Cover for No Agenda Show 799: War on Serif
February 14th, 2016 • 2h 58m

799: War on Serif


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.

EMAIL: American vs Canadian Healthcare.
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 15:19
Gentlemen, I was shocked, shocked to hear what you are paying for healthcare premiums be they under the Affordable Care Act or private for profit insurance providers. I can only pray you are provided with world class, timely, efficient delivery of services for what you suckers, excuse me, citizens are paying.I've heard my share of negative comments about our socialist system of healthcare delivery, mostly to do with wait times for access to specialists, but my family's experiences have been nothing but positive. Ten years ago, trying to get a little action In The Morning, I found a lump in my wife's breast. She saw her doctor the next day, had a mammogram & biopsy at hospital(!) ten days later and then surgery two weeks after that. After eight rounds of chemo and some radiation for good measure she was in the clear. Her bill for services rendered; Zero dollars and zero cents. And she was in the clear. For nearly seven years. In 2013 she started getting sick again; this time it was colon cancer that had spread to her bladder. Good times.Once again our shitty, ineffectual, commie healthcare system got to work to save my wife. Her two surgeons were the head research scientists of their respective departments at the University of British Columbia. After eight hours on the table they removed "Hank" (the name she gave her tumour) and a great deal of her innards. To keep her looking sweet the doctors made her a new bladder from a piece of healthy bowel. Nearly three years later she is completely recovered and in perfect health. Once again, the cost beyond our family's monthly premium was nothing. For all this service our monthly premium is $136.00, based on a family of two making over $30,000 per year. Singles and families making less than $24,000 per year pay nothing for premiums and the highest rate possible would be $150.00 per month for a family of three or more making north of 30K. And that's in Candinavian dollars. I pray, Inshallah, you're able to get a handle on an efficient, reasonably priced way of keeping the slaves alive; you've got walls to be erected and armored redoubts to be built before the predicted collapse in 2017 for God's sake. In closing, congratulations on your upcoming 800th episode of what is truly The Best Podcast In The Universe, The No Agenda Show.Craig Knowsley, Metropolitan Spuzzum, BC(@CraigAllan_Esq)P.S., Buy Gold! And seeds!
EMAIL: Sitcher-o-caust
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 15:19
Just so you know Stitcher has been down since Thursday.
Whatever system they have built doesn't even work I guess.
Go Ham-casting
800 Episode Art Guidelines from Apple
Download specs here (17MB zip file)
Elections 2016
Loyal supporters of GOP granted tickets to debate in Greenville | Local News - WYFF Home
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 04:09
Thousands of people are trying to go to the GOP presidential debate at the Peace Center in Greenville.
It would take a venue that is 11 times the size of the Peace Center to hold everyone who tried to get a ticket through the lottery system.
GOP leaders said the Peace Center wasn't large enough, so the South Carolina Republican Party decided not to go with a lottery system.
"If we had not had it at the Peace Center we probably would have had more people come, but the Peace Center is the venue that CBS chose,'' said Chad Groover, chairman of the Greenville County Republican party.
Groover said supporters who work hard for the party will be rewarded tickets.
People selected will fill the 1,900 seats that have been made available for the event, according to Groover.
Groover said the Republican National Committee gives a lot of tickets to supporters. He said more are then allocated for the state party to distribute among the county chairs.
"I didn't have hundreds of tickets. I had a couple of dozen tickets,'' said Groover.
Groover said he gave tickets to supporters, including elected officials, who work hard for the party.
"You'll have a good mix of people who are donors, people who are donors and workers, and people who are just workers,'' said Groover.
Groover is encouraging everyone to come out and volunteer for the party they support.
"I think not for the motive of getting debate tickets but for the motive of producing a better society I think getting involved in the political process makes sense,'' said Groover.
Groover said some tickets might become available if people cancel but he said there is no guarantee.
DNC rolls back Obama ban on contributions from federal lobbyists - The Washington Post
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 20:15
The Democratic National Committee has rolled back restrictions introduced by presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 that banned donations from federal lobbyists and political action committees.
The decision was viewed with disappointment Friday morning by good government activists who saw it as a step backward in the effort to limit special interest influence in Washington. Some suggested it could provide an advantage to Hillary Clinton's fundraising efforts.
''It is a major step in the wrong direction,'' said longtime reform advocate Fred Wertheimer. ''And it is completely out of touch with the clear public rejection of the role of political money in Washington,'' expressed during the 2016 campaign.
The change in the rules, already apparent to leading Washington lobbyists, was quietly introduced at some point during the past couple of months.
[Opinion: Dear Bernie, don't follow in Obama's footsteps on campaign finance reform]
At a debate in Milwaukee, Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton diverged slightly on how they would reform health care and immigration, while largely agreeing on the need for change in policing. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)
The ban was a symbolic way for Obama to put his stamp on the party in 2008 when he promised voters ''we are going to change how Washington works.''
At the time, lobbyists and corporate advocates in Washington complained about the ban and other limitations imposed by the new administration. The only portion of the old rules now remaining in place is that lobbyists and PAC representatives will still not be able to attend events that feature Obama, Vice President Biden or their spouses, according to Mark Paustenbach, deputy communications director for the DNC.
''The DNC's recent change in guidelines will ensure that we continue to have the resources and infrastructure in place to best support whoever emerges as our eventual nominee,'' Paustenbach said in an email. ''Electing a Democrat to the White House is vital to building on the progress we've made over the last seven years, which has resulted in a record 71 straight months of private-sector job growth and nearly 14 million new jobs.''
[Super PAC makes big play to lift Clinton in primary states]
Last summer the DNC announced it was lifting a ban on lobbyist contributions to convention-related expenses. At the time, DNC officials said the move was necessary because Congress had eliminated about $20 million in federal funding for the quadrennial party gatherings.
The DNC's recent, more sweeping reversal of the previous ban on donations from lobbyists and political action committees was confirmed by three Democratic lobbyists who said they have already received solicitations from the committee. The lobbyists requested anonymity to speak freely about the committee's decision, which has been otherwise kept quiet.
For the most part, they said, the DNC has returned to business as usual, pre-2008. The DNC has even named a finance director specifically for PAC donations who has recently emailed prospective donors to let them know that they can now contribute again, according to an email that was reviewed by The Washington Post.
The decision could further inflame tensions between the DNC and supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who has railed against the influence of lobbyists, particularly those representing Wall Street.
Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, has set up a joint fundraising committee with the DNC called the Hillary Victory Fund, which raised $26.9 million through the end of 2015. Sanders has set up a similar joint fundraising committee but Federal Election Commission records show it has not been active, raising a total of just $1,000.
The new Clinton Fund collects money from large donors that is then distributed between Clinton's campaign and 33 state Democratic Party committees. In recent months, a Clinton solicitation asked supporters to give up to $366,100 to the fund. Her campaign then received $2,700 of the total for the primary period, while the rest went to the DNC and 33 state party committees. Federal Election Commission records show that through the end of the year, 56 donors had written checks of $100,000 or more to the Hillary Victory Fund. Most of the contributions came from individuals, but a handful came from corporations or labor unions.
Reformers complain that the new rules have already changed Washington ethics. They provide opportunities for ''influence-buying by Washington lobbyists with six-figure contributions to the Hillary Victory Fund,'' said Wertheimer, suggesting that lobbyists could also face ''political extortion'' from those raising the money. He called on Obama to reverse the recent DNC decision to change the rules.
Clinton spokesman Josh Schwerin emphasized the grass-roots nature of Clinton's campaign and the candidate's commitment to reform. In an emailed statement he said Friday that the Clinton campaign ''is driven by the 750,000 people across the country who have contributed, mostly with low dollar donations. Hillary Clinton has fought for campaign finance reform her entire career and, as President, will make it a priority to overturn Citizens United and restore the role of everyday voters in elections.''
Sanders has made his small-dollar-infused campaign a hallmark of his stump speech, boasting that he is the candidate of the little guy, to the point where supporters in Iowa could finish the portion of his stump speech in which he crowed that the average donation was $27.
[Amid DNC dust-up, Sanders raises $1 million in a single day, campaign associate says]
In recent months Sanders's supporters have accused the DNC of trying to prevent more primary debates, trying to tilt the race in Clinton's direction. Just this week, his backers were enraged that the DNC allowed the senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus to use the committee's Capitol Hill headquarters to announce that their PAC had endorsed Clinton over Sanders. DNC officials have said they had no involvement in the black caucus event. As dues paying members, the caucus can reserve shared meeting space at the DNC.
Some Sanders backers have also expressed concern that the DNC is not playing a more vigorous role in checking out disputes over voting in the recent Iowa caucuses, which Clinton narrowly won. The DNC has declined to comment on this in the past.
Anu Narayanswamy contributed to this article.
Tom Hamburger covers the intersection of money and politics for The Washington Post.
Paul Kane covers Congress and politics for the Washington Post.
DNC drops ban on lobbyist, PAC money
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 04:43
The Democratic National Committee has lifted a ban on lobbyists' contributions. (Photo: Getty Images)
The Democratic National Committee has resumed accepting money from federal lobbyists and political action committees, largely dismantling restrictions imposed by President Obama.
The move could help boost the coffers of Democrat Hillary Clinton, who has teamed with the DNC to raise money aggressively. Her campaign accepts contributions and fundraising help from lobbyists.
Campaign-finance watchdogs Friday denounced the DNC change, which was first reported by The Washington Post.
"This move by the DNC is a major step in the wrong direction and is in direct conflict with the American people's deep concerns about the role of influence money in Washington," said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21. "The DNC is acting as if the party is blind to the anger and frustration with Washington that is being expressed by voters in both parties as the presidential nominating process unfolds."
Republican front-runner Donald Trump routinely touts his ability to fund his own campaign as proof he won't be beholden to lobbyists. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is challenging Clinton for the Democratic nomination, also denounces the current campaign-finance system as he raises money from legions of small donors.
Obama imposed the DNC fundraising restrictions after he secured his party's nomination in 2008. The ban was part of his well-publicized push to reduce the role special interests play in Washington. But the DNC has been retreating from those prohibitions. Last year, the party lifted the ban on lobbyists' contributions to the national convention after Congress eliminated public funding for the party gatherings.
A few restrictions remain in place, however: No lobbyists or PAC representatives can attend DNC events that feature Obama, Vice President Biden or their wives.
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DNC rolls back Obama ban on contributions from federal lobbyists - The Washington Post
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 04:43
The Democratic National Committee has rolled back restrictions introduced by presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 that banned donations from federal lobbyists and political action committees.
The decision was viewed with disappointment Friday morning by good government activists who saw it as a step backward in the effort to limit special interest influence in Washington. Some suggested it could provide an advantage to Hillary Clinton's fundraising efforts.
''It is a major step in the wrong direction,'' said longtime reform advocate Fred Wertheimer. ''And it is completely out of touch with the clear public rejection of the role of political money in Washington,'' expressed during the 2016 campaign.
The change in the rules, already apparent to leading Washington lobbyists, was quietly introduced at some point during the past couple of months.
[Opinion: Dear Bernie, don't follow in Obama's footsteps on campaign finance reform]
At a debate in Milwaukee, Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton diverged slightly on how they would reform health care and immigration, while largely agreeing on the need for change in policing. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)
The ban was a symbolic way for Obama to put his stamp on the party in 2008 when he promised voters ''we are going to change how Washington works.''
At the time, lobbyists and corporate advocates in Washington complained about the ban and other limitations imposed by the new administration. The only portion of the old rules now remaining in place is that lobbyists and PAC representatives will still not be able to attend events that feature Obama, Vice President Biden or their spouses, according to Mark Paustenbach, deputy communications director for the DNC.
''The DNC's recent change in guidelines will ensure that we continue to have the resources and infrastructure in place to best support whoever emerges as our eventual nominee,'' Paustenbach said in an email. ''Electing a Democrat to the White House is vital to building on the progress we've made over the last seven years, which has resulted in a record 71 straight months of private-sector job growth and nearly 14 million new jobs.''
[Super PAC makes big play to lift Clinton in primary states]
Last summer the DNC announced it was lifting a ban on lobbyist contributions to convention-related expenses. At the time, DNC officials said the move was necessary because Congress had eliminated about $20 million in federal funding for the quadrennial party gatherings.
The DNC's recent, more sweeping reversal of the previous ban on donations from lobbyists and political action committees was confirmed by three Democratic lobbyists who said they have already received solicitations from the committee. The lobbyists requested anonymity to speak freely about the committee's decision, which has been otherwise kept quiet.
For the most part, they said, the DNC has returned to business as usual, pre-2008. The DNC has even named a finance director specifically for PAC donations who has recently emailed prospective donors to let them know that they can now contribute again, according to an email that was reviewed by The Washington Post.
The decision could further inflame tensions between the DNC and supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who has railed against the influence of lobbyists, particularly those representing Wall Street.
Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, has set up a joint fundraising committee with the DNC called the Hillary Victory Fund, which raised $26.9 million through the end of 2015. Sanders has set up a similar joint fundraising committee but Federal Election Commission records show it has not been active, raising a total of just $1,000.
The new Clinton Fund collects money from large donors that is then distributed between Clinton's campaign and 33 state Democratic Party committees. In recent months, a Clinton solicitation asked supporters to give up to $366,100 to the fund. Her campaign then received $2,700 of the total for the primary period, while the rest went to the DNC and 33 state party committees. Federal Election Commission records show that through the end of the year, 56 donors had written checks of $100,000 or more to the Hillary Victory Fund. Most of the contributions came from individuals, but a handful came from corporations or labor unions.
Reformers complain that the new rules have already changed Washington ethics. They provide opportunities for ''influence-buying by Washington lobbyists with six-figure contributions to the Hillary Victory Fund,'' said Wertheimer, suggesting that lobbyists could also face ''political extortion'' from those raising the money.
Wertheimer called on Obama Friday to reverse the recent DNC decision to change the rules. However, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said a new set of party leaders will have to make such decisions.
''The guidelines that were previously in place at the DNC were guidelines that were instituted when Barack Obama, then Senator Obama, became the Democratic nominee for president of the United States,'' Schultz said. ''Those were guidelines that were modeled after his campaign for the presidency.'' He added: ''We're now at the point where the fundraising for the DNC is going toward candidates who are on the ballot in 2016. Those candidates will have to make choices about the resources they are using.''
Clinton spokesman Josh Schwerin emphasized the grass-roots nature of Clinton's campaign and the candidate's commitment to reform. In an emailed statement he said Friday that the Clinton campaign ''is driven by the 750,000 people across the country who have contributed, mostly with low dollar donations. Hillary Clinton has fought for campaign finance reform her entire career and, as President, will make it a priority to overturn Citizens United and restore the role of everyday voters in elections.''
Sanders has made his small-dollar-infused campaign a hallmark of his stump speech, boasting that he is the candidate of the little guy, to the point where supporters in Iowa could finish the portion of his stump speech in which he crowed that the average donation was $27.
[Amid DNC dust-up, Sanders raises $1 million in a single day, campaign associate says]
In recent months Sanders's supporters have accused the DNC of trying to prevent more primary debates, trying to tilt the race in Clinton's direction. Just this week, his backers were enraged that the DNC allowed the senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus to use the committee's Capitol Hill headquarters to announce that their PAC had endorsed Clinton over Sanders. DNC officials have said they had no involvement in the black caucus event. As dues paying members, the caucus can reserve shared meeting space at the DNC.
Some Sanders backers have also expressed concern that the DNC is not playing a more vigorous role in checking out disputes over voting in the recent Iowa caucuses, which Clinton narrowly won. The DNC has declined to comment on this in the past.
David Nakamura and Anu Narayanswamy contributed to this article.
Tom Hamburger covers the intersection of money and politics for The Washington Post.
Paul Kane covers Congress and politics for the Washington Post.
Ex-lawyer for 'D.C. Madam': Names in her records could be 'relevant' to presidential election |
Thu, 11 Feb 2016 15:11
WASHINGTON - Attorney Montgomery Blair Sibley has sued senators and Supreme Court justices. He's been a write-in presidential candidate. He represented the "D.C. Madam," whose black book included a sitting senator.
Now Sibley claims that some never-before-aired information found in the records of said madam "could be relevant" to the upcoming presidential election.
How so? Well, he can't say. Sibley is bound by restraining orders imposed by the court in the case of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, who committed suicide in 2008 soon after she was found guilty of racketeering and money laundering.
But her former attorney is now seeking permission to release 815 names of Palfrey's clients and the records of 40 other escort services operating in Washington, a pool that he's hinting includes someone with bearing on the current political campaign.
On Monday, Sibley filed a complaint of judicial misconduct against Chief Judge Richard Roberts of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, claiming that Roberts instructed a clerk not to file his earlier request to lift the order preventing him from making those records public. A spokeswoman for Roberts did not immediately respond to phone calls, and a Roberts spokesman gave a "no comment" to radio station WTOP, which first reported the filing.
During her trial, Palfrey posted online the phone numbers of many of her clients, a list that included Sen. David Vitter, R-La., who later apologized for a "very serious sin." In an interview on Monday, Sibley said he'd obtained names associated with those numbers through a subpoena of phone records at the time, but they had been quashed by a court order.
Sibley said he'd sat on the documents for years, but the upcoming election had prompted him to try to air the names. Why, exactly? "Well, this is where I walk a fine line," he said. "I don't want to say something that would violate the order."
Sibley has irked the courts plenty in the past - his law license was suspended for three years in 2008 for being a "vexatious litigant." But he's hoping this latest quest might bring him peace of mind.
"I'll sleep better at night knowing that I tried to do what I thought was appropriate in the situation," he said.
After Sanders' Big Win in New Hampshire, Establishment Figures Want to Scare You with Superdelegates. Here's Why It's Bullshit :: Politics :: Features :: Paste
Thu, 11 Feb 2016 22:49
Bernie Sanders' win in the New Hampshire primary Tuesday night came with some pretty impressive footnotes:
1. His margin of victory was the highest for a non-incumbent candidate in any state since JFK.
2. He won almost every demographic group'--male, female, young, old, moderate, liberal, college educated, high school-educated'--with the exception of voters making more than $200,000 per year.
3. He became the first Jewish candidate to win a state primary in U.S. history.
4. He became the first non-Christian candidate to win a state primary in U.S. history.
Sanders isn't one to emphasize his religious affiliation'--his political beliefs make him enough of an outsider as it is'--so you won't read much coverage about the historic nature of his win. What you will read about is how it's going to change his primary battle against Hillary Clinton. The path to the nomination is still difficult for Sanders, and Clinton should still be considered the favorite, but winning New Hampshire in a blowout will give his candidacy a new kind of credibility and momentum. Sanders was polling below five percent nationally when he joined the race, and to come this far in such a short time, against an overwhelming favorite, is a bit staggering'--so staggering that a frustrated Clinton ''might ''shake up her entire campaign.
The narrative has changed, which means that establishment figures are duty-bound to change it back. If you're an avid follower of politics, you may have seen tweets like these in the aftermath of the win:
Or:''Oh no,'' you might be thinking, ''look at those delegate totals! He's getting killed! The New Hampshire primary is meaningless! He didn't even really win!'' On the Sanders Reddit page this morning, users were asking whether the whole primary process was a Sisyphean task, and if victory was impossible.Make no mistake: That's the point of this kind of messaging. To discourage, dismay, and dishearten, in the wake of something that should feel really positive for Sanders supporters. Reality check: The system is bigger than you, and you can't change it, so go home.
I have no clue if Timothy McBride has any affiliation or even affection for Hillary Clinton, and he was certainly not alone in advancing this talking point. What I do know is that he tweeted these statistics out last night and again this morning, and whatever his intentions'--and those like him'--Clinton herself could not have written a better media script.
So what's happening here? Are those delegate counts right?
Well, no'--McBride's math is wrong, but I'm assuming that wasn't a malicious mistake. The actual count is 394-42.
So technically, yes, the count is close to accurate. He's not overtly lying. But are the numbers illustrative of some critical, insurmountable problem for Sanders? Not at all. Are they even relevant to the primary race? Barely. Certainly not now, and probably not ever. Are these messages deceptive, even subtly? Yes. Absolutely. And they're propagated by ''experts'' who are withholding the full story in the hopes that people like you and me are too stupid and complacent to find out on our own.
McBride's sneaky tactic is to count ''Superdelegates,'' which is how he arrives at his imbalanced total. Accept the numbers blindly, and you might feel an impulse toward panic. My message to you: Chill. It's a clever trick, but a silly one, and it won't affect anything. To counter this narrative, let's examine the political reality behind Superdelegates, and explain how they really work, Q&A style.
Q: You say Superdelegates don't matter, but I don't even know what they are. How does Hillary have 300+ already?
A: Let's start simple: The Democratic nominee for president is decided based on which candidate wins the most delegates. You will find conflicting information about how many there are in 2016, but according to the AP, the delegate total is 4,763. It takes 2,382 of those to secure the nomination. And of the 4,763, 712 are ''Superdelegates'''--about 15 percent of the overall total.
Q: Okay, but what's the difference?
A: The 4,051 ''normal'' delegates are allocated based on the votes in each state. That's why we have primaries and caucuses in all of them, eventually'--the will of the people decides where each of these delegates goes. In New Hampshire last night, Sanders won 13 delegates to Clinton's nine, with two left to award when the last precincts report (in all likelihood, based on current percentages, it will finish 15-9 for Sanders). In Iowa, where Clinton won a narrow victory, the current delegate count is 23-21 in her favor. This process will repeat in every state until all 4,051 ''normal'' delegates have been alloted.
On the Democratic side, these delegates are rewarded proportionally in each state, rather than on the winner-take-all basis most states use in the electoral college. Those delegates are ''pledged'' to the appropriate candidate, and will not change affiliation at the national convention.
Q: That makes sense, but what are Superdelegates?
A: The remaining 712 delegates are not decided by each state's popular vote, but rather by individuals who are given a vote by the Democratic party. They are free to choose whoever they want at the national convention, regardless of how the vote went in their home state.
Q: Who gets to be a Superdelegate?
A: Every Democratic member of Congress, House and Senate, is a Superdelegate (240 total). Every Democratic governor is a Superdelegate (20 total). Certain ''distinguished party leaders,'' 20 in all, are given Superdelegate status. And finally, the Democratic National Committee names an additional 432 Superdelegates'--an honor that typically goes to mayors, chairs and vice-chairs of the state party, and other dignitaries.
Q: So they have way more importance than an ordinary voter?
A: Oh yeah. In 2008, each Superdelegate had about as much clout as 10,000 voters. It will be roughly the same in 2016.
Q: How did this system come to exist?
A: I'll make this history lesson brief: In 1968, after the riots at the Democratic national convention in Chicago, party leaders knew they needed to change the nomination process to give ordinary people more of a say in how the potential president was chosen. Thus, the state-by-state primary/caucus system was born. By the 1980s, the party elites felt left out of the process, bereft of all influence, and they thought their absence had hurt the party when weaker candidates like George McGovern and Jimmy Carter were nominated. Jim Hunt, Governor of North Carolina, was commissioned to fix the alleged problem, and by 1984 the Superdelegate system was implemented. Democrats thought that by giving more power to party leaders, it would prevent ''unelectable'' candidates, beloved by the populace, from costing them the general election.
Q: Why does Hillary Clinton have so many more Superdelegates this time around?
A: Because Superdelegates are the establishment, and Clinton is the establishment candidate. Period.
A quick look at the chart below, courtesy of Wikipedia, shows how insanely imbalanced the Superdelegate race is at this point in time:
In Congress, Hillary Clinton has 39 of the 47 Senators, with seven uncommitted. Bernie Sanders has an endorsement from just one Senator. That Senator's name? Bernie Sanders. In the House, Hillary leads 157-2, and her advantage in the DNC is 138-10. Even among the ''distinguished party leaders,'' which includes Bill Clinton, Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, and Walter Mondale, she leads eight to one. Overall, the total is 355-14, with 341 uncommitted.
So when you see tweets like McBride's above, where he cites Clinton's 431-50 edge, he's adding these ''pledged'' Superdelegates. We've already seen that his math is wrong'--per the New York Times, the updated total is 394-42. But when you look at actual popular votes that have taken place, Sanders leads 34-32.
Q: From everything you've told me so far, I can't understand why you're calling Superdelegate votes ''irrelevant.'' It seems to me like they have the same voting power as a normal delegate, and this puts Sanders in a tremendous hole from the word ''go.''
A: Here's why it doesn't matter: Superdelegates have never decided a Democratic nomination. It would be insane, even by the corrupt standards of the Democratic National Committee, if a small group of party elites went against the will of the people to choose the presidential nominee.
This has already been an incredibly tense election, and Sanders voters are already expressing their unwillingness to vote for Clinton in the general election. When you look at the astounding numbers from Iowa and New Hampshire, where more than 80 percent of young voters have chosen Sanders over Clinton, regardless of gender, it's clear that Clinton already finds herself in a very tenuous position for the general election. It will be tough to motivate young supporters, but any hint that Bernie was screwed by the establishment will result in total abandonment.
Democrats win when turnout is high, and if the DNC decides to go against the will of the people and force Clinton down the electorate's throat, they'd be committing political suicide.
The important thing to know here is that Superdelegates are merely pledged to a candidate. We know who they support because they've stated it publicly, or have been asked by journalists. They are not committed, and can change at any time. If Bernie Sanders wins the popular vote, he will be the nominee. End of story.
Q: But it's not the end of the story, is it? Hasn't the DNC pulled some shady shit already?
A: Oh yeah. They totally rigged the debate schedule to limit Sanders' exposure, and now that he's gaining ground on Clinton, they're desperate to add more. Sanders probably won the popular vote in Iowa, but the party elite there are refusing to release popular vote totals, even though that's exactly what they did in 2008. (Edit: It appears these 2008 numbers did not come from the party itself. Regardless, it's a perversion of democracy that they haven't been released.) Their entire modus operandi has been an embarrassment of Clinton protectionism from the very beginning.
However, that doesn't mean they'll overthrow the will of the people when it comes to the presidential nomination. Assuming Sanders wins the popular vote nationwide, and assuming the Superdelegates put Clinton over the top, let's consider the consequences:
1. Sanders supporters abandon Clinton completely, cutting off a huge portion of her base.
2. Massive protests at the convention, and a party split in half.
3. Republicans have the easiest attack in presidential election history: ''Her own party didn't even want her!''
4. The perception that Clinton is fatally dishonest grows wings, and even if people are reluctant to vote for the GOP nominee, an independent like Bloomberg strips away an awful lot of votes.
All of this spells disaster for the Democrats. It may not be too corrupt for the DNC to imagine'--they've got terrific imaginations'--but it's too transparent to execute. The winner of the delegate count from state primaries and caucuses will win the nomination, and the Superdelegates will fall in line. Just as they have in every single election since the system was implemented. (Including in 2008, when this same concern was raised'--would Superdelegates cost Obama the nomination?)
Even the Democratic power structure isn't so short-sighted that it would cut off its nose to spite its face.
Q: If Superdelegates can shift allegiances, and if going against the people's will is so unthinkable, why don't the pundits ever mention it?
A: It's almost like there's an agenda, right? Not to keep picking on McBride, who is a very minor figure in all this, and who had the bad luck to appear on my timeline yesterday, but what purpose do those numbers serve other than to discourage Sanders supporters? They're essentially meaningless, but when presented without context, they give the impression of an unbeatable juggernaut, and tacitly encourage outsiders to give up all hope. On a smaller level, it's the same when you see charts like these, from Politico:
Sanders wins, but still loses the delegate count? How? Why?
It's enough to provoke despair, if you don't understand the system, and none of these outlets are bothering to explain. The reader is left to draw his or her own conclusions, and the distorted reality can seem overwhelming. I don't know if the explicit goal is to have a chilling effect on participation, and to discourage passionate people from participating in our democracy, but it certainly feels that way.
So, do yourself a favor and ignore the Superdelegates. If Hillary Clinton wins the most popular delegates, she will be the party nominee. If Bernie Sanders wins the most popular delegates, he will be the party nominee. And anyone who tells you otherwise'--even by implication, and even armed with misleading statistics'--is selling you a bill of goods. Don't buy it.
Clinton Foundation received subpoena from State Department investigators - The Washington Post
Thu, 11 Feb 2016 23:34
Investigators with the State Department issued a subpoena to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation last fall seeking documents about the charity's projects that may have required approval from the federal government during Hillary Clinton's term as secretary of state, according to people familiar with the subpoena and written correspondence about it.
The subpoena also asked for records related to Huma Abedin, a longtime Clinton aide who for six months in 2012 was employed simultaneously by the State Department, the foundation, Clinton's personal office, and a private consulting firm with ties to the Clintons.
The full scope and status of the inquiry, conducted by the State Department's inspector general, were not clear from the material correspondence reviewed by The Washington Post.
A foundation representative, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing inquiry, said the initial document request had been narrowed by investigators and that the foundation is not the focus of the probe.
A State IG spokesman declined to comment on that assessment or on the subpoena.
At a Council on Foreign Relations event on women's rights in New York City, Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Clinton Foundation, fielded questions about recent controversies over foreign donations to the foundation. (Council on Foreign Relations)
Representatives for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and Abedin also declined comment.
[How Huma Abedin operated at the center of the Clinton universe]
There is no indication that the watchdog is looking at Clinton. But as she runs for president in part by promoting her leadership of the State Department, an inquiry involving a top aide and the relationship between her agency and her family's charity could further complicate her campaign.
For months, Clinton has wrangled with controversy over her use of a private email server, which has sparked a separate investigation by the same State Department inspector general's office. There is also an FBI investigation into whether her system compromised national security.
Clinton was asked about the FBI investigation at a debate last week and said she was ''100 percent confident'' nothing would come of it. Last month, Clinton denied a Fox News report that the FBI had expanded its probe to include ties between the foundation and the State Department. She called that report ''an unsourced, irresponsible'' claim with ''no basis.''
During the years Clinton served as secretary of state, the foundation was led by her husband, former president Bill Clinton. She joined its board after leaving office in February 2013 and helped run it until launching her White House bid in April.
Abedin served as deputy chief of staff at State starting in 2009. For the second half of 2012, she participated in the ''special government employee'' program that enabled her to work simultaneously in the State Department, the foundation, Hillary Clinton's personal office and Teneo, a private consultancy with close ties to the Clintons.
Originally founded in 1997, the foundation has since grown to include a vast number of initiatives. Here is how it all stacked up over the last 18 years.[The inside story of how the Clintons built a $2 billion global empire]
Abedin has been a visible part of Hillary Clinton's world since she served as an intern in the 1990s for the then-first lady while attending George Washington University. On the campaign trail, Clinton is rarely seen in public without Abedin somewhere nearby.
Republican lawmakers have alleged that foreign officials and other powerful interests with business before the U.S. government gave large donations to the Clinton Foundation to curry favor with a sitting secretary of state and a potential future president.
Both Clintons have dismissed those accusations, saying donors contributed to the $2 billion foundation to support its core missions: improving health care, education and environmental work around the world.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Clinton's opponent in the Democratic primary, has largely avoided raising either issue in his campaign. Last spring, Sanders expressed concerns about the Clinton Foundation being part of a political system ''dominated by money.''
Sanders has batted away questions about the email scandal, famously saying at a debate last fall that, ''The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.''
The potential consequences of the IG investigation are unclear. Unlike federal prosecutors, who generally use subpoenas issued by a grand jury, inspectors general frequently subpoena documents without seeking approval from a grand jury or judge.
But their power is limited. They are able to obtain documents, but they cannot compel testimony. At times, IG inquiries result in criminal charges, but sometimes they lead to administrative review, civil penalties or reports that have no legal consequences.
The IG has investigated Abedin before. Last year, the watchdog concluded she was overpaid nearly $10,000 because of violations of sick leave and vacation policies, a finding that Abedin and her attorneys have contested.
Republican lawmakers, led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), have alleged that Abedin's role at the center of overlapping public and private Clinton worlds created the potential for conflicts of interest.
Tom Hamburger covers the intersection of money and politics for The Washington Post.
Rosalind Helderman is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for the Washington Post.
Alec Ross (government official) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 05:30
Alec Ross (born November 30, 1971) is a technology policy expert who was Senior Advisor for Innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the duration of her term as Secretary of State.[2] After leaving the Department of State he joined Columbia University's School of International & Public Affairs as a Senior Fellow and is the author of the book The Industries of the Future.[3] Ross is currently a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Johns Hopkins University.[4]
Background[edit]After graduating in 1994 from Northwestern University with a B.A. in history, Ross moved to Baltimore as a Teach for America corps member. Ross taught for two years and then accepted a position as special assistant to the president of the Enterprise Foundation. He focused on developing business, technology and fundraising strategies.[5]
In 2000, he co-founded the nonprofit One Economy, a global nonprofit that uses innovative approaches to deliver the power of technology and information about education, jobs, health care and other vital issues to low-income people.[2]
Ross resides in Baltimore with his wife and three children.[6]
Political career[edit]During the 2008 presidential campaign, Ross played a key role in developing then-Sen. Barack Obama's technology and innovation plan.[7]
In April 2009, Ross joined the State Department as Senior Advisor on Innovation.[8] Hillary Clinton described his work by saying that "Alec Ross has been my right hand on all that we're doing for internet freedom."[9]
Through his work at the State Department, Ross institutionalized ways to use Web video and social networking sites.[10] In 2009 he told U.S. News and World Report, "It's about how can you reach large numbers of people who otherwise would be difficult to impossible to reach."[11] Ross argued that governments using modern communications technologies can be more creative and responsive in how they enable people to engage directly with each other and with other countries.[12]
Ross also drove efforts to aide other countries through digital development initiatives like wiring schools, adding wireless capacity to public works, text-message reminders to HIV patients, and leap frogging communities from cash culture to mobile banking. During the Libyan uprising, Alec drove the State Department's efforts to "restore communication networks in rebel-held territories such as Benghazi, working with the late Amb. Chris Stevens, to fight the Internet blackout imposed by Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi."[13] Ross' team also "provided communications technologies to opposition members in the Syrian border areas and trained NGOs on how to avoid the regime's censorship and cyber snooping."[13]
During his tenure at the State Department, Ross was a vocal critic of efforts to control or surveil the internet.
In addition to concerns over countries increasing surveillance capabilities, Ross highlighted cases where businesses prioritized profit motives over the potential harms of technologies. In 2011, he publicly "criticised the developers of internet surveillance equipment who were willing to sell their services to repressive regimes and allow governments to censor their citizens.''[14]
Ross is the author of the forethcoming book "The Industries of the Future."[15]
Publications[edit]Books[edit]2016: Alec Ross. The Industries of the Future. Simon & Schuster.Articles[edit]2013: Alec Ross. Light Up the West Bank: Want to reinvigorate the Middle East peace process? Start with 3G. Foreign Policy.[16]2012: Alec Ross. How connective tech boosts political change. CNN.[17]2011: Alec Ross and Ben Scott. 21st Century Statecraft. NATO Review.[18]2010: Alec Ross. Internet Freedom: Historic Roots and the Road Forward. The SAIS Review of International Affairs Volume 30, Number 2, Summer-Fall[19]2007: Simon Rosenberg and Alec Ross. A Laptop in Every Backpack with Simon Rosenberg. NDN Globalization Initiative.[20]Distinguished Honor Award from the US Department of StateOne of 40 leaders under 40 years old in International Development,[21]Disruptive Innovation Award, from the TriBeCa Film Festival.[22]Oxford Internet Institute OII Award 2013.[23]Huffington Post Game Changers 2010.[24]Foreign Policy Magazine "Top 100 Global Thinkers" 2011.[25]Newsweek Digital Power Index Top 100 2011.[26]TriBeCa Film Festival Disruptive Innovator Award 2012.[27]Politico's "50 Politicos to Watch" 2010.[28]References[edit]^"Alec Ross Author's Page". Simon & Schuster. Retrieved 19 November 2015. ^ ab"Diplomatic Efforts Get Tech Support", Washington Post, April 6, 2009. [1]^"Alec Ross - Participant". Aspen Institute. Retrieved 19 November 2015. ^"Alec Ross Author's Page". Simon & Schuster. Retrieved 19 November 2015. ^"Innovator Alec Ross Joins State Dept.," National Journal, April 6, 2009. [2]^"The New Statesman | Baltimore Style". Retrieved 2015-11-11. ^"Hillary Clinton Launches "21st Century Statecraft" Initiative by State Department," TechPresident, May 13, 2009. [3].^"The Creative List: New Media," Washington Life, November 8, 2009. [4]^"Remarks on TechCamp Vilnius". Still4Hill. Retrieved 2 September 2014. ^"Obama's Geek Squad", Wired, June 18, 2009. [5]^"Hillary Clinton Turns State Department Tech-Friendly", U.S. News & World Report, June 15, 2009. [6]^"P2P2G: The rise of e-diplomacy", Politico, June 4, 2009. [7]^ abRogin, Josh (14 March 2013). "Tech guru Alec Ross leaves the State Department". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 21 March 2013. ^Wilson, Cherry (2 November 2011). "Clinton adviser makes Twitter attack on surveillance equipment firms". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 November 2011. ^"The Industries of the Future". 2016-02-02. Retrieved 2015-11-11. ^Ross, Alec (18 June 2013). "Light Up the West Bank: Want to reinvigorate the Middle East peace process? Start with 3G.". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 25 June 2013. ^Ross, Alec (June 20, 2012). "How connective tech boosts political change". CNN. Retrieved 6 February 2013. ^Ross, Alec; Ben Scott (2011). "21st Century Statecraft". NATO Review. Retrieved 17 November 2011. ^Ross, Alec (Summer''Fall 2010). "nternet Freedom: Historic Roots and the Road Forward. The SAIS Review of International Affairs"30 (2). Retrieved 17 November 2011. ^Rosenberg, Simon; Alec Ross (1 May 2007). "Rosenberg". NDN Globalization Initiative. Retrieved 17 November 2011. ^"Meet the 40 Under 40". DevEx. Retrieved 17 November 2011. ^Dale, Austin (April 3, 2012). "Tribeca to Honor Justin Bieber, Edward Burns and Others with Disruptive Innovation Awards". Indie Wire. Retrieved 21 March 2013. ^"Oxford Internet Institute Honours Internet Pioneers, John Seely-Brown, Alec Ross, Max Schrems and Galaxy Zoo Co-founder, Chris Lintott". Oxford Internet Institute. October 24, 2013. ^"Who Is The Ultimate Game Changer In Politics?". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-11-11. ^"The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2015-11-11. ^"Digital Power Index: Navigators". Newsweek. Retrieved 2015-11-11. ^"Tribeca to Honor Justin Bieber, Edward Burns and Others with Disruptive Innovation Awards". Indiewire. Retrieved 2015-11-11. ^"50 Politicos to Watch 2010". POLITICO. Retrieved 2015-11-11.
Eminent Domain-296 Iowa landowners decline Bakken pipeline
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 00:48
Bakken Oil Pipeline would run through Iowa
A proposed 1,100-mile crude oil pipeline would extend from the Bakken Oil Fields in western North Dakota through 17 counties in Iowa, en route to Patoka, Ill.
Sponsored by
Energy Transfer Partners, L.P.
Interactive by Katie Kunert/The Register
The three-member Iowa Utilities Board, in back, consults with staff Tuesday as they examine land parcels along the route of the proposed Bakken oil pipeline on an overhead screen.(Photo: William Petroski/Des Moines Register)Buy Photo
State utility regulators are wrestling with the fact that the owners of nearly 300 parcels of Iowa land have refused to voluntarily grant easements for the proposed Bakken oil pipeline, which would cross diagonally through 18 Iowa counties.
The Iowa Utilities Board met for nearly three hours Tuesday without reaching a decision on a request by Dakota Access LLC, for a state permit to build the 30-inch-diameter pipeline across 346 miles in Iowa. The board plans to resume deliberations Wednesday and is also scheduled to meet Thursday.
Dakota Access, a unit of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, says it has voluntarily obtained signed easements for about 80 percent of the Iowa land parcels, which are primarily farmland. However, owners of the remaining 296 parcels could face condemnation proceedings if the pipeline is approved by state regulators who conclude eminent domain is justified under Iowa law.
Eminent domain is the right of a government to seize private property for public use, in exchange for payment of fair market value. But that definition is posing a legal worry for Iowa utility regulators that may ultimately be resolved by Iowa's courts.
RELATED: Stories and commentary about the pipeline
Iowa Poll: Iowans back energy projects, but oppose eminent domain
''The issue here is: Is the Dakota Access pipeline a public use?'' said Cecil Wright, the state board's assistant general counsel.
Pipeline opponents argue the pipeline is not a public use because Dakota Access is a not a public utility and none of the oil will be refined in Iowa. Proponents say the pipeline will contribute to the nation's energy independence, will provide a safe method of transportation and will help farmers by freeing up railroads to ship Midwest grain.
The pipeline would be used to transport up to 570,000 barrels of light sweet crude oil daily from North Dakota's Bakken oil patch through South Dakota and Iowa to a distribution hub at Patoka, Illinois.
State regulators spent part of Tuesday examining electronic displays of Iowa county maps, looking at land parcels in Boone, Buena Vista and Calhoun counties where farmers have refused to sell their land. In some cases, farmers have suggested the pipeline route be relocated, including a northwest Iowa turkey producer who doesn't want the pipeline to interfere with his operation's expansion plans.
Wright told the board that some pipeline foes object to the diagonal path of the project's route, particularly because it will interfere with farm tile drainage lines. Dakota Access has promised to repair any damage to tile lines, and the company says farmers will be able to raise crops on ground above the buried pipeline.
''The board will have to ask, 'Was there a better way to construct this pipeline with regards to Dakota Access and the diagonal route?''' Wright said.
Under the state's administrative code, a pipeline project is allowed a construction deviation of 660 feet '-- one-eighth of a mile '-- from its proposed route. But David Lynch, the board's general counsel, cautioned that a pipeline route can't be moved onto land where a property owner hasn't received legal notice, and regulators wouldn't want to relocate the pipeline through a cemetery or school grounds.
Pam Mackey-Taylor, conservation chair for the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club, said after Tuesday's meetings she is concerned that no alternatives have been presented by Dakota Access for the pipeline route. So now the board is trying to resolve issues facing individual Iowa landowners who have objections and there is no way to relocate the pipeline this late in the process, she said.
MacKey-Taylor also said she doesn't believe many landowners objecting to the pipeline route had a clear understanding that they needed to provide alternative routes on their land or elsewhere because the administrative proceedings involving the project have been so complex.
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Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin tried to force past Secret Service without ID | Daily Mail Online
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 13:25
Ronald Kessler, a former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, is the New York Times bestselling author of The Secrets of the FBI and The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents, now in paperback.
When it comes to arrogance, Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton's longtime top aide, and her presidential candidate boss are two peas in a pod, according to Secret Service agents.
For that reason, it's not surprising that the FBI investigation of Hillary's use of classified emails reportedly got a jump start after uncovering highly classified emails sent by Abedin and another Clinton aide.
Yesterday, it was revealed that State Department BlackBerry devices issued to the former Secretary of State's aides Cheryl Mills and Abedin, 39, have likely been destroyed or sold off, the department said in a court filing.
Scroll down for video
At your service: Hillary and Huma Abedin leave posh department store Bergdorf Goodman in New York city surrounded by Secret Service agents. 'There's not an agent in the service who wants to be in Hillary's detail,' a current agent, not in this photo, says. 'If agents get the nod to go to her detail, that's considered a form of punishment
Based on the research and interviews for my book The Secrets of the FBI, I can say that the FBI would not have opened such a high profile investigation unless it already believed Hillary had violated criminal laws governing handling and dissemination of classified material.
Nor, as some media reports have claimed, is the investigation a 'security investigation' into handling of the emails. The FBI does nothing unless it is pursuing violations of criminal laws and targeting individuals.
And the pertinent laws make no distinction between classified material that is marked as such or not. If material is classified and is handled improperly, that is a violation of criminal laws.
While Hillary Clinton claims she will be the champion of the little people if elected, the truth is that behind the scenes she is so nasty and abusive toward her own Secret Service detail and treats them with such contempt that being assigned to Hillary's detail is considered a form of punishment within the Security Service.
According to Secret Service agents interviewed for my book The First Family Detail, Abedin can be just as rude and nasty as Hillary. A former agent recalls helping Abedin when she got lost driving Chelsea to the February 2008 Democrat presidential debate in Los Angeles.
Closer than close: It's not surprising, says Kessler, that the FBI investigation of Hillary's use of classified emails reportedly got a jump start after uncovering highly classified emails sent by Abedin
'She was belligerent and angry about being late for the event,' the former agent says. 'No appreciation for any of it, not a thank-you or anything. That was common for her people to be rude.'
At another event in Los Angeles, a female agent challenged Abedin because she was not wearing a pin that identifies cleared aides to Secret Service agents. The agent had no idea who she was.
'You don't have the proper identification to go beyond this point,' the agent told her.
'Huma basically tried to throw her weight around,' a former agent says. 'She tried to just force her way through and said belligerently, 'Do you know who I am?''
That got her nowhere. Eventually, Abedin - who is married to disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner - cooperated with the agent and suggested a contact who could verify her identity.
Ladies who lunch: Hillary Clinton (center) and Huma Abedin (behind her) were spotted '' only by a security camera '' lunching on Monday at Chipotle in Maumee, Ohio
'Huma Abedin looked down on the agents and treated them as second-class citizens,' a former agent says. While agents are not supposed to carry luggage, they will do so as a courtesy if they like a female protectee, such as Lynne Cheney or Rosalynn Carter.
Investigative reporter Ronald Kessler is the author of The First Family Detail, now in paperback
But with Abedin, 'the agents were just like, 'Hey, you're going to be like that? Well, you get your own luggage to the car. Oh, and by the way, you can carry the first lady's luggage to the car, too.'
'She'd have four bags, and we'd stand there and watch her and say, 'Oh, can we hold the door open for you?'
'On TV, they will make it sound like they just really appreciated and loved those Secret Service agents and appreciate all their sacrifices and all that,' a former agent says of the Clintons. 'Then behind the scenes, they're like, 'I don't want to see these guys.'
He adds: 'When it's convenient for them, they'll utilize the service for whatever favor they need, but otherwise, they look down upon the agents, kind of like servants.'
'There's not an agent in the service who wants to be in Hillary's detail,' a current agent says. 'If agents get the nod to go to her detail, that's considered a form of punishment among the agents. She's hard to work around, she's known to snap at agents and yell at agents and dress them down to their faces, and they just have to be humble and say, 'Yes ma'am,' and walk away.'
The agent adds, 'Agents don't deserve that. They're there to do a job, they're there to protect her, they'll lay their life down for hers, and there's absolutely no respect for that. And that's why agents do not want to go to her detail.'
Agents say Hillary's nastiness and contempt for them and disdain for law enforcement and the military in general continued, both when she was secretary of state and now that she is protected as a former first lady, earning her the distinction of being considered the Secret Service's most detested protectee.
Hillary had a 'standing rule that no one spoke to her when she was going from one location to another,' says former FBI agent Coy Copeland. 'In fact, anyone who would see her coming would just step into the first available office.'
During the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, a Secret Service uniformed officer was standing post on the South Lawn when Hillary arrived by limo.
'The first lady steps out of the limo, and another uniformed officer says to her, 'Good morning, ma'am,'' a former uniformed officer recalls. 'Her response to him was 'F'--- off.' I couldn't believe I heard it.'
One afternoon, Hillary found a White House electrician changing a light bulb in the residence. She yelled at him because she had ordered that all repair work was to be done while the first family was out.
'She caught the guy on a ladder doing the lightbulb,' says Franette McCulloch, who was then the assistant White House pastry chef. 'He was a basket case.'
'We were basically told, the Clintons don't want to see you, they don't want to hear you, get out of the way,' says a former Secret Service agent. 'If Hillary was walking down a hall, you were supposed to hide behind drapes used as partitions. Supervisors would tell us, 'Listen, stand behind this curtain. They're coming,' or 'Just stand out of the way, don't be seen.''
Hillary had a 'standing rule that no one spoke to her when she was going from one location to another,' says former FBI agent Coy Copeland. 'In fact, anyone who would see her coming would just step into the first available office.'
An agent working with Copeland for independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's investigation of the Clintons' investments in the Whitewater real estate development did not know the rules: He made the mistake of addressing Hillary, saying 'Good morning, Mrs. Clinton' as she passed him in a corridor of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
'Huma looked down on the agents and treated them as second-class citizens,' a former agent says. While agents are not supposed to carry luggage, they will do so as a courtesy if they like a female protectee, such as Lynne Cheney or Rosalynn Carter
'She jumped all over him,' Copeland says. 'How dare you? You people are just destroying my husband.' It was that vast right-wing conspiracy rant. Then she had to tack on something to the effect of 'And where do you buy your suits? Penney's?''
For weeks, the agent told no one about the encounter. 'Finally, he told me about it,' Copeland says. 'And he said, 'I was wearing the best suit I owned.''
At the 2000 Democratic National Convention at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Secret Service agents were told that the Clintons had issued instructions that agents leave their posts and, as if they were criminals, step around corners to hide as the Clintons approached.
'We were told they didn't want to see us,' an agent on the detail says.
'Hillary would cuss at Secret Service drivers for going over bumps,' former agent Jeff Crane says.
'There's not an agent in the service who wants to be in Hillary's detail,' a current agent says. 'If agents get the nod to go to her detail, that's considered a form of punishment among the agents. She's hard to work around, she's known to snap at agents and yell at agents and dress them down to their faces, and they just have to be humble and say, 'Yes ma'am,' and walk away.'
The agent adds, 'Agents don't deserve that. They're there to do a job, they're there to protect her, they'll lay their life down for hers, and there's absolutely no respect for that. And that's why agents do not want to go to her detail.'
Madeleine Albright: My Undiplomatic Moment -
Sat, 13 Feb 2016 15:39
I HAVE spent much of my career as a diplomat. It is an occupation in which words and context matter a great deal. So one might assume I know better than to tell a large number of women to go to hell.
But last Saturday, in the excitement of a campaign event for Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, that is essentially what I did, when I delivered a line I have uttered a thousand times to applause, nodding heads and laughter: ''There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other.'' It is a phrase I first used almost 25 years ago, when I was the United States ambassador to the United Nations and worked closely with the six other female U.N. ambassadors. But this time, to my surprise, it went viral.
I absolutely believe what I said, that women should help one another, but this was the wrong context and the wrong time to use that line. I did not mean to argue that women should support a particular candidate based solely on gender. But I understand that I came across as condemning those who disagree with my political preferences. If heaven were open only to those who agreed on politics, I imagine it would be largely unoccupied.
However, I do want to explain why I so firmly believe that, even today, women have an obligation to help one another. In a society where women often feel pressured to tear one another down, our saving grace lies in our willingness to lift one another up. And while young women may not want to hear anything more from this aging feminist, I feel it is important to speak to women coming of age at a time when a viable female presidential candidate, once inconceivable, is a reality.
I have been out of public office for a decade and a half. I have devoted much of my life since to teaching, writing and helping to make sure younger women face fewer obstacles than my generation did. When I speak to groups of women of all ages, I am struck that despite all that has changed, I am still asked the same questions: ''How do you maintain work-life balance? What can I do to succeed in a male profession? What advice should I give my daughter?''
When I answer these questions, I inevitably reflect upon the difficulties my generation faced. I share these stories not to bemoan how hard my life has been. It's turned out pretty well. What concerns me is that if we do not pay careful attention to this history, the gains we have fought so hard for could be lost, and we could move backward. I do not have a magic formula for how every woman should live her life, but I do know that we need to give one another a hand.
The battle for gender equality is still being waged, and it will be easier if we have a woman who prioritizes these issues in the Oval Office and if the gender balance among elected officials reflects that of our country. When women are empowered to make decisions, society benefits. They will raise issues, pass bills and put money into projects that men might overlook or oppose.
Despite decades of progress, women still make less money than men for equivalent work. Paid family leave remains an elusive dream. Sexual abuse against women continues to plague our communities. And many politicians still act as though the top threat to our national security is Planned Parenthood.
In the meantime, outdated attitudes persist. To this day, I sometimes feel a squirm of anxiety when I interrupt a discussion in a room with only men. I see women in public office being criticized on television for their hairstyle or tone of voice. And I regularly hear successful businesswomen criticized as ''too emotional.''
Voters must make an informed decision about whom they elect based on the issues that matter most to them, which of course are not limited to those of gender: education, a growing economy, national security. These affect us all, regardless of our sex.
Even so, I am concerned by the tone of the debate about the many problems that specifically affect women. We cannot be complacent, and we cannot forget the hard work it took us to get to where we are. I would argue that because of what is at stake, this is exactly the time to have a conversation about how to preserve what women have gained, including the right to make our own choices, and how to move forward together. I would welcome an informed dialogue that crosses generations. We have much to learn from one another.
A few years ago, not long after Hillary Clinton succeeded Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, one of my granddaughters asked: ''So what's the big deal about Grandma Maddy being secretary of state? I thought only girls are secretary of state.''
My hope is that young women like my two granddaughters '-- those who have lived in a world where Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, who played school sports thanks to Title IX and who have never had to check ''married'' or ''single'' on a job application '-- will build on the progress we have made. But that will happen only if women help one another. And for those who do that, there will always be a special place of honor.
Madeleine Albright was the secretary of state from 1997 to 2001.
Superdelegate - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 01:24
A "superdelegate" or an "unpledged delegate" is a delegate to the Democratic National Convention or Republican National Convention that is seated automatically, based on their status as current (Republican and Democratic) or former (Democratic only) party leader or elected official. Other superdelegates are chosen during the primary season. Democratic superdelegates are free to support any candidate for the nomination. This contrasts with convention delegates that are selected based on the partyprimaries and caucuses in each U.S. state, in which voters choose among candidates for the party's presidentialnomination.
Although "superdelegate" was originally coined and created to describe this type of Democratic delegate, the term has become widely used to describe these delegates in both parties,[1] even though it is not an official term used by either party.
For Democrats, superdelegates fall into two categories:
delegates seated based on other positions they hold, who are formally described (in Rule 9.A) as "unpledged party leader and elected official delegates"[2] (unpledged PLEO delegates); andadditional unpledged delegates selected by each state party (in a fixed predetermined number), who are formally described (in Rule 9.B) as "unpledged add-on delegates" and who need not hold any party or elected position before their selection as delegates.[2]For Republicans, there are generally 3 unpledged delegates in each state, consisting of the state chairman and two RNC committee members. However, according to the RNC communications director Sean Spicer, convention rules obligate those RNC members to vote according to the result of primary elections held in their states. [3]
A common criticism is that unpledged delegates could potentially swing the results to nominate a candidate that did not receive the majority of votes during the primaries.
Comparison to pledged delegates[edit]Democratic Party rules distinguish pledged and unpledged delegates. Pledged delegates are selected based on their announced preferences in the contest for the presidential nomination. In the partyprimary elections and caucuses in each U.S. state, voters express their preference among the contenders for the party's nomination for President of the United States. Pledged delegates supporting each candidate are chosen in approximate ratio to their candidate's share of the vote. They fall into three categories: district-level pledged delegates (usually by congressional districts);[4] at-large pledged delegates; and pledged PLEO (Party Leaders and Elected Officials) delegates. In a minority of the states, delegates are legally required to support the candidate to whom they are pledged.[5] In addition to the states' requirements, the party rules state (Rule 12.J): "Delegates elected to the national convention pledged to a presidential candidate shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them."[2]
By contrast, the unpledged PLEO delegates (Rule 9.A) are seated without regard to their presidential preferences, solely by virtue of being current or former elected officeholders and party officials. Many of them have chosen to announce endorsements, but they are not bound in any way. They may support any candidate they wish, including one who has dropped out of the presidential race.[6] The other superdelegates, the unpledged add-on delegates (Rule 9.B), who need not be PLEOs, are selected by the state parties after some of the pledged delegates are chosen,[2] but they resemble the unpledged PLEO delegates in being free to vote as they wish.
Unpledged PLEO delegates should not be confused with pledged PLEOs. Under Rule 9.C, the pledged PLEO slots are allocated to candidates based on the results of the primaries and caucuses.[2] Another difference between pledged PLEOs and unpledged PLEOs is that there is a fixed number of pledged PLEO slots for each state, while the number of unpledged PLEOs can change during the campaign. Pledged PLEO delegates are not generally considered superdelegates.
History[edit]After the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the Democratic Party made changes in its delegate selection process, based on the work of the McGovern-Fraser Commission. The purpose of the changes was to make the composition of the convention less subject to control by party leaders and more responsive to the votes cast during the campaign for the nomination.
Some Democrats believed that these changes had unduly diminished the role of party leaders and elected officials, weakening the Democratic tickets of George McGovern and Jimmy Carter. The party appointed a commission chaired by Jim Hunt, the then-Governor of North Carolina, to address this issue. In 1982, the Hunt Commission recommended and the Democratic National Committee adopted a rule that set aside some delegate slots for Democratic members of Congress and for state party chairs and vice chairs.[7] Under the original Hunt plan, superdelegates were 30% of all delegates, but when it was finally implemented for the 1984 election, they were 14%. The number has steadily increased, and today they are approximately 20%.[8]
In 1984 only state party chairs and vice chairs were guaranteed superdelegate status. The remaining spots were divided two ways. The Democrats in Congress were allowed to select up to 60% of their members to fill some of these spots. The remaining positions were left to the state parties to fill with priority given to governors and big-city mayors. In 1988, this process was simplified. Democrats in Congress were now allowed to select up to 80% of their members. All Democratic National Committee members and all Democratic governors were given superdelegate status. This year also saw the addition of the distinguished party leader category (although former DNC chairs were not added to this category until 1996, and former House and Senate minority leaders were not added until 2000). In 1992 was the addition of a category of unpledged "add-ons", a fixed number of spots allocated to the states, intended for other party leaders and elected officials not already covered by the previous categories. Finally, beginning in 1996, all Democratic members of Congress were given superdelegate status.[9]
In the 1984 election, the major contenders for the presidential nomination were Gary Hart and Walter Mondale. Each won some primaries and caucuses. Mondale was only slightly ahead of Hart in the total number of votes cast but won the support of almost all superdelegates and became the nominee.[10]
The superdelegates have not always prevailed, however. In the Democratic primary phase of the 2004 election, Howard Dean acquired an early lead in delegate counts by obtaining the support of a number of superdelegates before even the first primaries were held.[11] Nevertheless, John Kerry defeated Dean in a succession of primaries and caucuses and won the nomination.
In 1988, a study found that superdelegates and delegates selected through the primary and caucus process are not substantively different in terms of viewpoints on issues from each other. However, superdelegates are more likely to prefer candidates with Washington experience than outsider candidates.[12]
At the 2008 Democratic National Convention, the superdelegates made up approximately one-fifth of the total number of delegates. The closeness of the race between the leading contenders, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, led to speculation that the superdelegates would play a decisive role in selecting the nominee, a prospect that caused unease among some Democratic Party leaders.[13] Obama, however, won a majority of the pledged delegates[14] and of the superdelegates, and won the Democratic presidential nomination.[15]
In February of 2016, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, was asked by CNN's Jake Tapper, "What do you tell voters who are new to the process who say this makes them feel like it's all rigged?" Schultz's response was, "Superdelegates exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don't have to be in a position where they are running against grass-roots activists."[16] This clarification was hailed by Clinton supporters as a wise policy to maintain steady, experienced governance, and derided by Sanders supporters as the establishment thwarting the will of the people.
In 2008[edit]At the 2008 Democratic National Convention, superdelegates cast approximately 823.5 votes, with fractions arising because superdelegates from Michigan, Florida, and Democrats Abroad are entitled to half a vote each. Of the superdelegates' votes, 745 are from unpledged PLEO delegates and 78.5 are from unpledged add-on delegates, although the exact number in each category is subject to events.
There is no fixed number of unpledged PLEO delegates. The number can change during the campaign as particular individuals gain or lose qualification under a particular category. The unpledged PLEO delegates are: all Democratic members of the United States Congress, Democratic governors, members of the Democratic National Committee, "[a]ll former Democratic Presidents, all former Democratic Vice Presidents, all former Democratic Leaders of the U.S. Senate, all former Democratic Speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives and Democratic Minority Leaders, as applicable, and all former Chairs of the Democratic National Committee." There is an exception, however, for otherwise qualified individuals who endorse another party's candidate for President; under Rule 9.A, they lose their superdelegate status.[2] (In 2008, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut endorsed Republican John McCain, which, according to the chairwoman of the Connecticut Democratic Party, resulted in his disqualification as a superdelegate.[17] Lieberman's status had, however, previously been questioned because, although he is a registered Democratic voter and caucuses with the Democrats, he won re-election as the candidate of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party and is listed as an "Independent Democrat".[18] The count for Connecticut's delegates in the state party's delegate selection plan, issued before his endorsement of McCain, appears to exclude Lieberman,[19][20][unreliable source?] and he was not included on at least one list of PLEO delegates prepared before his endorsement.[21])
The unpledged add-on delegate slots for the various states total 81, but the initial rule had been that the five unpledged add-on delegates from Michigan and Florida would not be seated, leaving 76 unpledged add-on delegates.[22] Michigan and Florida were being penalized for violating Democratic Party rules by holding their primaries too early.
As of February 13, 2008 one analysis found that the 2008 Democratic National Convention would have 794 superdelegates.[23] The exact number has changed several times because of events. For example, the number decreased as a result of the death of Representative Tom Lantos, the move from Maine to Florida of former Maine Governor Kenneth M. Curtis,[24][unreliable source?] and the resignation of New York GovernorEliot Spitzer. (Because New York's new Governor, David Paterson, is an at-large member of the Democratic National Committee, he was already a superdelegate before becoming Governor.[25]) On the other hand, the number increased when special elections for the House of Representative were won by Democrats Bill Foster, Andr(C) Carson, Jackie Speier, and Travis Childers.[26][unreliable source?]
The biggest change came on May 31 as a result of the meeting of the national party's Rules and Bylaws Committee, which lessened the penalty initially imposed on Michigan and Florida. The party had excluded all delegates (including superdelegates) from either state. The Rules and Bylaws Committee voted to seat all these superdelegates (as well as the pledged delegates from those states) but with half a vote each.[27] That action added 55 superdelegates with 27.5 votes. The total number of superdelegates can continue to change until the beginning of the convention (Call to the Convention Section IV(C)(2)).
Pledged delegates from state caucuses and primaries will number 3,566, casting 3,409.5 votes, resulting in a total number of delegate votes of 4,233. A candidate needs a majority of that total, or (as of June 5) 2,117, to win the nomination.[28][29][unreliable source?] Superdelegates account for approximately one fifth (19.6%) of all votes at the convention. Delegates chosen in the Democratic caucuses and primaries account for approximately four-fifths (80.4%) of the Democratic convention delegates.[28][30]
The Politico found that about half of the superdelegates are white men, compared to 28% of the Democratic primary electorate.[31]
In the Republican Party, as in the Democratic Party, members of the party's national committee automatically become delegates without being pledged to any candidate. In 2008, there are 123 members of the Republican National Committee among the total of 2,380 delegates to the 2008 Republican National Convention.[30] There are three RNC delegates (the national committeeman, national committeewoman, and state party chair) for each state.[32]
Criticism[edit]The term "superdelegate" itself was used originally as a criticism of unpledged delegates. Susan Estrich argued that these delegates, who would be predominantly white and male, would have more power than other delegates because of their greater freedom to vote as they wish.[33]
The Democratic Party has faced accusations that it has been conducting its nominating process in an undemocratic way,[10][34][35] because superdelegates are generally chosen without regard to their preferences in the presidential race and are not obligated to support the candidate chosen by the voters.
Television commentator Dan Abrams has called it "troubling" that the superdelegates might decide the 2008 race, arguing, "Each of the superdelegates' votes is now equivalent to about 10,000 Democratic voters."[36] There are online petitions calling on the superdelegates to support the candidate who does best in the primaries and caucuses.[37] On the other hand, Geraldine Ferraro, who had served on the Hunt Commission and at the time sat on Hillary Clinton's campaign finance committee, defended the inclusion of superdelegates as being beneficial to the party; she argued that they should exercise independent judgment in voting for a presidential nominee.[38]
Delegates chosen in primaries and caucuses may not exactly reflect the votes cast, but Democratic party rules require proportional allocation rather than winner-take-all.[39]
References[edit]^Marcus, Ruth (January 17, 2008). "Looking Beyond Tsunami Tuesday". The Sacramento Bee. ^ abcdefDemocratic National Committee (August 19, 2006). "Delegate Selection Rules for the 2008 Democratic National Convention"(PDF). Retrieved February 8, 2008. ^"Can GOP 'superdelegates' stop Trump?". Washington Examiner. Retrieved 2016-02-10. ^"Delegate types explained". The Boston Globe. June 2, 2008. ^Sinderbrand, Rebecca (March 26, 2008). "Pledged delegates up for grabs, Clinton says". Retrieved June 11, 2008. ^"Romney suspends presidential campaign". February 7, 2008. ^Barnes, James A.; Stone, Peter H. (February 22, 2008). "The Art of Wooing". National Journal. ^Nather, David (February 25, 2008). "Leaping Voters In a Single Bound". CQ Weekly. p. 482. ^Terry Michael, The Democratic Party's Presidential Nominating Process. March, 2004 (pages 14-15)^ abBerman, Ari (February 18, 2008). "Not So Superdelegates". The Nation. ^Lynch, Dotty; Beth Lester (January 17, 2004). "Dean Leads 'Superdelegate' Count". CBS News. Retrieved May 18, 2008. ^Are "Superdelegates" Super? Herrerra, Richard, Political Behavior, Vol. 16, No. 1. (Mar., 1994), pp. 79-92.^Nagourney, Adam; Hulse, Carl (February 10, 2008). "Neck and Neck, Democrats Woo Superdelegates". The New York Times. ^Seelye, Katharine Q. (June 5, 2008). "For Clinton, a Key Group Didn't Hold". The New York Times. ^"Superdelegates by Position". Democratic Convention Watch. June 7, 2008. Retrieved June 30, 2008. ^Borchers, Callum (2016-02-12). "We need more questions like this one from Jake Tapper to Debbie Wasserman Schultz [video]". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-02-13. ^Pazniokas, Mark (February 6, 2008). "Lieberman No Longer a Super Delegate". Archived from the original on February 8, 2008. Retrieved February 7, 2008. ^CAPITOL WATCH: Obama leads Clinton, 6-1, Among CT Superdelegates[dead link]^^"2008 Democratic Convention Watch: Everybody wrong on Lieberman superdelegate status". February 22, 2008. Retrieved August 22, 2009. ^Office of Party Affairs and Delegate Selection (January 7, 2008). "Unpledged PLEO Delegates -- by state"(PDF). The Boston Globe. Retrieved May 17, 2008. ^"Add-on superdelegate selection schedule". 2008 Democratic Convention Watch. March 9, 2008. Retrieved March 19, 2008. ^Follmer, Max (February 13, 2008). "Everything You've Ever Wanted To Know About Delegates And Superdelegates". The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 15, 2008. ^"2008 Democratic Convention Watch: Superdelegate from Maine moves to Florida - Superdelegate total now 794". February 28, 2008. Retrieved August 22, 2009. ^"With Spitzer out, number of Democratic superdelegates drops by 1". The Dallas Morning News. March 18, 2008. ^"2008 Democratic Convention Watch: Superdelegate Ups and Downs". August 22, 2008. Retrieved August 22, 2009. ^Seelye, Katharine Q.; Zeleny, Jeff (June 1, 2008). "Democrats Approve Deal on Michigan and Florida". The New York Times. ^ ab"The Primary Season: 2008 Democratic Calendar". The New York Times. January 7, 2007. ^"It's 2117.0 to win". May 31, 2008. Retrieved August 22, 2009. ^ ab"Election Center 2008: Delegate Scorecard". CNN. ^"White men hold superdelegate power balance - Josephine Hearn -". Retrieved August 22, 2009. ^Republican National Committee (November 9, 2007). ""Call for the 2008 Republican National Convention" (Rule 13(2))"(PDF). Retrieved May 17, 2008. ^Karmack, Elaine (February 14, 2008). "A History of 'Super-Delegates' in the Democratic Party". John F. Kennedy School of Government. ^Snell, Teddye (January 9, 2008). "A Presidential Primer". Tahlequah Daily Press. ^Chaddock, Gail Russell (February 20, 2008). "If Superdelegates Pick Nominee, Democrats Face Backlash". Christian Science Monitor. ^Abrams, Dan (February 8, 2008). "Voters Not Superdelegates". The Huffington Post. Retrieved March 1, 2008. ^"Superdelegates loom over Democratic race". February 19, 2008. Retrieved March 7, 2008. ^Ferraro, Geraldine (February 25, 2008). "Got a Problem? Ask the Super". The New York Times. ^Cook, Rhodes (2004). The Presidential Nominating Process: A Place for Us?. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-7425-2594-8. External links[edit]
Amy Lindsay - IMDb
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 04:29
1 nomination. See more awards >> Filmography 2012Layover(TV Movie)Stewardess 2002Exposed(Video)Angelle Taylor(as Leah Riley) 2002Guinevere Jones(TV Series)Wind (Winifred Winters)(as Katie Campbell) @csm.csm_widget /> EditPersonal DetailsAlternate Names: Lynsey Ames | Amy | Lindsay Blair | Katie Campbell | Summer Leeds | Amy Lindsey | Leah Riley | Julie Snow | Lexie Tyler
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It Only Took Minutes for Ted Cruz to Politicize Antonin Scalia's Death - Yahoo News
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 03:32
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Pronouncing a Supreme Court Justice Dead in West Texas | KRTS 93.5 FM Marfa Public Radio
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 15:09
The Texas Flag flies above the gate at Cibolo Creek Ranch as the sun sets, February 13, 2016 (KRTS/Tom Michael)
The Big Bend region of West Texas is known for its enormous ranches and large, sparsely populated counties. And this can be a problem when people need county services, especially emergency services. And it doesn't matter if you're an ordinary citizen or a Supreme Court Justice.
When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died Saturday in Presidio County, it wasn't easy to arrange the inquest, which is the judicial inquiry into the death.
At a gathering in Marfa that night, Jeanette Duer, the judge of neighboring Jeff Davis County, explains how it works. ''Our county has 2,400 square miles. We have about 2,400 people. We have one Justice of the Peace who does the inquest. If she's not available, it falls to me, as county judge.''
Presidio County is one of the largest in the state. David Beebe is the Justice of the Peace for Precinct 1. He explains how the request for county personnel to pronounce Scalia dead '' first fell to Jeannine Bishop, the J.P. for Precinct 2.
Beebe said, ''The other justice of the peace from the County who covers the area of Cibolo Creek Ranch, where the dead body was found,called me to see if I could cover for her area, because she was out of town. I was on my way to the candidate forum in Alpine, so I said ''Well, no, I'm already busy.'' So she said ''Alright I'll handle it later.'' At that point she apparently contacted County judge Cinderella Guevara, who's able to does these inquests when we are not.''
Judge Guevara was also busy '' but she DID handle the inquest '' over the phone '' pronouncing Justice Scalia dead just before 2 PM.
David Elkowitz is also a government employee. He's the acting Superintendent of the Fort Davis National Historic Site. ''Well, in general, both Brewster and Presidio County are some of the more remote sections of the country '' and also of West Texas.''
He says in many parts of those counties, it's easily more than 100 miles to the nearest hospital. Cibolo Creek Ranch is the 30,000-acre resort where Scalia died.
At the gathering that night in Marfa, Tammy King was expecting to see the ranch's owner '' John Poindexter '' but he had cancelled after arranging a hunting trip with 40 friends, including Scalia. ''Right now it's actually a quail trip '' a quail hunting trip '' that they're having this weekend.''
King speaks highly of this ranch in the Chinati Mountains '' with its ancient rock art and a meticulously restored fort. Despite the tragedy around the sudden death, she says, what a way to go. ''What a gorgeous place to find your last days.''
Justice Scalia was 79 years old.
Inside Cibolo Creek Ranch, the luxury resort where Scalia died - The Washington Post
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 14:05
The veil of privacy was lifted Saturday off a remote West Texas ranch where Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia suddenly died.
Cibolo Creek Ranch, a luxury compound built around three 19th-century forts, has played host to movie stars and European royalty lured by the spare beauty of the desert.
Now, it will be known as the place where Scalia, a firebrand conservative whose vacancy on the Supreme Court launched an immediate political fight, spent his final hours.
The 30,000-acre resort, located less than an hour from the Mexican border crossing at Ojinaga, is tucked into the Chinati Mountains, 33 miles south of Marfa, Tex.
For the well-heeled, getting to the ranch is convenient by private jet: four miles from the main office, it offers a private airport.
[Death plunges court into turmoil as McConnell declares 'vacancy should not be filled' under Obama]
The combination of convenience and privacy has attracted celebrities, reportedly including Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall, Bruce Willis and Tommy Lee Jones, to Cibolo over the years.
Jones used the property, which is located inside the crater of an extinct volcano, to shoot scenes for his 2005 film, ''The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,'' according to
A tabloid-worthy legal brawl adds to the resort's Hollywood allure. In 2010, the ranch sued Randy Quaid, an actor best known for supporting roles in National Lampoon's ''Vacation'' films and ''Independence Day,'' for an unpaid bill totaling $24,859 after a 10-month stay.
Hollywood figures are among a wider group of international jet-setters who frequent the ranch, once featured in Vogue magazine, where rooms can cost above $500 per night.
In 2010, according to local news source CultureMap Houston, 53 members of an international hunting society gathered at Cibolo to take advantage of its shooting. (Minor royalty was on hand: Archduke Andreas Salvatore Hapsburg-Lothrengin, the Prince of Tuscany and Royal Prince of Hungary and Bohemia, ''came in from Spain for the festivities,'' the site reported.)
Guests can organize bird hunts '-- pheasant and chukar are plentiful on the property '-- as well as pursue bigger game, from deer and elk to buffalo, javelinas and mountain lions.
The ranch is named after a Spanish term for bison used in the Old West, the era that most informs the rustic atmosphere of the resort.
[Why it's unusual for a justice to die in office]
In addition to the old forts, which have been converted to luxury accommodations, the compound is comprised of low-lying buildings surrounded by stone-built walls that give way to desert scrub.
It is unclear where on the compound Scalia was staying when he died. He was at the ranch for a private event.
Owner John Poindexter obtained the property in 1988 and undertook an extensive renovation of the forts and outbuildings. A third-generation Texan, Poindexter runs a Houston-based manufacturing company, J.B. Poindexter & Co. and is a leader in the Order of St. Hubertus, the 17th-century hunting society whose members gathered at the resort in 2010.
Poindexter has occasionally made political donations to Democrats, according to the Federal Election Commission. Beneficiaries of his wealth included former representatives Ciro Rodriguez (D-Tex.) and Pete Gallego (D-Tex.), the latter of whom was defeated by Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex.) in 2014.
In 2009, President Obama presented a Presidential Unit Citation, the highest military honor for a U.S. military unit, to a force commanded by Poindexter in Vietnam. The award was made for the unit's ''extraordinary heroism'' in rescuing more than 70 soldiers from a North Vietnamese force in March 1970, the New York Times reported.
Elise Viebeck is a national enterprise reporter for The Washington Post.
The Man In the White Hat - Texas Monthly
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 06:46
February 2006ByJohn Spong
THERE IS SIMPLY NO OTHER PLACE TO BEGIN. John Poindexter, Houston-born multimillionaire owner of exclusive Big Bend resort Cibolo Creek Ranch, is one stiff dude.
For proof, consider his assessment of himself. After being interviewed for this story in December, Poindexter sent me a series of clarifying e-mails. The first one began as follows: ''I have been giving some thought to the complexity of the task that you have set for yourself and in an attempt to be helpful I have provided some random thoughts below. '... Personal outlook. I regard myself as an inwardly focused person, one who has devoted most of his personal time to writing, research and the avocation of studying the Spanish language. That, together with a monolithic dedication to my two businesses'--J.B. Poindexter & Co. and Cibolo Creek Ranch'--has virtually eliminated the usual social give-and-take from my existence. Consequently, I do just fine in formal situations and public presentations (like speeches to our executives) but I do not shine in day-to-day chit-chat.''
Or, to put it in the context of the region he calls home when he's not working in Houston, hear Brewster County judge Val Beard: ''John's manner is not that of a West Texan.''
That assessment by Judge Beard, who, by the way, counts herself among Poindexter's admirers, is dead-on. Poindexter's way'--the solemn, split-hair precision of his thoughts and his habit of walking the listener through each step of that thought process'--is not of the desert, though it has served him beautifully in business. His company, which originally specialized in leveraged buyouts of manufacturing businesses, now counts the world's largest maker of hard-bodied delivery vans among its holdings. It saw almost $700 million in revenues last year. But as the company's sole owner, Poindexter sits alone at the top and freely admits to having a tin ear when it comes to how his statements play to others. He has historically avoided the press, claiming to have neither the capacity, desire, nor need for anything resembling publicity.
But at the end of August, Poindexter found himself in an uncomfortable place: the headlines. He'd been in quiet negotiations throughout the summer with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to purchase 46,000 acres of Big Bend Ranch State Park for around $2 million. But the day before the TPWD commissioners were to receive their staff's recommendation for approval'--in a closed executive session that would be followed the next day by the deal's only public hearing'--the Austin American-Statesman announced in a front-page story that the state was considering selling off ''one-sixth of its flagship park.'' (The figure was off, but negligibly so.) The opposition from conservationists was Bork-like in its intensity and organization. In an editorial the day of the hearing, the Statesman decried the deal's secrecy and ''fire sale price.'' That afternoon, Poindexter was vilified in public testimony for being a poor neighbor and an insensitive steward of the land he already owns and for wanting to close the park to all but the rich guests who stay at his resort. The commissioners rejected the deal. In the end, Poindexter felt as bushwhacked by the outcry as park lovers had been by the suddenness of the hearing. Pinched for time, he was unable to convince his detractors that the deal was as good for the state as it was for him.
Which is precisely why he approached Texas Monthly. Poindexter told me that he plans to resubmit the same deal next month and hopes that if he can just sell his position to the public, he'll get the TPWD to sign off on it too. But stiff dudes often make stiffer salesmen, as that first e-mail hinted. ''While I was not greatly upset,'' he wrote about the decision, ''I am certainly surprised at the vehemence and the (occasional) incompetence of the reaction that my thoughtful suggestions have evoked. I now have the twin objectives of setting the record straight and of making a further positive effort to help resolve a state-wide problem of some magnitude.''
Translation: Here we go again.
IF YOU DRIVE SOUTH FROM MARFA to Cibolo Creek Ranch, about half a mile before you get to the Cibolo gate, the splotchy green scrub that signifies West Texas desert gives way to a field of golden prairie grass. This brush-free zone is your first clue to John Poindexter's dream for much of his 30,000-acre resort, specifically his plan to rectify the damage wrought by a century and a half of open-range overgrazing and periodic drought. The rehabbed area was created with herbicide and bulldozers, at a cost of $75 an acre'--more than what he paid for the land itself. ''This is the same view the settlers had when they first got here,'' he said when I met him there in December. He calls this stretch along the highway, just a fraction of the 7,200 acres he's rehabilitated so far, ''my gift to the community.''
When he started buying the land and its three ruined forts, in 1990, he immediately set upon a very specific plan for fixing it all up. The walls of the restored forts, where the guests now stay, were rebuilt using adobe bricks made with area mud. New roofs went up on vigas made with cottonwoods from the Red River Valley. He painted the forts' interiors with a selection of traditional Mexican colors provided by his architects. He said he picked out ''every stick of furniture in the place,'' most proudly the 36 chairs in the main dining hall that he designed after finding ones like them in a book on New Mexico furniture. ''Restoration was on my mind as soon as I saw this place. I said, 'What can be done with this raw palette, this brush-choked, eroded dump,' which is what it was. 'Let's make it something that fits the area.'''
He speaks like that, like Samuel Beckett fiction, with seemingly every thought given a chance to breathe. He looks a little like Beckett, the long face, thin lips, readily locatable ears, but minus the crazed wildfire burning behind the eyes. He's 61 years old, tall and fit, and if he gives you a tour of his place, he'll even start to resemble one of Beckett's obsessives.
He cannot enter a room without straightening nearly every picture on the wall, nor walk by a table without smoothing the linen, nor pass a rug without tugging a corner to flatten a wrinkle. He'll open glass cabinets displaying thousands of arrowheads to reposition three. At one point, he got on his knees to redirect lights on the cabinets' bottom shelves.
He apologized while he did this, insisting that he'd stayed at Cibolo so rarely of late that his dedication to the place had been missed. To help his staff in that regard, he constantly jots thoughts onto two to-do lists he keeps in his left breast pocket, one for immediate needs and one for longer-term projects. He begins the pressing-needs list each morning when he wakes, no later than six o'clock, writing observations such as ''The dog is being fed too much,'' ''The leaves are being raked too often,'' ''The exterior lights on the fort were turned off too early last night,'' and so on. He swears he's not a micromanager but a delegator. His employees, many of whom walk by a large watercolor portrait of the boss in Cibolo's main office, should be sufficiently inspired to toe the line after a single pass by the Poindexter to-do-list buzz saw.
But he requires no less of himself. He graduated with honors from the University of Arkansas in two years and eight months. He ran through New York University's MBA program in a whirlwind nine months, then earned a Ph.D. in economics and finance from NYU while working as an investment banker on Wall Street. In between degrees, he volunteered for the Army, partly to fulfill family military tradition but largely to ''test his mettle.'' He was president of his class at officer candidate school, an airborne ranger, and a captain and a troop commander during a highly decorated tour in Vietnam.
Banking bored him because he didn't like making other people's deals, and though he enjoyed leveraged buyouts, he wanted to be doing them alone, calling the shots himself, so in 1985 he started his own company. ''I never married,'' he said, ''because when I was younger, I took enormous risks, personal risks in the military and financial risks later, that wouldn't have worked for a family. I worried as well, at least in my younger years, that I would have had difficulty honoring my marriage vows. It wasn't that I didn't like the ladies enough; it's that I liked them too much.''
But he's had no difficulty staying true to Cibolo. He estimates he has spent more than $15 million in his pursuit of its original splendor, from the dirt-colored stain of the concrete floors to his ongoing battle with the creosote and greasewood. ''I don't want to use the term 'building a legacy,''' he told me. ''That is such a tiresome phrase, and it implies personal ego as well, an element I'm trying to exclude. What I am trying to leave behind'--and to enjoy for the next thirty years, because I figure I will live into my nineties'--is a property that is genuinely noteworthy. This one already is. But we can expand what we are doing here to a much larger terrain.''
POINDEXTER FIRST APPROACHED Parks and Wildlife about working a deal in 2001. His initial hope was to straighten the property line where the southeastern end of Cibolo met the northern panhandle of the 340,000-acre Big Bend Ranch State Park. The boundary looked crazy, zigzagging along, with one diamond-shaped section of park almost entirely landlocked in Cibolo. It turned a common land-management measure like fencing into an expensive, logistical nightmare. Squaring boundaries is standard TPWD practice, but not on that scale, and the TPWD declined. Early last summer, Poindexter pitched a similar deal.
When the TPWD considers an offer like this, or any other move, two goals inform its deliberations: conservation and access. Among the agency's charges are maintaining the natural beauty of public lands and making them available for the public to visit and appreciate. But there's an overriding third factor in the decisions these days, not a goal but a fact of life: limited money. After five years of up-and-down funding from the Legislature, the TPWD's new budget reflects a 5 percent cut. On the access side, that's meant cuts in operating hours in 50 of the state's 120 parks and the layoff of 39 employees just before Christmas. Conservation now means more or less letting land sit. Any new land is acquired by donation.
Viewed against a budget just short of a shoestring, Poindexter's offer looked better the second time. When he made known his desire to make a larger deal than he'd originally proposed, staff members started looking at other problems Poindexter's money might solve. The biggest involved almost 25,000 acres of inholdings, land owned by private individuals that sits inside the park. The inholdings include some of the most beautiful spots in the area, but more importantly, they block the most sensible routes through the park. The TPWD staff have wanted to pick up some of those inholdings for years. But as deputy executive director Scott Boruff points out, ''Those people aren't going to talk to me, because we don't have any money.'' Poindexter, of course, does.
The plan they reached seemed sensible to both sides. Poindexter would receive 46,000 acres, and in return, he would pay some $2 million to the agency, with the idea that the money be used to buy the inholdings. He would agree to a strict conservation easement and make the land open to the public (it's currently not accessible). He would also try to persuade his neighbors to sell their inholdings to the state. But the budget crunch had one more effect. If Poindexter's payment was not received before the end of the 2005 fiscal year, on August 31, it could not be spent without legislative approval. Since the finer points of the deal were still being worked out late that summer, the deadline effectively prevented the TPWD staff from going public with the plan until the eleventh hour.
That may be what ultimately doomed the proposal. The late notice gave the appearance of a backroom deal, never a good impression, least of all in wary West Texas. ''If we're going to dispose of public lands,'' said Judge Beard, ''it has to be done by public process. We're passionate about private land ownership out here but skeptical about state action. When the process looks closed, we suspicious yahoos start wondering who's trying to get us.''
But even the yahoos were outshouted by enraged environmentalists. Their volume, plus the tiny window of time, kept Poindexter from effectively presenting his case. Nobody noticed when he pointed out that he had won Parks and Wildlife's Land Stewardship Award for the Trans-Pecos Region in 2004. Nor did they listen when he corrected their assertion that he wanted the land in order to exploit Cienega Creek, the primary water source in that part of the park. (Cienega's headwaters are actually upstream, inside Cibolo property, meaning Poindexter could probably legally dry that creek now; the proposed sale required that Cibolo water remain available to keep Cienega flowing.) He didn't bring in witnesses to testify on his behalf, like Charles Hart, a range specialist who has guided Poindexter's grassland restoration efforts'--as an employee of the Texas Cooperative Extension and not, Hart points out, as an employee of Poindexter's. ''He is absolutely a good steward of the land, in my mind,'' says Hart.
There were, of course, arguments he might not have won. The widow of a former director of the Texas Historical Commission testified that her husband and a team of archaeologists had seen numerous significant archaeological sites at Cibolo that had been damaged by Poindexter bulldozers. Bob Mallouf, the director of the Center for Big Bend Studies, confirmed to me that he'd recorded at least four such reports but added that Poindexter has promised to be more careful.
And there were those people who were simply constitutionally opposed to the selling of public lands. For them, it's shameful enough that public land accounts for just 7 percent of the state. Selling any significant portion will never be acceptable.
In the end, the commissioners said they rejected the deal for only one reason. ''It boiled down to this for me,'' said commission chairman Joseph Fitzsimons. ''Though I believe John would have made a great effort to help us achieve our goals of access, he wasn't able to guarantee he could deliver on the proposal.'' There was no concrete plan for how Poindexter would secure the inholdings and no way to ensure that the owners would sell. And even though Poindexter's promise had never been certain, in the face of such passionate public opposition, it probably did start to look more like an albatross than an opportunity in the commissioners' eyes.
Poindexter's not giving up. ''We put so much work and effort into the deal, by a lot of lawyers and by the principals,'' he said, ''that I'd like to see that deal get done.'' But every person I talked to at the TPWD said that simply resubmitting the old deal won't do the trick. ''I respect the fact that the commissioners rejected it,'' said executive director Bob Cook. ''Would I take them the same deal again? No. I'm old and slow, but I do learn.''
I WAS WITH POINDEXTER for two days in December, the first largely devoted to the walking-straightening tour of the main fort and the second to a drive through the parkland Poindexter still wants to buy.
I met him the second morning at eight o'clock at the Cibolo entrance. While I got out of my Jeep and walked to his Humvee, he got out of the Humvee to pick up an empty convenience store coffee cup on the ground by the gate. ''How do you think eight employees could have driven past that on their way in this morning?'' he asked. ''But you can't let that get you down. It's just life.''
We climbed into the Humvee and crossed the highway, which runs through the middle of Cibolo, and traveled about twenty minutes on smooth dirt roads over Poindexter land, then for about an hour and a half over rocky, untended trails in the state park. In the rolling, scrub-pocked hills, Poindexter soon lost reception on the radio that keeps him in contact with his staff, so he concentrated on discussing his plans for his ranch, which he still hopes will include this land.
When he dies, the ranch will go to the Poindexter Foundation, to be used for the cultural, recreational, and educational purposes of the public, its maintenance to be funded by the money in his company. He said that even if he marries and has kids, none of them will ever own any substantial portion of this land. ''Large inheritances,'' he said, sounding exactly like himself, ''are not productivity enhancers for the recipients.''
His big dream, he said, is to create a Big Bend equivalent of the Appalachian Trail. ''My hopes for that project,'' he told me, ''do not depend on my buying this parkland.'' He seemed nothing short of sincere in his intention to do right by this land. But it's no longer clear that that is enough.
Tags:big bend, houston, marfa, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
No slack in reforms as DHS chief's tenure winds down
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 01:49
Homeland Security
No slack in reforms as DHS chief's tenure winds downBy Mark RockwellFeb 11, 2016DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson promised to fulfill long-standing agency goals on management and cybersecurity.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, in his final state-of-the-agency speech, said he would make his last year in office count.
Longstanding cybersecurity and management goals are at the top of his list.
The Cybersecurity National Action Plan proposed by President Barack Obama in his fiscal 2017 budget is the culmination of seven years of effort by the Obama administration to blunt or prevent a quickening drumbeat of cyberattacks on commercial and government networks, according to Johnson.
"DHS has a hand in every aspect" of the plan, which contains a number of new oversight commissions, cyber talent search, incident response capabilities and technical initiatives, Johnson said in his Feb. 11 speech in Washington, D.C.
He said that efforts to deploy the Einstein cybersecurity screen are accelerating. Einstein 1 and 2, he said, are now in place across all federal systems, while the Einstein 3A phase is expanding.
"Thus far, E3a has blocked 700,000 cyber threats, and we are rapidly expanding this capability," he said. A year ago, E3a covered about 20 percent of federal systems. Now it is available to all agencies, and about half are using it -- including the Office of Personnel Management, which suffered a major hack in 2015.
Johnson declined to comment on whether data stolen in the OPM hack had been used to access other federal networks.
"We are working to get all federal departments and agencies on board by the end of this year," he said.The agency's other major cybersecurity program, Continuous Diagnostics and Monitoring, is also advancing.
"In 2015, we provided sensors to 97 percent of the federal civilian government," Johnson said. "Next year, DHS will provide the second phase of CDM to 100 percent of the federal civilian government."
DHS also has worked with the Office of Management and Budget and the Director of National Intelligence to identify high-value national infrastructure systems in the U.S., Johnson said, and is working with those systems' owners to increase security.
Another top priority for the agency in the coming months remains management reform, the secretary said. The centerpiece of process reform at the agency, according to Johnson, has been the Unity of Effort Initiative. That effort, announced in 2013, aimed to better integrate the many stove-piped organizations within DHS and embrace more centralized programming, budgeting and acquisition processes.
Johnson said the agency-wide Joint Requirements Council, established in 2014 to evaluate acquisitions from the perspective of the agency as a whole, and the contractor-facing Acquisition Innovations in Motion initiative, will continue as his tenure winds down.
"My overarching goal as secretary ... is to continue to protect the homeland and leave the department a better place than I found it," he said.
About the Author
Mark Rockwell is a staff writer at FCW.
Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.
Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.
Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.
Orban Accuses Germany and Turkey of Secret Pact to Flood Europe with Another 500,000 Illegals | American Renaissance
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 15:00
Addressing a private meeting of government members of parliament yesterday, uncompromising Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has accused Germany and Turkey of contracting a secret pact to flood Europe with an ''unprecedented migrant tide''.
According to details of the speech leaked to the Times of Hungary, Mr. Orban claimed to have knowledge of an agreement between Turkey and Germany so shocking the nations involved do ''not yet dare to make it public''. Remarking the deal had now been agreed, but was still going through a ''bargaining phase'', Mr. Orban said when executed''at Turkey's leisure''it would mean the ''direct transportation'' of half a million migrants to Germany.
Once they had arrived in Germany, these migrants would then be distributed around the continent by binding EU resettlement rules designed to take the burden off the most popular European nations, said Mr. Orban.
Although some 1.5 million migrants made their way to Germany over the course of 2015, speaking to his parliamentary colleagues the Hungarian leader said this sudden, organised movement of between 400,000 and 500,000 migrants in one go would resemble an ''unprecedented migrant tide''. Europe under ''siege'' would suffer for years under the weight of the migrants, he said.
Germany has already been the main deal-broker between Turkey and the European Union, securing billions of Euros of cash in return for Turkey taking action on slowing the flow of migrants into the continent. If it were proven Germany was also agreeing secret deals working to do the exact opposite, it could be politically difficult for Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Germany's men in Brussels.
Viktor Orban is one of the most outspoken, and often maligned leaders in Europe, who has defied the opinion of his fellow EU politicians to secure his country against the migrant crisis, building a significant fence along Hungary's southern border.
Choosing the route of least resistance, the tens of thousands of migrants a week passing through Hungary re-routed, accessing northern neighbour Austria by way of Slovenia instead. While the number of daily illegal incursions initially dropped to just dozens from thousands, it has recently slowly grown again to hundreds a day as Austria tighten their own borders.
Despite the difficulty this creates for the Hugnarian government which rides high in the polls on the back of having stopped the migrant invasion, the country has still offered congratulations to Austria for getting their house in order and starting to secure their borders.
Original Article
Topics: Europe, Immigration
'We're not idiots', threatens to send refugees
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 13:29
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out against the EU on Thursday (11 February) and threatened to send millions of refugees in Turkey to the bloc's member states, just as NATO agreed to deploy ships in the Aegean Sea to ease the migrant crisis.
In a speech in Ankara Erdogan confirmed an earlier leaked report in which he made clear to EU leaders late last year that he could open the gates for the estimated 2.7 million refugees to enter Europe.
''We do not have the word 'idiot' written on our foreheads. We will be patient, but we will do what we have to. Don't think that the planes and the buses are there for nothing,'' Erdogan said in a speech, signalling Turkey was running out of patience.
Earlier this week, the Greek website reported that Erdogan told EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker at the G20 summit in Antalya: ''We can open the doors to Greece and Bulgaria any time and put the refugees on buses.''
Erdogan confirmed the report, saying he was proud he made those comments.
''I am proud of what I said. We have defended the rights of Turkey and the refugees. And we told them [the Europeans]: 'Sorry, we will open the doors and say "goodbye" to the migrants'," AFP quoted Erdogan as saying.
Under the EU-Turkey deal last November, Ankara pledged to slow the influx of migrants, crack down on people smugglers in exchange for '‚¬3 billion aid for refugees stuck in Turkey, a faster visa liberalisation process and opening chapters in its EU membership negotiations.
The EU Commission in a report released on Wednesday, while acknowledging that some progress had been made, urged Turkey to do more to stop the flow of migrants, patrol its sea and clamp down on smugglers.
On the other hand, Turkey is also under pressure from Europe and the UN to open up its borders to the tens of thousands stranded at the Turkish-Syrian border after fleeing the Russian-backed push by the Syrian regime into the city of Aleppo.
''It is hypocritical to remind Turkey of its international responsibilities,'' Erdogan said, rebuffing criticism.
''There is a chance the new wave of refugees will reach 600,000 if air strikes continue,'' he warned.
'Shame on you!'The Turkish president also lashed out against the UN for not doing more to protect refugees.
''Shame on you! Shame on you!'' said Erdogan, adding that the UN should be telling countries to take in refugees from Turkey.
Turkey has spent more than '‚¬8 billion on refugees since the civil war started in Syria five years ago.
Erdogan's fiery comments came as Nato decided to deploy ships immediately to the Aegean sea, under German command, to help with surveillance and patrolling Turkey's shores.
By 7 February, 70,365 migrants arrived by sea in Greece from Turkey, on average 2,000 per day, while 319 died on the way, according to data from the International Organization for Migration.
Russian ceasefireRussia has proposed a 1 March ceasefire in Syria, as officials from more than a dozen countries meet in Munich to try to put an end to the raging civil war. The conflict has already claimed the lives of over 470,000 Syrians, according to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research, a non-governmental organisation.
But US officials, arguing for an immediate stop to the fighting, believe that Moscow is only trying to buy time to allow its ally in Syria, president Bashar Al-Assad, to gain more control and crush rebel groups, AP reported. Such a move would help the Islamist group ISIS, they argue.
US secretary of state, John Kerry, is due to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Munich on Thursday.
Peace talks are supposed to resume by 25 February.
Erdogan to EU: 'We're not idiots,' threatens to send refugees
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 13:29
Erdogan to EU: 'We're not idiots,' threatens to send refugeesBy Eszter ZalanBRUSSELS, 11. Feb, 17:41
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out against the EU on Thursday (11 February) and threatened to send millions of refugees in Turkey to the bloc's member states, just as NATO agreed to deploy ships in the Aegean Sea to ease the migrant crisis.
More:Erdogan to EU: 'We're not idiots,' threatens to send refugees
Merkel isolated as EU partners slam door on refugees | The Times of Israel
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 07:44
MUNICH, Germany (AFP) '' Abandoned by France, defied by eastern Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel cuts a lonely figure in her struggle for EU ''solidarity'' on the refugee crisis ahead of a Brussels summit.
Merkel is battling for a deal that will see refugees more evenly spread around the European Union after Germany welcomed 1.1 million asylum seekers last year.
But instead, eastern European countries are planning new razor wire fences, and even Paris '-- traditionally Berlin's closest EU ally '-- has shown little enthusiasm for Merkel's welcome policy.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Saturday that the mood in France was ''not favorable'' to Merkel's call for a permanent quota system.
''Europe cannot take in all the migrants from Syria, Iraq or Africa,'' Valls told German media. ''It has to regain control over its borders, over its migration or asylum policies.''
US Secretary of State John Kerry praised Merkel for showing ''great courage in helping so many who need so much'' amid ''the gravest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II.''
But he also told the Munich Security Conference that the mass influx spells a ''near existential'... threat to the politics and fabric of life in Europe.''
'Total failure'Another guest in Munich, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, took a far darker view, charging that ''it's quite simply stupid to open Europe's doors wide and invite in everyone who wants to come to your country.''
''European migration policy is a total failure, all that is absolutely frightening,'' he told the Handelsblatt daily.
A number of EU nations that were once in Russia's Cold War orbit seem to agree.
Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia plan to meet Monday to discuss how to close down the main refugee route through the Balkans, reported Germany's Spiegel news weekly.
''As long as there is no common European strategy, it is legitimate that the nations along the Balkans route protect their borders,'' Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak told the magazine.
He also opposed Merkel's plan for an EU quota system, saying ''quotas only increase the incentives for migration.''
At the other end of the route, Austria's foreign minister warned Macedonia on Friday that it should be ready to close its border to migrants coming up from Greece.
Vienna also plans to impose a cap on refugees and may start turning them away in the coming months.
'Coalition of willing'Merkel, long dubbed the ''Queen of Europe,'' has seen poll numbers drop at home, coalition members rebel and EU allies duck away as the refugee crisis has sparked deep discord and threatened the bloc's system of open borders.
She has pledged to reduce arrivals by more quickly turning away ''economic refugees'' and combating traffickers, including through a new NATO surveillance mission in the Aegean Sea.
Meanwhile, her government has urged fellow Europeans to remember their core humanitarian values.
''How can a continent of 500 million citizens see its foundations shaken'... by 1.5 million or 2 million refugees?'' said Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen in Munich.
Merkel said Friday there was ''a group of countries'' that may voluntarily accept more refugees in exchange for redoubled efforts from Turkey to tackle illegal immigration.
She did not name the members, but at an EU summit in December, Germany gathered officials from Austria, Belgium, Finland, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden.
Merkel is planning to bring together what the media have dubbed a ''coalition of the willing'' on the margins of a two-day EU summit in Brussels starting Thursday.
Help for TurkeyShe suggested its members could help Turkey's refugee effort beyond the three billion euros ($3.3 billion) already committed by the EU.
Turkey, which is hosting over 2.7 million mostly Syrian refugees, has voiced deep frustration with the EU as a fresh wave of Syrian refugees mass on its border.
Angry over calls that Turkey should do more, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that his nation could throw out its existing refugees, threatening to fly and bus them to Europe.
''We do not have the word 'idiot' written on our foreheads,'' he said.
''We will be patient, but we will do what we have to. Don't think that the planes and the buses are there for nothing.''
Merkel Turns to `Coalition of Willing' to Tackle Refugee Crisis - Bloomberg Business
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 07:41
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is turning to a subgroup of European Union members to tackle the region's refugee crisis as the bloc as a whole bickers over how to handle the biggest influx of migrants into Europe since World War II.
Merkel plans to meet again with a ''coalition of the willing'' in Brussels ahead of an EU summit in the city next week. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will attend the talks, which have taken place at previous EU gatherings. Turkey is the main country from which migrants enter the EU.
''This doesn't have to do with a permanent distribution mechanism but rather a group of countries that are willing to consider'' taking refugees once the illegal trafficking has been stopped, Merkel said Friday at a Berlin press conference with her Polish counterpart Beata Szydlo. ''We will then report quite transparently to all 28 member states where things stand.''
Merkel traveled earlier this week to Turkey to discuss the crisis with Davutoglu. Merkel said on Monday the only way to end the flood of illegal migration across the Aegean Sea from Turkey into Greece was to replace it with a legal avenue. That would involve the EU resettling allotments of mostly Syrian refugees directly from Turkey in return for Turkey halting the flow of migrants, she said.
The chancellor has thus far failed to secure a wider EU deal to share in housing and caring for those who have already reached the bloc. Germany, which took in more than 1 million refugees last year, has pushed to implement a quota system to distribute migrants among EU members -- something that a number of the bloc's states, in particular in the east, argue should only be done on a voluntary basis.
''For Poland, a permanent mechanism of relocating migrants is currently not acceptable,'' Szydlo said at the press conference with Merkel. ''I think we will continue talking about this. But I want to stress that Poland wants to actively participate in solving the migrant crisis because it's very important for the EU as a whole.''
George Clooney to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel - NY Daily News
Thu, 11 Feb 2016 21:23
Thursday, February 11, 2016, 12:02 PM
Actor George Clooney is showing his wife's not the only humanitarian in the family.
The star of the new ''Hail, Caesar!'' will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Friday to discuss how his fame could play a role in Europe's contentious refugee crisis, according to the AFP news agency.
"I'm having a meeting with Angela Merkel tomorrow to talk about and ask what messages and what things we (in Hollywood) can do," the actor said at the Berlin Film Festival, where his new Coen Brothers movie is premiering.
It appears the meeting was initiated by Clooney, who is in the German capital with his wife, human rights attorney Amal Clooney.
Clooney will reportedly also meet with 80,000 asylum-seekers who arrived in Germany last year. The actor says he's trying to enlighten people in Hollywood about the severity of the situation in Europe instead of just waiting until something boils over.
"The unfortunate thing about the film community is we react to situations much more than we lead the way," Clooney said. "News stories have to continue to happen and then scripts are written and it takes a couple years before people are actually making films about it."
Chancellor Merkel has maintained a relatively open-door policy for refugees throughout the crisis, though she has come under fire from other European nations, which have been less inviting, to various degrees.
Germany alone is allowing 1.1 million people to enter their borders as they flee from war-torn and impoverished nations such as Syria '-- making this the biggest European refugee crisis since the end of World War II.
Clooney is long known for his humanitarian work, though he said Thursday he's had trouble convincing those in Hollywood to create films about other struggling nations such as Sudan or Darfur.
"I haven't been able to find the proper venue or the proper script yet to be able to do it," he said. "It's a tough thing to do."
George Clooney Praises Merkel's Openness to Migrants as He Seeks Greater Seclusion in Italy - Breitbart
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 05:58
Clooney, who was accompanied to the Merkel meeting by former UK foreign secretary David Miliband, told reporters that he ''absolutely'' agrees with Merkel's handling of the crisis and her acceptance of many migrants into the country.
Merkel has spearheaded Germany's response to the greatest influx of refugees into Europe since the Second World War, with Germany taking nearly half of all asylum applications made by Syrians in EU member states last year.
After the 40-minute meeting, Clooney criticized the U.S. policy toward migrants on German television. ''You know in the United States, we aren't doing enough,'' he said. ''We are a little less involved than we should be.''
Later Friday, the Clooneys, who are in Germany to promote the actor's new film Hail, Caesar, also visited a Berlin refugee shelter. He had said he wished to meet a group of asylum seekers, ''to talk about and ask what messages and what things we can do'... to help.''
The Clooneys' public statements about immigration stand in odd juxtaposition to reports from northern Italy over the past year suggesting that the couple has found their $10 million Lake Como property to be too public.
The 18th-century estate, which is reportedly now worth ten times what Clooney paid for it, or $100 million, is in a very exclusive area. But local mayor Roberto Pozzi still had to make extra efforts to guarantee the actor's privacy last April and imposed a $600 fine for anyone found trespassing on or around the actor's property.
Though many find it glamorous to have Clooney as a neighbor some, like local fisherman Livio de' Angeli, resent the restrictions imposed to ensure the actor's privacy.
''I used to be able to leave my car here on the ramp leading down to the water, but now I can't'--I'd get fined by the police,'' the man said. ''You're not allowed to park anywhere near the villa and you can't take a boat within 100 meters of the house. It's like living in a mini dictatorship.''
According to one source, Clooney loves his estate and the area, but he has received a huge offer for the villa, which he is considering, and ''he would buy another, less accessible property in another area of Italy.''
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome
Google will begin showing anti-ISIS ads to counter terrorism | Fox News
Tue, 09 Feb 2016 14:17
Not all weapons have a trigger, but that doesn't make them any less effective. No, I'm not talking about bombs, but rather about Google's new strategy to use its highly targeted advertising system in the battle against ISIS. Last week, Anthony House, the senior manager for public policy and communications at Google, revealed plans to show users anti-radicalization links in response to terrorism-related searches. The plan was outlined before a committee of the British parliament dedicated to counter-terrorism.
The program is still in its pilot stages, but House is hopeful that this new plan may provide a clever tool that protects the freedom of the Internet while protecting the livelihoods of the world's citizens. "We should get the bad stuff down, but it's also extremely important that people are able to find good information, that when people are feeling isolated, that when they go online, they find a community of hope, not a community of harm," said the Google manager.
The idea, the Internet giant says, is to provide a sort of alternative narrative to those looking for information about extremism. In a statement, a Google spokesperson further explained, "What was referenced is a pilot Google AdWords Grants program that's in the works right now with a handful of eligible non-profit organizations. The program enables NGOs to place counter-radicalization ads against search queries of their choosing."
Related: Google reveals Justin Bieber video is most complained about clip on YouTube
In addition to the counter-terrorism ads, Google is also ensuring that its subsidiary YouTube makes anti-extremism videos more discoverable, further aiding the overall efforts against ISIS and similar groups.
The move comes in the midst of an ongoing debate about the role and responsibility that social media groups should accept in responding to the proliferation of extremism. ISIS is known for leveraging sites like Twitter and Facebook for both recruitment and propaganda purposes, and a recent lawsuit against Twitter suggested that ISIS has only reached its current level of influence with the (albeit unintentional) help of social media platform.
And while Google ads may not be a comprehensive solution, it's certainly a step in the right direction when it comes to using tech to fight the bad guys.
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Google to point extremist searches towards anti-radicalisation websites | UK news | The Guardian
Tue, 09 Feb 2016 14:16
Extremist-related searches via Google are to be shown anti-radicalisation links. Photograph: Chris Ison/PA
Users of Google who put extremist-related entries into the search engine are to be shown anti-radicalisation links under a pilot programme, MPs have been told by an executive for the company. The initiative, aimed at countering the online influence of groups such as Islamic State, is running alongside another pilot scheme designed to make counter-radicalisation videos easier to find
The schemes were mentioned by Anthony House, senior manager for public policy and communications at Google, who was appearing alongside counterparts from Twitter and Facebook at a home affairs select committee hearing on countering extremism. ''We should get the bad stuff down, but it's also extremely important that people are able to find good information, that when people are feeling isolated, that when they go online, they find a community of hope, not a community of harm,'' he said.
Referring to the use of online counter radicalisation initiatives, House said: ''This year'.... we are running two pilot programmes. One is to make sure that these types of videos are more discoverable on YouTube. The other one is to make sure when people put potentially damaging search terms into our search engine.. they also find this counter narrative.''
Google has said that House was referring to a pilot scheme to enable NGOs to place counter-radicalisation adverts against search queries of their choosing.
A spokesperson said: ''The free Google AdWords Grant program is starting a pilot for a handful of eligible non-profits organizations to run ads against terrorism-related search queries of their choosing.''
All three representatives from Google, Twitter and Facebook were challenged by MPs about the extent of their companies' roles in combating the use of social media by groups such as Isis for propaganda and recruitment purposes.
Committee chairman Keith Vaz asked how many people are in the sites' ''hit squads'' that monitor content. He was told Twitter, which has 320 million users worldwide, has ''more than 100'' staff. The Facebook and Google executives did not give a number.
Simon Milner, Facebook's policy director for UK and Ireland, Middle East, Africa and Turkey, said that the site has become a ''hostile place'' for Isis: ''Keeping people safe is our number one priority. Isis is part of that, but it's absolutely not the only extremist organisation or behaviour that we care about.'' He added that Facebook recognised from research that people did not typically get radicalised exclusively online '' rather, it was a combination of real-world and online contact '' and was working as a result with groups in society such as Imams.
The three were also questioned about the thresholds they apply on notifying authorities about terrorist material identified by staff or users. Labour MP Chuka Umunna asked: ''What is the threshold beyond which you decide ... that you must proactively notify the law enforcement agencies?''
House and Milner said their threshold was ''threat to life'', while Nick Pickles, UK public policy manager at Twitter, told the MPs: ''We don't proactively notify. Because Twitter's public, that content is available, so often it's been seen already.''
Pickles also stressed that decisions on whether to notify account holders that they were under investigation were ''context specific'' and insisted that Twitter worked with authorities to ensure that they do not disrupt investigations.
' This article was amended on 3 February 2016 to clarify Google's counter-radicalisation initiatives and to expand a quote from Anthony House and add a response from Google.
'I am a radicalised goat hell-bent on jihad' '' the FBI's new anti-Isis video game | Technology | The Guardian
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 11:42
The FBI's Slippery Slope: warning '' visuals represent actual game play. Photograph: FBI - Slippery Slope Videogame
I'm a susceptible goat speeding down the path to Islamic extremism, but first I must negotiate the green-and-grey blocks of infidel propaganda. No, wait; I'm a radicalised goat, hell-bent on jihad, but my extremist beliefs are threatened by green-and-grey blocks of debate. Or could it be that I'm trying to master the FBI's virtually unplayable '' it's almost as infuriating as Flappy Bird '' new online anti-extremism game, which involves manoeuvring a wayward goat through a sub-Minecraft-style obstacle course whose metaphorical intent is all but unfathomable?
The game, entitled Slippery Slope, is supposed to educate impressionable kids on ''the distorted logic of blame that can lead a person into violent extremism'', but it's also indicative of how clueless governments can be when it comes to reaching out to the kids. Slippery Slope is part of an online initiative launched by the FBI called Don't Be a Puppet: Pull Back the Curtain on Violent Extremism, which uses games and quizzes to inform young people about radicalisation.
An as-yet unradicalised goat. Photograph: Getty Images/FuseAs the title suggests, there are more metaphors to unmangle here: a wooden mannequin bound by strings, for example, which you can free by visiting all the site's sections. These are rendered as rooms of a confusing family home, which appears to contain a dingy, windowless lecture room and a serial-killer basement. ''We want teens to apply their critical thinking skills to this issue,'' says an FBI spokesman. Gaming sites have done just that. ''The FBI made a video game and it sucks,'' declared Kotaku. ''Everything about this site screams awful, out-of-touch 90s educational game,'' complained Gizmodo.
This isn't the first attempt to counter the problem of online radicalisation. But compared with the relatively sophisticated methods of Islamic State, whose propaganda techniques include slick recruitment videos and intensive social-media grooming, governments are banging their goats against a grey-green wall. A ''Radicalisation Awareness Information Kit'' issued for use in Australian schools last year was roundly ridiculed for drawing a direct line between violent extremism and ''listening to alternative music''. Similarly, the UK's new ''Educate Against Hate'' website, launched last month, includes among its ''warning signs'' such behaviour as ''excessive time spent online or on mobile phones'' and ''significant change of appearance and/or clothing'' '' also known as normal teenage behaviour.
Can game developers do any better? Fighting fire with fire doesn't seem to be working. Grand Theft Auto was appropriated as a jihadi recruitment ad while anti-terrorist first-person shooter ARMA III was apparently modified by Isis to incorporate jihadi fighters. Perhaps the west's greatest online riposte was the 2014 hit Goat Simulator, in which the player controls, yes, a goat on the rampage across suburbia. It was mindlessly pointless, educationally worthless and guiltily amusing '' all the hallmarks of the healthy democracy we seek to defend. And the graphics were a damn sight better than the FBI's.
NA-Tech News
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act - SSB BART Group
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 05:16
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (as amended 1998) (29 USC § 794d) requires that when U.S. Federal government agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology (EIT), Federal employees with disabilities must have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access and use by Federal employees who do not have disabilities, unless such a change would impose an undue burden on the agency. Additionally, individuals with disabilities who are seeking information or services from a Federal agency must have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that provided to individuals without disabilities, unless such a change would impose an undue burden on the agency.
Section 508 covers technology procured by the Federal agency under contract with a private entity and produced within the organization itself. Section 508 covers all Electronic and Information Technology (EIT) including software, web sites, web applications, and hardware applications such as computers, networks, peripherals, and other types of electronic office equipment. EIT is defined as ''any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment that is used in the automatic acquisition, storage, manipulation, management, movement, control, display, switching, interchange, transmission, or reception of data or information.''
By statute, the scope of Section 508 is limited to the Federal sector. It does not apply to the private sector, nor does it directly impose requirements on Federal funds recipients. However, the Department of Education interprets the Assistive Technology Act (AT Act) to require States receiving assistance under the AT Act State Grant program to comply with Section 508, including the standards of the Access Board. The agency responsible for administrating the AT Act, the Department of Education, plans to issue guidance to explain specifically how the proposed standards would apply to the States for the purposes of the AT Act. Therefore, recipients of federal funds under the AT Act must comply with Section 508. In a similar fashion, other agencies administering Federal programs '' notably, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) '' have interpreted Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to cover all co-funded Federal and State programs. Notably, this includes Medicare and Medicaid programs, which are funded in part with Federal funds. In practice, such interpretations generally require that any State level programs funded in part with Federal funds be accessible to people with disabilities and, in turn, conform to the Section 508 requirements.
The published Section 508 EIT accessibility standards (FR 65 No. 246) provide technical criteria specific to various types of technologies and performance-based requirements, which focus on the functional capabilities of EIT. The technical provisions include: requirements specific to various types of technologies; functional performance criteria focusing on the functional capabilities of covered technologies; and requirements for information, documentation, and support. The technology specific criteria cover software applications and operating systems; web-based information or applications; telecommunications products; video or multimedia products; self-contained, closed products; and desktop or notebook computers. The functional performance criteria cover operation, including input and control functions, operation of mechanical mechanisms and access to visual and audible information. These provisions are constructed to allow those with sensory or physical disabilities to locate, identify, and operate input, control, and mechanical functions, and to access the information provided, including text, static or dynamic images, icons, labels, sounds, and incidental operating cues. The requirements for information, documentation and support require access to user guides, installation guides for end-user installable devices, and customer support and technical support communications.
The current Section 508 standards were issued in 2000 and became effective on June 21, 2001. As expected, the standards are now largely out of date and often not consistent with current development trends. To address this, the Access Board is in the process of issuing updated standards for the implementation of the Section 508 standards.
General Compliance GuidanceThe Refresh will broadly maintain the current structure of the requirements, with a separation between technical and functional standards. Technical standards will be organized around product functions, e.g., web based systems, two-way voice systems, video conferencing systems, and other related product functions. In the current standards, the technical requirements '' subpart B '' have an implied break out by product type versus by product function. The implication to many readers of the current structure is that only one product type needs to be followed. In the argot of the current Section 508 standards, an IT system that conforms to 1194.21 Software applications and operating systems would seemingly not need to conform to 1194.22 Web-based intranet and internet information and applications. This approach to the application of the standards, however, is not applied consistently with many interpretations, which view all relevant portions of the 508 technical standards that could apply as applying. The Refresh addresses this by shifting the focuses to features of products and clarifying that all relevant technical standards will continue to apply.
Functional performance requirements will remain a separate requirement, but will increase from six to nine user modalities. This is in line with the overall trend we see on a global level towards an increase in the number of user modalities covered under relevant accessibility requirements. As with the current standards, in the Refresh, both technical and functional performance criteria will be required and enforced. This is a change from the current state of practice and from the 2010 Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Draft (ANPRM), in which the application of the functional performance criteria is often considered as an alternate to conformance with the technical requirements. The current draft of the standards closes this loophole and makes it clear that IT systems must technically conform and be functionally usable to individuals with disabilities.
The requirements have been expanded to cover web sites, web applications, and electronic document content. There are some limits on the type and scope of electronic document content covered, discussed in the Electronic Documents section below, but the coverage is generally specific to official communication and final, formal documents produced by an organization. For sites, applications, and content, the target standards for compliance are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Levels A and AA requirements. This is in line with the global trends harmonizing around these as the de facto standards for web and electronic content accessibility. Hardware and software applications that are not web-based will be based on proprietary standards.
Electronic DocumentsElectronic documents will be explicitly addressed in the Section 508 Refresh. Electronic documents are arguably covered under the current standards, but are not commonly put into practice. With the current draft of the Section 508 Refresh, coverage of electronic content is limited to nine specific categories of information communicated by agencies to employees or to members of the general public during the conduct of official agency business, as determined by the agency mission. These categories include:
Content that is public facing;Content that is broadly disseminated within the agency;Letters adjudicating any cause within the jurisdiction of the agency; internal and external program and policy announcements;Notices of benefits, forms, questionnaires, and surveys;Emergency notifications;Formal acknowledgements;Any educational and training materials.There are two exceptions to covered content: archival copies stored or retained solely for archival purposes to preserve an exact image of a hard copy, and draft versions of documents. In practice, this will mean that many components of agencies and other organizations that 508 applies to will need to make significant efforts to ensure all content producers can create accessible content.
The standards for this content are currently tracking as the WCAG 2.0 A and AA conformance requirements.
TimingThe last updated draft of Section 508 standards was published in the Federal Register on December 8, 2011, and the comment period ran through March 7, 2012. The draft status at that time was that of an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), which is two steps removed from the final publication of the rule. The next steps to enacting this rule are a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), and then the final publication. As of the Fall 2013 Regulatory Agenda, the Access Board was tracking a publication timeframe of March 2013 for the NPRM. Based on discussions with the Access Board, the current plan is to present the draft NPRM to the Board for approval during the mid-March 2014 Access Board meeting. Once the draft is approved, it would be submitted to the Office of Budget Management (OMB) for approval by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which reviews the impact assessment developed by the Access Board. Based on Executive Order, OMB has a ninety day period to approve the impact assessment. Once received by Access Board from OMB any comments or notes from OMB must be incorporated in the NPRM prior to publication. Given these factors SSB is currently tracking the publication of the Section 508 Refresh NPRM in Q3 2014.
Once the NPRM is published, the Access Board generally allows for a ninety day comment period on the document. For example, the 2010 ANPRM was published on March 22, 2010 with a comment period extending to June 21, 2010; similarly, the 2011 ANPRM was published in the Federal Register on December 8, 2011 with a comment period extending to March 7, 2012. It is worth noting, however, that the comment period could be as long as 180 days and the exact length of the comment period may vary from ninety days.
After this comment period, the Board will address the final comments and issue a final rule. Given the wide interest in Section 508, SSB has assumed a one year period for reviewing the comments and publishing a final rule. Based on this timeframe, SSB expect the final rule to be published in Q4 2015.
Once published, Section 508(a)(3) 29 USC § 794d (a)(3) of the Rehabilitation Act requires that within 6 months of the publication of the final standards by the Access Board, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council revises the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). In addition, each appropriate Federal department or agency must revise their procurement policies and directives, as necessary, to incorporate the revisions. Finally, enforcement requirements '' Section 508(f)(1)(A) '' provide for complaints to be filled 6 months after the date of implementation of the final standards. As such, in practice, the actual implementation date of the standards is practically pushed out another six months. So, in practice, the earliest implementation time frame for the updated standards would be Q2 2016.
National Association of the Deaf, et al. v. Netflix - SSB BART Group
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 05:13
On June 19th, the district court issued a Memorandum and Order Regarding Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings in the matter of the National Association of the Deaf, et al. (''NAD''), versus Netflix Inc. In this case the plaintiffs brought action under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (''ADA'') against Netflix for Netflix's ''failure to provide equal access to its video streaming web site, ''Watch Instantly,'' for deaf and hearing impaired individuals.''
Netflix originally filed a motion to dismiss on September 12, 2011. The court denied Netflix's motion on November 10, 2011, but granted a stay pending the completion of rule-making proceedings by the Federal Communication Commission (''FCC'') on the CVAA '' a related piece of legislation. On June 19th, the court issued a final judgment denying the motion to dismiss.
Of particular interest in the court's judgment is the court's response to Netflix's first argument for dismissal that ''(1) Plaintiffs have failed to allege the existence of a ''place of public accommodation,'' as required for a claim under the ADA''. To state a claim under the ADA a plaintiff must show that the alleged discrimination involves the services of a ''place of public accommodation.'' The NAD in this case argued that Netflix's Watch Instantly web site was a place of public accommodation. Specifically, the web site fell into four of the twelve categories for public accommodation outlined under the ADA a ''place of exhibition and entertainment,'' ''place of recreation,'' ''sales or rental establishment,'' and a ''service establishment.''
According to the court, NAD convincingly argued that the Watch Instantly web qualified in one or more of those categories. As noted in the ruling, the web site may qualify as:
A ''service establishment'' in that it provides customers with the ability to stream video programming through the internet; A ''place of exhibition or entertainment'' in that it displays movies, television programming, and other content; And a ''rental establishment'' in that it engages customers to pay for the rental of video programming. Based on this '' and a few other points not covered in this post '' the court concluded that ''the Watch Instantly web site is a place of public accommodation and Defendant may not discriminate in the provision of the services of that public accommodation '-- streaming video '-- even if those services are accessed exclusively in the home.''
So according to the United States District Court of Massachusetts, yes, your web site can be a public accommodation under the ADA.
Note: Timothy Springer is not a lawyer, SSB BART Group is not a law firm and this post is not intended to provide legal advice. The observations and legal discussions on this blog are based on technical expertise and a plain language reading of the ADA and related rulings. They are not intended to be, nor should they be, a replacement for expert legal advice. If you want to know if the ADA really applies ask a lawyer! We know a few good ones if you need help.
Laws and Standards - SSB BART Group
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 05:11
In the past fifteen years, both the United States and International governments have developed legislation to ensure equal rights for people with disabilities, including equivalent access to electronic and information technology. What follows is an overview of the various major standards and legislation pieces passed in various countries. This document does not provide an exhaustive list of all such legislative pieces, but does account for the majority of relevant standards and legislation.
International StandardsUnited StatesCanadaEuropeAsia PacificFurther ReadingWCAG 2.0 '' the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 '-- international voluntary consensus standards for accessible web contentWAI Policy Page '' Provides a list of all the current international web accessibility standardsETSI Technical Report TR 102 612 '' Provides an overview of accessibility requirements relating to public sector procurement throughout the EU and the globe. By far the most detailed recent assessment of accessibility laws and standards.
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society: Product Detail
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 04:58
In July 2006, HFES announced the release of the Human Factors Engineering of Software User Interfaces (HFES 200) for canvass and public review in accordance with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) procedures. In August 2008, ANSI approved it as a new American National Standard.
The objective of HFES 200 is to provide design requirements and recommendations that will increase the accessibility, learnability, and ease of use of software. The ultimate beneficiaries are the end users of software, whose needs motivated the design recommendations in HFES 200. The application of this standard is intended to provide user interfaces that are more usable, accessible, and consistent and that enable greater productivity and satisfaction.
Human Factors Engineering of Software User Interfaces consists of five parts:
HFES 200.1: IntroductionHFES 200.2: AccessibilityHFES 200.3: Interaction TechniquesHFES 200.4: Interactive Voice ResponseHFES 200.5: Visual Presentation and Use of ColorHFES 200 Part 1: Introduction provides an overview of the content, explains relationships among the individual parts, and provides guidance on the relevance of individual parts to the development process so that designers may understand where and when to use the parts.
HFES 200 Part 2: Accessibility provides recommendations on features and functions of computer operating systems, drivers, application services, other software layers on which applications depend, and applications that increase the accessibility of applications for users with disabilities. Hardware is not specifically addressed by any recommendations; however, many hardware assistive devices may utilize recommended functions that are provided by operations system and application software. HFES 200 Part 2 has been extensively harmonized with the International Standards Organization (ISO) 9241-171 Software Accessibility Committee Draft released in the first quarter of 2005.
HFES 200 Part 3: Interaction Techniques incorporates material from ISO 9241 Parts 13 through 17 and is compatible with those ISO standards.
HFES 200 Part 4: Interactive Voice Response consists of completely new material that has not appeared in ISO 9241 standards.
HFES 200 Part 5: Visual Presentation and Use of Color incorporates material from ISO 9241 Part 12 and includes new recommendations on the use of color.
Contact the HFES Communications Department (310/394-1811, Fax 394-2410) if you would like rates and terms for a multiple-user site license.
Questions & Answers about Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 - United States Access Board
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 04:40
What is Section 508?How do these changes to Section 508 improve upon the earlier version?To whom does Section 508 apply?Does Section 508 apply to the private sector?What does Section 508 require of Federal agencies and departments?How will Federal agencies and departments know whether the electronic and information technology is accessible?How will these technology accessibility standards be developed?How will the standards be applied to federal procurement?What are Federal agencies required to do in the short term to comply with Section 508?What reporting requirements does Section 508 create?Where can Federal agencies go for technical assistance?Are there any exemptions to the technology accessibility standards?How will Section 508 be enforced?What is meant by "electronic and information technology"?Does Section 508 apply to Web sites of federal agencies?Does this requirement also apply to commercial or private sector Web sites?Does this mean Web sites can't have graphics?Won't accessible Web sites be less appealing?What does the law mean by "accessible'?How does Section 508 apply to other Federal laws?Questions about the 508 standards should be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
1) What is Section 508?
Section 508 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which requires that electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by the Federal government be accessible to people with disabilities. On August 7, 1998, the President signed into law the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which includes the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998. Section 508 was originally added to the Rehabilitation Act in 1986; the 1998 amendments significantly expand and strengthen the technology access requirements in Section 508.
2) How do these changes to Section 508 improve upon the earlier version?
The 1986 version of Section 508 established non-binding guidelines for technology accessibility, while the 1998 version creates binding, enforceable standards and will incorporate these standards into Federal procurement regulations. Federal agencies will use these standards in all their electronic and information technology acquisitions. Consistent government-wide standards will make it easier for Federal agencies to meet their existing obligations to make their technology systems accessible to people with disabilities, and will promote competition in the technology industry by clarifying the Federal market's requirement for accessibility in products intended for general use. The new version of Section 508 also establishes a complaint procedure and reporting requirements, which further strengthen the law.
3) To whom does Section 508 apply?
Section 508 applies to Federal departments and agencies.
4) Does Section 508 apply to the private sector?
No, it does not regulate the private sector and does not apply to recipients of Federal funds.
5) What does Section 508 require of Federal agencies and departments?
Section 508 requires that when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, they must ensure that it is accessible to people with disabilities, unless it would pose an undue burden to do so. Federal employees and members of the public who have disabilities must have access to and use of information and services that is comparable to the access and use available to non-disabled Federal employees and members of the public.
6) How will Federal agencies and departments know whether the electronic and information technology is accessible?
New standards have been established to help Federal agencies determine whether or not a technology product or system is accessible. Federal agencies must comply with these technology accessibility standards for all electronic and information technology acquired on or after six months from the date the Access Board issued its final standards (December 21, 2000). Technology developed or acquired for a Federal agency by a contractor must also comply with the standards. If a Federal agency determines that it would pose an undue burden to comply with the standards, it must still provide information and data to individuals with disabilities through an alternative means of access that can be used by the individuals.
7) How will these technology accessibility standards be developed?
The Board was required to issue standards that define which electronic and information technology is covered by Section 508, and describe what is meant by `accessible technology' by setting forth the technical and functional performance criteria necessary to implement the accessibility requirements. The Board was required to consult with the Departments of Education, Commerce, and Defense, the General Services Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, the electronic and information technology industry, and disability organizations in developing its standards. The Access Board created an Electronic and Information Technology Access Advisory Committee (EITAAC) to advise it on the standards. The Committee's final report was delivered to the Board on May 11, 1999. On March 31, 2000, the Board published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking based on the Committee's recommendations.
8) How will the standards be applied to federal procurement?
Six months after the Access Board published the final standards, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council is required to revise the Federal Acquisition Regulation and each Federal department or agency shall revise the Federal procurement policies and directives under their control to incorporate the standards. The Access Board will periodically review and update the standards as necessary.
9) What are Federal agencies required to do in the short term to comply with Section 508?
Agencies must evaluate their current electronic and information technology systems for accessibility to individuals with disabilities, and submit a report to the Attorney General containing the results of the evaluation.
10) What reporting requirements does Section 508 create?
The Attorney General must submit a report to the President on the extent to which the electronic and information technology of the Federal Government is accessible to individuals with disabilities. The Department of Justice issued its report April 19, 2000. In addition, every two years thereafter the Attorney General must report to the President and the Congress on Federal agency compliance with the requirements of the law, and on any actions on individual complaints.
11) Where can Federal agencies go for technical assistance?
The General Services Administration and the Access Board will provide technical assistance on the requirements of Section 508. Agencies and individuals may also seek information from the many public, non-profit, educational, or private institutions and organizations that specialize in making technology accessible to people with disabilities. These organizations, along with companies in the electronic and information technology industry, can assist agencies in identifying innovative technology or in developing accessible technology solutions.
12) Are there any exemptions to the technology accessibility standards?
A Federal agency does not have to comply with the technology accessibility standards if it would impose an undue burden to do so. This is consistent with language used in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other civil rights legislation, where the term `undue burden' has been defined as "significant difficulty or expense." However, the agency must explain why meeting the standards would pose an undue burden for a given procurement action, and must still provide people with disabilities access to the information or data that is affected.
Section 508 contains a limited exemption for national security systems as defined by the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996. These are systems used for military command, weaponry, intelligence, and cryptologic activities. The exemption does not apply to routine business and administrative systems used for other defense-related purposes or by defense agencies or personnel.
13) How will Section 508 be enforced?
Because the Section 508 standards will be incorporated into the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), agencies' procurement of accessible technology will be subject to the same stringent compliance and enforcement mechanisms as other parts of the FAR.
There is an administrative complaint process which becomes effective six months after the Board issued its final standards. It enables any individual with a disability to file a complaint alleging that a Federal department or agency has not complied with the accessible technology standards in a procurement made after that date. The complaint process is the same as that used for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, for complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of disability in Federally-conducted programs or activities. It provides injunctive relief and attorney's fees to the prevailing party, but does not include compensatory or punitive damages.
Individuals may also file a civil action against an agency.
14) What is meant by "electronic and information technology"?
The Access Board defined "electronic and information technology" consistent with the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996. That Act defines "information technology" to include "any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment, that is used in the automatic acquisition, storage, manipulation, management, movement, control, display, switching, interchange, transmission, or reception of data or information." It includes computer hardware, software, networks, and peripherals as well as many electronic and communications devices commonly used in offices.
15) Does Section 508 apply to Web sites of federal agencies?
Yes. Federal agencies which provide information to the public or to their employees through Web sites must ensure that such sites are available to all persons with internet or intranet access, including persons with disabilities.
16) Does this requirement also apply to commercial or private sector Web sites?
No. Section 508 does not apply to a private sector Web site unless such site is provided under contract to a covered entity. For example, a Federal agency might contract with a consulting firm to collect and analyze some demographic data and make that information available to the public on a Web site. In that case, the Web site or portion devoted to fulfilling the contractual obligation would be subject to Section 508. The firm's general Web site, or the portion not devoted to the contracted study, would not be subject to Section 508.
17) Does this mean Web sites can't have graphics?
Not at all. Actually, designing an accessible Web site is not as difficult as most people believe. Often it is a matter of identifying graphics, elements, frames, etc. For example, HTML code already provides the "Alt Text" tag for graphics which some designers simply forget or ignore.
18) Won't accessible Web sites be less appealing?
On the contrary, accessible sites have several advantages. For one thing, some people turn off graphics so sites will load faster. Without "alt" tags, graphics-intense sites may be unusable. Also, with the growth of PDAs, and even Web site content delivered to cell phones, having text-based content is becoming more important. Because the screens on such devices are so small, graphics will probably never be a viable option. So the busy executive, waiting in an airport, who wants to check her stock portfolio on her cell phone isn't going to turn to the graphics-only site. Furthermore, with the growth of voice technology the harried commuter can have the headlines from his favorite news site read to him, but only if there is a text-based content. Finally, if a digitized video has synchronized captions, the text can be searched.
19) What does the law mean by "accessible'?
The standards developed by the Access Board explain the detailed technical and functional performance criteria that will determine whether a technology product or system is `accessible.'
In general, an information technology system is accessible to people with disabilities if it can be used in a variety of ways that do not depend on a single sense or ability. For example, a system that provides output only in audio format would not be accessible to people with hearing impairments, and a system that requires mouse actions to navigate would not be accessible to people who cannot use a mouse because of a dexterity or visual impairment. Section 508 focuses on the overall accessibility of electronic and information technology systems, not on providing accommodations at individual worksites. Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act requires Federal agencies to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities; it generally covers individual worksites but not overall technology systems. Even with an accessible system, individuals with disabilities may still need specific accessibility-related software or peripheral devices as an accommodation to be able to use it. For example, in order to use an accessible word-processing program, a person who is blind may need add-on software that reads text aloud; if the word-processing program could not be made compatible with a screen-reading program, it might not be accessible.
20) How does Section 508 apply to other Federal laws?
Section 508 in no way replaces or otherwise limits the rights or remedies available under any other existing Federal law that protects the rights of people with disabilities. As part of the Rehabilitation Act, it clarifies and strengthens the Federal government's existing obligation to ensure that technology is accessible to people with disabilities.
Digital Accessibility Rules-Proposed Rule - United States Access Board
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 04:30
Published in the Federal Register on February 27, 2015 (80 FR 10880).
36 CFR Parts 1193 and 1194[Docket No. ATBCB-2015-0002]RIN 3014-AA37
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Standards and GuidelinesAGENCY: Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board.
ACTION: Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
SUMMARY: The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board or Board), is proposing to revise and update, in a single document, both its standards for electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by federal agencies covered by section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and its guidelines for telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment covered by Section 255 of the Communications Act of 1934. The proposed revisions and updates to the section 508-based standards and section 255-based guidelines are intended to ensure that information and communication technology covered by the respective statutes is accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.
DATES: Written comments must be postmarked and electronic comments must be submitted on or before May 28, 2015. Two hearings will be held on the proposed rule on:
March 5, 2015, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., San Diego, CA; andMarch 11, 2015, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., Washington, DC.To preregister to testify at either of the hearings, contact Kathy Johnson at (202) 272''0041 (voice), (202) 272''0082 (TTY), or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
ADDRESSES: Submit comments by any one of the following methods:
All comments, including any personal information provided, will be posted without change to and be available for public viewing.
The hearing locations are:
San Diego, CA: Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel (Mission Beach A & B, 3rd floor), One Market Place, San Diego, CA 92101.Washington, DC: Access Board conference room, 1331 F Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20004.Witnesses can testify in person at the hearing in San Diego. Witnesses can testify in person or by telephone at the hearing in Washington, DC. Copies of the rule will not be available at the hearings. Call-in information and a communication access real-time translation (CART) web streaming link for the Washington, DC hearing will be posted on the Access Board's website at The hearings will be accessible to persons with disabilities. An assistive listening system, communication access real-time translation, and sign language interpreters will be provided. Persons attending the meetings are requested to refrain from using perfume, cologne, and other fragrances for the comfort of other participants (see for more information).
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Timothy Creagan, Access Board, 1331 F Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20004-1111. Telephone: (202) 272-0016 (voice) or (202) 272-0074 (TTY). E-mail address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:Table of Contents for Preamble:
Public Participation and Request for CommentsExecutive SummaryStatutory BackgroundRulemaking HistoryMajor IssuesSection-by-Section AnalysisEffective DateRegulatory Process MattersIn this preamble, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board is referred to as ''Access Board,'' ''Board,'' ''we,'' or ''our.''
VII. Effective Date - United States Access Board
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 16:44
The Board is considering making the 508 Standards effective six months after publication of the final rule in the Federal Register, with one exception: federal procurement of ICT products or services. A six-month delay in the effective date of the Access Board's final rule will provide federal agencies with an opportunity to more fully understand the updated 508 Standards. This action is consistent with the legislative intent underlying section 508 which provides a six-month period between publication of the Board's standard and the incorporation of such standard in the Federal Acquisition Regulations. By making the revised 508 Standards effective six months after publication in the Federal Register, they would go into effect at the same time as the FAR Council revisions to the Federal Acquisition Regulations.
With respect to federal ICT contracts, the Board proposes deferring to the FAR Council for establishment of the date on which the revised 508 Standards apply to new ICT-related contracts awarded after publication of the Council's final rule, as well as existing ICT contracts with award dates that precede that final rule.
Question 35. The Board seeks comment on its proposed approach to making its revised 508 Standards effective six months after publication in the Federal Register, with the exception of federal ICT-related procurements.
The Board also seeks comment on deferring to the FAR Council to establish the effective date for application of the revised 508 Standards to ''new'' ICT contracts (i.e., contracts awarded after publication the FAR Council's final rule), as well as existing ICT contracts.
With respect to Section 255, application of the Board's final revised 255 Guidelines to new telecommunications products and customer premises equipment designed, developed, and fabricated after their publication is a matter for the FCC to determine since the FCC has exclusive responsibility for enforcement of Section 255 and issuance of implementing regulations. Nonetheless, in keeping with the Board's past practice in promulgating the existing 255 Guidelines, see 63 FR 5608 (Feb. 3, 1998), the Board proposes making the final revised 255 Guidelines effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. Manufacturers of Section 255-covered telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment need not comply with the Board's revised 255 Guidelines until incorporated into revised FCC regulations.
IRS moves on digitizing records
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 20:15
Records Management
IRS moves on digitizing recordsBy Zach NobleFeb 12, 2016After years of congressional scrutiny, high-ranking IRS officials told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Feb. 11 that they were committed to improving their processes for retaining and accessing data.
"We're making significant progress," said Ed Killen, director of privacy, governmental liaison and disclosure at the IRS.
The email messages of senior IRS executives are being archived in electronically accessible formats in perpetuity, while the second tier of managers will have their messages stored for 15 years. Killen said the goal is to have all employees' email archived electronically by the end of the year as part of a plan to move away from an approach that has long relied on printing and filing and the use backup tapes.
Killen acknowledged the benefits of a fully digitized system and said, "Ideally, you would want to be able to do keyword searches" to fulfill document production requests.
Shifting to an electronic archive will involve moving email servers into two main data centers, said IRS Chief Technology Officer Terry Milholland.
Jeff Tribiano, deputy commissioner for operations at the IRS, said the agency is also beginning to store hard-drive information on networked databases rather than on backup tapes.
Although Killen said the IRS generally complies with guidance from the National Archives and Records Administration, "we certainly have work to do."
The hearing also offered a glimpse down the government's incident-disclosure rabbit hole.
As Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) noted, lawmakers began their latest look into IRS records management in January, when they learned that the IRS had wiped the hard drive of a former employee involved in litigation with Microsoft.
Weeks later, the IRS reported that it had copied the data after all, but by then the committee was interested in the IRS' Feb. 3 hardware failure. Finally, on Feb. 8, the committee asked Milholland for more details about "the breach" -- by which they meant the hardware failure -- and Milholland apparently misunderstood and revealed for the first time that the agency had suffered a bot attack.
"If we hadn't started asking about another incident, we wouldn't have known about this incident," Chaffetz said of the bot attack.
About the Author
Zach Noble is a staff writer covering digital citizen services, workforce issues and a range of civilian federal agencies.
Before joining FCW in 2015, Noble served as assistant editor at the viral news site TheBlaze, where he wrote a mix of business, political and breaking news stories and managed weekend news coverage. He has also written for online and print publications including The Washington Free Beacon, The Santa Barbara News-Press, The Federalist and Washington Technology.
Noble is a graduate of Saint Vincent College, where he studied English, economics and mathematics.
Click here for previous articles by Noble, or connect with him on Twitter: @thezachnoble.
Iran Official Claims U.S. Republicans Asked to Delay Prisoner Release Until After Presidential Election
Thu, 11 Feb 2016 23:12
Ali Shamkhani, chief of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, claimed today that U.S. Republican officials reached out to Tehran asking that the recent release of four American prisoners be delayed until after the upcoming presidential election. There are very good reasons to be skeptical of Shamkhani's claim. If it is true, it is completely insane.
''In the course of the talks for exchanging prisoners, the Republican rivals of the current US administration who claim to be humanitarians and advocates of human rights sent a message telling us not to release these people (American prisoners) and continue this process (of talks) until the eve of US presidential elections...However, we acted upon our independent resolve and moved the process forward.'' Shamkhani said at a rally yesterday, according to the Tasnim News Agency, a firmly pro-regime organization.
The implication is that these mystery Republicans wanted their own party to receive credit for freeing the Americans, and that they were willing to let their countrymen sit in an overseas jail for 11 more months to get it.
But the idea of GOP lawmakers reaching out directly to Iran to strike a backchannel deal seems pretty dubious. For one, they would have to contend with the likelihood that communications with such a volatile actor would be surveilled by the U.S. Intelligence Community. For another, the GOP party line advocates for all-out war against the country. What Republican in his right mind would think he had influence there?
Considering Shamkhani's emphasis on Iran's ''independent resolve'' to pursue the prisoner swap on-schedule, it's possible he wanted to have his cake and eat it too: Iran gets back six Iranian-American prisoners by engaging the U.S. diplomatically, but manages to look like it's resisting U.S. influence while doing it.
All in all, it seems pretty unlikely that Shamkhani's claims are true. But it certainly wouldn't be the first time American Republicans made a secret deal with Iran! So who knows.
Grammys only honoring dead white musicians in tribute line-up | Page Six
Sat, 13 Feb 2016 18:19
Could the Grammy Awards have their own race problem? The show is coming under huge pressure to diversify its all-white tribute lineup and honor the late Maurice White.
During Monday's telecast, Lady Gaga will perform an eight-minute David Bowie tribute, Jackson Browne will honor Glenn Frey and Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp are expected to perform a tribute for Lemmy from Mot¶rhead.
But industry insiders are griping that White, of the band Earth, Wind & Fire, and Natalie Cole have been banished to a video tribute package with others who died in the past year.
''Over the last week or so, since Maurice White passed away, there has been back and forth with the producers and the academy about some kind of representation of him during the show. The tributes they've confirmed are all white. As of yesterday, there was no tribute at all for Maurice because Grammy producers said they didn't have time,'' one insider told us.
Meanwhile, another source close to the Grammys said they're still trying to figure out how to add more diversity to the lineup.
''Maurice White and the group he founded had unprecedented impact on pop culture. After a lot of pressure, producers are trying to figure out how to properly pay tribute to him. It's still in limbo,'' said the insider.
To make matters worse, Run-DMC will receive a lifetime achievement award '-- but it won't be televised. ''People are afraid to speak on it because it's the Grammys. But there's a history of them not acknowledging black artists,'' the first source added.
Even though rapper Kendrick Lamar leads the Grammy nominations with 11 nods, the show still faces accusations of not doing a good enough job of honoring artists of color. Billboard recently reported in a ''Confessions of a Grammy Voter'' piece, ''The voting bloc is still too white, too old and too male .'‰.'‰. the voters are becoming more diverse in terms of minorities, females and younger ages '-- but there's still a long way to go.''
Grammy reps didn't get back to us by press time.
Slavery in America: back in the headlines
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 12:21
Foundation essay: This article is part of a series marking the launch of The Conversation in the US. Our foundation essays are longer than our usual comment and analysis articles and take a wider look at key issues affecting society.
People think they know everything about slavery in the United States, but they don't. They think the majority of African slaves came to the American colonies, but they didn't. They talk about 400 hundred years of slavery, but it wasn't. They claim all Southerners owned slaves, but they didn't. Some argue it was a long time ago, but it wasn't.
Slavery has been in the news a lot lately. Perhaps it's because of the increase in human trafficking on American soil or the headlines about income inequality, the mass incarceration of African Americans or discussions about reparations to the descendants of slaves. Several publications have fueled these conversations: Ta-Nehisi Coates' The Case for Reparations in The Atlantic Monthly, French economist Thomas Picketty's Capital in the Twenty First Century, historian Edward Baptist's The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and The Making of American Capitalism, and law professor Bryan A. Stevenson's Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.
As a scholar of slavery at the University of Texas at Austin, I welcome the public debates and connections the American people are making with history. However, there are still many misconceptions about slavery.
I've spent my career dispelling myths about ''the peculiar institution.'' The goal in my courses is not to victimize one group and celebrate another. Instead, we trace the history of slavery in all its forms to make sense of the origins of wealth inequality and the roots of discrimination today. The history of slavery provides deep context to contemporary conversations and counters the distorted facts, internet hoaxes and poor scholarship I caution my students against.
Four myths about slaveryMyth One: The majority of African captives came to what became the United States.
Truth: Only 380,000 or 4-6% came to the United States. The majority of enslaved Africans went to Brazil, followed by the Caribbean. A significant number of enslaved Africans arrived in the American colonies by way of the Caribbean where they were ''seasoned'' and mentored into slave life. They spent months or years recovering from the harsh realities of the Middle Passage. Once they were forcibly accustomed to slave labor, many were then brought to plantations on American soil.
Myth Two: Slavery lasted for 400 years.
Popular culture is rich with references to 400 years of oppression. There seems to be confusion between the Transatlantic Slave Trade (1440-1888) and the institution of slavery, confusion only reinforced by the Bible, Genesis 15:13:
Then the Lord said to him, 'Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there.'
Listen to Lupe Fiasco - just one Hip Hop artist to refer to the 400 years - in his 2011 imagining of America without slavery, ''All Black Everything'':
[Hook] You would never know If you could ever be If you never try You would never see Stayed in Africa We ain't never leave So there were no slaves in our history Were no slave ships, were no misery, call me crazy, or isn't he See I fell asleep and I had a dream, it was all black everything
[Verse 1] Uh, and we ain't get exploited White man ain't feared so he did not destroy it We ain't work for free, see they had to employ it Built it up together so we equally appointed First 400 years, see we actually enjoyed it
Auctioning slaves in South CarolinaWikimedia
Truth: Slavery was not unique to the United States; it is a part of almost every nation's history from Greek and Roman civilizations to contemporary forms of human trafficking. The American part of the story lasted fewer than 400 years.
How do we calculate it? Most historians use 1619 as a starting point: 20 Africans referred to as ''servants'' arrived in Jamestown, VA on a Dutch ship. It's important to note, however, that they were not the first Africans on American soil. Africans first arrived in America in the late 16th century not as slaves but as explorers together with Spanish and Portuguese explorers. One of the best known of these African ''conquistadors'' was Estevancio who traveled throughout the southeast from present day Florida to Texas. As far as the institution of chattel slavery - the treatment of slaves as property - in the United States, if we use 1619 as the beginning and the 1865 Thirteenth Amendment as its end then it lasted 246 years, not 400.
Myth Three: All Southerners owned slaves.
Truth: Roughly 25% of all southerners owned slaves. The fact that one quarter of the Southern population were slaveholders is still shocking to many. This truth brings historical insight to modern conversations about the Occupy Movement, its challenge to the inequality gap and its slogan ''we are the 99%.''
Take the case of Texas. When it established statehood, the Lone Star State had a shorter period of Anglo-American chattel slavery than other Southern states '' only 1845 to 1865 '' because Spain and Mexico had occupied the region for almost one half of the 19th century with policies that either abolished or limited slavery. Still, the number of people impacted by wealth and income inequality is staggering. By 1860, the Texas enslaved population was 182,566, but slaveholders represented 27% of the population, controlled 68% of the government positions and 73% of the wealth. Shocking figures but today's income gap in Texas is arguably more stark with 10% of tax filers taking home 50% of the income.
Myth Four: Slavery was a long time ago.
Truth: African-Americans have been free in this country for less time than they were enslaved. Do the math: Blacks have been free for 149 years which means that most Americans are two to three generations removed from slavery. However, former slaveholding families have built their legacies on the institution and generated wealth that African-Americans have not been privy to because enslaved labor was forced; segregation maintained wealth disparities; and overt and covert discrimination limited African-American recovery efforts.
The value of slavesEconomists and historians have examined detailed aspects of the enslaved experience for as long as slavery existed. Recent publications related to slavery and capitalism explore economic aspects of cotton production and offer commentary on the amount of wealth generated from enslaved labor.
My own work enters this conversation looking at the value of individual slaves and the ways enslaved people responded to being treated as a commodity. They were bought and sold just like we sell cars and cattle today. They were gifted, deeded and mortgaged the same way we sell houses today. They were itemized and insured the same way we manage our assets and protect our valuables.
Extensive Sale of Choice Slaves, New Orleans 1859, Girardey, C.E.Natchez Trace Collection, Broadside Collection, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History
Enslaved people were valued at every stage of their lives, from before birth until after death. Slaveholders examined women for their fertility and projected the value of their ''future increase.'' As they grew up, enslavers assessed their value through a rating system that quantified their work. An ''A1 Prime hand'' represented one term used for a ''first rate'' slave who could do the most work in a given day. Their values decreased on a quarter scale from three-fourths hands to one-fourth hands, to a rate of zero, which was typically reserved for elderly or differently abled bondpeople (another term for slaves.)
Guy and Andrew, two prime males sold at the largest auction in US History in 1859, commanded different prices. Although similar in ''all marketable points in size, age, and skill,'' Guy commanded $1240 while Andrew sold for $1040 because ''he had lost his right eye.'' A reporter from the New York Tribune noted ''that the market value of the right eye in the Southern country is $240.'' Enslaved bodies were reduced to monetary values assessed from year to year and sometimes from month to month for their entire lifespan and beyond. By today's standards, Andrew and Guy would be worth about $33,000-$40,000.
Slavery was an extremely diverse economic institution; one that extrapolated unpaid labor out of people in a variety of settings from small single crop farms and plantations to urban universities. This diversity is also reflected in their prices. Enslaved people understood they were treated as commodities.
''I was sold away from mammy at three years old,'' recalled Harriett Hill of Georgia. ''I remembers it! It lack selling a calf from the cow,'' she shared in a 1930s interview with the Works Progress Administration. ''We are human beings'' she told her interviewer. Those in bondage understood their status. Even though Harriet Hill ''was too little to remember her price when she was three, she recalled being sold for $1400 at age 9 or 10, ''I never could forget it.''
Slavery in popular cultureSlavery is part and parcel of American popular culture but for more than 30 years the television mini-series Roots was the primary visual representation of the institution except for a handful of independent (and not widely known) films such as Haile Gerima's Sankofa or the Brazilian Quilombo. Today Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave is a box office success, actress Azia Mira Dungey has a popular web series called Ask a Slave, and in Cash Crop sculptor Stephen Hayes compares the slave ships of the 18th century with third world sweatshops.
From the serious - PBS's award-winning Many Rivers to Cross - and the interactive Slave Dwelling Project- whereby school aged children spend the night in slave cabins - to the comic at Saturday Night Live, slavery is today front and center.
Saturday Night Live's African American History Week
The elephant that sits at the center of our history is coming into focus. American slavery happened '-- we are still living with its consequences.
Update: we have changed one of the images in the body of the piece. The original image was of a plantation in Australia, not the United States.
Four myths about slavery in the US
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 12:17
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Rival movie awards to highlight diversity gap days before Oscars
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 13:14
'Fun and hopefully thought-provoking' ... prizes at Russell Simmons' ceremony will include awards for 'best helpful white person' and 'best black survivor in a movie'. Photograph: Jeff Vespa/Getty Images
Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons is to stage a rival awards show just days before the Oscars with the aim of showcasing the diverse Hollywood talent ignored by the world's most famous film ceremony.
The All Def Movie awards are clearly designed as a reaction to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy which has overshadowed this year's awards season after the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences failed to include a single person of colour among its acting nominees for the second year running. Beasts of No Nation, Chi-Raq, Concussion, Creed, Dope and Straight Outta Compton will compete for best picture. Guests will arrive on a black carpet, and as well as handing out prizes for best actor, best actress, best director and ''best bad muh fucka'', there will be prizes for ''best helpful white person'' and ''best black survivor in a movie''.
Related:Producers promise 'most diverse Oscars ever' - nominations aside
Simmons, the co-founder of Def Jam and producer of films such as Krush Groove and The Nutty Professor, said his awards were ''not the Black Oscars, but they could be'', adding: ''This will be a fun, entertaining and hopefully thought-provoking celebration of the uncelebrated.'' He continued: ''I don't expect a 90-year-old Academy member to see Straight Outta Compton or vote for it. I'm more concerned that in 2016 there continues to be a stunning lack of diversity in the studios, in the green-light process, in the decisions of what films and television series get made and what actors get chosen. This needs to be addressed institutionally.''
Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith and Tyrese Gibson are among black actors to have either called for a boycott or signalled they will not attend this year's Oscars following the row over all-white lists of nominees. In response the Academy has introduced new rules to double the number of members from minority backgrounds by 2020 and promised the 2016 ceremony will be ''the most diverse ever'', with presentations and appearances from producer Quincy Jones, the Django Unchained star Kerry Washington, Indian-born actor Priyanka Chopra, Whoopi Goldberg, Kevin Hart, Benicio del Toro and Pharrell Williams.
In other Oscars news, three-time winner Steven Spielberg has weighed into the diversity deficit row, praising Beasts of No Nation and Straight Outta Compton but suggesting the Academy may have gone to far with its moves to restrict the voting rights of less active members.
Related:Idris Elba and Taraji P Henson casting news suggests #OscarsSoWhite effect
''I'm a huge supporter of the Academy Awards,'' Spielberg told the Hollywood Reporter. ''I was surprised at some of the individuals who were not nominated. I was surprised at [the exclusion of] Idris [Elba]. I think that was one of the best performances in the supporting actor and the actor category. I've seen Straight Outta Compton '' my wife and I saw it when it first opened, the first weekend, and it just rocked our world. It was incredible.''
But the film-maker said he did not support ''taking votes away from Academy members who have paid their dues and maybe are retired now''. He added: ''Maybe they've not won a nomination, which would have given them immunity to the new rules, but they have served proudly and this is their industry, too. To strip their votes? I'm not 100% behind that.''
This year's Oscars takes place at the Dolby theatre in Los Angeles on 28 February, with Chris Rock set to host. In the closest best picture race for many years, Alejandro G I±rritu's grim western The Revenant, Catholic abuse drama Spotlight and financial crisis comedy drama The Big Short all remain in the running for the top prize, according to bookmakers. Leonardo DiCaprio is widely expected to win the best actor award for his turn as a vengeful 19th-century frontiersman in The Revenant, while Room's Brie Larson is the runaway favourite to win best actress.
Controversial film shown at VA high school slammed as 'white gui - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 15:34
School leaders apologize for controversial 'white guilt' videoSchool leaders apologize for controversial 'white guilt' videoUpdated:Wednesday, February 10 2016 8:07 PM EST2016-02-11 01:07:09 GMT
School leaders apologized on Wednesday for a controversial video slammed by parents in Henrico.
More >>School leaders apologized on Wednesday for a controversial video slammed by parents in Henrico.
More >>FULL STATEMENT: Henrico leaders apology over controversial videoFULL STATEMENT: Henrico leaders apology over controversial videoUpdated:Wednesday, February 10 2016 5:24 PM EST2016-02-10 22:24:42 GMT
Henrico Schools issues response to controversial video Henrico, Va. Feb. 10, 2016 '' Today Henrico County Public Schools is issuing additional public response to concerns from the local community pertaining to a video played during student assemblies Feb. 4 at Glen Allen High School. ''The matter continues to be under review internally after first coming to the attention of school division leadership on the evening of Thursday, Feb. 4,'' said Superintendent Pat Kinlaw....More >>Henrico Schools issues response to controversial video Henrico, Va. Feb. 10, 2016 '' Today Henrico County Public Schools is issuing additional public response to concerns from the local community pertaining to a video played during student assemblies Feb. 4 at Glen Allen High School. ''The matter continues to be under review internally after first coming to the attention of school division leadership on the evening of Thursday, Feb. 4,'' said Superintendent Pat Kinlaw....More >>HENRICO, VA (WWBT) -Some Henrico parents are outraged about a controversial video shown at Glen Allen High School. It tackles things like racial profiling and the school to prison to pipeline.
UPDATE: School leaders apologize for controversial 'White guilt' video
The YouTube video titled "Structural Discrimination: The Unequal Opportunity Race," was shown to students at a Glen Allen High School Black History month program.
"Dr. King gave his life so that America would be a place where we are judged by the content of our character not the color of our skin," said radio personality Craig Johnson. "Now we have poverty pimps being led by our current president Barack Obama who all they talk about is the color of skin."
A concerned parent wrote a letter complaining the video is leading to tensions in school.
"Y'all are privileged. Get the --- blank --- over it," read one of numerous tweets about the topic said the parent.
Don Blake's granddaughter attended the assembly.
"They are sitting there watching a video that is dividing them up from a racial standpoint. It's a White guilt kind of video," said Blake. "I think somebody should be held accountable for this."
Johnson agrees.
"Force that person to stand on that stage and defend that video," said Johnson. "I'm telling you ... I will mop the floor with that person."
Henrico School leaders released the following statement:
"The students participated in a presentation that involved American history and racial discourse. A segment of the video was one component of a thoughtful discussion in which all viewpoints were encouraged. As always, we are welcoming of feedback from students and their families, and we address concerns directly as they come forward."
More from NBC12:
Glen Allen HS apologizing after racist song plays at football game
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Students Who Didn't Get Solos in Burlesque Show Claim Victimhood Status - Hit & Run :
Mon, 08 Feb 2016 16:14
DreamstimeNorthwestern University students might have just won the everything-is-offensive sweepstakes: student-performers who were denied prominent roles in the campus's burlesque show say the event isn't inclusive enough, and organizers are frantically trying to create a ''safe space'' for them.
The burlesque show is an annual tradition during Northwestern's ''sex week,'' and strives to empower students to think positively about their bodies. Everyone who tries out gets a part in the production, though not everyone gets a solo.
But this year's roster is one big microaggression, according to the students, who claim the directors didn't obey the dictates of diversity when making their selections. As I wrote in a recent column for The Daily Beast:
The directors are working tirelessly to un-hurt everybody's feelings, and have restructured the show to make room for more solo acts. But the irate performers demand more:
''Even though this is something new that we're being confronted with, that doesn't make it any less valid,'' said one student. ''It's very important that we are always consciously thinking of deliberate ways to uplift people that are not uplifted in society.''
Another student said burlesque show rehearsals will strive to be more ''intentionally inclusive'' from now on. The group is apparently drafting some kind of constitution, which will presumably enshrine their right to unimaginable levels of inclusivity.
The irony is undeniable: it used to be conservative groups who threw tantrums about transgressive displays of moral non-conformity. But on today's college campuses, no one is more offended and outraged than the liberal kids.
Generation ''Every Kid Gets a Trophy'' is coming of age, and it isn't pretty.
Robby Soave is a staff editor at
Free speech shouldn't be more important than child safety
Mon, 08 Feb 2016 16:15
Free speech fundamentalists argue that any kind of internet regulation is censorship. But for those of us who want to protect the (relative) innocence of 21st Century childhood, internet regulation is more than essential; it may even be our moral duty.
At the end of last year, European Union leaders finalized the text of the General Data Protection Regulation, a comprehensive set of laws initially proposed in 2012, which regulates how companies may use the personal information of European Internet users. Although the GDPR isn't even law yet '-- the European Parliament is set to vote on a proposal in March or April which won't go into effect until 2018 '-- it's already the cause of much moral outrage among the free speech fundamentalists.
''European lawmakers are clearly motivated by a desire to protect the privacy of their citizens. But they should be careful that in trying to achieve that admirable goal they do not harm other rights, like free speech,'' suggests a New York Times editorial.
''Another unworkable provision would require that people younger than 16 have their parents' consent before opening accounts on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter,'' the editorial adds.
''Unworkable provision''? Is more oversight on children's social media use really that absurd? After all, the protection of children on the Internet is simultaneously woefully inadequate and utterly crucial, and I commend the EU for trying to address the problem.
Today's teenagers are drowning in social media. An April 2015 report by the Pew Research Center states that 92 percent of poll respondents (teens ages 13-17) go online every day, including 24 percent who go online ''almost constantly'' and 56 percent several times a day. The social media platform teens use most is Facebook (71 percent), but Instagram and Snapchat are growing with 52 percent and 41 percent of teens using those apps, respectively.
Turning a blind eyeInstagram, Snapchat and Facebook all claim, of course, that they require a minimum age of 13 to make an account. But there is no age verification protocol in place to ensure that these newly minted users are really as old as they say that they are. Facebook even claims it kicks 20,000 underage users off the site per day. But if they can verify age to kick them out, why can't they verify to keep them out in the first place?
There may be a conflict of interest here. Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook are free to users. Their revenue is generated by the data that their users unwittingly provide. When gatekeepers' profits are based on the size of their audience, is it any wonder they appear to turn a blind eye to young gatecrashers?
Popular social media platforms certainly pose some dangers to teenagers, but they are by no means the worst offenders when it comes to low-protection, high-risk sites. Dating and hookup sites and apps like Tinder, Grindr and Hot or Not require new users to verify their age. They do this by linking to the user's Facebook account '-- that same one with no measures in place to verify a stated age.
There are children on these sites. In 2014, Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen estimated that 7 percent of Tinder users were actually between 13 and 17 years old.
Off the internet, in 'real life,' children are not allowed to buy alcohol or cigarettes. They need to prove their age to get a driver's license, to vote, to watch pornography or excessively violent movies. The self-service checkout at my local grocery store even requires a clerk to verify age when purchasing Sharpies, for crying out loud.
In our age of relentless innovation and disruptive technology, how have we not come up with a way to actually verify someone's age on the internet? Yes, it may be tricky, and undoubtedly the more resourceful members of the younger generation will find ways around it. But that's no reason to not start working on solutions to the problem.
Those who are naysaying the EU's proposal also argue that too many children are already on these sites to start implementing safeguards now.
In response to the EU announcement, Emma Morris, head of international policy of the Family Online Safety Institute, said ''The proposals do not take into account the reality of millions of children that have already become active users of these services. The feasibility of suspending their accounts and banning them from the platforms will be nearly impossible to implement.''
But Morris' argument about feasibility misses the point. If Facebook really is kicking underage users off its site, other social media platforms can certainly follow suit. And while it's true that millions of teenagers are already online, the GDPR, due to go into effect in 2018, will most greatly benefit the teenagers of tomorrow.
The challenges involved with implementing these kinds of measures do not negate the need to make the internet a safer place for its youngest users. We protect children when they need protecting, not when it's ''feasible.''
Bill criminalizing anal and oral sex passes Michigan Senate / Boing Boing
Tue, 09 Feb 2016 13:04
Michigan is one of the last states to keep an "anti-sodomy" law on the books, which criminalizes oral and anal sex -- most states dropped theirs when the Supreme Court ruled that law like these are unconstitutional.
Michigan's anti-sodomy law also bans bestiality, lumping together sex between consenting humans and humans who have sex with animals. State Republican Senator Rick Jones has introduced an updated animal cruelty law, SB-0219, which is part of a package of laws aimed at protecting animals from abuse. But it keeps intact the language that bans oral and anal sex between humans.
The bill reads, in part: "A person who commits the abominable and detestable crime against nature either with mankind or with any animal is guilty of a felony" -- that felony is punishable by 15 years in prison.
Jones says he kept the language intact because he thought that his fellow lawmakers and his constituents would have blocked the animal rights reforms if the bill addressed the rights of humans.
The bill has passed the Michigan senate.
"The minute I cross that line and I start talking about the other stuff, I won't even get another hearing. It'll be done," Jones (photo, above) said. "Nobody wants to touch it. I would rather not even bring up the topic, because I know what would happen. You'd get both sides screaming and you end up with a big fight that's not needed because it's unconstitutional."
Jones added that he believes the only way to repeal the sodomy ban would be a bill striking all unconstitutional laws from the state's books.
"But if you focus on it, people just go ballistic," he said. "If we could put a bill in that said anything that's unconstitutional be removed from the legal books of Michigan, that's probably something I could vote for, but am I going to mess up this dog bill that everybody wants? No."
Michigan Senate Passes Bill Saying Sodomy Is A Felony Punishable By 15 Years in Prison [John Wright/The New Civil Rights Movement]
(via Reddit)
(Image: State Senator RICK JONES)
Maryland attorney general Brian E Frosh has filed a brief appealing a decision in the case of Kerron Andrews, who was tracked by a Stingray cell-phone surveillance device.
READ THE RESTWhen a UN panel from the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention upheld Julian Assange's claim that he was being unlawfully detained in London's Ecuadorean embassy, they also stopped Assange from turning himself in to the London police.
READ THE RESTA UN panel has concluded that Julian Assange is being ''arbitrarily detained,'' reports the BBC Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since 2012, knowing that he will be arrested if he leaves. Originally detained in connection to rape and sexual assault claims out of Sweden, Assange says the claims are ['...]
READ THE RESTRemember back to the time when people thought java was just a hip way to talk about coffee? Or you vaguely remembered from geography class that it's an island in the South Pacific? We've come a long way since then and now that we've rocket blasted into the tech future, you're going to need to ['...]
READ THE RESTPlastic is so 2013. You don't want to buy something only to throw it away or lose it and barely care. You like nice things and want to hang onto them. The Plazmatic lighter here is a high quality, high tech alternative to the typical cheap, plastic lighter you get at the old gas station. ['...]
READ THE RESTReal engineers build things. Super cool engineers build things with their hands and fingers, like our engineering forefathers did. No idea where to even begin to do that? This step by step Arduino course is now 92% off and is going to get you up and running, from zero to hero, in no time. So ['...]
UK politicians green-light plans to record every citizen's internet history | The Verge
Sat, 13 Feb 2016 15:45
Surveillance legislation proposed by the UK last November has been examined in detail by the country's politicians, with a new report recommending 86 alterations, but broadly approving the powers requested by the government. The parliamentary committee scrutinizing the draft Investigatory Powers Bill said that companies like Apple and Facebook should not be required to decrypt messages sent on their services, but approved plans to record every UK citizen's browsing history for 12 months. The committee also gave a thumbs up to the bulk retention of data, and the targeted hacking of individuals' computers, known as "equipment interference."
Confusing wording like "data includes any information that is not data"
The Investigatory Powers Bill will be the first legislation to fully codify digital surveillance in the UK, and has been dubbed the "snoopers' charter" by critics (a name used to refer to similar laws rejected a few years ago). The Bill has been attacked by ISPs, privacy advocates, the UN, and the world's largest tech companies, with critics agreeing that the Bill is being rushed into law and that its wording is confusing. Critics point to portions of the law like the statement that "data includes any information that is not data." The UK's home secretary and the Bill's principal architect, Theresa May, later explained that this was supposed to refer to things like paper.
This latest report repeats these complaints, stressing the need for clarity in the Bill's language. However, it also gives its approval to a number of controversial items. The report's authors says that the bulk interception and surveillance should be "fully justified" in a rewrite of the legislation, and notes that although these powers might contravene the EU's right to privacy, "security and intelligence agencies would not seek these powers if they did not believe they would be effective." This is despite the fact that this sort of mass surveillance (already in place, of course, just not officially legislated) has often proven to be ineffective, as with last year's terrorist attacks in Paris.
"The potential value of [internet records] could outweigh the intrusiveness."
Similarly, the committee found no faults with the government's plans to force ISPs to store users' web history for 12 months at a time. This information (known as Internet Connection Records or ICRs) would be available to police without a warrant, with the report noting: "We heard a good case from law enforcement and others about the desirability of having such a scheme. We are satisfied that the potential value of ICRs could outweigh the intrusiveness involved in collecting and using them."
Evidence submitted to the committee pointed out that these records would reveal "sensitive information" about citizens' political, religious, and sexual preferences, as well their health and daily activities, while ISPs noted that storing this data securely would be a "technical challenge." Experts also testified to the difficulty of sorting this data, as many apps like Facebook and Twitter keep a near-constant connection to the internet, and internet users can access sites they're not aware of. One expert noted that he created a blog with a "tiny one-pixel image in the corner" that showed up as on visitors' internet history.
Good news for American tech giants
By comparison, the committee were much more wary of the UK's desire to access encrypted data, including chat logs from apps like Apple's iMessage and Facebook's WhatsApp. "The Government still needs to make explicit on the face of the Bill that [internet companies] offering end-to-end encrypted communication or other un-decryptable communication services will not be expected to provide decrypted copies of those communications if it is not practicable for them to do so."
Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and Twitter all submitted evidence to the committee saying the proposed legislation would be harmful, impacting individuals' privacy while emboldening more authoritarian regimes like Russia and China to demand similar access to users' data. Apple submitted evidence separately, although CEO Tim Cook also took the time to personally criticize the Bill, saying: "If you halt or weaken encryption, the people that you hurt are not the folks that want to do bad things. It's the good people. The other people know where to go."
London's FT Slammed by UN Over Russian Smear in Ban Ki-moon Interview
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 01:51
World17:02 12.02.2016(updated 19:34 12.02.2016) Get short URL
(C) AP Photo/ Gary Cameron
At first glance, it appears that the UN Secretary General made it perfectly clear in his interview with the Financial Times that the collapse of the Syrian peace talks in Geneva was caused by "devastating Russian air raids.""As soon as the [Geneva] meeting was convened, aerial bombing continued and the ground operation started in Aleppo'... It was extremely difficult for Staffan de Mistura [UN envoy for Syria] to continue at this time," Ban Ki-moon said during an interview with the FT in London.
The author of the article also claims that "in carefully chosen words, Mr Ban warned that Russia and Syria were not being "faithful" in implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2254 adopted in December."
However, it seems that Ban Ki-moon wasn't the only person who was "carefully choosing" their words.
Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary General, said in an official letter sent to FT that while many of the quotes attributed to Ban Ki-moon in the article are technically correct, "they are framed in a way that attributes to him direct language that is incorrect."
(C) Sputnik/
Document obtained by Sputnik
For example, Dujarric points out that the exact answer given by Ban Ki-moon regarding the resolution 2254 was "I sincerely hope that the parties should be more faithful in implementing this resolution."
"It is well known that there are many parties to this conflict. The Secretary-General was not referring specifically to "Russian and Syria." The Secretary-General does indeed choose his words carefully. Had he wanted to refer only to those two parties specifically, he would have," Dujarric remarks.
He also stresses that neither the interviewer nor the Secretary General mentioned Russia by name while dealing with the question related to the military events' impact on the Geneva talks.
He also points out another part of the article which states that "Russia's increased military support for the Assad regime has 'impacted very negatively,' on the process the Security Council resolution set in train, according to Mr Ban."
Apparently, this paragraph too became a subject to author's creative interpretation of Ban Ki-moon's words.
"In discussing the Geneva talks and the action on the ground, Mr. Jones says to the Secretary-General that "in many ways the decisions though might not be made in the room [Geneva talks] in the sense that the military events are moving so quickly now. For a lot of the rebel groups feel that they might not exist in few weeks' time." In his answer the Secretary-General says: "That affected very negatively. As soon as this meeting' convened then aerial bombing continued, the ground operations by the Syrian government forces started in Aleppo."
"We would very much appreciate you take action to publish the corrections that are necessary to accurately reflect what the Secretary-General actually said," Dujarric concluded.
(C) Sputnik/
Document obtained by Sputnik
Ban blames Russia for collapse of Syria talks -
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 01:51
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Ban blames Russia for collapse of Syria talks
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White House defends Einstein firewall
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 01:48
White House defends Einstein firewallBy Sean LyngaasFeb 11, 2016Michael Daniel defended the multibillion-dollar Einstein program and said, "It's not something that we can walk away from."
Obama administration officials are defending the multibillion-dollar intrusion-detection program known as Einstein after a Government Accountability Office audit found it far from sufficient for federal cyber defense.
"I still find Einstein to be a very credible and solid piece of our defenses,'s not something that we can walk away from," Michael Daniel, President Barack Obama's top cybersecurity adviser, told reporters on Feb. 11.
The federal government operates an "incredible array of legacy systems that if we were in the private sector we would probably just write off," Daniel said at the New America think tank in Washington. "But the government can't just do that," he added while defending the need for the signature-based threat-detection program that is now in its third iteration.
The GAO report found that Einstein provides a "limited ability to detect potentially malicious activity entering and exiting computer networks at federal agencies." Furthermore, the program "does not monitor several types of network traffic, and its 'signatures' do not address threats that exploit many common security vulnerabilities and thus may be less effective."
Daniel would not comment when asked if he agreed with GAO's findings.
Phyllis Schneck, the Department of Homeland Security's deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity and communications, said Einstein draws on classified information to block intrusions, which gives the system an advantage over private-sector programs.
When she joined DHS from McAfee in 2013, she said set about studying the Einstein program and concluded that its underlying technology was sound but older than officials had assumed.
Nonetheless, the program's comprehensive view of inbound and outbound traffic at civilian agencies is vital because of the situational awareness it provides, Schneck said.
After the massive breach of Office of Personnel Management systems exposed the personal information of some 22 million people, administration officials touted Einstein as part of what they said was their proactive approach to cybersecurity.
In July 2015, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson ordered the acceleration of Einstein's deployment at agencies. In a statement responding to GAO's new report on Einstein, he said the program's third iteration -- Einstein 3a -- is now available to "100 percent of the government" and has blocked more than 700,000 cyberthreats.
A confidential report by DHS and the FBI on lessons learned from the OPM hack advises that moving beyond a signature-based threat-detection system would increase an agency's ability to cope with sophisticated threats.
Administration officials have long emphasized that Einstein is only a tool and not a panacea. The program is part of much larger defense-in-depth strategy at federal agencies, Schneck said.
About the Author
Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.
Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.
Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.
FireEye warns of slowing growth in cyber security spending
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 13:46
The FireEye logo is seen outside the company's offices in Milpitas, California, in this December 29, 2014 file photo.
Reuters/Beck Diefenbach
FireEye Inc forecast a bigger-than-expected loss for the first quarter and said it expected growth in cyber security spending to slow this year.
Shares of FireEye, which reported smaller-than-expected fourth-quarter revenue, fell 3.4 percent in after-hours trading on Thursday.
FireEye Chief Executive Dave DeWalt said sales across the industry were boosted by "emergency spending" last year as major hacking attacks prompted some companies to place massive orders.
"Now I see a much more normalized spending environment," he said in an interview ahead of the company's quarterly earnings call with analysts.
The company forecast an adjusted loss per share of 49-53 cents per share for the quarter ending March, bigger than the 40-cent loss analysts were expecting on average, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
DeWalt said the purchase of iSight Partners and Invotas this year would hurt profitability in the near term as both businesses were subscription-based.
Subscriptions bring in less money upfront as payment is spread over the entire period of use unlike traditional packaged software, but ensure more predictable recurring revenue.
The company bought privately held iSight for $200 million in January to boost its cyber intelligence offerings for governments and businesses.
While demand for more sophisticated security offerings has surged in the face of an increase in cyber hacking, FireEye is facing intense competition from Palo Alto Networks Inc, Proofpoint Inc and Imperva Inc.
FireEye's fourth-quarter billings, a key indicator of its health, was $256.9 million - at the lower end of the $257 million-$258 million the company had estimated in January.
FireEye said net loss attributable to common shareholders increased to $136.1 million, or 87 cents per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31, from $105.7 million, or 72 cents per share, a year earlier.
Excluding items, the company lost 36 cents per share. Analysts on average had expected a loss of 37 cents per share.
Revenue rose 29.2 percent to $184.8 million, missing analysts' average estimate of $185.3 million.
(Reporting By Lehar Maan in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)
Statement on the Introduction of the ENCRYPT Act
Sat, 13 Feb 2016 14:44
Washington, DC '' Internet Association President and CEO Michael Beckerman issued the following statement on the introduction of the ENCRYPT Act:
''The Internet industry commends Rep. Ted Lieu, Rep. Blake Farenthold, Rep. Suzan DelBene, and Rep. Mike Bishop on their introduction of the ENCRYPT Act. The ENCRYPT Act ensures that users will continue to be protected by strong encryption regardless of where they live.
''Weakening encryption by requiring companies to engineer vulnerabilities into their services makes us all less safe and less secure. Encryption protects billions of global Internet users from countless daily threats to the financial system, sensitive infrastructure (like our electric grid), and from repressive governments looking to stifle speech and democracy. The Internet industry has great respect for the role law enforcement plays in our national security, but without strong encryption, we are all less safe.
''The Internet Association supports the ENCRYPT Act and looks forward to working with Reps. Lieu, Farenthold, DelBene, and Bishop as they continue their work on this important issue.''
War on Ca$h
Leaked Morgan Stanley slide shows bankers want to move quickly toward a ''cashless economy'' to enact NIRP
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 12:58
16 It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads,17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.
Revelation 13:16, 17
This leak through Zerohedge came on the heels of recent Op-ed's by both Bloomberg and Financial Times, which urged for the banning of cash, a movement documented fully here by TRUNEWS.
ZeroHedge reported that their source also heard Huw van Steenis say:
''One of the most surprising comments this year came from a closed session on fintech [at Davos] where I sat next to someone in policy circles who argued that we should move quickly to a cashless economy so that we could introduce negative rates well below 1% '' as they were concerned that Larry Summers' secular stagnation was indeed playing out and we would be stuck with negative rates for a decade in Europe. They felt below (1.5)% depositors would start to hoard notes, leading to yet further complexities for monetary policy.''
Full article:Leaked Morgan Stanley slide shows bankers want to move quickly toward a ''cashless economy'' to enact NIRP (TruNews)
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Why expat Americans are giving up their passports - BBC News
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 15:46
Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption As an America citizen you must file a US tax return no matter where in the world you live How does it feel to give up your nationality, to renounce the country you were born in, potentially forfeiting the chance to ever return?
"It's not going to be easy at all. It's the last thing I ever thought of doing," Jane tells me when I meet her in a Paris cafe.
Her voice cracks and her eyes well up. She is in the process of relinquishing her American nationality. Soon she'll visit the US embassy formally to renounce her citizenship, she says, under duress.
"I'm very proud of being an American. It's what I am when I look in the mirror.
"If it weren't for Fatca [the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act] and the decision by the bank, I'd never be doing this. Never ever. It's just breaking me in half."
She's not alone. According to the US Treasury, a record 4,279 individuals renounced their US citizenship or long-term residency in 2015 - an increase of 20% on the previous year, which was itself a record-breaking year.
In 2010, just 1,006 gave up being US citizens, but since then the numbers have risen every year.
Double taxationReasons for giving up your US citizenship aren't officially listed, but one of the main reasons cited is Fatca - a 2012 law designed to target overseas accounts held by wealthy Americans.
Image copyrightGetty ImagesThe United States is one of only two countries in the world that has citizenship-based taxation (the other is Eritrea).
As a US citizen you must file a tax return, no matter where you live, and often pay US taxes on top of the tax you already pay in your country of residence - so-called double taxation.
This has been the case in the US since the Civil War in the 19th Century and until recently really only affected the rich. Americans abroad are given a yearly allowance of $106,000 (£73,000) before double taxation kicks in.
But Fatca expands the scope of what can be taxed, and places a burden on foreign banks to identify US citizens among their customers to US tax authorities. The penalty for failing to do so can be as high as 30% of all a bank's dealings with the USA.
Refused bankingAs a result, ordinary Americans abroad are being denied access to basic banking facilities; banks would rather refuse US citizens' custom than run the risk of hefty penalties.
"I went to one and as soon as I typed in I was born in the United States, there was a big set of red letters that said 'No to US persons'," says Jane.
"I've got to pay my bills, I've got to buy food - I've got to have a bank."
For people like her the only option is to renounce their citizenship, and this is causing such a backlog of paperwork that in November, the fee for renunciation was put up to $2,350 - an increase of about 400%.
Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption It now costs $2,350 to renounce US citizenship It's a heavy price to pay for financial stability, but for many there's an even bigger, more emotional price to pay - becoming an ex-American.
"They first of all make laws that make life impossible and then when you decide it's impossible and you've got to do something that's against what you believe in your heart, they've gotta just up the fees like a bunch of extortionists," says Jane.
Jane has lived and worked in France for 30 years drawing what she calls a "humble" salary. She has filed a tax return every year even though she earns significantly less than $106,000 a year.
But under Fatca her pension and savings can also be taxed, and that's money she can't afford to lose.
The process to renounce is humiliating, she says.
It must be done in person, in front of other Americans at the US embassy. Her real name will then be published in the Federal Register (Jane agreed to talk to the BBC anonymously) - a move she feels is made to shame those who renounce.
And it's expensive too.
'Accidental Americans'Many foreign banks are taking no chances either. They are closing down accounts of anyone who might be an "accidental American". This could be anyone with an American parent but born outside the US, or people of other nationalities born in the US - like Fabien.
"I live in France, I work in France, my life is in France. I have no link to the United States. My life as a Frenchman is in France," Fabien tells me through an interpreter. "I don't even speak English!"
His French father brought him to Europe when he was 18 months' old - but because he was born in California he is a US citizen and thus subject to Fatca.
His bank demanded he either provide proof he had renounced his US citizenship, or his social security number. He had neither. Renouncing his "accidental" US citizenship is no mean feat, either.
Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption You can earn $106,000 a year before you're liable for double taxation - but the IRS now counts other assets too "We have to enter into the American system at the risk of substantial penalties. I have to submit the last five years' tax returns, but then also the next two years in order to renounce," he says.
"We're in a situation where it's unknown what will happen when we start. I have to have money to be able to pay the expenses to enter into the system, and then I have to pay to renounce."
'Deterring abuses'Fatca (its original acronym was rumoured to be "Fatcat") was made into law at the height of US public concern that the wealthy were avoiding paying tax owed to the federal government by hiding their money in offshore bank accounts.
"The overall purpose of the law is to detect, deter and discourage offshore tax abuses through increased transparency, enhanced reporting and strong sanctions," said a spokeswoman for Congressman Charles Rangel - one of those who introduced Fatca.
"The US Treasury worked tirelessly to address many of these problems, and most have been resolved. If there are still problems with the law, then I believe Congress should hold hearings to see how it can be improved."
Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption Many Americans living overseas says they feel abandoned by their own government because of the new tax laws Yet Fatca's blunt implementation has led to criticism from Americans abroad who feel abandoned by their government and that this is all little more than taxation without representation.
There is no one congressional representative for the nearly nine million Americans who live abroad. Expatriates are registered in their last state of residence.
As a group they are fragmented and, say some, lack a voice in government. This compounds the difficult decision to renounce.
For her part, Jane is defiant.
"They can take my passport, but I'll still have a picnic on 4 July, I'll still celebrate Thanksgiving. The only way they'll stop me being American is if they kill me."
Austrians Need Constitutional Right to Pay in Cash, Mahrer Says - Bloomberg Business
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 19:09
Austrians should have the constitutional right to use cash to protect their privacy, Deputy Economy Minister Harald Mahrer said, as the European Union considers curbing the use of banknotes and coins.
''We don't want someone to be able to track digitally what we buy, eat and drink, what books we read and what movies we watch,'' Mahrer said on Austrian public radio station Oe1. ''We will fight everywhere against rules'' including caps on cash purchases, he said.
EU finance ministers vowed at a meeting in Brussels on Friday to crack down on ''illicit cash movements.'' They urged the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, to ''explore the need for appropriate restrictions on cash payments exceeding certain thresholds and to engage with the European Central Bank to consider appropriate measures regarding high denomination notes, in particular the 500-euro note.''
Ministers told the commission to report on its findings by May 1.
Corporate Inversion Definition | Investopedia
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 01:25
DEFINITION of 'Corporate Inversion'Re-incorporating a company overseas in order to reduce the tax burden on income earned abroad. Corporate inversion as a strategy is used by companies that receive a significant portion of their income from foreign sources, since that income is taxed both abroad and in the country of incorporation. Companies undertaking this strategy are likely to select a country that has lower tax rates and less stringent corporate governance requirements.
BREAKING DOWN 'Corporate Inversion'Corporate inversion is one of the many strategies companies employ to reduce their tax burden. One way that a company can re-incorporate abroad is by having a foreign company buy its current operations. Assets are then owned by the foreign company, and the old incorporation is dissolved.
For example, take a manufacturing company that incorporated itself in the United States in the 1950s. For years the majority of its revenue came from U.S. sales, but recently the percentage of sales coming from abroad has grown. Income from abroad is taxed in the United States, and U.S. tax credits do not cover all taxes that the company has to pay abroad. As the percentage of sales coming from foreign operations grows relative to domestic operations, the company will find itself paying more U.S. taxes because of where it incorporated. If it incorporates abroad, it can bypass having to pay higher U.S. taxes on income that is not generated in the United States. This is a corporate inversion.
Corporate inversion is not considered tax evasion as long as it doesn't involve misrepresenting information on a tax return or undertaking illegal activities to hide profits.
Study says most corporations pay no U.S. income taxes | Reuters
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 00:36
Tue Aug 12, 2008 | 12:54 PM EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Most U.S. and foreign corporations doing business in the United States avoid paying any federal income taxes, despite trillions of dollars worth of sales, a government study released on Tuesday said.
The Government Accountability Office said 72 percent of all foreign corporations and about 57 percent of U.S. companies doing business in the United States paid no federal income taxes for at least one year between 1998 and 2005.
More than half of foreign companies and about 42 percent of U.S. companies paid no U.S. income taxes for two or more years in that period, the report said.
During that time corporate sales in the United States totaled $2.5 trillion, according to Democratic Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, who requested the GAO study.
The report did not name any companies. The GAO said corporations escaped paying federal income taxes for a variety of reasons including operating losses, tax credits and an ability to use transactions within the company to shift income to low tax countries.
With the U.S. budget deficit this year running close to the record $413 billion that was set in 2004 and projected to hit a record $486 billion next year, lawmakers are looking to plug holes in the U.S. tax code and generate more revenues.
Dorgan in a statement called the report "a shocking indictment of the current tax system." Levin said it made clear that "too many corporations are using tax trickery to send their profits overseas and avoid paying their fair share in the United States."
The study showed about 28 percent of large foreign corporations, those with more than $250 million in assets, doing business in the United States paid no federal income taxes in 2005 despite $372 billion in gross receipts, the senators said. About 25 percent of the largest U.S. companies paid no federal income taxes in 2005 despite $1.1 trillion in gross sales that year, they said.
(Reporting by Donna Smith, Editing by David Wiessler)
'… PYONGYANG MARATHON: Sign up before Feb 14 to run in the hermit kingdom!: Shanghaiist
Sun, 07 Feb 2016 07:22
The Pyongyang Marathon returns in 2016 on April 10. Held for the first time in 1981 and now open to international tourists, the competition presents an exclusive opportunity to visit the hermit kingdom. Read all about the race here and find out how you can join other Shanghaiist readers at the marathon by choosing one of four Pyongyang Marathon tour options departing from Beijing and Shanghai.
Almost anyone can run in the amateur marathon alongside professional athletes.
It's not possible to register for the race on your own. You will need to book a Pyongyang Marathon Tour with an official DPRK tour operator (Uri Tours) and then decide which category you want to sign up for (full, half or 10K). The tour operator will tell you all you need to know about traveling to the DPRK as well as running in the race.
There is no limit on the number of registered runners the marathon committee will accept. The Official Pyongyang Marathon Committee is welcoming as many runners as possible. However, April will be an incredibly busy month in the DPRK and it's possible that hotel accommodations and plane tickets will sell out quickly. It's recommended to book as soon as possible.
Sign-up for the Uri Tours Pyongyang Marathon 2016 newsletter.
Choose from one of four incredible tour options.
Ultra Short Pyongyang Marathon Tour - Beijing Departure
WHAT: 2 nights, 3 days in the DPRKWHEN: April 9 - 11PRICE: Starting at $1,050 USD
Pyongyang Marathon Short Tour - Shanghai Departure
WHAT: 3 nights, 4 days in the DPRKWHEN: April 8 - 11PRICE: Starting at $1,250 USD
Pyongyang Marathon Short Tour - Beijing Departure
WHAT: 3 nights, 4 days in the DPRKWHEN: April 9 - 12PRICE: Starting at $1,250 USD
Pyongyang Marathon & Kim Il Sung Birthday Tour - Beijing Departure
WHAT: 7 nights, 8 days in the DPRKWHEN: April 9 - 16PRICE: Starting at $2,050 USD
Registration Fee
Full marathon: $100 USDHalf marathon: $70 USD10K: $50 USDSpectators: $28 USD to watch soccer/football matches in the Kim Il Sung Stadium during the race(Registration fees are collected prior to the tour; cost of the tour package is additional)
Distance and finish time:
Full Marathon: 42.195km; finish time of 4 hoursHalf Marathon: 21.0975km; finish time of 4 hours10K: finish time of 2 hours
There are no official qualifying times for the amateur marathon, however, you must either FINISH or STOP within the times mentioned above. If you do not finish within those times, a bus will pick you up and escort you back to the stadium. The streets will be re-open to traffic at about 1pm.
The race starts and ends in the Kim Il Sung Stadium. Professionals and amateurs will start at the same location and time. Race starts at approximately 9am and is finished before 1pm.
The official 2016 Pyongyang Marathon course route:
Depart from Kim Il Sung StadiumPass through the Arch of TriumphFriendship TowerKumrung No.2 TunnelCongryu Rope Ladder on Taedong RiverMunsu Riverside StreetRungra BridgeKumrung TunnelPuksae riverside streetMoranbong StreetRe-enter through the Arch of TriumphArrive back at the Kim Il Sung StadiumThis is a 10K course and the marathon will make this loop 4 times, the half marathon twice.
COURSE CONDITIONS: You'll be running in the streets of Pyongyang, which are relatively flat. One lap is about 10km. Those running the 10K will do one lap and end right past the Arch of Triumph. Those running the half marathon will do 2 laps and those running the full marathon will do 4 laps. There will be km markers throughout the course to let you know how long to go before the finish line. There will also be cars with digital timers that will lead the pack to let runners know how much time has elapsed. There are 2 water stations per every 10km and restroom stops along the way. Lastly, for those who require energy gels, you should bring them with you and your tour guide will hand them to you at the designated water stations during the race.
WHAT TO WEAR: Please wear solid colors; no tie dye, pictures or lettering. Top and bottom can be different colors, so long as they are one solid color each. If your shirt has a small logo, the logo can be no bigger than 30cm in rectangular size and the lettering must be less than 4cm in size, according to the regulations of the International Federation.
You'll be given a number to pin to your shirt during the race. All runners must have a number affixed to their shirts.
WHAT YOU'LL GET: Firstly, you'll get a support kit from your tour guide, which includes a nifty Pyongyang Marathon T-shirt, energy snacks, marathon stickers and other exclusive DPRK goodies!
Each amateur runner will get a certificate issued by the Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon Committee. If you come in first, second or third in any of the amateur categories, you will also be awarded a medal at the awards ceremony in front of 50,000 local spectators in the Kim Il Sung stadium. An American runner with Uri Tours won 2nd in the half-marathon category in 2014 and a French runner won 2nd in half in 2015!
Finally, you'll have a lifetime of bragging rights for running in this ultra-cool Pyongyang marathon!
Join the Pyongyang Marathon community on Facebook.
To qualify for the professional marathon, you must have the below qualifying times:
Men need a record of less than 2 hours and 27 minutesWomen need a record of less than 2 hours and 38 minutesRegistrants must provide proof of an official record time from the past 3 years
The International Athletics Federation registers the records of professional marathon runners who attend the Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon.
These runners made history in 2014 by being among the first foreign amateurs to run in the Pyongyang Marathon.
Edward from the US: read his pre-race thoughts in RUNNER'S WORLD and Pacific Daily News.
Morgan from France: read his thoughts on the race in RUE89.
Jacob from Nova Scotia, Canada: read his thoughts on the race in CBC (originally in the AP).
Shari and Jim from Las Vegas running their first marathon ever (you may have caught them speaking on BBC radio about their experience!):
War on Weed
Marijuana in Space '' NASA Discovers THC on Meteorite Fragment | The health disorder
Thu, 04 Feb 2016 23:39
A team of astrophysicists at the University of Hawaii have created somewhat of a stir within the scientific community after the discovery of trace amounts of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on a meteorite found in the Nevada desert in 2010.
The team of researchers who analyzed hundreds of meteorite fragments in search of microbacterial data found the presence of Tetrahydrocannabinol in trace amounts, the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabinoids, a class of diverse chemical compounds that are found in a variety of plants, but most famously in the cannabis plant.
The study, that is funded in part by a NASA grant for research in astrobiology, is the first documented find of a psychoactive organic compound originating from outside of the Earth's atmosphere, a discovery that could revolutionize our modern view of psychotropic agents and their ''cosmic'' origins, admits astrophysicist James Han, head of the research team.
The discovery was clearly unexpected, admits the astrophysicist specialized in astrobiology.
''These findings will have a profound impact on the science of astrobiology as a whole'' admits the scientist, visibly perplexed by the discovery.
''If psychoactive elements are found outside of this planet's atmosphere, what does it say about the rest of the universe? If these chemical substances, that change brain functions and result in alterations in perception, mood, or consciousness in mammals as well as humans, find their origin in outer space, what role then has cometary impacts played on the human species? Or on life on the planet as whole? This discovery ultimately leaves us with more questions than answers''acknowledges the professor.
''It also gives a whole new meaning to the term getting high'' he told local reporters, with a pinch of humor.
Traces amounts of Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) were also found in a meteorite fragment in 2009 by a research team from the University of Mexico but the findings were dismissed at the time because of the ''controversial nature of the discovery'' and a wave of skepticism from the scientific community. Further analysis of the sample could now shed some light on this latest finding, believe experts.
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Marijuana Kills Cancer Cells, Admits the U.S. National Cancer Institute | Natural Society
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 00:29
National legalization of marijuana may be drawing a smidgeon closer. The National Cancer Institute (NCI), one of the federal government sponsored agencies, has just updated the FAQs on its website to include recent studies on marijuana showing that it can and has killed cancer cells.
These are the findings of studies NCI have included:
Cannabinoids may inhibit tumor growth by causing cell death, blocking cell growth, and blocking the development of blood vessels needed by tumors to grow. Laboratory and animal studies have shown that cannabinoids may be able to kill cancer cells while protecting normal cells.Cannabinoids may protect against inflammation of the colon and may have potential in reducing the risk of colon cancer, and possibly in its treatment.A laboratory study of delta -9-THC in hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) cells showed it damaged or killed the cancer cells. The same study of delta-9-THC in models of liver cancer showed that it had anti-tumor effects. Delta-9-THC has been shown to cause these effects by acting on molecules that may also be found in non-small cell lung cancer cells and breast cancer cells.A laboratory study of cannabidiol (CBD) in estrogen receptor positive and estrogen receptor negative breast cancer cells showed that it caused cancer cell death while having little effect on normal breast cells. Studies of metastatic breast cancer showed that cannabinoids may lessen the growth, number, and spread of tumors.A laboratory study of cannabidiol in human glioma cells showed that when given along with chemotherapy, CBD may make chemotherapy more effective and increase cancer cell death without harming normal cells. Studies showed that CBD together with delta-9-THC may make chemotherapy such as temozolomide more effective.These studies are considered by the NCI as preclinical. They were all done using animals. According to them, no clinical trials of cannabis use for the treatment of cancer in humans have been published.
Read: Gov't Admits Marijuana Kills Cancer
The NCI has included findings on peripheral benefits for cancer patients from marijuana:
Delta-9-THC and other cannabinoids stimulate appetite and can increase food intake.Cannabinoid receptors have been studied in the brain, spinal cord, and nerve endings throughout the body to understand their roles in pain relief.Cannabinoids have been studied for anti-inflammatory effects that may play a role in pain relief.The NCI is one of the National Institutes of Health.
Infowars is reporting that the National Institute on Drug Abuse, another of the agencies of the National Institutes of Health, has referred to marijuana studies, including one that showed ''marijuana can kill certain cancer cells and reduce the size of others.''
The big news here is not these studies. These and many more are contained on PubMed, the U.S. National Library of Medicine that is also part of the National Institutes of Health. They are there for all of the world to see.
The news is that after decades of the demonization of marijuana by a federal government that supports pharmaceuticals and GMOs, there is a breath of change. But if you want to prevent or treat cancer with marijuana, be prepared for arrest and imprisonment in most states of this union.
Drone Nation
China on Track to Build Its Very First Military Base in Africa
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 13:34
By Joshua Krause
With a string of hundreds of military bases scattered all over the world, the US has long been the world's indisputable global superpower. Few nations even have an overseas military presence, let alone multiple bases on six different continents. However, it appears the US is about to find another competitor in the global hegemony game.
China has just signed a 10-year contract with the government of Djibouti to create a military base near the Red Sea. The base will be a logistics hub and airfield, which will give the Chinese military an extensive reach into the continent. Both the US and China have been competing for economic and political influence in the resource-rich continent for some time now, but this is the first time that China has challenged America's military presence in Africa. The base is clearly an effort to stymie America's influence, since it's located not far from a US military hub in Djibouti, known as Camp Lemonnier.
History may mark this moment as the beginning of the end of America's dominance over Africa. While US corporate and military interests often invite chaos and insurgency to every nation they arrive in (i.e. Libya), the Chinese are more interested in providing mutually beneficial investment opportunities to the impoverished nations of Africa.
The US on the other hand, prefers to bully poor nations into giving up their resources, and overthrow governments that don't play ball. China clearly has a more sustainable and profitable approach to Africa. It's only a matter of time before the nations of Africa decide to oust their American overlords, and invite Chinese business and military interests.
Image Credit
Joshua Krause is a reporter, writer and researcher at The Daily Sheeple. He was born and raised in the Bay Area and is a freelance writer and author. You can follow Joshua's reports at Facebook or on his personal Twitter. Joshua's website is Strange Danger.
Latin American Doctors Suggest Monsanto-Linked Larvicide Cause of Microcephaly, Not Zika Virus
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 06:01
As the Zika epidemic ''spreads explosively'' around the world, pregnant travelers have been put on pause due to the virus's suspected association with microcephaly, the congenital condition in which a baby's head is abnormally small.
While the link between the mosquito-borne virus and microcephaly has yet to be scientifically proven, Argentinian and Brazilian doctors have suggested an alternate culprit: pesticides.
The report, written by the Argentine group Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns (PCST), suspects that pyriproxyfen'--a larvicide added to drinking water to stop the development of mosquito larvae in drinking water tanks'--has caused the birth defects.
The authors said that the pesticide, known by its commercial name SumiLarv, is manufactured by Sumitomo Chemical, a Japanese subsidiary of Monsanto.
According to PCST, in 2014, the Brazilian Ministry of Health introduced pyriproxyfen to drinking-water reservoirs in the state of Pernambuco, where the proliferation of the Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito is very high.
''Malformations detected in thousands of children from pregnant women living in areas where the Brazilian state added pyriproxyfen to drinking water is not a coincidence, even though the Ministry of Health places a direct blame on Zika virus for this damage, while trying to ignore its responsibility and ruling out the hypothesis of direct and cumulative chemical damage caused by years of endocrine and immunological disruption of the a acted population,'' PCST said.
Public health officials in Brazil inspect points of standing water, a breeding ground for the Zika-carrying Aedes mosquito. The virus has been linked to microcephaly, but the theory has not been scientifically confirmed. Photo credit: Flickr/TwitterAs it happens, the northeast state has registered the largest number of cases of microcephaly. Pernambuco, the first state to detect the problem, has roughly 35 percent of the total microcephaly cases across Brazil.
''Previous Zika epidemics did not cause birth defects in newborns, despite infecting 75 percent of the population in those countries,'' the paper said. ''Also, in other countries such as Colombia there are no records of microcephaly; however, there are plenty of Zika cases.''
Indeed, as The Ecologist observed from PCST's report, Colombia has so far diagnosed 3,177 pregnant women with the Zika virus, but these women gave birth to healthy babies or are carrying healthy fetuses.
Sumitomo Chemical says on the Sumilarv website that the product ''not only poses minimal risk to mammals, birds and fish; it also allows it to be applied to drinking water. Application to the aquatic breeding sites of mosquitoes ensures a rapid decline of the adult mosquito population significantly reducing bite rates.''
RS government suspends larvicide pyriproxyfen after report that associates the product microcephaly
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 06:02
War on Vaping
E-cigs shut down hundreds of immune system genes'--regular cigs don't | Ars Technica
Sat, 13 Feb 2016 14:01
View all'...WASHINGTON'--It's widely assumed that swapping cigarette puffing for vapor huffing is better for health'--after all, electronic cigarettes that heat up and atomize a liquid concoction can skip all the hazards of combustion and smoke. But researchers are still scrambling to understand the health effects of e-cig use (aka vaping) and to track down the variable and undisclosed components of those vaporized mixtures. The most recent data hints at unexpected health effects unique to e-cig use.
After comparing genetic information swabbed from the noses of smokers, vapers, and non-users of both, researchers found that smoking suppresses the activity of 53 genes involved in the immune system. Vaping also suppressed those 53 immune genes'--along with 305 others. The results were presented Friday at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington.
Though research on the significance of that gene suppression is still ongoing, the initial results suggest that e-cig users may have compromised immune responses, making them potentially more vulnerable to infections and diseases.
''The gene expression changes we're seeing are consistent with a modified immune response,'' lead researcher Ilona Jaspers of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill told Ars. ''Any time you change [the immune system], it's probably out of balance," she said, explaining that a hyper-immune response or a weak response is problematic. Whether the imbalance caused by e-cigs leads to boosted infection risks or other immune diseases, ''we don't know,'' Jaspers added.
For the study, Jaspers and colleagues mined the noses of different groups of healthy people'--around a dozen each of cigarette smokers, e-cigarette vapers, and people who didn't use either. The researchers fit the volunteers into the three categories based on smoking ''diaries'' that they filled out for three weeks prior to nose-sampling. The researchers homed in on the schnoz because cellular and immune responses there can offer clues to those responses in the lungs, which are harder to sample, Jaspers noted.
Harvesting the genetic data from the participants, researchers looked at the activity of nearly 600 genes, all of which are related to controlling and mounting immune responses. Comparing smokers' genetic information to that of non-users, the team found that the activity of 53 genes was dialed down in smokers collectively. Comparing e-cig users to smokers and non-users revealed the same dampened activity for those 53 genes but also 305 others'--a total of 358 immune genes were muted in e-cig users' noses.
In follow-up lab studies, Jaspers and colleagues tested e-cig liquid on immune cells from healthy volunteers. Specifically, the researchers collected immune cells, such as neutrophils and macrophages, that are responsible in part for swallowing up invading bacteria. When the cells were put into diluted solutions of different e-cigarette liquids, the cells weren't as good at sucking in the microbes. The data, while preliminary, suggests that immune cells in e-cig users may be unable to prevent bacterial breaches, thus opening the gates to infection.
The researchers also looked at the gene-altering effects of different flavors of e-cigarettes on the cells in the delicate lining of the respiratory tract. The flavorings that seemed to have the most potent gene-altering effects were additives that taste like cinnamon'--cinnamaldehyde'--as well as butter flavors.
These flavorings are considered safe, Jaspers pointed out'--but only for eating. The additives are categorized as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for food and beverages, but they have never been tested for safety when inhaled, she adds. The point is driven home with one of the flavors, the butter-mimicking diacetyl. This flavor has been found in some e-cig flavorings, but it's known to cause bronchiolitis obliterans, a severe disease caused by scar tissue and inflammation built up deep in the lungs. The link was discovered years ago in food manufacturing, particularly microwave popcorn factory employees who developed ''popcorn worker's lung.''
A concerning factor in e-cig use is that it's not well known what or how much flavor additives and components are in e-cigarette liquid, Jaspers said.
The concern was echoed by clinical pharmacologist Neal Benowitz of the University of California, San Francisco. ''E-cigarettes are not one thing,'' he said, noting that the devices, liquids, and flavorings vary widely. ''We're really in the beginning of understanding the toxicity.''
Agenda 2030
Leonardio DiCaprio Producing 'Sandcastle Empire' Movie for Paramount | Variety
Wed, 03 Feb 2016 10:55
Paramount Pictures has optioned the YA novel ''The Sandcastle Empire'' with Leonardo DiCaprio on board to produce.
Jennifer Davisson, DiCaprio's partner at Appian Way, is also attached to produce through their production banner.
The novel was written by Kayla Olson and is set in 2049 when the Earth is at a breaking point due to climate change, coastal flooding and overpopulation. A radical faction known as the Wolfpack overthrows the government and takes control.
The story centers on a young woman named Eden who escapes a Wolfpack labor camp, joining three others fleeing to an island. During her journey, she will find clues as to what happened to her missing father and find out that she is the key to bringing down the Wolfpack.
The book's theme of climate change is an important one for DiCaprio, as he's been vocal about the environmental issue, speaking out on it as recently as Saturday's SAG Awards.
Appian's Nathaniel Posey identified the book and brought it into the company.
DiCaprio can currently be seen in Fox's ''The Revenant'' and just won SAG award for his role in the film. He is repped by LBI Entertainment.
The news was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter.
Some trees may make climate change worse, not better - NY Daily News
Sun, 07 Feb 2016 07:24
Saturday, February 6, 2016, 3:54 PM
Everything you know about climate change is wrong.
Trees '-- long assumed to help limit the ugly effects of climate change '-- may actually speed up global warming rates, according to a new study.
A team of French-led scientists claim Europe has been planting the wrong kind of trees during its reforestation efforts since 1750, and in the process has made climate change worse '-- not better. The theory is at odds with a widespread view that planting more trees helps human efforts to slow rising temperatures.
While Europe's forest area has grown by 10% in the past 250 years, its average temperatures have increased by 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit.
So what gives?
The researchers believe that expanding forests, once lush with broadleaf species like oak and birch, with types of conifers like pine and spruce, have made the continent warmer, not cooler. While the broadleaf trees reflect sunlight, dark conifers absorb heat.
''Two and a half centuries of forest management in Europe have not cooled the climate,'' the scientists wrote in a report released Friday.
Europe's forests oak- and birch-heavy forests thinned between 1750 and 1850, BBC News reported. Foresters eager to replace the lost greenery often opted to plant conifers, which grow faster and can be used for everything from building materials to pulp.
The team, led by France's Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, said the changes in the makeup of Europe's forests outweighed trees' role in curbing global warming. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from burning fossil fuels, from the air as they grow.
"It's not all about carbon," lead author Kim Naudts said, adding that government policies to favor forests should be re-thought to take account of factors such as their color and changes to moisture and soils.
With News Wire Services
Tags:climate change ,trees ,france
Study suggests parched Earth soaks up water, slowing sea level rise | Watts Up With That?
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 05:19
Is there anything global warming can't do? Now it seems that there is so much global warming that it is slowing the rise of sea levels.
An artist's depiction of the NASA GRACE satellites and the Earth's gravity field. This material relates to a paper that appeared in the Feb. 12, 2016 issue of Science, published by AAAS. The paper, by J.T. Reager at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, and colleagues was titled, ''A decade of sea level rise slowed by climate-driven hydrology.''
As glaciers melt due to climate change, the increasingly hot and parched Earth is absorbing some of that water inland, slowing sea level rise, NASA experts said Thursday.
Satellite measurements over the past decade show for the first time that the Earth's continents have soaked up and stored an extra 3.2 trillion tons of water in soils, lakes and underground aquifers, the experts said in a study in the journal Science.
This has temporarily slowed the rate of sea level rise by about 20 percent, it said.''We always assumed that people's increased reliance on groundwater for irrigation and consumption was resulting in a net transfer of water from the land to the ocean,'' said lead author J.T. Reager of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. ''What we didn't realize until now is that over the past decade, changes in the global water cycle more than offset the losses that occurred from groundwater pumping, causing the land to act like a sponge '-- at least temporarily.''The global water cycle involves the flow of moisture, from the evaporation over the oceans to the fall of precipitation, to runoff and rivers that lead back into the ocean. Just how much effect on sea level rise this kind of land storage would have has remained unknown until now because there are no land-based instruments that can measure such changes planet-wide.
The latest data came from a pair of NASA satellites launched in 2002 '-- known as the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE). more here
Land reservoirs helped offset sea level rise, study says
Recent increases in the storage of excess groundwater may be helping to offset sea level rise by as much as 15%, a new study finds. While the capacity of land to store water is known to be an important factor affecting sea level rise, the magnitude of its storage contributions are not fully understood. Land masses store water in numerous ways, though some human-induced changes '-- including to groundwater extraction, irrigation, impoundment in reservoirs, wetland drainage, and deforestation '' are affecting this process, as are climate-driven changes in rainfall, evaporation, and runoff.
To gain more insights into how the land storage capacity may have changed over recent years, John Reager and colleagues analyzed satellite data from 2002 to 2014 that measure changes in gravity, and thus underlying changes in water storage. They combined this satellite data with estimates of mass loss of glaciers to determine what impact land water storage might have had on sea level change.
Their analysis suggests that during this timeframe, climate variability resulted in an increase of approximately 3,200 gigatons of water being stored in land. This gain partially offset water losses from ice sheets, glaciers, and groundwater pumping, slowing the rate of sea level rise by 0.71 ± 0.20 millimeters per year, the authors say. While a small portion of the increase in land water storage can be directly attributed to human activities '' primarily, the filling of reservoirs '' the authors note that climate is the key driver. The greatest changes in land water storage were associated with regional climate-driven variations in precipitation.
The paper:
A decade of sea level rise slowed by climate-driven hydrologyJ. T. Reager, A. S. Gardner, J. S. Famiglietti, D. N. Wiese, A. Eicker, M.-H. Lo
By land or by sea
How much of an effect does terrestrial groundwater storage have on sea-level rise? Reager et al. used gravity measurements made between 2002 and 2014 by NASA's Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites to quantify variations in groundwater storage. Combining those data with estimates of mass loss by glaciers revealed groundwater's impact on sea-level change. Net groundwater storage has been increasing, and the greatest regional changes, both positive and negative, are associated with climate-driven variability in precipitation. Thus, groundwater storage has slowed the rate of recent sea-level rise by roughly 15%.
Science, this issue p. 699
Climate-driven changes in land water storage and their contributions to sea level rise have been absent from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sea level budgets owing to observational challenges. Recent advances in satellite measurement of time-variable gravity combined with reconciled global glacier loss estimates enable a disaggregation of continental land mass changes and a quantification of this term. We found that between 2002 and 2014, climate variability resulted in an additional 3200 ± 900 gigatons of water being stored on land. This gain partially offset water losses from ice sheets, glaciers, and groundwater pumping, slowing the rate of sea level rise by 0.71 ± 0.20 millimeters per year. These findings highlight the importance of climate-driven changes in hydrology when assigning attribution to decadal changes in sea level.
Curry 4 Congress
Congressman's Lament: $174,000 Isn't Enough To Make Ends Meet : It's All Politics : NPR
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 19:15
Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., joins other members of the House of Representatives at a closed-door intelligence briefing on Syria in September. J. Scott Applewhite/APhide caption
toggle captionJ. Scott Applewhite/APRep. Jim Moran, D-Va., joins other members of the House of Representatives at a closed-door intelligence briefing on Syria in September.
J. Scott Applewhite/APIn what world does an annual salary of $174,000 meet the definition of underpaid?
That would be in the nation's capital, where soon-to-be-retired Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., said Americans should know that their members of Congress '-- as the board of directors for the "largest economic entity in the world" '-- are underpaid.
The longtime congressman made his comments Thursday after the House voted for the sixth straight year to deny members an automatic cost-of-living raise they're entitled to under law.
Not surprisingly, reaction to Moran's assertion was swift and derisive.
"Tone deaf," wrote Daniel Doherty at the conservative Town Hall website.
"The guy is retiring and has apparently gone Bulworth after getting his pension info," said the liberal Huffington Post, referring to the 1998 movie featuring a politician who goes rogue and speaks without a filter. (With one big difference: Bulworth, played by Warren Beatty, addresses racial and economic divisions, not congressional pay.)
Fair Leadership Compensation
Though Moran's comments may be politically tone deaf given Congress' dismal approval ratings and the fact that the median household income in the U.S. is $51,000, compensation experts like Pete Smith say the guy has a point.
"Politically, he's in a sensitive area," says Smith, who advises corporate and nonprofit clients on designing compensation and benefit packages for executives, "given that there is the perception that members of Congress don't work that hard, and don't do their jobs very well.
"But if you want good people in government, you shouldn't limit yourself to just people who can afford it, because they'll have to find their wealth elsewhere," he says.
The Ethics Reform Act of 1989 allowed for an annual congressional pay adjustment, but it also gave members the authority to prohibit or revise the adjustment. Since 1992, Congress approved its annual adjustment 13 times, and rejected it 11 times.
Data compiled in a February Congressional Research Service report on Capitol Hill salaries showed that, in real dollars, members of Congress have continued to lose ground over the past two decades.
A Moran staffer who asked to speak on background Friday said that his boss is "not looking at a raise, but more at housing assistance, similar to what other federal employees get."
He noted that Moran's proposal "wouldn't apply to him" because he'll retire at the end of the year and because his primary home is in suburban Virginia '-- an easy (depending on traffic) commute from the U.S. Capitol.
Smith, the Washington-based compensation consultant, says that while $174,000 sounds like a lot and "isn't a bad level of pay," for leadership-level positions "it seems low by today's standards '-- both in the for-profit and nonprofit worlds."
"There are a lot of nonprofit executives who are earning $80,000 for running a food kitchen, for example," he says. "But there are also a lot of nonprofit executives earning $200,000, $250,000, $300,000."
Smith says that he believes there is a strong argument for devising a better system, unhooked from politics, to determine congressional pay.
Double Homes/Single Income
Moran's comment no doubt resonated with members of Congress of a certain class '-- those without the financial means to maintain their district homes and absorb the high rental and housing costs in Washington.
More than a few sleep in their offices; many also share rentals.
The cost of renting an apartment or home in Washington can be eye-popping for members arriving from just about anywhere but San Francisco or New York City.
Take a look at Akron, Ohio, for example, in the district represented by Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan. The average monthly apartment rental in Akron is $779; in Washington that same apartment would rent for $2,042 a month, according to cost of living calculators.
And if you earn $174,000 in Akron? You'd have to up your salary to $251,794 in Washington, given the cost of living '-- and largely the cost of housing.
"Housing stipends are not unusual," says Smith. "And that would be not a bad way to politically create more income without making the salary look that high."
So while Moran's lament may inspire some sniggers, especially considering many of the other perks of office, his comments no doubt resonated with colleagues spending another weekday night on their office couch '-- but who would never consider voting for a pay increase in the current environment.
VIDEO-Brian Williams: Originalists Like Scalia Failed to 'Anticipate Abortion,' Air Travel, iPhones | MRCTV
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 14:27
See more in the cross-post on the NewsBusters blog.
Opining on MSNBC's breaking news coverage early Saturday evening on the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, hosts Rachel Maddow and Brian Williams took respective swings at the Senate Republicans for wanting ''a functionless Supreme Court for an entire year'' and for originalists like Scalia for failing to ''anticipate'' things like abortion, airplanes, and iPhones.
Maddow appeared first just before the 6:00 p.m. Eastern mark and after calling out both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates for harping on ''litmus tests'' for future Court nominees and even naming prospective nominees, she turned her disapproval toward the U.S. Senate and the Republican caucus as it seems at this moment that they will not go along with whomever President Obama nominates.
VIDEO-Don Davies, NDP MP, Wants Canada's Voting Age Lowered To 16
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 13:05
An NDP MP believes 16-year-olds should be given the right to vote, not only to increase engagement, but to ensure politicians are accountable to young people.
Don Davies, who represents the British Columbia riding of Vancouver Kingsway, introduced a private member's bill in the House of Commons Thursday. Bill C-213 would amend the Canada Elections Act to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 '-- a change he said would "widen the franchise of this country."
NDP MP Don Davies speaks in the House of Commons. (Photo: The Canadian Press)
In his short remarks, Davies harkened back to other significant changes to voting rights in Canada. Interestingly, his speech was delivered on the 100th anniversary of Manitoba women winning the right to cast a ballot.
"At one time only men could vote, only men with property," he said. "Women could not vote, First Nations could not vote, and people had to be 21 years of age."
Young voters, Davies said, often work and pay taxes yet "have no representation as to how those tax dollars are spent."
The MP also suggested lowering the voting age could increase voter turnout, noting studies suggest those who vote early in the democratic process are more likely to continue the habit.
"We know that voter turnout is generally anywhere between 50 per cent and 65 per cent," he said. "This is an important initiative to get young voters engaged in our process."
"They deserve the right to have their say in the future of our country."
The MP pointed out that Austria, Brazil, Scotland, Argentia, and Equador already extend suffrage to those 16 and older.
"I would urge all members of the House to empower young people to get their important voice expressed in the chamber so that their perspective on Canadian life can be fully expressed in our democratic process," he said.
In a statement to media, Davies said the bill is about placing trust in young Canadians.
"They deserve the right to have their say in the future of our country," he said in the release.
Lessons from Scotland?
Last June, 16-year-olds in Scotland won the right to vote in parliamentary elections this year. Sixteen and 17-year-olds were also allowed to vote in Scotland's historic independence referendum in 2014 '-- a decision that boosted turnout by more than 100,000.
New Brunswick Green Party Leader David Coon also introduced a bill in the provincial legislature last April to lower the provincial voting age to 16.
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NEXT: Current MPs With Military Experience
Party: Liberal Riding: Aurora--Oak Ridges--Richmond Hill, Ontario Military Organization and Title: Logistics Officer, Canadian Forces (Air Force), retiring with the rank of Captain
Party: Liberal Riding: Orl(C)ans, Ontario Military Organization and Title: Chief of Transformation, Canadian Forces; Chief of Staff, Canadian Forces (Army); Deputy Commander, International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, Afghanistan; Commander, Land Force Doctrine and Training System; Commander, Land Force Command; Director of Command, Control, Communications and Computer Systems, Canadian Forces; Commander, 1st Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group; Colonel, Canadian Forces (Army); Member, 1st Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery; Member, 30th Field Artillery Regiment
Party: NDP Riding: Abitibi--T(C)miscamingue, Quebec Military Organization and Title: Officer Cadet, Canadian Forces (Army), and Corporal, 52nd Field Ambulance
Party: Conservative Riding: Durham, Ontario Military Organization and Title: Member, Canadian Forces; Officer, Royal Canadian Air Force; Officer, Royal Canadian Air Force 8 Wing (Trenton, Ontario); Air Navigator, Royal Canadian Air Force 17 Wing (Winnipeg, Manitoba); Captain, Royal Canadian Air Force 423 Squadron (Shearwater, Nova Scotia); Training Officer, Royal Canadian Air Force 406 Squadron (Reserve)
Party: Liberal Riding: Vancouver South, British Columbia Military Organization and Title: Commandant, British Columbia Regiment; Lieutenant-Colonel, Canadian Forces; Aide de Camp, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia
Party: Conservative Riding: Beauport--Limoilou, Quebec Military Organization and Title: Master Bombardier, 6th Field Artillery Brigade
Party: Bloc Quebecois Riding: Terrebonne, Quebec Military Organization and Title: Infantry Officer, Royal 22e R(C)giment
Party: Conservative Riding: Charlesbourg--Haute-Saint-Charles, Quebec Military Organization and Title: Commandant, Regiment de la Chaudi¨re, and Officer, Canadian Forces (Reserve)
Party: Liberal Riding: Kelowna--Lake Country, British Columbia Military Organization and Title: Flight Commander, Canadian Forces Instrument Check Pilot School; Officer, 2nd Canadian Forces Flight Training School; Major, 1st Canadian Air Division; Flight instructor, Canadian Forces (Air Force)
Party: Liberal Riding: Westmount--Ville-Marie, Quebec Military Organization and Title: Captain, Canadian Forces (Navy) and Combat Systems Engineer, Canadian Forces (Navy)
Party: Liberal Riding: Winnipeg Centre, Manitoba Military Organization and Title: Petty Officer 2nd class, Royal Canadian Navy; Sergeant-at-Arms, 5th Valcartier Field Ambulance, Member, Canadian Forces (Navy Reserve)
Party: Liberal Riding: Winnipeg North, Manitoba Military Organization and Title: Air Traffic Controller, Canadian Forces (Air Force)
Party: Liberal Riding: Kanata--Carleton, Ontario Military Organization and Title: Lieutenant-Colonel, 429 Transport Squadron; Air Navigator, Canadian Forces (Air Force); Member, Windsor Regiment (RCAC) and Royal Canadian Army Cadets
Party: Liberal Riding: Pitt Meadows--Maple Ridge, British Columbia Military Organization and Title: Member, Canadian Army Reserve Force
Party: Liberal Riding: Ville-Marie--Le Sud-Ouest--Žle-des-Soeurs, Quebec Military Organization and Title: Commander, Canadian Infantry
Party: Liberal Riding: Mississauga--Lakeshore, Ontario Military Organization and Title: Cadet, Royal Canadian Air Cadets (845 Squadron)
Party: Liberal Riding: Brampton Centre, Ontario Military Organization and Title: Member, Indian Air Force
VIDEO-Maddow: Jeh Johnson Possible Replacement For Scalia, Could Get Through GOP Senate | Video | RealClearPolitics
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 06:38
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Reacting to the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, aged 79, MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow said people making predictions of how President Obama will handle the vacancy will be "embarrassed."
"This is kind of as big a jolt as we can get," Maddow said about Scalia's death and the vacancy left behind. "I think anybody who's going to predict exactly what's going to happen here is going to be embarrassed by those predictions just within the next few weeks."
Maddow came up with an interesting scenario where President Obama would nominate someone who "effectively has already been vetted," such as a cabinet level official. Maddow suggested the "very reserved and non-ideological" Secretary of Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson.
"If I had to throw one scenario into the mix, this might be the kind of time when the president would choose a nominee who effectively has already been vetted, somebody who can kind of jump the line in terms of the United States Senate, somebody who has recently been through a rigorous confirmation process, somebody who, for example, is a cabinet level official in the Obama administration already," Maddow proposed.
"The first person who springs to mind for that kind of a scenario is Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who is a very reserved and non-ideological person but has served in several administrations as a top Pentagon lawyer, as a very trusted national security expert and legal mind and is now running the biggest agency in the government outside of the Pentagon or the Veterans Affairs department," Maddow suggested.
"Somebody like that could conceivably be so non-objectionable to the United States Senate that maybe they would allow that sort of confirmation process to go ahead, even when another judicial nominee, who might more typically be on the short list would get held up by this Republican Senate trying to hold out for the hope of a Republican president to pick a nominee," Maddow also said.
VIDEO-The 500 euro note '' could its days be numbered? | euronews, Europe
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 05:52
"The 500 euro note is used more to facilitate transactions which are illegal, rather than allowing people like you and me to buy food"
Finance ministers are calling on the European Central Bank (ECB) to look at ways of tightening access to 500 euro notes, in a bid to cut terror funding.
There are concerns that its high value makes it easy to carry large sums and launder cash.
There are even calls for it to be scrapped altogether.
''The 500 euro note is used more to facilitate transactions which are illegal, rather than allowing people like you and me to buy food,'' said Michel Sapin, French Finance Minister.
''Therefore, it is normal that we raise the question now about the use of this bank note.''
The 500 euro note is one of the highest-valued in the world.
It makes up almost 30 percent of the euros held in cash and are more than five times the value of the largest US note, the 100 US dollar bill.
Germany was one of the early champions of the 500 euro note, matching the value of its old one thousand mark equivalent.
The ECB is also facing calls for limits to be brought in for cash payments.
The European Commission last week also proposed increasing controls on prepaid payment cards, virtual currencies such as bitcoin and other possible sources of financing for militant groups.
VIDEO-Zika virus: Colombian doctors report hike in rare nerve disorder cases | euronews, world news
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 05:48
"We would have between 25 and 30 cases annually, in the entire department of North Santander. Now in the department, we have had 30 cases in the last month-and-a-half"
Amid mounting global concerns over the Zika virus, Colombian doctors say they are seeing a hike in cases of a rare disorder, in which the body's immune system attacks the nerves.
It was just recently that health officials announced that three people, who had died of Guillain-Barre, were also infected with Zika.
Another six deaths are being investigated.
''We would have between 25 and 30 cases annually, in the entire department of North Santander. Now in the department, we have had 30 cases in the last month-and-a-half,'' said Dr Jaime Lizarazo, a neurologist.
''That is to say that the incidence has increased more or less ten times what is expected.''
Most international experts are cautious about whether mosquito-borne Zika triggers Guillain-Barre because it can also be caused by other conditions.
In Venezuela, three people are said to have died of complications linked to Zika, with more than five-thousand suspected cases of the virus.
Meanwhile, Brazil is launching a mass education campaign involving the military.
''The risk is in the entire state, actually the country and in all the tropical areas of the planet. So Zika represents an emergency for public health and it demands different actions that are already being taken,'' explained Alexandre Chieppe, Under Secretary of Health for Rio de Janeiro State.
''The idea is to join efforts to visit twice, 100 percent of buildings in the first three months of the year in Rio de Janeiro.''
Alongside the suspicions about Zika and the Guillain-Barre disorder, Brazil's health minister says he has no doubt that Zika is linked to a rare birth defect called microcephaly. This, despite what others see as a lack of scientific proof.
VIDEO-Talking Heads - "Road To Nowhere" - YouTube
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 05:41
VIDEO-Syria ceasefire more likely to fail than succeed, says Russian FM | euronews, world news
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 05:38
"My point is, you should not demonise Assad, you shouldn't demonise anyone except terrorists in Syria, and the humanitarian issues must be resolved through co-operation."
Russia's foreign minister said a Syrian ceasefire set to start next week is more likely to fail than succeed.
Sergey Lavrov was speaking at a security conference in the German city of Munich on Saturday (February 13), one day after the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) agreed to a ''cessation of hostilities.''
Lavrov warned against demonising Syria's president Bashar Assad. He said that Syrian opposition forces had besieged thousands of civilians.
''My point is, you should not demonise [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, you shouldn't demonise anyone except terrorists in Syria, and the humanitarian issues must be resolved through co-operation. Mind you, to say unless all humanitarian problems are over, unless violence stops completely, we are not going to negotiate, is a road to nowhere. It's a blunt provocation.''
International divisions over Syria resurfaced at the German conference where Russia rejected French accusations that it was bombing civilians.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said Moscow must change its targets to respect the ceasefire.
''The vast majority '-- in our opinion '-- of Russia's attacks have been against legitimate opposition groups,'' said Kerry. ''And to adhere to the agreement that has been made, we think it is critical that Russia's targeting changes. And the entire ISSG, including Russia, has agreed to work to make that happen.''
Euronews reporter James Franey reported from Munich: ''There are still many disagreements between the United States and Russia, none more so than the future of President Bashar Assad.It's left some Western diplomats here wondering whether Thursday's deal to cease hostilties in Syria is even worth the paper it's written on.It leaves the prospect of success for any future peace talks looking very unlikely indeed.''
VIDEO-President Obama's Valentine's Day Message to Michelle |
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 05:24
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VIDEO-World Leaders Agree To Syria Ceasefire - YouTube
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 04:02
VIDEO-Greek Farmers Pound On Riot Police! (U.S. Cops Would Kill All These People!) - YouTube
Sun, 14 Feb 2016 02:00
VIDEO-Argentine physicians claim Monsanto larvicide is true cause of microcephaly |
Sat, 13 Feb 2016 23:07
An Argentine physicians' group has come forward to challenge the notion that the mosquito-spread Zika virus is responsible for a recent increase in Brazilian babies born with the birth defect microcephaly, saying that a toxic larvicide introduced into the area's water supplies is the real culprit.
The group, which calls itself Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns, notes that a chemical larvicide that produces malformations in mosquitoes was introduced into the drinking water supply in 2014. This poison, Pyriproxyfen, was used in a massive state-run program aimed at controlling the mosquito population. Pyriproxyfen is manufactured by Sumimoto Chemical, a Japanese subsidiary of Monsanto.
The doctors point out that previous Zika epidemics did not cause birth defects in newborns, despite infecting 75% of the population in those countries. They also note that in other countries such as Colombia there are no records of microcephaly, yet there are plenty of Zika cases. Indeed, the allegations come soon after the president of Columbia announced that thousands of its residents are infected with the Zika virus, yet not a single case of microcephaly has been found in that country.
Microcephaly is generally a relatively rare birth defect in which the baby is born with an abnormally small head and often has brain damage. It was quickly linked to the Zika virus by the Brazilian Ministry of Health and various media outlets. However, it has never been linked to exposure to the Zika virus in the past.
The organization released a report that stated:
A dramatic increase of congenital malformations, especially microcephaly in newborns, was detected and quickly linked to the Zika virus by the Brazilian Ministry of Health. However, they fail to recognise that in the area where most sick persons live, a chemical larvicide producing malformations in mosquitoes has been applied for 18 months, and that this poison (pyroproxyfen) is applied by the State on drinking water used by the affected population.
The report went on:
Pyroproxyfen is applied directly by the Brazilian Ministry of Health on drinking-water reservoirs used by the people of Pernambuco, where the proliferation of the Aedes mosquito is very high (a situation similar to the Pacific Islands).(6) This poison, recommended by the WHO, is a growth inhibitor of mosquito larvae, which alters the development process larva-pupa-adult, thus generating malformations in developing mosquitoes and causing their death or incapacity.
The group is angry at the mass spraying, saying that it is only making people sicker and not helping solve the problem. They wrote:
Massive spreading using planes, as the governments of Mercosur are considering, is criminal, useless, and a political manoeuvre to simulate that actions are taken. The basis of the progress of the disease lies in inequality and poverty, and the best defence are community-based actions.
The report further noted that malformations have been detected in thousands of children from pregnant women living in areas where the Brazilian state added pyriproxyfen to drinking water and say that it "is not a coincidence." It condemns the Ministry of Health for blaming the Zika virus, further noting that of 3,893 cases of malformations confirmed until late January, 49 children have died and only five of them were confirmed to have been infected with Zika.
The Brazilian public health organization Doctors from the Brazilian Association for Collective Health, also known as Abrasco, also condemned the mass spraying as a public health risk and a possible cause of the microcephaly epidemic. In a scathing report about the health crisis, they wrote that "a very lucrative business cartel, which operates throughout the world and that even with evidence of the risks caused by organophosphates and pyrethroids," is being supported the health agencies that are supposed to be looking out for the health of the people, such as the World Health Organization (WHO). Abrasco wrote:
One must also question the use of chemicals on a scale that ignores the biological and environmental vulnerability of individuals and communities. The consumption of such substances by the public health care only to their producers and marketers of these poisons. (translated)
They also point out that the health risks of these chemicals are already proven and well know, writing:
A simple consultation of the chemical safety data sheets of these products delivered by companies to public health authorities shows that these products, such as the Malathion, are neurotoxic to the central and peripheral nervous system, and cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing and symptoms of muscle weakness, including the concentrations used in vector control. The environmental toxicity is recommended to avoid its use in the environment, which has not been observed since its release is done the way here we denounced. (translated)
As panic spreads worldwide about the Zika virus and the microcephaly epidemic, more and more communities are using these dangerous larvacides and pesticides to try to control and prevent outbreaks. The Cornocopia Insitute points out that stragies such as these are not only dangerous to people and the environment, but they do not work well to control mosquito populations. They outline more effective means of managing mosquitoes, such as eliminating standing water and using natural predators, here.
VIDEO-Somalia plane bomb: Laptop device got through X-ray -
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 20:09
The device blew a hole in the skin of the Daallo Airlines plane on February 2 but did not down the aircraft, because it detonated 20 minutes into the flight, before it reached cruising altitude. The suspected bomber was blown out of the plane, and his body was recovered on the ground near Mogadishu. The plane returned to the airport. Two people aboard were injured.
Investigators suspect Abdullahi Abdisalam Borleh, a Somali national, carried the laptop computer with a bomb in it onto Daallo Airlines Flight 159, the source said. The bomber knew precisely where to sit and how to place the device to maximize damage, the source told CNN. Given the placement, the blast likely would have set off a catastrophic secondary explosion in the fuel tank if the aircraft had reached cruising altitude, the source said.
But an hour delay in the departure of the flight may have saved everybody on board, the source said.
A military grade of the explosive TNT caused the explosion on the Somali airliner, two other sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN, citing an initial analysis of residue recovered from the aircraft.
Experts told CNN it was unlikely a forensic examination of the airplane would so quickly have provided clues about the sophistication of the device because the laptop was blown into many pieces. They said the most likely explanation for such a quick assessment was that investigators were able to look at a saved copy of the X-ray scan.
A Somali official told CNN that a piece of the keyboard from the laptop and the laptop bag, although burned, survived the explosion.
The airport worker wearing a white shirt in the surveillance footage died in mysterious circumstances three days after the attack when a vehicle he was in exploded, a Somali official close to the investigation told CNN. Just before the explosion, the person to whom the vehicle belonged -- the man in a yellow vest in the surveillance video -- had gotten out of the car so he could buy something at a shop. He was taken into custody, according to the official.
The same official backtracked from his earlier assertion that both airport workers were arrested.
Lax standards in security 'elephant in the room'It was not clear what kind of X-ray machine failed to detect the explosive device nor whether the laptop was subject to other explosive detection systems. Most airports in the developed world use the latest generation of multiview X-ray machines, but some airports in less developed parts of the world still use single-view X-ray machines significantly less reliable in detecting explosives.
Many airports in Africa and across the developing world also lag behind in the deployment of explosive trace detection technology, or ETD. In a practice familiar to many air travelers, security staff take swabs that are placed into a machine and can detect minute quantities of explosive residue.
The latest generation of X-ray machines and ETD, when used in combination, are generally good at detecting TNT and should catch the explosive, even if it were concealed in the electronics of a laptop, because ETD swabs can detect minute amounts of residue, according to William McGann, an explosive detection expert at Implant Sciences, a U.S. company that manufactures explosive detection systems.
McGann told CNN that when modern multiview X-ray systems are used alone there is a chance the clutter in the X-ray image caused by the laptop could lead operators to overlook anomalies flagged by the technology. "Single view X-rays, on the other hand, would be totally reliant on a very vigilant screener at best -- and TNT concealed in a laptop could be easily missed," he added.
Lax standards in airport security across Africa and in many developing nations across the world has been the "elephant in the room for a long, long time," an explosives expert with experience in Somalia told CNN on condition of anonymity.
"When terrorists start changing their methods to the point where their explosive devices are no longer just a bag of bolts or a steel pipe, then the rest of the world needs to be worried. These sorts of disguised devices are disturbing. A perpetrator may not fool the world-trained expert looking at the device on an X-ray, but a half-bored official without the same training might let something slip by. They are starting to defeat visual technology. It's only as good as the operator," the expert said.
Robert Liscouski, a former senior official at the Department of Homeland Security and president of Implant Sciences, said there's an urgent need for better training of airport workers.
"In developing countries where there are significant challenges to training and maintaining an effective security workforce, it is almost impossible to have a security system that won't have process vulnerabilities," Liscouski said.
One avenue of inquiry for investigators will be whether the laptop received less scrutiny by staff manning the X-ray machine because airport workers brought it in.
Somali investigation called openThe Somali government has been open and cooperative with its international partners in the investigation so far, a Western official in Mogadishu said.
Jangali, the Somali transport minister, told CNN the investigation was progressing well.
"Hopefully when we conclude the investigation, we can share this information we have gathered with other intelligence agencies," he said by phone. "It's too early to speculate on the exact nature of this attack. We first want to find out exactly what happened, the sequence of events and all the people involved to get the complete picture."
Laptop used in earlier attackIf the Somali terrorist group Al-Shabaab built the explosive device in the plane bombing, it would represent a significant elevation in its bomb-making capabilities, according to analysts. Given the sophistication of the device, one possibility is that al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen -- al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- shared technology with the group. AQAP bomb-maker Ibrahim al Asiri has been developing a new generation of explosive devices concealed in electronics, according to Western intelligence officials, and there are indications the group has shared this technology with al Qaeda affiliates in Syria.
Last week's explosion in the air above Somalia wasn't the first case of a laptop bomb being used to try to target civilians in the Somali capital.
A laptop explosive device was used in a 2013 attack on a Mogadishu hotel.
In November 2013, Al-Shabaab deployed a laptop bomb at the city's Hotel Maka.
A confidential source close to that investigation at the time provided photos of the device, saying they show that the bomb was faulty. The incomplete detonation, however, led people in the hotel to run outside the building, and when first responders arrived, a suicide bomber drove a car bomb into the group, killing six and injuring more than a dozen.
More than 40 arrests so far, official saysNo group has claimed responsibility for the Daallo plane attack. U.S. officials said Al-Shabaab is the most likely culprit. The terror group attacked a restaurant and hotel last month on Mogadishu's Lido Beach, killing dozens of Somalis.
A Somali official close to the investigation told CNN that three field tests for explosives were conducted at the explosion site on the plane. All tested positive for explosive residue. Now those tests have been sent to labs in the United States.
According to the official, Borleh, the suspected bomber, was seated in 16 F on the plane. Investigators found parts of the laptop -- a piece of keypad -- and the laptop bag burned. The explosive device was hidden inside the laptop. The plane was at 12,000 feet when the explosion occurred. Borleh's right leg and right hand were blown off -- leading investigators to believe the bag was somewhere on his right side.
The source said Borleh's injuries were consistent with those suffered in an explosion, and he had explosive residue on him when his body was recovered. Borleh was heading to Turkey, ostensibly for medical reasons. He ended up taking the Daallo Airlines flight to Djibouti after a Turkish Airlines flight he had booked was canceled.
There have been 45 arrests made so far in the case, and those are some people who were directly and indirectly involved, the Somali official said.
Somalia's criminal intelligence division and explosive ordinance disposal team are leading the investigation. People are being interrogated, surveillance footage is being combed through from the 92 closed-circuit TV cameras at the airport, the official said.
"We have minute-by-minute footage of the event," the official told CNN.
New security standards at Mogadishu airportSomalia has begun using new search and security methods at the Aden Adde International Airport in Mogadishu, including bomb-sniffing dogs, says Ali Ahmed Jama Jangali, the Somali transport minister.
Passengers said sniffer dogs were now searching their luggage at the airport. These dogs are not new; they are part of the Somalia National Police's explosive ordinance disposal teams.
Until now these canines and their Somali handlers have been deployed at big events or during VIP visits -- but Jangali said they would become a regular feature at the Mogadishu airport.
VIDEO-Death of Free Speech Part 2: Facts!!! - YouTube
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 06:02
VIDEO-Busted! Hillary caught lying about financial ties - The Horn News
Fri, 12 Feb 2016 02:48
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign is struggling with an image issue.
For months she's fought questions about her use of private email and her cozy relationship with billionaire Wall Street financiers.
In recent weeks, Clinton has tried to dispel the notion that she's controlled by Wall Street money by repeatedly claiming she's never changed her positions due to lobbying from big banks.
The only problem? That's just not true.
A video has surfaced of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren complaining in 2004 about how Clinton as a senator flip-flopped on a bankruptcy bill as a favor to her Wall Street pals. (Warren's statement starts after Clinton's wild Wall Street claim, at the 1:04 mark).
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' supporters have gladly started circulating the video, which the Clinton campaign likely wishes would just go away. After all, less than half the voters in New Hampshire's Democratic primary on Tuesday said they found Clinton to be honest and trustworthy, while about 90 percent believed those qualities fit her rival, Sanders.
Equally concerning for Clinton as she grapples with her double-digit loss to Sanders in New Hampshire: Voters who wanted a presidential candidate who cares about people like them sided overwhelmingly with the Vermont senator, an empathy gap that has proved devastating for previous presidential candidates.
''This is a serious, serious problem that is clearly afflicting her,'' said Paul Maslin, a Democratic pollster. ''It's not just Bernie Sanders and the strength of his message or that she's cast as the establishment. It's a personal judgment that people have made about her.''
''Someone gives you money, you owe them,'' said Francis Neddo, 64-year-old Sanders supporter from Londonderry, NH. ''You don't get money from them next time unless you pay off.''
Daniel Harty, a 21-year-old college student from Nevada, said Clinton seems dismissive of what he called ''real problems,'' particularly with her email use.
''It's not something she should be laughing off,'' he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
VIDEO-Rep. Duncan Hunter Vapes During Congressional Hearing - YouTube
Thu, 11 Feb 2016 22:40

Clips & Documents

Elections 2016
Alex Ross on NPR-hillary_server_i_didnt_know.m4a
Bill Clinton Slams Obama As Not A “Change Maker”.mp3
Cosmo Editor on CBS 'This Morning' re-bloomberg.mp3
DNC Chair- Unpledged Delegates Ensure Party Leaders, Elected Officials Don’t Have to Run Against Grassroots Activists.mp3
Jake Tapper Amy Lindsay NOT Pr0n acterss.mp3
Kasich Creepy Cackle.mp3
Morning Joe Crew Nicer to Porn Star Than ‘Troll’ Ted Cruz.mp3
Rubio Cruz Kill Squad-1-Rubio Set-up.mp3
Rubio Cruz Kill Squad-2-Cruz hammers home with script flub on 80 years.m4a
Sarandon Bernie Crying-ISO.mp3
Susan Sarandon- Bernie 'Has Balls' and 'FDR'-esque Vision for the Country.mp3
Trump On Profanity.m4a
Warren 2004 about Hillary's money ties.mp3
Greek Farmers Pound On Riot Police.mp3
Assad to AFP-Negotiations seperate from fighting terrorists SCAM.mp3
Lavrov Road to Nowhere ISO.mp3
Russian FM Lavrov-We’ve ‘Abandoned’ Soviet-Style Propaganda, But Now Critics of Our Syria Campaign Are Using It.mp3
Saudi Foreign minister on Syria Assad.mp3
Syria Geneva-1-Kerry on legitimate opposition being creamed.mp3
Syria Geneva-2-Lavrov Skeptical-Road to Nowhere.mp3
JCD Clips
Air bnb crckdown.mp3
Blacks and Hillary new article in the Nation DN.mp3
cluster bombs.mp3
Debbie Schultz excuses the fix.mp3
DEM DEBATE Henry Kissinger.mp3
DN party report 2.mp3
DN party report on Bernie Sanders.mp3
DN syria report ethnic cleansing.mp3
end of greyhound racing.mp3
Hillary and the professor.mp3
north korea south korea.mp3
North Korean rocket 2.mp3
North Korean rocket.mp3
reecord freeze.mp3
uber in London concourse.mp3
valentines day clip IRAN.mp3
Axelrod SCOTUS-Pick a confirmed judge.m4a
Axelrod Sorkin Supreme Court Script.m4a
Maddow- Jeh Johnson Possible Replacement For Scalia, Could Get Through GOP Senate.mp3
Obamas exchange valentines on Ellen Show.mp3
War on Ca$h
The 500 euro note – could its days be numbered?.mp3
War on Vaping
Rep. Duncan Hunter Vapes During Congressional Hearing.mp3
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