the fires include lightning strikes and a natural weather phenomenon called Dipole, again neither of which have anything to do with man-made climate change.
Many bushfires are also actually caused by environmentalist 'green' policies which prevent land owners from clearing their own vegetation to protect themselves.
''Governments appeasing the green beast have ignored numerous state and federal bushfire inquiries over the past decade, almost all of which have recommended increasing the practice of ''prescribed burning,'' writes Miranda Devine. ''Also known as ''hazard reduction'', it is a methodical regime of burning off flammable ground cover in cooler months, in a controlled fashion, so it does not fuel the inevitable summer bushfires.''
As ever with climate change alarmists, they don't let the facts get in the way of a good power grab.
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Hustler Magazine sends graphic Christmas card to lawmakers depicting Trump's assassination
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 08:58
News
By Joseph Wulfsohn, Fox News
January 2, 2020 | 10:57pm
Hustler Magazine is under fire of a graphic Christmas card that was sent to several lawmakers featuring a depiction of President Trump's assassination.
The cover of the card shows an illustration of a gunman saying, ''I just shot Donald Trump on Fifth Avenue. And no one arrested me.''
The inside, however, shows a figure resembling President Trump laying in a pool of blood in the middle of a busy street with smiling civilians along with the gunman saying, ''Merry Christmas.''
The card adds, ''from all of us at Hustler'' in the bottom corner.
One of the recipients, Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., condemned the card.
''Here's all you need to know about the radical Left. A young staffer of mine opened this in a stack of holiday mail today. Just imagine if a conservative had distributed such a disgusting and hateful piece about a Democrat. I hope this will be investigated by the @secretservice,'' Johnson tweeted.
Mark Zaid, the anti-Trump attorney who legally represents the whistleblower in the Ukraine scandal, also slammed the card.
''This is unacceptable, and clearly I'm no fan of this President. But this absolutely crosses the line and there should be a public apology. Something like this is not a joking matter,'' Zaid tweeted.
Hustler Magazine confirmed the card's authenticity to Fox News but declined to provide further comment.
The magazine's founder, Larry Flynt, has previously expressed animosity towards the president. Back in 2017, Flynt and Hustler Magazine put a full-page ad in The Washington Post offering a ''$10 million'' reward for ''information leading to the impeachment and removal of office'' of President Trump.
Fox News' Charlie Creitz contributed to this report.
How Google, Microsoft, and Big Tech Are Automating the Climate Crisis
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 08:55
In a deal that made few ripples outside the energy industry, two very large but relatively obscure companies, Rockwell Automation and Schlumberger Limited, announced a joint venture called Sensia. The new company will ''sell equipment and services to advance digital technology and automation in the oilfield,'' according to the Houston Chronicle . Yet the partnership has ramifications far beyond Houston's energy corridor: It's part of a growing trend that sees major tech companies teaming with oil giants to use automation, AI, and big data services to enhance oil exploration, extraction, and production.
Rockwell is the world's largest company that is dedicated to industrial automation, and Schlumberger, a competitor of Halliburton, is the world's largest oilfield services firm. Sensia will be, according to the press release , ''the first fully integrated digital oilfield automation solutions provider.'' It will enable drilling rigs to run on automated schedules, enhance communication between oilfield equipment, and help machinery assess when it is in need of repair or modification'--all in the name of making drilling for oil smarter, cheaper, and more efficient.
As the Chronicle put it, Sensia will ''help producers churn out more oil and gas with fewer workers.'' Which, of course, is precisely the opposite of what needs to be happening in regards to the churning out of oil right now.
The specter of catastrophic climate change has never loomed so large. The most recent major United Nations report by the world's top climate scientists concluded we have just over a decade to draw down emissions to the point that we might avoid runaway climate change and the soaring temperatures and rising sea levels that will accompany it.
And yet, the biggest and most influential tech companies are making deals and partnerships with oil companies that move the needle in the opposite direction. Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have all struck lucrative arrangements'-- collectively worth billions of dollars '--to provide automation, cloud, and AI services to some of the world's biggest oil companies, and they are actively pursuing more.
These deals, many of which were made just last year, at what may be the height of public awareness of the threats posed by climate change, are explicitly aimed at streamlining, improving, and rendering oil and gas extraction operations more profitable. These deals weren't secret and many have been openly reported in trade journals and business sections, but somehow big tech's sweeping embrace of the oil industry has managed to escape wider notice and criticism.
''It is indeed disturbing to see the tech industry helping move civilization back into the fossil age even as they purport to be about cutting edge technology intended to lead us into the future,'' said Dr. Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State. ''It ultimately speaks to the amorality of corporate interests.''
While Google, Microsoft, and Amazon may put on a progressive air towards climate change and extol their own clean energy investments , they are in reality deep into the process of automating the climate crisis.
Google recently drew criticism for spending $25,000 to co-sponsor a conference, along with Microsoft, which featured groups that promote climate change denial. Yet Google itself is helping fossil fuel companies utilize a wide range of its technologies to get oil and gas out of the ground, which will, undeniably, accelerate the process of climate change.
Last year, Google quietly started an oil, gas, and energy division. It hired Darryl Willis, a 25-year veteran of BP, to head up what the Wall Street Journal described as ''part of a new group Google has created to court the oil and gas industry.'' As the VP of Google Cloud Oil, Gas, and Energy, Willis spent the year pitching energy companies on partnerships and lucrative deals. ''If it has to do with heating, lighting or mobility for human beings on this planet, we're interested in it,'' Mr. Willis told the Journal. ''Our plan is to be the partner of choice for the energy industry.''
Just last year, Google Cloud and the French oil giant Total ''signed an agreement to jointly develop artificial intelligence solutions for subsurface data analysis in oil and gas exploration and production,'' according to the trade outlet Rigzone .
The division also inked a partnership with Houston oil investment bank Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co, which the Chronicle noted ''will give Google a more visible presence in Houston as one of its oldest industries works to cut costs in the wake of the oil bust and remain competitive as electric vehicles and renewable power sources gain market share.'' (In case that wasn't clear, yes, this partnership is touted as helping oil companies staying competitive against renewable energy companies.) Google also struck major deals with the oilfield services company Baker Hughes, and the aforementioned Schlumberger. It even entered into talks to build a tech hub and data centers for Aramco, Saudi Arabia's incomprehensibly massive oil company.
Finally, to close out its year of courting the oil and gas industry, Google closed a deal with Anadarko Petroleum. As the Financial Times reported in December, ''Google and Anadarko Petroleum, one of the largest US exploration and production companies, are using artificial intelligence to analyse large volumes of seismic and operational data to find oil, maximise output and increase efficiency.''
So, Google is using machine learning to find more oil reserves both above and below the seas, its data services are streamlining and automating extant oilfield operations, and it is helping oil companies find ways to trim costs and compete with clean energy upstarts. It's barely worth noting at this point that precious little, if any, DNA from Google's Don't Be Evil days persists. Still, it's striking to see Google transforming itself into a veritable innovation arm of the fossil fuel extraction industry'--at precisely the time when an understanding that climate change poses an existential threat to populations across large swaths of the globe has never been more acute.
It may perhaps come as less of a surprise that Amazon too has an Oil & Gas division of its omnipresent Web Services division (AWS), and that it is unabashed in pitching its services to fossil fuel producers small and large. Amazon, after all, has long badly lagged among tech companies in adopting renewable energy and sustainability measures . It did, however, just announce Shipment Zero , a ''vision'' for reducing and offsetting its shipping emissions to ''net zero.''
Yet Amazon also hosts a detailed web page courting fossil fuel companies, which opens with the following pitch: ''AWS allows Oil and Gas companies to streamline and reinvent complex, customized IT workflows to thrive despite low prices, shrinking margins, and market volatility. Explorers can extract deep insights faster to improve field planning, geoscientists can run more demanding HPC workflows and identify potential reservoirs faster and cheaper, and refineries can optimize production with predictive maintenance and predictive inventory planning.''
Also unsurprisingly'--given that AWS provides web services to a considerable portion of the entire internet '--it has some high-profile clients in the oil majors, including BP and Royal Dutch Shell , as well as other players like GE's oil business . Like Google, Amazon's service promises to help fossil fuel companies harness AI'--''AWS advanced machine learning and HPC tools allow oil and gas companies to reduce the time required for seismic data processing from several months to a few days'''--and automation: ''Accelerate deeper geological insights to improve decision making in exploration and production, and yield more productive oil extraction. Automate time-consuming processes, and achieve results with greater accuracy.''
Amazon appears just as eager to move further into the lucrative fossil fuels business, to deploy machine learning and automation to help oil companies maximize their extraction and production capabilities, and thus maximize carbon emissions at a time when it seems imperative that companies be focused on doing the opposite. To top it all off, Amazon itself recently became an actual oil company .
Bill Gates is one of the world's leading philanthropists. He heads a $1 billion climate action fund and has published his own point-by-point plan for fighting climate change . Notably absent from that plan is ''Empowering Oil & Gas with AI,'' which was, word-for-word, the theme of Microsoft's 2018 exhibition at the Abu Dhabi International Exhibition & Conference, one of the largest global events for the oil and gas sector.
''AI, leveraging of the intelligent cloud and edge computing ... these manifest in better reservoir characterization, optimized drilling, reduced downtime, and safer operations to mention a few,'' a Microsoft director said at the conference.
Meanwhile, the firm Gates founded is two years into a seven-year deal'-- rumored to be worth over a billion dollars '--to help Chevron, one of the world's largest oil companies, better extract and distribute oil.
''Chevron is a very sophisticated consumer of data, compute and IoT,'' Tom Keane, head of global infrastructure for Microsoft Azure, the company's cloud services department, said in a press release when the deal was announced. ''While they're excellent today at high-performance computing, the intent of this partnership is, 'How can we bring that together with Microsoft Azure and more efficiently do oil exploration?'' How indeed.
Microsoft Azure has sold machine vision software to Shell , and is powering its all-out '' machine learning push .'' It has helped BP build an AI tool to help determine how much oil in a given reserve is recoverable. And Microsoft's data services are helping XTO , a subsidiary of Exxon, ''to gain new insights into well operations and future drilling possibilities.''
Microsoft Azure has also partnered with Equinor (formerly called Statoil, it's Norway's state-owned oil company), to provide data services in a deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Honestly, the list goes on'--and every single one of those endeavors is actively working against the very ventures and climate action plans Gates is proposing on the philanthropy circuit.
Silicon Valley's mythology has always been predicated on the notion that its firms and founders would behave differently, and more aspirationally, than the industries of old. ''Changing the world,'' while always a notably unspecific mantra, was supposedly intended to precede ''into something better.'' But industries don't get any older than fossil fuels. And they don't get any worse for the climate.
The science couldn't be clearer . Fossil fuels need to stay in the ground, as much as possible. It might actually be accurate to say that the very last thing the world needs is an advanced AI that can better detect new oil reserves. Or a machine learning program that can squeeze more carbon-rich gas out of an underperforming well. Or rig machinery that works flawlessly in tandem with a network of other automated drilling rigs until the sea levels rise high enough to flood all their sensors.
I am not sure how Google's mission of indexing all the world's information came to contain the side quest of helping the world in which it sits burn. Or how Bill Gates can talk about fighting climate change at Davos while his company props up and propels its actual largest contributors. (The most impactful move Gates could probably make at this point would be to ask Microsoft to cut ties from the fossil fuel industry.) Or how Amazon can advertise services aimed to optimize the obtaining and burning of carbon with the same blase copy with which it advertises Kindle self-publishing services.
These companies, the climatologist Michael Mann says, have a responsibility to use their capacity for innovation to mitigate the climate crisis, not worsen it. ''Under Eric Schmidt's leadership, Google was doing just that. It appears that they have lost their corporate moral compass,'' he says. ''As I have commented before, it appears that Google dropped the 'Don't' from their original motto.''
I reached out to each of these companies and asked them point blank whether they considered it ethical to build AI and automated systems, to provide data services to the companies that are actively accelerating climate change. Not a single one even bothered to respond.
To reiterate: We've never had a better, fuller grasp of how dangerous climate change is'--if you need more info, Google it. And yet our most powerful and admired tech companies appear content to use their cutting edge innovations to exacerbate what is likely the most dire threat to human civilization for a reward as dull and depressing as a share in the oil money.
Maybe this is how Silicon Valley exceptionalism finally really ends'--not with a scandal, or a burst bubble, but a quiet, slow-rolling merger with Big Oil.
This story is part of Automaton , an ongoing investigation into how AI and automation is reshaping the human landscape. For tips, feedback, or other ideas about living with the robots, I can be reached at bmerchant@gizmodo.com or on Twitter .
When Twenty-Six Thousand Stinkbugs Invade Your Home | The New Yorker
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 08:44
These uniquely versatile bugs are decimating crops and infiltrating houses all across the country. Will we ever be able to get rid of them? The brown marmorated stinkbug often congregates indoors in exorbitant numbers.
Illustration by David PlunkertThese uniquely versatile bugs are decimating crops and infiltrating houses all across the country. Will we ever be able to get rid of them? The brown marmorated stinkbug often congregates indoors in exorbitant numbers.
Illustration by David PlunkertOne October night a few years back, Pam Stone was downstairs watching television with her partner, Paul Zimmerman, when it struck her that their house was unusually cold. Stone and Zimmerman live just outside Landrum, South Carolina, in an A-frame cabin; upstairs in their bedroom, French doors lead out to a raised deck. That week, autumn had finally descended on the Carolinas, killing off the mosquitoes and sending nighttime temperatures plummeting, and the previous evening the couple had opened those doors a crack to take advantage of the cool air. Now, sitting in front of the TV, Stone suddenly realized that she'd left them open and went up to close them.
Zimmerman was still downstairs when he heard her scream. He sprinted up to join her, and the two of them stood in the doorway, aghast. Their bedroom walls were crawling with insects'--not dozens of them but hundreds upon hundreds. Stone knew what they were, because she'd seen a few around the house earlier that year and eventually posted a picture of one on Facebook and asked what it was. That's a stinkbug, a chorus of people had told her'--specifically, a brown marmorated stinkbug. Huh, Stone had thought at the time. Never heard of them. Now they were covering every visible surface of her bedroom.
''It was like a horror movie,'' Stone recalled. She and Zimmerman fetched two brooms and started sweeping down the walls. Pre-stinkbug crisis, the couple had been unwinding after work (she is an actress, comedian, and horse trainer; he is a horticulturist), and were notably underdressed, in tank tops and boxers, for undertaking a full-scale extermination. The stinkbugs, attracted to warmth, kept thwacking into their bodies as they worked. Stone and Zimmerman didn't dare kill them'--the stink for which stinkbugs are named is released when you crush them'--so they periodically threw the accumulated heaps back outside, only to realize that, every time they opened the doors to do so, more stinkbugs flew in. It took them forty-five minutes to clean the place, at which point, exhausted, they dropped into bed and switched off the lights.
Moments later, something went barrelling across the room, sounding, as stinkbugs do, like an angry and overweight wasp. The couple jumped up and turned the lights back on. Looking for the stray bug, Stone pulled a painting off the wall and turned it around; dozens of stinkbugs covered the back. She opened a drawer of the dresser: dozens more. That's when she and Zimmerman realized that they were going to have to treat their bedroom ''like a hazmat situation.'' ''We stripped everything,'' Stone said. They took the sheets and pillowcases off the bed and emptied the upstairs bathroom. They inspected the drapes by the doors and found hundreds more stinkbugs clinging to the folds. They thwacked off as many as they could, then took the drapes down to wash them. After that, they tried several more times to go to sleep, to no avail. ''Literally, the instant it was dark,'' Stone said, ''we'd hear four or five more come out and we would turn the lights back on because they were hitting the wall above our heads and dropping onto us, which was even more horrifying.''
In the end, it took the couple almost all night to make their bedroom habitable, but since then they have never lived entirely free of stinkbugs. The day after the infestation, one flew out of Stone's hair dryer. A few days later, she pulled a hoodie over her head, then frantically yanked it off again upon discovering multiple stinkbugs burrowed inside. Some time after that, she tacked up a horse she'd been training, jumped on, and immediately sprang back off: stinkbugs were pouring out of every crevice of the saddle. She has flicked them off the pages of books she was reading and pulled their corpses out of her jewelry box; they have crawled across the table during dinner and, drawn to the heat of the water, edged steadily closer to her in the bathtub. As she was telling me her story, one made its way across her cutting board, while another survived a swipe from her kitten.
Pam Stone's experience is not unique. Indeed, in the annals of brown marmorated stinkbug invasions, it isn't even all that extreme. The species is not native to this country, but in the years since it arrived it has spread to forty-three of the forty-eight continental United States, and'--in patchwork, unpredictable, time-staggered ways'--has overrun homes, gardens, and farms in one location after another. Four years before Stone's encounter, a wildlife biologist in Maryland decided to count all the brown marmorated stinkbugs he killed in his own home; he stopped the experiment after six months and twenty-six thousand two hundred and five stinkbugs. Around the same time, entomologists documented thirty thousand stinkbugs living in a shed in Virginia no bigger than an outhouse, and four thousand in a container the size of a breadbox. In West Virginia, bank employees arrived at work one day to find an exterior wall of the building covered in an estimated million stinkbugs.
What makes the brown marmorated stinkbug unique, though, is not just its tendency to congregate in extremely large numbers but the fact that it boasts a peculiar and unwelcome kind of versatility. Very few household pests destroy crops; fleas and bedbugs are nightmarish, but not if you're a field of corn. Conversely, very few agricultural pests pose a problem indoors; you'll seldom hear of people confronting a swarm of boll weevils in their bedroom. But the brown marmorated stinkbug has made a name for itself by simultaneously threatening millions of acres of American farmland and grossing out the occupants of millions of American homes. The saga of how it got here, what it's doing here, and what we're doing about it is part dystopic and part tragicomic, part qualified success story and part cautionary tale. If you have never met its main character, I assure you: you will soon.
Of the five-thousand-odd species of stinkbug in the world, the brown marmorated kind is the most destructive, the most annoying, and possibly the ugliest. It is roughly the size of a dime, although thicker, but its head is unusually small, even for an insect, which gives it an appropriately thuggish look. Its six legs prop its shield-shaped body up in the air, as if they were pallbearers at the funeral of a Knight Templar. Its antennae are striped with bands of dark and light, while its eyes, should you get close enough to gaze into them, are the vivid red of an alarm clock at night. The ''marmorated'' in its name means ''marbled,'' but ''mottled'' is closer to the truth. Entomologists, who have a color palette as elaborate as Benjamin Moore's, describe the underside of its body as ''distinctly pale luteous'' and the topside as ''generally brownish cinereous, but also greyish ochraceous, ochraceous, testaceous, or castaneous.'' To everyone else, it looks as dull brown as its own frass, the technical term for insect excrement.
The defining ugliness of a stinkbug, however, is its stink. Olfactory defense mechanisms are not uncommon in nature: wolverines, anteaters, and polecats all have scent glands that produce an odor rivalling that of a skunk; bombardier beetles, when threatened, emit a foul-smelling chemical hot enough to burn human skin; vultures keep predators at bay by vomiting up the most recent bit of carrion they ate; honey badgers achieve the same effect by turning their anal pouch inside out. All these creatures produce a smell worse than the stinkbug's, but none of them do so in your home.
Slightly less noxious but vastly more pervasive, the smell of the brown marmorated stinkbug is often likened to that of cilantro, chiefly because the same chemical is present in both. In reality, stinkbugs smell like cilantro only in the way that rancid cilantro-mutton stew smells like cilantro, which is to say, they do not. Pam Stone compared their actual smell to the ammonia-and-sulfur stench that suffuses the air outside paper mills. Others have likened it to everything from rotten fruit to filthy socks. A for effort. In fact, the smell produced by a stinkbug is dusty, fetid, lingering, and analogy-proof. A stinkbug smells, unhappily for us all, like a stinkbug.
Along with cheap yoga pants, mass layoffs, and the recent surge in nationalism, the brown marmorated stinkbug is a product of globalization. It is native to East Asia'--mainly China, Taiwan, Japan, and North and South Korea'--where, kept in check by various natural predators, it has coexisted with the rest of nature in relative tranquillity for millions of years. But then, on September 21, 1998, a gentleman from Allentown, Pennsylvania, deposited several specimens of a mystery insect in the office of Karen Bernhard, an entomologist who works at Pennsylvania State University's Extension Service.
Bernhard could not immediately identify the specimens, which was not in itself surprising. In both number and variety, insects dwarf all other animals; worldwide, there are some nine hundred thousand known species, while between two million and thirty million more have yet to be catalogued. (By comparison, there are just over five thousand species of mammal.) Since the United States boasts ninety-one thousand of those named insect species, some of them quite rare, plus almost as many unknown ones, it isn't that unusual to come across a stumper. Eagle-eyed 4-H'ers have been known to go bug collecting and come home with an insect that no one in the county has seen before.
It is unusual, however, to find an insect that no one in the country has seen before. At first, when Bernhard sent her specimens off for identification, she was told that they were a native stinkbug, Euschistus servus, but something seemed off. Although those bugs do sometimes make their way indoors, they are not normally household pests, yet all the people calling Bernhard were asking about insects they had found in their homes. In the fall of 2001, armed with a new batch of identical specimens, she contacted Richard Hoebeke, an entomologist specializing in invasive species, who was then at Cornell and is now at the University of Georgia. Within weeks, Hoebeke had determined that the specimens were brown marmorated stinkbugs, the first ever identified in the Western Hemisphere.
Not long afterward, Hoebeke travelled to Pennsylvania to see the new species in situ. ''It's kind of burned into my memory,'' he said. Hoebeke had seen plenty of stinkbugs in his time, but never in such quantities. ''They were flying everywhere'--in the air, around people's window screens, everywhere. I had my windows open, and so many were getting in my car that I had to be really careful that I wasn't going to transport them back with me. I was utterly amazed at the numbers.'' By their sheer quantity, it was clear to him that brown marmorated stinkbugs had been in the area longer than scientists knew. Together with some colleagues, he began scouring records like those kept by Bernhard and eventually determined that the first verifiable specimen appeared in Allentown in 1996, most likely via a shipping pallet from China.
That was the beginning of the grand American journey of the brown marmorated stinkbug. The first sighting outside Pennsylvania came in 1999, in New Jersey. By 2003, stinkbugs had arrived in Maryland. By 2004, they were in West Virginia and Delaware. By 2007, they were in Ohio and New York. These days, it's considerably easier to name the states where, for now, stinkbugs haven't been found: Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and Alaska. (That's before we even get to their global reach. In the past few decades, the brown marmorated stinkbug has also migrated to Canada, Chile, Bulgaria, Russia, Georgia, Abkhazia, Serbia, Romania, Hungary, Greece, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, and France, where it is known as the Devil's thumbtack.)
Needless to say, stinkbugs didn't arrive in these places under their own steam; indeed, as insects go they are unexceptional fliers, averaging a mile and a half a day. (Scientists know this because they glued seven hundred and thirty-seven brown marmorated stinkbugs to tiny treadmills, or flight mills, and tracked how far they flew.) However, as Richard Hoebeke learned first hand, they are impressively resourceful hitchhikers'--or, really, stowaways, crossing state lines concealed in automobiles (inside, outside, crammed into the rubber sealing in between), tractor-trailers, freight containers, overhead compartments, and anything else that moves. Biologists have arrived at stinkbug conferences in distant states only to open their suitcases and watch in horror as one crawled out.
For the most part, though, the arrival of the brown marmorated stinkbug in a new place is an understated affair. Like a dance party that technically starts at nine but doesn't really get going until one in the morning, there's a long lag between when stinkbugs show up in a new place and when their population booms. Maryland had a stinkbug annus horribilis in 2010, seven years after the first one was documented there. Virginia's mass infestation, in 2011, likewise took place seven years after the first sighting in that state. Pam Stone's home was overrun in 2015, four years after the brown marmorated stinkbug was spotted in South Carolina.
Although concentrated urban areas like Manhattan have, heaven knows, problems of their own'--bedbugs, subway rats, cockroaches so big they could register for kindergarten'--they are seldom the target of large-scale stinkbug invasions. But smaller cities, towns, suburbs, exurbs, and rural areas all strike stinkbugs as prime real estate, because they enable the bugs to do what they do best. In the fall, winter, and spring, brown marmorated stinkbugs take up residence in private homes, sometimes by the tens of thousands. Then, in the summer, they quietly let themselves back outside, into nearby gardens, orchards, woods, and farms, and steadily set about destroying them.
You wouldn't necessarily notice from way up where we humans perch on the food chain, but it isn't particularly easy to eat a plant. Like most living things, they have evolved an impressive array of defense mechanisms to avoid becoming dinner: thick bark, tough leaves, thorns, spines, poisons. In turn, aspiring plant-eaters have had to evolve ways around those defenses'--long bills to access difficult-to-reach nectar, for example, or metabolic pathways that allow them to safely ingest certain toxins. Because of these adaptive pressures, most herbivorous insects are specialists: they are very good at eating a small number of things. Thus, the emerald ash borer feeds exclusively on ash trees, and the Douglas-fir beetle, as its name suggests, prefers Douglas firs.
The brown marmorated stinkbug is not like this. It is, instead, a generalist par excellence; entomologists call it ''highly polyphagous,'' meaning that it will eat a stunning range of things. For instance, it, too, will eat ash trees. But it will also eat birch trees, juniper trees, cherry trees, tulip trees, maple trees (fifteen different kinds, including sugar maples, big-leaf maples, and vine maples), buckeyes, dogwoods, horse chestnuts, black walnuts, myrtles, magnolias, willows, sycamores, hemlocks, elms, and oaks. That is just a sampling, of just the trees. In other domains, it will eat a lot of things you probably eat, too: broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, eggplants, okra, chard, cabbage, collards, bell peppers, cucumbers. It will eat pecans and hazelnuts. It will eat hops and grapes. It will eat apples and pears, raspberries and blackberries, apricots and peaches and nectarines. It will eat, like a medieval princeling, figs and quinces. It will eat, without apparent discomfort, horseradish and cayenne pepper, habaneros and jalape±os.
All of that amounts to just the hors d'oeuvres. So far, scientists have discovered more than two hundred and fifty plants that the brown marmorated stinkbug will consume. Together, those plants represent every major agricultural and horticultural sector of the American economy: vegetables, fruit trees, berries, nuts, ornamental plants, and row crops, including sweet corn, cotton, soybeans, and virtually every other legume.
What makes the brown marmorated stinkbug so impressively omnivorous is also what makes it a bug. Technically speaking, bugs are not synonymous with insects but are a subset of them: those which possess mouthparts that pierce and suck (as opposed to, say, caterpillars and termites, whose mouths are built, like ours, to chew). Yet even among those insects which share its basic physiology, the stinkbug is an outlier; Michael Raupp, an entomologist at the University of Maryland, described its host range as ''huge, huge, wildly huge. You're right up there now with the big guys, with gypsy moths and Japanese beetles.''
Like those two infamous insects, the brown marmorated stinkbug presents a serious problem for American crops. In 2010, Tracy Leskey, an entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, formed a task force dedicated to figuring out just how serious'--that is, to studying the biology, ecology, and impact of the brown marmorated stinkbug, and to developing environmentally and economically sustainable strategies for managing it. At the time, the stinkbug had just reached outbreak levels in the Mid-Atlantic, and the results, Leskey said, were ''far beyond anything I had experienced working in ag for twenty years. I wish I had a metric I could give you to tell you how many bugs were in people's crops.'' In orchards, they were crawling by the hundreds on every tree; so many had invaded corn and soybean fields that farmers had to turn on the windshield wipers in their combines while harvesting. Afterward, it wasn't uncommon to find stinkbug damage on every single ear of corn.
In the years since then, stinkbug populations have simultaneously abated somewhat in their earliest haunts and expanded into countless new places across the country. Those fluctuations, combined with the sheer range of plants that stinkbugs eat, make it difficult to assess their economic impact. To further complicate matters, growers are not typically required to report losses and'--outside of crop-insurance claims, inquiries organized by trade associations, or the rare congressional request'--they seldom do so. As a consequence, there are no reliable estimates of over-all stinkbug damage to date. In 2010, federal scientists asked apple growers in the Mid-Atlantic to tally their losses; the resulting sum topped thirty-seven million dollars, in an industry whose annual profit in the region is less than two hundred million. That year, Pennsylvania peach growers lost almost half their crop to stinkbugs, a fifteen-million-dollar blow, while some in Maryland lost up to a hundred per cent. In New Jersey, which is the fourth-largest peach producer in the nation, losses ranged from sixty to ninety per cent of the harvest.
No one has quantified the total loss to sweet corn, soybeans, tomatoes, bell peppers, and green beans, but no one disputes that it is significant. And the toll will almost certainly rise as the stinkbug takes up residence in other places. Michigan, the nation's third-largest apple supplier, began to see damage to that crop by 2016, five years after the brown marmorated stinkbug appeared there. In California, South Carolina, and Georgia, where the majority of American peaches are grown, stinkbugs are a relatively new arrival, and how much damage they will do when and if they reach a critical mass in those places remains to be seen.
Already, though, the stinkbug has demonstrated a taste not only for Georgia's peaches but also for its cotton. Out in Oregon and Washington, it has begun feeding on hazelnuts and berries. Last year, in California, it caused documented damage to the almond crop for the first time. Across the country, vineyards are facing a double threat, because brown marmorated stinkbugs eat both grapes and grapevines. Worse, they tend to migrate to the center of grape clusters late in the season, then get harvested along with them. According to one study, the threshold for detecting a flavor change in grape juice is twenty-five brown marmorated stinkbugs per thirty-five pounds of Concord grapes. On the plus side, or something, evidence suggests that fermentation makes it somewhat more difficult to notice the taste of crushed stinkbugs in wine.
In general, it's often difficult to notice the damage done by stinkbugs, at least at first. Unlike, say, locusts, which simply raze entire fields, stinkbugs wreak their havoc insidiously. The injury they do to corn, for instance, is invisible until the ear is husked, at which point certain kernels'--the ones into which a stinkbug stuck its pointy mouth'--will reveal themselves to be sunken and brown, like the teeth of a witch. Similarly, stinkbugs suck the juice out of apples through nearly invisible punctures, leaving the exteriors Edenically enticing; only later, when the empty cells start to collapse, does the fruit begin to darken and dimple. The resulting scars, known as cat-facing, also appear on peaches, tomatoes, and other fruits. To add insult to injury, the sugary substance weeping from those wounds attracts other noxious insects, including yellow jackets.
These damaged crops can sometimes be salvaged for juice, but that's a cold comfort to growers, because fruit loses as much as eighty to ninety per cent of its value when it's downgraded from produce to processing. Moreover, stinkbug-affected crops are often rejected even for juicing, for reasons of taste: in addition to sucking some of the sweetness out of their target food, the insects emit an aggregation chemical while they're eating it'--essentially, an enthusiastic arthropod Yelp review, meant to encourage other stinkbugs to join them. That aggregation chemical, which is different from the stinkbug's stink'--in fact, it shares its basic structure with Chanel No. 5'--lingers on the fruit and negatively affects the flavor of the resulting juice. (Some evidence suggests that this chemical can also cause a rash in humans, especially if it is concentrated through repeated exposure, as happens with harvesters.)
Sometimes, though, fruits from stinkbug-heavy areas are rejected by processors for a different reason: excessive pesticide use. All conventional growers use some form of chemical insect control, and, up to a certain level, the residue is deemed fine for human consumption. But growers in stinkbug-affected regions sometimes exceed those levels'--because, as it turns out, the brown marmorated stinkbug is exceptionally hard to kill with pesticides. Peter Jentsch, an entomologist with Cornell University's Hudson Valley research laboratory, calls it the Hummer of insects: a highly armored creature built to maximize its defensive capabilities. Its relatively long legs keep it perched above the surface of its food, which limits its exposure to pesticide applications. Similarly, it eats from the interior of plants, where, for obvious reasons, pesticides are not meant to penetrate. Theoretically, it could inhale a fatal chemical through small breathing pores along its abdomen, but so far the only ones that reliably knock it out are broad-spectrum compounds, which farmers prefer not to use, since they also kill beneficial species. A class of pesticides known as pyrethroids, which are used to control native stinkbugs, initially appeared to work just as well on the brown marmorated kind'--until a day or two later, when more than a third of the ostensibly dead bugs rose up, Lazarus-like, and calmly resumed the business of demolition.
But what is not fatal to a brown marmorated stinkbug is terrible for American farms, farmers, ecosystems, and consumers. According to Raupp, the arrival of the stinkbug in this country ''basically reversed three decades of environmental and economic progress in terms of managing pests.'' After a long and steady decline, pesticide use in some places shot up fourfold, as growers who had previously relied on infrequent treatments in conjunction with other pest-management strategies suddenly found themselves spraying weekly. Those high doses cut back on stinkbug damage, but they were far too time-intensive, chemical-intensive, and expensive to be sustainable. Since then, somewhat better strategies for coping with the problem have emerged, but, to date, the only force that reliably gets a brown marmorated stinkbug off a food source is one that poses a whole different kind of problem: the urge, at the end of summer, to go inside.
It is not that the brown marmorated stinkbug can't survive the winter outdoors. It has, after all, been in existence since long before the advent of human shelters, to say nothing of human beings, and it is perfectly capable of spending the season huddled beneath peeling bark or in the hollow insides of dead trees. But, given sufficient proximity to artificial structures, it will readily spend the cooler months inside instead.
It will come as some relief to homeowners to know that the stinkbug does not pass its time indoors reproducing. Female brown marmorated stinkbugs lay their eggs in the summer'--twenty or thirty of them at a time, roughly once a week, for a lifetime average of two hundred and forty eggs. (As indiscriminating in matters reproductive as in matters gastronomic, the stinkbug will lay those eggs on the underside of pretty much any available leaf.) When they hatch four or five days later, the nymphs that emerge look something like ladybugs: smallish, roundish, reddish, with little black dashes on their backs. The nymphs then cycle through five life stages in as many weeks, shedding their skin each time. In as little as two weeks after entering the final phase, they themselves will have reached sexual maturity. In colder climates, that's that, but in warmer locations'--or when spring sets in earlier and summer lingers longer, as is currently happening all over the world owing to climate change'--those mature stinkbugs can begin reproducing right away, yielding up to five new generations a year.
Eventually, though, cooler weather arrives, and all those adult stinkbugs begin looking for places to overwinter. Often enough, they simply come in through doorways, around which they tend to congregate in autumn, but they have dozens of other ways of entering: down chimneys, around utility pipes, underneath the flashing on roofs, beneath cracks in the siding, through the vents in air-conditioning units, via imperfectly sealed windows, in the gaps below door sweeps. Studies have shown that, despite their relative heft, stinkbugs can crawl through any crevice larger than seven millimetres, which means that, no matter how much caulk and weather-stripping and patience you possess, it is virtually impossible to stinkbug-proof a home.
After a stinkbug breaches a building and finds a spot it likes, others join it, apparently attracted by the same aggregation pheromone that the bug uses to summon its friends and relations to dinner. (Dismayingly, for homeowners, that pheromone remains detectable to other stinkbugs for up to a year.) Once additional stinkbugs start arriving, they will stick around until late spring, and can assemble not only in incredible numbers but with incredible density. The instinct to do so is known as thigmotaxis: the tendency to move toward physical contact'--in this case, not only with other stinkbugs but with almost any surface. Thigmotaxis is why stinkbugs are so often found between layers (beware the quilt left folded in a window seat) and underneath seemingly flat things (brace yourself before picking up that stack of newspapers beside the recycling bin). It is why Pam Stone found so many behind her paintings, and why Doug Inkley, the biologist who counted upward of twenty-six thousand stinkbugs in his home, could pull them out of his attic by the handful, like popcorn.
Overwintering stinkbugs also display another characteristic that determines where you are most likely to find them. They are negatively geotropic, meaning that'--unlike the roots of plants, which are positively geotropic and extend toward the earth'--they tend to move away from the ground. In other words, like millionaires, feudal lords, and goats, stinkbugs exhibit a preference for high places. That is why you are much more likely to find them on the upper levels of your home than on the first floor or in the basement (where, indeed, they are almost never seen). In 2014, scientists at Rutgers University studied the distribution of stinkbugs in undergraduate dorms, and found that the percentage of rooms with bugs in them steadily rose with elevation, from eleven per cent of rooms on the first floor of one dorm to almost seventy per cent on the top floor.
The most obvious characteristic of the overwintering stinkbug, however, is a deep, abiding lethargy. Once it settles down for the season, it enters a state known as diapause'--a kind of insect hibernation, during which its metabolism slows to near-moribund conditions. It cannot mate or reproduce, it does not need to eat, and although it can still both crawl and fly, it performs each activity slowly and poorly. As a result of this torpor, stinkbugs remain mostly in place, so that even if thousands of them are living in your home, you will likely experience them less as a flood than as a constant, inescapable dribble. Like drunken partygoers periodically stumbling into the hallway to ask where the bathroom is, two half-asleep bugs will materialize on a door frame, a third will rest on the arm of a sofa, a fourth will pause in its exhausting journey across the floor. No sooner have you disposed of these and gone back to your life than you will find one perched on the corner of your computer screen or crouched atop a bar of soap.
It is also thanks to diapause that stinkbugs, indoors, seem inordinately graceless and impossibly dumb. But, as we all now know, being graceless and dumb is no obstacle to being powerful and horrifying. Although brown marmorated stinkbugs don't actively destroy structures as they do crops, their tendency to aggregate can cause costly problems, by clogging wells, pipes, and chimneys. (They can also prompt expensive though largely fruitless visits from exterminators, and motivate upgrades that might otherwise wait; Inkley, after his stinkbug invasion, spent ten thousand dollars on new windows.) Infested hotels and restaurants must incur the expense of getting stinkbugs out and then keeping them out, to say nothing of the reputational costs that befall hospitality businesses overrun by insects. Stinkbugs can also be pricey for companies that ship goods overseas; American car manufacturers, for instance, have to fumigate or heat products prior to exporting them to certain ports from stinkbug-prone areas. And stinkbugs can cost the owners of those cars a bundle, too, by blocking air-control valves and vent lines.
Mostly, though, the problem with stinkbugs indoors is not so much expense as disgust. Overwintering stinkbugs navigate like nine-year-olds in bumper cars, making as much noise as possible and banging into everything in sight: walls, doors, windows, humans. Unlike household pests such as ants and fruit flies, they are not particularly drawn to food and drink; then again, as equal-opportunity invaders they aren't particularly not drawn to them, either. This has predictable but unfortunate consequences. One poor soul spooned up a stinkbug that had blended into her granola, putting her off fruit-and-nut cereals for life. Another discovered too late that a stinkbug had percolated in her coffeemaker, along with her morning brew. A third removed a turkey from the oven on Thanksgiving Day and discovered a cooked stinkbug at the bottom of the roasting pan. Other people have reported accidentally ingesting stinkbugs in, among other things, salads, berries, raisin bran, applesauce, and chili. By all accounts, the bugs release their stink upon being crunched, and taste pretty much the way they smell. (They are also occasionally eaten by household pets, though seldom twice. One of my cats recently ate two at once, and promptly vomited them up.)
A further perversity of stinkbugs in the home is that they are simultaneously extremely easy and extremely difficult to kill. On the one hand, in the face of mortal danger they do not have the sense, or the speed, to flee. On the other hand, dispatching them by any of the traditional methods'--smashing, squashing, stepping on'--means that, like good Christians, they will triumph even in death, in this case by leaving behind a malevolent olfactory ghost. Worse, they will die with the sublime stoicism of a soldier who knows that ten thousand of his compatriots are lined up behind him, ready to take his place.
If you want to avoid the stench while also eliminating the stinkbug, your options are limited. ''I'm probably not the only one who's thought of burning their house down just to kill the stinkbugs,'' one Internet commenter observed. Another suggested trying miniature silver bullets, or tiny stakes driven through the heart. What you should definitely not bother trying is insecticides approved for interior use; in the home, as in the field, stinkbugs are relatively immune to chemical assault. You can flush them down the toilet, but that's a huge waste of water. You can vacuum them up, but the smell will be noxious; also, if not disposed of immediately, stinkbugs have been known to crawl back out again. The experts recommend building a contraption out of an empty soda bottle, filling it with soapy water, and drowning the stinkbugs inside, but I am dubious. For one thing, I have personally pulled a load of clean clothes out of the washing machine and discovered a stinkbug at the bottom, alive. For another, those same experts suggest collecting stinkbugs in Ziploc baggies, then placing them in the freezer for several weeks until they expire'--somewhere, I suppose, between the pint of ice cream and the frozen peas.
As yet, the story of the brown marmorated stinkbug has no ending, so it cannot be said to have a happy one. It does, however, have something like a silver lining. Raupp, who has been studying non-native species for forty-one years, called its arrival on our shores ''one of the most productive incidents in the history of invasive pests in the United States.'' Because the stinkbug is, as he put it, ''magnificent and dastardly,'' it has attracted an almost unprecedented level of scientific attention. It has spawned multimillion-dollar grants, dozens of master's degrees and Ph.D.s, and a huge collaborative partnership that includes the federal government, land-grant colleges, Ivy League universities, extension programs, environmental organizations, trade groups, small farmers, and agribusiness. ''From a research perspective,'' Raupp said, ''this was and continues to be one of the major drivers in the history of entomology in the United States.''
Thanks to that intensive research, the brown marmorated stinkbug is much better understood today than it was twenty years ago'--and therefore better managed. For instance, entomologists now know that the stinkbug is a perimeter pest; it preferentially feeds on the edges rather than the interior of orchards and fields, a fact that enables farmers and growers to concentrate pesticide use in smaller areas while still achieving much the same results. Scientists also now know a tremendous amount about the stinkbug's most fearsome enemy back home: the samurai wasp, which deposits its eggs inside those of the stinkbug, leaving its larvae to emerge and consume their host. In East Asia, the samurai wasp parasitizes between sixty and ninety per cent of brown marmorated stinkbug eggs, thereby almost single-handedly keeping its population under control.
Like the stinkbug, the samurai wasp arrived in the United States by accident, and a small number have lived here since at least 2014. Now, though, entomologists hope to breed and release it in sufficient quantities to curtail the stinkbug population. Their logic is compelling: the stinkbug poses a serious threat to billions of dollars of American agriculture, while the wasp, which is tiny and does not sting humans, destroys those bugs in huge quantities and, according to studies spanning more than a decade, appears to harm only one native beneficial species.
Nonetheless, it's impossible to contemplate this plan without worrying about the law of unintended consequences, which has governed the realm of introduced species before. The cane toad, brought to Australia to control the native greyback cane beetle, proved to be largely ineffective at that job but horribly effective at killing other native species (sometimes by eating them but mostly, because it is extremely poisonous, by being eaten). Today, the two hundred million cane toads in Australia constitute a pest far worse than the one they were meant to control. Similarly, the Asian multicolored ladybird beetle was introduced into the United States to control aphids; it did that, but it also displaced most native ladybird beetles and proved to be, like the stinkbug, a home invader.
Still, as Peter Jentsch points out, you have to pick your poison. Or more aptly, in the case of the stinkbug, you have to decide whether to pick the poison. Whatever problems the samurai wasp may cause in the United States, the current alternative for stemming stinkbug damage is extremely frequent applications of a broad-spectrum pesticide. To Jentsch, the biological control is the lesser of two evils.
It is also possible that other benign solutions will present themselves, or have already started to do so. Curiously, in places where stinkbug populations once boomed, they have recently subsided to less daunting levels. Some scientists suspect that certain native species, including the wheel bug and the corn spider, are beginning to take advantage of the abundant new food source in town. Others think that temperature is playing a role, in both directions. There's reason to believe that stinkbugs fare poorly in winters when the temperature drops early and rapidly, as happened in North America during the polar vortex of 2013-14, after which stinkbug levels declined; there's also reason to believe that excessively warm summer weather can reduce the survival rate of stinkbug nymphs.
Many scientists, however, remain worried. Raupp compared the brown marmorated stinkbug to a slow-moving tsunami that began on the East Coast and will gradually engulf the rest of the country. ''The folks out in the Midwest, the folks on the West Coast'--they're going to face the same kind of economic loss that our folks did back here,'' he says. That is a reasonable fear. In California, the brown marmorated stinkbug has already been detected in thirty-six of fifty-eight counties. Meanwhile, laboratory studies have added two relevant foods to the long list of those it will eat: avocados and citrus fruit.
As far as Richard Hoebeke is concerned, the brown marmorated stinkbug already belongs on the shortlist of the most serious pests in the United States. Like Raupp, Hoebeke has a lifetime of experience with non-native species; in addition to being the first person to identify the brown marmorated stinkbug in the United States, he was the first to identify the Asian long-horned beetle and has extensively studied many other invasive insects as well. He is not sanguine about the likely efficacy of the samurai wasp, because he is not sanguine about any biological means of controlling the stinkbug. ''The vast majority of non-native insects that have become established in the United States have not been well controlled by biocontrol efforts,'' he says. ''I mean, look at gypsy moths. They've been an issue since the late eighteen-sixties, and we've been throwing biocontrol at it for years.'' Doing that is better than doing nothing, he conceded, but it is a far cry from actually succeeding.
If there is comfort to be had in any of this, it is that old, familiar refrain: things could be worse. As damaging as the brown marmorated stinkbug is to agriculture, it has nothing on the boll weevil, which cost American cotton farmers billions of dollars in its heyday, or on the Rocky Mountain locust, which, prior to becoming extinct, could sweep through in swarms the size of California and destroy millions of acres of crops within a matter of days. Likewise, as annoying as the stinkbug is in the home, it does not bite, sting, transmit disease, or gnaw through foundations.
In a way, then, we got off easy this time. The difficulty is that there will be a next time, and a time after that, and a time after that. Prior to the era of planetwide transportation networks, species routinely took millennia to establish themselves in new places. Today, thousands move around the world every day'--by ship and plane and freight and pallet and packing crate, by business meetings in Switzerland and military deployments in Pakistan and tourism in Hawaii. At present, this vast influx of new species costs the United States about a hundred and twenty billion dollars a year and is, after habitat destruction, the main reason the world has lost so much biodiversity.
In that context, the arrival of the brown marmorated stinkbug is unremarkable. What's remarkable is how much we've done to address it'--a reflection, I suspect, not only of how broadly it affects our lives but of how deeply it affects our psyches. Stinkbugs scuttle and crawl and amass like enemy armies; they have a prehistoric look and a postmortem smell. They remind us that we are vastly outnumbered, that our walls are permeable, that we are vulnerable even in our own homes.
For most of us, as a result, the stinkbug is psychologically opposite from but politically identical to the polar bear. Like charismatic megafauna, revolting microfauna spurs us to action: we form committees, cough up funding, demand that something be done. The difficulty is what to do about everything in between those two biological extremes: the endangered Japanese night heron and the threatened lakeside daisy, the prairies lost, the wetlands lost, the glaciers lost, the species lost, the diminishing and despoiling of entire ecosystems. A stinkbug on your toothbrush or seven thousand in your attic is disgusting. Yet the most troubling thing about the natural world today is not all the things we have to live with. It is all the things we have to live without. '...
Australian prime minister calls out Greta Thunberg for capitalizing on bushfires | Opinion | LifeSite
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 01:11
December 24, 2019 (American Thinker) '-- The world's most obnoxious teenager is now exploiting the misery Australians are enduring as brush fires rage amid a heat wave. One advantage of being 16 years old is that your ignorance is matched by your presumption that everything you believe is true and righteous, even if the reality is that you are ghoulishly capitalizing on the suffering of others and don't know the first thing about this history of bushfires Down Under.
This tweet from St. Greta is reverberating:
Not even catastrophes like these seem to bring any political action. How is this possible?Because we still fail to make the connection between the climate crisis and increased extreme weather events and nature disasters like the #AustraliaFiresThat's what has to change.Now. https://t.co/DQcZViKJQz
'-- Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) December 22, 2019Our Australia correspondent John McMahon was outraged:
[T]his morning from the TV news I note that St Greta the Great prophetess is linking the Australian bushfires to climate change and the "lack of action" apparently by the Australian government.
I quote from immediately below in respect of the history of bushfires in Australia. Peta Credlin has provided an example, certainly not a comprehensive one, of this history:
"The Black Thursday bushfires in Victoria in 1851 killed about 12 people and are thought to have destroyed five million hectares, or about twice the area burnt so far this year in NSW. The 1898 Red Tuesday bushfire, also in Victoria, killed 12 people and destroyed about 2000 buildings. Victorian bushfires across February and March 1926 killed 60 people. The 1939 Black Friday bushfires, also extending over two months, killed 71 people. In another month long Victorian bushfire emergency in 1944, nearly 20 people were killed. In February 1967, the Black Tuesday bushfire in Tasmania killed 62 people. The 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires in Victoria and South Australia killed 75 people and destroyed about 2500 homes. And the 2009 Black Saturday bushfire in Victoria killed 173 people and destroyed about 4500 buildings".
There is a well known Australian poem published in 1908 and I quote the second stanza:
I love a sunburnt countrya land of sweeping plainsof ragged mountain rangesof droughts and flooding rains
I love her far horizonsI love her jewel seaher beauty and her terrorthe wide brown land for me
You will note the emphasized "droughts" and "flooding". We have always had extremes such as droughts, floods and bushfires; a brief history of these fires is mentioned above. Note also that there is no mention there of the history of fires in Queensland, Western Australia, Northen Territory (corrected) and Tasmania as Peta Credlin is a Victorian. (The Sun rises and sets over Melbourne alone the Victorians believe as the Sydneysiders believe that the Sun rises and sets only over the Harbour Bridge although it was built in 1934 [by a Queenslander John Bradfield].)
Australia's prime minister, Scott Morrison, elected in no small part due to his opposition to extreme measures including closing coal mines, was not amused, either. The Australian (paywalled) reports:
Scott Morrison has dismissed Greta Thunberg's call for Australia to take more action on climate change, declaring he was "not here to impress people overseas".
The Prime Minister said he would keep his focus on voters rather than the 16-year-old climate activist, who lashed the Morrison government for failing to take sufficient action on emissions in the wake of the bushfire crisis.
"Australia and the Australian government will set our policies based on Australia's national interests, on what Australia needs to do. That's where I keep my focus," Mr Morrison said.
"It's not for me to make commentaries on what those outside of Australia think that Australia should do. We'll do in Australia what we think is right for Australia. And that has always been my guiding principle.
"I'm not here to try to impress people overseas. I'm here to do the right job for Australians and put them first."
Bravo!
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Published with permission from the American Thinker.
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South Congress stabbing kills man, injures others: Austin EMS | kvue.com
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 01:00
One person was killed and two others were injured after a reported assault and stabbing at two locations on South Congress Avenue Friday morning.
AUSTIN, Texas '-- Editor's note: Police first reported the customer injured in the coffee shop was transported to the hospital, but later clarified that they were not transported.
A man is in custody after he reportedly stabbed two others inside a Freebirds World Burrito restaurant on South Congress Avenue in Austin, authorities said.
One person was killed and one other person was injured in the stabbing, which, according to Austin police, happened in the 500 block of S. Congress Avenue. Austin-Travis County EMS said a man in his 20s was killed.
A friend and former coworker, who wishes to remain anonymous, said Johnathan Aguilar was the man killed. He said Aguilar was a kitchen manager at Freebirds.
"It's a loss of words, really," he said. "You don't expect that."
He said they worked together for eight years and it's been a few months since they've seen each other. He remembered Aguilar as a "selfless guy with a beautiful soul."
The man said he has been in contact with Aguilar's family and that Aguilar leaves behind a child.
Before the stabbing started, the Austin Police Department said they were called at 7:49 a.m. and responded to the Bennu Coffee shop located at 811 S. Congress Ave. The caller reported a disturbance between the suspect and a customer at the coffee shop. The disturbance escalated, and the customer was injured, police said. The APD could not elaborate on the customer's injuries but said they were not taken to a hospital.
Authorities believe a man randomly attacked people on South Congress Avenue Friday morning. KVUEPatrons at the coffee shop then detained the suspect, a 27-year-old white male, according to the APD.
''It was extremely important that they intervened and got involved and detained the individual," said Sgt. David Daniels with the APD. "We don't recommend individuals getting involved in a situation. But they chose to do that, and it was helpful.''
When officers started to arrive, the suspect broke away and took off running toward the Freebirds restaurant located at 511 S. Congress Ave. Officers chased after him before losing sight of him.
As officers searched for the suspect, the APD started receiving 911 calls about a stabbing at the Freebirds, where officers found two stabbing victims. One of them was a man stating he and his coworker had been stabbed. Police believe the stabber is the same man who was involved in the disturbance at the coffee shop.
Police said one of the Freebirds employees and the suspect were transported to Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas. Officials reported Friday night that the employee who survived is in a "stable but serious" condition. The second employee was pronounced dead at 8:30 a.m.
Austin police said the suspect got out of the Freebirds and managed to get on top of a roof. The suspect then jumped from the top. Police reported Friday night that he remains in critical condition.
''It was a tragic situation that someone has lost their life. This is the first homicide of 2020. Let's hope we don't have many anymore. It's just a tragic situation,'' said Sgt. Daniels.
Freebirds said their restaurant will remain closed until further notice.
"Freebirds World Burrito is cooperating with authorities who are investigating the incident that took place at our South Congress location," Alex Eagle, CEO of Freebirds World Burrito, said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with our Tribe members and their families who have been affected by this tragedy. The location will remain closed until further notice and we ask for respect of our Tribe members' privacy during this difficult time.''
Bennu Coffee released the following statement regarding the stabbing:
"A tragic incident took place this morning at our South Congress location resulting in injuries to at least one of our customers and the death of another person at a nearby business. We are heartbroken about the injuries to innocent people and the loss of life and are fully cooperating with authorities. Our number one priority is the safety of our customers and employees. We thank everyone for their concern for those involved. Our South Congress location will remain closed at least through today. We will assess the most appropriate time to reopen in the coming hours."
On Friday night, Mayor Steve Adler responded to the incident, saying, "My prayers--and those of our city--are with the victims of today's horrible stabbing on South Congress, as well as their families."
A sign posted on Bennu's door said the shop would reopen Saturday at 7 a.m.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott responded to the incident on Twitter Friday evening stating, "When all facts are revealed I bet you'll learn that the killer was a homeless man with prior arrests. If so Austin's reckless homeless policy puts lives in danger to murders like this. Austin leaders must answer for their perilous policies."
Adler responded to the governor's claims in a phone call with KVUE on Friday night.
"To suggest that people experiencing homelessness are criminals is just, it's just wrong," Adler said. "Most of the crimes and the murders in our city are not being committed by people that are experiencing homelessness."
Councilmember Ann Kitchen also responded:
"The governor's continuing attacks on Austin is not helping us solve the problem," she said. "What we need is assistance to help the City of Austin continue our current efforts to provide shelter and services for homeless individuals." '¬
As did Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza:
''What happened today was tragic. However, Austin City Council doesn't have the authority to change state laws on violent attacks or homicide, like the governor is suggesting, and he knows that. His fear-mongering and scapegoating isn't making anyone safer '' it's an attempt to distract from his poor leadership and the state's failure to adequately administer and fund the mental health and housing resources Texans need.''
It has not been confirmed if the suspect was homeless.
Police said the crime appears to be completely random and there is no ongoing threat to the community. Anyone with more information is asked to call police at 512-472-TIPS.
LIVE: South Congress stabbing: Man arrested after allegedly killing 1, injuring others
This is an ongoing investigation. Check back for updates.
Parking Meters Are Rejecting Credit Cards in Y2K-Type Glitch - The New York Times
Sat, 04 Jan 2020 00:27
New York | Parking Meters Are Rejecting Credit Cards in Y2K-Type GlitchA vendor failed to update software, causing meters in New York City to malfunction, officials said.
The parking meters' credit card payment software was configured to end on Jan. 1, resulting in a mass malfunction, the New York City Department of Transportation said. Credit... Corey Kilgannon/The New York Times Paying the parking meter is a daily headache for many drivers in New York City, and with the stroke of the new year, it became even more maddening.
A software glitch that recalled the Y2K bug, which stoked fears that computer systems around the world would crash in the year 2000, was causing parking meters in New York to reject credit cards and prepaid parking cards.
The meters' credit card payment software was configured to end on Jan. 1, resulting in the mass malfunction, the city's Department of Transportation said. Parkeon, the vendor that developed the payment system, failed to update the software, officials said.
Sean Renn, a spokesman for the Flowbird Group, which owns Parkeon, said an anti-fraud security setting disabled the card payment system, causing the outage. The company provided the city with a software fix on Thursday, he added.
Parkeon's software is used in numerous cities worldwide. Mr. Renn said the glitch occurred in ''a small number of other cities,'' but declined to provide more details. He said the issues in those cities have been resolved.
On Friday, parking meters were still accepting payments through the ParkNYC mobile app, as well as coins. City workers were on sidewalks, reconfiguring the software meter by meter, Transportation Department officials said.
They said they had no estimate for how long the job would take. The city has 14,000 meters covering some 85,000 spaces.
Still, parking agents could be seen writing tickets for parking violations, and officials with the city's Department of Finance said tickets incurred during the glitch would have to be paid.
Dan Narciso, an elevator repairman who on Friday was parking his van on West 41st Street in Times Square, said that after a meter rejected his credit card on Thursday, he downloaded the mobile parking app.
In Times Square, the parking rate for a commercial vehicle can be as high as $6 an hour and $21 for three hours.
''You could never pay that in quarters,'' Mr. Narciso said. ''You'd have to go to the bank to get them.''
Angelo Pagan, 64, of the Bronx, looked startled on Friday after putting his credit card into a meter at Broadway and 101st Street in Manhattan and getting a ''Card not allowed'' message.
Told about the citywide problem, he said: ''This is crazy that the city can let that happen.''
He began fishing through his pockets for change. He inserted $2 in quarters, which bought him roughly a half-hour of parking time.
''I guess I've got to figure out how to use the app,'' he said. ''No one carries around change anymore, and how are you going to carry that many quarters?''
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PELOSI WRONG AGAIN! Iraq Is Covered by the AUMF - Trump Has Authorization to Call Strikes in Iraq, He Does Not Owe Pelosi Jack Squat
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 17:19
PELOSI WRONG AGAIN! Iraq Is Covered by the AUMF '' Trump Has Authorization to Call Strikes in Iraq, He Does Not Owe Pelosi Jack Squat by Jim Hoft January 3, 2020
On Thursday the United States killed General Qassim Soleimani, a top commander of Iran's al-Quds Force, in an airstrike at Baghdad's International Airport. The strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. Seven people were reportedly killed in the airstrike.
The president's actions irked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who complained that Trump did not have the authority to take the action.
''We cannot put the lives of American servicemembers, diplomats and others further at risk by engaging in provocative and disproportionate actions,'' Pelosi said on Thursday night. ''Tonight's airstrike risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence. America ''- and the world -'' cannot afford to have tensions escalate to the point of no return.''
But Speaker Pelosi is wrong again.
The AUMF was passed in 2002. The declaration allows the president to use the armed forces as ''necessary and appropriate'' to ''defend U.S. national security against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.''
Democrats wanted to repeal the act in July 2019 but never took action.
Therefore President Trump's actions on Thursday were not only appropriate and necessary, Trump's actions were also legal.
Barack Obama used the 2002 AUMF in 2014 to attack ISIS in Iraq.
Pelosi can go pound sand.
Who are the private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 15:16
The debate on privatizing the war in Afghanistan is heating up yet again, with Democratic lawmakers pledging to end so-called ''forever wars.'' The public is slowly recognizing the war's hidden costs and global scale.
In 2016, one in four U.S. personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan was a private contractor. This means that the war is already being outsourced, yet scholars, the media and the general public know almost nothing about it.
Because contractors operate in the shadows, without effective public oversight, they allow policymakers to have their cake and eat it too '' by appearing to withdraw, while keeping proxy forces in theater.
Who are the contractors who actually execute American policy? Are they equipped to succeed in this important task? What risks is the U.S. asking them to take?
The simple truth is that there is little reliable data about this industry. Without this data, scholars cannot ask even the most basic questions of whether using contractors works better than the alternative, namely military personal or local forces '' or, indeed, whether it works at all.
We are researchers who study the privatization of security and its implications. In our study, published on Dec. 5 in Armed Forces and Society, we shed light on some of the aspects of this largely invisible workforce for the first time.
A convoy security element with Company A, 10th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division aligns a resupply convoy headed out of Forward Operating Base Warrior in Kirkuk, Iraq, in 2008. (Army via AP) Gaps in the data
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It's hard to get data about private military contractors, mainly because of the proprietary business secrets. Despite the fact that those companies act as proxies of the state, they are not legally obligated to share information with the public on their actions, organization or labor force.
Given how centrally private military companies feature in American foreign policy debates lately, Americans may assume that their policymakers are working from a detailed understanding of the contractor workforce. After all, the point is to weigh the contractors' merits against uniformed service members, about whom the public have excellent information.
But this does not appear to be the case. There isn't a detailed account of the private military industry's practices, workforce, misconducts or contracts. Noticing this gap, in 2008, Congress instructed the Department of Defense to start collecting data on private security personnel.
However, this data is limited, as security contractors comprise just 10 to 20 percent of DOD contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq. The rest provide mission essential functions, such as engineering, communication and transportation and many others. Those roles take place in conflict areas and place those contractors at similar risk level as the soldiers.
Since it is impossible to say anything directly about the total population of American and British contractors who have served in Iraq, we sought out a sample for which records do exist '' namely, those who died and whose deaths were recorded in obituaries.
They are the corporate war dead. They are not a representative sample, since some occupations and some personalities are more likely to risk death in combat than others, but in a setting without any reliable information they offer us a glimpse to this industry's workforce.
Civilian contractors from the Philippines build a Christian church for troops at Forward Operating Base Delaram in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan on April 4, 2011. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images) Basic demographics
We collected open source data from iCasualties, a site that collects basic data on soldiers and contractors casualties. Using this data we gathered demographic information from obituaries and news articles, on 238 contractors who perished in Iraq between 2006 and 2016.
We learned that the contractors in our sample are predominantly white man in their 40s who choose contracting as a second career. Most are veterans with significant military experience.
Among those contractors who were previously deployed as service members, many are former officers and about half of them are Special Forces veterans. They are more likely to have a college degree than their active duty counterparts, but less likely than their fellow veterans in the general population.
They come from parts of the U.S. or United Kingdom with higher unemployment rates and fewer job opportunities '' not the areas with the strongest traditions for military service.
How contractors died
What was it like to be a contractor in Iraq? From our sample of the corporate war dead, most of their deployments were short, between a week to a month. Many contractors treated it as a temporary job, taking a few tours.
Most of those in our sample worked in security, an especially dangerous job. Indeed, these contractors were more likely to be killed by enemy action than the American service members they worked alongside.
Of course, all of the members of our sample died. Contractors faced mortal peril in different places than service members. Many more of them died in Baghdad or on the roads than did at work or on a base.
This makes sense, considering that contractors that often lacked a protective umbrella of support from other units. If encountering unexpected threats, their support was less organized and effective. They were also routinely tasked with different types of missions: less combat work, and more logistics, maintenance or security type work. These types of missions '' for example, driving the supply trucks to and from a base '' are less protected and have routines that can be detected by insurgents.
In Paktya Province, Afghanistan, 1st Lt. Robert Blume, the physician assistant for 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), inserts a thin gold needle through a U.S. civilian contractor's ear during a battlefield acupuncture session on Combat Outpost Champkani on Jan. 27, 2013. (Army) Enriching the debate
To make informed decisions about whether and how to privatize future military commitments, the public needs at least a general understanding of the people tasked with projecting American force abroad.
The corporate war dead of future conflicts will almost certainly include Americans who previously served their country honorably in uniform. Their lives should be viewed as no more expendable as contractors than as soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines.
Our contribution to the ongoing debate on contractors is important, but modest. Our sample represents less than a quarter of the private military contractors' total population. The public still knows almost nothing about military contractors or the organizations they are affiliated with.
Contractors' variation in experience, training and capabilities is broad and not well understood. Most contractors are not Westerners, but rather third country nationals, recruits from Iraq and Afghanistan. Many others are veterans from other countries, such as Peru, Colombia, Fiji and Uganda. Some bring less institutional experience, as the industry recruits former child soldiers from Sierra Leone and ex-guerrilla fighters from the FARC.
Some very big questions still lack any answer at all. Are contractors better or worse than service members in achieving a country's political ends abroad? Is the U.S. using them effectively, making the most of what they do offer and mitigating those areas where they fall short? What are the unintended consequences of reliance on contractors in terms of human rights, legal complication, mismanagement and accountability?
Private military and security companies do not have real incentive to share these data, but the public interest is clear: The public needs it.
Dr. Ori Swed studies world polities and organizations in the context of peace and conflict. His current research focuses on the recent global trend of the privatization of security, with emphasis on accountability aspects. He was a Lecturer at the Sociology Department at the University of Texas at Austin before joining Texas Tech University.
Dr. Thomas Crosbie is an assistant professor at the Centre for Joint Operations, Institute for Military Operations, Royal Danish Defence College. He studies power in democracies, particularly its concentration in the military and other state institutions; its flow through media; and its contestation by civil society actors.
Their views are not necessarily shared by Navy Times and its staffers.
Don't dismiss our anger in Cobargo Scott Morrison, we are the ones living through a crisis | Zena Armstrong and Peter Logue | Opinion | The Guardian
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 15:01
If Scott Morrison thinks his reception in Cobargo on Thursday was a bit rough because people are a bit tired and emotional, he really has not one but two tin ears.
Morrison was forced to abandon a meet-and-greet in the bushfire-ravaged NSW town after angry local residents confronted him and some refused to shake his hand.
We moved to the Cobargo region six-and-a-half years ago after giving up working lives that had taken us to Canberra and overseas.
Why Cobargo? It had all the things we were looking for: a tight-knit, diverse and welcoming community; beautiful landscape; close to beaches at Bermagui and beyond; a beautiful working village, full of craft, art, cafes and a great folk festival organised entirely by local volunteers and supported by many in the village from eighth generation locals, our butcher, baker, our publican as well as poets, musicians and artists. It is through our involvement in the folk club and the festival that we have come to know and understand the community in Cobargo and the local region.
It would be wrong to claim that the views below represent those of our entire community. But having been through the nightmare of the past week this is why we are angry and why we think others may be.
This disaster has been unfolding for several years. Knowledgeable locals have been tracking declining rainfall trends for more than a decade.
'You're not welcome': Australian PM Scott Morrison heckled by bushfire victims - videoOur neighbour Bruce Leaver AM, who has spent years in national park and forestry management, warned us three years ago of this impending catastrophe, urging us to prepare our house against savage bushfire. (Today he is looking after our property and will turn on our extensive sprinkler system if/when fire comes).
The evidence is all around those of us who live in the bush, seen in the ever-expanding dieback in the eucalypts and other native vegetation; the starving native animals that forage along the roadsides; soils so dry that they are turning to dust.
The request from 24 former fire chiefs to meet the prime minister in April could have been a turning point if that meeting had gone ahead and if the fire chiefs' fears had been taken seriously and acted upon.
Agreeing to the meeting required no acknowledgement from government of climate change but could have been convened in the interests of good risk management. Instead, the opportunity to develop a more coordinated response to cope with more intense and extreme bushfire events was lost.
Imagine if that meeting had gone ahead and the fire chiefs' recommendations for money to lease large firefighting aircraft had been granted; if a stocktake of firefighting needs had been undertaken and the funds provided to provide the necessary equipment well ahead of the fire season; if a nationwide effort to audit vulnerable townships and regions, resource and help people prepare them better to face bushfires had been conducted; if communities had been encouraged to develop their support responses earlier; if more redundancy was built in to the telephone and internet networks.
And if the crisis coordination arrangements between local, state and commonwealth governments had been reviewed with a catastrophic bushfire event front and centre of the considerations.
Perhaps at the time this may have looked like overkill, but from where we are now it just looks like sensible national disaster management planning.
Small communities like ours are very vulnerable to small changes. The loss of two well-respected and much loved people in a community of around 700 is felt by everyone. All of us in Cobargo have at least a dozen close friends who have lost their homes, some of whom barely escaped with their lives. The loss of so many cherished historic buildings in the village is another deep grief '' we are losing a great deal of Australia's recent history in these fires.
To dismiss these displays of anger as people feeling ''very raw'' is to dismiss the depth of insight and understanding among those of us living through this crisis. Yes, we are feeling raw and yes, we are grieving the losses. Yes, we know there was nothing that could have been done to prevent these fires from starting but there was so much that could have been done ahead of time to help mitigate the extent of the destruction.
The inevitable backlash has started against Cobargo, with plenty of negative comments about those of us who live here.
For the record, the Cobargo community is a wonderfully diverse mix of personalities and characters. It is still one of those truly Australian villages where everyone can find a place to hang their hat.
It's a place where you need to set aside a couple of hours to go to the post office because everyone wants a chat.
The people who stood up to Scott Morrison are saying what a lot of us are feeling.
Zena Armstrong is a former journalist and diplomat. She now works with a team of Cobargo volunteers to organise the annual Cobargo folk festival. Peter Logue is a former president of the National Press Club, and worked for 15 years in various senior roles in the press gallery and was a foreign correspondent in China
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'We're very, very worried': Canada's 'unprecedented' campaign to keep out African Swine Fever, from sniffer dogs to sausage bans
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 14:42
(C) Twitter Canadian Border Services Agency sniffer dog Ambrose is at the forefront of ''unprecedented'' efforts to keep African Swine Fever out of Canada. At an unnamed Canadian port recently, border guards thwarted an attempt to smuggle Chinese pork products into the country by claiming the wholesale shipment was something else entirely.
Had the ruse proven successful, it could have had calamitous results.
China's hog population has been decimated by African Swine Fever, and even a single case of it appearing in a pig here could hobble a $4-billion-a-year export industry.
That danger has spawned an ''unprecedented'' effort to keep the virus out, with newly trained sniffer dogs checking air passengers for hidden sausages, feed shipments subjected to heat treatment and vigilance for surreptitious imports of tainted pork.
Hundreds of citations and fines '-- of up to $1,300 '-- have been levied in the last year to travelers with undeclared east Asian swine products.
As attention has focused on China's decision to temporarily bar Canadian pork imports last year, this country has been quietly fighting to protect itself from infection coming the other way.
''We're very, very worried. It's a huge threat to the pig population, pig production,'' Jaspinder Komal, chief veterinary officer with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, said in an interview. ''We have accelerated our effort in raising awareness and preparing ourselves and putting plans in place '... This is really unprecedented.''
The defence is occurring at the farm level, too, with producers prohibiting casual visitors, requiring visiting trucks to be disinfected and in some cases even barring pork from farm hands' lunch boxes.
An outbreak would be devastating not only to farmers but to hundreds of thousands of Canadians in associated businesses, said Rick Bergmann, chair of the Canadian Pork Council. Canada exports 70% of its pork and much of that commerce could come to a halt under the spectre of ASF, he said.
Canada recently struck deals with the U.S. and the E.U. to allow trade from unaffected zones of a country in the event of an infection elsewhere. Still, dealing with a case or cases here, cleaning up from it and rebuilding hog populations could deliver a $50-billion hit to the economy, said Bergmann.
''It's on our minds constantly,'' he said. ''It's a major, major concern, and that's why we put so much effort into prevention.''
African Swine Fever showed up in Eastern Europe in the 2000s and more recently spread into east Asia. Though harmless in humans, it is invariably fatal to pigs.
China has been hardest hit, with 40% of its hogs '-- the world's largest population '-- either dying from ASF or having to be culled. In all, the virus is expected to claim a quarter of the planet's swine, the World Organization of Animal Health said last October. Denmark even built a fence along one border to keep out infected pigs.
ASF is a particularly sturdy bug, able to survive heat and cold to a certain degree so germs on clothes or footwear or in even cooked or prepared meats could transmit the infection to a pig here, said Koval.
That's why a major focus has been people traveling back from affected areas.
CBSA #DetectorDog Ambrose sniffs out pork products in the GTA, including at the Mail Centre. Ambrose is working the frontline in an effort to combat #AfricanSwineFever. To learn more about ASF visit @CFIA_Canada : https://t.co/vpXMpc2SGn #DogsWithJobs #GCDogs #K9 pic.twitter.com/1lNTi5pZ77
'-- Border Services GTA (@CanBorderGTA) March 28, 2019 The federal government provided funding to add an extra 24 detector-dog teams trained to sniff out food and plants at Canadian airports. Six of those are already in action, bringing the current total of canine plant-and-food sniffers to 21, says Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) spokeswoman Judith Gadbois St-Cyr.
Whenever a flight comes in from an ASF-affected country, CBSA deploys the dogs to screen passengers and their luggage, said Koval.
It seems they have been finding a lot of pig contraband.
The number of administrative penalties '-- which can include a fine of up to $1,300 '-- for undeclared food that includes pork products rose from 549 in 2018 to 731 last year, said Gadbois St-Cyr.
Most of those people were simply unaware of the threat, said Koval, but there have been attempts to bring in shipments surreptitiously. U.S. Customs seized a one-million-pound cargo of pork and tea bags and noodles used to hide the pork in March.
(C) Mark Schiefelbein/AP Pigs feed at a farm in Panggezhuang village in China's Hebei province. Though harmless in humans, African Swine Fever is invariably fatal to pigs. The CBSA intercepted a smaller load recently, said Koval.
''A shipment of pork products came in misidentified as something different than pork products, but our inspectors are pretty vigilant and they caught it,'' he said.
Meanwhile, imports of soy, corn and other pig-feed ingredients from affected countries must be heat treated, which can mean holding them in a container at 20 degrees for 20 days, said Koval.
Individual farmers are also being urged to bolster ''bio-security.''
At his operation southeast of Winnipeg, Bergmann keeps his barns locked, bars visitors not authorized in advance, and requires feed and other trucks to be disinfected before coming on to the property. Workers cannot bring anything pork-related for lunch from outside '-- despite Bergman's natural inclination to promote the meat.
Another concern is Canada's large population of wild boar, also susceptible to the virus and, obviously, much harder to control. Bergmann said he would ideally like to see fences erected around all pig farms to shield against the animals' untamed cousins.
The growing number of people who have pigs as pets are also a possible disease source, especially if the owners travel to Asia and bring back contaminated food, said Koval.
''One bad sausage fed to a wild pig or a domestic pig can cause infection and stop our trade,'' he said. ''And this will have a huge economic impact.''
Why the Law? - American Thinker
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 14:38
December 10, 2019
In the 1997 movie The Devil's Advocate, Al Pacino portrays Satan, and Keanu Reeves portrays his son, who is unaware that Pacino is his father. Reeves is a hotshot lawyer from Florida who is lured away to New York City to work for Pacino's law firm. Near the end of the movie, Reeves confronts Pacino about his identity. Pacino proceeds to give a speech about who he is and what his plans are. There is a revealing part of the speech where Reeves asks Pacino why he, Satan, is using the law as part of his plan.
'); googletag.cmd.push(function () { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1345489840937-3'); }); }
Kevin (Reeves): Why the law? Cut the s‘‘‘, Dad! Why lawyers? Why the law?
Milton (Pacino): Because the law, my boy, puts us into everything. It's the ultimate backstage pass; it's the new priesthood, baby. Did you know there are more students in law school than there are lawyers walking the Earth? We're coming out, guns blazing! The two of you, all of us, acquittal after acquittal after acquittal...until the stench of it reaches so high and far into heaven, it chokes the whole f‘‘‘‘‘‘ lot of them.
"Acquittal after acquittal after acquittal." Not of people being wrongly convicted in American courtrooms, but of those who are guilty beyond reasonable doubt, who are being acquitted and released back into society to commit more crimes. It matters not if they are misdemeanor or felony crimes. The guilty go free and continue to prey on society until that city in which they reside collapses under the weight of the filth and stench of crimes without consequences.
'); googletag.cmd.push(function () { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1567099776462-0'); }); } This is an interesting and frightening revelation that parallels what is happening today in cities all across America. How is this happening, and who is the driving force behind this? Look no farther than to George Soros and the liberal advocacy groups he donates so much money to. These groups are spending millions of dollars on district attorney races in major American cities. These groups back liberal-minded lawyers (mainly defense attorneys) with the goal to "fundamentally change" the criminal justice system to their liking '-- not in an effort to fight crime and be victim advocates, but the reversal of that: to reduce or eliminate bail for perpetrators who have been arrested for both minor and heinous crimes, and to put them back out on the street while they await their trial date. They also want to completely disassemble police departments, which they have long viewed as racist, and replace them with an ah-shucks Andy Griffith''type law enforcement character to deal with modern-day societal ills and woes. Hint: It won't work. The societal fabric is unraveling around its frayed edges, and namby-pamby approaches to enforcing the law have never worked. At least not in major cities, they haven't worked.
Is this really happening, and what's the long-term outcome? Look no farther than to California for proof that it's indeed happening. The latest and most high-profile district attorney race victory went to none other than the stinking, crime-infested city of San Francisco. Does the name Chesa Boudin ring a bell? No, not to me, either, at first '-- not until it was revealed he is the son of 1960s radical leftist and American terrorist bomber Bill Ayers. It matters not that Boudin, a defense attorney, has never prosecuted a single case. I bet he'll make a great district attorney for victims of crimes (sarc.). Boudin has already stated he will not prosecute public urination, prostitution, and "quality of life crimes" for the homeless. What about quality of life for the hardworking taxpayers and business-owners?
Supporters of Boudin claim he wasn't financed by George Soros, but this statement is disingenuous. From an article written in October this year by Michelle Malkin for Real Clear Politics:
I discovered from Boudin's most recent campaign finance disclosures that one of his top donors is Chloe Cockburn. She is a prominent partner of globalist billionaire George Soros' Democracy Alliance. Cockburn moderated a crucial 2017 summit with Soros and other deep-pocketed liberal philanthropists to strategize on taking over local and state offices to reclaim "our progressive future." Other bigwig Boudin donors hail from the Soros-allied Tides Foundation and Soros-funded Brennan Center for Justice.
California instituted Proposition 47 in 2015. This is a crime measure pushed, ironically enough, under the "Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Funds." This initiative was designed, by liberal advocate groups, along with lawmakers and politicians, to reduce prison population, reduce certain felony crimes to misdemeanors, decriminalize all narcotics possession from felonies to misdemeanors, and for better use of funds for education and drug treatment centers for criminals.
This initiative was endorsed and sold to voters by politicians on both sides of the aisle and, foolishly enough, by many police chiefs and county sheriffs. If you attach the word "education" to any piece of legislation, the voters more likely than not will support it if they believe it will benefit children and schools. And so, California voters approved this monstrosity of an initiative.
Were the "experts" really so shortsighted that they couldn't have predicted what would happen once this initiative was put into effect? Thousands of convicted criminals were immediately released from jails and prisons. (What could possibly go wrong?) Property theft''related crime rates shot through the stratosphere. Homelessness is now completely out of control, with not only no quick fix in sight, but no long-term fix in sight, either. Squalor, filth, and diseases on par or worse with some third-world countries are now prevalent in major cities in California. Criminals who were once incarcerated, convicted, and put in jails or prisons for their various crimes are now out on the streets with no job nor home to live in. They are no longer arrested for crimes that used to put them in jail, which sadly helped them "clean up" for a short period and provided them with "three hots and a cot." Those same criminals are no longer being thrown in jail for crimes they commit, and they now openly defecate, shoot up heroin, and commit theft crimes without fear of retribution. This has led to more violent encounters with residents and business-owners.
Another high-profile example of the nefarious plan is the election of Cook County, Illinois state attorney Kimberly Foxx. You might remember her from the Jussie Smollett farce that headlined in the news for a few weeks earlier this year. Foxx's office dropped the charges against Smollett, who was accused of orchestrating a hate-crime attack on himself. Kimberly Foxx won her election to state attorney with the help of hundreds of thousands of dollars donated to her campaign by George Soros.
Is this their plan? Is this how they plan to cause the collapse of America so they can realize their globalist utopia? Acquittal after acquittal after acquittal? To collapse our cities into third-world squalor and filth that will be dependent on big government's meager handouts to survive? It appears to be. If Soros and his acolytes are successful with this strategy, it will create in our country a stench that will reach so high that it'll choke the whole of our society. You need only to do an internet search of district attorney races across America to see which cities have already been affected by the "Soros Society."
At the end of the speech by Pacino's character, Keanu Reeves says this:
Kevin (Reeves): In the Bible you lose. We're destined to lose, dad.
For the sake of America, I pray George Soros and his henchmen lose.
In the 1997 movie The Devil's Advocate, Al Pacino portrays Satan, and Keanu Reeves portrays his son, who is unaware that Pacino is his father. Reeves is a hotshot lawyer from Florida who is lured away to New York City to work for Pacino's law firm. Near the end of the movie, Reeves confronts Pacino about his identity. Pacino proceeds to give a speech about who he is and what his plans are. There is a revealing part of the speech where Reeves asks Pacino why he, Satan, is using the law as part of his plan.
Kevin (Reeves): Why the law? Cut the s‘‘‘, Dad! Why lawyers? Why the law?
Milton (Pacino): Because the law, my boy, puts us into everything. It's the ultimate backstage pass; it's the new priesthood, baby. Did you know there are more students in law school than there are lawyers walking the Earth? We're coming out, guns blazing! The two of you, all of us, acquittal after acquittal after acquittal...until the stench of it reaches so high and far into heaven, it chokes the whole f‘‘‘‘‘‘ lot of them.
"Acquittal after acquittal after acquittal." Not of people being wrongly convicted in American courtrooms, but of those who are guilty beyond reasonable doubt, who are being acquitted and released back into society to commit more crimes. It matters not if they are misdemeanor or felony crimes. The guilty go free and continue to prey on society until that city in which they reside collapses under the weight of the filth and stench of crimes without consequences.
This is an interesting and frightening revelation that parallels what is happening today in cities all across America. How is this happening, and who is the driving force behind this? Look no farther than to George Soros and the liberal advocacy groups he donates so much money to. These groups are spending millions of dollars on district attorney races in major American cities. These groups back liberal-minded lawyers (mainly defense attorneys) with the goal to "fundamentally change" the criminal justice system to their liking '-- not in an effort to fight crime and be victim advocates, but the reversal of that: to reduce or eliminate bail for perpetrators who have been arrested for both minor and heinous crimes, and to put them back out on the street while they await their trial date. They also want to completely disassemble police departments, which they have long viewed as racist, and replace them with an ah-shucks Andy Griffith''type law enforcement character to deal with modern-day societal ills and woes. Hint: It won't work. The societal fabric is unraveling around its frayed edges, and namby-pamby approaches to enforcing the law have never worked. At least not in major cities, they haven't worked.
Is this really happening, and what's the long-term outcome? Look no farther than to California for proof that it's indeed happening. The latest and most high-profile district attorney race victory went to none other than the stinking, crime-infested city of San Francisco. Does the name Chesa Boudin ring a bell? No, not to me, either, at first '-- not until it was revealed he is the son of 1960s radical leftist and American terrorist bomber Bill Ayers. It matters not that Boudin, a defense attorney, has never prosecuted a single case. I bet he'll make a great district attorney for victims of crimes (sarc.). Boudin has already stated he will not prosecute public urination, prostitution, and "quality of life crimes" for the homeless. What about quality of life for the hardworking taxpayers and business-owners?
Supporters of Boudin claim he wasn't financed by George Soros, but this statement is disingenuous. From an article written in October this year by Michelle Malkin for Real Clear Politics:
I discovered from Boudin's most recent campaign finance disclosures that one of his top donors is Chloe Cockburn. She is a prominent partner of globalist billionaire George Soros' Democracy Alliance. Cockburn moderated a crucial 2017 summit with Soros and other deep-pocketed liberal philanthropists to strategize on taking over local and state offices to reclaim "our progressive future." Other bigwig Boudin donors hail from the Soros-allied Tides Foundation and Soros-funded Brennan Center for Justice.
California instituted Proposition 47 in 2015. This is a crime measure pushed, ironically enough, under the "Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Funds." This initiative was designed, by liberal advocate groups, along with lawmakers and politicians, to reduce prison population, reduce certain felony crimes to misdemeanors, decriminalize all narcotics possession from felonies to misdemeanors, and for better use of funds for education and drug treatment centers for criminals.
This initiative was endorsed and sold to voters by politicians on both sides of the aisle and, foolishly enough, by many police chiefs and county sheriffs. If you attach the word "education" to any piece of legislation, the voters more likely than not will support it if they believe it will benefit children and schools. And so, California voters approved this monstrosity of an initiative.
Were the "experts" really so shortsighted that they couldn't have predicted what would happen once this initiative was put into effect? Thousands of convicted criminals were immediately released from jails and prisons. (What could possibly go wrong?) Property theft''related crime rates shot through the stratosphere. Homelessness is now completely out of control, with not only no quick fix in sight, but no long-term fix in sight, either. Squalor, filth, and diseases on par or worse with some third-world countries are now prevalent in major cities in California. Criminals who were once incarcerated, convicted, and put in jails or prisons for their various crimes are now out on the streets with no job nor home to live in. They are no longer arrested for crimes that used to put them in jail, which sadly helped them "clean up" for a short period and provided them with "three hots and a cot." Those same criminals are no longer being thrown in jail for crimes they commit, and they now openly defecate, shoot up heroin, and commit theft crimes without fear of retribution. This has led to more violent encounters with residents and business-owners.
Another high-profile example of the nefarious plan is the election of Cook County, Illinois state attorney Kimberly Foxx. You might remember her from the Jussie Smollett farce that headlined in the news for a few weeks earlier this year. Foxx's office dropped the charges against Smollett, who was accused of orchestrating a hate-crime attack on himself. Kimberly Foxx won her election to state attorney with the help of hundreds of thousands of dollars donated to her campaign by George Soros.
Is this their plan? Is this how they plan to cause the collapse of America so they can realize their globalist utopia? Acquittal after acquittal after acquittal? To collapse our cities into third-world squalor and filth that will be dependent on big government's meager handouts to survive? It appears to be. If Soros and his acolytes are successful with this strategy, it will create in our country a stench that will reach so high that it'll choke the whole of our society. You need only to do an internet search of district attorney races across America to see which cities have already been affected by the "Soros Society."
At the end of the speech by Pacino's character, Keanu Reeves says this:
Kevin (Reeves): In the Bible you lose. We're destined to lose, dad.
For the sake of America, I pray George Soros and his henchmen lose.
Iranian General Traveled With Impunity, Until U.S. Drones Found Him - The New York Times
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 11:08
President Trump's decision to kill General Suleimani was one that his predecessors had rejected, fearing it would lead to war.
Tracking the location of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, center right, had long been a priority for the American and Israeli spy services and militaries, especially when he was in Iraq. Credit... Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader, via Agence France-Presse '-- Getty Images Jan. 3, 2020Updated 12:07 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON '-- One night in January 2007, American Special Operations commandos tracked a notorious adversary driving in a convoy from Iran into northern Iraq: Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran's top security and intelligence commander.
But the Americans held their fire, and General Suleimani slipped away into the darkness.
''To avoid a firefight, and the contentious politics that would follow, I decided that we should monitor the caravan, not strike immediately,'' Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the head of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command, recalled in an article last year.
But early Friday, an American MQ-9 Reaper drone from General McChrystal's former command '-- operating under President Trump's orders '-- fired missiles into a convoy carrying General Suleimani as it was leaving Baghdad's international airport. What remained unclear is why Mr. Trump chose this moment to strike the top military leader of Iran, after two presidents before him opted not to do so, out of concern that killing the general could incite a wider war with Iran.
National security experts and even officials at the Pentagon said there was nothing new about Iranian behavior in recent months or even weeks; General Suleimani has been accused of prodding Shiite militias into attacking Americans for more than a decade. American officials have also blamed him, for more than a decade, of working with organizations in other countries, like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Israel as well as the Houthis in Yemen, to attack American allies and interests.
Senior Trump administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, repeatedly said on Friday that new attacks under General Suleimani's leadership were imminent.
But one Defense Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning, said that there was nothing new in the threat presented by the Iranian general.
And critics of the strike questioned whether its timing was meant to influence public opinion as Mr. Trump faces impeachment.
On Thursday night, around the time of the strike on General Suleimani, a Special Operations unit based in the United States boarded transport aircraft bound for the Middle East, one Defense Department official said. The deployment of the elite Army Rangers marks the latest group of troops sent to the region. Earlier this week, the Pentagon readied 4,000 paratroopers based at Fort Bragg, N.C., for a similar security mission to Kuwait, 750 of which have already deployed.
Tracking General Suleimani's location had long been a priority for the American and Israeli spy services and militaries, especially when he was in Iraq.
General Suleimani often traveled with an air of impunity, as if he felt he was untouchable, officials said. One former senior American commander recalled parking his military jet next to General Suleimani's plane at the Erbil airport in northern Iraq.
Current and former American commanders and intelligence officials said that Friday morning's attack drew specifically upon a combination of information from secret informants, electronic intercepts, reconnaissance aircraft and other surveillance tools.
The highly classified mission to locate and strike General Suleimani was set in motion after the death of an American contractor last Friday, according to senior American officials. The military's Special Operations Command spent the next several days looking for an opportunity to strike. An option provided, and eventually approved, was dependent on General Suleimani's arrival at Baghdad International Airport. If he was met by Iraqi officials, one American official said, the strike would be called off. But, the official said, it was a ''clean party,'' and the strike was approved.
Mr. Trump's decision to kill General Suleimani was one that Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama had rejected, fearing it would lead to war.
General McChrystal praised Mr. Trump's decision to do so.
''The targeting was appropriate given Suleimani's very public role in orchestrating Iranian attacks on the U.S. and our allies,'' he said in an email.
But the general added a somber warning: ''We can't consider this as an isolated action. As with all such actions it will impact the dynamics of the region, and Iran will likely feel compelled to respond in kind.
''There is the potential for a stair-step escalation of attacks, and we must think several moves ahead to determine how far we will take this '-- and what the new level of conflict we are prepared to engage in,'' he said.
American military officials said they were aware that Iran or its proxy forces potentially could respond violently, and were taking steps to protect American personnel in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world. They declined to provide details.
''I can only hope that embassies and consulates across the region were put on heightened alert in the last 48 hours or more,'' said Barbara A. Leaf, a former United States ambassador to the United Arab Emirates who is now with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
''That said, I would be surprised to see the Iranians respond quickly to this,'' she said. ''Once the regime has recovered from its initial shock, it will take its time plotting reprisals. And reprisals there will be, most likely in Iraq first. But our gulf partners should worry as well '-- assassinations, strikes on shipping and energy infrastructure.''
In the end, General Suleimani's brazenness may have been his undoing. Unlike terrorist leaders like Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, General Suleimani often operated in the open.
''Suleimani was treated like royalty, and was not particularly hard to find,'' said Marc Polymeropoulos, a former senior C.I.A. operations officer with extensive counterterrorism experience overseas who retired last year. ''Suleimani absolutely felt untouchable, particularly in Iraq. He took selfies of himself on the battlefield and openly taunted the U.S., because he felt safe in doing so.''
General Suleimani wanted to show that he could be anywhere and everywhere, the American official said, adding that he knew he could be a target but was obsessed with his image and could prove he had his hand in everything.
A senior American official said that the administration's hope was that the killing of General Suleimani would force Iran to back down after months of assertive behavior, much as Tehran backed down from rapidly escalating hostilities during the oil tanker wars of the 1980s.
The officials said there was worry among the president's senior advisers that Mr. Trump has indicated so many times that he did not want a war with Iran that Tehran had become persuaded the United States would not act forcibly.
But the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, acknowledged that the killing of Mr. Suleimani was a huge risk for Mr. Trump and could just as likely prompt an outsize reaction from both Iran and Iraq.
''Iran has a lot of levers to pull too,'' warned Derek Chollet, who served as an assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration. ''So much for ending 'endless wars.' ''
Bahamasair 737-500s Prohibited From US Airspace After Missing FAA Deadline For ADS-B
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 09:41
A ten-year deadline was not enough time for Bahamasair to make the avionic upgrades necessary to use United States airspace after Jan 1, 2020. As a result, the flag carrier of the Bahamas cannot fly three of its four jet aircraft into US airspace and may not solve the problem until March.
The US Federal Aviation Administration mandated in 2010 that aircraft be equipped with hardware to use the FAA's more sophisticated satellite-based air traffic control management system, NextGen, that replaces traditional ground radar technology. This step of the transition requires aircraft to have Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out (ADS-B) capability either at time of manufacture or retrofitted with a kit.
''The supplier was unable to provide the kit in time,'' Bahamasair Chairman Tommy Turnquest told the Bahamas' Eyewitness News. A backup plan to equip its three 737-500s did not materialise in time. ''We have been trying to find an alternate supplier. Because the 737-500s are so old we've had a great difficulty in finding a supplier,'' Turnquest said.
''We've taken those three jets off of the South Florida and Orlando routes,'' Turnquest said of the 737-500s. Bahamasair only flies to Florida in the US. ''We've put on the 737-700 and the ATRs on those routes into Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and West Palm Beach.''
Bahamasair's sole 737-700 and five ATR turboprops are ADS-B equipped. ''Those six planes are able to go to the USA,'' Turnquest said. The 737-500s flew US routes on January 1 but not January 2 when the ADS-B rule commenced, according to flight tracking site Flightradar24.
The ATRs have a smaller passenger capacity than the 737-500s Bahamasair cannot fly to the US. Bahamasair may have difficulty transporting passengers this weekend since it is the end of the New Year travel period, and the airline has an existing commitment with Club Med, Eyewitness News said, speculating Bahamasair may use wet-lease capacity from Miami Air. Travel demand is slower in January and February, and Bahamasair already planned for one of its 737-500s to be out of service while undergoing maintenance in Costa Rica.
Two of Bahamasair's 737-500s were manufactured in 1993 and the third in 1997, and all three flew with other airlines before arriving at Bahamasair between 2012 and 2014, according to Air Fleets. Southwest Airlines had operated a large 737-300/500 fleet but retired them by the end of 2017. Bahamasair's 737-700 NG was manufactured in 2003 and flew with other airlines before Bahamasair acquired it in 2018, when it expected to take two more 737NGs in 2019. It is unclear what happened to the plan, but last year's grounding of the 737 MAX increased demand and prices for 737 NGs, which are not part of the MAX grounding.
Turnquest did not comment if Bahamasair requested an exception from the FAA, which last March made provisions for aircraft without ADS-B to be authorized to use US airspace with just one hour's notice. Requests would be handled by air traffic control (ATC) on a case-by-case basis. ''ATC might not be able to grant authorizations for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to workload, runway configurations, air traffic flows, and weather conditions,'' the agency said.
But the FAA warned ''an exception'...was designed to accommodate unforeseen or rare circumstances'' and not be used for ongoing approval, which Bahamasair may need. Turnquest said Bahamasair on January 2 received a quote from a new supplier to equip the three 737-500s with the ADS-B kit, each of which costs $195,000. ''We should have it in about three weeks if we agree,'' he said, estimating Bahamasair may not have US airspace access for its entire fleet until March.
National Bahama flag and palm tree
GettyThere is some exasperation in the FAA's guideline for exceptions. ''Operators have known for over eight years that authorization requests'...will be handled on a case-by-case basis,'' the agency wrote. ''Relying solely on an ATC authorization'--which may not be granted'--to operate a non-equipped aircraft in ADS-B Out airspace would put the operator's scheduled operations in jeopardy.''
''The FAA will be very unlikely to issue routine and regular authorizations to scheduled operators seeking to operate non-equipped aircraft,'' the agency wrote. Yet by pre-empting potential disruptions there appears to be a larger short-term disruption by Bahamasair not flying its 737-500s to the US. Bahamasair and the FAA were not immediately available to comment.
The FAA's prohibition of aircraft not equipped with ADS-B does not reflect the FAA determining the aircraft or airline to be unsafe. Turnquest said the 737-500s being taken off US routes will instead fly intra-island services and flights to Cuba, Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
ADS-B equipage was expected to be more problematic with business jet operators, who even last year were unaware of the rule, postponed installation in hopes of securing cheaper services, or planned to sell their aircraft and wanted the new buyer to pay for the retrofit. One maintenance company said last October that 23% of the business jet fleet and 49% of general aviation turboprops were not equipped, while another company estimated 5,000 non-commercial aircraft would miss the January 1, 2020 deadline.
Soleimani Dead '' Sketchy Details Emerging '' Airstrikes at Baghdad Airport, Cargo Area'... | The Last Refuge
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 08:23
Details are starting to emerge about the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force. As with all early reports a modicum of skepticism toward the details should be applied. However, here's the expanded reporting from the Associated Press.
BAGHDAD (AP) '-- The Pentagon said Thursday that the U.S. military has killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force, at the direction of President Donald Trump.
An airstrike killed Soleimani, architect of Iran's regional security apparatus, at Baghdad's international airport Friday, Iranian state television and three Iraqi officials said, an attack that's expected to draw severe Iranian retaliation against Israel and American interests.
The Defense Department said Soleimani ''was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.'' It also accused Soleimani of approving the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad earlier this week.
A statement released late Thursday by the Pentagon said the strike on Soleimani ''was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.''
The strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, Iraqi officials said. The PMF media arm said the two were killed in an American airstrike that targeted their vehicle on the road to the airport.
Citing a Revolutionary Guard statement, Iranian state television said Soleimani was ''martyred'' in an attack by U.S. helicopters near the airport, without elaborating.
['...] A senior Iraqi politician and a high-level security official confirmed to The Associated Press that Soleimani and al-Muhandis were among those killed in the attack shortly after midnight.
Two militia leaders loyal to Iran also confirmed the deaths, including an official with the Kataeb Hezbollah faction, which was involved in the New Year's Eve attack by Iran-backed militias on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
['...] A senior Iraqi politician and a high-level security official confirmed to The Associated Press that Soleimani and al-Muhandis were among those killed in the attack shortly after midnight. Two militia leaders loyal to Iran also confirmed the deaths, including an official with the Kataeb Hezbollah faction, which was involved in the New Year's Eve attack by Iran-backed militias on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
['...] The security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said al-Muhandis had arrived to the airport in a convoy along with others to receive Soleimani, whose plane had arrived from either Lebanon or Syria. The airstrike took place near the cargo area after he left the plane to be greeted by al-Muhandis and others.
Two officials from the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces said Suleimani's body was torn to pieces in the attack while they did not find the body of al-Muhandis. A senior politician said Soleimani's body was identified by the ring he wore.
['...] The official with the group known as the Popular Mobilization Forces said the dead included its airport protocol officer, identifying him as Mohammed Reda.
A security official confirmed that seven people were killed in the attack on the airport, describing it as an airstrike. Earlier, Iraq's Security Media Cell, which releases information regarding Iraqi security, said Katyusha rockets landed near the airport's cargo hall, killing several people and setting two cars on fire. (more)
Statement from the Pentagon:At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.
General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more. He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months '' including the attack on December 27th '' culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel. General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week.
This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world. (LINK)
Calling Out Copyright Troll Mathew Higbee | Techdirt
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 07:57
from the copyright-trollin'-trollin'-trollin' deptOver the last few months, I've been hearing an awful lot about a copyright trolling operation that goes by the name Higbee and Associates. We had written about them years back when they (incredibly) threatened Something Awful for using a photo in a movie review (which was clear fair use). A few months back we wrote about them again when they (you guessed it) threatened Something Awful again over someone in its forums hotlinking a picture of Hitler that was actually hosted on Imgur.
While that's all we've written about the firm on Techdirt, Higbee's name keeps coming up in other conversations -- among copyright lawyers who have been seeing a massive increase in Higbee demand letters, and even from some friends who have received such letters (which nearly always involve clearly bogus threats). One thing that has happened over and over with Higbee claims that I've been privy to is that they are over unregistered images, meaning that Higbee is unlikely to actually be able to sue over those images, and even if they could, it wouldn't be for statutory damages. And yet, the threat letters tend to allude to statutory damages are part of the scare tactic.
Public Citizen's Paul Levy has apparently seen enough of Higbee and Associates and their trolling activity that he's done a pretty thorough investigation of Higbee's activities and written up a long description calling out many of the sketchy practices of the firm and its principal, Mathew Higbee:
Either in concert with a specialized search firm or using his own firm's software, this firm patrols the Internet looking for graphics (especially photographs) that have been copied improperly from online sources. The firm then sends a demand letter bearing Higbee's signature, threatening to seek up to $150,000 in statutory damages as well as attorney fees unless the target of the letter promptly agrees to pay a specified amount. Deploying a tactic that is all too familiar from the depredations of Evan Stone and Prenda Law, the specified amount is low enough '' usually in the low four figures, but I have seen high three figures '--that it is not likely to be cost-effective for the target to hire a knowledgeable copyright lawyer to litigate an infringement lawsuit, even if the claim is bunk or, at least, if there is good reason to believe that the claim can easily be defended. The letter encloses a document identifying the allegedly infringing use as well as the online location where the work was found; another document that purports to authorize the firm to represent the copyright holder in seeking damages in connection with the work; a proposed ''settlement agreement''; and a credit card payment form. If the target of the letter does not respond, or responds without agreeing to pay, then the Higbee firm increases the pressure: a non-lawyer who calls herself a ''claim resolution specialist'' sends an email warning that the claim is going to be ''escalated to the attorneys,'' at which point ''[t]claim gets more stressful and expensive,'' and an assurance that ''my goal is to not let that happen to you.''
The documents linked above all relate to a single Higbee demand to a single target, but I have seen a number of other demand letters and ensuing emails from this firm, and spoken to several other copyright lawyers who have helped clients respond to Higbee's blustering and threats, and it appears to me that these are pretty standard exemplars. Indeed, when I was reaching out to some other copyright lawyers to try to get their sense of some of the documents I was reviewing, a number of them guessed that it was Higbee based only on what I said I wanted to ask about, based on work they had done for their clients trying to address his threats against them. Plainly, this is a copyright troll with an outsized reputation.
Levy took on a client who had received one such letter from Higbee and noticed a bunch of problems with Higbee's standard practices:
More than six years later, on January 2, 2019, Mathew Higbee sent HUFF his demand letter, accompanied by the other documents described above. Several things jumped out at me. First, instead of reciting that the copyright in the photograph had been registered, and either attaching the registration or at least citing the registration number, the letter recited the photo's ''PicRights Claim Number'' '' a matter of utterly no consequence for the recipient of the demand. The registration number, by contrast, is far more significant in this context, because, for most copyrighted works (the exception is discussed below), a copyright holder cannot bring suit for infringement until the copyright has been registered, and regardless of the exception, a copyright holder cannot seek statutory damages or attorney fees for infringements that take place before registration, or even for infringements that continue after registration unless the copyright was registered promptly after the work was first published. Because this photograph appeared in the New York Times within a day after the photo was taken, and more than six years before the demand letter was sent, a failure to register would have meant that the letter's warning about statutory damages and attorney fees was an empty bluff meant to intimidate.
Second, the letter was plainly a boilerplate form, containing somewhat stilted language that was poorly adapted to the specifics of HUFF's claimed infringement. For example, the letter varies back and forth between referring to the recipient in the second and third person singular, suggests that HUFF might have its wages garnished, warns of action against ''the business owner,'' and refers to ''the attached exhibits'' even though only one exhibit was attached. Indeed, the ''representation agreement'' that was provided along with the demand letter, purporting to show that Agence France-Presse, PicRights and a European version of PicRights had authorized Higbee to pursue claims on its behalf about HUFF's alleged infringement with respect to this specific photograph, did not identify the photograph but simply indicated that Higbee was handling ''a copyright infringement matter.''
Third, the exhibit revealed Higbee's recognition that the ''infringing location'' for the copyrighted work was not HUFF's own web site but rather the web site of the New York Times which, presumably had licensed the photograph (I was able to confirm that assumption by contacting the Times' legal department). And the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has decided, in Perfect 10 v. Amazon, that Google does not infringe a photographer's copyright by including images in its search results, because American copyright law does not prevent the ''framing'' of deep-linked images that actually sit on the server of a party that is entitled to display the photograph and serve copies of the image to visiting viewers; it is only displaying and distributing from the defendant's own server that violates the copyright laws (the ''server test'').
Levy goes into great detail about his interactions with Higbee that are well worth reading. I will only post a snippet here, but I recommend going through and reading the whole thing. Levy first told Higbee that he planned to go to court ahead of Higbee and file for declaratory judgment of non-infringement, and suddenly Higbee started throwing everything he could at the wall:
What followed was a rapid retreat by Higbee, accompanied by some truculence while, at the same time, he signaled his recognition both that he had no basis for seeking any monetary relief for his client, and that I knew that he hadn't a leg to stand on. First, he sent me an email on February 1, dropping PicRights as a client, insisting that he had a viable basis for suing on the image (while implicitly admitting that his client had not registered the copyright), and implicitly dropping as well the demand for $1775; instead, he asked me to make ''some reasonable offer'' comparable to the cost of filing a federal court complaint ($400) as well as service costs (which would have been free under the waiver of service procedure''). The redacted email address on the cc line was my client's email, violating his ethical obligations given that the client was represented by counsel. (In a separate email chain, Higbee tried to excuse this violation by claiming that he had no idea I was a lawyer, but I found that statement less than credible, particularly considering that I know of at least one other situation in which his firm made contact with a party after an attorney contacted the Higbee firm on the party's behalf in in response to the demand. Higbee also asked me how a lawyer not belonging to the California Bar could help a California client in a copyright matter. The mere fact that he thought he had to make this point told me how desperate he was getting to avoid the merits).
Levy also details another case, in which another recipient of a Higbee letter tried to take Higbee (not Higbee's client) to small claims court, and Higbee then dragged the case into federal court while at the same time insisting he had closed the case:
In the meantime, I learned about some astonishing developments regarding a demand letter that Higbee had made to a community college professor named Claudia Eckelmann relating to the inclusion of a cartoon in the online syllabus that she had provided for her students' edification. She responded to Higbee's demand letter and subsequent bullying emails by filing a complaint against Higbee's firremoving the state-court proceeding to federal court, asserting both that the court had subject-matter jurisdiction because the dispute was really about copyright infringement (Higbee seems to have ignored the rule that, for a removal to be proper, federal jurisdiction has to be shown on the face of the state-court complaint, and the state complaint does not make clear whether Eckelmann seeks a declaration of non-infringement or a judgment under state unfair business practices law). Indeed, his notice implicitly suggests, at the same time, that there was no case or controversy because, given Eckelmann's recalcitrance, his firm had decided to ''close'' the case. Of course, if there was no case or controversy there would be no Article III jurisdiction to hear the removed case.
There's a lot more in the post, but it pretty thoroughly demonstrates the sketchy nature of many Higbee letters, which appear designed to do little more than just get people to pay up over exaggerated claims. Somewhat incredibly, Levy got one of the people who work for Higbee to be a lot more honest about the situation than Higbee himself. Of course, this only occurred after Higbee claimed the case was "closed" and yet his employee was still demanding money...
The HUFF matter would have ended with Higbee's statement to me that he had ''closed" the case, as he claimed to have done with respect to Eckelmann, except that, a couple of days later, I received this remarkable email from one of Higbee's "claims resolution specialisists," Rebecca Alvarado. Here she was, AFTER her boss had "closed the case," responding to my initial email to Higbee on behalf of HUFF, and warning that, despite my points, the ''fact is there is a copyright claim on the table'' and that she was ''willing to work with me to see that the claim is resolved.'' She gave me her direct line, so I called her to find out just what resolution she had in mind, as well as what she might tell me about the nature of the firm's practice.
The call was enlightening. Unlike Higbee, who never directly responded to my question about whether the copyright was reg..., defensively, that the demand letter did not say that statutory damages would be sought, but only that these might be ''possible'' in some circumstances. She told me that her client was only seeking actual damages, in terms of the lost licensing fee '-- but she could not tell me what that licensing fee was (so, how could she ''resolve'' the copyright claim?). And she admitted that her firm's business model involves paying its clients a fractional share of the moneys that they wring out of their victims. She told me that she did not know what the fraction was, but Higbee told Fast Company that clients who came to him through a no-longer-existing service called ''Copypants'' received 50% of the financial gain. Moreover, he boasted as well that some 75% to 80% of the targets who receive his demand letters pay him without having to be taken to court.
I recognize that photographers who hire Higbee may think they're getting in on some new revenue stream, but when that comes at the expense of ethically dubious shakedowns, they might want to think twice.
Meanwhile, Higbee has shown up in the comments to Levy's post to "defend" himself by insisting that everything his firm does is totally aboveboard, and sometimes things just fall through the cracks in deciding who to send shakedown letters to (that would be more convincing if we didn't keep seeing more and more of them from Higbee, with nearly all of them being questionable):
Our clients choose which cases we pursue. Generally, our clients choose to have us only pursue unauthorized use of their work by persons or entities that provide or promote goods or services for a fee, generate ad revenue, or solicit contributions. We never intentionally pursue private non-commercial infringements. That being said, often times it is difficult to accurately assess an infringer based on the limited information available, especially when the natural tendency of most websites is to make the entity look bigger and more successful than it is. Whenever we discover a case is outside our firm's or our client's enforcement parameters, we close it (even if offers to settle have been received) and take any necessary steps to prevent similar errors in the future.
While this may be true in some cases, in at least a few cases I'm aware of (including the SomethingAwful cases), I find this nearly impossible to believe. And, of course, we've heard similar pleadings from the likes of earlier copyright trolls like John Steele of Prenda and Evan Stone. Higbee is building up a reputation and it's not a particularly good one.
Filed Under: copyright, copyright troll, mathew higbee, shakedown
Obama's NSC Holdovers Finally Booted After Three Years Of Non-Stop Leaks | Zero Hedge
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 07:47
The White House National Security Council is sharply downsizing 'in a bid to improve efficiency' by consolidating positions and cutting staff, according to the Washington Times - which adds that a secondary, unspoken objective (i.e. the entire reason) for the cuts is to address nonstop leaks that have plagued the Trump administration for nearly three years.
President Trump and new National Security Adviser Robert O'BrienLeaks of President Trump's conversations with foreign leaders and other damaging disclosures likely originated with anti-Trump officials in the White House who stayed over from the Obama administration, according to several current and former White House officials. -Washington Times
The reform is being led by National Security Adviser Robert C. O'Brien, who told the Times that 40-45 NSC staff officials had been sent back to their home-agencies, and more are likely to be moved out.
"We remain on track to meeting the right-sizing goal Ambassador O'Brien outlined in October, and in fact may exceed that target by drawing down even more positions," said NSC spokesman John Ullyot.
Under Obama, the NSC ballooned to as many as 450 people - and officials wielded 'enormous power' according to the report, directly telephoning commanders in Afghanistan and other locations in the Middle East to give them direct orders in violation of the military's strict chain of command.
Meanwhile, the so-called second-hand 'whistleblower' at the heart of President Trump's impeachment was widely reported to be a NSC staffer on detail from the CIA, Eric Ciaramella, who took umbrage with Trump asking Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky to investigate former VP Joe Biden - who Ciaramella worked with.
After O'Brien is done, less than 120 policy officials will remain after the next several months.
The downsizing will be carried out by consolidating positions and returning officials to agencies and departments such as the CIA, the State and Defense departments and the military.
Mr. O'Brien noted that the NSC had a policymaking staff of 12 in 1962 when President Kennedy faced down the Soviet Union during the Cuban missile crisis. During the 2000s and the George W. Bush administration, the number of NSC staff members increased sharply to support the three-front conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terrorism.
However, it was during the Obama administration that the NSC was transformed into a major policymaking agency seeking to duplicate the functions of the State and Defense departments within the White House. -Washington Times
"The NSC staff became bloated during the prior administration," said O'Brien. "The NSC is a coordinating body. I am trying to get us back to a lean and efficient staff that can get the job done, can coordinate with our interagency partners, and make sure the president receives the best advice he needs to make the decisions necessary to keep the American people safe."
"I just don't think that we need the numbers of people that it expanded to under the last administration to do this job right," he added.
Obama-era NSC officials are suspected of leaking classified details of President Trump's phone conversations with foreign counterparts.
After Mr. Trump's election in November 2016 and continuing through the spring of 2017, a series of unauthorized disclosures to news outlets appeared to come from within the White House. Several of the leaks involved publication of sensitive transcripts of the president's conversations with foreign leaders.
Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican and former chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said this year that he sent the Justice Department eight criminal referrals related to the leaks, including those related to Mr. Trump's conversations with the leaders of Mexico and Australia.
Former White House strategist Steve Bannon said efforts to weed out the Obama holdovers was a priority early in the administration.
''The NSC had gotten so big there were over 450 billets,'' said Mr. Bannon, adding that he and others tried to remove the Obama detailees from the White House.
''We wanted them out,'' he said. ''And I think we would have avoided a lot of the problems we got today if they had been sent back to their agencies.''-Washington Times
In addition to Ciaramella, Lt. Col. Alexander Vimdman (likely Ciaramella's source) testified against President Trump during the House Impeachment investigations - telling the Democratic-led House Intelligence Committee that he was "concerned" by what he heard on Trump's call with Zelensky.
NSC official Tim Morrison, meanwhile, testified that Vindman was suspected of leaking sensitive information to the press, a claim Vindman denied.
Read the rest of the report here.
Taiwan's Top Military Officer Killed in Helicopter Crash
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 07:43
Republic of China (ROC) Chief of General Staff Shen Yi-ming, Taiwan's top military officer, was killed along with seven others in a helicopter crash on Thursday.
Five others were rescued from the crash, which occurred after the helicopter declared it was attempting an emergency landing in the mountainous Wulai district of Taiwan.
Gen. Shen was flying in a UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter from Shongshan Air Base in Taipei to conduct a routine inspection at a military base in Dong'ao when the chopper went down. He was 62 years old and fairly new to his post, having assumed the position of Chief of the General Staff in July.
Taiwan's CNA news agency identified all of the fatalities and survivors on Thursday:
The seven other confirmed fatalities were Political Warfare Bureau Deputy Director Major General Yu Chin-wen, Major General Hung Hung-chun of the Office of the Deputy Chief of the General Staff for Intelligence, Major Huang Sheng-hang of the Office of the Chief of the General Staff, Chief Master Sergent Han Cheng-hung, chopper pilot Lieutenant Colonel Yeh Chien-yi, co-pilot Captain Liu Chen-fu, and Crew Chief Master Sergeant Hsu Hung-pin.
The five survivors have been identified as Lieutenant General Huang Yu-min, Lieutenant General Tsao Chin-ping, Major General Liu Hsiao-tang, Lieutenant Colonel Chou Hsin-yi, and Military News Agency reporter Chen Ying-chu.
It was Chen who sent out a message for help after the chopper crashed.
The cause of the crash is still unknown, even though some of the survivors have been able to make public statements. The helicopter took off from Taipei at 7:54 in the morning and dropped off radar just 13 minutes later. Two other Black Hawk helicopters and some 80 ground troops were quickly dispatched on a rescue mission.
Taiwanese Air Force commander Hsiung Hou-chi said an investigation into if the cause of the crash was ''environmental or mechanical'' is underway and promised an update Thursday afternoon. He noted the condition of the crashed helicopter was ''not ideal'' for forensic analysis, while the supervisor of the rescue operation said the mountains where the crash occurred have seen heavy rain over the past few days.
Lt. Gen. Tsao Ching-ping, one of the survivors, said in a televised interview on Thursday that he was the only survivor who could walk and several of the others were in critical condition. Tsao's comments, and those of some other officials, suggested rescuers are still working to remove some of the survivors from the crash site.
The Hong Kong Free Press noted there have been several crashes and crash landings involving U.S.-made Black Hawk helicopters in Taiwan over the past few years, including a 2018 crash during a medical mission that killed six people.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen ordered flags flown at half-mast to honor the dead on Thursday. Both she and her chief rival in the January presidential election, Han Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang party, temporarily suspended campaign activities.
The New York Post noted that Shen's death is a blow to the Taiwanese military since he was regarded as an exceptional officer, as were the others who died with him, and he was ''responsible for overseeing the self-governing island's defense against China.''
Before that, Shen was instrumental in overseeing Taiwan's upgrade of its air forces to include the advanced U.S.-made F-16V jet fighter.
The NYP article danced around the possibility of foul play, an accusation no one has officially leveled yet, by suggesting Beijing would not be sad to see Shen and so many other top Taiwanese military officers killed less than two weeks before a presidential election. The NYP quoted analysts who doubted the incident would have a significant impact on the election, which President Tsai is heavily favored to win.
Florida Poised to Surpass New York in Congressional Seats
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 07:36
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A puzzling number of men tied to the Ferguson protests have since died - Chicago Tribune
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 07:27
By Jim Salter
Associated Press |
Mar 18, 2019 | 8:15 AM
| FERGUSON, Mo.
In this Aug. 13, 2014, file photo Edward Crawford Jr., returns a tear gas canister fired by police who were trying to disperse protesters in Ferguson, Mo. Six young men with connections to the Ferguson protests, including Crawford, have died in the 4 1/2 years following the demonstrations. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Two young men were found dead inside torched cars. Three others died of apparent suicides. Another collapsed on a bus, his death ruled an overdose.
Six deaths, all involving men with connections to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, drew attention on social media and speculation in the activist community that something sinister was at play.
Police say there is no evidence the deaths have anything to do with the protests stemming from a white police officer's fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, and that only two were homicides with no known link to the protests.
But some activists say their concerns about a possible connection arise out of a culture of fear that persists in Ferguson 4 ½ years after Brown's death, citing threats '-- mostly anonymous '-- that protest leaders continue to receive.
The Rev. Darryl Gray said he found a box inside his car. When the bomb squad arrived, no explosives were found but a 6-foot python was inside.
"Everybody is on pins and needles," Gray said of his fellow activists.
No arrests have been made in the two homicides. St. Louis County police spokesman Shawn McGuire said witnesses have simply refused to come forward, leaving detectives with no answers for why the men were targeted.
"We don't believe either one was connected to each other," McGuire said, but adding, "It's tough to come up with a motive without a suspect."
In this Nov. 24, 2014, photo, Ferguson activist Daren Seals, top center, awaits the decision by a grand jury on whether to indict Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown in front of the police station in Ferguson, Mo. Seals' bullet-riddled body was found inside a burning car in September 2016. (Robert Cohen / AP)
Ferguson erupted in protests in August 2014 after officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Brown during a street confrontation. Brown was unarmed, but Wilson said he fired in self-defense when the black teenager came at him menacingly.
A grand jury declined to charge Wilson in November 2014, prompting one of the most violent nights of demonstrations, and one of the first activist deaths.
Deandre Joshua's body was found inside a burned car blocks from the protest. The 20-year-old was shot in the head before the car was torched.
Darren Seals, shown on video comforting Brown's mother that same night, met an almost identical fate two years later. The 29-year-old's bullet-riddled body was found inside a burning car in September 2016.
Four others also died, three of them ruled suicides.
'-- MarShawn McCarrel of Columbus, Ohio, shot himself in February 2016 outside the front door of the Ohio Statehouse, police said. He had been active in Ferguson.
'-- Edward Crawford Jr., 27, fatally shot himself in May 2017 after telling acquaintances he had been distraught over personal issues, police said. A photo of Crawford firing a tear gas canister back at police during a Ferguson protest was part of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage.
'-- In October, 24-year-old Danye Jones was found hanging from a tree in the yard of his north St. Louis County home. His mother, Melissa McKinnies, was active in Ferguson and posted on Facebook after her son's death, "They lynched my baby." But the death was ruled a suicide.
'-- Bassem Masri, a 31-year-old Palestinian American who frequently livestreamed video of Ferguson demonstrations, was found unresponsive on a bus in November and couldn't be revived. Toxicology results released in February showed he died of an overdose of fentanyl.
In this Oct. 5, 2017, photo, Darryl Gray, a pastor who serves as a mentor to the unofficial leaders of the so-called Frontline protest movement, poses for a photo in St. Louis. Gray said that after the Ferguson protests, he found a box inside his car. When the bomb squad arrived, no explosives were found but a 6-foot python was inside. (Jim Salter / AP)
The Ferguson protests added momentum to the national Black Lives Matter movement, but they also generated resentment from people angered by TV footage of protesters hurling rocks and insults at police. Amid lingering anger, activists and observers say that while they see no clear connection between the deaths and the protests, they can't help but wonder about the thoroughness of the investigations.
"These protesters and their deaths may not be a high priority for (police) since there is this antagonistic relationship," Washington University sociologist Odis Johnson said. "I think there is a need for them to have a greater sense of urgency."
Activists say that in the years since the protests, they have been targeted in dangerous ways.
"Something is happening," said Cori Bush, a frequent leader of the Ferguson protests. "I've been vocal about the things that I've experienced and still experience '-- the harassment, the intimidation, the death threats, the death attempts."
Bush said her car has been run off the road, her home has been vandalized, and in 2014 someone shot a bullet into her car, narrowly missing her daughter, who was 13 at the time.
She suspects white supremacists or police sympathizers. Living under constant threat is exhausting, she said, but she won't give in.
"They shut us up and they win," Bush said.
In this Sept. 17, 2017, photo, Cori Bush speaks on a bullhorn to protesters outside the St. Louis Police Department headquarters in St. Louis. Bush said her car has been run off the road, her home has been vandalized, and in 2014 someone shot a bullet into her car, narrowly missing her daughter, who was 13 at the time. (Jeff Roberson / AP)
It's unclear if residual stress from the protests or harassment contributed to the suicides, but Johnson said many activists feel a sense of hopelessness.
"This has to have a big impact on their mental health," Johnson said. "For many, law enforcement is not a recourse. Many times law enforcement is not on their side."
Experts say the deaths also are indicative of a concern at the core of the protests '-- the underlying difficulty of life for young people of color. Five of the men who died were blacks in their 20s.
Black St. Louis County residents are three times more likely than whites to be poor, often meaning they lack adequate health insurance that could allow them to better address not only physical ailments but mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
They also tend to live in areas with higher crime rates. The 2010 U.S. census showed that while people who live in wealthy and mostly white western St. Louis County can expect to live well into their 80s, life expectancy in parts of mostly black north St. Louis County reaches only into the 60s. Life expectancy in Kinloch, a few miles from Ferguson, is 56.
Forty-five of the county's 60 homicide victims last year were black in a county where less than a quarter of the population is black, according to police statistics.
"Here in St. Louis, unfortunately, we have allowed the culture of crime and violence to morph into dimensions that anybody's at risk any day, any time," said James Clark of the nonprofit Better Family Life.
Michael Brown Keystone Pipeline Most Read
Baltimore's mayor warns of a van snatching girls to sell organs. Police have no reports of 'actual incidents.' - Baltimore Sun
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 07:27
In a recent televised news conference and interview, Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. ''Jack'' Young said he's concerned about a white van ''snatching'' young girls to sell their organs. But Baltimore Police say they have no reports of any such incidents.
''We're getting reports of somebody in a white van trying to snatch up young girls for human trafficking and for selling body parts, I'm told. So we have to be careful because there's so much evil going on, not just in the city of Baltimore, but around the country,'' he said. ''It's all over Facebook.''
Police spokesman Matt Jablow said the department is ''aware of the posts on social media, but we do not have any reports of actual incidents.''
Young's claim echoes a statement he made during one of his weekly news conferences last month. Asked Nov. 20 whether he plans to sign a bill banning retailers' use of plastic bags, Young responded he hasn't taken a position yet because he's focusing on more important issues like murders, shootings and other crime.
''Now, I'm worried about people pulling up in vans, snatching young girls to take their organs or sell them into prostitution.''
Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young
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''Now, I'm worried about people pulling up in vans, snatching young girls to take their organs or sell them into prostitution,'' he added.
Organizations that fight human trafficking warn that a pervasive myth about the crime is that it always involves a Hollywood-style kidnapping. Oftentimes, human traffickers use other tools to prey on vulnerable people.
''While some traffickers physically hold the people they exploit, it is more common for them to use psychological means of control,'' according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. ''Fear, trauma, drug addiction, threats against families, and a lack of options due to poverty and homelessness can all prevent someone from leaving.''
Young's spokesman Lester Davis said the mayor's intention was never to spread alarm. Davis said Young believes that when a person sees reports of a crime '-- even if the details ''on their face seemed unlikely'' '-- they ought to tell police.
''When citizens hear about things alleged to have taken place,'' Davis said, ''the mayor wants to encourage them to reach out to the police and let the police do their job, which is to investigate claims.''
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Protests After German State Broadcaster Features Children Singing About Their Grandmas Being ''Environmental Pigs'' For Eating Meat '' Summit News
Fri, 03 Jan 2020 07:11
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was confronted by a heckler last night who accused him of sexually assaulting children.
The exchange occurred during a campaign stop in Milford, NH.
The former Vice President first tried to shut down the heckler by asserting, ''This is not a Trump rally.''
However, he remained undeterred, telling Biden, ''Don't touch kids, you pervert!''
Heckler: "Don't touch kids, you pervert!"
Heckler: "The truth is going to come out, buddy!"
Joe Biden deals with hecklers in Milford, NH. pic.twitter.com/b5LzbMsvcX
'-- The Hill (@thehill) December 29, 2019
''Well you know, this is a democracy,'' responded Biden.
Another female heckler then yelled, ''The truth is gonna come out, buddy!'' to which Biden responded, ''I hope it does.''
As the hecklers were leaving, Biden said, ''We all know'...'' before trailing off and laughing to himself.
Biden's inappropriate behavior around women and children has long been a source of speculation and embarrassment for his campaign.
Despite promising to change his behavior in April, the next month Biden told a 10-year-old girl, ''I'll bet you're as bright as you are good-looking'' during an event in Houston.
Last month, the former VP bizarrely talked about how children, ''Used to come up and reach in the pool and rub my leg down so it was straight and then watch the hair come back up again. They'd look at it.''
Joe Biden: ''And the kids used to come up and reach in the pool and rub my leg down so it was straight and then watch the hair come back up again. They'd look at it.''
Weird flex but okay.pic.twitter.com/3isO1BeGTm
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Iran Loses Qassem Soleimani, Its Indispensable Man - The Atlantic
Thu, 02 Jan 2020 22:50
The killing of Qassem Soleimani robs the regime of the central figure for its ambitions in the Middle East.
10:31 PM ET Thaier Al-Sudani / ReutersToday the United States killed Major General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps's Quds Force. The United States is now in a hot war with Iran after having waged war via proxies for the past several decades.
This doesn't mean war, it will not lead to war, and it doesn't risk war. None of that. It is war.
I don't claim to be an expert on Iran'--when I served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy, I used to remind my Iran team at the Pentagon that my regional expertise ended at the Shatt al-Arab waterway that divides Iraq and Iran, and with them, the Arabic- and Farsi-speaking regions of the Middle East.
But I do know something of how important Qassem Soleimani was, because he spent more time in the Arabic-speaking world'--propping up Iranian allies from Iraq to Lebanon, and from Syria to Yemen'--than he did back home in Iran. From a military and diplomatic perspective, Soleimani was Iran's David Petraeus and Stan McChrystal and Brett McGurk all rolled into one.
And that's now the problem Iran faces. I do not know of a single Iranian who was more indispensable to his government's ambitions in the Middle East. From 2015 to 2017, when we were in the heat of the fighting against the Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq, I would watch Soleimani shuttle back and forth between Syria and Iraq. When the war to prop up Bashar al-Assad was going poorly, Soleimani would leave Iraq for Syria. And when Iranian-backed militias in Iraq began to struggle against the Islamic State, Soleimani would leave Syria for Iraq.
That's now a problem for Iran. Just as the United States often faces a shortage of human capital'--not all general officers and diplomats are created equal, sadly, and we are not exactly blessed with a surplus of Arabic speakers in our government'--Iran also doesn't have a lot of talent to go around. One of the reasons I thought Iran erred so often in Yemen'--giving strategic weapons such as anti-ship cruise missiles to a bunch of undertrained Houthi yahoos, for example'--was a lack of adult supervision.
Qassem Soleimani was the adult supervision. He was spread thin over the past decade, but he was nonetheless a serious if nefarious adversary of the United States and its partners in the region. And Iran and its partners will now feel his loss greatly.
I don't know, and I'm not willing to argue one way or the other, whether that fact justifies Soleimani's killing. The United States is claiming it acted because Soleimani was making plans to attack U.S. diplomats and troops in the Middle East and because Soleimani had recently orchestrated other attacks on coalition bases in Iraq. Soleimani was at least partially, and in many cases directly, responsible for dozens if not hundreds of attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq going back to the height of the Iraq War. So unlike some other claims this administration has made, what the Trump administration is claiming here would not surprise me'--to say the least'--if it were indeed true.
I also do not claim to know how any of this ends. I don't think anyone can say for certain how Iran will respond, or how the United States and its partners are prepared'--or not prepared'--to weather that response. The only thing I know for certain is that the people of the Middle East will suffer greatly in the weeks ahead. Which, sadly, has been a safe bet for far too long.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.
Andrew Exum is a contributing writer at
The Atlantic. From 2015 to 2016, he was the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy.
Police: Man and goat taken on terrifying three-state drive
Thu, 02 Jan 2020 22:36
SAND SPRINGS, Okla. (AP) '-- A man stole a pickup truck with a sleeping passenger and a goat inside it and drove it all the way from Missouri to Oklahoma before releasing the terrified victim and animal and eventually being arrested, authorities say.
According to an arrest report, two men in the truck parked outside of an adult video store in Carthage, Missouri, early Wednesday morning. The driver went inside the store and the passenger fell asleep. When the passenger awoke, a masked man was driving the truck and pointing a gun at his head, Tulsa TV station KOTV reported.
The carjacking suspect, 40-year-old Brandon Kirby, drove from Missouri through Kansas. During the 130-mile ordeal, Kirby took methamphetamine, pistol-whipped the victim and continually threatened him, according to the arrest report. He was eventually arrested in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, after he let the passenger and the goat out of the truck and the victim called 911, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said.
Kirby, who is from Mannford, west of Tulsa, was jailed on suspicion of kidnapping, pointing a firearm and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Jail records don't list an attorney who might speak on his behalf.
The Sand Springs Police Department said on Facebook: ''OK 2020, it only took you 4.5 hours to get weird. Let's slow down on the carjacking-goatnapping calls for the remainder of the year.''
Andrew McCabe apologizes for lying to FBI about WSJ leak
Thu, 02 Jan 2020 22:33
News
By Bob Fredericks
January 2, 2020 | 2:52pm
Andrew McCabe Getty Images
Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe apologized for lying to agents who spent weeks investigating the source of a leak to the Wall Street Journal that actually came from him, new documents reveal.
Shortly before the 2016 election, The Journal reported that an FBI investigation was underway involving then-candidate Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.
McCabe in May 2017 denied that he was the source of the leak '-- but later fessed up, angering bureau investigators who had been spinning their wheels trying to identify the source of the leak.
The documents, which the FBI released in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, include transcripts of McCabe's conversations with investigators, who were frustrated after wasting their time on the probe.
On Aug. 18, 2017, FBI officials grilled McCabe again to try to unravel what they said was ''conflicting information'' they had gathered about the possible leak to the Journal, The Daily Beast reported.
''I need to know from you, did you authorize this article? Were you aware of it? Did you authorize it?'' an agent asked McCabe,
The agent then described his response: ''And as nice as could be, he said, 'Yep. Yep I did.'''
The investigator then said that ''things had suddenly changed 180 degrees with this'' after McCabe's admission, which turned his initial denials into a potential crime.
''In our business, we stop and say, look, now we're getting into an area for due process,'' the agent said.
Andrew McCabe signs copies of his new book ''The Threat: How The FBI Protects America In The Age Of Terror And Trump'' Getty Images''I was very careful to say'... with all due respect, this is what you told us. This has caused us some kind of, you know, sidetracking here now with some information other people have told us,'' the agent said, growing increasingly frustrated.
''I remember saying to him, at, I said, 'Sir, you understand that we've put a lot of work into this based on what you told us,''' the agent said.
''I mean, and I even said, long nights and weekends working on this, trying to find out who amongst your ranks of trusted people would, would do something like that.' And he kind of just looked down, kind of nodded, and said 'Yeah I'm sorry.''
The Justice Department's inspector general blasted McCabe in April for misleading investigators, but did not include the transcripts in his report.
McCabe's lawyer has said his story changed because in the first interview he wasn't prepared for the question, and that he was soon distracted by President Trump's firing of FBI chief James Comey, whom McCabe replaced as acting director.
McCabe, who said he was confused when first questioned, was fired in March 2018, two days before he was expected to retire on orders from President Trump, who called his ouster a ''great day for democracy.''
Lying to the feds is a crime, but McCabe has not been charged.
Williamson lays off entire campaign staff | TheHill
Thu, 02 Jan 2020 15:25
Best-selling author Marianne Williamson Marianne WilliamsonKey moments in the 2020 Democratic presidential race so far Ranking the Democrats: Who has best chance of winning nomination? 2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the December showdown MORE has laid off her entire campaign staff, according to two sources close to the campaign.
The longshot Democratic presidential hopeful will continue to seek her party's nomination. But she'll do so without a staff behind her. Manchester, N.H.-based television station WMUR first reported the mass layoffs on Thursday.
Williamson, an author and celebrity spiritual adviser, has been campaigning for the Democratic nomination for nearly a year. But she has struggled to break out of the lower tier of the primary field, often failing to register in national polls.Unlike her middle- and top-tier rivals, Williamson retained only a small staff. Her latest federal financial report filed in October showed only a few dozen employees on her team. Among those laid off was campaign manager Patricia Ewing.
Still, the decision to eliminate her staff entirely suggests that she may be winding down her presidential run altogether. One former staffer said that financial pressures were behind the layoffs. Williamson raised just over $3 million in the third quarter of 2019, but spent roughly 94 percent of what she took in.
What's more, Williamson appears almost certain to miss the next Democratic primary debate on Jan. 14. If so, it would be the fifth debate that she has failed to qualify for.
News of the layoffs came hours after former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julin Castro announced that he would suspend his presidential campaign.
-- Updated at 3:44 p.m.
Across An Area The Size Of Alaska
Thu, 02 Jan 2020 15:08
133,161 views | May 10, 2018, 12:15 pm
Trevor Nace Senior Contributor Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. Explore More
in an attempt to make rain in Huangpi, central China's Hubei province on May 10, 2011. The drought plaguing central China for months has left more than one million people without proper drinking water and crimped output of hydroelectric power, China's second-biggest energy source, as water levels at nearly 1,400 reservoirs in Hubei province have fallen below the operational level, according to government figures. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)China is launching the world's largest weather-control machine, with the ability to modify the weather in an area similar to the size of Alaska. China has never shied away from doing things on a massive scale and this is yet another example of the Chinese government working on an unprecedented scale.
China's state-owned Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation is implementing a plan to send thousands of rain-inducing machines across the Tibetan Plateau to increase rainfall along the region.
The Tibetan Plateau is the source of much of China's water, running down from the mountainous highlands via the massive Yangtze, Mekong, and Yellow rivers. These rivers, which originate on the Tibetan Plateau, are fed by glacial and snow meltwater and drain down into the fertile Chinese farmlands.
Plateau are seen from the air in the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Qinghai province. The festival held since the 1990s lasts for around five days. It was suspended for several years following a 2010 earthquake in Yushu which killed some 2,700 people. (NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)The practice of artificially inducing rainfall in China is not new, the country manipulated the weather over Beijing just before and during the 2008 Beijing Olympics to ensure a rain-free event. The practice has only grown in scale as part of the Sky River Project aimed at increasing China's water resources for its billions of people.
China is installing tens of thousands of chambers across the Tibetan Plateau and mountains. These machines will produce very fine silver iodide particles that are then lifted into the atmosphere with upwelling winds. As these particles are dispersed into the atmosphere they act as the nucleating point of condensed water.
in the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Qinghai province. The festival held since the 1990s lasts for around five days. It was suspended for several years following a 2010 earthquake in Yushu which killed some 2,700 people. (NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)In order for water vapor (humidity) in the air to form clouds and eventually rain, it requires a nucleating particle. Typically, this is a tiny particle of dust which en masse produces the clouds we see in the sky. By artificially ''seeding'' the Tibetan Plateau with silver iodide particles the Chinese government is inducing the formation of clouds where there weren't any before. Once the clouds become unstable, this leads to artificially induced rainfall.
Each rain machine (chamber) is expected to create a 3-mile long strip of billowing clouds. When multiplied by the thousands of chambers China is installing along the Tibetan Plateau, it is estimated that China will be artificially controlling the weather over an area similar to the size of Alaska.
rain is seen at a station of the Beijing Meteorological Bureau in Beijing, China, Thursday, July 19, 2007. Beijing regularly uses cloud-seeding techniques to improve the local weather conditions and the bureau has been tasked to ensure optimum weather conditions for the 2008 Olympic Games. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)China plans to monitor the system through weather satellites and supplement with silver iodide particles deployed from planes and shot out of ground artillery. In total, the Chinese government expects the system, which will span 620,000 square miles, to produce up to 10 billion cubic meters of rainfall each year.
If the system works as expected, it would equal roughly 7 percent of China's annual water consumption, helping China quench the thirst of its 1.4 billion people.
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Twitter or LinkedIn. I am a geologist passionate about sharing Earth's intricacies with you. I received my PhD from Duke University where I studied the geology and climate of the Amazon. I am
'... Read More I am a geologist passionate about sharing Earth's intricacies with you. I received my PhD from Duke University where I studied the geology and climate of the Amazon. I am the founder of Science Trends, a leading source of science news and analysis on everything from climate change to cancer research. Let's connect @trevornace
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Greece, Israel, Cyprus sign EastMed gas pipeline deal | Article [AMP] | Reuters
Thu, 02 Jan 2020 15:06
Thu Jan 2, 2020 / 1:49 PM EST
ATHENS ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece, Cyprus and Israel on Thursday signed a deal to build a 1,900 km (1,180 mile) subsea pipeline to carry natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean's rapidly developing gas fields to Europe.
Although Turkey opposes the project, the countries aim to reach a final investment decision by 2022 and have the pipeline completed by 2025 to help Europe diversify its energy resources.
European governments and Israel last year agreed to proceed with the so-called EastMed project, a $6 to $7 billion pipeline project that is expected initially to carry 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year from Israeli and Cypriot waters to the Greek island of Crete, on to the Greek mainland and into Europe's gas network via Italy.
The energy ministers of Greece, Israel and Cyprus - Kostis Hatzidakis, Yuval Steinitz and Yiorgos Lakkotrypis - signed the final agreement on the pipeline at a ceremony in Athens.
Last month a Turkish official said there was no need to build the EastMed pipeline because the trans-Anatolian pipeline already existed.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said any project that ignored the rights of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots over natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean would fail.
"The most economical and secure route to utilize the natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean and deliver them to consumption markets in Europe, including our country, is Turkey," he said in a statement on Thursday.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the deal was not turning against any country.
"It (the agreement) ... supports a common aim for peace, security and stability in the particularly vulnerable region of the Eastern Mediterranean," Anastasiades said.
The region lacks significant oil and gas infrastructure and political relations between the countries - including Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon and Syria - are strained on a number of fronts.
The signing of the EastMed pipeline comes weeks after Turkey and Libya struck an accord on sea boundaries in the Mediterranean, a move which Greece, Cyprus and Israel opposed.
Analysts say that pact could present a barrier to the proposed pipeline which would have to cross the planned Turkey-Libya economic zone.
"If Turkey would be interested, the door is open," Israel's Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told Reuters.
"We are ready to discuss some kind of cooperation, energy cooperation, also with the Turks. We are not against the Turks but we are very much in favor of the EastMed gas pipeline project," he said.
The pipeline project is owned by IGI Poseidon, a joint venture between Greek gas firm DEPA and Italian energy group Edison.
DEPA on Thursday signed a letter of intent with Energean, a gas producer with a focus on the Eastern Mediterranean, to buy two billion cubic meters of gas annually from Energean's gas fields off Israel via the planned pipeline.
Greece has said the agreement will be concluded once Italy signs off on it too.
(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou in Athens, Jonathan Spicer in Istanbul and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; editing by Jason Neely and David Evans)
59 Quick Slang Phrases From The 1920s We Should Start Using Again | Thought Catalog
Thu, 02 Jan 2020 10:06
Get ready to ''know your onions,'' readers. If you've ever wanted to talk like characters from an old movie or the folks from The Great Gatsby, now's your chance. For the twenties lovers among us, here are 59 of the era's best slang phrases. Now you just have to practice talking really, really fast so you can say this old slang.
Flickr/Sam Fam1. Ankle: to walk
2. ''Applesauce!'': ''Horsefeathers!''
3. ''Bank's closed!'': what you tell someone to stop making out
4. Bearcat: a lively, spirited woman, possibly with a fiery streak
5. Berries: like ''bee's knees,'' denotes that something is good, desirable or pleasing. ''That sounds like berries to me!''
Flickr/pcgn76. Bimbo: refers to a macho man
7. Bluenose: term for a prude or individual deemed to be a killjoy
8. Bubs: a woman's boobs
9. ''Bushwa!'': ''Bullshit!''
10. ''Butt me!'': ''I would like a cigarette.''
Flickr/Homini11. Cancelled stamp: a shy, lonely female, the type one would describe as a ''wallflower''
12. Cash: a smooch
13. Cake-eater: in the 1920's refers to a ''ladies' man''; later, slang for homosexual
14. Cheaters: Glasses or bifocals
15. Choice bit of calico: a desirable woman
Flickr/TruckPR16. Darb: something deemed wonderful or splendid, similar to ''berries''
17. Dewdropper: like lollygagger, a slacker who sits around all day and does nothing, often unemployed
18. ''Don't take any wooden nickels!'': ''Don't do anything dumb!''
19. Dumb Dora: an unintelligent woman
20. Egg: a person who leads an absurdly wealthy, extravagant lifestyle (see: Gatsby's ''West Egg'')
Flickr/john.murden21. Four-flusher: someone who mooches off the money of others in order to feign wealth
22. Gasper: cigarette, ''fag'' (also of the 1920s)
23. Giggle water: liquor, alcoholic beverage
24. ''Go chase yourself!'': ''Get out of here!''
25. Handcuff: engagement ring
Flickr/deflam26. Half-seas over: shitfaced
27. Hayburner: a car with poor gas-mileage, a guzzler
28. Hotsy-totsy: attractive, pleasing to the eye
29. Icy mitt: rejection from the object of one's affection, as in: ''He got the icy mitt.''
30. Iron one's shoelaces: to excuse oneself for the restroom
Flickr/aldenjewell31. Jake: okay, fine, as in ''Don't worry, everything's jake.''
32. Jorum of skee: a swig of alcohol, particularly hard liquor
33. Know your onions: to know what's up or what's going on
34. ''Let's blouse!'': ''Let's blow this popsicle stand!''
35. Manacle: Wedding ring
Flickr/EthelRedThePetrolHead36. Mazuma: Dollar bills, cash, money
37. Mrs. Grundy: an uptight or very straight-laced individual
38. Noodle juice: tea.
39. ''Now you're on the trolley!'': ''Now you've gotten it right!''
40. Oliver Twist: an extremely good dancer.
Flickr/photolibrarian41. On a toot: on a bender
42. Ossified: drunk
43. Quilt: an alcoholic beverage that keeps you warm
44. Panther piss: whiskey, particularly homemade whiskey
45. Petting pantry: a cinema or movie theatre
Flickr/photolibrarian46. ''Phonus balonus!'': ''That's nonsense!'' or ''That's horseshit!''
47. Pull a Daniel Boone: to upchuck
48. Reuben: a hick or redneck
49. Rub: a dance party for college or high school students
50. Sheba '' someone's girlfriend; or a sexually desirable woman
Flickr/aldenjewell51. Sinker: a doughnut
52. Sockdollager: an event or action of great importance
53. Spifflicated: inebriated
54. ''Tell it to Sweeney!'': what you say when you believe something to be untrue; ''Tell it to someone who would buy that!''
55. Tomato: a woman
Flickr/Duke Yearlook56. Upstage: arrogant, snobby
57. Whoopee: to have a good time, ''make whoopee''
58. Wurp: wet blanket or person seen as a buzzkill (see: Debbie Downer)
59. Zozzled: shitfaced

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  • 0:00
    you just walked away you just walked
  • 0:01
    away from the show Adam Curry
  • 0:03
    Jhansi divorce is your award-winning
  • 0:07
    Gitmo Nation Media assassination episode
  • 0:09
    1205 this is no agenda Austin Texas
  • 0:20
    capital of the drone star state in the
  • 0:22
    morning everybody
  • 0:23
    I'm Adam curry and from Northern Silicon
  • 0:25
    Valley where there'll be no record set
  • 0:27
    today because we miss the Zephyr I'm
  • 0:29
    John C Dvorak thought to be fair the
  • 0:36
    Zephyr was just earlier than normal we
  • 0:38
    didn't really miss anything well I saw
  • 0:42
    go by ok but yeah anyway
  • 0:48
    G
  • 0:51
    I guess some stuff stuff happened days
  • 0:56
    is when it always takes place but before
  • 0:58
    we go into Iran I do want to make
  • 1:04
    mention that Thursday by a request from
  • 1:06
    Sir Chris Wilson in Australia we were
  • 1:09
    requested to give yet another massive
  • 1:11
    shake of our rain sticks which are
  • 1:15
    precision instruments these are not just
  • 1:18
    some phony-baloney tourist thing these
  • 1:21
    were made by sherry Osbourne in Utah and
  • 1:23
    they work conditions have eased on the
  • 1:25
    far south coast of New South Wales after
  • 1:28
    fire threatened the town of Eden live
  • 1:31
    now to our reporter Trudi McIntosh trees
  • 1:33
    in Eden treating it take us through
  • 1:35
    what's happened well we're starting to
  • 1:37
    see a sprinkling of rain here in the
  • 1:39
    town of Eden but yes you can see behind
  • 1:41
    me there's certainly still plenty of
  • 1:43
    smoke blanketing this area plenty of
  • 1:45
    people who have camped here for the
  • 1:47
    night at the Eden Wharf after what has
  • 1:49
    been a pretty difficult few days in this
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  • 1:54
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    coming from the Victorian border towards
  • 1:59
    this town I spoke to one local resident
  • 2:01
    Joann a short time ago she tells me
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    about what it was like to be in the town
  • 2:06
    as this fire came towards it I thought I
  • 2:08
    would have to come down here tonight but
  • 2:09
    with this rain it's heaven-sent and I
  • 2:12
    went home wash me hey my hair was that
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    birds come out and they started singing
  • 2:19
    this afternoon so we figured that we're
  • 2:21
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  • 2:24
    heaven sent birds and rain in Australia
  • 2:29
    did you see this morning's report about
  • 2:31
    the rain
  • 2:32
    no this was caused by the intense heat
  • 2:38
    bullcrap it was caused by rain sticks we
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    all know how this works intense heat we
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    never get credit for any never ever do
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    it now we need a lot more rain to fall
  • 2:54
    but it's a good start and they're
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    predicting a lot more so hopefully
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    Thursday to all produce a Australian
  • 3:02
    producers and
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  • 3:06
    had the time I've had the same same
  • 3:10
    feedback it's like yeah it's bad it's
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    been worse but you know there was a lot
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  • 3:18
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  • 3:20
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  • 3:24
    fires has some chance of arson involved
  • 3:27
    that crazy people
  • 3:30
    arsonists well yeah and well if I have a
  • 3:33
    report they actually know where the
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    arsonists are apparently in Australia
  • 3:38
    well listen to this the flies
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    the coroner not just with the burned out
  • 3:59
    buildings and structures but also
  • 4:01
    clearly the deaths of people that have
  • 4:04
    occurred as a result of these fires and
  • 4:05
    a more sinister consideration were the
  • 4:08
    fires intentionally started police have
  • 4:10
    formed strike force in daraa comprising
  • 4:13
    detectives from homicide and arson
  • 4:15
    squads plus drawing on insights from
  • 4:17
    officers with local knowledge who will
  • 4:20
    lead the work we'll make available any
  • 4:22
    other specialist resources in terms of
  • 4:24
    our Forensic Services Group and other
  • 4:26
    criminal investigators arson squad
  • 4:28
    detectives are also part of this strike
  • 4:30
    force responsible for tracking down fire
  • 4:33
    bugs nine to be responsible for lighting
  • 4:35
    deliberately lit fires like this one at
  • 4:37
    South Tara mara last November part of
  • 4:40
    their Charter is also proactive knocking
  • 4:43
    on the doors of known arsonists when
  • 4:45
    conditions get this bad hey mister
  • 4:49
    arsonist hey just want to check make
  • 4:52
    sure you're not starting any fires that
  • 4:54
    sounds kind of weird well it doesn't
  • 4:56
    happen so much in this country because
  • 4:58
    we find ways to throw the key away with
  • 5:00
    an arsonist because because it's been
  • 5:04
    determined it's not just it's beyond me
  • 5:06
    it's beyond a sicknesses as a sexual
  • 5:09
    perversion oh I didn't know about the
  • 5:11
    sexual perversion part well it doesn't
  • 5:14
    disgust a lot but in Australia you just
  • 5:17
    go you know where they are you just go
  • 5:19
    knock on the door hey registered
  • 5:20
    arsonist hey 70 fires lately hey don't
  • 5:23
    do it okay don't do any knocking on the
  • 5:25
    doors of known arsonists when conditions
  • 5:27
    get this bad to prevent them from
  • 5:30
    getting up to no good well seven years
  • 5:32
    has been Tulsa believable
  • 5:35
    I find that very lackadaisical if you
  • 5:41
    have a tinderbox card you with this have
  • 5:44
    a tinderbox country you know maybe you
  • 5:46
    should keep a real just not you know
  • 5:48
    happenstance just drop by and knock on
  • 5:51
    the arches in his door it's like when I
  • 5:53
    was in Tuktoyaktuk North I was in the
  • 5:57
    North Pole years and years ago but yes I
  • 6:00
    took two yoke took is the hangman tight
  • 6:03
    yes it's a little bit above Inuvik in
  • 6:05
    the northwestern territories and this
  • 6:08
    was the Molson ice polar beach party
  • 6:11
    with metallica and whole and Veruca Salt
  • 6:15
    was and we cyber casted this is a long
  • 6:17
    time ago so we're up there it's a cyber
  • 6:20
    casted oh we had a MUX we had 24 I've
  • 6:25
    heard enough going 24 phone lines that
  • 6:28
    we that we combined into MUX with the
  • 6:31
    was at 9600 baud modems and so that's
  • 6:34
    how we did the cyber cast anyway it was
  • 6:37
    at the time we were there was 23 hours
  • 6:39
    light during the day and you know you're