Cover for No Agenda Show 783: Bernie and the Breach
December 20th, 2015 • 2h 51m

783: Bernie and the Breach


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

VoidZero and Iris - Steven Born Dec 17th!
cingulomania dictionary - Google Search
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Urban Dictionary: A desire to hold someone in your arms. "I met my old childhood friend today, she was so cute, now I suffer from cingulomania all the time!" ~Some - In a male, a strong desire to hold a girl in one's arms. A term possibly coined by J.E. Schmidt for the Lecher's Lexicon (1967).Translation of Cingulomania in 'º English TranslationTranslate cingulomania in English online and download now our free translator to use any time at no charge. ... Dictionary definition of cingulomania · Synonym ...Grandiloquent Dictionary - Dictionary .... cibophobia - ( ): A fear of food; cingulomania - ( ): A desire to hold someone in your arms; circumlocution - ( ): An overly complicated ...Wordcraft Dictionary, '' shrewd. (The dictionary gives a second meaning: "cautious; esp. ..... cingulomania '' a strong desire to hold a person in your arms. cipher '' a method of ...#cingulomania #definition | Dictionary | Pinterest strong desire to hold a person in your arms Cingulomania Definitions, Strong ... Vocabulary, Dictionary Com, Words Porn, Book, Posts, Writing, Pleasant, ...
DH unplugged, talking about indebtedness of carbon credits personally just like college loans ultimate slave system
Sloths -> Hedgehogs are next!
Micro greens
Rutgers leaders declare campus founded by pillaging racists, earmarks funds for diversity teach-ins - The College Fix
Thu, 17 Dec 2015 21:51
Rutgers leaders declare campus founded by pillaging racists, earmarks funds for diversity teach-ins
University marks 250th anniversary by launching 'enslaved and disenfranchised populations in Rutgers history' committee
As Rutgers University marks its 250th anniversary, university leaders have looked to the past, launching an ''enslaved and disenfranchised populations in Rutgers history'' committee to make up for ''some facts that we have ignored for too long,'' Rutgers Chancellor Richard Edwards recently announced.
''Our campus is built on land taken from the Lenni-Lenape, and a number of our founders and early benefactors were slave holders,'' Edwards wrote in an email to the campus community. ''Given our history as a colonial college, these are facts not unique to Rutgers, but it is time that we begin to recognize the rule that disadvantaged populations such as African Americans and Native tribes played in the University's development.''
With that, Edwards announced the formation of a committee comprised of faculty, staff and students to study ''enslaved and disenfranchised populations in Rutgers history.'' Providing examples of what the committee may do, Edwards mentioned the recommendation of historical markers or establishment of symposia, lectures and teach-ins to address history.
RELATED: Rutgers 'professor': 'There are no good white people '... only less bad white people'
''The committee will be charged with examining the role that the people of these disadvantaged groups played in the founding and development of Rutgers University, and with making recommendations to me on how the University can best acknowledge their influence on history,'' he stated.
Early this year, Edwards created a new Diversity and Inclusion Office at Rutgers and launched a university-wide faculty diversity hiring initiative which aims to create ''a diverse recruitment pool,'' among other efforts.
RELATED: Rutgers U. spends week celebrating alumnus who championed communism
Ironically, Rutgers students protested after Condoleezza Rice, the first female African American Secretary of State, was announced as the 2014 commencement speaker. Organizing a sit-in of more than fifty students in the president's office, protesting students drew police to the scene after shattering a glass door. Rice subsequently declined the honorary degree Rutgers was to give her and her speaking engagement.
Meanwhile, not everyone at Rutgers agrees the new committee is the best use of taxpayer money at the publicly funded university. Rutgers College Republicans spokesperson Steven Wynen said the money is needed elsewhere.
''My fellow College Republicans and I are fiscally conservative. While we are all for the excavation of history to learn from the past, they feel as I do that this is not the right allocation of Rutgers' limited resources,'' Wynen said. ''You are to learn from the past, not dwell on it. The money would be better off going to financial aid programs or infrastructure, which are current needs.''
''The bus system on campus needs maintenance and we have one of the highest in-state tuition costs in the nation,'' he added. ''If Rutgers truly wants to move forward and compete with other big-name schools for New Jersey students, wasting thousands of dollars on this committee is not going to help.''
And Save Jersey founder Matt Rooney, an attorney and blogger, also stated the new ''enslaved and disenfranchised'' committee is a bad decision.
''Naturally, the only way for a liberal to truly prove that he or she cares about the dispossessed is to throw money at the problem '' ideally someone else's money '' and form a committee to spend it. The humorless RU administration doesn't appreciate the irony of it all,'' Rooney wrote. ''Some birthday party, huh? I don't know about you, Save Jerseyans, but digging up 250-year-old skeletons to appease professionally-offended academics and brainwashed students cowering in their safe spaces isn't exactly my idea of a fun time.''
Wynen told The College Fix ''it definitely appears that the decision to form the committee is a preemptive move to forestall a repeat of what happened at Yale or Mizzou at Rutgers.'' Yet, Wynan said that to his knowledge there have been no outcries over race relations on campus.
RELATED: Rutgers Univ. class fawned over Hillary Clinton: 'Her destiny' to become president
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About the Author
Kate Hardiman is a student at the University of Notre Dame majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies and minoring in the Philosophy, Political Science, and Economics (PPE) Program. She serves as campus editor of the Irish Rover and is a fellow of both the Constitutional Studies Department and Center for Ethics and Culture. She is interning at The Hill in Washington D.C. for the summer of 2015 and has had articles published there, as well as on Minding the Campus.
Shut Up Slave!
It is time for Twitter to shut Marine Le Pen's account, as it has others who spread ISIL's hate - Quartz
Fri, 18 Dec 2015 07:03
Marine Le Pen has proven she is aligned with the ISIL Islamo-fascists, by promoting the violence and murder they fetishize, and insulting the victims of terrorism.
Accused on French radio yesterday (Dec. 16) of sharing a ''community of spirit'' with the so-called caliphate and its jihadist recruits bent on inciting civil war between Muslims and everyone else, how did the leader of the far-right National Front respond?
By Twitter-screaming ''Daesh is THIS'' and posting an obscene, unfiltered ISIL propaganda image of the body of journalist James Foley, in close view, after he was beheaded last year. Then she immediately followed up her atrocity by Tweeting successive photographs of executions, again humiliating those assassinated at the hands of this rampaging revolutionary offshoot of radical Salafist Sunni Islam.
Not even the pleas of Foley's parents, who have demanded she remove the ''shamefully uncensored'' photographs of their son and others, could immediately move Le Pen to action. ''We are deeply disturbed by the unsolicited use of Jim for Le Pen's political purposes and hope that the picture of our son, along with two other graphic photographs, are taken down immediately,'' John and Diane Foley said in a statement. Finally, under heavy pressure, and after almost 24 hours, Le Pen deleted the beheading image just before 10am in France on Dec. 17, but left the two other execution photos.
The cascade of hate and horror from Le Pen's Twitter feed, which has more than 830,000 followers, and the hurried retweeting of her outrage by sycophantic National Front lackeys, whose posts were instantaneously shared hundreds more times, was so shocking, many thought her account had been hacked.
But no, she underscored the personal, diabolical decision by signing her Tweets ''MLP'', so everybody knew the party boss was directly behind them.
Of course, Le Pen's hysterical online fury is unsurprising given that the French radio interview that set her on the Twitter rage, featured the renowned Islam specialist Gilles Kepel, who told Quartz this week that the far right shares a common cause with ISIL, and glories in its successes.
Le Pen has proved the precise point Kepel and interviewer Jean-Jacques Bourdin were making during the radio interview, as they discussed links and similarities between the identity politics of ISIL and the National Front.
The author of the new book Terror in the Hexagon: the Genesis of French Jihad, Kepel argues that the two extremist phenomena of ISIL-inspired jihadism and the far right are in a certain sense allies.
''They both want to create a society split into two distinct groups: on one side, Muslims who are victims of what is relentlessly termed 'Islamophobia' and on the other the extreme right'' with its base of supporters who want Muslims and immigrants out, he told Quartz.
''Of course they are not the same'', the professor of political science at Paris's Sciences Po told Bourdin, but ISIL and the FN are two phenomena that ''resemble each other'', in their desire to provoke a war of enclaves, to destroy the social fabric of a multi-ethnic pluralist country like France.
The provocation is working'--almost 7 million voted for the National Front in last weekend's regional elections. At the same time there is increasing support for Salafism and jihadism in France. Indeed, as Kepel told Quartz, the far right and the Salafists, have plenty of values in common''they opposed gay marriage and even marched together against it, and have sometimes even done electoral deals in regions of France.
The photographs Le Pen shared are widely available online. But what does it say about an aspiring president of France that she is spreading the images of hate, like any low-level online troll? The ruse has spectacularly backfired, earning her widespread condemnation and a police investigation for ''dissemination of violent images'', as well as the threat of jail time.
We are once again reminded how much the National Front leader and other far right demagogues, who are tearing at the fabric of multi-ethnic, culturally and religiously diverse democracies, revel in ISIL's rise to prominence.
They literally traffic in the images of death that are the terrorists' stock in trade.
Like fascist leaders throughout history that Le Pen is drawn to, she is using graphic violence for her own propaganda purposes, dehumanizing individual victims and making a banality out of evil. The National Front leader made the murdered men in the photographs an object in her nefarious plan to turn France and Europe into the chaotic mess ISIL so zealously desires.
By doing so however, she forgot her carefully constructed image as the ''acceptable face'' of far right, slipping back in to the scandal still associated with her estranged father Jean-Marie Le Pen, the Algerian war torturer and Holocaust denier.
I read that the images had been masked with warning notices, and turned to Le Pen's Twitter feed, only to be confronted by them against my will. And now I feel sick, like an unwilling participant in the misery inflicted on this man and his family.
It is as if I too violated James Foley's memory by viewing the grotesque images, that, each time they are posted and seen, are like he is being murdered all over again.
A little over a year ago Twitter closed accounts known to be sharing the images of Foley's horrifying execution. Why don't they do the same to Le Pen?
Follow Emma-Kate on Twitter at@eksymons.We welcome your comments at
See Send on the App Store
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 02:35
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iTunes is the world's easiest way to organize and add to your digital media collection.We are unable to find iTunes on your computer. To download the free app See Send by My Mobile Witness, Inc., get iTunes now.
iTunes for Mac + PCBy My Mobile Witness, Inc.
Open iTunes to buy and download apps.
DescriptionSee Something Send Something is the preeminent nationwide suspicious activity reporting (SAR) tool for citizens to help in the fight against terrorism. See Something Send Something has information to educate you on what to look for and when to submit suspicious activity reports along with how to receive important alerts. The SAR tool connects you to a nationwide network of Intelligence Centers by routing tips to the correct center for analysis.
Learn what to look for, stay informed, and act on your intuition with the official See Something Send Something SAR app. For situations requiring an immediate response always call 911 or local police directly.
What's New in Version 3.1.0Bug fixes
Customer ReviewsExactly what we need to report suspicious activity.
by sneegusAs a 1st Responder, having a simple way for citizens to report suspicious activity in their area is a great idea. We are always asking for the public's help in the war on terror as we can't be everywhere at once. We are well prepared to respond to an act of terror, but if we really want to win the war against it, we have to stop an attack before it has a chance to come to fruition. I think this app is a simple and effective way to report suspicious activity that could help stop an attack in the planning stage. We have done a great job over the years defending this great nation, but we have to remain vigilant if we want our successes to continue. Never Forget!!!
Location comment bug
by B1ke_R1derI verified the IPhone's location service is on and is also on for this app. The app did enabled it as it said it would.Still I get the warning "You don't have location services enabled. Someday you may need ..."Please fix this...
Defect may confuse users
by Veronica Venezia1. Download via App Store (iPhone 6)2. Launch3. Agree to enable location services4. Navigate to "your info"Expected: see name and phone numberActual: see red alert saying no location services enabled(Double checked in iOS settings - enabled but still see alert even after closing and relaunching app.)May make users confused or less confident in effectiveness of app
View In iTunesThis app is designed for both iPhone and iPad
Category:Photo & VideoUpdated:Jul 08, 2015Version:3.1.0Size: 4.8 MBLanguage: EnglishSeller:MY MOBILE WITNESS, INC.(C) 2015 MY MOBILE WITNESS, INC.Compatibility:Requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
UPDATE: Brazilian Judge Shuts Down WhatsApp And Brazil's Congress Wants To Shut Down The Social Web Next | TechCrunch
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 04:04
UPDATE: WhatsApp came back online 12 hours into a court-ordered 48-hour blackout across Brazil for refusing to turn over data in an investigation, after a second judge ruled that ''it does not seem reasonable that millions of users are affected'' and suggested a financial penalty instead.Overnight, messaging app Telegram gained 5 million new Brazilian users, and Twitter lit up with scenes from Castaway, imagery of people sitting alone on the moon, and people looking depressed in general, with trending hashtags #eusemwhatsapp (me without WhatsApp) and #nessas48euvou (In these 48 hours I'm going to'...).
If the anti-privacy legislation Brazilian Congress has on the table makes its way into law, companies like WhatsApp, Facebook and Google will have drastically increased obligations to collect, retain and share sensitive user data with the government.
A judge in Sao Paulo has ordered WhatsApp to shut down for 48 hours, starting at 9pm Eastern tonight.
WhatsApp is the single most used app in Brazil, with about 93 million users, or 93% of the country's internet population. It's a particularly useful service for Brazil's youth and poor, many who cannot afford to pay the most expensive plans on the planet.
Brazilian telco's have been lobbying for months to convince the government that WhatsApp's voice service is unregulated and illegal (not entirely unlike the taxi industry's posture on Uber), and have publicly blamed the ''WhatsApp effect'' for driving millions of Brazilians to abandon their cell phone lines.
A WhatsApp shut-down would be akin to taking half the country off the electricity grid because of an industry squabble over the impending threat of solar power.
It's a particularly baffling move when you consider that Brazil is the Social Media Capital of the Universe: Brazilians are the #2 or #3 audience on every major global social platform, and on a per-user basis, Brazilians spend almost double the time on social media as Americans.
But a temporary WhatsApp shutdown is not even close to the craziest thing happening with the Brazilian internet right now.
If Brazil's conservative Congress gets its way, they're going to take down the entire social web as we know it, with bills circulating through the legislature to criminalize posting social media content and to allow the government to spy on its citizens.
It's an about-face from last year, when President Dilma Rousseff approved Marco Civil, a groundbreaking Internet ''Bill of Rights'', as a response to the Snowden revelations that the NSA was spying on Brazil. The landmark bill, Brazil's first internet legislation, protects net neutrality, user privacy and freedom of speech.
Since then, Brazil's economy has spiraled into crisis, triggered in large part by a wide-reaching corruption scandal at the state-owned Petrobras oil behemoth that is investigating heads of Brazil's biggest construction firms, some 50 politicians who are currently in office, and even ex-President Lula.
If Brazil's conservative Congress gets its way, they're going to take down the entire social web as we know it, with bills circulating through the legislature to criminalize posting social media content and to allow the government to spy on its citizens.
Meanwhile, Dilma's approval rating has stagnated in the single digits, and many are calling for her impeachment, including Eduardo Cunha, Brazil's equivalent of the Speaker of the House. Cunha is under investigation himself for corruption and accused of laundering millions of dollars in a scandal involving the Brazilian oil company Petrobras.
Evernote Kills Skitch, Only Mac App Remains | Crunch Report
Watch More EpisodesCunha, a former telco lobbyist, was one of the biggest opponents of Marco Civil (particularly its net neutrality clause) before the legislation made its way to Dilma's desk and into law.
But a year later, he controls a Congress dominated by evangelical extremists and military dictatorship apologists, and is authoring or advocating on behalf of a slate of proposed laws that would not only dismantle Marco Civil's provisions for consumer privacy and freedom of expression, but would also effectively criminalize the use of social media.
PL 215/15, which opponents are nicknaming the Big Spy (''O Espi£o''), is a surveillance law that would require Brazilians to enter theirtax ID, home address and phone number to access any website or app on the internet, and require companies like Facebook and Google to store that information for up to three years and provide access to police with a court order. An earlier draft said ''competent authorities'' could request the data without a court order.
Another part of the law, authored by Cunha, would allow politicians to censor social media practically at will.
It's a twist on the European Union's ''right to be forgotten'' legislation, which establishes a process for private citizens (but not public figures) to request some forms of sensitive content from their past to be de-indexed from search results (but not removed from the web).
The version Cunha authored would allow Brazilian politicians to not just request content they found defamatory, injurious, or simply out of date to be de-indexed, but actually order it to be taken down from the web (and with a court order, police could have the home address and tax ID of the person who published it on, say, Facebook).
Congress' lower house approved PEC 215 in October. Now it goes to a Congressional vote before it would move on to the Senate, and ultimately Dilma's vote.
WhatsApp is trending on Twitter in Brazil
''This is a very good example of how Congress thinks about the internet,'' says Ronaldo Lemos, one of the instigators of Marco Civil, and current director of the Internet Technology Society in Rio de Janeiro. ''All this effort and energy to criminalize the internet. Many politicians in Brazil feel that the internet is only used to say bad things about them. They hate the internet. It's a threat.''
Lemos says the proposed legislation is the biggest threat to freedom of expression Brazil has seen in decades.
For those unfamiliar with Brazilian politics, free speech is but one of a rainbow of civil rights under Cunha's attack.
This year alone he's also pushed forward legislation for a ''gay cure''; a law that allows 16 year-olds to be tried as adults in the criminal system; another one that bans the day-after pill and restricts rape victims' access to abortion; and one called PEC 215 '-- not to be confused with PL 215 '-- that removes Indigenous Brazilians' constitutional right to their land. And gives it to Congress.
It's also worth noting that Cunha is not the only one behind the anti-internet legislation, and that the aforementioned bills are not the only ones on the table '-- or even the worst.
Many politicians in Brazil feel that the internet is only used to say bad things about them. They hate the internet. It's a threat.
'-- Ronaldo Lemos, director of the Internet Technology SocietyAmong the other anti-internet bills that have been introduced within a year of Marco Civil's passing '-- all authored by members of Congress's evangelical bloc '-- is PL 1676, which may be voted on this week.
PL 1676 would make it a crime punishable by up to two years in jail for anyone to film, photograph or capture the voice of a person without their express authorization (making even selfies potentially criminal, if someone shows up in the background of the photo). The penalty jumps to up to six years if the footage is posted on the internet.
There's more: PL 1547 and PL 1589, addendums to PL 215, would increase the penalty for cases of libel, slander and defamation on the web.
PL 2390 would create a centralized database of Brazilian internet users as a means to prohibit children and adolescents from accessing inappropriate content, but could just as easily be used to keep Brazilian youth '-- the fastest-growing and most active segment of internet users '-- from accessing major social platforms like YouTube and Twitter.
What's at stake here is freedom of expression and the right to privacy in what may soon be the biggest social media market on the planet.
With less than half the number of Americans online, Brazil is already the #2 or #3 player behind the US on every major social platform globally '-- Facebook, Google, Twitter, you name it. And there are still another 100 million Brazilians who have not come online yet, including wide swaths of the youth, poor and rural demographics. It is entirely possible that in the next ten years Brazil will have the largest internet audience on the planet in terms of social media consumption, and that Millennial Brazilians will be the most socially active population on the planet.
What's at stake here is freedom of expression and the right to privacy in what may soon be the biggest social media market on the planet.
To get a sense of just how disruptive internet adoption is in Brazil '-- and how big of a threat it is to the established order '-- consider that millennials are the only Brazilians alive today who have never lived under a military dictatorship (Brazil had two of them over the 20th century, the last one ending in 1985).
And as they come online, they are increasingly using the social web as a tool to speak out and organize. They used Facebook Events to bring millions to the streets in Brazil's historic protests in 2013 ahead of the World Cup. Theycollaboratively drafted their own Marco Civil legislation, crowdsourcing 70% of the bill's final text online. Independent media collectives like Midia Ninja and Papo Reto are attracting global attention for reporting on issues like rampant police violence against poor black youth.
In this context, the proposed anti-internet legislation is a direct reaction to this emerging digital empowerment, and a multi-pronged attack on social media '-- restricting access for Brazil's poor and youth demographics to access the internet, criminalizing the posting of practically all video, photo and audio content, and censoring voices out of favor with the current government.
Industry experts agree that at least some combination of these proposed laws is likely to pass Congress. Eventually, however, the bills will stop at President Dilma's desk.
Dilma pushed for Marco Civil last year, and her party has historically imposed these kinds of restrictions '-- although with the impending impeachment battle, Dilma's days may be numbered. Politicians aside, we can look forward to seeing how Brazil's digital generation decides to rally in support of the open web.
Telegram gains 1 million users in a day following WhatsApp ban in Brazil | VentureBeat | Social | by Ken Yeung
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 04:04
WhatsApp has been blocked for 48 hours in Brazil following a court order by a judge in the country. It has been alleged that the messaging service has been providing ''pirate'' services, undermining the role of the country's telecommunications companies, and should be regulated. The so-called blockade goes into effect at midnight tonight.
As a result of this temporary ban, Telegram has said that already today it has gained more than 1 million new users from Brazil, and that number will likely increase as the temporary ban against WhatsApp continues.
Today's order is the result of a ruling during a criminal proceeding in Brazil's Sao Paulo State Justice Tribunal in Sao Bernardo do Campo, reported Reuters. The judge declared that WhatsApp failed to comply with a judicial order from July 23 and therefore ordered the temporary shutdown.
From VentureBeatFor the past few months, Brazil's telecom operators had been working on ways to prove to the government that the Facebook-owned messaging service wasn't playing fair. In August, Reuters reported that the largest telecom operators in the country were working on a report that would highlight the economic and legal arguments for why WhatsApp shouldn't be operating in Brazil.
This isn't the first time that WhatsApp has been suspended. Earlier this year, a judge temporarily blocked the service because it allegedly failed to assist in an investigation.
Update: A Facebook spokesperson referred us to a Facebook post from WhatsApp chief executive Jan Koum:
WhatsApp Messenger is a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. WhatsApp Messenger is available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Nokia and yes, those phones can all me... read more >>
Telegram is the world's fastest and most secure messaging app '' similar to IM apps like WhatsApp, but better in every detail.... read more >>
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Elections 2016
Sanders vs. Party: Why Voter Data Can Be So Important -
Sat, 19 Dec 2015 12:39
The feud between Bernie Sanders and Democratic leaders this week was set off by a breach of computer records most voters never think about, the party's voter file.
Until a deal was struck late Friday, the Sanders campaign, which briefly gained access to proprietary information from Hillary Clinton's campaign, had been told it would be locked out of the file by the Democratic National Committee as a punishment.
The stakes were not insignificant; the voter file is at the heart of modern campaigning. The data that the Sanders team was said to have gained access to, and the data that it was briefly not able to see, are all important.
The file starts with a state's official voter registration data: all the information provided by voters when they registered to vote, like their name, address, sex, age, party affiliation and '-- in a few states '-- race. Election administrators also record whether you cast a ballot (but not whom you voted for), and this information is attached as well. You might think this is private, but it's not. All of this is usually publicly available '-- sometimes for free online, usually at cost.
The parties, campaigns and a handful of nonpartisan voter-file vendors obtain this data and then enrich it. They remove people who have moved or died, using change of address notifications or Social Security data, and add information like telephone numbers, personal consumer information, campaign contributions, or publicly available information on election results or an area's demographics. They even add people who are not registered to vote.
Campaigns, parties and other firms use this information to build statistical models that estimate other characteristics. For instance, they can use your name and where you live to estimate your race with solid accuracy. They can incorporate survey research to build more specific models, such as the likelihood that you're a Democrat, that you'll support a certain candidate or whether you're likely to be persuadable.
The campaigns use this information for just about everything. They use it for targeting '-- to know who needs to be mobilized to turn out, or to make guesses about what kind of message might be most convincing to a voter who seems likely to be on the fence. They even use it for polling.
The Democratic Party has invested millions in its voter file, and it makes it available to campaigns through an online interface built and maintained by NGP VAN, a private company that helps progressive campaigns. The interface allows campaigns to upload their own information on voters they have contacted. It also allows organizers all the way down at the local level to download lists of voters and contact them based on their characteristics, including the modeled data on their likelihood to support a given candidate.
In a primary, the information gathered by the campaigns becomes more important than a lot of the information in the voter file '-- and that's why a breach by another campaign could be so important. The factors that usually predict whether individuals will vote for a Democrat or a Republican '-- like whether they're registered in a party, whether they live in a heavily Democratic precinct or whether they've voted in a past Democratic primary '-- are far less powerful. It's the data gathered by the campaigns, not the often-hyped consumer information (like what magazines a person might buy), that does the most work in campaign models.
In this context, the proprietary data held by the campaigns is a big potential advantage. The Clinton campaign, for instance, knows a lot about her supporters from the 2008 and 2016 cycles '-- the people who contributed to her, who volunteered, who attended her events, who signed up for her emails in two races. This information is far more useful than any statistical model, and it helps her campaign build stronger models, for good measure.
The Clinton campaign has also invested millions in survey research; it does not seem the Sanders campaign has done so. Survey data is the fuel for strong modeled estimates: Without it, you're less likely to know the voter characteristics that tend to predict who will support a given candidate.
If the Sanders campaign was able to save the information necessary to know whom the Clinton team considered its strongest supporters, it would have been quite helpful: His campaign could then stay away from the voters who have supported Mrs. Clinton, and it would give the campaign an even better idea of its supporters.
This is what Sanders campaign officials attempted to do, and, according to Bloomberg News, they succeeded. Bloomberg reported that Sanders officials searched for and saved lists of voters who were modeled by the Clinton campaign to be among its likeliest supporters. For instance, they searched and saved a list titled ''HFA Support 50-100,'' which would include anyone deemed by the Clinton campaign to have a greater than 50 percent chance of supporting Mrs. Clinton. These support scores are informed by the powerful and proprietary data '-- on Clinton volunteers, past supporters, the Clinton campaign's polling '-- that the Sanders campaign would not have otherwise been able to gain access to.
But it is not clear whether the Sanders campaign was able to retain this information. In a statement, NGP VAN said that unauthorized users were not able to export, save or act on unauthorized information. Instead, the Sanders campaign saved a one-page summary, according to the company. As I interpret it, the Sanders campaign was not able to save the valuable individual-level records that could have significantly improved its targeting efforts.
And for a few days, until a deal was reached, the Sanders campaign didn't even have access to the basics.
Democrats and Bernie Sanders Clash Over Data Breach - First Draft. Political News, Now. - The New York Times
Sat, 19 Dec 2015 12:39
2:22 am ET2:22 am ETBy Maggie Haberman and Nick Corasaniti2:22 am ET2:22 am ETMaggie HabermanandNick CorasanitiPhotoSenator Bernie Sanders at a mosque in Washington on Wednesday, where he participated in an interfaith round-table meeting.Credit Alex Wong/Getty ImagesUpdated, 12:50 a.m. | A fight between the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders and the Democratic leadership went public on Friday as the party punished the campaign over a data breach and the Sanders camp sued the party and accused it of actively trying to help Hillary Clinton.
The dispute came after members of Mr. Sanders's data team were found to have gotten access to, searched and stored proprietary information from Mrs. Clinton's team during a software glitch with an important voter database. The Democratic National Committee acted swiftly to deny the Sanders campaign future access to the party's 50-state voter file, which contains information about millions of Democrats and is invaluable to campaigns on a daily basis.
Late Friday night, the national committee and the Sanders campaign said they had come to an agreement to restore the campaign's access to the voter file by Saturday morning. The D.N.C., however, will continue to investigate the breach, according to a statement from the chairwoman, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida.
The committee wants to ''ensure that the data that was inappropriately accessed has been deleted and is no longer in possession of the Sanders campaign,'' the statement said. ''The Sanders campaign has agreed to fully cooperate with the continuing D.N.C. investigation of this breach.''
The Sanders campaign said it was pleased that the committee had reversed what it called an ''outrageous decision.''
''Now what we need to restore confidence in the D.N.C.'s ability to secure data is an independent audit that encompasses the D.N.C.'s record this entire campaign,'' according to a statement from Jeff Weaver, Mr. Sanders's campaign manager. ''Transparency at the D.N.C. is essential. We trust they have nothing to hide.''
Earlier in the day, Mr. Weaver accused the party committee of stacking the scales to help Mrs. Clinton, claiming that the Sanders campaign was being unfairly penalized for the data breach. At a news conference, Mr. Weaver insisted that the campaign had dealt with the situation by firing its national data director. Later Friday, the campaign filed a federal lawsuit seeking, among other things, to have its access to the file restored.
The Democratic committee is ''actively'' working to ''undermine'' the Sanders campaign, Mr. Weaver said, reflecting its longstanding frustration that the party apparatus, which is supposed to be neutral, is lining up behind Mrs. Clinton.
VideoSanders's Campaign Discusses Data BreachJeff Weaver, the campaign manager for Senator Bernie Sanders's Democratic presidential bid, accused the Democratic National Committee on Friday of inappropriately denying it access to its own voter data.
By NICK CORASANITI and REUTERS on Publish Date December 18, 2015.Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.Beyond the question of whether the punishment fit the act, the flare-up came as the committee has already been accused of staging the party's debates at times of low television viewership '-- like the one being held Saturday night '-- to diminish the chances that Mrs. Clinton's two rivals, Mr. Sanders and Martin O'Malley, will be able to raise their profiles.
While Mr. Sanders's aides sought to show themselves as insurgents being unfairly penalized by the establishment, Mrs. Clinton's team and its allies used the issue Friday to try to puncture Mr. Sanders's reputation as a different kind of politician.
''Think if one company accessed and stole another's customer data. This is no small thing,'' wrote a supporter of Mrs. Clinton, the former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, on Twitter. Mr. Sanders's camp ''should be careful playing the victim.''
Ms. Wasserman Schultz said it was indisputable that the Sanders campaign had gained access to information that it knew it was not entitled to. If the situation were reversed, she told CNN, the Sanders campaign would expect the same type of discipline of the Clinton campaign.
''The Sanders campaign doesn't have anything other than bluster at the moment that they can put out there,'' she said. ''It's like if you found the front door of a house unlocked and someone decided to go into the house and take things that didn't belong to them.''
At issue is a database of voter information, with millions of records, that the party makes available to campaigns for a fee, and is ''heart and soul'' of modern presidential campaigns, as the Sanders campaign put it. State parties feed the list with information including names, addresses, ethnicity if available, and voting history. Usually, public election records show which elections a person has voted in, though who they voted for is secret.
The Democratic Party then adds data from commercially available lists that track such information as television habits and magazine subscriptions. They match voter names to donor lists created by both political and nonpolitical organizations.
Each campaign then inputs data gathered by its own staff, gleaned from door knocks, phone calls, emails and other sources. With the data, they can assign each voter their own ''score'' signifying how likely they are to vote for a candidate. The scores inform everything from decisions about whose doors to knock on to which voters might donate.
It is this use of the massive combination of data that drives modern campaigns, mastered by the Obama operations in 2008 and 2012, which had a team of more than 50 people poring over the information to best target their fund-raising, persuasion and voter turnout efforts.
The breach occurred Wednesday when the firm that handles the list, NGP VAN, was making a tweak to its system and inadvertently dropped the firewall between the campaigns for approximately four hours, according to the court filing by the Sanders campaign. That meant that the campaigns could see each other's information. But only the Sanders campaign gained access to data that was proprietary.
PhotoHillary Clinton speaking during a town hall meeting on Wednesday in Mason City, Iowa.Credit Charlie Neibergall/Associated PressAccording to two people briefed on the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a continuing review, four different user names associated with the Sanders campaign conducted 25 separate searches of the Clinton data. Audit trails of the logs show that people with the Sanders campaign searched and saved multiple files, creating new lists of their own.
On a conference call with reporters, Robby Mook, Mrs. Clinton's campaign manager, said that the Sanders team was intentionally playing down what had happened, suggesting it ''may have been a violation of the law.'' He was upset that the Sanders campaign was sending out fund-raising appeals accusing the party of unfair treatment.
''Our data was stolen,'' Mr. Mook said. ''This was not an inadvertent glimpse into our data. This was not, as the Sanders campaign described it, a mistake.'' Stu Trevelyan, the chief executive of NGP VAN, said that by Friday morning he was confident that no other campaigns have had ''access to or have retained any voter file data of any other clients.''
In its lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Washington, the Sanders campaign argued that the party had no right to terminate the licensing agreement that allowed the campaign access to the voter file. The campaign estimated that the loss of access would cost it $600,000 a day in contributions, a serious blow because it has ''been financed primarily with contributions from individual donors rather than Political Action Committees.''
''However, the damage to the campaign's political viability, as a result of being unable to communicate with constituents and voters, is far more severe, and incapable of measurement,'' the suit said.
One show of support for Mr. Sanders's case came from David Axelrod, a senior adviser for President Obama's campaigns. He called the penalty ''harsh,'' saying on Twitter that, without evidence that the campaign hierarchy knew about data poaching, it appeared that the ''DNC is putting finger on scale.''
Josh Uretsky, the fired national data director from the Sanders campaign, also called the punishment ''an overreaction'' and insisted that he had merely been trying to verify the data breach, adding: ''We did so in a way that we know would create a record that the D.N.C. and NGP VAN would have access to. We deliberately did not download or take custodianship of the records.'' Mr. Uretsky and Mr. Sanders's aides did not address why multiple users from the campaign searched the Clinton data.
Mr. Uretsky acknowledged that Clinton data was being looked at, but said his intent was to see whether the Sanders campaign's data might also be vulnerable.
An earlier version of this article misstated the amount in donations the Sanders campaign contended it would lose if it had no access to the voter list. The amount was $600,000 a day, not $600,000 in total.
What everyone's getting wrong about the president's No. 1 job | PBS NewsHour
Sat, 19 Dec 2015 16:38
President Barack Obama often says that protecting the American people is his first responsibility, though his oath of office says otherwise. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
What is the president's primary responsibility?
The American people voted. You took the oath, danced at the balls, and you're now sitting in the Oval Office. Quick: what is your No. 1 job? Is it to command the United States military? Appoint judges and cabinet members? Pardon a turkey?
At the Republican debate on Tuesday night, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie trotted out a familiar answer to this question. ''The first and most important priority of the president of the United States is to protect the safety and security of Americans,'' Christie said.
That's a line that will likely be repeated often between now and January 20, 2017, when President Barack Obama's successor is sworn into office. But on that day, the next president-elect will stand before the American people and say something categorically different about the new job:
''I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.''
Despite the oath and its focus on the constitution, presidents '-- and presidential candidates '-- often redefine the job description to suit their own interests.
READ NEXT: Could Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric influence politics well beyond 2016?
At the 2004 Republican National Convention, former President George W. Bush said, ''I believe the most solemn duty of the American president is to protect the American people.''
Obama adopted Bush's interpretation, and has used similar language in policy documents, like the administration's 2011 National Strategy for Counterterrorism, and major speeches.
''The supreme responsibility of the president is to protect our system of government, not the safety of individuals or even their physical security.''
The president, a former constitutional law professor, repeated the claim last week in his Oval Office address on terrorism and the Islamic State. ''As commander in chief, I have no greater responsibility than the security of the American people,'' Obama said.
That's a misinterpretation of the job's number one responsibility, according to Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists.
''The supreme responsibility of the president is to protect our system of government, not the safety of individuals or even their physical security,'' Aftergood said.
Constitutional law experts agree, but argue that the oath of office provides some wiggle room.
''If you look at the oath, it dictates the president's constitutional obligations, but they end up being undefined,'' said Michael Gerhardt, the scholar in residence at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The constitution does give presidents ''some discretion to say, 'Here's what I think my job will be.'''
This debate isn't new, of course, and it stems in part from the vagueness of the catch-all term ''security.'' Presidents take on numerous issues that are connected to keeping the public safe, but that aren't directly tied to matters of war and peace.
John F. Kennedy helped lay the groundwork for consumer product safety regulations; Richard Nixon signed the bill that established the Occupational Hazard and Safety Administration, which enforces workplace safety standards.
Still, presidents have long prioritized national security and defense over other responsibilities, especially during times of strife.
''Much of the history of constitutional law as it relates to the president [revolves around the issue of] whether they can write their own job description,'' said Gerhardt, who teaches constitutional law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Presidents throughout history, including Abraham Lincoln, have found ways to redefine their job description.
In 1861, Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus after declaring a state of martial law, arguing that the unprecedented measure was necessary to help the Union Army win the Civil War. The suspension was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court's chief justice, Roger Taney, but Lincoln ignored the ruling.
Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an order creating a system of Japanese internment camps in 1942, and the order was upheld twice by the Supreme Court during World War II.
Donald Trump, who has made national security one of the top issues in his presidential campaign, cited FDR's internment camp policy in defending his call to ban Muslims from entering the country.
The proposal was condemned by party leaders and Muslim Americans, but it has resonated with many conservative primary voters in an election that is more focused on concerns about terrorism than perhaps any presidential contest since the 2001 attacks.
And as fears over terrorism have grown since 9/11, the political rhetoric has followed suit, helping to solidify the notion that the president's first responsibility is protecting Americans.
''There has been an increase in rhetoric and policy orientation'' toward national security in the post-9/11 era, and it's become more noticeable on the campaign trail, Gerhardt said.
Aftergood argued that the shift has allowed presidents and White House contenders to promote ideas, in the name of securing the country, that violate basic individual rights.
''Sometimes safety can be enhanced at the expense of constitutional values,'' Aftergood said. ''It's important to be clear about what the president's priority is: [protecting the constitution], or physical safety. And too often that distinction has been blurred.''
Ministry of Truth
The NYT Just Disappeared A Devastating Obama Admission
Sat, 19 Dec 2015 12:43
"Obama indicated that he did not see enough cable television to fully appreciate the anxiety after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino."
A story published by the New York Times late Thursday night caused some major media waves. The story, which was written by reporters Peter Baker and Gardiner Harris, included a remarkable admission by Obama about his response to the recent terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.
By Friday morning, however, the entire passage containing Obama's admission had been erased from the story without any explanation from the New York Times. Here's the passage that was included in the story when it was published Thursday night, courtesy of CNN's Brian Stelter:
In his meeting with the columnists, Mr. Obama indicated that he did not see enough cable television to fully appreciate the anxiety after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, and made clear that he plans to step up his public arguments. Republicans were telling Americans that he is not doing anything when he is doing a lot, he said.
The version of the New York Times story that was published early Thursday evening indicated that Obama knew he was out of touch with the country on terrorism, and he thought that was due to not watching enough television. Obama critics immediately pounced on the stunning admission from the president, expressing shock that he would claim that a lack of TV time was the real reason for him not understanding Americans' anxiety about terrorism.
As of Friday morning, however, the passage containing Obama's admission was gone., a web site which captures changes made to online news stories, indicates that the major revision to the NYT story happened late on Thursday night, several hours after the story was published (text with a red background and strike-through is text that was eliminated from the story; text with a green background is text that was added to the story since its last revision):
The unexplained deletion of that major passage wasn't the only significant change made to the story since it was first published. New York Times editors also changed the story's headline four separate times, according to Each headline revision either put Obama in a better light or put the GOP in a worse one.
The original headline when the story was first published was ''Obama Visiting National Counterterrorism Center.'' Less than two hours later, the headline was ''Obama, at Counterterrorism Center, Offers Assurances On Safety.'' Then the headline was changed to ''Frustrated by Republican Critics, Obama Defends Muted Response to Attacks.'' Two hours later, the headline was once again revised to ''Under Fire From G.O.P., Obama Defends Response to Terror Attacks.'' The most recent headline revision, which accompanied the deletion of the passage where Obama admitted he didn't understand the American public's anxiety about terrorism, now reads, ''Assailed by G.O.P., Obama Defends His Response To Terror Attacks.''
Baker and Gardiner, the two reporters who authored the NYT story, have yet to explain why Obama's admission about being out of touch with the public on terrorism was deleted from their story.
UPDATE #1: The New York Times claimed in a statement late Friday morning that its deletion of the Obama passage was not ''unusual'' and that it was merely ''trimmed for space in the print paper'':
The problem with this explanation is that it doesn't make any sense when you review the first major online revision, which archived at 10:21 p.m. EST. In that version, only one substantive revision was made: the paragraph about Obama not watching enough cable TV was removed and replaced with two paragraphs about Obama's plan to combat ISIS.
The section that was removed contained 66 words. The section that was added in its place contained 116 words. If the New York Times was indeed ''trimming for space'' in that particular revision, it will need to explain why its revision to that section added 50 words.
UPDATE #2: Thanks to this CNN story on Obama's remarks before an audience of progressive writers, we now know why the NYT deceptively memory-holed Obama's admission that he was ignorant of Americans' terrorism anxiety, and why the NYT refused to divulge the real reason behind its stealth edits: Obama didn't want that remark attributed to him.
Here's how CNN described the meeting and its ground rules:
The meeting, which took place in the White House Roosevelt Room, included journalists, columnists and editors from the Times, The Washington Post and The Atlantic, as well as digital outlets like Yahoo, Slate, Vox and Mic. Per the ground rules, attendees were not allowed to discuss the meeting or attribute any remarks to the president (emphasis added).
Yet the purpose of these off-the-record meetings, which have been a feature of Obama's tenure, is to influence the national dialogue. The White House achieved that goal on Wednesday when the Post's David Ignatius, who was at the meeting, penned a column based almost entirely on Obama's remarks without any mention of the meeting.
In addition to detailing Obama's thoughts on his ISIS strategy, Ignatius' column alluded to the president's remark about cable news: ''Obama seems to have realized that he was slow to respond to public fear after the jihadist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.,'' Ignatius wrote. ''His low-decibel approach led the public to worry he wasn't doing enough to keep the country safe. Obama, not a cable television fan, apparently didn't realize the state of anxiety.''
The NYT excuse that it had to erase the mention of Obama's remarks due to space constraints''even though its initial revision and deletion of those remarks actually added 50 words to the story''now looks even more absurd. It's completely obvious what happened. The White House wanted all these reporters and writers to act as stenographers of the president's spin, just so long as they pretended the spin never came from him.
In his column on the meeting, the Washington Posts's David Ignatius did exactly what Obama wanted him to do: regurgitate Obama's spin and blame cable news for stirring up anxiety about terrorism. Obama's remark was meant to accomplish two things: 1) to place him above the fray''he has far more important things to do than just sit around and watch silly cable news programs all day, and 2) to subtly place blame on cable news (guess which network he had in mind) for ginning up fears''unfounded in Obama's mind''of future terrorist attacks.
The Obama team's spin cycle would've continued without a hitch, if not for that messy little New York Times article which not only attributed the remarks to Obama, but reported them in a way that made Obama look obscenely aloof and out of touch with the concerns of most Americans.
The solution? Easy: just demand that the NYT eliminate the remarks entirely. Problem solved, except for one thing. The Internet never forgets.
Sean Davis is the co-founder of The Federalist.
House Passes Bipartisan Bill To Combat Terrorists' Use of Social Media - Breitbart
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 06:43
It is the latest move by lawmakers to respond to public anxiety prompted by the Dec. 2 massacre in San Bernardino, California, which federal investigators believe could have been fueled by Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) propaganda disseminated on social media.
On Sept. 30, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) introduced the Combat Terrorist Use of Social Media Act ( H.R. 3654), co-sponsored by 12 Democrats and seven Republicans. Under the bipartisan measure, President Obama is required to forge an administration-wide strategy to combat terrorists online and to inform Congress about social media-related training it provides to federal law-enforcement officials.
The legislation was approved by a verbal vote at around 11 a.m. on Wednesday. Under a voice vote, the yeas and nays are not recorded. House passage cleared the way for the legislation to move to the Senate for consideration.
''Today, terrorists use social media to recruit, fundraise, spread propaganda and teach future fighters,'' Rep. Poe said in a statement. ''Online we've seen recipes for bombs, instruction manuals for attacks, a Q&A forum for terrorists and even a live stream of an attack. Potential terrorists don't have to go to Syria or Iraq to train anymore. All they have to do is log-on.''
''My legislation, H.R. 3654, the Combat Terrorist Use of Social Media Act of 2015, will help change this by requiring the President come up with a comprehensive strategy to combat terrorists online '' something that the Administration promised in 2011,'' he added. ''Unfortunately, today there is no strategy and consequently, we've seen individual agencies making unilateral decisions and not coordinating with one another'... We must first have a strategy before we can effectively defeat this enemy on every battlefield, including the cyber battlefield. H.R. 3654 requires just that.''
Edward Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, praised the House for passing Poe's legislation, describing the voice vote as bipartisan.
''Terrorists are exploiting social media to recruit supporters, radicalize, raise money and spread fear,'' said Chairman Royce, in a statement. ''Yet, U.S. government efforts have not adapted to counter this 'virtual caliphate.'''
''As we learned from the San Bernardino terrorist attack, ignoring the online statements of terrorists only puts Americans at risk,'' he added. ''We must stop terrorists from hijacking social networks for their twisted purposes. This bipartisan legislation will require the Obama administration to get serious about this threat, and lay out a comprehensive strategy to keep America safe.''
Counterterrorism officials have been focusing on the use of social media sites in the wake of the shooting rampage in San Bernardino that left 14 people dead and 21 others wounded. The terrorist attack was carried out by Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik. Both of them were killed by police in a shootout after the terrorist attack.
Malik, a Pakistan national, spent time in Saudi Arabia before moving to the United States in 2014 on a K-1 visa, granted to people engaged to American citizens.
On the day of the shooting, she allegedly pledged allegiance to ISIS in a Facebook post registered to an alias. Although it is believed she used a pseudonym, the Facebook account was reportedly linked to her personal email address.
Malik also spoke about violent jihad and martyrdom on social media prior to entering the United States, according to various news reports.
John Cohen, former acting under-secretary at Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for intelligence and analysis, told ABC News that a ''secret'' policy, implemented at least through the fall of 2014, prohibited U.S. immigration officials from analyzing social media activity as part of the visa application screening process.
It is unclear whether immigration officials would have been able to flag Malik's jihadist intentions absent the ''secret'' policy given that she used an alias online, ABC News learned from unnamed officials.
Obama's DHS plans to increase scrutiny of social media posts as part of the visa application process, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.
''Currently, DHS looks at postings by visa applicants only intermittently, as part of three pilot programs that began in earnest earlier this year,'' notes the article. ''It is unclear how quickly a new process could be implemented, and other details couldn't be learned.''
Unnamed officials told ABC News that the three pilot programs, which were reportedly implemented in the fall of 2014, are still not part of ''a widespread policy.''
''Ms. Malik entered the U.S. before the pilot programs began, and it is unclear whether they would have stopped her,'' notes WSJ.
The State Department, which is also involved in processing visa applications, is reportedly looking into how it might beef up scrutiny of social media posts by applicants seeking to enter the United States going forward.
Text of H.R. 3654: Combat Terrorist Use of Social Media Act of 2015 (Passed the House (Engrossed) version) -
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 06:41
1st Session
H. R. 3654
To require a report on United States strategy to combat terrorist use of social media, and for other purposes.
1.This Act may be cited as the Combat Terrorist Use of Social Media Act of 2015.
2.(a)Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall transmit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on United States strategy to combat terrorists' and terrorist organizations' use of social media.
(b)The report required by subsection (a) shall include the following:
(1)An evaluation of what role social media plays in radicalization in the United States and elsewhere.
(2)An analysis of how terrorists and terrorist organizations are using social media, including trends.
(3)A summary of the Federal Government's efforts to disrupt and counter the use of social media by terrorists and terrorist organizations, an evaluation of the success of such efforts, and recommendations for improvement.
(4)An analysis of how social media is being used for counter-radicalization and counter-propaganda purposes, irrespective of whether or not such efforts are made by the Federal Government.
(5)An assessment of the value of social media posts by terrorists and terrorist organizations to law enforcement.
(6)An overview of social media training available to law enforcement and intelligence personnel that enables such personnel to understand and combat the use of social media by terrorists and terrorist organizations, as well as recommendations for improving or expanding existing training opportunities.
(c)The report required by subsection (a) should be submitted in unclassified form, and may include a classified annex in accordance with the protection of intelligence sources and methods.
3.(a)Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall transmit to the appropriate congressional committees a report that contains a comprehensive strategy to counter terrorists' and terrorist organizations' use of social media, as committed to in the President's 2011 Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States.
(b)The report required by subsection (a) should be submitted in unclassified form, and may include a classified annex in accordance with the protection of intelligence sources and methods.
4.In this Act, the term appropriate congressional committees means the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on the Armed Services, the Committee on Homeland Security, the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations, the Committee on Armed Services, the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Select Committee on Intelligence of the Senate.
Passed the House of Representatives December 16, 2015.
Karen L. Haas,
ISIS stole sarin gas from Libya stores & has already used it, Gaddafi's cousin tells RT '-- RT News
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 14:04
Islamic State militants have managed to steal chemical weapons from underground storage facilities in Libya that were not properly guarded and the gas has already been used, a cousin of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi told RT Arabic in an exclusive interview.
''ISIS has managed to find some of the secret underground storage facilities, still holding chemical weapons, hidden in the desert. Unfortunately, they weren't properly guarded,'' said Ahmed Gaddafi Al-Dam, a cousin of Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader who was killed in 2011.
READ MORE: 'Europe will face a 9/11 within two years' '' Colonel Gaddafi's cousin
Al-Dam, the stolen gas was then trafficked to the northern part of the country and sold.
''There are two known cases of this chemical agent being stolen. I know this from my sources in Tripoli. In the first case, seven drums of sarin were stolen, and in the second, I think it was five.''
And the destructive chemicals have already been used, said Ahmed Gaddafi Al-Dam, who formerly was one of Gaddafi's most trusted security chiefs. He recalled that during the recent clashes near the Al-Quds Mosque in Tripoli, security forces discovered a vehicle loaded with sarin.
''Unfortunately, those who had driven this vehicle into the city didn't understand the dangers of this nerve agent, and how risky it was to bring it into an urban area, let alone ever use it. I don't want to spread panic, but that's the reality. And the world knows this very well,'' he said.
Islamic State (IS, previously ISIS/ISIL) has already used chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria, according to numerous reports.
Earlier this month, Eren Erdem, a member of Turkey's main opposition party, the Republican People's Party (CHP), told RT that IS terrorists in Syria had received all the necessary materials to produce deadly sarin gas via Turkey.
Neocons Object to Syrian Democracy
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 07:55
Exclusive: President Obama has infuriated Official Washington's neocons by accepting the Russian stance that the Syrian people should select their own future leaders through free elections, rather than the neocon insistence on a foreign-imposed ''regime change,'' reports Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
The Washington Post's editorial board is livid that President Barack Obama appears to have accepted the Russian position that the Syrian people should decide for themselves who their future leaders should be '' when the Post seems to prefer that the choice be made by neoconservative think tanks in Washington or other outsiders.
So, in a furious editorial on Friday, the Post castigated Secretary of State John Kerry for saying '' after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow '' that the Obama administration and Russia see the political solution to Syria ''in fundamentally the same way,'' meaning that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could stand for election in the future.
Russian President Vladimir Putin greets Secretary of State John Kerry before meetings at the Kremlin on Dec. 15, 2015. (State Department photo)
The Post wrote: ''Unfortunately, that increasingly appears to be the case '-- and not because Mr. Putin has altered his position. For four years, President Obama demanded the departure of Mr. Assad, who has killed hundreds of thousands of his own people with chemical weapons, 'barrel bombs,' torture and other hideous acts. Yet in its zeal to come to terms with Mr. Putin, the Obama administration has been slowly retreating from that position.''
The Russian position, which Obama finally seems to be accepting, is that the Syrian people should be allowed to choose their own leaders through fair, internationally organized elections, rather than have outside powers dictate who can and who can't compete in a democratic process. Obama's previous stance was that Assad must be prevented from running in an election.
But that meant the Syrian bloodshed and resulting chaos '' now spreading across Europe and into the U.S. political process '' would continue indefinitely as the United States took the curious position of opposing democracy in favor of an insistence that ''Assad must go,'' a demand favored by U.S. neocons and liberal interventionists, Israel and regional Sunni ''allies,'' such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.
To the chagrin of the Post's editors, Obama finally ceded to the more democratically defensible position that the Syrian people should pick their own leaders. After all, if Obama is right about how much the Syrian people hate Assad, elections would empower them to implement their own ''regime change'' through the ballot box. But that uncertain outcome is not what the Post's editors want. They want a predetermined result '-- Assad's ouster '-- regardless of the Syrian people's wishes.
And regarding the editorial, you also should note the reference to Assad killing ''his own people with chemical weapons,'' an apparent allusion to the now-discredited '' but still widely accepted (inside Official Washington at least) '' claim that Assad was behind a lethal sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013.
To this day, the U.S. government (or, for that matter, the Washington Post) has not presented any verifiable evidence to support the Assad-did-it allegation, but it nevertheless has become an Everyone-Knows-It-To-Be-True ''group think'' based on endless repetition, much as Official Washington concluded that Iraq's Saddam Hussein had WMD stockpiles, based on the fact that it was stated as flat fact by lots of Important People, including the Post's editorial writers.
Official Washington's epistemology seems to be that if enough Important People say something is true, then it becomes true '' regardless of where the actual evidence leads. [See's ''The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case.'']
Hypocritical Outrage
Other parts of the Post's attacks are equally dubious in that the Post's editors '-- who were all-in for the ''shock and awe'' bombing of Iraq and wouldn't think of sharing blame for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed as a result of President George W. Bush's Washington Post-endorsed invasion '-- are now outraged over Syria's homemade ''barrel bombs'' and blame Assad for all the deaths, even though many of the dead were Syrian soldiers killed by Islamic jihadists, armed and financed by U.S. ''allies,'' Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and others.
And, by the way, some torture blamed on Syria was carried out in coordination with the Bush administration's ''extraordinary rendition'' program as part of the ''global war on terror.'' For instance, Canadian citizen Maher Arar, who was seized by the U.S. government at New York's Kennedy International Airport in September 2002 while on his way home to Canada, was shipped to Syria as a suspected Al Qaeda member. Arar was tortured in Syria before being cleared of suspicions by both Syria and Canada, according to a later Canadian investigation.
But, hey, you don't expect The Washington Post's neocon editors to give you any honest context, do you?
The more immediate issue is the Post's fury over the prospect that the Syrian people would be allowed to vote on Assad's future rather than have it dictated by neocon think tanks, Islamic jihadist rebels and their Turkish-Saudi-Qatari-Israeli-CIA backers.
The Post's editors wrote, ''On Tuesday in Moscow, Mr. Kerry took another big step backward: 'The United States and our partners are not seeking so-called regime change,' he said. He added that a demand by a broad opposition front that Mr. Assad step down immediately was a 'non-starting position' '-- because the United States already agreed that Mr. Assad could stay at least for the first few months of a 'transition process.'''
Kerry ''now agrees with Mr. Putin that the country's future leadership must be left to Syrians to work out,'' the Post's outraged editors wrote. Yes, you read that correctly.
Though the Post predicted on Friday morning that the notion of the Syrian people being allowed to decide their future leaders was ''a likely recipe for an impasse,'' later on Friday the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously in favor of a roadmap for a cease-fire in Syria, negotiations on a transitional government and elections within 18 months after the start of talks.
The agreement makes no reference as to whether Assad can or cannot run in the new U.N.-organized elections, meaning apparently that he will be able to participate '' surely to the additional dismay of the Post's editors.
Many Obstacles
Obviously, the U.N. plan faces many obstacles, especially the continued insistence on ''regime change'' from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other Sunni-led regional governments, which disdain Assad who is an Alawite, an offshoot of Shia Islam. Further condemning Assad in their eyes, he seeks to maintain a secular government that protects Christians, Alawites, Shiites and other minorities.
The Saudis, Turks and Qataris have been among the leaders in supporting violent Sunni jihadists, including Ahrar al-Sham and Al Qaeda's Nusra Front, which operate under the Saudi umbrella called the Army of Conquest, which has received hundreds of sophisticated U.S.-made TOW missiles that have proved devastating in killing Syrian government troops. Israel also has provided some support to these jihadists operating along the Golan Heights.
While Turkey, a member of NATO, denies assisting terrorists, its intelligence services have been implicated in helping Nusra Front operatives carry out the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack outside Damascus, with the goal of pinning the blame on Assad and tricking Obama into ordering a devastating series of air strikes against Syrian government forces. [See's ''Was Turkey Behind Syria Sarin Attack?'']
Turkey also has allowed the hyper-brutal Islamic State to transit through nearly 100 kilometers of openings on the Syrian-Turkish border, including passage of vast truck convoys of Islamic State oil into Turkey for resale, a reality that Obama recently raised with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has long promised but failed to seal the border. [See's ''A Blind Eye Toward Turkey's Crimes.'']
At home, President Obama also faces political difficulties from Israel and from Official Washington's alliance of neoconservatives and liberal interventionists who have made Assad's ouster a cause c(C)l¨bre despite the disastrous experiences overthrowing other secular regimes in Iraq and Libya.
In the past, Obama has been highly sensitive to criticism from this group, including nasty comments on the Post's editorial page. But the Post's ire on Friday suggests that '' at least for the moment '' Obama is putting pragmatism (i.e., the need to stop the Syrian killing and the global insecurity that it is causing) ahead of neocon/liberal-hawk ideological desires.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America's Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (
Most smuggled ISIS oil goes to Turkey, sold at low prices '' Norwegian report '-- RT News
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 14:34
A newly-leaked report on illegal oil sales by Islamic State (IS, previously ISIS/ISIL), which was ordered to be compiled by Norway, has revealed that most of the IS-smuggled oil has been destined for Turkey, where it is sold off at bargain low prices.
Norwegian daily Klassekampen leaked details of the report, which was put together by Rystad Energy, an independent oil and gas consulting firm, at the request of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry.
''Large amounts of oil have been smuggled across the border to Turkey from IS-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq,'' Klassekampen cited the report as saying. ''[The] oil is sent by tankers via smuggling routes across the border [and] is sold at greatly reduced prices, from $25 to $45 a barrel.''
The crude is reportedly sold on the black market at greatly reduced prices, while the Brent benchmark is currently trading at $35-$50 per barrel.
READ MORE: Putin: ISIS financed from 40 countries, including G20 members
To compile the report, which is dated from July, Rystad Energy used its own database as well as sources in the region.
''Exports happen in a well-established black market via Turkey,'' the report concluded. ''Many of the smugglers and corrupt border guards, who helped Saddam Hussein avoid international sanctions, are now helping IS export oil and import cash.''
In the beginning of December, the Russian Defense Ministry released evidence which it said shows most of the illegal oil trade by IS going to Turkey.
Read more
Russia has earlier said it is aware of three main oil smuggling routes to Turkey, and Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov presented video evidence of operations, as well as detailed maps, at a briefing for journalists.
''Today, we are presenting only some of the facts that confirm that a whole team of bandits and Turkish elites stealing oil from their neighbors is operating in the region,'' Antonov said, adding that this oil ''in large quantities'' enters the territory of Turkey via ''live oil pipelines,'' consisting of thousands of oil trucks.
The data directly implicated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the oil trade with IS. ''According to our data, the top political leadership of the country '' President Erdogan and his family '' is involved in this criminal business.''
READ MORE: US unwilling to acknowledge Turkey-ISIS oil trade 'smacks of direct patronage' '' Russian top brass
Ankara has denied the allegations. Erdogan said that nobody had a right to ''slander'' Turkey by accusing it of buying oil from Islamic State. Erdogan even claimed that he will resign if such accusations were proven to be true. Moreover, the US has defended Turkey, denying any ties between Ankara and IS.
Last October, US Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said IS was earning $1 million a day from oil sales. ''According to our information, as of last month, ISIL was selling oil at substantially discounted prices to a variety of middlemen, including some from Turkey, who then transported the oil to be resold. It also appears that some of the oil emanating from territory where ISIL operates has been sold to Kurds in Iraq, and then resold into Turkey,'' he said.
According to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the middlemen in Turkey are not only entrepreneurs, but also Ankara officials. Turkey is protecting IS because of ''direct financial interest of some Turkish officials relating to the supply of oil products refined by plants controlled by ISIS.''
These revelations come as the UN Security Council has passed a resolution strengthening legal measures against those doing business with terrorist groups. It stems from a UNSC action taken in February against illegal trafficking of antiquities from Syria, which threatened sanctions on anyone buying oil from IS or the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front and urged that no ransoms be paid to terrorists.
READ MORE: UN Security Council unanimously adopts resolution targeting ISIS
War on Guns
Drug Overdose Deaths Hit 'Alarming' New Record in U.S., CDC Says - NBC News
Sat, 19 Dec 2015 16:33
Deaths from opioid drug overdoses have hit an all-time record in the U.S., rising 14 percent in just one year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday.
More than 47,000 people died from these drug overdoses last year, the CDC reported.
"These findings indicate that the opioid overdose epidemic is worsening," the CDC's Rose Rudd and colleagues wrote in their report.
"The increasing number of deaths from opioid overdose is alarming," said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.
"Since 2000, the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137 percent.""The opioid epidemic is devastating American families and communities. To curb these trends and save lives, we must help prevent addiction and provide support and treatment to those who suffer from opioid use disorders," he added.
"This report also shows how important it is that law enforcement intensify efforts to reduce the availability of heroin, illegal fentanyl, and other illegal opioids."
Related: Newborns Go Home With Addicted Moms and Die
The CDC is embroiled in a big fight over how to do this. It proposed new draft guidelines this month that include using every other possible approach to managing pain before giving someone an opioid such as fentanyl or oxycontin to control pain.
This wouldn't apply to terminally ill cancer patients and the proposed guidelines would be voluntary. But the pushback has been hard from patients, doctors and the drug industry, as well as groups such as the U.S. Pain Foundation and the American Academy of Pain Management.
"Those of us with chronic disabling illnesses such as lupus (which I have); RA (rheumatoid arthritis), Osteoarthritis (which I have); MS (multiple sclerosis) and all the others survive and function daily because we are able to manage our medications," one woman wrote in comments posted to the federal website.
"I am told to move and be active, but in order to be active many days, I need the additional help of my opioid medication that my dr. has prescribed. If my Dr. trusts my frequency of use through our appointments why are we considered criminals? If Aleve or Tylenol or aspirin were effective, we would not have had to have treatment with these drugs."
The CDC report sees one clear trend.
"The sharp increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids, other than methadone, in 2014 coincided with law enforcement reports of increased availability of illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid; however, illicitly manufactured fentanyl cannot be distinguished from prescription fentanyl in death certificate data," the report reads.
But deaths are on the rise from overdoses of all sorts of drugs, despite efforts to formulate them in ways that make the drugs
more difficult to abuse."The United States is experiencing an epidemic of drug overdose (poisoning) deaths," the CDC's report reads.
"Since 2000, the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137 percent, including a 200 percent increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids (opioid pain relievers and heroin)."
More people die from drug overdoses, CDC says, than in road accidents. Just under 33,000 people
died in traffic accidents last year.Last week a team at Stanford University reported that primary care physicians, not pain specialists, are by far the biggest prescribers of opioid drugs. They said sales of prescription opioids rose by 300 percent since 1999.
Fatal drug overdoses hit record high in US, government figures show | Society | The Guardian
Sat, 19 Dec 2015 07:38
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports drug overdoses in the US rose in 2014, driven by surges in deaths from heroin and powerful prescription painkillers. Photograph: SIMON RAWLEY / Alamy/Alamy
Deaths from drug overdoses have surged across the US to record levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nationwide, overdose deaths last year exceeded 47,000, more than the number of people killed in car accidents and up 7% from the previous year.
Related:Rapid rise of heroin use in US tied to prescription opioid abuse, CDC suggests
The CDC said 61% of the deaths involved some type of opioid pain relievers and heroin. The count also included deaths involving powerful sedatives, cocaine and other legal and illicit drugs.
CDC director Tom Frieden said the rise in overdoses related to opioid use, up 14% from 2014, was particularly concerning.
''The increasing number of deaths from opioid overdose is alarming,'' he said. ''The opioid epidemic is devastating American families and communities.''
Overdose deaths are up in both men and women, in non-Hispanic whites and blacks, and in adults of nearly all ages, the report said.
West Virginia, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio had the highest overdose death rates. In West Virginia, the overdose rate was 35.5 per 100,000; the national rate was about 15 per 100,000.
State rates are calculated to provide a more balanced comparison between states given the differences in population size.
In sheer numbers, California '-- the most populous state '-- had the most overdose deaths last year, with more than 4,500. Ohio was second, with more than 2,700.
The numbers are based on death certificates. Nearly half a million Americans died from drug overdoses from 2000 through 2014, the CDC says.
Drug overdoses '-- particularly those from prescription opioid painkillers '-- have become a priority issue for the Atlanta-based CDC. The agency this week released draft guidelines for family doctors, encouraging them to be more careful about prescribing opioids for chronic pain and urging the increased use of naloxone, an overdose antidote.
The CDC released the overall tally last week. On Friday it provided more details, including numbers for individual states.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
DHS looks to lure startups into the government game
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 15:35
DHS looks to lure startups into the government gameWhat: DHS's Science and Technology directorate issued a new solicitation designed to attract firms that haven't participated in government contracting to work on security solutions for the Internet of Things ecosystem.
Why: The Other Transaction Solicitation is designed to give DHS the flexibility to offer opportunities to tech startups to develop innovations to meet growing security needs in areas. In addition to the Internet of Things, the OTS will include awards in aviation security, border security, cyber, counterterrorism and more. The idea is to use "other transaction" contracting methods to obviate the slow, requirement-driven procurement process.
The OTS funds work for three-to-six month development periods, with short-term awards tied to additional add-on development and funding. The framework, S&T officials said, is a streamlined applications process with fast track selection timelines, faster payment and quick feedback.
Essentially, DHS is looking to make awards in the fashion of a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, based on evaluation of individual pitches made in person or via teleconference.
"IoT security is an important topic for us," said Melissa Ho, managing director of DHS S&T's Silicon Valley Office, in an interview with FCW. With a coming wave of IoT devices and connectivity on the horizon, she said, "we need to get ahead of this."
The IoT OTS is the first example of what Ho said is a new way to get advanced tech to areas where it's need in DHS. She said the next OTS effort would be with the Secret Service, which would offer up some technical areas it needs to develop. That solicitation should come in March, she said.
In the IoT OTS, DHS said it was looking to help its IT and critical infrastructure managers get a comprehensive and near-continuous assessment of IoT systems that affect critical operations and assets. The initial technical areas being explored include detecting IOT components and connections, authenticating components and updating IoT components.
New technologies that could be developed with those capabilities could include a mobile or portable device that could be deployed at a port, airport or other secure location to quickly detect and report on all the IoT components connected there.
Another might include a centralized detection platform that could be centrally deployed on a controller of node of an IoT system that could report on all the components on the system.
Click here to read the full solicitation.
Posted by Mark Rockwell on Dec 15, 2015 at 12:12 PM
Info-sharing bill's advance is a landmark for DHS
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 15:27
Info-sharing bill's advance is a landmark for DHSBy Sean LyngaasDec 16, 2015A long-stalled cybersecurity information-sharing bill hitched a ride on the omnibus package posted early on Dec. 16, leaving privacy-minded opponents of the bill crestfallen as backers sighed in relief. A day later, friends and foes of the bill are poring over its text, some to divine just what it would mean for the Department of Homeland Security's interfacing with the private sector.
The bill would affirm DHS as the lead civilian agency for receiving and disseminating cyberthreat information as well as give firms liability protections for sharing such information.
Passage of the bill would be a "major step in defining DHS in law as the lead government conduit for the private sector," Chris Cummiskey, former acting undersecretary of management at DHS, told FCW in an email.
"Interestingly, Congress also seems to have added language that gives the president the option of designating a lead agency other than DHS if circumstances arise," Cummiskey added. "This tells me DHS has very little margin for error in delivering meaningful results."
The language Cummiskey's referenced gives the president authority to assign a civilian agency other than DHS to receive threat indicators from the private sector if doing so is deemed necessary for "full, effective and secure operation" of an information-sharing portal.
Bradley Saull, a former House Homeland Security Committee staffer and former DHS employee, told FCW that the codification of the DHS portal would be a reward for relationships the department has built on Capitol Hill and in industry.
DHS' Office of Cybersecurity and Communications "has done a lot not only in their day-to-day but in their outreach to the private sector and to Congress to earn themselves the credibility and the goodwill to make this possible," said Saull, now a vice president at the Professional Services Council.
Similar legislation encouraging the sharing of cyberthreat information between government and business has stalled in the past over privacy concerns, but the preponderance of large-scale hacks like the one of the Office of the Personnel Management has given this year's bill momentum, Saull added.
In statements release after the posting of the omnibus text, backers of the information-sharing bill claimed to have done enough to satisfy privacy concerns while opponents cried foul.
"The agreement in the omnibus maintains Senate language on use of a Department of Homeland Security portal to share information," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a statement praising the inclusion of the cyber bill in the omnibus. "The agreement incorporates the Senate bill's robust privacy protections.
Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, the Senate's fiercest critic of the legislation, tweeted "latest, worse version of CISA has no real privacy protections & would do little or nothing to prevent major hacks," using an acronym for an early version of the bill.
Activists complained that privacy protections included in a measure passed by the House Homeland Security Committee were lost in the negotiations between the House and Senate Intel panels that produced a final bill.
"This cyber bill represents a shameful betrayal of what should have been an open and robust negotiation process to combine three significantly different bills into one superior product. Instead, the Intelligence Committees cut out the Homeland Security Committee, and engaged in a race to the bottom on privacy and operational effectiveness," Robyn Greene, policy counsel at the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute said in an email.
Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee who has a background in cyber, said Dec. 16 that the information-sharing legislation is "at the end of the day'...a good bill," adding that he was pleased the bill includes support for DHS' Einstein 3A intrusion detection and blocking program.
About the Author
Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Follow him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.
Last-Minute Budget Bill Allows New, Privacy-Invading Surveillance in the Name of Cybersecurity
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 15:22
In the wake of a series of humiliating cyberattacks, the imperative in Congress and the White House to do something '-- anything '-- in the name of improving cybersecurity was powerful.
But only the most cynical observers thought the results would be this bad.
The legislation the House passed on Friday morning is a thinly disguised surveillance bill that would give companies pathways they don't need to share user data related to cyberthreats with the government '-- while allowing the government to use that information for any purpose, with almost no privacy protections.
Because Speaker of the House Paul Ryan slipped the provision into the massive government omnibus spending bill that had to pass '-- or else the entire government would have shut down '-- it was doomed to become law. (This post has been updated to reflect the vote, which was 316 to 113.)
The text of the bill '-- now known as the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, formerly known as CISA '-- wasn't released until shortly after midnight Wednesday morning, giving members of Congress essentially no time to do anything about it.
The bill removes a restriction on direct information sharing with the National Security Agency and the Pentagon; eliminates a restriction on the government's use of that information for surveillance activities; allows law enforcement to use the information to prosecute any and all crimes; and leaves it up to the individual agencies to scrub personally identifying information when they feel like it.
''If someone hacks a health insurance company like Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and they get scared and hand over all the medical records that were exposed in the hack, the NSA could share those records with the DEA, who could use them in ongoing investigations that have nothing to do with cybersecurity or terrorism,'' wrote Evan Greer, campaign director for Fight for the Future, a digital rights advocacy group.
The House Homeland Security Committee chaired by Rep. McCaul, R-Texas, had proposed a series of privacy protections from a previous House version of the cyber bill, but they were stricken from the new version that emerged from the Speaker's office.
''The bill is all the worst parts'' of the different cybersecurity bills negotiated in recent months, Nathan White, senior legislative manager for Access Now, told The Intercept. ''It was negotiated in secret. '... It's a sneaky process they've used.''
Because of the last-minute timing, members of Congress ''are not even going to know what they're passing,'' White said. ''We don't have time to get an informed vote, they're pulling a fast one on the Senate.''
And the White House is reportedly on board. According to a leaked document published by Dustin Volz of Reuters, titled ''Summary administration priorities for CISA'', the White House's priorities line up with the new version of the bill '-- despite the fact that the administration threatened a veto over very similar legislation in 2013.
According to several technologists, information sharing isn't a real solution to preventing cyberattacks. The best defense is better cyber hygiene. ''When you've got an epidemic, the answer is you should be washing your hands every time you use the bathroom. It's just not a sexy thing to say,'' Lee Tien, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told The Intercept last January following President Obama's State of the Union address, which focused heavily on cybersecurity.
Some opposition to the new bill has emerged among digital rights-supporting lawmakers and organizations, both Democratic and Republican. But they face off against the immensely powerful intelligence committees in the House and the Senate, congressional leadership, and the White House.
''Members of Congress are intentionally kept in dark so we don't have time to rally opposition to particular measures,'' Libertarian-leaning Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., wrote on Twitter.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., warned that the bill would ''accomplish little more than increased unwarranted surveillance of U.S. persons, sharing private information with prosecutors and feeding the NSA dragnet.''
''This 'cybersecurity' bill was a bad bill when it passed the Senate and it is an even worse bill today,'' said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. ''Americans deserve policies that protect both their security and their liberty. This bill fails on both counts. Cybersecurity experts say CISA will do little to prevent major hacks and privacy advocates know that this bill lacks real, meaningful privacy protections,'' Wyden wrote in a press release.
Overall, there was never much hope among the conservative groups. ''We certainly would have liked more time to bring this issue to the attention of libertarians and conservatives. Unfortunately, the way the final bill was conferenced '-- keeping Chairman McCaul out of any substantive discussions and disregarding many of his concerns around the reconciliation process '-- moved it quicker than we anticipated,'' wrote Ryan Hagemann of the Niskanen Center in an email to The Intercept.
Summary administration priorities for CISA
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 15:20
include language, such as ''detects,'' that overlaps with the definition of monitoring in thedefinition of a defensive measure.4)
Privacy Scrub
Private Sector Requirement:
The Administration Supports requiring private entities totake reasonable steps to remove irrelevant personal information when sendingcybersecurity data to the government or other private sector entities.
TheAdministration supports language in Section 203(i)(3)(C) of H.R. 1560 or,alternatively, in Section 103(d)(2) of H.R. 1560 that requires companies to take''reasonable efforts'' to remove personal information unrelated to a cyber threat.
Government Requirement
: The Administration supports real-time sharing amongstFederal agencies with appropriate privacy protections. Such sharing must preserve thegovernment's ability to remove or redact personal information that is unrelated to acybersecurity threat.
As such, the Administration strongly prefers S. 754'sformulation, which allows cyber threat indicators to be modified pursuant toprotocols developed by relevant agencies.
Proprietary Restriction
: Language that allows a sharing entity to designate cyber threatindicators as proprietary will complicate information sharing within the government andfrom the government to the private sector. It could put the government in the position ofknowing about a threat and not being able to share information about it. For instance, were asharer to deem a technical indicator as proprietary, the government could be prohibited fromfurther anonymizing such indicator and sharing it with other private entities to help them protect their systems from a threat. It could also confuse private sector entities if they label a particular indicator as proprietary, but the government already had received that particularindicator from another independent source.
The Administration proposes that any finallanguage includes a provision that appropriately protects proprietary information in amanner that does not inhibit the government's legitimate use of cyber threat indicators.
Recommended text
: ''Consistent with section 104(c)(2) or [103(C)(2)], a cyber threatindicator or defensive measure provided by an entity to the Federal Government underthis Act shall be considered by a private entity the commercial, financial, and proprietaryinformation of such originating entity when so designated, consistent with applicable lawand as otherwise appropriate, by the originating entity or a third party acting inaccordance with the written authorization of the originating entity.''6)
Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center:
The complexity and pace of cyber threatsrequires that we have a dedicated cadre of experts who can focus on integrating multipleintelligence analyses so that policymakers and operators can receive community-wide viewson cyber threats in short order. The CTIIC will not replace the functions performed byexisting departments, agencies, or government cyber centers. Instead, it is intended to supportthose entities' missions '' for example, the CTIIC will help ensure that indicators ofmalicious activity are downgraded to the lowest possible classification level to facilitate
NA-Tech News
Humans Are Slamming Into Driverless Cars and Exposing a Key Flaw - Bloomberg Business
Sat, 19 Dec 2015 12:28
The self-driving car, that cutting-edge creation that's supposed to lead to a world without accidents, is achieving the exact opposite right now: The vehicles have racked up a crash rate double that of those with human drivers.
The glitch?
They obey the law all the time, as in, without exception. This may sound like the right way to program a robot to drive a car, but good luck trying to merge onto a chaotic, jam-packed highway with traffic flying along well above the speed limit. It tends not to work out well. As the accidents have piled up -- all minor scrape-ups for now -- the arguments among programmers at places like Google Inc. and Carnegie Mellon University are heating up: Should they teach the cars how to commit infractions from time to time to stay out of trouble?
QuickTakeDriverless Cars
''It's a constant debate inside our group,'' said Raj Rajkumar, co-director of the General Motors-Carnegie Mellon Autonomous Driving Collaborative Research Lab in Pittsburgh. ''And we have basically decided to stick to the speed limit. But when you go out and drive the speed limit on the highway, pretty much everybody on the road is just zipping past you. And I would be one of those people.''
Last year, Rajkumar offered test drives to members of Congress in his lab's self-driving Cadillac SRX sport utility vehicle. The Caddy performed perfectly, except when it had to merge onto I-395 South and swing across three lanes of traffic in 150 yards (137 meters) to head toward the Pentagon. The car's cameras and laser sensors detected traffic in a 360-degree view but didn't know how to trust that drivers would make room in the ceaseless flow, so the human minder had to take control to complete the maneuver.
''We end up being cautious,'' Rajkumar said. ''We don't want to get into an accident because that would be front-page news. People expect more of autonomous cars.''
Not at FaultTurns out, though, their accident rates are twice as high as for regular cars, according to a study by the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Driverless vehicles have never been at fault, the study found: They're usually hit from behind in slow-speed crashes by inattentive or aggressive humans unaccustomed to machine motorists that always follow the rules and proceed with caution.
''It's a dilemma that needs to be addressed,'' Rajkumar said.
It's similar to the thorny ethical issues driverless car creators are wrestling with over how to program them to make life-or-death decisions in an accident. For example, should an autonomous vehicle sacrifice its occupant by swerving off a cliff to avoid killing a school bus full of children?
California is urging caution in the deployment of driverless cars. It published proposed rules this week that would require a human always to be ready to take the wheel and also compel companies creating the cars to file monthly reports on their behavior. Google -- which developed a model with no steering wheel or gas pedal -- said it is ''gravely disappointed'' in the proposed rules, which could set the standard for autonomous-car regulations nationwide.
Fast TrackGoogle is on a fast track. It plans to make its self-driving-cars unit a stand-alone business next year and eventually offer a ride-for-hire service, according to a person briefed on the company's strategy.
Google cars have been in 17 minor crashes in 2 million miles (3.2 million kilometers) of testing and account for most of the reported accidents, according to the Michigan study. That's partly because the company is testing mainly in California, where accidents involving driverless cars must be reported.
The most recent reported incident was Nov. 2 in Mountain View, California, Google's headquarters, when a self-driving Google Lexus SUV attempted to turn right on a red light. It came to a full stop, activated its turn signal and began creeping slowly into the intersection to get a better look, according to a report the company posted online. Another car stopped behind it and also began rolling forward, rear-ending the SUV at 4 mph. There were no injuries and only minor damage to both vehicles.
Robot-Car StopTen days later, a Mountain View motorcycle cop noticed traffic stacking up behind a Google car going 24 miles an hour in a busy 35 mph zone. He zoomed over and became the first officer to stop a robot car. He didn't issue a ticket -- who would he give it to? -- but he warned the two engineers on board about creating a hazard.
''The right thing would have been for this car to pull over, let the traffic go and then pull back on the roadway,'' said Sergeant Saul Jaeger, head of the police department's traffic-enforcement unit. ''I like it when people err on the side of caution. But can something be too cautious? Yeah.''
While Google rejects the notion that its careful cars cause crashes, ''we err on the conservative side,'' said Dmitri Dolgov, principal engineer of the program. ''They're a little bit like a cautious student driver or a grandma.''
More AggressiveGoogle is working to make the vehicles more ''aggressive'' like humans -- law-abiding, safe humans -- so they ''can naturally fit into the traffic flow, and other people understand what we're doing and why we're doing it,'' Dolgov said. ''Driving is a social game.''
Google has already programmed its cars to behave in more familiar ways, such as inching forward at a four-way stop to signal they're going next. But autonomous models still surprise human drivers with their quick reflexes, coming to an abrupt halt, for example, when they sense a pedestrian near the edge of a sidewalk who might step into traffic.
''These vehicles are either stopping in a situation or slowing down when a human driver might not,'' said Brandon Schoettle, co-author of the Michigan study. ''They're a little faster to react, taking drivers behind them off guard.''
That could account for the prevalence of slow-speed, rear-end crashes, he added.
Behave Differently''They do behave differently,'' said Egil Juliussen, senior director at consultant IHS Technology and author of a study on how Google leads development of autonomous technology. ''It's a problem that I'm sure Google is working on, but how to solve it is not clear.''
One approach is to teach the vehicles when it's OK to break the rules, such as crossing a double yellow line to avoid a bicyclist or road workers.
''It's a sticky area,'' Schoettle said. ''If you program them to not follow the law, how much do you let them break the law?''
Initially, crashes may rise as more robot autos share the road, but injuries should diminish because most accidents will be minor, Schoettle said.
''There's a learning curve for everybody,'' said Jaeger, of the Mountain View Police, which interacts more with driverless cars than any other law-enforcement unit. ''Computers are learning, the programmers are learning and the people are learning to get used to these things.''
This Hacker Built a Self-Driving Car in His Garage
Report: Juniper breach has feds worried
Sat, 19 Dec 2015 16:52
Report: Juniper breach has feds worriedBy Sean LyngaasDec 18, 2015A big breach at computer networking firm Juniper Networks has federal officials fearing that foreign spies had access to the encrypted communications of the U.S. government and private firms for the last three years, according to a CNN report.
The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company announced Dec. 17 that it had discovered unauthorized code in its operating software that could allow a "knowledgeable attacker" to gain administrative access to its firewall and decrypt virtual private network connections. The advisory said Juniper had not received reports of the vulnerabilities being exploited.
"Once we identified these vulnerabilities, we launched an investigation and worked to develop and issue patched releases for the impacted devices," Juniper CIO Bob Worrall said in a statement. "We also reached out to affected customers, strongly recommending that they update their systems and apply the patched releases with the highest priority."
An FBI spokesperson declined to confirm to FCW that there is an ongoing FBI investigation into the breach, as the CNN report states. A Juniper spokesperson also declined to answer a question about any ongoing federal investigation.
Computer scientist and cryptrography expert Matt Blaze said on Twitter that, "If nothing else, Juniper deserves credit for being forthcoming that there was a backdoor, and not just quietly rolling out a patch."
The Department of Defense is among Juniper Networks' big federal customers; dozens of Juniper products are on the Defense Information Systems Agency's Unified Capabilities Approved Product List.
About the Author
Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Follow him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.
New IMF Term for Lagarde No Longer Fait Accompli With Legal Snag - Bloomberg Business
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 03:14
Christine Lagarde's smooth ride to a second term as head of the International Monetary Fund just got a little bumpy.
Lagarde, 59, will be tried for negligence in relation to a settlement France reached with businessman Bernard Tapie during her time as the nation's finance minister, a French court said Thursday, even after prosecutors recommended dropping the case. She has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, and her lawyer said she will appeal the decision to put her on trial.
Previously, Lagarde was seen as all but a lock to be reappointed as managing director when her term ends next July. At the fund's annual meeting in Lima in October, Lagarde said she'd be open to serving another term. While she's still the front-runner and analysts said the case is unlikely to derail her reappointment, the prospect of a politically charged trial in her home country may still complicate her future at the Washington-based IMF.
The fund's 188 member countries will be keen to avoid adding to the negative publicity generated by the legal troubles of former IMF heads Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Rodrigo Rato, said Andrea Montanino, who served as an executive director at the fund until last year.
''If the trial goes ahead, it could be difficult to seek a second mandate,'' said Montanino, now director of the global business and economics program at the Atlantic Council in Washington.
Strauss-Kahn CasesLagarde took over as head of the IMF in 2011 when Strauss-Kahn resigned after a hotel maid accused him of sexual assault. Prosecutors dropped a criminal case amid inconsistencies in her testimony; Strauss-Kahn reached an undisclosed civil settlement with the woman. He was acquitted in June of charges of aggravated pimping stemming from sex parties he attended five years ago.
Rato is being investigated for money laundering after he took advantage of a 2012 tax amnesty to repatriate previously undeclared offshore funds, an accusation he has denied.
A trial would focus on Lagarde's 2008 decision to allow an arbitration process to end a dispute between Tapie, a supporter of then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and former state-owned bank Credit Lyonnais.
Lagarde is the first woman to lead the IMF, which was conceived during World War II to coordinate international monetary policy and has evolved into a lender of last resort for countries facing capital shortfalls. The managing director is selected by the executive directors, who answer to the fund's member nations.
When the allegations against Lagarde surfaced, IMF staff members told the fund's executive board they wouldn't recommend her removal unless the case prevented her from doing her job, Montanino said.
Having to spend long periods of time in court in Paris could impede her ability to carry out her duties, as would travel restrictions, Montanino said, adding that he doesn't expect the IMF's 24 executive directors will push her to resign.
No 'Impropriety'Lagarde's terms of appointment from 2011 say she must avoid ''even the appearance of impropriety.'' The executive board can dismiss her at any time.
The IMF board said Thursday that it still sees Lagarde as able to do her job.
''The executive board continues to express its confidence in the managing director's ability to effectively carry out her duties,'' IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said in an e-mailed statement.
Michel Sapin, the current French finance minister, told reporters in New York on Thursday that Lagarde is ''innocent until proven guilty, so I don't see how this should prevent her from carrying out her current duties.''
Even with her legal issues, Lagarde is a good bet to be reappointed, said Edwin Truman, a former Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury official.
Few Enemies''She hasn't made many enemies,'' said Truman, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. ''She's curried a lot of favor.''
The case may proceed quickly, ''if only to remove the cloud of suspicion over her,'' said Christopher Mesnooh, a Paris-based lawyer at Field Fisher Waterhouse, who isn't involved in the Lagarde case. ''Everyone knows the importance of Christine Lagarde to the world economy. They won't want to leave this unresolved.''
The court that would try Lagarde is a specialized one that deals with ministers accused of crimes related to their positions, and there aren't a lot of precedents, Mesnooh said. The charge of negligence in the use of public funds carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a fine of 15,000 euros ($16,000).
The IMF has been headed by a European since its inception, an arrangement the U.S. has tacitly accepted in exchange for European support for American chiefs of the World Bank. A strong candidate backed by emerging markets such as China and India might break the streak.
''Are the Europeans likely to try to dissuade her and seek another candidate?'' said former IMF official Alessandro Leipold, now chief economist at the Lisbon Council, a Brussels-based researcher. ''I doubt it very much: It would almost certainly mean losing Europe's hold on the post.''
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IBM, J.P. Morgan, and Others Build a New Blockchain For Business - Fortune
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 04:09
December 17, 2015, 12:46 AM ESTE-mailTweetFacebookLinkedinShare iconsIBM, Intel, J.P. Morgan and several other big banks are among those making a big bet on blockchain, the distributed transaction processing engine behind cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. The companies have joined forces to create the Open Ledger Project with the Linux Foundation, with the goal of re-imagining supply chains, contracts and other ways information about ownership and value are exchanged in a digital economy.
IBM is contributing thousands of lines of existing code based on its research into the blockchain based on a years-long research effort. Digital Asset, a company that makes software for designing blockchains, is contributing the Hyperledger name to the project, which will be used for branding the effort, as well as code and developer resources.
The Open Ledger Project isn't proposing another cryptocurrency, but rather wants to use blockchain technology to create tools to allow businesses to build a distributed ledger for anything they can dream up''from exchanging automotive titles in seconds to paying retail suppliers when a sale is made.
Because the ledger is both connected and distributed, it is easy to track changes to the database and difficult to forge entries or delete them. Honduras uses the technology to track land titles and musicians use using it to let fans pay them directly for songs.
Jerry Cuomo, an IBM Fellow working with the Open Ledger Project, says he wants to help create a distributed ledger to offer businesses privacy, confidentiality and accountability. In many cases when customers came to IBM considering something like Ethereum or Bitcoin, they are worried about their data being stored in the larger community. Even big banks are cautiously embracing blockchain, as opposed to Bitcoin.
One of the options the Open Ledger Project tech provides is a way to limit the community of users who have access to the ledger. A company that chooses to implement a version of an Open Ledger blockchain can elect to use rules that determine who can generate transactions and even authenticate them. In Bitcoin for example, anyone who can do the mining work required to generate a Bitcoin generates a transaction. There's no velvet rope or possibility of a closed door.
But to make blockchain for business, this element of limiting participation was essential.
''I don't have a strong opinion on cryptocurrencies, but I have a strong opinion on the blockchain as a solution for contracts and supply chains and the internet of things, Cuomo says. ''I think Bitcoin is an interesting application for blockchain but there are thousands of applications and wider use cases beyond that.''
Cuomo imagines a use case where a car buyer will one day purchase a new vehicle and, while signing the paperwork, the new title is issued, her insurance is updated and the money transfers are moved to the appropriate accounts, all before she drives the car off the lot. Because the technology will be available through the Linux Foundation, developers at the DMV could find code for building a title-tracking block chain and adapt it to their needs at a lower cost, than hiring specialists to build it for them.
The bank might have a different bloc chain-based system in place for transferring loan information and another for moving money. Those two could overlap. Cuomo says these systems could eventually form a web. It sounds complicated, but so is the current world of moving money and global trade.
''I don't believe there will be one blockchain to rule them all,'' Cuomo said.
Companies involved also include Accenture, ANZ Bank, Cisco CSCO , CLS, Credits, Digital Asset, Fujitsu, Initiative for CryptoCurrencies and Contracts, IBM IBM , Intel INTC , London Stock Exchange Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, State Street cSTT , SWIFT, VMware VMW and Wells Fargo wfc .
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IBM to create new corporate blockchain
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 04:08
In March we reported that IBM was maintaining 'informal discussions' with the U.S. Federal Reserve whilst investigating the application of blockchain technology for financial services. Now that work has reached a new stage; the company has announced it will lead a crowd of coding giants in the development of a new blockchain financial transaction infrastructure called Open Ledger, for the benefit of major banking and financial institutions including Wells Fargo, JP Morgan and the London Stock Exchange.
The project will create a more flexible ledger of exchange, but will be unrelated '' except in fundamental concepts '' to the blockchain that currently underpins Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency systems. Furthermore the new system will be 'semi-private' in implementation, despite an open source approach to development.
Jerry Cuomo, the VP and CTO at the IBM software group commented: ''The current blockchain is a great design pattern,'' adding ''Now, how do we make that real for business? What are the key attributes needed to make that happen? That's what this organization is about.''
Open Ledger will be overseen by the non-profit Linux Foundation. IBM has been researching blockchain technology for the past year together with Digital Asset Holdings (DAH), which is led by Blythe Masters, recently of JP Morgan, and will take the project forward in the additional company of VMware, Fujitsu, the Japan-based Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and financial application-builder SWIFT. The resultant code from those 12 months of research are reported to provide 'part of the foundation' for Open Ledger.
Marley Gray, Director of Technology Strategy US Financial Services at Microsoft Azure, also told Fortune that the new system could provide additional security and operate as a major impediment to stock market gaming '' and noted too the potential for the elimination of 'expensive middlemen', or the need to put trust into particular individuals and organisations.
Speaking to Wired, Linux Foundation head Jim Zemlin defrayed possible discussion about a 'proprietary' blockchain for the 'majors', emphasising that Open Ledger '' which the same report mentions may end up being named 'Hyperledger' '' is designed not only to be more flexible and instance-based but also is intended to collaborate with other blockchain infrastructures, commenting ''We have a lot of confidence in this process.''
In the same report Jerry Cuomo emphasises the projected flexibility of the project: ''We are very excited about blockchain, less as a once-and-only-once implementation of an idea, but as an idea that can be implemented and extended in ways that are consistent but enhanced.'', adding ''There is no one blockchain to rule them all. There will be multiple implementations of the blockchain. And it will be a sin if they don't interoperate and work together.''
Gray backs this notion of 'open' financial computing, in what is clearly a publicity initiative to prevent accusations of co-opting of an idea that has caught the financial and technical world's imagination over the last three years: ''A blockchain,'' says Gray. ''is basically worthless within a single work organization. There is no reason to have this trustless environment within your own corporation.''
Open Ledger '' or Hyperledger '' will certainly not be the first alternative transaction ledger to appear since Bitcoin came into existence, but it's clearly poised to be the most influential and significant development in the application of the concept.
The Stack is seeking freelance correspondents to cover Asian technology newsWe're looking to increase our coverage of the tech sector in APAC. If you're interested in contributing paid freelance pieces, please see this page for further details.
It's time for the corporate visa giveaway to go away - The Washington Post
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 05:31
TWENTY-FIVE years ago, the federal government launched the so-called EB-5 visa program under which foreigners who pump a minimum of $500,000 into a U.S. business, creating at least 10 jobs directly or indirectly, qualify for permanent resident status. The theory was that offering a place in the United States would encourage investment and boost the economy. In practice, the program has flopped. The right way to mark its anniversary is for Congress to let it expire when its authorization runs out Sept. 30.
EB-5 has shown paltry results '-- to the extent the results can be measured at all, given the basic imprecise nature of measuring job ''creation.'' Last year, a Brookings Institution report estimated that 8,500 foreign investors had received visas since the program's inception, along with about twice that number of family members. In return, the U.S. economy got 85,500 full-time jobs and approximately $5 billion in investment. This sounds impressive '-- until you consider that the U.S. labor force includes more than 150 million people and that the United States gets more than $200 billion in foreign investment annually.
To be sure, ''regional centers,'' designated by government to promote business ideas to wealthy would-be visa holders, have employed a small army of consultants, lawyers and lobbyists '-- but they are still plagued by bureaucratic complexity and, all too often, fraud. In 2013, the Securities and Exchange Commission sued a Chicago-area businessowner who attempted to bilk more than 250 people out of more than $150'‰million. A disproportionate number of EB-5 ''investors'' made their millions in China's opaque economy, making the origins of their wealth difficult to ascertain. The EB-5 program is supposed to favor distressed economic areas, but the definition of a needy zone has been stretched to include nearly the whole country, including hot downtown real estate markets.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) are pushing a reauthorization bill that would significantly reform the EB-5 program by strictly defining eligible geographic areas, raising the minimum investment and strengthening executive branch oversight of the regional centers. Yet even if it were reformed and everyone obeyed the law, EB-5 would still be a bad idea. It's corporate welfare, enabling certain businesses to attract capital more cheaply than others based on a government-conferred sweetener '-- namely, a visa. Perhaps inevitably, the EB-5 has channeled funding to areas such as hotel ventures that suit the needs of EB-5 seekers and their myriad highly paid consultants '-- but not necessarily those of local communities.
Notice we haven't said EB-5 is wrong because it's immoral for the U.S. government to sell visas. That's because, in effect, the government is giving away its visas to private businesses, who then market them for their own benefit. All taxpayers get are the highly attenuated benefits of economic development '-- with no guarantee, or even any likelihood, that the visas couldn't have been put to more productive use by someone else. Let hotel developers compete for capital in the marketplace like everyone else. And let the thousands of visas set aside for EB-5 applicants be reassigned to immigrants who are worthy even if they aren't rich.
The dark, disturbing world of the visa-for-sale program - Fortune
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 05:30
On Nov. 15, 2012, about 100 people gathered in a parking lot near O'Hare Airport in Chicago for a ceremonial occasion: the demolition of a fleabag motel to make way for what was intended to be a world-changing construction project. Next door to a Hooters restaurant, just off the Kennedy Expressway, was to rise a commercial and environmental wonder'--the ''World's First Zero Carbon Platinum LEED-certified and 100% Allergen Free convention center and hotel complex.'' Lest anyone doubt its global eco-import, the project's developer was branding it as a ''Kyoto Protocol Centre.'' At a projected cost of $913 million, it was to include three connected towers'--14, 17, and 19 stories tall'--containing five upscale hotels with 995 suites and rooms, four levels of convention space, a green roof with a spa and yoga studio, a miniature golf course, and a 1,720-car ''automatic robotic'' parking garage. All this would be financed with the help of a government immigration program known as EB-5, which allows wealthy foreigners to obtain U.S. citizenship by sinking $500,000 apiece into a venture that creates American jobs. Spellbound by the sales pitch'--which included ''guarantees'' that the project would deliver visas and juicy returns'--nearly 300 eager Chinese investors had anted up a total of $147 million.
Now construction was finally about to begin'--or so Anshoo Sethi had told everyone. Sethi was the project's mastermind, a slender, soft-spoken young man with a grandiose vision. Nattily dressed as usual, in a cream-colored suit with a lavender tie and pocket square, Sethi presided over the proceedings in a white tent festooned with balloons. There was champagne, hors d'oeuvres, and cupcakes. Superstitious, he had sought the insights of a ''corporate astrologer,'' who had instructed him to place a ''money plant'''--associated in Indian culture with prosperity and fortune'--next to the podium.
The dozen speakers at the ceremony included two Chicago union bosses, who praised the development's pledge to generate 8,495 jobs; Sethi's real estate adviser, who gushed about the prospects for the complex's name-brand hotels; a state senator; and Kevin Wright, a consultant who had helped Sethi raise all that Chinese cash.
Also speaking was Anshoo's father, Ravinder, who had emigrated from India to the U.S. in 1977. The project's offering memorandum, which listed Ravinder and Anshoo as the deal's principals, described father and son as seasoned, respected veterans of real estate and hotel development.
The truth was rather different: Ravinder was a pharmacist and small-time businessman with a felony drug conviction in his past; more recently he'd been forced to sell his storefront pharmacy on Chicago's South Side after inspectors had discovered more than 200 unlabeled bottles of pills on the premises.
In the offering memo, Anshoo was said to have ''over 15 years of experience in real estate development and management, specifically in the lodging area.'' In fact, his business experience mostly consisted of managing the family's motel'--the very structure they were preparing to demolish'--to disastrous effect. If you believed the offering document, Anshoo would've had to enter the industry at age 14, because he was still only 29.
But no one at the festivities seems to have troubled with such details. After the speeches were over, everyone donned white hardhats to pose for photos with the ceremonial chrome shovels Anshoo had purchased for the occasion. He then climbed into the seat of a backhoe. With an operator directing him, Sethi tore a symbolic first chunk out of the old motel, starting to clear the site for the glorious new complex that was certain to rise soon.
Demolition begins at the Sethis' motel in late 2012.Photo by Amy Boyle Photography
You may never have heard of EB-5, the program that delivered $147 million to Sethi's convention-center dream. It is one of the least explored of the many dark corners in America's deeply troubled immigration process.
Immigration dominates the news today, and it's just the latest crucial issue locked in a bitter Washington stalemate. The consequences have been dire. Whether it's tens of thousands of impoverished children detained by border officials and clogging government facilities, or scientists and engineers highly coveted by technology companies who aren't permitted to remain here, the U.S. is preventing countless foreigners from staying in this country.
Increasingly, the skilled and the poor are out of luck. But the rich are another matter. The program (EB-5 is short-hand for the government's fifth employment-based visa ''preference'') allows well-heeled foreigners to leap to the front of the line by simply plunking down $500,000.
From the law's inception in 1990, selling potential citizenship to the rich struck many as a corruption of American ideals. ''Have we no self-respect as a nation?'' asked Texas congressman John Bryant on the House floor that year. ''Are we so broke we have to sell our birthright?''
But that powerful objection was overcome with an even more potent counterforce: The program would generate jobs where they're needed most. Immigrants seeking EB-5 visas must invest their half-a-million dollars in a new business that creates 10 full-time U.S. jobs in a high-unemployment or rural district. (Technically, one can obtain an EB-5 visa for $1 million with no requirement that the jobs benefit a struggling area; in reality, few apply under that provision.)
Today EB-5 commands bipartisan support'--and it's booming. Believers tout the program as a ''win-win-win'' that helps immigrants and U.S. workers, and provides valuable investment in American communities. A trio of billionaires'--Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Sheldon Adelson'--recently endorsed the program in an op-ed column in the New York Times.
But because the EB-5 industry is virtually unregulated, it has become a magnet for amateurs, pipe-dreamers, and charlatans, who see it as an easy way to score funding for ventures that banks would never touch. They've been encouraged and enabled by an array of dodgy middlemen, eager to cash in on the gold rush. Meanwhile, perhaps because wealthy foreigners are the main potential victims, U.S. authorities have seemed inattentive to abuses.
Certainly, there are thriving, completed successes (see ''Five by EB-5''). An industry-funded study, using models and assorted economic-impact multipliers, claims that spending ''associated with'' EB-5 investors in 2012 contributed $3.4 billion to the U.S. economy and ''supported'' 42,000 jobs.
Others who have examined the program view it very differently. They question whether it generates many jobs'--especially in needy areas. A December 2013 study by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general found that the government ''cannot demonstrate that the program is improving the U.S. economy and creating jobs for U.S. citizens.'' A February 2014 paper by the Brookings-Rockefeller Project on State and Metropolitan Innovation concluded that ''knowledge of the program's true economic impact is elusive at best.''
There are two reasons for that. First, the government is exceedingly generous in its employment tally. It gives EB-5 investors credit for all the jobs theoretically spawned by a project even when EB-5 money represents only a sliver of its financing. Second, for many mainstream ventures, EB-5 money isn't really creating jobs'--it's merely saving developers money for projects that would be financed anyway. (Indeed, those big companies are actually ''hijacking'' money from worthy smaller investments in hard-hit areas, argues Michael Gibson, a financial adviser who vets EB-5 investments.)
Anshoo Sethi's legal troubles may not be over. Criminal investigators have been circling, a fact acknowledged last year in Sethi's legal pleadings. He and his father, Ravinder, declined to be interviewed. (Anshoo's lawyers at the Chicago offices of Perkins Coie would not comment on whether the criminal investigation continues. They did provide a statement; see ''Sethi Weighs In.'')
But the saga of Sethi and his audacious convention center'--dismissed by EB-5 advocates as an aberration'--reveal the troubling underbelly of the program, a murky realm of dreams and promises where greed is given free rein. Even when operated within the letter of the law, EB-5 is riven with conflicts of interest and subject to the corrupting effects that occur when large sums of money are available with few restrictions. And in the real world it's much worse.
Graphic Sources: the Brookings-Rockefeller Project on State and Metropolitan Innovation; Office of Immigration Statistics, Department of Homeland Security
For the first 18 years of its existence, the EB-5 program was a dud. It fell dramatically short of projections that it would foster 40,000 jobs a year and never approached the program's annual ceiling of 10,000 visas. In 2003 the government ¼issued EB-5 visas to 65 immigrants.
Raising money through EB-5 was complicated, and plenty of traditional financing was available. For their part, immigrants found the program too dicey. In Canada's competing offering, applicants simply lent money to the government and were guaranteed its return. But in the U.S. the $500,000 investment has to be ''at risk.'' Immigrants first apply for a provisional green card; then, to get their permanent visas, they have to submit evidence within two years that their money has provided 10 jobs. If the project fails to do that, immigrants and their families can be deported.
In 2008 the financial crisis hit, and everything changed. With banks refusing to lend, EB-5 took off'--first because it offered the only capital, then because it was cheap capital. Today the program brings about $1.8 billion into the U.S. annually. The government is on pace to grant more EB-5 visas in 2014'--closing in on 10,000'--than it did in its first 17 years combined.
At the heart of the program is an unusual trade: Because the immigrants care far more about getting a green card than anything else (their families get visas too), they're willing to accept a token financial return. In fact, when ''administrative'' fees of about $50,000 are added, they're typically paying for the privilege of sinking $500,000 into a U.S. venture for five to seven years'--with no guarantee that they'll ever get it back. And in part because of distance and language barriers, the targets of EB-5 pitches seem ill-equipped (or disinclined) to assess the business risks.
Though the government issues the visas, private developers reap the benefits. After middlemen get their piece, the cost of EB-5 capital runs between 4% and 6% a year'--less than half of what developers would typically have to pay for mezzanine debt or to equity investors. Raising $100 million through EB-5 can add $20 million to a project's bottom line.
The growing demand for EB-5 financing is being met largely by new Chinese millionaires, eager for greater freedom and less pollution, or to send their kids to college in the U.S. More than 80% of the program's applicants now come from China, making it the mother lode for EB-5 prospecting.
Out with the old: Sethi, in cream-colored suit, top. at the 2012 ceremony that began the demolition of the family motel to make way for his planned convention center, which was displayed in a model. Champagne was served.Photo by Amy Boyle Photography
That's evident at Brian Su's annual ''Invest in America Summit,'' held in March in Shanghai and one of the big events on the EB-5 conference calendar. This year's edition drew more than 60 U.S. exhibitors seeking Chinese cash. A ''platinum'' sponsorship package at the conference went for $46,000.
Su, 48, defected to the U.S. from China in 1989. After two decades as a state bureaucrat in Springfield, Ill., he now makes a globetrotting living as guide and guru for new U.S. entrants to EB-5. Among his former clients: Anshoo Sethi.
According to Su's website, his offerings include ''Brian Su's Inner Circle'' (membership: $15,000 a year), providing exclusive entrée to ''my powerful and extensive relationships throughout China and the U.S.'' Su charges $10,000 for 30 days of private coaching on EB-5 fundraising. He regularly leads Americans on ''trade missions'' to China, where, for $11,000 a head plus travel expenses, he introduces them to key players in the sale of EB-5 investments. Developers and consultants who send Su business are heavily promoted on his closely followed industry blog and on VIP panels at his conferences.
The exhibit hall at Su's 2014 conference in Shanghai showcased projects ranging from the prosaic (four new locations for the World of Beer restaurant chain) to the improbable (a billion-dollar cargo port off the coast of Louisiana).
But EB-5 is no longer a realm just for those who can't find capital elsewhere. New York City's biggest developers were at the conference too. Stephen Ross's Related Cos., for example, is seeking $800 million in EB-5 funds to help bankroll Hudson Yards, a $20 billion project on the West Side of Manhattan.
Related's booth at the ''Invest in America'' trade fair in Shanghai. The portrait of Stephen Ross was originally commissioned for a Fortune article on the company's Hudson Yards project.Photo by Peter Elkind
EB-5 fundraising is a messy process, more like pitching vacation timeshares than any normal form of deal finance. Developers embark on road shows to big cities across China. With help from local ''migration agents,'' they use spam messages, slick websites, and telemarketing to round up potential investors for free dinner seminars featuring raffles for iPhones and lofty promises of a brighter future.
The potential payoff is big enough'--the company estimates it will save about $200 million'--that Related has stationed eight employees in China and showcased its project at the Shanghai convention. Related offered the best swag in the exhibition hall: Hudson Yards''branded luggage tags, cellphone chargers, stereoscope viewers with 3-D slides of the planned development, and toy New York yellow taxis with flashing headlights and honking horns. To draw foot traffic, Related deployed a pair of models, dressed in slinky, custom-made blue-satin qipao dresses with ''Hudson Yards'' on them.
Despite the arrival of institutions like Related, EB-5 remains a wild and woolly realm. For starters, few of the usual safeguards for multimillion-dollar financings exist. EB-5 investments are typically sold through unregistered securities offerings and rarely involve broker-dealers, so deal documents receive no SEC scrutiny and face little due diligence. Even the corporate attorneys who prepare offering documents rarely check their clients' claims or backgrounds, according to EB-5 lawyers and experts. Many EB-5 attorneys represent both the project and the investors, a clear conflict, and take undisclosed fees from developers'--up to $60,000 per immigrant'--to steer clients to particular projects.
The EB-5 program isn't overseen by a financial regulator but by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), part of the Department of Homeland Security. Accustomed to processing visas and conducting immigrant background checks, USCIS is ill-equipped to review business plans, job- creation studies, and securities offerings. The SEC retains the power to police fraud. What that means is the agency has no mechanism to sniff out a problem until it has exploded, at which point the agency can only clean up the mess.
After arriving in the U.S. from India, the Sethi family pursued its version of the American dream, building a modest'--if troubled'--business empire. Ravinder Sethi arrived in the U.S. from India in 1977; his wife, Ranjna, came later. Anshoo was born in Chicago in 1983.
The father, who had earned a pharmacy degree at Panjab University, went to work as a pharmacist in Chicago shortly after receiving his American license. But Ravinder's career was marked by legal and regulatory problems. In May 1985 he was convicted of felony possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and placed on probation, after a sting operation targeting clinics selling narcotics to welfare recipients. In response, state regulators in 1986 suspended his pharmacist's license for 30 months.
In 1987 a new entity incorporated by Sethi's wife under her maiden name then bought and began operating East Calumet Health Services, a pharmacy and walk-in clinic on Chicago's South Side, next door to a Lots for Le$$ used-appliance store. City building inspectors cited the business for infractions ranging from rotted subflooring and exposed sewage to basement rat droppings. In 2011, after a state inspection discovered lax oversight of controlled substances in the pharmacy, Ravinder signed a consent order that included a reprimand, a $10,000 fine, and his promise to sell the business.
In the 1990s the Sethi parents branched into day care, opening three Happy Days Child Development Centers, run by Ravinder's wife. Their company today receives some $1 million annually in state child-care funds. By 2003 the family was successful enough to buy a stately four-bedroom brick home in Dearborn Park, Ill., for $1.4 million.
That year the Sethis went into the hotel business, buying a 122-room motel, originally built as a Howard Johnson Motor Lodge, out of foreclosure for $10 million. Renamed the Chicago O'Hare Garden Hotel, it sat on a 2.8-acre tract, four miles from the airport. Ravinder placed its operations in the hands of Anshoo, then a licensed pharmacy technician and college student, who turned 21 in October 2004.
Anshoo, who graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a degree in finance in 2006, seemed to have ambitions for the motel. He signed a franchise agreement to upgrade the place into a Wyndham Garden Hotel. But after less than a year Wyndham terminated the agreement, citing ''financial and quality assurance defaults.'' According to court documents in the resulting lawsuit, he failed to make promised improvements and didn't pay his franchise fees. Wyndham demanded $292,000 in damages, and Sethi eventually settled.
In truth, Anshoo Sethi never displayed much interest'--or skill'--in running a hotel. A longtime employee says Sethi was rarely around, and he quickly began cutting back on staffing and pay. A U.S. Labor Department complaint, filed later on behalf of 17 hotel workers, alleged that he paid housekeepers less than minimum wage, giving them just $2 for each room they cleaned, and failed to pay overtime to employees. Anshoo eventually entered into a consent judgment, paying the full $42,000 the government said he owed, while not admitting the allegations.
Sethi found novel ways to cut corners. According to the former employee, Sethi had maids refill guests' half-empty shampoo bottles with water to save money. In 2008 the hotel shut its restaurant and gave up its liquor license. Its swimming pool sat empty, filled with trash and weeds.
Vendors complained of unpaid bills. In February 2010 the motel bounced a $332 paycheck. After a last-minute transfer of $2,232 to pay its maids, Sethi warned the employee in an email: ''That is it. There is no more money in the accts.'' In 2011 city inspectors fined the Sethis $5,540 for 11 building violations, including missing smoke detectors, large cracks in the walls and ceilings, broken stairs, and failure to ''keep premises clean, sanitary, and safe.''
Under Anshoo's management, rooms that rented for $109 a night in 2006 were going for as little as $37 by 2009. One patron was convicted of cocaine possession with intent to distribute after the drug was found in the safe in his room. Two suicides occurred in the hotel. Sethi tried to boost business with posts on a medical message board where he posed as a physician who had discovered ''a great hotel'' for ''us doctors.'' It didn't work. Half the guest reviews on the TripAdvisor website rated the place ''terrible.'' Among the comments: ''Disgusting!!!!'' ''hotel from hell,'' and ''Oh My God!''
Even as the hotel spiraled downward, Sethi began affecting the glitzy trappings and ambitions of a junior Donald Trump. Handsome, with deep-set dark eyes, he wore flashy designer suits and alligator shoes, carried a Louis Vuitton briefcase, and drove a white Mercedes. In 2007 he began talking about opening a second hotel on the O'Hare property. Then he began hatching plans to build three hotels, connected by an underground convention center. This was the germ of the idea that would lead him to EB-5.
Sethi began currying relationships with high-priced lawyers, lobbyists, and politicians, some of whom would play key roles in his plan. He hired Michael Madigan, speaker of the Illinois assembly (a part-time position), who is also a lawyer in private practice. Madigan persuaded authorities to slash the tax bill of Sethi's property by 50%. A different lawyer secured a needed zoning change. Sethi signed franchise agreements and paid fees to the Starwood and InterContinental chains, allowing him to build hotels for their brands. But getting someone to give him money to do that was more difficult.
Sethi was an enigma. He was timid and halting in public. But somehow he managed to play his youth and the sense that he was in over his head to his advantage as he flattered a series of powerful older advisers. Sethi displayed an unusual mix of bravado'--and seat-of-the- pants desperation. In January 2009 he told the Chicago Real Estate Daily that he was in final negotiations to finance the first phase of construction. A few days later he put a post on an Internet message board seeking a standby letter of credit ''of only $15-20M'' for ''a very Large Hotel & convention center development.''
None of that, of course, came to fruition. How could it? Sethi was a 25-year-old whose only business experience was running his shabby motel badly. His project didn't make sense: The Chicago hotel market was lousy, especially near O'Hare. But 6,000 miles away he'd find a pool of eager investors.
Anshoo Sethi was perfectly suited for the world of EB-5. He was willing to say exactly what Chinese investors wanted to hear, with seemingly little care as to whether it had any basis in fact. He was guided in this strange fundraising realm, beginning in early 2010, by a consultant named Kevin Wright. A former marketing executive for a company that sold art and celebrity memorabilia, Wright, 34, has become an EB-5 industry luminary. The website for his Palm Beach firm, Wright Johnson, describes him as an expert in ''econometric analysis,'' though he lacks a college degree (in any subject).
Wright's firm enjoys a booming business in the creation of ''regional centers.'' They are one of the oddities of the EB-5 system. ''Regional centers,'' which are legally required and USCIS-certified, sound as if they are federal offices, but they're not. They are typically private, profit-making operations that pool EB-5 money for development projects. Oh, and there's one other quirk: These seemingly independent operations are often launched and operated by the very developers who are raising money, giving them an extra measure of control.
The regional centers that operate independently can be highly lucrative. Centers usually charge a developer about 2% annual interest for at least five years on whatever amount of immigrant capital they raise. A $60 million deal can thus generate $6 million or more in income. One major operator, the New York City Regional Center, expects its total income on just four large ventures to total $50,187,500, according to a worksheet prepared in a lawsuit between feuding business partners.
Like banks and Wall Street firms, regional centers sell securities and handle millions. Yet there are no rules on who can own or run a center, and no audit requirements. A regional center doesn't have to report publicly on its performance, identify its principals, or disclose any financial, legal, or regulatory problems they have encountered.
Creation of a center requires the submission of economic studies and an array of other paperwork to USCIS. And that's where Wright Johnson comes in. In a confidential 2012 marketing document obtained by Fortune, his firm touted its ''total package solution for EB-5 application and marketing,'' including lawyers, economists, and business-plan writers, offered for $95,000. ''There is no other EB-5 consulting group that can claim even half of the success of WJ,'' boasts the 26-page document.
Sethi signed on, and in October 2010, with the help of Wright's team, applied to USCIS for formal designation of his very own regional center: the Intercontinental Regional Center Trust of Chicago. The U.S. government approved Anshoo as CEO; his father was the ''principal shareholder.'' The regional center's only project? The Sethis' hotel and convention center.
From HoJo to hobo? The Howard Johnson Motor Lodge near O'Hare Airport (top, in the 1960s) became the Sethis' motel (center, after demolition began in late 2012). Bottom, renderings of the hotel/convention center planned for the site. Today the space is a weed-filled empty lot.Photos, top: Courtesy of William Kaufman; Center: Nitram242'--Flickr
One essential part of gaining USCIS approval was crafting an acceptable ''targeted employment area,'' or TEA. The EB-5 law requires investment in a district that is either rural or has a jobless rate that is 150% of the national average. But after years of industry pressure, it's now USCIS policy to automatically accept any state designation of a TEA, even though states routinely approve gerrymandered districts that tack on distant high-unemployment tracts to allow EB-5 endeavors in wealthy areas.
Thus, a Marriott hotel in elegant Marina del Rey, Calif., sits within a TEA. (The Los Angeles Business Journal noted that this was accomplished by attaching poor areas 15 miles away.) So does a $20 million addition to a W Hotel in Hollywood. And Silverstein Properties, another big New York developer, is seeking EB-5 funds to build a new luxury Four Seasons Hotel in Tribeca, which its promotional video describes as ''New York's most popular affluent residential neighborhood.''
Sethi's planned development was located in a census tract with a jobless rate below the national average. To meet the requirement, Sethi and his consultants concocted a TEA connecting 21 tracts in the shape of a long C, hooking in poor neighborhoods eight miles away.
Sethi's regional center application included claims that troubled at least one member of Wright's consulting team. Suzanne Lazicki, who edited the business plan in August 2010, was taken aback by the comment that Sethi had ''over 15 years of experience in real estate development and management.'' Lazicki had met Sethi and been struck by his youth. At the time (though this wasn't in the documents), Anshoo was 27. ''I thought it was a typo,'' Lazicki says. She says she raised the issue with Wright, who checked with Sethi. ''They said no, they meant to put that in,'' according to Lazicki. ''His explanation was that [Anshoo] basically grew up in the business, because his family had been in the business.'' The reference remained.
Lazicki says she also questioned some of Sethi's ''very aggressive'' financial projections, and was told that they resulted from the complex's unprecedented energy efficiency. Recalls Lazicki: ''Kevin took the position that it wasn't his job to tell Anshoo what he should do. It was his job to find out what Anshoo planned to do and put down that plan.''
Wright offered brief comments about Sethi in a phone interview. ''All I can say,'' he says, ''is that it appears that he was a very fraudulent person. He tricked a lot of people, including me. He seemed like any other business-type person or developer, a very hard-working person.'' (Wright declined further interviews, though he did deny knowledge of wrong-doing in an email that addressed a number of questions.)
By 2011, Sethi had reinvented his project into something far bigger, far more remarkable, and far more buzz-worthy. Instead of a convention center with three hotels, it would include five'--with a breathtaking array of green features. Even the mundane operations of the complex would be bristling with innovation, such as ''biometric self-service check-in.''
Despite its $913 million development cost'--a staggering $917,088 per room, far more than the priciest luxury hotels'--the sprawling center would prosper because of its ''synergetic advantages,'' according to a 77-page private-placement memorandum and business plan that he circulated to investors in late 2011. It would be a magnet for the ''technologically savvy'' and ''environmentally conscious,'' so energy-efficient that it would make a profit at 42% occupancy. (A finance scholar who later studied these claims would conclude that meeting Sethi's revenue expectations would require 100% occupancy of all five hotels 365 days a year'--at a rate of $289 a night.)
The investor memo went on at length about Anshoo's ''formidable proficiency in global finance,'' stating that he had ''executed several corporate acquisitions and divestitures'' and grown his family's business ''exponentially.'' The principals, according to the memo, had ''built over 250+ hotel developments from coast to coast for prestigious clients in all hotel brands.''
As Sethi described it to EB-5 investors, all the pieces were in place to start construction in the summer of 2012 and open the first hotel tower in early 2014. Sethi reported that he had already obtained building permits and held ''executed franchise agreements'' for all five hotels: Element by Westin, Hotel Indigo, Staybridge Suites, Hyatt Place, and Hyatt Summerfield.
In truth, Sethi had no franchise agreements. Westin, Indigo, and Staybridge Suites had all terminated earlier agreements with Sethi by 2010, after he'd missed deadlines to start construction; Westin was demanding $1.2 million in damages. Hyatt had never signed any agreement and had ordered Sethi to stop using its name. Sethi also had no final construction plans, much less a design that might attain Platinum LEED status. nowhere in the documents did he list a project architect. He had obtained no building permits.
The documents offered a fantastical account of how Sethi would finance his $913 million opus. First, he pegged his own ''direct investment'''--the decaying hotel site'--at $177.5 million, even though his family had bought the property seven years earlier for $10 million.
Next came government financing: $485,455,171. Sethi reported that his project had already ''been qualified'' for energy-efficiency green bonds issued by the Illinois Finance Authority; he was anticipating $339.8 million. He was also counting on $48.5 million in ''loans generated from federal and state tax credits'' and $97.1 million in unspecified government grants. None of this, in fact, was in place. The Illinois Finance Authority hadn't approved anything.
Finally, of course, there was EB-5. Sethi was seeking $249.5 million from 499 investors, the maximum for an unregistered securities offering. And that's where the massive scope of the convention center worked to Sethi's benefit: It justified an economist's projection that the complex would create a spectacular total of 8,495 jobs.
Having crafted his elaborate fantasy, Sethi proved a quick study in the game of selling an EB-5 project in China. He agreed to pay top rates to local agents to push his deal. Chinese investors rely heavily on the agents, according to experts in EB-5 fundraising, usually unaware that the agents are getting more than the modest fee'--perhaps $5,000'--paid by the investor. In truth, they now make as much as $100,000 per investor, with the rest coming from the developer.
Like their U.S. counterparts, Chinese agents typically conduct little due diligence, instead steering their clients to the project that pays them the most. In her dealings, says Anna Morzy, an EB-5 lawyer with the Fragomen firm in Chicago (who wasn't involved in the Sethi case), ''the agents didn't ask any questions, other than 'How much am I getting paid?' ''
Sethi employed another common technique, implying that a project has official government backing in the U.S. That is immensely alluring for Chinese investors, who are accustomed to a government that controls everything. To do that, Sethi snookered Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. Working through another well-connected lobbyist, Michael McClain, Sethi angled for some overseas face time with the governor during a planned trade mission to China in the fall of 2011. (McClain declined to comment.) The hook, Sethi wrote in an email forwarded to the governor's staff, was an opportunity to speak about ''why the state of Illinois is great for investment.'' This, Sethi wrote, could provide ''a Kodak opportunity with the governor.'' With help from Quinn's commerce secretary'--who taped a video endorsing the convention project'--Sethi did even better.
Seal of Approval:'‚A Chinese marketing presentation featured government insignias, right, and a photo of Sethi with (from left) his lieutenant David Wang, Illinois Gov. Quinn, and Sethi's father, Ravinder.
On Sept. 18 the governor and his delegation, which included business executives and state senators, returned from their tour of the Great Wall to attend a dinner Sethi hosted at the Westin Chaoyang Hotel in Beijing. The event produced a multitude of ''Kodak moments,'' including footage of the governor strolling down a red carpet with a beaming Sethi and images of the two toasting each other.
All this became priceless propaganda, which was soon plastered across Chinese marketing websites. Belatedly recognizing they'd been bamboozled (''They know how to use us,'' complained one aide in an email), Quinn's staffers demanded he cease using the governor's image and the Illinois state seal. Sethi ignored them.
In sales meetings with prospective investors in China, Sethi was even more brazen. A 41-minute video of one such session, held at the Beijing Sofitel on Oct. 29, 2011, shows him responding to several translated questions, including: Can you guarantee investors a green card?
Without question, Sethi said. He made brash, sometimes outlandish, promises. He claimed a high occupancy rate and huge profit stream were givens and that the development would pay no taxes. ''Our company has designed this project,'' Sethi declared, ''in partnership with the government'--the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago.'' The deal, he added later, was ''guaranteed by the government.'' And: ''The investor is fully protected of their entire investment.''
By the fall of 2012, Sethi was under growing pressure. He had failed to procure any non-EB-5 financing. The promised summer start date for construction had come and gone. Chinese money was pouring in'--$147 million in little more than a year'--but he couldn't tap it. Like many EB-5 developers, he had agreed to keep their $500,000 principal in escrow until the investors' provisional green cards were approved. But the USCIS wouldn't approve the visas until Sethi provided documentation of some of his arrangements.
Asked about his franchising deals, Sethi submitted years-old letters from three hotels confirming agreements that had long since been terminated and offered up a doctored Hyatt form letter as ''proof '' of the two others. (A Hyatt executive later described this as ''a forgery.'')
USCIS asked for evidence of Sethi's non-EB-5 funding. David Derrico, a lawyer representing Sethi, wrote back that the project still expected $340 million in bond money from the Illinois Finance Authority. But if that didn't materialize, he explained, Sethi had already obtained all the backup financing he needed'--from Qatar. Derrico submitted a one-page letter from the Qatar Investment Authority, a sovereign wealth fund, pledging $340 million. ''Our lending group is prepared to move forward with the funding of the above referenced transaction,'' read the message, signed by ''Scott H. Brett, Head'--Corporate Banking (north America).''
Asked about this later by the SEC, a lawyer for the Qatar fund reported that the letter was ''not authentic.'' The fund had never employed a Scott H. Brett.
Derrico says the Qatar letter arrived from Sethi at the last minute and ''out of the blue,'' and that he had no reason to question it. ''We don't independently go out and verify'...all the documents,'' says Derrico. ''It would be economically impossible. No client would pay for it.''
By this time, Sethi had come under the sway of yet another adviser: Hirav Shah, a self-styled ''corporate astrologer'' who employed ''astrology-numerology-vaastu-graphology science'' to solve strategic business problems. (Minimum charge, according to his website: $7,000.) Sethi let Shah'--who also offered guidance to celebrities, politicians, and owners of gas stations'--live in his hotel rent-free for nearly a year. He embraced Shah's counsel. This included posting one-inch mirror squares on all the doors of the O'Hare Garden Hotel and dictating that EB-5 team members wear clothing in certain colors on particular days.
While $147 million invested in the convention center remained in a Virginia bank beyond the Sethis' reach, another $10,726,466 in administrative fees, from EB-5 investors (at $41,500 apiece), flowed into their hands'--and quickly out. Some of it went toward expenses that had nothing to do with the project and weren't permitted under the offering documents. For example, according to the SEC, in February 2012, Ravinder Sethi withdrew $35,000 to fund a cashier's check made out to Wyndham as partial settlement of the lawsuit for the Sethis' violation of their franchise agreement.
Anshoo sent more than $2.5 million to an account in his own name in Hong Kong. And on his travels to China, Sethi spent money on massages and gifts of lingerie. By year-end, less than $1 million would remain, even though the offering's subscription agreement required the Sethis to refund the fees in full if the investors didn't get their green cards (which the USCIS still hadn't cleared).
By November 2012, investors were getting antsy. Sethi knew he had to demonstrate progress. He announced plans to demolish the O'Hare Garden Hotel and break ground for the new complex. Actual construction was impossible as he still didn't have building permits, franchise agreements, or construction plans.
He began tapping even more connections to get cash for the project. Sethi retained Michael Axelrod, son of David Axelrod, President Obama's former strategist, and a consultant specializing in Latin American business, to raise EB-5 funding in Mexico. Axelrod also called contacts at USCIS, prodding them to approve the visas, which would release the escrowed Chinese funds. They told him the visas remained ''in review.'' A second lobbyist enlisted calls from Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin's staff. Sethi arranged another meeting with the Illinois Finance Authority for mid-February, where he hoped to make progress on winning the state financing he'd promised his investors. He also persuaded an official of the Clinton Foundation to make a high-level inquiry on his behalf.
For a failed motel owner, Sethi had deployed a truly impressive cast of power brokers. Still, they couldn't break the logjam. And they could do nothing for him when, seemingly out of nowhere, the feds jumped in and brought the entire project to a halt.
On Feb. 6, 2013, SEC lawyers raced into federal court in Chicago and, in a secret hearing, persuaded a judge to place an emergency freeze on all assets under the control of Anshoo Sethi. An SEC lawsuit accusing Anshoo of fraud was made public two days later. No action was taken against his father.
Anshoo Sethi's dreams had been dashed by a tipster who contacted the SEC around the time of his Chicago groundbreaking ceremony, triggering a rapid-fire investigation. The ensuing civil action led to more than a year of court proceedings, which ended with a settlement in March 2014.
The deal, which did not require Sethi to admit wrongdoing, returns the frozen $147 million to his Chinese investors, fines Sethi and his businesses $3.9 million, and requires they repay $11.5 million in administrative fees. He is barred from any association with the sale of securities for 20 years.
Now 30, Sethi remains in legal peril. The vacant convention center site, now up for sale, is the subject of a foreclosure suit.
In October 2013 the tipster in Sethi's case received a record $14.7 million whistleblower award from the SEC'--about 10% of the recovered funds'--paid out under the 2010 Dodd-Frank legislation. At his request he remained anonymous, until his identity was revealed in a lawsuit filed in late June by his business partner, seeking a share of the reward (see that story here).
The recipient is 62-year-old Michael Sears, a principal in a small real estate financing firm called Global Capital Markets Advisor, which owns an EB-5 regional center of its own. Although the exact events that produced the lucrative award are in dispute, what's clear'--and striking'--is that Sears's suspicions about the project didn't stem from any inside information or personal contact with Sethi or his enterprise. Indeed, it resulted from far less information than possessed by dozens of people who did business with Sethi.
Sears never even met Sethi. Instead, while Sears was traveling in China to promote his own firm's EB-5 deal, he came to a simple realization'--from industry rumbling an a look at the project's aggressive online marketing'--that the Chicago convention center didn't smell right. Sears says this prompted him to spend 30 minutes filling out a whistleblower form on the SEC's website. He later explained his suspicions to agency investigators. It was an easy way to make $14.7 million.
In the aftermath of the scandal'--merely the biggest to afflict the EB-5 program'--the SEC has brought a second fraud case; issued a formal ''investor alert''; and opened a broader inquiry into the business, reportedly issuing subpoenas to more than a dozen regional centers. USCIS says it has beefed up its oversight, hiring a team of experts to more closely scrutinize business proposals. Still, the government hasn't tightened the rules governing the visa program.
Industry practitioners such as consultant Wright seem to like EB-5 just as it is. As he put it in an email, the Sethi case ''is an example of how the U.S. system works to protect investors. The SEC, FBI and [USCIS] stepped in to investigate this situation, and investors were able to recover their funds.''
For its part, the industry trade organization, the Association to Invest in the USA, has launched a new ''legislative action center'' to ''empower EB-5 stakeholders to tell their stories of capital formation and resulting job creation to federal decision-makers in Congress.'' Their goal is to lift the cap on visas and dramatically expand the program. Their slogan: ''EB-5 is working.''
As the court records in the SEC's action made clear, the investors' entire $147 million of principal was preserved at all times in escrow, and was returned in full to the investors. Mr. Sethi himself was a vocal proponent of returning the escrowed funds directly to the investors, once the project had been halted by the SEC. In reaching a consent agreement with the SEC, Mr. Sethi neither admitted nor denied the allegations raised against him.
The investors' administrative fees are the only funds remaining to be returned in order to make the investors whole, and over half of those fees were advanced as commissions to the investors' brokers in China, with the understanding that the brokers would return or credit those fees if the investor's visa application was denied. Mr. Sethi is currently taking aggressive legal action in China in order to recover those fees for any investors who have not been placed into new projects by those brokers.
Mr. Sethi invested years of both financial and sweat equity in the hotel and convention center project. In doing so, he retained dozens of recognized professionals and agents to advise him and consult on the project, including lawyers and others who trumpeted themselves as Eb-5 industry experts.
This story is from the August 11, 2014 issue of Fortune.
About the EB-5 Visa | USCIS
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 05:22
Visa DescriptionUSCIS administers the Immigrant Investor Program, also known as ''EB-5,'' created by Congress in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. Under a pilot immigration program first enacted in 1992 and regularly reauthorized since, certain EB-5 visas also are set aside for investors in Regional Centers designated by USCIS based on proposals for promoting economic growth.
The EB-5 Adjudications Policy Memorandum is the guiding document for USCIS administration of the EB-5 program. It builds upon prior policy guidance for adjudicating EB-5 and is applicable to, and binding on, all USCIS employees.
All EB-5 investors must invest in a new commercial enterprise, which is a commercial enterprise:
Established after Nov. 29, 1990, orEstablished on or before Nov. 29, 1990, that is:1. Purchased and the existing business is restructured or reorganized in such a way that a new commercial enterprise results, or2. Expanded through the investment so that a 40-percent increase in the net worth or number of employees occursCommercial enterprise means any for-profit activity formed for the ongoing conduct of lawful business including, but not limited to:
A sole proprietorshipPartnership (whether limited or general)Holding companyJoint ventureCorporationBusiness trust or other entity, which may be publicly or privately ownedThis definition includes a commercial enterprise consisting of a holding company and its wholly owned subsidiaries, provided that each such subsidiary is engaged in a for-profit activity formed for the ongoing conduct of a lawful business.
Note: This definition does not include noncommercial activity such as owning and operating a personal residence.
Job Creation RequirementsCreate or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs for qualifying U.S. workers within two years (or under certain circumstances, within a reasonable time after the two-year period) of the immigrant investor's admission to the United States as a Conditional Permanent Resident.Create or preserve either direct or indirect jobs:Direct jobs are actual identifiable jobs for qualified employees located within the commercial enterprise into which the EB-5 investor has directly invested his or her capital.Indirect jobs are those jobs shown to have been created collaterally or as a result of capital invested in a commercial enterprise affiliated with a regional center by an EB-5 investor. A foreign investor may only use the indirect job calculation if affiliated with a regional center.Note: Investors may only be credited with preserving jobs in a troubled business.
A troubled business is an enterprise that has been in existence for at least two years and has incurred a net loss during the 12- or 24-month period prior to the priority date on the immigrant investor's Form I-526. The loss for this period must be at least 20 percent of the troubled business' net worth prior to the loss. For purposes of determining whether the troubled business has been in existence for two years, successors in interest to the troubled business will be deemed to have been in existence for the same period of time as the business they succeeded.
A qualified employee is a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or other immigrant authorized to work in the United States. The individual may be a conditional resident, an asylee, a refugee, or a person residing in the United States under suspension of deportation. This definition does not include the immigrant investor; his or her spouse, sons, or daughters; or any foreign national in any nonimmigrant status (such as an H-1B visa holder) or who is not authorized to work in the United States.
Full-time employment means employment of a qualifying employee by the new commercial enterprise in a position that requires a minimum of 35 working hours per week. In the case of the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, "full-time employment" also means employment of a qualifying employee in a position that has been created indirectly from investments associated with the Pilot Program.
A job-sharing arrangement whereby two or more qualifying employees share a full-time position will count as full-time employment provided the hourly requirement per week is met. This definition does not include combinations of part-time positions or full-time equivalents even if, when combined, the positions meet the hourly requirement per week. The position must be permanent, full-time and constant. The two qualified employees sharing the job must be permanent and share the associated benefits normally related to any permanent, full-time position, including payment of both workman's compensation and unemployment premiums for the position by the employer.
Capital Investment RequirementsCapital means cash, equipment, inventory, other tangible property, cash equivalents and indebtedness secured by assets owned by the alien entrepreneur, provided that the alien entrepreneur is personally and primarily liable and that the assets of the new commercial enterprise upon which the petition is based are not used to secure any of the indebtedness. All capital shall be valued at fair-market value in United States dollars. Assets acquired, directly or indirectly, by unlawful means (such as criminal activities) shall not be considered capital for the purposes of section 203(b)(5) of the Act.
Note: Investment capital cannot be borrowed.
Required minimum investments are:
General. The minimum qualifying investment in the United States is $1 million.Targeted Employment Area (High Unemployment or Rural Area). The minimum qualifying investment either within a high-unemployment area or rural area in the United States is $500,000.A targeted employment area is an area that, at the time of investment, is a rural area or an area experiencing unemployment of at least 150 percent of the national average rate.
A rural area is any area outside a metropolitan statistical area (as designated by the Office of Management and Budget) or outside the boundary of any city or town having a population of 20,000 or more according to the decennial census.
$430 fortune? Denmark defends plans to seize migrants' cash & jewelry '-- RT News
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 02:08
Denmark has defended its plans to strip refugees of their valuables, including cash and jewelry, and to make them pay for their stay in asylum centers. Authorities say the rules apply for all people in Denmark, whether residents or refugees.
"I can see that some foreign media are pouring scorn over [the fact] that we in the future may withdraw asylum seekers' valuables and demand that they should pay for their stay in asylum centers themselves," Integration Minister Inger Stojberg wrote on her Facebook page.
She insisted that Denmark has rules that apply to everyone, ''no matter whether you have lived in Denmark throughout your life, or if you just arrived here.''
READ MORE: Denmark moots sex education for refugees to curb high rate of rape
"There is no reason for criticism, since if Danes have valuables that cost over 10,000 kroner ($1,450) they are required to sell them before they can apply for unemployment benefit.''
Earlier in December, the Danish government presented a bill that included a number of different issues on asylum policy, including one on seizing valuable assets.
''The bill '... provides the Danish authorities with the power to search clothes and luggage of asylum seekers '' and other migrants without a permit to stay in Denmark '' with a view to find assets which may cover the expenses mentioned above,'' says the text of the proposal.
The new rule will only apply ''to cash above approximately 3,000 kroner ($436) and tangible assets of a considerable value.''
The proposal has recently sparked outrage in social media. Many users accused Copenhagen of intolerance and even compared them to Nazis who seized gold from the Jews during WWII.
However, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said that the media is presenting "an incorrect picture of Denmark," adding that many don't understand how generous Denmark is.
"It is in that context you should understand that we in Denmark say that before you get these welfare benefits you must, if you have a fortune, pay yourself," he said.
READ MORE: Furor in Denmark: Plan for anti-refugee ads scolded by MPs, companies, activists
In the meantime, a majority of establishment politicians in Danish government have defended the proposal.
''It is not fair that taxpayers in Denmark must pay for asylum seekers who have brought a fortune,'' Danish MP Naser Khader told Politiken newspaper.
According to Martin Henriksen from the Workers' Youth League, Denmark uses many resources ''to house the people who come here.''
''It is very reasonable that people who come here pay for their accommodation if they have the money for it,'' he added.
Out There
Congress wants to give NASA $19.3 billion next year, even more than Obama asked for | The Verge
Thu, 17 Dec 2015 21:49
NASA, the perennially underfundedspaceagency, woke up to a nice surprise this morning: Congress wants to give the agency more money than it asked for. Republican leaders in Congress released a massive budget proposal for the 2016 fiscal year '-- and tucked within it is a substantial budget increase for NASA. The omnibus spending bill would give the US space agency close to $19.3 billion for next year. That exceeds the Obama administration's budget request of $18.5 billion for NASA and provides the agency with $1.27 billion more than it received for 2015. The extra money means NASA has a better chance of pulling off its primary missions on schedule.
With the budget, NASA scores a big win for its commercial crew program '-- the initiative that tasks private companies with building and operating spacecraft to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The legislation provides $1.24 billion for commercial crew, the same amount requested by the Obama administration. That makes this the first time that Congress has matched the administration's requests for the program.
NASA scores a big win for its commercial crew program
With these funds, it's possible that the first launches under the commercial crew program could actually take place in 2017 as intended. On repeated occasions, NASA administrator Charles Bolden has lambasted Congress for not fully funding the program, arguing that the first launches would ultimately slip to 2018 without enough money. NASA has already ordered the first crewed flights from its commercial crew suppliers, SpaceX and Boeing, but no definitive launch dates have been set yet. A report accompanying the spending bill makes it clear that NASA should use the new funds it gets to ensure those launches happen in 2017.
The main motivation for the commercial crew budget increase seems to be ending NASA's reliance on Russia as soon as possible. Since the cancellation of the Shuttle program in 2011, NASA astronauts have been riding into space on the Russian Soyuz rockets, which cost around $80 million per seat. The commercial crew program is aimed at ending this dependent relationship, by getting American astronauts into space on American rockets again. But, NASA wound up buying six extra Soyuz seats for 2018, when it looked like the first commercial crew flights would be delayed. This new report notes that the money set aside for those extra flights can be reappropriated for the commercial crew program after SpaceX and Boeing become operational.
An animation of the CST-100 Starliner, which Boeing is building for NASA's commercial crew program. (Boeing)
NASA's other primary initiatives get big boosts in funding as well. The Space Launch System (SLS) '-- the giant expendable rocket NASA is building to take astronauts into deep space and on to Mars '-- will receive $2 billion, which is $300 million more than the program received for 2015; it's also $644 million above the administration's request for the program.
Within the SLS budget, $85 million will be used to develop an "advanced upper stage" for the rocket. That potentially refers to the Exploration Upper Stage that NASA wants to build. This upper stage comprises the top of the vehicle; when in space, it separates from the rest of the rocket and ignites its engine, carrying payloads '-- or people '-- deeper into orbit. The upper stage that NASA is building for SLS right now can only carry 70 metric tons into space, but with the Exploration Upper Stage, the rocket can transport up to 105 metric tons. It's this more powerful stage that will be used whenever astronauts are aboard the rocket.
It's mostly good news all around
Additionally, NASA's Orion crew capsule, which would ride on top of the SLS and carry these astronauts, will receive $1.27 billion '-- $70 million more than it got last year. That's good news for the program, which has received a few setbacks partly because of budget constraints. The first crewed test flight of the Orion was originally scheduled to occur no later than August 2021, but that flight will now occur no later than April 2023. The schedule was changed to better align with the program's budget, according to NASA associate administrator Bill Gerstenmaier.
As for the rest of NASA's agencies, it's mostly good news all around. The Science division would receive nearly $5.6 billion, which is about $300 million more than what the administration requested. And hidden within that funding boost is a nice surprise for planetary scientists. The legislation sets aside $175 million for a mission to Jupiter's icy moon Europa, which is a leading candidate for finding extraterrestrial life in our Solar System. But rather than just send an orbiter to the moon, as NASA has been working on, the funding calls for a Europa orbiter with a lander component. The bill directs NASA to launch this mission on top of the SLS no later than 2022 '-- meaning we could land on the surface of Europa within the next decade.
Of course, all of these numbers aren't finalized yet. The House is expected to vote on the spending bill on Friday, December 18th, before Congress goes on break for the holidays.
A bigger budget and more jobs: NASA is hiring new astronauts and has opened the process to the public. Do you qualify for the position?
Modern flat Earth societies - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Fri, 18 Dec 2015 15:52
Modern flat Earth hypotheses originated with the English writer Samuel Rowbotham (1816''1884). Based on his conclusions derived from the Bedford Level experiment, Rowbotham published a 16-page pamphlet, Zetetic Astronomy, which he later expanded into a 430-page book, Earth Not a Globe, in which the Earth is a flat disc centred at the North Pole and bounded along its southern edge by a wall of ice (Antarctica), with the Sun and Moon 3,000 miles (4,800 km) and the "cosmos" 3,100 miles (5,000 km) above Earth.[1] He also published a leaflet entitled "The inconsistency of Modern Astronomy and its Opposition to the Scriptures!!", which argued that the "Bible, alongside our senses, supported the idea that the earth was flat and immovable and this essential truth should not be set aside for a system based solely on human conjecture".[2]
Rowbotham and followers like William Carpenter, who continued the belief, gained attention by successful use of pseudoscience in public debates with leading scientists of the day. One such debate, involving Alfred Russel Wallace, concerned the Bedford Level experiment (and later led to several lawsuits for fraud and libel).[3][4][5] Rowbotham created a Zetetic Society in England and New York, shipping over a thousand copies of Zetetic Astronomy.[6]
After Rowbotham's death, Lady Elizabeth Blount, wife of explorer Sir Walter de Sodington Blount, established a Universal Zetetic Society, whose objective was "the propagation of knowledge related to Natural Cosmogony in confirmation of the Holy Scriptures, based on practical scientific investigation". The society published a magazine, The Earth Not a Globe Review, and remained active well into the early 20th century.[7] A flat Earth journal, Earth: a Monthly Magazine of Sense and Science, was published between 1901''1904, edited by Lady Blount.[8]
The International Flat Earth Research Society (IFERS), the first Flat Earth society organization, was founded by Englishman Samuel Shenton in 1956[9] and was later led by American Charles K. Johnson, who based the organization in his home town of Lancaster, California. The belief lacked representation after Johnson's death in 2001, until the name was reclaimed in 2004 by Johnson's self-proclaimed successor 'Daniel Shenton' (likely a reference to Samuel Shenton), a man claiming to live in Hong Kong.[10][11][12][13]
Samuel Shenton: The Flat Earth SocietyEditIn 1956, Samuel Shenton, a songwriter by trade, created the International Flat Earth Society as a successor to the Universal Zetetic Society and ran it as "organizing secretary" from his home in Dover, England.[7][14] Given Shenton's interest in alternative science and technology, the emphasis on religious arguments was less than in the predecessor society.[15]
When satellite images showed Earth as a sphere, Shenton remarked: "It's easy to see how a photograph like that could fool the untrained eye".[16]
The society also claimed that the Apollo Moon landings were a hoax staged by Hollywood (a position also held outside the Flat Earth Society).[citation needed]
In 1969, Shenton persuaded Ellis Hillman, a Polytechnic lecturer, to become president of the Flat Earth Society; but there is little evidence of any activity on his part until after Shenton's death, when he added most of Shenton's library to the archives of the Science Fiction Foundation he helped to establish.[17]
Historical accounts and spoken history tell us the Land part may have been square, all in one mass at one time, then as now, the magnetic north being the Center. Vast cataclysmic events and shaking no doubt broke the land apart, divided the Land to be our present continents or islands as they exist today. One thing we know for sure about this world...the known inhabited world is Flat, Level, a Plain World.
-Flyer written by Charles K. Johnson, 1984.[18]Shenton died in 1971; Charles K. Johnson, inheriting part of Shenton's library from Shenton's wife, established and became president of the International Flat Earth Research Society of America and Covenant People's Church in California. Under his leadership, over the next three decades, the Flat Earth Society grew from a few members to a reported 3,500.[19] Johnson gave newsletters, flyers, maps, and other publications to anyone who asked for them, and managed all membership applications together with his wife, Marjory. The most famous of these newsletters was Flat Earth News. Johnson paid for these publications through annual member dues costing US$6 to US$10 over the course of his leadership.[20] Johnson's beliefs were based on the Bible, and he saw scientists as pulling a hoax which would replace religion with science.[19]
The Flat Earth Society's most recent world model is that humanity lives on a disc, with the North Pole at its center and a 150-foot (45 m) high wall of ice (Antarctica) at the outer edge.[21] The resulting map resembles the symbol of the United Nations, which Johnson used as evidence for his position.[22] In this model, the Sun and Moon are each 32 miles (52 km) in diameter.
Flat Earth Society recruited members by speaking against the U. S. government and all its agencies, particularly NASA. Much of the society's literature in its early days focused on interpreting the Bible to mean that the Earth is flat, although they did try to offer scientific explanations and evidence.[20]
Flat Earth NewsEditFlat Earth News, was a quarterly, four-page tabloid.[20]
Some headlines from Flat Earth News during the 1970s and early 1980s:[24]
"Whole World Deceived... Except the Very Elect" (Dec. 1977)"Australia Not Down Under" (May 1978)"Sun Is a Light 32 Miles Across" (Dec. 1978)"The Earth Has No Motion" (Jun. 1979)"Nikita Krushchev Father of NASA" (Mar. 1980)"Galileo Was a Liar" (Dec. 1980)"Science Insults Your Intelligence" (Sep. 1980)"World IS Flat, and That's That" (Sep. 1980)"The Earth Is Not a Ball; Gravity Does Not Exist" (Mar. 1981)Peak and declineEditThe group rose to 3,500 members under Charles K. Johnson.[19] Later, "Flat-earther" became a common epithet for someone who stubbornly adheres to discredited or outmoded ideas.
Eugenie Scott called them an example of "extreme Biblical-literalist theology: The earth is flat because the Bible says it is flat, regardless of what science tells us".[25] The society was further affected by a fire at the house of Charles K. Johnson which destroyed all of the records and contacts of members of the Society. Johnson's wife, who helped manage the database, died shortly thereafter. Johnson himself died on March 19, 2001.[26]
Modern Flat Earth SocietiesEditIn 2004, Daniel Shenton (not related to Samuel[27]) resurrected the Flat Earth Society, basing it around a web-based discussion forum.[28] This eventually led to the official relaunch of the society in October 2009,[29] and the creation of a new website, featuring the world's largest public collection of Flat Earth literature and a user-edited encyclopedia.[30] Moreover, the society began accepting new members for the first time since 2001, with musician Thomas Dolby becoming the first member to join the newly reconvened society. As of July 2014, over 500 people have become members.[31] Shenton has also conducted several interviews since the society's relaunch, including in The Guardian newspaper.[12]
In 2013, part of this society broke away to form a new web-based group also featuring a forum and wiki.[32] In 2015, an independent Flat Earther Eric Dubay started an online debate forum named after the first modern Flat Earth Society, The International Flat Earth Research Society (IFERS).[33] Dubay did this out of his belief that all other Flat Earth societies are "controlled opposition". [34]
Canadian societyEditFlat Earth Society of Canada was established on 8 November 1970 by philosopher Leo Ferrari, writer Raymond Fraser and poet Alden Nowlan;[35] and was active until 1984.[36] Calling themselves planoterrestrialists,[37] their aims were quite different from other flat earth societies. With obvious humorous overtones, they claimed a prevailing problem of the new technological age was the willingness of people to accept theories "on blind faith and to reject the evidence of their own senses."[36]
In popular cultureEditEnglish musician Thomas Dolby released an album called The Flat Earth, has used the name Flat Earth Society for his website forums, and has linked to information relating to the flat Earth myth. Thomas Dolby also holds the place as the first member since the Flat Earth Society reopened membership.In the 1980s, talk show host Wally George often ridiculed Flat Earth Society members on his show Hot Seat; and Australian talk show host Don Lane also had Flat Earth Society advocates on his show.California-based punk rock band Bad Religion include a song titled "Flat Earth Society", by Brett Gurewitz, on their album Against the Grain (1990).Richard A. Lupoff's novel Circumpolar! describes a flat planet much like the Earth as described by Flat Earth Society, except it has a hole at the centre instead of a North Pole, and the underside contains fictional lands such as Atlantis and Lemuria.[38]While discussing the importance of acting on climate change, President Barack Obama said there was no time for "a meeting of the flat-earth society" in reference to climate change deniers.[39]Nick Davies wrote "Flat Earth News" in which he names and exposes the national news stories which turn out to be pseudo events manufactured by the PR industry and the global news stories which prove to be fiction generated by a new machinery of international propaganda.[40]Notes and referencesEditNotesEdit^Schick, Theodore; Lewis Vaughn How to think about weird things: critical thinking for a new age Houghton Mifflin (Mayfield) (31 October 1995) ISBN 978-1-55934-254-4 p.197^Garwood 2007, p. 46^Nature April 7, 1870.^"The Form of the Earth'--A Shock of Opinions"(PDF). New York Times. 1871-08-10. Retrieved 2007-11-02. ^Hampden, John (1870): The Bedford Canal swindle detected & exposed. A. Bull, London.^Garwood 2007, p. 133^ abMoore, Patrick (1972). "Better and Flatter Earths"(PDF). Can You Speak Venusian?. ISBN 0-352-39776-4. ^Garwood 2007, pp. 155''159^"Flat Earth Society". Retrieved 2009-06-15. ^^ Twitter response^ abDavid Adam (February 23, 2010). "The Earth is flat? What planet is he on?". The Guardian. ^Dan, Gilgoff (2013-11-24). "Bill Nye on creationism: It's like teaching the earth is flat". CNN. Retrieved August 31, 2012. ^"On the Level?". New York Times. June 12, 1960. p. 2. (subscription required)^Garwood 2007, pp. 220''225^Schadewald RJ. "Six "Flood" Arguments Creationists can't answer". National Center for Science Education. Retrieved 2010-04-24. ^Garwood 2007, pp. 320^"Documenting the Existence of "The International Flat Earth Society"". Retrieved 26 December 2013. ^ abcMartin, Douglas (25 March 2001). "Charles Johnson, 76, Proponent of Flat Earth". New York Times. Retrieved 27 December 2013. ^ abcSchadewald RJ (July 1980). "The Flat-out Truth". Retrieved 2009-06-15. ^Voliva, Wilbur Glenn (Mar 1979). "Is the Earth a Whirling Globe?"(PDF). Flat Earth News. Lancaster, CA: International Flat Earth Research Society. p. 2. ^Johnson, Charles K. (Dec 1978). "Flat Earth News: News of the World's Children"(PDF). Lancaster, CA: International Flat Earth Research Society. p. 2. ^"Flat Earth Society Library". Retrieved March 16, 2014. ^Scott, Eugenie (1997). "Antievolution and Creationism in the United States"(PDF). Annual Review of Anthropology26: 263''289. doi:10.1146/annurev.anthro.26.1.263. Retrieved Dec 8, 2011. ^Author(s): John R. Cole, Contributing Editor (2001). "Flat Earth Society President Dies | NCSE". National Center for Science Education. Retrieved 2009-06-15. ^"Miedo a un planeta esf(C)rico". 2010-03-19. Retrieved 2012-07-21. ^"The Flat Earth Society forum". Retrieved 2014-07-24. ^"Relaunch of the Flat Earth Society (press release)"(PDF). ^"The Flat Earth Society Homepage". Retrieved 2014-07-24. ^"The Flat Earth Society - Membership Register". Retrieved 23 July 2014. ^"The Flat Earth Society". Retrieved 2014-07-14. ^^Eric Dubay, "The Flat Earth Society is Controlled Opposition!", (Atlantean, 2015), ^"Leo Charles Ferrari". New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia. St. Thomas University. Retrieved 16 March 2013. ^ ab"Series No. 2 The Flat Earth Society of Canada". Leo C. Ferrari Fonds. UNB Archives and Special Collections. Retrieved 16 March 2013. ^"Dr. Ferrari and the Flat Earth Society by Alden Nowlan". Retrieved 2013-02-07. ^"Circumpolar! (Twin Planets, book 1) by Richard A Lupoff". Retrieved 2013-06-28. ^O'Brien, Michael (25 June 2013). "Obama: No time for 'flat-earth society' on climate change". NBC News. Retrieved 27 December 2013. ^, Christine (2007). Flat Earth: the History of an infamous idea. Macmillan. Further readingEditRaymond Fraser (2007). When The Earth Was Flat: Remembering Leonard Cohen, Alden Nowlan, the Flat Earth Society, the King James monarchy hoax, the Montreal Story Tellers and other curious matters. Black Moss Press, ISBN 978-0-88753-439-3Christine Garwood (2007) Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea, Pan Books, ISBN 1-4050-4702-XExternal linksEdit
Tesla's Little Secret - YouTube
Sat, 19 Dec 2015 23:27
Chinese Lunar Rover Finds No Evidence Of American Moon Landings World News Daily Report
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 15:15
Beijing | Top officials of the Chinese Space Program have come out this morning and expressed their feelings that the American moon landings ''were a complete hoax'' reports the Beijing Daily Express.200 high-ranking officials from the Chinese Space Program have signed a petition asking explanations from the American government and the release of classified NASA information concerning the American moon landings that would prove to the World that the moon landings were not an elaborately orchestrated hoax to fool the World about America's space program capabilities.
These allegations have come up through recent analysis of pictures taken from the Chinese moon rover that allegedly found no traces of the American moon landings existing on the moon.
Pictures taken from Yutu, the Chinese moon rover, that has landed on the moon in 2013, allegedly shows no proof whatsoever of the American moon landings ever happening
World renowned Russian nuclear engineer Yury Ignatyevich Mukhin has also signed the petition as well as a dozen other top Russian engineers and ex-KGB agents claiming the Russian Government ''had always been aware of the situation since the early 1970'²s''These recent discoveries could strangely give credence to conspiracy theorists whom have claimed for decades that America had never gone to the moon but that the American moon landings were but an elaborate hoax to foul Russia into the space race and eventually, the nuclear arms race, with the purpose of ruining Russia, much like the financing of the Mujahideen forces during the soviet Afghanistan war successfully achieved.
China's Moon Rover Raises Questions Over Long Halt in Lunar Landings
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 15:14
China launched its first lunar probe on Dec. 2, making it only the third nation, after the United States and the Soviet Union, to soft-land on the moon.
A dry spell lasting 37 years for ''soft'' lunar landings ended on Saturday, December 14, with the arrival of China's lunar rover.
Launched December 1, the Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, rover will take pictures, probe the lunar surface, and install two telescopes on the moon.
With a successful rocket-assisted soft landing, the 220-pound (100-kilogram) rover will also make China only the third nation, besides the U.S.A. and Russia, to stage a slow landing of a spacecraft on the moon. (See also: ''China Shoots for the Moon.'')
The last such lunar landing took place with Russia's Luna 24 mission in 1976, which returned moon rocks to Earth. Apollo 17 in 1972, the most recent manned mission to the moon, was the final U.S. soft lunar landing.
Why haven't Russian or U.S. landers returned to the moon, and why the long wait for this latest lander?
''The short answer is that there was no compelling scientific reason to go back to the moon,'' says space policy expert John Logsdon, author of John F. Kennedy and His Race to the Moon. ''And probably still isn't.''
NASA's Apollo missions after all returned 842 hundred pounds (382 kilograms) of moon rocks to Earth, some of them still unexamined. They answered questions about the age of the moon, now thought to have arisen from an early collision between the Earth and a Mars-size object roughly 4.5 billion years ago.
Those missions also pointed to the moon as an expensive and dangerous place to send people, particularly after the near-fatalApollo 13 mission in 1970, which spooked U.S. President Richard Nixon, who was already looking for ways to rein in space agency spending after his 1972 re-election, according to Logsdon.
''Firstly, the moon is remote from us, and there is no clear short-term benefit for human beings,'' says space scientist Yongchun Zheng of the National Astronomical Observatories in Beijing, by email.
But for China, he says, ''the lunar exploration program is driven by its science goals. That is, to understand the history and prospect the future of the Moon, the Earth, and our solar system.''
In a 2008 report in the Planetary and Space Science journal, Zheng and colleagues also noted that ''lunar exploration may promote the innovation and development of series of basic and applied science'' for China.
''The implementation of China's Lunar Exploration Program can drive forward the popularization, improve accomplishment of national science, and attract and encourage the youth to fall in love with science and seek after exploration and innovation,'' they wrote.
On a more down-to-earth level, ''China's space program provides several key benefits to the nation,'' space policy analyst Patrick Besha wrote in a 2010 Space Policy report on China's lunar program. Primarily, he wrote, ''it expands the high-technology sector and helps to integrate key military and technology industries.''
Legend of Chang'e Flying to the Moon
In Chinese legend, Chang'e was a beautiful woman who swallowed an elixir of immortality and found herself becoming lighter and lighter.
''She flew up in spite of herself, drifting and floating in the air, until she reached the palace of the moon,'' according to the Planetary and Space Science report. ''Once on the moon, Chang'e became a three-legged toad, as punishment,'' it notes.
Despite the unhappy ending, the legend of the moon goddess still serves as inspiration for China, according to the report.
China's rover landing is the culmination of a lunar program initiated more than a decade ago, which has seen two previous spacecraft successfully enter lunar orbit, one in 2007 and one in 2010.
Over the past decade, China's space program has also launched ''taikonauts'' to an orbiting space lab, re-creating space technology steps undertaken by the U.S. and Russian space agencies four decades ago.
''The logical culmination of these efforts would be a well-deliberated attempt to land people on the moon at some point,'' says former NASA official Scott Pace of the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
China's lunar rover comes after a decade of renewed attention paid to the moon by the world's space agencies. The arrival of the U.S. Air Force/NASA Clementine mission to the moon in 1994 sparked much of the recent interest in the lunar surface after it reported signs of water frozen there in a radar experiment.
In 2010, NASA's LCROSS mission showed by means of two ''hard'' landings'--deliberate impacts of the spacecraft and a companion rocket that threw up a plume of dust'--that the moon hid frozen water deep in the permanently shaded craters on its south pole.
The finding has figured in debates over the next step for the U.S. manned space program, with a U.S.-Canadian moon rover called RESOLVE considered as a lunar water prospector for future missions. Some space entrepreneurs, such as Robert Bigelow of Bigelow Aerospace, have called for awarding mineral rights to spur moon colonies. (See also: ''Moon Mining Rush Ahead.'')
There are also more than a dozen private teams competing for the $40 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, which will be awarded for landing a rover and driving it ''above, below, or on the Lunar surface'' some 1,640 feet (500 meters) by 2015.
China's Jade Rabbit rover looks set to beat the Lunar XPRIZE teams, at least, with its landing.
''The moon is a challenging goal for rising space powers and private-sector players but a reachable goal, so it's the logical next step beyond low Earth orbit," Pace says.
''Orbiting the moon is much easier than executing a soft landing, much less controlling a rover on the surface,'' he adds, which goes a long way toward explaining why we have had to wait so long for this latest lunar rover.
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War on Christmas
5-Year Jail Time For Anyone Who Celebrates Christmas In Brunei - The Coverage Bureau
Sat, 19 Dec 2015 12:24
Posted onDecember 18, 2015
Earlier in April, the rest of the world condemned monarch-ruled Brunei after announcing the introduction of the Sharia penal code that would include penalties such as the severing of limbs and death by stoning.
The tiny but prosperous state on the island of Borneo that is ruled by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, has now made international headlines once again after the state announced a ban on Christmas.
Banned Christmas: Oil-rich Brunei has banned public celebrations of Christmas for fear of Muslims being led astray, it was announced today. Pictured, Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah
The ban was declared on the internationally celebrated Christian holiday because the religious affairs ministry said that publicly marking non-Islamic rituals or festivities could be seen as propagations of religions other than Islam.
Roughly 20 per cent of Brunei's residents comprise of non-Muslims, including sizeable Buddhist and Christian communities.
'Believers of other religions that live under the rule of an Islamic country '' according to Islam '' may practice their religion or celebrate their religious festivities among their community, with the condition that the celebrations are not disclosed or displayed publicly to Muslims,'
'Muslims should be careful not to follow celebrations such as these that are not in any way related to Islam'... and could unknowingly damage the faith of Muslims.' Said the government of Brunei in a statement.
The tough restriction was put in place after children and adults were seen wearing clothes 'that resemble Santa Claus' '' thereby promoting a religion other than Islam
The statement also noted that businesses that publicly displayed Christmas decorations would be asked to take them down'' to which the businesses had given their 'full cooperation' in the matter.
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The penalty for celebrating Christmas in Brunei is punishable with a jail term of up to 5-years.
Brunei's latest decision to ban Christmas officially will no doubt, attract more international criticism- following the harsh Sharia penal code that was announced to be implemented in the state in April by Brunei's 68-year-old Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.
So what is your take on the issue? Let us know!
VIDEO-Trump: Putin praise is a good thing, not a bad thing |
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VIDEO-IMF chief Christine Lagarde vows to fight negligence trial | euronews, world news
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 14:58
Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, says she will be appealing a decision by a French court that she stands trial for her role in the payment of 404 million euros (437 US dollars) to French businessman Bernard Tapie.
The case dates back more than 20 years and will be heard at the Cour de Justice de la Republique, which judges ministers for crimes in office, France's prosecutor general said.
Lagarde is accused of negligence over her role in the Tapie affair when she was the French finance minister.
The decision came as a surprise to her legal team, as France's top prosecutor had previously recommended that the case against the IMF chief be dropped.
Yves Repiquet, Lagarde`s lawyer, said: ''The prosecutor said there was no case against Lagarde but the judge has disregarded this.
''This decision was taken in disregard of the facts, of the documents of the trial record and of the recommendations of the prosecution authority. It is therefore incomprehensible.''
The ruling concerns the compensation Tapie received from the French government after selling his stake in the sports company Adidas to Cr(C)dit Lyonnais in 1993.
He claimed the bank had defrauded him after it later resold his stake for a much higher sum.
His case was referred to an arbitration panel by Lagarde.
The panel later subsequently awarded Tapie the money, which caused a public outcry.
Earlier this month, a French court dismissed his demand for a further payout of more than a billion euros ordering him instead to pay back the original compensation.
VIDEO-Danish minister defends plans to strip migrants of valuables | euronews, world news
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 14:55
A Danish minister is defending plans to strip migrants of cash and valuables to pay for their keep.
The proposed bill would allow authorities to search clothes and luggage for items worth more than 400 euros.
Items deemed to be of sentimental value would be excluded.
Integration Minister Inger Stoejberg says international media criticism of the move is unjustified.
In a message posted on Facebook she points out that Danish citizens already have to sell assets above a certain level before they can claim benefits.
Europe's migration crisis has seen thousands of people arrive in Denmark this year after making perilous journeys into Europe.
The proposed bill looks set to be passed by February next year.
VIDEO-Roadmap for peace in Syria, but no clear agreement on Bashar al-Assad | euronews, world news
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 14:51
The United Nations Security Council has unanimously voted to adopt a resolution for the Syrian peace process.
Plans have been put in place for early January, 2015, talks between the Syrian administration and opposition, with hopes of forming a transitional government within six months.
The UN now has one month to present the council with options for monitoring a ceasefire.
It's the first time Russia and the US have agreed on a roadmap for peace in Syria.
However, it seems the New York talks produced no such agreement on the fate of President Bashar al-Assad.
''President Assad has lost the credibility to be able to unite the country and to provide the moral credibility to be able to govern it into the future,'' said US Secretary of State, John Kerry.
The UK and France joined Kerry in calling for Assad to step down. But both China and Russia disagreed that his departure should be a precondition for talks.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said:''Only the Syrian people themselves can define their future. This is a clear response to attempts to impose a solution from outside on Syrians on any issues including those regarding its president.''
The resolution makes no mention of whether Assad will be allowed to run for office in elections now scheduled to be held within 18 months. This is also the deadline set for putting into place a new constitution in Syria.
VIDEO-Rallies across Poland as thousands accuse the new government of a 'creeping' dictatorship | euronews, world news
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 14:42
For the second consecutive week thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets of Poland's cities to protest against the new conservative government.
Since the Law and Justice party won the elections in October critics have accused the new regime of trying neuter the Constitutional Court by replacing judges.
''The attack on the Constitutional Court could lead to a situation where there is no protection of democracy,'' said Mateusz Kijowski, one of the organisers. ''Poland wil be in danger of dictatorship by the majority, which is the simplest way to ordinary dictatorship.''
The Law and Justice party controls the houses of parliament and the presidency, leaving the court as the only effective check on its power say critics.
Over the past few weeks government has moved to stack the court with its supporters and now plans legislation that critics say would essentially make it unable to work.
Demonstrations, organised by a group called the Committee for the Defence of Democracy, took place in 20 cities.
VIDEO-Putin says Russia has more military capability than its using in Syria | euronews, world news
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 14:37
President Vladimir Putin says Russia is not using all its military capability in Syria and could do more if necessary.
He was speaking at a Kremlin function in Moscow to commemorate his country's security service members.
His comments came just a day after the UN Security Council backed a peace plan for war-torn Syria that included calls for a ceasefire.
''I want to stress that these are by far not all our capabilities,'' said Putin. ''What we use is in Syria is a long way from all that we have. We have more military means and we will use them if we have to.''
Russia is already carrying out airstrikes along with several other nations including Britain, France and the US.
But the country remains a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has continued to supply weapons to his regime despite international criticism.
The resolution adopted by the UN made no mention of the future role Assad, and the issue remains an area of contention between Russia and the West.
VIDEO-Spain votes in 'unpredictable election' - BBC News
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 14:29
VideoSpaniards go to the polls in a landmark election that will see more than two parties compete for power for the first time in decades.
20 Dec 2015
From the section Europe
VIDEO-CBS Edits Out Criticisms of U.S. Policy From Frank Luntz Focus Group With Muslim Americans
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 14:10
When a CBS News segment featuring a focus group of American Muslims aired Friday, it highlighted their relationship to terrorism, with a particular fixation on how much responsibility they felt to condemn terrorist attacks.
But in interviews with The Intercept, two Muslim Americans who took part in the group complained that CBS edited out parts of the discussion where they raised their own concerns '-- including critiques of U.S. militarism, surveillance and entrapment.
They also said that Frank Luntz, the right-wing pollster who led the focus group, silenced members of the group when they criticized discriminatory U.S. government policies.
When Luntz asked the group how they respond to attacks such as the recent one in San Bernardino, New York City activist Amelia Noor-Oshiro told The Intercept she asked Luntz ''Why don't you ask that to people who actually commit acts of terror? Why don't you ask that to White America who are responsible for a majority of domestic terror attacks?''
That didn't make it into the on-air segment.
Sarah Harvard, a New York City journalist who was in the group, wrote a lengthy Facebook post after the airing of the CBS segment where she noted that the total time spent filming was around an hour '-- and that the most telling exchanges were cut out.
For example, Harvard wrote that after Luntz asked the group whether they were Americans or Muslims first, she chose to demonstrate the offensive nature of the question by asking: ''Well, are you an American or Jewish first?''
That didn't make it on the air either.
Harvard wrote that several participants expressed criticisms of U.S. government policy towards Muslims, such as ''entrapment cases and surveillance programs'' as well as institutional racism. None of that made it into the segment.
Luntz ''also decided to stop letting me speak when I started talking about how Muslims should start focusing on combatting government policies rather than rushing to condemn terrorism or Islamophobia exclusively,'' Harvard wrote. ''They also cut out portions of where participants talked about media accountability when discussing Islam.''
''He kept saying how he felt bad that no one listens to Muslims and how he wanted to give us an opportunity to talk to the general population. But how can that happen when we're manipulatively edited to have us fit their own narrative and agenda?''
When the focus group segment was aired, it was pitched as a response to Republican frontrunner Donald Trump's call to ban Muslim immigrants.
In an interview with The Intercept, Harvard said that at one point during the interview she flatly told Luntz that she was ''sick and tired of [talking about Trump] when we have other issues besides Trump.''
Another question Harvard says Luntz asked that was not included on air was whether they recognized Israel as a Jewish state '-- as if that was relevant to the American Muslim experience.
Harvard said Luntz clearly had an agenda. ''He just wanted to create this narrative of how Muslim Americans are condemning terrorism.'' That is true, of course, but it's not the whole story.
''He's trying to put us in a positive light but in a way that makes us feel like second-class citizens,'' she said '' only giving American Muslims voice to react to terrorism, not to express their own policy views.
Noor-Oshiro said that prior to being picked for the group, she was asked to fill out a survey that included one question about ''approximately what percentage of the Muslim population would you think could be radicalized or are already radicalized?'....It literally said write down a percentage!'' Noor-Oshiro also says Luntz also baited her by asking her what ''percent of white people'' are racist. When she refrained from answering the question, he told her, ''This is your chance!''
''I think a lot of people were very appreciative of the fact we even got a voice,'' she said. ''But I don't think they understood this voice came with conditions.''
The group's experience is not unusual for Muslim Americans trying to engage in the public sphere. Muslims are often recruited to combat radicalism, such as with the White House's Countering Violent Extremism initiative, but are rarely asked about U.S. policy they may object to, such as crackdowns on civil liberties, political marginalization and overly aggressive foreign policy.
Luntz told CBS news anchors after the segment aired that the focus group had expressed ''very deep frustration that nobody's listening to them,'...that they are the focus of all sorts of conversations, many of them negative, and that they don't have a voice. That they're being attacked by the leading presidential candidate [sic] and no one is hearing a response. They were so grateful to be gathered in that room, to have a chance to speak out.''
As for his own conduct, Luntz said he was actually ''trying to be diplomatic. I did not push as much as I normally do in these sessions, and the reason why is because I wanted the voice to be unedited.''
In a statement that raises questions about his normal style, he explained: ''I did not want to ever push them to say things that they did not believe.''
A somewhat longer segment about the focus group appeared on the CBS News website.
VIDEO-Ted Koppel Downplays ISIS Threat, Claims U.S. Created Al Qaeda 'Franchise' | MRCTV
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 05:49
More in the cross-post on the MRC's NewsBusters blog.
On Wednesday night, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly pressed NBC's Ted Koppel on the state of the country: ''...a new Wall Street Journal poll says just 20% of Americans believe the country is headed in the right you believe the USA is in bad shape right now, Mr. Koppel? And if so, why?''
Koppel dismissed the public's pessimism and tried to minimize the threat from ISIS terrorists: ''I don't think the country is in as bad a shape as your question implies. I think we're scaring ourselves to death with this ISIS threat....I don't think we need to worry about invasions of hostile Muslims.''
VIDEO-'View' Gun Rant: Build 'an Assault Weapons Wall!' | MRCTV
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 05:43
[See NewsBusters for more.] The View's Whoopi Goldberg went on a rant, Thursday, as she reported the news that a majority of Americans oppose a new ban on so-called assault weapons. Referencing Donald Trump, she lobbied, ''Because it seems to me, you know, you want to ban people, you want to ban a people from coming. You want to build a wall? How about an assault weapon wall? Let's build a wall about that!''
VIDEO-State Dep't Official Warns Changes to Visa Waiver Program Could Have 'a Very Negative Impact' on Iran Nuclear Deal | MRCTV
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 05:04
A senior State Department official told lawmakers on Thursday that a move to tighten the U.S. visa waiver program '' included in the omnibus spending bill in response to heightened terror-related security concerns '' could have ''a very negative impact'' on implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement.
VIDEO-CBS Muslim Focus Group: Don't Let Children Watch 'Hateful' GOP Debates | MRCTV
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 04:32
More in the cross-post on the MRC's NewsBusters blog.
In a focus group with American Muslims on CBS This Morning, participants told political strategist Frank Luntz that Republicans discussing terrorism was so offensive that their children could not be exposed to GOP debates. One woman warned: ''I actually did a call out to Muslim parents across the country to not watch the Republican debate in front of their children because I knew that, that '' subjecting our children to hear the hateful stereotyping and the lumping of Muslims with terrorism in front of our children is actually something that psychologically impacts them.''
Luntz wondered: ''But don't you want the kids to know the challenges that they face?'' She declared: ''I don't want my children to be subjected to racism and the vilification of their faith. I will not allow Donald Trump to tell my kids how they should feel about being Muslim.''
VIDEO-Nets Censor NYT Scrubbing Obama Quote Saying He Didn't 'Appreciate the Anxiety' Post-Terror Attacks | MRCTV
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 04:27
See more in the cross-post on the NewsBusters blog.
The major broadcast networks on Friday morning and evening showed no interest in reporting to viewers that The New York Times had scrubbed from an article on its website that contained a quote from President Obama telling columnists that he did not watch enough news coverage of the Paris and San Bernardino terror attacks to truly grasp the anxiety of the American people.
While the liberal newspaper tried to claim that they merely altered the article and removed the line so as to create more space, numerous journalists disputed that claim with the simple fact that the sentenced was replaced with two paragraphs that combined for more words than the original sentence.
VIDEO-Awkward: ABC Restarts Democratic Debate Without Hillary Clinton Onstage | MRCTV
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 04:21
See more in the cross-post on the NewsBusters blog.
In one of the more awkward and bizarre happenings you'll see in a debate, Saturday's Democratic presidential debate on ABC restarted without frontrunner Hillary Clinton following a commercial break and continued for over a minute until she returned to the stage.
Returning from break with much of the audience not yet back in their seats, co-moderator David Muir worked around that by first remarking to viewers that: ''Welcome back tonight. As you can see, we have a packed audience here in New Hampshire, and we're going to continue.''
VIDEO-Spiders On Drugs - YouTube
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 04:02
VIDEO-After Outrage Over Curriculum Using Muslim Statement of Faith, School District Shuts Down Friday Classes, Weekend Activities | Video |
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 03:53
A Virginia school district cancelled Friday classes as well as weekend activities over the ''tone and content'' of phone calls and emails about a high school calligraphy assignment using the shahada '-- the First Pillar of Islam '-- which states, ''There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.''
Image source: WHSV-TV
Augusta County Public Schools on Thursday posted this message on itswebsite:
Following parental objections to the World Geography curriculum and ensuing related media coverage, the school division began receiving voluminous phone calls and electronic mail locally and from outside the area. As a result of those communications, the Sheriff's Office and the school division coordinated to increase police presence at Augusta County schools and to monitor those communications. The communications have significantly increased in volume today and based on concerns regarding the tone and content of those communications, Sheriff Fisher and Dr. Bond mutually decided schools and school offices will be closed on Friday, December 18, 2015. While there has been no specific threat of harm to students, schools and school offices will be closed Friday, December 18, 2015. All extra-curricular activities are likewise cancelled for tonight, Thursday, December 17, through the weekend. We regret having to take this action, but we are doing so based on the recommendations of law enforcement and the Augusta County School Board out of an abundance of caution.
Finally, the Augusta County School Board and Dr. Bond appreciate parents bringing concerns directly to our attention, and a constructive and respectful dialogue between school and community is always welcome. As we have emphasized, no lesson was designed to promote a religious viewpoint or change any student's religious belief. Although students will continue to learn about world religions as required by the state Board of Education and the Commonwealth's Standards of Learning, a different, non-religious sample of Arabic calligraphy will be used in the future.
Numerous parents told WHSV-TV on Thursday they were asked to pick up their children as soon as possible from schools.
Parents said students at Riverheads High School weren't given the translation of the calligraphy assignment, which was in Arabic and handed out during a world geography class.
Image source: WHSV-TV
The situation first made headlines after some students refused to take part in the assignment andparents subsequentlycaught wind of it. Some families are reportedly so angry that they will not permit their kids to complete the course with the teacher in question.
VIDEO-2011 DHS Memo on Vetting of Visa Applicants Leaked '-- Watch MSNBC Host's Reaction as Reporter Reads It On-Air | Video |
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 03:51
The Obama administration rejected a 2011 proposal to authorize officials to vet the social media accounts of visa applicants, according to a Department of Homeland Security memo obtained by MSNBC.
The memo reportedly asserted that analyzing visa applicants' social media accounts could help uncover potential evidence of ''fraud, crime'' and ''national security'' threats.
Citing a former senior DHS official, MSNBC's Ari Melber reported that in addition to the proposal being rejected, officials were unable to even access social media sites due to a ''firewall'' intended to block employees from accessing them online.
''This very memo'...went through layers of review, went up the line, a year of reviews, it would authorize this type of access, it would try to create this program, and it was ultimately not adopted,'' Melber said on ''Morning Joe'' Thursday.
Melber reported the Obama administration decided not to strengthen the vetting process partly out of concerns about ''privacy, civil liberties and the rules that do govern.''
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, visibly surprised, argued there is no expectation of privacy when it comes to public social media posts on sites like Facebook.
''That's why the privacy concerns voiced by the administration seem so confounding,'' he said.
Read the three-page memo below via MSNBC:
Policy Memorandum Social Networking Site Redacted
San Bernardino terrorist Tashfeen Malik entered the U.S. on a ''fiance'' visa. Malik and her husband, Syed Farook, went on to kill 14 people and injure dozens more in a deadly terrorist attack in California.
The FBI confirmed that Malik and Farook discussed violent jihad and martyrdom on social media, however, officials said on Wednesday that the messages were private.
VIDEO-Obama Yes We Can [FULL] - Famous Speech - YouTube
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 03:50
VIDEO-Aircraft contrails could be 'unintentionally' changing the atmosphere | Daily Mail Online
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 03:47
On a clear day you can usually spot a white trail from an airplane in the sky.
They might be fun to look at, but they could also be the reason more solar radiation is reaching our surface, scientists have warned
Researchers have found new data that suggests the layer of crystals left from the contrails is causing a more diffused type of light.
On any a clear day you can usually spot a white trail from an airplane in the sky. They might be fun to look at, but they could be the reason more solar radiation is reaching our surface. Researchers have found new data that suggests the layer of crystals left from the contrails is causing a more diffuse type of light
There isn't enough data to support how much of an effect the icy haze left by airplanes has had, but researchers believe it might be altering the climate system.
'This haze is caused by airplanes, and it is gradually whitening blue skies,' said Charles Long of NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory, at a press conference this week at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting.
'We might be actually conducting some unintentional geoengineering here.'
This theory comes from a previous study of how much sunlight reaches Earth's surface.
From the 1950s to the 1980s, the sun's light seemed to deem then started coming back in full force, proving that energy isn't constant.
When scientists looked for a cause, they tried linking these changes to the sun's variable output, said Martin Wild of the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science at ETH Zurich during the press conference.
HOW JET TRAILS BLOCK SUNLIGHT The phenomenon occurs when aircraft fly above 25,000ft, where the air temperature is around minus 86F.
This causes water vapor emitted by the engines to crystallze and form the familiar white streaks across the sky, known as contrails.
These can be short-lived.
But if there is already a significant amount of moisture in the atmosphere they can linger for hours, as the excess water vapor from the engines tips the surrounding air past its saturation point.
This acts as a catalyst to speed up the natural process of cloud formation.
Cirrus clouds '' the wisp-like formations seen at high altitude '' begin to form around the contrails.
Scientists say these grow into thin layers of cloud and can cover up to an astonishing 20,000 square miles of sky
The level of moisture in the air at high altitudes is unrelated to weather conditions at ground level, which is why it is possible to see contrails on a clear day.
Reading University's Professor Keith Shine, an expert in clouds, said that those formed by aircraft fumes could linger 'for hours', depriving those areas under busy flight paths of summer sunshine.
Experts have warned that, as a result, the amount of sunlight hitting the ground could be reduced by as much as 10 percent.
But they couldn't find any correlations.
'If it's not the sun, it must be the atmosphere' responsible for the change, he said.
Tremendous amounts of aerosols were sent into our atmosphere in the mid-20th century, which ultimately blocked some of the sun's energy.
This was caused by the soaring levels of pollution, but once highly populated countries like the U.S. and Europe decreased their amount of pollution, including the amount of aerosols, and the sun appeared to slightly brighten.
There isn't enough data to support how much of an effect the icy haze left by airplanes has had, but researchers believe it might be altering the climate system. This theory comes from a previous study of how much sunlight reaches Earth's surface
In addition to these findings, Long and his colleagues found that some of the sun's light travels directly on the Earth's surface, but some of it gets scattered while travelling through the atmosphere.
With less pollution, this diffuse light should have decreased, but instead it appeared to be increasing.
'We've got a mystery here,' Long said.
'There must be something in the atmosphere scattering the sun's light.'
'Small ice particles fit the bill.'
He believes air traffic is the reason for all these particles, as exhaust from an airplane engine has aerosols and water vapor.
In addition to these findings, Long and his colleagues found that some of the sun's light travels directly on the Earth's surface, but some of it gets scattered while travelling through the atmosphere. With less pollution, this diffuse light should have decreased, but instead it appeared to be increasing
It's extremely cold high in the atmosphere and these particles serve as nuclei for ice crystals, which form the bright contrails seen flowing behind a plane.
Some of these contrails have been found to contribute to climate change, according to other scientists.
A contrail may disappear, but it leaves behind a thin, icy haze.
Although the sky looks clear, the particles are still there until they eventually fall out of the atmosphere.
While still in the sky, the particles scatter the sun's light in a similar way as in other geoengineering projects.
'It seems quite possible that [Long is] seeing something that's real,' said Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. But there's a lot more work that needs to be done to verify the find and make a connection to the climate.
Skies aren't clear all the time, and why they are clear one day and not the next could matter.
'The reason for the clear sky is a factor [Long] needs to explore more,' Trenbeth says.
Long has admitted that his study creates far more questions than it does answers.
Currently, he has only gathered serious data from only one spot in Oklahoma and there could be less sky whitening in places that don't get as much air traffic.
VIDEO-Schools in Virginia shut over anger at Islam homework -
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 03:39
"While there has been no specific threat of harm to students, schools and school offices will be closed Friday, December 18, 2015," Augusta County Schools said. Extracurricular activities were shut down Thursday afternoon.
And social media exploded over the school lesson -- a simple drawing assignment -- into a caustic discussion about religion and education.
When the world geography class at Riverheads High School in Staunton rolled around to the subject of major world religions, homework on Islam asked students to copy religious calligraphy.
It read:
The homework assignment aimed to give students "an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy."
"Here is the shahada, the Islamic statement of faith, written in Arabic. In the space below, try copying it by hand. This should give you an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy."
The illustrative classical Arabic phrase was the basic statement in Islam. It translated to: "There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is the messenger of Allah."
Angry callsWhen students took it home, it was like a spark hitting a powder keg. Some of their parents saw the homework as an attempt to convert their children to Islam.
Calls and emails flooded the school. Some of them demanded the teacher be fired for assigning it.
Cheryl LaPorte had not designed the assignment herself, but took it from a standard workbook on world religions, local newspaper The News Leader reported.
LaPorte told The News Leader that now her job is to get her students through Standards of Learning tests.
No more shahadaThe county school system reacted.
It removed the shahada from world religion instruction. "A different, non-religious sample of Arabic calligraphy will be used in the future," it said.
And it issued a statement saying no one was trying to convert anyone to any religion.
"Neither of these lessons, nor any other lessons in the world geography course, are an attempt at indoctrination to Islam or any other religion or a request for students to renounce their own faith or profess any belief," Augusta County Schools official Eric Bond said in a statement to CNN affiliate WHSV.
Not enoughBut that hasn't been enough for Kimberly Herndon, who kept her ninth-grade son home from school.
"There was no trying about it. The sheet she gave out was pure doctrine in its origin," she told WHSV.
"I will not have my children sit under a woman who indoctrinates them with the Islam religion when I am a Christian," she said.
By Tuesday, like-minded parents and residents of the town of nearly 24,000 gathered in the sanctuary of Good Will Ministries to voice their grievances, including against the teacher.
At the same time, former students have taken to Facebook to defend her.
"I'm against anyone getting steamrolled by convoluted logic and I'm very pleased to see that there is so many people around me that feel the same way," a supporter wrote.
Security scrambleBack at the school, the sheriff and administrators had begun worrying about security.
On Monday, Augusta County issued a letter reassuring parents that schools in the county were safe. It did not refer to the homework assignment but did say that parents had become worried about security.
"All doors are locked with the exception of one front door. ... Faculty and staff monitor all activities inside and out of the buildings." Standard security procedures, the letter explained.
But as the week went on, officials got more specific about the source of concern -- calls and email messages -- and their target -- the world geography class.
"The school division began receiving voluminous phone calls and electronic mail locally and from outside the area," the school system said. And the "tone and content" were nasty.
The sheriff deployed more officers to county schools and began monitoring communications. Then all the schools in the county shut down.
Facebook argumentsThe homework assignment in Staunton had ballooned into a national argument that was trending on Facebook.
Both sides dished out hard -- those who see the assignment as an affront to their religious beliefs and those who see it as a mind-broadening education assignment.
"This is so WRONG! There is only ONE GOD and HIS NAME is JESUS!" one user posted.
"You THINK ignorance is a GOOD thing!! Heaven forbid we should learn about other cultures when .03% of them are terrorists -- while more than 99% are good, honest, moral people," posted another.
As passions overflow, for fear of their potential effects, Augusta County Schools will remain shuttered over the weekend for all activities.
Opinion: Homework on Islam no threat to Christians
CNN's Rashard Rose contributed to this report.
VIDEO-Belgium: Tusk says Nord Stream-2 will increase EU's dependence on Russia - YouTube
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 03:23
VIDEO-News Alert ! Deadly US airstrike against Iraqi forces '-- RT News - YouTube
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 03:13
VIDEO-Did Martin Shkreli once attempt a 'fakeover'?
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 03:10
Even bankers advising SeraCare were skeptical of Shkreli's fund, saying "they understood it to be a relatively small fund that likely would be unable to complete a transaction without third-party financing," according to SeraCare's own filings.
Publicly available stock-trading information also suggests that, at nearly the same time Shkreli disclosed to regulators that he owned 5.17 percent of the company, he may have amassed an equally large short position. That strategy, known in Wall Street parlance as "boxing," is common in trading circles but is rarely, if ever used, when trying to buy a company, experts say. That's because Shkreli would have been left with no significant net ownership stake in the company had the deal gone through.
Trading data examined by CNBC show that while Shkreli publicly disclosed ownership of more than 950,000 shares in SeraCare in July 2011, the "short-interest," or number of shares investors were betting against the company, dramatically spiked virtually overnight to nearly the same number of shares. That spike came after short interest in Seracare had hovered at just around 70,000 shares for weeks prior.
The SeraCare shareholder told CNBC on Friday that he noticed the unusual activity in the stock, believed it was Shkreli responsible for the large short position, and doubted that Shkreli really wanted to buy the company.
VIDEO-Canadians see Donald Trump's Muslim-ban idea not so differently from Americans, polls indicate - Politics - CBC News
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 03:09
Donald Trump's controversial bid to lead Republicans into the next presidential election appears to highlight differences between American and Canadian politics, but a new survey suggests they may not be so different after all.
The poll by the Angus Reid Institute (ARI) found that 33 per cent of Canadians strongly or moderately agree with Trump's call for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."
While two-thirds of Canadians disagreed (and 49 per cent strongly so), that still leaves a large proportion of Canadians looking kindly on a plan that has been widely condemned both in Canada and the U.S.
And it puts Canadians on almost the same level with Americans. A Washington Post-ABC poll conducted at the same time as the ARI survey found that 36 per cent of Americans supported Trump's ban, with 60 per cent thinking it "the wrong thing to do."
Majority of Republicans, Tories on boardAt this stage of the presidential primaries, Trump is only trying to win over Republican voters. The Post-ABC poll suggests his plan is a winner, with 59 per cent of Republicans supporting it and 38 per cent thinking it the wrong thing to do.
However, despite interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose recently telling the Canadian Press that "I think [Trump's] off the spectrum, frankly '... that's not a voice that we welcome in our party," the ARI poll indicates that a majority of Canadians who voted for the Conservatives in October think Trump is onto something.
In total, 55 per cent of Canadian Conservative voters strongly or moderately agreed with Trump's proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S.
Liberal voters opposedCanadians who voted for the Liberals and New Democrats were strongly opposed, however '-- 77 per cent of New Democrats and 82 per cent of Liberals disagreed with the ban, with about two-thirds strongly disagreeing with it.
In a town hall held by Maclean's magazine this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected Trump's "hateful" rhetoric.
In the U.S., 82 per cent of Democrats in the Post-ABC poll said it was the wrong thing to do.
Note that the ARI poll was conducted using the firm's online panel, whereas the Post-ABC poll was conducted by telephone with live interviewers. This difference in methodology has the potential to influence responses, and so some caution should be exercised when comparing the two polls.
Trudeau on Donald Trump's views on Muslims 2:00
The ARI poll showed some regional and demographic differences on the issue, with support for Trump's Muslim ban being highest on the Prairies. There was also a link to education: less educated Canadians looked more favourably on the ban than more educated Canadians.
Quebeckers less supportiveAnd despite the controversies over reasonable accommodations in Quebec, the ARI poll showed that Quebeckers were less likely than other Canadians to support Trump's ban.
When presented with two options, one suggesting that Trump's rhetoric is "bad for society, it encourages fear and hatred" and the other that it is "good for society, it gets at 'politically incorrect' issues that should be talked about," 63 per cent of Canadians thought it was bad for society (including 66 per cent of Quebeckers). The remaining 37 per cent thought it was good for society.
Perhaps Canadian and American politics aren't so different after all.
The poll by the Angus Reid Institute was conducted between Dec. 10 and 13, 2015, interviewing 1,530 Canadians via the Internet. As the poll was conducted online, a margin of error does not apply.
The poll by the Washington Post-ABC was conducted between Dec. 10 and 13, 2015, interviewing 1,002 Americans via the telephone. The margin of error associated with the survey is +/'' 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
VIDEO-Zootopia Official US Sloth Trailer - YouTube
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 03:03
VIDEO-IMF chief Lagarde to stand negligence trial in France - BBC News
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 03:01
Image copyrightAFPImage caption Christine Lagarde denies wrongdoing in the Bernard Tapie compensation case IMF chief Christine Lagarde is to stand trial in France for alleged negligence over a '‚¬404m ($438m; £294m) payment to a businessman in 2008.
She was finance minister in President Nicolas Sarkozy's government at the time of the compensation award to Bernard Tapie for the sale of a firm.
Mr Tapie supported Mr Sarkozy in the 2007 presidential election.
Ms Lagarde's lawyer described the court's decision as "incomprehensible", and said the IMF boss would appeal.
In a statement she said she had "always acted in this affair in the interest of the state and in respect of the law", according to AP.
Tapie affair: Background to case
Profile: Christine Lagarde, 'rock star' IMF head
Mr Tapie was once a majority shareholder in sports goods company Adidas but sold it in 1993 in order to become a cabinet minister in Francois Mitterrand's Socialist government.
He sued the Credit Lyonnais bank over its handling of the sale, alleging that the partly state-owned bank had defrauded him by deliberately undervaluing the company.
His case was later referred by Ms Lagarde to a three-member arbitration panel which awarded the compensation, causing a public outcry.
Image copyrightAFPImage caption A French court has ruled that Bernard Tapie should pay back the '‚¬404m with interest Investigators suspect he was granted a deal in return for his support of Mr Sarkozy.
Earlier this month, a French court ruled that Mr Tapie was not entitled to any compensation for that sale and should pay back the '‚¬404m with interest.
Five-day deadlineFrance's Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR) decided that Ms Lagarde, 59, should be tried on the charge of "negligence by a person in position of public authority" over the compensation case, iTele TV channel and the Mediapart website reported on Thursday.
A court spokesman later confirmed the decision.
If convicted, she could be sentenced to one year in prison.
French media said the CJR investigation magistrates declined to follow the recommendation of another court which last year decided not to pursue the case.
"It's incomprehensible," Ms Lagarde's lawyer Yves Repiquet told iTele. "I will recommend Mrs Lagarde appeal against this decision."
A spokesman for France's attorney general said Ms Lagarde would have five days to appeal, once the court decision is made public on Friday or Monday.
Meanwhile, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said the organisation - which represents 188 member nations - "continues to express its confidence in the managing director's ability to effectively carry out her duties".
Bernard Tapie: A French saga1993: Credit Lyonnais bank handles sale of Adidas, in which Bernard Tapie is a majority stakeholder, to enable tycoon to pursue ministerial career under then Socialist President Francois Mitterrand
1993-2007: Mr Tapie claims Credit Lyonnais undervalued Adidas and that he was cheated; lengthy court battle ensues
1994: Bernard Tapie's highly indebted group collapses and is wound up by Credit Lyonnais
2007: Mr Tapie switches support to conservative Nicolas Sarkozy in presidential election. Finance Minister Christine Lagarde intervenes in Tapie case to order binding arbitration
2008: Special judicial panel rules Mr Tapie should receive damages of '‚¬404m; Ms Lagarde decides not to challenge ruling, prompting public outcry
2011: Public prosecutor recommends judicial investigation into Ms Lagarde's decision to order arbitration
2013: Ms Lagarde is questioned by magistrate and her Paris apartment searched. Mr Tapie is placed under investigation by prosecutors investigating corruption claims
2014: French prosecutors open formal investigation of negligence into Ms Lagarde
3 December 2015: A court orders Mr Tapie to pay back '‚¬404m with interest
Ms Lagarde replaced Dominique Strauss-Kahn as IMF managing director in 2011.
Mr Strauss-Kahn - also a former French minister - resigned following his arrest in New York on charges of sexual assault that were later dropped.
VIDEO-C-SPAN Caller to Republican David Brat: 'Can I Sh*t in Your Mouth?' - YouTube
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 02:29
VIDEO-Comparing air strikes against Islamic State to past conflicts - BBC News
Sun, 20 Dec 2015 01:54
The US-led coalition launches about two combat aircraft sorties per hour against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, but how does that compare to previous aerial campaigns?
In this audio visualisation, the BBC's Neal Razzell explores comparisons with the invasion of Iraq, WW2, and Nato's bombing of Serbia in 1999.
Reporting: Neal Razzell; audio mix: James Beard; animation: David Botti. Editor: Richard Knight
First heard: On Background, BBC World Service Radio
VIDEO-Remarks at the United Nations Security Council Meeting on Syria
Sat, 19 Dec 2015 17:00
SECRETARY KERRY: Mr. Secretary-General, Special Envoy de Mistura, distinguished colleagues, I want to begin by thanking the other P4 members who joined together to help fashion this resolution and who spent time this morning working with our colleagues in order to bring us here this afternoon, plus our non-P4 member, Germany, for whom we are very grateful for their participation also.
I want to thank all the members of the council for coming together at this late hour. And I thank you in particular, Secretary-General Ban and Special Envoy de Mistura, for your leadership and your commitment. I also want to thank Foreign Minster Lavrov for his collaboration and his efforts over the course of both Vienna conferences to produce the two Vienna communiques that are integrated into this resolution here today.
By approving Resolution 2254 today, this council is sending a clear message to all concerned that the time is now to stop the killing in Syria and lay the groundwork for a government that the long-suffering people of that battered land can support. After four and a half years of war, this is the first time we have been able to come together at the United Nations in the Security Council to embrace a road forward. During that time, one Syrian in 20 has been killed or wounded; one in five is a refugee; one in two has been displaced. The average life expectancy in Syria has dropped by 20 years.
We need to reverse the course, and that is the council's goal here this afternoon: to put an end to the indiscriminate bombing, the acts of terror, the torture, and the bloodshed. And our shared task is to find a way to make that happen.
In support of this objective, President Obama has set for my country three interrelated goals. The first is to support our friends and to ensure that the instability created by the civil war in Syria does not spread further beyond its borders. And that is why we're providing a record amount of humanitarian assistance, and it's why we're doing more to help Syria's neighbors, to strengthen their capacity to safeguard their territory and to defend against external threats.
Second, we are determined, with our coalitional partners, to degrade and defeat the terrorist organization known as Daesh. In the past half year, the coalition and its partners have worked with Iraqi forces in liberating Tikrit, freeing Sinjar, removing terrorist commanders from the battlefield, cutting off terrorist supply lines, hitting their oil facilities, and depriving Daesh of more and more of the territory that it once controlled.
Now we are intensifying the pressure, helping our Iraqi partners retake most of Ramadi to squeeze supply routes into Mosul. And we are pushing ahead into northern Syria, assisting our partners along the Iraqi-Syrian border and on the recruiting and propaganda efforts. Further, as evidenced by the finance ministerial that was held right here in this very chamber yesterday, we are multiplying our efforts to cut Daesh off from the revenue sources that support its depravity, its criminality.
But the truth is that nothing would do more to bolster the fight against the terrorists than a broadly supported diplomatic process that gives the Syrian people a real choice '' not a choice between Assad or Daesh, but between war and peace, between the violent extremes and a newly empowered political center. That is why we have joined with so many of you in support of an urgent diplomatic initiative. Again and again, countries not just around this dais today, but countless meetings in various parts of the world have reaffirmed the notion that there has to be a political settlement.
Well, this is the test. This is why we've joined here in a broader, more action-oriented effort than ever before attempted regarding Syria: to isolate the terrorists and to put Syria on the road to a political transition, envisioned by the Geneva communique, now embraced by the international community and the United Nations Security Council resolution.
As the council's action today reflects, we have made important progress in recent weeks, and progress that should give us all fresh grounds for encouragement. Last month in Vienna, the United States and other members of the International Syria Support Group agreed on a series of steps to stop the bleeding in Syria, to advance a political transition, to isolate the terrorists, and to help the Syrian people to be able to begin to rebuild their country. Last week in Riyadh, with the support of His Majesty King Salman and his government, a broad cross-section of Syrian opposition representatives came together to form a high committee for negotiation.
Under the resolution approved today, the purpose of those negotiations between the responsible opposition and the government is to facilitate a transition within Syria to a credible, inclusive, nonsectarian governance within six months. The process would lead to the drafting of a new constitution and arrangements for internationally supervised election within 18 months. I might add Geneva never had those dates. It is the Vienna process and the Vienna communique that has produced a six-month and 18-month time horizon, and it is the Vienna process that also has embraced the ceasefire concept as well as embraced a set of principles and values about the shape that a new Syria might be able to take as directed by Syrians for Syrians. It's our hope that a nationwide ceasefire can go into effect, excluding only Daesh and al-Nusrah and any other group that we might decide at some time to designate.
So I would close by saying we're under no illusions about the obstacles that exist. There obviously remain sharp differences within the international community, especially about the future of President Assad. We have emphasized from the beginning that for this to work, the process has to be led and shaped and decided and implemented by the men and women of Syria. It cannot be imposed from the outside and we are not seeking to do so. But we've also seen in recent weeks '' in Vienna, in Paris, and in other capitals, and then today here in New York '' an unprecedented degree of unity on the need to negotiate this political transition to defeat Daesh, and then, indeed, to end the war.
The resolution that we just approved is a milestone because it sets out specific concepts with specific timeframes. Accordingly, we need to work hard together to help these political talks to go forward, to prepare for a ceasefire, and to encourage all the parties in Syria to participate in good faith.
In closing, let me just underscore the urgency of our task. Like many of you, I've met with refugees in and out of refugee camps. I've met with survivors, as you have; met with caregivers, as you have; met with many of the people who have been on the front lines of this conflict. I've talked to women who have struggled to hold their families together despite constant danger, bitter cold, shortages of food, and great danger. I've heard the blood-chilling stories of doctors and relief workers who have been dealing with humanitarian trauma on a daily basis, month after month, year after year '' now into the fifth year.
I am aware, as everybody in this chamber is, of the atrocities that have been committed and are being committed even as we sit here this afternoon, and being committed too often against innocent civilians.
Looking ahead, we know that Daesh can never be allowed to gain control in Syria. So we have a global imperative here to deal with a terrorist entity, but also to end the civil war and to bring legitimacy back to the governance of Syria. President Assad, in our judgment '' and not everybody shares this '' but the majority of the people in the ISSG believe that President Assad has lost the ability, the credibility, to be able to unite the country and to provide the moral credibility to be able to govern it into the future.
So I'd just say, not as a matter of ideology, not as a matter of choice, but purely as a matter of reality, as a matter of fact given the situation on the ground, that if the war is to end, it is imperative that the Syrian people agree on an alternative in terms of their governance. That logic is compelling and it provides a unifying principle for most people in our efforts going forward.
We have a lot of distance to travel '' some would say miles to go. But the truth is that in the past two months, we have started from a standstill, from a nonexistent process, to have three separate meetings of the ISSG and now a United Nations Security Council embrace of a process. We have agreed on a plan of action, and the council's vote today is an important boost on the road to a political settlement. It is a particularly important step because it reaffirms this body's endorsement of the Geneva communique about the transitional governing body with full executive authority, and it also endorses the progress and the statements that we made in Vienna to set a timeline '' a timeline for transition, a timeline for election, and standards for that election '' the highest standards under the supervision of the United Nations for a free, fair, transparent, and accountable election. It also brings fundamental values and principles that can guide the shaping of Syria by Syrians for Syrians.
So let us proceed with confidence from here and a determination to end this war, eliminate the terrorist threat, and enable the people of Syria to return safely to their homes.
I now resume my function as president of the council and I give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Sergey Lavrov, minister of foreign affairs of the Russian Federation.
VIDEO-Newly discovered hack has U.S. fearing foreign infiltration
Sat, 19 Dec 2015 16:53
The FBI is investigating the breach, which involved hackers installing a back door on computer equipment, U.S. officials told CNN. Juniper disclosed the issue Thursday along with an emergency security patch that it urged customers to use to update their systems "with the highest priority."
The concern, U.S. officials said, is that sophisticated hackers who compromised the equipment could use their access to get into any company or government agency that used it.
One U.S. official described it as akin to "stealing a master key to get into any government building."
The breach is believed to be the work of a foreign government, U.S. officials said, because of the sophistication involved. The U.S. officials said they are certain U.S. spy agencies themselves aren't behind the back door. China and Russia are among the top suspected governments, though officials cautioned the investigation hasn't reached conclusions.
It's not yet clear what if any classified information could be affected, but U.S. officials said the Juniper Networks equipment is so widely used that it may take some time to determine what damage was done.
Chinese cyber espionage group caught hacking defense, industrial base
A senior administration official told CNN, "We are aware of the vulnerabilities recently announced by Juniper. The Department of Homeland Security has been and remains in close touch with the company. The administration remains committed to enhancing our national cybersecurity by raising our cyber defenses, disrupting adversary activity, and effectively responding to incidents when they occur."
Juniper Networks' security fix is intended to seal a back door that hackers created in order to remotely log into commonly used VPN networks to spy on communications that were supposed to be among the most secure.
Juniper said that someone managed to get into its systems and write "unauthorized code" that "could allow a knowledgeable attacker to gain administrative access."
Such access would allow the hacker to monitor encrypted traffic on the computer network and decrypt communications.
Hacker who allegedly passed U.S. military data to ISIS arrested
Juniper sells computer network equipment and routers to big companies and to U.S. government clients such as the Defense Department, Justice Department, FBI and Treasury Department. On its website, the company boasts of providing networks that "US intelligence agencies require."
Its routers and network equipment are widely used by corporations, including for secure communications. Homeland Security officials are now trying to determine how many such systems are in use for U.S. government networks.
Juniper said in its security alert that it wasn't aware of any "malicious exploitation of these vulnerabilities." However, the alert also said that attackers would leave behind no trace of their activity by removing security logs that would show a breach.
"Note that a skilled attacker would likely remove these entries from the log file, thus effectively eliminating any reliable signature that the device had been compromised," the Juniper security alert said. If encrypted communications were being monitored, "There is no way to detect that this vulnerability was exploited," according to the Juniper security alert.
According to a Juniper Networks spokeswoman's statement, "Once we identified these vulnerabilities, we launched an investigation and worked to develop and issue patched releases for the impacted devices. We also reached out to affected customers, strongly recommending that they update their systems."
Obama nominates new OPM director after hack
U.S. officials said it's not clear how the Juniper source code was altered, whether from an outside attack or someone inside.
The work to alter millions of lines of source code is sophisticated. The system was compromised for three years before Juniper uncovered it in a routine review in recent weeks.
Juniper said it was also issuing a security fix for a separate bug that could allow a hacker to launch denial-of-service attacks on networks.
CNN's Wesley Bruer contributed to this report.
VIDEO-Stoner Sloth Compilation - YouTube
Sat, 19 Dec 2015 12:44
VIDEO-Tamiflu TV Spot, 'Kids' -
Sat, 19 Dec 2015 12:29
Tamiflu TV Spot, 'Kids'
"Please include at least one social media link or website containing a recent photo of the actor. Voice over actors: Please provide a link to your professional website containing your reel.Talent submissions without photos may not be accepted. Submit your request ONCE per commercial, and allow 48 to 72 hours for your request to be processed."
VIDEO-Revolution Calling - Queensryche Lyrics - YouTube
Fri, 18 Dec 2015 15:53
VIDEO-''Conspiracy Theorists'' Are Vindicated: U.S. Senate Reports Chemtrails Are Real and Are Killing Us! -
Fri, 18 Dec 2015 14:28
Mentioning the word 'chemtrails' on a public bus or Facebook is bound to earn you a few eye rolls from eavesdroppers and skeptical family members.
But while skepticism '' regardless of the source '' isn't exactly the worst thing in the world, it appears that those who believe strongly in the idea that the U.S. government is spraying dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere may have been onto something after all.
The evidence?
No, not some YouTube video by a retired NASA janitor. This time, you've got an actual official government document from the U.S. admitting to the placement of chemicals in our atmosphere.
The document can be found here but I'll paste a few excerpts below to give you the jist of things.To start with, Dr. Norman A Beckman begins by requesting a report on the history of weather modification.
Washington, D.C., July 30, 1976.
Dr. Norman A. Beckman,Acting Director, Congressional Research Service,Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Dear Dr. Beckman: Weather modification, although a relatively young science, has over the years stimulated great interest within the scientific, commercial, governmental, and agricultural communities. Such responses are readily understandable.
In the next section comes the government's response, which has a few eyebrow-raising points:Although the Soviets and some U.S. private operators claim some success in suppressing hail by seeding clouds, our understanding of the physical processes that create hail is still weak. The one major U.S. held experiment increased our understanding of severe storms, but otherwise proved mostly the dimensions of what we do not yet know.
For over 30 years both legislative and executive branches of the Federal Government have been involved in a number of aspects of weather modification.
That last statement alone should have you clicking that link above to see the full document. Share it with your more skeptical friends and see what they have to say '' I know it's certainly opened my eyes quite a bit.
Chris Jafarieh
Chris Jafarieh is a Founding Member of Blaqk Diamond Group, a leading commercial real estate and finance firm. He is also the creator of Green Diamond, an environmentally conscious division of Blaqk Diamond Group. Chris believes that raising awareness through education is the foundation in achieving sustainability in the commercial real estate environment and energy sector.
VIDEO-C-SPAN Caller Asks Republican: 'Can I Sh*t In Your Mouth?' | Crooks and Liars
Fri, 18 Dec 2015 06:28
Just watched a right winger, who seemed to honestly say that although he could never vote for trump, said he could never vote for a pro choice candidate either.I wonder if this guy would actually vote for one of the other republican candidates, who are just about as bad a choice, or worse in some respects.There's no way America is ever going back to coat-hanger birth control/abortion so i don't see what he was getting at. Does he actually think that republicans could manage to strip women of their over forty years of settled precedent of choice?

Clips & Documents

Agenda 2030
Bear Grylls Finds Obama to be the Savior of the World.mp3
CNN- Newly discovered hack has U.S. fearing foreign infiltration.mp3
Elections 2016
ABC Restarts Democratic Debate Without Hillary Clinton Onstage.mp3
CBS Muslim Focus Group- Don’t Let Children Watch ‘Hateful’ GOP Debates-CAIR KICKER.mp3
IMF chief Christine Lagarde vows to fight negligence trial.mp3
Rallies across Poland as thousands accuse the new government of a ‘creeping’ dictatorship.mp3
Spain votes today in unpredictable election.mp3
Belgium- Tusk says Nord Stream-2 will increase EU's dependence on Russia.mp3
Putin says Russia has more military capability than its using in Syria.mp3
Roadmap for peace in Syria, but no clear agreement on Bashar al-Assad.mp3
JCD Clips
DDEB Bernie and the breech.mp3
DDEB Clinton on gun immunity.mp3
ddeb clinton pack of lies.mp3
ddeb Hillary on encryption.mp3
ddeb movies trump for isis.mp3
DDEB Omally bullcrap story.mp3
ddeb Sanders rant on corporations.mp3
DDEB two lies.mp3
ottoman hearth and sarin gas.mp3
republicans outliers on climate change.mp3
trump complimented by putin.mp3
Danish minister defends plans to strip migrants of valuables.mp3
FACEBAG GOOFING OFF-2011 DHS Memo on Vetting of Visa Applicants Leaked — Watch MSNBC Host’s Reaction as Reporter Reads It On-Air.mp3
Sen. Grassley- EB-5 Visa Program 'Poses Significant National Security Risks'.mp3
NA-Tech News
Humans Are Slamming Into Driverless Cars and Exposing a Key Flaw.mp3
Obama Nation
NYT Scrubbing Obama Quote Saying He Didn’t ‘Appreciate the Anxiety’ Post-Terror Attacks.mp3
NYT Scrubbing Obama-2-KRAUTHAMMER- Quote Saying He Didn’t ‘Appreciate the Anxiety’ Post-Terror Attacks.mp3
Obama 2008-goals of terrorism LOL.mp3
Shut Up Slave!
Too Thin in Paris-models.mp3
War on Guns
‘View’ Gun Rant- Build ‘an Assault Weapons Wall!’.mp3
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